The Second Annual Conference on Gross National Happiness The Second International Conference on Gross National Happiness
Local Pathways to Global Wellbeing
St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada
June 20 to June 24, 2005

June 21, 4:00 pm Plenary: Report Back from Groups and Response

Participants’ summaries of eight workshops, divided into two main themes: Sustainable and Equitable Economic Development and Good Governance.
  1. Sustainable and Equitable Economic Development
  2. Good Governance
Reflections on the conference by Vicki Robin, president of the New Road Map Foundation; Jeff Moore, co-founder of Just Us Coffee, Canada's first fair trade coffee importer, roaster, and distributor; and various audience members.

Sustainable And Equitable Economic Development
Globalization and Well Being
Mike Salvaris I’m Mike Salvaris and I’m from Australia.

I was the moderator for the globalization workshop. It was a very anarchistic affair and the topic was far too large to reduce to six neat points. But two points that emerged towards the end of the workshop met with general agreement, although we didn’t have a vote. We didn’t have time to really focus on the outcomes as much as we would have liked.

The first point was the pronounced cultural specificity of definitions of happiness. That seemed to inform quite a few people’s contributions — that the way we think of happiness varies a great deal from one culture to another and that we are in danger of using a particular, predetermined idea of happiness when many different things in many different cultures are bases of happiness.

The second point was that we are always talking about globalization as the globalization. This form of globalization is not the only one. There are other possibilities: the form that has been developed by the United Nations for 50 years, for one. This is, shall we say, internationalization based on human rights and human development, rather than on the untrammelled growth of free trade. So let’s not allow our minds to be captured by the apparent inevitability, the irresistibility, of the notion of the singularity of globalization. As one of our speakers pointed out, there are many different forms of globalization—from spiritual and religious to other forms of empire; the Roman Empire was a form of globalization, too.
  Globalization and Wellbeing Workshop Report 2101

Sustainable And Equitable Economic Development
Sustainable Rural Development
Keith Cossey Thank you. My name is Keith Cossey. I am with the government of Canada’s Rural Secretariat.

I was the moderator of the workshop on sustainable rural development. We had the pleasure of hearing from Farouk Jiwa from Kenya, Ali Mokhtar from Egypt, and David Bruce from Canada. We had some interesting contributions from the 50 participants in the workshop, as well; these were much appreciated.

To sum up the presentations and the discussion would certainly take more time than I have but I will quickly highlight some of the key points.

According to our workshop, happiness is:
  1. Reducing dependency on government grant funding.
  2. Recognizing the importance of the private sector. It has an important role to play in supporting sustainability in communities.
  3. Promoting and supporting participatory, community-based planning, development and management. There are certainly roles here for government.
  4. Recognizing the importance of building and maintaining relationships—among individuals, of course, but also among and within communities, and between communities and government and the private sector. It was noted that it is important to maintain a triple bottom line, one that demonstrates social, environmental and economic returns.
  5. Maintaining a constructive dialogue to find a common ground and to resolve conflicts and recognize the diversity of values involved with community development.
  6. Attracting and retaining more people to increase the population in rural communities, and to build up local markets for products and services. Rural re-population is very important to sustain further rural development.
  Sustainable Rural Development Workshop Report 2102

Sustainable And Equitable Economic Development
From Seed to Sale: The Journey of the Coffee Bean
Unidentified: This was a particularly interesting workshop because we literally had representatives from the entire journey of the coffee bean right there in the workshop.

We had Father Francisco VanderHoff, who has had a long history in Latin America. He started off working in Chile in 1969 but was eventually forced to take refuge in Mexico. There he looked into the price of coffee, and how the distributors were getting the lion’s share of the money from the coffee and the farmers were actually losing out.

Father VanderHoff is the person who came up with the idea of “fair trade.” He was clandestinely organizing workers in churches in Mexico. He formed an organization that now sells fair trade coffee in over 25 countries. So he represented the grassroots, working with the farmers’ element in the workshop.

We also had Jeff Moore, whose story was equally inspiring. He is based here in Nova Scotia, at Grand Pré, and is the founder of Just Us Coffee, which we are drinking here at the conference: I think that’s a very good sign.

