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Networked Economic Sustainability

Table of Contents

In this age, increasingly shaped by communications and technology, humanity is becoming acutely sensitive to its frail security. The rationalism of science continues to accelerate the conflict between global mind and local body. Energy and information are now our major exchangeable natural resources. They constitute the primary components of the value system in a newly emerging economic structure.

Some economists are now attempting to understand and to propose a new sense of values;

new economic practices, based upon our knowledge of ecological processes.  However, many proponents of ‘ecological economics’ seem not to comprehend the big picture, yet.  While their theories are ‘right on the money’ regarding the ‘green’ matter-energy environment, they have hardly considered the ‘information environment’ in their attempts to better manage this household.

Addressing and mitigating the impacts of climate change and human interactions with the greater environment, cannot be achieved through ‘business as usual’ approaches.  Those working with their sleeves rolled up, with large eco-data sets and with responsibility to their communities, know that we, as local-global society must take, as Gregory Bateson wrote, ‘steps to an ecology of mind’. 

Within this context, the need to form successful new and long term cooperative relationships will require newly emerging ecological and economic understandings and practices, having to go beyond the fictions, rhetoric and impositions of our current dominant political economic systems.

New ‘green’ economic thinking and applications are emerging as the key to achieving any realistic intentions for sustainability.  Networking provides the infrastructure upon which to grow  lifelong local-global learning, exchanges, demand aggregation, sustenance and economic vitality.

We are all variously producers as well as consumers in the ‘information society’.   Ecological consideration of the electromagnetic spectrum and our information ecosystem, might like forests, aquatic systems and the air we breathe, be understood as a shared ‘commons’, rather than as government or corporate private property to be rented to subscribers on a monthly basis.  

This section includes links to considerations of alternative currencies, more transparent accounting practices, and eco-social investment strategies, which are now actively being discussed and implemented online around the world, in response to ecological urgencies.

Though highly contentious, it is becoming evermore clear that our current political economic systems must be ‘reinvented’ if we are to be realistically pragmatic in mitigating the impacts of climate change and eco-social catastrophes, with goals of ‘sustainability’. 

Reimagining New Socio-Technical Economics Through the Application of Distributed Ledger Technologies

Sarah Manski, Department of Global Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara

Michel Bauwens, P2P Foundation, Amsterdam, Netherlands             23 January 2020

Distributed ledger technology (DLT) is increasingly proposed as a powerful tool to address the social and ecological challenges in the Global South. DLTs are opening up possible futures, one of which is a wave of infrastructure decentralization with common-centric and cosmo-local production. Shared logistics and supply chains for a circular economy, with collaborative and networked “flow” accounting allow the integration of contributive logics as well as the integration of social and ecological externalities, including practical knowledge on resource use limitations linked to planetary boundaries, as an integral part of ecosystems of productive collaboration. Indeed, DLTs remove the need for central intermediaries to validate transaction between parties, who instead place their trust in the encrypted, disintermediated system software. DLTs can be designed as a new unencloseable (non-commodifiable) medium of communication which could lead to radically new forms of cooperation, organization, and governance.

Yet these revolutionary possibilities will not be realized unless technologists consciously and strategically design systems redistributing sovereignty from elites to the people in financial, service, and national infrastructures. This paper concludes with a critical examination of the application of DLT in Puerto Rico and how DLTs could alter the production and exchange of “value” in service of a global popular sovereignty.

Blockchain Technology and Transformation in the Face of a Climate Emergency

Professor Jem Bendell’s Opening Keynote Speech at the UN Blockchains for Sustainable Development Session at the World Investment Forum 2018, UNCTAD, Geneva, Thursday, 25 October 2018.   Delivered in the Human Rights room to 700 attendees, in the European UN HQ.

Jem Bendell is a Professor of Sustainability Leadership and Founder of the Institute for Leadership and Sustainability ( ) at the University of Cumbria in the UK.

A blockchain is a record of data that is comprised of blocks which are added over time from a distributed network of participating computers. It means the data can’t be changed, hacked or lost. Blockchain was invented in 2008 to serve as the transaction ledger of the digital currency called bitcoin. Blockchains support much more than digital currencies now, as they offer immutable records that can be public and enable interoperability. This is interesting many governments that struggle with legacy IT systems that can’t talk to each other. Another function of blockchains that is driving interest is called a smart contract. That is a contract between two parties where a payment can be made automatically when a shipment arrives, or where dividends are paid automatically when profits reach a certain level. The technology moves fast and although we use the term blockchain here today, there are promising post-blockchain systems like holochain, which appear more nimble. But the general promise of all these distributed ledgers is greater data transparency, coordination, and automation. Many useful services have been built on top of these new rails, including non-cash remittances used by microfinance organisations across Africa.

The Sustainable Development Goals offer one framework on public need.  Although climate change is included in the SDGs, the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change invites a reprioritisation. It implies that climate change is now a planetary emergency posing an existential threat to humanity.

Today, in 200 communities around the world, people are swapping goods and services with their neighbours without using any money, using software from the Credit Commons Collective. Because of a handful of volunteers, these communities don’t need to pay a company for an app, don’t see adverts, don’t have their data harvested, and they own their installation of the software. These people, around 30,000 of them, are using very basic software because no one is funding its upgrade. Because there’s no profit in it. So if we want transformative change, we will need a shift in ambition from our philanthropists and aid agencies to one of transformation.

