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January-February 2011
Vol. 36, No. 1

Future strategies for sustainable living

In a one-hour PBS special called Fixing the Future, which aired on November 18, host David Brancaccio brought viewers a glimpse of the future seen through the eyes of people across the United States who are working to create a new economy by using innovative approaches to create jobs and build prosperity.

Brancaccio’s analysis started with a basic distrust of the measure our society uses to measure economic success: gross domestic product (GDP). While GDP measures how much money is circulated in society, well-being is not always considered. Think of how a car crash increases GDP – car repairs, medical bills, and perhaps lawyer’s fees all add up. Great for GDP, but not great for the person who is involved in the accident. (See the NewsNotes special six-part series on ecological economics.)

Brancaccio traveled across the U.S., exploring how people in the U.S. are creating a path toward prosperity with a focus on local community wealth. The program shows that throughout the country people are busy building a new economy and more sustainable ways of living.

In Bellingham, WA he interviewed Michelle Long of Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), a network of socially responsible businesses that collaborate to build an economy based on sustainable practices. Based on the belief that local, independent businesses are uniquely prepared to align commerce with the common good and bring transparency, accountability, and a caring human face to the marketplace, BALLE catalyzes and connects local business networks dedicated to economies that reflect the full-costs of production while exposing the real inefficiencies of factory farming, conventional construction, and urban sprawl.

In Cleveland, OH, Brancaccio takes viewers to meet the worker-owners of Evergreen Cooperative Laundry, a co-op committed to environmentally-friendly laundry services. By linking to anchor institutions like local hospitals, this laundry cooperative has changed people’s lives – allowing them to stay in the local area rather than moving to find jobs or looking for illegal means to survive. While in Cleveland, Brancaccio visits Ted Howard of Community Wealth, a clearing house for tools and information on community-based economic development. Howard’s work with the Cleveland Foundation has helped spread the Evergreen model to serve other anchor institutions’ needs with other job-creating worker owned enterprises.

Brancaccio considered the ecological cost of transportation as he documented these innovative community alternatives throughout the country. As much as possible while keeping pace with his demanding schedule, he tried to take buses, trains and other greener forms of transportation.

This program and the accompanying website serve as a wonderful resource for anyone interested in replicating efforts or becoming involved with existing ones. The Fixing the Future website maps places where people can see what alternatives are already being practicing around the country, such as local banking, car and bike sharing, farmers’ markets and “time sharing,” which includes offering cooked meals, car rides, lawn work, etc., where each hour of service earns the participant an hour of some other service provided by another “time share” member.

Faith in action:
Get involved in fixing the future. List your own community initiatives and connect with the ones already posted here.

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