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Gardenworld Politics Chapter 7 What should we do? draft
Chapter 7. What should we do?
This will be a challenge. We will need each other. Not just materially but as friends and community. In the past it was understood that after the crisis we could return to the world. This time we need to find ways of living in a different world. It means a serious effort in rethinking the way we think. Gandhi sought to take India , after dislodging the English, into a different culture, but he failed in this. The ask is there for us to pick up. BTW it may be easier to make a bigger change than a ,smaller because in the larger changes support each other whereas in the smaller the focal change is resisted by the others.
Simone Weil once wrote - there is only one legitimate thing you can ask anyone - what are you going through? Because everyone is going through something.
Gardenworld will be helped by an education, across generations, about the natural and social world and the way our experiences flow with this broad education . Our experience will continue to spark awe that our current education avoids Being more philosophical is important if we are to understand who we are. We need to take our reflections seriously, and that requires lots of serious conversation. We don’t know how the universe started and we don’t know how it will end. We are born in between and will live out our lives bookended by the unknown. This is where we get to live. One view is that culture is an alternative reality we cling to because without some system of belief, the universe is too anxious making. These forces will play out in Gardenworld and can be the source of art, research, conversation and friendship. Clear eyed, we can better empathize with those in the past who struggled with life and given circumstances. But of course where we actual;y are is not seen as clearly now as it will be.
We wrote in chapter one, there are a number of institutions that are broken, among them
The energy system,
The financial system
The child care system
The digital system
The food system
The Human species system.
The power system
Distribution of talent.
All these in the context of nature. How do we become the good managers of these taken together? Goals are essential for guidance. Attempts at improving these require a ckear awareness of the goals. Education needs to educate to deal with responsibility for the whole, not for jobs
happy in the sense of fulfilling engagvment wth the issues
shift from consumer to citizen.
comfortable with the arts, science, thinking.
As of now we are surrounded by fixing oeb thing at the cost of others - example, more jobs making more energy use. We need discipline in thinking through the secondary consequences of our actions, the side effects that business has always tried to avoid we need to include.
The goals need to be in the context of what seems deeply intrinsic to life. Every organism, from Humans to bugs wants to preserve its life but there are desires beyond mere survival we have described in more detail in chapter 3 on human nature. We must be direct, and flexible, as in -
Crossing the river by feeling the stones. - Deng Xiao Ping.
We are at the very beginning of time for the human race. It is not unreasonable that we grapple with problems. But there are tens of thousands of years in the future. Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions, and pass them on. — Richard Feynman
photographs of the earth seen from space can be deceptive. They provide a false notion of unity and oversight, which does not contribute to our understanding of the reality of our situation. - Bruno Latour
What should we do? Keep what we make simple, effective, and attractive,
David Hockney writes:
"I intend to carry on with my work, which I now see as very important. We have lost touch with nature rather foolishly as we are a part of it, not outside it. This will in time be over and then what? What have we learned? I am 83 years old, I will die. The cause of death is birth. The only real things in life are food and love in that order, just like our little dog Ruby. I really believe this and the source of art is love. I love life.
The earth is beautiful despite the volcanoes, tectonic plates, asteroids fires and freezing, droughts and floods.. Humans are beautiful in their capacity for love and understanding, perhaps shared with more animals more than we know. Beautiful despite our wars. diseases and our exploitation of other people and nature. Putting these together again and undoing their separation is needed. It is said that the map is not the territory because the territory itself is the only complete map of the territory. That kind of map is what we need to build. A Project of nature and humans that maps onto itself, not into abstractions.
Actually every species, every object is already a part of the map and we tried to break it apart with new thinking but have created chaos, walking blind;y toward a dead end. We need to use our talents now to put it all t back together.
The second nature, we make ourselves/
Paulo Freire wrote The Pedagogy of the Oppressed. His advice, that we each should teach another, is a powerful guideline for Gardenworld.
We are going to be building a world that affects us and we it. When I look at an object it has spirit, otherwise how could it affect me?. It reflects light. It has weight. It has a history it affects my mood.
People want win win but we may need lose lose before we can get to emergent solutions. This, these months, maybe years, will be hard. I doubt that a person living in one epoch could easily adapt to living in the next, beliefs and styles of living are so different. We rely on the next generations. But It has always been that way.
As a working framework I think we should embrace Latour’s “critical zone” thinking. ` In Down to Earth, politics in the new Climate regime. At one point he writes
“The first challenge is to give it a name, one that will not let it be confused with the two other attractors. “Earth”? This will be read as a reference to the planet as seen from space, the famous “Blue Planet.” “Nature”? This would be much too vast. “Gaia”? This would be appropriate, but it would take pages and pages to spell out the reasons.34 “Land”? This would be ambiguous. “World,” yes, of course, but it might be too easily mixed up with the old forms of globalization.
Peter Drucker wrote “...a new era of faster, smaller, more “flexible” structures that engaged in a “continuous process” of organizational evolution. Almost all future discussions wly abstraction but what is needed is ecognizable visual mind visualizations on what a plausible future can look like, Gardenworld is moving in that direction. Latour continues
No, we need a term that encompasses the stupefying originality (the stupefying longevity) of this agent. Let us call it, for now, the Terrestrial, with a capital T to emphasize that we are referring to a concept, and even specifying in advance where we are headed: the Terrestrial as a new political actor.
TThe greek “economy” contains eco meaning estate (household) and nomos which, before it became a general abstract term meaning laws, in pre-classical Greek, meant equal distribution.
Laws are not created unless there is a need. In this case, “equal distribution” was probably created to counter the tendency towards unequal distribution. The state, with law, intervenes. So the struggle for equal distribution against the tendency for concentration of wealth and power — starting with land, was with us from the beginning. The idea that nomos meant equal distribution began with the division of land acquired by the polis in equal segments to provide for equal grazing of cattle, (8) The evolution of culture, driven by claiming every liveable niche and managing conflict, was from equality towards hierarchy. By the time of Plato, ‘laws’ meant collections of separate legislations, not a principle of dividing a whole into equal parts. This perspective suggests a revisiting of ancient goals hidden in the mists of time while defending what we have achieved.
The proposed Gardenworld future embraces the incomplete past of the French Revolution, the thwarted Romantic movement against the factories, and the Arts and crafts movement of attractive living without slaves. This begins to be a template for our possible future that we want to round out with things like Erikson’s view of the human life cycle and Unger’s view of the larger person and cooperative institutions: a template we can act on. The task is to live well and avoid war, and live in meaning as suggested by Rozac’s Eco psychology. Latour.
The massive event that we need to sum up and absorb in fact concerns the power to act of this Terrestrial, which is no longer the milieu or the background of human action. People generally talk about geopolitics as if the prefix “geo” merely designated the framework in which political action occurs. Yet what is changing is that, henceforth, “geo” designates an agent that participates fully in public life.
The current disorientation derives entirely from the emergence of an actor that reacts and will continue to react to human actions and that bars the modernizers from knowing where they are, in what epoch, and especially what role they need to play from now on.”
Gardenworld could be that name. Latour has developed an approach which tells us what we should be paying attention to — the politics of taking the critical zone seriously — and some of how governance must change to make it all happen. — the structure of governance. But this is where people are. In an old world of right left that no longer clarifies political choices but , needs to reconfigure around the reality of the critical zone and the fact that our major institutions are stuck in globalization which looks at the world as characterized by a few things like nation states and GDP. The lives of people as seen in the news or in travels are avoided.When we think about Gardenworld as a vital response to the present mess we should bear in mind that the details of normal life are where we live. We do not live in the photo of earth taken from space. We will be creating a new life among the vast array of differences and complexities.
