So, as promised, this post is the second part in my little mini series about transitioning to a steady state economy. Getting Past the Dilemma of Growth was my policy action plan that governments could feasibly use to get round the catch-22 that economic growth is leading us to ecological collapse and yet the fear of recession chains us to it. How do we get governments to take this seriously? In democracies such as my country, having a policy action plan is only half the battle. You need public support. It’s easy to overlook this when you consider how many things our governments do that we’re not happy with. But something like economic growth is so ingrained in the public consciousness that we’ve all spent our whole lives seeing it as the magic solution to our woes. Above all, we’re used to governments treating it like the number one priority. So in terms of transitioning to a steady state, there’s two things to do before governments will even take notice. Two things that normal people like you and me need to do.
First, we need to raise awareness of the problems with growth and more importantly, the steady state solution. We need to maximise media coverage. Talk about it to everyone. We need it to become common knowledge. We need to persuade everyone this is our best hope.
Second, we need to show politicians we want it. If they tried to do this without public support they’d be out of office come the next election surer than oranges are orange. So we need to assure them we won’t vote them out for their risky behaviour, and in fact, will vote them out if they refuse to act. We need to demand it.
Get Informed & Raise Awareness
If you don’t already know what I mean by a steady state, I mean an economic model where the economy doesn’t grow but stays at a steady size, within ecological limits. It is not in recession because it is designed to be in this state. The focus is on equitable human well-being. Although the economy doesn’t carry on growing, culture and science still drive humanitarian progress. Check out the Centre for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE) for more information, and sign their position. Read their books, Supply Shock and especially Enough is Enough which is possibly the best book I’ve ever read. Once informed, and if you want to help make this a reality, then shout about it. Talk to your friends about it. Write facebook statuses about it. Recommend people to read those books, and others, or just google the term. If you are a blogger yourself, then write about it. Mention the steady state concept in responses to news articles and in online forums. Just go on about it to anyone that will listen. But make sure you know what you’re talking about first, as the last thing we need is confusion over what it does and doesn’t mean.
Demand a Steady State
If you really want a steady state economy, then don’t stop by telling your friends you think it’s a good idea. Demand it. Write an email to your MP about it, and if they don’t respond within a month, send another one. Suggest to a like-minded people you know that they do the same. Write letters to newspapers about it. Maybe we could organise a petition asking for the dilemma of growth to be discussed in parliament. If it did get discussed, I’m sure they wouldn’t agree to do anything about it, not the first time anyway. But that would be just be the start, and politicians would at least be forced to learn what the concept means. Then we could organise protest marches, which would also generate media coverage of the issue. (More on media later). Come on guys, get your citizen muscles pumping. We are the 99% and all that.
Start Living It
It’s true that we desperately need systemic change. It’s true that our economy and even physical infrastructure is not set up for sustainable living. But there are plenty of ways we can start living the revolution before it’s actually happened. The main things to think about are reducing our consumption and increasing our resilience… Reducing consumption is quite a challenge in a society crazed by materialism, but it can be done. If you’re a bit poor then you’ll have a head start with this because saving money might be enough of an incentive to force yourself away from the glitter of Topshop and the Iphone 5. I’m not pointing any fingers here, because I know first hand how hard it can be to resist the pull of adverts, shopping malls and the endless treadmill of fashion. But if you’re serious about this, then you need to get a handle on your consumption. I’m not saying don’t buy stuff (obviously impossible) but I am saying think before you buy. Try to buy more second hand things. Or at least good quality things so you can keep them for years and repair them. Don’t buy cheap disposable crap. Borrow stuff, share stuff. You get the idea. The resilience thing is about making yourself more secure and less dependent on the fragile global economy and intricate logistics system. If you have a garden or even a balcony, start growing some of your own food. It’s so fun it’s verging on addictive, once you get started. If you have enough money then invest in solar panels and start generating your own power. If you can’t afford this or are renting like me, then at least try to reduce your energy use.
So in conclusion, if you want a steady state future, there’s three (or four really) main things you can do. Learn about it, tell others about it, show the politicians you want it, and just start living like it’s already here.
Next time I get a chance I’ll write about what the media can do for the transition. Then I’ll be on to NGOs and the business world.