John Fullerton lived inside the belly of the beast. The founder of the Capital Institute think tank, Fullerton was a managing director at J. P. Morgan and a key facilitator when that company merged with Chase Bank in 2000. And then he saw the future.
“He didn’t have a spiritual awakening or the clichéd story,” says Vancouver filmmaker Trevor Meier, during a call to the Georgia Straight. “For him, it was looking at the numbers and seeing that if you project these numbers all the way to their end, it’s not going to work. You’re going to grow yourselves out of a system that’s sustainable.”
That system is global capitalism, which has brought humanity—through its twin poles of extreme wealth concentration and catastrophic resource depletion—to the edge of its greatest-ever crisis. Fullerton brings a no-nonsense edge to Meier’s crisp and inspiring doc, A New Economy, which presents seven “human-centred” organizations that are pioneering new and unconventional ways to do business, including an Asian-style night market begun by a women’s committee in a low-income Toronto neighbourhood, a craft-brewing cooperative in London, Ontario, and Vancouver’s own Downtown Eastside–based Sole Food urban-agriculture project—which was recently praised by Savio Volpe chef Mark Perrier, among others, for providing the best produce in the city.
“I can’t give you one-quarter of my cow without killing the cow,” Meier says. “So money is useful for sort of splitting up these things that we value, but it’s so coarse in other ways. It’s so unable to measure the things that we truly value. So how do we create systems that produce real value, real wealth, and then also regenerate it, give back to the soil, give back to the people around us? You look at a tree, it’s not just sucking up all the resources from everything around it. It’s also dropping leaves and providing shade and creating shelter—it’s part of a whole system, and all of the systems and businesses we create need to operate in that same way.”
A New Economy compels partly because it does an end-run around the conventional left-right political binary. As another of the film’s talking heads, London School of Economics sociologist Richard Sennett, remarks: “This isn’t touchy-feely stuff; this is about getting the world to actually work.”
“My perspective is that we’re never going to win these ideological battles,” Meier says. “For me, there’s no point. We need to step beyond these big battles and create something that’s so much better that it’s just attractive to people. You can see it in the philosophy of the film. We don’t dive deep into the crisis. People know what the crisis is. They’re in it. What we spend our time on is people rolling their sleeves up and saying, ‘All right, this is our approach; we’re going to experiment in this way that has a deeper sense of value, that values the human beings at the core of it, that produces something not only for us but for our community and is run in a democratic way.’
“Every single example has that at its core, but each of them looks at it in a different way. And the hope is that you look at these and you say, ‘Ah, I could do that!’ ”
A New Economy premieres at the Rio Theatre on Monday (October 17).