Category Archives: health

Fioramonti: growth is dying as the silver bullet for success – this may be good thing

In May, Lorenzo Fioramonti*, Professor of Political Economy, University of Pretoria, wrote an article for The Conversation, republished in Quartz. He opens: “GDP as a measure of growth fails to account for damages caused to the environment by industrial activity”.

In his new book “Wellbeing Economy: Success in a World Without Growth” he points out that the “growth first” rule has dominated the world since the early 20th century. No other ideology has ever been so powerful: the obsession with growth even cut through both capitalist and socialist societies”.

Edited extracts

He asks: “What exactly is growth? Strangely enough, the notion has never been reasonably developed” and presents a view beyond that limited to an increase in overall wealth (common sense): “Growth happens when we generate value that wasn’t there before: for instance, through the education of children, the improvement of our health or the preparation of food. A more educated, healthy and well-nourished person is certainly an example of growth”. He then outlines the paradox: “our model of economic growth does exactly the opposite of what common sense suggests”. Here are some examples:

  • If I sell my kidney for some cash, then the economy grows.
  • If a country cuts and sells all its trees, it gets a boost in GDP. But nothing happens if it nurtures them.
  • But if I educate my kids, prepare and cook food for my community improve the health conditions of my people, if a country preserves open spaces like parks and nature reserves for the benefit of everybody, it does not see this increase in human and ecological wellbeing reflected in its economic performance.

But if it privatises them, commercialising the resources therein and charging fees to users, then growth happens.

Preserving our infrastructure, making it durable, long-term and free adds nothing or only marginally to growth. Destroying it, rebuilding it and making people pay for using it gives the growth economy a bump forward. Keeping people healthy has no value. Making them sick does. An effective and preventative public healthcare approach is suboptimal for growth: it’s better to have a highly unequal and dysfunctional system like in the US, which accounts for almost 20% of the country’s GDP.

Wars, conflicts, crime and corruption are friends of growth in so far as they force societies to build and buy weapons, to install security locks and to push up the prices of what government pays for tenders.

The earthquake in Fukushima like the Deep Water Horizon oil spill were manna for growth, as they required immense expenditure to clean up the mess and rebuild what was destroyed.

Disappearing growth

However, Fioramenti brings the good news that growth is disappearing; economies are puffing along- even China, the global locomotive, is running out of steam. And consumption has reached limits in the so-called developed world, with fewer buyers for the commodities and goods exported by developing countries.

Energy is running out, particularly fossil fuels, and global agreements to fight climate change require us to eliminate them soon. Measures to mitigate climate change will force industrial production to contract, limiting growth even further.

The future of the climate (and all of us on this planet) makes a return of growth, at least the conventional approach to industry-driven economic growth, politically and socially unacceptable.

Fioramonti continues: “Decades of research based on personal life evaluations, psychological dynamics, medical records and biological systems have produced a considerable amount of knowledge about what contributes to long and fulfilling lives. The conclusion is: a healthy social and natural environment.

As social animals, we thrive thanks to the quality and depth of our interconnectedness with friends and family as well as with our ecosystems. But of course, the quest for wellbeing is ultimately a personal one. Only you can decide what it is. This is precisely why I believe that an economic system should empower people to choose for themselves. Contrary to the growth mantra, which has standardised development across the world, I believe an economy that aspires to achieve wellbeing should be designed but those who live it, in accordance with their values and motives”.

He points out that even the International Monetary Fund and mainstream neoliberal economists like Larry Summers agree that the global economy is entering a “secular stagnation”, which may very well be the dominant character of the 21st century – an apparently disastrous prospect for our economies, which have been designed to grow – or perish.

But it is also a window of opportunity for change. With the disappearance of growth as the silver bullet to success, political leaders and their societies desperately need a new vision: a new narrative to engage with an uncertain future.

This article is part of a series to be published following the release of Lorenzo Fioramonti’s new book: Wellbeing Economy: Success in a World Without Growth (MacMillan South Africa). Lorenzo Fioramonti does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above. The idea that the economic “pie” can grow indefinitely is alluring. It means everybody can have a share without limiting anybody’s greed. Rampant inequality thus becomes socially acceptable because we hope the growth of the economy will eventually make everybody better off.

 

 

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Population: edited extracts from Progressive Protectionism:

Following the post on migration and immigration, we turn to Colin Hines views on population – a subject which, he notes, green groups have ‘fastidiously’ ignored, in the face of developing countries’ activists and leaders saying it was a form of colonialism and others claiming that the root of environmental problems was the consumption patterns of the rich, not the growing numbers in poor countries.

Two noted environmentalists, Jonathon Porritt and David Attenborough, disagree with their Green companions about population growth

Porritt has pinpointed a weakness: “they have a very deep fear that addressing population issues will distract people from the real issue: over-consumption in the rich world rather than overpopulation in the poor world” but stresses that “It really is possible to pursue two big issues at the same time”.

