The Economics of Hope Conference report, Nov 2015
Two hundred people attended the Joy in Enough “Economics of Hope” Conference in Bristol on 7 November 2015 at the brand new conference centre/auditorium at St Michael’s Centre at St Michael’s Church, at Stoke Gifford, adjacent to Bristol Parkway station. This was organised by Green Christian, with a big input from A Rocha – the two leading Christian “Care for the Earth” organisations in the UK.
We are one of the first national organisations to hold a conference here using the brand new auditorium.
You can read the Press Release here
This is a personal account by Judith Allinson, Green Christian’s web editor (centre right) , who writes:
You may be wondering what went on at this conference
Or you may be a participant who attended a workshop and can send in a report on that workshop – please do send in a comment.. tell us something that inspired you.
In the morning we had three inspiring talks by
- Paul Bodenham (Chair of Green Christian) (Read talk)
- Molly Scott-Cato is MEP for South West England and speaks for the Green Party on finance. She has been a professor of economics at Roehampton University, (See slides)
- Jonathan Rowson is Director of the Social Brain Centre at the RSA,
The morning’s session was chaired by Ruth Valerio of A Rocha UK (right). She did an excellent job of encouraging people to tweet about the conference and you can read the tweets – hashtag jie_ (with an underscore) . See Video of Ruth here
Paul led a lively warm up session before the main talks: (Videoclip)
The morning’s keynote talks in more detail:
Responding to Paul Bodenham’s call call for a ‘good economics’ which would ‘unleash a culture of hope’, Molly-Scott-Cato outlined how an economy not dependent on growth could deliver a richer society. She proposed more equitable ‘globally local’ economies sustained by – and in turn sustaining – the life of their own bioregion. It would be an economy which restored relationships with nature.
Jonathon Rowson took the relationship challenge further. He considered it vital that love be restored to our economy, between humanity and nature as well as between people – in contrast to the attitude in a video sketch. But we would also need to confront our culture’s denial of death in order to regain our place in the natural order. Though not identifying as a Christian, he spoke strikingly of how baptism and the ‘very grown-up story’ of Easter would enable Christians to recover their right place in a sustainable economy.
The seven afternoon workshops examined aspects of the task ahead, and the final plenary demonstrated a shared determination to build a new, just and sustainable economy. No-one will do it for us, and this where your contribution comes in.
Lower down I write 6 points I take away from the conference.
But I invite you to send in comments on things you learned in your workshops or from the main speakers.
Here I give links to people who have written posts about the conference
- . Tanya Jones
- …. space for you – let me know if you have written a post somewhere, and I’ll add a link here.
- Positive Money workshop – Power point slides: We have been sent the power point presentation for the Positive Money workshop (excellent), which you can download here (4MB)
Top six points from the conference
1. Replacing light bulbs and other personal energy saving things are important – but changing our economics and encouraging global things have a far bigger effect – so we need to grapple with that. Hence it was worth coming to this conference.
2. Molly talked about the “End of Life Vehicle Directive” as one of the most interesting policies in the EU – and the circular economy. This resonated with a video clip I had watched recently by James Hindson (who I had met at the “Reconciling a Wounded Planet Conference”) who is involved with developing ideas for “Education in Sustainable Development” (skip the first 3 min of the video) – who encourages the idea of circular economy.
(Short explanation: The linear economy involves getting stuff from the environment, manufacturing it, selling it. Most textbooks omit the vital section: producing of wastes disposing of waste, and producing environmental damage. If the cost of disposal of waste and of environmental damage in included many processes are causing negative GDP.
Circular economy means building in use of waste materials and recycling materials right from the start… )
Jonathan Rowson suggested that the circular economy is a vision that needs spiritual input. Big business would be against circular economy
3. I met a Ghanaian at the conference – who pointed out that we were looking at economics from a occidental point of view. And that people in Ghana do value community things in life. He was also keen to say that the prophet Ezekiel was not afraid of telling the people how they were behaving badly.
4. I picked up literature from the “Equality” stall (well, paid a pound for it): “Why Inequality matters” which is based on the book “The Spirit Level”
I learned a lot from this. Previously I had though that one ought to be in favour of “equality” because that is “fair” – because God loves everyone equally – and because it is what all well meaning people ought to think..
