“Degrowth”: Economy of the future?
Author Charles Eisenstein cites growth- and extraction-based economy as antithetical to planetary health
A vision of the future?
Last Thursday evening (March 7) I attended the interactive Skype lecture—titled 21st Century Economics (or Down the Rabbit Hole)—given by author and Yale University graduate Charles Eisenstein to an audience of about 70 people assembled in Chico State’s Ruth Rowland-Taylor Recital Hall. The event was hosted by the university’s Peace Institute.
In a lecture that unfortunately was sometimes marred by technical difficulties that made it hard to understand what he was saying, Eisenstein—the author of The Ascent of Humanity and Sacred Economics: Money, Gift and Society in the Age of Transition—made it clear that he is, as he put it, “aligning himself with the economy that [he] see[s] coming.” In other words, Eisenstein—who has a complex grasp of history, economics and culture—envisions a necessary evolution from the present-day economy (which he points out is unsustainable, as it is based upon continual growth and extraction of increasingly scarce resources) to an economy that places environmental sustainability and fair distribution of wealth, among other things, at the forefront.
One of the thought-provoking topics that Eisenstein touched on during the evening was the idea of negative-interest currency, whereby one’s money loses rather than gains value the longer it sits in a bank account, thus encouraging it to be recirculated into the economy quickly, with all the economy-boosting results that would follow.
“In all areas, we’re reaching limits of growth,” Eisenstein said, referring to the push to obtain fossil fuels by such controversial means as fracking, Arctic drilling and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline as evidence that we are “running out of options. And [these options] are increasingly destructive to the environment and our civilization.”
A question-and-answer period following Eisenstein’s talk (he was Skyping from his home in Pennsylvania) focused first on the panel in attendance, consisting of moderator and former Chico State music professor Robert Bowman, Chico State economics professor Michael Perelman, local acupuncturist Adam Moes and progressive activist Dan Everhart, and next on questions from the audience.
Questions from a couple of panel members largely took the form of lengthy speeches on the topics that interested them, unfortunately, rather than succinct questions to Eisenstein. This had the effect of not giving Eisenstein a chance to weigh in much, and pushed the audience question period late into the evening. The Q-and-A period would have been more effective by limiting each panel member’s turn to perhaps a five-minute time period that included to-the-point questions to Eisenstein.
Eisenstein’s book, Sacred Economics, is available online for free download at www.realitysandwich.com/homepage_sacred_economics.
Quotes from late naturalist John Muir
“Keep close to Nature’s heart … and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”
“God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.”
“The gross heathenism of civilization has generally destroyed nature, and poetry, and all that is spiritual.”
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”