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UN: “The real wealth of nations”

NewsNotes, November-December 2009

In preparation for the United Nations Summit on Climate Change the UN NGO Working Group on Climate Change invited Dr. Riane Eisler, author of The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a caring economics, to speak at the UN on September 16. Following is a summary of Dr. Eisler’s speech, titled “The real wealth of nations: From global warming to global partnership,” prepared by Ana Cristina Maldonado, law student and intern for the Climate Change Working Group.

Current crises (climate, financial, hunger, poverty, violence) are symptoms of an underlying dysfunction but are also opportunities. According to Dr. Eisler, we live in a domination system: man over man, man over woman, race over race, religion over religion, and man over nature. Addressing these crises and preventing others involves working for a cultural shift to a partnership system that better honors Mother Earth; is more peaceful; has a more equitable wealth distribution; and is more egalitarian between men and women. Progressive movements (human rights; feminist; abolitionist; civil rights; anti-colonial; anti-violence movements; environmental) are shifts away from domination and on the continuum towards partnership. (“Cultural transformation,” the shift from one system to another, is explained in her famous book, The Chalice and the Blade.)

Dr. Eisler’s new book, The real wealth of nations, promotes this shift in economics. Dr. Eisler calls on us to move beyond the tired old capitalism/neoliberalism versus socialism argument. Old categories don’t answer the basic question: What kinds of beliefs and institutions (family, education, religion, politics, economics) support or inhibit our human capacity for caring, for empathy, for sensitivity, rather than our capacity for cruelty, insensitivity, and violence? We must retain and strengthen the partnership elements in both the market and government economies and leave behind the domination elements. We need a new “full spectrum,” “caring” economic system that recognizes that the real wealth of nations is not financial, but the contributions of people and nature.

According to Dr. Eisler, we are measuring the wrong things. [In our current model], activities that harm and take life (cigarettes, oil spills, armed conflicts) are great for measuring productivity, GDP and GNP -- trees and parenting are not. However, embracing the feminine is very economically efficient. The Women, men, and the global quality of life study by the Center for Partnership Studies compared statistics from 89 nations on the status of women with measures of quality of life (infant mortality, human rights ratings, and environmental rating), and found that the status of women can be a better predictor of a nation’s quality of life than GDP. (See NewsNotes article on ecological economics.) The Real Wealth of Nations public policy initiative is creating new metrics to shift funding priorities to more caring policies.

Richer nations need to contribute money for climate change mitigation that should be used to involve women in disaster response planning and training; studies show this reduces casualties of women, children and the elderly. We can each play a part in the shift from domination to partnership by changing the conversation from capitalism versus socialism to caring economics.

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