Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Monetary adaptation to planetary emergency: new paper addresses the monetary growth imperative

“There is no way out of our Covid debts with the current monetary system, unless we speed up our consumption and destruction of ecosystems which then increases the risk of future pandemics. It's a debt catch-22 that we will only escape with monetary reform. The deaf ears of politicians on this matter is why some people think a Money Rebellion has become necessary,” explains co-author Professor Jem Bendell, University of Cumbria. 

This new research paper “Monetary Adaptation to Planetary Emergency” joins the debate about what can be done about the massive Covid-related public debts. It argues that there is no way out of this debt situation that won't make future pandemics more likely, unless there is monetary reform. The authors argue that neither more GDP growth nor more borrowing is the solution to unprecedented levels of debt. Instead, the role of government treasuries, central banks and banks must now change.

Currently, money is created by private banks when they issue loans. This paper argues that such a system means that our economies are forced to expand, whether or not a population wants that. Such a Monetary Growth Imperative arising from the unique privilege of private banks issuing money is now untenable due to both climate change and evidence that environmental damage generates pandemic risk.

The paper notes the increasing likelihood of disruptions to economic systems from the direct and indirect impacts of environmental change means that the current monetary system is neither resilient nor helping humanity become more resilient.

For twenty years, and with little influence, some environmental economists argued that the way money is issued into circulation forces the economy to grow, and that only fundamental monetary reform could change that. But over the last decade some economists influential in environmental policy communities, including the field of degrowth (and postgrowth), have argued that capitalism without growth is theoretically possible. This paper shows, in simple terms, they were mistaken to conclude that, and it makes the case again for systemic changes to our monetary systems.

Therefore, the authors show how even green-tinged economists have been misinforming both activists and policy makers. The paper suggests that as members of the establishment, academics often have a bias towards questions, conclusions and narratives which will be acceptable to power. As an economist, sociologist and community activist, the three authors call on the economics profession to look again at the way the banking systems force our economies to expand in order to avoid disruption to businesses, jobs and financial assets. They argue that no criticism of capitalism is coherent nor a credible basis for alternatives unless it addresses the Monetary Growth Imperative.  

“The world is in an unprecedented mess. This means, among other things, that economists should question their assumptions, or risk becoming outdated and toxic. The money system is a major, often overlooked driver of economic behaviour, and it needs urgent reform. It's time for a radical overhaul," explains co-author Professor Christian Arnsperger, University of Lausanne. . 

It is the first academic paper that directly challenges economists in the environmental field to stop being anti-radical in their assessment of the need for monetary reform.

“Despite recent academic doubts, the current monetary system requires that economies must expand in order for the money supply to be sufficient to service debts. That means there must be wholesale monetary reform to reduce the destructive pressure on the environment and give space for communities and societies to try to adapt,” explains co-author Matthew Slater, Community Forge. 

The authors conclude that if they are issued in responsible ways that protect privacy and rights, then Central Bank Digital Currencies are one policy option to help countries to escape the Covid debt catch-22. “At least the rise of crypto currencies has been an innovative disruption which is propelling some central banks to shift into the 21st century” said Professor Bendell, who ten years ago predicted that Facebook would launch a currency one day, and described Bitcoin as making people rich, in his TEDx speech on the need for monetary innovation and reform. 

The paper also provides backing for a novel approach to monetary policy where governments would enable the widespread use of different currencies for accumulation and for circulation.

