The Resilience Imperative: Cooperative Transitions to a Steady-state Economy

Jay Owen Books and Reviews

Screen Shot 2013-04-19 at 5.11.51 PM by Michael Lewis & Patrick Conaty, New Society Publishers, 2012, ISBN: 9780865717077


   Review by Shann Turnbull, EMM Advisory Board member and source of some of the ideas cited in the book.

The Resilience Imperative is a must read for both leaders and followers seeking survival of society. The book identifies the need to overcome what the authors state as the: “most dangerous idea in the world is that humans are separate from the rest of nature”.

The subtitle of the book says it all: “Cooperative transitions to a steady-state economy”. The book is full of practical self-help bottom up techniques for building a sustainable society.

Compelling evidence for action is presented. These arise from excessive exploitation of the environment, global warming and a financial system that has proved to be neither self-regulating nor capable of reliable regulation.

“Five exit ramps” are identified for transitioning to a sustainable society. 1. Resiliency: Strengthening our capacity to adapt, 2. Reclaiming the commons, 3. Reinventing democracy, 4. Constructing a social solidarity economy, and 5. Pricing as if people and the planet mattered.

Although not stated, the book may prove to be even more valuable as an intellectual guide on how to rebuild society after an almighty financial crash. A crash far greater than the Great Depression 85 years ago is now appearing inevitable. It will be far greater because the Great Depression was not created by excessive private and/or Sovereign debt as exists today. The crash is inevitable, because Sovereign debt has become unsustainable. It has created a fiscal cliff in the US and in Europe it denies Sovereign bailouts of over leveraged banks.

Few have noticed that going in to debt financed the golden age of economic growth over the last half century in leading industrialised nations. This source of economic growth is longer available. In addition, economic growth is inhibited in over 20 of the advanced industrialised economies whose populations are now decreasing.

Without immigration, ghost suburbs will spread from Japan to Europe. It is not just a double whammy of: No more growth financed by debt, and Decreasing populations. But a triple whammy with people living longer and becoming more dependent upon welfare as the number of taxpayers to support them shrinks. Resilience will become the imperative!

This triple whammy may in the longer run sustain humanity by forcing de-growth on society. It could force the highway to the future to terminate in the five exit ramps described in the book. Instead of being exit ramps the examples and ideas presented in the book could become entry ramps to a more equitable, efficient, democratic, convivial and ecologically sustainable society.

Both Mike Lewis and Pat Conaty have extensive experience as community activists, leaders and change agents. Mike is Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for Community Renewal and Pat Conaty is Fellow of the leading UK think and do tank, The New Economics Foundation. Together they have unmatched practical experience and authority in initiating and leading social transitioning processes in the industrialized world.

Drawing on their working experience, contacts and research the authors provide a rich compilation of case studies on how local communities can begin the transition process to a steady state economy. These are used to illustrate their seven guiding principles for leaders and followers to transform society.

The authors first outline how corporations and banks evolved to become too: big, powerful, unaccountable, perverted, and unsustainable. Working alternatives are described based on human scale cooperative and mutual arrangements. These create exit/entry ramps to allow both common wealth and power to be more equitably shared to enrich democracy and build sustainable communities. Prosperity without growth becomes more practical.

The rich variety of working examples illustrates transitions in values, social structures and operations of social institutions. The transitions are an outcome of the seven principles of resilience: Diversity, Modularity, Social capital, Innovation, Overlap, Tight feedback loops, and Ecosystem services. Using somewhat different words, biologist would recognize that these principles described the architecture of life. In this way evolutionary processes provide a compelling endorsement for the book.

Shann Turnbull PhD; Principal: International Institute for Self-governance
PO Box 266, Woollahra, Sydney Australia, 1350
Ph:+612 8065-5905; Cell: +61 (0) 418 222 378
Skype and Google ID: shann.turnbull
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