Dutch city of Utrecht to experiment with a universal, unconditional ‘basic income’

Original Article published at :
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/dutch-city-of-utrecht-to-experiment-with-a-universal-unconditional-income-10345595.html

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The University College Utrecht has paired with the city to see if a system of welfare without requirements will produce an efficient society

The Dutch city of Utrecht will start an experiment which hopes to determine whether society works effectively with universal, unconditional income introduced.

The city has paired up with the local university to establish whether the concept of ‘basic income’ can work in real life, and plans to begin the experiment at the end of the summer holidays.

Basic income is a universal, unconditional form of payment to individuals, which covers their living costs. The concept is to allow people to choose to work more flexible hours in a less regimented society, allowing more time for care, volunteering and study.

University College Utrecht has paired with the city to place people on welfare on a living income, to see if a system of welfare without requirements will be successful.

The Netherlands as a country is no stranger to less traditional work environments – it has the highest proportion of part time workers in the EU, 46.1 per cent. However, Utrecht’s experiment with welfare is expected to be the first of its kind in the country.

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Alderman for Work and Income Victor Everhardt told DeStad Utrecht: “One group is will have compensation and consideration for an allowance, another group with a basic income without rules and of course a control group which adhere to the current rules.”

“Our data shows that less than 1.5 percent abuse the welfare, but, before we get into all kinds of principled debate about whether we should or should not enter, we need to first examine if basic income even really works.

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“What happens if someone gets a monthly amount without rules and controls? Will someone sitting passively at home or do people develop themselves and provide a meaningful contribution to our society?”

The city is also planning to talk to other municipalities about setting up similar experiments, including Nijmegen, Wageningen, Tilburg and Groningen, awaiting permission from The Hague in order to do so.

Next month the city will host the start of the Tour de France 2015, the Grand Départ.

Between city and country: domestic workers building food sovereignty

Written by Karen Pomier , Tanya Kerssen

In Latin America and the Caribbean, domestic workers make up 18% of the female labour force. Migrating from rural areas to work in the city, many maintain both rural and urban identities. With strong connections to their family’s farm on one hand, and playing a key role in buying and preparing food in urban households on the other, they occupy a strategic position within food systems. In Bolivia, increasingly well-organised unions of domestic workers are using this space to both empower their members and educate urban consumers about indigenous foods, healthy diets, agroecology, and the importance of supporting the small farm economy.

Photo: SITRAHO-SP

Photo: SITRAHO-SP

Like many countries of the global South, Bolivia has experienced large waves of internal migration in the past few decades – especially from rural farming areas to urban areas such as the capital, La Paz.

They are keenly aware of the need for urban, worker and consumer solidarity with rural producers

The causes of rural out migration include neo-liberal policies that undermine the price of peasant-produced crops, and climate change, which makes agricultural production increasingly uncertain. As a result, many Bolivian women from farming households find themselves forced to move to cities in search of work – often before the age of 15, with little formal education, and many from indigenous backgrounds. Indeed, while rural out migration is typically portrayed as male, the ‘feminisation’ of migration is increasingly recognised.

In the worst cases, these vulnerable young women become victims of human trafficking. Others end up working in private homes as domestic employees charged with cleaning, preparing meals, and providing child and elder care. Working conditions for domestic workers vary widely, from near-slavery to relatively dignified jobs. But in general, this sector, which comprises an estimated 72,000 workers, 97% of whom are women, has languished in the shadows.

Despite the challenges of organising often fragmented and isolated domestic workers, remarkable progress has been made in forming unions to defend their rights. In 1993, the National Federation of Domestic Workers’ Unions (FENATRAHOB) was founded, which now comprises 13 unions from Bolivia’s nine departments. The unions work to defend domestic workers’ and women’s rights, and provide education and resources to their members. They also work to build the self-esteem and cultural identity of their members, most with roots in rural areas, by strengthening links between the countryside and the city.

Domestic Workers in Search of Dignity and Food Sovereignty

Dignity and Food Sovereignty In 2009, the domestic workers’ union of La Paz, SITRAHO (Sindicato de Trabajadoras del Hogar), launched the Domestic Workers in Search of Dignity and Food Sovereignty project, with the goal of providing members a political education in food sovereignty, and increasing the direct marketing of healthy, ecologically produced food.

With support from the Interchurch Cooperative for Development Cooperation (ICCO), SITRAHO opened its Practical School for Women Domestic Workers (Escuela Integral Práctica de Mujeres), which carries out programmes focused on leadership skills, financial management, and entrepreneurship. Among these, the Programme in Gastronomy and Food Sovereignty provides training to the union’s 2000 members in culinary arts, food safety, and other practical food management skills, together with a political education in the principles of food sovereignty. The curriculum focuses on the use of local products, procuring ingredients from family farmers’ organisations, and revaluing indigenous foods. These principles are then applied in the homes where SITRAHO members work, thus spreading the values of food sovereignty to middle and upper class families. The programme also runs its own lunch counter selling healthy, ecological, locally sourced, and affordable dishes with a focus on consumer education. Most of the consumers are working people from the San Pedro neighbourhood, where the restaurant is located, with the profits used to support unemployed or elderly union members.

Rural and indigenous identity

The practical school for domestic workers is transformed into a restaurant during lunch hours. Photo: SITRAHO-SP

The practical school for domestic workers is transformed into a restaurant during lunch hours. Photo: SITRAHO-SP

Many domestic workers remain closely connected to their rural villages, with family members still engaged in farming activities. They are keenly aware of the difficulties farmers face, and of the need for urban, worker, and consumer solidarity with rural producers. Rosalía Lazo Lazo, who came to La Paz from the rural province of Omasuyos at the age of 14, comments, “since we started in 2009 I’ve heard from a lot of peasants and indigenous farmers and this makes me remember my childhood and think of my parents who still work in the fields.”

Many domestic workers are from Quechua or Aymara indigenous cultures and are familiar with native indigenous foods such as quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa), cañahua (Chenopodium pallidicaule), açaí (Euterpe oleracea) and muña (Minthostachys mollis). These foods are often unknown to urban residents, and are not found in supermarkets that primarily sell imported products and processed foods with homogeneous tastes and textures. Through the Domestic Workers in Search of Dignity and Food Sovereignty project, not only do domestic workers value foods from their own food culture, they also introduce these foods to their employers.

Domestic workers are generally responsible for making all household food purchases and for preparing three meals per day. This gives them tremendous influence over families’ food choices, what kind of food system they support, and whether they promote corporate value-chains or the peasant economy. Rosalía comments, “I know farming is hard work and that people in the countryside need support. My mother still wakes up very early each morning to look after her sheep, and frost or hail sometimes damage her crops. Consumers don’t value ecologically produced products, preferring instead to buy imported produce. But in my last job, I would buy cañahua for the kids. It was hard because they preferred to eat junk food, but I would say to them, don’t you want to grow up to be big and strong? And they then would eat it! Nothing is impossible when you believe in what you do.”

Alliances with family farmers

Over the past few years, SITRAHO has formed partnerships with important food advocacy groups, small businesses, and producers’ organisations including the Association of Organic Producers of Bolivia (AOPEB); the Coordination of Peasant Economic Organisations (CIOEC); Fundación Sartawi which promotes sustainable agriculture in the municipality of Calamarca (south of La Paz); Madre Tierra, a chain of organic food stores in La Paz; and Slow Food Bolivia. SITRAHO has made a commitment to source food from these small farmer organisations and local businesses to strengthen the local food economy and support small scale farmers.

