“This is a really profound crisis. It’s a crisis of an old form of production and consumption in the economy. It’s the crisis of its sources of energy, its means of transportation, and also a crisis of the social, racial and gendered hierarchies that have sort of underpinned the economy for as long as we can remember.” – Katrine Marçal
In this episode
Join Katrine Marçal + Denise Hearn in this special Learning Circle edition of the SheEO.World podcast, as they discuss the current economic crisis and its specific impact on women. Katrine is an award winning author, and an international keynote speaker on the economic impact of women. Denise is an advisor, author, and speaker who works with organizations who want to support a more equitable future. In this podcast they show we can flip the narrative of traditional economics and take the opportunity to rebuild using the most foundational elements of human experience.
They also touch on:
- The “forgotten five” elements of human experience
- Women’s work in the care industry
- The concept of equal pay for work of equal worth
- Organizing an economic system around the needs of the body
- And how the structure we live under has privileged certain types of power over others
We invite you to join us as an Activator at SheEO.World.
Take action and engage with:
Don’t miss an episode! Subscribe to the SheEO.World Podcast.
The podcast is being transcribed by Otter.ai. (there may be errors, run-on sentences and misspellings).
Katrine Marçal 0:00
This is a really profound crisis. It’s a crisis of an old form of production and consumption in the economy. It’s the crisis of its sources of energy, its means of transportation, and also a crisis of the social, racial and gendered hierarchies that have sort of underpinned the economy for as long as we can remember.
Vicki Saunders 0:27
Hi, I’m Vicki Saunders. Welcome to SheEO.World, a podcast about women who are working on the World’s To-Do List. On this podcast, you’ll meet women who are transforming systems and committed to creating a more equitable world.
Hannah Cree 0:48
We have two amazing people here that I have crushed over for quite a while. And Denise, I was reading her book at the SheEO Summit in March, reading it going to the SheEO Summit didn’t know she was going to be there, and then suddenly met her there. And I put in my ear pods afterwards, and then realized I was also listening to her book, and I was freaking out all over the place. And now here we are, eight months later doing a learning circle. And she’s on the sheeo team, and is brought so much wisdom. If you have not checked out our values and practices yet on the website, please do it is an operating system of SheEO. And it’s incredible. And then I have now listened to Katrine’s podcast, was she with Vicki at least six times. And her book was so amazing. And so I’m gonna I’m really excited to be able to do those types of things. So you have your otter AI up there. And we thank you for being here. And I’m going to now hand it over to Denise.
Denise Hearn 1:47
Thank you so much, Hannah. And thank you, Hannah did just an amazing job of spreading the word on this today. And so thank you so much all for for taking the time to be here. You know, you always put something out into the world, and you’re not sure if anyone is gonna find it interesting seeing and it’s just been astounding to see how many people wanted to show up and engage on this topic today. So thank you. I wanted to start today by doing a land acknowledgement. And I will admit that this is the first time I have ever done one. And I’ve I’ve been on the SheEO team now for a couple of months. And I’ve really been learning from their example. And, you know, I also thought it was incredibly important as we delve into a topic called embodied economics. Particularly because, you know, the, the, the webinar is really meant to remind us that we are born into bodies into place onto land, in in physical locations, and that all of our lands have very rich history, and that we each also come from rich lineages. And although I personally have moved around quite a bit in my life, so I’ve had difficulties sort of relating to a sense of place or sense of home, I think it’s really important to acknowledge the land that I now I’m choosing to build my life, my marriage, my career, and my community on and that is here in Seattle, Washington. And so I would like to take time to acknowledge that I am on the traditional Land of the first people of Seattle, the Duwamish people past and present, and honor with gratitude, the land itself and the Duwamish tribe. And when I, when I did a little bit of research, I also found out that the Duwamish have a Chairwoman who has led the tribe since 1975. And I thought that sounded like much more stable sound leadership than, you know, most of us are dealing with, in most of the countries we’re calling in from aside from perhaps New Zealand. So thank you for letting me do that and for being here with us. Just one quick note on housekeeping before we get started on a handoff ticker train is we do have a president that’s, you know, somewhat lengthy presentation because once we got going, we just couldn’t stop. And so but we want to make this as as participatory as possible. So please introduce yourself in the chat. Tell us where you’re, you know, where you’re coming dialing in from today. What drew you to this topic, as we’re going through, please feel free to to put any questions or comments that you would like in the chat and one of us will be monitoring that and we’ll sort of pop those in as we go through. And then we we will try to also save some time at the end for some breakout group discussion so that you’ll have some some chances to interact with each other. So that’s it. Let’s get going with embodied economics. Make yourself comfortable in your chair, feel yourself in your body, and I will hand it over to Katrine.
