Ecodharma taking lead in creating local alternative economics in Spain
On Wed, 29 January, 2014 - 05:34
Guhyapati writes from the Catalan Pyrenees with news of the Ecodharma project, saying - “Ecodharma is a Triratna retreat centre with a unique social mission: amidst the challenges of Spain’s economic slump, known popularly as “la crisis”, the centre is championing alternative economic initiatives. This month we have recommitted resources to continue taking a lead role working with local communities, building economic resilience amongst the economically depressed mountain areas of Pallars Jussa and Sobrira”.
“Although there are inevitably many hardships which accompany the economic challenges in Spain today, it is also opening people up to exploring alternative ways to meet their basic needs,” explains Carolina Marin Alvarez from Ecodharma. “People are finding that their expectations of more and more in a growth based economy are false. At the same time it’s an opportunity to see that real happiness comes from other things – like community, meaningful relationships and socially valuable work.” As part of their work plan, the centre team are dedicating resources and time to coordinate a growing network which is piloting community-based economic initiatives.
Building on an ongoing collaboration with the Catalan organisation, Cooperativa Integral Catalana (CIC), the Ecodharma team are playing a key role in the regional network Ecoxarxa Pallars. They bring together local producers and consumers outside of the formal monetary economy, to strengthen local economic relationships which can meet people’s basic needs. While meeting basic needs and promoting sustainable agriculture, the grassroots approach creates a context for cooperative work and forging stronger community connections. The network is coordinated through monthly popular assemblies, and the work of keeping it running shared out between members.
“This economic re-localisation has three really important results,” explains Carol. “Firstly it empowers and strengthens community, which promotes greater wellbeing for people. Secondly, it greatly reduces environmental impacts through reducing dependence on transportation and fossil fuel use. Thirdly, it builds greater resilience into communities, enabling them to continue to thrive, even amidst potentially destabilizing scenarios connected with climate change, peak oil, and economic instability.”
In addition to benefiting local people, the initiative also supports other aspects of the Ecodharma Centre’s vision. “As part of our ethical policy, we set targets for ourselves a few years back aiming to ensure that most of what we consume at the centre is organic and locally produced,” explains Lou, who works to implement Ecodharma’s ethical food priorities. “Thanks to the Ecoxarxa Pallars initiative, much of the food we do not yet produce ourselves is now easily available to us locally and grown organically,” she says.
Like many of the team, Lou is passionate about applying Buddhist ethics at a social as well as personal level. “You can’t get far applying Buddhist ethics in the modern world without bumping up against the structural challenges of capitalism,” Lou explains. “Where neoliberalism has caused damage to social cohesion, through its emphasis on individualism and materialism, the vision of economics we are trying to promote is about long term sustainability and strengthening the social values of sharing and mutual aid.” For the Ecodharma team, this all goes towards their attempts to express Buddhist values in a way that is truly relevant to our times.
In addition to their current coordinating role, during 2014 Lou and Carol will be carrying out a survey and inventory of all the producers in the region who are able to take part in the initiatives, both to strengthen the network and support the spreading of the local currency “Pallars” into new areas of the local economy. For more perspectives on alternative economics check out New Economics Foundation andREconomy Project.