In October 2014, SITRAHO co-organised La Paz’s first Ethical Food Fair (Festival de Comida Consciente). The women of SITRAHO were in charge of preparing all of the dishes offered at the fair, with an explicit commitment to educating people about non-GMO and ecologically produced ingredients sourced from local farmers’ organisations. Piero Meda, a farmer from Calamarca said, “we work closely with the union of domestic workers to bring healthy food directly to consumers.”

SITRAHO’s partnerships go well beyond food sourcing, consumer education, and helping to create local markets for small farmers. They also translate into political alliances with farmers on important issues of agricultural policy. For instance, SITRAHO is an active member of the Bolivian Consumers’ Collective, a broad-based coalition of workers, activists, and consumer groups, which recently issued a declaration condemning the government’s support of transgenic crops and industrial agriculture.

Looking ahead

SITRAHO’s Domestic Workers in Search of Dignity and Food Sovereignty project is a powerful example of collective efforts to repair the social, economic, and ecological damage caused by rural outmigration. Such rural–urban alliances are critical to supporting declining peasant economies and to building food sovereignty in the city and the countryside.

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges faced by the union so far is the history of trauma of many of its members. Many domestic workers have been victims of trafficking, child labour, and abuse, experiences that often manifest as internalised oppression. Whereas many domestic workers feel a strong connection to their rural roots, others aspire to the urban, consumerist values of their employers. They have often been subjected to intense racism and may reject indigenous foods so shopping at the supermarket or buying imported food can symbolise status and acceptance.

Thus, building food sovereignty requires tireless, ongoing work to dismantle racism, sexism, and classism; recover rural identities; and construct class-based alliances that link workers and peasants, producers and consumers, in a collective struggle. These lessons from Bolivian domestic workers can be applied much more broadly, to efforts around the world, to create community-based food systems rooted in justice, sustainability, health, and culture.

Karen Pomier and Tanya Kerssen

Karen Pomier is a Bolivian agronomist and activist who works with SITRAHO, in support of the Domestic Workers in Search of Dignity and Food Sovereignty project.
Email: karenpf@hotmail.es

Tanya Kerssen is the research coordinator at the Institute for Food and Development Policy/Food First in Oakland, California, USA (www.foodfirst.org).
Email: tkerssen@foodfirst.org

First published: http://www.agriculturesnetwork.org/magazines/global/rural-urban-linkages/domestic-workers-building-food-sovereignty

Threatened landscapes unite rural and urban communities

Written by Pia Kieninger , Marianne Penker

In the past 50 years, about a quarter of Japan’s cultivated land has been lost, threatening food production, cultural landscapes and biodiversity. One of Japan’s most valued cultural landscapes includes rice terraces. In order to prevent them from abandonment, an innovative concept known as the Ownership System, was devised almost 25 years ago. This has today become a national movement based on the cooperation between rural and urban communities who combine food production with landscape conservation, cultural activities and environmental education.

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Photo: P. Kieninger

Japan is one of the most urbanised countries in the world where rural communities are rapidly shrinking and aging. About three quarters of nation’s population live in cities, each located in the few flat areas of this otherwise mountainous country. Japan is the ‘oldest’ country worldwide, with 25% of the population being 65 or older, and the average farmer is close to 70 years old. The problem of shrinking and aging rural populations across the country led to the creation of the term, genkai shuraku, literally translated as ‘communities on the edge of existence’.

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‘Owners’ manually harvest the rice and prepare it for drying. Photo: Pia Kieninger

As rural communities grow ever smaller, land is abandoned, infrastructure is lost, and traditional Japanese cultural landscapes known as satoyama, degrade. In the national biodiversity strategy, the “lack of human influence” in satoyama is highlighted as one of the top three biodiversity crises and the role of civil society to protect landscapes is emphasised. Rice terraces (tanada) are particularly important in satoyama, yet about 40% of the country’s rice terraces are abandoned. Apart from food production, they are hotspots of biodiversity and cultural identity. Many people perceive them as the landscape most close to them and they feel attracted to them due to their high cultural and aesthetic value. Tanada are landscapes of their ancestors, culture, tradition, (spiritual) homeland and important places for national identity.
The Ownership System

Civic movements to save satoyama started in the 1980s, firstly by mainly supporting forestry, as cultivation of agricultural land was restricted by law to farmers only. But to support civic engagement on farmland, the government suspended these restrictions in a number of special districts.

The first Tanada Ownership System started in Yusuhara on Shikoku island in 1992. The Ownership System later became a national movement, where mainly city dwellers, called ‘owners’, rent agricultural land in order to cultivate it under the well-organised support of local farmers and other experts. Among all the different types of Ownership Systems, those focusing on rice production are most popular. In 2008, 187 Tanada Ownership Systems were officially registered across Japan, but the actual number might be even higher. The foundation of many Tanada Ownership Systems coincided with the Agricultural Ministry’s award for the top 100 terraced paddy fields of Japan that highlights outstanding scenic beauty and sustainable use. This award brought publicity and visitors to the rice terraces, but it also raised local pride and encouraged them to engage in conservation activities.

Tanada Ownership Systems all over Japan share the same principles, but organisation, size and participation fees differ. In the area of Kamogawa City, close to greater Tokyo, there are at least seven Ownership Systems. One of these, the Ōyamasenmaida Tanada Ownership System in Chiba Prefecture, is commonly regarded as a best practice example. The experiences of locals and city dwellers participating in this system are presented here.

Ōyamasenmaida

Intergenerational exchange after the harvest. Photo: P. Kieninger

Intergenerational exchange after the harvest. Photo: P. Kieninger

Owners’ receive instructions from farmers and association members before planting rice. Photo: P. Kieninger

Owners’ receive instructions from farmers and association members before planting rice. Photo: P. Kieninger

Ōyamasenmaida is a mountainous rice terrace landscape around 100 km south-east of Tokyo. Over 400 terraces, ranging in size from 20 to 900 m2, extend up a south-east slope. They belong to the hamlet of Kogane, numbering less than 20 households.

Cultural landscapes protected by the Tanada Ownership System. Photo Pia Kieninger

Cultural landscapes protected by the Tanada Ownership System. Photo Pia Kieninger

With an aging population, this region lacks farm successors, owing in part to the uneconomically small scale of the paddy fields. In 1997, landowners and other locals founded the NPO ‘Ōyamasenmaida Preservation Association’ and initiated a Tanada Ownership System to safeguard their rice terraces. The founders saw the Ownership System as a win-win for the region. The director explained, “the ownership system is the right way because the small paddy fields are big enough for city dwellers and the old farmers possess a lot of knowledge to offer the city people.”

In 2000, the Ownership System started with 39 terraces, and membership expanded quickly to include 453 owners with 415 plots, or more than 1000 participants including their families and friends in 2006.

Six different programmes are offered. Two are for growing rice (for individuals with families and friends, or for groups sharing common paddy fields), one is for growing rice and brewing rice wine, one is for cultivating soybeans, and one for growing cotton, producing textiles and dying them with indigo.

The sixth, a programme for reconstructing old houses was also recently introduced. Participation fees for the city dwellers range from the equivalent of around US$30 to US$300, depending on the type of programme and field size, with 10% of the fees going to the landowners and the rest to the association.

The owners’ farming activities are strictly scheduled within seven collective working days during the year: rice planting in April/May, weeding in June, July and August, harvesting and threshing in September, and the harvest festival in October. Each day starts with an attendance check and a welcome speech to explain the procedures.

Ōyamasenmaida Preservation Association members and local volunteers act as instructors, while during the rest of the season, the association takes care of the other tasks. Besides these scheduled activities, exchange and communication among the owners, farmers and local people is equally important.

