World attitudes to climate change

Earlier this week, Jeremy Williams pointed out that in the UK, people are far more concerned about the effects of recession that they are about any environmental issue. And while this won't come as a surprise to any environmentalist, it can be disheartening to see the wide disparity between concern about economy and concern about environment. More

88 months and counting

As bizarre as it sounds, a rough equivalent of this otherwise unimaginable scenario is playing itself out at the Vesta wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight - the subject of a high-profile sit-in protest by some of its workforce. More

A salary cap for everyone

Whether it is bankers, doctors or dentists pulling in excessive pay, people are left wanting to spit at their greed. But John Varley, Barclays chief executive, reacted in horror this week to the suggestion of a Radio 4 interviewer that some parameters should be put around pay and bonuses awarded to bank staff. It would "interfere with the market". This, it should now be clear, was a deeply strange thing to say.

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A guide to real progress

This article first appeared at Policy Innovations.

Governments around the world are caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place: We are now nearly two years into what is widely heralded as the worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression, and the ecological crisis of global warming threatens the foundations of human civilization. Should countries stimulate their economies at any cost? How should they prioritize the health of global and local ecosystems? The debates about whether government money should be used to shore up struggling car industries neatly encapsulate these sorts of dilemmas.

Many in government may feel that the best overall path is far from clear. Part of the problem is that they lack tools for making these sorts of policy decisions. The common yardstick since the 1940s has been GDP growth. Gross Domestic Product reflected the wartime concern with increasing economic productivity, and since then it has become synonymous with progress. As the United Kingdom's Sustainable Development Commission notes, "The state has become caught up in a belief that growth should trump all other policy goals."

Yet intrinsic to growing GDP is the need to produce more stuff. This is exactly what our planet cannot sustain. More stuff requires more of the Earth's dwindling fossil energy supplies, with waste products that threaten the climate.

The kernel of the solution to resolving these competing demands lies within the structure of the problem itself. The fact that economic growth can be conceived of in opposition to the health of the planet suggests that neither can claim to be regarded as the true overall measure of success in human society. A much more convincing case is made by the concept of well-being. The experience of well-being is about feeling that your life is going well, something which is universally important to people everywhere. The concept of well-being enables us to define the ultimate aim of human endeavor to be healthy, happy, and meaningful lives.

The Earth's resources are the fundamental input to this system. A well-regulated economy is just one means to produce well-being-along with others including community, technology, values, and governance. Systems thinking also shows us that using planetary resources so that they can be sustained into the future is vital to ensuring that human well-being can also be maintained in the long term.

The updated Happy Planet Index (HPI), published last month by nef (the new economics foundation), uses this view of society to formulate an indicator of overall progress. Scores on the HPI represent the amount of human well-being a country produces relative to its resource use. It is measured in terms of long and happy lives. The HPI is thus an efficiency index, measuring how much well-being is achieved per unit of environmental impact:

 

HPI (Life expectancy x Life satisfaction) / Ecological footprint

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Tax the \“useless\” banks, says Adair Turner

This from The Times:

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nef goes to Climate Camp

In 1381, a huge crowd of disgruntled peasants set up camp atop Blackheath in London. It was there that the Lollard priest John Ball delivered a rousing sermon against the inequalities and injustices of a society segregated by class.

Today, over six hundred years later, another band of insurgents have pitched their tents on this patch of common land: Blackheath is the location of this year's Camp for Climate Action.

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Back to ‘bubble economics’

The recession is over claim the newspapers. Growth has returned. House prices are definitely on the up. Let the good times role.

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Sarkozy and Stiglitz challenge GDP ‘fetish’

Soon enough, the President had set up an impressive commission of Nobel Prize-winning economists and social scientists to address the question of how to move beyond GDP as a measure of economic performance and social progress. The group was to be led by former chief economist at the World Bank, Joseph Stiglitz, and would include development guru Amartya Sen, psychologist Daniel Kahneman and the economist-turned-climate-change-hero Lord Stern.

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Brixton Pound launches this week

The B£ will be first spent in the Dogstar, Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, on Thursday evening, after a launch event in Lambeth Town Hall, with speeches from Transition Movement founder Rob Hopkins, Lambeth Council's CEO Derrick Anderson, and nef's own David Boyle, co-author of the forthcoming book The New Economics.

The B£ team have put together a great little animation about how the currency works and why we should use it. To find out more, visit http://brixtonpound.wordpress.com/

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Brixton Pound: post-launch

The B£ has enjoyed a fantastic amount of press coverage, including the BBC, the Times, the Guardian and the Mirror (although surely the crowning achievement must be getting onto More

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