Sunday, October 31, 2010

Presentation to the UN General Assembly on 28.10.2010 by Felix Dodds

The Challenge & Spirit of Rio
 By Felix Dodds (Executive Director Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future)

Thank you for inviting me to speak today and share my thoughts on Rio+20. Although I have been asked to speak on the contribution that stakeholders might play, I do want to start by making comments on the agenda for Rio+20 as well.  In doing so I will draw on the article Maurice Strong and I did for the BBC in May this year.

To start with I would like to commend Brazil for the leadership they have shown in persuading the world that another Earth Summit is needed. Unfortunately, some developed countries have had to be dragged to the table. 

There is a simple question we should all ask ourselves  -- is the world going in the right direction?

If the answer to this question is no,  then we should ask what are the current challenges that the world needs to address, how can we address the challenges together and how long do we have to address them ?

Broken promises

The answer to the last question is “not long”. Most of the problems the world now faces have been on the international agenda for decades, some going back as far the Stockholm environmental conference in 1972 where the seminal report from the Club of Rome warned us of the ‘Limits to Growth’

We know from the UNEP GEO4 Report, the IPCC, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment that the problems we are facing have not reduced but become more acute - not as a result of the lack of proclaimed government commitments to action, but due to their dismal performance in implementing their agreements.

Indeed, if governments had implemented the many conventions, treaties and declarations they negotiated from Stockholm to Rio to Kyoto to Johannesburg, we would be well along the road to sustainability and then we would be better placed to address the challenges we now are facing.

But governments have not done enough by far to carry out their commitments, particularly as to helping finance developing countries' movement towards sustainability.

This failure has only added to the anger of most developing countries at the continued broken promises and has undermined their ability to make commitments of their own.

As a result, we now face challenges on a number of fronts: I want to highlight five:

  1. Human societies are living beyond the carrying capacity of the planet
  2. Climate change has emerged as an out-of-control driver
  3. There is now becoming an increasing link between environment and security
  4. Governments have still not given the UN the mandate, the resources or the institutional capacities required to monitor and enforce international agreements.
  5. The still-prevailing, consumption-based economic model is not only failing to deliver progress to enormous numbers of the world's population, but is seriously threatening the economic stability of all nations, and compromising the prospect for any of us to live on this planet sustainably.
Despite all that, I do believe that these issues can be positively influenced by Earth Summit 2012.

We still have time to change direction.....but this time there can’t be any more failed promises.

Successfully addressing the challenges we face will require an ambitious and creative agenda and us all working together governments, intergovernmental organisations and stakeholders.

  1. The green economy in the context of poverty alleviation and sustainable development
The current economic model, which has brought unprecedented prosperity to the more developed countries and to particular people in those countries, has only deepened the disparity between them and most developing countries.

The parallels of the ecological problems with the financial crisis are clear. The banks and financial institutions privatised the gains and socialised the losses.

We are doing the same with the planet’s natural capital.  According to WWF, we are operating at 25% above the biological capacity to support life  and that is before adding another billion people by 2020.

We are going to see an even greater ecological crunch in the years to come

 Our present lifestyles are drawing down the ecological capital from other parts of the world and from future generations. We are increasingly becoming the most irresponsible generation our planet has seen.

The past 30 years have been characterised by irresponsible capitalism, pursuing limitless economic growth at the expense of both society and environment, with little or no regard for the natural resource base upon which such wealth is built.

Today, the principal goal of our economy must be to improve the lives of all the world's people and to free them from want and ignorance - without compromising the planet itself.

An economy that integrates sustainable development principles with responsible capitalism can produce enough wealth to meet the needs of people in all nations, equitably and sustainably.

Earth Summit 2012 can clearly draw a roadmap to set the world on the path to a new “economy” that is sustainable, equitable and accessible to all.
  1. Emerging issues
Environmental and security issues are becoming increasingly intertwined.
The "environment-security/insecurity nexus" covers such overlapping issues such as climate security, energy security, ecosystem destruction, biodiversity loss, food security, water security, health security –all of which are contributing to an increase in environmental refugees. All this was reflected in the chairs text from Prepcom 1. Rio+20 should give a roadmap on how these issues will be addressed

3. Sustainable development governance

The present global institutions are wholly inadequate to deal with the Earth's major challenges.

