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Money Versus Health: the Yasuni Story

SAINT AUGUSTINE, Aug 15 2012 (IPS) - In 2007 Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, sponsored the Yasuni Initiative to end oil prospecting in the vast Yasuni National Park, thereby preventing some 400 million tonnes of carbon emissions, if the international community or the United Nations would compensate Ecuador for half of the unrealised oil revenues (an estimated 13 billion dollars over 13 years).

Spain donated 1.4 million dollars, Italy cancelled 51 million dollars of Ecuador’s debt, following Norway’s 20 million-dollar cancellation. Germany and France contributed token amounts along with Chile, Colombia, Georgia and Turkey. U.S. and European NGOs added their support.

Sadly, however, this innovative effort is faltering because of the ongoing world financial crisis. The deeper reason lies in the murky secrets of money-creation and how this financial sleight-of-hand enabled financial players to take control of politicians even in democracies.

Saving Yasuni and averting further social, financial, and environmental crises now urgently requires unmasking the mysteries of money.

Worldwide, we see thousands of sensible proposals ­ for re-vitalising communities, investing in new infrastructure, re-training, and green jobs, preventive health, public education, restoring ecosystems, protecting public parks ­ all blocked by politicians, economists, and financiers with the same cry: Where’s the money going to come from?

Even worse, we see central banks printing money to bailout past mistakes of financiers instead of directing it to the real economy while politicians crush taxpayers with budget and job cuts demanded by bond vigilantes and their rating agency allies.

Saving Yasuni can help us finally connect all the dots by revealing the truth: money is not wealth and only has value if we believe and trust it. Currencies are simply information systems that track and keep score of human priorities and interactions with each other and with nature’s riches.

Yet this money symbol system has morphed from a useful accounting tool into a fetish that dominates our minds, our communities, and national decision-making while hampering sustainable forms of development and more realistic global policies ­including protecting Yasuni and other ecological treasures for our common future.

The United Nations Rio+20 Earth Summit of July, 2012, helped its 193 country members and many city and provincial governments to connect many of the dots needed to overcome faulty economics and its money-based paradigm. Its outcome document, “The Future We Want”, articulated their vision for people-centred, just, green economies based on ecological sustainability and renewable energy and resources and on the protection of the biodiversity on which all humanity relies.

However, the conference did not illuminate the money paradigm standing in the way of these goals.

Once we clearly affirm that while money is a useful tool it is not real wealth, we can see how it can be re-directed away from all the mal-investments in fossil fuels, nuclear weapons, and subsidising such destructive technologies of the past. As the Green Transition Scoreboard shows, some 3.3 trillion dollars has already been re-directed by private investors worldwide since 2007 into renewable solar, wind, geothermal, water energies and far greater efficiencies, as well as green buildings, public transport, and smarter cities and land-use, proving how humans can change their minds and redirect their money towards a cleaner, greener, more equitable future.

To similarly change the minds of our politicians requires directly confronting financial centres, economists, and business schools and re-training asset managers that still control our pensions, public and private.

The Occupy movement and the Arab Spring demanded that we create true democracies and end the dictatorship of money and finance. We are changing our scorecards of progress from money-based gross domestic product (GDP) and stock markets to broader indicators of health, education, infrastructure, poverty gaps, and the environment such as the Integrated Wealth Index (IWI) released at Rio+20, the Better Life Index of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Canada’s Index of Wellbeing, Bhutan’s gross national happiness index (suitable mainly for small Buddhist countries), and the Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators.

We are auditing the U.S. Federal Reserve and calling central bankers and their allies in finance to account, confronting the errors in their core business models and metrics.

Many challengers see beyond the money-game rigged by insiders and the powerful, based on scarcity, fear, and competition and instead point to the unpaid Love economies, gifting, and the new open source movements, all based on sharing, cooperation, creating community wealth and abundance powered by the sun. These unpaid sectors of the global economy are now larger than the paid economies officially measured by GDP. We can think beyond the paradigms of the Washington Consensus, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation (all based on money measures like GDP). We can shift to Life’s Principles and Ethical Biomimicry Finance and invest in all such companies waiting for our re-directed focus on holistic, healthy investing.

We can envision a Gaian League of small countries that have rejected the Washington Consensus and are transitioning to healthier forms of local development, opting out of the global casino, such as Iceland, Bhutan and Ecuador, where they already value their Yasuni National treasure.

We and many NGOs support this kind of alternative, also promoted by the World Social Forum: Another World Is Possible. The breakdown of the corrupt, malfunctioning global casino is driving these new breakthroughs! Come join us!
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* Hazel Henderson is president of Ethical Markets Media (U.S. and Brazil), publisher of the Green Transition Scoreboard and author of “Building a Win-Win World” and other books.

 
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