Monday, 24 November 2008

Right Relationship authors speak

Peter Brown speaks about his new book written with Geoff Garver, Robert Howell, Steve Seghi, and Keith Helmuth, Right Relationship: Building a Whole Earth Economy (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, January 2009). See authors. To order the book, click

According to Geoff Garver, one of Right Relationship's proposals is to tie the bancor more closely with biocapacity (net primary productivity = earth's carrying capacity), and call it the ecor: an environmentally sustainable international currency. Since 1985, our species' demand has been outstripping biocapacity (1). -- graph courtesy of Council on Global Issues : graphic courtesy of BBC

To bring humanity's ecological footprint into balance with earth's carrying capacity is the aim of eco-economists.

George Monbiot, in an article on the global financial crisis (2) proposes that “Bretton Woods II” adopt a true international standard, the bancor, proposed in 1944 by J. M. Keynes but rejected by US Treasury's H.D. White because it interfered with US domination of the world economy. (3)
(1) graph from Council on Global Issues handbook. See also World Wildlife Fund
ecological footprint and WWF Living Planet Report 2008 especially “managing biocapacity: an ecosystem approach”.

(2) Monbiot, "Clearing up this mess," Guardian 18 Nov 2008.
(3) see Wikipedia history of Bretton Woods, especially `Designing the IMF`.
We hope that the book will launch worldwide discussions, especially among Friends. Geoff Garver summarizes some of its key points:

We are talking about a cap-and-trade system for ecological footprint: each country gets its share of the footprint that the earth can handle, and it is up to each country to figure out how to meet its footprint
* We present an ethical guide that we think resonates with a broad range of ethical, cultural and religious traditions; for example, we have a section in the book on the importance of respect in indigenous cultures - respect for our fellow human beings, respect for other species, respect for the earth.
* We have to learn to think about money in a new way. Right now, everyone just wants to get as rich as possible, and we are taught that this ultimately serves the common good. But with climate change and other huge ecological crises, we are learning rapidly that this is not the case. So, money should be seen as a social license to take a piece of a limited ecological pie.
* Our global institutions are not working to protect people or the earth. The UN is a weak body, captured by the Security Council, and UNEP is a weak body within the UN. There is talk about updating the Bretton Woods institutions - the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and so on. We say, right on! But what is needed are institutions that spend much more time and resources on studying the ecological crises and on figuring out ways to promote economic well-being without being fixated on growth. Because sustained economic growth means an ever-increasing human ecological footprint, which is obviously not possible on a finite planet.
* The changed circumstances that require this new thinking is the new information we have today about climate change, loss of species and our over-consumption of the earth's capacity to support life. In the history books, this is the information that will define our time on earth - not things like the present financial crisis.
* Politicians tend to focus on technological solutions to this ecological crisis. But we can't ignore the other key factors: human population, affluence our our ethical systems. More people, with more money, pushed by advertising to believe that what we buy defines our self-worth, will make things worse, not better. In addition to finding technologies that address climate change and other environmental problems, we have to find humane and acceptable ways to drastically lower birth rates, and learn to live rich, fulfilling lives with lower ecological footprints.

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