Katrine Marçal 4:50
Hi, thank you. I’m Katrine Marçal and I’m just going to briefly introduce myself because I I’m assuming Most of you probably know Denise better than me. I’m Swedish. I’m a Swedish author living in England. I’m the author of who cooked Adam Smith’s dinner book and feminist economics. And I have a book coming out next year called mother of invention, how good ideas get ignored in an economy built for men. And I’ve gotten to know Denise, during this, this pandemic year, really, through our sort of joint passion for these issues that we’re going to talk about today. And body economics? Well, what we really believe is that we do need to talk about embodied economics because the world right now is in an economic crisis, like no other. We don’t know how it will end, we don’t know how it will go. But it is different. And the problem today is that we are trying to solve this crisis this, this unprecedented crisis using economic tools that don’t won’t work because they deny the most foundational elements of human life. And we are going to talk about them today. And we believe that what we need to do instead in order to solve this crisis is to center in on what really matters and build an economy that works for humans and the planet and not the other way around. And the question, of course, is, is how, but let’s start talking about this crisis. And the fact that it is really, really different. And it’s different in the sense that it started in a place where economic crisis is very seldom start. So if we, we look at the traditional economic crisis, like the 2008 crisis, the great financial crisis of 2008. So that began in probably the most abstract part of the economy. So in the financial sector with credit default swaps, you know, financial products, so abstract that even the people who built them didn’t understand them. And then these financial products toppled a couple of American banks move down through the economy, and then ended up having, of course, very real consequences for very real human bodies, who lost jobs, savings houses, and in some cases, their lives. And that’s how we are used to think we are used to think about recessions and depressions, the human body comes last the economic crisis moves from the abstract to the concrete in the economy. However, the pandemic crisis of 2020, the one we see unfolding around us right now, has worked completely the other way around, right? It started with some of our most vulnerable bodies dying in a pandemic, and then the world chose to, basically, in a sense, inflict economic damage on itself by shutting down a big chunk of the, of the formal economy. And then the crisis moved from the human budget body, and then from the service sector up, you know, towards other parts of the economy, and, and reached almost the financial pieces of the economic system lost. And that’s the completely sort of opposite of how it normally happens. And this is a crisis that doesn’t fit the model, it was, you know, it didn’t start with an economic expansion or asset price bubble and, it was the slump in economic activity caused by you know, bodies dying bodies being ill and bodies spreading this illness from one body to another, that made us shocked basically shut most of the formal parts of the world economy down. And this fact that this crisis is so different is also why, you know, for example, we are now talking about it she session instead of, you know, man session because traditional economic crisis is tend to, at least in the first few waves hit male employment harder than female. That doesn’t seem to be the case, this time. It is also a regressive crisis. So what that means is that it’s disproportionately hitting low income households, smaller companies, and also, again, hitting women harder. So that’s why it’s different, but it’s not in terms of who, who it’s hitting. Why, but also, we would like to emphasize where it started it, it started in the in the human body. So therefore, the way we see it, at least there are two approaches, or they’re always at least two approaches. Either we can basically try to repair the ship, or build a new ship. And if we pick option one to try to repair the ship, and I think me and Denise would argue that most discussion or economic discussion about this crisis is in this paradigm repairing the ship, then we talk about, okay, let’s figure out how we’re going to revive demand in the economy after this unprecedented slump. Let’s help businesses get back on their feet. Let’s talk about the stimulus. Should we use fiscal or monetary policy? This stimulus? How should we finance it? How much basically, how much more money should we pour into existing systems? Let’s have a you know, big debate about that. And maybe, how do we get a larger share of this sort of existing cake to go to marginalized groups, because we see that many of them have been hit the hardest this time. And we would argue that this is the debate we’re having right now in most countries about the crisis. And that is very firmly in a place to sit in this repairing the ship paradigm. We would argue, however, that because this crisis is so different, we should instead try to focus our efforts into building a new ship. So what would that mean? That kind of policy, that kind of answer that kind of response, would have to start and recognizing that this is so much more than just, you know, a crisis, and let’s revive demand, and help businesses back on their feet. This is a really profound crisis. It’s a crisis of an old form of production and consumption in the economy. It’s a crisis of its sources of energy, its means of transportation, and also a crisis of the social, racial and gendered hierarchies that have sort of underpinned the economy for as long as we can remember. And we would argue that all of these things have actually come together in this very dramatic year. And that is actually the the crisis that we’re experiencing. And if we diagnose the problem like that, then you know, you can’t just pour more money into a system like that and try to revive demand. Instead, we need new institutions, infrastructures and financial systems that can be kind of a precondition for a new and different period of growth. So the discussion should not just be about you know, the size of a stimulus or reviving demand. It should be about, you know, what kind of economic growth do we do we want. And there’s a quote by the economist, Mariana mazzucato, that says, economic growth doesn’t only have a rate, but also a direction, which I find very, very important. And this insight often gets lost. And especially in this time of crisis, that yes, we can revive demand, and we can get the economy going again, but in what direction do we want it to be going? I mean, growth can be very many different things, you know, you get, you can get the same impact on growth from building bombs as buying opera tickets, it would, you know, show up as the same number in economic statistics, but it’s a very different thing. And that’s the discussion we, we need to have. Denise, you want to?
Denise Hearn 14:25
Yes, and so these two photos here. Well, the first image on the right is actually from the World Economic Forum, global risks report. And what I found interesting about this is that, you know, there’s, there’s recognition, when you see an image like this, that we are now in a time where all of these crises that we’re facing are completely overlapping and intersecting, there’s no siloing anymore. And so the two biggest nodes that they identify here are climate action, failure and social instability. But we know that That when you live in a complex adaptive system like we do, that all of these, all of these things tend to have feedback loops that that exacerbate each other. And so when I saw this image on the left of, of migrant workers in California, picking food to get to our grocery stores during the pandemic, while the wildfires were happening, to me this epitomized this idea that our ecological, our social, our, you know, our migratory, and our economic crises are also now entwined. And if you will, sort of intersectional that, we can no longer take these old approaches that try to silo and try to, that don’t look at, you know, the entire system as one entity. And so that’s, you know, I just find this image so profound in that way.
