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Economics

Arguably, economics stands at the very center of the complex web of the current climate crisis. Many options exist for interrupting the exhaustive downward ecological spiral caused by global consumer demand and patterns of consumption. EcoCiv research begins with existing schools such as ecological economics and degrowth, seeking to resolve areas of disagreement and formulate overlap areas based on what the economic structures and policies of a sustainable civilization would have to look like.


Consultations Held:

Economics Consultation #1

Our first Economics Consultation focused on discussions of the major options for sustainable economic practices. We use the phrase “economics toward ecological civilization” for this goal. EcoCiv does not advocate for a particular school or champion a single set of answers. Instead, we conduct research to better understand the major schools—environmental, ecological, and other economic models represented by those we interview—in order to formulate shared principles, emphasizing areas of consensus more than disagreement. Put differently, EcoCiv conducts pragmatic research in economics with the goal of finding common ground (a basis for collaborative action), rather than advocating a particular school or thinker to the exclusion of all others.

October 25-26, 2015
Interviews & Conversations with:

  • Joseph Prabhu (Cal State LA)
  • David Korten (Harvard Business School)
  • Julie Nelson (University of Massachusetts Boston)
  • David Barkin (Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana in México City)
  • Giorgos Kallis (SOAS University of London)
  • Peter Victor (York University)
  • Patricia Perkins (York University)
  • Eric Pineault (Université du Québec à Montréal


Economics Consultation #2

After the first consultation on economics, we realized that the central importance and massive scope of the topic required an additional consultation. In our second Economics Consultation, we attempted to fill some of the gaps left after our initial consultation (schools of thought that weren’t represented, key voices not heard, etc.).

April 3-4, 2016
Interviews & Conversation with:

  • Jonathan Harris (Tufts University)
  • Sabine O’Hara  (UDC)
  • Josh Farley (Gund Institute at U Vermont)
  • Mark Sagoff (George Mason University, Breakthrough Institute)
  • Robert Costanza (Australian National University)
  • Richard Norgaard (UC Berkeley)
  • Brian Czech (Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy)
  • Emanuele Campiglio (London School of Economics)
  • Peter G. Brown (McGill University)
  • Susan Witt and Alice Maggio (Schumacher Center for a New Economics)
  • Gar Alperovitz (Democracy Collaborative)

Many groups are already doing great work on alternative economic models. Here are some examples:

 

Local Economies Project and Wild Earth

Sometimes it takes a network of partners to bring about real innovations. Here we feature a partnership among EcoLabs that combines innovations in farming, education, and local economies.

The Local Economies Project (LEP) —   supports ecological farming, food justice, local stewardship, and food economy. The mission statement expresses the primary goals:

Our mission at Local Economies Project is to build an equitable and ecologically resilient food system in Hudson Valley. Through program development, grant funding, and convening partners across the region, we are fostering the food and farming economy and its capacity to nurture the natural environment and serve our communities.

The Local Economies Project supports the work of local food companies in a variety of ways. For example, LEP provides low-interest loans to a variety of small businesses that grow food and produce local beverages. By creating a “hub” of local farms, they offer a model for supporting small, ecologically oriented farming around the country. They write:

The Hudson Valley Farm Hub presents a unique opportunity to model a new way of doing business and encourage innovation through demonstration, education, and research. Because profit has traditionally been in contention with equity and ecology, the Farm Hub’s programming is targeted at finding ways to ensure that values-based practices can be economically viable. As a non-profit demonstration farm, we can afford to take risks that farms and food businesses cannot take, and   through recordkeeping and enterprise budgeting, we are collecting and sharing vital information about the true cost of food. Additionally, as we market Farm Hub products along with others we will be building opportunities for Hudson Valley farmers, working together to achieve our vision of a resilient, and collaborative, food and farming economy.

Recently, LEP partnered with the Novo Foundation to purchase a 1200 acre farm adjacent to Kingston, NY. The goal is to turn the farm into the largest agricultural incubator in the United States. The Farm Hub offers farmer training, research and demonstration, and a seed sanctuary on the recently acquired land. And the O+ Festival offers education programs for kids in Kingston:

LEP White Papers summarize the concepts and results so that others can emulate them:

* White paper on finance: Financing a Better Food System (PDF)
* White paper on grain: Reviving Grain in the Hudson Valley (PDF)

We feature in particular the work of LEP’s partner organization, Wild Earth,  Through its educational programs, “Wild Earth leads transformative nature immersion experiences that cultivate character, confidence, passion and perseverance in New York’s youth.”

