From a beach community in Sierra Leone, a Manifesto for measuring our future:
In order to keep on improving our sustainable lifestyle, in order to show that it is possible to live in harmony, we have developed 10 indexes that help us measure our impact at Tribewanted, John Obey Beach, Sierra Leone; where we have been living for the past 18 months, in the hope of developing a model sustainable community.
We cannot fix the world's problems with the same paradigms that created them.
Our 'leaders' still talk of the paradox of jump-starting growth and austerity measures in the same breath. They still tell us that in order to come out of recession we need to stimulate consumption, maximizing profit and GDP growth; indebting ourselves and our countries to buy junk we don't need, just so the economy can gain a few percentage points. Change starts at the village.
How did we get here?
The most successful "ism" of our generation, more than capitalism, socialism or communism, has been consumerism. One of the most influential men of the 20th century was Edward Bernays, but few know who he was. In the 1920's he was the brainchild of the advertising industry. When Big Industry was concerned that citizens didn't need any more stuff, he suggested turning needs into desires and created public relations. Products became an extension of the self, a new language that turned the citizen into a consumer. Big Industry never again had to worry about lack of costumers and Bernays wrote a book called Propaganda. In it, he describes how the best way to control the masses in a democracy is to keep them consuming and believing that if they could just own the next product they will finally reach happiness, but they can never quite reach it, otherwise they'll stop consuming.
40 percent of the economy is in the hands of the banks; severe deregulations have turned it into a casino. Politicians financed by lobby groups are forced to make short term political-cycle decisions, while the challenges ahead of us are intergenerational ones, and need a 20+ year vision. We are sold the idea that we have to choose between the environment and poverty, while the reality is that the two problems are one and the same, and working to solve one would automatically help solve the other. We find ourselves at this junction as a species not by accident, but a calculated design. But we cannot grow forever in a planet with finite resources. Even the fathers of our market economies, John S. Mill and John M. Keynes, said that GDP growth was only useful until a country reached a certain level of prosperity, after which new indexes were more apt.
Debt to finance consumption to stimulate growth doesn't work anymore. It doesn't provide more employment, it doesn't make the gap between the rich and the poor any smaller, it doesn't protect the environment, it doesn't make us any happier.
We need a new way forward. A Green New Deal, promoting saving instead of spending, encouraging the public to invest in Green Bonds which can be used by governments to invest in long term green energy, green infrastructure, and sustainable agriculture initiatives; employing millions of youths and teaching them the skills for the 21st century. Turning our linear "throw-away" society into a cyclical system, where everything assembled is built to be disassembled, everything is up-cycled, the way it is in nature.
We need to promote a public-private partnership, not only human rights, but also human responsibilities. Change the system but also change ourselves. We were taught how to be consumers; we can learn how to be citizens again. Measure success with different metrics. Prosperity without growth. A sustainable revolution.
There are three pillars to sustainability: economic, environmental and social.
And in our small experiment on this little sliver of paradise, with illegal logging encroaching on one side and illegal fishing on the other, we began to measure these metrics. To provide the outline for a footprint we hope others will follow.
Click here for our 10 indexes.
We strive to continue to improve our sustainable impact, and in the words of Gandhi, be the change we want to see in the world. Perhaps these metrics are also useful in developed countries, perhaps not. But if our leaders begin measuring prosperity using social and environmental factors instead of just economics, perhaps we can show that a new way forward is possible and just maybe, we can begin to measure what really makes life worth living.
Tribewanted Sierra Leone