Katrine Marçal 16:00
And when you see that image, and, you know, you wouldn’t just suggest, you know, reviving demand within that sort of system, because you clearly see that it’s, it’s, it’s not working. And I mean, I’m, I’m one of these people, and I think many other of you who might be on this, this call right now, are people who have been feeling a lot of things this this year. And it’s been weariness strange moment. And I found this quote, which, at least to me, expressed a bit of what I think I’ve been feeling. And it’s a quote by the English poet, Matthew Arnold. And it’s from after another economic crisis, the economic crisis of 1847, where he described the moment as you know, wandering between two worlds one dead, the other powerless to be born. And, to me, that was kind of comforting people in periods of great economic change. So this was, I mean, this was written in the, during, you know, what we now call the first Machine Age, we say that we’re now in the second Machine Age, and that feeling that, you know, the old world is dead, I’m somewhere in between, there is something that will be born from this, but it’s not yet there. And I am really very confused right now. To me, it was comforting that people have felt that before and I, I thought that this this quote, expressed that quite well. However, this is embodied economics. So we’re gonna try to be more concrete than then people usually get when they talk about economics. So I would like to start with just to again, give us give us a bit of a picture of where we are to talk about how the values of an economic era actually physically tend to manifest themselves in the skyline of various cities. So I’m in a, in an English village outside of London. And if we think about the development of the skyline of London, one of the great sort of global cities of the world, in medieval times, it it looked a lot like this, you know, the skyline was dominated by the big churches, the big religious buildings, because obviously, that was what the economy of the time was largely about, this is where the money went. This is sort of the value, you know, that the church was, was sort of the central value of the economy of the time. And that manifested itself physically in, you know, literally the highest buildings being being churches. Then, you know, things change, the economy developed, London developed, and it came to be more of a skyline dominated by large public buildings. Like for example, you know, this is the Houses of Parliament, the Elizabeth tower. during this era, when the economy changed many, many, you know, cities in Europe, you know, the, their skylines were dominated by the big railway stations, which was, you know, something that money at the time went into some of these public buildings, public projects, and interconnecting the continent, and you can see that in the skyline again.
And then, obviously, if you look at London now, the skyline looks like this. All of these the largest buildings, this is the the financial district of London, the highest buildings of London, now are all banks, financial institutions, insurance companies. And that’s a manifestation of the kind of the era of financial capitalism that we’ve been living through for the last couple of decades. And this is also how very many, you know, big cities in the world. Look, it’s the big buildings dominating the skyline. Our banks, financial capitalism, takes this sort of embodied form in the skyline of our cities. However, the irony, and you know, to bring it back to the moment we’re in right now is that take these big skyscrapers of London, this sort of the, the temples to, to financial capitalism, right now, most of this year, they have all been empty, nobody is working in these buildings, because of the pandemic. And that’s, to me is very symbolic, speaking about one world being dead, and the other one, yet powerless to be born, we have these physical embodiments of the kind of value system that you know, our economy has been working around, and now they’re all empty, but they’re still there, there’s nothing new yet. And what that new thing that could be born now, and, you know, we think needs to be born, and is what we’re really going to talk about, talk about now. So I’m gonna hand it back over to Denise.
Denise Hearn 21:59
So this is this is where the revolution begins right here on the zoom call. So when Katrine and I were talking about this, and sort of thinking about what would it look like if you actually started, you know, tabula rasa with a blank slate, and you prioritize, and you recognized and you re centered, the most foundational elements of human experience? What would an economic system look like, based on those elements? And these are what we came up with, we would love to get your feedback and thoughts, what are we missing? What have we overlooked? What might you take out, but these are the five that we came up with, so care, connection, the body, of course, nature, and power. And we what we want to do in this presentation is walk through each of these and talk about some examples that we think are, you know, embodying these, these different ways of building a new system that prioritizes these. And if we can reclaim what we’ve forgotten, this is how we think that we can move into a new world and a new, a new era. And, you know, we talked about, you know, the word economics even sometimes feels a little bit out of reach out of touch. And I think what we’re trying to say is that economic life, of course, is such a part of who we are of our daily experience, it affects so much about us. And so what what we would like to do is sort of flip, you know, flip this narrative where economics traditionally, starts in the abstract starts in, you know, the mathematical and then sort of tries to explain human experience. And we’re saying, What if we could take human experience as the actual basis, the foundation, and then build an economic system on top of that, that that serves and prioritizes those needs. So that’s what we’re going to attempt to do, to train back to you yeah.
Katrine Marçal 24:00
And we’re basically going to take them by one by one, talk a little bit about them, and also discuss some sort of emerging experiments in each element to demonstrate sort of what something that actually brings these forgotten five back in could look like. So I’m going to start with care. And in order to talk about how this aspect of the economy was, was forgotten or excluded, we have to go back to the founding question of modern economics. And that’s the question that the founding father of economics, Adam Smith, asked a long time ago, in his book Wealth of Nations. And in this book, he he asked the question, how do you get your Dinner? And that’s actually a really good economic question. I mean, this was, this was in in Scotland a couple of 100 years ago. And but he was fascinated by, you know, the fact that you can sort of go out and you can buy your dinner. And somehow, you know, that still works for many of us, you know, when there’s not a global pandemic on that we’ve assumed for a long time that we can go to the store, and there will be bread and cucumbers and soft drinks, or whatever we want to buy, and, and it will kind of work. But actually, for these things to work, a lot of complex economic processes need to take place, otherwise, you know, we won’t be able to buy bread. And Adam Smith was interested in sort of why how does this all How does this all function, you know, what’s the fundamental force of the economy that makes it makes it work, he was looking in the same way that Isaac Newton had been sort of, he had discovered gravity as as the, the force that kept the planets in, in the orbit, he was looking for something similar for, for society for economics. And he very famously answered this this question by saying, it’s not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that you get your dinner, but from them serving their own self interest, which is a very famous quote. And economics, basically drew the conclusion that self interest was the thing that put the dinner on the table. And economists that came after Adam Smith, even said that economics was the science of self interest to think like an economist is to take a situation in the economy and analyze it, from the assumption that every person in this situation is just acting out of self interest. The problem, however, and I talk about this in my book, which is also called, who cooked Adam Smith’s dinner, is that Adam Smith got the answer to the founding question of economics wrong. How do I know that? Well, because if you look at Adam Smith’s life, the founding father of economics lives lived most of his life with his mother, who looked after the household for him so that he could write his amazing books. And she was called Margaret Douglas, and she is the part to the answer, how do you get your dinner that her son forgot, and hence ended up excluding from economics