Posts Tagged ‘Geoffrey Garver’

Read all about it

Interviews! Today we’ve got a great interview with Peter Brown from The Lionel Show, which, as usual, WordPress will not let me embed directly. But fear not; just click here and it ought to either play or download, depending on how paranoid your media player settings are.

Also there’s a print interview at Investor’s Business Daily with quotes from Geoffrey Garver. Well worth reading, although quite short.

Was going to post another interview, but the interviewer was so clueless that it’s not even worth giving them the link traffic. Yes, it’s important to engage with people of all views, no matter how bizarre, but at some point it just becomes inefficient to keep pouring our energy and effort down that big ol’ hole. The scientific evidence on climate change is in. There’s as much consensus as there’s ever going to be, because the people who are still unconvinced are the people who aren’t likely to be persuaded by scientific evidence anyway. Can we just declare ourselves to have won the debate (and if there’s ever been a better definition of a Pyrrhic victory, I can’t think of it, because I’m pretty sure we’d all be delighted for the other folks to have been right, yes?) and then proceed to ignore them?

And yeah, I realize we can’t, because some of them run countries. Which is one of a number of things that keep me up at night. (Car alarms are another.)

I guess we’ll see the final shape of world opinion soon, as Copenhagen grinds onward. Keep watching the skies!


Whole Earth Economy business tips

Over at Geoff’s Eco-blog there’s a great new post on “Whole Earth Economy Business Tips”:

Tip 1: Spread the word about the need to re-think our economy. Business is the front line of the economy, the arena in which the exchanges take place that drive our ways of living. Business and consumer choices have an enormous impact on our society and our environment. It is crucial that members of the business community understand the ultimate, long-term ecological crisis our economy faces – a crisis much more serious than the economic and financial crisis of the past year. The problem is not just climate change. It’s also biodiversity losses, threats to ocean health, a nutrient cycle that is out of balance because of fertilization, deforestation, overpopulation and more. We must come to terms with the reality that the global human ecological footprint is greater than what is available, and that we therefore are running an ecological deficit, using up the Earth faster than it can regenerate itself. This means we have to envision a new kind of economy that recognizes the ecological limits of our finite planet Earth.

Click to read the whole article.

Economics Without Ecocide

Peter G. Brown and Geoffrey Garver wrote an article for the Montreal Gazette, Economics Without Ecocide, this past week, which has gotten some great responses from the community. It’s been reprinted at and Share The World’s Resources, among others. We’ve been getting a lot of good mentions around the internet; thanks very much to everyone who’s helping spread the message.

Economics Without Ecocide
November 12, 2009

Guiding the global economy now is apparently in the hands of the G20. In September, at their meeting in Pittsburgh (their third in a year), the G20 leaders adopted what they called a “Framework for Strong, Sustainable and Balanced Growth.”

The framework is cast as “a process for economic co-operation and coordination to help ensure that post-crisis policies avoid a return to dangerous imbalances that undermine long-term economic growth.”

Unfortunately, with the ecological base of the economy falling apart, the Pittsburgh framework will be looked back on as part of the fiddling going on as Rome burned – or, more aptly, as the planet heated up.

Its fundamental flaw? It falls hopelessly short of addressing – or even recognizing – the real crisis facing the economy: The global ecological crisis, and the unwillingness of the global community to steer the economy away from ecological collapse.

This flaw becomes starkly clear when the G20’s program for the economy is examined through the lens of five simple questions: What is the economy for? How does it work? How big should it be? What is fair? and How should it be governed?

Fortunately, an alternative is possible that provides better answers to those questions. It would move the economy toward a mutually enhancing relationship with a flourishing and prospering Earth – if the political will is found to seek a new way. We start by looking at the first two questions. Under the G20 framework, what is the economy for, and how does it work? And what are some better answers to those questions?

The economy is for enhancing ecological and human integrity.

The G20 framework: A key agreement among the G20 was to continue economic stimulus efforts until “recovery is secured” and then to responsibly wind down stimulus programs. But this whole program defines “recovery” in terms of Gross Domestic Product, with sustained growth in GDP as the overarching solution to all of the world’s economic problems – and, by implication, its other woes.

