Economics - resources

Photo of Treasury Department and statue of HamiltonPhoto of forest in Granby, MAPhoto of green woods, water bodyPhoto of bicyclist on Falls Road, MontaguePhoto of tractor hayingPhoto of organic green peppersPhoto of vegetable growing fieldPhoto of fields

Photos: (1) The U.S. Dept. of the Treasury -- with a greener cast (2) Forest in Granby, MA (3) Pond in Granby, MA (4) Bicyclist on Falls Road, Montague, MA (5) Haying in Hadley, MA (6) Organic green peppers from Atlas Farms at the Amherst, MA Farmers Market (7) Vegetable fields in Hadley, MA (8) Pasture in Hadley, MA.
HOMEEconomicsFinancial CrisisResources on the Financial Crisis

Organizational resources, regional

Hilltown Sustainability Library, Rt. 9, Cummington, MA (above the The Old Creamery Grocery and cafe), accessible 8 AM - 6 PM, seven days a week. (Get the key at the Old Creamery if the door is locked.) Tucked in a former apartment around back, under the eaves above the Old Creamery, this small community library -- a single room with several large bookshelves -- is dedicated to sustainability issues. You'll find books on gardening, energy efficient and green housing construction, community economics, and more, from Green Building Products to The Natural Step for Communities. While you're there, don't forget to support the local economy by buying a bowlful of Bart's ice cream at The Old Creamery!

Organizational resources, national

Earth Policy Institute www.earth-policy.org This organization is attempting to articulate the features of what Worldwatch Institute founder Lester Brown has called an "eco-economy." Brown now heads this Institute. Take a look, for example, at Brown's quick summary of the number of American companies already involved in certain alternative energy sectors, and how many more jobs could be created in that arena, in his 12/11/08 Eco-Economy Update, "Creating New Jobs, Cutting Carbon Emissions, and Reducing Oil Imports by Investing in Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency," at www.earth-policy.org/Updates/2008/Update80.htm. As it was at Worldwatch Institute, Brown's current work is based on a lot of facts and statistics about what is actually happening out in the world -- to his great credit, and to our great instruction.

Media

Sea Change Radio (Local radio broadcast; syndicated radio broadcast; audio podcast) www.cchange.net Sea Change Radio began as Corporate Watchdog Radio, but is now more broadly "making connections to the shift toward social, environmental, and economic sustainability." Co-hosts Bill Baue and Francesca Rheannon interview many of the important thinkers in alternative energy, climate change, green industry and sustainable economics, including Bill McKibben, Van Jones, Hunter Lovins, Paul Hawken, Lester Brown and others. Take a listen, for example, to their 6/17/09 program on sustainable banking.

Dollars & Sense www.dollarsandsense.org Dollars & Sense is a bimonthly magazine out of Boston, and now a website, on the economy from a progressive perspective. They also publish books on the economy. Take a look.

Books, articles, reports

UMASS - Amherst Sustainability Resource Guide -- This UMASS guide and website, authored by UMass reference librarian Madeleine Charney, includes a list of recent books on sustainable development, along with links to articles on sustainability and organizations in the Pioneer Valley working on sustainability and related issues. (Disclaimer: Ms. Charney is the wife of the publisher of Sustenance.)

For the Common Good - Redirecting the Economy Toward Community, the Environment and a Sustainable Future (1989), by Herman E. Daly and John B. Cobb, Jr. One-time World Bank economist Herman Daly and theology professor John Cobb were ahead of the curve when they wrote this book. It's fascinating to read this boldly articulated manifesto for sustainability written 20 years ago. We might argue now with a number of Daly & Cobb's prescriptions, but there is no doubt that Daly, particularly, was one of the earlier voices raising many of the ideas of sustainability that a lot of people are now talking about, from dramatically expanded regional agricultural self-sufficiency, to reductions in the global shipment of goods, to regaining much of the industrial capacity the nation has lost (although now with the sustainable goal of "[f]ewer goods better constructed and longer lasting"). When a 20-year old economics treatise places the dangers of global warming on its first page, as one of the reasons for a reassessment of "unthinking economic dogma," you know you're reading thinkers who are taking the long view.

