The Earth Party
Blueprint for a Benign Civilization
Step 1D: Self-Sufficiency
Redesigning our economy will take place in two stages.
The end result will be a Benign Global Economy, which maximizes the fulfillment of needs while living in the greatest possible harmony with Nature. Treating the entire planet as one economy is the most efficient way to do that, for several reasons, which will be explained in Step 3A: Build a Benign Global Economy.
However, this will take some time. What do we do in the meantime, while we're still setting it up?
To get us through the transitional period, we will set up Local Permaculture Economies. Every Village will create their own. It can be commenced immediately, without having to wait for any larger governing body to form. You can start today!
"What exactly is 'permaculture'? I've heard that word before, but I don't know what it is."
Permaculture is a set of design principles centered around whole systems thinking simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and resilient features observed in natural ecosystems.
It can be summarized in the following 12 points:
1. Observe and interact: By taking time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.
2. Catch and store energy: By developing systems that collect resources at peak abundance, we can use them in times of need.
3. Obtain a yield: Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the work that you are doing.
4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback: We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well.
5. Use and value renewable resources and services: Make the best use of nature's abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources.
6. Produce no waste: By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.
7. Design from patterns to details: By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.
8. Integrate rather than segregate: By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.
9. Use small and slow solutions: Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and producing more sustainable outcomes.
10. Use and value diversity: Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.
11. Use edges and value the marginal: The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.
12. Creatively use and respond to change: We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing, and then intervening at the right time.
Source: David Holmgren: Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability
"That's a lot of words! What does it mean in practice?"
Something like this:
How to Design An Economy
We live on a planet.
The planet has a thin layer of biological Life surrounding the outer edge of its solid mass, extending a few hundred feet above and below the surface. Everything we need comes from this layer. It's called the biosphere.
The biosphere contains various systems and cycles, like a water cycle, carbon cycle, nitrogen cycle, and many others.
The planet's ability to provide for our needs depends on the integrity of these systems and cycles.
An economy is a strategy for answering the following question:
How do we fulfill our needs, without undermining the biological systems that provide them in the first place?
An economy must do both: Fulfill our needs, AND preserve the Earth's biological systems. If it doesn't do BOTH of those, it has failed.
An economy that doesn't fulfill human needs is a failed economy.
An economy that does fulfill our needs, but simultaneously does not preserve the integrity of the biosphere that makes the fulfillment of those needs possible in the first place, is also a failed economy.
So, there are three simple steps to designing an economy:
1. Figure out what we need
2. Plan How to achieve it
3. Do it.
Step 1 is very easy. We need:
-Tools to maintain the systems for providing those things
-Freedom to pursue happiness in all peaceful and sustainable forms.
Yay! Step 1 is complete!
Now on to Step 2: Planning how to meet these needs.
Getting water is really simple. Nature provides it and sends it straight to our doorstep. It's flowing past our homes right now - all we have to do is stop dumping crap in it, and we'll be able to drink it again. Really simple. This stuff literally falls from the sky.
Why do we mobilize billions of tons of concrete to build dams, flooding entire towns, in order to pump water to our homes from distant reservoirs dozens of miles away, through pipes that can break, get clogged, and have to be expensively maintained, in a system that concentrates and breeds diseases, requiring expensive purification, exposing us to chlorine and fluorine, in massive treatment plants, all in a process with thousands of moving parts, mostly hidden from our view, completely dependent on people far away, whom we've probably never met, in a system that's very fragile and prone to catastrophic failure in the event of any natural disaster, or even just if the electricity goes off - and all requiring that we pay money for every drop of water we use...
...when the stuff literally falls on us from the sky?
Are you fully appreciating how absurd this is?
The Earth Party will repeal all ridiculous totalitarian regulations against collecting rainwater, and finance the mass-production of rainwater collection systems. (See the "Financing" section further down this page to see our plan to finance these projects without taxation).
We will enforce a zero-tolerance policy on water pollution, with extremely strict, even draconian penalties on anyone dumping anything into living water, (hey, if you don't want the penalty, don't dump things in the water - it's not hard to avoid!), and re-direct law enforcement out of the absurd "war on drugs", and into the field of guarding our precious water supplies from damage.
