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A Global Marshall Plan For a New Economy?

Leslie Back | Wednesday July 7th, 2010 | 5 Comments

Leslie Back

I have to thank Al Gore for the inspiration for this post. His ideas, discussed here, are worth repeating. They are not new ideas, but rather old when you consider the quickening pace of our society and our environmental crisis, but we did not seem to hear the comments the first time ‘round. Let’s try this again. Do Gore’s suggestions hold in 2010?

As I mentioned in a recent post, in 1992 Gore wrote Earth in Balance. Years before the truth became inconvenient, Gore outlined the environmental crisis and, thankfully, itemized large-scale steps to help get us out of this ecological mess. Inspired by the Marshall Plan, the post World War II European recovery program, Gore outlines an internationally cooperative agenda to bring our ecology back into balance.

I have previously discussed the first step of this plan: stabilizing the world population. Obviously, this is one of the most critical components, a hotly discussed conundrum. But, the others steps, whole in and of themselves, are full of merit.

The second strategic goal involves technologies and the rapid development and distribution of these environmentally friendly tools. Gore calls this part of the plan the Strategic Environment Initiative and steps in this area would include tax incentives for new technologies (disincentives for old); government purchasing programs in favor of eco-friendly tools; establishment of network training centers around the world and much more. The discussions would be led by industrial nations, but critical to the success of this part of the plan would be the guaranteed distribution of advanced technologies to the developing world.

Now we move on to step three: changes to the economy. In Gore’s version of the Marshall Plan, we establish, through global agreement, a system of economic accounting that gives monetary value to ecological consequences. Steps in this area include, but are not limited to: inclusion of environmental costs and benefits in GNP; elimination of subsidies for environmentally destructive activities and change of definition of productivity to reflect environmental calculations.  Perhaps the ecosystem valuation approach, applying dollars to ecosystems, would be a good place to start?

In the fourth step of his plan, Gore calls for a new generation of treaties and agreements aimed at protecting the environment. The author sites the Montreal Protocol as the prototype. I confess to slight pessimism on this one, living as I do in a post-Kyoto, post-Copenhagen world.

In the final step, Gore calls for a new global environmental consensus. Stated differently, this part of the process would focus on the establishment of a cooperative plan for educating the world’s population about environmental issues. First, a program for research and measurement of environmental changes should be in place followed by an effort to disseminate such information. The goal here, of course, would be to inspire new patterns of thinking about human relations to the environment. Indeed, this might be the most challenging and important part of the plan: changing minds through increased and cooperative education. A high and worthy goal, but attainable?

My glass is almost always half-full. I tend towards optimism and hope: I know of no other way to live. I am not naïve, and I know these goals are lofty, but let’s think about them anyway. Let’s talk about them anyway. Let’s raise a full glass and toast the possibility of it. With these steps or perhaps others not yet thought of the tide can be turned. Cheers!

Leslie is a first-year Sustainable MBA student at Green Mountain College. Study interests include environmental conservation, social responsibility and the power of corporate and non-profit partnerships to bring about positive change. Other areas of interest include social media in sustainable marketing and public policy. She holds an MA in Organizational Management and a BS in Leisure Management. On the rare occasions when she is not studying, she enjoys writing, reading, running, nature walks and yoga.  She hopes to use her skills, talents and education to make a positive impact with an environmentally and socially conscious organization.


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  • Jeff Mowatt

    Hi Leslie,

    For us, it's been rather the other way around in first making the case for a new economic paradigm to server people before profit and numbers. This cause driven business approach now has several variants. Ours and the paper which described it is known as people-centered economic development. It originated in the Democrat camp as the work of a volunteer for President Clinton's 1996 re-election campaign.

    Since deploying it in a proof of concept project to source microfinance in Russia, we've focussed on Ukraine, giving presentations at recent Economics For Ecology conferences on this transformation of capitalism for social purpose.


    The strategy paper delivered to Ukraine's government was based upon this social purpose paradigm and first entitled 'Microeconomic Development and Social Enterprise in Ukraine'. Upon completion, author and founder Terry Hallman came to realise that this had the same targets as the Marshall Plan 60 years earlier, against poverty hunger, desperation and chaos.

    This 'Marshall Plan' was made public in August 2007.


    Interesting, the Doonesbury cartoon you see next to my ID depicted a soldier in Iraq commenting that for the ongoing cost of Iraq, millions could be lifted out of poverty thru microfinance. Uncannily this same case had been made in the paper, weighing the cost of 1.5 billion dollars over 5 years against the weekly expenditure in that war.

    Jeff Mowatt
    P-CED UK

  • http://www.care2.com/c2c/people/profile.html Leslie Back

    Hi there Jeff,
    Thanks for chiming in. I appreciate the links and look forward to reading more on this site.
    After writing the piece I found more on the plan on the web-you might like some of the below.



    • Jeff Mowatt

      Hi Leslie,

      Yep, know about them and have tried to contact both to no avail. It is who you know, even in social enterprise.

      Now someone just asked what's the next thing in social enterprise and I have an answer, natutally.

  • http://www.care2.com/c2c/people/profile.html Leslie Back

    Okay, I am stumped
    What is the next thing in social enterprise?

  • Jeff Mowatt

    Well A couple of days ago Hillary Clinton spoke of “human security” in Pakistan. I'm reading between the lines here and noting a sequence of actions which have relevance to Iraq, and the change toward soft or smart power initiatives in foreign relations.

    For 'human security' I'm reading social enterprise.

    I'm envisaging a 'Department of Peace' , which may not be realised in my lifetime


    I'm also noting Everychild, a major international childcare organisation lead a delegation of charities to call for the rights of children to the protection of a family home to be central to international development policy. The primary focus of the 'Marshall Plan' I described above was to achieve just that, family homes for all children funded by business with a social purpose..


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