Hooray for the Underdog
by Rob Dietz
What’s more compelling than an astonishing upset? We seem instinctively drawn to the underdog; we routinely root for the resilient scrapper who refuses to back down. It’s why Team USA over the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics has been memorialized as the Miracle on Ice. It’s why we cheered when Rocky Balboa went toe to toe with Apollo Creed (and subsequently KO’d All the President’s Men, Network, and Taxi Driver at the Oscars). It’s why Harry Truman’s defeat of Thomas Dewey in 1948 is one of the most famous U.S. Presidential elections. And it’s why David and Goliath is one of the most beloved biblical stories.
There are some powerful think tanks promoting “green” ideas around the world, especially when it comes to green growth, green technology, and green jobs. In a stunner, CASSE prevailed over them all as it was named the Best Green Think Tank of 2011 by the sustainability gurus at TreeHugger. Despite a miniscule budget and a skeletal staff that consists almost entirely of dedicated volunteers, the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy overcame odds almost as long as its name.
Perhaps it’s not all that shocking of an upset after all. With each passing day, the public is becoming more skeptical of the status quo and more receptive to CASSE’s message. Infinite economic growth on a finite planet makes no sense. It’s a difficult message to hear and internalize, especially amidst the constant clamor for evermore growth. But acceptance of this message is a prerequisite to making the transition to a steady state economy, and CASSE is the leading organization calling for this transition.
As TreeHugger notes, “When it comes down to advocating for what we humbly submit to readers as the single most important economic concept of the 21st century, CASSE comes out on top.” And CASSE is in good company – awards are piling up for people and organizations daring to challenge the orthodoxy of perpetual economic growth:
- The New Economic Model, a project of nef (the New Economics Foundation), has been named a 2011 semi-finalist in the Buckminster Fuller Challenge. And nef was the 2010 winner of the TreeHugger award given to CASSE this year.
- The Post Carbon Institute won a DoGooder Nonprofit Video Award for its outstanding “300 Years of Fossil Fuels in 300 Seconds.”
- Herman Daly won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Council for Science and the Environment.
- The Global Footprint Network won the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship.
These awards help validate the messages being delivered by CASSE, nef, Post Carbon, GFN, and dozens of other organizations. And they increase public awareness of noteworthy efforts. But more importantly, they provide inspiration for us to follow the lead of these organizations. Underdog victories prove that the little guy can win the game. Their stories help us realize that we have the power to accomplish big things.
In this case, the underdogs are all the people who are distressed about the direction humanity is headed. We are the people craving a sane solution to climate chaos, mourning the culture of materialism, searching for solutions to the ongoing assault on nature, and hoping for an end to poverty. It will take unprecedented commitment, hard work and perseverance for us to overcome greed-based corporate agendas, outdated economic institutions, and our own reservations about saying and doing what is necessary.
Now, however, is the time for underdogs of the world to unite in action. As TreeHugger astutely observed, “In all honesty awarding the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy a Best of Green Award this year is as much about promise as past action.” We need to fulfill the promise and find a way to run the economy on something other than endlessly expanding consumption. If you want to join the underdog movement for a sustainable economy, please consider taking some simple actions to raise awareness about the perils of perpetual growth and the positive possibilities of a steady state.
Rob Dietz brings a fresh perspective to the discussion of economics and environmental sustainability. His diverse background in economics, environmental science and engineering, and conservation biology (plus his work in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors) has given him an unusual ability to connect the dots when it comes to the topic of sustainability. Rob is the author, with Dan O’Neill, of Enough Is Enough: Building a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources.
Great news, not just for CASSE, but for all of the groups mentioned. It is indeed a validation of what ever larger numbers of people are feeling and experiencing, and slowly all those things are converging into a big picture understanding – how poverty, growth, climate change and consumerism are linked, and the increasingly ill-effects they are having on societies everywhere.
Everyone supporting the work of these groups keeps building the momentum so that the underdogs can become the top dogs – or at least whack Goliath in the Achilles’ heel (alright, it’s a mixed metaphor, but very apt!).
“With but few exceptions, it is always the underdog who wins through sheer willpower.”
— Johnny Welssmuller
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world;
indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
— Margaret Meed