Joanne Poyourow's blog

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.

Economic contraction will hit us first.

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.

My heart goes out to the people of Japan.  The terrible destruction of home and entire towns, the unspeakable terror of nuclear catastrophe, but above all the horriffic loss of family members, extended family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, neighborhoods, and entire communities.

We are all Japan. 

Owen Dell, landscape architect in Santa Barbara and author of Sustainable Landscaping for Dummies, recently wrote a blog post he refers to as an exposé of rain barrels.  Basically, his conclusion is that the current popular status rain barrels have attained is misplaced, and rain barrels don't make sense.

I disagree.

I currently have eleven 55-gallon rain barrels around my Los Angeles property, and probably will acquire more.  At first I bought a few of these for my then-preteen-age-son, who had outgrown Legos and needed a larger scale project.  But soon after I got them, I began to glimpse the wide range of functionality.

Call me a day late and a dollar short.  Or maybe behind-the-times with respect to Facebook.  But I completely missed the posting blitz where Facebook fans used the "urban homesteading" term as many times as they possibly could in a single day.  In fact, I learned about the posting blitz via our Transition U.S. newsletter, which, when I opened my email, at first shocked me with the brazenly open use of the term.

I'd heard about the urban homesteading controversy itself, of course.  Much of it is unfolding in my own hometown, the greater L.A. area. 

I bought a new pair of shoes lately.  All my friends gleefully applauded my purchase, and my husband was very pleased too.

You see, about three weeks ago, while on the construction site for the new community garden we're building in my neighborhood, I sprained my ankle pretty badly.  Limping awkwardly, I discovered very quickly that I simply didn't have the right kind of footwear.  City shoes, even "practical" shoes with just a little bit of heel don't work with an injury, and you can't grip a slide-style shoe when you're sporting an ace bandage. 

That got me thinking about Transition footwear.

Cheery, charismatic, creative, constructive ...  There are many “C” words which describe the Transition movement, its basic ideas, and the way this movement is manifesting itself in hundreds if not thousands of communities worldwide.  In a recent piece, Carolyn Baker complains that many members of Transition are unwilling to use what seems to be her favorite “C” word: collapse.

Frankly, I don’t see the point of it.  I do occasionally use the word “collapse,” although I’m much more likely to modify a bit and use the word “contraction,” particularly with respect to economics (as in, “economic contraction,” getting smaller, pulling inward).  It has been plenty adequate to get the point across.

To me, collapse goes hand in hand with chaos.  Baker is adamant that we put collapse at center stage.  And to that I say: You’ve got the wrong movement, sister. 

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