Jeff Moore wanted to supply fair trade coffee in Nova Scotia. Everyone told him not to do it, that it was a very bad idea. He persevered, eventually going to Mexico to search for his own source of coffee. He ventured into the jungles of Chiapas during the Zapatista uprising, not speaking any Spanish — which I would say was rather courageous. He came back realizing he had to buy an initial 17 tonnes of coffee, without having any infrastructure to deal with that. He financed it using his house—he took the risk and went for it and now Just Us is found all through the Maritimes and probably beyond. They have expanded their product range to chocolate and tea. They have 44 employees and an annual turnover of more than three million dollars.

The final speaker was Hudson Shotwell, who owns a café in Halifax. He talked about coffee prices, health impacts and various elements of the fair trade movement, including some of the challenges that the movement faces. One is that anyone who wants to can put a fair trade label on their product; there is no one who can say that it is not fair trade. There are two organizations that represent fair trade: one of them has a certification element but the other one doesn’t.

What is needed is consolidation of the fair trade movement so that there are clearer standards. Another element we thought about in moving forward was to keep it democratic. As was noted in a lecture earlier this morning, humans are very good at building empires; the fair trade movement is possibly susceptible to that. For example, if Starbucks goes completely fair trade, then Just Us would go out of business. So that’s something we need to think about in determining what kind of communities we want. The final element looking towards the future is transparency—maintaining transparency so that we know that we’re getting a fair trade product. We want to be sure that it comes from a farm that is fairly supporting its workers and is not an undercover corporate takeover.
  From Seed to Sale: The Journey of the Coffee Bean Workshop Report 2103

Sustainable And Equitable Economic Development
Balancing Work and Life
John de Graaf Hi. I’m John de Graaf. I’m the National Coordinator of an organization called Take Back Your Time, which is a US/Canadian initiative that combats over-scheduling and time poverty in America.

What we talked about in the Balancing Work and Life Workshop was that we, in North America, not only “shop till we drop” (as Elizabeth May pointed out in her presentation this morning), but that in order to be able to do this we also work till we drop. This overwork — the ever-increasing work hours, particularly in the US and Canada — has tremendous negative impacts on our health, our family lives, our communities, our environment, and our political activism and participation.

Vicki Robin, co-author of the best selling book Your Money or Your Life, spoke about the equation M=LE, or Money Equals Life Energy. She noted that we are unaware that we are literally trading our life energy for money. So we need to be very careful about how we spend, seeing to it that we consume in a sensible way so that eventually we can work less.

Anders Hayden, the third member of our panel and the author of a wonderful book called Sharing the Work, Sparing the Planet, talked about time affluence. We could be “time rich” in this society but instead have chosen to be materially wealthy. As a consequence we are very time poor. Anders mentioned that in Europe there is a lot of action the other way, and many, many wonderful laws—he cited a number of examples—that make it possible for people to actually choose to have time in their lives. Consequently, the average Western European is working about nine weeks less per year than the average American, and probably seven weeks less than the average Canadian.

A lot was said about the causes of this including the decline in unionism and so forth. One of the points that particularly touched me was how we ourselves can easily get caught up in this sense and burn ourselves out in our work. One person in the audience talked about how she worked so hard in her particular project that she got sick. The people she was taking care of ended up taking care of her. It is a moral lesson for all of us which we need to think about seriously in balancing our lives.
  Balancing Work and Life Workshop Reprt 2104

Good Governance
Economic Development and Good Governance
Sarah Shima Hello, my name is Sarah Shima. I’m a program officer with the Canadian Cooperative Association.

I had the great pleasure of moderating the workshop on economic development and good governance. We had two excellent presenters: Yagya Ghale from the Centre for Micro-Finance in Nepal; and Lisangela Gnocchi da Costa Reis, who is on the Committee of Entities against Hunger in Brazil, and who has developed the environmental and corporate social responsibility policies and practices for a publicly-funded electricity company called FURNAS.

So on the one hand you have small women’s cooperatives, and on the other you have a very large national electric utility. What is the similarity between the two? For one, the importance of trust and transparency and accountability, whether you are working with 50 people or whether you’re working with millions. We discussed the importance of dialogue and the challenge of building consensus. We discussed the importance of having control over one’s own resources and giving people a voice. We discussed the importance of building strategic partnerships as well.

