Beyond Capitalism with a Human Face: A Radically Simple Way
By Samuel Alexander / simplicitycollective.com

Ted Trainer is one of the wisest, boldest, and most dedicated advocates of The Simpler Way.  In 2010 he published a book called, The Transition to a Sustainable and Just World, and I have to say that it is one of the best books I have ever read in my life. If you only have time to read one more book in your life, consider reading this one. It speaks directly to our global situation and condition, and it does so with passion, humility, and penetrating insight. From cover to cover, its pages are positively alive with wisdom. I highly recommend that everyone gets a copy of this book, reads it, and then passes it on. Our world desperately needs this book.

Trainer does not shy away from the implications of his analysis (summarised below), which at times can be quite confronting. But although his critique is radical, it is very hard to fault his analysis. Trainer, however, is not satisfied with critique, merely. The book speaks of ‘the transition,’ and many details are provided on what this transition might entail and where it might lead. Especially good is his chapter entitled, ‘The New Economy,’ in which he gives a uniquely inspiring account of what life according to The Simpler Way might look like (based on decades of lived experience). Perhaps the most important and original chapters of the book, however, are the final two, where Trainer rigorously engages the two vexed issues of ‘strategy’ (i.e. where to direct our energies) and ‘practice’ (i.e. what to do).

Trainer is an anarchist. He feels that we are going to have to build the new economy ourselves, at the community level, without help from governments and probably with considerable resistance. Some will consider this anarchism to be a fault in Trainer’s analysis, and argue that it relies on a view of human nature that is too optimistic. That is a criticism all anarchists must deal with, and one that Trainer should probably give more attention. Others may argue that the state will need to play a larger role in ‘the transition’ than Trainer allows, if only because a great deal needs to be done in a short time, and current ‘structures’ are locking individuals and communities into unsustainable consumption patterns. The state certainly has the power to ‘unlock’ those individuals and communities from those structures, and it could do so much more quickly than if we rely on grassroots resistance alone.

At the same time, Trainer’s insistence that we cannot wait for others (especially politicians) to solve our problems is a very healthy reminder of the importance of participatory, direct, grassroots democracy. At the end of the day, Trainer is quite right to insist that if there is to be a any transition away from consumer capitalism, it will be up to us – ordinary people – to make it happen. It remains to be seen whether such grassroots movements, as well as mobilising communities, are also able to mobilise the state. But after the debacle of Rio+20, I wouldn’t advise relying on our governments for anything at all. It seems we’re on our own now, and there is much work to do.

The basic points this book argues are:

Most current discussions of global problems, solutions and strategies are mistaken.  The problems (environment destruction, resource depletion, Third World poverty and underdevelopment, armed conflict, social breakdown and a falling quality of life) are far bigger than most people realize, and they cannot be solved by technical advance within a society whose basic structures and values creates them.

We are entering an era of intense and insoluble resource scarcity.  We must develop ways of living well on much lower rates of resource use.

The basic cause of the predicament is far too much producing and consuming going on. We are far beyond sustainable levels of resource consumption, “living standards” and of GDP.  Rich world rates can’t be kept up for long and could never be extended to all the world’s people.

Yet our supreme goal is economic growth, i.e., increasing production and consumption without limit!

The global economy is massively unjust.  It delivers most of the world’s resources to the few in rich countries, and gears Third World productive capacity to rich world super-markets, not to meeting the needs of the world’s poor billions.  Rich countries must move down to living on their fair share of global wealth.

These faults cannot be fixed within or by a society driven by growth, market forces, production for profit, or affluence. These are the causes of the global sustainability and justice problems.  Consumer society cannot be reformed to make it sustainable or just; it must be largely replaced by a society with fundamentally different structures.

The alternative has to be THE SIMPLER WAY, a society based on non-affluent lifestyles within mostly small and highly self-sufficient local economies under local participatory control and not driven by market forces or the profit motive, and with no economic growth.  There must be an enormous cultural change, away from competitive, individualistic acquisitiveness.  The book details the reasons why this Simpler Way vision is workable and attractive, promising a higher quality of life than most people in rich countries have at present.

What then is the most effective transition strategy?  Chapter 13 argues that most strategies, including green and red-left as well as conventional strategies, are mistaken.  The essential aim is not to fight against consumer-capitalist society, but to build the alternative to it.  This revolution cannot be achieved from the top, either by governments, green parties or proletarian revolutions.  This can only be a grass-roots transition led by ordinary people working out how they can cooperatively make their local communities viable as the global economy increasingly fails to provide.  The Eco-village and Transition Towns movements have begun the general shift, but…

Local self-sufficiency initiatives such as community gardens and Permaculture must be informed by the awareness that reforms to consumer-capitalist society cannot achieve a sustainable and just society.  Nothing of lasting significance will be achieved unless it is clearly understood that our efforts in these local initiatives are the first steps to the eventual replacement of the present society by one which is not driven by market forces, profit, competition, growth or affluence.  This awareness is far from sufficiently evident in present green initiatives.  The most important contribution activists can make is to join community gardens, Transition Towns movements etc. in order to help to develop this wider and radical global vision within participants.

The last chapter offers a practical strategy that can be implemented in existing suburbs, towns and neighbourhoods.

 

The Transition to a Sustainable and Just World is intended as a fundamental challenge to people concerned about the fate of the planet, arguing that most current analysis and action is tragically misguided and wasted.  It seeks to show an irrefutable logic – i.e., when the magnitude and causes of our predicament are grasped it is obvious that the problems cannot be solved within consumer-capitalist society, and that the solution then has to be some kind of Simpler Way, and that working for the transition then has to centre on the development of largely self-governing communities.

The book is addressed mainly to activists, hoping that it will help ‘green’ people to apply their scarce energies to the most effective purposes.  It should also be of interest to a wide range of students of social theory as it deals at length with crucial issues to do with social cohesion and change, sustainability, Marxism, Anarchism, economics, government, education, Third World development, globalisation, settlement design, limits to growth, values, global peace and justice, and the nature of the good society.

I have written a substantial Simplicity Institute Report on Trainer’s work, which is freely available here.

TO ORDER TRAINER’S BOOK:

By email: — Contact pat@envirobook.com.au for procedure.

By post (within Australia): –   Envirobook, 7 Close St., Canterbury,

NSW, Australia, 2190.  $30, Post free.

Overseas orders: Contact pat@envirobook.com.au for procedure.

 

Trainer has also posted some of his diverse writing on his website, available here.

I’d like to bring your attention, especially, to the following essays (although his website addresses many other interesting and important subjects too):

http://ssis.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/TSWmain.html (summary of the Simpler Way)

http://ssis.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/TheAltSoc.lng.html (sketching an alternative society)

http://ssis.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/TheTransitionProcess.html (on the transition process)

http://ssis.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/D65TW-Benefits.html (a short list of some of the central benefits that flow from the Simpler Way)

http://ssis.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/HOWCHEAPLY.htm (on how cheaply we could live well)

 

For those interested, a list of some of his recent academic work is posted below (I haven’t read all these but everything I have read is excellent):

Trainer, F. E., (T.), 2005, “Development. The radically alternative view,” Pacific Ecologist, Summer, pp. 35 – 42.

“Social responsibility; the most important, and neglected, problem of all?” (2005). International Journal of  Social Economics,  682 – 704.

Trainer, T., (2006) The Simpler Way website, http://ssis.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/

Trainer, F. E. (T.), 2006, “Renewable Energy:  No Solution for Consumer Society <http://www.inclusivedemocracy.org/journal/vol3/vol3_no1_Trainer_renewable_energy.htm> ,” Democracy and Nature, 3, 3, 1.

Trainer, T., (2007), Renewable Energy Cannot Sustain A Consumer Society, Dordrect, Springer.

Trainer, T., 2007, “The Stern Review; A critical assessment of its mitigation optimism,” , http://ssis.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/Stern.18.12.07.html

Trainer, T., (2007), “A critical discussion of the IPCC analyses of carbon emission mitigation possibilities and costs“,  http://ssis.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/IPCCcrit.html

Trainer, T., (2007/8), ”What if Stern is wrong?“,  People and Place, 15, 4, 65 -71.

Trainer, T., (2008),The greenhouse problem; The refusal to recognise the siituation,“ Journal of Inclusive Democracy,  4, 2, April.

Trainer, T., (2008),  Estimating the potential of solar thermal power, http://ssis.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/solarthermal.html

Trainer, T., (2008), “The Garnaut Report: A critical comment.” http://ssis.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/Garnaut.crit.html

Trainer, T., (2008), “Renewable energy – cannot sustain an energy-intensive society”, http://ssis.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/RE.html <http://ssis.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/REcant.html>

Trainer, T., (2009), “The greenhouse and energy problems – Cannot be solved in consumer society”, Fereidoon 2009

Nature, Cities, Justice, Conference Paper, Dec., 2008, UTS Sydney.

Trainer, T., (2008) “Transitioning to the Simpler Way”, in Newton, P. W. (2008), Ed., Transitions; Pathways Towards Sustainable Urban Development in Australia, Dordrecht, Springer.

Trainer, F. E. (T),(In press), “Natural capitalism cannot overcome resource limits”, Environment, Development, Sustainability. http://ssis.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/D50NatCapCannotOvercome.html

Trainer, T., (2010), “A critical discussion of the Stern and IPCC analyses of carbon emission mitigation possibilities and costs, “ Energy & Environment, Vol. 21, No. 2, 49 – 73.

Trainer, T., (2010), “Can the greenhouse problem be solved – The negative case.

http://ssis2.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/CANg.html

Trainer, T., (2009), “A friendly critique of he Transition Towns movement”

Trainer, T., (2010), Transition: Getting To A Sustainable and Just World. Sydney, Envirobook.

Trainer, T., (2010), “Can renewables etc. solve the greenhouse problem? The negative case”, Energy Policy, 38, 8, August, 4107 – 4114. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2010.03.037

Trainer, T., (2010), “Renewable energy – Cannot sustain an energy-intensive society”, (50 page updated summary case).  http://ssis.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/RE.html

Trainer, T., (2010), “De-growth is not enough”, International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, 6.4. Fall.

Ted Trainer, (2011) “The implications of the global ecological predicament for economic theory and practice”, Humanomics, Vol. 27, Issue, 1, pp.7 – 2

Ted Trainer, (2011), “The Global Significance of the Eco-Village Movement”, Ecological Key: Designing Ecological Habitats-Creating a Sense of Place, Gaia Education – Ecovillage Design Education,

4.0 · 1
What's Next
Related
Load Comments
Trending Today
How Stress Affects Your Brain
4 min · 4,843 views today · Stress isn’t always a bad thing; it can be handy for a burst of extra energy and focus, like when you’re playing a competitive sport or have to speak in public. But when it’s...
Republicans Welcomed Bernie Sanders to Wisconsin By Calling Him an Extremist. His Response? Perfect.
5 min · 4,166 views today · This was just awesome. No wonder so many people love Sander's message. The opening minutes of the July 1st rally was a classic #FeelTheBern moment, delivered to a 10,000...
I Wish for You... Jeremy Irons is a Grandfather With A Beautiful Message for His Granddaughter
5 min · 4,012 views today · 'War Horse' author Michael Morpurgo and actors Jeremy Irons and Maxine Peake have joined forces to make a powerful new 5 minute film especially for you. Please watch and...
Brilliant Comic of Banksy's Call To Arms Against Advertisers
Gavin Aung Than · 3,844 views today · Banksy is an anoynomous English street artist and activist who has become a cult hero for his anti-establishment and rebellious artwork.
9 Ways We Can Make Social Justice Movements Less Elitist and More Accessible
Kai Cheng Thom · 2,560 views today · In my first year of college, I stopped calling myself an activist. It took attending just a few meetings of the campus queer group for me to realize that I didn’t fit in with...
The Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy
3 min · 2,540 views today · What is the best way to ease someone's pain and suffering? In this beautifully animated RSA Short, Dr Brené Brown reminds us that we can only create a genuine empathic...
"Desert Goddess" Remembers Arizona's Glen Canyon
7 min · 1,890 views today · In this excerpt from the award-winning documentary DamNation, filmmakers Ben Knight and Travis Rummel interview the "desert goddess," Katie Lee. When the Glen Canyon Dam was...
Carl Gustav Jung - the Three Births of the Human Spirit
Frank M. Wanderer Ph.D · 1,723 views today · C. G. Jung believes that we need to go through three births in our lifetime. The first is our physical birth, then the birth of our Ego, and spiritual birth of Consciousness...
This Video Dispels Every "Nature VS Nurture" Myth You've Ever Heard. The Implications are Profound.
31 min · 1,658 views today · If everyone watched this it could radically transform the world. This is a segment from Moving Forward (2011). Watch the full documentary online here.
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into A Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 1,630 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Who Are You? This Breathtaking Video Might Change Your Life
2 min · 1,625 views today · "Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can...
F*ck That: A Guided Meditation for the Realities of Today's World
2 min · 1,596 views today · Just acknowledge that all that sh*t is f*cking b*llshit — you're here now, in this place, with your inner stillness. Take in a deep breath ... now breathe out. Just feel the...
Free Trade Explained In An Excellent Comic
Michael Goodwin, Illustrated by Dan E. Burr · 1,527 views today · The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are the latest in a long line of international free trade agreements. But why are...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,406 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
The Great Forgetting: You Probably Haven't Heard about It But It Completely Affects Your Life
Deep Ecology Hub · 1,394 views today · This article summarizes the ideas of Daniel Quinn, first written about in The Story of B, which was a sequel to Ishmael. The longer, original essay can be read here, and comes...
What If Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong?
Katherine Reynolds Lewis · 1,298 views today · Negative consequences, timeouts, and punishment just make bad behavior worse. But a new approach really works.
Have You Heard of The Great Forgetting? It Happened 10,000 Years Ago & Completely Affects Your Life
Daniel Quinn · 1,177 views today · (Excerpted from the book, The Story of B) With every audience and every individual, I have to begin by making them see that the cultural self-awareness we inherit from our...
Nigerians Are Building Fireproof, Bulletproof, and Eco-Friendly Homes With Plastic Bottles and Mud
Amanda Froelich · 1,016 views today · These colorful homes are bulletproof, fireproof, and can withstand earthquakes. They also maintain a comfortable temperature, produce zero carbon emissions, and are powered by...
The Profound Ways that Schooling Harms Society: Incredibly, All of This Is Invisible to Our Culture
Carol Black · 932 views today · Occupy Your Brain: On Power, Knowledge, and the Re-Occupation of Common Sense One of the most profound changes that occurs when modern schooling is introduced into traditional...
10 Compelling Reasons You Can Never Trust The Mainstream Media
Sophie McAdam · 876 views today · A poll in 2012 showed that trust in the mainstream media is increasing, which should worry all of us who value truth, integrity and press freedom. However, a recently released...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?