Saturday, February 21, 2009

New Wealth

Below is the text of a post that I drafted in mid-January and shared with a number of folks more intimately connected with the world of economics then myself. This morning I spent time watching Chris Martenson's - The Crash Course to gain a deeper understanding of the roots of our current economic situation. I would highly recommend reviewing The Crash Course as Chris does a great job of tying together many of the underlying factors and pressures we face looking ahead. I reckon investments in sustainable forms of wealth production (including education) will be necessary as we transition our communities beyond our current era dominated by artificially "cheap" energy sources. As I look to the future, I remain hopeful that our community will embrace our inter-dependence and celebrate the rich relationships that will result from this reliance. In that spirity, we invite you to join us for our next Know Your Vegetables on the 23rd of February.

As we dwell in the stillness that winter presents, I have been pondering future paths and new opportunities created by our current global economic period. I consistently return to two critical considerations so often left off the balance sheets of today's economic indicators: the very real physical implication of economic "externalities" and the primary creation of real wealth.

Externalities abound within our current agricultural system, nitrogen run-off is perhaps one of the most noted examples. On a national scale the dead-zone at the mouth of the Mississippi river, estimated at more than 8,000 square miles (to put this in perspective, this is 4/5ths of the size of Massachusetts), is enhanced by heavy fertilizer use on industrial farms. Economic systems that don't address externalities, may reach a reckoning when their tangible affects are experienced by the enviroment and our society.

Our farmers are one of many industries that don't pay the full-cost of doing business. Unfortunately, our current economy has valued their products (especially the commodities of industrial agriculture) so low that bearing such costs would spell even greater economic peril for farmers. Revisiting a discussion regarding agricultural and raw material parity will be a necessary step in improving economic conditions on farms and thereby providing greater opportunity to address their negative externalities.

I've assembled a list of brief articles and ideas that I feel are important to consider as we examine the generation of "new wealth":

1. An article by Jonathan Rowe, "Our Phony Economy" from congressional testimony he delivered in March 2008.

2. Herman Daly brings light to the current fiscal crisis on The Oil Drum. Herman Daly is one of the many economists who promotes consideration of Ecological Economics, here is a brief introduction to Daly's work published in The Social Contract.

3. The late Al Krebs, author of Corporate Reapers: The Book of Agribusiness, wrote an informative article, "Creating 'New Wealth'" in the Progressive Populist in 2004. More background information about A.V. Krebs can be found on the Corporate Agribusiness Research Project website.

Another visionary from the westcoast who has focused on the power corporations wield in the economy, David Korten has authored a new book that will be published in February, Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth.

Charles Walters of Acres U.S.A. has also consistently raised the importance of agricultural parity, the "birth" of raw material economics is briefly described on the National Organization for Raw Materials site.

And finally, here are a couple of blogs and organizations that I've found enlightening over the past few months: Dollars and Sense, Sudden Debt, and the New Economics Foundation.

A few more thoughts and ideas relevant to this discussion can found on an October post, "Green Jobs Now...". I would welcome learning about economists, books, and blogs that are examining our current financial crisis with a lens focused beyond the traditional economic considerations; especially those that are considering the forms of "wealth" development.

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