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Ahem. So there you have it; if you want to bargain with the archdruid, those are the terms I’ll accept. For whatever it’s worth, those are also the policies I’d propose to a Senate subcommittee or a worried panel of long-range planners from the Pentagon if I were asked to testify to some such body,. Of course that’s not going to happen; archdruids can draw up proposals on the basis of what might actually work, instead of worrying about the current consensus in or out of the peak oil scene, because nobody considers archdruids to be serious public figures. That may not sound like an advantage, but believe me, it is one.
Is time running out for powerdown?
Many climate policy professionals and climate activists are now reassessing whether there is anything more they can do to help prevent the global catastrophe that climate change appears to be. The passing of the symbolic 400ppm CO2 level certainly has seen some prominent activists getting close to a change of strategy. As the Transition Town movement founder and permaculture activist Rob Hopkins says, the shift in the mainstream policy circles from mitigation to adaptation and defence is underway (i.e. giving up).
While political deadlock remains the most obvious obstacle, I believe at least some of that deadlock stems from widespread doubt about whether greenhouse gas emissions can be radically reduced without economic contraction and/or substantial wealth redistribution. Substantial redistribution of wealth is not generally taken seriously perhaps because it could only come about through some sort of global revolution that would itself lead to global economic collapse. On the other hand, massive economic contraction seems like it might happen all by itself, without necessarily leading to greater equity.
The predominant focus in the “climate professional and activist community” on policies, plans and projects for transition to renewable energy and efficiency has yet to show evidence of absolute reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that do not depend on rising greenhouse gas emissions in other parts of the global economy. For example, the contribution of renewable technology installation to reduced GGE in some European countries appears to be balanced by increased GGE in China and India (where much of the renewable technologies are manufactured).
The Jevons’ paradox suggests than any gains in efficiency or tapping of new sources of energy will simply expand total consumption rather than reduce consumption of resources (and therefore GGE).
Richard Eckersley in his article ‘Deficit Deeper Than Economy’ identifies the improbability of ever decoupling economic growth from resource depletion and green house gas emissions. He states “Australia’s material footprint, the total amount of primary resources required to service domestic consumption (excludes exports and includes imports) was 35 tonnes per person in 2008, the highest among the 186 countries studied. Every 10 per cent increase in gross domestic product increases the average national material footprint by 6 per cent. By 2050, a global population of 9 billion people would require an estimated 270 billion tonnes of natural resources to fuel the level of consumption of OECD countries, compared with the 70 billion tonnes consumed in 2010.”
Time seems to be running out for any serious planned reductions in GGE adequate to prevent dangerous climate change without considering a powerdown of the growth economy. The ideas of degrowth are starting to get an airing, mostly in Europe, but the chances of these ideas being adopted and successfully implemented would require a long slow political evolution if not revolution. We don’t have time for the first, and the second almost certainly crashes the financial system, which in turn crashes the global economy.
Is time running out for bottom up alternatives?
Like many others, I have argued that the bottom up creation of household and community economies, already proliferating in the shadow of the global economy, can create and sustain different ways of well-being that can compensate, at least partly, for the inevitable contraction in centralised fossil fuelled economies (now well and truly failing to sustain the social contract in countries such as Greece and Egypt). When the official Soviet Union economy collapsed in the early ‘90s it was the informal economy that cushioned the social impact. Permaculture strategies focus on the provision of basic needs at the household and community level to increase resilience, reduce ecological footprint and allow much of the discretionary economy to shrink. In principle, a major contraction in energy consumption is possible because a large proportion of that consumption is for non-essential uses by more than a billion middle class people. That contraction has the potential to switch off greenhouse gas emissions but this has not been seriously discussed or debated by those currently working very hard to get global action for rapid transition by planned and co-ordinated processes. Of course it is more complicated because the provision of fundamental needs, such as water, food etc., are part of the same highly integrated system that meets discretionary wants.
However, the time available to create, refine and rapidly spread successful models of these bottom-up solutions is running out, in the same way that the time for government policy and corporate capitalism to work their magic in converting the energy base of growth from fossil to renewable sources. If the climate clock is really so close to midnight what else could be done?
