Category: Guest Bloggers
HJ Fantaskis | 03.04.13
The White Roof Project is a simple idea that makes bold claims about carbon reduction. People volunteer a few hours out of their week to help cover roofs across New York City in white paint. By reflecting the sun’s rays during the summer months, the building’s energy needs are reduced, leading to lower carbon emissions. The impact is felt not only on the building being painted but also on those around it, due to the urban heat island effect. This infographic displays some of the science and statistics associated with the project.
In terms of results, the website ventures the following claim:
‘If we were to coat 5 per cent of rooftops per year worldwide, we would be finished by 2030. This would save us 24 billion metric tons in CO2. That happens to be exactly how much the world emitted in 2010. So, in essence, this solution would be like turning the world off for an entire year — while also saving some money on the energy bills.’
An exciting prospect that would surely appeal to the informed urban twenty-something with free time and a Twitter account. Indeed it has done; the initiative is extremely popular and has been featured in the mainstream press and television.
So, what about the message and medium? The core concept could not be easier to digest, as has already been mentioned. The group invites volunteers to participate via social media, which ensures an inconspicuous yet rapid dispersion of an idea that is certainly simple enough to fit into a tweet.
After gathering quality video and image content the group maintained an aggressive presence on Twitter and Facebook linking people back to it. This is not a problem given the generally sympathetic attitude towards small new charitable ventures and the target demographic.
The collective painting provides a memorable experience that gives people the sense of doing something practical to help. And it is worth noting that any photography benefits from the iconic skyline as a backdrop. It works on a symbolic level too: painting conjures up the idea of renewed beginnings, and since the scale of the project necessitates large teams, each roof is a mini metaphor for many small actions coming together to achieve something big.
Finally, for an essentially social offline activity – the monotony of painting lends itself to conversations and encounters – the campaign is well suited to having a strong social element, as long as it can get people fired up enough to leave the comfort of their easy chair.
All of this helps to create a story that captures the public’s imagination when it appears in the news media. So the ingredients are all there. Whether it ever catches on in drizzly Britain remains to be seen.
HJ Fantaskis | 22.02.13
Nicky Chambers finds the connection between sustainable business and fashion through clothing company, Rapanui.
I had such an inspiring week last week and from a slightly surprising angle. I was on the Isle of Wight and for perhaps the first time ever, I could see how my dreams might come true – thanks to one visionary clothing company.
It’s been nearly 15 years since I first set foot on the Isle of Wight with the intention of measuring the environmental sustainability of the Islanders and with a whole raft of questions in my head. Were their lifestyles sustainable? If they weren’t, what would have to happen to make them sustainable? If they became environmentally sustainable would they still be able to have a decent quality of life? Could they have great lives within the means of nature?
Finding a sustainable community
Well after much counting of stuff and technical calculations we worked out that, in keeping with the rest of Europe, the Islanders weren’t strictly sustainable, as defined by the ‘ecological footprint’. If everyone in the world lived like the Islanders, we would need a couple of extra planets. We’ve rerun the calculations a few more times since then and not much has changed….until now. The EcoIslands project, which seeks to make the Island a renewable energy exporter and to enable the population to live great lives within the means of nature, has made great progress. Since I was there in October 2012 most of the roofs in the business park have become solar generators and the sense of possibility is palpable. Watch this space for progress reports.
In the same way that I have dreamed of a truly sustainable community, I’ve spent years looking for a truly sustainable business or at least one which might understand where the destination is. I haven’t found any, until now...
Finding sustainble business... through Rapanui
Founded by the surprisingly youthful Drake-Knight brothers, award-winning Rapanui is a fabulous example of where super cool fashion achieves environmental sustainability, but without making any concessions or losing any style. Sustainably harvested renewable raw materials combined with rigorous supply chain transparency, and manufacturing in a wind-powered factory means the company has all the building blocks in place for a truly sustainable business. Throw into the mix closed loop, renewably powered synthetic materials and you can really start to see how their great designs could progress.
But perhaps the thing that is more exciting than the clever technologies and smart management is that of all the industries there are, fashion has the greatest scope to change perceptions of sustainability and to engage the broadest possible audience. Rapanui has not a single whiff of ‘hair shirt’ or austerity. The cool clothes they make and the ways they make them just happen to also be kind to the environment.
