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As we watch the stock market gyrate up and down (mostly down) over the past several weeks, its easy to understand why more and more people are becoming anxious about the economy.  In fact, the last 4 years have been difficult for many.  At a recent meeting discussing Resilience Circles, we discussed how we've all either personally experienced an economic downturn, or have close friends and relatives who are struggling.


Transition co-founder Naresh Giangrande has asked the question, "How do we make sure that we find good ways to talk about this topic, especially as it is so timely and important, so that it becomes part of the Transition message?"  In his post, Communicating the Financial Crisis in 7 Easy Steps, he offers an outline of how to engage people in this topic without losing sight of underlying resource issues that still lie at the heart of the Transition message. Put another way: "how to include financial crisis along side the environmental issues in a way that makes sense, appeals to us a Transition folks, and speaks to people in our communities who maybe are not yet fully with us."


Chris Martensen (of the excellent Crash Course series) has a good interview this week with Charles Hugh Smith, discussing Why Local Enterprise is the Solution.  The interview is available as an audio stream or a printed transcript. Smith says "We have to solve our own problems. The savior state and these institutions are not going to reform themselves and they are not reformable in any way that is meaningful. And so, I think what we’re talking about is taking your capital, which is your human capital, your skills and your experience; your social capital, the people you know and trust that you’ve created in life; and your financial capital and investing them in local solutions. Things that people need, like energy and food and shelter and a low energy lifestyle."


Along similar lines, Dave Pollard has a post on "Making A Living For Ourselves."  He writes, "the skills and capacities that are needed to create successful Natural Enterprises are the very skills and capacities needed to adapt to and build resilience to face the terrible energy, ecological and economic crises I foresee for the decades ahead. And the citizens of the much smaller and simpler community-based society that emerges after civilization’s collapse will need to relearn how to make a living for themselves in any case. It’s not too early to start."


Shifting gears a bit, I want to highlight John Michael Greer's recent post on The Twilight of Meaning.  He writes about the loss of cultural meaning in the U.S., stating "Without a sense of the past and its meaning, without narratives that weave the events of our daily lives into patterns that touch the principles that matter, we lack the essential raw materials of thought, and so our collective reasoning processes, such as they are, spit out the same rehashed nonsolutions over and over again." 


The solution? Two easy steps, which are as follows:

"1. Pull the plug on current popular culture in your own life. Cutting back a little doesn’t count, and no, you don’t get any points for feeling guilty about wallowing in the muck. Face it, your television will do you more good at the bottom of a dumpster than it will sitting in your living room, and the latest pirate zombie romantic mystery, with or without Jane Austen, is better off gathering cobwebs in a warehouse; you don’t need any of it, and it may well be wrecking your capacity to think clearly.

2. Replace it with something worth reading, watching, hearing, or doing. You may well have your own ideas about what goes in this category, but in case you don’t, I have a suggetion: go looking among things that are older than you are."


Quote of note from Greer: "[We live] at a time when the liberals have forgotten how to liberate and the conservatives have never learned how to conserve."


Finally, I can't remember if I've already recommended the excellent YouTube video from Richard Heinberg on Who Killed Economic Growth?  "Economists insist that recovery is at hand, yet unemployment remains high, real estate values continue to sink, and governments stagger under record deficits. Richard Heinberg propose a startling diagnosis: humanity has reached a fundamental turning point in its economic history. The expansionary trajectory of industrial civilization is colliding with non-negotiable natural limits."




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Comment by David MacLeod on August 24, 2011 at 5:33pm

Hi Behrouz,


Welcome to TW, and thanks for joining us here! A big topic here, with many sub-topics. 

Places to start:

We do have an active group here focused on personal finance, and they have spun off another non-TW organization called the Whatcom Investing Network (WIN).   We also have a group named Economic Evolution, which is not currently active so far as I know.  You might be able to reinvigorate this group to become more active. You should also check out the local alternative currency, Fourth Corner Exchange.


We also have a discussion forum dedicated to Economics, where you can find discussions on Adding Externals Back Into Economics, The Key to a Sustainable Economy, Peak Dollar, and more.


Oh, I should also mention the entries on Economy that I made at the Sustainable Bellingham Documentation Project: Money and Economy.


One of my favorite articles is The Flaw of Western Economies by Permaculturist Marcin Gerwin, which demonstrates that we not only need to change our consumer values, but also become involved in the production of essentials for our community, and participate in rebuilding community resilience and self-reliance.


Comment by Behrouz on August 23, 2011 at 9:26pm

Hi David.  I am new to TW and excited about its prospects.  I am glad you brought up the subject of Economy as I believe it is at the heart of what this movement is all about.  Yet, unfortunately even among a too large proportion of even the activists there is a stubborn lack of recognition / admission that most if not all the ills of our globalized society (including climate change, peak oil, etc. etc.) is rooted in the unsustainable fundamentals or heart of the current global system (capitalism) which depends on indefinite growth in a finite world (planet earth and its resources).  I hope we can address this economic illiteracy by organizing / participating in a Transitions Economics research / study group where we examine Economics in a scientific approach starting with such basic yet much ignored concepts of ''value'', ''capital'' vs. ''money'', other forms of exchange, role of commodity exchange and money in shaping history, ''division of labor'' (e.g., role of specialization) and social inequities, evolution of economic systems, etc.  


I am no ''economist'' but consider it as the underlying driving force (''infrastructure'') in our lives and history affecting (after all it is at the root of our survival i.e., it is our most direct visible tie to nature itself).  That means all other aspects of our lives (e.g., agriculture / construction methods / food health and nutrition / energy, not to mention the ''non-economic'' suprastructure elements of politics / culture / religion and spirituality) depend on it and the way it is organized, systematized, and implemented.  This is about learning about how the various aspects of our lives are interconnected and the driving force behind the aspects and real change in history.  Lack of this recognition / consideration as such will likely result in a less effective attempts for sustainable change at best to tragic bursts of flights of fancy despite much inspired idealism - e.g., experience of the sixties among many others.


I suggest organizing an ''Economics Research Group'' (hopefully one for all Transitions members and not just for ''economics'' aficionados) as part of the Transitions movement where economics concepts are examined / analyzed / argued / debated in a cooperative manner helping to understand the foundations of our current world and what changes are necessary (through a system of alternative production, exchange, and distribution) and how to implement those changes through various integrated transition projects to achieve a new globally sustainable socioeconomic system.


I would appreciate your comments and suggestions.



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