As most of the necessary changes are economic in nature, primary responsibility for decision making cannot be made by environmental ministries. They will continue to be vested in the ministries' of finance, development and trade.

Perhaps its time to  ask the finance, economics and industry ministers and not the environment ministers to take the leading role in preparing the Rio Summit addressing the sustainable development agenda infront of us to ensure that the economic decisions will further the necessary transition to sustainability.

Earth Summit 2012 needs the input from not only the formal preparatory process but also NEPAD, the African Union, OECD, the regional development banks, the World Bank, the G20 as well as stakeholders……if it is to see take forward the green economy.

Earth Summit 2012 should agree on strengthening and upgrading the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep), which should be the most influential champion of the global environment.  

We need a review of the environment Conventions to reduce fragmentation and increase cooperation and coordination.  Perhaps they should even be put under UNEP coordination.

Just as we have had problems mainstreaming environment we need to strengthen and mainstream sustainable development in the UN system. I suggest that it may be time to return to the idea of transforming the Trusteeship Council, a  core body of the UN, into a Sustainable Development Council. Something Maurice Strong advocated in 1992.

A  Sustainable Development Council that can address the emerging and critical issues that will need to be addressed in the coming years would be better than the Security Council doing it.

Additionally, Rio+20 should revisit the idea of a sustainable development board that was suggested by the High Level Panel on System Wide Coherence to ensure coordination of UN activities at the country level on sustainable development

We were asked to identify gaps in the institutional architecture? I am not going to go into depth but will leave you with three thoughts on this. The gaps that some stakeholders have been suggesting are:

  • A framework convention on corporate accountability built from the new ISO 26000
  • A global convention on Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration – access to information, public participation and environmental justice perhaps built on the UNEP guidelines
  • A global framework convention on Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration on the Precautionary Principle. This could then address issues like nano technology, geo engineering, cloning
Stakeholders Role

For my final comments I want to share my thoughts on what stakeholders might bring to the table for Rio+20. This is considerable.

One of the indicators that sustainable development is no longer a central part of governments thinking has been the demise over the last ten years of sustainable development councils and commissions.

Infact the United Kingdom has just closed down its council in the last month.  That was a mistake.

The logic of National Councils on Sustainable Development has been that involving stakeholders in the national decision making processes means that those decisions are more likely to be right and that they are more likely to be implemented often through partnerships between government and stakeholders.

For Rio+20 a minimum for governments should be the re-establishment of national councils for sustainable development. They should then take a significant role in mobilising for the Summit. Maybe one role could be national assessments and of course they should then work with governments to implement the outcome from Rio.

Rio+20 should be seen nationally as a partnership opportunity for governments and stakeholders.

What we need as far as Rio+20 is a bringing together of the good practices that exist in all countries of the green economy. For example I was very impressed with what Cuba has done in becoming a low carbon economy. The work they have done on urban agriculture is something that could be shared with all of us. Collecting good practice from governments, intergovernmental organisations and stakeholders could create a knowledge bank which can help the transition to a sustainable economy.  After Rio perhaps then focusing on rolling out the best five replicatable projects in each economic sector, in each region or sub region which could make a real difference.

Stakeholders already are working through the UN Summit collaborative partners in inputting to the Rio+20 process and planning events to add substance. ICSU plan a global conference in London prior to Rio, ICLEI plan a conference in Rio around the Summit, there is to be a Global Youth Assembly the week before Rio. If you compare the preparations with Rio in 1992 there is huge interest and mobilisation of stakeholders involved already compared to prepcom for Rio when there was only 10 NGOs there.

Rio+20 should strengthen science-policy links, and scientists should be asked to make their work more policy relevant and solution oriented.

Governments could be asking stakeholders to bring their own targets on a sustainable and green economy to the table.

Local and regional governments have already made commitments on CO2 emission reductions. They should be encouraged to do this under Rio+20 and should be challenged to re-launch local their Agenda 21 program as a concept around the green economy. All local authorities should create a local green economy to take forward the outcomes from Rio and to engage their population in a journey to a more local sustainability.  There is already being planned a Cities Climate Registry by local government prior to Cancun cities plan to sign a pact and will commit to Monitoring Reporting and Verification targets.