A final point, which I found particularly important, was the impact of politics in both cases. A negative political situation enabled the growth of social movements in Brazil, and right now is enabling the growth of women’s cooperatives in rural Nepal, where the formal financial institutions have left to move to the major centres. But conversely you have the importance of a stable government whereby legislative systems can provide support for the growth of both corporate responsibility and the building of cooperatives.
  Economic Development and Good Governance Workshop Report 2105

Good Governance
Governance Issues in Disadvantaged Economic Regions
Robert Greenwood Hi. I’m Rob Greenwood. I’m the Director of the Leslie Harris Centre of Regional Policy and Development at Memorial University in Newfoundland.

We had a great session. Elizabeth Beale, president of the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, was our moderator. She is really the person who put this session together, so we have her to credit or blame. The panel included Bunker Roy, founder of the Barefoot College; Janet Larkman, a community economic development consultant from Nova Scotia; and myself.

I talked about formal governance structures. It is my contention that while we may not like the way state power is used we must harness the power of the state at the local level. There is a lot of great work by NGOs in the third sector, the voluntary sector, but they do not have the right to speak for the public in the way one does with recourse to universal franchise. The state is the only legitimate instrument of force in our societies, which is dangerous if it is working against you. But if we don’t practice democracy we are in serious trouble, so we have to get it working for us.

To look at it at a local level, I suggested a checklist based on experience in the Scandinavian countries and in Atlantic Canada.
  • Fiscal resources — where does the money come from for local democracy?
  • Human resources — you do need paid, trained staff, many of whom have degrees. But they need to report to the local level, not up the lines of senior levels of government. We need them because if you don’t have your own technocracy, you are operating at a disadvantage.
  • Authority — the power to do stuff is fundamental. You can marshal a lot of good activity in the community but ultimately those with the authority, the mandate, can work against you or they can work for you.
  • Accountability — legitimacy is what gives the basis for that authority. So, universal franchise, active democracy and active engagement are absolutely essential.
  • Geography — level of organization makes a difference depending on the function it is performing. For example, individual municipalities in Canada are too small for economic development.
  • Time — a lot of development takes time and therefore it is essential for formal governing structures to cooperate with business, and with labour and community organizations, so that when you develop a plan, everyone owns it together. Then if the government changes or the minister changes or the local mayor changes, you don’t suffer from the “that was them, this is us” syndrome that plagues economic development efforts in our country.
Bunker gave two beautiful examples that really grounded this stuff at the community level. One was a children’s parliament, where kids in school were asking, “Why do we have these outside inspectors coming in here and telling us how our school should operate? Don’t we have a say in this?” So they actually got together with the Barefoot College and elected a parliament of students who had a say in how their schools were operated. A prime minister was put in place—I think there have been four so far, all of them young women.

The dignity and courage that was required to bring that forward is an active, functioning aspect of the education system in those communities. Bunker noted that they won an international award and that one of the prime ministers, who had never left her community before, went to Sweden to accept the award from the queen. She was completely unflappable: she said, “I am the prime minister.” It’s the power of democracy: don’t underestimate it.

Bunker also talked about what has become right to information legislation, but which started in a single community. People there were asking, “Where does all the money go that gets spent here? And where are the taxes and the funds that come in from the development agencies?” So they rallied together and got the bureaucrats and politicians and administrators to respond. They said, “Under these programs, we have these funds: here is where they went.” Then they read off names of people who supposedly had received money. But someone pointed out: “Well, that guy died nine years ago.” And someone else said, “I never received any of that.” It emerged that a school that was supposed to have been built with these funds didn’t exist.

The media loved the transparency of the process and jumped all over it. But this transparency and accountability at the community level really is a revolutionary development. And that kind of governance process is absolutely essential.

Janet talked about her experience in Nova Scotia in a community development organization that attempted to implement an integrated approach to economic development: economic, social, environmental. She talked about some of the challenges, such as getting representatives of various municipalities to work together rather than competing with one another, as had formerly been the case.

Local governments are close to the ground and are therefore readily held to account. This makes them jumpy about how they spend their money, and they weren’t comfortable giving it to an arm’s length organization. So that was another issue that Janet needed to deal with. The four-year election cycle was, in practice, a challenge. Municipalities are very pragmatic while economic development, especially using an integrated approach, is somewhat abstract. Janet also highlighted how, with funding from a multitude of municipalities plus the federal and provincial governments, she has many masters to serve and how difficult it is to please everybody.

Following Janet’s presentation we had a great discussion about many of these issues: the role of the media, accountability, sustainability, and so forth. Thank you.
  Governance Issues in Disadvantaged Economic Regions Workshop Report 2106

Good Governance
Self Government and Prosperity
Godfrey Baldacchino Hello, my name is Godfrey Baldacchino. I come from good old Prince Edward Island, not far from here.

Self-government and prosperity: what is the link? The lessons from our workshop are perhaps not as transferable as some would like them to be. This conference seems to be kind of a marketplace of ideas, and presumably there are not just sellers out there; there are also buyers and potential takers. But it is very difficult to replicate the model of Iceland, which is what we were discussing in our workshop. The name doesn’t help, of course: it is a bit forbidding. But today Iceland has become a model not only of sustainability and prosperity, but also for jurisdiction and self-government.

The link between these elements is extremely important — a point of which we are very much aware in the Island Studies program that I teach in at the University of Prince Edward Island. Iceland seems to be doing an excellent job compared to other places that are less sovereign and that lack good governance over natural resources. Iceland has imposed fisheries quotas — so it still has cod and other species that are now rare elsewhere. Iceland harnesses sustainable energy resources fairly well; it has tourism and is a growing centre for high tech industries — all this in a country of 300,000 people. It offers a very interesting model and we spent most of our time discussing aspects of Icelandic society.

Two things that have helped the country move forward are very strong municipalities and a very strong culture. There are only two levels of government in Iceland: the national government and the municipalities, with the latter controlling services to local communities. As for national culture, Iceland is probably one of the few places in the world that could be called a “nation-state” in the sense of having almost an exact correspondence between people and land.

I hope that helps to bring together the whole issue of self-government and prosperity. Thank you.
  Self-governance and Prosperity: The Icelandic Model Workshop Report 2107

Good Governance
Restorative Justice and Good Governance
Cindy Blackstock Our workshop heard different concepts of justice. Danny Graham, a defence lawyer — now more of an advocate — discussed a system of justice based on the European model of the British common law. He talked about his experiences, the unsatisfactory experience of being in a courtroom in a situation designed to produce a winner and a loser. He spoke of how that brought him full circle to start constructing a form of justice that truly models problem-solving, with respect and honour.

We then heard from Stuart Myiow from the Mohawk nation. Stuart said, “You know, we can talk about social justice at the ground level, what happens when someone steals a bit of food from their next door neighbor. But that is not the real answer at all.” Stuart told us that restorative justice comes from redefining who we are, from understanding our values and our principles.

Stuart explained that, in his community, women were deemed the true caretakers of society. They were the caretakers of the children, the caretakers of generations. The role of the men was to support them; the role of men was to be peacekeepers. They had a constitution that mitigated their commitment to war, that engenderment that sometimes arises from the male quest for power. They have been tempered by the constitution of the Mohawk people, in favour of peace for their nation and all nations around.

And finally we heard from Tashi Chhozom. She is Bhutan’s only female judge; but, as she explained, in their tradition, as in that of the Mohawk people, women are really at the centre of decision-making processes. So it is not unnatural finding a woman judge defining a road to restorative justice, which is more about reconciliation, more about peacekeeping, than it is about winning. Thank you.
  Restorative Justice and Good Governance Workshop Report 2108

Moderator As I had mentioned earlier, it was hard for people to choose which session to be in. So it is nice to get the flavor of the discussion from each of those workshops.

I am now going to call upon two people who will try to synthesize some of the discussions we have been having since we started last night, and reflect on the reporting that we just heard—and possibly challenge us. Following that, we will have a question and answer period and a time for you to come to the mike here.

We’ll start with Vicki Robin, who participated in the workshop on balancing work and life. She is co-author, with Joe Dominguez, of the best-seller, Your Money or Your Life. Her work has been published internationally, and translated into nine languages. Vicki is the president of the New Road Map Foundation, and chair of the Simplicity Forum. She lectures widely, has appeared on hundreds of radio and television shows, and has been featured in People magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek and the New York Times.

We are very pleased to have Vicki with us. She will be one of our responders. The other responder is Jeff Moore, a friend of many of us here in Antigonish.

Jeff participated in the workshop “From Seed to Sale: The Journey of the Coffee Bean.” Jeff is very well known here in Nova Scotia as the co-founder of Just Us Coffee, Canada’s first fair trade coffee importer, roaster and distributor. It is based in Grand Pré in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. This progressive, worker-owned cooperative has extended its business to offer associated fair trade and organic products. Jeff is a role model for many emerging social entrepreneurs here in the Maritime region.

We are very pleased to have both Vicki and Jeff with us.

Tuesday Afternoon Plenary Reflections
Vicki Robin
Vicki Robin Hi. It is a privilege to stand up here and look at the rest of the gathering.

I have been asked to reflect not just what has happened in these panels, but on my sense of what is going on amongst us. The first thing that occurred to me is the vibrancy I felt at our nutrition breaks and our lunches and dinners—how much this community is alive with ideas and inner connections, and the diversity of our community and the richness that that brings. Sitting here in this auditorium, and in these sessions, is not the whole story, ever, at a conference. So I want to talk about that.

This is already feeling like a community; I am recognizing many of you in the halls. I feel like we are in a process together, in a discovery. This isn’t one of your standard conferences where people just talk at one another.

We are only one day in, so we are just ramping up. But we are really achieving the goal of building community. We are moving together toward some breakthrough insights; transformative moments; shifts—every single one of us. It shifts our thinking and our perspective, providing insight that is going to illuminate our work. I want to heighten that experience.

My other main point is that I’ve been very taken with many things that have been said. I want to relate some words that stood out for me in our discussions. They are words that disappear in the dominant discourse: conviviality; reciprocity; “gifting.” Isn’t it amazing that there is “gifting” going on? I have never experienced this before at a conference—the sense of giving back to.

Other words: community; relationship; mutuality; family. “The generations”—thinking back to our ancestors and forward to the generations to come. Connection; happiness; wellbeing; time—time not only in respect to our own lifetimes, but also in the sense that we are living in time; we are not out of step, we are in time. And that the richness and diversity and viviality and the connection and the reciprocity and the mutuality and the love—all of that happiness is happening in time; in our actual time with one another.
Vicki Robin
What our community is manifesting disappears in discussions centred on material progress. We are people who are struggling to bring these words and experiences into the dominant discourse, which is actually where we live our lives.

We live our lives in time; we live our lives in love; we live our lives in family and relationship and community. That is where it all happens for us. And yet, some way or another, where it all happens for us—where we know that life has meaning—isn’t what shows up when we attend a public hearing. And if it does show up in your contribution, when you have two minutes at a public hearing, you know that you have just disappeared for the whole community.

So I think we have a task here to bring forward a set of profound, common sense understandings of what life is about and take them back into the public sphere so they can be incorporated. This is what the people of Bhutan are demonstrating with Gross National Happiness: just using that term puts happiness, mutuality, reciprocity, love, connection back into the public discourse.

I am noticing that this conference is, in some sense, a measured and sober celebration of what makes life worth living. This brings to mind the words “trust,” “dialogue,” and “voice”—having a voice. This is common sense, this building of mutual trust. One of the things that we commented on in our workshop is that it is the loss of social trust that creates the buildup of dependency on money systems, and systems of self-protection, in a world that doesn’t seem to care about you. So these are the things that are alive for me.

I also wanted to comment on two issues that I think about. One is the question of what is called “burnout.” We are engaged in an effort to meet very destructive ways of governing and running our human systems with a set of values that is not aggressive. Reciprocity; love; conviviality—these are not elements in an aggressive way of being. This is a way of being that we are trying to put forward in the context of a very aggressive mental model of what the good life is and how to run the human community. In our efforts to somehow match these destructive cycles with what we know to be true, we can easily burn ourselves out. So happiness is a necessity in this whole game. We have to bring our happiness—which is our spiritual centre—to what we are doing. A sense of joy; a sense of knowing that in time, in the longer arc of time, it is all working out. And we are part of the process, every single one of us. We can engage in that, knowing that the rest of us are also doing it: we have many partners. We can do our part with a lot of joy. So allowing our sense of urgency to develop to the point of self-destruction is an important thing to watch out for, because we are in this for the long haul.