forever? The fact that it’s not that it’s not just that the brewer, the butcher, or the baker have to produce the goods for us to get our dinner, but somebody has to cook it. And there’s a whole sector of the economy, the informal work that goes on within a household that deals with what we could very loosely call care, that has, within economics been considered something that just doesn’t just isn’t an economic activity at all. It doesn’t matter, it’s not worth studying, this is something that women will always do. So and because women will always do it, we don’t have to think about it, we don’t have to measure it, we don’t have to think about what impact it has on other things in the economy. It’s just there. Adam Smith forgot about his mom. The problem with this is that this exclusion of care from economic thinking, I mean care, in a broad sense in formal work. Within the household, traditional female work is now it’s has led to a situation we, when we don’t really know how our economies work, I mean, especially in developing economies, this sector can be 15 to 20% of the whole economy. And it is completely invisible in GDP statistics, for example, it also has contributed to the situation you know, which you know, that women as a group are in less than men. And this in today’s world, large largely has to do that. Women you know, a do more of this. paid work in the economy and be to a larger extent work in, for example, the care sector, which is by Lee paid in almost every economy of the world, because there’s an economic logic that, that that says that if what, if women have performed this work for free, then then why should we pay them a lot for this? There are examples of, you know how these things can be can be done differently. Examples, you know, recently when care has been been viewed differently economically, there’s the famous case of Christine Bartlett from New Zealand, a care worker who launched an application that she was not receiving equal pay as per the Equal Pay Act. And she argued that she had worked for 20 years for very low pay, because her type of care work was largely performed by women. And she actually ended up winning this case by arguing that what is really the difference between somebody who cares for elderly people and for example, a prison guard, they’re both dealing with challenging behaviors, including sexual behaviors and aggressions. Why are we paying one much more than the other. And this was an important shift in the sense that it was a move from thinking about equal pay for equal work to thinking about equal pay for work of equal worth. And if something like that would be implemented, not just in New Zealand, but in our economic thinking and the whole in most of the world, then we could actually start seeing some movement in terms of the gender pay gap between men and women. In Sweden, Ron from for example, the gender pay gap has not moved for 30 years. And it’s largely to do with this, women work in care and care is under valued.
The other so that’s number one of the Forgotten five care. The second one, we would argue, is connection. So that’s something that economics is also blind to the fact that human interaction actually changes the nature of an economic situation. There’s, there’s a famous sort of case study from behavioral economics, where people were standing outside on the street with a sofa, in an experiment asking people to help them carry the sofa into a building. And in one version of the experiment, they asked, Would you help me carry this sofa? And in the other experiment, they asked, I’ll pay you, if you if you helped me carry this sofa. And if you looked at the situation, from the viewpoint of traditional economics, it’s incomprehensible What happened? because what happened was that more people were actually willing to help if they were not offered money for it. So to a traditional economist, this doesn’t make sense at all. Because obviously, if you get money for something, that’s an extra incentive to do it, but that’s not what happened, because because of this factor, connection, you know, there was a in the, in the situation where you are asking for help, please help, can you help me carry this sofa, without the introduction of money, the situation is different. There’s a relationship there. And it’s the nature of that relationship that makes people help you. And when you introduce money as a factor, that relationship just disappears, you know, the changes. And that’s something that traditional economics can’t explain. So, an example of this is to stay within the within the area of care is, you know, careworkers, when things like when Macare work is sort of pushed into the framework of the gig economy. And for example, within the public sector in Sweden, even though it’s the public sector, because the work is run for the people working in, for example, elderly care, their work day is run by these mobile phone apps. And they are directed, you know, between the different tasks they are going to do as if they worked at the Amazon warehouse. That’s something that that changes the nature of their work. And within traditional economics, you are not able to analyze that and see that that might, for example, have an effect on their working conditions, it might have an effect on the on the quality of the care. And therefore there are lots of interesting experiments when not lots further, some interesting experiments about recognizing this element of connection and experimenting with different types of platforms. You know that our carer owned perhaps cooperative, and using technology in a different way, recognizing that the way the technology is set up, the way the incentives are set up, changes the connection and the relationships between people, and therefore the nature of the whole situation. So those are the first two ones care and connection.
Denise Hearn 35:27
Thank you, okay, so quickly, we glossed over the fact that Katrine had wrote this amazing book, and I highly, highly recommend that everybody go and get it, it was hugely informative and impactful for my way of thinking. And plus, it’s just hilarious and a lot of fun to read. So so definitely please pick it up.
Now we’re moving on to the body which I’m I stole all these photos from two wonderful SheEO Ventures, Aisle and AWWA, I hope they don’t mind. One is a Canadian one’s a New Zealand venture, but they just have such gorgeous photos that I wanted to include them here. And, you know, as I sort of mentioned, at the beginning of the presentation, we are born into the world, we arrive into this world in bodies, and that has a huge impact on how we experience the world. So and, and on our life trajectory. So we can be male presenting female presenting, trans feeling, you know, we are, we have different colors of skin, physical location on Earth, you know, what country we’re born in our ability, or, you know, or disabilities, certain sets of intellectual skills, mental health, physical health, nourishment, risk of disease, all these things. And so right from the get go, we all are, are given an experience in a physical body that really affects the way that we move through life. And, and, you know, most of economics does not recognize this. And, of course, as we know, so much of the economic systems that we have built, ignore this, for the purpose of being able to exploit bodies and particular bodies, you know, bodies of color bodies that don’t fit whatever traditional, you know, sense we, we have. And this is why this is such an important. I mean, it’s the most foundational thing, and in our, in our sort of contention, in terms of why we need to start from this place. You know, not to mention as well, that the body is also the source of every other kind of productive economic value, and yet we completely undervalue its worth and and what it can provide for us. So, you know, there’s, there’s a reason I think your dream, this might have been yours. But there’s, there’s a reason why economics doesn’t talk about the body. You know, it’s it’s the starting place for all of the things that we have in common. And as I mentioned, these critical differences. And what we would like to posit here is what would it look like to build an economic system that organized, organized around the shared need needs of the body, that would be radically different from what we have today, and it’s Katrine just mentioned as well with care. You know, that I don’t, I can’t remember if you mentioned this, but the US has actually tried to quantify in GDP terms, how much adding the household economy to, to the GDP would be worth and it’s $4.5 trillion, which is about one fifth of the total GDP of the entire country. And we still don’t count it, we don’t include it in our measure of economic productivity or economic value. And so, you know, even even just acknowledging the the body and the ways that it affects economic outputs, would be a huge step forward, in terms of our understanding.
