“Other worlds are possible” – a new book on climate, development and growth

New Economics Foundation has published a new book, “Other Worlds are Possible”, which contains a set of essays on climate change, development & growth.

It features contributions from Dr Rajendra Pachauri (Chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), Professor Herman Daly (Leading environmental economist and winner of Right Livelihood Award), Professor Wangari Maathai (Nobel Peace Prize winner), Professor Manfred Max-Neef (environmental economist and winner of the Right Livelihood Award), Professor Jayati Ghosh (economist) and David Woodward (nef fellow).

It can be bought in print, or downloaded free from this page:

http://www.neweconomics.org/publications/other-worlds-are-possible

A forward by Herman Daly introduces the book:

Climate change, important as it is, is nevertheless a symptom of a deeper malady, namely our fixation on unlimited growth of the economy as the solution to nearly all problems. Apply an anodyne to climate and, if growth continues, something else will soon burst through limits of past adaptation and finitude, thereby becoming the new crisis on which to focus our worries.

The fact that the contributors to “Other Worlds are Possible” realise this makes this report a serious study. The fact that they seek qualitative development that is not dependent on quantitative growth makes it a hopeful study. It is a valuable collection of the specific and the general, of the grass roots details and the macroeconomic big picture regarding climate change and economic development.

The reader is told up front that, ‘This report represents the work and views of a range of individuals and civil society groups. It is a contribution to debate on what other worlds are possible. Not all the views and policies discussed are necessarily held by all the groups and individuals’. Although I did not find any contradictions among the various contributions, they differ greatly in approach and perspective—mainly between top-down and bottom-up modes of thought. Some people like to start with a big picture. They are impatient with concrete details until they can fit them into or deduce them from a framework of meaning consistent with first principles. Others are impatient with a big picture unless they first have a lot of concrete details and examples that inductively suggest a larger pattern. I confess that I belong to the first type, but that is more of a bias than a virtue. Both approaches are necessary, and are present in this collection, but the bottom-up predominates, at least in number of pages.

My advice to the top-down types is to first read Manfred Max-Neef’s fine big-picture essay. Then fit in the inspiring examples of Kenya’s Green Belt Movement, Thailand’s self sufficiency, Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness, the Happy Earthworm Project, the Happy Planet Index, etc. More inductive types should save Max-Neef for last. I do not mean to characterize Max-Neef as a top-down thinker since he has spent much of his life doing grass roots, ‘barefoot’ economics. But in this volume’s division of labour his is the big-picture essay.

To have packed so much information, inspiration, and analysis into less than 100 pages of clear prose leaves the reader grateful to the authors, the Working Group on Climate Change and Development, and nef.

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