In October, GNHUSA Board member Michael Moser and I had the good fortune to attend the “Localize It: What Resilience Looks Like” conference, sponsored by the visionary international group Local Futures/Economics of Happiness at the Vermont Law School. That event was one of four conferences in the U.S. — including one in Yellow Springs, Ohio attended by GNHUSA Advisory Board member Beth Allgood — and two more in Korea and Japan. In Vermont, Michael and I also led one of the break-out sessions, discussing data from the 2017 Vermont Happiness report as well as interviews from the Happiness Walk.
I found the conference to be powerful, eye opening, reality-based and hopeful. Thoughtful, inspiring speakers — including Frances Moore Lappe (from the Small Planet Institute), Sherri Mitchell (from the Land Peace Foundation), Helena Norberg-Hodge (from the hosting organization, Local Futures/Economics of Happiness) and Gus Speth (from The Next System Project) — were uniformly clear that we are collectively in a massive decline of our current broken economic system. Simultaneously, they stressed that there is much reason for hope as millions and millions worldwide are rising up to create new happier, healthier, more equitable systems in greater alignment with the natural world and our fundamental humanity.
It was a both a sobering and uplifting weekend, with much valuable information and perspectives. For me, the most important organizational message was this: GNHUSA is on the right track. Speaker after speaker stressed the need for inclusion, for non-partisanship in working together to move away from the growth economy and co-create the next economic system or systems. There was also an emphasis on love and positivity — all values which GNHUSA also espouses as we seek to build a gross national happiness movement that welcomes everyone to join in.
In Yellow Springs, Ohio, Beth Allgood had a similarly powerful experience. Presenters at the OH event included Helena Norberg-Hodge along with Charles Eisenstein, author of Sacred Economics and The Ascent of Humanity; Michael Shuman, author of Local Dollars, Local Sense and a founding board member of The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE); Jim Merkel, author of Radical Simplicity and director of Saving Walden’s World; Anthony Flaccavento, director of Sequestering Carbon, Accelerating Local Economies (SCALE) and author of Building a Healthy Economy from the Ground Up: Harnessing Real World Experience for Transformative Change; and Brett Joseph on Community Banking and Cooperatives. Beth reported, “The basic message of all the speakers reinforces what we know – systems problems result in symptoms we see – poverty, inequality, crime, climate change, species extinction, disconnection with each other, anger, fear, etc. and we ALL want to connect – with each other, the earth, nature,” Beth says. “We learned a lot of about the value of local economics staying in the local economy, and seeing our actions (with each other and the earth) when we stay local vs. global. The society – not corporations — needs to set the rules in the new iteration of the next system, and we all need to be activists in getting the right information (good news, holistic approach, systems/ecology connections) out to a big audience to get hope flowing out of cynicism and depression. We have to unite the small movements together into a peoples’ movement.”
We all need to be activists. We need to unite. We need to be realistic, and hopeful.
We need to be a movement.