The Wisdom of the Woodland

Regular readers may recall me writing occasionally about the Transition Network. With all the social, political and economic turmoil in the news lately, I was really impressed with an article by Rob Hopkins in the latest Transition newsletter: The Forest Economy: woodland as New Economy metaphor.

In it, he talks about the role of rain in a forest and how it gathers nutrients as it falls and circulates through the forest canopy and down tree trunks, and sustains a great diversity of life in the woodland ecosystem. He compares this to the globalized economy and talks about how a woodland can illustrate a model for a New Economy.

Here’s a brief excerpt. I hope many of you will read the full article (link above). 

“I found myself thinking of this woodland not as an ecosystem, but as a metaphor for the kind of economy we are seeking to create in Transition. …

As we walked through the woods, I was thinking about what a perfect metaphor this place was for the kind of economy we strive to create in Transition initiatives.  An economy based on maximising the Multiplier Effect. In this kind of economy, we become more skillful at capturing money that would otherwise just pass through our economy.  Then, once it is there, we strive to get it to circulate as many times as possible, to pass from hand to hand to hand, incubating a great diversity of enterprises and businesses.

The alternative, the globalised neo-liberal economy, is the mirror opposite of our forest economy.  Rather than trying to maximise the number of places money can pass through or be stored, distributing it as much as possible, it aims to centralise, to concentrate that water into a handful of places.”

I think Canadians especially can appreciate his message because most of us have vivid personal experiences and memories of a forest. In economic terms, we have one of the highest concentrations of foreign control of key economic sectors. It means that decisions affecting investment, research, expansion or relocation, and employment are made elsewhere. We understand how a cluster of ‘giant trees’ can leave an economic desert on our ‘woodland floor’.

Unless the global economy (i.e. – global corporations and the people who run them) can reform itself quickly to share fairly and equitably, I suspect that people will increasingly look for many small ways to distance from the global system in favour of a local market they can support and trust.