Below is the list of questions posed after the video. As promised we are sharing them with all participants, along with some replies below.
There are many great questions posed, reflecting that we seem to have a well informed and action oriented group. Many of these questions could take volumes to adequately address, so please forgive the brief replies. As we proceed with more zoom meetings we can explore many of these issues together more thoroughly.
Lucie and Jack
Q: How to change the mindsets of shareholders expecting high returns on investments. They will resist cooperatives.
R: No simple answer to this. Consumer preferences for dealing with companies that don’t seek high profit, have strong sustainability and social justice practices, or cooperative structures (and avoiding those that don’t). Shareholder resolutions have had some successes in making positive changes. Legislative changes to requirements for corporate charters. Government incentives (lower tax rate?) to companies that adopt corporate charters that reflect the doughnut vision/ideas of stakeholder value.
Q: I'm concerned with what might be the next steps toward a sustainable wellbeing economy. Some of us work on the planetary boundaries, some of us work on human wellbeing. The next step seems to me to be better distribution of wealth. The policy of wealth tax, the ideas of wealth transfer tax, capital gains tax, the many ways we can better share wealth. What next?
R: yes, taxes are one way of redistributing wealth; others include:
- Legislation to ensure a living wage;
- Legislation to prohibit incomes above a certain level, as well as an acceptable ratio of highest paid to lowest paid;
- Promoting worker shares in company (i.e. worker owner companies), and cooperative models;
- Universal Core basic services – greater local control over core human services (e.g. education, housing, transport etc.)
Both Kate Raworth and Tim Jackson write about a variety of options on these issues.
Q: Do you know how this model is working in Amsterdam?
R: Amsterdam worked with Doughnut, Labour, Biomimicry 3.8, Circle Economy and C40 Cities (all collaborating as part of the Thriving Cities Initiative) to downscale the doughnut to place. The resulting report/plan can be found here.
Q: Even if our resource use is sustainable, what are the arguments in favour of using a minimum?
R: If we are talking about non-renewable resources then using less will make them last longer (if we should use them at all); If we are talking about renewable resources then it is important to only use an amount that does not push the sustainable boundary (as all such boundaries are dynamic and may be challenged by other factors than our use) – this provides a margin of safety – for example if there is a smaller harvest than expected.
Q: Is there documentation of which unsustainable resource uses should be stopped immediately?
R: This would be a very long list! The most obvious is fossil fuels as they are pushing us to an unsafe climate. But the global economy is growing so much that even sand is currently in short supply and a black market has developed.
There are many studies that summarize the dwindling non-renewable resources that are depleted or depleting, and declines in fisheries stock are an example of renewable resources being used beyond their natural replenishment level.
Q: What do you think is the best way to convince the self-interested and wealth-focused to get behind a different economic model? It'll be very hard to get a democratic mandate for change without them.
R: there are a variety of approaches to this challenge. One is to refer them to the research showing that greater equality is actually good for everyone, including the well-off; another is to appeal to their sense of justice – everyone deserves a decent living and there is enough wealth and abundance for all to enjoy; another is to encourage this question being put to something like a Citizens Assembly where different views on the topic can be explore and a facilitated consensus can be developed about how we want our society to operate. Governments often adopt such consensus developed proposals as they reflect electorate wishes.
Q: Doesn’t the current monetary system (e.g. interest on loans) locks us into perpetual growth? Which society is brave enough to do away with interest (or the “time value of money”)?
R: Yes – Jason Hickel writes quite eloquently about this issue: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2016/nov/05/how-a-new-money-system-could-help-stop-climate-change
Some alternative economic thinker, like Tim Jackson, suggests interest in itself need not be the problem. This bears further research. But the debt based money system certainly does create a variety of problems that need to be addressed. Developing alternative currencies is an option to minimize the growth imperative.
Q: Kate’s doughnut makes a lot of sense from an outcomes perspective, can you speak to the implementation side, and how a degree of decoupling from the global economy (which was driven by classic economic ignorance) and move to a greater portion of domestic and even more so local economy is required (using regenerative principles)?
R: the implementation is up to us. In Kate’s work, and that of many other alternative economic thinkers, there are a wide range of activities, policies, programmes, social change strategies, and real examples that we can learn and draw from. We are the implementation vehicle.
