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Some Thoughts on Everyday Green Economics
by Nancy Oden, Maine State Caucus, G/GPUSA
Thousands of people spend their lives trying to bring about a kinder, more cooperative and economically just society. Communes are formed, legislation is introduced, conferences are held, people run for political office, and demonstrators demand that government and corporations do the right thing. Yet we see society deteriorating more each year as corporations steal, poison, and destroy more and more of everyone's resources. Capitalism cannot function "doing the right thing." It must always grow and create profit by plundering Earth's life forms and natural resources.
Therefore, attempting to create a cleaner and more economically just society within the confines of the old one—sort of slip it in before anyone notices—is not a realistic possibility, much as some of us would wish it could be so. Small experiments here and there are tolerated, but genuine threats to the current economic order will, history tells us and we saw again at Seattle, be met with great resistance. What kind of society will we end up with, once the populace becomes determined to rid ourselves of capitalism.
The ideal world, many think, would be one in which, simply because you're born, your material needs are taken care of. Then, they say, you could begin to truly flower as a human being, since you would not have to worry about your next meal or where you would sleep tonight. It isn't sufficient that one should be given everything; one needs to have contributed to the work for the good of all. Then one can begin to realize one's true worth as a human being—contributing to the community being respected for one's contribution, while reaping the rewards of cooperative labor, i.e., freedom from material want.
It isn't sufficient that one should be given everything; one needs to have contributed to the work for the good of all.
Nor would there have to be the false divisions of rural people and city people. People choosing to live in cities could produce non-food goods needed by all, while rural people produced food and cloth needed by all. One could work in other jobs in other places, rather than being consigned, as now, to a life of working pretty much at the same kind of work, often in the very same place. We should leave specialization to the insects (as someone said), and diversify ourselves: travel, learn, work, teach, throughout life, thus enriching ourselves and sharing with the next generations lessons and wisdom learned.
So, as the old criticism goes, who's going to take out the garbage? Well, we all take turns at the dirty work and then no one has to do it very often.
We can begin to restore our cities by bringing formerly homeless people into the big, empty, still-solid buildings and, with direction from the building trades, rebuild those shells into apartments for themselves and others. Flat roofs can be reinforced so gardens and greenhouses can flourish on roofs and fruit trees can be grown in small plots, tiny gardens grown in South windows. Everyone could contribute in some measure towards self-sufficiency. City people could volunteer to work in "green belts" surrounding the cities, where much of the city's food is grown. Imagine you're almost out of groceries in your household. You go to the storehouse where groceries are kept, you pick out what you need, and you go home. No money changes hands.
We figure out what we need to survive and thrive, and all work together towards that goal, with incentives for people to work Most creatures need some sort of incentive to do physical labor—for example, starvation if you do not grow or find or kill food. Incentives could include "extras," like from-away produce or rarities brought in from other regions. Contests could be held, as in Cuba, where whoever grows the best tomatoes, for example, or does the best carpentry or weaves the best cloth gets recognized by their peers for honors. It is in everyone's interest to encourage others to do well, rather than putting them down so we can succeed, as in capitalism. It's cooperation for the common good versus individuals' competing for available goods.
Competition to see who can do the best job in producing that which everyone needs or wants is a healthy kind of competition.
Education will not be mere training to fit corporate needs, as it is now. Children should be given responsibilities in community economic life, learning self-sufficiency skills such as gardening (all organic, of course), preparing food in healthy ways, taking care of children, learning local crafts and ways of Nature—learning to lead natural lives in alliance with Nature, rather than killing Nature, as capitalism is doing so well.
What to call such a system? It doesn't have a name. Some people like absolutes and must label everything. Well, what we will end up with will be a conglomerate of whatever people in different regions feel best meets their needs, and they will change over time, hopefully improving with each metamorphosis. But this will not include capitalist economic relations, or there will be constant wars and troubles until they are eliminated. Capitalism is parasitism at its most intense, and cannot be tolerated in a fair and just world.
What we can do now is pose positive alternatives to what now exists, and encourage people to join us in organizing for a new society. We can also work towards implementing our ideas, and in this struggle the independent citizens movements that will make the real changes will be nurtured and grown.
If we're diligent and fortunate, we may soon see the beginnings of a new society, one in which Earth's life forms, including humans, are treated with respect, and where there is little waste of Earth's resources, and where cooperation is the rule, rather than the fighting over resources we have now, which is killing us all.
Nancy Oden, a longtime environmental and political activist, is running for Maine State Senator. She is on the National Committee of the G/GPUSA and is G/GPUSA's representative to the IPPN.