The other thing I want to talk about is the goodness of the grassroots and the danger of empire. I think we get in these cycles where the grassroots come up with some brilliant innovation and then society concretizes it, we network it and establish it and institutionalize it. And it starts to become an empire, and it becomes more and more dense and encrusted. But then something from the grassroots once again emerges and breaks up systems that are no longer wholesome.

I think that is also part of living in time—these longer arcs of time. We are going to be involved, every single one of us, in grassroots innovation: very exciting periods when a brand new thing is coming up through us and within our community. And then will come the very difficult business of governance and structures and creating containers, social containers, that can take our truth forward.

So celebrate the next grass root that comes and busts up your good idea. We are living in this very long arc; and I believe, as Martin Luther King said, that the arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice—it bends towards reciprocity and mutuality. The reality is that we are all aspects of one whole thing that has a natural inclination to health and beauty. So remember that as we move forward in our time together.

Thank you.

Tuesday Afternoon Plenary Reflections
Jeff Moore
Jeff Moore Hello. It’s nice to be here but it’s also somewhat humbling to be here, reflecting on today. There have been so many wonderful people speaking and some great presentations. It has been great to exchange ideas and to try to clarify our thinking and figure out what we are trying to do and why.

Reflecting on my work, the central idea of fair trade is to move towards exchange, not aid. As someone said, powerlessness is not conducive to happiness. Fair trade is really about empowerment of people from the bottom up. It is not just about fair price, though it is often reduced to the issue of price. It really involves all four pillars that we have been talking about, pretty much in equal measure. The social wellbeing of people is essential. So is preservation of culture; environmental protection; and equally, if not most important, the whole idea of governance.

It is, as I said, the notion of empowerment that is so important in fair trade. To become part of the fair trade system, coffee producers must be organized into democratically run co-ops. I have witnessed first hand, again and again, the pride, the dignity, the hope and the happiness that are derived from this sense of empowerment; from people’s control of their own futures.

Individuals like Francisco VanderHoff, who is here with us this week, have provided leadership for the whole fair trade movement. Francisco doesn’t talk about the courage involved in what he has done, and what countless others have done; but many people have risked their lives—sacrificed their lives—to challenge unfair trade practices in the world.

Francisco helped establish the co-op known as the Union of Indigenous Communities of the Isthmus Region. Thirty-nine members of the co-op were killed in the first seven years, mainly by the Mexican military. To hear Francisco talk this week about meetings with Jacques Chirac and Tony Blair and Kofi Annan is kind of miraculous when you look at the persecution he faced just a few short years ago.

The success of fair trade and its ripple effects are meaningfully changing the world from the bottom up; and from the fringes in, which is also important. You can’t expect change to happen in the centre; as my friend Tom Walsh says, it happens from the fringes inwards.

Francisco talks about globalization from below, which is what fair trade is about. I was blown away by a statistic that Francisco gave in our workshop: his co-op now has an area 120 kilometres by 150 kilometres, all certified organic.

I found the discussions to be very helpful and very encouraging and I really look forward to the next few days. What I’d like to do now is call upon members of the audience to give their reflections on today’s discussions. Please limit your comments to one to two minutes.

Tuesday Afternoon Plenary Reflections
Audience Hi. I’m Al Chaddock. I’m from Halifax. I’ve been connected with the Coastal Communities Network for a few years. I’m a journalist, an artist and a teacher. I’ve worked in a lot of different capacities.

What is going on here is incredible. You know how when the G7 guys get together and the People’s Summit takes place kind of around the corner? This is starting to feel a bit like the people’s UN—we’re trying to get it back to what it was supposed to be. I hope we get there. I wanted to present a paper on this; I’ll present it shortly. I’d sure like to talk about it for the rest of the days.

How many of you read Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of political science? I read his work in Grade 10 and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Once the Prince realized that Niccolo understood a little too much about how to concentrate power and abuse people, and divide and rule them, the Prince divided Niccolo from his head . When they start putting cops around us I’m going to be very happy, because it means we are becoming very dangerous for the people we should be dangerous for.

