News from Helena Norberg Hodge

Helena in JapanThe latest ISEC message sent by Helena gives some feedback on the Economics of Happiness Conference, hosted in Portland, Oregon, from February 27 to March 1, 2015, including links to photos and proceedings.

We particularly valued a Local Futures blog by Steven Gorelick , Managing Programs Director at Local Futures (International Society for Ecology and Culture), author of Small is Beautiful, Big is Subsidized, co-author of Bringing the Food Economy Home, and co-director of The Economics of Happiness who frequently teaches and speaks on local economics around the US.

He summarises the growing awareness of economic inequality, referring to an Oxfam report, which tells us that the world’s 85 richest people now have as much wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion; that the richest 1% will own more than half the world’s wealth by next year; and that in the US, the wealthiest one percent captured 95% of income growth since 2009, leaving the bottom 90%

isec inequalityCropped from shot taken in China by Taro Taylor:

Stephen asks if morality has any place in conventional economic thinking

He notes that ‘the overseers of the global economy’ are beginning to see problems with the wealth gap for reasons that are neither moral nor ethical, but purely practical: extreme inequality, they fear, might threaten the continuance of the system itself. Two examples:

  • Billionaire and self-described plutocrat Nick Hanauer is even more concerned: “if we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in our society, the pitchforks will come for us.”

Gorelick revisits a famous memo signed by one of the most influential economists of our time, Lawrence Summers in 1991, when Mr. Summers was Chief Economist of The World Bank. In it he argues that heavily polluting “dirty industries” should be located in the less developed countries (LDCs). This is because the ‘cost’ of illness and premature death is based on lost earnings, and so the lives of the poor are less valuable than their wealthier counterparts.

He comments: “In other words, any moral qualms about dumping toxic waste in poor people’s backyards must be suppressed, because acknowledging the validity of those concerns would call into question the legitimacy of the entire “liberalization” package ­of deregulation and free trade pushed by The World Bank, IMF, WTO and other institutions”.

As a sister site points out from time to time, failure (incompetence, gross misjudgment and more) is rewarded. Not only did Summers hold on to his position at The World Bank, his career path continued ever upward and he eventually became Secretary of the Treasury where he presided over the deregulation of the financial industry was chosen by President Barack Obama to head his Council of Economic Advisers.

Gorelick records that in the following years dirty industries migrated to the less developed countries – accounting for both environmental improvements in the rich countries and blighted environments in places like China. Waste is now routinely traded to the South, with cargo ships bringing discarded plastic, e-waste, and other effluent of the consumer culture to Third World countries for disposal or “recycling”, at great cost to their environment and the health of their citizens.

The “impeccable economic logic” which Summer embraced is deeply troubling. people who are admired in their communities, loved by neighbors, friends, and family may have countless admirable traits, but the only one that matters to mainstream economists is their contribution to global economic output. If in that arena – measured by their monetized earnings – they are deemed deficient, their worth becomes negligible. And as the wealth gap grows, millions more are joining the ranks of the expendable every year.

Their only hope: that many more decision-makers grow to fear the extreme inequality which might threaten the continuance of their personally profitable system.

News from Rashneh Pardiwala and Katy Rustom in Mumbai

Rashneh and Katie have sent news of CERE’s latest publication, Walk on the Wild Side – a handbook on Urban Biodiversity. CERE has designed this book for city youngsters, students, teachers and parents to help take them closer to nature, in order for them to bond with it. Conservation would be a natural outcome of this bonding with wildlife.

walk wild side cover2

The following features of the biodiversity book make it unique:

  • Visually appealing.
  • Informative and motivational.
  • Makes wildlife identification simple. Will help young naturalists identify birds and other animals they see in their own neighbourhoods and communities.
  • Generates ideas and techniques on creating habitats even in small spaces like balconies in urban areas in order to increase biodiversity.
  • Motivational case studies prompting all sections of society to work towards biodiversity conservation.
  • Gives a host of practical ideas on children’s projects on nature and lists easy outdoor activities that teachers and parents can conduct with reference material.
  • Helps increase urban biodiversity through proactive conservation and innovative ideas in creating urban habitats for wildlife.
  • Will help improve the quality of life in our cities through the conservation efforts spelt out in the book.

To get a copy of “Walk on the Wild Side“, please visit

News from Geoff Tansey

geoff tansey 3Following our news about the Food Systems Academy, Geoff chaired the Fabian Society’s Commission on Food and Poverty, launched on November 10th, which brought together experts, as well as those experiencing poverty, to look at the roles of government, civil society and the food industry in increasing the availability and accessibility of sustainable, nutritious food.

It looked at the UK food system through the lens of low income households with a view to making recommendations for a fairer and more sustainable food system. Recent research has shown that emergency food use is just the tip of the iceberg – many more people do not have access to the levels of nutritious, sustainable food that most people would deem socially acceptable.

fabian commission food poverty header

The Commission also included leading representatives from across civil society, trade unions, academia and the food industry.

The hearings covered money and affordability, context and access, health, the environment, and the supply chain and society. The first hearing, on ‘money and affordability’, took evidence from Prof Liz Dowler (University of Warwick), Dr Clive Black (Shore Capital), and Martin O’Connell (Institute for Fiscal Studies). Download paper from website’s link.

Sheffield University’s Grantham Centre of Sustainable Futures and the Research Exchange for the Social Sciences hosted the Fabian Society Commission on Food and Poverty’s fourth ‘Environment’ hearing.