Regarding a move away from globalization of trade toward a more local economy, that would certainly be desirable from a planetary boundary perspective (as growth for the sake of growth is what is breaching the boundaries), which could well create more jobs locally. And if the regenerative idea is applied broadly, then wellbeing can take precedence over growth.
One solution to the ‘trade issue’ is to only let in what is going to increase whole systems health in New Zealand (and vice versa, other countries would do the same). This would require a conversation about what goods, types of capital flows etc. to let in. Foreign direct investment, for instance, has historically eroded diversity of place (i.e. by crowding out local businesses and local ownerships) – so should be questioned.
Q: We need to break the link between work and income. The wealthy don't have to work, their income comes from the growth in their assets, not taxed while the poor sometimes work several jobs taxed as secondary income.
R: yes, level of income needs regulation – both a floor and a ceiling, to ensure both a safe space for wellbeing and the planetary boundaries. Again, the expanding literature on these topics offer many ideas of what we can do. Universal Basic income is often put forward as a solution – but has some issues associated with it. See: https://neweconomics.org/2019/04/universal-basic-income-new-study-finds-little-evidence-that-it-can-live-up-to-its-promise and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yoCPkC2uLaw
Q: So how to change from market driven economics? This surely requires radical political action - step up XR!
R: the market can be a very effective mechanism – if properly constrained by both justice and planetary boundary considerations. The market operating on its own has led us to our current challenges; reshaping it to operate within safe boundaries is one of our chief tasks. Supporting businesses that are regenerative socially and or environmentally is one step; voting preferences are another (although the range of options is limited); joining a political party and attempting to move their policies in the right direction; supporting a local alternative currency to avoid dealing with large corporations entirely if possible; and yes, non-violent disruptive tactics- all have a role to play. A reason for starting this webinar series is to connect with like-minded folks to see how we can collaborate on this project – its too big for an individual (unless you’re a Greta!)
Q: Lucie’s nailed it! legislate to change fiduciary duty, from shareholders’ preferences to defined public purposed.
R: Governments set the rules for corporate charters and yes, the criteria for an acceptable corporate charter could be changed to operate within the doughnut. One of many options we have available.
Q: How can you ensure that the underlying values of wellbeing and environment are being upheld within the population , the commons?
R: again, lots of ideas of how to do this in the literature – set an example for one; find ways of promoting wellbeing within your family and circle of friends; engage with the government about their wellbeing initiatives and ask them to step it up.
Q: can you talk about the interrelationship between society and the environment. There are many who like to keep the two separate? And others who think they are inextricably linked. e.g. climate justice advocates. Do you think there is a risk that we are so focused on our activities I.e. the economy , that we trick ourselves into thinking we have all the power. Nature frequently shows us that this is not the case but we keep forgetting. I like Kate R's doughnut because it depicts society's utter dependency on the biosphere. for me it is more one way than the other.
R: what the doughnut model tells us is that we have to get the right balance between meeting human needs for wellbeing (rather than market wishes) and respecting planetary boundaries. Given that most of our institutions, and many of our social norms and values, are biased toward meeting market needs we are currently way out of balance in terms of planetary boundaries – and the market isn’t doing a great job of ensuring wellbeing for all either. We can simply decry the mess we are in, or we can see our growing awareness of these issues and their connections as an incredible opportunity to make a difference now and for generations to come. Let’s make a plan together!
Q: Lucie could you please share some links re OS schemes of worker ownership? e.g Denver.
R: Employee-owned business promote a higher quality of living for the employee-owners themselves – including higher wages and a longer job tenure – secures greater economic stability for communities. See: https://www.denversbdc.org/employee-ownership/
Q: I wonder if we’re too polite. Those running businesses and governments in their pockets are never anxious to give up their power! There are now loads of us who think alike. Maybe we need a revolution.
R: we do need a revolution in our thinking and the way we run our economy. And the spreading awareness of the need for change needs to be nourished and supported. As mentioned, there are many groups throughout NZ that are getting onto these issues. Each is a bit different and will be more or less attractive to each of us. The important thing is that we connect with each other and work collaboratively to make the change happen. Its also helpful to keep in mind that the kind of changes we need is not something we have done before. We are talking about restructuring society in a very profound way. It would be easy to make a further mess of it (as many violent revolutions tend to do). Working together with an evolving vision and some compassion for everyone involved can get us to a better place. We can be very creative and resourceful given a mutually supportive collaboration. As the movement expands so will its power and influence. Let’s make sure its constructive and benevolent.
