Thursday, August 31, 2006
"California's environmental leadership is critically important, both because of its size (as 5th or 7th or 10th largest "country" in the world) and because of its repeated demonstration that environmental and economic performance can go hand in hand. Another case in point: per capita energy use has stayed level in California over the past 30 years -- of major economic growth -- while doubling in the US as a whole."
It's another example refuting the myth that what is good for the environment is bad for economy.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Fundamentally growing GDP, by the way we measure it, is not sustainable.
If we're consuming too much and the only measure of growth is how much more we consumed this year vs last, then GDP is not a good measure of how we are managing the earth's resources.
Hazel Henderson spoke on the matter far better than I can:
"HAZEL HENDERSON: The GDP became our official report card back in World War II. We used it to measure war production. It still tracks our output of goods and services in money terms.
But that calculation ignores about half of all goods and services in this country that are unpaid or don't generate instant income. That includes everything from owner-built housing, to volunteering, child-rearing, care of the sick and elderly. Without these services, our output would collapse.
The GDP values all paid goods and services. But the value of our human capital, infrastructure like roads and schools, and our environmental resources like land and water, are valued at zero. GDP adds instead of subtracting costs and paid services like cleaning up pollution and other collateral damage from production.
GDP only counts increases in production and average incomes, obscuring how many people became poorer and how many grew richer.
GDP could include broader measures of quality of life. Why not take into account statistics on education, health, public safety, our energy grid, water supplies and the environment? These indicators complete the picture of national trends, real wealth and progress.
All such investments in our infrastructure should be booked on GDP accounts as investments. Instead, they're all "expensed" in one year like money down a rat hole.
Relying on GDP to steer our country is like flying a Boeing 777 with nothing on the cockpit dashboard but an oil pressure gauge, no fuel gauge or altimeter. Crazy.
It's time to broaden GDP so we can steer national policies toward less wasteful, more sustainable resource use, and invest more wisely in our people and our future."
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Redefining Progress www.redifiningprogress.org is doing some groundbreaking work in this area to measure the impact of our industrial civilization on the planet's carrying capacity. Basically they say that it takes the earth to one year and three months to restore what our global human civilization is using in one year.
Here's an excerpt from their "Sustainable Economics" program. http://www.redefiningprogress.org/newprograms/sustEcon/index.shtml
"The myth that environmental protection must come at the expense of economic growth is dead. Short-sided policies and approaches to producing the energy and other products we need can and do have harmful impacts on society and the environment. Pollution, traffic congestion, and health risks are examples of such impacts which often disproportionately effect communities of color and people living in poverty. RP’s Sustainable Economics Program works to develop and promote creative, market-based policies that protect the environment, grow the economy, and promote social equity."
They offer an ecological footprint analysis on this web page:
For example here is the analysis for MY ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT:Category Acres
Total Footprint 21 Acres
|IN COMPARISON, THE AVERAGE ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT IN YOUR COUNTRY IS 24 ACRES PER PERSON. |
WORLDWIDE, THERE EXIST 4.5 BIOLOGICALLY PRODUCTIVE ACRES PER PERSON.
IF EVERYONE LIVED LIKE YOU, WE WOULD NEED 4.8 PLANETS.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
The most obvious example is the concept that pollution, ill health of workers and ecosystem damage are considered "externalities" and never recorded on the balance sheet or income statement of any corporation or GDP calculation.
From "The Darwin Project"
"The shift from the emphasis for the first half to the full Darwinian theory and story — and your understanding and involvement — can not only help move us toward the better future. In the long run, it may help save ours and all other species.
What primarily drives human evolution,
Hazel Henderson - an economist leading the discussion in many ways of new forms of thinking writes on the topic:
"Reappraisals of the work of Charles Darwin together with new evidence from historians, archeologists and anthropologist now clearly point to the evolution of human emotional capacity for bonding, cooperation and altruism. (Figure 2, Darwin’s Thesis…) Competition, territoriality and tribalism, rooted in the fears of our past, served humans well in our early trials and vulnerability. So did cooperation and the ability to trust and bond with each other – controlled by the hormone oxytocin. Higher levels of this hormone during pregnancy and lactation bonds women to their children, over the extended developmental period to maturity. Today, research by scientists from many fields, neurosciences, endocrinology, psychology, physics, thermodynamics, mathematics and anthropology have invalidated the core assumptions underlying economic models – as I will show in this paper. This new research reveals economics as a profession, not a science.