Katrine Marçal 39:01
And you can’t even understand what’s going on right now. We’re, you know, in this, in this pandemic crisis, a lot of sort of, you know, states are actually shifting real economic costs on to primarily female bodies, you know, with, you know, during lockdowns, for example, that the amount of care work was still the same, for example, childcare, and you closed schools, you client closed childcare centers, but that care was still needed to be done. So it was shifted that cost for that was shifted on to women because women are expected to pick that up in the economy, and it’s invisible because we’re not used to counting it. So that’s, that’s one of the consequences. There’s also So many of you know more concrete examples of, you know, not how we don’t think about the body and how that makes us miss the mark. So this is a picture of the famous ship chess game between Garry Kasparov and IBM’s, Deep Blue in 1996, which became one of these moments that many people assume that because a computer had beaten a brain like Garry Kasparov, then computers would soon take over everything on the labor market. And we could there was almost this assumption that if a machine could beat, you know, Kasparov at chess, it would also be able to fold laundry, I mean, not this computer, particularly, but that’s sort of, you know, this was the big technological breakthrough. Obviously, if we could get machines to do hard things like play chess, they would also be able to do easy things like, you know, folding laundry or cleaning houses. And what happened instead was that, you know, it turned out that actually, many of the things that are the hardest for machines to do are things that have to do with the body, like a computer can, I mean, right now, my I mean, my cell phone can now beat Garry Kasparov at chess, but we don’t have machines would struggle more, for example, with actually picking up the chess pieces and putting them down on the right squares. And that’s the type of bodily intelligence that we tend not to think about that much in terms of the economy, but it matters. For example, today, many of you know when economists talk about the bottlenecks that you know, the work on the labor market where automation is trickier, you know, where we do jobs, where we don’t expect machines to take over in the near future, they tend to be jobs that require a lot of these bodily skills that machines struggle with, you know, we’re still nowhere near these cleaning robots, for example, but we have machines that, you know, are amazing at, you know, radiology and, and that type of thing. And that was a paradox that we didn’t really see coming, I’d say, or, because we’re not used to thinking about but the body and how much it matters in in the economy. And there’s a famous paper by a roboticist called Rodney Brooks with the title. Elephants don’t play chess, which is exactly about this, you know, we wanted to have intelligent machines. So we looked to chess, or and mathematics, we didn’t look to, for example, the natural world and try to replicate or learn from, say, the intelligence of, of elephants, or the intelligence of nature’s in general. And that’s what Denise is going to talk about now.
Denise Hearn 43:13
Thank you, also. Dita, I think is how you say your name, thank you for your great comment. Today’s economy completely ignores bodily intelligence. And I realized I forgot to say two things I wanted to emphasize. One is that I totally agree, I’ve actually been doing some somatic practice with, with a friend of mine recently, which is all about making you aware of your your bodies, how your body and your brain are connected. And there’s all of this information that I had no idea I had access to just by becoming aware. And what she says is we can often be deceived by our own hearts and our own minds can rationalize away things, but actually, your body as a source of information, rarely lies to you. And, and so I think that there’s whole depths of knowledge that we’re really beginning to, to understand about, you know, our own bodily intelligence. The other thing I wanted to say was in economics, we have this concept of externalities, right? And that companies that pollute in, you know, a foreign country, perhaps or they use labor that’s very low paid. We call that an externality. Well, again, so many of these externalities that economics tends to sort of explain away, tend to be perpetrated again, on, you know, black and brown bodies and poor bodies. And and this is why we think this is so central. And I also just want to say that, you know, Katrine and I recognize we’re two white women doing this webinar. And we, our hope is that, as we build this out, we’d ideally like to turn this into a full course at some point. And we have a whole list of amazing women that were really excited to get involved if they have interest. So that this can be a more discursive, and and diverse, you know, group of women thinking together about how to how to language this and how to articulate it, because we recognize, of course, with our own worldview, that, that it is limited by our own bodily experience and how we have shown up in the world. So Katrine was talking about the intelligence of elephants. And yes, LGBTQ also included in those those externalities, for sure. But what I think is fascinating is that we have gone through as a human species, one of the largest transformations in terms of the way that we live. Probably, you know, since since the time of moving from sort of nomadic to agrarian lifestyles. And 150 years ago, in the United States, 90% of Americans were farmers, 150 years ago, 90% of people were farmers today, that’s 2%. And we now have, you know, more than 55% of humans live in urban areas, and it’s projected that close to 70%, will live in some sort of mega city or large urban environment by 2050. And you know, cities are not bad, they, they obviously, are very productive. There’s reasons why we like being there. But this has been a massive shift in terms of everything from how we experienced sound, you know, the sounds, and the soundscape that we now have in cities is very different than what we would have had 100 years ago, or 150 years ago, when we were much closer to the natural world, in our day to day living, you know, the pacing, lighting, artificial lighting, all of these things, they actually have a profound effect, again, on our experience as bodies and so what do we lose when, with this perspective, and this is a picture of Hong Kong, my husband lived there for a number of years, but I just find this so interesting, because it shows the the very profound wines, you know, in terms of, of the city and and the natural world. And I think what happens is what, what we have done is that we have tended to see ourselves as separate from nature versus embedded within the natural world, we don’t see ourselves as extensions of natural systems, we see ourselves as elevated above them conquering, and that we have this paradigm of superiority that nature’s function essentially, is to serve human needs. And this is typically again, how economics has treated the natural world. You know, it’s been ours to exploit to turn into economic value, you know, to sort of decimate at will, to serve our own needs.
