Somewhere along the line our culture lost contact with the recognition of oneness of all life, the connectedness to each other. Our institutions – government, economy, religion are all built on a false premise of separation.
Simply spoken, in Economics 101 we learned that everything around a business other than what is termed “business as usual” are “externalities” – “external” to the business, and the economy. The model of endless growth for its own sake without regard to the effects of such growth is a symptom of blindness to such “externalities.” Our prevailing economic growth-based model is not working to serve the needs of all humanity. If you don’t agree with me, ask the roughly 2 billion people who are living on less than a dollar a day. You may simply believe that their welfare is separate from yours, and you needn’t concern yourself with their plight… “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” – Anonymous
Right before I boarded a plane recently, I noticed a Body Shop in the terminal next to the gate. The Body Shop has been a leading business that incorporates social and environmental values into its operations. It was founded by the late Anita Roddick, one of the emergent leaders in the expanding and evolving “green” business movement.
Roddick was a very influential and inspiring thought leader, she stood as a pillar of the socially and environmentally responsible business movement. As I thumbed through my reading materials I found an article in Resurgence Magazine by Roddick entitled “The Currency of Imagination.” This eloquent article laid out some of her guiding principles and reflections on being one of the only CEOs (if not the only CEO) in the crowd of human beings who raised their voices against the globalization paradigm represented by the 1999 WTO meeting in Seattle.
In the article she laid out a new vision for society, a vision which I share, where we place community and beauty as driving values for our individual and institutional decision making. I have learned that for any successful endeavor in new economic thinking to work, it must be built on a culture of trust and collaboration amongst the participants. Such ideas have inspired me in the efforts I have made in my region in co-founding Green Business Networking, a monthly networking event which brings together entrepreneurs and professionals who are committed to greening our economy through their businesses.
As a financial adviser, I regularly meet the “haves and have-mores.” One thing I have learned for sure: Having more does not necessarily mean having more happiness.
Barbara Walters interviewed billionaire media mogul David Geffen in a conversation published in More Than Money magazine: “She said, ‘O.K., David, now that you’re a billionaire, are you happy?’ He shot back without hesitation: ‘Barbara, anybody who believes money makes you happy doesn’t have money.'”
Of course I think to a point, money actually does buy you happiness, or at least in our society money provides the mechanism to get basic human needs met. Take someone who is truly in poverty and a bit of money will actually, truly, make that person and his/her family more happy – they’ll get food, shelter, some labor saving devices, they’ll get education, they’ll get leisure time.
What’s right is to say that after basic needs are met the marginal return of happiness per dollar declines rapidly, at some point every additional dollar means virtually nothing.
Last night I had drinks with a very successful NY Investment Banker who is a vegan, a philosopher, and has a rather liberal point of view. Ironically, he is an analyst and expert in the field of the fossil fuel industry. We discussed much about our common concerns, interests, etc. And our interest in meeting with and learning from every viewpoint, and world view. He shared with me that some of his clients actually believe that the world is less than 5,000 years old, even though such clients deal in a commodities (oil and gas) which they understand must take more than 5,000 years to create.
We agreed that it would be easy to write such people off, yet there are many many mindsets on the planet which are very, very different worldviews.
Surprisingly – it appears that the environmental movement has not entirely gotten that over the last few decades.
After thinking about this for the last day, I told a friend over dinner tonight that I believe that the environmental movement has failed to effectively “pierce the veil” of the worldview of mainstream culture. Earlier he and I met with a long time, very successful activist whose organizations materials explained that the group had reached over 2 million people over the years. Granted – that is a very successful effort. Yet considering we have 6 Billion people on the planet, his group has just scratched the surface.
It is has been widely recognized by thinking people around the nation that Mountain Top Removal mining for dirty coal is bad.
Scott Badenoch, CEO and Co-Founder of Creative Citizen recently wrote in his article for MNN:
“Mr. President, it is your duty as a citizen of this planet to put an immediate and irrevocable moratorium on Mountaintop Removal today. Go to Appalachia and see for yourself. There is no time to waste; there is no compromise. Human lives and nature’s mountains are at stake.”
It’s mysterious that our own Obama administration continues to look the other way. Then again, perhaps it is creating JOBS and making MONEY for the coal industry.
Hmmm… money, jobs. Hot commodities in this beleaguered economy, right?
Well how much money?
Most of us are unaware that we are religious fundamentalists – market fundamentalists… in the “religion” of traditional economics. The values of the current economic system are rarely in question of us operating in the global economic system. Many of us rarely consider whether or not concepts of limitless growth, ruthless competition, more stuff and other “fundamentals” of today’s business environment are even up for question.
And most of us don’t think twice when we hear that, according to modern economic thinking, that our primarly role in society is limited to a role “consumers” – mere functionaries in vast economic machine for the “growth” and the accumulation of money. And to boot, when we hear the growth of the economy we may not consider what is growing, and at what cost. More? Always good? At what cost?