Ann Pettifor was honoured to be named as one of Gordon Roddick’s‘ethical pioneers changing the way we live’ in the Observer, Sunday 6th February 2011.
Gordon Roddick is no stranger to inspiring social and environmental change. He pioneered Fairtrade and co-founded The Body Shop and The Big Issue. Read his take on why we “can’t carry on operating under the same old system” as he outlines his hopes for a more sustainable – and fairer – way of life.
“I come from a view-point that Planet Earth is very nearly a busted flush and our leaders have not yet noticed that the world has changed forever. We can’t carry on operating under the same old system. Recent events in the economy have governments repeating the illusion that we will “return to growth”, but vital resources of energy and minerals are finite. Surely growth is the problem and not the solution?
We need to be more creative in our thinking. Milton Friedman and the Harvard Business School seem like sad dinosaurs left over from an age when greed and venality was the order of the day; and their mantra that dictated “the first duty of a business is to maximise shareholder value” hardly seems relevant in an age when three decades of that philosophy has left us with a sharply divided world of haves and have-nots.
Government seems powerless to think creatively, beholden to too many influences, excluding, of course, the electorate. Witness their inability to control the banking system, especially RBS and its latest bonus spree. It appears to me and to many of you, too, that it’s the wrong people who are feeling the pain.
We need to change their rules of accountability so big business can become the major contributing factor in our salvation. Imagine for a minute a world where business, as its first objective, had to serve the good of humanity! Or energy companies who might acknowledge that what they extracted from the earth should serve all mankind. Sounds like a better world to me. Only this week the National Labour Committee, a New York-based NGO that focuses on slave labour, revealed that workers in El Salvador are paid only 8 cents for every $25 T-shirt they sew. Their wages amount to a third of 1% of the shirt’s retail price. Not much of an argument against their having a pay rise.
We need to drop the blame game and come up with some answers. Ann Pettifor reminds us that at the end of the Second World War we had a much larger national debt than we have currently and, far from swingeing cuts, the forward-thinking Labour government of Clement Attlee invested heavily in the National Health Service and beyond into the welfare state – a great legacy for the future that helped create jobs and, along with infrastructure development, has helped us through some lean years.
We can no longer look to others to supply our needs. We must take on that responsibility individually and collectively and find strength within our own community. Matthew Fox, the American theologian excommunicated by the Pope in 1993, said: “Community comes from the word communion, to share a common task together. It is in the sharing of the task that people do bigger things than they knew they were capable of. Then there is really something to celebrate.”
Let’s laugh a little too – it can have a powerful effect, as proved in a very effective demonstration in Karnataka, India, in 1994, where the people simply stood outside the parliament building all night, laughing. They laughed and laughed until they laughed the government right out of office.
Just a thought, but maybe we could stand outside the House of Commons and see if Dave and Nick would join in the laughter…”