A whole Earth perspective: GDP is not a good in itself – we value growth in GDP because we see it as the means for assuring stability in employment, security of income, and access to what we need to be healthy and happy. But the great threat that now hangs over the world is massive ecological instability in climate, food supply, clean water, biodiversity, ocean health and much more. Rising numbers of environmental refugees are already tragic human emblems of the current degrading of the Earth. These instabilities are the result in large part of the global explosion in economic growth in the last century.

In short, the G20 has it backward. The overarching goal of the economy should be to ensure the Earth’s ecological integrity and resilience so as to prevent the collapse of Earth’s life support systems. Essential for achieving this goal will be either a strategy for decoupling growth from climate change and other ecological degradation (a virtually impossible prospect given trends) – or de-growth and steady state strategies, such as those developed by ecological economists like Peter Victor ( of York University and promoted by groups like the Centre for Advancement of a Steady State Economy, or CASSE (

The economy works according to the laws of science.

The G-20 framework: The G20 agreed to review at an international level the efforts by countries such as the U.S. to increase savings and by others like China and Japan to increase domestic spending and shift away from export-driven economies. This includes mechanisms for “mutual assessment” of each other’s performance on these matters, as well as review by the IMF.

A whole Earth perspective: The G20 approach to balance of payments shows no concern for the health of the biosphere on which the economy, and all of life, ultimately depends. Seeking more balance is a start, but trade policies should drive countries away from not hyperactive dependence on an import-export market that enhances carbon emissions and other ecological harms. Urgent action is needed to monitor the current behaviour and past record of nations with respect to their impact on the integrity and resilience of the Earth’s interconnected ecosystems. The monitoring must be connected to positive and negative incentives or sanctions to move the world’s nations toward responsible stewardship, with an emphasis on over consumers like Canada and the United States.

The economy must stay within the Earth’s ecological limits

The G-20 framework: The G20 agreed on “specific commitments to increase access to food, fuel and finance among the world’s poorest, with a new World Bank Trust Fund to finance investments in food security, a commitment to fund programs that expand access to renewable energy and a call to identify new ideas to strengthen the poor’s access to financial system.” This is done in the spirit of “making the policy and institutional changes needed to accelerate the convergence of living standards and productivity in developing and emerging economies to the levels of the advanced economies.”

A whole Earth perspective: Addressing poverty and working toward the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals is laudable, but raising developing world consumption without contracting “the levels of advanced economies” is a nightmare scenario. It ignores completely the Earth’s ecological capacity and the massive destabilization the of the Earth’s life support systems the economy is already causing. The G20 needs urgently commit resources and brainpower to a more rigorous evaluation of the Earth’s capacity to withstand climate change and other ecological impacts of the economy, and then to develop policies that ensure that the global economy respects those limits.

In the Sept. 24, 2009, issue of Nature, a team of researchers led by Johan Rockstr√∂m of the Stockholm Resilience Centre proposed a series of “planetary boundaries” for ensuring the ecological stability of the planet. This is the kind of work the G20 should explicitly and urgently support and expedite.

The economy must be fair to people and other living things, now and in the future

The G20 framework: The G20’s disastrous goal of bringing developing world consumption levels up to developed world levels at least reflects a notion of fairness. The G20 also agreed to rein in compensation of bankers; yet took no action on a French proposal for a .005-per-cent tax on the $800-trillion global foreign currency market, which could yield $33 billion annually just covering the dollar, yen, euro and pound.

A whole Earth perspective: Fairness is about providing both human and non-human communities of life, and both present and future generations, equitable access to the Earth’s life support systems. Money gives people this access, along with the ability to lay down an ecological footprint. The G20’s timid gesture on banker compensation shows starkly the enduring power of the global financial elite to keep in place the current grossly inequitable system of access to the fruits of the Earth. The failure to rein in – or at least tax – rampant speculation in the global currency market, and to use the proceeds toward the Millennium Development Goals, is likewise a missed opportunity for fairer sharing.

Keeping in mind the millions of other species with which humans share the Earth, equitable access means not allowing people individually or collectively to take too much. The policy of bringing the world’s poor to developed world levels of consumption is a disaster if it does not address patterns of overconsumption in rich countries. Contraction and convergence, informed with rigorous information on the Earth’s ecological capacity, is fundamental to a fair approach to the economy.