Economic crash as hell or salvation
For many decades I have felt that a collapse of the global economic systems might save humanity and many of our fellow species great suffering by happening sooner rather than later because the stakes keep rising and scale of the impacts are always worse by being postponed. An important influence in my thinking on the chances of such a collapse was the public speech given by President Ronald Reagan following the 1987 stock market crash. He said “there won’t be an economic collapse, so long as people don’t believe there will be an economic collapse” or words to that effect. I remember at the time thinking; fancy the most powerful person on the planet admitting that faith (of the populace) is the only thing that holds the financial system together.
Two decades on I remember thinking that a second great depression might be the best outcome we could hope for. The pain and suffering that has happened since 2007 (from the more limited “great recession”) is more a result of the ability of the existing power structures to maintain control and enforce harsh circumstances by handing the empty bag to the public, than any fundamental lack of resources to provide all with basic needs. Is the commitment to perpetual growth in wealth for the richest the only way that everyone else can hope to get their needs met? The economy is simply not structured to provide all with their basic needs. That growth economy is certainly coming to an end; but will it slowly grind to a halt or collapse more rapidly?
The fact that the market price for carbon emissions has fallen so low in Europe is a direct result of stagnating growth. Past economic recessions and more serious economic collapses, such as faced by the Soviet Union after its oil production peaked in the late 1980’s, show how greenhouse gas emissions can and have been reduced, then stabilizing at lower levels once the economy stabilized without any planned intention to do so. The large number of oil exporters that have more recently peaked has provided many case studies to show the correlation with political upheaval, economic contraction and reductions in GGE. Similarly many of the countries that have suffered the greatest economic contraction are also those with the greatest dependence on imported energy, such as Ireland, Greece and Portugal. The so-called Arab Spring, especially in Egypt, followed high food and energy prices driven by collapsed oil revenues and inability to maintain subsidies. The radical changes of government in Egypt have not been able to arrest the further contraction of the economy.
The effects of peak oil and climate change have combined with geopolitical struggles over pipeline routes to all but destroy the Syrian economy and society.
Slow Contraction or Fast Collapse
The fragility of the global economy has many unprecedented aspects that make some sort of rapid collapse of the global economy more likely. The capacity of central banks to repeat the massive stimulus mechanism in response to the 2008 global financial crisis, has been greatly reduced, while the faith that underpins the global financial system has weakened, to say the least. Systems thinkers such as David Korowicz have argued that the inter-connected nature of the global economy, instantaneous communications and financial flows, “just in time” logistics, and extreme degrees of economic and technological specialisation, have increased the chances of a large scale systemic failure, at the same time that they have mitigated (or at least reduced) the impact of more limited localised crises.
Whether novel factors such as information technology, global peak oil and climate change have increased the likelihood of more extreme economic collapse, Foss and Keen have convinced me that the most powerful and fast-acting factor that could radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions is the scale of financial debt and the long-sustained growth of bubble economics stretching back at least to the beginnings of the “Thatcherite/Reaganite revolution” in the early 1980s. From an energetics perspective, the peak of US oil production in 1970, and the resulting global oil crises of 73 and 79, laid the foundations for the gigantic growth in debt that super accelerated the level of consumption, and therefore GGE.
Whatever the causes, all economic bubbles follow a trajectory that includes a rapid contraction, as credit evaporates, followed by a long-sustained contraction, where asset values decline to lower levels than those at the beginning of the bubble. After almost 25 years of asset price deflation in Japan, a house and land parcel of 1.5ha in a not too isolated rural location can be bought for $25,000. A contraction in the systems that supply wants are likely to see simultaneous problems in the provision of basic needs. As Foss explains, in a deflationary contraction, prices of luxuries generally collapse but essentials of food and fuel do not fall much. Most importantly, essentials become unaffordable for many, once credit freezes and job security declines. It goes without saying that deflation rather inflation is the economic devil that governments and central banks most fear and are prepared to do almost anything to avoid.
Giving credence to the evidence for fast global economic collapse may suggest I am moving away from my belief in the more gradual Energy Descent future that I helped articulate. John Michael Greer has been very critical of apocalyptic views of the future in which a collapse sweeps away the current world leaving the chosen few who survive to build the new world. In large measure I agree with his critique but recognise that some might interpret my work as suggesting a permaculture paradise growing from the ashes of this civilisation. To some extent this is a reasonable interpretation, but I see that collapse, as a long drawn-out process rather than resulting from a single event.