“We believe the real change must come from changing the ‘perception’ of sustainability among people, from a negative ‘do-less’ culture to the reality - sustainability is a wide-ranging issue with practical solutions - the outcome is something that everybody needs and wants,” says Mart Drake-Knight, founder of Rapanui.
So, I think I’ve found the fashion company to make all my dreams come true. It almost made me feel young again!
Nicky Chambers is Co-Founder and Director of Best Foot Forward. This article is republished by permission, and you can read the original article on the Best Foot Forward blog.
Richard Lemmer | 18.06.12
We feel privileged to have Pat Thomas, former editor of The Ecologist magazine, debating the future of The Ecologist - will it be a Resurgence or do we need something completely different?
The announcement was so small and quiet, and some might say so cynically timed to be buried in the Jubilee madness, that many people didn't really register what happened. The Ecologist, the world’s oldest and most respected environmental magazine – for the last three years a website only – had ‘merged' with Resurgence magazine. Decades ago, Resurgence began as an offshoot of the Ecologist and some say it is a marriage made in heaven. Others, like nuclear apologist Mark Lynas, dismissed it as “wacky meets woo”.
Here's another perspective from someone who actually worked there: whatever this new hybrid becomes we have still lost something precious and irreplaceable.
At heart the Ecologist stood for independence – in thought and action. In the office, as well as in print, it had a culture of challenge that many found difficult. In many ways it operated more like a think tank where every thought could be questioned, every assumption tested, every opinion disputed.This was part of what made the editorial so compelling and courageous and ahead of the curve.
The Ecologist always tried to align itself with those at the leading edge. Each issue was filled with impassioned, intelligent, courageous analyses and critiques of a world that had gone ‘gaga’ over GM, nuclear power, economic growth, medical ‘miracles’, and the intoxicating milieu of corporate power, whilst ignoring the fallout of these things: the devastation caused by pollution, displacement of indigenous people, loss of culture and quality of life, the rape of the natural world.
It takes courage to stand up against the oppressive enthusiasms of popular culture. And the Ecologist was courageous – probably more so than anyone on the outside could ever imagine.
It was run on a shoestring with a tiny staff and yet always managed to punch above its weight, taking on international giants like Monsanto, de Beers, Tate & Lyle and Roche amongst others. Not even our compatriots in the green movement were spared; eco chimera like biofuels, ‘green’ consumerism, eco plastic, carbon footprinting and the corporatisation of organics all came under its critical eye.
When legal challenges came our way we never backed down – even while knowing that a loss could close the magazine. Indeed, the idea of closing the magazine – in a world where it was no longer necessary – was at least part of what kept us going.
While other media outlets busied themselves currying political favour, tapping phones, hacking emails and building monuments to the greatness of their boards of directors and executives, we were consciously angling for our own mortality.
Were we protected from the ‘realities’ of magazine publishing? Sometimes. For most of its life the Ecologist never had to kowtow to advertisers or big business, but relied instead on subscription income and the support of the Goldsmith family. Were we privileged? Certainly. But privileged in the sense that our owners understood what the magazine was for, and how best to achieve its aims. They understood the importance of independence and the price – fiscally, but also in terms of popular opinion – of that independence.
Try to run some of the groundbreaking pieces the Ecologist ran in any other newspaper or magazine and the story would be killed by the legal department before it ever saw the light of day.
Our solicitor, on the other hand, a libel specialist, cheerfully encouraged us to publish and be damned, knowing what most of us know instinctively – that all bullies are cowards.
So now that it’s gone in all but name, what’s next for the environmental media?
It’s probably fair to say that both the Ecologist and Resurgence have lost their way in recent years. Whether the merger will stimulate mutual support and a renewed vision or end up being a case the lost following the lost only time will tell.
When the dust settles we may find that an autopsy of all that has happened will reveal serious flaws, and way too many assumptions, about the benefits of the online pay per view business model. Considering how broad the environmental sector is it is remarkable how quickly this particular model failed to make a difference to the Ecologist’s fortunes.
But there is also a cautionary tale about knowing, and perhaps more importantly respecting, your readers’ needs. People who call themselves environmentalists comprise a group that doesn’t fit easily into traditional demographics. Campaigner Paul Hawken called it a movement without a leader and indeed it’s not education, nor income, nor consumer habits, nor any other specious social measurement that unites this group. It’s a desire for a fairer, saner, more sustainable world.
