An Introduction to Green Christian’s ‘Joy in Enough’ Project

Joy in Enough main page

Ever felt frustrated by the constant talk of economic growth on the main news media? Ever wondered how we can have everlasting growth on a finite planet? Ever wished there was an alternative way to organise our economy that respected the restraints of finite resources and human and planetary well-being? Well, surprise, surprise, some people are thinking and planning an alternative economic strategy – and they’re not loonies, but respected economists. It’s just that you never hear them on the Today programme or read their thinking in the mainstream newspapers. Join with GC as we seek to empower ordinary people to take back the economy and to understand what the alternatives are and to seek a role the Church can play in this.

Our current economic system is busting the limits of creation. Like a cancer it is putting all of life at risk. It’s stopped making people any happier. To turn around a well-known phrase – it’s a stupid economy!

Within Green Christian we’re reading and learning from people like Tim Jackson (Economics Commissioner on the Sustainable Development Commission before it was disbanded in 2010 and author of Prosperity without Growth), Dan O’Neill (lecturer in ecological economics at the University of Leeds and co-author with Rob Dietz of Enough is Enough), and the work of the New Economics Foundation.

We’re calling this project ‘Joy in Enough’ to celebrate the sense of flourishing and well-being that comes from living lives freed from the pressure to consume. The old economy of air miles, bottled water and casino capitalism etc, will be very much constrained, but the quality of our lives will be enhanced – more time and opportunity for the things that matter, like craft, culture, sport and friendship.

We’ve set up five working groups to look at different strategies to make the difficult transition to a steady state economy that promotes well-being for all long into the future. There’s no silver bullet, no one solution. Instead there are a number of different strategies that are feasible to implement and which, together, would help turn round the giant oil tanker of ‘growth forever’ economic thinking. We’re looking for more people to join these working groups – to discuss by email and phone and come together for a day conference to share our ideas in  Bristol on Saturday 7th Nov 2015.  Get in touch by emailing  tony@greenchristian.org.uk if you want to join a working group or find out more about our ‘Joy in Enough’ project.

A brief summary of the working group themes:

  • The big trans-boundary questions of limiting resource use, tackling emissions targets, and minimizing the production of waste. WG1
  • Reform of the financial sector; changing national economic goals and how to measure progress; investment in low-carbon economic activities that employ people in ways that contribute meaningfully to planetary well-being. WG2
  • Tackling social inequality and promoting work-time reductions and work sharing to challenge the idea that we can only solve unemployment through growth. WG3
  • Promoting conditions that can improve family and local community relationships; challenging consumerism. WG4
  • The imperatives in scripture and theology for this new kind of economics, and the implied implications for the churches’ mission. WG5

As many experts have shown we can have prosperity without growth. Another world is possible – a world of visions of society, at different levels in different places, where people are less stressed, more sociable, more fulfilled, more peaceful than most of us are now, where unemployment, extreme poverty and inequality are less – and without destroying global life support systems. This is putting ‘love thy neighbour’ into practice for the 21st century, and caring for nature too. It’s not an unrealistic utopia — neighbours will still quarrel, all life’s challenges will still be there.  But we can work together for a world with a more sustainable economy, society and environment than the one we have currently.

Do you want to join us on this road to a new economy? Help us equip the churches to proclaim another world is possible.
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Posted in Economics, JiE

2 comments on “An Introduction to Green Christian’s ‘Joy in Enough’ Project
  1. Bridget Hickey-Williams says:

    Inspiring ideas, which I shall forward to my church and others. I’m not sure I can participate in March, but if it becomes possible I would be very interested in the group which looks at the implications of a new economy on those who suffer from social exclusion.
    Many blessings on this endeavour, and hope to be at the retreat at Ringsfield next month.
    Bridget

  2. Tony Emerson says:

    I’m sending this to all participants in the Joy in Enough working groups over the last year and to a few other supporters of our project.

    Firstly a few practical notices or reminders:

    Put Saturday November 7th into your 2015 diaries as the date for our 2015 conference.
    Molly Scott Cato MEP and economics lecturer has agreed to be one of our lead speakers. Jonathan Rowson Director of the Social Brain Centre at the RSA has also agree to contribute from a social science perspective , while Paul Bodenham will present the Joy in Enough message.
    The venue will be St Michael’s the newly renovated church/church hall at Stoke Gifford nr Bristol Parkway.

    We are preparing two Joy in Enough declarations: a more ‘weighty’ one, targeted at church leaders and theological heavy weights; and a shorter, more punchy version, directed at the man/woman in the pew towards the back of the church. Paul Bodenham and Peter Grimwood, respectively, are taking the lead on these documents

    We will have a dedicated JiE website on which all the supporting documents will be included, especially the work of the JiE working groups. This website will also include a forum for debate and discussion of issues relevant to JiE. The website editor will be Chris Walton (recently retired editor of Green Christian) supported by me.

    This leads me to some end of year reflections:
    we see ourselves as radical disciples of The Man Himself, challenging injustice, challenging the status quo wherever we see it to be wrong, often showing courage and making sacrifices in doing so – at the very least risking unpopularity among our peers (and even our families).

    But then we look at what we are asking for, in Joy in Enough and in the Christian green movement generally: having just enough so that we all can live joyful lives. Not risking calamitous destruction of our life support systems so that we can have fly-drive holidays to exotic places, and/or overeat unhealthy food, and/or live in houses that are too big for us … and this time of the year spend a thousand pounds plus on electronic gadgetry toys for our children/grandchildren – the latter in the name of a saint (Nicholas); generally to allow ourselves to be manipulated by the agents of mega-corporations who want to get us to spend money we don’t have on stuff we don’t need to impress people we don’t really care about.

    Then, as I climb down from my soapbox, a blinding flash: it’s all common sense isn’t it! Most of what we talking about makes sense to most people, whatever their religious or political beliefs, wherever they come from. According to Wikipedia ‘Common sense is a basic ability to perceive, understand, and judge things, which is shared by (“common to”) nearly all people, and can be reasonably expected of nearly all people without any need for debate. That ‘common’ sense in this part of the world has been informed by Christian teaching and practice over the last 2,000 years. Indeed the church itself has been very significantly influenced and shaped by the different cultures in which it has become embedded.

    Now is the time to reclaim common sense in the name of just, sustainable and sensible living, to proclaim our message in the name of that sense. We are not asking for the moon – just to preserve and enhance life on this earth.

    On that the theme of just and sustainable living, I shared an interesting experience earlier this month. As part of our preparation for JiE Paul Bodenham and I have signed up to NEON, an email network set up by the New Economic Foundation. I got into an email discussion on the question of excess boardroom pay – specifically on the 7-figure remuneration packages being paid to the Nationwide Building Society’s CEO and board members. Not quite the caring, sharing ethos you would expect of a mutual, we thought. So a few of us, as Nationwide members, attended their AGM last July and joined quite a few others in expressing our disquiet on this boardroom payola with members’ money. Well to cut a longer story short we were invited to meet their HR and corporate governance chiefs, and the meeting took at their City office two weeks ago. Five of went – included reps of two small but very effective campaign groups, Share Action and the High Pay Centre, and we were received very courteousy. They listened quite politely as we outlined all the main arguments against such pay – virtually no evidence of a labour market at this level, or no evidence that the pay excesses motivate people to a higher level of performance; the availability of non-financial reward strategies; the societal impact of extremes in inequality, etc. The Nationwide chiefs agreed with almost everything they said. But they kept coming back to the need to ‘benchmark’ – for salaries ‘comparable with other firms in the sector’. That’s keeping up with the Joneses to you and me.

    And most people up and down your road will say that keeping up with Joneses is not very sensible.

    We still have to challenge, we still have to show real courage. But at the end of the day our ideas make real sense, common sense.

    A happy and fruitful year to you all

    Tony

    Tony Emerson

    Joint co-ordinator of the Joy in Enough project for Green Christian http://www.greenchristian.org.uk/joy-in-enough

    Two PS’s
    * If a Nationwide member look out for next annual report and AGM – should come about June. We need to keep the member pressure on, and we can all vote on their remuneration package.

    * on question of living in houses too big for us – don’t forget our ecocell workshop on January 24th in London: Housing & Energy – Fairness for all http://www.greenchristian.org.uk/archives/7384

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