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. The community will not function satisfactorily unless social cohesion and morale are in good shape, which means people must be happy about the decisions being made, and the only ones who can make that happen are those who live there.

Most of our local policies and programs could be worked out by elected unpaid committees and we could all vote at regular town meetings on the important deci­sions concerning our small area. There would still be some functions for state and national governments, and there would be a role for some international agencies and arrangements, but relatively few.

Thus our dependence on our ecosystems and social systems will also radically transform politics. The focal concern will be what policies will work best for the town and region. Politics will not be primarily about individuals and groups in zero – sum competition to get what they want from central government. There will be powerful incentives towards a much more collectivist outlook, to find solutions all are content with, because we will be highly dependent on good will, concern for the public interest and eagerness to contribute. Without these people will not conscien­tiously and eagerly turn up to committees, working bees, celebrations and town meetings. We will therefore have an incentive to find and do whatever will contribute to town solidarity and cohesion.

The core governing institutions will be voluntary committees, town meetings, direct votes on issues, and especially informal public discussion in everyday situa­tions. In a sound self-governing community the fundamental political processes take place informally through discussions in cafes, kitchens and town squares, because this is where the issues can be slowly thrashed out until the best solutions come to be generally recognised. The chances of a policy working out well depend on how content everyone is with it. Consensus and commitment are best achieved through a slow and sometimes clumsy process of formal and informal consideration in which the real decision-making work is done long before the meeting when the vote is taken. So politics will again become participatory and part of everyday life, as was the case in Ancient Greece, Medieval towns and New England USA. Note that this is not optional; we must do things in these participatory, cooperative ways or the right decisions for the town will not be found.

Updated: October 27, 2015 — 12:08 pm