One of Attenborough’s key insights was in answer to a question about overcoming the problems of an ageing population. It is often argued that we’ll need more young people to look after the old, hence we should encourage larger families or more immigration. Attenborough’s riposte was: “The notion of ever more old people needing ever more young people, who will in turn grow old and need even more young people, and so on ad infinitum, is an obvious ecological Ponzi scheme”.

A United Nations Population Division study by David Coleman demonstrated that for the UK to retain its 1995 support ratio of working-age people to older dependants (4.09), it would need to import 59.8 million immigrants between 1995 and 2050. This would involve inward net migration of more than a million people every year and nearly double UK population by 2050.

Over the years Colin Hines relates that his focus has moved from population to food to nuclear power and proliferation, to automation and jobs then finally to an anti globalisation and pro localisation approach.

He says ruefully, “Along the way I frankly fell asleep at the wheel on the population topic. This has changed however when I woke up to the fact that if net migration continues at around recent levels, the UK population is expected to rise by nearly 8 million people in 15 years, almost the equivalent of the population of Greater London (8.7 million). 75% of this increase would be from future migration and the children of those migrants.

The population growth would not stop there. Unless something is done about this growth it is projected to increase towards 80 million in 25 years and keep going upwards”. See the Office for National Statistics here.

Chapter Two of his book (above, left) looks at the reasons why global population numbers are projected to rise by over a billion more than was forecast a mere six years ago and debunks the idea that ageing populations in rich countries need more immigration. It explores the right to fertility control as well as the responsibility for choice of family size. The policies of Progressive Protectionism which will help to reduce and eventually stabilise population growth – a crucial goal for a densely populated country like the UK – are detailed. Surprising facts are published by Migration Watch:

Over 90% of international migrants to the UK go to England, which now has a population density of 410 people per square km, just lower than India and nearly twice that of Germany and 3.5 times that of France.

As Hines says, the enormous rise in world population annually takes place at a time of increasing food, water, energy and raw material constraints, of ever worsening environmental degradation and mounting difficulty of providing adequate social needs such as education, health and housing in an increasingly unequal world. Acknowledging that population growth is not the only cause of such problems, he maintains that rising numbers also makes them much harder to deal with.

As life expectancy increases and birth rates fall, populations are ageing and it is currently thought that the only way to cope with the reduced ratio of those working to those who have retired is to increase the number of children or young immigrants

But Hines points out that longer, healthier lives mean more people can work longer, unless they are in very physically demanding labouring work. With more flexible working arrangements, more jobs can be done by older workers, enabling them to top up their pensions by working as much or little as they choose.

In the absence of immigration, it is estimated that the potential support ratios could be maintained at current levels by increasing the upper limit of the working-age population to roughly 75 years of age.

There is a fascinating ‘chapter within a chapter’ on the Japanese culture concludingAll these factors result in another advantage, people don’t just live longer, they stay healthier longer. A World Health Organisation study in 2000 found that Japanese people enjoyed an average of 74.5 years of healthy life, compared with 71.7 in the UK and just 70 in the US”. A linked FT study is also of great interest.

Hines’ conclusions:

Reduce the rate of population growth

Hines sees the cornerstone for this as being for people, from now on, to consider having no more children once they have had two. The current Conservative government appears to agree; it has today brought into force new rules on Child Tax Credit – worth up to £2,780 per child per year – so that it will only be paid for the first two children in any family. Like all this government’s cuts and ‘austerity’ this will only be a problem for low-income families.

Train workers in the UK to care for the elderly frail

A valid contribution to strengthening local economies is developing a better resourced and more caring approach to looking after the growing number of elderly who need some assistance will generate huge business and job opportunities in the care sector. A massive education and skills programme will be needed to train workers in the UK for an adequately paid career in this sector.

During this transition Hines realises that it might be necessary – and also in the nursing and agricultural sectors – for some shortfalls to be filled by immigrants for as short a period as possible. He stresses that we should in general avoid taking skilled and much-needed people from their country of origin, but short term transitional arrangements might also improve the skills of those coming and increase the benefit to their host country on their return.

See: http://progressiveprotectionism.com/wordpress/

Colin Hines will be speaking on Progressive Protectionism in Birmingham on April 22nd.

