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Next Friday: news of an event in Ireland sent by Caroline Whyte, on behalf of the late Richard Douthwaite

ecology of money RD header

It is good to see FEASTA organising an event which tales forward one of the subjects close to Richard Douthwaite’s heart. He wrote The Ecology of Money – see the promising contents list here. Published as one of the excellent Schumacher Briefings. One reviewer said:

ecology of money coverThis book is an absolute must-read. Guides the reader, in easy to understand language, through the world of money.

What is money?
Where does it come from?
Who creates it?
Who controls it?
Why does it matter?
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These questions and more are all answered. Just read it!

Feasta guest lecture & discussion, in association with Sensible Money: Creating & Directing Public Money, by Mary Mellor

Mary Mellor is Emeritus Professor in the School of Arts and Social Sciences at Northumbria University in Newcastle; one of her primary interests is in developing radical alternative models of money, finance and economic development. She is the author of The Future of Money and is working on a new book, Debt or Democracy? The Necessity of Public Money.

This event picks up where Feasta’s May 2013 seminar, The Money Mess, left off, and will be co-facilitated by Graham Barnes of Feasta and Paul Ferguson of Sensible Money.

The hidden mechanics of money-issuance are becoming progressively exposed thanks to the efforts of Positive Money, Sensible Money, NEF, Feasta and others, and the enormous subsidy/preference given to private banks in the form of the power to create money is more widely understood, as is their misallocation of loan capital. But what responses are open to us, individually and collectively?

The private-good public-bad ideology of the neoliberals is being used to mount a sustained attack on public welfare and infrastructure. This assault is underpinned by a narrative Mary calls ‘handbag economics’ – the idea that sovereign governments need to operate like households; where each public investment is immediately countered with a “where is the money to come from?” argument (when the government can create public money if it chooses); where public expenditure is portrayed as a drain on the private sector ‘wealth creators’; where non-GDP activity is effectively treated as worthless.

Mary’s talk will explore our current predicament from this handbag economics perspective, how it rationalises unnecessary austerity and emphasises scarcity. Can a sufficiency economy develop on the back of monetary reform? In the discussion that follows we will explore the possible responses to monetary dysfunction – both through reform and via monetary diversity. The simplistic private-good public-bad narrative is being attacked on a number of fronts – for example by Mariana Mazzucato who points out the seminal role of the public sector in technology developments. So we have powerful and articulate fellow travellers.

But how can we take back control of the prevailing narrative from a reactionary capitalist establishment, dug-in to deny climate change and welshing on their environmental responsibilities? And what would truly democratic Public Money look like?

Friday 25th April 2014, 6pm for a 6.30 start
Venue: The Teachers’ Club, 36 Parnell Sq., Dublin 1
(The club’s cash bar will be open for drinks/tea/coffee before and after the event.)

To book: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/can-we-have-our-money-back-tickets-11185398829

From Peter Mansfield

Peter writes:

peter mansfieldI was surprised and delighted to note the emergence of a new pressure group, Action on Sugar, made up of 14 doctors and academics, plus advisors, some of whom have been declaring their creed for decades already.

They aim to use similar tactics for sugar as were deployed thirteen years ago for salt reduction, credited with a gradual reduction of 15% since then in the salt content of manufactured foods.

Claims made for the benefit of salt reduction are probably exaggerated. Salt is an essential nutrient, and it is possible to consume too little. Without enough of it, your body fluids will shrink in volume and become thicker and stickier, which can raise blood pressure more than eating too much salt. However, it is also true that manufactured savoury snacks, salted nuts and crisps all contain far more salt than you need, and in population surveys it is clear that average blood pressure rises with age, and more steeply in populations that consume more salt per head.

No such ambiguity applies to sugar, however. Food that is naturally sweet, including sugar cane and dates, can be eaten safely with no deleterious effect. You eventually tire of doing it, for one thing. Extract the sugar, however, and the situation changes dramatically. You can eat pure sugar, with no reduction of craving, until you are sick. Refinement of foods away from their natural state corrupts your appetite for them proportionately, and sugar is far the most refined item we have.

The effects of sugar are much more dangerous than excessive salt. It rots teeth, destroys appetite, causes constipation and contributes directly to diabetes and coronary degeneration. Sugar, not fat, is the primary source of cholesterol in your blood. Indirectly (through poor diet) it weakens immunity and raises the odds that cancer will develop in various parts of the body. Combined with fat in similar quantities – as in confectionery, chips and pastry – it is the single most powerful cause of obesity.

All of this is glaringly obvious to any thinking doctor and a great many members of the general public. Dentists have had their eyes off the ball since 1950, when they were beguiled (wrongly) by fluoride. Most doctors, however, have been victims of a little-known partnership.