Our goal is to make every lake, river, and stream in the world safe to drink from again, as it was of old.
Again, really simple: we already HAVE it!
We already have billions of shelters, mostly in great shape and structurally sound, and good for many years to come. In fact, we have more shelters than people. Millions of brand-new and perfectly good homes are sitting empty, right now. The only reason why those of us without homes cannot live in those empty houses is because the crumbling, dysfunctional power-centered economic system has forbidden it.
We also have billions of square feet of what we call "commercial real estate" - fully furnished, climate-controlled shelters with lots of space, which are mostly performing services that are completely useless (e.g. banks, insurance companies, law firms, advertising agencies, etc), and serve no practical economic purpose in satisfying human needs. There is no reason why these buildings cannot be used for housing, if somehow shelter were scarce - which it isn't, and won't be any time soon.
Shelter is not something we have to worry about for the near future - instead, our first concern should be stopping the destruction of the biosphere, and creating the moral and organizational foundations of the new civilization.
So... water and shelter are taken care of... now on to:
This stuff literally grows on trees.
Are you noticing a pattern yet? Sustenance is abundant. The scarcity we have come to accept as "normal" is an artificial creation of our corrupt civilization - a completely fabricated reality.
Those of us who live in the suburbs have enough land around our homes to grow all the food we need right in our backyards. Why do we grow food far away, on massive mono-crop farms, and then transport it through an insanely complex web of industrial infrastructure to get to our tables? Why? Does anyone ever think about this?
We also have hydroponics, aquaponics, and other permaculture systems to grow incredibly large amounts of food in incredibly small spaces.
Watch this video: 6,000 pounds of food annually, on 1/10th of an acre!
And if you still need more space for food-growing, there are lawns.
"You want me to convert my precious lawn into a garden? No way! The backyard lawn is the symbol of affluence and freedom! I like my lawn!"
If you're like most people who have a lawn, you barely use it. It's one of the most wasteful aspects of modern life. We cannot afford to keep doing this - it is ecological suicide. That land needs to be either given back to Nature, for the re-emergence of a healthy ecosystem, or it needs to be utilized for food - one or the other.
Do you really want to keep mowing it anyway? How much money and sweat are you pouring into mowing the damn thing? Why are you doing this? Why?
"Because it's fun to walk on grass. Kids like to play on it. It would be a dull life without a lawn."
Then designate one area to be the Village lawn. Everyone can share it. Not only is this less wasteful, but it's healthier, as there will be actual social contact between kids, and between families - instead of the isolated, lonely units we have now, in which everyone just sits there by themselves, eventually leading to depression, alienation, pharmaceuticals, and mass-shootings.
Instead of walking for 1 minute to get to a lawn, you have to walk for 2 minutes. Is that so terrible?
What tiny amount of convenience you give up, you gain back in True Independence - the ability to have all of your food within walking distance, and to sustain yourself without getting on your knees and begging for a "job" from some guy in a suit - without begging corporations for permission to live.
Isn't that worth it?
"And what about those of us in urban areas? We don't have lawns. We don't have space to grow food."
Actually, there's plenty of space for growing food in cities - it's just covered by useless concrete and asphalt. If we allow city-dwellers to break up useless concrete, there will be enough space to grow food. This will include breaking up automobile roads, but those roads won't be necessary anymore, after we organize into the 5 Levels and build the Benign Transit Grid.
"What if I don't WANT to grow my own food? Gardening is tiring! What if I prefer my desk job?"
When we reorganize our society into the 5 Levels, Villages can pool adjacent land together and designate full-time gardeners, if desired, for the specialization of labor. This process was explained in Economic Democracy.
"What about the tools we need for growing the food? The spades, the shovels, the hoes, the plows? What happens when they break and need replacing? Who builds them? Where do they come from?
In the short term, we already have all the tools we need. If they're not being used where they're needed, it's only because of greed, enabled by our society's extremist view of private property. When we Begin Village Democracy (Step 1), this problem will be mitigated.
Tools eventually break, however. In the long term, of course, we will need a way to make new ones, and this means having an economic system that facilitates the resources and labor to fashion them.
We will accomplish this through Layered Economies. There will be several self-containing layers of economics, corresponding to the Natural Social Units.
