​Towards a Localised Future: A New Economy Convergence

9am-5 pm on Saturday 17th September 2016 at Friends House, London View Map

From : Cairo, Egypt Title Of Photo : Music is Life Category : Community Location : El Moez Street , Cairo , Egypt Taken :26/6/2014

The full programme is now available for this one-day workshop with Helena Norberg-Hodge, Rupert Read, James Skinner and Molly Scott Cato. 

We will look at the social, economic and environmental problems associated with globalisation such as international trade treaties and monoculture thinking.

We will discuss post-growth and how to support localisation in local communities as an alternative to neoliberal globalisation. 
 
There will be a specific focus on role of local food production and consumption with examples in London. 
 
We will finish with a panel discussion about policy and grassroots change for a new UK economy in the context of Brexit. 

Take back real control! A Green response to Brexit

The winning Brexit slogan was ‘Take Back Control’. But leaving the EU will only increase the power of corrupt elites unless the UK reforms its own democratic governance, combats the excessive power of corporations, upholds the rights of all its citizens, decentralises its economy, and forges progressive alliances with its European partners.

The loss of the referendum is likely to be a big setback for Green and Left political voices in England and Wales – unless creative ways of responding to it are found. In this short piece in the ecologist, Victor Anderson & Rupert Read explore ten such ways.

http://www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/Blogs/2987827/take_back_real_control_the_green_response_to_brexit.html

Designing Sustainable Economies: Translating ideas and research into policy and practice

I’ll be a guest speaker at this workshop at the University of Sheffield, 28-29 July 2016

This workshop brings together scholars, activists, policy practitioners, civil society, and representatives of intergovernmental institutions to discuss the challenge of aligning economic development and environmental sustainability in the 21st century. Debates feature a wide range of concepts: sustainable development, green economy, green growth, harmony with nature, degrowth, steady state economy, circular economy, and many others. There is evidently no single vision for a sustainable economy, and this workshop aims to promote fruitful dialogue by bringing together people with different perspectives. The event provides a setting to share our experiences of promoting ideas and agendas for more sustainable economic development, and to reflect on the value of collaboration across academia, civil society, and government institutions.

This event is generously funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (UK)

Venue: Leopold Hotel | Leopold Street, Sheffield, S1 2GZ

 

Designing Sustainable Economies – Programme

Should nature have a price or is it priceless?

Anglia Ruskin University and the University of East Anglia have won a joint funding bid from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to examine and debate the “natural capital” of the East of England.

The World Forum on National Capital define natural capital as including “the food we eat, the water we drink and the plant materials we use for fuel, building materials and medicines”.

The concept of putting a “value” on different aspects of the natural world has become influential in policy making and is expected to be at the centre of the UK Government’s new “25 Year Plan for Nature”, due out next month.

The funding will enable UEA’s Dr Rupert Read and Dr Aled Jones and Prof. Victor Anderson, from Anglia Ruskin’s Global Sustainability Institute, to set up a network where academics from a range of disciplines, together with the business community and policy makers, can discuss the implications of looking at the East’s natural world through the prism of natural capital.

Dr Rupert Read of UEA, Principal Investigator on the project, and Dr Aled Jones, Director of Anglia Ruskin’s Global Sustainability Institute, said in a joint statement: “Essentially the question we’ll be trying to answer is this: If we say that nature is priceless, do we end up in effect treating it as valueless? Or is being unwilling to price nature the best protection we have against it being packaged up, owned, bought, sold or used up? By 2018, as a result of this network’s creation, we will hopefully be closer to being able to decide whether nature ought to be evaluated primarily in terms of the price that can be put on it, or in terms of its ‘pricelessness’ “.

The 18-month project will formally begin with a workshop at UEA, in early 2017.

I’ve changed to backing REMAIN: Here’s why

I’ve changed my mind.

Not on the grave shortcomings of the EU. Still less on the utter foolishness (not to mention the constitutional impropriety) of calling a referendum in this way, on this topic, when the real issue that precipitated calling it was merely a split within the Conservative Party.

No: what has changed my mind is quite simply the exponentially increasing awfulness of the Leave campaign, and the results that this is now leading to.

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve been deeply unimpressed with most of the Remain campaign; but the lies, vitriol, xenophobia and even racism of leading lights in the Leave campaign represent a new low for British politics. Its hateful rhetoric has consequences, which have been horrifically visible in the last week. I can no longer sit by and let this take place. So I join so many others in standing in solidarity against it.

