In the past 20-30 years, the concept of “outsourcing” has stripped most of our local communities of the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker – the craftsmen, merchants, and artisans who have skills and know-how to provide the basic goods and services we need for everyday living. Even in these times of economic contraction, supporting our local businesses is essential, because with the transportation limitations that will come with the end of cheap oil, local will become our mainstay.
Become a jack of all trades and a master of one. – David Holmgren, quoting a European Permaculturist
"Jobs" as we know them today -- paychecks from large corporate employers -- are a very recent phenomenon in human history. Within our new understanding of the future economy, this form of earning a living is not too likely to continue.
Even the idea of “green jobs” is deeply flawed. Many of the “green” jobs are completely dependent upon government funding. Most are built upon the presumption of economic growth, and depend on continued societal affluence to get the fledgling “green” industries off the ground. Some so-called “green” industries merely provide green-cast consumption, perpetuating the five-planets-worth-of-consumption which we have told each other is “normal.” Other supposedly “green” jobs are in tech-centric industries, dependent upon oil, overseas manufacturing, and continued supply of trace elements, all of which will be difficult to sustain as we move deeper into the post-peak-everything era.
In our Oct 2010 session about the economy here in Los Angeles, we discussed “Conservation of cash.” In other words: in these times of economic contraction, make the most of the U.S. dollars you do have. In that session we talked about budgets and getting by on less. So often in American culture when money gets tight we focus on increasing the inflow: how can we get more cash? But there is another side to the equation: decreasing outflow.
Think about a bathroom sink: water comes in through the faucet and leaves through the drain. If the water is flowing in faster than it is draining out, you’ll have an accumulation of water in the basin. If the level in the basin (the cash in our checking accounts) proves inadequate, we have been well-schooled to adjust the faucet end of things: “Earn $1000 a week at home!” “Take advantage of this credit card offer!” American capitalism carefully avoids mentioning that we have a lot of choice about how much flows out the drain.
On a single weekend, May 14th & 15th, thousands of us will take to the streets, the garden, schoolyard, home, apartment and city hall to take action as part of the 350 Home & Garden Challenge. Transition US, in collaboration with a multitude of organizations across the country will transform, retrofit and revitalize our landscapes and homes to grow food, conserve water, save energy and build community. And we need YOU to join us. Stand up and be counted, inspire your family, friends and neighbors to do the same.
As we consider the likelihood of long-term economic contraction, what can we do about it?
Like anything in the Transition movement, we need to consider the appropriate scale. In Part II of this series we examined what several thinkers had to say about our Big Picture economy, yet most of us have little-to-no ability to make an impact at that scale. Most of us are working within the Transition movement or other local groups because we understand that at the grassroots scale, we do have considerable ability to make a difference.
Rob Hopkins might have a unique opportunity to work at a much larger scale because he is in a smaller country where there are lots more Transition initiatives and his Transition efforts have already gained the attention of several Members of Parliament. But most of us, particularly here in the U.S., are not in those shoes.
Thus in this section we will leave the macro-econ transformation to those who have ability to teach and influence at that level, and we will turn to the grassroots level, where most of us are working. What can we do, at the grassroots scale, to address economics, and to build local resilience?
Given that we're entering a prolonged period of economic contraction, what comes next? In the big picture, what are some of the possible routes forward? In the last post I critiqued some of the economic thinkers mentioned by the UK's Rob Hopkins. In this post, I highlight several -- including a U.S. source -- which Hopkins hasn't mentioned on his blog.
Fundamental change – indeed, radical system change – is as common as grass in world history.
– Gar Alperovitz, America beyond Capitalism
Part I of this document took a hard look at the realities ahead. Part II critiques what several economic theorists see as possible routes forward for the "big picture" economy. In today's post, we’ll look at some of the sources Rob Hopkins listed.
Of the triple crisis issues, the timeline for economic contraction is the shortest; it will hit before we feel the worst of peak oil (which will hit most of us before climate change). Our economic predicament is also the most volatile, the most sensitive to shocks. Particularly here in the U.S., it will be felt the most tangibly. Peak oil and climate change will probably be first felt economically by most of us.
Just like peak oil and global warming, economic contraction is a "game changer." As the economy we now know crumbles, the far-reaching repercussions will sculpt every aspect of our future. In my opinion, any long-term plan -- Transition EDAPs included -- must anticipate that it will unfold amidst a world of economic contraction. We have to plan for it, and put alternative financial tools in place to weather it, or it will undermine all of our other efforts.