Systemic Crisis and Systemic Change in the United States in the 21st Century

New Economy Law Center co-founder, Gus Speth, and colleagues at the Next System Project discuss the necessity and challenges of moving beyond the current political economy towards a more just, democratic, and sustainable system. In the following working paper presented during the recent “After Fossil Fuels: The Next Economy” conference in Oberlin, Ohio, they identify the nature and key drivers of our systemic crisis and insist that what must be changed is “at the level of the basic institutional design of the political-economic system itself.”

Gar Alperovitz et al. “Systemic Crisis and Systemic Change in the United States in the 21st Century,” The Next System Project, September 2016,

Implementing Rights of Nature Through Sustainability Bills of Rights

UN Issues “Harmony With Nature” Summary Report (2016)

In August the United Nations General Assembly issued a summary report based on a UN-initiated virtual dialogue among experts in Earth jurisprudence with regards to advancing global sustainability in harmony with nature. The dialogue focused on aligning human governance systems with an Earth-centered perspective. Experts discussed developments and recommendations for doing so across eight disciplines, including: Earth-centered law; ecological economics; education; holistic science; the humanities; philosophy and ethics; the arts, media, design and architecture; and theology and spirituality.

Read the full report here –


Several NELC Fellows participated in the virtual dialogue. Linda Sheehan offered her expertise in Earth-centered law, while Peter Brown and Joshua Farley contributed input in the area of ecological economics. See below for their individual pieces.

Linda Sheehan –

Peter Brown –

Joshua Farley –

Commoning as a Transformative Social Paradigm

In this paper produced for the Next System Project, NELC Associate Fellow David Bollier introduces the commons as a social paradigm capable of transcending the current oppressive system. In particular, Bollier examines the commons as an alternative to the neoliberal political economy and presents a commoning vision and approach for achieving a more ecologically sustainable and humane society.


In New Zealand, Lands and Rivers Can Be People (Legally Speaking)

New Zealand is taking bold steps to evolve its legal system by recognizing “legal personhood” status and rights for natural systems, including rivers and forests. Arising from agreements to settle treaty violations with indigenous Maori, the recognition of the Te Urewera Forest and the Whanganui River as legal entities is a growing approach (following related efforts in Ecuador and elsewhere) for shifting law towards a more ethical, eco-centric standard. 

“In New Zealand, Lands and Rivers Can Be People (Legally Speaking),” The New York Times, July 13, 2016

A Radical Alliance of Black and Green Could Save the World

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Poorer Countries and the Environment: Friends or Foes?

Corporate Bias in the World Bank’s Group International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes: A Case Study of a Global Mining Corporation Suing El Salvador

Reframing Development in the Age of Vulnerability: from case studies of the Philippines and Trinidad to new measures of rootedness

Third World Quarterly, v.32, n.6, coauthor John Cavanagh.

ABSTRACT: This article argues that the contemporary triple crises of finance, food and environment, which have shaken the global economy since 2008, have exposed what should be seen as the Achilles heel of the dominant development theory and practice of the past 30 years: vulnerability. We argue that the crises not only add momentum to the delegitimisation of the old model, but also offer legitimacy for paths that lessen vulnerability and increase what we call ‘rootedness’ (a term we prefer to ‘resilience’ or ‘sustainability’). After offering a brief history of ‘vulnerable’ development and reviewing the literature on vulnerability from the development, economic and environmental fields, we use this vulnerability versus rootedness frame to present analysis from our field work in two ‘vulnerable’ countries: the Philippines and Trinidad and Tobago. Integrating the article’s sections, we then propose a new interdisciplinary framework for development that builds on and supplements the human rights, ecological, equity and democracy frames: the notion of ‘rootedness’ at the household, local and country levels.