Social justice prevails when all members of a society have their basic physiological (food, water, energy, housing, and clothing) and safety (security, education, and health) needs met.
The purpose of a sustainable local economy is to provide the means by which all community members can meet their needs through legitimate transactions and with their dignity intact.
The metrics for a local economy indicate how well it meets basic needs. In other words, does everyone have sufficient food, water, energy, shelter, and clothing? Are they secure, healthy, and capable? If “no” is the answer to one or both, the economic system needs attention. People must step up and “make it right.”
Five years ago, Hurricane Katrina wiped out hundreds of homes in New Orleans and displaced thousands of people. This disaster left a huge deficiency of basic needs.
Due to the vagaries of the storm’s path and the uneven quality of levee design and construction, several parishes and wards suffered decidedly higher losses than others. To make matters worse, not all were treated fairly during the long slog of recovery. Many who escaped with far less damage garnered a disproportionate degree of favor while assistance for those who needed it most was agonizingly slow to arrive.
The Lower Ninth Ward was particularly hard hit by the storm and subsequent flooding due to failed levees. And it was home to some of the most disadvantaged people in the city. Obviously, they were among those who had the least funding, materials, know-how, and support to clean-up, rebuild, and resettle in their homes. The starkness of the situation epitomized social injustice.
To address this, in part, Brad Pitt launched an initiative, Make It Right. The purpose was to tap the creative spirit and commitment of leading architects and builders in the design and construction of affordable, environmentally sustainable, easy-to-maintain homes for people who had little or no hope of rebuilding on their own.
This is the kind of program that applies a key metric, housing, to “make it right” and mark progress of the local economy on the path to social justice. And while this initiative is not the full answer, it’s a good place to start. The opportunities to “make it right” even more in New Orleans and many other places are endless.
Way to go, Brad Pitt!
Originally posted to Sustainable Local Economic Development on Tumblr by Steve Bosserman on Friday, August 27, 2010