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Courage Before Hope: A Proposal to Weave Emotional and Economic Microsolidarity

Or: What To Do in the Last Decade of the Anthropocene

Anatomical heart drawing

I’ve spent most of the past 2 years travelling with my partner Nati, trying to discover what is the most strategic & wise action to take in a world that seems to be accelerating towards collapse. After an enormous amount of consideration, I have a strategy that feels good enough to engage my will and commitment. This document is a statement of intention. All going well, it’s where I want to invest my productive energy for the next 7 years or so.

I’m developing this plan in three phases:

  • Phase 1 is a lot of conversation and contemplation.
  • Phase 2 is this writing and re-writing process. Writing in public forces me to fill in the gaps in the argument, and to make my assumptions explicit.
  • Phase 3 is where you come in as a reader and collaborator. If you feel struck by this proposal, I’d love for you to improve my thinking with your feedback. The best possible response will be for other people to run related experiments in parallel.

The proposal is very simple. But this is, I hope, the simplicity on the far side of complexity. The design elements come from 7 years of thinking & doing in the Loomio Cooperative and Enspiral Network.

I intend to start a new community as a sibling or cousin of Enspiral: about 30 to 200 people supporting each other to do more meaningful work. Our method will focus on getting people into “crews”, small groups of 3-8 people that start with emotional intimacy and get to economic intimacy. There’s a sequence from psychological safety to shared ownership of productive assets. The larger community functions mostly as a dating pool for people to find their crew-mates.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Book Review: The Sustainable Economics of Elinor Ostrom: Commons, Contestation and Craft

The threat posed by global warming and environmental degradation are the most pressing examples of what has become known over the past several decades as the ‘tragedy of the commons’. In this book, Derek Wall explores the work of the late Nobel Laureate, Elinor Ostrom, on how humans can overcome this problem, and sustain the commons over the long term. Chris Shaw finds that this book is an accessible presentation of Ostrom’s ideas.

The Sustainable Economics of Elinor Ostrom: Commons, Contestation and Craft. Derek Wall. Routledge. 2014.

Derek Wall has been an important figure in the Green Party for a number of years and also works as Associate Tutor in the Department of Politics at Goldsmiths, University of London. He has written extensively on the subject of green politics and green economics. In The Sustainable Economics of Elinor Ostrom: Commons, Contestation and Craft, he examines what the idea of the commons can contribute to the building of an ecologically sustainable future. He approaches this analysis through an overview of the work of the late Elinor Ostrom (who died in 2012), the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in economic sciences.

Ostrom’s principal interest was in how institutions worked or failed to sustain collective resource use. Ostrom noted that self-governing entities exist at a variety of scales and can be found in both the public and private sphere. The key question for Ostrom was: ‘How can fallible human beings achieve and sustain self-governing ways of life and self-governing entities as well as sustaining ecological systems at multiple scales?’

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Community Development and the Commons

Community Development and the Commons

The commons offers a framework and a process for effectively and equitably stewarding the resources communities need to live in dignity.

Last August, 200 people from across Oakland, California came together to envision and design a development plan for a small parcel of public land. For months leading up to that day, community members and neighborhood coalitions had been organizing against a controversial – and possibly illegal – plan to develop a luxury high-rise apartment complex on land owned by the City of Oakland, in a neighborhood where 75% of residents are low or very-low income and 75% are renters. Having succeeded in pressuring the City to back out of the initially proposed deal with UrbanCore Development through creative direct action and sophisticated community organizing, organizers with the E12th St Coalition wanted to create a visionary community-driven alternative – and the E12th WishList People’s Planning Forum was convened. On a sunny Sunday afternoon near Oakland’s Lake Merritt, hundreds of people shared their visions for what could be done with this public land – and not a single person envisioned a market-rate housing complex on that site.

The result of this community planning process: The E12th St. People’s Proposal. This visionary plan, compiled by the E12 St. Coalition in partnership with nonprofit developer Satellite Affordable Housing Associates, includes a 100% affordable housing complex, a public park, commercial space for local businesses, and more. (The grassroots coalition has formally submitted the People’s Proposal to the City of Oakland for consideration and is currently competing against two other proposals, neither of which include anything close to 100% affordable housing.) All of this has been motivated by the radical idea that public land should be used for public good. Radical indeed in a region with one of the fastest increasing land values in the country.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Book of the Day: Integral Ecology: Toward a Perma-Circular Society

