by Delia Horwitz
Imagine a country where the measure of success is not in the number of things bought and sold, but the quality of one’s soul. That is, in fact, what is happening in the country of Bhutan, where King Jigme Wangchuk has declared they will now measure their country’s standard of living by GHP: Gross Happiness Product rather than GDP: Gross Domestic Product, often used by most other countries.
This story and more is explained in the Economics of Happiness documentary about the worldwide movement for economic localization, which was explored in depth this Spring at the Economics of Happiness Conference in Berkeley, which I attended [as a member of the HopeDance press team]. What I heard had a profound impact on my understanding of the effects of globalization, and on my buying habits.
The Economics of Happiness Conference is an annual event produced by ISEC, the International Society for Ecology and Culture. It brings together activists, scholars, neighbors and business people from around the world to explore and plan ways to quicken the evolution of our journey from consumer back to citizen. ISEC Founder and Director Helena Norberg-Hodge is an internationally recognized pioneer in the worldwide localization movement and a leading analyst of the impact of the global economy on culture and agriculture. She is the producer and co-director of the Economics of Happiness film. To see the trailer go to http://www.theeconomicsofhappiness.org/
The plenaries and workshops took us through the breaking down of the old economy,
exploring the key elements of economic localization, exploring some of the personal and political changes that we can make to rebuild, to finally envisioning and creating a future of economic happiness.
We heard from Annie Leonard and the Story of Stuff, how important it is to act as citizens as well as consumers.
Joanna Macy gave a gentle reminder that “small acts with intention have repercussions in the web.”
Michael Shuman gave specific strategies to find and fund local investing.
Judy Wicks told her story of starting the White Dog Cafe in Philadelphia and BALLE Building Alliance for Local Living Economies
Charles Eisenstein talked about Sacred Economics and the importance of creating a gift economy and community
Over and over the message, from different speakers, was to build what we do want, not just protest what we don’t want -- and it all starts at LOCAL. Some of my takeaways are:
- Ask ourselves tough questions like, “what is fundamental for our well-being and how can we create that?”
- Find ways for people to talk openly with each other about our concerns.
- Befriend the loneliness that is epidemic in our society.
- Find our deep place of compassion for each other.
- We don’t need $$ to live, we need habits, skills, neighbors.
The opportunity to attend the Economics of Happiness Conference with the many eloquent and inspiring speakers reminded me how everything is interconnected. Their clear explanations and touching stories led to my realization that some of my most trusted beliefs about what I thought were my most conscious and generous acts may be feeding systems that separate people from their lands, alienate neighbors, and decimate forests. I’m going to think twice before purchasing that cute gadget that I simply “must have,” and before I send money overseas that I think will be good for someone less monetarily fortunate than I.
Being confronted with the truth of the impact of corporate globalization gave way to hope and optimism as I realized that “going local” is a powerful strategy to repair our fractured world. Localization means moving from global dependence to local interdependence -- reducing the distance between consumers and producers to strengthen local economies and communities. Such a shift would reduce unnecessary transportation so the greenhouse gas and pollution toll would decrease, as would the ecological costs of energy extraction. Primarily local food production would bring back diversity to land that has been all but destroyed by chemical-intensive monocropping, would provide much-needed jobs at the local level, and would help to rebuild community. Increasing the local food consumption of local food would allow farmers to make a decent living while giving consumers access to healthy, fresh food at affordable prices.
On the Central Coast we are blessed by the presence of a variety of resources and local food distribution systems. CCAN Central Coast Ag Network is a valuable resource for finding: local farmers markets, restaurants that buy local, CSAs, and even recipes. Glean SLO works with the Food Bank Coalition to unite farmers, community volunteers, backyard gardeners, health advocates and food providers to harvest and donate excess produce into our local food system.
Transition Towns of San Luis Obispo is a group of individuals and organizations working together to imagine and create a positive vision of the future for our county in response to three challenges:
- Peak oil –This is the point after which oil will be more difficult to extract and therefore more expensive. We need to start transitioning away from our dependence now.
- Climate change – The extremes of weather are observable all over the planet. We need to both find ways to reduce carbon emissions and prepare within our communities for the effects of climate change.
- Economic instability – Peak oil and climate change impact every country’s economy. The control of petroleum supplies and the inevitable peak make oil-dependent economies economically vulnerable.
SLO Transition Towns host bi-monthly Eaarth: Our Community Conversations to bring people together to discuss these challenges and what we can do LOCALLY. Currently six work/topic groups meet in between to build local community actions around sustainable practices.
The Locanomics group meets to encourage, discuss, research, and network about strategies for local economies, investing, savings, entrepreneurship, and buying local in San Luis Obispo County, CA. We now have 90+ members in a time bank in SLO County. The Central Coast Hour Exchange, started in 2012 with three main goals:
- Strengthen the fabric of our community.
- Serve people and give them a means to serve.
- Establish new relationships and meet real needs of our community members.
The Central Coast Hour Exchange sponsors monthly potlucks to bring members and friends together to facilitate getting to know each other and what people want and can give in exchange.
* See related story http://www.hopedance.org/home/money-news/ of how the United Nations General Assembly voted unanimously to work on a new economic paradigm based on Bhutan’s pioneering efforts.
Delia Horwitz and her business partner Paula Vigneault are collaboration coaches, helping people make great things happen. . . together. Contact them at (805) 215-3717, CollaborationSoup.com