We have to roll back the film of the last 500–600 years: the rise of the nation state, paired up with capitalism. We have to get back to watershed management political regimes. That’s the natural one we all evolved in—the watershed.
Audience I have brought an idea to the conference, and I invite people to look me up and discuss it with me. I could give you a little folder I’ve prepared.

The concept is that governments don’t implement initiatives like the Canadian Index of Wellbeing or Gross National Happiness or the Genuine Progress Index because these things don’t have a home. That is to say, government doesn’t have ownership of these things and therefore they’re not required to do anything about them. They’ll look at a proposal; it will make news; it may influence them a little bit—but when push comes to shove they will make other decisions.

What I would like to propose is that we need an alternate Auditor General’s Office. It would have the legitimacy and power as the standard one but it would look at the real big question. Not the little question—which is: “Was the money spent the way it was supposed to be and did anyone break any laws?”—but the big question, which is: “Are the government’s policies getting us closer to or further away from a sustainable society that balances culture, ecology and economy?” And to compare the real alternatives—including doing nothing and leaving things the way they are.

I’ve written a discussion paper about this. I hope people will look me up so we can talk about it. And we can start an on-line discussion, too: I just started up a little web page about it. Thank you.
Audience Hi. Someone mentioned earlier that African peoples need to take responsibility for themselves. I think that is really important but I also feel that a big caution is in order. If we want to say that then we also need to stop dealing arms to African countries; we need to stop exploiting African countries; and we need to stop taking part in a lot of political activities on the global scale.

A Sudanese friend at Dal remarked that we can’t have our cake and eat it too. That is, if we are going to say that Africans need to take responsibility for themselves, we need to stop doing a lot of other things. If we are going to deal arms, we can’t just pull out of Africa.

That was one thing. The other was that human beings create a lot of things but we can also dismantle them. I’ve been thinking a lot about whether the nation and/or the nation state is something that needs dismantling, because I think a lot of problems that have been coming out in the discussions are caused by our inability to look at changing the scale on which we work. Thank you.
Audience My name is Colin Grands. I am a sustainability consultant and software developer. It is wonderful to be here to share this excitement and this journey toward something better.

I would like to mention a tipping point I believe is coming. It is not far off and it may cause the collapse of globalization. The coming tipping point is peak oil. I have heard a few people talking about it in various breakout sessions, but not really in any of the major events.

Peak oil is going to induce “localization.” I don’t want to talk about the collapse of globalization because people get very scared when I mention it, so let’s speak of the expansion of localization. The current globalized, highly capitalistic model is going to slow down very dramatically. As peak oil is reached the price of travel, of transportation, will skyrocket. So the model that Joel Salatin was talking about this morning—localized food for local people—is going to become the norm; otherwise, everyone is going to be very hungry.

So have faith. I have a friend who says, “Good news or bad news, who knows?” Peak oil is going to change all of our lives dramatically, but for those of us working for a localized economy, it is going to be a major tipping point. So the change is coming, like it or not. I think of it as being like rich people are living in some tower, and the tower is collapsing—let’s get on with rebuilding the village that used to be there before the tower was erected.
Audience It’s tough for a campaigner to pass up an opportunity. I’m on the board of directors of the Grassroots Recycling Network. Our goal is to get corporations to change their habits by having consumers let them know what they think. We do it through “click” activism.

We chose Coca-Cola because they weren’t buying recycled plastic. We sent cola bottles back to the company and we put ads in the paper. Then we introduced a stockholders’ resolution to buy recycled plastic and Coke agreed to do that. They are now building a $35 million mill to take recycled PET.

We told Dell that their computers were not recyclable. We went after them with campaigns the same way. Dell will now take back their computers.

I would like to suggest that this may be the way to work in the new world, by telling industry that if they don’t make green products and righteous products, we won’t buy them. You might check out our website: Thank you.
Audience I’m Michael Kerr. I work with the National Anti-Racism Council of Canada.

I want to pick up on a theme which Cindy introduced when she was talking about the historical experience of Canada’s first peoples. It was also raised in the workshop I attended, in the context of cultural hegemony.

