Dreams of a Livable Future

Democracy, ecology, and cultural vitality depend on a new economic vision for the world

| May / June 2003

By almost any measure, multinational corporations have failed spectacularly on their promise of fostering global democracy and prosperity. That’s why people all across the planet—from villagers in India to students in North America—are stepping up to challenge the abuses of big business. While corporate power is deeply entrenched, this new economic democracy movement is fueled by a fresh set of strategies about how people can regain power. —The Editors

I was recently asked to give a talk in Melbourne, Australia, to a group of businesspeople to make a case for sustainable development. I watched them gorge on roast chicken and chocolate mousse and chardonnay and coffee, and by the time I got up to speak I didn’t think they wanted what I was going to serve. They were full. Instead of answering, I posed the opposite question: I asked them what the business case is for worldwide endemic poverty, for double-glazing the planet with greenhouse gases. I asked them how it came to pass that we created an economic system that tells us it’s cheaper to destroy the earth than to take care of it. Why do we get economic signals that are antithetical to our deeply held values and common sense? Why do we separate the benefits of industrial development to some from the cost to others? Why do our deepest aspirations for goodness, for inclusion and generosity not cumulate into a peaceful and equitable society? In short, I asked them why we live in two worlds instead of one.