Industry sectors should be asked what they will do to address the key elements of a sustainable and green economy – there are some interesting examples out there with Coke Cola and Pepsi moving to water neutrality and Pepsi begin the first company I know accepting water as a basic human right. 

In addition to the traditional industry groups – Rio should reach out to the social market networks and entrepreneurs .  

Companies should work with their trade unions to help green the companies’ workplace and their activities.

A move to zero carbon, zero water, zero waste strategies will require cooperation of governments and stakeholders.

As the US Summit Bureau member helpfully reminded us, Rio+20 should be a 'Rio for 20-somethings': there must be moves to recognize our inter-generational responsibilities towards young people, starting by ensuring that they have an education system that is re-oriented towards Sustainable Development as promised by Agenda 21. They have to be educated, empowered and mobilized to rise to their generational challenge of creating a green, post-carbon economy in their lifetimes.
The Youth Caucus WCSD in Johannesburg called on governments to "See youth as resource, not a problem."  Hearing that, Kofi Annan remarked: "Of course they are: youth are the most precious resource any nation possesses." We need to learn to engage with them better, and hopefully, at Rio+20, we shall. For it is the youth of today who will be the major beneficiaries of a successful outcome of the Rio 2012 Summit; likewise they will be the major victims if it fails.
Rio+20 should ensure meaningful participation of relevant stakeholders on all levels in the 2012 process as we can play a significant role in implementing the agreement.

Rio should become a festival of the best ideas and best practices on how we move towards a more sustainable and green economy.

Perhaps the RiO+20 outcome document should have an annex with all the stakeholders own commitments. 

Is there a Common future?

Since 1992, awareness of the Earth's environmental challenges has become universal.

What has been lacking is the will of governments to act.  Perhaps we all thought we had more time…we don’t!!

Rio+20: needs to utilise communications media assertively and creatively - to engage the global public in a global conversation on how we are able to live on this "one planet" together.  “One planet living” echoes the idea of equity, fairness and planetary boundaries

We need a ‘Yes We Can’ approach to Rio+20

We can reboot sustainable development

We can refocus our local, national and global economies around a sustainable economy

We can reform our sustainable development institutions so that they can cope with the challenges of the 21st century.

We can re-establish National Councils for Sustainable Development

We can re-launch multi-stakeholder partnerships for sustainable development

We can learn to live on this planet together equitably taking into consideration not only this generation but future generations – who have a right to a good quality of life.

The Earth Summit 2012 presents a unique platform for negotiating the co-operation needed to achieve a new deal between North and South, between rich and poor, between governments and stakeholders and between present and future generations.

This co-operation is critical to the future of all people on the planet. It is a co-operation we must achieve.

Perhaps the time has at last come for governments to adopt the Earth Charter as a value base to guide us.

The future is not a gift: it is an achievement.

In 1992 governments showed considerable leadership in adopting Agenda 21 and the conventions on biological diversity and climate change

People are willing to make the right choice. But they need leadership.

They're hungry for leadership. The question I leave with you is can you give that leadership?

Stakeholder web site for Rio+20

UN web site for Rio+20

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Toxins of 'Progress' Flow the Streets Behind Mine 
by Jenna Goodhand 
‘Hungary declares state of emergency’ the headlines read Tuesday morning at breakfast. As an English speaking Canadian currently living in Hungary, I am informed at the delayed rate of those who live miles away, but the catastrophe resides in my backyard. Jenna Goodhand of the 'Climate Sustainability PLATFORM' shares her researched opinion. 

Monday, October 4, 2010 is a date now forever etched in the minds of Hungarians in what has been declared this country’s worst chemical accident. As the reservoir wall split at the Alumni Production and Trading Company in Ajka, western Hungary, red sludge filled the streets, homes and fields of 7 local villages before seeping into the Danube River Thursday. 

The toxic red silt, which is the byproduct of refining bauxite into alumina, has been held in the reservoir for years. The powerful emergence of the sludge once released from its repository swept through the village of Ajka taking 7 humans lives and resulting in over 100 injuries as the pressure knocked cars, bridges and people over and sent many to the hospital with burns as the toxic waste ate through their clothing. Many animal lives have been lost and the landscape that was once relied on for agriculture has been deemed desolate of nutrients. A predicted 2cm deep of soil would have to be removed from the entire contaminated region for it to be productive. The local citizens of the area have been asked to evacuate for precautionary health measures and as fears of a second flood loom overhead. This is not just a Hungarian issue, as the Danube River where the sludge has drained, effects the neighbouring countries of Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Moldova, Ukraine, and Romania where it eventually reaches the Black Sea. Many experts say the full magnitude of this environmental catastrophe will not likely be known for years to come. 