How do we understand or try to work through the notion of happiness? I might have missed where this was more fully expressed or developed, but the way that many indices, or triple bottom lines, are conceived is all very much on a current account basis. This misses historical, political and social context, and the legacy of pain and suffering perpetrated earlier. Moreover, the momentum of that pain continues into the present moment.

So indexing and triple bottom lines must try to flesh out more fully such things as redress and reparation. Whether we are talking about slavery or colonialism, or things more contemporary, this must be a part of the analysis in order to move forward in the healthiest way possible.
Audience My name is Karen Holly. I work for the Ontario Public Interest Research Group at Carleton University, one of 11 such groups on campuses in Ontario.

I am constantly surrounded by super-enthusiastic students who are willing to take theory and put it into practice. I encourage you all to tap into those university communities, which are full of keeners.

Right now we are working on a project to build a sustainable resource centre in Sharbot Lake, Ontario, which is a small rural town just west of Ottawa. We are going to construct it from tires and pop cans. I can tell anyone about that type of building and I am keen to hear ideas about what a sustainable resource centre might offer a small, rural community in Ontario. Please come talk to me at any time.
Audience My name is Samir. I come from Penn State—I work there. In central Pennsylvania, talking about rethinking development means that you are a hippie. So I am a hippie in Pennsylvania. That’s how people look at me.

I have a good story: it’s the reason why I’m here. I am involved in a project in the Himalayas. I am originally from India and some of my countrymen and women participated in this project, and there were also some Nepalese people involved. We are trying to get more people involved in what we are doing, to start an inquiry-based environmental education curriculum in some of the schools in the Indian and the Nepalese Himalayas. We are trying to get the kids to talk to each other.

Recently we encountered this whole new line of development, exactly opposite to what we were thinking about in these mountains. We walked up to this little village at around 16,000 feet and we were invited to see the school. Once we reached the school, the teachers proudly took us to their new computer room. We realized that Microsoft had made a deal with one of the states there, and all the villages at 16-17,000 feet now have computers. It doesn’t matter to Microsoft that these villages don’t have electricity. Not only that, the government has provided generators to run these computers but the generators make so much noise that the classes have to be postponed.

The villagers are not happy with anything that is happening because they believe that basically the kids are going to be removed from the villages and taken to the urban areas because of these computers. So it’s a mess. One little gift by Microsoft, which they probably consider good, and they consider development, has led to so many social, ecological and cultural problems.

Now we are reconsidering our own approach and thinking about what we have to do with this situation. So it’s great to see so many people here trying to rethink development. I just love the title Rethinking Development. Thank you.
Audience Hi. My name is Derek Gillis. I’d like to make a bit of a side comment, and also compliment the community of Antigonish and the L’Arche community.

I am a student of the environment and of international development. To pay tuition and all that I work as a counselor with the mentally and physically challenged in Halifax. One of the things I have noticed here in Antigonish is the L’Arche program. A lot of the mentally and physically challenged here have support that enables them to work outside in the community—visibly, rather than in protected workshops. I hope to see more of this.

One other note I wanted to make is that the clients I have worked with in group homes are amazing people. I think every community has a lot to learn from this population. I think Antigonish is going a great job and so is L’Arche. I hope it grows. One thing is certain: my friends—the population I referred to—definitely also understand the principles of Gross National Happiness. Thanks.
Vicki Robin I want to make a few more comments before we wind up this wonderful afternoon.

I think that this open mike time has really shown us the wisdom in our community. Each one of us has so much to share. Having stood up at many microphones, I have come to realize that everyone in the audience knows as much or more than I do, so I’m not really interested in what I have to say any more. This has led me to start something called “conversation cafés.” This is a methodology for when people out in the community get together, and shift from small talk to big talk. It enables people to have quality conversations with others with whom they might otherwise never connect. The idea is to recreate the village square, recreate social trust.

I mention this to you as one way to go back into your communities and create some of the cross-pollination that is happening here. I invite you to steal this “conversation café” technique. You can read about it here—there are little cards all over—or you can go to the website. Keep the conversation going. Just announce a local café: state the topic, announce a time, and see who comes.

This is a kind of potentiator of the conversation that we are in all the time. I mean the big conversation. Where are we going? What are we going to do? That is really the conversation we are in. Every single one of us is in it in our own domains. It’s really exciting and I’m glad we have another couple of days.

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