Post-Truth, Post-Growth, Post-care?

 

growrthMuch has been talked and written about our ‘post’ society in 2016, although the Annus Horribilis descriptor maybe up for debate. It depends on your perspective.  For me 2016 had the usual mixture of good and bad.  If 2016 turns out to be a catalyst for people engaging in politics, then there’s a lot to be said for it.

I’m not a trend watcher or an economist, but I can see that we need a new economics: a paradigm shift, not only in the way we do business, but in the way we live.

The so called ‘trickle-down’ economics has turned out to be a surge-up economics where the wealth of the country ends up in the hands of an elite few – who are already very wealthy – whilst the rest of us bear the brunt of ‘Austerity’ and debt.  Politicians seem to be too scared to address the big issues and don’t have the answers or the money to tackle them anyway.  With so many people homeless, in poverty, unemployed or struggling to support their families with low paid and insecure jobs the focus of a majority is on day-to-day living – it has to be. And it should be the focus of politicians and the rest of society too.  Such inequity is unjust and unviable, and has lead in large part to the results we’ve seen in 2016 in Brexit and the election of Donald Trump.

One way to get power back into our communities is to wrest it from conglomerates and corporations: to put the pound back into our own pockets rather than the coffers of remote shareholders.  The ‘Transition Town’ model is one way of doing this.  Initially a movement bringing communities together to tackle the ‘peak oil’ crisis and Climate Change, it has proved to be an excellent model for getting things done and effecting change on a local level.  Transition Brixton has its own power company, other groups have tackled the lack of affordable fresh food and introduced local currencies that encourage people to spend money in the local economy creating social enterprise and apprenticeships.

If 2016 has taught us anything it’s that politicians cannot be relied upon to do the right thing, and are often powerless to get things done, but we have that power.  It doesn’t need legislation or Government funding – although that would be nice – it simply needs people with a common aim to come together and do something.  It’s a simple idea yet it has the power to change communities and create thriving local economies.

We may be post-growth in the traditional sense, but Transition Town initiatives are proving that sustainable growth is possible.  If we work within the boundaries of our ever-decreasing natural resources and learn new mechanisms for producing what people need (rather than an unbounded consumerism, where manufacturing is outsourced to others) we call forth creativity and cement communities.  It is not some unrealistic ideal.  It’s happening now, probably somewhere near you.  It proves that people care about each other and about the natural world and it demonstrates in a tangible way what we can achieve regardless of who’s in power.

 

‘Peak Oil’ is the point in time when the maximum rate of crude oil extraction is reached, after which the rate of extraction is expected to begin to decline

‘Climate Change’ is a large-scale, long-term shift in the planet’s weather patterns or average temperatures, caused by human activity.

Find out about the Transition network, and any projects near you here:  https://transitionnetwork.org/

Also contains resources for setting up your own Transition Town initiative.

Read Rob Hopkins ‘The Power of Just Doing Stuff – how local action can change the world‘ for a concise and uplifting look at Transition in action.

 

The inter-connectedness of Things..

Not a very exciting blog title I feel, and a difficult subject  to write on because it’s potentially so overwhelming.  We are micro-organisms in gargantuan, unknowable universe on the one hand, and on the other we are hugely powerful beings with massive responsibility, co-opted to share the world’s resources in a fair and equitable manner.

Some people I’m sure would dispute the latter statement, and not just hedonists and naysayers, but many people who find life a struggle through circumstances of poverty, ill health or lack of opportunity, and others who don’t think or care, or don’t care to think!

It’s easy to get stuck in our own ‘sloughs of despond’ and feel that we are powerless to help ourselves, let alone anyone else!  What can we do about corruption, or war, or the arms trade, or child prostitution, habitat loss, poverty or global warming?  Thankfully there are individuals and organisations that are working to achieve positive outcomes in these areas and more besides, and millions of us worldwide who support them.  What concerns me is the lack of coherence.  We understand that people power, especially through the power of the internet, has the potential to change things, but we often fail to unite and harness the elemental might that comes from a single voice and a single direction. Third sector organisations do a massive amount to alleviate suffering both globally and locally, and sometimes such as in times of crisis, they work together towards a single objective, which is both laudable and necessary, but is not enough.

We are all trying to fix something which is beyond repair.  Peel away one bad layer, and another takes its place.  The whole is rotten and can’t be rescued.  The earth will recover ultimately, once humanity has been erased from its surface, but if we want to be part of the on-going story of planet earth then we need new paradigms for living.  We have the knowledge, intellect, skill, and physical ability to change and renew, to start again, and we need the heart and will to do so.  Politicians, economists, financial institutions, corporations, as well as individuals, need a new purpose and identity, part of the whole.  People in power are afraid; afraid of losing their power, of becoming insignificant, and they are right to fear because the peaks and troughs of our societies do need to be levelled.  There is no need for famine, poverty, inequality, we have the resources to re-distribute wealth, in all nations of the world, through a new economics that values people above profit: in business, in banking, in trade, in politics; we become truly human, truly powerful when we acknowledge our greed, frailty and mistakes and determine that we will change things – together.

The analogy of a pebble in a pond setting off ripples across its surface is useful, if limited.  The butterfly effect is perhaps over-used and equally simplistic, but it helps to convey how seemingly disparate elements are related.  The reality is EVERYTHING is connected to everything else!  Cheap food in the UK means mono-culture, animal suffering, pollution, habitat loss, reduction in bio-diversity, lack of food security, food miles, oppression of the poor in other countries and rural poverty.  An economy that is based on the need to grow and expand infinitely is one doomed to failure.  A world where farmers go bankrupt whilst supermarkets gain huge profits is not sustainable;  a world where money has become  an electronic blip – extendable  if you are rich and concrete if you are poor – is in danger of losing any grasp on reality at all:  It is not only the farmers who will be bankrupt and suicidal.  Food is a hugely political issue these days, and when you have financial corporation’s dealing in it, diminishing its value by ‘betting’ on its chances in the future, then you really have lost the plot!

The reality is that every financial decision and purchasing choice I make has repercussions, not only in my local community, but across the globe.  This is about far more than being a concerned or ethical shopper, as trendy or good as that may be, it is about reclaiming worth for ourselves and our fellow planet dwellers, making money real and its benefits percolating throughout communities; about valuing what’s real and lasting in relationships, in the natural world, and not being exclusively governed by ‘the bottom line’.

Of course, not everyone will get on board, those who have a vested interest in the status quo, who keep their fingers crossed and ‘fiddle while Rome burns’, but we don’t need everyone on board, just enough to reach tipping point.  Change will come.  It has to.  We can either be a part of it, and acknowledge our place in the world, or we can act with self-interest and greed, failing to acknowledge that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves.  It will be a shock to those people when the world swallows them up and spits them out!

I don’t have the answers.  No one person or organisation or political ideology does, whatever they may say, and that’s the positive part – we all have a section of the jigsaw that makes the whole picture, only by collaboration and co-operation can we piece it all together.  I am not a pessimist, but I do believe we need a revolution to take place on a global scale – financial, political, social, and personal.  Global warming, the rise in food costs, and the current turmoil in the financial markets of Europe and beyond are not isolated happenings, but intimately connected to the way we live our lives as nations and individuals. 

I acknowledge that my grasp of this topic is woefully inadequate and ill-informed.  Thankfully there are much better minds than mine working on solutions to the challenges we face. What I do know is that change is both necessary and inevitable – and it will be better to ride the crest of the wave together than crash and burn on the beach alone.

 

 See Positive Money for some helpful information and debate on economics