Less Net



Local Sufficiency - page 1


The combined effects of resource depletion and climate change are leading to civilization collapse. For too long the warning signs have been ignored because globalised capitalism continues to be driven by the delusions of resource abundance, environmental stability and exponential growth.

The over-riding concern of our political and corporate elites is to maintain the pattern of post-war growth through exploiting non-renewable energy supplies and raw materials. As these become depleted, they also become increasingly inaccessible. Whatever efficiency gains are made from energy-saving technologies and from the use of renewable energy, will be outweighed by the continued pressure to support the globalised network of production and distribution and the energy-intensive requirements for extracting non-renewable resources.

We have already experienced the first depletion crisis of the 21st Century, with the recession of 2008/09. Rapid oil price rises occurred because of increased demand and concerns over security of supplies. This, in turn, reduced disposable income and created uncertainties over future growth prospects, undermining the financial markets already struggling with the impact of the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Only massive government intervention saved the financial system from collapse, and the overall economy from severe depression. But the efforts to re-establish traditional growth paths have left the underlying dynamics of resource depletion and serious climate change intact. Further depletion crises are inevitable and with them the collapse of the global, capitalist system.

A radical restructuring of the economy around local sufficiency and security is required, where the essentials of material life, including food, housing, energy and transport are provided through local production. The short-term objective will be to minimize the throughput of energy and materials and to create a zero-carbon economy that helps stabilise climate change.

The longer-term objective will to replace global capitalism and the nation-state system that supports it with a local sufficiency economy and a commonwealth of communities that have direct control over the economic decisions that influence their lives. Only this can help human beings fulfil their true potentialities and restore an ecological balance for all life on the planet.


Critiques of Exponential Growth

In the classic equation of industrial society progress equalled the domination of nature multiplied by technology. Capitalism and Communism may have been diametrically opposed in every other way but they both shared a profoundly optimistic view of the industrial revolution’s transformative powers. Human society would be liberated from feudalism, agrarian poverty, ignorance and barbarism where, in Hobbesian terms, life was nasty, brutish and short.

Man (and it was usually men) in the pursuit of material prosperity, could move mountains, reverse the direction of rivers, and unleash the nuclear energy trapped inside an atom. The natural world was a cornucopia that had to be exploited, either as raw materials, or as chemical and physical compounds and, if obstacles existed, then it could be coaxed, manipulated or crushed to release its economic value, no matter what the environmental costs might be.

Where opposition voices raised concerns about the consequences of this unrestrained materialism, they were normally dismissed as romantic dreamers. Pollution was a small price to pay for the products that were now flowing from the assembly lines in ever-increasing numbers. Although some improvements were made such as the Clean Air Acts of the 1950s that substantially reduced sulphur emissions, pollution was still a secondary issue. Even if the environmental damage was excessive or irreparable there would always be other abundant sources that could be exploited and the outcome would be beneficial in the overall growth of the economy.

By the 1960s, environmentalism emerged as a growing movement and the publication of Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, was profoundly important in mobilising support. Carson was an established author on the natural world and had become increasingly concerned about the use of pesticides and their impact on bird populations.1  Focusing on one of the most commonly used, DDT (previously developed as an anti-malaria spray to kill mosquitos but adapted for use on general agricultural crops to increase yields), she meticulously analysed how its application was responsible both, directly, for the decimation of entire species dependent on the insect populations that were killed, and also indirectly, for environmental contamination that ultimately affected peoples’ health through the food chain, with DDT being implicated in cancer and genetic damage.

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