Sustainability solution or climate calamity? The dangers and promise of cryptocurrency technology

20 June 2021

The negative environmental impact of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin has been widely covered in the press in recent weeks and months, and their volatility has also been flagged as a cause for concern. Nevertheless, the UN believes that blockchain, the technology lying behind these online currencies, could be of great benefit to those fighting the climate crisis, and help bring about a more sustainable global economy.

Bitcoins don’t exist as physical objects, but new coins are “mined”, or brought into circulation, through a process that involves using powerful computers to solve complex mathematical problems. This process requires so much energy, that the Bitcoin network is estimated to consume more energy than several countries, including Kazakhstan and the Netherlands. And, as fossil-fuelled power plants still make up a major portion of the global energy mix, Bitcoin mining can be said to be partly responsible for the production of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change (although, so far, the impact on the climate is far less than that of heavy hitters such as the agriculture, construction, energy, and transport sectors).

For UNEP’s DTU Partnership (a collaboration with the Technical University of Denmark, and the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs), there are three main areas where blockchain can accelerate climate action: in transparency, climate finance, and clean energy markets.  Data on harmful greenhouse gas emissions in many countries, says the Partnership, is incomplete and unreliable. Blockchain solutions could provide a transparent, trustworthy way to show how nations are taking action to reduce their impact on the climate.

“The UN should continue experimenting in the blockchain space”, says Minang Acharya, one of the authors of a recent UNEP foresight brief on the applications of blockchain. “The more we experiment, the more we learn about the technology. This is likely to improve our UN-wide knowledge on blockchain, our understanding of the environmental and social implications of mining operations, and improve our chances of coping with any problems the technology may bring in the future”.

Crypto Climate Accord

Energy Web, the Alliance for Innovative Regulation, and Rocky Mountain Institute are excited to launch the Crypto Climate Accord. Inspired by the Paris Climate Agreement, the Accord is a private sector-led initiative for the entire crypto community focused on decarbonizing the cryptocurrency industry in record time.

The Next System Project  is an initiative of The Democracy Collaborative aimed at bold thinking and action to address the systemic challenges the US faces now and in coming decades. Deep crises of economic inequality, racial injustice and climate change—to name but three—are upon us, and systemic problems require systemic solutions. Working with a broad group of researchers, theorists and activists, we are using the best research, understanding and strategic thinking, on the one hand, and on-the-ground organizing and development experience, on the other, to promote visions, models and pathways that point to a “next system” radically different in fundamental ways from the failed systems of the past and present and capable of delivering superior social, economic and ecological outcomes.

The New Systems Reader  highlights some of the most thoughtful, substantive, and promising answers to challenging questions as the world grapples with the effects of a global pandemic on top of the looming climate crisis, chronic structural racism, and worsening wealth inequities.  The book draws on the work and ideas of some of the world’s key thinkers and activists on systemic change.

IDEA 2030

IDEA 2030 is a research initiative that aims to focus the minds of decision-makers through data-driven insights on inclusive digital economies. Housed within Digital Planet at the Institute for Business in the Global Context (IBGC) at The Fletcher School, Tufts University, IDEA 2030 addresses two fundamental issues of our time: the need for inclusive growth and recovery, and the pervasiveness of digital technology.

This initiative brings together a global insight community of leading problem-solvers and researchers. Through these partnerships, the community serves as a “go-to-hub” for emerging markets and technologies by disseminating research and insights on how to make the digital economy work better for everyone, everywhere.

Complementary Currencies for Humanitarian Aid

The humanitarian sector has gone through a major shift toward injection of cash into vulnerable communities as its core modality. On this trajectory toward direct currency injection, something new has happened: namely the empowerment of communities to create their own local currencies, a tool known as Complementary Currency systems. This study mobilizes the concepts of endogenous regional development, import substitution and local market linkages as elaborated by Albert Hirschman and Jane Jacobs, to analyze the impact of a group of Complementary Currencies instituted by Grassroots Economics Foundation and the Red Cross in Kenya. The paper discusses humanitarian Cash and Voucher Assistance programs and compares them to a Complementary Currency system using Grassroots Economics as a case study. Transaction histories recorded on a blockchain and network visualizations show the ability of these Complementary Currencies to create diverse production capacity, dense local supply chains, and data for measuring the impact of humanitarian currency transfers. Since Complementary Currency systems prioritize both cooperation and localization, the paper argues that Complementary Currencies should become one of the tools in the Cash and Voucher Assistance toolbox.

International Labor Organization

Cooperatives and the wider social and solidarity economy as vehicles to decent work in the culture and creative sector.–en/index.htm

Recognizing the important role that the creative economy plays in social and economic progress, the UN General Assembly declared 2021 as the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development. The culture and creative sector (CCS), includes music production, movies, theatres and radio broadcasting, with many artists in the sector working in informal and precarious arrangements. With the COVID-19 pandemic, existing vulnerabilities have been further exacerbated, calling for attention to socially innovative organizing and business models in CCS. Social and solidarity economy (SSE) units, including cooperatives, mutuals, associations, foundations and social enterprises, can provide value and principle based services and livelihoods options to CCS workers. In light of the upcoming general discussion on SSE for a human-centered future of work at the 110th Session of the International Labour Conference, this brief highlights how SSE units in the CCS can contribute to advancing rights at work, improving quality of jobs, ensuring access to social protection, and fostering local economic development.