Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Day After Earth Day

Here's an excerpt from a blog I follow by Charles Eisenstein, an author, public speaker and part time faculty at Goddard College. His book Sacred Economics  "traces the history of money from ancient gift economies to modern capitalism, revealing how the money system has contributed to alienation, competition, and scarcity, destroyed community, and necessitated endless growth." Quite interesting.
Posted: 18 Apr 2012 07:53 PM PDT
Here is (an excerpt from) my review of the U.N. conference on happiness and economics, convened by the government of Bhutan, that I attended on April 2.
Economic growth turns social reciprocity and gift relationships (two components of GNH*) into paid services. It converts pristine ecosystems into sources of timber or minerals. It converts silence into noise, starry skies into urban lights, kitchen gardens into supermarket purchases, mom’s cooking into fast food takeout. It replaces the village storyteller with the TV cartoon, mothering with day care, outdoor play with video games. A society that still has these former things intact, and meets its needs without much money, is called, by economists, an “undeveloped market.” The process of liquidating social and natural capital is called “development.” Clearly, our conception of sustainable development is begging for scrutiny.    *Gross National Happiness"
I couldn't agree more. Did you know there is a whole body of "ecological economists" who believe we should be moving away from an economy unrealistically striving for constant growth (clearly unsustainable in a finite world) toward a steady state economy, one which "aims for stable or mildly fluctuating levels in population and consumption of energy and materials. Birth rates equal death rates, and production rates equal depreciation rates." 

If you're interested in exploring this idea, check out the Center for the Advancement of a Steady State Economy. "Conventional economists tend to overlook physical and ecological principles when considering the effects of economic growth. These economists, along with politicians, business leaders, the media, and the public at large, are not seeing the big picture when it comes to economic growth. That’s where CASSE steps in."

It used to be that I would immediately say, "back" when asked the question, "If you had a time machine, would you set the dials so you could go backwards, to meet those who influenced the world we live in today, watch as history unfolds, or would you want to see the unknown future?" Imagine watching Michelangelo at work, sitting in on the constitutional convention, sitting down in the agora to listen or debate with Socrates, look in on how my ancestors' daily life in Eastern Europe and Israel. 

But now there are such huge forces seemingly at odds with each other that the future may hold cataclysmic changes impossible to imagine based on what we know to date. I wish I could be around to see what paths humanity takes and how the Earth and all our fellow creatures fare in our wake. 

What would be your vote? Forward or back in the time machine? Cast your ballot in my poll or simply comment. I'll post results at the end of next week.

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