Points of Progress

This semi-regular report includes things happening in our world, policies, articles and practices in-line with the steady state economy or transitioning to it, that are worth some time to read about –  the good news, the promising results. They are all exciting things happening I just don’t have time to post about each in-depth.

Here are some cool things happening in the world:

Plenitude: The Economics of True Wealth

Juliet Schor is a co-founder of the Center for a New American Dream and a well-resumed author. She has partnered in the past with the likes of Tim Jackson and Bill McKibben on various tasks. A personable, well-spoken women from Boston College, Juliet has a new vision for the economy: plenitude. Her new book, Plenitude: The Economics of True Wealth, attempts to answer an important question: How do we create a society that provides prosperity to us all without relying on continued economic expansion?

Plenitude offers not only a great argument against economic growth as we’ve known it, but a vision for a rethinking productivity and innovation for our future. It is uses an integrated approach to set out a vision to work on all these fronts to see a new way of living that is low-footprint and puts people back to work that creates new forms of wealth and well-being. Read my article on Post Growth and check out the video of her recent talk at Town Hall Seattle on Vimeo here.

The Gulf Oil Spill

As odd as it sounds, I think the gigantic BP oil spill in the gulf is acting as a wake up call to many: this is the future of fossil fuels. It’s only going to get harder and more dangerous. Meanwhile, the largest fishery in the US is being destroyed in the pursuit of a unsustainable fuel source. Hopefully this will open our eyes to the fact that BP really doesn’t have our interests in mind, only its profits. That is what corporations do: go for profits, not for people.

Read Scott’s recent article about this on Post Growth.

The Great Tax Parachute

Its hard for me to keep up with all the amazing things coming out of the new economics foundation (nef). This report was released late last month after lots of news that the UK government (as well as others during this time of economic hardship) announced cuts in programs and government employment will be necessary. However, as nef outlines, there are many progressive taxes we can introduce that can balance the budget and keep those programs.

This proposal is in-line with one of the coming shifts: the great tax shift (working on a post about this, actually). In order to create a sustainable society we must stop subsidizing fossil fuels and intensive, destructive farming but instead tax resource extraction and pollution and institute new subsidies on renewable energy.

Obama, Lead Us To Clean Energy Now!

God love the actor who stands up for the environment, but there is something a little more significant (for me at least) when if comes from Robert Redford. (Maybe because he’s one of my favorites and one of the most respectable actors in Hollywood) See his challenge to President Obama:

Way to go, Mr. Redford! Thanks to Climate Progress for introducing this video to me.

Four Years. Go.

We have four years to set how the quality of life will be for the 1000 years on this planet. These next few years represent the most pivotal in the history of humankind. We have significantly altered the face of our planet and it is coming down to the wire: we only have a short time before our actions will have either set in motion huge, destructive environmental changes or alter the face of human society to live within the means our planet provides us.

The Four Years. Go. campaign is a new way of “inciting a movement,” present initially by a core group of four organizations. However, they note that this is a global issue and once enough funding is raised the campaign will expand to include a more global group of organizations. As they website says,

“There is no plan, at least no ‘master plan’, managed from the top.

The path, instead, will be to foster a self-organizing, emerging open-space of collaboration and creativity among individuals, NGOs, companies and communities.

The idea is to incite a movement.  And, for that movement to catalyze a newly vibrant world of wildly diverse and inspired initiatives to co-create a transformed human future.

However, so that we don’t rely on self-organization alone, FOUR YEARS. GO.does plan to provide tools and resources that will genuinely empower an authentic global conversation and catalyze the prevailing sense of urgency into creative, effective action.”

Watch their great video that aims to help inspire movement on this front:

The video is available for download and on YouTube. Check out the campaign site here.

The Steady State Economy Conference 2010

Next month in the town of Leeds, UK, the first Steady State Economy Conference will be presented entitled “The Steady State Economy: Working Towards an Alternative to Economic Growth.” The conference is organized by the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy and Economic Justice for All. The two collaborating organizations have brought together some great minds including Peter Victor, Andrew Simms, Dan O’Neill, and Tim Jackson.

The conference keynote speakers will present the need for a steady state economy in the UK, and other developed nations, as well as how the UK might move towards a steady state economy. Workshops will take it a step further and “explore specific policy proposals for achieving a steady state economy.”

It is an exciting step in the process towards a sustainable economy! Rob Dietz, CASSE’s Executive Director, and Dan O’Neill, at the University of Leeds, have been working hard with David Adshead, Lorna Arblaster, Claire Bastin, and Nigel Jones of Economic Justice for All to create a great conference.