The definitive cause of the reservoir breach is still undetermined as accusations of who is to blame pass through online forums and city streets. Perhaps this isn’t a result of irresponsible people, but an irresponsible system, a system that is driven by short-term profit without long-term consideration. Many fingers and attacks have been made at capitalism, but in the absence of capitalism these disasters have still taken place. One may argue that the failure is not on capitalism but on the weakness to assess global production and consumption methods to minimize climate change and environmental sustainability that would prevent misfortunes such as this one. 

Not only do events such as these cause bewilderment and outrage but those who suffer most are local citizens working in the area, exploited to a situation that endangers their safety, health and the environment in which they live. Alternatively those who benefit live borders away, out of immediate harm, not thinking twice about the implications their business or purchases have on those who risk their lives so that they may fulfill some fictitious image of what it means to be successful. 

The amount of toxic sludge that left the reservoir was nearly the size of the BP Oil Spill; an incident that had us somewhat captivated for months this past summer. Now that the oil has stopped ‘spilling’, the headlines have come to a halt and the topic rarely makes conversation. For those of us who saw the underlying cause and long-term environmental tragedies, we know this story is long from over as ecosystems and biodiversity in the area make desperate attempts to revive themselves in an area blanketed in the failures of our economic production model. My predictions are that as the clean up becomes less entertaining, as the excitement of lives being threatened fades, the disaster in Hungary will too diminish into the shadows as a forgotten blip in a production and consumption system that cannot continue to be ignored. 

We seem to be living in an ever-increasing world of disasters, as tsunamis, floods and hurricanes destroy lives in every corner of the globe. But what we must realize is that this particular catastrophe is not a natural disaster. These events must cause us to question the wisdom of the prevailing development model that gambles with nature. Particularly the widespread failures to take nature, restructure it into something inorganic, and create offsets that not only threaten our own lives but the balance of the entire planet.

As participants in the global consumer trade of goods and services we hold the power to support or reduce the injustices our purchases sustain. We are all guilty when an event like this happens because some way or another we support the system that has allowed this to continue. The toxic flood in Hungary may seem like an isolated event, but we all suffer when the environment does. If not today, in the future, as the borders that devise our countries do not constrain the implications of the pollutions, destructions and havoc we exert. We must begin to question where are products come from and at what cost. 


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

by E. F. Schumacher

"Right Livelihood" is one of the requirements of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. It is clear, therefore, that there must be such a thing as Buddhist economics.

