Bare Bones Biology 105 – Economics of Happiness II

Many of you watched the movie The Economics of Happiness that we showed in several venues locally. If you have not seen it, talk with Donna, she has a copy, or go to The Economics of Happiness web site (you should do that anyhow) and buy a copy for yourself that you can share with friends. Last week Bare Bones Biology aired the first part of an interview by Helena Norberg-Hodge, who produced that movie, and now you are about to hear the concluding part of her little interview, in which she gives us the Bare Bones version of a solution. I hope this energizes you, as it did me, to take advantage of her wisdom and experience, and fact check her suggestions and then participate in an effort to nonviolently dethrone the corposystem. Here is Helena:

“If we could just get the message out: wait a minute, we don’t need to continue deregulating. In order to produce food and feed people and to produce the building materials, and to produce all the needs that people have, we do not need to embark on continuing to deregulate, or globalize, economic activity. If we can get that message out, so that the call is from the occupy movement, the call is halt that deregulation. This is more strategic than focusing on finance reform or on personhood, because the action, where these companies have gained so much power, has been in these international trade agreements. That’s where they’ve been able to pressure governments to give them more power. They say: If you don’t give me lower labor prices, if you don’t give me lower regulations, I’ll go elsewhere. That mechanism has ended up ratcheting down everything we care about.

“That mechanism is how it is that governments are in debt to banks. And credit agencies are telling whole banks: Sorry, you can’t afford to look after your people, you must instead pay us a whole bunch of money. It’s a mad situation, and I really believe if we can understand the structural difference between globalizing and localizing, we will be creating an interlinked, global movement linking environmentalists with all those people concerned with unemployment and poverty, and then we’ll have a real powerful movement for change.”

I wish I could name for you the impressive list of people who spoke at The Economics of Happiness conference, that included for example Joanna Macey, Manish Jain, Carol Black, and so many others of equal caliber. In the cross disciplinary group were speakers on the subjects of: breaking down the old economy, from global to local, small scale to large scale, envisioning an economics of happiness, and local futures. And there were workshops around each subject. You know what I found the most exciting – nothing was finished and settled. There’s room for new ideas and new approaches to strengthen the mix, and I left just itching to tweak the educational ideas that were presented.

Mandana Shiva and Bill McKibben were present by video and one of those internet communication processes. The entertainment was – have you ever heard Scoop Lisker describe the evolution of life on earth? And a stunning final improvisational performance by Nina Wise. All in all, one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended.

Next week, I will bring you the keynote speaker, Richard Heinberg, from my other favorite web site, the Post-Carbon Institute, who gave an interview just for us.

That’s the end of the transcript. If any of you want a podcast of the complete interview without my commentary, I can make one for you.

Listening again to Helena Norberg-Hodge reminded me of the words of Arundhati Roy:
“The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability. Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them.”

And then there is my view that arises out of my professional understanding of how the ecosystem functions to stay alive. The corporate revolution will collapse ANYWAY, because the corposystem is trying to harvest more food energy from the earth than the earth has to give (this is not sustainable), and in the process is killing off millions of different species whose function in living is to maintain the health of the living ecosystem (thus reducing resilience of the system). So, the corposystem is killing itself.

Our job is to reduce the suffering this causes – and more importantly, our job is to remove the root cause of the suffering, which is growth beyond the capacity of the ecosystem to support One cause of growth is described by Helena Norberg-Hodge above. That is deregulation. (I call it decriminalizion of the corposystem crimes against the ecosystem). And to find a way to infuse our technologies with wisdom so we can do this with compassion. The other major growth problem is in our human populations (that is all of us, not only some other place). I strongly suggest that you watch the movie Mother the Film, that describes this difficult reality in a kind and compassionate context.

There is a time when all opinions cause pain, and that is the time to stop drawing our lines in the sand and get together to find a way to reduce the overall pain – individual suffering, populational suffering, and suffering of the living ecosystem. As HH The Dalai Lama said: “Human use, population, and technology have reached that certain stage where mother Earth no longer accepts our presence with silence.”
(per Upaya newsletter)

Unnecessary suffering is foolish, and usually causes more harm than good.

