Ten Things That Will Build The New Economy

Out of the Old Economy of big-business, inequality, wall street over main street, oil & gas, environmental destruction and social degradation will rise the New Economy of small business, fair distribution, local systems, renewable energy, environmental restoration and protection, social renewal and strong communities.

The term “new economy” is broad, but its definition is gaining a more solid footing in the grass-roots of localism, communalism and post growth(ism). When I hear the term I think of an economy based on people and planet, not greed and growth. It is one that focuses energy on resilient local communities and businesses. It embraces the knowledge that small is beautiful. The New Economy is not just a rebooted version of the Old Economy – it is a drastic reshaping of the economic landscape. (I also believe that the New Economy is a post growth economy)

Out of the Old Economy of big-business, inequality, wall street over main street, oil & gas, environmental destruction and social degradation will rise the New Economy of small business, fair distribution, local systems, renewable energy, environmental restoration and protection, social renewal and strong communities.

The path ahead is not entirely clear, there are many opportunities to improving our social fabric and strengthening our local economics, but I believe that certain ideas will shine above the rest. Most of the change will come from the bottom up. This is true not only because the viability of anything getting done at the top of the political spectrum is practically non-existent, but also because the local movements will out-pace the movement of congress any day of the week. Here is my list of Top Ten Things That Will Build The New Economy (in no specific order):

Continue reading “Ten Things That Will Build The New Economy”

The Green Economy vs US Politics

My apologies for the near two weeks of silence, we’ve had some computer issues in my house and a wave of fall cold. I’ve been twitting when possible, but limited computer time has made it difficult to write much. Here is something I think you might find interesting…

The United States political arena is mind-bogglingly idiotic. There, I said it. The fact that our media and politics can take a scientific fact (climate change) and turn it into a “four-letter word that many U.S. politicians won’t even dare utter in public” is despicable, detestable and degrading to the intelligence of the American people. Thomas Friedman just wrote a great article about the “next great global industry” and how our media-political system has pushed us behind the curve.

China’s leaders are mostly engineers and scientist. They understand scientific data, unlike our leaders that are politically-driven lawyers and scoundrels – they only seem understand money. It’s just unfortunate that most of the money is held by oil and coal companies with free reign to purchase elections and fund anti-climate campaigns. From Friedman’s short article “Aren’t We Clever?“:

“‘There is really no debate about climate change in China,’ said Peggy Liu, chairwoman of the Joint U.S.-China Collaboration on Clean Energy, a nonprofit group working to accelerate the greening of China… The push for green in China, she added, ‘is a practical discussion on health and wealth. There is no need to emphasize future consequences when people already see, eat and breathe pollution every day.’

“So while America’s Republicans turned ‘climate change’ into a four-letter word — J-O-K-E — China’s Communists also turned it into a four-letter word — J-O-B-S.

“‘China is changing from the factory of the world to the clean-tech laboratory of the world,’ said Liu. ‘It has the unique ability to pit low-cost capital with large-scale experiments to find models that work.’ China has designated and invested in pilot cities for electric vehicles, smart grids, LED lighting, rural biomass and low-carbon communities. ‘They’re able to quickly throw spaghetti on the wall to see what clean-tech models stick, and then have the political will to scale them quickly across the country,’ Liu added. ‘This allows China to create jobs and learn quickly.'”

So the old worry of communism may not be too far off – they are in fact stealing jobs from us. But not because they are communists and we are capitalists, but because they are intelligently transitioning to a new green economy and we are busy arguing over whether or not to trust the science.

Note: don’t let my tone make you think I don’t believe the US can transition to a greener economy, far from it. It is just frustrating to be in the one country with a non-functioning congress. If anything, I want you to not let the regressive party (republicans) win seats in this next election – it will make things worse. Vote out the idiots who don’t “believe” in the science!