In other words, every Village will have a self-contained pre-industrial economy.
Every Township will have a self-contained early industrial (pre-electric) economy.
And every City will have a self-contained fully modern economy.
Every Village will fashion its own hand-tools. By hand, without depending on electricity or heavy industry. In any group of 100 people, there are at least a few that are natural craftspeople, who enjoy making pre-industrial objects.
Currently, their skills are sadly undervalued, and they only find appreciation in niche communities, like Renaissance-Fair crowds and Cosplay communities. Mainstream society undervalues them and shunts them off to the sidelines.
But in this Plan, they will find new appreciation, as their skills will be valued once more.
Every Village will have a self-contained Bronze-Age economy.
"Um, why do we need this? Why do we need a self-contained Bronze-Age economy in every Village? Why not at least use electricity?"
First of all, your Village will have electricity, and will have modern technology. But you will also have a pre-electric, pre-industrial economy overlapping with the modern one, for the purpose of anti-fragility.
Anti-fragility means that a system can withstand stressors, shocks, volatility, noise, mistakes, faults, attacks, or failures.
One serious problem with modern economies is their utter dependence on high technology. Our global economy depends on thousands of moving parts, some involving very complex and delicate systems and technologies. There are hundreds of ways the systems could be compromised. And if they are - if our high tech systems malfunction - we have no other technology to fall back on.
The current system is extremely fragile.
What would happen if, say, tomorrow, the electricity went out, and didn't come back on?
They say if trucks stop shipping, there would be about 1 or 2 weeks of food in supermarkets. When the food runs out, we have about 2-3 days before rioting and total societal collapse.
It's one thing to have electricity, but it's another thing to rely on it entirely. If all of your systems and economic components rely on electricity, what happens if the electricity goes out? You'll be back at the level of a caveman, only worse, because cavemen still had tools. Primitive tools, but tools nonetheless. You'll have nothing.
Even if that nightmare scenario never happens, our dependence on the mass-industrial economy creates a deep undercurrent of anxiety in the collective consciousness. And it's this anxiety that keeps us slaving away in 9-5 jobs that we hate. The reason we've become slaves to our jobs and bosses is because we're utterly dependent on money for all economic activities. We can't do anything without money. So those who control the money supply have the power of life and death.
Why are you settling for such an abusive system? Don't you want to liberate yourself? Why do you insist on keeping yourself in a position where you have to beg corporations for permission to live?
So our design incorporates resilience and anti-fragility.
If 95% of our economy comes from within walking distance of where we sleep, we won't even need that shipping in the first place (and we can eliminate those carbon emissions too, plus have less traffic, less need for auto-repair, less highways, more living soil, more biomass, etc. The benefits cascade endlessly).
And we'll have True Independence. No more begging at the feet of corporations.
"But won't I have to do a similar kind of 'begging' to my Village?"
Well, no, not if Step 1: Restore Natural Social Units is followed.
"But I'll still be dependent though. Even if it's just my neighbors, I'll still have to rely on others."
But you'll know those people. And that makes all the difference.
Like it or not, we do live in an interdependent world - an ecosystem of a society. Absolute independence is impossible - you'll always need something from somebody.
But wouldn't you rather it be someone you know? Someone you're familiar with, who knows you and cares about you? Someone who would become intimately aware of your suffering, if you were to suffer, because you live right next to them? Someone who can't insulate themselves from your grievances, who can't hide in some gated community, who can't hide behind anonymity?
"What if I just don't like the people in my Village? What if they're a**holes?"
Then move to another Village. Move across the street. Move several streets over.
Universal, public, free-of-charge transportation is a major aspect of the economic plan. If some place is connected to the transportation grid, you can just get on, and go. Your ability to be mobile will be exponentially expanded. If you don't like one place, you can easily explore others - much more easily than you can currently.
You can explore other Villages in your Township, other Townships in your City, other Cities in your Region, and other Regions on your Planet. There's gotta be SOME place where you'll fit in - where you're wanted.
"Who will build, maintain, run, and pay for that free transportation grid?"
Click the "transportation" link above.
"Will I be able to explore other countries this way?"
Absolutely. See our page on Borders, Immigrants, and World Travel.
