UNIVERSITY SENATE Oct 2015
PROPOSAL, NEW ECONOMICS
Submitted by Sandra Finley, Senate Member-At-Large
CLIMATE CHANGE is a most pressing issue. The world needs to do everything that can be done, and urgently. Individuals, especially leaders, need to be innovative and step up.
Economics that do not account for resource depletion and degradation are a major impediment to progress on climate change.
PROPOSE: Senators assist the University in identifying and replacing obsolete economic pedagogy with teaching and research on the new economics.
Economic indicators, the monitors by which we measure progress, give us feedback that we are doing just fine. But we know we are destroying the supports required by human beings to live on this Earth.
The holy grail of economic growth, measured by GDP, is leading us to a place no rational person would want to go. Our flawed indicators of success (GDP, economic development) measure the consumption of resources and attendant production of waste.
The mindless pursuit of a goal rooted in destruction has drastic consequences for those who come behind us, Our Children.
Oct 1- 4 CANUSSEE Conference, Canada U.S. International Society for Ecological Economics in Vancouver. I attended.
Ecological-economics is ONE part of the “new economics”. Through ecological-economics Senators can make a needed contribution while others travel The Road to Paris (the Paris Climate Talks in December).
MAY: Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change
“Every effort to protect and improve our world entails profound changes in lifestyles, models of production and consumption, and the established structures of power which today govern societies.”
“This ruling is of enormous significance, and beyond our expectations,” he told the Guardian. “We had thought the legal system would not want to interfere in the political debate. But the scientific case is so strong, and the dangers so high that the court has ruled that the state is failing to adequately protect its citizens from the effects of climate change.” The judges ordered the Dutch government to pay all of Urgenda’s costs.
AUGUST: American Youths File Landmark Climate Lawsuit Against President Obama & U.S. Government NASA climate scientist Dr. James Hansen and his grand-daughter are part of Our Children’s Trust that filed the lawsuit.
What can the U of S Senate do? Be informed and find innovative ways to advocate.
Research presented at CANUSSEE tells that economics textbooks for introductory courses at Canadian Universities largely continue the curriculum taught when I attended the U of S College of Commerce 1967 – 71, almost half-a-century ago!
The teaching of mythology has a place, but not in economics.
Students should receive value for their money.
Three youtubes cover the ground on ecological economics very well. UBC is represented (Bill Rees) and the University of Vermont (Jon Erickson):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d05jEprJxtE “CRASH COURSE” in Ecological Economics (Jon Erickson)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhHH5meSLZI Nate Hagens // From Wall St. to Ecological Economics // Part 1 ]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxfGcwfYlAg Interview, William Rees – The Dangerous Disconnect Between Economics and Ecology. Institute for New Economic Thinking
It behooves us to determine what is being taught in the various economics classes, whether through Arts & Science, Ag Econ or Business Econ. Is the pedagogy sound?
Roy Romanow, former Premier of Saskatchewan, June 2012 Star Phoenix:
“The preoccupation with the GDP, which has become the all-encompassing surrogate for everything with respect to well-being, is wrong,” he said.
GDP does nothing to measure things like whether the quality of education meets current requirements, whether the environment matters or whether people are so busy they can’t spend time with their families, he said.
Taking an example close to home, the South Saskatchewan River: I noticed when the volume of water measured at Saskatoon was 20% of a hundred years ago. A small number of years later it was 16%. Today’s actions ensure that it will hit 10%, after which comes 5%. All because we do not have any economic measurements or goals that require the volume of water in the River to stabilize. All we have is mindless language around “economic development”, MORE withdrawals and demands. Always MORE is progress. The pervasive economic mythology assumes unlimited resources, even for example, when climate change is a known reality, even when the American West is running out of water. Even when the South Saskatchewan River is rated as the most endangered River in Canada.
Mobilizations are at the community level, you can see that in Saskatchewan in the Committee for Future Generations, in Idle No More, in the March Against Monsanto, in the Blue Dot movement.
Senate can help mobilize the University community to make an important contribution through changing our economic models of production and consumption.
We live in an age of stark contradictions. The world enjoys technologies of unimaginable sophistication; yet has at least one billion people without enough to eat each day. The world economy is propelled to soaring new heights of productivity through ongoing technological and organizational advance; yet is relentlessly destroying the natural environment in the process. Countries achieve great progress in economic development as conventionally measured; yet along the way succumb to new crises of obesity, smoking, diabetes, depression, and other ills of modern life.
These contradictions would not come as a shock to the greatest sages of humanity, including Aristotle and the Buddha. The sages taught humanity, time and again, that material gain alone will not fulfill our deepest needs. Material life must be harnessed to meet these human needs, most importantly to promote the end of suffering, social justice, and the attainment of happiness. The challenge is real for all parts of the world.
. . . The realities of poverty, anxiety, environmental degradation, and unhappiness in the midst of great plenty should not be regarded as mere curiosities. They require our urgent attention, and especially so at this juncture in human history. If we continue mindlessly along the current economic trajectory, we risk undermining the Earth’s life support systems – food supplies, clean water, and stable climate – necessary for human health and even survival in some places. On the other hand, if we act wisely, we can protect the Earth while raising quality of life broadly around the world. We can do this by adopting lifestyles and technologies that improve happiness (or life satisfaction) while reducing human damage to the environment. “Sustainable Development” is the term given to the combination of human well-being, social inclusion, and environmental sustainability. We can say that the quest for happiness is intimately linked to the quest for sustainable development.”
Prince Charles . . . said: “The grim reality is that our planet has reached a point of crisis. The time for us to act is rapidly running out. We are facing what could be described as a ‘perfect storm’: the combination of pollution and over-consumption of finite natural resources; the very real risk of catastrophic climate change; unprecedented levels of financial indebtedness, and a population of seven billion that is rising fast.”
There is a pressing need to change our economic indicators. We have economic measurements that do
not provide the feedback we need in order to make intelligent decisions. These false indicators allow us to blissfully destroy the things we are dependent upon for life. They tell us we are making “progress”, which is anything but the truth.
Another example: The economic activity generated by a child with cancer or asthma involves drugs, radiation treatment, inhalers, nurses and doctors’ salaries, hotel accommodations for family and parents whose child is in hospital, ambulance rides, funerals – – altogether a lot of economic activity. The way in which we measure the economic activity generated by treating the 25% increase in childhood cancers and 40% increase in asthma in children tells us that we are doing just great! We have a thriving economy! We turn a blind eye to the poisons that are going into the environment to create the 25% increase in cancers and 40% increase in asthma in children (figures from the Canadian Institute of Child Health in about 1992). . . . And we simultaneously congratulate ourselves on the quality of our educational institutions. No thinking person would TEACH these economic indicators. They’d work hard with other people to make sure that we stopped deluding ourselves.
What looms ahead for your children is a much-degraded and more violent world if we are incapable of change.
The university is our knowledge base, it is responsible for helping the society to find solutions. If it does not help to address the fundamental problems of our society, the University is a significant part of the problem.
I propose that senators, working with faculty, students, governors and administrators make it a priority of the University to adopt, as expeditiously as possible, the new economics.