Working days typically include shared lunches or dinners, dancing (the Ōyamasenmaida dance), and karaoke parties. This helps to establish and deepen friendships between participants. Moreover, several side activities are offered such as courses on preparing traditional dishes and handcrafts, nature education programmes, hiking tours, traditional dances, concerts and theatre, and even volleyball tournaments in the paddy fields before rice planting. The association also built the tanada club house financed by the Kamogawa City, to encourage more rural– urban exchange. “Many people meet farmers at the tanada club and become personal friends. I guess this is also an aim of the club,” says one of the owners who developed a lasting friendship with the landowner of his rented paddy field and spends the nights before working days in the landowner’s house.

Why participate?

The motivations driving the participation of the local landowners and population include landscape conservation, revival of rural areas, exchange with the urban population, and attracting urban people back to the countryside in the long run. It remains to be seen whether many of Japan’s urban majority will be motivated to move to the country and take up farming as a profession or help to rebuild rural communities.

At the moment, urban participants who travel up to 150 km to reach the land, are mostly motivated by their love for the rice terraces which they wish to preserve. They also look for recreation, the joy of manual work in the open air, and to be close to nature. Most of them had no connection with farming before taking part, and they want to learn more about agriculture and Japanese culture.

Many parents see the educational value of involving their children. “Tanada can only be cultivated by hand. It is important to protect the heritage of our ancestors and the cultural landscape. I bring my children and grandchildren to learn to work with their hands. It is very important that children see that manual labour is exhausting.”

The relevance of the Ownership System for food production is marginal, as the terrace areas and the amount of rice harvested by individuals is quite small, and from a strictly economic point of view, rice in supermarkets is much cheaper. However, the ‘non-economic’ values gained during the production process and from the self-produced rice, rice wine, tofu and soybeans far outweigh the lower prices from supermarkets. Furthermore, since the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, the director of the association reported an increased interest in food safety and an even higher interest in participation by young people and families.

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Celebrating with some traditional theatre during the annual harvest festival. Photo: Pia Kieninger

The rest of the world

Although the Japanese experience is unique in terms of its socioeconomic and demographic transformation processes, similarities can be found in initiatives around the world. For example, a similar system called ‘rent a grapevine’ started in 2002 in vineyards in Purbach and Retz, Austria. Volunteers learn to appreciate farming and the landscape, and are rewarded with their own wine. As in Japan, participants work for five or six days each year. The initiative was initiated by the tourism association to promote the municipality and support local farmers with additional income. Whereas the Japanese Tanada Ownership System helps to safeguard rice terraces threatened by abandonment, in Purbach, vineyards have been newly created for the purpose of the renting programme, and in Retz, farmers take turns in providing land. Similar to Japan, participants are mostly high educated city dwellers, but with a passion for wine.

Protecting landscapes and accompanying all the steps of food production seem to be important motivators for urban participants. The rural urban cooperation seen in Japan not only satisfies urban participants, but can be highly beneficial for the conservation of cultural landscapes and biodiversity. And, last but not least, the work of local farmers is more highly valued, and they are better able to share their knowledge, experience and skills, and contribute more to the cultivation of their land.

Pia Kieninger and Marianne Penker

Pia Kieninger defended her PhD at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna on ‘Civic Engagement within Cultural Landscape Conservation in Japan’.
Email: kieninger.pia@gmail.com

Marianne Penker is the deputy head of the Institute for Sustainable Economic Development at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna.
Email: marianne.penker@boku.ac.at

References

  • Kieninger, P.R. (2013) Urban engagement in traditional landuse management. Cultural landscape conservation in Japan – A case study. SVH – Südwesterdeutscher Verlag für Hochschulschriften.
  • Kieninger, P.R., Penker, M., Yamaji, E. (2013): Esthetic and spiritual values motivating collective action for the conservation of cultural landscape – A case study of rice terraces in  Japan. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, 28(04): 364-379.
  • Kieninger, P.R., Yamaji, E., Penker, M. (2011): Urban people as paddy farmers – the Japanese Tanada Ownership System discussed from a European perspective. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, 26(4): 328‐341.
  • Kieninger, P., Holzner, W., Kriechbaum, M. (2009): Biocultural Diversity and Satoyama. Emotions and the fun-factor in nature conservation – A lesson from Japan. Bodenkultur, 60(1): 15-21.
  • Kieninger, P. & Penker, M. (2009): tanada-ownership-system. Kulturlandschaftserhaltung auf Japanisch. [Cultural landscape conservation in Japanese]. zoll+ Österreichische Schriftenreihe für Landschaft und Freiraum, 14: 45-49. [in German]

First published http://www.agriculturesnetwork.org/magazines/global/rural-urban-linkages/japan-landscapes-unite-communities

It’s Time to Think Boldly About Building a New American System

First published on Yes Magazine here

The inability of politics to address poverty, climate change, and other basic challenges has fueled extraordinary experimentation in American communities. Welcome to a new conversation on how we make change happen.

Editor’s note: This video and statement are part of the Next System Project, a multi-year initiative to spark deep conversations on how to deal with systemic change in the coming decades.

It’s time for everyone who cares about our troubled country to face the depth of the systemic crisis we now confront as a nation. We must step back from the daily fray and ask: How do we actually get on a path to the kind of society—and world—we’d like now and for future generations? We must begin a real conversation—locally, nationally, and at all levels in between—on how to respond to the profound challenge of our time in history.

It is possible to build a new and better America beyond the failed systems of the past and present.

“If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending,” Lincoln said, “we could better judge what to do.” Today’s answer to Lincoln’s charge is grim. If one looks at “where we are” among advanced democracies across more than a score of key indicators of national well-being—including relative poverty, inequality, education, social mobility, health, environment, militarization, democracy, and more—we find ourselves exactly where we don’t want to be: at or near the bottom.

We face a systemic crisis

The challenging realities of growing inequality, political stalemate, and climate disruption prompt an important insight. When big problems emerge across the entire spectrum of national life, it cannot be due to small reasons. When the old ways no longer produce the outcomes we are looking for, something deeper is occurring. We have fundamental problems because of fundamental flaws in our economic and political system. The crisis now unfolding in so many ways across our country amounts to a systemic crisis.

Today’s political economic system is not programmed to secure the well being of people, place and planet. Instead, its priorities are corporate profits, the growth of GDP, and the projection of national power. If we are to address the manifold challenges we face in a serious way, we need to think through and then build a new political economy that takes us beyond the current system that is failing all around us. However difficult the task, however long it may take, systemic problems require systemic solutions.

We need systemic solutions

The social pain arising from the economic crisis, the steady unfolding of the climate calamity, and many other deeply troubling developments have made it possible to pose the question of large-scale system change in a serious fashion in the United States. Yet, despite this new space for a debate about fundamental change, challenges to the system have until recently been constrained by a continuing lack of imagination concerning social, economic and political alternatives. It is said that the existing system is the only possibility, one we must accept and work with—that, as Margaret Thatcher famously insisted, “There is no alternative.” But she had it wrong.

There are real alternatives

The good news is that the inability of traditional politics and policies to address fundamental challenges has fueled an extraordinary amount of experimentation in communities across the United States—and around the world. It has also generated an increasing number of sophisticated and thoughtful proposals for transformative change. Together these developments suggest that it is possible to build a new and better America beyond the failed systems of the past and present.

We have fundamental problems because of fundamental flaws in our economic and political system.