How will these ideas get any traction within the field of economics? Perhaps the climate crisis will be the trigger. Looking at the climate movement, Professor Bendell explains that: 

“Many campaigners and policy makers claim that we now need system change because of the climate crisis. They can be forgiven for not knowing how that must involve changing the monetary system, as the topics of money and banking have been made opaque by many economists. So let’s simplify the matter this way. The current money system means that humanity is being forced to expand our consumption and destruction of the natural world, threatening life on Earth. Therefore you would not be credible to call for bold action on climate if you are not calling for deep changes in banking. So while it might be fashionable in some circles to say neoliberalism is over or that capitalism is broken, unless you get specific on the brokenness of the monetary system and what must change, then you aren’t coherent. The burning forests, flooding cities and failing harvests tell us that we are out of time for pussy footing on deep changes to banking and monetary systems ” 

The paper can be downloaded here

A recording of a webinar with the authors will become available here

Share news on this paper and topic with the hashtags #monetaryadaptation and #adaptingmoney

If you are working on this, then consider the Business and Finance discussion group of the Deep Adaptation Forum. In addition the global Scholars Warning initiative have a discussion thread on economics within its community. if you have a doctorate, you cab consider signing the letter and joining the initiative here.

A previous Occasional Paper from IFLAS explored more local level currency innovation to generate more community resilience to external shocks.

To reference this paper:

Arnsperger, Christian, Bendell, Jem and Slater, Matthew (2021) Monetary adaptation to planetary emergency: addressing the monetary growth imperative. Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS) Occasional Papers Volume 8. University of Cumbria, Ambleside, UK.

To reference this blog:

IFLAS (2021) Monetary adaptation to planetary emergency: new paper addresses the monetary growth imperative, Blog of the Initiative for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS), March 21st, University of Cumbria, UK.

The video of the webinar to launch the research paper on the need to transform out monetary system:

Monday, 15 March 2021

People-Centred Health and Deep Adaptation - by Asiya Odugleh-Kolev of the World Health Organisation

This is a guest blog from a recent participant in the Sustainable Leadership and Deep Adaptation short course, offered by the University of Cumbria. Asiya Odugleh-Kolev is a technical officer at the World Health Organisation, and a member of the Holding Group of the Deep Adaptation Forum.

As the COVID-19 pandemic challenges both health systems and whole communities around the world, the matter of how we help each other maintain physical, mental and emotional health in the context of social distancing is a hot topic of conversation. People are realising that one cannot be separated from the other. They are all deeply interconnected and contribute to our health and overall sense of wellbeing. In fact, the restriction of traditional ways of being with others has focused attention on precisely what we have lost - the quality and nature of our participation in relationship, whether at the family, community, organizational and societal level and how we give and receive. Where these relationships have been healthy and functional, we have mourned their loss. Where these relationships have been dysfunctional and toxic, the result has been an increase in violence.[1] [2]  I am convinced that as humanity is challenged more by all kinds of disruptions and disturbances, belonging, community and our ability to relate will become more important. To meet that challenge, we need more creative approaches to health, that integrate all aspects of who we are, moving beyond the limitations of some of the current medical orthodoxy.

My work at the World Health Organisation’s Integrated Health Services Department, is concerned with how we take a whole-person whole-system approach to community engagement and how such an approach can support health services become more resilient and people-centred so that health care environments are capable of contributing to the health and well-being of their own workforce and the populations they serve. This work is essential to break down silos created by standard medical knowledge. I have seen how disconnected a health system can be from itself and the needs of the communities they serve. Whether working in Sierra Leone during epidemics, or in the UK with refugee families, I have experienced and observed first-hand some of the deep flaws in our mindsets and healthcare systems. Content and process are routinely separated which in turn creates multiple blind spots in health service planning, delivery and experience.  In fact, the integration of the promotion of health in our everyday interactions through human connection and relationship building is the exception rather than the norm in every country I have visited.

