Rapid change has characterized the past few years. Climate-induced disruption, Covid variants, social upheavals, political paralysis, supply chain dysfunctions, the widening wealth gap. We barely learn to adjust to one situation as individuals, communities, or nation-states when a whole new set of circumstances emerges.
At the Schumacher Center we are taking the stance of welcoming the future, stepping into it with arms wide open. Imagining what is ahead and building for it, with clarity, with purpose, with celebration.
Concentration of land ownership will of necessity be addressed. Land will be redistributed so that access is more equitable, whether through voluntary gifts or in a more heavy-handed manner. It is incumbent on citizens in every region to form community land trusts or other Commons structures in readiness to accept gifted land and manage its reallocation.
Dependence on fossil fuels will end. The reality of climate change dictates a cessation of their use. A Worldwide electric grid is our most practical option to facilitate broad, fair, and efficient energy access. It can be a grid of distributed renewable sources of energy or a nuclear-powered grid engineered by centralized decree. Let us commit to the future we envision and fully understand what it will take to build out the wind, solar, thermal, and water-powered systems now, community by community–creating the appropriate technology required and generously sharing that technology with other regions and the world.
Blockchain technology will revolutionize the way transactions are made, contracts are written, and records are stored. Its character can be speculative creating ever-wider gaps in wealth. Its effects can further distant production from end-users and foster ever greater globalization of trade without accounting for impact on local communities. Or we can harness the blockchain to support local currencies, community banks, foster more local trade, and in the process identifying opportunities for import replacement.
Reliance on the massive movement of goods over long distances will come to an end. The environment cannot sustain the impact. With some exceptions, new small businesses will emerge to serve area customers with goods produced regionally. The choices will be smaller, limited by the natural resources and the particular human skills of each unique place.
Individual entrepreneurs cannot alone bear the burden of forming these new businesses by themselves, nor can the creativity and invention required be the product of centralized planning. Consumers and producers will join together, sharing risk and sharing wealth, in developing community-supported industries modeled on the highly successful and distributed CSA movement. The composition of businesses will look different in every locality. They will work at different scales from a regional meat processing facility serving hundreds of small farms, to a felted slipper manufacturer distributing to local shops, to a neighborhood cloth diaper service.
Old, accumulated wealth will not remain stagnant. It will either be captured in taxes or released as free gifts and interest-free investments, enlivening cultural, social, and economic activity.
A redistribution of land, a reconfiguration of energy production, localized trading systems, the introduction of community-supported industries, and the freeing of old capital are all potential when undertaken in newly configured, place-based, community associations.
Our task is clear: Welcome the future. Build for it.
The Schumacher Center’s soon-to-be-published Commoner’s Catalog for Changemaking: Tools for the Transitions Ahead by David Bollier highlights organizations working to model the future. Referencing the Whole Earth Catalog first published in 1968, you will want to have a copy on hand for easy referral. Order here.
The catalog is just the latest example of the many “tools for the transitions ahead” the Schumacher Center has created and shared over the past 41 years with support from its members. Please contribute to our work in 2022.
Many good wishes,
Staff of Schumacher Center for a New Economics