Political economy studies, as they were originally termed, rose to academic prominence after the publishing in 1776 of Adam Smith’s great work “An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations”. Invoking the scientific knowledge of the day, Smith related his famous theory of “an invisible hand” that guided the self-interested decisions of business men (sic) to serve the public good and economic growth. Smith drew parallels ascribing this pattern of human behavior to Sir Isaac Newton’s great discovery of the physical laws of motion.
These principles of Newtonian physics can still be used to guide space craft to land on distant celestial bodies – most recently, Titan, one of Saturn’s moons.Economists of the early industrial revolution based their theories not only on Adam Smith’s work, but also on Charles Darwin’s The Descent of Man and The Origin of Species (www.thedarwinproject.com). They seized on Darwin’s research on the survival of the fittest and the role of competition among species as additional foundations for their classical economics of “laissez faire” – the idea that human societies could advance wealth and progress by simply allowing the invisible hand of the market to work its magic. In class-ridden Victorian Britain, this led economists and upper-class elites to espouse theories known as “social Darwinism:” the belief that inequities in the distribution of land, wealth and income would nevertheless produce economic growth to trickle down to benefit the less fortunate.
Charles Darwin saw the human capacity for bonding, cooperation and altruism as an essential factor in our successful evolution. In retrospect, how otherwise could we have gone from the experience of over 95% of our history lived in roving bands of 25 people or less  – to today’s mega cities: Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Mexico City or Jakarta? These improbable metropolises, along with global corporations and governance institutions such as the United Nations and all its agencies, the European Union, now expanded to embrace 25 formerly warring countries – could never have emerged without humanity’s capacities for bonding, cooperation and altruism.
So as we have evolved into our complex societies, organizations and technologies of today – we need to re-examine our belief systems and the extent to which they still may be trapped in earlier primitive stages of our development. Why for example do we underestimate our genius for bonding, cooperation and altruism – seemingly stuck in our earlier fears and games of competition and territoriality? Why do we over-reward such behavior and still assume in our economic textbooks and business schools that maximizing one’s individual self-interest in competition with all others is behavior fundamental to human nature?"
Well put, Hazel!
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Some of our most pressing needs in society: clean air, healthy food, educated children, informed adults, living vibrant ecosystems.
Wealth Creation for so much of our modern history has been at the expense of the aforementioned basic necessities of life.
So, what can be done to create money which will produce "clean air", "healthy food", "vibrant ecosystems" etc? Well, until relatively recently in our history, these things were not scarce commodities... now they are becoming so.
In the "Natural Capitalism" - Hawken and Lovins point out that nature provides essential "services" to us which are the backbone of our economy. i.e. forests - clean air and water, provide habitat for insects that pollinate our crops, and spawning grounds for our wild fish stocks, oceans - food, carbon sink, etc. the list goes on.
Since we are now at the point where we can no longer simply take for granted that these services are available, there indeed are 'wealth creation' opportunities for entrepreneurs involved with restoring nature's ability to provide these "services."
Challenge, of course, is how are such entrepreneurs going to generate money - as who will actually pay for the restoration of a forest, or cleaning of a river, etc.
Well, therein lies the problem, no?
The challenge is our economic assumptions. These "services" provided by nature have always been assumed to be free and always available. And problems like pollution, ecosystem damage, unhealthy workers, etc. have always been considered "externalities" in the corporate equation.
What are some examples of innovation in the marketplace?
Carbon credit exchanges to create money by limiting pollution incentivizing
- reforestation - improve breeding and cultivation of wild tree species customers: logging and forest management companies
- pollinator insect breeding. beekeepers, and others customers: organic farms
- biodiversity - heirloom seed companies
- ocean health -
Friday, August 11, 2006
Here are some juicy excerpts:
MTM: You’ve worked with a lot of people to help them become happier. Some
of them have a lot of money. So tell us, does money make people happy?
