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Beyond Economism: Toward Earth Ethics

Beyond Economism: Toward Earth Ethics

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heEarth Charter is the single most important people’s dec-laration of the shared common values that lie beyond eco-nomics and money-measured indicators of “success,”“wealth,” and “progress.” The twentieth century saw the zenithof economics as the arbiter of human progress and its gradualtakeover of private and public decision-making. By the 1980sand the rise of Margaret Thatcher in Britain and Ronald Reaganin the USA, economists were fast becoming elevated to the roleof philosopher kings in both industrial and developing coun-tries. This takeover by economics of public policies, massmedia, political discourse and the narratives of business, entre-preneurship, human motivation and social organization hasbeen termed “economism.”The economics profession gradually became pre-eminent ingovernment agencies across the board – from education tohealth, welfare, environment, even the arts and recreation. Pol-icy analysis in all these sectors of societies began to be sub-sumed by economists and their methodologies, particularlythose of cost-benefit, risk-assessment, and valuations of every-thing from the monetary worth of family and social cohesionand human life itself, to ecological sustainability. The myopicfocus of economics on money-based transactions and meas-ures of “value” began to seriously distort public and privatedecision-making.
Indeed, even today, most economic textbooks still teach an obso-lete model of “human nature” based on the primitive stage ofearly human experience, coded in our reptilian brains. For econo-mists, rational behavior is the maximizing of individual self-inter-est in competition with others – implying that humans’ equalcapacities for cooperation and sharing are “irrational.” Theseerrors in economics are compounded by the discounting or ignor-ing of human and social “capital” and ecological assets. The oftenheavy costs of economic exploitation of such human and environ-mental resources arearesult of economic theories of “discount-ing” their value and “externalizing” such social and environmen-tal costs to society, future generations and the environment.
The Earth Charter is a major bulwark reasserting the widely-shared values associated with the totality of human existenceand preservation of options for our survival and common futureon this planet. Thus, the Earth Charter has become a powerfulreassertion of these broader values that lie beyond the narrowcalculus of monetary profit and loss. I believe that this is whythe Earth Charter has found such worldwide acceptance andendorsement in so many countries and cultures. Institutions atall levels and in all sectors of society have endorsed the EarthCharter, from municipalities, civic, academic and professionalgroups to companies such as the USA-based Calvert Group ofsocially-responsible mutual funds on whose AdvisoryCouncil Iserve. Furthermore, the Earth Charter has become a referencepoint for many efforts to articulate other declarations of globalethics, such as the Prague Declaration of Forum 2000 and thoseof the Parliament of the World Religions.There is hope in the unfolding public debates of this twenty-firstcentury, for example, between the business-as-usual views ofmost participants in World Economic Forum meetings in snowyDavos, Switzerland and those of global civil society at the WorldSocial Forum in sunny Porto Alegre, Brasil. The world’s main-stream media have so far failed to adequately understand orreframe these worldwide debates between proponents of eco-nomic and technological globalization, which threaten the
The Earth Charter in ActionPart II: Ecological Integrity73
Hazel Henderson, USA.Athematic essay which speaks to Principle 7 on regenerativeeconomies and the economics of sustainability
Beyond Economism: Toward Earth Ethics
Hazel Henderson
is an independent futurist,worldwide syndicated columnist, and consultantonsustainable development. Editor of
(UK) and
,she also serves on manyboards, including Worldwatch Institute and theCalvert Social Investment Fund, with whom sheco-created the Calvert-Henderson Quality-of-LifeIndicators. Dr. Henderson has been an ardent supporter of the EarthCharter since its inception. Her book
Paradigms in Progress: Life Beyond Economics 
(1991) included references to the Earth Charter’searly Principles. Since then, she has tirelessly promoted the EarthCharter in her books, speeches, and editorials, including a chapter inher new book with Daisaku Ikeda, President of Soka Gakkai Interna- tional,
Planetary Citizenship 
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