Buddhist countries have often stated that they wish to remain faithful to their heritage. So Burma: “The New Burma sees no conflict between religious values and economic progress. Spiritual health and material well-being are not enemies: they are natural allies.”  1 Or: “We can blend successfully the religious and spiritual values of our heritage with the benefits of modern technology.”  2 Or: “We Burmans have a sacred duty to conform both our dreams and our acts to our faith. This we shall ever do.”  3
All the same, such countries invariably assume that they can model their economic development plans in accordance with modern economics, and they call upon modern economists from so-called advanced countries to advise them, to formulate the policies to be pursued, and to construct the grand design for development, the Five-Year Plan or whatever it may be called. No one seems to think that a Buddhist way of life would call for Buddhist economics, just as the modern materialist way of life has brought forth modern economics.
Economists themselves, like most specialists, normally suffer from a kind of metaphysical blindness, assuming that theirs is a science of absolute and invariable truths, without any presuppositions. Some go as far as to claim that economic laws are as free from "metaphysics" or "values" as the law of gravitation. We need not, however, get involved in arguments of methodology. Instead, let us take some fundamentals and see what they look like when viewed by a modern economist and a Buddhist economist.
There is universal agreement that a fundamental source of wealth is human labour. Now, the modern economist has been brought up to consider "labour" or work as little more than a necessary evil. From the point of view of the employer, it is in any case simply an item of cost, to be reduced to a minimum if it can not be eliminated altogether, say, by automation. From the point of view of the workman, it is a "disutility"; to work is to make a sacrifice of one’s leisure and comfort, and wages are a kind of compensation for the sacrifice. Hence the ideal from the point of view of the employer is to have output without employees, and the ideal from the point of view of the employee is to have income without employment.
The consequences of these attitudes both in theory and in practice are, of course, extremely far-reaching. If the ideal with regard to work is to get rid of it, every method that "reduces the work load" is a good thing. The most potent method, short of automation, is the so-called "division of labour" and the classical example is the pin factory eulogised in Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations4 Here it is not a matter of ordinary specialisation, which mankind has practiced from time immemorial, but of dividing up every complete process of production into minute parts, so that the final product can be produced at great speed without anyone having had to contribute more than a totally insignificant and, in most cases, unskilled movement of his limbs.
The Buddhist point of view takes the function of work to be at least threefold: to give man a chance to utilise and develop his faculties; to enable him to overcome his ego-centredness by joining with other people in a common task; and to bring forth the goods and services needed for a becoming existence. Again, the consequences that flow from this view are endless. To organise work in such a manner that it becomes meaningless, boring, stultifying, or nerve-racking for the worker would be little short of criminal; it would indicate a greater concern with goods than with people, an evil lack of compassion and a soul-destroying degree of attachment to the most primitive side of this worldly existence. Equally, to strive for leisure as an alternative to work would be considered a complete misunderstanding of one of the basic truths of human existence, namely that work and leisure are complementary parts of the same living process and cannot be separated without destroying the joy of work and the bliss of leisure.
From the Buddhist point of view, there are therefore two types of mechanisation which must be clearly distinguished: one that enhances a man’s skill and power and one that turns the work of man over to a mechanical slave, leaving man in a position of having to serve the slave. How to tell the one from the other? “The craftsman himself,” says Ananda Coomaraswamy, a man equally competent to talk about the modern West as the ancient East, “can always, if allowed to, draw the delicate distinction between the machine and the tool. The carpet loom is a tool, a contrivance for holding warp threads at a stretch for the pile to be woven round them by the craftsmen’s fingers; but the power loom is a machine, and its significance as a destroyer of culture lies in the fact that it does the essentially human part of the work.”  5 It is clear, therefore, that Buddhist economics must be very different from the economics of modern materialism, since the Buddhist sees the essence of civilisation not in a multiplication of wants but in the purification of human character. Character, at the same time, is formed primarily by a man’s work. And work, properly conducted in conditions of human dignity and freedom, blesses those who do it and equally their products. The Indian philosopher and economist J. C. Kumarappa sums the matter up as follows:
If the nature of the work is properly appreciated and applied, it will stand in the same relation to the higher faculties as food is to the physical body. It nourishes and enlivens the higher man and urges him to produce the best he is capable of. It directs his free will along the proper course and disciplines the animal in him into progressive channels. It furnishes an excellent background for man to display his scale of values and develop his personality.  6
