News / 9 March 2012

Dare to dream about a sustainable economy, Daniëlle Hirsch shares her vision

"My idea of 'good' is that people can make decisions about their own development; that they are able to decide what happens to their environment. That we all respect the boundaries of our ecosystems and that women, just like men, are able to develop in the way that they want". Daniëlle Hirsch is responding to a question from the audience where she just gave a lecture on her views for a future sustainable economy.

Dare to dream

For many people, this sustainable economy is nothing but a dream, but one that has to be dreamt. Hirsch: "These days it's an act of vulnerability to share your dreams, because everyone is inclined to see them as naïve and unrealistic". By showing a video, she shows how people are blinded by the reality of here and now, and are hardly able to see the small green economies evolving all around us.


Sustainable economies: they already exist

In Niger, thousands of local farmers are regreening large parts of the Sahel. By planting trees and shrubs in one of the most dry and degraded places on earth, harvests have improved and the groundwater levels have risen immensely. In India and Peru, villagers have taken on management of their own water resources. The quality of water has improved and the division of water is much better adjusted to local production systems. But companies are also making progress; an attenuated tea plantation in Sri Lanka was brought back to life by planting the original vegetation in between the tea bushes.


Hirsch shares her vision on sustainable economies: "I principally see a world where diversity prevails. Diversity in economic systems and social relations, but also in leadership and production systems". In Hirsch' vision, financial systems accommodate small and local producers, which makes the supply more diverse. Exhausted ecosystems are being cleverly restored, making land fertile again. The same land is being used by farmers who stay within the boundaries of that specific ecosystem. Women play an important role in the sustainable economy of Hirsch: "The large number of female decision-makers creates a balance between economic and social values. The relation between 'having' and 'being' is balanced.

The 'silver bullet' doesn't exist

According to Hirsch, we have to realise that the one solution doesn't exist, being blinded by the silver bullet that will improve the whole global system at once, will only be counterproductive. "Let's all recognise that we are improvising. Criticism is easy, what we have to strive for is giving people space to start working on different activities and solutions", says Hirsch. As an example she mentions the incubators at Philips, where a group of visionaries receive money and space to think 'out of the box' and develop innovative products.

Visionaries and new systems

It turned out that with existing actors like the WTO and the World Bank, we are not heading towards a sustainable economy. According to Hirsch, that's why we must find new actors, visionaries from the South like Leonardo Boff and Wangari Matai. The WTO and the World Bank can still be a part of this, but they will have to return to their mandate of solidarity and sustainable and social development. Hirsch: "Not until we set boundaries for our own investments, respect human rights and support local groups in standing up for their rights and ideas, will we start paving the way towards a sustainable and maintainable economy".

The 'Duurzaamheidsoverleg Politieke Partijen' (DOPP) is a sustainability consultation for political parties. The DOPP organised a second lecture series on the 8th of March called 'in search of a sustainable economy'. Next to Danielle Hirsch, other guest speakers were Myriam van der Stichele of SOMO who spoke about the future of trade agreements, and René Kleijn of the Centre for environmental science who talked about increasing resource scarcities. The next DOPP lectures are held on the 22nd of March.

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