What is to be done?

Our world today is beset by a complex of severe social and ecological crises that are rapidly decreasing future prospects for human and nonhuman flourishing. These include human-caused climate instability, degradation of soils and ecosystems, desertification, destruction of fisheries, rapid and massive extinction of species, extreme social and economic inequality, and the dominance of a genocidal/ecocidal social and economic system which concentrates wealth and power into the hands of a few and encourages them to pursue their perceived short-term private interests at the expense of the common good.

What must we do to halt and reverse these crises? Below is a brief and partial overview of a positive path that can take us from where we are to where we need to be.

* Build a movement for an ecological commonwealth, promoting a radical agenda to address our ecological and social crises via cooperative economics, democracy, equality, local and global solidarity, applied ecological science, reduced fertility, material simplicity, reduced toxicity, and the radical re-design of our human settlements and support systems.

* Build visible prototypes, operating within, but also pointing past and challenging, the current constraints imposed by the reigning system: Develop properties of cities, churches, schools, and private owners to showcase permaculture. Build production cooperatives, intentional communities, local gift economies, etc. Build a network of cooperative gardens that feature regular collective harvesting and community meals. Building upon such smaller community projects, develop large-scale and productively diversified model villages (with some 500 to 1,500 residents) that will show the larger society what a just and sustainable way of life could look, sound, feel, smell, and taste like.

* Translate the agenda into immediate, intermediate, and advanced political agendas, once the movement is sufficiently large to make political victory possible. Immediate agenda includes taking over city and county governments and implementing anti-growth agendas, and updating building and health codes to promote sustainable practices. Intermediate agenda includes tax, land use, and other policies aimed at dismantling the control of land allocation by speculators and halting the conversion of wildlife habitat into farmland, and farmland into urban “development,” and favoring land uses which involve sustainable local production. Long-term agenda includes the nation-wide restriction of the extraction, importation, and use of fossil fuels, and a large-scale land reform that takes the allocation of land and other resources out of the market and puts it under the management of a democratic participatory process of economic planning that takes place at local, bioregional, and inter-regional levels. As these political agendas gain the support of a majority of the world’s citizens, opposition from anti-democratic forces will likely need to be overcome via positive personal engagement with the antagonists, and via massive nonviolent noncooperation with those forces.

This is unabashedly a socialist vision, though that term has been subject to enormous abuse and distortion, and we need to update our conception of a socialist society to take account of ecological realities. We must have the courage and insight both to refute the claim that 20th Century Stalinism was a genuinely socialist experiment, and to reject Marxist-Leninist and even many anarchist visions which hang on to the old industrial conceptions of “progress” which were at the center of such agendas as they developed in the 19th and 20th Centuries. The old socialist dream was to equitably share in a cornucopia of material goods which industrial technology was to bring. The new goal must be to equitably share in a greatly reduced level of consumption, so that all may have enough, and find true contentment in the richness of our cooperative relationships.

Yes, we should promote such a radical vision now, even if people either laugh at us or shake their heads in doubting despair. Those who identify with the most radical aspects of the vision will be few at first, but time is on our side. Awareness and support for such an agenda may grow very rapidly and reach a critical mass as the global economy falters, climate change harms are felt, etc. What will make such an agenda “click” with people, when the conditions are ripe, is several years of local movement building and visible demonstration, beginning now. The seeds we plant today may not produce visible results immediately, but we may wake up one day and see the whole field full of green.

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