Why is this the case? Like other sectors, health has been shaped by its historical legacy and shored up by disciplinary silos across the sciences that impede collective learning and sense-making.  It is not what we know but how that knowledge is applied to address real world problems that still challenges us.  Our healthcare systems were originally designed to diagnose and treat disease. They were driven by the eradication of infectious diseases that were prevalent at the time hence the focus on technical solutions such as vaccines, anti-biotics and water and sanitation programmes.  The consequence of such a system has been to reduce people to body parts and minimize investments in the social determinants of health.  A lot has already been written by others about the need to evolve from a bio-medical mindset – especially as more people find themselves in a period of sustained uncertainty and disruption. The irony is that the need for more socially-based interventions are coming from the natural sciences. Imaging and diagnostic tools that have allowed us to peer inside our brains and bodies and the work of scientists on gene function and expression are all reinforcing the critical connection between the mind, the body and lived experience.[3]  The neural architecture and algorithms that humans need for navigating life and making sense of the world are laid down in early childhood. Consequently, as a species we know an awful lot about what contributes to building healthy individuals, families, communities, schools, and workplaces. yet that knowledge is not being translated into supporting the adaption and evolution of our systems of human organization and governance across all sectors.[4]

It has been estimated that it takes roughly 17 years or longer for research to become integrated and mainstreamed into the health sector, with most innovation taking place outside of formal health systems.[5] [6] Furthermore, science itself is only just catching up with indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing about our interconnectedness. I have often said that we need to acknowledge the science of common sense. Indigenous knowledge and ways of relating and living has been built over thousand of years of observation.  Research has shown that lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure, and that genes impacted by loneliness also code for immune function and inflammation.[7] [8] According to the Stanford Centre for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, “strong social connections boost immunity and lengthen life. People who feel more connected to others have lower levels of anxiety and depression, higher self-esteem, and greater empathy for others. They are also more trusting and cooperative, and others are therefore more open to trusting and cooperating with them. In other words, social connectedness generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional and physical well-being”.[9] [10]

We don’t need a medical degree to understand how humans are born to bond and wired to connect, and human relationships are the primary social “building block” of community. Yet the breakdown of extended families, the increasing isolation of caregivers and the stress people are exposed to through social adversity and life events deeply affect their ability to connect and to form and sustain healthy relationships. Understanding this complexity is important for develop more systemic interventions that help individuals and communities to cope and to thrive. This means connecting the dots between different disciplines, including brain sciences and the relational sciences, and the social and emotional contexts in which clinical and technical work gets done. When it is carried out with this intention, community engagement can become a transformative process and a mechanism to reorient public sector institutions, starting with health. Institutions and places of work have to become the new “relational schools” of the present and future.

The need for the medical systems of the world to evolve beyond the limitations of a standard medical mindset feels important to me personally. I was born into an oral society in East Africa where relationships define who we are and our culture. Relationship and connection are in my DNA. But early childhood trauma also taught me what disconnection and isolation feel like and what the long-term consequences can be to someone’s development. It has taken decades of self-reflection and inner work to learn how to feel safe in my relationships so that I can contribute to mutually empowering relationships that are interdependent. For instance, during my work with refugee communities in the UK, I found it much easier to help others find their voice than to express my own needs and preferences. It has been a painful yet joyful process that has brought me to my knees but also enabled me to celebrate significant success.

I share with you my own journey because an aspect of the standard medical mindset which needs to change has been to downplay our own humanity, beyond the important oath to do no harm.  I remember one of my directors telling me over a decade ago that public health has traditionally played the role of Cinderella to medicine. However, COVID-19 has demonstrated that individual and population-based approaches are inseparable. The pandemic has also focused attention on the needs of the health workforce and there have been increasing calls on the need for compassion at all levels with a  particular emphasis on health leadership.  This means tackling chronic work overload, acute staff shortages,  workforce attrition and retention as well and dealing with relational crises.[11] This was before the virus appeared and in a COVID world will require a different kind of investment.  For example, roughly 54 million people experience workplace bullying in the US, and healthcare organizations have the highest incidence of bullying across all sectors.[12] Studies from Europe show that half of all doctors report symptoms of depression, exhaustion, dissatisfaction and a sense of failure, compromising patient safety and service quality, and contributing to medical errors. [13] [14] Lateral or horizontal violence in nursing is also described as a “persistent occupational hazard within the global nursing workforce”.[15]

There is no magic bullet when the problem is the confluence of multiple factors to create a culture that needs radical self-love and a reorientation to purpose. Namely, a hierarchical structure, patriarchy, silos, and outdated, fragmented medical curricula and methods of professional training.[16] When asked, health system changemakers have often described the culture and leadership of health systems as being one of command and control and highly masculinized. Given that 50-75% of the global health workforce are women, the brunt of caring and front-line delivery of health services falls on those who do not have a voice at the decision-making table and are unable to have their needs heard.

