Capitalism is an economic system where owners — those with capital —control business and the means of production. In general, this allows the owner to take and accumulate the surplus value produced by workers, thus reinforcing the capitalist owners’ wealth, power, and control.
Sustainability & Business
Businesses have a profound effect on sustainability. Businesses are permitted to externalize many of the costs associated with producing, using, and disposing of their products, which means that the cost and damage is shared by everyone.
For example: Coal sells as a commodity at about $50/ton. Experts estimate that the extraction and burning of coal creates additional costs to society of over $200/ton.Coal and energy companies profit from the low price, while everyone else bears the costs, primarily in the form of environmental degradation, global warming, and impaired health.
(Other examples include difficult-to-recycle electronic devices and single-use containers & packaging.)
Here we focus on rethinking the ways we live and the ways society and its systems are structured. It includes approaches, perspectives, and philosophies that can empower our pursuit of sustainability, getting more specific about the frameworks for thinking and action given in the Finding Solutions part of the Think Globally section, namely, the models of change available to help us understand the various aspects of the problem we are facing and to help us move towards sustainability.
The change paradigms are a varied lot. Some focus on specific objectives, some are holistic. Some are weighted toward “taking action” strategies, some toward conceptualization, some are rather balanced in dealing with both theory and practice. They all can find expression in local, regional, national and/or world-wide actions. They all can inspire us and help us find the way.
Please contact us about models for change that you would like to see added to this listing.
Economy, Business, & Finance
Two of the six Alliance goals focus on the importance of the local economy. In order to create equitable and livable communities, it is essential to build strong local economies. This includes a variety of efforts, including assessment of the ways raw materials are accessed, the materials processed, the finished products distributed and used, as well as the personnel, the know-how, and the technology needed to carry out the conversion of raw materials into finished products.
In this section, we deal with the importance to sustainable communities of Going Local, which involves consideration of:
How we provide healthcare—not just the services and treatment themselves—has a huge impact on people’s health.
The dominant system in the U.S. relies on drugs and technical intervention and is largely administered by—and for the financial benefit of—insurance providers. Health care in the U.S. is the most expensive in the world, but the overall quality is rated about 40th in the world.
Holistic approaches to health care are often less expensive and less invasive or traumatic for the body—and holistic approaches are often more effective, because the strengthen and enhance the body’s natural defenses.
In today’s world economy, where profits rule and small-scale producers are left out of the bargaining process, farmers, craft producers, and other workers are often left without resources or hope for their future.
Fair Trade helps stop this cycle of exploitation and encompasses a range of goods from the global south, from agricultural products such as coffee, chocolate, tea, and bananas to handcrafts such as clothing, household items, and decorative arts.
- Big Changes in Fair Trade!
- Chocolate: The Bitter Truth
- Support Authentic Fair Trade
- Fair Trade links & resources
- Where can I purchase Fair Trade products?
… focusing on the importance of going local to reap the advantages of local economic transactions. (For example, about 45¢ of every dollar spent at a locally-owned business circulates within the community, compared to only about 15¢ if spent elsewhere.) This Going Local category includes the thoughts of local business owners, community members, and students in the articles.
In Going Local: Creating Self-Reliant Communities in a Global Age, Michael H. Shuman asserts (p. 50), “The key [to sustainable community] is to start with self-reliance and frame local business, labor, and environmental laws and policies around it.
Globalization, on the other hand, lacks all the positive qualities of going local!
(Is capitalism itself the problem? See Michael Carriere’s interview of Alex Knight.)
Community Land Trusts
Community land trusts are a way for a land owner or community group to preserve open space, prevent undesirable land uses, and/or provide affordable housing. Ownership of the land is often deeded to a nonprofit organization.
Corporate personhood is the notion that corporations are persons and therefore have rights, a notion that was strengthened by the 2010 Supreme Court decision in the matter of Citizens United.
Agriculture is at the root of the local economy and of viable, sustainable communities. It provides resources – food, fiber, and more – as well as productive work, community cohesion, opportunities for engagement, and stewardship responsibilities. In order to understand it’s importance in society, one must understand how agriculture works and what it effects and how it is effected.
by Rich Fegley It is estimated that the average American meal travels about 1500 miles to get from farm to plate. If our food is grown that far from where we live, it is safe to assume that a fair … more
by Lindsay Meiman As I was walking to class with a friend the other day, he casually asked me, “why do you care so much about sustainability?” I paused in my tracks, taken aback by the immensity of possible explanations … more
by Rebecca Canright As a student studying sustainability at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, I am encouraged by the recent research that Paul Hawken and his colleagues have conducted on the 100 most effective solutions to global warming. The … more
by Emma Stierhoff Consumerism […] encourages both increased consumption and increased waste, resulting in environmental destruction. It was not until I began identifying as an environmentalist in high school that I started to question the constant pressure to buy more … more
Reliable sources for information on authentic Fair Trade NEW The History of Fair Trade Buying and Selling– Good recap of the history & principles of Fair Trade, plus several valuable links for more information. [January 2018] Reports & News Stories: … more
by Heidi Secord & Gary Bloss In a recent discussion with experienced direct market farmers we asked ourselves how we and the communities we serve can encourage the next generation of farmers; and how new and beginner farmers can identify … more
by Lindsay Meiman 2016 marked the hottest year on record, surpassing the previous title-holder of 2015, and 2014 before that. Communities around the world are already confronting climate impacts—from one in a thousand year floods and devastating droughts, to food … more
by Ce-Ce Gerlach The soul and very foundation of municipalities is not the buildings — it’s the people. Development should benefit everyone, not just a handful of the well connected and wealthy developers. It’s time that we shift away from … more