I still believe that energy descent will go on for many decades or even centuries. In Future Scenarios I suggested energy descent driven by climate change and peak oil could occur through a series of crises separating relatively stable states that could persist for decades if not centuries. The collapse of the global financial system might simply be the first of those crises that reorganise the world. The pathways that energy descent could take are enormously varied, but still little discussed, so it is not surprising that discussions about descent scenarios tend to default into ones of total collapse. As the language around energy descent and collapse has become more nuanced, we start to see the distinction between financial, economic, social and civilisational collapse as potential stages in an energy descent process where the first is fast changing and relatively superficial and the last is slow moving and more fundamental.
In Future Scenarios I suggested the more extreme scenarios of Earth Steward and Lifeboat could follow Green Tech and Brown Tech along the stepwise energy descent pathway. If we are heading into the Brown Tech world of more severe climate change, then as the energy sources that sustain the Brown Tech scenario deplete, and climate chaos increases, future crises and collapse could lead to the Lifeboat Scenario. In this scenario, no matter how fast or extreme the reductions in GGE due to economic collapse, we still end up in the climate cooker, but with only the capacity for very local, household and communitarian organisation.
If the climate crisis is already happening, and as suggested in Future Scenarios, the primary responses to the crisis increase rather than reduce GGE, then it is probably too late for any concerted effort to shift course to the more benign Green Tech energy descent future. Given that most of the world is yet to accept the inevitability of Energy Descent and are still pinning their faith in “Techno Stability” if not “Techno Explosion”, the globally cooperative powerdown processes needed to shift the world to Green Tech look unlikely. More fundamental than any political action, the resurgent rural and regional economies, based on a boom for agricultural and forestry commodities, that structurally underpins the Green Tech scenario, will not eventuate if climate change is fast and severe. Climate change will stimulate large investments in agriculture but they are more likely to be energy and resource intensive, controlled climate agriculture (greenhouses), centralised at transport hubs. This type of development simply reinforces the Brown Tech model including the acceleration of GGE.
While it may be too late for the Green Tech Scenario, it still may be possible to avoid more extreme climate change of a long drawn out Brown Tech Scenario before natural forcing factors lock humanity into the climate cooker of 4-6 degrees and resource depletion leads to a collapse of the centralised Brown Tech governance and a rise of local war lords (Lifeboat Scenario).
The novel structural vulnerabilities highlighted by David Korowicz, and the unprecedented extremity of the bubble economics highlighted by Nicole Foss suggest the strong tendencies towards a Brown Tech world could be short lived. Instead, severe global economic and societal collapse could switch off GGE enough to begin reversing climate change; in essence the Earth Steward scenario of recreated bioregional economies based on frugal agrarian resources and abundant salvage from the collapsed global economy and defunct national governance structures.
 During the early stages of the industrial revolution English economist William Stanley Jevons noticed that a doubling in the efficiency of steam engine technology led to an increase rather than a halving of coal consumption as businesses found more uses for the available power. See the Coal Question (1865).
 See Deficit Deeper Than Economy http://www.canberratimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/deficit-deeper-than-economy-20130929-2umd3.html#ixzz2js46nGBp
 See Wikipedia article for overview of movementhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Degrowth
 Of course true believers in global capitalism’s capacity to reduce GGE in time, still abound. See for example Christian Parenti’s piece from Dissent, reposted at Resilience.org, which is amusingly titled A Radical Approach to the Climate Crisiswhich is actually a plea for activists to forget trying to reform, let alone build systems based on sustainability principles, in favour of getting behind the power of corporations and governments to make big changes quickly (to get GGE falling fast enough).
 See for example, Peak oil and the fall of the Soviet Union by Douglas B. Reynolds on The Oil Drum.
 See Trade-Off, Metis Risk Consulting & Feasta, 2012
It is a rare occurence that I disagree with David Holmgren. One of my heroes, and the co-founder of permaculture, I generally find his intellect formidable, his insights on permaculture revelatory, and his take on the wider patterns and scenarios unfolding around us to be deeply insightful. But while there is much insight in his most recent paper, Crash on Demand, it also raises many questions and issues that I’d like to explore here. I am troubled by his conclusions, and although I understand the logic behind them, I fear that they could prove a dangerous route to go down if left unchallenged.
‘Crash on Demand’ in a nutshell
So what are the paper’s core arguments? It picks up from his ‘Future Scenarios’ work a few years on, reassessing their relevance in a rapidly changing world (you can read Jason Heppenstall’s summary of the new paper here). In essence, he has shifted to thinking that a gradual energy descent isn’t going to happen. Rather than his Green Tech Future scenario which sees a concerted government response (similar to what we’re seeing in Germany) or the Earth Stewardship scenario, an intentional powering down, he argues that in reality we are moving deeper and deeper into what he calls ‘Brown Tech’.