That’s a broad ask and navigating it requires the kind of curated experience that can’t be found in the free-for-all of a conventional website. Only a magazine can provide this and when the subject matter is complex or challenging readers want, above all, something that they can hold in their hands and absorb whilst sitting in the familiar comfort of their favourite chair, or the bath or on the train – not something they have to snatch between bitefuls of a working lunch. Tablets and e-readers may, ironically, end up being the saviour of the environmental movement.
When all is said and done, it takes a little bit of grit to produce a pearl. We need more Ecologists to get under the skin, to irritate and chafe against our culture’s complacency until a better world starts to emerge. Whether the Resurgence/Ecologist marriage can achieve this remains to be seen.
Pat Thomas is a journalist, author and campaigner. You can find more of her writing on her website, www.howlatthemoon.org.uk, and www.culinaryanthropologist.org.
Richard Lemmer | 25.04.12
Guest blogger Julia Hailes discusses the best way turn a property green...
In 1986, when I bought my London flat, I re-painted and re-carpeted it throughout. Since then it’s had a few minor makeovers, some carried out by tenants, as the property has been rented since 1995. But in 2010 I decided to do a major overhaul – and the key objective was to make the flat as green as possible.
I’ve worked as an environmental consultant for 25 years and have written nine books on eco-issues, including green building. Yet despite all of my experience, I missed “Superhomes” status on this project by just 1 per cent. Superhomes is a scheme that promotes eco-renovation. To obtain their accreditation, the carbon emissions of a property have to be reduced by 60 per cent or more – my rating was 59 per cent.
The pivotal factor in falling short appears to have been my windows. The Victorian sash windows had been in a terrible condition, rattling in places and with large gaps that let the air in and the heat out. I got them repaired and draft-proofed, which did reduce the heat loss, but clearly I should have had them double-glazed.
My mistake was to repair the windows before eco-renovating the entire property. I subsequently discovered that I could have used Slimlite double-glazing in the existing windows. One compensating factor is that I’ve installed insulating blinds throughout the property (although they can only retain heat when they are pulled down).
Insulation is the key to eco-renovation. Given that my flat is at the top of the building, I wondered if I could exclude insulating the floors and instead benefit from the heating in the flats below. “Definitely not,” said my architect, Jerry Tate. There were two reasons why. First, insulation provides acoustic benefits, reducing noise transfer between flats. Second, the flat below could be vacant and would therefore not send warmth through to my floor. Taking account of both performance and eco-credentials, I chose a range of insulation products from Knauf, including glass fibre wall insulation, 85 per cent of which is composed from recycled glass bottles.
Choosing the flooring was one of the most challenging tasks. In the sitting room and kitchen area I wanted something that was durable, sustainable and looked good. I opted for bamboo, one of the fastest growing plants on earth. I chose one that wouldn’t get dented by high heels and so will last a long time. It looks good, too: the bamboo has been squashed flat, so the natural ridges are visible.
Of equal importance is the sensible disposal of waste materials from the flat. Keen to avoid landfill disposal I tracked down DS Smith Recycling, who took all the waste, including carpets, wood and plasterboard, and recycled it. The clean wood was made into chipboard and some of the gypsum powder in the plasterboard was incorporated into new boards.
I started on this project with the huge advantage of being an environmental expert and yet I struggled. Despite using an eco-architect, the research we all had to carry out to find the right products was extremely time-consuming. I am delighted with the end result, and I’m sure it will be cost-efficient to live in, but I don’t think I’ll be able to increase the rent.
Domestic eco-renovation needs to be much easier and more cost efficient if it’s going to make any serious contribution to reducing the UK’s carbon emissions.
A version of this post originally appeared on FT.com
Richard Lemmer | 11.04.12
Guest blogger Jules Pecks, author and director of David Cameron's Quality of Life Review, asks - is George Osborne questioning capitalism?
We live in interesting times. Whilst it has been the left who have traditionally been critical of capitalism, now parts of the right are coming out as closet capitalism-skeptics.
Red-Tory Phillip Blond has long called for a new mutualist economics; an ex-Quality of Life Review colleague of mine, Zac Goldsmith MP, has just backed Ed Milliband’s views on capitalism; and another of Osborne’s colleagues, Charlie Elphicke MP, has now attacked Google for paying no tax in the UK.
So what should we make of this new found political scepticism of capitalism and what of the wider debate in society of which this is a quiet, but perhaps rising echo?
