Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Revolution Will Be Blogged...And Maybe Published

As visitors to this blog know, I lead something of a double professional life. (What can I say, I’m a Gemini. As is most of my family. When I was a child, we had “Gemini parties”. I thought everyone did.) On one side, I dwell in the literary world, exploring the overlap of writing and psychotherapy through The Therapist’s New Clothes and continuing similar preoccupations in a novel, a love triangle in Freud’s Vienna (based on my grandmother’s psychoanalyst who was a member of Freud’s inner circle. My grandmother, Charlotte, was a gifted painter who dabbled in alternative healing. Yes, she was a Gemini.) Then, I’ve been writing and reporting on new economic models, looking at the nexus of the environment and economics. I’ve linked to some of my pieces, but didn’t know how to make topics like the social cost of carbon and ecosystem services relevant to therapy or my publishing experiment.

Last week I attended a conference on Slow Money, a growing movement I wrote about last fall. Let me try a flash explanation like I gave a friend earlier on the phone: Today money is rushing around the world becoming increasingly abstract and chasing bigger and faster profits. Money, which is simply a unit of measure and means of exchange, needs to be slowed down and brought back to earth so as to build actual, as opposed to illusory, wealth. Buy or invest locally, and the money stays local and provides jobs. Buy or invest in chains, etc. and the money gets whisked out of town to corporate headquarters and into the speculative market. Profits go up while our communities, health, and quality of life languish. The Slow Money approach is to keep money real, starting with investing in small, local food enterprises that nurture the soil and communities.

The event, at Shelburne Farms, VT, gathered a group that you never would have seen together ten, even five, years ago: financiers, investment professionals, environmentalists, farmers, chefs, and community organizers. I was struck by how folks from such disparate universes milled about affably, chatting and exchanging ideas. I felt a camaraderie borne of a shared understanding of just how out-of-whack our economic system has become, mainly because what’s most important to all of us is outside the market, and thus not valued. I mean, would BP have been so cavalier about drilling if it were common knowledge that the Mississippi Delta’s natural assets are estimated at between $330 billion to $1.3 trillion? As this piece in The Solutions Journal notes, that greatly exceeds BP’s market value before the spill. There is a kind of exhilaration that occurs once you stop denying a problem, which releases energy for solutions—solutions that are beginning to spring up and which make me feel more optimistic and inspired. I’ll post articles as they’re published.

One challenge is that my success as a writer depends on the system—even as some of my work is critiquing aspects of it. I think this is where my ambivalence about marketing sometimes comes from. Do I want to wear myself out to get my message heard, and shout along with everyone else trying to get heard? If money has gotten too fast, marketing has gotten too “loud”. As usual, the only satisfying answer I can come up with is to do my best. In my fiction (the novel I described and another I’m working on) I like to write about people trying to figure out their lives amidst tremendous change. If I could choose, I’d rather write novels about people in times of upheaval rather than grappling with upheaval myself. But we don’t always get to make those choices, do we? As a writer and as a person, the best I can do is to be open to it.Tony found this Luna Moth outside our bedroom window. Once they sprout wings, these beautiful creatures only live for about one week.

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