Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability

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Feasta, the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability is an organisation based in Ireland which aims "to identify the characteristics (economic, cultural and environmental) of a truly sustainable society, articulate how the necessary transition can be effected and promote the implementation of the measures required for this purpose".[1] It was founded in Dublin, Ireland in 1998.[2]

History[edit]

The name "feasta" is an Irish word which means "in the future".[3] Feasta was founded as the result of a week-long workshop given by the economist Richard Douthwaite in County Kerry, Ireland, in the course of which attendants decided to establish an organisation to promote sustainability in Ireland and elsewhere, with an emphasis on the role played by systems in the world economy. Founders of Feasta included retired barrister John Jopling, co-author of Gaian Democracies,[4] architect Emer O'Siochru, and events organiser Davie Philip.

Philosophy[edit]

Feasta sees itself as promoting the coming, and necessary, transition to sustainable economic systems, including a sustainable financial system, transport system and food production system. The organisation uses the tagline "designing systems for a sustainable future". Social justice is assumed to be an important component of sustainability.

Activities[edit]

Since its inception, Feasta's attitude has been that sustainability needs to be explored and promoted both by the public in general and by policy-makers in particular. So it has simultaneously taken a "bottom-up" and a "top-down" approach to its activities.

Bottom-up

Feasta is registered as an educational non-profit,[5] and membership is open to all. According to its website, Feasta tries to operate in as democratic and non-hierarchical a way as possible. Activities have generally been initiated by individual members who were interested in pursuing specific projects. They have often been willing to start working on these projects with little or no funding, using Feasta for support and to make contact with other interested people, with funding only coming later. Feasta employs a Members' Agent, Morag Friel, whose job is to help members get in touch with one another, identify common interests and develop projects.

The Feasta website is interactive, with a forum section that includes discussions on broad topics such as energy, food and land, as well as ongoing projects such as Cap and Share. Members can also get in touch with one another via the website. Relevant papers and articles can be uploaded to the forum by members.

Feasta has hosted a large number of sustainability-related events which are open to the public. It has organised several major conferences, covering subjects such as Ireland's transition to renewable energy, the merits of introducing a land value tax, third-world debt and climate change, and the challenge of sustainable food production in a world of depleting fossil fuel. Since its founding it has held an annual lecture each year in Dublin. Past lecturers have included Herman Daly, David Korten, Marjorie Kelly and Wolfgang Sachs.

Feasta has also hosted numerous workshops, courses and discussions. It has frequently collaborated on events with other organisations such as the London-based New Economics Foundation, Jubilee Research, Cultivate Centre in Dublin, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, Trocaire and CORI (the Conference of Religious in Ireland).[6]

Top-down

Since 1999, Feasta has made a series of submissions and reports to governmental bodies in Ireland and the UK on topics ranging from financial system reform to rural housing.[7] It ran a series of seminars entitled "Converging Crises: Policy Responses" in the summer of 2008 that was also aimed at policymakers, although the general public were welcome to attend.[8]

Feasta has received funding from the Irish Environmental Protection Agency for a number of projects, ongoing ones (as of late 2008) consisting of research into carbon sinks and cycles and "smart taxes". The Irish government is currently considering the adoption of Cap and Share, an approach to addressing climate change which was developed by Feasta, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport.[9]

Publications[edit]

Since 2005, Feasta has expanded into multimedia production. Videos of Feasta lectures and of many other Feasta events are available for free download from its website.[10]

Cap and Share[edit]

FEASTA has proposed a Cap and Share carbon market mechanism for reducing emissions in the large chunk of the economy -road transport - not subject to the EU emissions trading scheme. Under cap and share, emission permits to cover fossil fuel usage would be issued free and equally to all consumers, but limited to an overall cap that would reduce over time. Consumers would sell their permits to oil and companies, which would be required to purchase permits to cover the emissions associated with all fuels they sold.[11]

Smart Tax Network[edit]

In September 2008 Feasta was awarded multi-annual funding from the Irish Department of the Environment for this project and the Carbon Cycles and Sinks project (see below).

The aim of the Smart Tax Network is to research, design, develop and adapt fiscal and market-based mechanisms to increase environmental, social and economic sustainability in Ireland.

The mechanisms with which the Network concerns itself will, amongst other things, be designed to address climate change, develop national and local resilience, foster biological, cultural and economic diversity, and foster justice and equality.

The primary role of the Network is to research and devise tools for policymakers and to engage in the policy making process. In particular, it will contribute to and liaise with the Commission on Taxation.

[12]

Carbon Cycles and Sinks[edit]

The purpose of the Carbon Cycles and Sinks project is to develop policies which will enable the Irish land mass to become a carbon sink rather than a source of greenhouse emissions. This project is led by Richard Douthwaite, and Corinna Byrne is project coordinator and lead researcher.

The core areas being examined by the CCSN include:

1. The best management practices and technologies to reduce or eliminate the release of greenhouse gas emissions from damaged peat bogs.

2. The best management practices to increase the carbon content of forests, hedgerows, scrub, arable and pasture land.

3. The best management practices and technologies to reduce nitrous oxide emissions from fertilizer use and the development of policies to substantially reduce nitrous oxides and other gases from tillage land and to reward farmers for using these new practises.

4. Study of the greenhouse gas emissions from slurry storage and ways of reducing them by adopting technologies such as anaerobic digestion to capture methane for energy and organic fertilizer.

5. The best ways of measuring soil carbon, establishing a baseline for later comparison with various agricultural practices or additions of amendments such as compost, biochar and/or microbial inoculations. [13]

Liquidity Network[edit]

Richard Douthwaite and others are volunteering on this project - unfunded as of August 2009.

The aim of the Liquidity Network is to address the Irish national liquidity problem - the slow down in economic activity triggered by the credit crunch.

Currently virtually all economic activity is powered by debt based credit - individuals and businesses borrow in order to finance their activities. Using the credit released by these loans they employ or do business with other individuals/ businesses who in turn do business with their suppliers and so on. There is thus a multiplier effect whereby the initial credit fuels transactions worth many times more than the value of the initial loan.

When the ’seed’ credit from banks dries up, as in the current crisis, the multiplier effect which normally helps to create liquidity efficiently acts in the reverse way and removes liquidity quickly.

FEASTA’s Liquidity Network aims to address this problem by creating an alternative ‘liquidity stream’ which is not based on debt.

The Feasta Liquidity Network group is hoping to launch the world's first debt-free electronic currency in County Kilkenny early in 2010. [14]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]