In the last chapter we discuss what can happen. Most paths look difficulty. The path with the most optimism and attractiveness quires that we look back over the past for missed opportunities and scan ahead for new emergent possibilities that are also attractive. Gardenworld meets material meets the major needs of food and habitat, and provides a sense of serious belief.
Between the Idea and reality, falls the Shadow." (T. S. Eliot)
We need to remember that Gardenworld and any other reaction to climate change, is more about culture than it is about the standard science of things. Absent political and social changes, technical proposals to climate disruption are inadequate. Solar power, nuclear power, agricultural innovations, sequestering technologies, or planting co2 absorbing landscapes on their own will not improve outcomes. An alternative approach is radical decentralization, letting each community struggle and innovate on their own. But the sheer number of people, many turned into migrants, will force coordinations across projects. We have to consider what it will take for different approaches to be in motion simultaneously — centralized or decentralized, some mixture of the two, hierarchy with flat networks.
We need to revisit our priorities in order to manage for the good of all. Most people feel they have not seen an alternative to drifting. It is not crazy to stay in a leaky canoe if you do not have an alternative canoe. We need to borrow from boating what is referred to as jettisoning: throwing overboard unneeded stuff in order to keep afloat: what to hold onto, what to throw away, what to repurpose? These are hard choices that require a different culture, reinventing our prior logics along the way. Although we are not starting from scratch, often it will feel like it.
As a society, we need to ask ourselves:
What do we keep and what do we get rid of?
What do we repurpose and what do we continue as is?
What things do we prioritize and what things do we ignore?
What things become important and what things become obsolete?
Have you ever cherished less warlike dreams?
— Verdi’s Aida
The Commons is where parts of the earth - land, water, air, schools, roads, health, factories and fields, are shared. Thinking about the Commons and other strong options for the future of society is now urgent. The slow breakdown that was occurring has become clear through the government's inability to meet the challenges of COVID, climate change, and fairness. Now what? Something will happen, lets make it good. Just a reminder, the commons used to be held in common by the communities. Slowly the elites, under economic pressure, took it for themselves. There is a modern incorrect view that the peasants ruined the commons by overgrazing or overfishing. Not so. Elites took it with force and laws. Elinor Ostrom clarified this showing that the people of the commons can very well manage that commons. This effort at regaining community control will again meet the attempt by elites to maintain control.
It is possible that big data operating through large corporations, with sensors in every part of the economy and private spaces, and managed by algorithms, could work. But that same technical capacity could be used for very effective local management with sensitivity to local conditions and guided by democratic participation. Much is afoot and we should want to participate. We need a cooperative ethos. The world is still Hobbesian, all against all.
Food and habitat breakdowns will motivate local solutions.The Green Revolution proposes subsidies for green projects but no structural change in governance nor property. We must go further into causes and solutions. Imagine if food and family were the focus of social organization! As COVID fades, climate will loom, requiring us to think more structurally.
A major goal of social development should be to cut poverty to zero. That doesn't mean equality - which is a problematic concept. (Who gets to live by the ocean, who gets to marry the prom queen?). But it does mean that we lift the bottom up, not in terms of cash, but in living conditions. Each person should live a life that feels good to them and provides support for their development as family, citizen participant, and artist. I think it takes us toward what can be called Gardenworld and its politics.
Developing The Commons means cutting some of the concentration of assets at the top while vigorously creating better circumstances where most people actually try to live, but getting from cash to Commons is not going to be easy, despite its attractiveness, requiring changes in regulations and, most important, changes in culture.
To understand the future for Commons it is helpful if we have some background thinking on how all of the earth, being free for roaming, shrank to the ownership of a small percentage of the people. This has been a slow process we may need to untangle carefully.
Water and air used to be part of the Commons. Now water is in bottles and good air at expensive resorts. Land disappeared behind boundaries and titles. This started when nomads and their cattle, at first free to roam. But with increasing population, of people and cattle, grassland became scarce and conflictual until governance stepped in to divide it up. Cattle were owned but the land was just nature. The concern shifted from the cattle, the small herds, to the grazing land itself. This is a huge shift and caused reactions. The nomoi in the word eco-nomy comes from Greek nomos, law, but in pre-platonic Greek it meant equal distribution. But a law is not developed without a felt need, and that need was to maintain fairness of land division.
The first attempt at maintaining equality was to divide the land into equal portions, but not all acres of land are equal, so the process moved on to meet the needs of rising populations while maintaining nomoi - but how? In early societies, nomads and hunter gatherers, and empires , were mostly based on cattle, food was harvested and brought to the administrative center, stored in large urns, and distributed on the basis of need. The pyramids were not built by slave labor but by agricultural labor provided with feasts during off seasons. These seem to have been community festivals, not slave gangs.
Humans, from the earliest traces , lived communally, following the way of living of earlier primates. There is no human without other humans. Human groups from bands to tribes shared food and danger. Within the group no one starved. So even today, “We are all communists in a family”. The path of history has been for private property to cut into that shared community until it only remains in the kinship family, and even at home many people addicted to in cell phones do not share dinner.
The whole path of human history has been a struggle by elites to chip away at the Commons and take more for themselves, leading to a class society of favored and unfavored. It is this simple arc of elite wealth vs. the poverty of the rest of us which is the base for the current situation, where elites dominate, and the rest are marginalized. The point is that a better future with a larger sense of the Commons is in conflict with existing institutions. There is no policy that can get us to that better world without people commited to that struggle.
Hunter gatherers shared the kill in the group but, as society grew more complex and land was fenced, the idea of the sacrifice emerged as a way of maintaining the culture of sharing. If you read Homer you will see how often cattle were sacrificed, the smoke went up to the gods and the people ate the shared meat.. Athens in the fifth century was dependent on sacrificed cattle to feed the population. (See the amazing book James C. Scott, Against the Grain)There was no process of buying or selling. These were cashless societies without markets. Remnants of the old tradition still exist. In the Scotland of today all land is considered open to people for walking and picnicking. This seems strange to us. I was visiting a large estate outside Edinburgh and toward lunch on a saturday small groups of people were walking, spreading blankets, and I asked the host who explained they were townspeople and they had the right.
The word “common” sounds a bit weak, but the history shows its depth. (from the Online Etymological Dictionary) com - together and then:
The second element of the compound also is the source of Latin munia "duties, public duties, functions," those related to munia "office." Perhaps reinforced in Old French by the Germanic form of PIE *ko-moin-i- (compare German gemein, Old English gemne "common, public, general, universal;"
So Commons points not just to use but to co-responsibility.
The Commons extended into the 18th century in England. The idea is simple, elites by virtue of gifts from the King claimed much of the land and what was left over was used by unlanded farmers and craft workers, grazing their own cattle and gardens.
Understanding these differences in the living realites around the world helps us see that other arrangements are possible. Alexander Hamilton, one of the founders of the American Republic, spent months studying and reporting on the differences he found in different republics. We need to be that wise about the various possibilities for Commons. Everyone had the right to use roads. . It is unfair that roads are being converted to tolls so that the wealthier can afford fast lanes.
What are “Commons? We need to understand that they are part of a different way of experiencing the world. Just as in a dance you need to be aware of your partner, so in a society with a strong Commons, cooperation emerges as a kind of dance with others, with lots of intuition for others. Commons and cooperation replaces consumerism and isolation. There is a major psychological difference between walking on land that is collectively ours and land that is owned by another. where we have to be continually on guard, like musical chairs. Hunting and camping lands used to be Commons until encroaching land grabs led to parks as designated zones free for regulated use controlled by the state. Wilderness used to be a place without any presence of the state. “The people are in the forest and the emperor is far away im his palace” - Chinese saying).