Indeed, new terms have begun to gain currency among diverse social movements and activist communities—an indication that the domination of traditional thinking has already started to weaken. Thus we encounter the sharing economy, the caring economy, the solidarity economy, the restorative economy, the regenerative economy, the sustaining economy, the resilient economy, and, of course, the new economy. There is talk of the need for a great transition. Several of these approaches already have significant networks and thoughtful research efforts underway. New thinking by creative scholars and members of the labor movement and community-oriented advocates is also contributing to the ferment.

Time for a national debate

It is time for Americans to think boldly about what is required to deal with the systemic difficulties facing the United States. It is time to explore genuine alternatives and new models—”the next system.” It is time to debate what it will take to move our country to a very different place, one where outcomes that are truly sustainable, equitable, and democratic are commonplace.

Those of us signing this statement are committed to working towards these ends.

Sign on at http://thenextsystem.org.

Signatories:

Gar Alperovitz—The Next System Project
James Gustave Speth—The Next System Project
Annie Leonard—Greenpeace USA
Robert B. Reich—University of California at Berkeley
Barbara Ehrenreich—Author
Bill McKibben—350.org
Oliver Stone—Academy Award-winning Filmmaker
Sarita Gupta—Jobs With Justice
Noam Chomsky—Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Daniel Ellsberg—Author, Whistleblower
Ralph Nader—Consumer Advocate, Author, Former Presidential Candidate
Ai-jen Poo—National Domestic Workers Alliance
Danny Glover—Actor, Social Activist, YES! Magazine board member
Kali Akuno—Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
Seymour Hersh—Journalist
Saru Jayaraman—Food Labor Research Center University of California, Berkeley
David Korten—Living Economies Forum, YES! Magazine co-founder and board member
Stacy Mitchell—Institute for Local Self-Reliance
Raj Patel—University of Texas, Austin
Sarah van Gelder—Editor in Chief at YES! Magazine

Plus hundreds more—view them here!

Deep in the Amazon, a Tiny Tribe Is Beating Big Oil

David Goodman

David Goodman wrote this article for Together, With Earth, the Spring 2015 issue of YES! Magazine. David is a journalist, a contributing writer for Mother Jones, and author of 10 books. He and his sister Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now!, have co-authored three New York Times bestsellers.

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Nina Gualinga, Sarayaku resident and international activist on indigenous rights, traveling on the Bobonaza River, Sarayaku, Ecuador. Photo by Caroline Bennett / Amazon Watch.

Patricia Gualinga stands serenely as chaos swirls about her. I find this petite woman with striking black and red face paint at the head of the People’s Climate March in New York City on September 21, 2014. She is adorned with earrings made of brilliant bird feathers and a thick necklace of yellow and blue beads. She has come here from Sarayaku, a community deep in the heart of the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador.

Behind Gualinga, 400,000 people are in the streets calling for global action to stop climate change. Beside her, celebrities Leonardo DiCaprio, Sting, and Mark Ruffalo prepare to lead the historic march alongside a group of indigenous leaders. Gualinga stands beneath a sign, “Keep the Oil in the Ground.” She has traveled across continents and cultures to deliver this message.

“Our ancestors and our spiritual leaders have been talking about climate change for a long time,” she tells me in Spanish above the din, flashing a soft smile as photographers crush around the celebrities. She motions to the throngs around her. “We are actually speaking the same language right now.”

A year earlier, I traveled to her village in the Ecuadorian Amazon to research the improbable story of a rainforest community of 1,200 Kichwa people that has successfully fended off oil companies and a government intent on exploiting their land for profit. How, I wondered, has Sarayaku been winning?

This is not the story most people know from Ecuador. Headlines have focused on northern Ecuador, where Chevron is fighting a landmark $9.5 billion judgment for dumping millions of gallons of toxic wastewater into rivers and leaving unlined pits of contaminated sludge that poisoned thousands of people.

Sarayaku lies in southern Ecuador, where the government is selling drilling rights to a vast swath of indigenous lands—except for Sarayaku. The community has become a beacon of hope to other indigenous groups and to global climate change activists as it mobilizes to stop a new round of oil exploration.

What I found in Sarayaku was not just a community defending its territory. I encountered a people who believe that their lifestyle, deeply connected to nature, holds promise for humans to save themselves from global warming and extinction. They are fighting back by advancing a counter-capitalist vision called sumak kawsay—Kichwa for “living well”—living in harmony with the natural world and insisting that nature has rights deserving of protection.

“Sarayaku lies in southern Ecuador, where the government is selling drilling rights to a vast swath of indigenous lands—except for Sarayaku.”

Naively romantic? Think again: In 2008, Ecuador’s constitution became the first in the world to codify the rights of nature and specifically sumak kawsay. Bolivia’s constitution has a similar provision, and rights-of-nature ordinances are now being passed in communities in the United States.

Sarayaku residents describe sumac kawsay as “choosing our responsibility to the seventh generation over quarterly earnings, regeneration over economic growth, and the pursuit of well-being and harmony over wealth and financial success.”

The people of Sarayaku are the face of 21st-century indigenous resistance. Sarayaku may be a remote, pastoral community, but it is engaging the Western world politically, legally, and philosophically. Patricia Gualinga and other Sarayaku community members have traveled to Europe to meet with foreign leaders and warn energy company executives about their opposition to oil extraction from their lands, produced their own documentary film about their struggle, filed lawsuits, leveraged their message with international groups such as Amazon Watch and Amnesty International, marched thousands of kilometers in public protest, and testified at the United Nations. Sarayaku’s resistance has angered the pro-development Ecuadorian government—which bizarrely hails sumak kawsay while selling hotly contested oil drilling leases—but has inspired other indigenous communities across the globe.

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Sabino Gualinga, traditional healer and community elder. Photo by Caroline Bennett / Amazon Watch.

Defending life and land

I climb aboard a four-seater Cessna parked at a small airstrip in the town of Shell, a rambling settlement on the edge of the Amazon rainforest in southeastern Ecuador. The town is named for Shell Oil Company, which established operations here a half century ago.

Our plane flies low over the thick green jungle. The dense growth below is broken only by rivers the color of chocolate milk, the sinewy arteries of the rainforest.

The forest canopy parts to reveal a grass airstrip and clusters of thatched huts. This is Sarayaku. Moist jungle air envelops me as I step out of the plane. The villagers escort me and my daughter, Ariel, who has been living in Ecuador and is translating for me, past a large communal hut where a woman tends a small fire. Gerardo Gualinga, Patricia’s brother and one of the community leaders, arrives dressed in jeans, a T-shirt, and knee-high rubber boots, the signature footwear of the rainforest. He carries a tall, carved wooden staff, a symbol of his authority.

“The community is in the middle of a three-day meeting to plan our political and development work for the next year. Come along—I think you will find it interesting,” he says, motioning for us to follow him down to the edge of the broad Bobonaza River.

We board a motorized canoe and head upstream, passing slender dugouts propelled by men pushing long poles. In 10 minutes, we clamber out on the river bank and hike up to a sandy village square.

Inside an oval building with a thatched roof, we find José Gualinga, another of Patricia’s brothers, who was then president of Sarayaku. He is holding his ceremonial staff and wearing a black headband and a Che Guevara T-shirt. Gualinga is leading a discussion of how the community should pressure the Ecuadorian government to comply with the judgment of the Inter-American Court on Human Rights, which ruled in 2012 that the Ecuadorian government should have obtained the consent of the native people when it permitted oil drilling on Sarayaku’s territory. Following hearings in Costa Rica, the court ordered the government to apologize and pay Sarayaku $1.25 million, plus attorney’s fees.

