$4.27 per km – this is what a new walker saves the health system

And it’s $2.14 per km for cyclists, according to a new NZTA report.

Only half of this amount for established walkers and cyclists, but still, it’s had me totting up my dollars contributed to the economy as I walk to the supermarket or down the hill to town. And Arlo Guthrie keeps whispering in my ear, “Just imagine if fifty people a day in this suburb decided to walk instead of drive to walk each day. Fifty people a day! My friends, you may think it’s a movement, and it is, the get fit and healthy, destress, avoid parking hassle and save us all money walk everywhere movement.”

And how long until these figures of active transport as an economic benefit start working their way into the transport planning departments in our local and national organisations? It’s worth mentioning in your submission to your Long Term Community Council Plan. And it shows how daft is a GDP model that includes lack of fitness and its health burdens as an economic positive.

Fonterra’s spot of luck

In today’s Dominion Post:

The melamine in the milk scandal has had a silver lining for Fonterra in the form of a big jump in revenue from Asia.

In its half-year result, revenue from Asia, Africa and the Middle East was up 53 per cent to $1.2 billion. Chief executive Andrew Ferrier said increased ingredients sales to China was a major factor.

After the crisis became public in September, Chinese dairy companies started buying milk from overseas rather than sourcing it locally, he said.

That was the largest of three drivers of the increase in Asian revenues.

SanLu the Chinese dairy company that was 43 per cent owned by Fonterra was at the centre of the scandal, in which six babies died and more than 200,000 became ill.

The melamine crisis was also partly responsible for a switch to more expensive foreign dairy products by consumers in Asia, which enabled Fonterra to drive higher revenues, Mr Ferrier said.

Gains from the falling kiwi dollar was the third factor.

How can anyone report without a hint of outrage? So Fonterra’s sloppy, or possibly negligent, business practices in China kill or threaten the lives of many babies and the happy result is improved revenue for Fonterra.  That’s the invisible hand of the market handing out morality lessons for us all again I guess.

Global Recession lecture by Dr Robert Costanza

Friday saw me whipping back into town to catch a conference-opening lecture by Dr Robert Costanza, from the Gund Institute of Ecological Economics at The University of Vermont, who is here in NZ on a secondment to the New Zealand Centre for Ecological Economics (NZCEE), based at Massey University’s home campus in Palmerston North.

After the requisite time spent on the pre-lecture refreshments and Green membership gossip, I found myself a seat in the auditorium of Rutherford House LT1, and waited for the rest of the SPC attendees to catch on and copy. Twiddle, twiddle, watching the crew setting up tech gear & checking the powerpoints were working; then finally, all 300 pre-allocated seats were filled, and the talks got underway.

First up, our Green Co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons greeted the assembled members, and thanked Dr Costanza and members of the NZCEE for coming to Wellington to make presentations on Ecological Economics. Then Dr Costanza made his presentation, which was stimulating and challenging; to the point where my notes became a list of publications to look up, and websites to browse later.

Links: the presentation is here,
which also gives the handy list of Dr Costanza’s published works, in far tidier format than my hasty notes.
The panel was then constructed of Jeanette, Bob, and members of the academic and research staff of NZCEE; Vicky Forgie, Marjan van der Belt, and Ida Kubiszewski. A quick overview of the work done by NZCEE was given, which can be viewed in greater depth here:
along with publications by the Centre here:
I’ll admit right now that some serious reading is going to happen in my home study time, to get myself up-to-date on this area – my last efforts at understanding economics were for a feminist-perspective paper, which looked at green economies as part of a holistic, sustainable economic policy development paradigm. What I heard certainly stimulated me to see the upside to the Global Recession, and to take heart from the Green New Deal economics that is being developed and applied in the USA, and many other administrations around the world at present.

Having made a decision some weeks ago not to attend the SPC held at Silverstream over the weekend, I wistfully set off home on another bus, as many old friends and fellow campaigners headed out for the conference opening dinner, charged up with enthusiasm for Green economic policies after this stimulating and enriching lecture and presentations.

Associated links:
The Encyclopedia of Earth
Friends of the commons See Capitalism 3.0, by Peter Barnes, available as a free download from this site – a guide to reclaiming the commons.

Consumption and growth theory

Flipping through frogblog today, I found this post What politicians dare not say except for the Greens, which reminded me of a small viral campaign run a few years ago against SUV drivers, parked in public carparks here and there, so I thought I’d share this with you.

...you, yes, YOU!

...you, yes, YOU!

These came as stickers, some full size for the really enormous bumpers, and some half that, for the less extravagant over-consumers.
As a quick aside, could my esteemed friend overseas get in touch, if she still knows where the printable jpeg/pdf files are? 😉

These days, they could be attached to supermarket trolleys at the Warehouse, the way credit-card marketing has turned everyone with a credit rating into an overconsuming member of the national household debt figures.

Growing weeds

Kiwiblog gave a list of 10 ‘axioms’ yesterday about economics.  The problem was that all 10 are true only in the sense that they are good for the economy because a good economy has been defined in such a way as to make the axioms true.

Take for instance the worst of Farrar’s ten, number 4; The best measure of a good economy is its growth.

Why do we assume all growth is good?  A growing tomato vine is good, a growing weed, not so much.  Yet we measure both as though they are the same. Even though top economists might not agree with me a growing economy is not necessarily a good economy.

Putting aside the issue that we currently use a measure of growth (GDP) that includes a whole lot of weeds on the positive rather than the negative side of the ledger, sometimes you can just have too many tomatoes.  A little bit of pruning, a little bit of restrained foresight, a little bit of diversity maybe better than the monoculture growth that economists want.

It’s self evident that you only need as much food in your fridge as you can eat – too much more would be wasteful rot.  And off course, any gardener will tell you what happens to the land when you push it too hard and try to get too much growth out of it too fast.

(Jackhumm, you seem like a gardener, you might like to comment on the analogy?)

Bluey the bike

I took my bike into a shop to get it serviced last week.  The last time it had been near a bike mechanic was about February.  When I came back the next day to pick it up the mechanic shook his head sagely at me and said that I needed new wheel rims, chain, wires, cogs, pedals etc… sum total quote $675.

Problem was this quote was for a bike I bought for $699 two and half years ago.  I’ve subsequently seen a newer model of the same bike for sale in another shop for $599.  So, ethical question for Green consumers: Should I repair (‘completely refit’) my bike and not buy a shiny new one, thus costing myself money, or should I buy the new bike and get rid of the old one, thus unnecessarily adding to the amount of unneeded stuff in the world?

It’s a good bike that has been loyal and I have rode it nearly every day up or down the hill I live on, which is why the rims and wires have had such a rough life. And I know that either choice is cheaper than the alternatives – a bus pass or a car. But it seems funny that repairing a bike costs more than buying a new one. There’s something out of kilter with our economic system there.