On the CUSP of something big?
Tony Emerson and George Dow write:
CUSP (http://www.cusp.ac.uk) is the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity. Based at Surrey University, among its stakeholders are Green Alliance, New Economics Foundation; Global Action Plan, Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development, Theos and Involve.
It covers most of the same territory as our own Joy in Enough programme (JiE) http://www.greenchristian.org.uk/joy-in-enough, but without the under-pinning commitment to Christian faith. However CUSP is a well-funded interdisciplinary research programme supported by the Economic & Social Research Council, whereas JiE strives to create a movement for action across the Christian church communities and beyond – but relying totally on our voluntary efforts so far!
We were among the many GC members who attended the launch of CUSP at Methodist Central Hall in London on May 23rd 2016. The event was introduced by CUSP’s director, Tim Jackson (author of Prosperity without growth). The event consisted of an introduction by Tim Jackson followed by a discussion between Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and Karen Allen of Unilever, and another discussion between Rowan Williams (ex-Archbishop of Canterbury now at Cambridge University) and Satish Kumar (veteran editor of the magazine Resurgence)
The event concluded with an excellent performance by Streetwise OperaAAA and a reception to enable networking.
Look out for the full conference report (including audio and video recordings) on http://www.cusp.ac.uk/event/nature-of-prosperity/
Some notes we made:
- Prosperity consists of the capabilities we have to flourish as human beings on a finite planet
- We can have more fun with less stuff
- As economies develop beyond a certain point their people don’t get any happier – the UK economy is well beyond that point
- CUSP is highly relevant to the need to decarbonise our economy, as per the Paris agreement
- Importance of the example set by countries like the UK for the ‘developing’ economies
- Developing cultural resilience is at the heart of prosperity
- Vital to get the involvement of business and finance in this new ‘investment for tomorrow’
- CUSP’s work draw on the contribution to be made and challenges faced from 5 areas (MAPSS), ie Meanings & Morals, Arts, Politics, Society and Systems.
- She and four other MPs have set up the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Limits to Growth
- Difficulty of political campaigning for ‘enough’ rather than for more of something
- Can get politicians and business people engaging in this debate – but very difficult to get them to transfer the outcomes of this debate to their political and business decision making.
- Cannot have a healthy (global) business in an unhealthy world
- Important to extend a business’s sense of responsibility from direct employees and customers to all involved in the supply chain – from the employees in ‘back the line’ suppliers to final retailers of the products in question
- Our working practices and so many features of our lives are creating so much insecurity
- We respond to insecurity by trying to exercise control over so much of our lives – including our own deaths, which we are too insecure to face up to
- He related this insecurity to our economic behaviour and the consequential social and environmental problems
- A key question therefore is: what forms of growth undermines our security, what forms strengthen our sense of security
- Security needs collective action – we cannot increase our security individually
- What can prosperity look like in a worlds of environmental and social limits?
- What problems has economic growth solved? We still have poverty, inequality etc
- How do we shape people to hold the bigger picture and not be hypnotised by the need to be materially successful?
- Very important that education, which is now so highly academic, gives space to explore non-academic learning and work. Modern education is tending to produce a nation of Daleks!
The point was re-enforced for him when he spent a week in the school of his primary teacher daughter. She set him to work with a group of kids making a meditation tent. Not yet competent was the verdict!
- He would also like to see a society in which people are proud of the amount of tax they pay, seeing tax payment as their opportunity to contribute
- He re-enforced Rowan William’s points regarding education and work.
- We need to value poetry and see the spiritual value of work like gardening and cooking
- Prosperity is about fulfilment – not about following an economic rule book
- We need to bring caring work back into centre stage – e.g. in the NHS where technology seems to be displacing care
- We need to try and make every profession a vocation again. But where we cannot, where the work is done purely for money reward rather than fulfilment, we should not have to work more than we days a week
- The excess complexity of life is associated with the payment of excess incomes
- We need to value the concept of ‘elegant simplicity’.