Hazel Henderson

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"Futurist and evolutionary economist Hazel Henderson is president of Ethical Markets Media (USA and Brazil), author of nine books, a syndicated and author of over 200 articles in Harvard Business Review, New York Times and other publications. She has been profiled in Wired (were she was nominated as “one of the 50 people most likely to change the world”), Christian Science Monitor, Science and many international journals. She served on the advisory boards for the U.S. National Science Foundation, the National Academy of Engineering and the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, as well as the Calvert Group of responsible mutual funds. She founded the EthicMark Award for Advertising that Uplifts the Human Spirit and Society." ((http://www.forbes.com/sites/terrywaghorn/2012/05/08/hazel-henderson-reforming-markets-metrics-and-media/))

Extensive narrative bio

" An intellectual boutique for redesigning cultural DNA… a global acupuncturist applying fine policy needles at optimal intervention points with the goal of reconfiguring dysfunctional systems. Those are apt descriptions of Hazel Henderson, a brilliant, self-taught, systems thinker, “anti-economist,” and determined outsider who has been knocking hard for years with a remarkable degree of success on the doors of the establishment to deliver her iconoclastic "beyond macroeconomic" message. The sustainability movement is only now beginning to catch up with this visionary thinker.

Rewriting economic scorecards has been perhaps Henderson’s most enduring passion. “It has just always been so obvious to me that if you change the scorecard you change the game,” says Henderson. “And I have always been very interested in changing the unsustainable economic game.” Her core belief is that GDP is “a malfunctioning strand of cultural DNA replicating unsustainability” that needs to be redesigned.

Henderson traces her obsession with exposing the flaws in this key indicator to a defining childhood memory. Her parents had just returned to their home in the English countryside from a trip to London and described to her a black “fog” so dense that they could hardly see across their hotel room. This was the historic “Great Smog” of December 1954, induced by the discharges of coal-fired furnaces, and which was to be responsible for 4000 premature deaths in one week in the city.

That memory came back to Henderson with full force when she immigrated to New York in the early 1960s andwitnessed first-hand the horrific impact on air quality of the city’s millions of garbage incinerators. A born activist, Henderson lost no time as a new American citizen in co-founding Citizens for Clean Air in 1964, three years before the first federal anti-pollution enforcement legislation was enacted. When then Mayor Robert Wagner failed to take the organization seriously, she convinced Senator Robert F. Kennedy to join her Clean Air colleagues on a helicopter ride over Manhattan in 1967 to view the sources of pollution. Henderson expounded on what was in her view so fundamentally wrong with GDP as a measure of prosperity--how absurd it was to add to it, rather than subtract from it, negative economic activities like cleaning up air pollution. The New York Medical Society agreed and gave Henderson its Citizen of the Year Award in 1967." (http://capitalinstitute.org/forum/braintrust/profile-hazel-henderson)


Conducted by Terry Waghorn, in Forbes:

"What made reforming economics, conventional metrics and ethical advertising the focus of your work?

As an early environmental activist, I worried about my baby breathing the dirty air in New York City. After co-organizing Citizens for Clean Air in the 1960s, I realized all economics was based on obsolete textbooks that allowed companies to “externalize” their costs to others, such as the pollution of air and water. We contacted the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and arranged for a helicopter ride around New York City to show him all the sources of air pollution and why our group proposed correcting our national GNP to subtract the costs of pollution and other externalities. Sen. Kennedy was convinced and went on to make his famous 1968 speech about GNP’s mistakes and why we needed to correct this narrow scorecard.

As I dug deeper into economics textbooks, I began to connect all the dots in other scientific areas, realizing that we were living at the end of the 300-year Industrial Revolution based on fossil fuels and outdated methods of production. I wrote Creating Alternative Futures in 1978, followed by The Politics of the Solar Age in 1981, where I described the great transition already underway to economies based on efficiency, renewable energy and resources managed for long-term sustainability.

So why did your research on this global economic and technological transition lead to your focus on media and ethical advertising?

I realized since the 1960s that U.S. mass media are funded by advertising—quite different from in Britain, where I grew up watching the BBC. I first wrote to the TV network bosses asking them to carry the city’s air pollution index on their weather shows. Then I found after much effort an advertising agency, Carl Ally Inc., which agreed to create a volunteer public service campaign for Citizens for Clean Air. This campaign ran free in all media in New York City with the volunteer help of several concerned media moguls. After all this media attention, public awareness of New York’s air pollution led to the first local environmental ordinances. I was propelled onto NBC’s Today Show as well as ABC and CBS morning shows – and realized that media was key!

Today we have what I call “commercial censorship,” where major advertisers dominate the airwaves, still promoting fossil fuels and mass consumption of unsustainable products—often unhealthy foods, sugar snacks and beverages—and using fear and anxiety-producing ads to sell patent medicines, clothes, make-up, even manipulating consumers with neuromarketing techniques." (http://www.forbes.com/sites/terrywaghorn/2012/05/08/hazel-henderson-reforming-markets-metrics-and-media/)


John Fullerton, Founder, Capital Institute:

"Hazel never ceases to amaze me. Susan Witt, Executive Director of the E. F. Schumacher Society, once described Hazel as a "national treasure." It's true. Never formally trained in economics, Hazel's grasp of the subject, particularly its shortcomings, is remarkable. Hazel is a systems thinker, with a unique grasp of the multiple disciplines necessary to be able to see, holistically, the systemic challenges we face. Yet it's Hazel's intellect, energy, passion, generosity, and drive, often against the grain where it can be lonely, year after year, "self inflicted" I might add, that is so special. I owe a great personal debt to my teacher, advisory board member, and inspirational friend, Hazel Henderson." (http://capitalinstitute.org/forum/braintrust/profile-hazel-henderson)