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Slide 1: Taking care of our global community We know we live in special times.

We also know we live in distressing times. As David Suzuki once said: “Never in the history of the world have so many of us known so little about so much”. Slide 2: Nuclear Plant picture As you watched the recent nuclear crisis unfold, in a country with both the discipline and means to apply the highest levels of knowledge wasn’t it painful to watch firetrucks spray water on exposed spent nuclear fuel rods? So where do we begin? I feel pretty overwhelmed by how many world events we’ve seen recently. How about you? The worst flooding in Australia’s history following droughts; massive social unrest leading to the toppling of governments in north Africa; a 40% reduction of the ozone layer over the arctic, a problem we thought we had addressed. A 25% increase in the price of fuel, and an unprecedented increase in the US money supply leading to rapid devaluation of the world currency.

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Slide 3: Distraught Faces of Traders All of this right after the biggest story of the last decades, the economic collapse in 2008. Seen by many as a massive fraud that was committed by global bankers. Who was defrauded? All of us, it seems. Will anyone be held accountable? It seems not. Turns out, there were no rules. Where do we go to make sense of all of this? We feel stuck trying to grapple with any single event adequately. Many of us feel numb, helpless. So we tune out, or search for some good news. Some offer simple answers. Others distract themselves, change the subject. Too depressing, they say. What I’ve noticed is that the line between natural and human caused disasters is blurring. Maybe if the Fukishima nuclear plant wasn’t built 50 metres from the sea shore, a nuclear melt-down could have been avoided. If our thinking was longer term, slower, smaller and perhaps more global would the results be different? Would the lines be less blurry? It seems to me that at the human level, it doesn’t matter what the cause of the calamity was, we somehow, as a human family, need to respond. How do we respond?

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In order to suggest a possible way forward I’m first going to go back in history. SLIDE 4: French words on a façade. 220 years ago in the French revolution the people overthrew the aristocracy. Their vision was liberty, equality and brotherhood. In today’s terms we would call brotherhood: Community. Community is the feeling of “kinship with” and “closeness to” a group of people around us. Today one only has to look to the uprising of the communities of citizens in North Africa and the Middle East to see the struggle for liberty and equality played out again. SLIDE 5: Farm in the countryside My sense of community started when I was a child. I grew up on a little farm in Switzerland. The farm had about 20 cows for milking, a few hundred orchard trees, and grain, potatoes and strawberries -- a little bit of everything. I learned that to live and work is to live in harmony with those around me and with nature. A farming family with a small piece of land totally depends on nature and each other. For all the work to get done in time, we all had to help. It wasn’t always the perfect picture of unity in my family, but we all knew that it took all of us to get the job done – we had to rely on each other, our community. Slide 6: Momentum staff with banner and balloons
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In 1991, 15 years after coming to Canada, I was asked to consider starting a new initiative in Calgary, one that would try to make a difference in the lives of low income people. Over the years, we developed training programs for immigrants, micro business start-up and loan programs and in 2000 we added financial literacy and savings programs. Today we work with over 4000 citizens per year. As we began to tell the story of Momentum, what struck me is how often, people would say: “what you are doing is great, it’s just what we need here”. I would ask: so what do you like about it? Almost always the answer would be: “that these people will become independent”. That answer always left me feeling a bit deflated. Why? Because independence is an illusion. Slide 7: Momentum Participants throwing colored balls You see, I believe, and our work has proven – just as I had learned on the farm, we can only succeed if we do things together. Fifteen years later we have enough experience and patterns to know that what our participants are taking away from Momentum is inter-dependence not independence. Ultimately we build community -- meaningful connections between people built on equality and interdependence.
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What does all of that have to do with what’s going on in the world today? Part of the answer comes from an economist who published a classic in 1973: E.F. Schumacher in “Small is Beautiful”. His ideas are far more inspiring to me than the conventional economic wisdom of “bigger is better” which is measured in large part by how much we buy as shown in GDP growth. Schumacher became intimately acquainted with problems of energy supply and environmental sustainability (well before the Green movement). Meanwhile, his interests in gardening, Buddhism, and Gandhi, pushed him to expand his economic thinking. SLIDE 8: Workers erecting wall Not many economists question economic growth these days in fact most count on it. But Schumacher did just that. He questioned economic growth and proposed a radically different relationship between human beings and technology in order to bring about more fulfilling working lives. The purpose of technology up until this point, has been to produce as much output per labor input as possible. All the machines invented for this purpose, however, have not only served the dubious end of making many workers redundant, but their prohibitively high cost discourages self-employment. As a solution, Schumacher proposes an “intermediate technology,” one which requires more workers and can easily be purchased and used by poor people. In his model, more people have satisfying work within their existing communities.
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So how does all this fit together? What do the disasters we’re seeing today have to do with economic growth? Let me try to explain: The lack of community is connected with an economic system that has become completely dependent on growth and thereby on consumerism. It is fair to say that as long as we simply buy more and more, we will not succeed in building community. Individualism and this illusion of independence have led to the “every person for themselves mentality”. Growth and consumerism rely on cheap sources of energy and an earth that doesn’t ask to be paid for the resources it provides us. How can we stop this cycle? SLIDE 9: Broccoli in the garden Gardening is one of my passions. It gives me great satisfaction both as an outlet for my creative side as well as a concrete step toward growing more food locally. One thing I have learned from gardening is: I can’t make plants grow: I can water, give them the best soil, fertilize, it helps, but grow - they must do on their own. I have learned: all I can do is create the conditions for plants to flourish – through good care. And so it is with community: we can’t create community, but we can create the conditions that help communities flourish.
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Here are 3 things each of us can do toward that end: SLIDE 10: Three bullets: Question economic growth and consumerism; Live with a global code of ethics; Take the time to ask questions, see the bigger picture, look for the patterns: Question growth: I am sure if there is an economist in the room, the question I would get it is: do you know what you’re talking about questioning growth? If we don’t have growth we will have massive unemployment. I recognize this is not simple, but I want to encourage all of us to think more radically. Think longer term, deeper and smaller but not shorter. PAUSE Develop Ethics: We need to define a global moral compass. A compass where true north points in the direction of social, economic and environmental justice. Those are big words. No matter which definition one uses, justice always builds on a sense of equality. We need to define a global constitution, based on the reality of global economic ties that have bound us all together in the last couple of decades. However, this code of ethics needs to treat the earth as an equal partner in the quest for global stability and survival. PAUSE Ask questions: Many of us have lost sight of the big picture. For example: many citizens in western societies are deeply and rightfully concerned about government spending as debt is piling up. Yet, very few of us
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understand with any sense of proportionality where the money goes. Some of the largest budget line items are never challenged. For example, in 2010, the US spent close to 50% of tax revenues on the military. On top of it, the Department of Defense is deemed un-auditable. The auditors conclude that there are '”material internal control weaknesses”. Sounds like a mess to me. I believe, we have lost our ability to truly analyze, because we have lost any useful sense of proportions. Instead of genuine information we get a news story or spin, a sound bite. And we don’t question. We need to dig deeper, look for and demand better information. SLIDE 11: Garden landscape Some of us say rather flippantly as we depart from one another “Take Care”. I think this captures the essence of what our task is as human beings: to take good care. It’s important work to take care of ourselves of course, of those around us, of our communities, our city, our country and our global family. Today, more than ever this means to take care of the earth, of nature, of all that sustains life. Use all resources as though they were precious, they are. Thank you and more importantly take care!

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