The court decision, declared Mario Melo, attorney for Sarayaku from the Quito-based Fundación Pachamama, is “a significant contribution to a more profound safeguard of indigenous peoples’ rights, and it is an example of dignity that will surely inspire many other nations and peoples around the world.”

At a lunch break, Mario Santi, Sarayaku’s president until 2008, explains the history of the struggle here.

“The waterfall, the insects, the animals, the jungle gives us life because man and the jungle have a relationship.”

In the early 2000s, “The government let oil businesses exploit and explore for oil in this territory. There was no consultation. Many communities sold out to the oil companies. Sarayaku was the only pueblo that didn’t sell the right for oil companies to explore.”

Ecuador’s government ignored the community’s refusal to sell oil-drilling rights and signed a contract in 1996 with the Argentinian oil company C.G.C. to explore for oil in Sarayaku. In 2003, C.G.C. petroleros—oil workers and private security guards—and Ecuadorian soldiers came by helicopter to lay explosives and dig test wells.

Sarayaku mobilized. “We stopped the schools and our own work and dedicated ourselves to the struggle for six months,” says Santi. As the oil workers cleared a large area of forest—which was community farmland—the citizens of Sarayaku retreated deep into the jungle, where they established emergency camps and plotted their resistance.

“In the six months of struggle, there was torture, rape, and strong suffering of our people, especially our mothers and children,” Santi recounts. “We returned with psychological illness. All the military who came …” He pauses to compose himself. “This was a very, very bad time.”

In their jungle camps, the Sarayaku leaders hatched a plan. The women of the community prepared a strong batch of chicha, the traditional Ecuadorian homebrew made from fermented cassava. One night, a group of them traveled stealthily through the jungle, shadowed by men of the village. The women emerged at the main encampment of the petroleros. They offered their chicha and watched as the oil workers happily partied.

As their drinking binge ended, the petroleros fell asleep. When they awoke, what they saw sobered them: They were staring into the muzzles of their own automatic weapons. Wielding the guns were the women and men of Sarayaku.

The Sarayaku residents ordered the petroleros off their ancestral land. The terrified workers called in helicopters and fled, abandoning their weapons. The oil workers never returned. An Ecuadorian general came later and negotiated with community leaders— five of whom had been arrested and beaten—for the return of the weapons.

I ask Santi why Sarayaku has resisted. His tan, weathered face breaks into a gentle smile even as he recounts a difficult story.

“Our fathers told us that for future generations not to suffer, we needed to struggle for our territory and our liberty. So we wouldn’t be slaves of the new kind of colonization.

“The waterfall, the insects, the animals, the jungle gives us life,” he tells me. “Because man and the jungle have a relationship. For the Western capitalist world, the jungle is simply for exploiting resources and ending all this. The indigenous pueblos without jungle—we can’t live.”

Sarayaku now wants to help indigenous people around the world resist and defend their way of life. “Our message that we are also taking to Asia, Africa, Brazil, and other countries that are discussing climate change, we propose an alternative development—the development of life. This is our economy for living—sumak kawsay—not just for us but for the Western world. They don’t have to be afraid of global warming if they support the life of the jungle.

“It’s not a big thing,” he says understatedly. “It’s just to continue living.”

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“Indigenous lands free of oil: The cry of the living jungle,” a banner hanging on the side of a building in Sarayaku. Photo by Caroline Bennett / Amazon Watch.

Indigenous climate change warriors

The Sarayaku story is just the latest in a long-running battle over Ecuador’s natural resources. Oil extraction began in northern Ecuador in 1964, when the American oil giant Texaco set up drilling operations in indigenous lands (Chevron later purchased Texaco). When the oil company exited in 1992, it “left behind the worst oil-related environmental disaster on the planet,” according to Amazon Watch, a nonprofit organization that defends indigenous rights. The devastated and poisoned region is known as the “rainforest Chernobyl.”

Despite pursuing Chevron for damages, the Ecuadorian government of President Rafael Correa has embarked on an aggressive new round of oil development in southern Ecuador, opening thousands of acres to exploration. The government has cracked down on resisters, recently ordering the closure of the Quito headquarters of CONAIE, Ecuador’s national indigenous organization, attempting to stop Ecuadorian activists opposed to oil drilling from attending a U.N. climate summit in Peru, and closing Fundación Pachamama, an NGO supporting indigenous groups. Most of Sarayaku’s land has been excluded in the new round of oil drilling, though nearby communities, including those of the neighboring Sápara people, are threatened. Sarayaku is joining the protests of its neighbors.

José Gualinga says these struggles have bigger implications. “We are doing this to stop carbon emissions and global warming. This struggle of indigenous pueblos is a doorway to saving Pachamama [Mother Earth].”

Women have been at the center of the indigenous resistance. Patricia Gualinga tells me, “The women have been very steadfast and strong in saying we are not negotiating about this. We are the ones who have mobilized for life.” She recounts how, in 2013, 100 women from seven different indigenous groups marched 250 kilometers from their jungle communities to Quito, where they addressed the National Assembly. In the 1990s, Patricia’s mother embarked on a similar march with thousands of other indigenous women.

Sarayaku community members travel widely around Ecuador and beyond, but most return to their pastoral village.

“We want to continue living a good life within the forest,” Patricia tells me. “We want to be respected, and we want to be a model that could be replicated.”

Patricia Gualinga, a community leader who has traveled the world speaking out in defense of indigenous rights, at her home in Sarayaku, Ecuador. Photo by Caroline Bennett / Amazon Watch.

Patricia Gualinga, a community leader who has traveled the world speaking out in defense of indigenous rights, at her home in Sarayaku, Ecuador. Photo by Caroline Bennett / Amazon Watch.

The living jungle

I follow Sabino Gualinga, a 70-year-old shaman, as he walks lightly through the dense tangle of growth. He deftly flicks his machete to make a path through the jungle for me and Ariel. He stops and points up toward a tree.

“The bark of that tree helps cure grippe [flu]. This one,” he says, pointing to a weathered, gray tree trunk, “helps to break a fever. That one,” he motions to a fern-like plant, “helps with psychological problems.”

That night, Sabino’s sons, Gerardo and José, join us in front of a flickering fire to talk about Sarayaku’s journey. They are unwinding after a long day of meetings. José wears a white soccer jersey and his long black hair hangs loosely at his shoulders.

José, president of Sarayaku from 2011 to 2014, led his community to take its fight to the Inter-American Court on Human Rights. Part of the court judgment required Ecuadorian government leaders to apologize to Sarayaku. I doubted this would occur, but José was insistent that it would.

In October 2014, Ecuador’s Minister of Justice, Ledy Zuniga, stood in Sarayaku’s sandy community square and delivered an extraordinary message: “We offer a public apology for the violation of indigenous property, cultural identity, the right to consultation, having put at serious risk their lives and personal integrity, and for the violation of the right to judicial guarantee and judicial protections,” she declared.

The court decision and official apology appear to have given Sarayaku an extra measure of protection from new oil exploration. The government must now secure at least the appearance of consent, contested though it may be, lest they get dragged back into court.

“Sarayaku may be a remote, pastoral community, but it is engaging the Western world politically, legally, and philosophically.”

“We’ve shown that laws can change,” reflects Gerardo. “We’ve won not only for Sarayaku, we’ve won for South America.”

A key element in Sarayaku’s success is telling its story everywhere it can. Sarayaku resident Eriberto Gualinga trained in videography and made a film about his community, Children of the Jaguar, which won best documentary at the 2012 National Geographic All Roads Film Festival. Sarayaku has also embraced social media. Community members showed me to a thatched hut. Inside, young people were clustered around several computers updating Facebook pages and websites via a satellite Internet connection.

