Fresh Ground for Ideas and Action – Ecological Economics
COVID-19 has shut down so many parts of our economy, defining essential and inessential services. We have unplugged from consumerism in ways we could not have imagined a year ago. How do we use this as an opportunity to re-examine economics that complement an ecological world view: Can we nurture an economy that allows us to build community, live sustainably, and meet human needs at the same time?
Over the years ecological economics has influenced The Working Centre, as we work to envision an economy where all people are included and the earth is honoured. Finding a just and sustainable economy is no simple task. Combining on-the-ground experience with the analytic tools from ecological economists have helped us to dream of realistic ways to build forwards. Some key ideas that have inspired us include:
- Alternatives to Growth - We live in an economy structurally dependent on perpetual growth - an impossibility in a finite environment. Can we envision a world that is not based on constant growth? This invites us to rethink success and to think of ways to respect limits to growth.
- Identifying Enough - Part of the transition to a sustainable society is for us individually and collectively explore: “what is enough?” How much do we really need?
- Good Work - We have seen the importance of good work for the human spirit. Meaningful work can give us opportunity to build community, serve others and develop skills. We continue to experiment at a local level what it means to organize an economy based on the “humanization of work.”
- Community Economics - The theories of ecological economics have confirmed our own observations that economic activity can either build up human solidarity or erode community values. Finding ways to keep reciprocal relationships central in economic processes can be challenging but is also ultimately rewarding. It is possible to both meet needs and honour relationships at the same time when we allow experience to teach us and trust our imagination to find new ways of doing things.
- Local is Necessary - Throughout the years we have understood the importance of rooting our economies in our local ecosystems as the primary path to a sustainable society. Every place on earth has its own ecological limits and possibilities. Finding ways to meet our needs through local resources and to foster a strong local economy will be a great challenge but is part of the beautiful adventure we find ourselves in today. It is part of what some ecologists have called “our great homecoming.”
Resources to Explore:
This article by Wendell Berry explores Faustian bargain that we have made with our current economic structure: https://harpers.org/archive/2008/05/faustian-economics/
We have often explored the ideas of overdevelopment and low growth at The Working Centre. Here is an article that Joe Mancini wrote called Looking Forward to Sustainable Growth:
And another called Alternatives to the Overdeveloped Society: https://www.theworkingcentre.org/ideas-and-influences/2402-alternatives-overdeveloped-society
Juliet Schor is the author of “Plenitide: The New Economics of True Wealth”. This animation is an exploration of the main ideas in her book: https://newdream.org/videos/plenitude
Jane Jacobs is a familiar advocate of neighbourhood and economies based in local relationships. Here is an article by her on “Regional Economics” published by Schumacher Centre for a New Economics: https://centerforneweconomics.org/publications/the-economy-of-regions/
Activities to Join:
- We will be hosting a Diploma in Ecological Economics starting in September. Stay tuned for more information.
To join the conversation, to register for activities, for more information or to share ideas, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org .