PROUT Blog – “A Solution-Oriented Approach”

Comprehensive Shift to a Viable Future

Occupy World Street, A Global Roadmap for Radical Economic and Political Reform
Ross Jackson
Green Books, 2012
Reviewed by Mel Strawn and Clare Strawn (father/daughter)

Some few years ago we were all aware of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and you might yawn with “been there, done that” in response to Jackson’s subsequent book Occupy World Street. But note: This book takes it up a notch to WORLD street and offers “A Global Roadmap for Radical Economic and Political Reform.” Economics isn’t a sexy cup of tea. But in Jackson’s book, the treatment of economics is deepened and broadened to an integrated discussion of virtually all that we depend on, care about and can’t escape. We depend, for instance, on a living biome; our lives are an integral part of the natural world. (That’s where the food is.) So it is that runaway global warming is a major background issue addressed throughout the book.

ross-cover-slide
Click here to view interview

The book’s introduction starts: “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who can” (Steve Jobs). Ross Jackson, Ph.D., is a Danish citizen, raised in Canada, with degrees in engineering physics, industrial managing and operations research, which is the science of problem solving. He has worked in global finance and founded the Gaia Foundation and the Global Ecovillage Network; in other words, he’s experienced widely diverse positions that inform his analysis and qualify him as “crazy enough to think he can change the world.”

Dangerous Crossroads
Jackson notes, “Humankind stands at a dangerous crossroads. In the worst case–if an irreversible global warming manifests—we may not survive. Even if this worst case does not materialize, we face a series of other threats–ecosystem overload, over population, extinction of species, and a serious economic overload.”

The first part of the book draws on sound research and theory to demonstrate three converging planetary crises: destruction of the environment, peak oil, and collapse of social and economic systems. While many books expound on these problems, it is instructive to review them all in juxtaposition.

Part Two offers a useful review of dominant economic beliefs. As critical review of the topic is glaringly missing in most formal education curricula (particularly in the US), this section is an important contribution to civic education. It is particularly important to unmask the “Neo Liberal Project” since it is the sea we swim in (particularly in the U.S. where fewer alternative paradigms are in public discourse) and therefore largely invisible. The chapter in Part Two, “The Drivers of Destruction,” provides an understanding of our current financial crises.

In explicating the current world order, Jackson reveals the Kennan doctrine (George Kennan was with the U.S. Dept. of State during the cold war) quoting from a 1948 secret memo, “Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern or relationships, which will allow us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security” (p. 125). This cuts to the chase of what our threats to security are about, which Jackson links to our current loss of democracy to global corporatocracy.

Jackson calls out our failed political leadership. He reiterates the obvious: infinite growth on a finite planet is an impossibility; and clearly states that a radical change in our (largely Western) lifestyles is essential to survival.

Emerging Models
Starting with Part Four, the book offers emerging models and examples of possibility with values and worldview that elevate planetary sustainability to the central concern for economic development. Part of this movement involves aligning single issue oriented NGOs to address systemic problems. This is a shift from our current mode, which, like reductionist science, isolates a single factor (cause) and ignores the whole. This no longer matches our understanding of complex systems.

PROUTist thinking has, historically, been in front of this integrated whole-systems analysis. It is not, therefore, surprising that the PROUT Institute finds itself in collaboration with Jackson to support regional development systems.

Jackson proposes a Gaian Confederation, an alternative, community-based way(s) to conduct the human enterprise based on ecological sustainability and human rights. The road map referred to in the book’s title outlines specific concepts for global governance and economic systems that offer an alternative vision to that of the discredited neoliberal paradigm discussed in the first half of the book. “Gaia” is the view that the planet earth is alive, inclusive and interdependent as a single living system. It was developed as a theory by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis, evolutionary biologist.

Rather than dumping the reader into nihilism, as so many books of dire warning do, Jackson’s book argues for planting the seed for the coming generations. “There is a world of difference between an abstract vision and one that is on the ground and evolving” (p. 275). And the author, himself, is on the ground and evolving through his engagement with multiple global networks.

Breakaway
In the final chapter, “The Breakaway Strategy,” Jackson identifies nation states that are potential starting points for global federation. PROUTists and many bioregional visionaries recommend regional units that are more aligned with local carrying capacity and development. This may prove to be a more accessible starting point for building on existing alternative models and less constrained by national politics.

