Happy New Year! Below is a brief roundup of the Wellbeing Economy Ireland Hub‘s activities over the past few months.
We have a lot planned for 2023, so please keep an eye out for our updates in the course of the year. You’ll be hearing from us again soon!
- Cultural Creatives: Transformation Catalysts for a Wellbeing Economy
We’re delighted to be collaborating with the Carnegie UK Trust on this exciting new project. The aim is to expose ways in which a dominant economic narrative captures our popular imagination, and to mobilize creative, affirming cultural practices that present alternative world views.
We will build a community of practice to support storytellers, singers, film-makers, visual artists and writers in contributing to this process of imagining the island’s diverse landscape of language, communities and alternative socio-ecological narratives. This new community of practice will bring together researchers, creative practitioners and activists. We’ll be sending around more information about this work in the coming months.
- Social Justice Ireland held its Annual Social Policy Conference, ‘Towards Wellbeing for All’ on Wednesday, 16th November 2022
The Conference posed the question “What does Wellbeing look like and what needs to be considered for society, for the planet and for communities to thrive and what policies are needed to get us there?”
Speakers at the event included Raili Lahnalampi (Finnish Ambassador to Ireland); Larry O’Connell and Anne-Marie McGauran (NESC); Carrie Exton (OECD); Sabina Alkire (OPHI); Gabriel Makhlouf (Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland); Clodagh Harris (UCC); Peter Doran (Queens University Belfast/WEAll Ireland Hub); Helen Howes (Wicklow Public Participation Networks); and Colette Bennett (Social Justice Ireland/WEAll Ireland Hub).
Conference proceedings, videos, and slides are available on the Social Justice Ireland website at Towards Wellbeing For All – Conference Videos and Papers | Social Justice Ireland . They include Colette and Peter’s papers and presentations.
- Feasta’s Caroline Whyte gave the keynote address, ‘From Growth Trap to Dynamic Balance: Achieving a Wellbeing Economy’, at the Development Studies Association of Ireland conference in Limerick on November 17th. The theme of the conference was ‘Critical Perspectives in Sustainable Development’, and its goal was to rigorously interrogate the concept of sustainable development, examining its viability and adaptability to the emerging 21st century climate and habitat crises, and exploring some possible ways forward. You can access the slides from Caroline’s talk here.
- Feasta, in its role as an Environmental Pillar member, made a series of recommendations to the Department of the Taoiseach on the Irish Government’s new Wellbeing Framework, as part of the Pillar’s submission on the National Economic Dialogue. We subsequently attended an online meeting with the DOT officials who are working on the Framework. Our recommendations include making the Framework’s development process more inclusive, ensuring that all of its indicators match the ‘wellbeing economy’ criteria, and clarifying its use in policymaking. We’re also advocating for a move towards post-growth and wellbeing economics in Irish policy in our role as an Environmental Pillar representative at the National Economic and Social Council.
- Democratic, Inclusive and Creative Neighbourhoods: WEAll Ireland Hub event and live podcast on Oct 11 2022
This dynamic session explored how we apply neighbourhood-based, participatory and incisive processes to community-led housing, and other cooperative initiatives. The day-long session took place in Cloughjordan, County Tipperary, with Joseph Rathinam, a south Indian community activist. With inputs from Sinead Cullen, Peadar Kirby, Nathaniel Whitestone, SOA, Common Knowledge & WEAll IRELAND. It was hosted and facilitated by Davie Philip (Cultivate/WEAll Ireland Hub) and Chris Chapman.
- The Derry Playhouse has been bringing activists and groups active in Zero Waste and Climate Action in the Derry-Londonderry area to build collaborative working and grow capacities as part of our Artitude project exploring climate, culture and the circular economy.
We have also joined a pilot Community Wealth Building Hub with a range of organisations across different sectors. Led by Development Trust NI, we are working on a range of initiatives that are seeking to establish a community wealth building approach in the area and across Northern Ireland. Further details here.
A commentary by WEAll Ireland Hub member Peter Doran on “The Mindful Commons”
The writer, Philip Pullman (2008) has observed that environmentalists – essentially – tell a story about ‘us’ and ‘themselves’ and about our place in the universe (e.g. Thomas Berry: the new cosmic story) In this sense, environmentalism has something in common with the function of religion. Questions are posed: why are we heres? What is here? And What does it consist of? Above all, perhaps, we are confronted by the question: ‘What does it mean for us to be conscious of what we are doing to the world?’
In this age of the Anthropocene we have – individually and collectively – arrived at a threshold of consciousness. The quality and trajectory of our consciousness is no longer incidental (perhaps it never was) to the fate of the planet and the associated ecosystems, including the relative stability of the atmosphere.
At the core of this mindful and more conscious living must be the extension of an ethos of ‘non violence’ and a gentle self regulation wherein life is lived in the key of a new song: biorhythms…not algorithms.
Petra Kelly, one of the foremost influences on my early thinking, put it like this:
In a world struggling in violence and dishonesty, the further development of non-violence not only as a philosophy but as a way of life, as a force on the streets, in the market squares, outside the missile bases, inside the chemical plants and inside the war industry becomes one of the most urgent priorities. … The suffering people of this world must come together to take control of their lives, to wrest political power from their present masters pushing them towards destruction. The Earth has been mistreated and only by restoring a balance, only by living with the Earth, only by emphasizing knowledge and expertise towards soft energies and soft technology for people and for life, can we overcome the patriarchal ego (Chatto and Windus).
Equally, the quality of the stories and connections will be paramount. After twenty years of global and regional ‘action’ to pursue the sustainable development agenda set out at the first Rio ‘Earth Summit’ (1992) the United Nations Environment Programme (2012) has concluded that efforts to slow the rate or extent of changes to the Earth System have resulted in only moderate successes but have ‘not succeeded in reversing environmental changes’. Moreover, several critical global, regional and local thresholds are close or have been exceeded. Once these have been passed, abrupt and possibly irreversible changes to life-support functions of the planet are likely to occur, with significant adverse implications for human well-being.
The questions posed by the ecological crises are, above all, a series of provocations. That’s why writers have detected that the scale and nature of this crisis – or crises – invites us to revisit our most basic assumptions. Zizek (1995:34) caught the mood with his suggestion that the radical character of the ecological crisis is due not only to the effective danger. What is at stake is our most unquestionable presuppositions:
…the very horizon of our meaning, our everyday understanding of “nature” as a regular, rhythmic process (Zizek 1995:34)
Echoing Wittgenstein, Zizek concludes that the ecological crisis bites into our ‘objective certainty’, into the domain of self-evident certitudes about which, within our established ‘form of life’, it is simply meaningless to have doubts.
The truth – of course – is that we have no choice but to live with new and far reaching questions about the implications of crises such as climate change. As Zizek and others have hinted…we are at a point of transition – ‘between stories’ – and as ‘communities of fate’ in a risk laden world, facing uncomfortable, unsettling questions is what we must now do both personally and collectively. Among the most interesting questions are those that confront the ‘social logic’ of capitalism and consumerism – for this is where we live out our lives, both real and imagined. And here, we meet one of the most intriguing questions of all (after Zizek): why is that we can imagine the end of the world much more easily than the end of capitalism?