The “New Economy” Movement Strives for Sustainability

The “new economy” movement is one of the most dynamic and promising areas in the quest for sustainability. The term refers to a more socially and ecologically responsible form of private enterprise; it is less obsessed with “growth” and unlimited profit, and more concerned about the common good. It is about shifting economic power from Wall Street and Washington to Main Street and local communities.

I discussed this idea a few months ago (posted here) and now, for a better glimpse, we’ll take a look at the  websites of some of the leading groups in this field.

British economist E. F. Schumacher’s 1973 book Small is Beautiful was one of the first to articulate these ideas, and an institute in western Massachusetts inspired by his work, now named the Schumacher Center for New Economics, has been at the forefront promoting them. At centerforneweconomics.org, the group asserts “We recognize that the environmental and equity crises we now face have their roots in the current economic system”; they envision “a fair and sustainable economy.”

A more recent leader of this movement, David Korten, co-founded YES! Magazine and wrote Agenda for a New Economy. His website livingeconomiesforum.org invites us to “Imagine an economy in which life is valued more than money and power resides with ordinary people who care about one another, their community, and their natural environment.”

The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) was founded several years ago and is now an active network with hundreds of chapters. One of its founders, Judy Wicks, will be coming to Woodstock this July to speak at a Sustainable Woodstock event. (Stay tuned for details!)  At bealocalist.org, BALLE proclaims, “We believe that real national prosperity — even global prosperity — begins at the local level and that by connecting entrepreneurs who are re-thinking their industries, funders who are investing in the local economy movement, and network organizers who can mobilize on a broad scale, we can — and will — create a stronger, more resilient, and fair economy.”

One rapidly growing group of these local investors is the Slow Money movement; slowmoney.org summarizes their basic principles this way: “There is such a thing as money that is too fast, companies that are too big, finance that is too complex. Therefore, we must slow our money down. . . . The 21st Century will be the era of nurture capital, built around principles of carrying capacity, care of the commons, sense of place and non-violence.”

What does “care of the commons” mean? Another tenet of the new economy is the view that not everything should be monetized or privatized. According to onthecommons.org,  the commons is “the essential form of wealth that we inherit or create together,  which must be shared in a sustainable and equitable way. Ranging from water to biodiversity to historic knowledge to the Internet, the commons provides the foundation of our social, cultural and economic life.”

In the last two years, many organizations working toward these goals have banded together into the New Economy Coalition. At  neweconomy.net, this surging populist movement proclaims that “Fundamental flaws in the political economic system permit the concentration of resources and power, exacerbating inequality and destroying ecosystems. Faced with interconnected ecological and economic crises, we believe that shared prosperity, sustainability and an equitable society require deep, systemic changes to both our economy and our politics.” Their vision: “an economy that is restorative to people, place, and planet, and that operates according to principles of democracy, justice and appropriate scale.”

The New Economy Coalition is holding a major national conference in Boston June 6 – 8. I plan to attend  and will report on the newest developments in this exciting movement. But maybe you ought to consider attending and experiencing it for yourself!

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