Some, especially on the Leave side, might attack my change of heart. They might use words like “flip-flop”. If they do, I don’t mind. My conscience is clear. My mind has been changed by the way that they, the Leave-rs, have driven us into the appalling situation where xenophobia is rendered publicly ‘acceptable’, and serious – and even deadly – street-violence is among the consequences.

Such rhetoric as theirs should never be rewarded. Imagine how grim it would be to have the leading Leave-rs crowing over victory, given that this would be how they have achieved it.

I hope and believe that Britons can and will choose better than this. That we in the UK ARE better than this.

So there is, I believe, only one path left to us, and it is a clear one.

Vote Remain.

How should g(G)reens vote in the EU referendum? An open debate

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What is the green case for Brexit? What is the green case to remain in the EU?

Green House is bringing together leading green politicians and thinkers to debate the consequences of staying in or leaving the EU.

In what promises to be a lively debate Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP and Dick Pels (Dutch Green Party and author of A Heart for Europe) will argue we should remain in the EU. Green Party Baroness Jenny Jones and Patricia McKenna (former Green MEP for Dublin) will advocate leaving.

Date: 2nd June 2016
Time: 6.15-8pm
Venue: Friends House, 173-177 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BJ (information on how to get there)

This event is free. Register early to reserve your place.

We look forward to seeing you there,

Rupert Read, Chair.

Why I will not be standing in the upcoming Green Party leadership elections

I’ve received a number of messages over the past couple of days asking me whether I intend to run for the Green Party leadership this August, and a number of offers of help.

I’ve given it a lot of thought, but have decided that I will NOT be running for either of the leadership positions this time around. Instead, I will continue my work on eco-philosophy at UEA, and my work chairing Green House think tank.

I want to urge all Green Party members to use this time until August to have an open and honest debate about the direction we want our party to take from 2016 onwards. Natalie Bennett has done a strong job in helping us quintuple our membership (a kind of growth I fully support!). And she has also helped people to understand that we are of course not a ‘single-issue party’. However, I hope that whoever the new leader is will be brave enough to reassess parts of our current Party messaging.

The campaign messages that worked reasonably well for us in 2015 have largely run up against a brick wall in the 2016 elections. And it is clear that unless we react to the changing political climate that Jeremy Corbyn is a symptom of, then we risk having our party fall into stasis or even irrelevance. From both a principled and a tactical point of view the next leader must craft a message that is able to hold onto our strong social justice policies, but that also allows for us to trumpet once more a more radical ‘ecologistic’ philosophy. We are the only Party that is in touch with the most basic reality of all: that everything we have and are — our country, our fellow species, our ecosystems, our planet — is finite and fragile. That USP, we must hang onto, develop and make much more of. The human race will destroy itself, unless it returns to being in touch with that simple common-sense. So what we are saying is simply enlightened self-interest both for Britain and for humankind at large. The Green Party understands that there are non-negotiable limits to growth; everyone else has their heads in the sand. The profoundly-worrying spike in global temperatures that we are seeing right now is merely the latest symptom of this pressing reality.

I hope and believe that our next leader will recognise that it is these ecological principles that make us unique in the current political landscape, and are the key both to resecuring our core demographic voter base and to reaching out to the many many voters who care about quality of life, about threats to health such as air pollution, about how ‘development’ and ‘growth’ in reality mean the trashing of green belts and the enriching of the already-rich. Voters who understand that anyone who believes in infinite growth on a finite planet has all the common-sense of the average ‘mainstream’ economist (i.e.: none). Voters who really truly deeply mean it when they say that they care profoundly about their own children and about the kind of world that those children will inherit.

At this time, such a change in messaging is absolutely essential for the Green Party and our wider planet; because if we don’t put eco-logical, eco-sensible policies on the table, then you can bet your bottom dollar no one else will.

Thanks for all the kind messages;

Rupert Read.

Abolish the Treasury? Bold ideas from the new APPG on the limits to growth

I was present this week at the launch of a new All Party Parliamentary Group that I’ve been involved in helping set up. This A.P.P.G. is the first ever on the limits to growthhttp://www.cusp.ac.uk/event/appg-l2g-launch/ . The APPG is chaired by Caroline Lucas, and co-chaired by George Kerevan (of the SNP) and Daniel Zeichner (of Labour). These MPs were there, along with several others, and, as I’ll say more about shortly, they made some remarkable interventions, during the proceedings.