And as the debate on reform or replacement of capitalism increases how might we see left and right respond?
What is capitalism?
Firstly what do we mean when we say ‘capitalism’? Well there are many perspectives on this but most cohere around certain key constructs which themselves drive capitalism’s core growth requirement.
It is an economic system in which specialised producers produce commodities for markets but not for their own subsistence. Capitalists have a monopoly of ownership of the means to production and must sell this production onto the market to receive their own means to subsistence and to purchase new means for production.
Along with these means for production they buy the labour of workers who own no means of production or too little to produce commodities on their own and so have to sell their labour to these producers.
Capital requires a return and competition between seekers of capital drives for maximisation of these returns. Where these producer/capitalists and workers interact is the market.
The motor of this market is competition as producers compete for market share and thus have to reinvest profits into increased productivity-enhancing technologies or to force down input costs of labour or means for production and grow to find economies of scale.
As workers’ wages have to be lower than the total value of goods, collectively the workers can never buy all their production and so new customers and markets are continually sought by the system. Grow or die is the rule of this market.
This, it would seem, is capitalism in its essence and at its heart is a requirement to grow. You can have market economics without capitalism, you can have various forms of capitalism from neo-liberalised Anglo-US ‘free-market’ forms to European and Scandinavian mixed market social-capitalism and Chinese state-capitalism. But they all seem to require growth.
Capitalism red in tooth and claw
Google’s response to Charlie Elphicke MP’s outrage that the company pays no UK tax is that:
“We have an obligation to our shareholders to set up a tax efficient structure and our present structure is compliant with the tax rules in all the countries where we operate.”
Bizarrely, somehow Google actually makes a loss in the UK. So, naughty Google or just doing its job for the shareholders? Some in the business community feel it’s mostly a case of the latter.
As Bill Dodwell of Deloitte said in response to Osborne’s tax avoidance attacks:
“These are not abusive reliefs. These are real reliefs, that people should legitimately be able to claim for running a business.”
In other words this is just ever-efficient capitalism red in tooth and claw. It is just the system doing its job. When Osborne bemoans this side of capitalism he is accused of being anti-business. He might respond that he is not anti-business nor is he anti-capitalist but just against certain aspects of business practice.
But is this naïve? Some suggest that just as it would be naïve to bemoan a shark its feeding habits, it is naïve to bemoan capitalism its own. Just like a shark, capitalism just does what it is designed to do. And it does it very well.
Critics will say that, though an enlightened law maker might seek to shore up such tax avoidance ‘loopholes’, capitalism, if it is going to do its job, will find new ways to play the system for the sake of short-term profit-maximisation. And evidence suggests it will use its power of influence over policy-making to ensure reforms do not hinder this key role of short term profit maximisation.
As an example of this, Robert Watson, chief scientist at DEFRA and former head of the IPCC, says:
“A group of companies have opposed the climate change deal and made the two degree target much more difficult, if not impossible. They have put the whole world at risk.”
One does not have to be of a socialist bent to believe capitalism, at least in its current form, is fatally flawed. One only has to listen to people like investment guru Jeremy Grantham to hear the rumblings of an ongoing mainstream disquiet with capitalism.
Campaigners who seek reform or replacement of capitalism suggest that at best corporate social responsibility and ‘sustainable capitalism’ is only able to contribute to progress in minor ways at the margins of the market. Their fear is that these efforts can in fact hold back more fundamental change by obfuscation and giving the illusion of progress.
Others will counter that only by pushing the envelope of what is possible in capitalism 1.0 will we see its limits and what reforms are needed.
Evidence does show that, whilst some corporate actors might be making real efforts to reduce emissions or source resources like timber and water sustainably, overall the capitalism-machine is increasing its exponential devastation of the natural world and the continual commodification of everything from air to child care.
Some leading CEOs are outspoken in pushing the boundaries of capitalism.
Unilever’s Paul Polman insisted:
“I don’t work for the shareholder I work for the customer.”
While Kingfisher’s Ian Cheshire said:
“Imagining a new, sustainable capitalism, we need to radically redesign our business models with less emphasis on growth and more on wellbeing.”
But many others are at best silent or actively lead companies doing their best to lobby against progress.
The problem, according to many campaigners for change, is that capitalism is just not up to the task at hand. It was designed to maximise short term returns to capital, and, with the best will in the world, it is not often able to take account of its effects on people and planet.