Christian Arnsperger: My colleague Dominique Bourg (also from the University of Lausanne) and myself have just released a new book in French, entitled Ecologie intégrale: Pour une société permacirculaire(translation: Integral Ecology: Toward a Perma-Circular Society), published in Paris by Presses Universitaires de France. It’s the culmination of a two-year effort we engaged in between mid-2014 (when I arrived at Lausanne) and mid-2016 to spell out (a) what sustainability really means and (b) what the social, cultural and political conditions for the emergence of a genuinely sustainable society are. It’s during this period that we published our article, Vers une économie authentiquement circulaire: Réflexions sur les fondements d’un indicateur de circularité”(“Toward a Genuinely Circular Economy: Reflections on the Foundations of a Circularity Indicator”), in which we first coined the word permacircularité. (In French, we don’t hyphenate it. I’m thinking of soon going over to that spelling convention in English as well – since the related word “permaculture” has no hyphen either.)

Our basic intuition, which we started out by developing in a series of articles, was that a genuinely sustainable society requires a circular and regenerative economy which, as a result, needs to give up growth as it guiding and regulating principle. We adopted the insights discovered by the French engineer François Grosse, who has posted previously on this blog and who contributed a short text to our book. You can see the book’s webpage and order it at https://www.puf.com/content/Ecologie_intégrale.

For English-speaking audiences, I need to add immediately that the way in which we use the word “integral” in our book’s title is rather different from the meaning that word has acquired, in the USA in particular, over the past decade.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Property Rights, Inequality and Commons

Property Rights, Inequality and Commons

I recently spoke at a conference, “Property and Inequality in the 21st Century,” hosted by The Common Core of European Private Law, an annual gathering of legal scholars, mostly from Europe.  They had asked me how the commons might be a force for reducing inequality.  Below are my remarks, “The Commons as a Tool for Sharing the Wealth.”  The conference was held at the University of Göteborg, Sweden, on June 12-13, 2015.

Thank you for inviting me to speak today about the relationship between property law and inequality – a topic that receives far too little attention.  This should not be surprising.  Now that free-market ideology has become the default worldview and political consensus around the world, private property is seen as synonymous with freedom, economic growth and human progress.

Oh yes, there is this nasty side issue known as inequality.  Malcontents like the Occupy movement and renegade economists like Thomas Pikketty have brought this problem to the fore after years of neglect.  Their success has been quite an achievement because for years the very existence of inequality has been portrayed as an accident, an aberration, a mysterious and shadowy guest at the grand banquet of human progress.

I wish to argue that hunger, poverty, inadequate education and medical care, and assaults on human dignity and human rights, are not bugs in the system.  They arefeatures.  Indeed, market ideologues often argue that such deprivations are a necessary incentive to human enterprise and economic growth; poverty is supposedly needed to spur people to escape through the work ethic and entrepreneurialism.

Property rights lie at the heart of this dynamic because they are a vital tool for defining and patrolling the boundaries of private wealth, and for justifying the inevitably unequal outcomes.  So it’s important that we focus on the role of property rights in producing social inequality – without ignoring the many other forces, including social practice, culture and politics, that also play important roles.

 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

In Defense of the Commons

In Defense of the Commons

“Enclosures have appropriately been called a revolution of the rich against the poor.”

Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation. 1944. (p. 35)         

Shared access, reliance, use and governance of natural resources is a common form of tenure in the world, North and South, rural and urban.  The specific rules and institutions that govern common property are very diverse, developed by communities groups on their own direct experience and reflecting their priorities. Where well managed, such systems have proven capable of preserving the long term health of the resources and sustained benefits to the community relying on them.  Common spaces are under increasing threat – their resources are grabbed for private interests, mined and degraded for short term gains. A critical factor in this is the weakening of common property management systems, undermined as the paradigms of privatisation and market commodification have dominated policy development. Networks and movements of the poor around the world are reacting to the destruction of their natural resources, and standing up in defence of the commons and the common property systems which sustain them.  This article identifies some of the threats to the commons and highlights the resistance of local people.    


Imagen 1

The commons refer to forms of wealth that belong to all of us and that must be actively protected and managed for the good of all.  Commons can be natural, such as air, water, land, forests and biodiversity; social and institutional, such as public goods, spaces and services; political, such as collectively held notions of democracy, justice and governance; and intellectual and cultural, such as general knowledge, everyday technology, shared music and scientific truths.

– See more at: http://commonstransition.org/in-defense-of-the-commons/#sthash.M2tM7XzW.dpuf

 

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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