Bare Bones Biology 105 – Economics of Happiness II
KEOS 89.1 FM, Bryan, Texas
An audio copy of the “transcript” portion of this
blog can be obtained at

Trackback and recommended references:

For the first part of Helena Norberg-Hodge’s interview see Bare Bones Biology 104:

Arundhati Roy. I strongly recommend her (March 22) interview on Democracy Now

Collapse by Jared Diamond
Or you can get Collapse as an audio book


Bare Bones Biology 104 – Economics of Happiness

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.”

Bare Bones Biology 104 – Economics of Happiness
KEOS 89.1 FM
Audio copy available at

Recommended Reference:

Hello Group-110201

Meeting Details

Next Week is the second Thursday of February. We will view a video by Joseph Campbell, and follow up on the theme of compassion for the month. This Thursday we continue the Montsanto project with a video on the precautionary principle, the two warnings issued by Dr. Martha Crouch, and a paper that Donna found (see below). The video in March will be Economics of Happiness produced by Helena Norberg-Hodge of ISEC, and will probably be at our new location in the clubhouse near downtown Bryan. More details on that later.

I will be at the studio every Thursday, working on our group projects, at least by 10 AM. The studio is open on Thursdays to helpers and participates to view videos and discuss. The project this month is based on the movie “David versus Montsanto,” that we aired on January second Thursday, and has been a rich source of material, and addresses all the levels of organization, as well as the precautionary principle, and the legal project in PA that challenged the “personhood” of corporate factory farming in rural neighborhoods. All this lends itself very well to a study plan we will distribute to other groups and educational organizations.

The kind of study plan that I envision follows a problem-solving model that I’ll discuss in Bare Bones Biology 044, to be aired on KEOS during the third week of February and the posted at The audio pre-cast is attached. (Will send later, the email seems to be in a terrible muddle today.)

Our program will discuss the biology, at each level of organization, of whatever we are studying. This is important, because we humans are a biological organism living inside a biological entity, and that fact places strict predictable limits to our problem-solving options. Within these limits, whatever we do not want to violate the needs either of humans or of the ecosystem, as many current actions do, because, if we ignore the limits, our work will not be sustainable into the future. As we consider each level, we discuss the dilemmas that arise because of conflicts among human needs and desires, the health of the ecosystem, the power of the corposystem, and our goal to arrive at a solution that stresses the best of human values.

January with Montsanto:

Independently, we chose the movie David versus Montsanto for our January study, and Marilyn, of our western adjunct is privileged to participate in the UU showing of “The Economics of Happiness,” and Donna found a story in the Winter 2009 issue of UU World (Dinner with Montsanto, Unitarian Universalist World, Page 37, by Michelle Bates Deakin), about a project undertaken by The Rev. Nate Walker of the Philadelphia UU. Rev. Walker’s goal is to inspire Montsanto to adopt a pledge vowing to “do no harm.” Rev. Walker’s sermon on the subject (available on UTube and also on the web site of the church) was sent to the CEO of Montsanto, and they responded.

The short UU World article, with quotes from members of the UU and from some of the top brass from Montsanto, raises a number of questions that fit perfectly into our project. One is that Rev. Walker’s project is directly driven by both the precautionary principle and our need to use methods of compassion whenever possible to resolve our human dilemmas. The other (well, this is personal from a person who has worked in corporations) is that it sounds to me fairly naïve. And as I was thinking along those lines, driving home and listening to I don’t really know what radio program, I heard an interview of an author, a former corporate executive (the title maybe corporate spin??? I couldn’t find it on google.). This man described the modern approach to propaganda in his corporation, and it did remind me of the statements of Montsanto that are quoted in the UU article.

So the question is: How might one address our situation in a way that is more likely to work? And I’m thinking our other video – a report of the attorney, Linzley, from PA, might give us a clue.

Also on the subject of food is the newest report from Lester Brown, who has been gathering data about the condition of the earth for more than 40 years.

See you on Thursday at the studio! ☺

Learning from Ladakh

I have just obtained this fine book that is for some reason not easy to find in libraries. How can that be? Just in the prologue material it explains our position on planet earth more clearly than I have seen it expressed anywhere else.

Learning from Ladakh, Helena Norberg-Hodge, ISBN: 0-87156-559-5