Young People Tire of Old Economic Models

ethicalmarkets.com –

At the recent United Nations conference on “gross national happiness,” a scattering of young participants looked on with a clear sense of urgency as mainly graying dignitaries, economists, scholars and others pondered ways to gauge progress that go beyond traditional monetary measures. One was Christopher Stampar, a sophomore from the University of Miami who works for the nonprofit group Nourish 9 Billion. He received one of the most enthusiastic rounds of applause when he let it slip that he was 19.

Also on hand was Michael Sandmel, who is graduating this year from New York University and involved with the organization U.S. Youth for Sustainable Development. After the one-day session, which included briefings from economic luminaries including Jeffrey Sachs and the economics Nobelist Joseph Stiglitz, he reacted this way in an e-mail message:
It’s great to see new paradigm slowly making its way into the mainstream. I think this is demonstrated quite well by the comments made by professors Sachs and Stiglitz, neither of whom, even four years ago, I would have expected to reference the Easterlin Happiness Paradox or the Planetary Boundaries Framework.

But he added that his generation was not taking a transition for granted, pointing to the student-organized Transition to a New Economy conference that had just been (at) held Harvard:

We had around 140 attendees from universities around the country. Many of us study in mainstream neoclassical economics departments where interdisciplinary ecological-economics, and the questioning of G.D.P. growth as a primary (or, depending on who you ask, desirable) objective, is still very much fringe thinking. I don’t attempt to speak for all of my peers, but I know that many of us share an enormous frustration with the way in which our supposedly leading institutions teach us about the economy in a way that is myopic, ahistorical, and devoid of nearly any critical conversation about sustainability or human well-being. This is particularly troubling as we regularly see our schools accredit future leaders in business, finance, and government, sending them into a world of 21st century problems with a 20th century toolkit. Many of us have been involved in our local Occupy movements, including Occupy Harvard, and have been trying to use the crisis as an opportunity to push an agenda of plausible alternatives to unsustainable and inequitable finance-dominated capitalism. Many of us will be getting together again in June for the Strategies for a New Economy conference at Bard College and will be in Brazil for the Rio+20 conference and the events surrounding it.

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Wastewater treatment…evolved

Living Machines –

The idea of using wetland ecologies to clean polluted water was first conceived by Dr. Käthe Seidel, a biologist at the Max Plank Institute, in the early 1950s. Though she was often opposed by colleagues (who sometimes disparaged her as “Bulrush Kate”), Dr. Seidel conducted experiments throughout the 1950s and 60s which showed that plants and microorganisms could clean water much more effectively than had previously been thought.

The idea was taken up by many ecological designers in the 1970s and 80s. One of these was Dr. John Todd, who designed what he called living machines which sought to marry technology with natural processes to create an environmentally responsible way to treat wastewater on site.

Early model Living Machine®, Findhorn Foundation, Moray, UK

The vegetation in Todd’s systems required greenhouses, and were planted on top of “activated sludge” containers. To produce usable water, they required a settling tank called a Secondary Clarifier, which separates a large amount of messy, smelly sludge from the water. The sludge produced by these systems must be disposed of frequently.

Todd’s versions of the Living Machine® were an innovative effort, but they didn’t get consistent treatment, and could not be made to be simple and cost effective. In 1999, Tom Worrell, an investor and partner of Dr. Todd’s, acquired the Living Machine concept, the company, and all of its intellectual property from Dr. Todd. He then put his engineers to work making the technology practical, reliable, and cost efficient.

One of Worrell’s first ground rules was “No Clarifiers.” He wanted a system that would not depend on activated sludge to do the core of the work. The result was the first Living Machines® that used a wetlands model to treat the water without generating troublesome biowaste that needs disposal.

Wetlands Living Machine® at El Monte Sagrado Resort, Taos, NM

The Next Generation Living Machines® developed by Worrell Water Technologies use beneficial microorganisms (incorporated via engineered biofilms), wetlands plantings, and sophisticated control systems to reliably and efficiently produce water treated to the highest standards. They are stable, healthy, living ecosystems which require less energy to operate, and less work to maintain, than competing treatment systems. They also have a much smaller footprint, and operate in a way that produces no excess waste to be carried away.

Next Generation Living Machines® can be designed for indoor or outdoor applications across a wide variety of climates. For a description of how they work, see our How it Works page.

To read about The Living Machine® in action, go to our Portfolio page.

For more technical information, see our Resources page.

United Nations held a High Level Meeting for ‘Wellbeing and Happiness: Defining a New Economic Paradigm’

Encouraged by the government of Bhutan, the United Nations held a ‘High Level Meeting for Wellbeing and Happiness: Defining a New Economic Paradigm’, attended by 650 world leaders.  The meeting marks the launch of a global movement to shift our focus away from measuring and promoting economic growth as a goal in its own right, and toward the goal of measuring—and increasing—human happiness and quality of life. Continue reading “United Nations held a High Level Meeting for ‘Wellbeing and Happiness: Defining a New Economic Paradigm’”