Now, says José, “When the state says, ‘Sarayaku, we are going to destroy you,’ we have international witnesses. We can tell people the truth.”

José draws a distinction between Sarayaku’s struggles and those led by leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Che Guevara. “They wanted their freedom. We don’t need to win our freedom. Here in Sarayaku, we are free. But we take from the experience of these leaders. It strengthens us.”

A steady rain falls on the thatched roof overhead. The fat raindrops make a hard thwack on the broad leaves of the trees. A guitarist strums softly in another hut. Chickens and children run free.

“We are millionaires,” says Gerardo, motioning to the jungle that embraces us. “Everything we need we have here.” José peers into the fire. “We are a small pueblo, but we are a symbol of life. Everyone must come together to support the life of human beings and Earth.”

Originally Published on Yes Magazine by David Goodman

Greece’s solidarity movement: ‘it’s a whole new model – and it’s working’

Greece Debt in Doubt?

 

“A long time ago, when I was a student,” said Olga Kesidou, sunk low in the single, somewhat clapped-out sofa of the waiting room at the Peristeri Solidarity Clinic, “I’d see myself volunteering. You know, in Africa somewhere, treating sick people in a poor developing country. I never once imagined I’d be doing it in a suburb of Athens.”

Few in Greece, even five years ago, would have imagined their recession- and austerity-ravaged country as it is now: 1.3 million people – 26% of the workforce – without a job (and most of them without benefits); wages down by 38% on 2009, pensions by 45%, GDP by a quarter; 18% of the country’s population unable to meet their food needs; 32% below the poverty line.

And just under 3.1 million people, 33% of the population, without national health insurance.

So, along with a dozen other medics including a GP, a brace of pharmacists, a paediatrician, a psychologist, an orthopaedic surgeon, a gynaecologist, a cardiologist and a dentist or two, Kesidou, an ear, nose and throat specialist, spends a day a week at this busy but cheerful clinic half an hour’s drive from central Athens, treating patients who otherwise would not get to see a doctor. Others in the group accept uninsured patients in their private surgeries.

Greek elections: young, broke and voting for change

“We couldn’t just stand by and watch so many people, whole families, being excluded from public healthcare,” Kesidou said. “In Greece now, if you’re out of work for a year you lose your social security. That’s an awful lot of people without access to what should be a basic right. If we didn’t react we couldn’t look at ourselves in the mirror. It’s solidarity.”

The Peristeri health centre is one of 40 that have sprung up around Greece since the end of mass anti-austerity protests in 2011. Using donated drugs – state medicine reimbursements have been slashed by half, so even patients with insurance are now paying 70% more for their drugs – and medical equipment (Peristeri’s ultrasound scanner came from a German aid group, its children’s vaccines from France), the 16 clinics in the Greater Athens area alone treat more than 30,000 patients a month.

The clinics in turn are part of a far larger and avowedly political movement of well over 400 citizen-run groups – food solidarity centres, social kitchens, cooperatives, “without middlemen” distribution networks for fresh produce, legal aid hubs, education classes – that has emerged in response to the near-collapse of Greece’s welfare state, and has more than doubled in size in the past three years.

“Because in the end, you know,” said Christos Giovanopoulos in the scruffy, poster-strewn seventh-floor central Athens offices of Solidarity for All, which provides logistical and administrative support to the movement, “politics comes down to individual people’s stories. Does this family have enough to eat? Has this child got the right book he needs for school? Are this couple about to be evicted?”

As well as helping people in difficulty, Giovanopoulos said, Greece’s solidarity movement was fostering “almost a different sense of what politics should be – a politics from the bottom up, that starts with real people’s needs. It’s a practical critique of the empty, top-down, representational politics our traditional parties practise. It’s kind of a whole new model, actually. And it’s working.”

It also looks set to play a more formalised role in Greece’s future under what polls predict will be a Syriza-led government from next week. When they were first elected in 2012 the radical left party’s 72 MPs voted to give 20% of their monthly salary to a solidarity fund that would help finance Solidarity for All. (Many help further; several have transferred their entitlement to free telephone calls to a local project.) The party says the movement can serve as an example and a platform for the social change it wants to bring about.

Syriza supporters in Athens

In the sleek open plan, blonde-wood office she used when she was a successful architect, Theano Fotiou, a member of Syriza’s central committee, was packing leaflets for the last day of campaigning, with the help of a dozen or so exceedingly enthusiastic young volunteers. She is seeking re-election in the capital’s second electoral district. “The only real way out of this crisis is people doing it for themselves,” she said. “If people don’t participate, we will be lost as a country. This is practice, not theory, a new social ideology, a new paradigm – the opposite of the old passive, dependent, consumerist, individualist model. And the solidarity projects we have now are its incubators.”

Fotiou said a large part of the first stage of a Syriza’s government’s programme – ensuring no family is without water or electricity (in nine months of 2013, 240,000 households had their power cut because of unpaid bills); that no one can be made homeless; that the very lowest pensions are raised and that urgent steps are taken to relieve child poverty, now standing at 40% in Greece – was largely inspired by what the party had learned from its involvement in the solidarity movement.

“We’ve gained so much from people’s innovation,” she said. “We’ve acquired a knowhow of poverty, actually. We know more about people’s real needs, about the distribution of affordable food, about how not to waste things like medicines. We’ve gained a huge amount of information about how to work in a country in a state of humanitarian crisis and economic collapse. Greece is poor; this is vital knowhow.”

If the first instinct of many involved in the movement was simply to help, most also believe it has done much to politicise Greece’s crisis. In Egalio, west of Athens, Flora Toutountzi, a housekeeper, Antonis Mavronikolas, a packager, and Theofilos Moustakas, a primary school teacher, are part of a group that collects food donations from shoppers outside supermarkets and delivers basic survival packages – rice, sugar, long-life milk, dried beans – to 50 local families twice a month.

“One family, there are six people surviving on the grandmother’s pension of €400 a month,” said Mavronikolas. “Another, they’ve lived without running water for two months. We help them, yes, but now they are also involved in our campaign, helping others. People have become activated in this crisis. They are less isolated.”

In the central Athens district of Exarchia, Tonia Katerini, another now largely unemployed architect (“There’s not a lot of work for architects right now,” she said), is one of 15 people running a cooperative social grocery that opened a year ago and now sells 300 products, from flour to oranges, olive oil to bread, pasta to dried herbs. The business has grown rapidly and the collective’s members can now pay themselves an hourly wage of €3

supermarket

The local “without middlemen” market, one of 30-odd to have sprouted in Athens and several hundred around Greece, where farmers sell their produce for 25% more than they would get from the supermarkets and consumers pay 25% less, takes place only once a month, and the group wanted to set up a small neighbourhood grocery offering similarly good value, high quality foodstuffs directly from small producers.

Ninety per cent of the products the store sold were “without middlemen”, Katerini said, and about 60% were significantly cheaper than in the supermarket. Several come from other solidarity projects – the store’s soap, for example, is made by a collective of 10 unemployed people in Galatsi.

“All these projects, it’s very important to me, are not just helping people who need it, but they represent almost the start of a new kind of society,” Katerini said. “They are run as direct democracies, with no hierarchy. They are about people taking responsibility for their lives, putting their skills to use, becoming productive again.”

Katerina Knitou has devoted the past few years to preventing people from losing their homes. Part of a group of lawyers formed to fight a much hated “emergency house tax”, her focus has switched to the one in three Greek households fearing repossession or eviction – either because they are among the 320,000 families behind on mortgage or other debt repayments to their bank, or one of the 2.45 million Greeks who have been unable to pay a recent tax bill.

Knitou, a Syriza member like almost all those involved in the movement, gives free legal advice on how to avoid foreclosure and eviction. In the first half of last year 700 homes were either repossessed by the banks or foreclosed on by the Greek state over unpaid tax or social security bills. (With colleagues, Knitou also occasionally takes more direct action, disrupting – and preventing – planned auctions of repossessed and foreclosed homes.)

“This whole thing,” she said, “has made a lot of people very aware, not just of what they face, but also of what they can – and must – do. Expectations are going to be high after Sunday, but there are of course limits to what even a Syriza government will be able to do. It’s up to us, all of us, to change things. And honestly? This feels like a good start.”

First Published: The Guardian by Jon Henley in Athens

The First FairCoop Bulletin

Hello friends! This is the first FairCoop Bulletin; we plan on sending these out on a semi-regular, (non-spammy) basis to let you know what’s going on in the global Fair.coop movement. The wealth of any movement is its members so please if you have any doubts, questions, suggestions or downright inspirations, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and get involved.

1. Participate in defining how FairCoop is going to make decisions!

Ok first of all, as you probably know, the decision-making structure of Fair.coop is based around councils, like the branches of a tree, and the ‘trunk’ of this tree is the provisional Ecosystemic Council, which is now beginning to do its work, and as one of its main tasks has developed a draft of the methodological process for making decisions at FairCoop ecosystem level.

Right now the draft has been published here.

Please have a read – there are two weeks for the document to be discussed and improved in our own social network, the Fairnetwork.

These are the complete deadlines that are scheduled:

  • Draft: 06-18 November
  • internal discussion on the council: 19-26 November
  • open discussion on the network: 27 -17 December
  • draft update with network: 18-21 December
  • Voting: (to confirm between finals of December and beginnings of January)

2. Internal economics updates

FairCoop has received a donation of 12600 euros from lush.com, an international Fair Trade company dedicated to fresh hand made cosmetics, that is involved in helping activists and good causes, like permaculture and animal rights around the world. Our ongoing conversation with Lush continues to make broader collaborations in the near future possible.

At the same time that we are able to share this information we have published the incomes and spends of the first three months of FairCoop activity. You can get the info and make comments in this link: https://fair.to/SLgom

3. A new network front page has been released. From here it will be easy for you to browse the different resources of the FairNetwork.

https://fair.coop/fairnetwork/

4. A new local nodes guide has been published, if you are interested in setting up a local node, check out this document!

https://fair.coop/docs/how-to-create-local-nodes

5. The translation to diverse languages continues!

German and Romanian, are already translated and we are working for add they in the site. More help is needed for those languages that are in the works, like, Portuguese, Italian, Norwegian, Dutch…

Check how to contribute to translations here:

https://fair.coop/docs/how-to-cooperate-with-translations/

Also we want to remind you that if you don’t feel totally confident writing in English you can write in your own language. To make it easy for everyone to follow the discussions, we would like to suggest using these two forums for multilingual writings:

– For asking questions:  https://fair.coop/groups/faircoop-community/ask-us-anything/forum/

– For sharing ideas, proposals, thoughts, etc…: FairCoop Community -> https://fair.coop/groups/faircoop-community/forum/

6. Call for the Global South Council. The process for receiving the biographies of the candidates who want to become members of the first (provisional) Global South Council is open. If you are interested in becoming part of the council, please send your bio to any of the Ecosystemic Council members (https://fair.coop/ecosystemic-council/). If you aren’t yet in contact with any of us, please contact us at coop at fair.coop

Originally published here : https://fair.coop/the-first-fair-coop-bulletin/

10 Ideas For Change, Co-operative Local Economies

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As the cracks in corporate capitalism deepen, the co-operative economy is gaining strength. Rooted in community and in the democratisation of ownership, co-operative structures allow citizens to reclaim power over their workplaces, their open spaces, their housing, shops and public realm. Here are ten ideas for building grassroots democratic economies:

1. Take over local shops: Community-run shops – and pubs and petrol stations and libraries – have grown in the UK in recent years, particularly in rural areas. In Ceredigion a co-operative called 4cg began by fighting back against a supermarket planning to move into the town. Through a series of share issues it has communally purchased land and buildings and offers cheap parking and facilities. Its assets now include a community shop as an outlet for local producers and a children’s centre. In a remote island in Maine in New England, employees bought out the three main retail businesses in the town to create the largest worker co-op in the state.

2. Support the development of co-ops: New York City’s most recent budget includes $1.2m for the development and support of worker-owned co-ops, the biggest investment ever made by a city government in the US. In the Bronx, the Green Worker Co-operatives runs a Co-op Academy to help new co-ops get off the ground. The Fund for Democratic Communities supports the development of democratic communities in southern states of the US. In the UK there are a number of development agencies including the Wales Co-operative Centre, Co-operative Development Scotland and Co-operatives UK.

3. Build community media: The centralisation and corporatisation of media has huge implications for local development and democracy. In many places local newspapers have succumbed to market forces and closed their doors. But a movement of co-operative and community-run media businesses is building. Sheffield is home to the UK’s first local television community benefit society, Sheffield Live TV, funded by community shares, and in France a crowdfunding campaign to save regional daily Nice-Matin and convert it into a worker’s co-operative beat its target of €300,000. The West Highlands Free Press has been running for over 40 years and is now employee-owned.

4. Mutualise the local economy: Sheffield co-operative Regather’s ambitious mission is to create a mutual local economy. It helps local people exchange goods and services with each other, expand co-operative working and build collective resources. In Dalston in east London, the Hackney Co-operative Developments supports and incubates cooperative and locally-run businesses.

5. Take over the local football club: The most recent issue of New Start shone a light on the growing number of supporter-led football clubs and the power of community-run clubs to boost their local economy. As big clubs get ever more remote from the communities in which they are based, Supporter’s Direct is helping a new wave of supporter-led clubs to emerge.

6. Gain community ownership of natural assets: Our ancestors – who worked together on common land and managed local woodland as communities – would have despaired at today’s concentration of land ownership and gated communities. A new commons movement is rebuilding community ownership of parkswoodlands and evenmountains.

7. House-build for the common good: Rather than allowing housebuilders, developers and property owners to extract all the value from new developments, there are a number of ways in which that value can be used for the benefit of the wider community. Community Land Trusts are gaining momentum across the UK as housing becomes increasingly out of the reach of many. Community-controlled and owned, they hold land in trust so that housing remains permanently affordable.New garden cities are reviving Ebenezer Howard’s model, which spread the increased value of development to build community infrastructure.

8. Set up community finance mechanisms: New forms of local finance are needed to drive a co-operative revolution. In many places local banks and investment clubs help support co-operative development. In the US urban community land trusts have flourished with the help of city-CLT relationships, in which the local government supports and helps fund new developments. In Germany the KfW public bank provides capital at 1% to local co-operative banks and municipal savings banks for local investment.

mayorslivingroom

9. Fund the platform: Co-ops and collaborative ventures rely on civic participation, and when it comes to participation, the wider and deeper the better. Organisations like Civic Systems Lab have learnt that the creation of an open platform, on which citizens are invited to co-build the projects and services they want, has greater impact than pre-defined projects that limit involvement. Good examples are Singeldingen, a kiosk in a park in Rotterdam that has become a base from which locals run an endless range of activities during the summer months, and Incredible Edible Todmorden, which invited the whole town to become food growers.