Eco-Economy -- Building an Economy for the Earth (2001), by Lester R. Brown. Brown was the founder of th Worldwatch Institute back in the 1970s, so he has been thinking about the degradation of our earth by human activities for a long time. This degradation is part of what economists sometimes refer to as "externalities," the risks and downsides to economic transactions that are not properly accounted for in the price of a product or service.

Eco-Economy is mainly focused on the many changes needed in physical aspects of the economy, including changes necessary in the manufacturing and food sectors, and in the design of our cities. But chapter 11 of the book does get into tools that can be used to restructure the economy itself, or at least modify it. Among the tools Brown focuses on are subsidy shifts, eco-labeling, tradable permits and taxation (with a chart on European countries' introduction of new taxes on energy, landfilling and certain pollutants). He also notes the role that fiscal policy and government regulation can play in restructuring the economy. Of great practical value, Brown offers many concrete examples from Europe and elsewhere of the types of change he believes are needed.

The Green Collar Economy (2008), by Van Jones. A community activist, and for a time, President Obama's Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Jones proposes a "Green Growth Alliance" to press for a "Green New Deal." (Jones was forced out of the Obama administration in September 2009 by a right-wing campaign denouncing him for previously signing a petition calling for an investigation of possible U.S. government malfeasance concerning 9/11, a petition signed by actor Ed Asner, Pentagon Papers author Daniel Ellsberg, and many other notables. See Washington Post article on Jone's resignation; Tikkun's article on the resignation; NPR's Jones resignation article.)

Jones argues that retooling the American economy for energy efficiency, alternative energy, and other "green economy" measures will address two principal crises facing the country: radical social and economic inequality and radical environmental destruction, particularly climate change. Jones concludes that five main partners should make up this Green Growth Alliance: labor, social justice activists, environmentalists, students and faith organizations. He also asserts that forward-thinking business leaders will be a key driver of the needed change.

"Prepare for the Best -- A guide to surviving — and thriving in — Philadelphia's new green future," by Paul Glover, in the Philadelphia City Paper,available at www.citypaper.net/articles/2009/01/29/philadelphia-green-future. Ithaca Hours local currency founder Paul Glover is now well dug in in Philadelphia, and still helping us discover new ways of living. In this wonderful sketch-plan for sustainability, Glover outlines how one city could achieve a green future, in food, water, energy, credit, housing and many other areas of life, describing the organizations and efforts already underway in there.

On the financial front, Glover talks up the importance of credit unions and local currencies. While we'd like to reserve judgment, for the moment, on the value and security of local currencies -- like the Ithaca Hour in New York, the BerkShare in western Massachusetts, and the Plenty in North Carolina -- they are an interesting experiment favored by many American partisans of sustainability. They might function, in a sense, as a type of regional 'tarriff barrier,' helping to retain and expand the circulation of goods, services, labor, and value more generally, in local regions.

The fact these currencies are only accepted in a given geographic region, might help create a retentive barrier that could slow the extraction of wealth from local communities by distant banks and corporations. Such local currency might also enable a region's citizens to put into motion local talent, labor and resources the failing dollar economy can't manage to mobilize. At least that seems to be part of their potential appeal. There are no doubt downsides to a proliferation of local currencies, and we hope to get back to this topic in a future article to take a closer look.

For more on the Plenty, take a listen to Sea Change Radio's 6/17/09 episode on sustainable banking, at www.cchange.net , or go directly to www.ncplenty.org/home.php. For more on the BerkShare, go to www.berkshares.org. For more on Ithaca Hours, go to www.ithacahours.org. For a look back in history at the use of local currencies during the Great Depression, see chapter 4 of Peter North's book Money and Liberation.

For books, articles, reports and other resources regarding the current financial crisis itself and how we got here, go to Resources on the Financial Crisis.

Page last modified: 12/27/09

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