If a man has no chance of obtaining work he is in a desperate position, not simply because he lacks an income but because he lacks this nourishing and enlivening factor of disciplined work which nothing can replace. A modern economist may engage in highly sophisticated calculations on whether full employment "pays" or whether it might be more "economic" to run an economy at less than full employment so as to insure a greater mobility of labour, a better stability of wages, and so forth. His fundamental criterion of success is simply the total quantity of goods produced during a given period of time. “If the marginal urgency of goods is low,” says Professor Galbraith in The Affluent Society, “then so is the urgency of employing the last man or the last million men in the labour force.” 7And again: “If . . . we can afford some unemployment in the interest of stability—a proposition, incidentally, of impeccably conservative antecedents—then we can afford to give those who are unemployed the goods that enable them to sustain their accustomed standard of living.”
From a Buddhist point of view, this is standing the truth on its head by considering goods as more important than people and consumption as more important than creative activity. It means shifting the emphasis from the worker to the product of work, that is, from the human to the subhuman, a surrender to the forces of evil. The very start of Buddhist economic planning would be a planning for full employment, and the primary purpose of this would in fact be employment for everyone who needs an "outside" job: it would not be the maximisation of employment nor the maximisation of production. Women, on the whole, do not need an "outside" job, and the large-scale employment of women in offices or factories would be considered a sign of serious economic failure. In particular, to let mothers of young children work in factories while the children run wild would be as uneconomic in the eyes of a Buddhist economist as the employment of a skilled worker as a soldier in the eyes of a modern economist.
While the materialist is mainly interested in goods, the Buddhist is mainly interested in liberation. But Buddhism is "The Middle Way" and therefore in no way antagonistic to physical well-being. It is not wealth that stands in the way of liberation but the attachment to wealth; not the enjoyment of pleasurable things but the craving for them. The keynote of Buddhist economics, therefore, is simplicity and non-violence. From an economist’s point of view, the marvel of the Buddhist way of life is the utter rationality of its pattern—amazingly small means leading to extraordinarily satisfactory results.
For the modern economist this is very difficult to understand. He is used to measuring the "standard of living" by the amount of annual consumption, assuming all the time that a man who consumes more is "better off" than a man who consumes less. A Buddhist economist would consider this approach excessively irrational: since consumption is merely a means to human well-being, the aim should be to obtain the maximum of well-being with the minimum of consumption. Thus, if the purpose of clothing is a certain amount of temperature comfort and an attractive appearance, the task is to attain this purpose with the smallest possible effort, that is, with the smallest annual destruction of cloth and with the help of designs that involve the smallest possible input of toil. The less toil there is, the more time and strength is left for artistic creativity. It would be highly uneconomic, for instance, to go in for complicated tailoring, like the modern West, when a much more beautiful effect can be achieved by the skillful draping of uncut material. It would be the height of folly to make material so that it should wear out quickly and the height of barbarity to make anything ugly, shabby, or mean. What has just been said about clothing applies equally to all other human requirements. The ownership and the consumption of goods is a means to an end, and Buddhist economics is the systematic study of how to attain given ends with the minimum means.
Modern economics, on the other hand, considers consumption to be the sole end and purpose of all economic activity, taking the factors of production—and, labour, and capital—as the means. The former, in short, tries to maximise human satisfactions by the optimal pattern of consumption, while the latter tries to maximise consumption by the optimal pattern of productive effort. It is easy to see that the effort needed to sustain a way of life which seeks to attain the optimal pattern of consumption is likely to be much smaller than the effort needed to sustain a drive for maximum consumption. We need not be surprised, therefore, that the pressure and strain of living is very much less in say, Burma, than it is in the United States, in spite of the fact that the amount of labour-saving machinery used in the former country is only a minute fraction of the amount used in the latter.
Simplicity and non-violence are obviously closely related. The optimal pattern of consumption, producing a high degree of human satisfaction by means of a relatively low rate of consumption, allows people to live without great pressure and strain and to fulfill the primary injunction of Buddhist teaching: “Cease to do evil; try to do good.” As physical resources are everywhere limited, people satisfying their needs by means of a modest use of resources are obviously less likely to be at each other’s throats than people depending upon a high rate of use. Equally, people who live in highly self-sufficient local communities are less likely to get involved in large-scale violence than people whose existence depends on world-wide systems of trade.
From the point of view of Buddhist economics, therefore, production from local resources for local needs is the most rational way of economic life, while dependence on imports from afar and the consequent need to produce for export to unknown and distant peoples is highly uneconomic and justifiable only in exceptional cases and on a small scale. Just as the modern economist would admit that a high rate of consumption of transport services between a man’s home and his place of work signifies a misfortune and not a high standard of life, so the Buddhist would hold that to satisfy human wants from faraway sources rather than from sources nearby signifies failure rather than success. The former tends to take statistics showing an increase in the number of ton/miles per head of the population carried by a country’s transport system as proof of economic progress, while to the latter—the Buddhist economist—the same statistics would indicate a highly undesirable deterioration in the pattern of consumption.
