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Monday, November 19, 2012

A Plan for a Sustainable Economy

After the presidential election, I identified three root issues that only arose in the campaign through surrogate sub-issues.

They are:

1. The widening gap between the rich and everyone else with the consequent domination of the superrich and their institutions. This means much more than tax reform or debt reduction but re-imagining the fundamental vision, mission, and structure of our national and global economy and its institutions. And it means the survival of a republican form of government.

2. The state of the planet with the consequent survival of the human species. This means more than preventing or adapting to global warming but re-imagining the fundamental vision, mission, and structure of technological progress in relation to the condition and future of humanity.

3. The development of cosmopolis and the threat to freedom in and power of communities, nations, and/or the whole of humanity. This means understanding and reviewing the structures that foster or prevent domination, war, and terror.

Each of these issues implies the others. Underlying them all is the vision, mission, and ethical structure or integrity of humankind: the notions of justice, of equity, of power, and of freedom. Organizing and planning for a sustainable and democratic economy is a tall, many-faceted, long-term endeavor that must engage hundreds of thousands of leaders from all sectors of human life and action in numerous experiments, critiques, and verifications.

I presented a mind-map of these issues to show their relationship with each other, the other sub-issues, and the ethical underpinnings.  

After the Contemplative Alliance meeting facilitated by David Korten and some discussion with colleagues, here is a tentative plan for experimental action that I am exploring. I present this plan to be critiqued by colleagues and by others who are interested in participating with me in this endeavor.

1. Listening and research. I intend to keep reading and studying about the issues. I intend to interview experts and leaders of NGOs that are tackling these issues, looking for "handles" or promising points of entry for organization and action.  Bill Gates recently reaffirmed an adage I first learned from Tom Peters: "You get what you measure." So at this stage and throughout, it is important to come up with specific, concrete measures for a sustainable economy and successful humanity. If not GDP, if not "bottom line," if not accumulation of money, what are they?

2. Local experimentation. I think that my niche and handle to the new economy, based on my own expertise, relates to the local and worldwide sustainable urbanism movement. I am now facilitating a strategic planning process in a dynamic neighborhood of DC based in my participation in my church and its sponsored housing and community development corporation. I am in contact with leaders and organizers in other neighborhoods of DC doing similar work. We are articulating our vision for a livable, or what MLK called the "beloved," community. We are reviewing our mission and measures for getting there.

3. Sustainable Communities DC. Working with local neighborhood developers and organizers and City staff, I want to explore a metro DC sustainable communities initiative.  Working with National Community Reinvestment Coalition regional organizers, I want to explore the developing strategy for community banking as a part of that movement. This experiment includes the "breaking up" of the "too-big-to-fail" financial institutions by encouraging them to work through and build the capacity of local community banks.  This is much as national government works through local governments and NGOs to achieve our national goals; or as national and international foundations work through local community foundations to accomplish their mission. Or a radically new model of local neighborhood financing of commercial real estate. Or as certain franchise and cooperative organizations work. The key is building local capacity from the inside-out.

4. National/intentional connections. Linking to DC and East Coast based NGOs and using my relationships with the Sustainable Community organizing in California I hope to develop the story and build a national initiative that uses the California SB375/AB32 legislative and my local organizing experience in Fresno in reducing carbon emissions through sustainable, resilient communities as part of the new urbanism. I want to be in discussion with my former colleagues in HUD, EPA, USDA, Commerce, Transportation, and the White House in relation to the federal SC initiative. I want to contact representatives of the worldwide sustainable urbanism movement in other countries, as I have already done in Australia, to link our stories with theirs.

5. Emerging story. With help from my faith-based and contemplative friends, I want to keep nourishing the global emerging narrative which includes the mission, values, and vision for a sustainable economy within a sustainable ecosystem.  I want to continually learn through more listening and research as in #1.

Help me, please. Tell me what you think and especially how to improve my thinking and my action.

A final note:

I read Ray Kurzweil and other thinkers about the Singularity and the technological "End of History and the Last Man." This would possibly be the new species towards which we are evolving. Francis Fukuyama following Hegel sees the Last Man coming through liberal, democratic political economy. My own choice (as outlined in my Ethics of Integrity) is to never have the End arrived, but always arriving through our choices now. That is we renew and celebrate human existence as the tension between past and future time, inner and outer space, self and world, personal individuality and collective community, reality and ideality that we indeed are at this and every moment here and now and with. Integrity with our self, with each other, with the world, with our dynamically changing universe is the story of our existence and our most urgent challenge.  Let's go for it.

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