BAKER: I know a lot of people who, from the outside, look in and say, “Boy,
it would be great to have lots of money.” Barbara Walters once interviewed entertainment mogul David Geffen. She said, “O.K., David, now that you’re a billionaire, are you happy?” He shot back without hesitation: “Barbara, anybody who
believes money makes you happy doesn’t have money.”
It’s a brilliant insight, because money doesn’t make you happy.
"MTM: What is happiness and how do you find it?
BAKER: Happiness is a side effect of living life in a certain way. It’s not a
mood—moods are biochemically regulated—and it’s not even an emotion, because emotions seem to be somewhat event-dependent. What I’m talking about is a way of living a meaningful, purpose-focused, fulfilling life. When we wrote our book, What
Happy People Know, Cameron Stauth and I studied the literature on happiness
and identified concepts or characteristics most frequently identified with happiness.
Of course, love is at the top of the list. But the list also includes qualities
like optimism, courage, a sense of freedom, proactivity, security, health, spirituality, altruism, perspective, humor, and purpose. These are qualities associated with people who are essentially happy. So happiness is both about living
well in your own situation and also about living meaningfully and fully in relationship to others."
ON INDIVIDUAL HAPPINESS AFFECTING SOCIETY
MTM: In your book you say that you think the quest to achieve happiness can
change a whole culture. What do you think that new culture will look like?
BAKER: When people are in a positive state of emotion they are generally civil
and even kind and caring human beings. To ascertain the validity of this
observation, think about your own personal experience and that of the people
you know. You will never see a truly happy and simultaneously hostile person
because those two states are essentially neurologically incompatible. This is
because positive emotions evoke activity in the frontal lobes of the brain. The
frontal lobes allow us to see abstract possibilities and to understand concepts of
good and evil; they are essential to the understanding of ethics, morality, and
civility. This is why I believe that positive emotions, such as appreciation, happiness, joy, and love—with all their power for good health physically, mentally,
emotionally, spiritually, and socially—are extremely important to civilization
and its continued evolution. It is true that war is a “statistical norm”
for humanity. Human beings have been at war with one another somewhere on
this planet almost constantly since time immemorial. However, we have within
us the capacity to build a more constructive future civilization by virtue of this
“higher order moral brain.” Though we always carry with us the capacity to live
in fear and engage in massively destructive acts, I believe that human beings
will ultimately choose civility over destruction and will benefit from all the
consequences of this choice, including creativity, ethics, and morality."
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
How does money interesect with the quality of life for us individually and collectively? How can our financial resources be stewarded in such a way to maximize "quality of life" for all?
Calvert has made an effort to quantify "quality of life" for national well being through - Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators.
"The Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators are a contribution to the worldwide effort to develop comprehensive statistics of national well-being that go beyond traditional macroeconomic indicators. A systems approach is used to illustrate the dynamic state of our social, economic and environmental quality of life. The dimensions of life examined include: education, employment, energy, environment, health, human rights, income, infrastructure, national security, public safety, re-creation and shelter."
For the well being of individuals, a friend of mine has created the "Wellnes Inventory"
The Wellness Inventory is a pioneering "whole person" wellness program designed to help one to gain personal insight into their state of physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. The program, developed by HealthWorld Online and wellness pioneer John W. Travis, MD, MPH, offers guidance and tools to transform this new awareness into lasting changes in ones life, and a renewed sense of health and well-being. The program can help to:
- Discover your wellness profile in 12 dimensions of life.
- Identify the areas in life one ise most motivated to change.
- Create a personalized wellness action plan.
- Access tools and resources to help one reach his or her goals.
- Create the desired changes in ones life.
- Track progress in reaching a higher level of wellness.
- Achieve a higher level of health, wellbeing and aliveness.
"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
Sustainable Development is a term which means "meeting the needs of the present without comprimising the needs of the future" a guiding principal for this time when our civilization's economic activities are polluting the environment, destroying wilderness, exploiting workers and leaving the resource-rich in an endless cycle of unfullfilling consumerism.