The ways systems work, problems can propagate and then generate new, unforeseen problems; fortunately, the same is true of systemic solutions. Our existing economic systems are unfair, unhealthy and unsustainable. These problems are ingrained in the system and cannot be ‘tweaked out’. To borrow an idea from Buckminster Fuller, instead of trying to fix a problematic system, build a better system and the old one will crumble.
The issue is that struggling to change the existing model is not going to work. Making things more efficient is not enough when economic growth continually outstrips efficiency gains. Reducing our resource use by 10-20% is not enough when it needs to reduce by 50-60% or more. Carbon taxes, tougher resource consents, and banning plastic shopping bags are admirable but in the end they but just marginal tweaks to an economic system that is running amok.
Production in our economies is dominated by the industrial paradigm which is large-scale, centralised, resource-hungry, energy-intensive, automated and ultimately destructive. This leads to a multitude of social and environmental problems. A new system of production would largely solve these problems. This new system would be typified by production that is small-scale, low-renewable-energy, localised, labour-intensive, diverse and constructive.
In the coming months, Econation will look at the types of systemic change necessary for environmentally sustainable human well-being. This will including changing from:
- industrial food production to craft food production
- a carbon economy to a solar economy
- finite, extracted resources to unlimited, renewable resources
- perverse, conspicuous consumption to voluntary simplicity
- big, unaffordable housing to small, affordable housing
- fast, quantity production to slow, quality production
We need to create better systems and not just tinker with the old ones. The new systems will be wiser and not just clever. As E. F. Schumacher said:
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius, and a lot of courage, to move in the opposite direction.”
Systemic solutions will work with nature, not against it. They will look at the big picture, not just isolated, short-term results. Systemic solutions will provide the maximum amount of well-being using the least amount of resources, benefitting all people, not just a few.