Agenda for A Just and Sustainable World
[As this declaration is still in draft form, we are not yet inviting signatories. We invite activists, academics, and others to provide feedback and join in discussion. Would you be willing to sign the statement as it is currently written? If not, what changes would you require in order to sign it? How could this statement be improved? You may send your comments via the response form below, or by joining the “The Simpler Way” Google group and posting them there.]
Our world today is beset by a complex of severe social and ecological crises that are rapidly decreasing the prospects for human and nonhuman flourishing. These crises include human-caused climate instability, degradation of soils and ecosystems, pollution, desertification, destruction of fisheries, rapid and massive extinction of species, the destruction of biological and cultural diversity, extreme social and economic inequality, mass scale dispossession of peasants, oppression of workers and minorities, the growth of urban slums, the loss of community cohesion and self-management, destructive wars over resources, the threat of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, and the dominance of a social and economic order that enables and rewards destructive behavior in the pursuit of short-term profits. Meanwhile, the bulk of resources and humanity’s labor, which could be used to rescue ecosystems and build decent lives for people, are being squandered on highly destructive wars and military preparation, and the production of wasteful and unnecessary products. Enormous positive potential may yet be realized if the current destructive order is soon replaced by sustainable and just ways. Therefore,
We, the undersigned, affirm that an agenda that answers the pressings needs and opportunities of our time must include the following objectives:
1. Cooperative economics. Replace growth-dependent global capitalism with significantly localized economies, in which the production and distribution of goods and services, and the allocation and use of productive assets, are planned via a participatory democratic process rather than dictated by blind market forces.
In the capitalist economic system, firms competing to sell products and services at a profit, for the purpose of private capital accumulation by the owners, must either grow or die, and thus will not shrink from exploiting people and destroying the environment for profit, until every last bit of the earth has been devoured.
“Green capitalism,” and pursuits of “sustainability” that are favored by corporate interests and the NGOs and research programs that that these interests support, cannot possibly succeed in reducing destructive human impacts, because they ignore, exclude from discussion, and peremptorily rule out essential system changes. Such approaches have centered around achieving greater efficiency in the use of energy and materials, and in otherwise finding ways for businesses to make profits in less destructive ways. But greater efficiency, though in itself a laudable achievement, generally leads, within capitalism, to more things being produced per unit of energy and materials, rather than any total reduction in impacts. And the discovery of ways to make profits from less destructive activities in no way discourages firms from also making profits from destructive activities – they will do both. Every last unit of fossil fuels that can be profitably extracted and burned will be extracted and burned, regardless of how efficiently it is used, and regardless of what other profitable enterprises not using fossil fuels are also engaged in. An ecologically sustainable economy is therefore not possible without restricting the use of harmful fuels and dramatically reducing total production, while cooperative, democratically-managed economies must replace capitalism in order to make it possible for all to receive an equitable and adequate share of what is produced.
Corporate interests have largely succeeded in diverting the public’s energies and hopes into false solutions which do not hinder their quest for private capital accumulation. Thus the deniers of climate change and other environmental problems, as well as many environmentally concerned people who have put their faith in inadequate solutions, and who consider energetic pursuit of these to constitute an adequate response, are neglecting and delaying the system changes without which we cannot reasonably hope to solve our gravest problems. Because the genuine solutions are at cross interests with the corporations and the wealthy, their implementation will require overcoming the political power of the wealthy interests. It will also require uprooting the deeply-instilled ideologies and pervasive misinformation that have led great numbers of people, throughout all strata and sectors, to spontaneously reproduce in themselves the kinds of thoughts, prejudices, fears, and actions that serve to reinforce the stranglehold of the wealthy interests over us all and thwart effective solutions to our social and environmental problems.
Though we must continue to call for regulation of industries, the strategy of regulation within capitalism has proven woefully inadequate over the long run, because capitalism concentrates wealth into a small minority of owner-investors, enabling them to buy political influence so as to thwart and overturn legislative and regulatory obstacles that impede their efforts to make profits.
Moreover, for as long as capitalism remains the prevailing economic system, its inequitable distribution of access to the means of production ensures that, if efforts to restrain firms’ exploitation of resources meet with much success, massive unemployment, poverty, and chaos will ensue, thus motivating a political reaction that will overthrow the restraints, so that it will likely never be politically possible, as long as there are resources left to exploit, to establish sufficient restraints so as to save and restore our ecosystems. This unsustainable and destructive system must be wholly replaced by cooperative economies in which worker-managed enterprises use society’s democratically allocated productive assets to directly meet the needs of people, and that enable all to live decent lives, sharing equitably in a greatly reduced yet sufficient level of production.
Surpluses of good and services, and any increases in productive capacities, should be democratically managed by the people for the common good, rather than by a privileged class of owner-investors for their private enrichment.
2. Democracy. Develop democratic institutions for discerning and applying the people’s will, at local, bioregional, and international levels.