These two reviewers (Mel and Clare) question two points. First, does humanity have enough time to turn around? Even Jackson’s terrific analysis and recommendations for mitigating action is vague on the realities of time needed for transformative global turn around on the timetable of rapidly accelerating positive feedbacks that spell across-the-board disaster. If the imminent ecosystem collapse is non-linear (as predicted by Guy McPherson, known for the concept of “near term extinction”) is it possible for human systems to shift in a rapid non-linear trajectory as well?

Secondly, Jackson’s perspective has a Eurocentric bias that fails to adequately consider the movements of colonized people that may be the seeds of global transformation. It may well be that wisdom and action from indigenous peoples are the lever to make the breakaway. This is seen, for example, in current “water protectors” movements in North and Latin America that are blocking oil extraction by raising the banner of sacred values.

There is vastly more to consider in this comprehensive book. It has decisive positive reviews from a wide range of stakeholders, communicators and activists. These include David Korten, cofounder of YES Magazine and author of “The Great Turning” and “Agenda for a New Economy”; Dennis Meadows, co-author of “Limits to Growth” who says: “…Jackson’s proposal for post-collapse strategy is the first plausible, constructive scenario I have seen. An excellent text, even amazing”; and Maurice Strong, Secretary General of the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio, who says: “Never has the kind of ‘breakaway’ Ross Jackson envisages been more necessary to our prospects for survival.”

Buy
Occupy World Street at http://proutinstitute.org/bookstore/

Learn more about the AndelsTanken Langeland project: http://proutinstitute.org/projects/andelstanken/

Reviewers: Mel Strawn, Professor Emeritus, University of Denver. Mel has 30 plus years as an educator at the college-university levels and as an environmental student/leader/activist in various ways since the late 1960’s. “I am a designer-artist trying to make sense of a vastly complex world.”
Clare Strawn, Ph.D., is the PROUT Institute’s strategic development and learning officer, and an international education program evaluation consultant.

By | 2016-11-15T02:25:14+0000 November 15th, 2016|Book Reviews|0 Comments

Cycles and Bubbles

Second in a Series on Economic Depression by Ronald Logan, PROUT Institute Executive Director

At some point in the late 1980s I was exposed to the Kondratiev Cycle, first proposed by Nikolai Kondratiev a talented Soviet economist whose work predicted cycles of economic depressions.

In his 1925 book, The Major Economic Cycles, he introduced a theory of 50-60 year-long cycles of boom and bust in capitalist economies. Kondratiev’s works were suppressed in the Stalinist era (he was executed by Stalin in 1938), but were rediscovered in the late 1970s when his ideas on economic cycles eventually came to my attention. My interest in the Kondratiev Cycle was primed by my exposure to PROUT founder P.R. Sarkar’s article Economic Dynamics, which also predicted a coming great depression — one that would bring the downfall of capitalism.

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By | 2016-10-12T23:45:01+0000 June 1st, 2016|Ronald Logan|0 Comments

Library Expands Contents With Many Valuable New Articles

We’ve expanded our library with a diversity of new contents having value for a wide range of readers! In the past three months, some 13 new items have been uploaded to the Library. This includes two new folder collections:

  • General PROUT Theory
  • Cooperative Enterprise

Some new articles of particular significance include:

Our library has been getting valuable use: At this year’s 11th Annual Finnish Social Forum — a gathering of social movements, NGOs and civil society organizations — the Finnish PROUT group at the program distributed packets of PROUT articles that were sourced from the PROUT Institute Library.

Here are short blurbs on all of the articles and papers — and the two new subject folders — added to the Library since March, 2016

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By | 2016-10-12T23:45:01+0000 June 1st, 2016|Ronald Logan|0 Comments

Globalizing the Company Town

A “company town” is a town in which all property, services, and enterprises are owned by a single company. In a company town, it is the company that hires, fires, and retires workers. It is the company that runs the store where people get their commodities and that controls the water and the electric systems. The company runs the school and runs the medical clinic. The company owns the homes that workers rent. And it is the company that brings in the hired security force when there is labor unrest. In the company town, whose interests rule?

