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Archive for November, 2012

I had the pleasure of speaking at an event about alternative economic models in Edinburgh this week, but I was as studious as the rest of the audience listening to Ian Johnson, Secretary General of the Club of Rome. Next time someone suggests economics is part of the problem of sustainable development, but can’t contribute to the solution, I’ll refer them to this… He laid out 6 challenges:

  1. Loss of ecological capital (biodiversity, climate, fisheries, forests).
  2. Unemployment and underemployment.
  3. Fiscal and banking crises, linked to inadequate regulation.
  4. Food crises, of which there have been 2 in the last decade
  5. Poverty crisis, including rising inequality in developed and developing countries.
  6. Security threats to social cohesion.

The root causes of these are linked to the underpinning value system, economic growth paradigm, and inadequate institutions and governance systems. He highlighted some economic faults in particular:

  • That growth (in GDP) is not growth in wealth, as it ignores the depletion of natural capital, social costs of unemployment and distributional issues.
  • The need to internalise more externalities, not just re: non-market goods, but also the public benefits of market goods.
  • Discount rates need to be rethought, as they discriminate against future generations.
  • Uncertainty and non-linear events need to be handled better.
  • Financial markets are now divorced from the real economy.

Finally, some suggestions to change for the better:

  • Formal incorporation of natural capital into economics.
  • Decouple unemployment from growth, and wellbeing measures from material flows, leading to new measures of welfare (new GDP).
  • Include the price of carbon in energy and start adapting to 2ºC warming.

Leaves you wondering why we aren’t more open to alternatives to GDP, or is this a problem that is too complex for people to grasp?

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Films from the event are now online and can be viewed on the Youtube channel.

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Loving the Fish

Greta Scacchi naked, NGOs rubbing shoulders with celebs… probably the coolest environmental event I’ll ever attend: the London showing of the Fishlove photos in Soho.

Beyond the flesh (human and fish), the campaign has a specific target – The Common Fisheries Policy reforms, which Greta herself spoke passionately about. I managed to talk to a UK actress/starlet. Actually I was talking unbeknowlingly to her mum, and the star came over after her photo shoot next to her pic. This is quite a helpful process as it allows you to identify the celebs by checking the name under the photo later. Anyway, I asked her what had motivated her to take part? “I really liked Happy Feet” she said. Warner Bros trump ecosystem services jargon any day.

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