My name is Miriam Kennet and with Volker Heinemann, as the Institute's Directors we felt that economics had got really inefficient and out of touch.
Volker had studied economics at one of the oldest Universities in Europe,Goettingen in Germany. He had then gone on to write a book, called Economics of the Future, Die Ekonomie der Zukunft.
You cant separate out economics from natural science. The attempt to do so has led to complete disaster.
I had studied ancient greek at school and noticed that the words for "economics" and "ecology" had their roots in the management of the household. That they were the same root after all, not separate.
Economics was not in fact the study of graphs, and preferences of rationale economic man, or homo ekonomicus. Economics had begun as estate or home management, more perhaps the domain of women, more than men, but over the years, it had come to exclude women, (there are only 3 female economics professors in the UK today,) and it came to be the domain of white middle class western or Harvard educated men. I checked the list of nobel prizes for economics and couldn't find any women.
Much of the Institute's methodology has been influenced by recent advances in feminist economics and listening to other voices.
But for me as an archaeologist, I wanted to investigate how provisioning was done before historical times, before "civilisation" so I investigated the work of Gimbutas. I also questioned provisioning in similar species, such as the "bonobo" and chimp patterns of provisioning, and what is termed behavioural economics, the work of De Waal, and of Robert Sarsosky, and was surprised to find, that early on we had a more balanced and more matrifocal economic set up. It seems to have been agriculture and "civilisation" that led to what has been termed " patriarchy and accumulation."by Maria Mies. As climate instability takes hold and as we move away from agriculture, this male, patriarchy and accumulation model ceases to be appropriate to meet our needs. We need to evolve to a new holistic paradigm.
Far from being a homely and home making science, as it had started out, economics had turned into an alienating social discourse, which was only expressed in terms of graphs and formulae, which everyone has found dismal and irrelevant and incomprehensible. Volker and I went to Goettinghen to the enormous economics library, and read with horror the Cambridge Journal of Economics, December 2005, in which every article by mainstream economists complained how unhappy and unfulfilled they were and how economics had failed them intellectually, as well as failing in terms of social and environmental justice.
But even worse, its rate of success was devastingly poor. According to figures by Jeffrey Sachs, out of 6.3 billion people on the planet, in 2005, 2.3 billion live in life threatening poverty. If we compare this rate of failure to the manufacture of say a car or a plane, if fully one third of the cars crashed or the planes dropped out of the sky, we would end production, close the entire factory, and revisit our whole philosophy of design. Why on earth do we permit economics to have this kind of failure rate without revisiting its basic ideas?
So Volker and I two years ago we set up the Institute. It is completely independent and completely cross party and have members from all sorts of parties across the globe and governments in many countries for example our launch in the English parliament was hosted both by Plaid Cymru and attended by Tony Juniper, head of friends of the earth international.
We also founded what we think is the first green academic journal in the world, supported by an academic publisher the International Journal of Green Economics, you can have a look at a some copies I have brought along. We have received 50 articles for the next issue, and the calibre is amazing with top professors queing up behind campaigners,and business people, to get published in it.
The Institute supports research, we encourage and share best practice, from anywhere in the world. We run lots of conferences, most recently last Saturday on green economics and philosophy, and on feminism, energy, campaigning for green economics and a green economics retreat, which was full of professors of psychiatry and social workers! We now run a regular conference at oxford university, the next one is in April 2007 and you are all most welcome. We now have about 6 publishers chasing us for materials, and we have received 270,000 hits since we set up our website.
This helps us communicate with people from all over the world and we are now setting up branches in 30 countries, with people wanting to run projects in many different places.
We have japanese on the web site and people in St Lucia, Venuzuela, India, China, Finland, South Africa, Chile, Russia, Estonia,and the USA. etc.
Victor Anderson said that " what the world needs now is a new economics more than it needs a new anything else." And Professor of Economics Jack Reardon in the USA says that we have managed to create a new discipline, and even a professor of main stream econometrics at Cambridge has said he thinks our methodologies will change the way economics is done in the mainstream!
I think our basic simple message is, that economics is done by every one and everything on the planet, it is about provisioning, it is not about price. It is about economics access for all, and economics responsibilities of everyone, we all have an economics effect.
Green Economics goes beyond previous philosophies of needs and rights, and tries to see and define, people, all people everywhere, including minorities, and women, people in former colonies, home workers, as well as non human species, nature, the planet and the biosphere, as beneficiaries. They are no longer regarded as simply imputs, to be made scarce to drive the price up.
We need an economics of abundance, and true growth. Growth today is defined in terms of increasing money, so chopping a tree down in the rainforest, creates financial income, but it is not growth, it is actually destruction and actually makes us all poorer. We want to change the terminology so it describes what we are doing and importantly its true effects. Economics must reflect reality.
This view is completely radical and turns the whole way we do economics on its head. The role of the Institute is to bring together, campaigners, academics, politicians, and business people to create change together.
Amazingly I was invited to address 350 of the worlds top business leaders in Geneva at the Hotel Intercontinental earlier in the year, and the globlal CEO of Price Waterhouse Coopers came up to me, and he said that the average shelf life even of a CEO was only between 3-5 years and then they are on the scrap heap. He said they are only as good as the set of figures they have produced for short periods of say one to three months. What they want is much more long termism in the trading environment.
I had the distinct feeling from that meeting, which was about how to work to reduce poverty and help the environment, that the mainstream has completely run out of ideas and that what we were offering was desperately required and extremely welcome.
So it gives me enormous pleasure to be here today, to launch our work in the Scottish Parliament. But a Scottish Launch was our first dream when we set up the Institute, and I cant believe today has really arrived. Since Mark has been so wonderfully supportive, and I notice very important in pressing for change in Scotland. I am absolutely delighted to be here and want to thank Ben and his team for organising it. I wish the branch in Scotland huge success, I notice already that Scotlands ecological footprint is better than many countries in similar situations, and that Scotland is very much doing its bit. So I have high hopes that this will provide a very important and fundamental platform for change.
We wish you every success, and will do everything we can to help you.
Thank you very much