Friday, 20 December 2013

Crash on Demand

My attention has just been drawn to David Holmgren's new essay Crash on Demand. This slide from the article has some relevance to the scalability issue. Many permaculture designs are at the household scale, many others are at the local community scale and it seems fairly clear to me how many designs would be scalable from the first to the second.

If I understand Holmgren correctly, he sees the local community level being the highest level that can effectively be influenced by bottom-up action in the near to medium term:

The nested future scenarios concept highlights the importance of household and local community strategies whether or not larger scale systems collapse. Those (permaculture) strategies are effective at the local and household scale, while the ones promoted to us by the upper levels of power (e.g. upgrading the light bulb) are weak and tend to undermine our resilience and autonomy (e.g. centralised disaster management systems). This understanding can save us spending too much emotional energy focused on which scenario will win out in the end.

This is not a rejection of the idea of systems change at higher levels however but an identification of where the permaculture intervention point actually is most effective:

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. Whether this became the straw that broke the back of the global financial system or a tipping point, on one could ever say, even after the event.

The driving argument of Holmgren's article is that by concentrating our energies on the household and local community levels and withdrawing from the global financial system, we might leverage global change. Systemic change effected by strategic withdrawal.  No pussyfooting however, this is a radical withdrawal from financial instruments that  the western middle class is well-adjusted to - mortgages, pensions, investments - as well as the conspicuous consumerism that is rife and almost define modern life.

This global change is also predicated on facilitating a global economic crash to save us from the worst climate calamities. Economics as a subset of ecology, planet before profit, international Terraism.

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