Last week I attended the Economics of Happiness conference in Berkeley. Today I bring you the first portion of a message sent especially to us from the Founder of the project, Helena Norberg-Hodge.
“I think today it’s incredibly important that we have the bigger picture, in order to understand why we have such serious environmental problems, why we’ve got ever-increasing unemployment and debt and financial insecurity. And when we look at the bigger picture it becomes very clear that for a long time now our governments have been supporting a type of growth that is about increased global trade and global finance, in a way that makes multi-national corporations and banks so big and powerful that they in effect have become a sort of invisible government, world wide. And these giant corporations and banks have been pressuring governments to bring in what’s called free-trade treaties. These treaties are about de-regulating their activities in the global trading climate.
“Now what does that mean? It means removing the social and environmental protection measures that societies have built up. So, we’re in a very difficult situation, because these banks and corporations have so much power over our governments. They also have power over the media. They have power in academia, in science, in schooling. So almost all the avenues we have for understanding what’s going on in the world have now big corporation, for profit corporations and investment that’s pushing everything toward ever more globalized growth.
“Now that is bringing with it a massive increase in CO2 emissions, a massive increase in the use of packaging, plastics, refrigeration, irradiation, all kinds of things that we don’t really want, and its doing so mainly because of blindness. I mean, we in the environmental movement, in the social movement, we really need to wake up and look at the economy and the changes we need to make there.
“Then we can talk about localizing as a systemic alternative that can bring back power to the local level, and even to the national level. But we’ve got to be clear about what it is we want. We have to have real clarity about the fact that there is a path that can solve both the environmental and the social problem. What that is about is insisting that banks and businesses be place-based, or localized, belong to a locale. Now, for big industry, that needs to be no bigger than the nation-state level. So General Motors needs to be American, and Toyota needs to stay Japanese, and adhere to the rules that democratically elected governments bring in – in order to protect the environment, and in order to protect our jobs and our futures.
“So, there is a path, and its so important that this path could appeal to almost everybody, because even as CEOs and really big fat cats in big banks, the current system is so unstable, it’s so unfavorable, it’s being driven by completely deregulated, uncontrolled, speculative activity that’s pushing everybody in the wrong direction. So that the CEOs know that if they don’t rush over across the world to find the cheapest labor and the cheapest resources, and the largest scale projects, they will be taken over, so they’re running scared that they’re going to lose their jobs, even as the heads of these big corporations. If we could just get the message out, wait a minute, you don’t need to continue deregulating in order to produce food and to feed people and to produce all the needs that people have, we do not need to embark on continuing to deregulate, or globalize, economic activity.”