Category Renewable Energy Cannot Sustain A Consumer Society

THOUGHTS ON THE TRANSITION PROCESS

It would be very easy to establish and run The Simpler Way – if that was what we wanted to do. It does not involve complicated technology and it does not require solutions to difficult technical problems, such as how to get a fusion reactor to work. lt does not require vast bureaucracies or huge sums of capital.

If enough of us wanted to, we could make most of the basic geographical, structural and economic changes in towns and suburbs within a matter of months, using mostly hand tools and working bees. The Simpler Way is essentially about reorganising to harness existing and abundant resources, now largely wasted...

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GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS

The political situation would be very different compared with today. There would be genuine participatory democracy. This would be made possible by the smallness of scale, and it would be vitally necessary. Big centralised governments could not run our many small and wildly different localities. That could only be done by the people who live in them because they are the only ones who would understand the ecosys­tem, know what will grow best there, how often frosts occur, how people there think and what they want, what the traditions are, what strategies will and won’t work there, etc. They have to do the planning, make the decisions, run the systems and do the work...

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SO WHAT CAN WE DO HERE AND NOW?

The first thing everyone can do is to talk about these issues as much as possible. We urgently need to get the limits analysis of our situation and the desirability of The Simpler Way onto the agenda of public attention.

But the most effective contribution will be to initiate in our localities some of the new ways and systems. Again as consumer society crumbles nothing will be more effective than people being able to see around them examples of alternative social arrangements which make more sense.

Following are brief notes on the first steps that could be taken in a dying country town and in normal city suburbs, towards their eventual conversion to the new kinds of economies.

The focal institution is the Community Development Collective (hereafter referred to as CDC...

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MODERN TECHNOLOGY?

The Simpler Way is not opposed to modern technology. In fact there will be more resources available for research and development of the things that matter, such as better medical services and windmill design, than there are now, when the vast sums presently wasted on unnecessary products, and arms, cease being spent.

However it is a mistake to think better technology is important in solving global problems, let alone the key. Most of the things we need in The Simpler Way can be produced by traditional technologies. Hand tools can produce excellent food, clothes, furniture, houses, etc., and craft production is in general the most satisfying way. Of course we will use machinery where that makes sense and many basic items could be mass produced in automated factories...

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THE NEW ECONOMY

These changes cannot be made while we retain the present economic system. The fundamental principle in a satisfactory economy would be to apply the available productive capacity to producing what all people need for a good life, with as little resource consumption, work and waste as possible, in ecologically sustainable ways. Our present economy operates on totally different principles. It allows profit max­imisation for the few who own most capital to determine what is done, it therefore does not meet the needs of most people or of the environment, and it seeks to increase consumption and GDP constantly. (For a detailed critical analysis of the economy and of the required new economy see Note 2.)

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The Primary Determinant: Need, Not Profit and Market Forces

In a satisfactory society the basic economic priorities must be decided by discussion and debate and deliberate, rational decision. Chapter 10 emphasised that market sys­tems cannot meet the most urgent needs or produce just or ecologically sustainable development, because they inevitably allocate resources to the highest bidder. It is axiomatic that if there are to be sustainable and just outcomes in the coming situa­tion of intense scarcity, the basic economic processes will have to be under social control. If they are left to market forces then the rich will quickly take everything of value through their superior purchasing power and there will very likely be rapid descent to a new feudalism, soon followed by terminal chaotic breakdown.

However, in the near future we might choose to l...

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Provision of Livelihood

Above all, these strategies will enable us to ensure that all have a livelihood. This is of central importance. The conventional economy sees no problem in allowing those who are most rich and powerful to take or destroy the business, markets and liveli­hoods of others, and thus accumulate to a few the wealth that was spread among many. The market system constantly worsens this problem. Globalisation is essen­tially about the elimination of the livelihoods of millions of people and the transfer of their business to a few giant corporations. A satisfactory society will not let this happen...

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Overlapping Sectors

One sector of the new economy would still use cash. In another, market forces could be allowed to operate. One sector would be fully planned and under participatory social control. One would be run by cooperatives. One large sector would not involve any money, including household production, barter, mutual aid, working bees, gifts, e. g., just giving away surpluses, and the free goods from the commons. Many people will derive most of the things they need from the household and the community (including commons) sectors, with little need for money. Those who need more money to acquire things, such as professionals who specialise full time and therefore do less in co-ops, would generate the demand that is met by the firms that produce items for sale.

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