As I write these words in Oakland the day after Christmas 2017, the Thomas wildfire in Ventura County near Los Angeles has been burning for nearly a month. Finally 88% contained, this is the largest fire in California history and the second unprecedentedly catastrophic wildfire in the State in under two months. The air quality in the Bay Area has been significantly impacted. People with respiratory illnesses or other sensitivities have needed to begin wearing their N95 masks again as they did during the Norcal fires and the severity of asthma symptoms especially in children has ostensibly worsened.
A recent photo of Christmas trees decorated in what now resembles a vacant lot in Santa Rosa placed by people marking where their homes used to be is an indelible reminder of the tragedy, as are images of the loss and devastation caused by Hurricanes Henry and Ira in the southern US, Puerto Rico, and many places in the Caribbean.
For hundreds of millions of people, perhaps billions across the globe natural disasters have brought home the inescapable fact that the world as we once knew it is truly gone. Words fail to approximate the extent to which there has never been a more crucial time to redesign our economy than now – Life as we know it urgently depends on it. The ever -expanding voraciousness of our current economy has eroded the Earth’s capacity to regulate our ecosystems. Thus, the urgency of climate change is extending its long, many-handed reach and knocking upon all our doors -- except for those people from Santa Rosa to San Juan, Puerto Rico who have lost homes upon which those doors once welcomed them. In the silence that now greets them, now is the time to co-create a new economy which is capable of sustaining rather than recklessly devouring life is the message which resounds.
In defining the vision of its Next Economy Program, the Movement Strategy Center, a Bay Area and national thought leader on these issues, states, “MSC’s Next Economy program supports the transition to an economy based on interdependence, abundance, and regeneration. [The] Next Economy program focuses on discovering, building, and supporting what is feasible, scalable, and replicable, while staying rooted in the needs and interests of local communities. Our current global economic system is based on exploitation and profit maximization that sacrifice our most vulnerable communities as well as the natural world. We know that today, our communities face the worst of climate catastrophe and epic dislocation, the symptoms of a system in its last, most destructive phase. The current unsustainable system is melting down. Let’s put something strong in its place.”
As you read this issue you will note that as our movements, institutions, and practices to transform capitalism as it currently functions emerge and grow, new language to describe these efforts are emerging. New economy, regenerative economy, next economy, socially conscious entrepreneurship, and impact investment are all terms which relate to and attempt to define these myriad, interconnected and hopeful efforts.
The Community Capital Markets or COCAP Conference: Building the We Economy, which has been organized for the last four years by Impact Hub Oakland stands out as another local and national thought leader. The COCAP Conferences serve as a compass of where our movements have been and where we are heading in terms of the most progressive and cutting-edge regenerative economic efforts. The community-based (and much more affordable) alternative to the annual SOCAP (Social Capital Markets) gathering, the COCAP Conference focuses on “strategies for building local regenerative economies that create equity and well being for all.” The leadership and needs of communities marginalized from finance, entrepreneurship, and wealth, especially communities of color and women, are centered.
A non-denominational spiritual exploration of who we all need to become individually and collectively to enable sustainable economic shift has also consistently been a central focus of the conference. COCAP is brainchild of Konda Mason, the co-founder and founding CEO of Impact Hub Oakland and a long time Buddhist teacher who sits on the Spirit Rock Board, and Jenny Kassan, co-founder of the Sustainable Economy Law Center and Force for Good Fund. The COCAP gatherings have historically proposed that spiritual exploration and the inner work it evokes is on par in importance to cultivating a grounded understanding of our material conditions in order to create alternative practices and institutions with an optimal potential for success and sustainability.
This year’s COCAP conference opened with a talk with Konda Mason and Jenny Kassan on the Four Noble Truths of the Economy followed by a keynote featuring Charles Eisenstein, the physicist turned writer whose widely known work explores changing the world narrative of domination and scarcity to one which centers cooperation, connection, and a deep abiding recognition of spiritual wealth. Along side local and national regenerative finance leaders and innovators, such as Morgan Simon of the Candide Group, Pi Investments and Transform Finance, as well as Rani Langer-Croager, co-founder of Uptima Business Accelerator, COCAP also featured Lama Tsomo, one of the few ordained American lamas in Tibetan Buddhism and Rev angel Kyodo williams, an ordained Zen priest and founder of the Center for Transformative Change. williams is also an expert in cryptocurrency and the economics of racialized capital. Nwamaka Agbo, Innovation Fellow and staff Lead of the Movement Strategy Center’s Next Economy program was a keynote speaker of this and last year’s conference as well.
The text above was just an excerpt. The web versions of our print articles are now hosted by Duke University Press, Tikkun’s publisher. Click here to read an HTML version of the article or to download the PDF version.
Tikkun 2018 Volume 33, Number 3:18-23