10. Open a Mayor’s Living Room – or similar neighbourhood space: An empty property on a street corner in Rotterdam, previously a place for anti-social behavior, has become the meeting place for the whole neighbourhood. In the so-called Mayor’s Living Room the local community comes together to cook, hold meetings, play music and hang out. Households can become members and pay €3 a month, which helps upkeep the building. Residents come together to celebrate national holidays and, as described in the Community Lovers Guide to Rotterdam, ‘young and old, local residents and professionals, everyone has found a place in our living room’.

Original article published at : https://www.popularresistance.org/10-ideas-for-change-co-operative-local-economies/

 

The Satori Generation

Satori Generation

A new breed of young people have outdone the tricksters of advertising.

They don’t want cars or brand name handbags or luxury boots. To many of them, travel beyond the known and local is expensive and potentially dangerous. They work part-time jobs—because that is what they’ve been offered—and live at home long after they graduate. They’re not getting married or having kids. They’re not even sure if they want to be in romantic relationships. Why? Too much hassle. Oh, and too expensive.

In Japan, they’ve come to be known as satori sedai—the “enlightened generation.” In Buddhist terms: free from material desires, focused on self-awareness, finding essential truths. But another translation is grimmer: “generation resignation,” or those without ideals, ambition or hope. 

They were born in the late 1980s on up, when their nation’s economic juggernaut, with its promises of lifetime employment and conspicuous celebrations of consumption, was already a spent historical force.  They don’t believe the future will get better—so they make do with what they have.  In one respect, they’re arch-realists. And they’re freaking their elders out.

“Don’t you want to get a nice German car one day?”—asked one flustered 50-something guest of his 20-something counterpart on a nationally broadcasted talk show.  The show aired on the eve of Coming of Age Day, a national holiday in Japan that celebrates the latest crop of youth turning 20, the threshold of adulthood.  An animated graphic of a smiling man wearing sunglasses driving a blonde around in a convertible flashed across the screen, the man’s scarf fluttering in the wind.  “Don’t you want a pretty young woman to take on a Sunday drive?”

There was some polite giggling from the guests.  After a pause, the younger man said, “I’m really not interested, no.”

Critics of the satori youths level the kinds of intergenerational accusations time-honored worldwide: they’re lazy, lacking in willpower, potency and drive. 

Having lectured to a number of them at several universities in Tokyo, I was able to query students directly.  “We’re risk-averse,” was the most common response.  We were raised in relative comfort.  We’re just trying to keep it that way.

Is this enlightened, or resigned? Or both?

Novelist Genichiro Takahashi, 63, addressed the matter in an essay 10 years ago.  He called the new wave of youth a “generation of loss,” but he defined them as “the world’s most advanced phenomenon”—in his view, a generation whose only desires are those that are actually achievable.  

The satori generation are known for keeping things small, preferring an evening at home with a small gathering of friends, for example, to an upscale restaurant.  They create ensemble outfits from so-called “fast fashion” discount stores like Uniqlo or H&M, instead of purchasing top-shelf at Louis Vuitton or Prada.  They don’t even booze.

“They drink much less alcohol than the kids of my generation, for sure,” says social critic and researcher Mariko Fujiwara of Hakuhodo. “And even when they go to places where they are free to drink, drinking too much was never ‘cool’ for them the way it was for us.”

Fujiwara’s research leads her to define a global trend—youth who have the technological tools to avoid being duped by phony needs.  There is a new breed of young people, she says, who have outdone the tricksters of advertising. 

“They are prudent and careful about what they buy. They have been informed about the expensive top brands of all sorts of consumer goods but were never so impressed by them like those from the bubble generation. We have identified them as those who are far more levelheaded than the generations preceding them as a result of the new reality they came to face.”

The new reality is affecting a new generation around the world.  Young Americans and Europeans are increasingly living at home, saving money, and living prudently.  Technology, as it did in Japan, abets their shrinking circles.  If you have internet access, you can accomplish a lot in a little room.  And revolution in the 21st century, as most young people know, is not about consumption—it’s about sustainability.

Waseda University professor, Norihiro Kato, points to broader global phenomena that have radically transformed younger generations’ sense of possibility, calling it a shift from “the infinite to the finite.” Kato cites the Chernobyl meltdown and the fall of communism in the late 1980s and early 90s; the September 11 terrorist attacks in the early 2000s; and closer to home, the triple earthquake, tsunami and ongoing nuclear disasters in Japan. These events reshaped our sense of wisdom and self-worth. The satori generation, he says, marks the emergence of a new “‘qualified power,’ the power to do and the power to undo, and the ability to enjoy doing and not doing equally.  Imagine a robot with the sophistication and strength to clutch an egg without crushing it.  The key concept is outgrowing growth toward degrowth.  That’s the wisdom of this new generation.”

In America and Europe, the new generation is teaching us how to live with less—but also how to live with one another. Mainstream media decry the number of young people living at home—a record 26.1 million in the US, according to recent statistics—yet living at home and caring for one’s elders has long been a mainstay of Japanese culture.

In the context of shrinking resources and global crises, satori “enlightenment” might mean what the young everywhere are telling us: shrink your goals to the realistic, help your family and community and resign yourself to peace. 

What Takahashi called “the world’s most advanced phenomenon” may well be coming our way from Japan. But this time it’s not automotive or robotic or electronic. It’s human enlightenment.

Traducción Español

Roland Kelts is a half-Japanese writer based in Tokyo and New York. He is the author of the bestselling JAPANAMERICA: How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded the US, and a contributor to enlightened media worldwide. 

Original Article published on ADBUSTERS

Why Is The World Ignoring The Revolutionary Kurds In Syria?

The autonomous region of Rojava, as it exists today, is one of few bright spots – albeit a very bright one – to emerge from the tragedy of the Syrian revolution. Having driven out agents of the Assad regime in 2011, and despite the hostility of almost all of its neighbours, Rojava has not only maintained its independence, but is a remarkable democratic experiment. Popular assemblies have been created as the ultimate decision-making bodies, councils selected with careful ethnic balance (in each municipality, for instance, the top three officers have to include one Kurd, one Arab and one Assyrian or Armenian Christian, and at least one of the three has to be a woman), there are women’s and youth councils, and, in a remarkable echo of the armed Mujeres Libres (Free Women) of Spain, a feminist army, the “YJA Star” militia (the “Union of Free Women”, the star here referring to the ancient Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar), that has carried out a large proportion of the combat operations against the forces of Islamic State.

How can something like this happen and still be almost entirely ignored by the international community, even, largely, by the International left? Mainly, it seems, because the Rojavan revolutionary party, the PYD, works in alliance with Turkey’s Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK), a Marxist guerilla movement that has since the 1970s been engaged in a long war against the Turkish state. Nato, the US and EU officially classify them as a “terrorist” organisation. Meanwhile, leftists largely write them off as Stalinists.

But, in fact, the PKK itself is no longer anything remotely like the old, top-down Leninist party it once was. Its own internal evolution, and the intellectual conversion of its own founder, Abdullah Ocalan, held in a Turkish island prison since 1999, have led it to entirely change its aims and tactics.

The PKK has declared that it no longer even seeks to create a Kurdish state. Instead, inspired in part by the vision of social ecologist and anarchist Murray Bookchin, it has adopted the vision of “libertarian municipalism”, calling for Kurds to create free, self-governing communities, based on principles of direct democracy, that would then come together across national borders – that it is hoped would over time become increasingly meaningless. In this way, they proposed, the Kurdish struggle could become a model for a wordwide movement towards genuine democracy, co-operative economy, and the gradual dissolution of the bureaucratic nation-state.

Read more here http://www.popularresistance.org/why-is-the-world-ignoring-the-revolutionary-kurds-in-syria/