The Need for a New Worldview
The current worldview of materialism and economic growth has disconnected us from nature, from our community, and from our deep moral and spiritual traditions. It has favored economic profit and conspicuous consumption over human well-being and peaceful relations. It has favored the extraction of resources over inner growth. It has favored profit over community and life in dynamic balance with the earth.
To save our planet from ecological disaster and economic failure, we need a new worldview. One that integrates science with ethics, culture, and spirituality. One that integrates the economy with people’s real needs and, most importantly, with ecology.
The spiritual and ethical teachings of the world and the real meaning of economics–a dynamic system enabling both people and planet to thrive–pick up precisely where modern systems, sciences, and new economic ideas take off.
We live at a new juncture in history. The various domains of human knowledge, ingenuity and wisdom needs to be integrated, not split as in the past few centuries. Let us embrace this new and more holistic worldview.
Intrinsic Value of nature: The capitalist system of economy operates as if nature primarily exists to be exploited. This has driven us to the brink of global, ecological collapse. Therefore, we now need to safeguard the earth’s existence for future generations by recognizing nature’s intrinsic value: that animals and plants, rivers and mountains have a right to exist for their own sake. Once the existential right of the biosphere is supported by legal means, we will have the capacity to protect nature once and for all from exploitation and destruction.
Regeneration of renewable resources: Some of the natural resources we depend on to survive renew naturally (i.e. biomass, plants, animals, carbon, nitrogen, fertile soil, fresh water), and some are considered inexhaustible (i.e. solar, wind, hydro and wave power). To maintain the health of the planet and our own survival, we need to stop species extinction by halting the dramatic reduction of biodiversity.
Protection of non-renewable resources: If we don’t recycle and reduce our consumption of non-renewable resources (i.e. oil, coal, natural gas and minerals), they will one day disappear. By developing local alternatives to oil and coal (wind, solar, wave, or geothermal energy), implementing laws and regulations to curb overutilization, and the developing cradle-to-cradle models where non-renewable resource effluents are introduced back into industrial cycle, we can minimize or eliminate waste.
Bioeconomics: Corporate greed and neglect impact people and planet in the form of taxes, poor working conditions, pollution and depletion of natural resources. Long term systems change means a restructured bioeconomy where privatizing profits and socializing the environmental costs is no longer possible.
Habitat Restoration: Over consumption of resources has led to the destruction of the earth’s habitats and caused massive losses in plant and animal species. If we are to survive and thrive, we must preserve and restore these habitats for future generations. There is no alternative.
Conscious activism: Systems change is the conscious embrace of both personal and social transformation. We need to turn activism into not just an external struggle for change, but also an internal one. This conscious practice will help reduce our perpetuation of the problems we aim to solve.
Ethical leadership: Ethical leaders use their power and authority to serve the greater good, rather than focusing on themselves or political/corporate money-making—a win-win for employees, organizations, communities, and the environment. Ethical leadership creates transparency, hope and well being in communities and will usher society towards a place of lasting prosperity.
Participatory decision-making: The centralization of wealth and power has been a historically major cause of social and economic injustice, environmental destruction, and militarization. But the community and the workplace are where people spend most of their time and energy, so this is where most decisions affecting people’s lives should be made. To restructure economic decision-making away from the powerful few and towards the collective is to create a people-centered culture of civic engagement.
One human society: Human beings have made progress in many areas, but we have yet to create a world in which all people—regardless of gender, race, nationality, religion or cultural background—are treated as equals, as one humanity. It is time for all people to have the opportunity to express themselves and to develop their potential within the spirit of being a global village.
Act Locally, Think Globally: Presently, a small minority (the 1%) reap the main economic and political benefits from everyone else’s hard work, and wealth is often siphoned out of the communities where it is produced. We need systems change so that power and wealth stays in those communities, and a global vision of interlinked and cooperating communities, cultures and nations.
Embracing diversity: To recognize, and respect ways of being that are not necessarily our own is to build bridges of trust, respect, and understanding as we interact with other cultures and identities. Learning about and understanding different perspectives within our global family helps dispel negative stereotypes and personal biases about people with different languages, skin colors, sexual orientations, and religions.
Economic democracy: In an economic democracy, basic needs are met for all and local resources and employment are controlled locally.
New economic structure: A post-capitalist economy is emerging. It consists of small scale, locally owned, private enterprises, and corporations owned and operated by the workers, and a government—local, regional, and national—that serves people and planet with progressive and sustainable policies. Small private businesses and large-scale cooperatives can exist side-by-side in a dynamic relationship. However, some industries are too complex or too important for society’s welfare to be either privately- or worker-owned. These public utilities, or “key industries” are best managed by the nation, state or local government.
New deep green deal: In the new, post-capitalist vision, economics is a subsystem of ecology. The current sustainable development paradigm has not been able to significantly halt our planet’s environmental destruction because we still view the economy as more important than nature and society. In reality, the economy is an extension of nature and society. It is dependent on nature’s resources and biodiversity to survive and thrive. And it is up to society, not just the market, to determine the economic rules.
Buying Local and Beyond: To create a truly vibrant local economy producing and marketing its own goods, a few farmers markets are not enough; we need broader policy changes, too. We need to envision a fundamental shift in the locus of power: from transnational corporations and nation states back to local and regional levels. We need a decentralized economy—a complex network of thriving local economies, communities and cultures, from the village to the regional level, from the national to the global level.
Beyond Commodification: Economic liberation and true sustainability will arise when people and nature are no longer viewed as mere commodities for sale in the market place, when the intrinsic value of human and natural life is recognized and reflected in our economic structure.
Beyond Profit: When profit is the main goal of business, it has many bad side effects: inequality, over consumption, and environmental destruction—to name a few. While profit is an integral part of an operating economy, profit cannot supersede consumer needs, sustainability, environmental health, worker safety and personal fulfillment.
Economics of Happiness: The goal of an economy is not, as it is today, to increase production, profit and the GNP. The first goal of an economy is to ensure that everyone’s basic needs are met in a sustainable manner. Secondly, to ensure that people can pursue their inner happiness needs: art, culture, education, leisure, community, spirituality. Sustainable economics will thus lead to sustainable happiness.