This series of partnerships transforms multiple features of Hudson Valley society at the same time: support for small farms, local economies, and nature education for kids and adults.

RSF Social Finance

At RSF Social Finance, investors, donors, and entrepreneurs are brought together to make social and ecological change happen. Through radical economic practices, such as bringing investors and entrepreneurs together to have conversations about interest rates, RSF Social Finance is creating productive relationships between people and transforming the relationship between people and money. By engaging in a financial method they call integrated capital, RSF Social Finance works “to support an enterprise that’s working to solve complex social and environmental problems.”

Their mission is “To create financial relationships that are direct, transparent, personal and focused on long-term social, economic and ecological benefit.” While focusing on economics, their mission and work furthers the movement toward ecological civilization in business and agricultural sectors because the sort of businesses they invest in reflect the values, work, and mission of RSF Social Finance, as well. This practice encourages the development of ecologically sustainable and socially just businesses.

To learn more, visit their website: http://rsfsocialfinance.org/

 

Schumacher Center for a New Economics

The Schumacher Center for a New Economics has facilitated the emergence of ecological civilization through the creation of local currency, shared land trusts, promoting community supported agriculture, and partnering with small farmers to make sustainable agriculture a viable economic option for farmers and local consumers.

Their mission is:

“To educate the public about an economics that supports both people and the planet. We believe that a fair and sustainable economy is possible and that citizens working for the common interest can build systems to achieve it. We recognize that the environmental and equity crises we now face have their roots in the current economic system.”

By engaging in a value-based local economy, the Schumacher Center for a New Economics promotes and supports a shift in cultural values in the Berkshires community of Massachusetts. Their local currency program has been recognized as one of the most successful programs globally and the growth of community supported agriculture (CSA) in North America started with Indian Line Farm, one of their projects. Recognizing that ecological society must transcend societal sectors, they have used the CSA model to help inform a local economic and value system—community supported industry (CSI).

To learn more, visit their website: http://centerforneweconomics.org/ 

Public Banking Institute

Serious economic reforms will not be possible in the movement toward a sustainable society until the control of economic activity by private banks ends. Wealth is not just stored but also created by massive international banks, which have the ability to select investors and types of investments based on their goal of maximizing profits. The costs of their wealth are borne by those who are in need of loans — including city and state governments, and businesses large and small.

Public Banking is a crucial step in reducing the dependence on private banks. Public banks may be owned by a municipality or even a state, as in the Bank of North Dakota. Here loans are made in the public interest, benefiting small investors, student loans, community development, local business, and others. Because money is not taken out of the community in the form of profits for multinational banks, more funds remain available to support local interests.

The Public Banking Institute (PBI) is the leading supporter of the development of public banks. The following video offers a discussion with Ellen Hodgson Brown, the Founder and former President of PBI, and Walt McRee, the Chair of the Board. Ellen and Walt offer a clear description of what a public bank is, how to start one, and what impact public banks have on local communities and, potentially, on the country as a whole.

For more information, see the website of the Public Banking Institute, and the blog of Ellen Brown.


Interview with Ellen Hodgson Brown and Walt McCree

 

Bank of North Dakota

As a state-owned bank, the Bank of North Dakota was formed to serve the needs of North Dakota farmers in the early 1900’s. Since its inception, the Bank of North Dakota has protected the state’s economy by working with people in the face of crisis. In the 40’s, it sold foreclosed farmland back to the original families that farmed the land. Today, the bank supports students facing college debt by offering low-interest loans, manageable plans for college loan repayment, and promoting college savings with gift and match programs. As a public banking institute, the Bank of North Dakota operates on people-centered rather than profit-centered values and can invest back into the community.

Core values

  • Service: Excel and deliver
    We make decisions based on customer needs and preferences, recognizing the importance of continuous improvement, cost effectiveness and timeliness.
  • Teamwork: Together we accomplish more
    We provide a positive work environment that fosters communication, respect, empowerment, accountability, commitment and partnerships.
  • Ethics: Do the right thing
    We act with honesty and integrity in everything we do.
  • People-centered: Employees set us apart
    We embrace a culture that respects differences, encourages creativity and development, promotes work-personal balance and recognizes individuals for their unique contributions.”

Ecological Civilization requires sustainable economic practices that bolster resilience in times of crisis. As a public institute, the Bank of North Dakota has helped to make North Dakota one of the most economically resilient states in the nation.

The Public Banking Institute has featured the Bank of North Dakota as one-of-a-kind; a banking model that can and should be replicated.

For more on Public Banking, watch the video below:

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