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Global Economic Democracy

"Any progress achieved in addressing the goals of poverty and hunger eradication, improved health, and environmental protection is unlikely to be sustained if most of the ecosystem services on which humanity relies continues to be degraded." (UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, compiled by 1300 international scientists)

The greatest weapon of mass destruction is corporate economic globalization. (Kenny Ausubel, founder of Bioneers).

Pope John Paul II said, "If the aim is globalization without marginalization, we can no longer tolerate a world in which there live side by side the immensely rich and the miserably poor, the have-nots deprived even of essentials and people who thoughtlessly waste what others so desperately need. Such countries are an affront to the dignity of the human person." He further said, "Ethics demand that systems be attuned to the needs of man, and not that man be sacrificed for the sake of the system."

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"The proper goal of an economic democracy agenda is to replace the global suicide economy ruled by rapacious and unaccountable global corporations with a planetary system of local living economies comprised of human-scale enterprise rooted in the communities they serve and locally owned by the people whose wellbeing depends on them." (David Korten)

Can the global economic system, which is currently the engine that is running this ship of Earth, last? It is a system that creates gross inequity, over-consumption, waste, environmental degradation, health problems, exploitation and terrible insecurity for us all. We have created a disposable rather than a sustainable civilization, a dead-end system of production and consumption that is clearly, absolutely degrading and destroying people's lives and the ecosystems on which we depend. The current bottom line establishes the supremacy of money and power, materialism and selfishness, over taking care of our human and natural resources.

We know all too well the litany of environmental issues: climate change, global warming, ozone depletion, toxic chemicals and waste, air and water pollution, groundwater depletion, species extinction and habitat destruction. Further, we see the social issues of the widening gap between rich and poor people, lower standards of living, displaced laborers, loss of jobs, hunger, poverty, despair and unrest, religious fundamentalism.

Unless we want to hasten and assure our demise, we need a new economic agenda that supports local, human-scale enterprises, requires free markets that are established by and for people, and above all, respects and protects the ecological systems that we depend on. As it stands now, an elite collection of corporate entities, acting above the rule of law of countries, states and local communities, and supported and protected by trade agreements and the elite governing organizations of The WTO and IMF, are allowed free access to establish enterprises all over the world, and are accountable to no one.

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We need a reality-based approach to building our economic agenda which recognizes the finite resources that 5 billion people would like to benefit from. We need to reclaim a vision and practice of holding property for all people--"The Commons"--as opposed to a corporate wealthy few. And above all, we need a revision of our values that puts life first and recognizes that we are all in this together.

Wangari Maathai, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, offers us an unusual and compelling image of the traditional three-legged African stool for seeing human activity in relation to Nature. She sees sustainable development as the seat which rests on three legs. "I believe these three legs are symbolic," she says. "One represents good management of our natural resources, equitable distribution of the same, and a sense of accountability. Another represents good government--a democratic state that respect humankind so that we can have dignity as human beings. The third represents peace. The base on which we sit is development. If you try to do the development where you have two legs or one leg, the base is out of balance. It is unsustainable." Using Wangari Maathai's analogy of sustainable development on a 3-legged stool, do we have a leg to stand on?

Lester Brown, renowned author, founder of Worldwatch Institute, and President of Earth Policy Institute, suggests nine steps to set the world on a sustainable course. Briefly, they are:

Stabilize World Population
Shift to Alternative Energy Sources
Increase Water Productivity & Conservation
Save Our Soils
Act Swiftly to Restructure Our Economy
Tell The Ecological Truth
Tax Polluters More and Workers Less
Shift Subsidies
Rise To the Challenge


Brown says, "We can build an economy that does not destroy its natural support systems, a global community where the basic needs of all the Earth's people are satisfied, and a world that will allow us to think of ourselves as civilized. This is entirely doable.

"The choice is ours--yours and mine. We can stay with business as usual and preside over a global bubble economy that keeps expanding until it bursts, leading to economic decline. Or we can adopt Plan B and be the generation that stabilizes population, eradicates poverty, and stabilizes climate. Historians will record the choice, but it is ours to make."

Now What? Use these resources to learn more and work for change: