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Buddhist Economics

[Dec 8, 9]

Buddhist Economics Scholar Dr. Clair Brown to Speak at City of 10,000 Buddhas in Talmage

Dr. Brown

UKIAH, CA—Dr. Clair Brown, economics professor and director of the Center for Work, Technology and Society at the University of California Berkeley, and author of Buddhist Economics, will speak in the Buddha hall at the City of 10,000 Buddhas in Talmage on Sat., Dec. 8, at 7:30 p.m.

A second opportunity to meet Dr. Brown, Conversations with Clair Brown and Richard Katz, will be held at Dharma Realm University from Sunday, Dec. 9, 9:30-11 a.m. Both talks are free and open to the public.

“The message that I want to get out and have everybody talking about is how do we create an economy that supports a meaningful life for all people and where people can care for each other and the planet,” said Brown, who has studied and published about the issue extensively and teaches it in an undergraduate economics seminar.

“We can do that. Economists know the policies to share prosperity or reduce inequality. Climate scientists know the roadmaps for going to a low-carbon or clean energy economy, and the United Nations has taught us how to reduce suffering around the world. When you bring all of those policies together, you create what I call a Buddhist economy,” Brown explained.

In an author interview earlier this year, Dr. Brown told a story from her childhood that shaped her future as academic and author. She was 10 when she accompanied the beloved family maid, Nazarene, to catch the bus. On the way, she recommended the maid see the new movie, Alice in Wonderland. Nazarene said blacks couldn’t go into the theatre. Also, Nazarene pointed out, she had to sit at the back of the bus.

Brown began noticing other inequities that were unquestioningly accepted in her world. “I saw how the world set up rules that were grossly unfair…people pretended as if this were the natural order of things, when in fact policies and culture were at work,” she said.

Brown attended Wellesley College as an undergrad math major, but grew disenchanted by mathematics’ isolation from social and political issues. She then pursued graduate work in economics and earned her Ph.D. from the University of Maryland. She was awarded a post-doctoral fellowship at the Brookings Institution before being hired in 1974 as the first female member of the economics department faculty at UC Berkeley.

Her book, Buddhist Economics: An enlightened approach to the dismal science (Bloomsbury Press, 2017), covers the assumptions and inequities in the current economic system as well as tools and policies that will support meaningful lives based on people caring for each other and the environment rather than overconsuming.

“You don’t need to be a Buddhist—or an economist. But you do need to care about the human spirit and care about healing the earth,” said Brown, explaining, “Humans have dominated the earth and, as we know now from the United Nations and the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change], we are actually killing the earth. So we end up with a planet that is dying for humans and many, many species and we also end up with people who are angry, aggressive and greedy. That’s not the way most people want to live. Most people I talk to want to live a meaningful life and they recognize that their well-being is interconnected with the well-being of others and the well-being of the earth.”

Brown pointed to a study that concluded that inequality continues to increase in the U.S., with the top one percent grabbing 95% of income growth and the bottom 90% experiencing declining incomes even as the economy recovered from the most recent recession (2009 to 2012).

America’s one-percenters emit 15 times more greenhouse gas emissions per person than the average American and 50 times more than the average person worldwide, according to the World Resources Institute. Yet in America, even the bottom 50% in terms of wealth have an average carbon footprint that is four times the Paris Climate Accord goal of 2.1 tCO2e per person per year by 2050.

“For me, being a Buddhist, the recognition of interdependence with all the other people and with the earth has been really powerful for me as an economist,” said Brown.

The last chapter of Buddhist Economics considers remedies: four approaches for government to undertake; two steps for companies; and two approaches for individuals. Brown will discuss these at the lecture.

For individuals, she said, people need to do two things: One is to take care of the people in our families and our communities and take on the personal task of having a very low carbon footprint.

The other approach for individuals is to join a group—a local food group or sangha or garden club—that shares values about caring for the earth.

“We need to go and work on something—pushing local government, pushing state government—working in some way that we think is important to help deal with climate change,” said Brown. “What’s so great about this is you feel more hopeful. Each one of us doesn’t need to save the whole world. We just need to help in some way to make a difference,” she said.

To attend Dr. Clair Brown’s Saturday lecture at the Buddha hall and/or the conversation with her on Sunday at the DRBU university, use this map of the City of 10,000 Buddhas:

Dr. Brown’s book, Buddhist Economics, will be available at Mendocino Book Company in Ukiah.

For more information about the subject Dr. Brown will discuss, see this video:

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