Earth Island Reports
A Resilient Future for the 99%
If the US economy were a pizza party, how large would your slice be? (Hint: The richest 1 percent eats more than one third of the pie, so yours wouldn’t be very big.) Of course, quality is just as important as quantity, so we must also ask: Would your slice drip with nasty black oil? Or crunch with organic, locally grown veggies?
Who Ate the Economy?
With clarity and visual flair, a new Bay Localize video titled “Who Ate the Economy?” offers a persuasive take on the root causes of our current crisis – and timely solutions for getting our economy back on track.
The film’s central message: As the wealth gap and climate crisis worsen, the need to tax concentrated wealth and pollution becomes all the more urgent. The video uses the popular metaphor of a pizza party to show how the party’s first guest – the proverbial 1 percent – eats up more than one-third of the economic pie.
Watch the video at baylocalize.org/whoate.
Occupy Wall Street’s “We Are the 99%” resonates powerfully with Americans because many of us are enduring declining incomes and job opportunities while experiencing increasing debt and home foreclosures. The economic crisis facing America has roots in environmental crises as well. Climate change and dwindling oil reserves have driven up prices of basics such as food and energy, causing inflation and deepening the recession.
At Bay Localize, we believe that to revive the US economy the 99 percent has two tasks: Remake the economic pizza with less oil and coal and more fresh, local, organic ingredients; and share the slices differently.
Founded in 2006, Bay Localize takes on the ambitious task of building a truly resilient and equitable San Francisco Bay Area in the face of climate and economic instability. We see resilient communities as flexible, responsive systems that use local resources to meet their members’ basic needs. In the world’s richest nation (in terms of Gross Domestic Product), we fall far short of meeting the food, housing, health, and education needs of all our residents. As more and more US households struggle to make ends meet, stepping up to this challenge is a fundamental part of climate adaptation.
Equity is Key to Resilience
Building resilient, equitable communities also means addressing systemic inequality in our society. According to the Center for American Progress, unemployment is “perilously high” in African American and Latino communities – at 15.9 percent and 11.3 percent respectively. Meanwhile, white Americans face a much lower, but still difficult, 8.1 percent unemployment rate. Even worse, African Americans saw their median net worth cut in half during the recent economic downturn. According to the Pew Research Center, African American and Latino households now hold an average net wealth of $5,000-$6,000, compared to $130,000 for the average white household. Calling on the richest 1 percent of our population to invest their fair share in jobs and social programs will be vital as a lifeline for families in distress.
But this isn’t enough – especially given the climate instability and resource scarcities that are becoming everyday realities. We must also build up the capacity of our communities to provide for themselves by re-creating vibrant local food systems, investing in clean community power, and re-balancing our lives with the rhythms of nature. Bay Localize’s programs grow opportunities for urban agriculture, advance clean-energy solutions, and build regional common ground for discussion, debate, and action in order to achieve this goal. Our approach has won recognition from diverse groups, including the American Planning Association and The New York Times.
On November 11, 2011, Bay Localize and a broad cross-section of community organizations co-hosted the Bay Area Convening on Resilience and Equity, bringing local leaders, advocates, and planners together to chart a path for resilience and social justice in the Bay Area. We developed shared priorities and strategies to influence policies and plans now being drafted, with the goal of ensuring that everyone has a place to call home, as well as access to dignified, ecologically sound livelihoods.
In this moment of historic change, it’s time for social movements to take a stand for strong, resilient communities – for the sake of our planet and its people.
—Aaron G. Lehmer and Kirsten Schwind