Local, green and sustainable economies

A problem faced by more than one British Columbia community is how to resurrect a local economy after global corporations decide easier profits can be made by exporting unprocessed resources. The subject had me remember a worthwhile PBS documentary by investigative journalist David Brancaccio. The 2012 program “Fixing the Future” can be seen at this Vimeo link.

A number of segments are worth our attention. An early one involved author David Korten who said:

It starts with a very basic question. Do people exist to serve the economy, or should the economy exist to serve people? Now, it turns out that we’ve created a whole society with culture and institutions around the idea that people exist to serve the economy, and millions of people are waking up to the reality that that’s a misplaced priority.

At an early screening of his documentary, Brancaccio was involved with a panel that discussed strategies for sustainable economies. It posited that micro-businesses can revitalize communities. The key thing is to involve residents. The panel suggests:

  • Starting small.
  • Being socially responsible.
  • Being accountable to customers.
  • Making the community unique.
  • Celebrating small victories.

In a discussion about local currencies, Jeff Dicken of the Baltimore Green Currency Association said:

When you spend your money at a chain store, only 15 percent of it circulates within the local economy. It doesn’t stay in the community. It never comes back. And, when you spend even a dollar at a local independent merchant, three times as much money stays circulating within the local economy – 45 percent, and with local currency that’s even higher.

Imagine the funds available for development in British Columbia if half or more citizens moved banking from five international institutions headquartered in Toronto to any of the 40 or so credit unions in communities throughout the province.

The likelihood is that 2 percent of people are enriched by globalization and 98 percent are harmed. Regrettably, the 2 percent may exercise 98 percent of political influence.

One of the most important points made by David Brancaccio (25:10) is that GDP, our standard method of evaluating health of an economy, is problematic. Because it ignores human and environmental costs and benefits, the measurement of GDP endangers our survival. We need to do better and we need better tools to understand our progress. This is an audio clip of Brancaccio’s comments on the subject. I think it is excellent.

Marketplace Morning Report – Daily News Podcast featuring David Brancaccio and Victoria Craig.

Categories: Economics

4 replies »

  1. Yes a problem but an insightful path and explanation is covered by
    Herman Daly and Joshua Farley entitled Ecological Economics
    first published in 2004 and a second edition 2011. It’s all in there.


  2. “Donut Economics” by Kate Raworth also presents a much better way for measuring how well a society is doing. Unfortunately solutions like these will have a tough time muscling in on traditional economics.


  3. Bent Flyvberg’s Iron Law of Mega-projects specifically addresses why politicians are obsessed with infrastructure at any cost.

    …the “political sublime,” which here is understood as the rapture politicians get from building monuments to themselves and their causes. Mega-projects are manifest, garner attention, and lend an air of proactiveness to their promoters. Moreover, they are media magnets, which appeals to politicians who seem to enjoy few things better than the visibility they get from starting mega-projects. Except maybe cutting the ribbon of one in the company of royals or presidents, who are likely to be present lured by the unique monumental and historical import of many mega-projects. This is the type of public exposure that helps get politicians re-elected. They therefore actively seek it out.


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