Monthly Archives: November 2015

Not So Far Off Course

Much is possible with our current systems.

Much is possible with our current systems.

Guess what?

I’ve been studying and learning and thinking for many years, trying to figure out how we can solve this environmental dilemma that we humans find ourselves in. And I’m not completely sure about the following, but—more and more I’m realizing that the workable path forward is likely to be a variation of what we’re doing now, and not some drastic departure or major paradigm shift. When you look at the big picture, we humans are not as far off the track as some fear.

That statement might cause some hand-wringing in some quarters, and it does seem a bit counter-intuitive when you see the immense damage that is being done to the planet. BUT, here’s my thinking—to fix it, we don’t need revolutionary changes, we need evolutionary ones. To explain, here are four things we don’t need— Continue reading

One Powerful Way to Change the World

“Systems should exist to serve society, and right now our capitalist system is not serving society, it is serving shareholders.” —Jay Coen Gilbert, Co-founder of B-Lab.

Fair trade matters.

Fair trade matters.

How you spend your money matters. We vote once a year for politicians, but we vote virtually every day with our dollars. And how we cast those dollar-votes really, really matters.

Every single time we spend money on a product we are reaching out with our economic power and acting on the world, often in places that are far, far away. Our dollars can support deforestation, the inhumane treatment of animals, pollution, sweatshop labor, or all manner of social ills, but they can also support fair wages, care for the environment, or community development, depending on our spending choices. These are REAL EFFECTS, and they are there whether we choose to see them or not. Continue reading

Sweatshops: Free Trade or Modern-day Slavery?

The bodies of two workers after the collapse of a sweatshop factory in Savar, Bangladesh, in 2013.

The bodies of two workers after the collapse of a sweatshop factory in Savar, Bangladesh, in 2013, where over a thousand workers were killed.

 Co-written with Joseph Bruhl

When it comes to understanding globalism and free trade, I think the world has gone crazy. I’ve written many times about the need to be informed consumers, and the power of our vote when we use our dollars to make sustainable, values-based purchases. But when it comes to many basic goods and services provided through a global economy, it’s hard to know what to think. In a complex and interconnected world, real solutions defy simple rhetoric. On the left, writers criticize the status quo and ignore basic economic truths while proffering unworkable alternatives. On the right, lovers-of-the-market can’t get beyond the basic dogma of “free trade benefits both parties.” In the middle, we find ordinary, common sense. The market provides powerful tools that lift millions to a better life. But, the market also carries tremendous risk of exacerbating inequality and deepening the misery of millions. As consumers, we must remain clear-eyed about the benefits and dangers of the market, and ensure that our dollars leverage the power of the market while minimizing its risks.

In China, anti-suicide nets surround factory dormitories. In Bangladesh, thousands of dead lie entombed in collapsed factories. In Indonesia, workers suffer as they sew our clothes for pennies an hour, while local industries in Jamaica are decimated by unfair competition. All of this tells us that something is amiss. Continue reading