A Recipe for A Resilient Global Economy
February 1, 2019
Tonight, while munching on sourdough crackers flavored with rosemary, I sat through a graduate school class called Disaster Relief and Development. My professor stands in the front of a bland white room in front of a white board, his powerpoint slides projected up in front of us with the word RESILIENCE written across the title slide’s mid-section. For academics in the field of Community Development, resilience means thinking ahead of time about what shocks might hit a system and planning ahead for those shocks rather than cleaning up afterwards. Academics like to apply it to housing in places where there are tsunamis or hurricanes and to thinking about public health infrastructure in the case of a pandemic which we haven’t even had in a century now. But today, when I told my professor I thought the whole global economy would benefit from thinking more about resilience in supply chains or resilience in terms of economic means for citizens who might undergo crises, he gave me a weird look and said “well, that’s one idea” and continued on with the lecture. To me, having a diverse set of sources of things we know we all need instead of hollowing out the supply chain so it runs through one country makes a lot of sense. So does the idea of making sure families have extra money to put away to handle a crisis like losing a job or someone in the family getting sick.
June 20, 2019
I run a nonprofit that works on trade policy. This week for work I’ve been doing research into our supply chains for chemicals we use to make pharmaceuticals because we learned that China controls roughly 80% of the supply chain. So much of the rhetoric around China right now is really difficult to take in because it’s so nationalist. It’s almost like “China” has become a buzzword for political leaders in the US–like China has become a boogeyman for US problems. There’s plenty to criticize about the workers rights track record in China, but I wish sometimes that people could articulate their issues without staking “them” and “us” value statements. In reality, I don’t care that China has the medical supply chain, except that it’s a recipe for disaster that we might someday need several sources of those goods. In the US, we’ve just started hearing about the Uighurs in detail, and we’re trying to find out if any of the supply chain runs through places where they’re using forced labor. It’s been really hard to get members of Congress to listen to us as we’ve been trying to do educational work around the issue. As an organizer, the cynical part of my mind wonders what kind of shock it will take to get people in power to care.
November 30, 2019
20 years ago today 80,000 people gathered in the streets of Seattle to stop the World Trade Organization from reaching its ugly tentacles further into our everyday lives. The WTO wanted to control decisions about the food we eat, the medicines we take, and the environmental regulations we’re allowed to pass. The most impressive part about this organizing is that it continues to this day, and it has largely stopped the WTO from being able to grow even though we still feel its power when we try to do things like fight climate change or make new public health regulations. In those moments, the WTO shows up and lets us know we’re not following the golden rules of its global economy. It’s been really interesting to reflect on the ways the rhetoric has changed. My generation wants to engage with other countries, but we want to do it in a way that protects our workers, environment and food systems instead of giving that power away to greedy, unaccountable trans-national corporations. Millennials generally have a paradigm that puts people against corporations rather than the US against China or Mexico. Even though the WTO hasn’t moved forward, thousands of trade agreements have, and we’re seeing the impacts and destabilization from it as people like Jair Bolsonaro, Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, and others win elections.
March 1, 2020
Things are really uncertain just now. Two days ago, the first person in the U.S. died of coronavirus—a new virus that began in China in December—here in Seattle. People are panicking and buying all the hand sanitizer and food that they can from the store. When we went, it was all gone, and my parents decided to send me some from Iowa. All my meetings for this week have been cancelled or moved online. As I work, I’m baking oregano-flavored sourdough crackers with flour we found on a shelf in the garage after we looked at 3 different grocery stores. Cooking is a recipe for success when I need to take my mind off something. Our unreliable narrator of a President says we’ll be down to zero cases soon.
June 8, 2020
Today, after nearly 3 months trapped at home, we learned that we’ll be slowly allowed to re-open parts of the economy. I can’t stop thinking about a conversation I had with a professor in graduate school about how if a big disaster came, families wouldn’t be prepared with rent money or healthcare. This pandemic is the perfect storm for a country that demands we continue tying healthcare to employment. People are losing their jobs and then their healthcare in a moment when having healthcare could very easily mean life or death. We’ve got an eviction moratorium because so many folks can’t pay rent. We’ve hollowed out our medical supply chains to the point that we have no personal protective equipment for nurses, let alone people outside the healthcare system. About a week ago, someone from the Trump administration put forward a plan to bring some of our medical supply and device manufacturing back to the US. It’s a far cry from a worker-centered proposal that I’d advocate for, but I think people are waking up to the economic mess we’ve created for ourselves. I guess the question remains, will they fix it? Post-coronavirus, will they create a system that situates people to be economically stable? Or, will we return to the business as usual, volatile economy of the past that puts corporations first and people and the planet last?
January 4, 2021
It was an incredibly difficult decision, but this is the first year I haven’t spent Christmas at home with my family baking cookies and playing music and staying up late. I’m thankful to have a partner whose family lives close. We spent our Christmas eating empanadas, reading books, and going for walks—which I suppose is a very good second best to Christmas in Iowa with my family. Some days it’s hard to feel hopeful that we’ll come out of coronavirus better than we started, but other days, the sun peeks its way out through the clouds. 2020 politicized so many people. There are people working to significantly expand the social safety net, working to rebuild the domestic economy in ways that are more forward-looking, and people who are really looking out for each other in this space. All of those things give me a hope that we may be headed for some kind of new normal where our policies, values, and lives align more clearly.
Recipe for a Disastrous Global Economy
- 2 cups corporate control
- 1 cup unsustainable resource usage
- 2 TBSP worker exploitation
Mix thoroughly. Batter might separate, but keep mixing. Even when it continues to not mix well, just keep stirring and hoping it turns out okay. If your guests don’t like it, tell them they don’t have taste and that they should buck up and swallow it.
Recipe for a Stable Global Economy
- 1 cup good jobs
- 2 cups climate support
- as much democratic control over food and health systems as you can fold into the mix
- 2 TBSP cooperation
- 1 TBSP hope
Mix jobs, climate support, and democratic control. Add regulation as necessary. Fold hope and cooperation all the way through the batter. Remove exploitation every time it bubbles to the top of the dough. Cook thoroughly and serve among friends.
Hillary Haden (she/her)
Hillary is the Director at the Washington Fair Trade Coalition. Her love for people-centered economic development led her to Havana, Cuba for her Masters’ Degree research in Community Development. She lives in Redmond, WA, with her dog Scout, and is a hiker, a reader, and a home-made bread maker.