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The Buddha at Work - "Tim Jackson on TED talking Interdependence and Prosperity Without Growth"

I was quite moved by Tim Jackon's recent Ted talk, called Tim Jackson's Economic Reality Check. Jackson is a prominent economist and the author of Prosperity Without Growth.

From a 2009 New York Times story on the book:

Jackson argues that one of the main problems with the current setup is that ever-increasing personal consumption gives the individual a social status that is utterly unrelated to its environmental cost.

Breaking that link and substituting it with a system that gives value to family, health and happiness, among other things, he argues, is at the core of the revolutionary economic rethink he proposes.

"Prosperity consists of our ability to flourish as human beings -- within the ecological limits of our finite planet," he writes. "The challenge for our society is to create the conditions under which this is possible. It is the most urgent task of our times."

Jackson believes that just as the financial crisis exposed the fundamental unsustainability of the financial system, so the climate crisis has revealed the basic contradictions of an economic system that relentlessly pursues growth regardless of cost. He thinks the two are inextricably linked.

"Prosperity today means nothing if it undermines the conditions on which prosperity tomorrow depends. And the single biggest message from the financial meltdown of 2008 is that tomorrow is already here," Jackson writes, deploring what he calls the "iron cage" of consumerism.

Jackson seems to be pointing out how we're ignoring the fact of interdependence, that to create conditions under which we can flourish means acknowledging the costs of our behaviors.

And here he is on our responsibilty to take action:

"So let me come back, with this sense of hope, to the two billion people still trying to live each day on less than the price of a skinny latte from the cafe next door. What can we offer those people? It's clear that we have a responsibility to help lift them out of poverty. It's clear that we have a responsibility to make room for growth where growth really matters in those poorest nations. And it's also clear that we will never achieve that unless we're capable of redefining a meaningful sense of prosperity in the richer nations, a prosperity that is more meaningful and less materialistic than the growth-based model.

So this is not just a Western post-materialist fantasy. In fact, an African philosopher wrote to me, when 'Prosperity Without Growth' was published, pointing out the similarities between this view of prosperity and the traditional African concept of ubuntu. Ubuntu says, 'I am because we are.'

Prosperity is a shared endeavor. Its roots are long and deep. Its foundations, I've tried to show, exist already, inside each of us. So this is not about standing in the way of development. It's not about overthrowing capitalism. It's not about trying to change human nature. What we're doing here is we're taking a few simple steps towards an economics fit for purpose. And at the heart of that economics, we're placing a more credible, more robust, and more realistic vision of what it means to be human."

I am reminded of Thich Nhat Hanh in The World We Have:

"If we continue to live as we have been living, consuming without a thought of the future, destroying our forests and emitting dangerous amounts of carbon dioxide, then devastating climate change is inevitable. Much of our ecosystem will be destroyed. Sea levels will rise and coastal cities will be inundated, forcing hundreds of millions of refugees from their homes, creating wars and outbreaks of infectious disease...

...We have created a society in which the rich become richer and the poor become poorer, and in which we are so caught up in our own immediate problems that we cannot afford to be aware with the rest of the human family or our planet Earth. In my mind I see a group of chickens in a cage disputing over a few seeds of grain, unaware that in a few hours they will all be killed."

An interesting workday contemplation for this Monday afternoon!

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Comments

consumption

We have for so long (at least in America) consumed resources without any thought of the future. Many people when asked what they think of the fact that we are destroying our o-zone and other environmental aspects with out actions have responded by saying they won't be around when that happens so what does it matter. You find that attitude is much more prevalent today than it should be. I don't know how people have become so selfish that they are willing to destroy a planet just to meet their lofty desires. It saddens me to think that there are not enough people out there thinking about the world and humanity as a whole, rather than just themselves to make any changes to the current status of things. We have the technologies to improve the status of our planet yet the profit margins are still too big on the things that destroy it so those technologies go wasted.

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