Brown Tech has emerged because “sustained high energy prices have allowed private and national energy corporations to put in place many new fossil and renewable energy projects that are moderating the impact of the decline in production from ageing ‘super giant’ fields”. Most of these new fossil fuel projects, he argues, “generate far more greenhouse gases than the conventional sources they have replaced”.
The pace of the unfolding of climate change has outpaced expectations, and the world, if it continues to pursue Business as Usual, is still on course for a 6 degree rise in temperature, which would be catastrophic. He states that we have left it too late for a planned and intentional ‘Green Tech’ future, and the structural vulnerabilities of the economy mean that the currently emergent ‘Brown Tech’ future will be short-lived.
He suggests that in this context, “severe global economic and societal collapse would switch off greenhouse gas emissions enough to begin reversing climate change”, and that we should deliberately seek to make this happen. That troubles me. I have two key objections to the paper which I’ll set out below.
One: A Post-Growth Economy = Economic Crash? Really?
The first place the paper comes unstuck for me is in his overarching conclusion, namely that a post growth, climate-responsible world is inevitably a crashed economy. Holmgren writes:
“If we accept a global financial crash could make it very difficult, if not impossible, to restart the global economy with anything other than drastically reduced emissions, then an argument can be mounted for putting effort into precipitating that crash, the crash of the financial system”.
He argues that “a radical change in the behaviour of a relatively small proportion of the global middle class could precipitate such a crash”. He goes on:
“I believe that actively building parallel and largely non-monetary household and local community economies with as little as 10% of the population has the potential to function as a deep systematic boycott of the centralised systems as a whole, that could lead to more than 5% contraction in the centralised economies”.
That feels like a huge claim. No research is used to back it up. It’s also a huge leap to state that a post growth economy is unavoidably a crashed economy, as well as being a very Western-centric proposition. Talking to people from China and India recently, it is clear that the kind of ‘post-materialists’ who in Western economies might pioneer this “crash on demand” hardly exist there, and those are the economies where emissions are actually growing.
Also, on what research is this idea that boycotting the economy would bring it to its knees, and that that would be a good thing to do, actually based? The main reference to this thinking is given when Holmgren states:
“By 2008, the work of both systems analyst Nicole Foss and economist Steve Keen had convinced me that deflationary economics would be (and already are) the most powerful factors shaping our immediate future”.
Now I’m no economist. The subject, once it starts getting even vaguely complicated, leaves me rather puzzled. But I do know that there are views other than Foss and Keen, and many of them don’t share their analysis (as an aside, I’m still scratching my head about Foss’ statement, in her response to this Holmgren piece, that “the best way to address climate change is not to talk about it”). There is a wide range of views on what happens when an economy stops growing beyond those of Foss and Keen. Here are just a few. Robert Solow, winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics has said:
“There is no reason at all why capitalism could not survive without slow or even no growth. I think it’s perfectly possible that economic growth cannot go on at its current rate forever”.
When I talked to Peter Victor in 2012, author of Managing Without Growth (subtitled ‘Slower by design, not disaster’), I asked him “so the end of economic growth doesn’t necessarily mean an economic collapse?” He told me:
“It could mean that, if you have an economic system that relies on growth. That’s the dilemma we’ve got now. It seems to be that unless the economy is growing it flirts with collapse or it does collapse. The challenge to us is to try to configure an economy that doesn’t grow and doesn’t collapse”.
Tim Jackson, in Prosperity Without Growth, writes:
“The risk of humanitarian collapse is enough to place something of a question mark over the possibility that we can simply halt economic growth. If halting growth leads to economic and social collapse, then times look hard indeed. If it can be achieved without collapse, prospects for maintaining prosperity are considerably better”.
Rob Dietz and Dan O’Neill’s book Enough is Enough, which explores the possibilities of a post-growth, steady-state economy, don’t even mention the word ‘collapse’ in the book. Kevin Anderson, one of few climate scientists explicitly stating that staying below 2 degrees excludes economic growth as a possibility, told me when I interviewed him in 2012:
“Of course our view is that to deliver on 2°C, we should plan the economic contraction. It need not necessarily have the devastating impact that it very clearly had, and very inequitable impact, in Russia in particular”.