 

 

Moving towards a new, balanced, green economy

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In her recently published book, Dr Christine Parkinson sets out a series of measures which could move us towards a new, balanced, green economy:

 

  • introducing greater incentive schemes to encourage businesses to develop, use and market greener technologies and to penalise those who don’t. Examples of this could include: using and developing renewable forms of energy; phasing out motor vehicles which use petrol or diesel and introducing those that run on easily-accessible clean energy;
  • investing in research institutions which have the ability to develop innovative solutions to today’s climate-change problems;
  • introducing legislation to reduce the use of the motor car, such as restricting the number of cars owned by each household, unless they run on clean energy;
  • phasing out coal-fired power generation, ending fossil fuel subsidies;
  • introducing a carbon tax on those companies who continue to use fossil fuels;
  • rebalancing the economy, so that the rich are not rewarded for irresponsible behaviour that adds to the carbon load;
  • setting targets for meaningful reductions in carbon emissions by an early date, as suggested by Desmond Tutu in his petition (chapter 1) and ensuring that the calculations for this are correct;
  • phasing out nuclear power and nuclear weapons worldwide and re-channelling the money saved into the incentive-schemes and investments mentioned above;
  • proper funding of those institutions regulating the tax system, so that tax evasion and avoidance is properly penalised;
  • shifting the tax system to penalise those activities which need to be discouraged, such as greenhouse gas emissions and the accumulation of wealth;
  • banning certain household appliances and gadgets, which are not necessary and only add to the carbon load;
  • establishing a new institution, which will monitor the use of fossil fuels by companies and promote, and provide support for, the use of greener forms of energy;
  • encouraging less air travel, by raising awareness about the damage this is doing to the planet and encouraging airlines to invest instead in technologies that do not damage the planet;
  • working globally with other partners to reduce deforestation;
  • re-balancing international trading systems, so that goods and animals are not transported unnecessarily across continents and seas, adding to the carbon load;
  • encouraging countries worldwide to be self-sufficient in terms of goods and resources, so that goods are not imported which can be produced internally;
  • re-thinking and re-balancing entirely transnational trading systems;
  • working globally to find a better means of international co-operation in working jointly to reduce and reverse that damage that is currently being done to the planet;
  • encouraging partnerships between local government and local cooperatives and social enterprises;
  • encouraging the setting up of local groups (3G groups), where individuals can meet together to share what they are doing to reduce their carbon emissions and to encourage each other to keep going with it, even if the majority of others are still in denial (3G stands for three generations – the amount of time we have left).

She continues: “Some of the ideas above are already being worked on, and others are not about changing the economic system but about reducing carbon emissions, but I hope these are a starting point for others to add to, if we are really serious about taking meaningful anti-climate-change measures before it is too late”. 

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Christine will be speaking in Birmingham on April 22nd.

“Three generations Left” can be ordered direct from the publishers, using the following link: http://www.newgeneration-publishing.com/bookstore/reference/bookdetails/1778 or can be ordered from the Amazon website, print on demand, as follows: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Three-Generations-Left-Activity-Destruction/dp/1787190412/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1483704765&sr=1-1&keywords=Christine+Parkinson

It is priced at £11.99 per copy in paperback or £4.99 for an ebook.

Whilst much of the book is viewable on this website, she would prefer you to buy a copy as any profits from the sale of this book will be used to fund her son’s work amongst slum children in Uganda.  Last year was a difficult one for this project (Chrysalis Youth Empowerment Network), as due to the devaluation of the pound post-Brexit, monies sent from the UK to Uganda had lost a fifth of their value.

Contact: christine@cyen.org.uk

 

 

 

Edited extracts from Progressive Protectionism: migration, immigration

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Colin Hines describes the open borders to movement of people within Europe as undemocratic and anti-internationalist, stealing the brightest and the best from poorer countries.

Britain is the world’s second largest importer of health workers after the US, including more than 48,000 doctors and 86,000 nurses in 2014, despite the fact that in 2010, along with all WHO members, the UK signed the ‘Global Code of Practise on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel’, which ‘encourages countries to improve their health workforce planning and respond to their future needs without relying unduly on the training efforts of other countries, particularly low-income countries suffering from acute shortages’.

Crucially the recipient countries must rapidly train enough doctors and nurses for example from their own population to prevent the shameful theft of such vital staff from the poorer counties which originally paid for their education.

Migration’s boost to population levels in the richer countries results in a larger ‘ecological footprint’ than would otherwise be the case. An ecological footprint is the measure of human impact on the Earths ecosystems. WWF defines it as ‘the impact of human activities measured in terms of the area of biologically productive land and water required to produce the goods consumed and to assimilate the wastes generated.

The crucial thing is to tackle the root cause of why people leave their friends and culture in the first place. This is normally because their economic prospects or level of personal safety are bad enough to force them to emigrate. The replacement of the present system, code name international competitiveness, which pits nation states against nation states in economic warfare, and export led growth will both be drastically reduced as the emphasis shifts to protecting and rebuilding local economies.

