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Ecological economist Dave Batker,

co-author of What’s the Economy for Anyway? (film clip at Tinyurl. com/3tc9dlk), believes that moving forward requires greater citizen involve- ment in the shaping of democracy, laws and our collective future. By ditching pundits and talking with neighbors, city by city and town by town, citi- zens throughout the United States are moving to do this using newly learned techniques such as those offered by Open Space Technology, World Café, Transition Towns, Sustainable Cities, The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education, and the Institute of Noetic Sciences’ Worldview Literacy Project. In St. Petersburg, Florida, Oklaho-

ma City, Oklahoma, and other places, citizens are cultivating a stronger sense of community with real discussions about local issues and economic goals. They aim to arrive at a clear-eyed view of what citizens really want from the economy. In St. Petersburg, the culmination

of Sharon Joy Kleitsch’s 10-year effort to build a flourishing community through helpful workshops on timely subjects, meaningful conversations and align- ing constructive partnerships is reach- ing a crescendo this month at Beyond Sustainability: Ecosystems, Economics, and Education, the Institute of Florida Studies’ 36th annual conference, at Hillsborough Community College ( Kleitsch remarks, “I show up, pay attention and listen for opportunities where my connections with policy makers, educators, nonprof- its and community activists can help convene people in meaningful conver- sations that can make a difference in building a resilient community.” In Oklahoma City, Sustainable

OKC, a volunteer organization working towards community sustainability at the crossroads of business, environment and social justice, frequently partners with the city’s Office of Sustainability, the CommonWealth Urban Farms proj- ect and the Oklahoma Food Cooperative ( The grassroots organization advocates shopping locally and sustainably. Jennifer Alig, Sustainable OKC president, is consistently delighted by the growing number of residents that don’t just attend events such as movie

screenings of The Economics of Hap- piness, but also show up to plant food to feed the hungry and join Common- wealth Urban Farms work parties to feed neighborhoods using the prod- ucts of thriving urban farms on vacant city lots. Alig notes, “After events, we sometimes use Open Space Technol- ogy to talk about topics that people are passionate about and willing to invest their time in.” The kind of society that makes for health, happiness, true prosperity and sustainability is one with strong local economies and flourishing com- munities that includes many activities provided by local nonprofits. It’s one characterized by:

n Local small businesses and banking n Farmers’ markets and urban gardens

n Urban designs that favor shared walks instead of isolated commutes n Public spaces for social interaction

n Circumstances in which buyers know sellers n Businesspeople that sponsor and

volunteer for local activities n Salary differences that are not vast

n Citizens building a better world together We intuitively know what is required

to create such a society, starting in our own community. What we need is the determination to make sure the economy serves us; rules that benefit all of the people; a commitment to wide- spread quality of life, social justice and sustainability; and the political will to make good change happen.

John de Graaf, media and outreach director for the Happiness Initiative, speaks nationally on overwork and overconsumption in America. He re- cently co-authored What’s the Economy for, Anyway? – Why It’s Time to Stop Chasing Growth and Start Pursuing Happiness, with David Batker. He is also co-author of Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic. Fifteen of his documentaries have aired on PBS.

Linda Sechrist writes and edits for Natural Awakenings.

natural awakenings November 2011


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