Earlier this week, I posted an entry suggesting that we may be heading into an era of material scarcity, marked by steady high rates of unemployment and limited supplies of necessary goods. Those who subscribe to this scenario (and I believe it is more likely than a miraculous new age of prosperity) are left either to ponder a bleak future of isolating, paralyzing want and fear, or to envision how we can thrive on a more human level.
As my friends in the labor movement like to say, we can either hang together or hang separately. Here are some ideas toward promoting the former.
Building resilient communities
The current issue of Yes! magazine devotes a package of articles to the theme of building resilient communities. As Sarah van Gelder writes in her introduction:
How do you navigate an unsteady economy, a future without cheap oil, and unimaginable changes in the climate? Here are ways to learn skills for self-reliance, build lasting communities, and take care of the important things in life, whether good times or hard times come our way.
To create that resilient future, Yes! tells us to “build practical skills,” “live within local means,” and “imagine, adapt, create.”
It’s a great collection of articles, and I’m enjoying spending time with the issue. Go here for the online edition.
Lawyers getting into the act
Our legal system is set up more for corporations than for cooperation. As a counterpoint, Yes! also has posted an excellent article by attorney Janelle Orsi, detailing the emerging need for lawyers who can practice “cooperation law,” helping people to navigate the legal system in setting up community and communal entities that support the sharing of resources (article link here).
It’s a visionary piece for members of the legal profession — so thought-provoking that I look forward to sharing it with students in my public interest law seminar next spring. Here’s how Orsi explains her subject:
What do you call a lawyer who helps people share, cooperate, barter, foster local economies, and build sustainable communities?
That sounds like the beginning of a lawyer joke, but actually, it’s the beginning of a new field of law practice. Very soon, every community will need a specialist in this yet-to-be-named area: Community transactional law? Sustainable economies law? Cooperation law?
Personally, I tend to call it sharing law.
Common security clubs
In the midst of the 2008 meltdown, a group of educators and organizers who foresaw the longer-term effects of the Great Recession developed the idea of “common security clubs” comprised of friends and neighbors committed to helping one another through these rough times. From their website, here is how they describe a common security club:
A place to come together to increase our personal security in a rapidly changing world by:
- Courageously facing our economic and ecological challenges, learning together about root causes.
- Building relationships that strengthen our security and undertaking concrete steps for mutual aid and shared action.
- Rediscovering the abundance of what we have and recognizing the possibility of a better future.
- Seeing ourselves as part of a larger effort to create a fair and healthy economy that works for everyone.
For more about common security clubs and how to start one, go here.
Ideas are percolating
This is just a sampling of the kind of hopeful, even exciting “next generation” thinking and action developing in response to the challenges we face. Even if you’re not convinced that a next Dark Age is around the corner, consider taking a look at some of these writings to get a sense of how humanity can remain humane even when we’re not living in a land of plenty.