CoCanberra's Vision and Mission
First, some primary assumptions
- The science relating to global warming is correct, if not in minute detail then certainly enough to know where we are heading as a species.
- Humanity, continuing on its current course, is in deep trouble - along with most advanced life on the planet. The current mass extinction event, the advent of peak oil, the loss of natures diversity - and therefore its inherent resilience, and so much more. The stakes are as high as they can be.
- The recent (rather conservative) IPCC report gives us until around 2030 to have largely turned around carbon emissions. The situation is urgent.
- The primary cause of all of these problems is the form of organisation that we in the rich nations have accepted. This is what actually needs to change, and it is here that our solutions must focus.
The damage being wrought on humanity and the planet is funded by people. This is very rarely a conscious act on the part of an individual, but a result of our unavoidable participation in the normal functioning of our institutions.
In other words it is funded by "people doing peopley stuff" - making things, using things, trading and imagining new forms of money and wealth into existence.
The profits gleaned from each stage of all this activity have become progressively concentrated in a few hands - often in the imaginary hands of imaginary people - Corporations. This progressive concentration of wealth means that the rest of us have progressively less.
Somehow, along the way, our natural resources are being steadily converted from flourishing, living systems into dead bank notes and numbers in computers - which we misconceive as real riches
This way we have organised ourselves is traditionally called The Economy, and it is based upon (among others) the harmful institutions of exponential growth, debt, and greed, and is reinforced in this by the law. The economies view of humanity is that of a greedy, calculating being which always acts in its own immediate self interest. This behaviour is regarded as a virtue.
Beginning from where we are today, we need to build the next system within the shell of the old. Like the Mondragon Co-operators before us (and the Wombats), we must build the road as we travel.
We must reorganise ourselves, and redesign our institutions
The Economy is broken, fundamentally. Its workings create horrific inequality and it is on a collision course with its own habitat. We need to create a new economy which is compatible with living processes on our one and only Earth. Now.
We must reorganise ourselves, and redesign our institutions:
- To meet our needs into the distant future
- To collectively keep hold of the benefits we have gained through the immense wealth and knowledge given to us by past generations
- To distribute this fairly amongst all Humanity
- To discard the destructive practices, the wasteful practices, the inequality and the lack of empathy inherent in the current organisational forms.
- To regenerate the living systems of the Earth
- To regenerate the cultural systems of humanity
- To prioritise the wealth of the community above the wealth of the individual
- To maintain a dignified living for people throughout the process and into the future
- To create a locally controlled, diverse, interconnected ecosystem of organisations across the world which fulfil the above requirements
This reorganisation of how we provide for our needs must be designed to be capable of replacing the current system, of shaking off the inappropriate institutions when the time is right.
Unfortunately, the Australian political scene is about as disconnected from these realities as it could be, and is actively working to make these problems worse.
Traditional politics will NOT be the way out of this situation (although a different form of politics will be one part of the solution)
The urgency of our task means the time has passed for bickering over which solution is the best one - we need everyone to do everything they can in their own way, and all do it at the same time, and we need to support each other as much as we can while doing it.
We believe the time has come for the thousands of Australians already working towards this new economy and culture to find each other, to support each other, and by finding ways their different passions and projects can work together, to amplify each other.
So how can we take positive steps to address the situation, without asking the government for help, and expecting limited if any support from big business?
The Climate Co-ops
“We never were separate from nature and never will be, but the dominant culture on earth has long imagined itself to be apart from nature and destined one day to transcend it. We have lived in a mythology of separation.”
― Charles Eisenstein
Because the way we collectively spend our money and pay our bills is how the whole show is ultimately funded, and what we collectively do with most of our waking lives - our work - is how it is all achieved, we (the general population who have to work for our money) have two very powerful tools at our disposal.
Currently, the means to meet our needs are organised by people who are fully absorbed in a worldwide competition to hoard the largest amount of other peoples wealth. Obviously, this leaves us without some portion of the wealth we create every day. By organising to provide for ourselves, we deprive these wealth hoarding folks of their access to our wealth, and of their access to workers. We can claim this wealth (which we have produced in the first place) and this work (which we have done, and will continue to do) for ourselves, in our own communities. We just have to organise it ourselves.
By turning the bills we already pay towards locally owned and run co-operative businesses, we can then decide what these businesses do with the wealth they create. We can create local co-operative systems which are designed to key in with ethics and principles compatible with safe, happy, healthy communities and a thriving Earth.
Through these Climate Co-ops, we can fund the beginning of a new economy, with very little cost to ourselves (we just keep on paying our bills - but now to ourselves). Through them, we can begin a new business culture of working together in non-authoritarian ways towards a collective, community focused form of wealth.
