Right Relationship

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Peter G. Brown explains how the core Quaker principle of "right relationship"—respecting the integrity, resilience, and beauty of human and natural communities—can serve as the foundation for a new economic model. In Right Relationship: Building a Whole Earth Economy, he and co-author Geoffrey Garver propose new economic policies that combine ecological awareness with a focus on fairness toward all peoples.


Peter G. Brown

Comments [35]

Quaker from Manhattan

The author is one more Quaker academic (who George Fox called 'professor') in his lofty tower with his head squarely up his own elitist rear end.

Dec. 24 2009 10:28 AM
Eric from NYC

Thank you... terrific interview. I think this author has made a real contribution to the shift in thinking and understanding of how the planet, its natureal systems and human economics are interconnected. I ordered the book and am recommending it on the Bill Moyers site.

Dec. 20 2009 05:46 PM
kai from NJ-NYC

_leon_ In the end, you don't understand science. The consensus of climate scientists throughout the world based SOLELY on irreproachable data collected from many sources (e.g. 15o years of climate data, glacier core sampling, tree rings, fossil records, etc.) from the earth's history show that since the inception of humanity's Industrial Revolution, much more CO2 has been put into the system than would occur without human intervention. That is fact.

What is not certain is the extent of damage that climate change will wreak on humans and other species.

As for tyranny, your right; I think anything that interferes with you or me making as much money on the backs of others on our way to an upper or upper middle class lifestyle with all the accouterments is a form of tyranny. Seriously, our recent patterns of consumption and behavior have ONLY been beneficial to everyone and nothing in society can be improved. Gotta run, time for me to go buy some new Hermes pants and bullets.

Dec. 11 2009 10:17 AM
steve from hoboken, nj

you've really drunk the kool-aid, haven't you.

oh, and yeah, watch out for those quakers. they're looking to take over.

Dec. 11 2009 01:42 AM
leon from ct

I am not willing to cede personal liberties such as the number of children I may want to have or the kind of car I want to drive or even paper or plastic at the grocery store because of an unproven scientific theory. Peter Brown was suggesting and even explicitly saying that we need more laws and regulations placed upon our personal freedoms to stop climate change. I hear this and think power grab. Knee jerk or not, government telling me what I can and cannot do on such a basic level is tyranny to me.
BTW, you say there is a lot of evidence for climate change. Is this evidence the product of strict scientific research or just dialectical argumentation. To me it is the latter just as Darwin's evolution theory is just a dialectical exercise. Darwin never proved scientifically that we evolved from another species but he wrote at length with plausible suggestions ("evidence") as to how we might have and now 150 years later his theory is taken as scientific fact. The only fact about it is the political ramifications his theory has caused. Anyway, I demand more from science than theory if it is going to alter my lifestyle, my beliefs, my reasoning process. I think you should do the same.

Dec. 11 2009 12:06 AM
Steve from Hoboken, NJ


your comment sounds like a stock republican response. global warming may be a theory, but it's a theory that has a lot of evidence to support it. gore may be its most visible promoter, but there are many independent and credible scientists who also support it. do you really believe they're all in cahoots with each other? god forbid you could get behind something promoted by a democrat though, right? i think your politics influences your thoughts on this more than you would like to admit.

whether or not the theory is true nobody knows for sure at this point in time. however, what we can say for certain is that, in the event it is true, the cost of doing nothing will be catastrophic, whereas in the event it isn't, the cost of taking preventive steps unnecessarily will be at worst financially distressing. can we afford to take the chance of not heeding this?

Dec. 10 2009 09:41 PM
leon from ct

As for environmentalism. I line dry my laundry, recycle all metal and plastic, recycle grocery bags etc... I save and conserve what i can. Why not? I live here like everyone else.

Dec. 10 2009 05:56 PM
leon from ct

this is not about my politics. global warming is a theory. it is not scientific fact as Jon Pope from Jersey claims. the burden of proof is on the "scientists" in Copenhagen. But since you insist that this about politics i do find it interesting that the loudest voice for the GW camp is a politician. I speak of Al Gore. What are his motivations?

Dec. 10 2009 05:35 PM
leon from ct

with all due respect, you seem to be on both sides of this conversation./

Dec. 10 2009 05:07 PM
Steve from Hoboken, NJ

correction. last sentence should begin "i suppose", not "is suppose".