When the late Professor Lord (John) Butterfield began his notable career in medical research in the 1950s, he took on diabetes. His MRC-funded survey in Bedford revealed the existence of Type Two Diabetes, which was previously unknown. Butterfield approached the MRC for funding to pursue this finding, but was turned down on the grounds that it was a political hot potato (I paraphrase). So he approached industry for funding, and received a very generous and lasting offer from Tate and Lyle, on condition that he did not make any link between sugar and diabetes.

I have this from a personal conversation with him in the nineties, when he was Master of Downing College, Cambridge and the WHO Principal Adviser on Diabetes, among many other things. He was largely responsible for the development of human insulin, but never applied his very fine mind to the cause or prevention of diabetes.

Tate and Lyle have long since withdrawn from this arrangement and Butterfield died some years ago. Neither acted dishonourably, one serving their shareholders and providing treatment for their victims – rather as the Newcastle Brown Brewery opened a hostel for alcoholics. The other fashioned a brilliant career producing some first class technical advances, in the only way available to him.

But there were unintended consequences. The BDA was outraged when I suggested in a magazine article that diabetes could be prevented. Their line was that diabetics are perfectly normal people who just have to inject themselves twice a day. Ask a physician why there are so many diabetics, and he shows no concern. “We can treat them, that’s the main thing” is a typical response. A thoughtful diabetic specialist, now retired, who is also a college friend, broods that his career has enabled the diabetic gene pool to survive and enlarge.

Even the treatment plan is affected. “Take as much carbohydrate as you need, and I’ll give you the treatment to match” is what most diabetics hear. Take a surfeit of dotes, and we will prescribe sufficient antidotes – a sales line for all medicines manufacturers. Diabetics little know that the opposite plan, to consume very little carbohydrate, will stop many of them needing any treatment at all.

action on sugar logoIf the birth of Action On Sugar signals the end of this cultural blind spot, it may prove to be very significant indeed. The medicines industry may squeal, but they will turn their focus elsewhere. Food industries will have to replace counterfeit with more genuine products, but they have had it very good for very long. It’s time to serve public health well. We deserve better.

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News from Karen Leach: “It’s more about fundamentalism than about diet”

karen4In the latest BFOE newsletter responding to Richard Sagar‘s outline of the case for a vegan diet, Karen made the case against a vegan diet:

There’s clear evidence, and common sense, around the normally greater environmental efficiency of eating vegetable protein ourselves rather than feeding it to animals and eating the animal.

But more than with our other environmental impacts (e.g. few people commit to never use motorised transport) with eating animal products there is a growing tendency towards absolutism: not to focus on reduction, or on the impacts of the whole spectrum of buying, storing and cooking food, but on the specific solution of veganism.

I see this absolutist expectation as unhelpful from a sustainability perspective for several reasons:

1) Culture and alienation: when people who are ‘not like us’ share food with us, it seems poorer in spirit to refuse than to break one’s own food rules. Do you refuse animal products cooked by your gran who’s eaten them for 80 years? Or from generous Muslim neighbours breaking their Ramadan fasts? Absolutism alienates those around us.

2) Waste: It is surely better to eat someone’s Macdonald’s burger than see it put in the bin, or to snaffle the conference buffet remains than go home to make your own vegan dinner? Is it really an environmental act to send soup back to the pub kitchen to be thrown away on account of a miniscule cream garnish?

3) Transitional systems and economics: I’d rather support my Welsh GM-campaigner organic grass-fed beef farmer friend than see Pembrokeshire farming go to the wall. For our farming to transition to sustainability over time, it first needs to survive! And then be supported to become less resource-intensive. Even in the longer term a small proportion of livestock in mixed farming can create an excellent permaculture model. In the wild, or what passes for it, shooting rabbits and deer for food plays the essential ‘top predator’ role in habitats we have already disrupted.

Reduced use of animal products is environmentally crucial: veganism is not. Like other areas of change, dietary change involves systems and people, and needs to work with those systems and people to enable them to change over time.

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News from Rianne ten Veen

rianne 3Rianne contributed to the widely reviewed Study of the Impact of Donor Counter Terrorism Measures on Principled Humanitarian Action*

In May she has been invited to speak on this at invitation-only event at Durham University; with the Chatham House rule she will be free to express some of her reservations about its editing and delayed presentation.

Lead authors Valerie Amos and Toril Brekke introduce the study:

The attacks on the United States on September 11th, 2001, ushered in a new era of expansive counter-terrorism laws and policies which have had an impact on the funding, planning and delivery of humanitarian assistance and protection activities to people in need.