It’s being hosted on Saturday, June 19th and for a small registration fee of £30.00 (£50.00 if you register after May 30th). For all those who are in the area of Leeds or might want to make the trip, be sure to take advantage of the opportunity. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make this conference, so I will be looking to others for news of the event!

Go online and register now!

Nothing Grows Forever

Mother Jones is asking some fierce questions

The most recent issue of Mother Jones, a magazine that credits itself for “smart, fearless journalism,” tackles some serious issues. The cover get’s started with the question “Who’s to blame for the population crisis? (A) The Vatican, (B) Washington, or (C) You?” Inside you’ll find some even more interesting stuff, including a 6 page article about “no-growth economics” entitled “Nothing Grows Forever: Why do we keep pretending the economy will?”

The article’s author, Clive Thompson, compiles a pretty good introduction to steady state thought. He starts by discussing how Peter Victor (author of Managing Without Growth and professor at York University) came to realize that the Earth really does have limits – limits that impose themselves on our growing economy.

After a brief history of the field and the economists that founded the ideas, Thompson inevitably arrives at  Herman Daly, “being the most prominent… of the key thinkers in the no-growth theory.” The first topic Thompson has Daly counter is the neoclassical economist’s idea that our economy will eventually decouple from environmental impact and resource use as it continues to grow.

In the past Daly has the idea of decoupling the economy from resource consumption a chimera. Daly’s view on this topic drives home the point that developed economies are still using more resources as they grow, they just outsource their resource use to developing countries. This, in turn, creates “blood-diamond-style conflicts” for the often exotic materials needed to supply continued economic growth. Thompson notes that “the growth of greenhouse gas emissions likewise demonstrates that the free market alone cannot deal with planet-threatening pollution.”

Continue reading “Nothing Grows Forever”

Gund Institute & My Summer Project

In January I was privileged enough to be able to join in at the New Green Economy Conference put on in DC. There I met a number of amazing people, many heroes of mine, and joined in some great discussion about the future of our society and economy. The breakout session I attended was led by my friend Rob Dietz at The Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy and Jon Erikson, Director of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont.

I talked briefly with Jon about possible education opportunities, and one that he mentioned was the online course available in Intro to Ecological Economics. This course can be taken to earn credits towards their distance learn program or can be taken for free online, to learn more about the topic. Whilst I have done tons of reading and writing on the topic, I have not done anything structured like this course. I also have yet to completely read, cover to cover, Daly & Farley’s landmark textbook Ecological Economics, which is one of the main texts in this online course.

So far this textbook has served as a great reference for me and I have certainly read many portions, but it has been on my list of things to completely read for some time. That being said, I am placing a goal of finishing this online course over the summer. I will be updating the blog as I go along, writing posts on topics and hopefully furthering one of my goals with this blog: teaching myself and others the concepts of the steady state economy.

The Goal

I will complete the Gund Institute’s online Introduction to Ecological Economics over the summer, the next four months, June through September. The course is split into four modules, which means I will need to finish one module a month. Each module has sub modules, around 3-4 each. This gives me an almost weekly goal of reading to complete, videos to watch, and posts to write!

Hopefully I will expand my knowledge a bit, but along the way I hope you’ll gain something as well. I would really like to encourage you to engage me via comments as I explore this course. You can also join in online and do the course yourself – you just need a couple of textbooks, the rest of the content is online.

Reader Survey Feedback & Blog Direction

Thank you to the few of you who responded to my readers survey. It seems most of you like where this blog is going and would like to see medium-sized posts on a more steady frequency. I also heard that apparently I can ramble a little and might be a bit too optimistic – I will work on the rambling, while the optimism you’ll have to live with. 😉

I will also work on worrying less about superior arguments and content to the point of obsession, and instead focus on posting at least 1-2 times a week with good content, news, thoughts, et cetera. This will still give me time to develop the slightly longer, content driven posts. However, this blog is probably going to get a little more laid back and personal in content. Basically, I need to not stress out so much about what I’m posting, it’s starting to actually make me write less.

A few people on the recent reader’s survey thought their knowledge or clout wasn’t sufficient enough to comment on the blog. That’s just silly – I’m not an economist, I’m just another person trying to understand how to create a sustainable society. It just happens that I write about it here, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have ideas or questions that are worthy of being here either! My largest goal with this blog was to inspire discussion and learning about this topic – so please, comment!!

Thanks again for the feedback, and if you haven’t already you can still fill out that short survey here. If you’re looking for some more discussion about sustainable economics and a post growth society, check out my new side project, a collaborative blog called Post Growth.