Jacob Bomann-Larsen: Report from Norway - February 2013

New Economy Forum Seminar

Inspired by a suggestion from David, when we had our Skype talk early in 2012, we have developed a Norwegian New Economy Forum. We had our first meeting in the Forum on the 5th May 2012, which I have already reported from. About 50 specially invited people participated. The second meeting we had on the 18th September 2012. It was a full day seminar in the middle of the week, and about 150 people took a day off from their ordinary job to spend the whole day with us. It was the same kind of enthusiasm we experienced more than ten years ago when David gave his talk in Oslo at an evening meeting arranged by Forum for System Debate and where about 700 people participated. This time Ross Jackson was the keynote speaker. He presented his book Occupy World Street. To me the book is a brilliant summing up of my own thinking during the last 38 years. In addition it gave me a lot of new insights into the world of international finance, and very interesting and important proposals for new international institutions. Ross calls them the new Gaia institutions for the sake of reference. I call them just the New International Institutions for the sake of getting on with political processes. The word Gaia may perhaps work in Denmark differently than it might in Norway. Ross explains why he uses the term Gaia, but it is not natural for me to use that term when I work across party political boundaries in Norway.

Here is a link to Ross Jackson’s talk at the New Economy Forum and also the presentation of the other speakers:

The Gaian League - The organization, Sustainable Everyday, (the Norwegian member organization of Global Action Plan International) which is operating the New Economy Forum, announced at the seminar that they planned to establish two working groups as a following up of the seminar. One should work with local town planning along the lines of the Transition Towns concept. The other group should work to develop a Gaia League for a ‘break away strategy’ for interested countries who would like to work together to develop New (Gaia) International Institutions. Both Ross Jackson himself and Sustainable Everyday have asked me to take the lead in Norway for such a work for developing New International Institutions. We had dinner and a long talk about it after the seminar. By the way, I used to work together with Ross’ wife, Hildur, in the early 1980s when we were both part of the so-called Nordic Alternative Campaign.

On the one hand I am absolutely interested in helping preparing the ground for New International Institutions which I think is of vital importance. On the other hand I feel quite uncertain how I shall go about to do that. But of course I know the way will take form as I start walking it. So far I see I have these working tools:

  • The best outlines of the New International Institutions I have seen are Ross Jackson’s outlines in his above mentioned book, and John Cavanagh’s and Jerry Mander’s outlines in their book Alternatives to Economic Globalization.
  • Norway may be a relevant candidate for being a member of the new “Gaian League,” because we are a small country with relatively small social problems, small inequalities, relatively good international reputation and a relatively high common understanding of the sustainability and inequality challenges of the world.
  • We are giving consideration to the formation of a working group to promote new international institutions, understand the structure of the system and decision-making processes, develop political processes that can move Norwegian officials towards a new institutional reality, and influence where the decisions are made. We may also consider the relationship with institutions such as WTO and how it connects with the New Economy concept and framework.
  • Recently, I was contacted by the present Chief Coordinator of the Norwegian Chairmanship of the Barents Euro-Artic Region Council, Sverre Stub. He is a former Norwegian Ambassador to Greece and to Jordan. He had read some of my writings on the New Economy and had found it was very much in line with his own thinking. When the World Commission on Environment and Development presented its report, “Our Common Future” (the Brundtland-report), he got the job to promote the report and its message to various UN-institutions. To him that was some of the most meaningful job he had had, he said. He invited me to a personal talk in his office in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; I have the impression we could have common ground and he could be a good ally in the future.
  • From my conversations with Ross Jackson, I will be making relevant connections with leaders in Iceland to explore the possibility of joining a “Gaian League.”

The Church of Norway (which most people in Norway belong to) invited me to participate in the 9th Assembly of the European Christian Environmental Network (ECEN). It took place in the Netherlands from 29th August to 2nd September 2012. At the end of the conference I was invited to be part of a working team that shall try to come up with ideas that the churches ought to stand for in relation to economics, ecology, ethics and justice. In the beginning I shall do some work for the Church of Norway on this stuff. Enclosed you will find what the conference in the Netherlands managed to come up with this time. Participation was close to a hundred people from 22 European countries representing protestant, catholic and orthodox church traditions. What the working team comes up with will be sent out to churches in all these 22 countries.

In the Fall, there also was a conference at the University of Bodø in Norway for Nordic ecological economists. I was invited to give a talk about my government office experience in implementing ecological economy issues into practical policies at the national level. I experienced that the audience found the talk very interesting.

At the local level, I have realized that in my new area where I now live, the region stretching from about 40 kilometers to about 100 kilometers west of Oslo, a lot of interesting new economy relevant activities are taking place, more than before, and without many people being aware that this is part of the new economy. Most of them have not even heard about the concept of the New Economy. But for me this is now becoming very interesting to know more deeply. We have already arranged a New Economy meeting in my new area.

After the meeting, we made a good connection with Per Olaf Lundteigen, a member of the Norwegian parliament (representing the Centre Party – which is the traditional farmers party), and his wife. We have, since then, had very interesting conversations. He said that he always has had biology and nature as the basis for his economic thinking. I gave him a signed copy of David’s book Agenda for a New Economy, a copy of the last issue of YES! Magazine – “What Would Nature Do?” and “This Changes Everything,” which he was very pleased to receive. He said he was already aware of David, Herman Daly and Helena Norberg-Hodge. To my surprise, he also said that, back in the 1970s, I was one of the people who inspired him to start working for a sustainable society in a global perspective. We look forward to working together; I assured him that my involvement would be across the parties.

In March I shall go to a seminar in Denmark focusing on “Global Sustainable Development – Visions for transforming society with particular emphasize on Nordic perspectives.” Those arranging the seminar hope to develop a serious Nordic network on this. I hope to meet Ross Jackson there.

This link will take you to a very interesting speech which the late President of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere made in 1975 at the Royal Commonwealth Society. I think his main messages in the speech are even more relevant today and for the New Economy than in 1975. I imagine the inequalities he speaks about are generally worse, today.

One of his important formulations is this: “The Leaders of the Rich Countries must have the courage to tell their people that they are rich enough.” Nyerere used to be very popular in Norway.

Erik Dammann (the founder of the Future in Our Hands, which is the largest sustainability organization in Norway) and I wrote in 1977 a book called “The Political Parties at the Turning Point.” In the book we suggested a new policy for Norway through 50 questions and we managed to get representatives from the leadership of all the political parties represented in Parliament (eight parties) to answer the questions on behalf of their particular parties. One of the questions was if they agreed with President Nyerere when he said: “Without hesitation or apology I assert that if the wealthy nations … still have an ambition for material growth and greater consumption, then they need to ask themselves whether they are serious in their desire to reduce the gap between rich and poor countries, and eradicate poverty from the earth.” Seven out of eight of the party leader representatives answered with slightly different clarity that they agreed with Nyerere and that the consumption level in Norway is high enough. That was back in 1977. Today the consumption level is much higher. This year is Parliamentary election year. I plan to confront the parties with what they said in 1977 and ask what they plan to do to come down to a sustainable and much lower consumption level per capita than we are having today.