Sunday, December 15, 2013

Online reading journal: Supply Shock by Brian Czech

A few months ago, I signed up to review Supply Shock by Brian Czech in return for a free PDF of the book to read. A good deal for a book I was interested to read anyway! It had been a while since I had first encountered the idea of a Steady State Economy, and I wanted to learn more about it.

Executive summary: This book is a great introduction to the idea of a steady state economy, including its history and its implications. I found it very informative and very readable, and I definitely recommend it.

Why I think this book is important: In the last years I have had a growing worry that the solutions most often offered for big environmental problems (recycle, use cloth shopping bags, install energy efficient lightbulbs ...) are not enough, and possibly even a distraction from the difficult, big changes that are really needed (this Guardian article describes my worry in more detail). After reading this book, I am convinced that our society's current emphasis on economic growth is incompatible with environmental protection and maximizing human well-being, and that one of the difficult, big changes that we need to fight for is to change our economic goals.

Also good: One of the things I most enjoyed about this book was the historical background it offers about how views on economic growth have changed through time. If we are to change the economic thinking and goals of our societies, I think we need to understand the forces that have gotten us to where we are. We must understand the reasons that drive people to want economic growth before we can start to convince them that a steady state economy would be better, and the summary in Supply Shock and the literature it cites are a great place to start.

Next post (hopefully soon): some top quotes from Supply Shock and a few ideas from it to chew on.

Monday, April 8, 2013

No more planning. Here is a first post: 1 Billion Rising.

(originally posted 14/2/2013 when I had this blog on WordPress)

Today women all over the world gathered together to dance against violence against women. The action was called 1 Billion Rising and founded by activist/playwright Eve Ensler (creator of the Vagina Monologues). Here in my city there was an event as part of it - and I was proud to join. And it got me thinking about something I have heard many times - that building women's rights must be part of the foundation of any efforts for social change. That women are one of the keys to making things happen.

The idea is that, almost everywhere, women make up half of the population, and thus their freedom to speak and make decisions is necessary for true change at the most fundamental - individual - level. Furthermore, that women everywhere fill crucial roles, and often different roles to men - for example doing most of the child care, or grocery shopping, or farm work - and so certain changes will only be possible with their support. In some cases this concept is blindingly clear: where women are more educated, birth rates are lower. In other cases the connection is more subtle, but probably still there. The different roles and places of women and men must be taken into account. And stronger women usually help change their societies for the better. (note: I would like to include citations for these assertions, and learn more about in which cases this idea is true or not. This will have to wait for a later post. For now, I would like to make clear that this is an idea I've heard often, but I don't know to what extent it is true, or where, or when).

Assuming that this is true - and intuitively I believe it is likely - how do we go about taking this factor into account? How many existing projects for social or environmental change take the role of women into account? If they do not, how should they start to do so? I don't have an answer, but I believe part of the answer must lie in having a better framework to work with of the connections between different issues and processes and factors shaping our society today. One thing I would like to contribute is to help advance our ability to see this framework and use it to guide our decisions and plans. More on this to come.