And, you know, one of course, there’s many horrific consequences of this. But I think one of the things that I’ve been most interested in lately is that we are really only beginning to understand how much natural intelligence is out there. This shows a beautiful, I believe it’s a lion’s mane mushroom growing up in an old growth forest, and some of you I’m sure are familiar with mycelial networks, which are fungal networks, between trees that actually transport nutrients back and forth between trees. They even do this inter species so they a birch tree will give nutrients perhaps to an oak tree. And it’s this is actually the largest living organism on the planet mycelium. And it’s called the worldwide web because it’s the the hidden underground web of information flows and nutrient flows underneath old growth forests, I think the largest is in Portland, Oregon. And there was a big New York Times article that just came out about this a couple of days ago. So make sure to to give that a look. And of course, one of the women who have has really brought this to the worldwide stage is a woman named Suzanne Simard, who’s been studying trees in British Columbia for the last 30 years or so. So mycelial networks are really interesting examples of natural intelligence that we’re just beginning to understand. We didn’t even know they existed until 40 years ago. Another one is whale communication. There’s evidence to suggest that sperm whales communicate in a more complex language than human language. Again, we’re just beginning to try to understand that. And this is one of my personal favorites, bacteria communicate. Who knew I just found this out. So they use something called quorum sensing, where they emit chemical signals and bacteria are really you know, mostly single celled organisms, but they they end up communicating as an entire group and it’s really confounding scientists because they they do this they emit these chemical signals so that they can communicate to determine the size of their group to sense what other types of bacteria are in the environment. And they can even receive communication back from other types of bacteria. And this means that they they end up acting like a multi celled organism, even though they’re just these sort of brainless, you know, single cells moving around together. And so this quorum sensing is as well, something that we’ve only recently just discovered. And last but not least, we’re going to talk about slime mold, which has anyone heard of slime mold? Or knows about this? Yes, okay, fantastic. So, so slime mold is, it’s again, a brainless organism, it displays these strange properties of intelligence, though, where it will basically explore its territory. And they, they’ve set it up in a maze as an example where they really like oats. And so they would put up an oat at different ends of the maze. And it would explore the entire length of the maze by sort of flushing its body out. And then once it found the food, it actually was able to then shrink back the areas that were not as effective at reaching the food. And so it basically found the most efficient route of getting to the food. And another example that they did here was they set up this little map, and each of these white dots is, is an out again, and they set them up as to mimic the Japanese subway system in Tokyo. And each of those nodes of oats is actually one of the subway stations, and they let the slime mold go and explore the territory. And within 26 hours, it had found the most efficient route between all of the nodes in in the subway station, which was just as efficient if not more so than all of the great engineering planners that had that had developed the subway station, or the subway system. And so all of this is really to say that there is so much profound intelligence that we do not even yet understand that we are at risk of losing, when we treat nature as if it it doesn’t have its own right to existence outside of an anthropomorphic worldview.
And so, of course, you know, some people are waking up to this. And, you know, we hear so much about climate change, which of course, is very important, but concurrent with that there is there’s a massive biodiversity crisis that’s happening, you know, species are being lost at a really rapid rate. And, and so there, there are different ways that people are trying to approach this from an economics standpoint. And I’m going to walk through a couple of them here. So one is we we tend to say, Okay, well will cost the damage, we’ll figure out if I cut down this forest, you know, what does that cost in terms of the damage that was inflicted upon the ecosystem, you know, or the other, the other animals, the other organisms that are part of that ecosystem. The difficulty here is we do not understand ecosystems, whatsoever. Bees are dying off in the US and have been for, you know, the last 10 or 15 years. And it was only recently that a mushroom researcher named Paul Stamets figured out that actually, because there’s less there, there are less fungal networks, because the old growth forest is disappearing, the bees used to go and actually eat some of these mushrooms, and that would inoculate them against certain pests and bacteria. And and so this is something again, we’ve just only recently discovered, so we have no idea this complex web and how it works. So it’s very difficult to sort of cost and put an economic value on the damage that we’re inflicting. The you know, another approach is nature based investing. So HSBC has just put together something called a natural capital fund. They’re investing in land and forests and mangroves, and trying to take a long term approach to seeing these as, as you know, assets that that can be, they can generate assets from these in the long term. So that’s, that’s one approach. And then another, you know, final approach is, is looking at nature in terms of natural capital. So accounting for natural capital in the balance sheet, is is one way of doing this. And there’s an effort by Ronald Cohen at Harvard called impact weighted accounting. It’s not just environmental, it also looks at social. What’s been really interesting is that what they do is they when they look at a company, and they actually sort of, in some ways, they also do this costing the damage and they figure out, you know, how much has this company actually inflicted on the environment and they subtract that from the value of the company often, many of the companies that are, you know, blue chip companies are the value has gone down by at least 50%, when they actually start to account for all of these unaccounted for sort of externalities. So that’s one effort that’s underway as well. You know, I don’t think any of these are sufficient. I think that they are all incremental steps. I think they’re better than what we have now. But what I at least, I’m not aware of, you know, what would it look like to, to actually base an economic system on this on this idea that nature has a right to exist in its own myriad, complex and beautiful ways completely uninhibited by human interaction, and that these forms of natural intelligence are also incredibly valuable to us as humans, if we can take time to learn from them and observe them undisturbed. And, you know, as far as I’m aware, no one’s trying to base an economics system off of that, because of course, it’s too complex. But, you know, that’s where I would love for us to, to set our sights upon. One book that I would recommend is the nature of economies by Jane Jacobs, she’s brilliant, you know, I spent all this past year researching and thought I had come up with a couple of original interesting thoughts. And then I realized she wrote them all in the 80s. But she, I’m sorry, but one of the things that she said, which was really profound and stuck with me was that we have this idea of survival of the fittest. And that is true in nature, we definitely see that species that do compete and out compete, that can out breed and outfeed definitely do survive. But what she says is that there’s a second concurrent and equally important element of evolutionary success, which we have completely forgotten. And the The second one is that, as a species, an animal has to maintain its own habitat, it has to ensure the ongoing preservation of the habitat that it lives in. So she says, a tiger as an example doesn’t just go around rampaging every animal, once it’s had its its feed, and it’s satisfied and full, it doesn’t just go on a killing spree, even though it could if it wanted to. It maintains a sort of balance, you know, there’s no such thing as equilibrium necessarily, but it maintains its habitat, because that is also fundamental to its own survival. And I think what we, as humans are not recognizing is the exponential effects of so many of our you know, so many of our actions, how they are, you know, really depleting our environment to the to the point where we may become victims of our own inability to maintain our own habitat. You know, she says the most successful predators large or small are the ones that graduate to become sim symbionts of their habitat. And she says, both competition and the arena for competition are necessarily great. And if we don’t recognize this, these feedback loops tend to end and self termination. That’s, that’s how they always do. But we can turn it around Katrine. Tell us how.
