Part 2. The Next Economy
EDITORIAL COLLECTIVE − In Part One we introduced the notion of ourselves as “children of our geography,” realizing that our lives totally depend on Nature’s “economy” − the ‘community’ of sunlight, water, soil, plant life that supports all life. We introduced the term “localization.” This is an organizing principle for scaling our local economy appropriately to our local natural environment, its human resources and population for the sake of a better future than is looming now.
Here in Part Two, the shape of the “next economy” begins to emerge. It must be a highly localized one, appropriately designed and scaled to local realities and the hard facts of the worsening climate and economic crises.
Humans organize our communities into an economy in order to provide and deliver life necessities to one another. To Nature’s free gifts, we add money (a means of exchange for things we need), ways of producing those things, and trade. It becomes obvious, then, that no lasting or successful economy is possible if it constantly depletes its own life support system in pursuit of profit and endless growth. This is our climate crisis. We cannot change Nature’s immutable laws so we must change our planet-wrecking, profit-above-all human economy.
Applying localized thinking means changing what we assume and believe about the current economy, and how we organize it. No small task!
First, the assumption that the current, consumption and GDP-based, accumulate-all-the-money-you-can, exploit human labour economy is the only economy possible must be understood for what it is: the path to continued degradation of all life.
Let’s face it. It’s immensely difficult to change this dominant, deeply embedded, global way of thinking. Witness the power that the fossil fuel industry has over government policies, and the turmoil of energy price, profit and supply due to the war in Ukraine. This is the current world economy that runs on the lie of endless extractive growth, profit and non-renewable, nature-destroying, fossil fuel energy. That emission-spewing energy allowed us to exceed our own geography’s limits in terms of population, available labour and natural resources to acquire anything in the world we want.
Alternatives to this disastrous thinking begin with faith in ourselves in community and our local gifts of Nature to provide for as many of our life-essential needs as possible sustainably.
Note the “as possible.” Realistically, building a local economy will take time and creativity until it reaches the point where it is as self-sufficient and independent of the global economy (assuming it lasts) as is realistically possible in all vital aspects of daily living.
But first, we must accept the limits that Nature sets inarguably on any Economy. Let’s illustrate this with the concept of “boundaries.” Here’s an example using Toronto, the only example found in a Canadian context using only biological/physical boundaries. Other important “boundaries” include Public Safety and Security, Youth Opportunity, Economy, Basic services.(Source: “An urban approach to planetary boundaries.” D. Hoornweg , M. Hosseini,C. Kennedy, A. Behdadi. 2016)
Any area beyond the safe green circle in the middle (the “hole in the doughnut”) indicates that the limit of Nature’s carrying capacity in a vital indictor is being exceeded.
This is dangerous to Earth’s stability as a whole system, and for every human community. Very recently, the dangerous orange area of the Climate Change quadrant has exceeded the circle’s outer edge as Earth has alarmingly passed a tipping point of 1.5⁰C of warming.
Crossing these boundaries imperils all of us, Peterborough included. Drawing ourselves back into the “safe centre” at the heart of the illustrations requires a LOT of action at every level of society – including and especially the local. The local economy we need will:
- respect and rely as much as possible on local resources and constant regeneration of them
- create and support more diversity among smaller local suppliers/retailers of essential products, sourced from shorter supply chains. This will include as much locally-grown, basic foods as possible for food security,
- have a mix of ownership models including social enterprises, co-operatively or family-owned businesses (small private firms with different motivations for doing business locally) as well as what larger, international corporations may survive the effects of the climate crisis, and
- create local financial institutions: banks, local trusts for communal purposes, and even, perhaps, a local, likely digital, medium of exchange (currency.)
In short, an economy where citizens work with each other and their local money, institutions, natural endowments (resources), energy sources, knowledge and native crops and species, and where the global marketplace is replaced, as much and as soon as possible by local goods and services. Local living will necessarily demand less of the planet and engender more involvement of residents in creating the Next Economy.
Part 3 of this series will look more deeply into what’s needed to adapt our way into the “Next Economy.”