The phrase “physician heal thyself” echoes through the ages, and into the corridors of the World Health Organisation. Because we cannot encourage a shift to more people-centred approaches across the world, if we do not explore what this means for our own lives and work. Therefore, I am an active member of a Change Agent Network to transform our own culture and ways of working. I am also collaborating internally and externally to promote innovation in research to address gaps in evidence for community engagement, while learning from changemakers around the world about how they are leading successful change at different levels of the health system. As part of this work, and my own desire to expand and deepen my own leadership practice, I discovered the Deep Adaptation movement. Here I met people who were either experiencing or anticipating societal disruption and even collapse, and responding by emphasising the opportunities for holistic transformations of self and society.

This is important, because there are increasing indicators that we must take the possibility of greater societal disruptions seriously. In my experience, the transdisciplinarity needed for our health systems to address precursors to societal disruption and collapse remains at the stage of initial ideas. Deep Adaptation provides a framework, among others aligned with profound transformation of self and society and inspiration to go further in that work. It also offers a framework for how we can have a different quality of conversation within our organizations.

It may seem very bleak to some, especially who have had no experience of societal disruptions in their recent cultural history. Yet, given my own life experience, I have some faith that out of a situation of growing health stresses and disruptions, we can start to connect the dots and there can be the opportunity for the health sector to begin to renew its purpose and meaning alongside similar efforts in the education sector. To become partners in collective action to heal our organizations and reintegrate physical, mental, emotional and social health – as in WHO’s definition of health. [17] [18] [19]


IFLAS is taking enrolments in the next offering of the Sustainable Leadership and Deep Adaptation Course, online for 5 days from July 12th, with a one-day conference in September. The course is led by Professor Jem Bendell. His co-edited book on #DeepAdaptation is now available for pre-order.

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

Citizenship and Sustainability of Organizations: Exploring and Spanning the Boundaries’, book launch

    Tuesday 23 March from 16:00-17:30

The University of Cumbria’s Initiative for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS) and the Institute of Business, Industry and Leadership (Business, industry and leadership)are delighted to announce the online launch of a new book by two of our academic staff:

Citizenship and Sustainability of Organizations: Exploring and Spanning the Boundaries’, edited by David F. Murphy and Alison Marshall published in January 2021.

This edited collection is the introductory volume of a new Routledge book series with the same name: 'Citizenship and Sustainability in Organizations’.

The Online Book Launch on 23 March will be chaired by Dr Stephen Gibbs, Principal Lecturer in Business and Leadership, and will include an interactive panel discussion with contributing authors and the editors.

"Citizenship and Sustainability of Organizations: Exploring and Spanning the Boundaries "offers an opening for debates on critical current issues, particularly those that may be too new to yet be the subject of theoretical studies.

The volume brings together chapter authors who are leading thinkers who are pushing the boundaries of conventional thinking about corporate citizenship and sustainability to advocate and generate innovative models and practices.

We plan to stimulate discussion at the online launch and you will be invited to actively contribute.

For more details click here

All participants will receive the Zoom link prior to the launch by email.

Get your own copy

Details of how to purchase the book with a 20% discount at Routledge Paperbooks Direct can be found in this PDF.

Download: citizenship-sustainability-in-organizations-book-flyer

Media Partner

This event is supported by the Association of Sustainability Practitioners (ASP).

“Connecting, supporting and challenging sustainability practitioners.”