Katrine Marçal 58:26
Yes, I will tell you how. And there’s some amazing book recommendations going in the comments, by the way, I’ve been writing almost all of them down. Fantastic. And here comes another. Well, it’s not really a book recommendation as such. But I want to talk just briefly about how this concept of nature in our relationship to nature, but Denise has been talking about also applies to innovation, which is something that I’ve been thinking a lot about for my forthcoming book. And there’s a famous book by the American science journalist, Charles C Man called the Wizard and the Prophet, where he talks about how the environmental debate for the last 5060 years has basically been stuck in this duel between wizards and prophets. And what he means by that is that on the other on one hand, we have the the doomsday prophets and who are going on about the environment and climate change, and they say that if we, you know, we don’t respect our planet’s boundaries, you know, we won’t survive, we need to scale back conserve, protect, stop consuming, otherwise, you know, earth will be uninhabitable. You know, stop it, stop, stop growing, stop inventing, you know, go back to, to nature, that sort of message on one hand. On the other hand, we have the wizards and so by that he means they’re they’re all the people that see innovation. And technology not as the problem in terms of the environment, but as the solution. It’s the solution to environmental problems. Human beings, we’ve you know, we’ve always existed in the world where nature is constantly trying to kill us in different ways. And we’ve always fought back with technology and innovation. This, you know, crisis, climate change, whatever environmental crisis we’re talking about, it’s no different. And that’s how it goes on wizard versus profit profit was versus wizard for decades, basically. And Chelsea man and others are frustrated with this, because it doesn’t seem to move forward. And what I would say is that the reason it doesn’t is because the wizard and the Prophet they both of them, both of them have a very similar view of nature really, which is different from the one that Denise has been talking about, you know, both the wizard and the Prophet profoundly see themselves as separate from nature.
The Prophet is worried about this separate thing from him Mother Nature, which is dying, or in pain. And the wizard, you know, sees nature as basically a container for energy that he can use in different ways and hit for his technology and his innovation. But they are still separate. And there’s no coincidence in I’d say that both the wizard and the Prophet are male archetypes in the sense that one of the definitions of masculinity is that it’s separate from nature, which is viewed as female. So there’s some third archetype that it might be time to bring back therefore, when it comes to innovation and technology. And that’s the witch. Because what’s the difference between a witch and wizard that has a lot to do not primarily with the witch being a female archetype and the wizard being a male one, but because there are male witches, and there were male witches, but with the relationship the witch has to make sure. So you know, she’s not like the wizard up in her towers, creating her technology from formal knowledge and big dusty books. She’s down in the forest, getting her hands dirty, getting her knowledge, not from, from formal knowledge, but from her herbs and her ancestors and tradition and the things that, you know, have been accessible to her because she’s historically not been as privileged as the wizard, when there’s something there that’s worth bringing back, because she has a different relationship to nature. She’s not just interested in magic, because it can give her power over her external world, but she does, you know, the magic she does and the collecting of Herbes and, and, and the whatever she does, not just because it gives her power, but also because it gives her a connection to herself to cosmos, and through nature around her. And that’s, you know, a model of an archetype for how technology and innovation can happen, that’s not the prophet and not the wizard. And it’s worth thinking about.
Denise Hearn 1:03:34
So also Katrine, that is a concept from Katrine’s new book, which hopefully will be out in English mid next year, which I’m really excited about. And just so everyone knows time check, we will only talk at you for hopefully, five or most 10 more minutes. So hang with us with our last one, which is power. I like this quote, which is that, you know, some people have more power that some people have more power than others is one of the most palpable facts of human existence. Because of this, the concept of power is as ancient and ubiquitous is that of any social theory can boast. And, you know, he goes on to say that, you know, all of these great social theorists have talked a lot about power like Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, of course. And yet, when it comes to economics, again, this is completely left out of a foundational understanding of how markets work and how we interact. So we also with neoliberalism, have tended to emphasize this idea of a nebulous equilibrium type market where everyone is a free actor without constraints, you know, and has the ability to exchange freely on this open marketplace. Of course, we all know that this is completely ridiculous. And this is a myth of meritocracy that really Dies Hard Especially in countries like the US and Canada, and I’m sure and others as well. We don’t start with an equal playing field, of course. And as we mentioned earlier country of origin body, all these things, set us up with power dynamics, not because there’s anything inherently wrong with those bodies, but because of the structure we live under, that has privileged certain types of power over others, as Katrine mentioned, with the witches, that when we show up here, there are already these inherent power dynamics that need to be taken into account. And so this, the the man that I just quoted, there has a book called economics and power. And he says that basically, economics is in a pre scientific state, when it comes to studying power and or articulating it and integrating it into its understanding of the world. There is no functional paradigms for analyzing power, regardless of the School of economic thought. And, of course, neoliberalism has the very least to say about power, of course, because, you know, in whose interest is it to ignore power, it’s in the power brokers interest to not bring this to the forefront as as a lens of analysis that we should look through. When so this is my book that I co authored. And when we talk about power, we tend to focus on it in very narrow ways, which are still incredibly important. But what we spent a lot of time thinking about with our previous work was basically this idea of Monopoly monopoly power, and how really large firms control entire industries and how that affects the economy at large. So I won’t go into it too much here. But you know, we’re still—
Katrine Marçal 1:06:45
It’s great. And, you know, the issues she talks about here, her only gotten more important, since, you know, since the book was published.