Let us now consider the global economy. In the global economy, who provides the jobs; who outsources the jobs? Who runs (and ruins) retirement programs? In the global economy, who owns the resources, and who plunders the resources? Who decides what factories get built — and then decides when they get moved and where? Who runs the hospitals; who controls the energy grid, the media, the currency? It is an increasingly small number of growing conglomerates.

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By | 2016-06-01T03:16:47+0000 June 1st, 2016|Ronald Logan, Uncategorized|0 Comments

The latest from the Philippines:

Here are Ellen Trazo’s reports on the ongoing projects:

Socio – Women’s Livelihood Center, which houses the Consumer’s Store and the Charcoal Making Project. The women’s project is a good partnership with Sr. Edith, a Benedictine nun, as they own that piece of land and donated the galvanized roof for the store and some plywood. We bought the wood and nails, and give honorariums to the fulltime carpenters. Most of the labor was given as free service by the husbands of the women members.  I felt so touched and happy because I saw how the community helped one another… buying woods, ferry it using the motor boats, the youth, the men and women were carrying the lumbers from the boat to the construction site.

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By | 2016-10-12T23:45:01+0000 May 31st, 2016|Philippines|0 Comments

AndelsTanken Creates Green Initiatives

Members of AndelsTanken understands that most Danes readily agree on two long-term goals: CO2 neutrality and cooperative economic development. The first goal is a global imperative and the second is part of the Danish cultural and economic DNA. For 70 years, from 1882 to 1952, Denmark demonstrated a sustainable developmental model based on local resources and cooperatives. Many Danes have rallied around us in taking up these simple goals.

The enormous volunteer engagement that’s come to life is inspiring. Many experienced and engaged people have come forward to offer their skills and time — some to foster local sustainable development, some to continue working in the projects, and some who see localized coop development as the way to meet the challenges of transition.

AndelsTanken’s method is to seek out projects that people are inspired to be a part of, and then to develop concrete action plans in cooperation with these people. AndelsTanken’s role is to facilitate the co-creation of project descriptions and the plans for project implementation.

We’re involved in a number of projects that demonstrate ways for the green economy to grow and become a viable alternative. These projects work on different levels of the new green and sustainable market economy, retaking control over value chains and democratizing the economy and the planning processes. So far we’ve co-created nine projects, described below.

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By | 2016-10-12T23:45:01+0000 May 31st, 2016|AndelsTanken|0 Comments

Vistara welcomes Nick Routledge and Upstart Nursery

Nick  The Upstart Nursery is a 100% participant-driven effort made up of friends and cohorts who aspire to grow a better world, together. Currently, we are hosted by the good folks of the Prout Institute at their Vistara site on Horn Lane in Eugene, OR. Uniquely, we are not a ‘community nursery’ simply in name. Rather, we are, in actuality, a nursery for the community, by the community. We are in our fifth season of raising vegetable starts, which we divide into a spring-summer, and a fall-winter push, and distribute through our CSA program. This is not simply an easy, ‘inexpensive’ source of great plants, but instead a shared adventure in beauty and truth that both allows for and asks of us to address the rich challenges and opportunities integral to birthing a revolutionary eco-social paradigm. You can find more information on our home page describing the core ecological and social tenets informing our collaboration.
Nick posts regular updates on FaceBook.

 

By | 2016-10-13T00:11:35+0000 April 7th, 2016|Vistara|0 Comments

What to do?

Lacking a sense of purpose or mission, many of us flounder and get depressed or retreat into purely private endeavors. Let’s talk about this.

In a recent correspondence, my 86-year-old father said he had resigned as chair of his regional 350.org chapter and was now wondering what useful role to pursue at this stage of life. Influenced by PROUTist thinking (he has been reading After Capitalism) he is frustrated by the lack of alternative vision of environmentalist organizations and the fragmentation of issues-driven movements. He observed,  “Little causes with no real, coordinated effort that connects the dots required for full and hopeful success of a continuing world.” He is inspired to search for opportunities for community dialogue that goes beyond exchange of opinion to shared understanding and enlightened vision.  At the other end of the age range I speak with many college students and out of school young adults with optimism and energy who seek meaningful opportunities to make a difference.

Three levels of action

I think there are three levels of action we can take depending on our inclination and scope of power or opportunity.  (more…)

By | 2016-10-12T23:45:01+0000 January 25th, 2016|SEED|1 Comment