The meeting was successful and encouraging. The room was packed out (with a substantial waiting list): well over 100 people were there, with standing room only.

Here are five thoughts from the meeting, on why the idea of ecological limits to growth is one whose time has surely come, making the launch of this group so timely:

 

1) The critics of the original ‘The Limits To Growth‘ book — and they were savage, and many — tend(ed) to focus exclusively on its allegedly excessive pessimism regarding the availability of raw materials. This claim is debatable. However, even if one were to accept it, they — the critics — would have to accept something else, in return, something that world-renowned ecological economist Tim Jackson, who chaired the launch meeting, made very clear during his presentation: that the original report/book was if anything too optimistic in relation to pollution crises! When one looks back at the graphs in the original book, one is struck by the way that, in most of the scenarios, pollution doesn’t feature as a fatal limit to growth. But, since 1972, we have seen that it could be and in a way already is: as the hole in our ozone layer, and anthropogenic climate change, have shown. Other cases could be added: the plastic in the oceans, the health risks caused by growing air pollution, the growth of heavy metals in our food supplies; the list goes  on. Hopefully this APPG can monitor such cases, and help make this point as widely known as it deserves to be.

 

2) Thinking about raw material shortages is a good way to bring out and show the utter short-termism of the dominant narrative. It is appalling that, in arguing against those of who willing to speak out about the limits to growth, our opponents say things like, “We have enough gas now to last a hundred years!”; as if that were the kind of timescale that humans ought to be happy thinking on. For of course that translates into saying: in 6 generations’ time, there’ll be virtually no more natural gas left. How irresponsible.

This APPG will be a place that will seek to broaden the horizons of policy-makers beyond that of ordinary politics (where the ‘long term’ is typically figured as everything more than 20 years away…). The issue of the limits to growth sheds light on our responsibility toward the deeper future. Caroline Lucas stressed the importance of this point, during her comments at the launch: she argued that we desperately need a new way of politically including the future (Here’s my own proposal in this direction: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/damian-carrington-blog/2012/jan/04/climate-politics-future-generation-justice ), and she added that “It’s not a question of just thinking outside the box; we need to throw away the old box and replace it with something else!”

 

3) Most of what typically gets celebrated, vis-a-vis the nowadays much celebrated ‘decoupling’ of carbon emissions from other impacts from economic growth, is actually only relative decoupling. If growth were to continue indefinitely, we would need robust, permanent and absolute decoupling. Which is vanishingly rare.

This point should be connected too to the rebound effect which we have reason to believe is a massively powerful effect that (we have reason to believe) makes decoupling (e.g.) of economic growth from carbon emissions into what is in any case a mixed blessing: for the benefits of such greater efficiency get fed back in to the economy in terms, most usually, of increased consumptive behaviour. (Consider: if someone saves money by putting in good green roof insulation, what do they then do with that money? If they use it to buy a new sports car or a holiday in the Caribbean, then the net effect of putting that insulation in has been to worsen man-made climate change.)… See on this Jonathan Essex’s ‘Green House’ report, which makes uncomfortable reading, in terms of setting out the scale of the challenge we face in this respect: How To Make Do And Mend Our Economy; see also the work of Samuel Alexander, e.g. Degrowth And The Carbon Budget. The rebound effect and allied phenomena bring home the point about how very difficult it is to meaningfully and consistently reduce material throughput. It requires serious thinking and co-ordinated action from Government(s), etc. This is part of what the APPG will shed light on and contribute to. The Co-Chair of the Club of Rome, Anders Wijkman, was present at the meeting, and he stressed the importance of this and the difficulty of the point. He remarked that “the human ability to dohas vastly outstripped the human ability to understand”…

 

4) These first three issues, suggest another perspective that is critically important; the need for government to take a view that is not confined to cost-benefit analyses, nor even to what the ‘evidence-base’ tells us. Namely, as Caroline explicitly remarked at the beginning of the meeting: the need for governments to act according to the Precautionary Principle. This Principle is (supposed to be) part of UK (and EU) law; meanwhile, it has been under sustained attack from some Parliamentary Committees in recent years (see e.g. The Precautionary Principle Must Be Retained ). When we consider the risk of potential future pollution crises (of which we may as yet have no evidence); when we consider the truly long-term; and when we consider the possibility of rebound effects etc., then arguably there is an in-principle Precautionary argument against further economic growth. Such growth fragilises us, it puts us more at risk. One can see this just by looking for instance at the things (especially on the pollution side) that the 1972 limits to growth report didn’t see coming, especially pollution-risks (1, above). (See on all this my recent piece with Nassim Taleb et al: The Precautionary Principle. See also http://www.blackswanreport.com/blog/2015/05/our-statement-on-climate-models/ ) The limits to growth issue suggests the need for a precautionary approach to actually be applied (arguably to growth itself, and certainly to ‘material throughput’): this will be a significant change that needs scoping, and that the APPG could lead on.