This independent study, commissioned by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Norwegian Refugee Council on behalf of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), aims to increase the understanding of existing counter-terrorism laws and policies and their impact on our work. Humanitarian principles require that assistance and protection be provided wherever it is needed, impartially and with preference for those in greatest need. This foundation for humanitarian action is based in international law and has been repeatedly reaffirmed by States. The study presents practical recommendations both for donors and humanitarian actors.

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UNCHR study coverIn some situations, certain donor counter-terrorism measures have presented humanitarian actors with a serious dilemma. If we abide by our principles, we may break the law and face criminal prosecution. Adherence to some counter-terrorism laws and measures may require us to act in a manner inconsistent with these principles. This could undermine the acceptance of humanitarian workers among the different parties engaged in conflict and the communities in which they work, preventing them from protecting and assisting those most in need.

(Recommendation: Counter-terrorism laws and measures adopted by States and inter-governmental organizations should include exceptions for humanitarian action which is undertaken at a level intended to meet the humanitarian needs of the person concerned.)

There is an urgent need to strike a better balance between the aims of counter-terrorism laws and measures on one hand, and humanitarian action which adheres to these principles, on the other.

(Recommendation: Donors should be more responsive to requests from humanitarian organizations for guidance on the content, scope and application of counter-terrorism measures in specific contexts.)

The case studies of the occupied Palestinian territory and Somalia highlight some of the impacts of counter-terrorism measures on humanitarian actors. These include increased administrative procedures for procurement or vetting of partners; undermined ability to support people in areas where armed groups designated as terrorist may be active; and a tendency towards self-censorship and other negative coping strategies by humanitarian actors. The case studies also highlight the differential impact of counter-terrorism measures across different types of humanitarian organisations.

(Recommendation: Donor States and inter-governmental bodies should avoid promulgating on-the-ground policies that inhibit engagement and negotiation with armed groups, including those designated as terrorist, that control territory or access to the civilian population.)

If implemented, these recommendations could help resolve some of the challenges identified in the study and allow humanitarian actors to end some of the negative coping strategies that they employ on the ground.

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* For some reason this link will not download except via Google: enter the title and the study may be read:
Rianne OCHA study link google

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News from Sabine K. McNeill

Sabine told the European parliament on Wednesday March 20th that the story of the Pedro family is ‘hard to believe’.

portuguese immigrant family“UK adoption scandal” was the headline in the Portugal Resident, an English language newspaper for expatriate residents. Portuguese immigrants Carla and José Pedro, from Grantham, joined 30 other couples (Russians, Lithuanians and Latvians) to petition the European Parliament in Brussels, to restore the children taken from home by the British authorities.

Portugal’s SIC TV showed the parents and family members going to the British Embassy in Brussels where they attempted to deliver a dossier on the scandal. According to the report “neither the British Embassy nor the British Consulate would receive them”.

Correio da Manhã – a Portuguese daily – said that the cases related during a three-hour audience shocked euro MPs They point to the existence of a scheme in the UK involving lawyers, social workers and judges to take thousands of children a year from good parents – the majority being immigrants – and put them up for adoption, with the objective of feeding the industry surrounding adoptions”. One grandfather in the delegation said, “It’s all done for profit!”

It now remains to be seen what happens to these children, and those of the other families (Russians, Lithuanians and Latvians) who petitioned Brussels.

In addition to this campaigning work for Victims Unite, which Sabine founded, she works with parliamentarians such as MPs John Hemming and Nic Dakin (below: bankruptcy malpractice)

sabine parl bankruptcy

John Hemming, Coventry MPs and other members of the House have signed Early Day Motions alerting parliament to the plight of ‘foreign national children’, urging government to maintain records of foreign nationals taken into care in England and to take steps to ensure that local authorities follow international law.

1] http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2013-14/764
[2] http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2013-14/830
[3] http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2013-14/406

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News from John Bunzl

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integral2 consciousness in europe header

Simpol to be presented at Integral Europe Conference, Budapest

Dirk Weller1john bunzl 4Dirk Weller (right), National Coordinator of Simpol-Germany, and John Bunzl, Simpol’s founder, have been invited to give a joint presentation on global politics and Simpol to the Integral Europe Conference taking place in Budapest 8-11th May. A workshop on these issues will also be presented.

Participants are expected to from all over Europe and beyond, other speakers include Susanne Cook-Greuter, Thomas Huebl and many more. Read more here.

In a new article on The Huffington Post, John suggests that environmentalists do not yet fully see how the ‘hidden hand’ of destructive international competition is the real driver behind the headlong international rush for fracking, and how it calls traditional NGO strategies into question. Read it here.