Wherever one sits in this debate it is perhaps time for us to consider what might replace capitalism, if only to inform its possible reform. If capitalism can make the grade then great; if not then the sooner we understand that the better.
“It’s the economy, stupid”
So is it perhaps time for politicians of all hues to consider the possibility capitalism can’t just be tweaked, that it is not up to the job? Perhaps instead of blaming the left for an overbearing state having led to our ‘broken society’ should not the Tories recognise ‘it’s the market, stupid’?
Some would argue Reaganite and Thatcherite neo-liberalism started the rot which has brought us to where we are and that Bill Clinton’s rescinding of the Glass-Steagall Act (pdf) set in train events in the financial system which brought us to our current ‘debtonation’.
Perhaps if the left are to blame for anything it is not an overbearing state sailing too close to the socialist wind but one which in fact failed to intervene sufficiently and left the blind ‘invisible hand’ at the helm of the ship?
Smith versus Marx – the least bad economic system?
Ever since Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments in 1759 and then Karl Marx’s Manifesto in 1848, political economists have debated whether capitalism is the most effective economic system to deliver to our needs or whether it is merely a wealth-concentrating ‘dictatorship of the bourgeoisie’.
Some would argue capitalism is the least bad option and it has done an OK job of improving the lives of billions and freeing much of the world from hunger and disease. Others would fundamentally disagree arguing imperialist expansionism has ridden roughshod over the rights of people and planet for centuries.
Post-2008 it is certainly hard to argue with Professor David Harvey’s suggestion Marx’s ‘contradictions of capital’ theory (in simple terms capitalism ‘will eat itself’) is coming true in front of our eyes.
An observer of history might say Marx got more right than Smith. Capitalism’s very heart, the capital system, is in meltdown. The dynamics of capitalist economics seem intent on pushing us dangerously beyond safe limits. Smith’s system was also underpinned by a logic reliant on an understanding of the human mind’s rationality which has now been soundly debunked by science and psychology.
The question for many is now whether capitalism can be reformed or whether we need a fundamentally new system.
Reformation and eco-capitalism
There is a rising consensus we need to ‘dethrone growth’ as our objective for society. Some in the sustainable development world are now going further and being explicit that it is either no longer safe to continue to grow the global macro economy or indeed that, like it or not, growth is already at an end.
It is becoming clear to many that ‘absolute decoupling’ of the scale and urgency required might have been possible if we had put a Marshall Plan in place when the Club of Rome rang the alarm bells in the 70’s, but, as Paul Gilding is saying, it is just too late now. We had our chance and we missed it in our blind obsession with growth.
Techno-fixes and a whole-economy shift from products to services would have been wonderful, but now nothing short of the discovery of a perpetual motion machine will save us from the inevitable need to cease our exponential push beyond safe planetary limits. Halting global macro growth would, if the poor world is to continue to develop, require a reverse gear to be found in the rich world.
But many still cling to the hope that we can have our cake and eat it. That we can have beyond-growth, steady-state economics within a reformed capitalism; to many, the idea of a new economic paradigm is either unnecessary or too radical or they are too worried about scaring the horses and not being taken seriously by the ‘mainstream’ to consider change.
Others counter that debates about such reform are pointless if one accepts that growth is no longer possible.
And yet, unless and until capitalism can show any potential to reform and solve issues such as increasing inequality, flat-lining wellbeing and runaway climate chaos, it seems only sensible for a debate to be held about what might replace capitalism.
What economic system might replace capitalism?
Perhaps, rather than waiting for capitalism to reform sufficiently, it is worth considering a Plan B. We may indeed learn useful lessons from considering alternatives which can inform such reform.
As we have seen above, the underlying dynamics of capitalism are those of competing capital owners needing to constantly maximise returns, and to pursue a constant ‘rent-seeking’ with all its social and ecological externalities. This dynamic is arguably fundamentally locked into requiring ever more growth.
If one agrees growth is now no longer possible or safe then what form of economics could one envisage to replace capitalism?
This new economics could have as its new objective not growth for growth’s sake, not money or making markets our gods. Its aim could be to maximise the ecological efficiency of delivering to the wellbeing needs of today’s and future people.
It could seek not to rely on growth of the macro-economy. It could recognise the intrinsic value of the natural world with which we are so spiritually linked. It could once again make us stewards not dominators of nature.