Earth Overshoot & Natural Debt


Earth Overshoot Day 2010
Our Natural Accounts Run Red

Today is the official day of Earth Overshoot: the first day of the year our natural capital spending is in the red. This type of natural debt is far more destructive than its monetary counterpart (natural debt meaning debt owed of natural capital, not a debt that is natural – there is no such thing). Instead of being able to pay back this loan, we’re actually making it harder to pay our bills next year and the year after.

Overshoot is a term used often by biologists to describe a population that consumes more than the system can support. This could be a pack of grey wolves in the Northern Territories that is eating more deer than can possible be born and grow within the year. What does that mean? With less deer this year to breed, there will be less deer next year to eat. The deer the wolves eat next year will deplete their reserve even further. Eventually no deer will be around to eat and the wolves will starve.

We’re doing the same thing today with the Earth. As the Global Footprint Network puts it,

“For most of human history, humanity has been able to live off of nature’s interest – consuming resources and producing carbon dioxide at a rate lower than what the planet was able to regenerate and reabsorb each year.

But approximately three decades ago, we crossed a critical threshold, and the rate of human demand for ecological services began to outpace the rate at which nature could provide them. This gap between demand and supply – known as ecological overshoot – has grown steadily each year. It now takes one year and six months to regenerate the resources that humanity requires in one year.

The bummer here is that we can’t migrate to a new territory: there’s only one Earth. There will only ever be one Earth. One Planet. That’s how much we’ve been given, best we figure out how to use it well. We need to create a sustainable scale to our society and economy.

Gas Tank
Maxed Out: Earth Doesn't Have Give Out Credit

Overshoot is directly related to carrying capacity – and biologists know that when a population consumes more than the system can renew, this overshoot often leads to a mass die-off.  We’re already watching the most massive extinction since the dinosaurs, our biological diversity is dwindling at unheard-of rates. Perhaps this should be seen as a warning to our own existence? After all, we are part of nature.

Celebrate Earth Overshoot Day by donating your car and buying a bike, calling your congressman, writing the president, trading your oil company job for a green job, building resiliency in your local community and supporting your local economy. Have a great anti-Holiday!

See my cross-post on Post Growth and out my guest post on Green Growth Cascadia about Earth Overshoot Day. Image Credits: Global Footprint Network.

Million Dollar Prize To Cure Growth Addiction

This post comes from Dave Gardner, a filmmaker who has been studying what he calls “our worship of growth everlasting” for several years as part of a non-profit documentary film project called Hooked on Growth. This film is part of a larger movement/public education project/documentary series called GrowthBusters. Dave promised Hooked on Growth will be released in the first half of 2011. I thought this post was exceptionally important and wanted to share the news in its entirety with you.

A few weeks ago I got a phone call from Australia. A gentleman named Dick Smith was on the line and he was very complimentary about our film project. Quickly I was brought up to speed on this man and his new, noble effort to get the world talking about limits to growth and into a recovery program for growth addiction.

Dick Smith announces Wilberforce Award
$1m cash to save civilization

That was the headline in the Sydney Morning Herald last week as Mr. Smith announced his one million dollar Wilberforce Award – a grant to be awarded to someone under 30 “who can impress me by becoming famous through his or her ability to show leadership in communicating an alternative to our population and consumption growth-obsessed economy.”

Did you see a news story about this audacious offer? I found no news stories about this outside of Australia, other than a photo in Times of India and the UK Guardian. The rest of the world apparently doesn’t consider this million-dollar prize offered by one individual newsworthy. I find that incredibly disappointing, but I suppose that is to be expected in a world where denial of limits to growth is so widespread and growth addiction is perpetuated by the pushers (growth profiteers, who include mainstream media).

Dick Smith ad in Murdoch press
Dick Smith ad in Murdoch press

In fact, Dick Smith has taken on the mainstream media in his quest to eliminate the mega-dose of pro-growth Kool Aid served to us daily. He recently took out this ad in Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian newspaper.