 

5) Finally, we ought to bear in mind the question not just of whether further economic growth is possible or necessary or dangerous, but to the issue of whether it is desirable in the first place. Does growth make us happy? Insofar as it fosters inequality, as seems pretty clear (in recent years, virtually all the proceeds of growth have gone to the rich), doesn’t it rather (following the argument made by Wilkinson and Pickett, familiar to readers of this blog) make us unhappy? Moreover, much social and economic activity no longer gets counted as GDP, because it is free activity mediated by the internet; does this make it any less valuable?…Of course not. This 5th point is one that those on the Left ought to be much more aware of. It relates to one of the high points of the evening: George Kerevan MP’s agreeing with Caroline Lucas that the Treasury is a massive block to progress in this area and in many others, and his saying, therefore, that consideration ought to be given to the idea of abolishing it altogether! And Mr. Kerevan sits on the Treasury Select Committee…

 

[Thanks to David Burnham for research that contributed to this article. This is an expanded version of an article first published on Left Foot Forward.]

At our leisure

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Originally published at greenworld.org

A  generation or two ago, there was a lot of talk about ‘the leisure society’. Where did all that talk go, and why? It was trumped by the march of consumerism and of economic growth. Society chose, in effect, to take the proceeds of affluence as stuff, rather than as time. We plumped for material wealth rather than for wellbeing.

We made a mistake.

That’s become increasingly obvious, as we have become richer (and more unequal, at the same time), without any improvement whatsoever in quality of life (in fact, quite the reverse). And as the level of pollution has risen, we’ve thus started to threaten our very future as a civilisation.

And perhaps that’s why talk of ‘the leisure society’ is returning.

A leisure society – where our sense of meaning comes more from the life we live than from labouring as much as possible to earn as much as possible – is clearly now necessary. Better still: it’s also possible. It’s possible that we could have a citizen’s income (see Caroline Lucas’s article on p.10) that would end wage-slavery forever. And we could have a working week that gets shorter every year. We could find meaning in our life from caring-activities we engage in on a volunteer basis, spending more time being citizens and less being consumers, and seeing family and friends. Spending time – rather than just money.

But to realise these possibilities, we are going to have to retake power from the one per cent – to stop being fobbed off with trinkets, and reassert our right to a life dominated by neither producing nor consuming and to defeat the hegemonic ideology of growthism and replace it with a post-growth common-sense that turns away from the culture of ‘more’, the culture of stuff.

There’s more than enough to go around already, if only we share it around better.

As we get all this sorted, we should demand that the leisure society becomes a reality. We should only have to work as much as we need to make each other collectively happy.

Don’t get me wrong, though: there is still going to be plenty of such work to do, forever. We need more people back on the land; we need to staff the NHS; and so on.

And in embracing a future society of leisure, we must be wary of the idea of ‘fully automated luxury communism’, which purports that robots are going to replace most human labour altogether, within our life-times, and that this is a good thing: the thinking goes that everything will be automated and that there will be common ownership of that which is automated.

This is a dangerous fantasy. Even if hyper-automation were controlled by people, rather than by profiteering corporations, it would still be dangerous.

Why? For the same underlying reason that we need the leisure society: because we’re breaching the limits to growth. ‘Peak Robot’ is a problem because robots are fantastically energy- hungry; their ‘bodies’ embody humongous amounts of energy and materials and their use accelerates the damage we do to the earth. Moore’s Law, which says that the number of transistors on a microprocessor chip will double every couple of years (meaning the parts get smaller and the computers become more powerful), is about to run into the buffers: within five years, computers’ working parts will become so small that they start to become vulnerable to quantum instabilities. (And remember: as they get smaller, they also become more impracticable to recycle.)

Fully-automated luxury for the 99 per cent is in this respect no different from fully-automated hyper-luxury for the one per cent: it’s a recipe for human self-destruction.
So: we need to create a leisure society in which most of the work that we still choose to do is done by us.

Let’s choose this future. For one-planet-living. And for our own wellbeing.