I have never heard him use the word collapse in relation to his proposals. When I attended the DeGrowth conference in Venice last year, I don’t remember any presentations among that whole 4 day programme of talks and presentations anyone talking about collapse. So I, for one, do not accept this notion that stopping growth, even if attainable, means inevitable collapse, and that striving to cause a collapse is a highly dangerous and irresponsible approach.
In the environmental movement in general, and in Transition in particular, there has long been a tension between “brightsiding” (always focusing on the potential upsides of climate change) and dashing straight to the idea of collapse. As John Michael Greer put it in a 2007 piece called ‘Immanentizing the Eschaton’:
“It’s one thing to try to sense the shape of the future in advance, and to make constructive changes in your life to prepare for its rougher possibilities; it’s quite another to become convinced that history is headed where you want it to go; and when the course you’ve marked out for it simply projects the trajectory of a too-familiar myth onto the inkblot patterns of the future, immanentizing the Eschaton can become a recipe for self-induced disaster”.
But it’s not only one or the other, it’s a spectrum. It’s not clear to me why Holmgren dashes straight to collapse. He argues that in his opinion, regardless of what we do, there is a 50% chance of a crash anyway, as an inevitable outcome of the fragility of our economic system. But no evidence is provided for this.
As a recent paper by the Simplicity Institute (who also published Crash on Demand), entitled The Deep Green Alternative, highlights, between industrial growth and collapse lie a broad spectrum of approaches, all of which explore different routes to “a radically alternative way of living on the Earth – something ‘wholly other’ to the ways of industrialisation, consumerism, and limitless growth”. To simplify this discussion down to such an either/or really does nobody any favours.
All of this leads on to my second point, that of how Holmgren communicates his proposal.
Two: the concept of ‘Skilful Means’
There is a concept from Buddhism called “skilful means” which offers some very useful insights as to what lies at the root of my disagreement with the paper. Skilful means (or upaya in Sanskrit) is sometimes also translated as tactfulness or ingenuity, and refers to the observation that different people have different capacities, different ways of taking in information. If you want to share an insight with a diversity of people, given sufficient insight and wisdom, with some you might sit and explain it, for another you might tell them a story, and another, you might just make a particular comment at a particular time that triggers a train of thought that leads to the same conclusion.
For me, skilful means is what this paper lacks. Personally, I find Holmgren’s analysis, namely that we seem to be moving towards a Brown Tech scenario, that climate change is accelerating, that no leadership looks likely from most government, to be compelling. It is a useful analysis, a useful revision of Future Scenarios. It may be that some people involved in localisation and resilience work choose to see what they are doing in the context of a deliberate attempt to crash the system. But is it in any way skilful to publicly reframe that as the driver for Transition, or permaculture for that matter? That is where I part company with Holmgren.
That’s not to say I don’t understand why he would think it. Climate scientist Kevin Anderson recently stated “Today, after two decades of bluff and lies, the remaining 2°C budget demands revolutionary change to the political and economic hegemony”. He argues that economic growth is no longer compatible with staying below 2 degrees. This entirely justified sense of urgency leads some to take an approach to climate change that resonates closely with the famous words of Mario Savio in 1964:
“There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels…upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”
But to imagine that a popular movement could be built around deliberately crashing the global economy feels to me naive in the extreme. It would certainly prove virtually impossible to muster any kind of mainstream political support for it. While a number of MPs I have spoken to are happy to state off-the-record that they have doubts that growth is the best way forward, none of them would say so on the record.
My question is, if Holmgren is right to suggest that we deliberately seek to make economic collapse happen (which I personally think is a naive and irresponsible proposal), then how best to communicate that? What is the audience for this paper? Is it written in such a way as to appeal to a broad range of readers? No. It is written for “PLU”s (People Like Us). It isn’t written for potential allies in local government, trades unions, for the potential broad coalitions of local organisations that Transition groups try to build, for the diversity of political viewpoints that are found in most communities.
It is written for the very small sector of people who read this kind of thing. Yet the very issues we need to be creating responses to are felt across society and need responses from across society. It is precisely my frustration with permaculture’s seeming contentment at residing in a niche of its own making that prompted me to start thinking about the need for Transition in the first place.
This paper offers something of a self-fulfilling prophecy: if we present the alternatives to collapse in such a way that they engage and appeal to nobody, then the opportunity to avert it (assuming its inevitability) becomes even less likely. It’s the antithesis of skilful means.