Energy is literally shining down upon us from a giant, bajillion-degree ball of energy in the sky.
The tides and ocean currents provide enough energy, alone, to supply the entire grid.
All energy systems will be as local as possible - as close to our homes as we can possibly make them. For most of us, all of our energy will come from our own backyards.
"Wait. I understand why the other necessities, like food, water and shelter, are easy to procure. Humans have been procuring those since the Stone Age. But energy is different. It requires high-tech tools. All it takes to plant a garden is a shovel and/or plow, which can be fashioned by hand. But a solar panel? That takes very modern tech. Are we going to have a solar-panel factory in every Village?"
Obviously not. Energy is the most tricky of all the necessities. When we say it will come from our own backyards, we mean it will be harnessed in our backyards. The energy-harnessing devices will be installed locally, so that, once they're built, we have local control over them. No one faraway can turn them off.
Right now, your utility company has the power to turn off your electricity. And if they do, what recourse do you have? Do you even know where their office is - or, more importantly, where the dam, power plant, or generating station is? If you're like most people, you don't even know where your energy is produced, or even what kind of source it uses! Think about it. Does your electricity come from coal? Hydro? Nuclear? Do you know where the plant is? Most people do not know the answers to these questions.
So it's much better to have the sources be renewable, clean, and close to home. Once you have that solar panel (or wind tree), its yours, and no corporation can turn it off.
The trick is building them. And for this, we will need modern tech. These devices will have to be manufactured in your City. Remember, every City has a self-contained full economy. Every city will have the factories and infrastructure necessary to build every kind of technology that humans need. So at least it will come from your own City center, which has a degree of localness to it. It won't be built in some faraway city, on some other continent.
"What about the materials needed to build them? Some minerals can only be mined in certain places. Every city won't be able to obtain every kind of mineral or resource within its locality. We'll still need long-distance trade."
That is true. And this will be covered in Step 3A: Design a Benign Global Economy.
"So, even after all this, we're STILL dependent on global economics?"
We're dependent on that NOW. At least with the Earth Party's plan, we become independent in as many ways as physically possible. Our level of independence will no longer be constrained by social systems, but only by the laws of physics themselves.
And if we follow all the previous steps of permaculture design explained above, we won't even need that much electricity in the first place, because we'll have ways of providing for our needs (food, water, shelter) without electricity. We will minimize our dependence on electricity, so, even if we can't obtain as much of it as we'd like, we'll still be able to survive, and even thrive, in a rudimentary way, which is much better than the system we currently have now, in which, if the electricity goes out, we're gone.
"What about the fact that some areas don't get a lot of sunshine? How would they produce solar energy?
Also, the sunshine that hits forest regions is needed by trees, and if we build solar panels, then there will be less foliage. But in deserts, the sunshine just hits the bare ground - it goes to waste anyway. Wouldn't it be better to put the solar panels in deserts, and then pipe the electricity to other regions?
Oh, and another thing: tidal power is hugely useful, but most places aren't near an ocean. To harness tidal power for everyone, we'll need long-distance lines. So, in the end, won't at least SOME of us still be dependent on stuff far away?"
It's up to each individual Village to decide how it wants to produce its energy. Most places will probably end up choosing a mixture of local and non-local. Local energy can supply necessities, like heating and cooking, while non-local energy can be used for "extra" things, like entertainment and travel.
In the end, we still live on a planet in which everything is interconnected, and there is no such thing as absolute 100% independence. That's just not part of Reality. But we can become as independent as possible. Again, we can eliminate the constraints caused by our inefficient social systems, so that only the laws of physics will limit what's possible. And that is light-years better than the system we have now!
For the minority of us living in areas without enough sunshine for solar power, there is wind power (not with big turbines, but with small, shrub-sized mini-turbines that don't make noise and don't harm birds), and tidal power for coastal areas.
When you think about it, we don't need that much energy, especially if we retrofit our homes to make them more efficient in heating and cooling.
The greatest amount of energy is used for industry, and since most heavy industry is in coastal areas, tidal power is a perfect match.
Energy is abundant, and we do not need fossil fuels anymore. We will design worldwide energy independence into the structure of the new civilization, with the vast majority of energy coming from our own backyards.
No more utility bills, no more oil wars.