Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Right Relationship: Building a Whole Earth Economy - book preview

The Quaker Institute for the Future (QIF) launched the Moral Economy Project (MEP) in 2005 to address Friends' concerns about the human prospect in a world of unbridled growth and increasing ecological degradation.

The central effort of MEP has been the drafting of a book, Right Relationship: Building a Whole Earth Economy, on how to work toward a moral economy.

MEP's vision is that the global political and economic order shifts from one of unrestrained economic growth, ecological degradation and social inequity to one that preserves and enhances social and ecological well-being. This is a vision of right relationship with the commonwealth of life: the entire web of life that shares the earth’s capacity to support life. A key part of this vision is global governance that is grounded on a coherent ethical and scientific foundation and fulfills key functions: a comprehensive understanding of the ecological limits on the human economy, a system to protect global commons, a set of global rules that maintain the economy within ecological limits, and an effective global system of enforcement and rule of law.

MEP's mission is to engage in dialogue and action toward development and promotion of ideas for forms of global governance needed to steer the global political and economic order on a path leading to right relationship with the entire web of life on earth.

Right Relationship: Building a Whole Earth Economy
(Berret Koehler, forthcoming) - overview of the book

Most people have been conditioned to accept the operation of the economy as an article of faith. Unlimited growth and wealth accumulation are seen as the “natural law” of the economy and nothing can be done to alter this fact – even if it means the Earth’s ecological and social systems are severely damaged. This “inconvenient truth” poses a moral challenge. We are faced with a choice: bring the economy into right relationship with the planet and its inhabitants, or suffer the consequences -- the increasing destruction of Earth’s life support systems and social structures. Drawing on the Quaker principle of “right relationship,” the book Right Relationship: Building a Whole Earth Economy presents a proposal for bringing our economy, our ethics, and our environment into alignment.

What is right relationship?
A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, resilience, and beauty of the commonwealth of life. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.

What is the economy for?
An economy in right relationship maintains social and ecological integrity, resilience and beauty.

How does the economy work? An economy in right relationship is built on an understanding that life on earth is part of the evolution of the universe and is subject to its laws.

How big is too big?
An economy in right relationship respects human dignity and ecological integrity, and stays within the capacity of Earth’s biosphere to provide for, and assimilate waste from, humans and all other species.

What is fair?
An economy in right relationship provides neither too much nor too little for present and future generations of life’s commonwealth.

What governance is needed?
Governance institutions in right relationship maintain the spark of competition within the engines of social well-being and ecological health. An earth reserve, a form of global federalism, trusteeships and a mandatory world court provide a framework for resilient local communities.

How can we get there?

Grounding and clarification: Right relationship is grounded in awe for the cosmos and an ethic of humankind’s appropriate place and relationship to the cosmos and the earth.

Design: There is an urgent priority for development of models, pilots and techniques built on right relationship, with the benefit of history but thoroughly and thoughtfully adapted to the present.

Witness: Everyone who wants a future for an earth that supports life’s commonwealth needs to commit to individual and collective changes that will lead to right relationship. Quaker history contains many examples of reform leading to right relationship, but the template for abolishing slavery is the most well known. This model can serve as the basis for building a whole earth economy in right relationship with life’s commonwealth.

MEP will pursue four overarching goals in 2008-2010, mindful of the many other Quaker and non-Quaker groups and individuals making contributions toward a just and flourishing world:
  1. develop an organizational structure and capacity adequate to accomplishing its goals.
  2. promote and raise awareness of the book and its message among Quakers and non-Quakers worldwide, particularly the need for new global mechanisms to ensure a political-economic order in right relationship with the commonwealth of life.
  3. develop and promote ways to use the book and related materials (queries, pamphlets, articles, powerpoints, films, study guides, etc.) in Quaker and non-Quaker venues, so as to stimulate thinking and action toward the vision of right relationship between the economy and the commonwealth of life, as presented in the book and refined in ongoing collaborative inquiry and discussion.
  4. identify key organizations and individuals with similar concerns, ranging from local to national and international, for exchange of information, cooperation and/or partnership, to develop and implement action plans relating to those concerns that extend through and beyond 2010.
A symposium on the book and its message is being planned for Spring 2009. For more information, to join the MEP mailing list or to participate in the MEP, please contact Geoff Garver at


Judith said...

How can I get a copy of "Right Relationship: Building a Whole Earth Economy'?

fdmillar said...

The Right Relationship book is not yet published, but you can pre-order a copy at