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Local, Global Economies Focus of Dialogue Program

Randolph — A series of 10 community programs kicking off this week and continuing this fall and winter will examine the pressures being put on the economy by the changing environment and growing social inequity.

The “community dialogues,” which start on Thursday night at 6:30 at the Chandler Music Hall in Randolph, are being organized by South Royalton-based Building a Local Economy and the Randolph Development Corp.

Thursday’s program, “Measuring Our Future, Finding What Matters,” features segments of the film What’s the Economy for Anyway?, followed by a discussion with three leaders in the Vermont movement for a more sustainable economy: Marta Ceroni, sustainable economies program director of the Norwich-based Donella Meadows Institute; author and political science professor Eric Zencey, who is with Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont; and state Sen. Anthony Pollina, Senate sponsor of Vermont’s Genuine Progress Indicator legislation, an economy measuring system that is an alternative to the gross domestic product.

Zencey said much of the discussion may focus on the world’s debt-based economy and on how the economy is measured. The GDP measures the volume of monetary transactions in the economy. When there is more borrowing, the index rises, and the economy is said to be growing, although the money is created out of nothing by the banks. Because borrowing outstrips growth, the only way the debt can be repaid is to repudiate it, he said.

“When debt is repudiated, it comes on as crashes,” and the pain falls on people who have benefitted least from the debt — the creditors. “The ones who benefit the most are the 1 percent,” he said. “The creditors get screwed, and we’re all creditors if you have a 401(k) or a bank account.”

The Genuine Progress Indicator, which has been adopted by Vermont and Maryland and reported annually, provides a clearer picture of the economy than the GDP, Zencey said.

The GPI is produced by taking a figure for overall consumption spending in the state and then subtracting such costs as environmental losses as well as social costs that the GDP doesn’t count and adding benefits that GDP ignores, such as value that’s created but not sold in the market, Zencey said earlier this year in a commentary article published in The Bridge, a Montpelier newspaper.

For example, commuting time, lost time from automobile accidents, lost leisure from working overtime and unemployment and underemployment are treated as negatives by the GPI, while volunteer work and chores that people do for themselves, such as home repair, house cleaning and yard maintenance, are positives.

“Not only will the GPI count the costs and benefits of economic activity more accurately, but it will also help point the way to the ecologically sustainable economy that we all know we must develop,” Zencey said in the article.

The programs continue each month through the winter covering such topics as “Creating Local Wealth,” a discussion with author Michael Shuman; “Fixing the Future,” a film and discussion session; “Next Steps for Food System Change,” a panel discussion with state farm and food organization leaders; and “As If the Earth Mattered: A New Energy Future,” a panel discussion on creating a new energy paradigm.

The programs after the first of the year were in the final stages of being set last week, said Chris Wood, director of Building a Local Economy.

Thursday evening’s program will start with an informal gathering around samples of local food and the steel guitar music of Spencer Lewis prior to the film and discussion. For more information email info@balevt.org or call 802-498-8438.