Governance reform is essential for a human economy that lives within its means

The G20 framework: The G20 agreed that the G20 forum will now be the main venue for discussing global economic issues from now on. But the criteria for admission are based on GDP (the G20 represent 85 per cent of world output). The G20 also agreed to give greater shares at the IMF and World Bank to China and other Asian countries – several of which want explosive growth in GDP at the expense of the environment. They also agreed vaguely “to phase out fossil fuel subsidies over the medium-term while providing targeted support to help the poorest.”

A whole Earth perspective: Including more countries in the G20 is welcome. But, just as world leaders should include ecological economists and scientists among their top economic advisers, the G20 and global financial institutions would do well to give a strong voice to countries, like Costa Rica, with relatively low per capita ecological impact along with relatively high levels of well being. As to fuel subsidies, in a world facing catastrophic climate change, nothing less than urgent, expedited action to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies and to support rapid transition to low or zero carbon alternatives is acceptable.

But the real global governance problem is the lack of strong global institutions to oversee the security of Earth’s life support systems. Increasingly, global environmental problems require a fully functioning global system of environmental rulemaking and enforcement, supported with greatly expanded research into the Earth’s ecological capacity and ways for the human economy to stay within it. Global rules and institutions also must recognize and respond to local needs and circumstances, and empower rather than overly constrain local efforts to maintain ecologically enhancing economies.

The G20 leaders pledged to do their utmost to achieve agreement on climate change at Copenhagen. A new climate treaty could serve as a starting point for the structural changes to global governance needed to face up to the stark reality that for the first time in the millennia of human history, the human economy is now running down the Earth’s ecological capacity faster than it can regenerate. We will find out in Copenhagen whether the G20 will provide leadership in that direction. But the Pittsburgh summit was not promising.

Peter G. Brown and Geoffrey Garver are co-authors of Right Relationship: Building a Whole Earth Economy (Berrett Koehler 2009)

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

350 in Montreal

Some days, in the environmental movement, you feel like you’re some sort of small squishy creature making brave noises just before the great corporate-political-industrial juggernaut squashes you. Some days, you feel very alone.

funny pictures of cats with captions

Saturday was not one of those days.

As everyone probably knows, it was the International Day of Climate Action, where people all over the world gathered to show support for a strong Copenhagen agreement and to demand that steps be taken to reduce the atmospheric carbon dioxide content below 350 parts per million, the level which scientists have determined will keep climate change within manageable limits. (We’re at 387 ppm now. Not so good.)

It was raining off and on all day in Montreal. The event I was most looking forward to was the 350 Concordia Student Bike To Mount Royal, which was supposed to start at 11 am. I biked downtown from NDG, arrived at the Hall Building, and saw…nobody. Some people were setting up a sound system behind the building for an entirely different event (something to do with Uganda, I’m not sure what they were doing exactly) and other than that and a crowd of random smokers by the doors, the area was deserted. No bikes.

Rode over to McGill to check if maybe there was an email I’d missed, and got chased out of the SSMU building by a janitor who didn’t like me bringing my bike inside. (I don’t have a lock at the moment – long and irrelevant story – and don’t intend to have my bike stolen, thanks.) Biked home to NDG, checked my email. Nothing.

So I decided to head back for the next event, which was a musical event at City Hall, supposed to start at 2pm. Rode back downtown, and as I was passing the Hall Building again, spotted a cluster of signs at the side of the building with one guy sitting next to them. Apparently the bike event had been rescheduled to 2 and everyone else had gotten the email but me. Also, we were no longer biking to Mount Royal, but to City Hall, via Place des Arts to pick up another group of riders; then we were all joining the musical event, which had been changed to three o’clock.

It was still raining lightly, and the organizer wasn’t optimistic. Apparently they’d had four hundred people register for the ride, but the weather kept most of them indoors. When we left Concordia at twenty past two, there were about two dozen of us. Most were on our own bikes, a few on rented Bixis. About half were wearing helmets, and only two of us other than the Bixis had lights going. Go bike safety! Someone asked if we were going to have a police escort. It would probably have looked a bit ridiculous.