Unless you live in Australia, you may not know who Dick Smith is. The subject line of his follow-up email to me read: Rapacious Capitalist Loves your Website. So, who is this “rapacious capitalist” who is not pushing growth at every turn in order to finance his next private jet or another 10,000 square-foot vacation home? You can read more about him here.

Smith is a man who concedes “I’ve benefited from a long period of constant economic and population growth – we are addicted to it.” He is indeed a wealthy businessman. But Dick Smith has seen the light. It has come to his attention (thanks to his daughter) that there are limits. He writes, “sooner or later this consumption growth will have an end. We appear to be already bumping against the limits of what our planet can sustain and the evidence is everywhere to see.”

I’m encouraged that a number of wealthy capitalists are speaking out today about the fallacy of our quest for and belief in unending growth. Media mogul Ted Turner frequently raises the issue of overpopulation and sustainability. “Too many people are using too much stuff,” he told Charlie Rose two years ago. Zhang Yue, Chairman and Chief executive of BROAD Air Conditioning spoke eloquently about limits to growth in a speech last year to the Business for Social Responsibility Conference: “Today, that mission to grow more, to get more, to make more, isn’t suitable for society.”

Fact is we’ve all benefited from the era of growth. But just as it’s not too late for those who’ve built empires and made fortunes to learn from our mistakes and promote a more sustainable model, it’s not too late for society at large. It is time for us to get over our growth addiction and move quickly to a model that celebrates “enough.”

I applaud Australian Dick Smith for having the vision to see where our worship of growth everlasting will take us, the courage to confess his sins, and enough concern about future generations to put his money where his mouth is. According to Smith, “I will be looking for candidates whose actions over the next year show that they have what it takes to be among the next generation of leaders our incredible planet so badly needs.”

Originally posted here. For more information about Hooked on Growth, visit www.growthbusters.org.

By the way, I’m under 30, in case there are any who would like to help me win this prize 😉

Brian Czech on BNN

I’ve been busy drafting a guest post for another blog, as well as enjoying this great weather (seldom comes to Seattle), so it will be a few more days before another good post materializes. I do have some cool news, though, something I wanted to share earlier:

Brian Czech on BNN
CASSE vs Barclays Capital

Brian Czech, President of the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE) and author of Shoveling Fuel for a Runaway Train,  was on Business News Network for a debate over economic growth.

This is an exciting step into the mainstream media for CASSE and the steady state economy. Face time on any major news network is good, especially when Brian raises such good points. It also helps that the Barclays’ representative (who is treated like an authority on economics, even though he looks a little green to me) stumbles a bit and uses “modest” more than a modest amount.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an embed-able video of it, but you can watch the debate here.

Steady State Cyclist Tours Canada

I’ve been biking to work more and it got me thinking of bike touring – long distance traveling on a bike. I decided that I would make it a goal to do an extended bike tour next summer (the Seattle to Portland Classic plus three more days down the coast and back) to prepare me for the ultimate goal of a cross country bike trip.

No sooner did I start thinking of the practicality of this journey and deciding I should use it as an opportunity to promote the steady state economy, as well as hopefully pick up some sponsors (maybe a brewery or two?), than I get an email about Jordan’s cross-Canada journey promoting the steady state economy!

You can hear more about his trip at his blog, but I’ll be sure to talk about it along the way as well. What an truly exciting trip! This is taken directly from the press release: (links and emphasis added)

Riding a bike is all about balance.  The same is true of a world economy that can endure, one that is more than a series of bubbles-and-pops.  Jordan Poppenk will bring those two concepts together in a cross-Canada cycling tour to raise awareness about the concept of the steady state economy.

The world’s financial authorities are preparing to meet in Toronto to discuss how to get the global economy growing again. But Jordan Poppenk wants them to talk about how to stop the world economy from growing again, and he’s cycling across Canada to get their attention.

Poppenk is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Toronto and an environmental journalist. He wants Canadians to know about new ideas emerging from the world’s economics departments, how they mesh with modern ecological challenges, and why it’s essential we rethink the current program of boosting GDP every year. He’s cycling 6,500 km to help get the idea out there.

A steady state economy aims for stable population and stable consumption of energy and materials at sustainable levels. Such an economy favors development (getting better) rather than growth (getting bigger).

“The steady state concept is about reaching some balance with what nature can provide, and within those limits, we can have a very vibrant, exciting and worthwhile economy,” says Peter Victor, an ecological economist at York University.  Dr. Victor’s model of the Canadian economy demonstrates how the nation can prosper with a steady state economy, as documented in his book, Managing Without Growth.

Poppenk adds, “Whether or not you believe in human-induced climate change, other signs of the severe strain on ecosystems from our already overwhelming economic activity are everywhere. Growth is not helping most people anyway; Canada’s economic output has doubled since 1982, but 80% of Canadians have seen no improvement in their inflation-adjusted incomes.”

Poppenk is teaming up with the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE) to communicate how a steady state economy could be desirable and to spark discussion about transitioning from growth to sustainability. He departs from Vancouver today and he hopes to reach Halifax on September 1.

Information, updates and photographic materials are available on Poppenk’s blog: Steady State Cyclist.

100 Posts & Beyond

This post marks 100 posts on this blog, spanning one-and-a-half years of exploration into the steady state economy and ecological economics. I have been working steadily on a few drafts (I always have drafts, it seems) that I wanted to use for this post. However, I think this is a good opportunity for feedback from you!

It is my goal to keep up the quality of content and a steady frequency of posts to provide you, my readers, with relevant information about the concepts, news, and campaigns behind creating a more sustainable society. I have received more feedback lately via email and the blog is gaining momentum in terms of subscribers. As such, I want to utilize this moment for feedback from you!

Please, take a quick minute or two and fill out this 8 question reader survey. It is short, hopefully poignant, and will help me connect on a deeper level with my trusted readership. I take time out of ever day to work on this blog to help further dialog on this topic and keep you in the loop – it will go a long way to help me do that well if you take a minute or two to fill out this survey. Results to be posted soon! Thank you, everyone, for your support and readership!

Click Here to Fill Out Reader Survey

Also, if you are not already, become a subscriber! (It’s free! I run this blog with my own time & money)

If you like this blog and want to see more in this realm check out my other project, Post Growth, a collaborative exploration of a post growth society with a few other steady state bloggers!

Obama Announces Degrowth, Wins Republican Support

President Obama Speaks On Health Care In Portland, Maine
"We Must Forge A Sustainable Nation For All"

In a surprising turn of events, President Barack Obama announced in a press conference today that economic growth could no longer continue as we know it. As a prominent New York magazine quoted, “the press room went silent and after a tension-filled moment, erupted in applause!”

As numerous environmental groups, ecological economists, and people with common sense have been trying for decades to gain political ground on the issue, a left-field bipartisan bill was drafted late last night and rushed through both the House and Senate. News of the conflict between growing the economy and maintaining an environment that can sustain human life was a shock to many in congress. However, conscience and prudence won the day, prompting late-night legislative sessions.

Tomorrow President Obama will sign into law the American Development and Reorientation Act, a comprehensive bill that will overhaul the financial sector, incorporate well-being into national accounts, end fossil fuel subsidies, tax pollution, cap greenhouse gas emissions, remove rights of person-hood from corporations, and provide minimum incomes and cap gaps in wealth – all to provide a more stable and just economic system that focuses on developing our society instead of expanding the size of our economy.

As the President said during the conference,

“By recommitting ourselves to the founding ideals of this great nation, focusing on our possibilities and liberating ourselves from failed ideas and institutions, together we can create a stronger, better nation that secures a fulfilling life for every person and honors the premise of the Declaration of Independence that every individual is endowed with an unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

This amazing turn-about in public policy not only represents the needs of the America people, but ensures a long, prosperous future for our society on this planet. This will go down in history as the first major (gigantic) step towards a sustainable world for all! Well done, Mr President!

**Happy April 1st everyone!**