Tuesday 2 November 2010

Time of the Signs

Maybe it’s a sign of the times we’re living in at the moment, but I’m noticing more and more “political” graffiti around Norwich than ever before, and some of it’s pretty good too!

I saw this one yesterday outside WH Smiths in the city and it reminded me of a story I read on the BBC news website last week about a call for the UK to appoint a Green Economics Minister.  The rationale is that
governments should draw up comprehensive sets of "natural capital accounts" that would place financial values on components of the natural world such as undeveloped land, woodland, rivers and marshes.
These valuations would take into account projections of long-term change, and assessments of what countries might need in future.
I like the idea – it gives us a fighting chance to protect what remains of our natural resources by putting a value on them that everyone can understand; it should prevent simply buying the ability to destroy the environment.

However, there’s a wider consideration; I’ve been (slowly) reading my way through Green Economics by Molly Scott Cato since the summer.  And I’ve learned that “green economics” is not just our normal economics with a green sheen.  It’s not about applying the normal systems of supply and demand, micro and macro, GDP, balance of payments etc etc to green issues.  It’s about creating a new paradigm to tackle the challenges that climate change, the environment and the clear need for a new kind of social justice present us.

“Green Economics” has really opened my eyes to what “value” really is – to me it’s become about economics as if people - and the natural world, and social justice - mattered (to extend E F Schumaker’s famous subtitle to his ground-breaking “Small is Beautiful”).

So, I’m hoping, that any future “green economics minister” will look at more than the credit and debit columns of a balance sheet.  And it’s up to us all to make sure that happens.

And, reflecting on the graffiti outside WH Smiths, it’s clear from Molly Scott Cato’s book that “value” is not just about our national (or personal) balance of payments; it’s about all those things of value that don’t appear – the social networks, the community halls and allotments, the Transition movement itself.  I’d say there’s plenty of value left, despite all the spending cuts and talk of recession.

(pic: JC - graffiti outside WH Smith on White Lion Street, Norwich)

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