Let's earthquake-proof and rebuild our economy with a Triple Bottom Line

What were we thinking? All of these actions stem from the conviction of a “Single Bottom Line” economy.  That is, making money and profits are the only measure of success. In the last 60 years, the market economy’s importance has come to over-ride everything else. We’ve let ourselves believe that doing everything and anything to foster unlimited growth and production will result in massive profits and that would be all we would need for economic success.  As a result, small farms were gobbled up into big conglomerates in order to make ever-more profits. But as we’re beginning to see, this was at the expense of communities, the environment and ultimately, self-sufficiency across this country.

Clinton was blinded by this Single Bottom Line economy zeal when he, with utter conviction, set into motion the policies that have now left Haiti in crisis. This was occurring as well throughout the US.  Businessmen, economists, and government policies are all part of this conviction. But as Clinton has now shown that policy has failed tragically in the acute crisis playing out in Haiti.  And in our country, it is playing out through a slow and chronic slide into mediocrity. Today, social problems like obesity, Type II Diabetes, addictions, poverty, and environmental problems of clean air and water are the legacies of the Single Bottom Line economy.

Out of tragedy can come blessings: The good news is that there’s another option besides the Single Bottom Line/profits are everything economy.  We can choose the Triple Bottom Line economy. This is an economy that measures and monetizes success through three interwoven criteria: social -- doing what’s good for people, environmental -- doing what’s good for the environment, and business -- making choices/making profits in alignment with what works best for all three parts. The result?  We end up creating an economy that works for people, the planet and business.

Who benefits the most? Business. In a Single Bottom Line economy/profits rely on the system. The pressure on the market sector to continually grow and create profits forces the system to make decisions that often make no sense.  The most obvious example of this is the Wall Street/banking debacle. As has now been exposed, Wall Street created ‘toxic assets’ that it sold for massive profits, yet few, if any, of the investment instruments had any real world value at all.  But that didn’t seem to matter to anyone, as long as massive profits were being recorded!  And then, to further increase profits it created a secondary level of toxic assets -- the CDS to bet against the first. As this story unfolds it becomes clear why, what now looks like crazy actions were instead lauded as ‘genius thinking’ by those who were creating these instruments. They had found a ‘magical way’ to make more profits out of nothing, and since this is the only measure of success we recognize, everyone was good to go with the game. Investors worldwide were ecstatic to be able to see their portfolios grow and grow and grow. All was fine until the economic earthquake brought it all down to rubble.

Ironically, if we were to expand into a Triple Bottom Line economy the business sector would benefit mightily. Redesigning the economy to include people, planets and profits would allow us to take the pressure off the markets as the sole creator of wealth. As I’ve written in other articles, a 3BL system would enable us to include new employment sectors as wealth creators: the household sector, the volunteer sector and the natural sector. This is a conscious economy that puts the quality of life and the quantity of profits in a balanced proportion benefiting us all. And it would allow businesses to make better, long-term decisions and enable it to get out of the ‘fake wealth’ system that has led to economic crisis.

Clinton has busted the myth of the Single Bottom Line economy:  Let’s rebuild with a Triple Bottom Line and earthquake proof our economy.

Around the world—and in our backyard, we are beginning to see that economic policies need to be readjusted for 21st century realities. The “too big to fail banks”, the large multi-national corporations controlling our food systems, and a consumer economy/unlimited growth model are all crashing down around us. Clinton’s admission that what seemed like a good idea has proved to be a failure gives us all pause but then opens the doors to new possibilities. Haiti will rebuild a resilient food system on the island, and here in the US, we can too. It is one step in beginning to move towards a Triple Bottom Line economy that works for people, the planet and business!

Recently, former President Clinton acknowledged that food policies he instituted in Haiti during his terms in office were a colossal failure. Haiti was encouraged to end rice production and outsource their major food staple so they could instead concentrate on building their market economy for the future. But as the January 12th earthquake has shown, this policy has left them completely dependent on foreign aid to sustain them during this crisis. Millions are now faced with severe food shortages. Reversing this policy and correcting this situation will take time as Haitians once again learn to become stewards of their own food system. Without this, they remain at the mercy of others.

But as we watch this human-created catastrophe play out in Haiti, did it ever occur to you that a similar policy has been operating in the US for the last 60 years?  Today, just 2% of the population provides the food for 98% of the US. To do this, we have transitioned from thousands of small farms spread throughout the country to a few mega-industrial food producers. We too are now dependent. Any major crisis occur that would disrupt food distribution for several weeks and  we will look much like Haiti. Former Homeland Security Director, Tom Ridge, was once quoted as saying he was surprised that terrorists had not attacked our food system—it was by far the easiest system to disrupt because it was so centralized. Once done, it would create havoc.

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