Dec. 10 2009 04:58 PM
Steve from Hoboken, NJ

jon p.,

you'd be surprised to know that i generally agree with you, that i do see the human race as a kind of pestilence on the planet, and that i recognize we are just a blip on the radar of the greater history. what i took issue with from your first comment was your seeming implication that since there is ultimately no hope for us, that there is also no point in caring or exercising any restraint. your second comment suggests that you think otherwise.

regarding leon, it boggles my mind how otherwise "intelligent" people will allow their otherwise independent thinking to be overridden by their political affiliation. in particular, i find it sadly fascinating how it has become part of the knee-jerk republican checklist to deny any detrimental effects of human activity on the environment. is suppose it's because they view environmentalism as a "democratic" agenda, and because it has a connotation of wimpiness which is at odds with typical republican machismo.

Dec. 10 2009 04:56 PM
Jon P. from The Garden State


Whether global warming is man made or not is irrelevant. It is happening, no scientist can deny that. Even Sara Palin can’t deny that with her melting state of Alaska. Much of the landscape will dramatically change. Many species will disappear and many will flourish were they have not before. Sure the environment will be screwed up. But evolution will not care. It will keep going without missing a beat. Evolution gave us the ability to adapt and live anywhere. But with so many anti science and “I only care about me” people like you, we are sure squander and die off a slow and painful death when the planet changes the playing field….

Steve from Hoboken,

We have caused a lot of species to go under during our stay here. But many species have gone extinct long before we came on the scene. So do you really think evolution was going to have us around forever? I’m sure we have another generation or so, maybe even more. But some day there is no denying we will be just fossils before the sun super novas and destroys the entire solar system. So get your affairs in order. Live as fulfilling life you can. Do right by others as much as you can. Live the way you think is right. That’s about all you can do as far as the big scheme of things goes.

Just let it go, we where not meant to last forever…

Dec. 10 2009 04:22 PM
kai from NJ-NYC

While J. Pope's nihilism is a bit extreme, he has one thing right: the natural, physical processes of the world/universe will move on with or without humans.

What I do love are those critics of some form of economic restraint, which necessarily includes the ecology since the economy is predicated on the natural environment. At least it seems J. Pope understands that.

Others like _leon_ are glad to discourage any movement towards more efficiency and natural synergies and seem to think that humans cannot restructure things to improve society, economies, etc... Of course it doesn't mean there is preordained progression and things do fall apart.

What it comes down to is that humans haven't perfected anything and life is a constant struggle towards betterment. By actually living in a more considerate way and by promoting increased standards of living through the world populations decrease by what's called the demographic transition.

The authors are suggesting that wealth without bounds is destructive on many levels, not that wealth in and of itself is bad.

_Leon_ is like many others that is afraid to look at the fact that they way humans are living now isn't perfect and that we contribute to our own poor outcomes. There are no easy solutions, but constant denial of our own culpability degrades all possibilities out of our problems.

Dec. 10 2009 04:11 PM
leon from ct

I am, however, political affiliation has nothing to do with my distaste for this guys views. Its a simply humanitarian view that I espouse. Civilization has always benefitted from more and diverse peoples and from wealth creation. The professor mentioned Italy as a model country because of its low birth rate due to laws and regulations that promote low birth rate. Unfortunately, too many Italians agee and they will soon enough be speaking Arabic and following Sharia law on the streets of Rome as a result.

Dec. 10 2009 04:04 PM
Steve from Hoboken, NJ

and so we should just continue to party like it's 1999 until it all comes tumbling down, john pope?

Dec. 10 2009 04:01 PM
Jon P. from The Garden State

Sustainable? Oh please…. There is no such thing as sustainable with Mother Nature. Nothing lasts forever, including us. Even if everyone started living like little house on prairie, we would still be living our waning hours. There are just too many of us. To complicate it, religion, culture, poverty, superstition and many other social factors will always prevent population control and insure our eventual final demise. Historically speaking these are problems we have had since the birth of civilization and your smoking crack if you think we can end human atrocities anytime soon. Ironically we lived through much harsher environmental times (like the end of the last ice age) when we were “uncivilized”.

But Mother Nature has her own way to get rid of us if we cant do it ourselves. A nice size meteorite or a violently erupting super volcano could clean us (and just about every living thing) out in less then a week.

Don’t worry though, Mother Nature will get along just fine without us. We are by no means needed for evolution to go on. Think about it, we add absolutely no value to the heated up rock we live on. We are parasites. And as with all parasites, Mother Nature will keep us in check, even if it means the end for human beings on this earth.

Jon Pope

Dec. 10 2009 03:51 PM
Steve from Hoboken, NJ


you wouldn't by any chance be a republican, would you?

