Can cooperative grocery stores compete with large investor-owned grocery chains? Consum, in Spain, shows it is possible to be a worker and consumer-owned grocery coop with strong sustainability practices AND be the largest grocery chain in the Spanish Mediterranean. Consum has more worker-owners in Spain than all of the worker owned cooperatives across every industry in the US combined, and it continues to grow. Let’s think about how to scale up the positive impact of cooperatives. NELC co-founder, Melissa Scanlan, interviewed Consum’s director of Corporate Social Responsibility for this story. For more about Scanlan’s cooperative research, read.
McKibben, Notes from a Remarkable Political Moment for Climate Change, read more.
May 7, 2019 (Gus Speth). I greatly admire and agree with Bill McKibben’s kick-off contribution. I have followed Bill into jail and would do so again, and agreeing with him in many contexts has proven graciously easy.
I do want to lay out here my version of the case for systemic change, in response to question 2. These comments are written from a US perspective, where our particularly virulent system of corporatist, consumerist capitalism highlights the imperative of deep change.
Whatever gains can be made working within the current US system (and they can and must be considerable, see below), lasting success will require transformations away from the following:
*An unquestioning commitment to economic growth at essentially any cost, including the costs of climate disruption;
*A measure of that growth, GDP (Grossly Distorted Picture), that includes as positives fossil industry growth, the costs of coping with climate change’s effects, and much else;
*Powerful corporate interests whose overriding objective is to generate profit and grow, including profit from avoiding the costs of the climate change they cause;
*Markets that systematically fail to recognize those costs unless corrected by government;
*Government that is both subservient to corporate interests and deeply wedded to GDP growth;
*Runaway consumerism spurred on endlessly by sophisticated advertising and gross disparities in status and lifestyle; and
*Social injustice, economic insecurities, and concentrations of wealth so vast that they paralyze effective political action.
The United States will never be able to go far enough, or fast enough, doing the right things on climate, as long as our systemic priorities are ramping up GDP, growing corporate profits, increasing the incomes of the already well-to-do, neglecting the half of America that is just getting by, feeding runaway consumerism, focusing only on the present moment, facilitating great bastions of corporate power, helping abroad only modestly or not at all, and so on. As Tellus has put it, progress in the current system is not impossible, but it is like struggling up a very fast down escalator.
It is not hard to sketch out policy and other initiatives that fundamentally alter the key features of the current system, as I and others have done. (See, e.g., America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy.) But it *is* hard to bring about real change in the prevailing order. And that is going to require a resounding YES in answer to question 3: we desperately need a fusion of progressive forces, one that is prepared at this late date to risk everything.
Scorn, rage, and many actions:
protests coming round the world.
Today we see but a fraction
of banners yet to be unfurled!
I do not see an inherent conflict between reformist and transformative actions, nor between problem-solving focused on particular goals and cross-cutting initiatives aimed at structural change. It is all going to be needed to move steadily through the stages of transformation while overcoming the many obstacles between where we are and new systems of political economy dedicated to the well-being of human and natural communities. Large opportunities for climate mitigation are available in the current system. It is vital to seize them where they exist, which today in the US is most often at the state and local levels. Moving to 100% renewables can be achieved in ways that further energy democracy. Own your own utility! Local finance decisions can be done in ways that cut out big for-profit banks. Move your money (from Wall Street)! New climate-related infrastructure and other investments can be done in ways that increase economic security and reduce family vulnerability as well as lead to the burgeoning of new enterprise types such as worker-owned co-ops, municipal companies, profit-not for profit hybrids, and public trusts. Good jobs for all!
I have worked on the climate issue since I was in the Carter White House in the late 1970s and we issued several reports calling for climate action. These forty years without effective action are the greatest dereliction of civic responsibility in the history of the republic. The world will pay a large price for it. It is hard for me to approach optimism without my guard up. Still, something is happening here today. The level of public, media and political attention is not nearly where it should be, but there some hopeful signs of movement in the right directions. Leading climate scientist Joachim Schellnhuber has said that “we need something really disruptive, which I would call an induced implosion of the carbon economy.” He is on the right track. Our job is to make it happen, using all the tools we have.
