Sunday, 25 November 2018

With Cambridge2Environment - what would a Sustainable Economy look like?

The latest energy group meeting was a bit special – we had a joint discussion with students from Cambridge University taking part in Cambridge 2 Environment. The subject (our choice) was ‘What would a Sustainable Economy look like?’ It is a challenging and potentially controversial topic and I can't say we solved it in a single evening. However as Verner from C2E said: 'I think the main thing that we got out of this was the sense that we are all in agreement, amongst a group of people from a wide range of backgrounds, that something urgent needs to be done about our economy so that our planet can cope'.

Normally we have our meetings at the home of one of our members, but I had a feeling that this one was not going to fit comfortably into even Margaret's capacious living room. So I was grateful to C2E for booking a room for us at Pembroke which was very comfortable and provided a seemingly inexhaustible supply of chairs.

The open discussion ranged even wider than the talks.
Bella, Robert and Edie spoke first, from C2E, then Gareth and Elena from TC and between them they covered a tapestry of interrelated economics, psychology and politics. I had never even heard of the subject of moral psychology before - but it turns out to have some interesting insights about co-operation versus competition. This is important because in a sustainable economy we need to attach more value to relationships and sharing stuff. In the open discussion following the talks the issues ranged even wider. Does permaculture need more land or less? What are our basic needs? How can we make energy use more tangible? What is so special about gold?

There were lots of suggestions for actions to bring us closer to a sustainable economy. Some favoured direct action, or direct support for global movements such as indigenous activism. Other ideas concentrated on communications with friends and neighbours or with local activities such as community gardens to promote co-operation and sustainable wellbeing. We will discuss some of these at our December meeting.

We learned new perspectives.
Each speaker only had ten minutes, but preparing took a lot longer than that and I can only say their efforts are appreciated. Gareth told me he learned new perspectives from doing the research as well as the other talks and discussions – I am sure that goes for all of us. Leading up to this meeting I was prompted to to look at Kate Rawath's Doughnut Economic and again at Tim Jackson's Prosperity Without Growth. However I had never heard of, for example, the Venus Project, and I was surprised to hear game theory's Prisoner's Dilemma mentioned in this context.

Would we do this again?
C2E originally approached us to ask if we could do something together and I suggested a joint discussion having got the idea from the students from the Social Innovation Program about 18 months ago. I can't think now why we did not suggest it ourselves before this. Yes we would definitely be up for doing something similar again.

More interesting topics to follow.
The energy group does a similar sort of thing on a smaller scale at most meetings. We haven’t fixed the topics for the next few months but they are likely to include a vision for our ideal transport, the impacts of using crops for energy, land use, diet and other agriculture issues. If you have a view on these (or other energy related topics), do get in touch.

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