Re: The Happy Planet Index: an introduction


Richard Moore

Date: Fri, 14 Jul 2006 14:02:53 -0700
Subject: Re: The Happy Planet Index: an introduction
From: Jan Slakov <•••@••.•••>
To: <•••@••.•••>

Dear Richard,

To follow up on this "Happy Planet Index" suggestion, I'd like to 
recommend a book, entitled Life, Money & Illusion by Mike Nickerson.

Mike talks about alternative measures to GDP/GNP such as the GPI (or 
HPI). Indeed, the book is chock full of information to help us move 
towards what you have called a "livable future". I'll copy below a 
message I sent out recently to friends and activists all across 

all the best, Jan
Dear friends,

I'd like to let you know about a book I just got, entitled Life, 
Money & Illusion by Mike Nickerson. I think it's great, offering us a 
clear description of where we are in terms of the viability of the 
natural and human-created world, what systemic problems we will need 
to overcome in order to make the shift from a growth-based to an 
ecologically sustainable way of life, and how to pursue that 
direction more effectively. It's refreshing in that it speaks from a 
place of full awareness of the gravity of the crises we face, but 
approaches its topics in a non-judgemental way, and looks forward 
with enthusiasm towards the creation of a better world.

The price is $19.95; you can order a copy from the author at <•••@••.•••>.

all the best, Jan

Life, Money & Illusion

by Mike Nickerson

What the book is about.

"Life" refers to the biological processes by which living things 
maintain themselves over time, "Money" to the present economic 
ideology that says that as long as the volume of money changing hands 
increases, all will be well. "Illusion" refers to the fact that these 
two perspectives are directly opposed in terms of how they would 
solve current problems.

One of them must be mistaken.

Chapter topics:

1. Without Vision, the People Perish; Collecting the Vision:
2. Vision for the 21st Century
3. Life; How it thrives
4 Problems with Life; Human Impacts on a Full Planet
5. Mutual Provision; Money, Markets and an Orderly World
6. Magnitude and Abstraction; When We Grow Very Large

Problems with our Market Economy
7. Where Value is Neglected
8. Where Value is Overstated
9. Money; Its Creation, Management and Growth
10. The Monopoly End Game

Economic Solutions; Living on Earth as if we want to stay
11. First Steps
12. Practical Changes
13. Monetary Reform

14. Cultural Foundations; Working Together as Societies
15. How to Get There from Here: Legitimacy, A Question of Direction
16. A Crack in the Road: Motor Culture
17. What Will Become of Us?

Appendix I Tapping our Collective Potential

Mutual Provision:

Economics is everything people do for each other. Whether actions are 
taken for love, barter or money, they contribute to mutual provision. 
I use the phrase "mutual provision" synonymously with "economics" to 
make it clear that the whole process is, in essence, about people 
taking care of each other. This reassuring perspective is often lost 
in the shadow of the competitive economic model now in command. To 
the extent that the present model no longer serves the common good, 
it will change as conventional wisdom recognizes the deviation.

Life, Money & Illusion tracks how economic patterns change as the 
communities they serve grow from extended families, through local 
populations and nations, to global civilization. While there are 
advantages to large-scale production, the potential for participants 
to be alienated from each other and from the natural environment 
grows with the size of the system. With alienation come opportunities 
for unfortunate advantages to be taken.

"Money is the life blood of civilization. Without money it would be 
very difficult for any but small communities to work together in 
mutual provision. By enabling millions of people to cooperate, money 
provides a great service. With this service, however, comes danger. 
Money gathers and flows in economic streams. The greater these flows, 
the greater the temptation to tap in and drink deeply."
(from Life, Money and Illusion)

The Need for Change:

Another aspect emphasized in the book is the fundamental shift that 
is taking place in humanity's relationship with the Earth.

"Throughout history, the amount of fish that people could catch was 
limited only by how much time and equipment we invested in fishing. 
Today, the amount of fish we catch is limited by the number of fish 
in the sea... We face similar limitations with forests, food lands, 
fresh water, fossil fuels and the Earth's ability to absorb waste."
(from Life Money and Illusion)

With this fundamental shift, from consuming a fraction of what nature 
provides, to being able to consume it all, and more, comes the need 
to restructure the economic system. The system we have inherited is 
designed for expansion and does not work well when it is not growing. 
With most of the Earth's capacity now full with humans, we need an 
economic system that can be stable at a size consistent with the 
carrying capacity of our planet.

Economic Options:

There are many practical ways of reorganizing mutual provision to 
accommodate our "full" Earth. Many of these are described, including: 
well-being measurement, where social and environmental indicators are 
used to guide policy formation and help reconnect our large system 
directly to its social and environmental impacts; tax-shifting, so 
that public revenue is a levy on problem-causing activities, rather 
than an expense that discourages employment and enterprise; 
alternatives to our debt-based monetary system; and encouraging 
people to seek fulfillment by enjoying what living offers, rather 
than through material accumulation.

Obstacles to Change:

An economy based on sustainability makes sense when people think 
about it, but it's not a possibility that gets much exposure through 
conventional channels. It will take widespread popular assertion 
before sustainability is adopted as society's goal. Material 
expansion presently brings great wealth to those with fortunes to 
invest. They secure their fortunes by controlling the commercial 
media and thereby, how most people view the world. In addition to the 
obstacle of vested interests, is the obstacle of wide-spread denial. 
The problems of pollution, resource exhaustion and social 
disintegration are big and frightening. People don't want to face 
them. As a result, most are inclined to accept the reassuring message 
that all they need to do is earn and spend more money and all will be 

Nurturing Popular Will:

To fortify readers to face the present challenge, I dedicate space to 
explaining the psychology of denial. The potential for overcoming 
barriers swells when the tendency to block out disturbing thoughts is 
identified and cause for hope offered. We humans are extraordinarily 
gifted with perception, intelligence, creativity, experience and 
cooperative ability. There are creatures with far less potential that 
have sustained themselves for many millions of years. We should 
expect as much, and more. Our current problems are largely due to 
success. The present system is powerful. It has succeeded at doubling 
and redoubling material production - the result sought by those in 
control. The directors of our economic system are not inclined to 
notice problems resulting from their success. They seek to solve 
emerging problems through further expansion. Life, Money and Illusion 
makes the case that the fundamental shift in our circumstances is 
creating new problems, ones that cannot be solved without a 
fundamental change in how we manage mutual provision.

The Question of Direction:

Growth based economics are well past their "best before" date in the 
developed world. If we are to pass the Earth on to our children's 
children, we have to change direction. A popular education campaign 
is outlined to introduce the choice between "grow-until-we-drop" 
economics and the economics of sustainability. It is a Question of 

I haven't discovered anything new here. A generation of pioneers has 
worked out a full spectrum of ways to overcome today's problems. By 
assembling their insights into this book, and by following up with 
the Question of Direction campaign, I feel we will be able to focus 
attention on the pivotal choice we need to make in order to change 
direction. Through cooperative networking, those of us concerned 
about the future can employ the leverage of democracy to bring this 
choice to popular attention.

I believe that humans will be living secure, healthy lives seven 
generations from now. But to do so we will have to shed the Growth 
ideology. We know which way to proceed. Life, Money and Illusion 
invites you to apply your will to the lever that will ultimately tip 
the balance.

By: Mike Nickerson

Sustainability Project

2799 McDonald's Corners Rd.
RR #3
Lanark, Ontario
K0G 1K0


Questions and comments are welcome.

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