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Investing in the Right Relationships

Because we have invested so much in our relationships with corporations, community and familial relationships are weakened—to the point at which they can't provide sustenance when the corporate bond breaks.
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Colin Beavan: Exchange of LoveBack in July, I posted this diagram under the title Exchange of Love. The point of the diagram is that economic policy in the modern world is generally about strengthening the bonds between corporations and individuals, rather than other, potentially more meaningful, relationships.

Under the current paradigm, this is important because it is from corporations that we get our health care, our salaries, our retirement benefits.

The problem is that when the economic tide goes out, the corporations shrink and—by a variety of mechanisms including layoffs and plunging stock prices—so do the benefits our relationships with them. Because the relationship between the corporation and the individual is entirely fiduciary, loyalty and longstanding relationships don't really factor.  A decision at a far-away head office suddenly decimates an entire community.

Meanwhile, because we have invested so much in the relationships with corporations, the other relationships are weakened, which means that they can't provide sustenance when the corporate bond breaks. Why would neighbors help neighbors when they barely even know each other?

So what if, instead of investing government money only in corporations to bolster that bond, President Obama also invested in strengthening local community and familial relationships? Suppose he invested in local farming and local business and general strengthening of bonds between people at the proximate level?

If he did that, when the crises came, and the corporations shrunk, wouldn't that mean that we might have the relationship with family, friends and local business that allowed us to rely on each other? Wouldn't that mean, too, that even if the boom money went away, we would still have the enduring satisfaction and support of a strong community?

And if we had those strong relationships, isn't there a chance that we wouldn't require so many planetary resources in form of "stuff" to have a good quality of life? In other words, if we could play more and rely more with and on each other, wouldn't we need fewer planetary resources and things to feel satisfied with our lives?

Colin Beavan

Colin Beavan and his family spent a year trying to live in New York City without causing negative environmental impact. That experiment is the subject of his book No Impact Man and an accompanying documentary of the same name. Beavan blogs and suggests follow-up actions at and is a regular contributor to YES! Magazine.


Christmas With No Presents? The Beavan family's first No Impact Christmas.

Stunt or Not a Stunt? No Impact Man says the personal is powerful.

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