Two major problems for society are the feeding and housing (homing) of the people, and the people come in families with children and old people. Feeding and habitat, now under stress, are where new Commons may form, - a food line now, shared housing tomorrow, Imagine that the government distributed food-stamps to everyone in generous quantities to get the needed and desired food. If Mary wants company for dinner, she uses her stamps, but her guests chip in and give her some. Such a system would be kind to surplus. Under capitalist conditions the more a farm produces, the lower the prices and income of the farmer. In history the cities have imposed this structure on the farmers, lowering their portion of societal wealth. In the Commons, surplus is not a threat to anyone as farmer-needs are met by the same shared understanding of food and habitat.
We can imagine towns with new civic centers that, in a park, combine schools, town offices, retirement home, kindergarten play centers, library, and modest medical help. Perhaps a cafe, and an all purpose small general stores, and maybe even an incubator facility for new business start-ups. Generations and interest mix.
Capitalism and democracy are two parallel systems for making decisions. It is important to see that owners of capital make major decisions. In the Commons such investment decisions are discussed by the whole community. The problem now is that capital can too easily buy the political process.
The result is a society that does not offer much to people in their quest for a full life. Legislation of many kinds has forced people out of families into acquisitions. Basic needs for curiosity, love, self regard, friendship are shifted towards more for me less for you. If we are not empathetic we have to cut off our own emotional sensibility, and this is at great cost. David Hocney writes that “ “If you see your surroundings as beautiful, thrilling and mysterious, as I think I do, then you feel quite alive” Life is not met well with feedlot institutions. Humans need more. Creating a full spectrum of conditions for a full human life for each person is potentially freed up in the Commons.
The Commons will not eliminate conflict but is built on much more participation. The problem is society seems to need elites that coopt participation for themselves. This means conflict is always present and always needing pushback. Are elites needed to run society? Probably. Small group research shows that a leader always emerges. Take away that leader and a new one emerges.
A generation of elites breeds a next generation of lazier and less aware leaders who, from an elite position in the social structure protected by zoning and gated communities lose contact with the reality for the main part of the population. Failing to understand the whole, hasten crisis. So, how are they chosen, educated, rewarded in the commons?
Joseph Tainter in his essential book, The Collapse of Complex Societies, argues that as nations evolve they become more complex and as they grow more complex the maintenance cost increases more rapidly than the productive capacity of society This continues until the curve of rising costs eats up all the surplus, and keeps on going till collapse. Moreover the elites own the infrastructure. When problems emerge in the infrastructure the elites, instead of paying to repair the system, act to cut costs and take the savings for themselves.
A different governing occurred in Athens. Key roles were filled by lottery drawn from all citizens. People had to be educated enough to fill those roles if chosen, and keeping the roles understandable enough that such chosen citizens could do them. This is a very different kind of society than we know, but may be what The Commons requires. Wikipedia has a summary.
Athenian democracy developed in the 6th century BC out of what was then called isonomia (equality of law and political rights). Sortition [lottery] was then the principal way of achieving this fairness. It was utilized to pick most of the magistrates for their governing committees, and for their juries (typically of 501 men). Aristotle relates equality and democracy:
Democracy arose from the idea that those who are equal in any respect are equal absolutely. All are alike free, therefore they claim that all are free absolutely... The next is when the democrats, on the grounds that they are all equal, claim equal participation in everything.
It is accepted as democratic when public offices are allocated by lot; and as oligarchic when they are filled by election.
In Athens, "democracy" (literally meaning rule by the people) was in opposition to those supporting a system of oligarchy (rule by a few). Athenian democracy was characterised by being run by the "many" (the ordinary people) who were allotted to the committees which ran the government. Thucydides has Pericles make this point in his Funeral Oration: "It is administered by the many instead of the few; that is why it is called a democracy.”
I want you to take seriously that restructuring this society for the better is not just a question of policy but of actions to make things better, an effort enhances human vitality. Policy alone is not sufficient to create change.
Some societies have dealt with parts of this. A priestly society such as Teotihuacan in Mexico seems to have developed a living situation of great equality at the material level. as the houses as you move out from the religious center seem to be all of the same size. They also seemed to have kept the population equal to the capacity of an agriculture tied to the available acreage on the valley floor. This required managing two systems as one: birth and demographics with food production.
“The fittest survive.” But who are the fittest? The competitors or the cooperators? Humans don’t have to follow evolution. Jefferson’s “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” Is clearly not scientific nor Darwinian, but we can hold to it because it sets the conditions for a less conflicting and more attractive society. Of course we have not reached that goal. We're living in the arc of an uncompleted French Revolution. Fascism, Communism and perhaps even American “Free” enterprise were well meaning wrong headed attempts to follow through, leaving the task still open.
The slow evolution from the shared Commons of the past to the current decaying state is filled with details we may need to undo. One such detail: the CO2 in the atmosphere took cars, now about three billion, a hundred years, pumping out burnt gas at 25 lbs of co2 per gallon. Since you can't run a car’s engine in reverse, that removing existing co2 will be very difficult , given existing and proposed technologies. So too reversing the reduction of the Commons from the whole of the earth, its air, water and sunlight, to a small part of the earth chopped in pieces generation by generation.
An important paper, often used to discredit the idea of the Commons, Garret Hardin’s in 1968, , “The tragedy of the Commons”. The paper was actually written to deal with nuclear disarmament. He argued that community based farmers would overgraze their own cattle at the expense of the community. Historically what ruined the Commons was not the overgrazing by “commoners” but the use of the legal process for large landholders to legally take the land from the Commons, mostly for sheep. . This process is known as “enclosure.” (see E.P. Thompson, Customs in Common'' . For a positive view of the possibility of Commons now see Elinor Ostrom, Governing the Commons)
The old is held together by folk tradition. Habit is the enemy of change and the friend of stability. Habit, that preserved the commons, will also tend to preserve the current competitive society. Just as it took a long time for Commons to give way to private property, so too will habit hold on to rent, market, and jobs. If we want to move toward less consumption and more craft and recreation and family time, it will be hard, but oh so worthwhile . William James wrote:
Habit is thus the enormous fly-wheel of society, its most precious conservative agent. It alone is what keeps us all within the bounds of ordinance, and saves the children of fortune from the envious uprisings of the poor.
For The Commons to succeed it will have to be attractive, building on the desires, explicit and vague, shared and private, across all generations and other differences which split us. Black and white should be replaced with the beauty of tone. We should appreciate each other. Rich and poor should not be segregated because the resulting ignorance is stifling.
John Maynard Keynes wrote a wonderful essay, frequently quoted “Economic prospects for our grandchildren, based on the idea that we can produce the basics - food housing health education - with fewer people as tech advances. But here’s the rub. He suggests that the savings can go to leisure, but we are caught up in growth rather than rethinking what we want and how best to get it. Growth maintains the financial system, and we probably need it to collapse. It has been fateful for society that we chose the path of constantly increasing consumption rather than the constant advance in the quality of human lives - including fairness for all.
So how might a Commons emerge? We need ordinary people (who are never actually ordinary at all) to want to participate in the creation of a world that works for everyone - especially themselves, and realizing that strong people require a strong community and a strong community requires strong people, and that it feels good to be working with others toward a new goal. The Commons can give quality of life in food, habitat, attractiveness of surroundings, safety and appreciation “Do you like living here?” “Sure. it should have always been like this.” More relationships, less traffic. When Jefferfson wrote the Declaration with “happiness”, he di not mean consumer bliss, but the number of roles each person played in society. The more roles the more our talents are integrated with reality.
In Scotland as part of what is called the Scotish Enlightenment, from which Jefferson got the idea of happiness, there was a general philosophical view toward what was called “common sense”. The view of the world and life and actions large and small shared by “all reasonable people”.
Who might such reasonable people be? Shakespeare in The Tempest looks on the future,
Oh, wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! Oh brave new world that has such people in it.
We need to think of terrarians as a positive identity. Earthlings? Perhaps, Words will play an important part but we do not yet know which words . The Commons can span from local communities to watersheds to continents to the internet. Which raises the question, what is the role of technology in the commons? Currently tech development is too linked to private monopolization. Should techs be broken up, or perhaps better, turned, at maturity, into Commons owned utilities?
How might such a Commons be managed? First it requires Human connection. People isolated in consumerism and competition are not good at cooperation and co-creation. This decade will tell us about the current state of our decency and civic mindedness. I am optimistic that, in the midst of legitimate and illegitimate violence, tolerance and empathy are stronger than fear, hatred, and opportunism.
Once we can gather we can manage The Commons in Open Space, developed by Harrison Owen. It goes like this. In the morning we gather in a circle. People are invited to suggest things we need to do or think about. In the center of the circle a pile of paper and some markers and a microphone. Each person who wants to lead comes to the cengter and writes the topic and announces it on the microphone. . There are post-its on the side of the wall with rooms and times, and each presenter picks one that identifies the when and where. When the mornings ideas seem well gathered, people go and sign up for the effort they want to join, and then they disperses into small groups around the leader. The group comes back at the end of the afternoon for thoughts about what happened. The process repeats the next day or perhaps a week later. In this way the community in shared cooperation with self chosen tasks deals with its issues. Note that in this system unattractive tasks can become necessary tasks, and some will volunteer for them for the sake of community. Obviously if no one volunteers for the task maybe it should be forgotten. In modern society we pay low wages to the most disadvantaged to do terrible jobs, such as meat rendering. The psychic burden of such jobs is destructive. no one should do these jobs on more than a very part time basis.
Commons means more human interaction. Confucius was asked what should be learned? He replied “Know your fellow people.” The psyche won't go away. Frustration, fear, guilt ,disdain and jealousy. Seven deadly sins, pride, evy, glutton, lust, jealousy, greed, sloth.. The virtues, less well known, charity, prudence, hope, humility, kindness, perseverance, courage, justice. All the stuff of the great Operas. You will want to understand these, in yourself and in others. Critical self inventory also includes understanding your historical and institutional background.
It's hard to imagine how the change from markets could be brought about. People are deepy controlled by their self chosen habits. In the spaces created by a serious breakdown, their first and deepest impulse is to do what they know: to reestablish mine vs yours, set up boundaries and contracts and private property..
The division into private property is the opposite of the Commons. But to show you how fluid even the most basic concepts are, private property is worth analyzing. Property comes from proper, “What is proper to a man of rank to show his status in society.’ We still use it this way - “Are you dressed properly for the party?” What is a social sign, property, in the community evolves into something that can be bought and sold.
Private is slightly more difficult, Etymological Dictionary has
The original Latin meant “remove from the public”. (From Latin prīvātus (“bereaved; set apart from”), perfect passive participle of prīvō (“I bereave, deprive”), from prīvus (“single, peculiar”). That is, death from the group. What is private is a death and the state bereaved.
A Long way to the modern meaning. This is worth some reflection, It implies that being removed from the community is to lose life. That is, life comes from being in the community. This is psychologically true, as we have seen in the COVID crisis. The implication for the Commons is clear.
These histories are important because they show
Key concepts evolve through culture and use, , not given by god or nature
Point to issues a new Commons will have to rethink over and over.
We seem stuck now but we might see a quick reorganization of the need for community in space created by the breakdowns (such as a fifty percent unemployment or actual starvation), or maybe requires a long multi generational evolution (see The Long Revolution - Raymond Williams.). Remember that The Commons is as much political, cultural and experiential as concerned with material. People and institutions in the Commons, where people are in interaction with all others are fluid, changing, not static.
Social arrangements result through political struggle against overbearing elites, but in the struggle elites have been winning out, culminating in ungovernability, substituting market and poverty for political choice.. The long arc is toward human fullness. The struggle, from uprisings in the old empires through the Europe of the Renaissance to the present is incomplete. The effort for the Commons is part of continuing the arc. It will not be easy.
For an alternative view.
There are some important exceptions. Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living, but christianity (and most official religions) use human nature, while questing for the ethical life, against itself. Some of those who have been interested in the dynamics of society as the ground for the dynamics of the human psche are Erich Fromm as, represented by Escape from Freedom and The Sane Society, and Theodore Roszak and ecopsychology in his book Voice of the Earth. And earlier Alfred Adler.
Other exceptions (see wikipedia psychoanalysis and socialism)) were submerged by the Wars. The fate of pscyhoanalysis and Marx is importnat because our view of reality is very influences by their work (Dreams, class, sex, family influence) but ignored. It will; come back, if not as these names, but the issues are perennial.
We need to support each other moving toward relationships and cooperative projects that make sense. We need to withdraw support from those with high incomes and concentrated wealth who used that wealth to isolate themselves from the rest of us, where the few now live in isolated compounds.
Gardenworld implies major changes in institutions, culture and lifestyle. This will be very hard. But with more cooperation we would avoid the dog eat dog world of Hobbesian all against all. Money might disappear in exchange for a system of commons based production.
Imagine that in the morning we get together in a large circle and people raise issues and after the ideas that people want to raise that day are presented, volunteers gather around the project that interests them and the proposer organizes. The next day (or a week) the process repeats. For example, food production is normally brought to the center and distributed to all who want some. If there is not enough, that makes clear what a major volunteer team would work on the next day — and so on till the problem is solved. (9)
No path, except anarchy, is likely to emerge without a vision of where we are headed in order to. avoid just getting in each other’s way. Anarchy should be considered. The criteria for all efforts should ask (along with many other considerations)
Does it help feed the people?
Does it provide homes for the people?
Does it lead to participation?
Does it support people through the human life cycle?
Is it attractive and blended with food and habitat?
We tend to have obliterated the future. Feynman says no, we are (probably) closer to the early stages. The environment and much of contemporary life are at risk. A viable future must start with the facts of a failed biosphere, a failed governance and failed normal security for each life. Gardenworld is a project of reinvention, which includes redeeming our personal psyches. Including climate, the world faces major problems: population, inequality, weakness of government to be able to deal with issues. You know the list. We hope that what we do for one or several issues will help, not hurt what we are doing for the other issues. Responding effectively will depend on a practice of global systems management with openness to what newly emerges. Don’t get defensive. The balance is up to people like all of us. A great practice is what the Jesuits call “discernment of spirits.” At the end of the day remember from first to last the encounters you had with others, and just notice what the spirit of that meeting was.
Whether we cope with climate turbulence in the short term or drift in the long-term, both will lead to decline in fossil fuel use; havoc will follow with all of the interdependencies we have built up. If you increase your income by ten percent the choices are fairly easy — you just choose where to add it in. But if your income decreases by ten percent, you face the complexity of threatening all the interdependencies among the things you have been doing.
You need to make sure your sensitivity to what is emerging around you — in your family, community and the globe — is not just attuned to your preconceived plans and assumptions. We need to face the reality of what is happening and move into a serious mobilization in the face of deteriorating social support. There are differences of opinion about the severity of conditions. The problem will be the tendency of this mobilization to cope with fossil fuel use to turn authoritarian. This will be desirable in the minds of many to overcome clashing interests and cope as the toll rises. This will be especially true for demands to repurpose land, and create new political leverage. The distribution of remaining food and energy will be very difficult. Cooperation while keeping an honest inventory with foresight will be important in deciding what we should develop. We need to reawaken the democractic impulse in the context of increasing complexity.
Food will need to be rationed because of its scarcity, and energy use curtailed to meet co2 goals. Shifting priorities under the pressure of necessity will stimulate painful confrontations. How should society manage the emerging conflicts? Politics is about conflict, and to avoid politics is to hope there is no conflict, but this will be impossible.We probably will see less representative democracy and more direct democracy, often with the consensus of spontaneously formed community groups. Critically discerning real leaders from mafia-like demagogues will be important. Along with more direct democracy also more direct claims for authority and power to determine projects and their ownership.
A good start would be to organize local garden supply companies, seed companies, garden associations like master gardeners, challenge them with the idea that they will be in the forefront of organizing local land for food and habitat.
How should land be used and managed? Land is considered property, where property comesfrom proper — what is proper to a man of rank to show his status in society. Property thus tells the world who we are. If property gets repurposed away from the multitude of private purposes toward food and habitat, many asset owners will be threatened, especially those with current political power, and this will stirresistances. Working through this requires something very hard — to shift our pleasures from owning to cooperating, from material stuff to prioritizing relationships — with people, animals and plants. Circumstances will force that, but may lead, instead of to cooperation and care, to mafias and militarization. Transitioning will mean changing what Erich Fromm called our social character — the social conditions which organize our ways of being. While childhood is important in creating the person, much still happens as the person adapts to the needs of a particular economy.
Who we will become, our attitudes and political ideas in response to the demands of climate disruption and the emerging society is worth lots of discussion. Any politics which does not aim towards the humanization of its people and the gardening of the world is not an adequate politics.
Preventing or limiting climate disruption and related transitions will need to go beyond policies and proposals for technical interventions. Interventions, such as putting co2 as a solid in the earth, solar panels, nuclear power, vegetarianism, all with good intent, require time and expense to manufacture and deploy to scale such solutions.
We need better thinking that integrates promising ideas, not one at a time that then get in each other’s way. Something that seems simple, like replacing coal and gas fired electricity with solar and wind leaves out the cost of conversion for the individual house. An electric furnace plus installation is $3–8 thousand dollars. The environmental impact of manufacturing 80 million furnaces is overlooked but cannot be ignored. The impact on the many households which use gas for cooking and hot water would be severe.
These thoughts raise intriguing questions about the use of quantification, metrics, and computer models in Gardenworld. The metric issue should go deep, mechanical vs organic, China compared to the West, reduction vs holistic. We may be inclined to give metrics to how nature works, to account for interdependencies we don’t currently value. But measurement is a tool among many for Gardenworld. Metrics without narrative remain incomplete and misleading, such as GDP. We should remember, behind every metric are questions — why is this piece of information worth gathering? A Gardenworld future means organizing research not to seek certainty, but reveal the questions and explanations we haven’t thought of, critically balancing data with narrative.
Avoiding 2 degrees and staying below it needs draconian moves, ones the politicians are not acting on. Remember, the agreed upon “goal” is 350 ppm of co2. It is also consensus that we will not get there before serious climate heating occurs. If somehow we mandated no fossil fuel heating of homes and offices, we would get a rapid cascade of chaos. If we had no gas for food deliveries, the population would be on the edge of starvation in 48 hours. Without such a nudge to deal with systemic issues in an integrated way it is likely that we keep drifting. Proposals to substitute fuels misses the issue of extracting such fuels. If coal and oil are available, black markets will distribute them.
Let’s say we are able to bring the price of solar generated electricity below that of electricity generated by fossil fuels. This leaves several important questions:
As mentioned above, who pays for replacing the gas heater with an electric heater? That includes installation and remodeling costs as well as the cost for the device. The energy companies will work hard to make sure we generate that electricity with oil and gas — and more coal than we want to acknowledge. New laws are being passed to disallow gas in new buildings, but that does not affect the homes currently using gas. The number of new electric heaters that would have to be manufactured for these is on the order of 50–100 million for the US, and what of half the world that still cooks on open fires? Such manufacturing will produce more pollution and use even more energy. The process requires old technologies of mining the minerals and producing the plastics that go into manufacturing these units, let alone transporting them from mine to factory, and from the factory to homes. There are many parallel questions with major effects and these questions will turn into conflicts that will need to be lived with and worked through
Draconian moves will take shape as seemingly small interruptions with major consequences. Politicians just are not going to do this — yet. Perhaps such moves enable the public, society, and institutions to move towards a different way of living. Consider the following ways of cutting fossil fuels:
As of the first of next month, no more air travel. Well, many people are not at home, but traveling. Do we allow them to return? If they all tried in the days remaining in the month there are not enough flights to do this. And how many would game the system? And would the ground and flight crews show up? Of course there would be a legal response. But this is the kind of action that will be needed to shake up the system and force a move toward meeting the 2 degree (or perhaps 1.5 degree) goal. The FAA could do this, though legal responses to try to prevent it would happen in hours.
Other possible draconian moves, things that must be done.
*No fuel for trucks as of next month. No food delivered at any distance. Total chaos. Part of our failure of governance is it is not clear that this could be done, even if necessary. Perhaps the Food and Drug Administration working with the Interstate Commerce Commission could do this. But very unlikely as no leader could bring about that coordination except the President, or a military coup.
*No going to jobs that are not contributions to survival or rebuilding new society. Who decides?
*No fuel for heating homes. If a home can’t be heated, why pay the mortgage? Banks fail. Cascading effects will swamp the current system. Politics as we know it cannot deliver these actions. Discussion and policy do not lead to action.
What about a popular revolt? Would a popular revolt have such goals in mind, or merely use violence to get the resources to continue a few more months, maybe even days? A popular revolt would be met by the power of the state — if the National Guard would show up. Unlikely. Any uprising would lead to local chaos which would lead to the emergence of mafia-like local strong men “We provide you with security, you provide us with goods.” If there are any left after 48 hours. Production ceases, storage would be used up.
In Gardenworld, a core task will be rethinking the financial system with all of its many aspects:
Capitalism is a way of making decisions on the use of resources and goals for those uses. In a way it is a replacement of democracy with a different social contract, with managers (which include owners) rather than citizens, making the decisions for society. The stupid thing is, we reward these managers as if they were the old land owning elite rather than as highly skilled technical managers. They are chosen, say by a board, based on the judgment that they will do what the organization needs, without exercising an independent perspective.
The world, as a complex dynamic object, needs management, and that means we need managers. But as of now the managers of the resources of society, from raw materials to institutions, manage these parts for their own benefit, not for the benefit of society.
These managers of societal resources should be paid for what they are: reasonably performing technocrats. Ownership is mystification and class maintaining — and socially destructive as it sets one class, which tends to control the state, against another, which has to absorb distributed poverty.
The current logic of capitalism has Tim Cook as worth billions, but this wealth requires the participation of society, and he gets to privatize rather than share the results.
Absent political and social moves, technical proposals to climate disruption are inadequate. Solar power, nuclear power, agricultural innovations, sequestering technologies, or planting co2 absorbing landscapes on their own will not improve outcomes. An alternative approach is radical decentralization, letting each community struggle and innovate on their own. But the sheer number of people, many turned into migrants, will force coordinations across projects. We have to consider what it will take for different approaches to be in motion simultaneously — centralized or decentralized, some mixture of the two, hierarchy with flat networks.
We need to revisit our priorities in order to manage for the good of all. Most people feel they have not seen an alternative to drifting. It is not crazy to stay in a leaky canoe if you do not have an alternative. We need to borrow from boating what is referred to as jettisoning: throwing overboard unneeded stuff in order to keep afloat: what to hold onto, what to throw away, what to repurpose? These are hard choices that require a different culture, reinventing our prior logics along the way. Although we are not starting from scratch, often it will feel like it.
Transitioning will mean considering these questions: where are we? how did we get here? what can happen? what should we do? When the future is unknown, we will need to design, plan and implement for extreme flexibility — in where we live and how and in what? When many of the important decisions for transitioning will emerge, we need guiding principles that ground our intent as we work towards pathways which integrate people and the earth.
Such principles could include the architect Chris Alexander’s suggesting we chose what is lively over what is deadening. It includes Erich Fromm’s discussions of how social arrangements, such as competitiveness and stress on self limit the development of character. And we could bring in how the Psychoanalyst Erik Erikson suggests a detailed view of the human life cycle can become a template against which to judge the value of social projects. Gardenworld will encourage us to study and reflection, developing an awareness of self and others, in many directions. The future could be for learners and lovers.
For example, an initial set of principles, a kind of new ten commandments that focus on ethics for the digital age, could include:
1. Each day do something for the person you know who is having the worst time.
2. Each day do something for the person you know *of* who is having the worst time.
3. Each day do something about the very worst situation you know about (its ok to be myopic — just do it) in the world.
4. Network the resulting projects.
5. Teach others to participate.*
6. Leave your local habitation more beautiful, at the end of the day, than you found it. Do something about it.
7. Do something, each day, to weave the tapestry of community conversations, consciously, by having at least one conversation you would not have otherwise.
8. Create culture with your children.
9. Study harder beyond current affairs or narrow profession.
10. Smile honestly and enjoy this life, even in its worst moments.
Other candidates for thoughtfulness. · Be careful on reading adds · Put Relationships before materialships · Hate or anger is a sign of not seeing strategically · Love may mean narrowing of focus · Stay healthy · Respect other’s gods · Bring others into your conversations · Speak with intent · The way up and the way down are the same · Eating towards health · breathing towards relaxed · Sex towards love · politics towards inclusions and community · foreign affairs towards delight · business towards refreshing · money towards real use and beauty · art towards beauty and revelation · movement towards grace · friendship towards depth · language towards quality · education towards complexity · childhood towards fullness · lies towards the minimum · violence towards comprehension · architecture towards the hospitable · reading towards the uncomfortable · science towards the real unknown · sleep towards dreams · work towards meaning · self at times towards others · at times towards the whole · and you will be natural
We probably need new forms of action that take place outside the existing constitutional and legal structures of government. In practice, this will mean deepening our understanding of the human and our place in life and death by asking who are we? What do we want? How do we thrive? We need an ethics that takes caring seriously but also includes some aspects of science: honesty, experimentalism, the legitimacy of questioning, and knowing there is no final state of culture but a continuing evolution as humans and circumstances interact. We should work towards a feeling of joy in participating, knowing that danger lies at the edges — and sometimes in our midst, this is not only ok, it is the dance life offers. In order “to make the frozen circumstances dance, we have to sing to them their own melody” (10) . Our task is to develop the melody the earth offers us and turn it into a culture. We need to live the questions(11), and this is the intent Gardenworld invites.
You need to cooperate, bring anyone you are meeting into the conversation
Take care of those who are hurt
Make all efforts help build toward survival and flexibility
To the extent that you can, build toward Gardenworld (food, habitat and aesthetics)
Try to think longer term
Our thesis, not in words, but expressed in painting (12).
There is literature that can help.
Scott’s Against the Grain is about the resistance of hunter gathers (to the luddites and and a large part of the current progressive orientation) to further institutionalizations.
Marshall Sahlins’ Stone Age Economy is still a major contribution to rethinking core values.
Charles Mann’s 1491 on the state of the Americas before Columbus bumped into its off-shore islands.
Mccarraher’s The Enchantment of Mammon, How Capitalism Became the Religion of Modernity raises the issues of what’s at stake for humanity,
Aristotle’s On Generation and Corruption explores how we can have development without growth.
Dante’s Divine Comedy shows a model of the depth we could go to understand the leading characters of our time and the possibilities of the future.
There are so many books on what is wrong: Naomi Kline’s On Fire, Monbiot Rewilding, Beck’s Metamorphosis. Dartnell’s The Knowledge talks about how to renew society after a collapse.
Arrighi’s The Long Twentieth Century is a fabulous history as is
Malko’s Economics and its Discontents.
Kenneth Burke’s Grammar of Motivesdiscusses the scene-act ratio.
Erich Fromm’s The Sane Society and
Garry Wills’ Inventing America deal with the construction of society.
Theodore Roszack’s Voice of the Earth is a psychological exploration.
BarringtonMoore’s Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy,
Wendy Brown’s End of the Demos and
James Baldwin’s Fire Next Time are about the end and future of politics.
Andro Linklater, Owning the Earth
See Andro Linklater, Owning the Earth
(2)oo few people have direct experience with nature, with landscape, or night sky. This will retard adaptation to new needs for food and habitat. Better education will be needed.
See Aristotle, On Generation and Corruption
Christopher Alexander, The Nature of Order
Gary Wills, Inventing America
The Power of Community: Film about Cuban response to no oil: https://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/the-power-of-community-how-cuba-survived-peak-oil-2006
Daniel Schmactenbergeer, Humanities phase shift,
Carl Schmitt, Nomos of the Earth
This is based on the model of Open Space mediumdeveloped by Harrison Owen.
Karl Marx, German Ideology
Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
Thomas Cole, Course of Empire, This painting, like Yeats “The center cannot hold” are quoted frequently
(link back to book and its chapters
Nothing lasts without a definite form. This brings some needed tension and intention to realizing Gardenworld. What we should do takes us from thought to action. A few years ago doing some interviews in Detroit I heard “Policy is where the rubber meets the air.” Once we have agreed that Gardenworld is the goal, what should we do? First be aware of what is at stake: caring for people is first, and realizing what build is second. We could expand human freedom: free from the need for food and income while accepting participation in a community. There are big questions such as leadership, who does the work/ what do we do with our Richard III problem, Shakespeare's malevolently motivated King out for power? Gardenworld is a community that, placing human beings in nature, tends to unite the transcendent (the mystery of the universe) with the pragmatic (getting dinner, cleaning up the children): deeper experience with practical needs. So it is a good practice to see the transcendent and the practical as intertwined.
Weare laying out a goal and experimenting with the steps, but that takes courage and imagination because no path leafs there. And it takes time though urgency will drive gast but lead to mistakes. We want a liveable future to emerge so that it might follow as fast as circumstances permit.
We need to beware, be aware, that The tides and storms of history are strong and we are sailing a small boat riding the swells we cannot control.
“There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.”
This will be somewhat true in daily life in Gardenworld which is, after all, a world in recovery seekingseeling a new path. As I write we are in some phase of the virus problem and people are thinking but not talking about climate.. I am going to assume that as we come out of it as fullyfullt as we can, we will hit into the next speed bump, climate. Because I want to focus on the goal of Gardenworld, remember that the book is an aid to thinking. It is not the plan, but the issues that any future must consider. We should not be too naive. The whole of Gardenworld is an attempt to find light among the cracks in the long lasting struggle for power as groups have struggled for control of society. This book is on the edge between what if and what now?. The danger is that some of us will try to impose an ideological rigidity on what we should be doing. Above all to deal with a vulnerable humanity on a fragile planet, we need flexibility and caring. Nobody has thought through to a solution. It is too early - and also late. The tendency will be to try to reconstruct what we know: especially property and power relationships. But Gardenworold, and most discussions of the future, hope that we can do better.
First, be clear about where we are. We may be facing a complex scene hard to grasp with our imagaining. People will be scared and needing each other amidst violence and hunger, in the context of police that are preventing access to where wealth is stored . “The rich can hire half the poor to defend themselves against the other half”. But it may be difficult for the rich to organize and feed their own staff much less the police and national guard. The police also have families and are likely to opt out of work and try to embrace survival.
But all this is speculation. If the energy and information grid go down and transportation is impossible because of lack of fuel, the surrounding circumstances will b e wildly chaotic. Very difficult.
What do we need?
Much is happening that is unfamiliar. We need to challenge the core assumptions about how we are currently living and what we should use our time for — an experimental mindset that works considering all possibilities, while specifying pathways which are likely to violate the constraints of the present. The environment, governance, and the economy are not set up to work for all. We should notice connections and not be satisfied with conventional approaches that do more to protect the current system than help.
The project of creating Gardenworld cannot ignore old traditions.The Bill of Rights and the14th Amendment, the Pledge of Allegiance. It is important that gardenworld be faithful to the intent, which means doing better than we actually did in the past. If we had followed these original thoughts more closely much of our current problems would never have appeared. “All men are created equal”, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they resid”
We need specifics on implementation -- cutting fossil fuel use and stopping its extraction. Most proposals for dealing with climate and its related consequences avoid politics and lack critical reflection on how to transition. When people will be hurt by necessary changes, technical and policy interventions will stir strong resistance. The need for food, habitat, and culture need integration.
Humanity lacks a shared path from where we are to staying below 2 degrees—a path which includes everyone and benefits the entire planet. Under pressures of severe scarcity, especially of food, violence will likely increase. We need an optimistic view that is plausible. Winds of despair, fear, and panic will come. As climate disruption presses in on us, either we respond or we continue to drift. Optimism requires a goal.
The rich and the urban have always looked down on the farmer but loved the food, delighted in gardens but disdained gardening. This will change as circumstances force a new consensus. Gardenworld - a better future, its politics, economy and philosophy, is dramatic on purpose, not because the book lives up to it, but because the crisis is real and all starts are good. We are facing many simultaneous challenges, and not
responding very well. Climate heating, population, migrations, weakness of governments, failure to distribute the benefits of society. Gardenworld is a project whose time has come, its politics, economy and philosophy. Gardenworld is the most practical framework for responding. In essence it is because the primary need for humanity will be food, and meaning. Collapse or not, Gardenworld is a good goal.
The problem with markets
If we each go out and just do what we want, economics says we will have a very good, even optimal, outcome. The problem with markets is that they sum across all transactions over time and give an advantage to those with more money .with the result that they increase their share of wealth.. This hints at how hard - and traditional - the task of reorganizing in a Gardenworld context will be. By traditional I mean all the old issues, from ancient civilization to now around power and engagement and fairness - the quality of life in society- will be thought and rethought till the end of time.
How should society organize this next transition? How do we enable conditions not just for survivability, but for thriving, with pleasure and gratitude at being alive? Our pressing issues always have been, and will continue to be, interrelated. Society, like the earth itself, is not static. Knowing there will be major losses, we need to actively craft a complex ethos. Instead of embracing a long-view, we’ve relied on coal and oil, overlooking the health of the population as a whole. There is a growing sense that pursuing profit, consumerism, war, and technology have created a world which isolates us.
To cope with a different future that diverges from growth and technology we will need to take apart our belief in progress as linear and inevitable. We have a history of development something like from fire to the vwheel, the clock, the printing press, electricity, TV, iPhones. And we think this is
progress, unquestioned. But in parallel with this line we have another line with military at the center of invention, guns, slavery, raising up wealth and pushing down ordinary people to be labor. It is clear that this pair of parallel lines tells us that maybe it isn’t progress after all, but a mixed bag we can - and must - rethink.
The core focus of relationships — meaning, character, what makes a good life — are lost when the stage is set for competition over cooperation, for isolation over community. The roots to our environmental and political crises lie here. In the urgency to grow, we’ve forgotten what it means to manage for the good of all. Take a core issue, like the struggle between social and individual ownership of land1. This has no perfect solution. Still, the tension must be creatively managed.
Economics, a word created by the Greeks in the 6th century BC meant Estate (eco) management (nomos). We need a renewed sense of economy as managing the world for the benefit of all of us, a new sense of managing the globe for the good of humans. Economicshhas become to much a tool for the rich to ge richer (the explict goal of eitenth centuy economy, the sceince of wealth at atime of world trade, slavery and colonization). We have a positive agenda
ahead if we embrace it: ecological restoration, and the distribution of the fruits of
technology so it really is labor saving. Politics is the lost art of managing conflict in human communities. Philosophy should be our reflections on what we are doing.
We are born in to the middle of the story. As I write (May 2019) there is a growing consensus that we will not do what would be necessary to prevent warming beyond 2 degrees. We are acting as though we can prevent the triggering of climate change, but the cause is in the past and once the gun is fired you can’t put the bullet back, you can only deal with the consequences. Also there is much more going wrong than climate, such as the inability of governance to act.
“Since London passed legislation declaring a state of climate emergency all
indicators have gotten worse.” In particular increasing the ppm of CO2 in
atmosphere. Public anger and concern are growing with no solutions (that both
scale and make an adequate difference) in sight.
Since the public discussion is increasingly reflecting a sense of despair that we will do anything but drift, this provocation is based on the idea that we need to be thinking through the issues that arise from that consensus.
We are facing many simultaneous challenges, and not responding very well. Climate heating, population, migrations, weakness of governments, failure to distribute the benefits of society. This is the dilemma: doing nothing will have a bad end and all the adequate proposals to actually do something are grim. We need what in boating is
called jettisoning: throwing overboard unneeded stuff in order to keep afloat. We need to explore the real possibilities of what to jettison. Proposed solutions to global heating: sequestration, solar panels, nuclear power, vegetarianism, all take too much time and expense to manufacture and deploy to scale. Economics 2500 years ago meant estate management. Now we need a new sense of managing our current globalized estate for the good of humans.
We are acting as though we can prevent the triggering of climate change, say by shifting from carbon to alternative sources of energy - solar and wind, and as yetunspecified new technologies. But the cause is already in the past and once the gun is fired we can only deal with the consequences. We have relied too long on a mix of technology, free markets banks, representative government and media - and the result is a serious failure. Can we, with common sense, technology, cooperation, and care, do Better?
This is a serious hit on a public that already feels it has no place in the elite technical futures (who needs workers?), and whose income has, by staying level for decades (in the US), actually means declines because of the rise of necessary expenditures - iPhone and longer commutes. The press also reports on money spent to protect seaside wealthy communities.
Politics may be one of the most difficult parts of getting us to a better future. As of now, scientific consensus is that we need a major cutback on the use of fossil fuels. How can that be done? It seems like it requires an agreement among all of us because if some resist it would weakening
Gardenworld, and any future world, should be designed to enhance the quality of individual lives. This means also communities because there are no strong individuals without strong communities, and no strong communities without strong individuals. Gardenworld, and any future world, should be designed to enhance the quality of individual lives in the context of healthy communities. I like what Confucius said
“I listen carefully, try to be of use, and take my recreation in the arts.”
Without a goal, efforts are incoherent. Much talk, especially from politicians and corporate leaders, is to change enough to keep the current system - which caused the problems - continuing its momentum. I am proposing that we combine agricultural -survival- and cultural goals -meaning - into what I am calling Gardenworld, not a plan but a guide. Plans tend to be rigid and break, guides are a basis for reflective judgement on what we are doing. Since most of us want to live in a combination of civilization and nature, why don’t we make that the design goal?
And here too, is a fountainhead of modern man's dilemma. He wants both the primitive and the civilized, both adventure and regularity, both romance and comfort : but alas! Neither Defoe nor Rousseau gave him any prescriptions for incorporating these elements in a single life. -Mumford Condition of man.
Any politics which does not aim at the the humanization of its people and the gardening of the world is an inadequate politics. What we should do is a combination of thought, intent, design and action. Obviously we have to deal with food, shelter, land, waer, health, and children. But it is the degree of awareness and care that is going to be important.
Be vulnerable. It is the instrument for sensing the world because, as Keynes said, “the difficulty lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones, which ramify, for those brought up as most us have been, into every corner of our minds.”
Many things were done in traditional villlages that are lost arts. Do you know anyone who make furnitre, blows glass forges iron, can take out an appendix without anesthesia? There is much we need to learn.
The first practical task will be to take care that people are fed and can feel some security. I recommend the book The Knowledge on the practical taks facing a serious start from scratchA prime action of Gardewnrold will be to the restoration of of nature’s healthSince almost everyone wants to live in a mix of nature and civilization, we should use our intelligence and wealth to go there. Mostly because we are caught up in reproducing the habits of daily life as we have known it rather than taking a fresh look. We need to be realistic about how to get through the bottleneck of unsolved problems. It will be important to consider the aesthetics, the pragmatic issues of feeding and habitat for all of us. Including aesthetics can bring out the craftsman instinctinstincy in each of us to make our solutions both practical and attractive.
Early startssyatys can lead to early lock-in. FirstFist moves can be fateful. With far less stuff and energy, finance in doubt and communication possibly minimal. The effort to try to rebuild the complex world of late industrial capitalism is likely to be very misguided. The goal of Gardenworld is to blend ecological restoration and technology to meet the food/habitat needs without the dynamics of wealth concentration which makes passive depressed pawns of most of us rather than encouraging us to join in community building..
Civilization and Nature will be blended for humans, making the environment and the crippled people whole again. This is hard work. with a better distribution of wealth and technology, with new forms of governance and smarter more hopeful philosophy. A major obstacle will be those who will try to take possession of remaining fragments of technology and use these to regain the old social structure of private property, especially, land, and the equivalent of slavery of others through wages. Unlike a fresh start, old pieces of the old culture suggest that the old culture (capital and business culture) can be quickly reconstituted, missing the fact that such efforts are not going to be well adapted to the new conditions of limits.) the hope that we can reconstitute Gardenworld without the old pressures of profit, ownership, leadership..
We moderns of the upper say 10% of the population are not well equipped to adapt to this the emerging new culture of Gardenworld, ven if we all agree it is the best path, even a necessary path. Farming we have almost never seen, gardens are small and conventional. Those with real skill at gardening, farming and coping with frequent water and electricity outages will do better than us at coping with some grace and less fear. These are the world wide rural poor.
If we imagine that people are wandering about anxiously, fear is in the air, circumstances seem against us, then we shouldWe should start looking for opportunities to
Blend these with aesthetics
Use craft ideas
Don't try to control others but cooperate and explore with everyone.Find them roles, ask them what there to do. try to control others but to cooperate and explore
In the human nature chapter 2 I discussed the need for and desire for play and art . These are questions of attitude over which we have lots of control. Painters learn to find the beautiful to paint in scenes that are boring, Try in your own perceptions to shift from boring, even ugly, to amazingly beautiful. You can do it, even if for a few moments. Practice will make it easier and that will make working for Gardenworld more fruitful - for it and for you.
The task of creating a bit of civilization that has an enduring place in nature is like setting up a card table on an uneven lawn. It takes trial and error to find a place where the four legs stand firmly. Then comes the task of arranging stuff on the table. Obviously too much causes collapse,. A structure that might look stable, if overbuilt, becomes unstable in a wind, rain, earthquake or the dog brushing against a leg. Thinking through to a good design is going to be important.
The goal of Gardenworld is reached best when we know how to blend the necessity of food with the necessity of habitat, and can proceed with an active aesthetic and even playful sense.
For whom are we designing Gardenworld? Start with belief: what do you believe in and what can be done to implement that belief in a chaotic world, a world that is more like an art or film studio than like a museum. The pieces are not finished, maybe not even started, but the materials and your intent are present. The condition of the present crisis, created by decades of misdirection, do not allow us to regain a healthier version of the past. We have gone too far. Much new is needed. We have sought marvelously better machines, not marvelously better people.
If we all cooperated round the technologies of disease control, energy, food we have a solid chance of doing well. But it would require the long shot of giving up land ownership, capitalist modes of exploitation, wars and local guns. This would work, but it is unlikely we will do it. We might be locked in to our culture through law and character. But we have to try. Each and all. In the introduction I wrote “We have built a society where owning things is more important than having relationships. What is in play for Gardenworld (or any alternative) is the development of an attractive civilization and your own personal development as a thinking, feeling reflective healthy person. “
Let's start with the two largest problems, climate breakdown and ecological destruction. No wait, what about population? Wait, what about politics? This is a good start because it implies we can allow into the conversation anything that might be relevant. No taboos.
If, as the experts say we must, cut carbon fuel use, who will be affected, how, when? Perhaps the office building goes unheated. Workers don’t show and don’t get paid, their mortgage goes in default… it is interwoven effectslike this that are likely to dominate (because of fragility and lack of redundancy in our major utilities ) and cause major destruction and havoc. Makes it very hard to predict what will happen, who will do what and when will they do it. So my overwhelming guide are
You need to cooperate, bring anyone you are meeting into the conversation.
Take care of those who are hurt
Make all efforts to help build toward survival and flexibility.
To the extent that you can, build toward Gardenworld.
Try to think longer term.
In time of crises of the Spirit, we are aware of all our needs, our needs for each other and our need for ourselves. - Muriel Rukeyser
Cutting through the dominance of formalistic economics is going to be important, though maybe pushed to the side by practical needs. Typical economics, say on carbon tax, lays out a policy position but makes no reference to the impact on ordinary people. Say we cut fossil fuel use. Who is affected?
The discernment of “ordinary” people is humbling. Most actually have a pretty good idea of what is going on and who is benefitting. But there is nothing in the press that is guidance to these folks (us too) on what to do, to cope personally, with ones family, with ones community.
This is where What to do enters in. A return to an economy as estate management, where the “estate” is our global home, and its management accepted as the task would be a terrific advance, and I think it implies Gardenworld. Any future society will need accounting of how much we have, how we are handling it, what needs to happen - for the estate, not just for the rich.
The economy is organized around the method of gaining wealth for the upward part of the population. This is too narrow for the future.
Things to add
We need to pay attention to education. It is reasonable to assume that the whole structure of education as we have known it has collapsed. Cub and China in the ealy days tthe current regimes, undertook programs of encouraging normally educated people to teach those younger or who had fallen bend. “Each one teach one” was a slogan.
The Brazilian, Paulol Freire, created a program to teach unlettered sigar cane workers to read. The method was simple: basically to provide written words describing the most emotionally laden themes in the villages. Given the high emotuonal sarees , perps “corrupt mayor’ or “the water has been stolen, “ learning happened in just one session.
Modern education has been broken up into specialties and general ability to see the community as a whole has been lost. Detailed specialty knowledge is good unless it turns out it is compatible with the understanding of broader issues and not driving them out of curiosity and investigation.
In their disdain for history, policy makers tend to look only to the recent
past to understand the sources of problems (Watt 1992; Tainter 1995).
Longer-term views are rarely adopted. Perhaps one benefit of climate change is that it is forcing policy makers to extend the temporal range of their thinking into both the past and the future. Modern observations on both human behavior and environmental variation