Denise Hearn 1:06:54
I’m sure people are seeing in the news, you know, Facebook’s being Facebook, Google, etc, have antitrust cases coming out against them. And what we tried to do in this book, is show that it’s not only big tech, actually, it affects every industry, from chicken farming, to kidney dialysis, to funeral services to, you know, some of the creative industries and media, it really was astounding for me to recognize that the the so called free market, and this is why we call it the myth of capitalism is really a figment of the imagination, because now, every industry essentially is controlled by a handful of very large corporations. And that shapes, you know, all of these relationships, workers have less power, because it’s very hard to bargain against a monopolist like Walmart moves into your town, how do you how do you fight for a higher wage, you know, consumers are actually paying higher prices, because once a company gets market power, they can exert what’s called pricing power, and just raise the cost of your goods. So you know, your airline tickets, your, you know, your cell phone bill, all of these things tend to just keep rising and rising, while the quality of the service keeps going, keeps going south, suppliers are affected if you’re a third party, third party supplier selling on Amazon, you’re now in competition with the very business that you’re reliant upon to do business, you know, which is you’re reliant on Amazon to sell your products, but they also have their own goods that compete with yours. So it affects entrepreneurs. And all of this leads to you know, in our mind, this is one of the explanatory reasons why inequality has gotten so bad. So this is this is certainly an aspect of power that that is talked about, but it’s really the only lens through which people can understand power in economic terms is through this idea of monopoly power. And that’s really as far as it goes. So two quick examples of what we think are some really interesting examples that transition from power over to power with. So the Associated Press, I didn’t realize this, but they are actually a cooperative. And when we usually think of sort of redistributing power, we focus on the redistribution part. So we think about things like UBI, or tax and transfer, you know, income inequality, how we want to make that better. What I’m really interested in are the structural things that actually pre distribute power and wealth before it concentrates. And so there are examples like the Associated Press, like I said, that’s a cooperative, that and it’s totally employee owned that do this from the beginning. So you don’t need to then on the back end, you know, be ensuring that workers get a fair wage because they’ve already shared in the profits from the beginning. What I thought was interesting is that during the EU the recent US elections, all of the other major media conglomerates kept going has these Associated Press called Wisconsin yet has the Associated Press called Florida, we’re waiting on the Associated Press because it was actually the most credible, and still is one, it considered one of the most credible news sites precisely because it doesn’t sit within this, like exotic, you know, this totally exponential profit motive that all of the other companies are controlled by. And so I just thought it was hilarious that everyone was waiting with bated breath on the cooperative media news news agency to call the election the most important event of the entire year. But it makes sense. And then there’s also another example called Boston ujima. Some of you might have heard of this is a really interesting project out of Boston, where community members pooled their resources to invest in local businesses, most of them black owned, and they use your cooperative decision making process to decide where the funding goes, which of course, does she Oh, that sounds very familiar to us. And what’s also really interesting, though, is that they did raise outside investment capital, but the outside investors got a lower rate of return than the community members, so they really privileged the community members risk and, and knowledge and decision making in that whole investment structure. And, you know, I think this is a great example of moving from sort of power over approach in impact investing even which can also be littered with this kind of power over approach to more of a power with. So that’s it, those are the five and what we’re advocating is that we move from the Forgotten five to making them the foundational five. And this is again, a call to radically shift build a new ship, as it were, what we prioritize and see in our economic systems, and, you know, move them this move from the Forgotten five to the foundational five,
Katrine Marçal 1:12:04
I think that’s based on our, you know, I on this idea that there’s a reason why these five are the Forgotten five, because, you know, some people benefit from that and other lose out. And also, there’s a tremendous opportunity by sort of bringing these things back in, actually, the whole cake changes, everything changes. And that’s what’s so fundamental, I think it’s, it shouldn’t just be about slicing up the existing cake, you know, in a more more equal pieces to give to two groups that before and previously haven’t had so much. It’s about, you know, creating something completely new. And, you know, the foundational five could really do that we believe.
Denise Hearn 1:12:50
I forgot that. I saw this earlier today. And so I wanted to include it. But this is the American poet Audrey Lorde. And let’s just sit with this. So happy to be here with all of you. And she had this quote, which I actually wanted to leave us with before we break out. And it says if what we need to dream to move our spirits most deeply and directly toward and through promise is discounted as a luxury. Then we give up the core, the fountain of our power, or woman this we give up the future of our worlds. So once again, thank you, thank you so much for spending time with us. So if you want to get in touch with me, you can just find me on my website. And I’ve got my email listed there as well. I am not open on LinkedIn, because I’m getting too much spam from random marketers. So the easiest place to find me is on my website, or Twitter, which is @denisehearn_. But again, yeah, just thank you so so much. We’re we’re just thrilled to have had this opportunity with SheEO to test out these concepts and ideas. And we’re really looking forward to building this out in the future. So thank you.
Katrine Marçal 1:14:11
Yeah, and you know, I say the same—thank you. This was our first little little, you know, experiment with with this material and you know, all feedback, you know, is very, very valuable to us. Please get in touch with me. The easiest is probably LinkedIn. Just my name Katrine Marçal, and you know, just really appreciate, you know, any, any any feedback or any ideas or thoughts you’ve had, and yeah, thank you.
Vicki Saunders 1:14:35
Thank you for listening to the SheEO.World podcast. Please leave a review, share with a friend and subscribe on your favorite podcast player. We invite you to join a global community of radically generous women building a $1 billion perpetual fund to support women working on the World’s To-Do List, invest in women and invest in yourself at SheEO.World.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai