By Environmental Change Makers
Dec 14, 2012
The economy is changing. Dramatically. Coping with these changes means changing the way we do things. The path of the future involves root level, radical changes. Things we have always considered “normal” won’t work anymore. We must think LOCALLY, and act now to begin growing a resilient local economy.
Understand the full extent of the problem.
We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg: Prepare for hard times to get worse. ? Any plans we make today –from business plans to individual career/college/retirement planning, to government policies – must presume they will unfold in an environment of ongoing, long-term economic downturn. Otherwise, they are not viable plans. ? We’re facing (simultaneously) the growing costs of climate change, the end of the oil age, plus there are fatal flaws in the original design of our economy. Eternal “growth” is impossible on a finite planet. We are living in a contracting economy and life as we once knew it is changing forever. ? We can no longer “go it alone.” The crises we face demand that we work together with others in ways we never have done before.
1) Build resilience.
As the conventional economy continues to crumble, we the people at the grassroots still need to keep a roof over our head, feed our children, and maintain a relative degree of peace within our local community. In order to keep things going, we are going to have to use different economic tools than we have in the past: tools to facilitate transactions between people. ? Develop practical life skills which will get you through challenges. Grow food. Now. Everywhere you can. ? Relocalize: shift to lifestyles which require far less transportation. Powerdown: decrease your energy dependence overall. ? Develop a supportive community circle around you to fall back on emotionally or more tangibly. Develop Inner Resilience – the character and spiritual base to remain flexible and feel good about it.
2) Expect Contraction
Conserve your cash. Make the most of the U.S. dollars you do have. Use budgets and learn to get by on much less. Decrease your outflow, don’t merely seek to increase your inflow. ? Debt, leveraging, and interest are great tools in a growing economy, but they doom you to faster decline in a contracting economy. Systematically begin to reduce/renegotiate/eliminate all your debts and don’t take on more. (Don’t vote for more government debt, a.k.a. bond measures, either) ? An economy is like an ecosystem: it has many interrelated parts. We need to build much greater resilience into each of the parts – local business, currency, investment, measurement systems – in anticipation of what lies ahead.
3) Rethink the idea of “Jobs.”
The role of “employee” of a giant facility controlled by corporate executives is part of the fading past. Even “green jobs” and “stimulus” are tied into the fatally-flawed eternal growth presumption. ? As the crises unfold further, making a living is much more likely to be as “proprietor,” rather than employee.
4) Support Resilience-Building businesses and industries.
What kinds of businesses will your immediate local neighborhood need to survive? Which businesses will provide the basics like locallysourced food and water, basic clothing? Particularly as we face limited petroleum and with local supply chains? These are the “business opportunities” of the new future. ? As you create your resilience-oriented business, plan to accept multiple currencies (#5). Work with local investment vehicles (#7). Evaluate success using alternative metrics. Reduce your volume expectations in keeping with planetary limits (biocapacity). ? Meanwhile, support the future with your voting dollar. BUY LOCAL. Every dollar you spend at a non-resilient business or industry (chain store) is a vote against local survival.
5) Develop multiple financial vehicles.
We cannot count on the U.S. dollar alone. With the looming possibility of severe inflation or deflation, at a local level we need to have a wide variety of alternative ways to conduct economic transactions. ? Try sophisticated barter systems: Set up or join time banks or LETSystems (Local Economic Trading Systems). Trade goods and services with local neighbors, without the need for U.S. dollar cash. Several time banks are active and operating in various parts of L.A. ? Practice sharing: Set up lots of sharing networks, like carpools, home repair groups, garden sharing, group purchasing, tool libraries, gift cultures and more. Do it now, while times are relatively good, so these networks will be in place when we really need them.
6) Community-based Investment
Got investment funds? Retirement funds? Retain them within your local community. Put them to work locally on resilience-building projects within your community – projects which will help your local community cope with peak oil and economic downturn. ? In the new paradigm, security, peace, and safety are so dear that they are worth “investing” in, with hopes to preserve them. Rather than seeking “rate of return,” better shop for local investments which might help secure our collective future. ? In Totnes, UK, people are pooling their investment funds to build community-owned wind farms. In Marin, California, they pooled their funds to buy options on farmland to keep it out of the hands of suburban developers. In Washington state, L.I.O.N. investors seed local sustainable businesses.
7) Demand new economic indicators.
Economic Indicators are our measuring sticks. They’re the way we determine whether (or how far) we’re moving in the right direction. Our old, outdated set of economic indicators --which includes things like GDP, bottom-line, and sales volume-- measures economic growth and profit, period. ? For humanity to survive in the new future, we must measure the right stuff. Ask businesses about their scorecard on the things you care about: how they’re cutting carbon emissions; how much of their supplies are locally-sourced, whether they buy from other local businesses and hire local workers. Then vote with your buying dollar to support vendors who give you good answers.
8) Redefine “Success.”
Our conventional economic system is broken because it defined “success” so narrowly, exclusively in terms of dollars, profit and growth. That lone measurement has taken us far off track with respect to environment, social ills, and quality of life. ? “The economy” is the sum total of transactions between people. And people’s lives and experiences are about much more than just dollars, profit and growth.
9) Strive for a Socially-Just Economics
We cannot forget that our local communities are not islands. Particularly within our cities, we are kidding ourselves if we think we can help prepare or “transition” only our own household or neighborhood without regard to helping nearby neighborhoods. Reach out to others and share the message in this document. Help others get prepared!
10) Help build the safety net.
Viewed separately, any lone one of these Practical Tools may feel flimsy and insufficient. Assembled as a unified whole, the Practical Tools create a resilient safety net. As the current economic structures wobble and crumble, the safety net is there to catch us -- to keep our local communities functional at a very basic level. ? Look for signs of a safety net in your neighborhood. As you discover small portions of it, help build these, shift your transactions to support them, and make these the way you do things within your social circle. As the conventional economy crumbles, a resilient local safety net is your best hope for maintaining peace. These are excerpts from “Economic Resilience” by Joanne Poyourow. The expanded version of “Economic Resilience” can be read free online at http://EconomicResilience.blogspot.com/ Please share it with your friends, and take action to make our Safety Net a reality.