We rode to Place des Arts and milled around for a bit. There was a fair crowd there, as apparently they’d just finished doing another event. Lots of people in paper Stephen Harper masks. I don’t think we actually picked up any extra riders there, though. Eventually we got cold enough that we needed to start moving again.

We met up with Geoff Garver and a bunch of other people at the Champ-de-Mars field outside City Hall.

That’s Geoff, me and Ed. There still weren’t nearly as many people as there would have been with good weather, but at least we were enough to make a decent crowd.

Clearly the police had expected a much larger presence as well; there were five police vans parked in the parking lot. Periodically an officer wandered by to see what we were doing and how long we planned to stick around. Nobody seemed much bothered by us. Pedestrians stopped occasionally, not many.

At 3:50 pm we went out on the lawn and played the note F for 350 seconds. The guy with the guitar is Brendan, the organizer of the event.

The frequency of F is 350 Hz – okay, actually 349.23 Hz, but there’s no point nitpicking, especially since we were probably pretty out of tune anyhow, as most of our instruments were the kind you can’t really tune, like pennywhistles and things. Oh, and a musical saw.

Can you tune a musical saw? I have no idea, but it sounded awesome.

After we’d done that, we formed ourselves into a 350 shape and got our picture taken. I haven’t received any pictures of that yet, so, um, here’s a picture of people in Aotearoa, New Zealand, doing it instead.

That’s where the Moral Economy Project’s Robert Howell lives, so it’s almost as relevant.

Afterwards, someone from CTV showed up with a camera and they said they wanted to film us doing a different event entirely; there’d been another Montreal event called “Jump For The Future” where everyone went up on the mountain and jumped up and down. They wanted to put that on the TV, but it had already happened, so they got us to jump up and down instead, and filmed it. We had a small child with us, which automatically makes us look better on TV.

The CTV video player isn’t embeddable, but here’s the link.

Everyone kind of dispersed after that, and I headed home along with a few other cyclists who were going in the same direction. Herding together for mutual protection is Urban Cycling 101. The ride back through Westmount to NDG was quite pleasant, actually, once we got out of the rush hour traffic around Atwater. Lots of leaves on the ground making pleasant squishing noises as we rode through them. Montreal’s official bicycling season ends November 15, which means that’s when they’ll take down the bollards protecting a bunch of the bike lanes and let people park in them and so on. There’s so few good days left.

Did we accomplish anything? I have no idea. The slideshows on are inspirational, for sure. There are certainly a lot of people willing to come out and demonstrate about this. I have no way to measure how many of those people went to their demonstrations by car; how many of them will go home and decide not to take that unnecessary flight, or buy that new TV; how many people walked by the events, or saw them on the news, and went and looked up what they were about, and started thinking seriously about this stuff for the first time; how many politicians added climate actions to their list of Things That Will Make Me Look Good To Voters If I Do Them; how many flapping butterflies’ wings it takes to start that storm. We aren’t going to know any of that until it’s been settled, one way or the other. We just have to keep on doing our bit, and hope it’ll be enough.

In the end, it all comes down to faith.

The media juggernaut continues

Wow, we are on a roll here! Check out Geoff’s new interview, where he talks about the new G20 announcement.

Interviews ahoy!

Two more interviews to post. Once again, can’t embed most players here (although big thanks to Nettie for telling me how to embed Vimeo video) so you have to click through. Sorry for the 1995-style clunkiness.

September 24: Geoff Garver on the Montel Across America radio show. I don’t know if there’s a way to auto-cue the player (little help, anyone?) so you have to scroll across to about minute 77 to get to where Geoff’s bit starts.

September 30: Peter Brown on Earthbeat. Special show about the recent Pacific disasters.

We’re a regular media blitz, we are.

Symposium videos, part one!

That’s right – the videos from the May 15-16 Montreal symposium are now ready to go! Here’s the first bunch – bear with me here, this is going to be a bit of a long post. More videos to follow shortly!

Stuart Myiow gives the “words that come before all else”:

Geoff Garver introduces the symposium:

Peter G. Brown summarizes what’s wrong with the world today:

The Governance panel:

Which takes us to the lunch break, I think? More videos to follow!

Update: Sorry, didn’t realize there was another one for the Governance panel: