What do we do about the coming ecological crash?

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Posted Jan 1 2019 by Dave Darby of Lowimpact.org
Teetering on the edge of an ecological collapse

So let’s start the year with a bit of optimism. Our last post was about the fact that there is a general lack of understanding of the implications of biodiversity loss, and the contribution of climate change to it. This post is for people who do understand what’s happening to nature, but can see no way to avoid catastrophe.

I think that most people have a sense of unease about the direction we’re travelling in, but don’t understand that unless we change almost every aspect of our current economy, there will be an ecological crash that will either make us extinct, or knock us back to the Stone Age (but a new Stone Age, without fossil fuels, with much more desert, and a degraded ecology that will take tens of millions of years to achieve pre-industrial levels of biodiversity). And why should they understand, when they have busy lives, and are constantly told by mainstream media and ubiquitous advertising that what’s required is even more growth in GDP and consumption?

This article is specifically about what you can do to help change direction – to mitigate the effects of the coming crash, to delay it and to help build networks to catch people after it happens. It’s ambitious, but realistic, so when people say to you ‘yes, but what can I do?’, send them here.

We’re not advocating poverty, or a hair-shirt existence. What we advocate below will result in better lives for almost everyone. We’ll be happier, healthier, do more interesting, satisfying work, in safer, stronger communities that are embedded in a beautiful, diverse environment.

First, how we can change as individuals:

 

Lifestyle

We have a list of topics that you can incorporate into your life – over 220 of them, in 11 categories, from shelter and utilities to growing food and craft skills. This is a huge resource – ‘sustainability on steroids’ as one commenter put it. The aim is to help people:

  • Live more sustainably – to reduce individual impact.
  • Gain the skills to survive if the worst happens.
  • Do things for themselves rather than have to obtain them from the corporate sector.
  • Start or join a business or organisation that’s part of the new, non-extractive economy, providing goods and services for their community.

What you can do:

  • Go through the topics and see what appeals; you can start with the easy peasy section, and work up to anything from building your home, changing career or getting some land and starting a smallholding.
  • Subscribe to our blog and newsletter (in the footer).
  • Follow us on social media, here, here and here.
  • Subscribe to our Youtube channel, for sustainability conversations.
  • If you have a small business, get a profile in our directory, and/or a banner ad.
  • Tell friends and family.
  • Support us.

But lifestyle change, although necessary, is not sufficient; only a minority of people will do it. We’ll still have an economy that requires ever-increasing consumption, and wealth will still concentrate and overflow into the political system, so we won’t have the genuine democracy required to be able to do anything about it. The economy needs to change too.

 

New economy

See here for what we mean by a new economy.

It’s important to point out that this position is neither left nor right. That battle will wear us out; each side’s ‘victories’ are quickly cancelled out, and nothing changes.

The new economy is an economy of co-ops, sole traders, community land trusts, credit unions, the ‘Commons’ (think Wikipedia), peer-to-peer, mutual credit and so on.

To the right: this is what a truly free market and a free society looks like. To the left: leaving allocation to the market avoids centralised power in the state, which is always bought or seized. There’s nothing wrong with exchange – people have always done it.

Again, the new economy is not hair-shirt. We have to make the replacement for Über as easy as Über.

We’re talking to people in the States about launching NonCorporate.org over there, after which we’ll be launching in other countries.

What you can do:

But – the exchange medium will still be generated, controlled and exploited by corporate banks, which isn’t ideal for a sustainable, democratic economy. There is, however, an exchange medium that is a perfect fit for the new economy.

 

Mutual credit

We’ve partnered with the Open Co-op to develop the UK Mutual Credit Network. We’ve been accepted onto the Finance Innovation Lab’s Fellowship Programme and have assembled an excellent advisory group who are helping us develop our plans. Mutual credit is an old idea that could really take off in the age of the internet. We think it can help strengthen communities and support small businesses, as an alternative to multinational banks and corporations. You can just dip your toe in the water at first, to see if it works for you. At the moment, we’re only looking for expressions of interest. When we launch, we’ll invite interested parties to join.

What you can do:

  • Read more about mutual credit here.
  • If you’re a UK business, register your interest via the form here.
  • Tell other people, share on social media etc.
  • Support us.

And finally, mutual credit can be part of a model to grow the new economy by federating small, decentralised units, rather than by growing huge, centralised institutions.

 

Federation

Each town used to have its own co-operative society, but over time, these have become consolidated into large organisations that are run by top management rather than by all staff, co-operatively, in any meaningful way. Large, centralised organisations lose touch with their membership, are less democratic, and are vulnerable to takeover by the corporate sector if they fail (which happened with the UK Co-operative Bank – no longer a co-operative – but couldn’t have happened with a federation of small, local banks). What we’re suggesting is a decentralised federation of democratic, locally-based businesses, rather than consolidated, centralised institutions.

However, federation to scale is notoriously difficult to achieve (or it would have been done). We believe that a combination of mutual credit and Stafford Beer’s viable system model (VSM) is the best and perhaps only way to achieve it. It’s quite a complicated idea, but we’ll be interviewing specialists in both mutual credit and VSM, and producing more accessible materials soon.

What you can do:

  • Watch this space
  • Subscribe to our Youtube channel and our blog, where we’ll be interviewing specialists on VSM and mutual credit, and how to unite them to help federate and grow the new economy.
  • Support us.

 

There are many, extremely talented people building alternatives to our current, destructive economy (and we’ll be interviewing as many of them as we can for our YouTube channel in 2019). They may not be successful in federating a mutualist, non-extractive sector, but there isn’t really a viable alternative. The 20th century showed the damage that can be caused by violent revolutions that centralise power, and we can’t change direction via the ballot box, because power is economic, rather than political. Even if Western populations defied the corporate media, and elected governments committed to real change, in a capitalist world, capital flight and pressure from global financial institutions would pull them back onto the destructive path that we’re on. We have to unite the ‘early adopters’ among us to help build a viable alternative. Join us.