Q: While we have a wellbeing indicator the government is totally failing to provide enough money to ensure people have wellbeing so is the wellbeing indicator meaningless.
R: Governments are trapped by a society that is not aligned on the basic values of the doughnut. Governments in representative democracies reflect their electorates. If a society is split on these issues then so will our government be cautious in moving too quickly. We (all NZers) are as much of an obstacle as the government. The more we can evolve a consensus about the issues we care about the more the government can do to support those issues.
The NZ government is one of only a few that has initiated a wellbeing economy. That is something significant even though it is not nearly sufficient. How can we support what they have done to date and encourage their going even further?
Q: I understand Philadelphia and Portland have also adopted Doughnut Economics...
R: several places around the world are exploring this approach. How can we contribute to these efforts and make things happen in NZ?
Q: Revolutions usually results in suffering and pain to the poor. We have to evolve a new system.
Ok but evolution is very slow. We need to DO more, not just learn more
R: there is an African saying “if you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” We have far to go, and bringing others along is a critical aspect of making the journey successful. It is likely that change will speed up as we gather together and evolve a consensus both about the vision for the future and the road map to get there. Staying involved is perhaps the most important thing at this point.
Q: The question is pitching it - you'll have people here with very different backgrounds in policy, economic, and ecological knowledge.
R: yes, part of what Kate R has done is show us how complex and rigorously worked out disciplines like ecological economics can be made accessible and even inspiring. Change is required at so many levels and in so many ways everyone is going to have an opportunity to contribute. We are all part of the problem and all need to be part of the change.
Q: The big question for me is: How can we influence government and corporations to make changes. There is a lot of information but how can we instigate change?
R: two comments, all the usual ways of influencing governments and corporations are at our disposal – voting, lobbying, meeting with your representatives, boycotts, shareholder resolutions; joining groups that support our causes, demonstrating, writing letters, etc. Collective action can often be more effective than acting alone, but every little bit helps. The other comment is that government is only one audience. Our friends and neighbours and communities are another. Governments reflect the values and wishes of their electorate as well as those of vested interests. Part of our task is to outweigh the vested interest with widespread support for a common vision.
Q: Capitalism obviously doesn't work, I can't believe we are still trying to use it. I am keen to get an alternative economy going. Can we create something that be can become a part of? Something part of the transition?
R: we hope so! Perhaps part of our task is to look at what other groups are doing on these issues and see whether there is anything we can add (that may be missing), or join up with one or another group that we feel we can contribute to.
Q: In many ways, the operational challenges embedded in the doughnut economy of staying within safe planetary limits while also meeting our social obligations reminds me of the adage “think globally, act locally.” This idea has been around for at least 50 years with few obvious success stories. Is there something particular about the doughnut economy that might finally make the goal a reality?
R: it isn’t the doughnut economy that is going to make it difference, it is us. The doughnut economy model is only one of several that has been articulated to deal with both the inequality around wellbeing and planetary boundaries.
It is up to us to take good ideas and see how we can apply them to our communities and our country. The need for change seems to be appreciated in more and more circles. Perhaps it is no particular model but a historic moment that we have in front of us.
Q: how can we influence gov’t and corporations? I think we mustn’t ignore the influence the corporate lobbyists have on government policy - in my field I can see a refusal to include non-electric energy sources in their “energy” scenarios. Even the Climate Change Commission uses the economists employed by electricity corporates - they REFUSE to allow energy efficiency or community energy schemes into their scenarios.
R: right, we need to organize and lobby harder than the lobbyists
Q: Shall we build a new political party for election in three years' time?? Something a bit more radical than the Greens, I am thinking!!
R: at this point all options are on the table
Q: Is it time for a hui/process to bring the different strands of work together and form the common narrative, or would that be too much like “design by committee”?
R: Hui would be great - have thought about this before.
Q: Could Lucie perhaps design a framework pathway from here to a sustainable wellbeing economy for Aotearoa, and allow us all to insert our ideas. Perhaps on a Google doc.
R: Perhaps that is a task more of us need to participate in. Let’s explore ways we might do this.