Delegates elected by lower bodies rotate regularly, are subject to immediate recall, and do not receive material benefits greater than those of the people. Delegates shall take actions only in accordance with the instructions of the bodies which elected them, after due consultation with said bodies. Powers of review, repeal, and referendum may be exercised by the people at any time via participatory democratic procedures. Decision making at the local level on matters such as management, planning and methods of cooperation will be determined by all members of local communities meeting at assemblies for the purpose of discussion and voting.
3. Equality. Ensure that every person, present and future, has a “fair earth share” – each should have roughly equivalent access to the earth’s bioproductive and assimilative capacity, and enjoy a standard of living that is equivalent to an ecologically sustainable worldwide norm.
Economic rewards should not vary except in relation to varying levels of effort, sacrifice, and need.
All people – regardless of gender, race, nationality, ethnicity, religious upbringing, sexual orientation, abilities, neurology, or other non-volitional characteristics – should enjoy a comparable quality of life, free of oppression, discrimination, violence, and hate.
The many-shaped struggles for justice, as affecting different kinds of stakeholders or different aspects of life, are linked and interdependent – for example, the oppression of women in a male-dominated society is related to the destruction of nature by a human-dominated world. They are therefore not helpfully prioritized one over another in our collective overall sense of what must be accomplished. We will advance the struggle for equality and justice for all, as we work to overthrow all forms of oppression holistically, and as we pay attention – in our agendas and in the way we conduct our movements – to the distinct experiences and perspectives of people at the intersection of multiple forms of oppression.
4. Local and global solidarity. Develop institutions, procedures, and relationships of local and global cooperation to ensure an efficient division of labor, an equivalent material standard of living, just impacts for all people everywhere, and nonhuman as well as human flourishing. Strive to ensure that all people, whether near or far, are given a share of say in decision-making that is commensurate with the degree to which they are affected by the resulting actions.
5. Applied ecological science. Continue to develop, refine, and implement sound methods of applied ecological science, such as permaculture design, to restore damaged ecosystems.
6. Smaller population. Reduce human population, humanely and democratically, over a period of generations, until the total impacts of human consumption and numbers are compatible with sustainable human and nonhuman flourishing. Gentle measures that empower women, provide security to the elderly, and incentivize moderated fertility in accord with democratically agreed upon population targets should be implemented, while harsh and inhumane policies should be abandoned. Most importantly, we must replace global capitalism, which disempowers women, fosters economic insecurity, and obscures people’s awareness of the impacts of their consumption and numbers. Historical precedents suggest that, in cooperatively managed, significantly localized, egalitarian, and bioregionally-sensitive economies, people more accurately perceive impacts, and freely adjust fertility and consumption – via personal practices, social customs, and/or agreed-upon norms – to seek an optimum habitat for themselves and future generations.
7. Material simplicity. Reduce materials and energy use in the affluent countries to a small fraction of current levels, through aggressive planned de-growth. Eliminate deprivation in poor societies by effecting a just redistribution of resources from the rich to the poor among and within countries, implementing the best technical practices, and building social and economic relationships of cooperation and equity. Where economies are democratically managed and use a sustainable “fair earth share,” enabling an ample material base for all, there should be no annual growth in resource use.
8. Reduce toxicity and end dangerous practices. Bring to an end the production and use of fossil fuels, uranium, persistently toxic chemicals, genetically modified organisms, and other polluting and dangerous substances. End large-scale industrial biofuels production, reject geoengineering schemes, and banish and dismantle all weapons of mass destruction.
9. Radical re-design of human settlements and support systems. Examples of changes to be considered by a democratic process, informed by continually updated technical and scientific data, include:
- A moratorium on almost all new urban development of farmland and natural habitat, as well as a moratorium on the conversion of natural habitat to intensive farming, and a gradual return of land to natural habitat as human population decreases.
- Re-positioning of people, processes, and resources, via a democratically-determined redistribution of land for sustainable uses for the common good, and the physical dismantling and replacement of inefficient human settlements, so as to dramatically lower human impacts, enable largely local production of most of what is consumed, and bring a rich array of economic, educational, social, and cultural opportunities close to where people live.
- Near total elimination of cars, and implementation of a new transportation hierarchy of walking, bicycling, and a modest use of light rail.
- Use of renewable energy technologies, built and maintained mostly at individual and community scales, and manual power.
- Provision of services to ensure that differently abled people receive equal access to all of the social, educational, cultural, economic, and other opportunities that others enjoy.
- Ban of most non-reusable containers.
- Elimination of most uses of electric-powered air-conditioning.
We consider that, without achieving EACH of the above objectives, we cannot reasonably hope to halt and mitigate the enormous, accelerating destruction and misery that are taking place, and create bright prospects for future generations.
We call upon every human being, and group of human beings, to give these issues utmost priority, seek strategies for rapid transition, and take urgent action to bring about the above new society – while there is still time to achieve the most meaningful and satisfying outcomes that are yet possible.