Dec. 10 2009 03:46 PM
leon from ct

I was appalled by the views of this professor. He was actually suggesting that the US needs laws to curb "over population" but that the US is law adverse. (thank God we are) He also explicitly said that wealth (like the wealth in the US) is the reason why the ocean is going to rise and drown all of NYC. Sounds like he has solved wall street greed and over population. This guy is a nut who cares more about bs scientific theory than actual living human beings. Global warming theory is nothing more than a political scare tactic by angry, miserable Malthusians. Merry Christmas!

Dec. 10 2009 03:42 PM
Steve from Hoboken, NJ

sorry for the misspelling. of course i meant "doomed".

Dec. 10 2009 03:19 PM
Steve from Hoboken, NJ

anonnyme (#12),

you might not like the implications of what this person is saying, but the issue being discussed is the single most critical issue of our time. it's becoming quite clear that economies based on growth and consumption are not sustainable, and as a species, we're pushing very hard on the limits right now. perhaps, as you suggest, in reality we will be incapable of collectively altering our destructive behavior, but until such time as that is a foregone conclusion, the best hope we have is our ability to reflect on our situation in the way that only humans can (where else but from an ivory tower?) and try to figure out an alternative approach. otherwise we are dommed.

Dec. 10 2009 03:17 PM


Dec. 10 2009 02:43 PM
hjs from 11211

are u thinking of j edgar hoover the fbi guy?

Dec. 10 2009 01:41 PM
hjs from 11211

how about returning the american plains to nature??

they are economically unsustainable, dependant on my tax dollars and waste great amounts of water energy etc.

Dec. 10 2009 12:39 PM

Hoover the cross dressing Quaker. This guy is scary - so ivory tower, not much good in reality I'm afraid

Dec. 10 2009 12:38 PM
hjs from 11211

and didn't he hire cheney?

Dec. 10 2009 12:29 PM
hjs from 11211

[7] john from office
yea he was not a joke he was a criminal and that's how he'll be remembered long after we are ALL gone.

Dec. 10 2009 12:28 PM

7 John from Office

Nixon most definitely was a joke during his tenure in the White House (and so was Clinton after Lewinsky)

Also one thing really bothers me about this pair of authors is that science doesn't understand politics - it isn't ever going to stop wanton (scared) people from their orgies of greed and power lust-

Dec. 10 2009 12:26 PM
Nick Burns from NYC

Question for Peter Brown, seemingly so enamored of the beneficent influence of state coercion: how exactly would he propose policing a law prohibiting "getting in your car and driving to the grocery for some ice cream"? And once a suitable mechanism of surveillance is in place, what kinds of penalty would he recommend for violations? Just a fine for the first offense? Prison, I assume, for multiple offenders?

Dec. 10 2009 12:24 PM
john from office

Len, why was the Naming of Nixon a source of humor. When the years go by, the world will forget you, and remember Nixon. He was not a joke no matter how much he was hounded by the left and rediculed by your comrades.

Dec. 10 2009 12:22 PM
William from Manhattan

Minor point, but the Chinese fellow in the Times is hugging an Escalade hybrid. (Times really should have noted that in the caption.)

Dec. 10 2009 12:21 PM
Jotham Bailey from South Orange, NJ

I have read the book, and when I look back on it, the logic of it, the clarity of the points it makes and explains is very compelling. The authors make the case of the moral imperative of living in right relationship. That relationship is not only with the earth, but with each other and we must think about right relationship if we have any hope to continue existence as a viable species as we know ourselves. This represents a paradigm shift back to a time when we had concern for the commonweal.


Dec. 10 2009 12:21 PM
Sam Abrams from New York

Mr. Lopate and Mr. Brown concurred that only one Quaker occupied the White House, Richard Nixon. But there was another Quaker president, also from California, Herbert Hoover. Unlike Nixon, in fact, who had stopped attending Meeting long before becoming president, Hoover attending the Florida Avenue Meeting while president.

Dec. 10 2009 12:18 PM
Hugh Sansom from Brooklyn NY

Perhaps Mr. Brown is familiar with the work of Tim Jackson, at the University of Sussex (I think) in Britain, who has a forthcoming book to be called "Prosperity Without Growth".

There was interest in this 35 or 40 years ago -- James Tobin and William Nordhaus at Yale wrote "Is Growth Obsolete?" in 1972.

Dec. 10 2009 12:17 PM

So, what's new?

Dec. 10 2009 12:09 PM
Ethan from MD

Great Book ! Ethan

Dec. 10 2009 09:31 AM

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