It seems to me that what we need to be doing, and what permaculture, Transition, and many other movements around the world are trying to do is to build resilience, model a post growth economy, from the ground up at community level, the “actively parallel economy” Holmgren describes.
For example, in Totnes, we produced a Local Economic Blueprint. It set out the case, built on extensive research, for 10% shift towards a local economy. Part of its power was the coalition of local stakeholders who co-published it, Town Council, Chamber of Commerce, Development Trust and so on. But did it present itself as a plan to deliberately crash the global economy in order to save the biosphere? If we had done, almost certainly we’d have been the only group involved in it. Instead it found a wording that everyone was happy with:
“We agreed the overall goal of this system would be to maximise the wellbeing of our entire community, and to do this in a way that uses and distributes resources fairly while respecting natural limits. Economic growth is welcome, certainly within the sectors identified within this project, but not at any cost”.
Enabling the kind of shift of financial capital from fossil fuels to investment in local resilient economies that I set out in last week’s post will be key to enabling this transition. As will building vibrant coalitions of local organisations around the benefits of doing it.
Holmgren argues, in his ‘Nested Scenarios’ graph (below), that what we are seeing is different scenarios unfolding at different scales. “To some extent”, he writes, “all scenarios are emerging simultaneously and may persist to some degree into the future, one nested within another”.
For me, rather than trying to use the local community and household scales to try and deliberately crash the economy, they both have a huge potential, as yet barely scratched, to inspire and model a new economy. One that is low carbon, resilient and which builds social justice. Yet that can only happen with the very broad support, buy-in and engagement that an explicit goal of “crash on demand” and the kind of language and approach embodied in this paper would render impossible.
I may be naive, but I still think it is possible to mobilise that in a way that, as the Bristol Pound illustrates, gets the support and buy-in of the ‘City/State’ level, and begins to really put pressure and influence on ‘National’ thinking. I may be naive, but it’s preferable to economic collapse in my book, and I think we can still do it.
Also, if Holmgren is going to explicitly call for an orchestrated attempt to trigger an economic collapse, this paper should surely contain more about what that might look like? What does collapse mean for someone living in an inner city food desert, whose benefits are being capped, reduced, or taken away altogether, with no access to land for growing food, with no skills, and little interest in acquiring any? How does he intend to “sell” this message to them, to make this seem like an inviting proposition? Given that one of permaculture’s three core underpinnings is “PeopleCare”, this paper is surprisingly lacking in such considerations.
Or is he heading towards a position of assuming that the dangers of climate change are so overarching that the nightmare collapse would lead to in such communities is just what needs to happen, a “can’t make an omlette without breaking a few eggs”-type approach. Can it really be right that “a relatively small proportion of the global middle class” should be able to deliberately plunge those beneath them on the social ladder into such chaos without a clear strategy as to how such large-scale suffering might be mitigated? If so, this placing to one side of issues of social justice is alarming. As Yotam Marom wrote recently:
“We have to re-learn the climate crisis as one that ties our struggles together and opens up potential for the world we’re already busy fighting for”.
There is a progression of thinking in this paper, and a point at which I part company with Holmgren. Economic growth and the current financial system means we are on course for a 6 degree rise in global temperatures. Yes, get that. Current approaches aren’t working. Yes, fine. We need, with great urgency, to move beyond the growth paradigm to a different approach built on local economies and so on. Yes, I’m with you. And as Naomi Klein sets out in her recent New Statesman article, there are grounds for building a popular movement around that. But then to state that we need to deliberately, and explicitly, crash the global economy feels to me naive and dangerous, especially as nothing in between growth and collapse is explored at all.
This month on the Transition Network website we are exploring the theme of “scaling up”. It seems to me that if there is one sure and certain way of ensuring that we won’t scale up all the great work already being done around the world to build community and local economic resilience, it will be by framing it as being about deliberately bringing around an economic crash. It would set us back years.
Holmgren argues that:
“bringing these issues out into the open might inspire desperate climate and political activists to put their substantial energy into permaculture, Transition Towns, voluntary frugality, and other aspects of positive environmentalism”.
That’s as may be, but if we are to make anything happen, we need to also bring the wider community and other organisations on board. We have to speak beyond the People Like Us. Unless we’re able to do that (last week’s piece about Transition Laguna Beach showed a brilliant example of such skilful means in practice), a rallying flag of Crash on Demand will be entirely self-defeating. ‘Crash on Demand’ is a case of, as they say, being careful what you wish for.