The Symbiotic City Network Blogs are a series of posts about our events, and interviews with people from around the world whose ideas and work in some way advance the cause of understanding and creating regenerative symbiotic cities. We look forward to also hearing your comments on these interviews.

April 2013

Justin Ritchie on The "New" Economy

Apr 1, 2013 12:10 PM
by Craig Applegath  |  Add Comment

If we are to shift from a parasitic to a symbiotic city paradigm, then we will have to find economic strategies that recognize the real value of ecosystem services, as well as the econoimc costs of carbon. We have therefore invited Justin Ritchie, a founder and blogger at the Extraenviromentalist Blog to talk with us about the “new economy” and his involvement in the upcoming New Economy Summit to be held at UBC this April.

By Josh Taylor


What would you say are 3 main things that make ‘new’ economy different from the old economy?

Three things that will make the structures and institutions of our new economy different from the old will be values of cooperation, democratization and trust.

Many of our current money, banking, corporate, economic and business systems are rooted in ideas about human nature that arose during the late 19th century. As our understanding of science, specifically in the realms of sociology and ecology has evolved during the second half of the 20th century, our institutions have not adapted to this new understanding. Now that we know the mechanism of evolution requires radical cooperation rather than just the survival of the fittest, we can reflect this in new ways of organizing our economy. The institutions of our economy are acting as the operating system for the planet and our species as they provide a set of choices that filter our behaviours. We can be a benevolent species as well as an aggressive and competitive one and what we have now in the global economy emphasizes the competition in exaggerated ways.

Can you tell us about some of the speakers you are bringing in for this conference and what they will they be talking about?

All of our speakers are listed at along with our schedule. I counted several dozen books among the many authors speaking at our conference. We’ll be discussing the advantages of co-operative enterprise with John Restakis of the BC Co-Operative Association and Michael Lewis of the Canadian Centre for Community Renewal. Bill Rees and Ellie Perkins will be talking about how ideas of ecological economics can begin to drive decisions and policy options in our community. We’ll be talking about social innovation and impact financing with Michelle Ü of Cutting Edge Capital and James Tansey of the UBC Sauder Institute for Social Innovation and Sustainability. Darren Fleet, the senior editor of Adbusters, will be talking about their new alternative economics textbook Meme Wars. We’ll be talking about the issue of divestment from fossil fuels for university endowments and public funds with Christie Stephenson from Northwest Ethical Investing and Benjamin Richardson of UBC Law. Former Harvard Business School professor David Korten will talk about his ideas on how the university can organize to embrace these ideas of a new economy. Boston University professor Juliet Schor will discuss how work time reductions and reduce our ecological footprints and give us more time for the people and things we love. Historian and cultural critic Morris Berman will be looking at Japan’s history of sustainability, craft economies and ecological awareness through the lens of steady-state economics. Post-Growth Institute co-founder Donnie Maclurcan will talk about the advantages of not-for-profit businesses and how they can enable an economy that’s no longer dependent on growth.

Where is the new economy happening now? How has it arisen to fill a gap left by the old economy?

There are numerous ways we’re interacting with the new economy here in North America but we just don’t know it. Primarily because all of these institutions aren’t networked into a coherent framework and that they don’t make the headlines and evening news reports like Fortune 500 companies do.

Here’s a link to a great essay from a few years ago on what the New Economy Movement really means:

There are tons of organizations and businesses that are focusing on far more than just the financial bottom line. You may even participate in a few of them.

As the international financial system continues to get patched together with wealth transfers from sovereign balance sheets and the global economy shows no cohesive signs of returning to the rapid growth of pre-2008, these organizations are building the framework for an economy that is resilient while addressing our sustainability challenges head-on.

What can someone expect to get from attending this conference and where can they find more information?

People attending The New Economy Summit at UBC will not only have a chance to learn about the numerous elements of the new economy movement but will also be able to meet the people who are working to make this transition happen. Anyone who is interested in helping to co-create an ecologically and socially sustainable economy should be there.

What part of the conference are you most excited about?

I’m glad that we’re able to offer all of this at no cost to the first 150 people who sign up and that we’re going to have spaces for open conversations and “dot-mocracy” voting for open session topics. We have a lot of perspectives that won’t be incorporated in our sessions and that’s why we’ve opened time during each day of the conference for anyone to sign up and have their presentations gain an audience. Most of all, I’m excited about addressing the systemic challenges of higher education in the framework of the new economy movement. At the end of the two day summit we want everyone to come away with a feeling at something is just starting.

About Justin Ritchie:  Justin Ritchie is completing his PhD in Resource Management and Environmental Systems at UBC in the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability. He is also the Sustainability Coordinator for the Alma Mater Student Society at UBC and is organizing a conference on new economic thinking to take place in April. He also produces the weekly syndicated radio show and podcast The Extraenvironmentalist which is hosted at

Add Comment

Add a Comment

Please enter the text that you see in the image below: