Sustainable business news & articles August 2011 Reality check on China’s economic growth: an ageing population, increasing social unrest and rubbery figures. Paul Krugman’s incisive analysis of the US debt deal.  Complications in the carbon package with collapse in the UN CER floor price.  The impact of biofuel production on world food security.  The contribution of the internet to the Australian economy. Shell accepts some responsibility for massive oil spills in the Niger delta. With the costs of the green revolution in Thailand, organic farming is increasing.  China’s plans for industrial cap-and-trade: sectoral carbon trading. A dangerous precedent.  An interesting proposal in reforestation from the Congo.  Including oceans and coastal zones in climate accounting. Economic valuation of environmental services.  Falls in UK organic production. Growth in China’s solar production.  Biological impacts of climate change.  Important oceanographic discovery. Western Australia discovery of oldest fossils.  Dow’s biotech soybean.  Shell greenwash.  UN report on food and water.  Coherent thinking from the Australian Treasury on sustainability.  The US tar sands controversy.  A useful ten principles for sustainable living.  Volkswagen’s commitment to sustainability initiatives in production, and investment in wind energy– and its cars. Disney China sweatshop.  Accelerating solar development.


Wendell Berry on “The Idea of a Local Economy”

In these days of international economic crisis–days when the economic underpinnings of the global economy are being exposed as seriously flawed–it is worth looking at other ways forward.  What is new about this global financial crisis is that no one can see how it can be reversed by policy intervention: the fiscal and monetary levers that have been used to stimulate economic growth seem to have been almost entirely exhausted.  Policy-makers are reduced to the expedient of printing money: the last stand of a bankrupt system of thought and practice.  I am ruminating on the need to write a book entitled “The end of economics”; because surely, if economics regards itself as a science, subject to the scientific discipline of “conjecture and refutation” (to quote Karl Popper), then the present extended series of crises begins to look like a serious refutation which threatens the legitimacy of its intellectual foundations.  So it is useful, as I say, to look at other ways forward.

In 2001 Wendell Berry wrote a piece for Orion magazine on “The Idea of a Local Economy.”  He has written many other pieces along these lines, gathered in such publications as “Home Economics” (1987) and “What Matters?  Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth” (2010).   This piece seems to me to be particularly apposite to the times. Wendell Berry is one of those rare writers who think clearly, write beautifully and are fearless in taking disparaged positions on moral grounds.  Often, I find, he simply says (very well) what everyone knows to be true, on the family and community level, but which national populations and their policy-makers find it convenient, for reasons of short-term self-interest, to ignore.  A particular virtue of his critiques is that they don’t remain critiques: he has something to offer in place of the current conventional wisdoms.  He writes on behalf of  ordinary people and their ordinary, human concern for the welfare of their families and neighbours, and for the welfare of the world–a conspicious contribution to the public discourse on how we are to live.

There is a proverb of sorts, variously attributed (I like Benjamin Franklin, as it sounds like him, although it probably wasn’t), to the effect that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.”  I leave you to draw the implications.  Wendell Berry offers a different thing.  At the very least he seems to be in and around the right place, which he firmly believes–and I agree–is likely to be local, not global.

Wendell Berry The Idea of a Local Economy

Sustainable business news & articles July 2011 Interesting trends in global climate change reportage. Words fail me. Environmental impacts of biofuels in Kenya. The intricacies of petrol pricing in carbon policy. Michael Jacobs on the economics of green growth. Logging and the conservation of the northern spotted owl. Richard Dennis on cap-and-slice schemes. British plans for open cut mine inside the Arctic Circle. The EU backs national government decisions on GM crops. CSIRO modelling of farming for carbon shows a carbon price of $40 per tonne is needed to make it economically viable. Study shows relatively modest effect on emissions of afforestation. A spectacular and important development in providing baseload solar energy. The potential of soil for carbon sequestration. Ecological and human rights challenges in the Chaco, in Paraguay Crowd funding for scientific projects. Rural poverty in China unabated, increasing the gap between wealthy and poor. John Quiggin’s analysis of the positive impacts of the carbon price package. Coal-fired electric power in Andhra Pradesh New evidence on potential effect of forests as a global sink. Other evidence on the weakening of some soil and ocean ecosystems to act as a sink. Google’s projections on cutting oil. Andrew Forrest criticised over indigenous rights in Pilbara deal. Environmental impacts of fracking. First debates on the institutional role of the UN in managing climate change impacts. A welcome statement from US agriculture on climate change, mitigation and adaptation. Using economic instruments to incentivise healthier eating. More evidence on the acquisition of agricultural land in Africa by China and other countries. First Australian court action on GM cross-contamination. Cap-and-trade systems for curbing cars in Shanghai. Cloud research and climate change debate.