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Cool article from Reuters…  Go consumer power!  How many of y’all are buying organic, free-range turkey this year?

By Basil Katz

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Despite the worst U.S. recession in decades, sales of organic and sustainable products have continued to grow, experts say, with shoppers willing to spend a few more dollars in a bid to become more green.

U.S. supermarket sales of environmentally sustainable or “ethical” products — from energy-efficient light bulbs to organic produce — will rise about 8.7 percent in 2009 to nearly $38 billion, according to a recent study by Packaged Facts, a market research provider.

President Barack Obama‘s commitment to tackle climate change, a string of scandals over tainted food and effective marketing of sustainable products have helped convince more Americans, whose environmental credentials lag behind Europeans, to buy green.

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If you are at all interested in finance for development, check this out.

Post courtesy

Statement of the WOMEN’S WORKING GROUP ON FINANCING FOR DEVELOPMENT * for the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh, September 2009

The current G20 meeting in Pittsburgh takes place a year after the outbreak of the worst financial crisis in recent history. That moment left us astonished as we watched powerful governments and the International Financial Institutions scramble to plug a hemorrhaging financial bubble burst in the system of the global market but the crisis quickly spread as a global contagion and soon entire economies were placed at risk. Everywhere the crisis led to destabilizing impacts on the real economy threatening the livelihoods of men and women.

WE believe that G20 leaders’ declarations have committed three essential mistakes: First, the declarations fail to diagnose the crisis as a symptom of something deeper: the unsustainability of an economic and financial system based on profit; the over concentration of capital, overproduction, rampant speculation; and the reckless consumerism that is guided by free market principles. The decoupling of the real economy and financial markets was accompanied by yet another fundamental artificial separation: the productive economy and the sphere of social reproduction.

From a gender perspective, it is also necessary to consider that the aggregate contribution of female labor in the productive economy is concentrated differently than that of male labor. This implies that the impacts of the crisis on women will vary according to sectors of the economy and work conditions. In general, female labor is more vulnerable than male labor with a highest concentration in the informal sector. Therefore, the trend is that women also suffer the most in the productive economy during a crisis. However, the G20 has not approached or attempted to provide answers to any of these elements and analysis of the gendered aspects of the crisis.

Second, the G20 statements presented some of the same elements that caused the crisis as a solution to it.

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Post by William Easterly

The world economy with its multiple crises is a frightening place. To confront our fears, we have a new global religion. It developed slowly over the last couple decades, based on the sacred writings of the world’s leading shamans. The shamans have been releasing a new scripture of prophecy and comfort every year after secluding themselves in a remote location for several days of prayer and reflection.

There used to be only seven of these shamans, and they were known for short as the G7. As of their latest retreat to the Burgh of Pitt last weekend, the number of shamans has grown to G20.

This year’s scripture, called The Communiqué, was the longest in G-ism history at 15 pages. It offered prayers of healing for many different ailments, from the pestilent OTC Derivative Contracts to the noxious Gas Emissions. It condemned the unholy Excessive Compensation in the Financial Sector as well as the evil Non-Cooperative Jurisdictions.

One of the greatest attractions of the G-ist religion is its concern for the poorest among us. G20 reserved their most fervent prayers of comfort and restoration for those who newly suffer, such as those who now hunger when they did not before. There are 90 million more who go hungry than at last year’s G-shaman meeting, after the Great Backsliding of 2008, whereupon “the financial crisis followed close on the heels of a global spike in food prices…{when} even before the crisis, too many still suffered from hunger …{and} recognizing the crisis has exacerbated this situation.” G20 offer to feed the hungry with GPAFS, CAADP, UNCFA, IDA, ADB, NGOs, FAO, IFAD, and WFP, using the holy mysteries of “coordinate efforts,” and “country-led mechanisms,” and “complement and reinforce other existing multilateral and bilateral efforts” (page 11, verse 39 of The Communiqué).

G20ism has proven to be tolerant and inclusive of other religions. According to a story in the Florida Catholic:

“Most people in high levels of government “really do want to do the right thing for the poor. They really do have a moral compass,” said Stephen Colecchi, director of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Office of International Justice and Peace, at a press conference in Pittsburgh Sept. 23. Part of the power of prayer and bringing together religious leaders at such an event is “the belief that we can influence people,” he said. Some 30 leaders of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh faiths attended the press conference before processing in full clerical garb to the Omni William Penn Hotel to meet with representatives of the U.S. delegation to the G–20 summit.”

Alas, there are still many who do not believe, even mocking the true faith of the G20. The nonbelievers claim that reason and evidence is the best path to alleviate suffering, rather than belief in the mystical powers of the G-shamans.

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On the one hand, the global financial crisis has reverberated around the world. Millionaires are canceling or curtailing their spending which in turn affects the spa owners, household staff, boutique owners and others who service their needs. A poll in the Washington Post stated that many individuals are anxious about their future. Foundations have suffered losses and are cutting back on the amount and number of groups they are funding. The reasons behind the collapse seem complicated and obtuse.

Yet, in reality, there are as simple as the old adage “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” The aggregation of banks from many to few is a lesson we should have learned before–there is security in diversity. By concentrating banking with a few large firms, the risks are also concentrated. As the Youtube video of Taleb and Mandelbrot (two brilliant thinkers) describes, the very process of globalization has led to a network effect (but not in a good way ).

In this case, interdependence makes the global financial system more vulnerable because risks are shared in complicated ways and mathematically, the overall effect is much larger. While networks and the effects they can have are usually considered desirable, as the butterfly effect (articulated by Mandelbrot) shows, one seemingly unrelated act can have a rippling effect throughout a system.

Many economists are looking to Keynsian economics and massive stimulus to resuscitate the economy and avert a depression. Others are pressing for increased trade talks and a revival of the Doha Round. A recent Foreign Affairs article proposes that the IMF and WTO coordinate more, particularly around currency issues. Yet, the diagnosis of the problem may be wrong.

While Keynsian economics makes sense and may contain the current crisis; the larger issue remains: we are now living in a networked global financial system. We need to have a better understanding of the system itself and seek new, innovative thinking about ways to remake the system to encourage pro-poor growth and mitigate risks rather than pool them. Encouraging a new Doha Round and relying on past economic formulas is not the answer.


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