(Read the full article) We must develop as much self-sufficiency as we reasonably can, both at the national level, meaning much less international trade, but more importantly at local and household levels. We need to convert our presently barren suburbs into thriving economies which produce much of what they need from local resources.
Home gardens and mini-farms throughout suburbs would allow nutrients to be recycled back to the soil. Most of us could get to work by bicycle or on foot, and there would be almost no need for food packaging, food transport or marketing, and little need for fridges.
Because there will be far less need for transport, we could dig up many roads, greatly increasing the urban land area available for community gardens, workshops, and nature.
Most of your neighbourhood could become an “edible landscape”, crammed with long-lived, largely self-maintaining productive plants. We could convert one house on each block to become the neighbourhood workshop and gathering place.
There would also be many varieties of animals living in our neighbourhoods, including an entire fishing industry based on tanks and ponds. Many raw materials can come from the commons, the small woodlots, bamboo clumps, ponds, meadows, clay pits, from which all can take free food and materials.
It would be a leisure-rich environment, full of familiar people, small businesses, common projects, drama clubs, animals, gardens, farms, forests, and things to see and do. People would be less inclined to travel for leisure or holidays, reducing the national energy consumption.
People would work on voluntary rosters, committees and community work groups to maintain infrastructure and provide services. (The Spanish anarchists ran whole towns without any politicians or bureaucracy, via citizens’ committees and assemblies.)
If you think this all sounds a bit unlikely, you’re right. There is no chance of making these kinds of changes in our present economic system.
It would require a radically new economy: one with no growth and not driven by market forces. Investment and distribution decisions would have to be made by deliberate collective processes.
This does not mean we must have centralised, bureaucratic, authoritarian, distant, big-state socialism. Most of the small firms and farms might remain as privately owned ventures or cooperatives, as long as they kept within guidelines set by the community.
Towns and suburbs will collectively take basic control of their local productive systems, which would enable them to eliminate unemployment, poverty and homelessness. They will simply set up small firms and cooperative gardens and workshops whereby those without jobs can contribute to producing goods and services the town needs, being paid in our local currency.
Most people would need to work for money only one or two days a week. (In consumer-capitalist society we work far harder than necessary.)
Surrounding the town or suburban economy would be a regional economy in which more elaborate items would be produced, such as shoes, hardware and tools. A few items, such as steel, would need be moved long distances from big centralised factories, but very little would need to be transported from overseas.
Most of the decisions that matter would be taken at the level of the town assembly, not the nation state. Democracy would be participatory, as opposed to representative. Big centralised governments could not possibly run our small local communities. That could only be done by the people who live there, and who understand the local needs and opportunities.
Obviously, we as individuals will only live well if our town thrives. Our real wealth and welfare would be due to public factors, such as a beautiful landscape and a caring community. Our personal incomes and property will not be important. The situation wouldrequire and reward good citizenship.
The biggest and most difficult changes will have to be in our outlook and values. The present commitment to individualistic competition for affluent “living standards” and ever-increasing wealth would have to be replaced by a strong desire to live simply and frugally, cooperatively, and self-sufficiently.
Living more simply does not mean deprivation or hardship. It means being content with what is sufficient, and seeking enjoyment from non-material pursuits. Living in ways that are frugal and that minimise resource use should not be seen as a burden or sacrifice that must be made to save the planet. These ways can be sources of great life satisfaction.
Neither does it mean turning our backs on the modern world. The Simpler Way would let us keep all the high-tech ways that are socially desirable. We would have far more resources for science, research, education and the arts than we have now because we would have stopped wasting vast amounts of resources on non-necessities.
Obviously at present the chances of such a transition being achieved are very poor. But the global situation is rapidly deteriorating and increasing numbers are realising that consumer-capitalism is not going to solve our problems.
Many in the Voluntary Simplicity, Permaculture, Downshifting, De-growth, Eco-village and Transition Towns movements are now enjoying living in the ways described and are working for transition to some kind of Simpler Way.
In : Re-embodiments politics