A Sustainable Society

There is no measure of how optimistic you ought to be. In fact, as far as optimism is concerned, you basically have two choices. You can say, “Nothing is going to work, and so I am not going to do anything.” You can therefore guarantee that the worst possible outcomes will come about. Or, you can take the other position. You can say: “Look, maybe something will work. Therefore, I will engage myself in trying to make it work and maybe there is a chance that things can get better.” That is your choice. Nobody can tell how right it is to be optimistic. Nothing can be predicted in human affairs… nothing.

-Noam Chomsky

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that if we have any hope of avoiding catastrophic climate change, the industrialized nations of the world must reduce their carbon footprint by a staggering 80% by the year 2050. Responsible experts estimate that a serious commitment to efficiency and renewables, can reduce our carbon footprint by 20% each, yet there are no good plans for the remaining 40%.

This is because the  remaining 40% requires either a radical restructuring of major sectors of the global economy or from a combination of companies producing less and citizens consuming less . None of these options are likely because corporations are structurally and legally bound to pursue a very narrowly defined profit and because people’s entrenched habits make it very difficult to build a mass movement to radically reduce consumption.

In the face of this depressing news, we can either give up or retreat, or we can engage in the massive transformative project necessary for the bulk of humanity to survive the next century. A critical part of this is articulating and constructing viable sustainable replacements. Luckily, on the second part, we have existing models: both Twin Oaks Community in central Virginia (FECmember) and the Kommune Niederfaufungen in Kassel, Germany.

Both are egalitarian communes of around 100 residents. Twin Oaks is rural and Kommune Niederkaufungen is urban. Neither commune makes  ecological sustainability their primary organizing principle, and neither are particularly ascetic, providing a quality of life easily described as middle class if not upper middle class. Both are focused first and foremost on creating an income sharing egalitarian economy and living a good life. However, eco-audits (TO, KN) of both communes found their measurable ecological impact is 70-90% lower than their national averages, figures comparable to the most successful ecovillages. Indirect evidence suggests that most, if not all, existing egalitarian income sharing collectives see similarly drastic reductions in their impact. If we’re serious about building a sustainable civilization and sustainable cities, income sharing egalitarian communes might be a vital part of a successful strategy.

Rather than fighting climate change directly, we can preserve our resources and prevent environmental catastrophe by banishing capitalism from our lives, beginning to share intensely, and making believable commitments to take care of each other.

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