Read about all five hearings here.


News from FEASTA

feasta logo

FEASTA (the foundation for the economics of sustainability) was co-founded by our valued colleague, the late Richard Douthwaite and Caroline Whyte has agreed to liaise with us on his behalf.

cap global carbon logoCapGlobalCarbon project sets out a global system for addressing climate change. Since the CGC website went public we’ve been working hard to attract visitors and answer questions. We are collecting these questions which we intend to include in a FAQ on a later stage. This is what happened during the last two weeks:

John Jopling published a 21 page article on the Green House UK platform. “In this new Greenhouse gas, John Jopling of the Irish think-tank Feasta argues that the situation calls for non-governmental actors to set up the necessary system of global regulation that governments seemingly cannot deliver.”

Erik-Jan van Oosten wrote “Making sure we’ll be safe – a global solution to avert disastrous climate change” for the Valhalla Movement. This article goes into the arguments why governments would want to endorse CapGlobalCarbon based on what they can and cannot agree upon.

cap global carbon header

The OECD insights blog features an article about CapGlobalCarbon by John Jopling. “This post suggests how the OECD could play a crucial part in helping to establish an effective global response to climate change.”

A detailed explanation of the scheme including the history behind CapGlobalCarbon, specific arguments for governments and business and the differences with other capping schemes is now accessible on our website.

The Guardian newspaper featured a letter from John Jopling in reaction to the ambition of the paper to work towards practical solutions to climate change.

CapGlobalCarbon can now be found on twitter and Facebook. We are providing links and quotes which we hope you will share with your friends and colleagues. We are looking for people who want to join the core group. Every Monday at 11.00 GMT we meet on Skype and invite you to join us. In this stage we mostly need help with media, strategy and contacting key figures. To see who’s involved in the core team see the about us page. Email us at if you’d like to be invited into the core group and briefly describe what you think you can add to the team.

News from Scientists for Global Responsibility



SGR associate member Barbara Panvel has agreed to update the network as Alan Cottey is now devoting much of his time to the Steering Group of Visions for Change Norwich.

SGR’s latest newsletter covered science and engineering for war; shale gas and fracking, risks of nuclear weapons use, chemical weaponry and World War I, controlling global carbon emissions, UK domestic energy efficiency programmes and corporate influence on research on genetically-modified crops. An extract follows:

With momentum increasing for nuclear disarmament, especially on the international stage, SGR has provided important inputs into the debate in recent months.

Its briefing on the impacts of the UK’s nuclear weapons on the climate and humanity, should they ever be used, continued to be in demand – including intergovernmental nuclear weapons conferences in New York and Vienna. The Vienna conference was especially important as the Austrian government announced there its intention to lead efforts to achieve a nuclear weapons abolition treaty.

The Rethink Trident campaign was re-launched in the autumn – supported by SGR and numerous peace groups, politicians and celebrities, The aim is to run a high profile campaign against replacement of the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons system as we head towards the scheduled parliamentary vote in 2016. The re-launch included a full page advert in The Guardian and a parliamentary seminar. SGR also supported the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

In the summer, Philip Webber took part in an expert seminar on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons in London. In September, an article on the SGR website about nuclear weapons and the Scottish independence referendum attracted a lot of interest.

Later in the autumn, a new book on nuclear weapons was published – which included a chapter by Philip. ln December, Stuart Parkinson spoke about the issue at a Labour Students event at Lancaster University.

News from Helena Norberg-Hodge

Helena (below, top centre)  was quoted extensively by Russell Brand in his new book ‘Revolution’.

LOCAL FUTURES (ISEC) is organising a conference in Oregon where speakers from around the world will be covering a range of interconnected topics – local food, technology, healthcare, local business, indigenous rights, environmental justice and much more.

isec conf 2015                   Workshops include:

  • envisioning local learning;
  • local community self-governance: the next step towards an economics of happiness;
  • taking the 10-day local food challenge: how local can we go?
  • open power: electoral reform & the open source toolkit;
  • the terroir economy;
  • how to run an offers and needs market;
  • animating the commons;
  • hard to swallow: race, class and gender in the food system;
  • the climate agent of change;
  • the eloquence of stones: excursions into the remarkable vibrancy of things, and
  • towards a caring economy: communities that nurture young and old.

Regular price tickets are on sale until February 9th. Low income and student tickets and scholarships are available. Or invite your friends on Facebookand watch for the videos, which will be posted online after the conference.

News from Jackie Carpenter

trelay farm large

From Trelay Farm, Cornwall, Jackie sends a 2015 wish that compassion and peace for all people, all plants and animals and the planet Earth would be achieved.

Trelay farm is a cohousing community in Crackington Haven. Co-housing is a way of living which consciously brings individuals and families together to share common aims and activities, while also enjoying their own self-contained accommodation and personal space. Read more on the site, and in our May news:

The farm is a working smallholding in rolling countryside with views along a wooded valley to the sea and a profusion of wild flowers and wildlife in the farm’s woodland and tree-lined banks. It surrounded by its own 32 acres of land, with lots to see including pigs, chickens, cows, sheep and various renewable energy projects. The farm grows fruit and vegetables following sustainable and organic principles.

trelay 2014

The writer looks forward to more news of Roger’s laboratory (its function), the summerhouse and the memorial roundhouse – ‘under construction’.