It could be framed not by a drive towards efficiency but one of sufficiency and will require a values shift from extrinsic individualist values to intrinsic ones which champion collective, greater-than-self solutions to sustainability challenges.
It could seek to learn from recent breakthroughs from leading thinkers including Nobel Prize winners like Amartya Sen in Welfare Economics, Daniel Kahneman on rationality and Positive Psychology, Elinor Ostrom in the economics of the commons and Joseph Stiglizt in Wellbeing Economics.
This new economy could seek to liberate us all from the roles of ‘passive‘ worker and ‘active’ capitalist to a new social contract based on the understanding that a commons-based economics underpinned by equity is one which could provide the most materially light wellbeing for all. This commons-based economy might be run by and for the people not the state.
What might this mean for business?
As within a natural ecosystem which is in overall stasis, within such an economy there may still be growth of parts of the economy as others shrink. Innovation and dynamism may well be far more crucial and vibrant in such an economy than in our current one.
In the perhaps decades-long transition to such an economics there will be winners and losers. Sectors and enterprises which maximise the ecological efficiency of satisfying real needs will prosper. Those which satisfy too few real needs in too materially-heavy a manner will need to die back.
So, for instance, enterprises satisfying needs for good healthy food, for exercise, for heat, for socialising and for communication might prosper; unaffordable and uneconomic sectors such as leisure aviation will need to die back.
In such an economy we will still need things produced and services undertaken. Much of this activity might be undertaken by co-ops, mutuals, community and employee owned enterprises and family owned enterprises. Some of these might be very large like the Mondragon co-op in Spain which provides employment for 83,000 people, though the question of appropriate scale needs to be carefully thought through.
Already CEOs like Ian Marchant at SSE are championing a flourishing of things like co-operative energy and a whole new class of B-Corp enterprises are springing up in the US.
So if one works today for a shareholder-owned company one might in future be part of something that looks more like Mondragon or John Lewis. There will still be lots of great employment. In fact such a system would seek to maximise the provision of good employment for all.
I call these Flourishing Enterprises as for me they would be enterprises whose role would be to satisfy wellbeing needs in an ecologically sound way within strict science-based limits. The Transition Towns movement, which I am involved with and a huge fan of, has coined the term Transition Enterprises and set out some key principles these might exhibit.
Nimble existing incumbents in markets might be able to transition into being compatible with this new form of economics. Where they do not the niches they currently occupy will see a flourishing of new co-operative and collaborative innovations.
Fertile political territory
Sadly this debate has yet to permeate politics much beyond the Green Party and the left and right seem intent on point scoring, fighting over some ‘middle ground’ and rearranging deckchairs rather than confronting inconvenient truths which point to the need for a debate about alternatives to capitalism.
It seems the long shadow of the ‘red-peril’ and the ecological and human consequences of the collapse of many socialist experiments has for too long stifled this political debate. But it is a debate which is happening outside politics and which politicians of all colours would do well to tune into and join.
Ed Milliband is making ground in questioning capitalism but has done little to envision real reform let alone consider, if reform cannot make the grade, that we may need a replacement of capitalism. The Tories are, as alluded to above, starting to flex their muscles in this debate.
In the meanwhile, the currently predominant Orange Book Lib Dem thinking bears close resemblance to Conservative neo-liberalism and Blairite New Labour dogma and may find less reliance on free markets a challenge.
Whilst it is clear how the left might find much fertile ground in this debate for reinvention and for rising to the challenges of our times, it is perhaps less clear how this might fit with Conservativism. But as currently the Conservatives are in power it is perhaps worth considering the politics of the right more closely.
There are, broadly speaking, two dominant traditions within conservative thought: firstly, the more frequently held paternalistic, One Nation Disraeli tradition; and secondly the Liberal or Libertarian free-market economics, of the small state, and individualism perspective of Burke, Peel, Hayek, Gladstone, Heath and Thatcher.
The latter tradition is most commonly associated with a ‘rational self-interest model’ which underpins neo-classical economics and neo-liberal policy, while the former is more in line with what is known as the ‘embodied mind’ set of values which accepts culture and emotional values are more important than self interest.
It is these values which map best onto an updated economics which puts the interests of the collective good of people and planet ahead of the market.