We will provide ethical and just employment for local people (a Right Livelihood) and an opportunity for people to experience “daily democracy” through their workplace – a learning experience that cannot be unlearned, which will lead to a desire for properly democratic structures in the larger society, and provide some knowledge of how to achieve this.
The Climate Co-ops can provide a short term (20-30 years) investment opportunity for divestors - traditional investors who want their money to support good, creative things.
We have begun this process through the formation of the Pre Power Co-operative system.
Pre Power members have the right to:
- Get Co-operative owned renewable equipment installed on their homes, for the cost of membership. Electricity will be sold to them with a big membership discount.
- Invest in the Co-op. Returns will be significantly better than typical superannuation returns.
- Participate in deciding where the profits should be spent - for the common good.
The profits will be split between:
- Obtaining administration and other services from the interlinked central co-ops
- A fund which co-op members can use to lower their costs of living and their burden on the environment
- A grant fund to begin and support new enterprises and social groups which fit within the ethical context of the system we are creating.
Now in its later stages of development, Pre Power is the first of many co-ops we will build, integrated across many sectors. See our description below for more information on Pre Power.
All of the organisations we create must be in the business of directly meeting our needs, including the need for a healthy, functioning environment in which to dwell.
Using a portion of the profits of our businesses to fund further businesses, we expect Climate Co-ops to branch out into all aspects of society necessary to meet our needs.
Before profits are counted, workers will be provided with decent pay, and a safe workplace - according to their own criteria. The interests of the community and the surrounding environment will also be taken into account and catered for before profits are counted. This internalises many important values that are presently ignored as "Externalities".
Profits of climate coops will be dedicated to the common good. This may involve retrofitting members houses to reduce members burden on the environment, beginning new climate co-ops in other sectors, and funding community projects which regenerate community and the surrounding environment.
By using truly equal ways of relating to one another in our everyday organisations, we believe that the larger, emergent institutions and economies that result from our localised efforts will also relate to the world in a different way - in an inclusive, wholistic way. Much highly original work has been done on how to implement this concept, and much more experimentation will be required to build a solid library of fair, ethical and effective organisational methods we can choose from.
Food Connect is one group which has tried a few different methods of organisation, and is still refining their work relationships. They are very successful, and this can be attributed to their courage when it comes to organisational innovation.
How can we envision these mature climate co-ops fitting in together, and alongside the rest of society?
The Co-operative Commonwealth
“A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realisation of Utopias.”
― Oscar Wilde
The Co-operative Commonwealth is a concept where all the fundamental needs of a group of people are met through a complex of strong communities, active commoning, and a strong network of co-operating, Co-operative businesses dedicated to the common good.
Beginning with the formation of the "Climate Co-ops", we will incrementally build an interlocked system of:
- Strong and well connected communities, from the local scale, through the bioregional scale, nationally, and internationally.
- A politics which is based on sovereignty at the local level, with responsibility for decision making and enforcement taken at the lowest possible level, then delegated to the levels above only if required.
- A culture of commoning within these communities to provide for as many of our needs as is practical, reducing the need for paid work and introducing a culture of abundance (rather than scarcity).
- Interlinked cooperative businesses in all sectors. With a common mission to maintain the common good, the co-ops can cater for any tasks which require a dedicated workforce.
- Regeneration of Earth and human culture
This could be similar to the Voices for Indi movement in the Indi electorate in Victoria, or take inspiration from other stateless democracies like the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, or any of the myriad experiments in democracy which are available.
The Cooperative Commonwealth is where we want to be at the end of our journey. A place where work serves the needs of people and planet, and money is only a means to that end. A place where everyday life contributes to the flourishing of nature and community. A place where all are treated fairly and equally, and all take responsibility on a daily basis for the upkeep of their society.
So how do we start, on the ground?
Co-operatives, Commons & Communities Canberra (CoCanberra) was formed in late 2016 to begin this journey.
We are here to provide ongoing support and resources for new and existing organisations who align with our mission of creating Climate Co-ops (to address the immediate climate crisis, and its cultural causes) and through them our vision of a Co-operative Commonwealth, beginning here at home in Canberra and its surrounds.
- To invent, facilitate, implement and support resilient ways of providing for our needs, while recognising the natural limits inherent to the places we live, and designing our new systems within those limits.
- To invent, facilitate, implement and support ways of providing equality amongst all humans, and a fair and decent life for all.
- To begin this change at the local level, scaling up to broader community horizons as local needs are progressively met, providing that the skills and resources to do so are available.
- To make the designs, results and methods we work on as easy as possible to share with and distribute to others who share the same goals, to help them set up their own similar groups.
- To communicate clearly and accessibly with the general public about why these changes (see 1 and 2) are a good thing, and why they are necessary.
- To work alongside other groups who can help us further our goals.
- To use the patterns of the Natural World as a guide in our design work - “What would Nature do?”