Simpol to be presented to the UK Values Alliance

Asking us to question more deeply WHY the values and behaviour of politicians too often fall short of our own values and aspirations, John Bunzl will present Simpol to members of the UK Values Alliance in London on 21st March. Read more here.

The up-coming Euro Elections

Simpol’s National Campaign Coordinators around Europe are gearing up to ask European election candidates to sign the Simpol Pledge. The recent Euro crisis showed just how vulnerable the Euro is to global markets, so showing the need for global cooperation to reign in the markets.

John adds that he is making some good contacts with prominent academics from various disciplines – including international relations, evolutionary biology and game theory.

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News from Helena Norberg-Hodge

Helena in JapanISEC organised an Economics of Happiness Conference in Bangalore, India on the 15th of March.

It followed two pre-conference screenings of The Economics of Happiness, both in Bangalore on March 2 and March 7.

The video describes a world moving simultaneously in two opposing directions: “On the one hand, government and big business continue to promote globalization and the consolidation of corporate power.

At the same time, people around the world are resisting those policies – and, far from the old institutions of power, they’re starting to forge a very different future. Communities are coming together to re-build more human scale, ecological economies based on a new paradigm – an economics of localization”.

Amongst the other confirmed speakers we noted Claude Alvares (India), Charles Eisenstein (United States), Ashish Kothari (India), Rajagopal P.V. (India), and Devinder Sharma (India).

New to the  writer were Bayo Akomolafe (Nigeria), Camila Moreno (Brazil), Yoji Kamata (Japan), Aseem Shrivastava (India), Keibo Oiwa (Japan), Gloria Germani (Italy), Manish Jain (India) and Samdhong Rinpoche (Tibet).

Approximately 100 people from all walks of life participated in closed meetings, including community and religious leaders, environmental activists, journalists, researchers, ecologists, permaculturalists, economists, doctors, filmmakers, writers, small farmers, small business owners, and more. They represent over 50 different groups and organizations that focus on issues ranging from food and agriculture to social and environmental justice, from alternative education and non-violence to climate and energy.

By bringing together representatives from a broad range of grassroots initiatives from India and abroad, ISEC aimed to deepen the dialogue between North and South, and contribute to a broad people’s movement, in favor of developing localized sustainable alternatives to corporate globalization both in India and beyond.

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News from James Robertson

peoples parliament logopositive news square logoJames draws attention to two events in central London next month which focus on the necessary changes in the world’s money system: the 2014 Positive Money Annual Conference  and a People’s Parliament Meeting on Citizen’s Income.

future money coverAs his book Future Money explains, these reforms will contribute toward the reform of the money system as a whole. The way it works now is motivating us to destroy our civilisation and perhaps our species – see www.jamesrobertson.com/futuremoney.htm.

An increasing number of visitors come across this website by chance last week – see the next post – and those who are new to the subject are recommended to go to James’ latest newsletter and see the summary in sections 2 & 3.

Section 4 relates to Land Value Taxation. We learn that Institute for Fiscal Studies - in its conclusion in its Green Budget 2014 – agrees that a Land Value Tax on all commercial land would be more efficient and better for businesses than the current Business Rates system. For details see: www.labourland.org/in_the_news/ press_releases /IFS_is_right_to_back_Land_Value_Taxes.php.

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Visitors to the site last week: in order of numbers

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News from Ben Dyson

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positive news vision 2014

Ben writes:

It’s been an exciting few months for the campaign to fix our money system. Mainstream journalists have started to talk about the fact that we can’t continue to fuel our economy through money created as debt by the banks. In the Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has spoken about the dangers of ever-rising personal debt, the failure of Quantitative Easing, and the need to get newly-created money into the real economy. Similar articles have been written by Anatole Kaletsky at Reuters and Martin Wolf at the Financial Times. Even Dame Vivienne Westwood has written about the power of banks to create money!

annual supporter conference 2014

Our annual conference is just 1 week away! There are still few seats left, so join us to be involved in the next stage of the campaign: www.positivemoney.org

scottish currency PM coverIn September this year Scotland will vote on whether to become independent from the rest of the UK. Whatever the outcome of that referendum, it has sparked a huge amount of interest and debate about what currency Scotland should use. This is a really exciting time to be talking about money reform and to build a strong movement – and we invite you to become a part of it. If an independent Scotland wished to establish its own currency, there is little sense in modelling the currency on a design that has already spectacularly failed many times in the UK, Europe and the US. There is a better way which would give Scotland a safer banking system and an economy that is more stable and far less dependent on debt, a system where badly-run banks could be allowed to fail.

Read our new report: “A Scottish Currency? – 5 Lessons from the Design Flaws of Pound Sterling”

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