New Work Centers and HTSP

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A few days ago I gave a keynote address to the International Society for Ecological Economics which was held in Bremen, Germany. First time teleconferencing for a keynote, which was a nice, minimal carbon way to get the message out. Afterwards, people in the audience asked for some more detail on high-tech self-providing. Here’s my answer to them, which is also available online here.

I argued that to reduce ecological footprint and solve the unemployment crisis, hours of work should be reduced. This shares the available work and reduces pressure on eco-systems. The additional time off work available to households can then be deployed to what visionary philosopher Fritjhof Bergmann has called high-tech self-providing. That is, people make and do for themselves in areas such as food, shelter, energy, clothing and small manufactures. The high tech dimension is that the methods of production used require sophisticated... (read more...)

Re-thinking scale and growth

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Despite the lack of policy progress on climate change and ecosystem degradation there is no shortage of solutions currently on offer. While the specifics may differ, those getting most attention share one characteristic—they focus on technological change. Whether it’s Pacala et al’s wedges, Jeffrey Sachs’ plan to reduce carbon emissions through plug in hybrids and carbon capture and storage, McKinsey’s cost abatement curve approach, or Jacobson and DeLucchi’s 100% renewables by 2030 plan, the emphasis is on technology. Most conspicuously lack a number of obvious changes that would reduce emissions and footprint. They barely address households’ lifestyles and “behavioral” changes (the first McKinsey report calls these too “difficult”), ignore changes in distribution of assets and structure of enterprises, and are light on the conditions of knowledge generation and dissemination. Furthermore, with the exception of the green jobs literature, they generally fail to integrate their analyses with... (read more...)

Exit Ramp to Sustainability

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This post was originally published in Yes Magazine, August 9, 2010, at http://www.yesmagazine.org/new-economy/the-work-sharing-boom-exit-ramp-to-a-new-economy

Twenty months into the United States’ worst recession since the 1930s, standard approaches for putting people back to work are proving increasingly inadequate. Corporate bailouts, tax cuts, government spending, and stimulative monetary policy have been the mainstays of the government’s response to the downturn. But unemployment has remained stubbornly high, and job creation has been far below what is needed to return the labor market to its pre-crash state.

There is one bright spot on the policy agenda: work sharing. Government policies that encourage companies to reduce hours rather than lay people off are getting a new look.

Operated through the regular unemployment... (read more...)

Double-Dipping and local reconstruction

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The economic news of the last week has been mostly bad. The predictions I included in Plenitude, which I wrote about a year ago, are unfortunately looking all too right. The first point is the view that we could expect unemployment to continue at high rates for quite some time. How long is that time? Now even mainstream pundits are saying years. There’s little dynamic from within the private sector to create the numbers of jobs that would be needed to reduce the pool of people looking for work. Just to keep up with population growth, the economy needs to add about 100,000 jobs a month. The private sector only created 83,000 in June, and state and local government lost 10,000. So not only are we not in an employment recovery, we’re not even running in place. Other signs of weakness in the economy included a reversal of the workweek (reducing), and wages in decline. All these developments on the labor market side further reduce consumer demand, by reducing incomes. That in turn means companies don’t have the incentive... (read more...)

Solving Unemployment through New Uses of Time

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The events of the past few years—financial meltdown of 2008, the failed Copenhagen talks and increasing climate destabilization, the BP oil disaster, and the financial crises in the Eurozone—make it clear that the business-as-usual economy is both wreaking havoc on the planet and failing on its own terms. But so far, the conversation about how to transform this economic model has been stuck in neutral. Traveling around North America discussing my new book, Plenitude, I am increasingly convinced that a key obstacle to moving forward is a lack of confidence that there is another way. To gain that confidence, we need to articulate a model of how a sustainable economy could work.

The core insight of my model is the need to transform how people spend their time. Its first principle is to reverse the increased in time devoted to the market that has occurred in recent decades. (The US, most of the global South and some OECD countries have experienced rising hours.) In the US, annual hours of work rose more than 200 from... (read more...)

Rio plus 20

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Nearly twenty years ago, the world came together in Rio and recognized the urgency of changing our destructive patterns of consumption and production. George H.W. Bush famously declared (or didn’t, there’s some debate about that) that “The American way of life is not up for negotiation.” But he was forced to attend Rio, after months of stonewalling. And the formulation that came out of Rio remains relevant today–the South will reduce its population growth and the North will reduce its consumption impact. The latter hasn’t happened, for the most part. The footprint of the North has continued to increase, with the United States being the most profligate with the earth’s precious resources and in terms of carbon footprint.

Now we’re approaching Rio + 20. It’s an important opportunity to revisit the failures of these twenty years, and to re-direct this debate in productive ways. The global North must get its act together. As the wealthy countries we can afford to stop de-stabilizing... (read more...)

Plenitude Elections

Plenitude has made it into electoral politics! I’ve just heard from Cristina Vasquez, who is running for the North Carolina house. She is speaking about the ideas from the book, and interested in bringing them into her campaign. She shared this story with me: Democrat Cristina Vasquez focuses on middle class in run for NC House District 74. If any readers are from her area, you may want to be in touch with her as she tries to change the debate in NC.

With election season in full swing, we need to get the discourse around to serious efforts on joblessness and ecological restoration, of climate and especially now, ocean ecosystems. It’s time to demand our leaders get out of denial.

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Beyond Petroleum For Real

For BP it was a cynical branding ploy, to rename themselves from British Petroieum, and try and get consumers to believe that they were going beyond petroieum. If only. We’ve at nearly 50 days of this horrific oil gush, and the failures at all levels are increasingly apparent. The inability of the President, his admnistration, or the Congress to stand up to big oil is transparent, even if the oil in the deep ocean isn’t. Big Oil has bought and paid for the govt for so long, it’s hard to remember there was a time when excess profits skimmed off in this monopolized industry earned them an “excess profits tax.” Why not now?

One of the main messages of my book is that we need to get off fossil fuels. It won’t be easy, but it’s not impossible, as many in the mainstream insist, nor will be be as hard as others suggest. There are a growing number of credible plans for phasing in renewables, and getting us off fossils over the next few decades. Australia just opted for a smart grid. Here in the... (read more...)

The Dominant Approach to Economics and the Environment

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Will the oil disaster in the gulf help us to see that the dominant approach to economics and the environment–which is a technological fix–will not help? There’s a lot of talk in the press and on the blogs about the loss of absolute faith in technology that the ongoing inability to stop the gushing will cause. At the very least, let’s hope that this situation takes the wind out of the sails of geo-engineering and nuclear energy. We need to trust small scale, decentralized, safe technologies not the centralized ones favored by the large corporations.

While we’re on the question of technology, I’m on one of the world’s great ones, the train,  where I’m heading down to Washington, DC to do the Diane Rehm show. (It’ll be live this morning at 11 am). I wanted to let you know about a new piece I’ve written which is at changethis.com, an interesting site that features business books about change.

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Plenitude: The Lecture and Video

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I’m back from my west coast book tour, where I spoke to a variety of audiences. In Seattle I did a talk at Town Hall, and Todd Boyle producer a great video of it. Todd is an example of a Plenitude creator. Todd emailed me before the talk and asked if he could film, edit and upload this high quality video. He does this, gratis, for people and subjects he finds interesting, as a way of contributing to the community conversation. Thanks to Todd. It’s the full monty for the book, with the slideshow and full Q&A. I hope you like it.

Here’s the video:

Juliet Schor: Plenitude from toddboyle on Vimeo.

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