BUT I had thought that the reason we have to live with inequality, and the fact that some people earn 200 or even 300 times as much as others, is because that benefits everyone -and we have to put up with because of the “trickle down effect”. … NOT SO
This book shows we don’t all benefit – that inequality is BAD for nearly EVERYONE, including the rich. The following 6 properties are worse on average in countries where there is more inequality
- Children’s welfare
- Social mobility
- Crime and punishment
- Trust and community
- Economy and democracy
This graph show how badly the UK performs!!!!
In many ways better-off people do worse in more unequal societies. Crime rates are higher, trust is lower, it is harder to mix with poorer people because lives are so different. a rich person is much more likely to be the victim of crime in the US than in Denmark, and their life expectancy is lower than in Japan and in other more equal communities.
5. I brought my Rainforest-fund cards and put them on the Green Christian stall. People were so busy talking to each other, taking part in workshops and visiting other stalls that only a few cards sold. A big thank you to those who did buy some
However whilst here, Sandra Dustson was able to give me £80 she had made from selling cards in Salford. Thus, including the money she has raised previously, we can credit “Churches Together in Eccles” and “The Salford Methodist District” with each buying £100 worth of cards – so I will be able to add them to the Green Christian 100-Churches project.
(Even whilst we discuss economics, so much habitat is being burned, animals killed etc – let’s try and protect some of it for future generations)
6. I was pleased that the Xistence team ( The three people involved in GC’s project for young people) met up with some younger members of the conference to discuss ideas. (If you are 16- 35 and would like to find out more contact firstname.lastname@example.org
7, 8, 9, 10 to follow
If you took part in one of the workshops do send in your impressions.
Comments on "The Economics of Hope Conference report, Nov 2015"
We aim to have a full report of the conference, including notes from all the workshop sessions, within a couple of weeks. But for now I’ll just add I’ll just add my personal reflections. As with most conferences most of us probably agreed with most of what was said. So it is always the points of disagreement that interest me most. A questioner from the floor suggested to Molly (Scott Cato) that we should be more nuanced in our opposition to economic growth. Molly said ‘no’: that only a very clear no-growth economic strategy would be effective. I’m not too sure. Yes we need to be implacably opposed to growth in what is currently measured by GDP (gross national product. But, as the writings of all the ecological economists from Herman Daley to Dan O’Neill and Molly herself make clear, we need growth in many sectors of the political economy: renewable energy, organic food, selective more localised industries and services, voluntary sector activity, etc. We need measures to replace –or supplement – the GDP that take full account of such positive developments .Some sort of net well-being index whose ‘growth’ we could celebrate. So look out for our report on conference workshop one, Measuring Progress, when we get it uploaded. This leads to my second point of disagreement. In the final plenary session Andy from A Rocha (presenter of the Measuring Progress workshop) argued that we need to study economics before we can effectively contribute to discussions in this area. Josh from Rethinking Economics (who presented workshop two on economic education) queried the wisdom of anyone studying an economic subject that had become so flawed in its assumptions and values, as the present dominant neo-liberal school of economics is. This school of thinking virtually deifies growth in materialist production, as the Youtube clip shown by Jonathon Rowson amusingly illustrates https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTfSZ0D39AI. Plainly we need some knowledge of economics before we can engage in this area. In the example above we need to know how the GDP is actually compiled. Or another example: have you ever tried making the simple point to a conventional economist that work sharing, especially by well paid people working very long hours, would help reduce unemployment? And the economist will tell you that you are wrong that this is ‘the lump of labour fallacy’. We need to understand the thinking that such economic fallacies are based on. But I don’t think we need masters degrees – as Andy suggested, and indeed as most of Josh’s colleagues in Rethinking Economics have. Just a few good books. I recommend two very readable ones from Ha-Joon Chang: ‘Economics: The User’s Guide’ and ’23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism’. Good reading. Tony (conference organising group)
A thoroughly enjoyable and informative day. It was well-paced and well planned, and the speakers and the workshops were excellent. I would have liked a little more time for discussion in the workshops, but apart from that, they were very good. I found the TTIP workshop particularly helpful, as it clarified many of the issues around what is a very shady and complex subject. I now feel a lot more confident in talking about it! 'The Economics of Hope' was a very good, timely, and absolutely relevant subject for the conference, as this is a time for the church to make a clear stand for God, in a world that is now dominated and driven by consumerism, inequality, and love of money. "“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." Matthew 6:24
A good weekend, much inspired by the interim report from the Xistence group to the steering committee. Good to see a fully booked conference, content excellent, workshops good, always feel that there is so much more to know, thank goodness for websites.