Friday, 23 November 2007

A new economy

Last week I attended an inspiring conference Be the Change. George Monbiot kicked off. The problems we are facing, he said, are because capitalism is dependent on an ever increasing supply of goods and services… which are based on finite resources. In other words, freemarket economic growth is incompatible with an environmental and social agenda. The billion people who can afford to drive a car have greater purchasing power than the billion people who are struggling to feed themselves on the very same staple foods we can now run cars on - corn and wheat for example.

This is going to be a huge debate in the year to come, I think, as the majority of leaders still say we can essentially grow our way out of our planet’s crisis.Next up was Stewart Wallis of the New Economics Foundation (nef). I am in love with this organisation and everything that comes out of it. We’re running out of planet, he said. And the poorest are suffering the most. In 1900 the ratio of poor to rich was 36:1. Now it’s 75:1. He talked about the moral economy and how it is the right of every child to be brought up to consider the needs of others. Interesting, and true. His solution was devolution to local energy, food and community power while maintaining a global perspective.Change happens, he said, when people power start demanding it. It’s got to start with us. Maybe this wombat can teach us something.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Money as powertool

I've got money on the brain these days. Money is like thought: what you invest it in creates reality. So when I do spend money these days, I like to think of it as a creative act: by buying from local food producers I am reconnecting the broken links between myself and the land. When I buy from people who make clothes and useful things I am supporting that person’s life. When I buy from local shops, even if the goods are not local I am helping rebuild our community’s economy or lifeblood.

Not that I do buy much these days: apart from food, one can live extremely well off the fat of our society’s excesses by harvesting skips, swapping with friends, buying second hand or using Freecycle. But the other day I did, after some thought, buy something new: a pressure cooker. It was, at £106 from Steamer Trading on School Hill, the most expensive thing I’ve bought in ages. A month on, this tribute to Swiss engineering is practically a member of our family. We can now cook rich meat stews or chickpeas for houmous in 20 minutes, brown rice in 10 and steam root veg in seconds. It’s a great investment that, the makers say, can pay for itself in six months through energy savings. Plus, unlike most bought stuff, it’s helping us do our bit for the planet.