Conservative thinking and policy has swung between these two traditions, most recently returning towards the former. Progressive Conservatives like Jesse Norman MP and Phillip Blond have largely repudiated Thatcherite values.
“If conservatism is to be more than just moralism plus the market, the logic of a revivified conservatism must also be applied to the economic sphere.”
He calls for Conservatives to:
“Tie economic policy to the social outcomes they favour… the extension of wealth, assets and the benefits of ecological and social wellbeing to all.”
Cameron has been brave to continue to support alternative measures of progress to GDP and to champion a wellbeing agenda. But at a macro-economic level it is less and less clear where David Cameron and the rest of his party sit on this One Nation to Libertarian continuum.
Whilst Cameron has in the past refused association with the extremes of neoliberal free-market economics, it is as yet not clear if he and Compassionate Conservatism can deliver on Philip Blond’s vision of a post-neoliberal Conservatism.
Indeed, many would say that since taking power in a flurry of ‘hug a hoodie’ and ‘hug a huskie’ progressive noises, project-Cameron has reverted to many old-school Conservative values and policies.
In sum, currently neither left nor right are showing much inclination to envision radical reform let alone replacement of our current economics. The party that gets this right will win the right to power.
The jury is still out on whether capitalism can be reformed or whether we need to evolve and transition over time to a new form of economics. But what is clear is that it is time to debate the issues this blog points to.
Jules Peck works with companies on Flourishing Enterprise strategic innovation, is a trustee at think tanks the new economics foundation and ResPublica and chair of Edelman’s Sustainability Group; Jules is the co-author of Citizen Renaissance and was the director of David Cameron’s Quality of Life Review
This post originally appeared at leftfootforward.org.
Greta Jonyniate | 05.09.11
By author: Julia Hailes is a freelance consultant and speaker on social, environmental and ethical issues. She has written nine books, the most recent of which is The New Green Consumer Guide. Here she shares her thoughts & experience on E-bikes.
We've had great fun with our E-bikes. I've been lent a couple for the Summer holidays from Just E Bikes. One's a mountain bike - Haibike - which my teenage boys like the best. And the other is a Koga, which I prefer because it's more comfortable, although not quite as powerful.
The bikes only give you power when you're pedalling, so it's nothing like riding a scooter. And you do get some exercise. Actually, it feels like you've got bionic legs. Going up hill is a breeze.
The best thing about the bikes is that we've really used them - including for journeys when we would have gone by car. My sons have cycled to the station, to friend's houses and to the shops. They're quite fit, so they could easily have cycled without using the E-bikes but the truth is they wouldn't have. My partner, Jamie, and I are the same. We've used the E-bikes much more than we would have if they didn't have the extra power. And we've gone much further afield.
Now for some of the technical details. The bikes can go for about 65km (about 40 miles) before they need to be re-charged - a bit less if there are lots of hills, as there are where I live. Apparently, it takes about 2 hours to fully re-charge them but we generally left them for several hours - or overnight - and the process is quite simple. The cost of re-charging works out at about £1 per 1500 miles.
The bikes come with a small screen that you simply click on the handlebars to start the electrics working. You can ride them without getting any extra power, if you want to get more exercise - or on one of three settings, number three for full power. And the Koga has a little device on the handle bars to give you an extra boost when you need it - I found it rather useful.
My main gripe with both bikes was that the screen information appeared to be a bit erratic. So if you wanted to get your average speed, trip time, range etc it didn't appear to be accurate. This could easily have been because I never managed to work out the system. But if that's the case, it needs to be simpler, because I like getting the stats!
Sadly, our bikes have to be returned soon, so we have to think about whether we want to buy our own. That's the biggest drawback. These bikes are not cheap. Over £2,000 each. Before you reel over in horror though, you should consider how much they might save you. For families with one parent working within 5 miles of home (22% of UK workers) - or even a bit further afield - an E-bike could actually replace a second car. Work out how much that would save in tax, insurance and fuel. And you'd be fitter and healthier too.
You can get cheaper E-bikes, but the Dutch ones I've borrowed are good quality and should last a lifetime. So perhaps we shouldn't be working out how much they are to buy, but how much they cost over 20 years. It's a bit like buying an energy saving light bulb - the up-front costs are more but the actual cost over the life of the bulb is less. And let's not forget that the bikes are a lot more fun than a light bulb!
But we won't be buying them for the children - they'll have to get back onto normal bikes, or persuade us to lend them ours!
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