Since 2004 there has been a rapid and uncontrollable rise in immigration as millions of workers from the new member states in Eastern Europe came to Western Europe. In the UK, a favourite destination, the number of East Europeans here has increased by nearly one million since 2004, when it stood at 167,000. This has led to increased pressure on local services and housing, and a downward pressure on the wages of the unskilled in particular.

In a dense, long and fully referenced chapter Hines points out that these large-scale migrations occurred at a time when on average, between 65-70% of households in 25 high-income economies experienced stagnant or falling real incomes between 2005 and 2014. The income of the bottom 90% of their populations has stagnated for over 30 years. This has unsurprisingly led to a political backlash.

Progressive Protectionism aims to reduce permanently the amount of international trade in goods, money and services and to enable nation states to decide the level of migration that their citizens desire. This would take our continent into a new more hopeful future by offering the majority a localist programme that the left, green and small ‘c’ conservatives could unite around, bringing a sense of economic security and controlled immigration, similar to that enjoyed in Western Europe during the fifties, sixties and early seventies.  

See: http://progressiveprotectionism.com/wordpress/

Colin Hines will be speaking on Progressive Protectionism in Birmingham on April 22nd.

 

 

 

Will constructive journalism empower and engage people?

pos-news-headerIllustration by Spencer Wilson: the fact that some conflicts have ended has helped reduce world hunger

Lucy Purdy of Positive News writes: “It was a tough year by many measures but 2016 also saw some reasons for celebration. We look behind the headlines for signs of progress”:

  1. World hunger is at its lowest point for 25 years
  2. The Rio Olympics featured more female athletes than ever before
  3. The Paris Climate Change Agreement came into force
  4. For the 24th year in a row, teenage pregnancy rates declined in the UK and US
  5. Wild tiger numbers increased for the first time in 100 years
  6. The number of women dying from pregnancy and childbirth-related causes has almost halved since 1990
  7. Evidence suggests that major diseases, from colon cancer to heart disease, are now starting to wane in wealthy countries
  8. India turned on the world’s largest solar power plant – spanning 10 sq km – in the state of Tamil Nadu
  9. Public smoking bans appear to have improved health in 21 nations
  10. Black incarceration rates fell in the US
  11. Measles has been eradicated in the Americas – the first time the disease has been eliminated from an entire world region
  12. An HIV cure may be a step closer after a trial cleared the virus in a British man
  13. Italy became the last large Western country to recognise same-sex unions
  14. China installed 20 gigawatts of solar in the first half of 2016
  15. Volunteers in India planted 50m trees in 24 hours
  16. Life expectancy in Africa has increased by 9.4 years since 2000, it was announced this year
  17. The amount of money it would take to eliminate extreme poverty is now lower than the annual foreign aid spend
  18. Giant pandas are no longer endangered
  19. The number of deaths from malaria is at a global record low
  20. The World Bank says we are now one generation away from achieving universal literacy

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Researcher Jodie Jackson explains that by studying the impact of Positive News upon its readers, she found that constructive journalism can empower people and engage them more in society

The news tells us a story about the world in which we live. But we all know that it is not the whole picture. We are only ever presented with a small fraction of our world, but it is so enlarged it can appear to be the whole picture – and herein lies the problem. The stories that are amplified are the ones that are most extreme, most conflict-driven and most unusual, fitting our modern news mantra of “if it bleeds it leads”.

“The news is not, in fact, a reflection of everything that goes on in the world, it is a reflection of everything that goes wrong in the world”, wrote US academic John Sommerville in 1999.

Even though we may know it to be the case, we are not fully conscious of this distortion of reality the news creates. Instead, our minds are working away to respond to the information around us in ways that keep us safe and protected.

As my research points out, the psychological consequence of the skewed truth created by the negativity bias in the news can lead to a misperception of risk, in which people think that world is more dangerous than it is.

Continuously confronting an unresolved threat can lead to anxiety and a feeling of helplessness. It makes us more likely to become a passive observer of the world rather than a participant in it, leading to lower mood levels, contempt and hostility towards others, desensitisation to the issues being presented and potentially total disengagement . . .

Now, more than ever, is a good time to put the brakes on unbalanced, inflamed news narratives.

positive-news                                                 Another sign of progress.

It appears we may have found a way to do this, which could not only halt the current media trajectory but launch a new one altogether. It is known as constructive journalism and solutions-focused news. . .

My research has found that people who read Positive News magazine were lifted by reading about possibility and progress. Secondly, they showed reduced levels of anxiety and helplessness, and thirdly they also showed increased levels of hope, optimism and self-efficacy – the belief that their actions were capable of making a difference.

Media has a powerful influence on our world. We believe excessive negativity in the press is destructive for society, so instead we are working to create a more constructive and compassionate media.

 

Read the whole article here: https://www.positive.news/2017/society/24721/solution-focused-news-can-empower-people/?mc_cid=c294f1d511&mc_eid=99a7ecd039