As the days count down toward Black Friday and its opposite, Buy Nothing Day — both celebrated the day after Thanksgiving, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, by buying things or not buying things, respectively — it’s time for the planet’s most fortunate to mount more than a symbolic protest of refusal on the nation’s favorite day of consumer excess. It’s all well and good not to buy for a day, or even a weekend. But after Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy, Typhoon Haiyan, record droughts and mounting climate casualties, the logic of securing this year’s latest toy just doesn’t cut it. (Did it ever? Who remembers pet rocks and Chicken Dance Elmo?) Nor does a cashmere twin-set and pearls. This year we need to give the gift of survival, to ourselves and the planet.
New research shows that replacing failing infrastructure in Keystone XL states creates more and better jobs than the proposed pipeline
Replacing aging wastewater, drinking water, and gas distribution pipes in Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas can create more jobs and better jobs in the pipeline and construction industries than the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, according to a new report released today by E3 Network and Labor Network for Sustainability.
The Keystone XL pipeline has been touted as a means to address America’s job crisis. This new report, The Keystone Pipeline Debate: An Alternative Job Creation Strategy, shows that we can create five times more jobs than Keystone XL by investing in much needed water, sewer, and gas infrastructure projects in the five states along the proposed pipeline route. The study finds that meeting water and gas infrastructure needs in the five states can create more than 300,000 total jobs. Every dollar spent on gas, water, and sewer infrastructure in those states generates 156% more employment than the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
Transformation doesn’t require an alternative “social economy,” because the economy we have is already social. We just need to recognize and act on that fact.
Socially equitable. Ecologically sustainable. Personally and spiritually satisfying. What sort of economic transformations are needed to achieve societies like these?
Many writers including Gar Alperovitz, David Loy and David Korten argue that the current economic system of global, profit-oriented, individualistic, and greed-driven corporations and markets must be dismantled, and replaced with a “new economy” of local, well-being-oriented, cooperative, and compassion-inspired communities. You’ve probably read articles along these lines – or perhaps you’ve written them.
This isn’t another.
Future Economies Project, Starting Now
Back in 2009, I had the chance to interview two Oregon policy experts about the emergent green economy in that state. The interview is here:
Angus Duncan and Dave Van’t Hoff (starting at minute 3:15) talked to me about the vibrant industry clusters in Oregon that have developed around energy efficiency, solar, biofuels, wind power, sustainable forestry, green building and design. Add in craft beer brewing, light rail, great fair-trade coffee, and urban chicken-raising, and you get—well—the backdrop for a popular, offbeat TV show.
This project seeks to rigorously study examples of “new” economic institutions that are attempting to move the American economy in a different, more progressive and productive, direction. We hope to be able to measure the ways in which these “new economy” efforts are succeeding or not. That obviously raises the question of what metrics are appropriate to use in evaluating these efforts to build new economic institutions.
At the most basic level, “success” has to involve mere survival and the capacity to be reproduced so that the new institutions can ultimately actually make a difference in changing the overall economy. But since the point of this type of institutional innovation is to improve economic performance and well-being relative to existing institutions, measurement of those improvements has to be a primary focus on the measurement of performance too.
Open-Space Under Threat
Public budgets are becoming increasingly strained and manipulated due to economic and political factors. Though temporary, the recent federal government shutdown is an extreme manifestation of this phenomenon. If the ability and/or willingness of government to fund, protect, and manage our open-space continues to deteriorate there will be profound environmental and social consequences. This inability or unwillingness will likely result in decreased protection and access to open-space and parks. Public spaces will be developed or acquired for private interests. Spaces still managed by public agencies will increasingly rely on the pay-for-use model. These trends are especially troubling when the public’s value for preservation and stewardship are ignored.
While the strain on public budgets is problematic in its own right, growing income inequality will only exacerbate the consequences of this straining. The enjoyment of the natural environment is increasingly only for the economically advantaged. Inequity of access and use will continue as income inequality proceeds on its current trajectory. Willingness to pay is directly related to one’s ability to pay. As such, pay-for-use ignores equity of access to our public spaces. Growing inequality will drive a deeper wedge between individual’s value of amenities and their ability to pay for access and preservation.
As the “old economy” increasingly fails us, interest in different kinds of economic activity that are more stable, sustainable, democratic, and equitable will no doubt continue to increase. Arguments over what to name it, and how to define it, may not be as important as figuring out how to measure the performance of its various components.
In this regard, I think we need to be mindful of two different ways in which any part of this new economy can perform well: (1) Is it better in some way? But also, (2) does it grow?
In diverse communities across the US, new economic practices and models are emerging to challenge business-as-usual. These bold experiments in the new economy vary widely and exist across multiple scales, from neighborhood collaborative consumption initiatives, to cooperative financing models, to new social enterprise structures, to regional economic development processes, and more. At their core, these approaches are motivated by and responses to rising social inequality, environmental degradation, and persistent economic decline.
These innovations may forge the foundation for a more resilient and equitable future economy, yet evidence regarding their impact has been mostly anecdotal. E3 Network is launching our Future Economy Initiative to catalyze research by economists on new economy models and innovations. The Initiative’s goal is to create an analytical framework for evaluating the social, economic, and environmental impacts of new economy models and for documenting the variables contributing to their emergence, success, and limitations.
Later this year, E3 Network will announce a competitive request for proposals from economists to apply the new framework to US-based case studies of the new economy. Right now, we invite input from economists interested in helping us to frame the analytical approach and/or identify promising examples of new economy models appropriate for case study analysis. To encourage wider discussion around new economy research, we encourage you to share your input in the form of a blog post (800 words or less) that we will post here on the E3 blog. Please comment below and send your blog entry or other suggestions via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find us on twitter at @e3network – let the conversation begin!
Economist James Boyce on The Real News regarding two important topics:
1. Cost-benefit analysis of carbon emissions has shortcomings
2. The US should focus on the human, not monetary cost of climate change
Part 1: What is the Social Cost of Carbon Emissions?
Part 2: The Cost of Saving the Planet
By Noah Enelow
In the face of the political gridlock impeding the U.S. government’s progress towards a smart climate policy, independent researchers and activists are continuing to make progress on outlining what such a policy might look like and how we might get there. James K. Boyce and Manuel Pastor have provided us with the latest contribution to the climate policy research effort with their recent article in Climatic Change, entitled “Clearing the air: Incorporating air quality and environmental justice into climate policy.”