ClimateCovid P4.3: Systemic Alternatives: Transition Towns Movement



Panel 4.3: Systemic Alternatives: Transition Towns Movement

Don Hall, Jessica Alvarez Parfrey (UC Santa Barbara), Anna Willow (Ohio State University), and John Foran (UC Santa Barbara)

“Creating a New Culture: Exploring Transition as Cultural Revitalizatoin”

Anna Willow (Ohio State University)

Q & A

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2 replies
  1. Paul O'Neill says:

    A) Jessica A.P, at minute 23 you talked about the need to understand wealth. You mentioned that things are getting wildly complicated.
    B) Anna W, at minute 27 you mentioned the need to “remake our culture. Remake our values.”. You also recognised that there is an issue with the fundamental way of thinking that has created the US (global) way of life.
    C) Dan H, you mentioned the importance of subsidiarity, and at minute 47 you mentioned the importance of a “policy for a post carbon future.”.

    I will seek to provide a solution, a policy, and then to ask a question.

    My single elegant solution is this: “The Three Things”. Once enough people understand “The Three Things” then they can demand it at the national level. The US is a two-party system. In the US this will require >50% voters to understand and demand “The Three Things”. Learn from Brexit in the UK: 52% voters wanted to leave the EU so politicians enacted it.

    So what are “The Three Things”:
    1 – Land Value Tax (LVT). [Planet]
    2 – Universal Basic Income (UBI). [Personal]
    3 – Universal Basic Services (UBS). [People]

    Before I start, we must understand that money is not true wealth. Money is merely a useful proxy. Real wealth comes from the land in the form of food, minerals, textiles (etc.) and is then given further value by processing in factories. Money on the other hand cannot be eated, worn or used to construct houses. It is a proxy. I believe real wealth should be distributed equitably. Money and the market can still exist, but should not impact on the basic survival needs of humans (and species). So with that in mind, please allow me to explore my thesis:

    The LVT (Tax) is the way to share real wealth (e.g. food) in the economy. It flips on its head the current laws of private land ownership. In the current system landowners extract rents with no requirement or incentive to give anything back to the community or to the environment. With a LVT this is flipped on its head. With a LVT the landlord becomes a steward of their patch of land; responsible to the community and (potentially) to the environment.

    In the LVT system, the landlord pays a Tax to the community based on a fair proportion of the estimated productive value of thier land and they keep the rest for themselves and to pay a wage to those helping them extract the wealth from the land. This wealth, once taxed, is then redistributed to the community in the form of a UBI (citizen’s wage). This wage allows everyone to meet their basic survival needs for food and shelter (rents). This can be organised at the local level. The base tax rate itself might be managed at the national level.

    To the extent that the LVT is fed up the chain to the national level, then Universal Basic Services can be offered. Understand that with a UBI, individuals cannot afford to build and operate a hospital, so necessarily, there will be the need for Universal Basic Services to meet uinversal basic human needs such as healthcare (etc.).

    The UBI appeases the political ‘Right’. The UBS appeases the political ‘Left’. The UBI gives personal ‘freedom to’ (e.g. buying shit). The UBS gives community ‘freedom from’ (e.g. from poor health outcomes and crime etc.).

    The LVT also considers the planet. There can be a preferential rate for growing certain agro-ecosystems that sequester GHG and regenerate the local ecology. There can be a penalty rate applied to those seeking to use thier land for GHG producing activities.

    If a local, or national, community wanted to go futher and fairly redistribute the land ownership itself, then they could do that. If the LVT rate is set on an exponential sliding scale based on quantity owned. Not only would this guarantee that land owning monopoly could never be achieved, but largescale landowners would sell of their excess portfolio making it available to new entrants and communities. Say, 1 acre isn’t taxed, 4 Acres has a small tax, this grows exponentially such that beyond a certain quantity, the tax becomes impossible to pay. Thus excess land is sold off in small units for new entrants.

    Henry George (in the late 19th Century) proposed the single tax on land. I am merely, growing his work. The tragedy is that the US history would have been so different had they enacted the Single Tax. Alas, the Democrats didn’t have the vision to see beyond the old war between Labour and Capital. So sad.

    CONCLUSION. Now I know that if enough people from all walks of life could see the sense in sharing land and its wealth to benefit the whole community and Nature as well as the personal needs of the landlord, then we would have an interesting solution. We might see all kinds of individual and community creativity set loose! …With the end of scarcity, many of the difficult human behaviours would come to an end. Deprivation causes difficult-to-deal-with psychologies.

    …sadly, I have come to know exactly this dark-side of human nature very well. I believe that it is human destiny not to master the necessary changes. Perhaps it is the ‘karma’ of the Western way-of-life (and the US in particular) to grow to maturity, rot and collapse before being susumed into the next culture (empire?). Possibly a more Aisian-centred culture.

    Some hope: I am British. I saw the power of the Brexit vote to mobilise a disempowered group of British voters. Whether one subscribes to the result or not, it was a success in marketing. People feel left behind. People are without opportunity. Brexit, may or may not be the beginning of a solution to that problem for the British people. It is that country’s ‘karma’. Deprivation has not been dealt with. A few steal vast wealth from a great many. And leave them wanting. The UK, like the US is about to have a confrontation with its own ‘karma’ (past cause current effect).

    My concern is the world. If our human-wrought systems collapse, then something will emerge. It will be painful. Hugely so. But will it be necessary pain? Will it result in a better way of life? …or will communities around the globe fall back into ‘limbic system’ thinking and seek to meet their basic needs through primitive ways. Like violence. Like status-seeking, segregation. Like chimpanzees.

    Beasts ….or consciously-evolved beings. Do we even have a choice? …are we even at the helm of our destiny?

    I watch, and I wait. And I can’t quite decide if there is a guiding force moving through the humanity and the circumstances… I knew something was coming, but I didn’t see enough to predict it would be a corona virus. We have been given a warning, and some breathing space.

    If the politically ‘Right’ can be convinced of The “Three Things”, then we may have a chance of grace. If not, then…
    …maybe a future will grow out of the few parochial Transition teams (and similar) dotted around. I am not sure I woudl want to survive into a heating and destabilised world future…

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