The craft beer market in the U.S. has exploded, but where can you find a company that is democratically owned, producing organic beer, and 100 percent powered by renewables? Cerveses Lluna brews its beer in Alcoi, Spain, where it is committed to creating good jobs, local sourcing, and sustainable production. NELC co-founder, Melissa Scanlan, interviewed the worker-owners for this story…
The New Economy Law Center presents “The Making of a Democratic Economy” with speaker Marjorie Kelly, Senior Fellow and Executive Vice President of The Democracy Collaborative. At a time when the nation is hungry for a positive vision for our economy – when 71 percent of Americans say they believe the economic system is rigged against them – Marjorie Kelly offers a compelling vision of the emerging alternative: a Democratic Economy, one tilted toward the common good. Kelly will explain how to build a Democratic Economy to meet the essential needs of all persons, to balance human consumption with the regenerative capacity of the earth, and to be responsive to the voices and concerns of ordinary people. Come learn about building shared prosperity aligned with environmental sustainability. Join us for a light reception before the lecture!
November 14, 2018 from 5:15 PM to 6:30 PM in the Jonathon B. Chase Center
Watch the video at: https://livestream.com/vermontlawschool/events/8455231
With an analysis sure to challenge the assumptions of both progressives and conservatives, Greenfield explores corporations’ claims to constitutional rights and the foundational conflicts about their obligations in society. He argues that a blanket opposition to corporate personhood is misguided, since it is consistent with both the purpose of corporations and the Constitution itself that corporations can claim rights at least some of the time. The problem with Citizens United is not that corporations have a right to speak, but for whom they speak. The solution is not to end corporate personhood but to require corporations to act more like citizens. Anyone interested in the role of corporations in our political system should come to this talk on the day Yale University Press releases his new book on this topic.
Co-Sponsored by the Business Law Society
Watch the archived live-stream footage here: https://livestream.com/vermontlawschool/events/8425545
With the upcoming midterms and so much energy put into politics, I thought it a good time to revisit the 4th talk in the Fall 2017 New Economy Law and Policy Forum. In it, Zephyr Teachout focuses on campaign finance and other reforms needed to transform politics in the US. For more resources about campaign finance reform, please visit our associated web pages.
In his latest book (and first novel), NELC Fellow, Bill McKibben, takes his resistance angst and turns it into a love letter to Vermont, local craft beer, human-scale economies and decision making like “Town Meeting Day,” and Ethan Allen. With humor, he tells a tale of seceding as a protest against the big impersonal political economic forces that brought us climate disruption and Donald Trump. You may want to fly the new flag by the time you’re finished reading it, featuring an image of Camel’s Hump and Ethan Allen’s “The gods of the valley are not the gods of the hills.” He intersperses the entertaining story with bits of insights. From the character Trance, a soldier, on strategy: “You don’t choose your opponent’s weapons.” From the character Vern, on vision: “We want farmers growing food that people want to eat – we want slaughterhouses in Vermont again, and grain mills. Not big food so we can get salmonella from some feedlot in Indiana, but small food, so we can get dinner from our neighbors. So we can have security.” And on democracy: “We all need to be reminded that democracy isn’t just voting for president every four years and then trusting him to fix things. Democracy is about getting together with your community to think together about your future. Sometimes it’s dull, and sometimes people get long-winded, and sometimes they get stiff-necked. But town meeting has been going on for three hundred years, ever since people got to Vermont. Just go see.
“…And the one thing no one ever says anymore in our public life: I think you’re wrong, but you may be right.” Try it.
This is the introductory panel of elected officials in our 3rd session in the Fall 2017 New Economy Law and Policy Forum on energizing democracy. This all day workshop was a non-partisan free program to teach people how to run for elected office. For more videos from the day and additional resources on running for office, please visit our associated web pages.
Jedediah Purdy, law professor and author of a chapter in Law for the New Economy: Sustainable, Just, and Democratic, (Melissa K. Scanlan ed., May 2017), reacted to Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement in his recent opinion in the New York Times. Focusing on the Supreme Court’s union-crippling decision in Janus v. AFSCME, Purdy details the Roberts Court’s role in the ongoing “dismantling of the legal legacy of the New Deal and the creation of law for a new Gilded Age.” Along with Janus, the Court’s recent decisions upholding Trump’s travel ban and Texas’ racially gerrymandered voting districts are the latest “unhappy reminders that for much of American history, the Supreme Court has been a deeply conservative institution, preserving racial hierarchy and the prerogatives of employers.” Since the 1970s, the Court has refused to address economic inequality while bolstering the outsized power of capital. With an ascendant conservative majority on the Court, Purdy argues, American democracy’s ability to confront the inequality and insecurity powering this New Gilded Age is increasingly thrown into question.
This was the first talk in the New Economy Law and Policy Forum in October of 2017. For additional resources on this topic and action steps, visit our associated web pages.