Green Drinks: Economics As If People & Planet Mattered

This month, we are excited to bring you two highly insightful speakers – Julian Wong and Steve McCoy, who have previously given rousing talks at Green Drinks. They are joining us this time to speak about rethinking growth and our economic system, it’s rare to have them in town (and together!), so this one is not to be missed!

This session is supported by Young NTUC.

Date: 10 August 2017 (Thursday)
Time: 7pm – 9pm
Venue: NTUC Centre, 1 Marina Boulevard Level 9, Room 903
Admission: Free (contributions to society accepted)
RSVP: Via Facebook or email

See you there!

Julian’s talk
Rethinking Economic Growth for Human and Planetary Health

Deeply embedded in our views of economics, finance, and business is the assumption that economic growth is both ethically good and structurally necessary. Growth creates jobs for the unemployed, provides more income to folks that need it, and improves the standard of living for the world’s poor. If there is no growth then jobs will be shed, credit will stop flowing, and people will suffer.

However, we have reached a crucial point where indefinite economic growth is now at odds with a peaceful and thriving society. We are facing the consequences of taking too much from nature and throwing off our delicate living systems. Even countries with sustained economic growth for decades may also be saddling students and working families with huge amounts of debt, have pronounced income inequality, and are struggling to prepare their citizens for the economy of the future.

Growth, past a certain point, is not making for better lives and happier people, and is encroaching on our ecological limits. In this session, the speaker will examine the accuracy of certain premises of economic growth, the reasons why we seem so locked into a growth model, and suggest an urgent need for alternative measures of human well-being and prosperity.

Steve’s talk
CAPITAL: How many should we have? Hint – the grammar is correct!

Most people this side of the White House have a pretty good idea that the current unprecedented rate of ecological degradation isn’t very good! However, there is often little consensus about how bad things really are. Not bad, that is, in the sense of the numbers – amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, rate of deforestation, loss of plant and animal species, percentage degradation of soil fertility, depletion of our aquifers, plastic in the ocean etc etc – there IS consensus on this – all the numbers are horrendously grim and universally undeniable by anyone with a basic grasp of science and a modicum of integrity.

But, bad in the sense of how deep and broad the causes of this predicament are actually embedded in human activity. Do we just have a few problem sectors – energy, transport, and waste management, say… and/or do we have a few problem people-types – greedy bankers, ill-disciplined/unethical corporate leaders, and weak/befuddled government leaders manning an inadequate regulatory system? Do we just need a tweak here, a nudge there and a bit of legislation to help us be less bad… or a bit more than that?

In this session, the speaker will make the case that our current discourse underestimates the depth and breadth of unsustainability… and in doing so, underestimates the scope of what needs to be done and the toolset available for its doing. That we are heading towards Earth’s 6th mass extinction event for no other reason than ordinary men and women get up every day and do ordinary everyday things, makes this fundamentally a design challenge. In the economic realm, the speaker will argue that although efforts to address the growth paradigm (sustainable growth, steady-state economy etc), replace GDP with more sensible indicators (GPI, GNH, HPI, IWI etc), and steer transaction behaviour away from caveat emptor towards more responsible retail practices (eg. Extended Producer Responsibility schemes) are all good, designing a sustainable economic or capital asset management system cannot be done without first gaining clarity on how many capitals there are, why this is, and what follows as a consequence!

About our speakers

Julian Wong is a business lawyer based in the Silicon Valley. He is also affiliated with A Whole Person Economy (WPE), a San Francisco-based collective of social innovators seeking to promote new economic paradigms for the 21st century. At WPE, Julian is developing new educational pedagogy and curricula to nurture ecological and civic consciousness in children. Julian has previously worked in international climate change policy with various institutions in Washington DC and Beijing. Julian grew up in Singapore, is a repeat speaker at Green Drinks Singapore, and has degrees in Biology, law and environmental policy. Twitter: @ecopreneur

Steve McCoy is a sustainability consultant based in Kuala Lumpur. He is a long-time member of the International Society of Sustainability Professionals and the International Living Futures Institute. His work rests on the conviction that business-as-usual is no longer viable, and that the challenge to build a more secure future offers unprecedented opportunities once business and community leaders leave quaint notions of CSR and environmentalism behind and plant sustainability at the core of their development strategy and daily operations. In a previous life he read medicine, music and theology at London and Cambridge, and worked in the business, education and non-profit sectors in the UK, Poland and Malaysia. He believes that economics is far too important to be left in the hands of economists. He does not hold a degree in economics!