Local Living Economies

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Agenda: Create a planetary system of regionally self-reliant, energy-efficient, locally rooted living economies that function as balanced, innovative, and productive subsystems of their local and regional ecosystems, share information and technology, and trade their surplus with their neighbors for goods and services they cannot reasonably produce for themselves.

It requires reorienting land use patterns and transportation systems, retrofitting buildings, concentrating population in walkable, energy-efficient, compact, multi-strata living communities, and nurturing the formation, growth, and interlinking of living enterprises to form the building blocks of prosperous, locally rooted, self-reliant, zero-waste regional economies supportive of ecological balance, shared prosperity, and living democracy. When every bioregional economy is in balance with its supporting ecosystem, the human species will be in balance with Earth’s biosphere.

Living with the Biosphere

A borderless casino economy engaged in unbridled competition for markets, resources, and jobs by global corporations to enrich financial speculators is inherently unstable, fuels resource wars, and is prone to economic, social, and environmental breakdown. It presents a stark contrast to the organization of Earth's biosphere, which is rooted everywhere in largely cooperative, self-organizing, locally self-reliant ecosystems.  [See Learning from Healthy Ecosystems]

Living economies organize to function as subsystems of these local ecosystems, seeking to optimize local self-reliance and resilience in balanced relationship with the larger community of life on which human viability ultimately depends. Though rarely framed in these specific terms, growing numbers of people, businesses, nonprofits, and local governments the world over are coming together to restore community and ecosystem health by rebuilding their local economies on the living economies model.

Wall Street Takeover

Under the sway of Wall Street political influence, public policies even at regional and local levels have for several decades favored Wall Street corporations and investors over local enterprises and ownership. In the name of attracting jobs, many local jurisdictions offer special subsidies and tax breaks to Wall Street corporations and their global counterparts not offered to well-established locally owned businesses. [See: Real Democracy]

Local businesses that have served their communities for generations are driven out of business by subsidized big box stores. Local manufacturers find themselves competing with foreign producers that pay their workers pennies an hour and freely discharge toxic pollutants into the air and water.

As local businesses close their doors, wages fall, once thriving main streets that had served as centers of community life are abandoned, and ugly automobile-dependent strip malls, big box stores, and shopping centers dominate the countryside. The disruption of community life and the loss of natural beauty and biologically productive open space come at an enormous, but largely unacknowledged cost in lost social and environmental capital and increased physical and mental stress.

Creating a New Reality One Community at a Time

Most of the work of rebuilding community and ecosystem function is necessarily local. It is akin to hundreds of thousands of species and trillions of individual organisms cooperating to optimize the energy capture and life support capacity of a forest ecosystem.  As nature knows well, responsive adaptation to the limits and opportunities of local terrain and climate can only be achieved through radically decentralized self-organizing processes that maintain a creative tension and dynamic balance between individual competition and cooperation — between innovation and stability. Call it a "law of life."

As awareness of the consequences of Wall Street colonization spreads, towns, cities, and states are leading the way to the New Economy by declaring their independence from Wall Street and breaking with conventional, money-centered economic growth policies. They seek to build  real community wealth—the shared real wealth of healthy vital people, social relationships, and natural environments that secures well-being through good times and bad. [See the Living Economy Principles of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies.]

They strive for local independence by rebuilding local food systems based on family farms and environmentally friendly farming methods that rebuild the soil, maximize yields per acre, reduce food travel miles, minimize the use of toxic chemicals, and create opportunities for the many young people who are returning to the land. They seek energy self-reliance and carbon neutrality by reducing dependence on cars and supporting local businesses that produce locally, promoting renewable-energy technologies, and retrofitting buildings to green building standards. The leaders are striving for carbon neutrality and zero harmful waste discharge. [See Building Blocks of a Local Living Economy]

The people, businesses, and governments of these leading edge living economy communities are supporting local independent businesses, rebuilding their physical infrastructure using advanced living building and living community technologies to create walkable, bicycle-friendly, energy-efficient communities with efficient public transportation, nurture the relationships of community, recover farm and forest lands, and restore natural water flow and regeneration. They are working to bring people closer to their work and essential facilities, reclaim public spaces, and reverse existing patterns of physical segregation (ghettoization) by race and class. [See "What Makes a Great Place?" and "Liberate Your Space"]

To these ends, living economy communities favor values-based living enterprises and pursue the idea of a true ownership society in which every family has the opportunity to own its own home and to have an ownership stake in the enterprises on which its livelihood depends.

While learning to live within their own means, keep ownership local and continuously recycle their own money and resources to grow real community wealth, local living economy communities freely share ideas, technology, and culture and engage in balanced cooperative exchange in goods and services with their local and global neighbors to benefit from real economies of scale and natural comparative advantage without sacrifice of local values and control. They seek to limit penetration by corporate predators while building mutually supportive relationships with neighboring communities and economies that share their commitment to living economy principles.