Another striking difference between modern economics and Buddhist economics arises over the use of natural resources. Bertrand de Jouvenel, the eminent French political philosopher, has characterised "Western man" in words which may be taken as a fair description of the modern economist:
He tends to count nothing as an expenditure, other than human effort; he does not seem to mind how much mineral matter he wastes and, far worse, how much living matter he destroys. He does not seem to realize at all that human life is a dependent part of an ecosystem of many different forms of life. As the world is ruled from towns where men are cut off from any form of life other than human, the feeling of belonging to an ecosystem is not revived. This results in a harsh and improvident treatment of things upon which we ultimately depend, such as water and trees.  8
The teaching of the Buddha, on the other hand, enjoins a reverent and non-violent attitude not only to all sentient beings but also, with great emphasis, to trees. Every follower of the Buddha ought to plant a tree every few years and look after it until it is safely established, and the Buddhist economist can demonstrate without difficulty that the universal observation of this rule would result in a high rate of genuine economic development independent of any foreign aid. Much of the economic decay of southeast Asia (as of many other parts of the world) is undoubtedly due to a heedless and shameful neglect of trees.
Modern economics does not distinguish between renewable and non-renewable materials, as its very method is to equalise and quantify everything by means of a money price. Thus, taking various alternative fuels, like coal, oil, wood, or water-power: the only difference between them recognised by modern economics is relative cost per equivalent unit. The cheapest is automatically the one to be preferred, as to do otherwise would be irrational and "uneconomic." From a Buddhist point of view, of course, this will not do; the essential difference between non-renewable fuels like coal and oil on the one hand and renewable fuels like wood and water-power on the other cannot be simply overlooked. Non-renewable goods must be used only if they are indispensable, and then only with the greatest care and the most meticulous concern for conservation. To use them heedlessly or extravagantly is an act of violence, and while complete non-violence may not be attainable on this earth, there is nonetheless an ineluctable duty on man to aim at the ideal of non-violence in all he does.
Just as a modern European economist would not consider it a great achievement if all European art treasures were sold to America at attractive prices, so the Buddhist economist would insist that a population basing its economic life on non-renewable fuels is living parasitically, on capital instead of income. Such a way of life could have no permanence and could therefore be justified only as a purely temporary expedient. As the world’s resources of non-renewable fuels—coal, oil, and natural gas—are exceedingly unevenly distributed over the globe and undoubtedly limited in quantity, it is clear that their exploitation at an ever-increasing rate is an act of violence against nature which must almost inevitably lead to violence between men.
This fact alone might give food for thought even to those people in Buddhist countries who care nothing for the religious and spiritual values of their heritage and ardently desire to embrace the materialism of modern economics at the fastest possible speed. Before they dismiss Buddhist economics as nothing better than a nostalgic dream, they might wish to consider whether the path of economic development outlined by modern economics is likely to lead them to places where they really want to be. Towards the end of his courageous book The Challenge of Man’s Future, Professor Harrison Brown of the California Institute of Technology gives the following appraisal:
Thus we see that, just as industrial society is fundamentally unstable and subject to reversion to agrarian existence, so within it the conditions which offer individual freedom are unstable in their ability to avoid the conditions which impose rigid organisation and totalitarian control. Indeed, when we examine all the foreseeable difficulties which threaten the survival of industrial civilisation, it is difficult to see how the achievement of stability and the maintenance of individual liberty can be made compatible. 9
Even if this were dismissed as a long-term view there is the immediate question of whether "modernisation," as currently practised without regard to religious and spiritual values, is actually producing agreeable results. As far as the masses are concerned, the results appear to be disastrous—a collapse of the rural economy, a rising tide of unemployment in town and country, and the growth of a city proletariat without nourishment for either body or soul.
It is in the light of both immediate experience and long term prospects that the study of Buddhist economics could be recommended even to those who believe that economic growth is more important than any spiritual or religious values. For it is not a question of choosing between "modern growth" and "traditional stagnation." It is a question of finding the right path of development, the Middle Way between materialist heedlessness and traditionalist immobility, in short, of finding "Right Livelihood."

The essay "Buddhist Economics" was first published in  Asia: A Handbook, edited by Guy Wint, published by Anthony Blond Ltd., London, 1966. In 1973 it was collected with other essays by Ernest Friedrich Schumacher in  Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered. The book has been translated into 27 different languages and in 1995 was named by the London Times Literary Supplement as one of the hundred most influential books written after World War II.
In December of 2001, Mrs. Vreni Schumacher and Hartley and Marks Publishers kindly extended permission to include "Buddhist Economics" in the pamphlet,  An Economics of Peace, available from the E. F. Schumacher Society, 140 Jug End Road, Great Barrington, MA 01230 USA, (413) 528-1737,