Build a Bridge in a Hurricane

Photo: The Rochdale Cooperative Pioneers courtesy of the ICA

How often does anyone get to witness an historic revolution from within? This is breathtaking. The Occupy Wall Street protests, vocal but largely peaceful, may indicate that we are breaking through to a higher level of consciousness. I think we can do it.

Momentum is building and consciousness is rising, except in Washington of course. The best news is that terrific models–cooperatives and the Transition Town movement–are already in place. These models provide us the tools to create businesses, housing, healthful food, better options for transportation, child care, elder care and health care.  It is absolutely possible to create these conditions for all of us, not just the well off.  These models are the tools with which we we can build bridges to not merely ride out this storm, but to prosper as well.

Co-ops are getting some well-deserved, noteworthy buzz.

  • Humanizing the Economy, a new book (2010) by John Retsakis says “With over 800 million members in 85 countries, the cooperative movement is by far the most durable and most powerful grassroots movement in the world.”  He presents a compelling case for cooperatives and is an excellent starting point to learn about the model.
  • Choose a Co-op tells the story via YouTube.
  • The UN declared 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives.
  • State of the Reunion, a CBC Ideas program broadcast on NPR talks about how Cleveland revived its economy when local foundations worked together to support tiny entrepreneuers, some with as few as three people. They adapted their template from the Mondragon Cooperative model that originated in the Basque region of Spain. The Mondragon cooperatives now employ over 83,000 people.
  • Co-opoly, a new board game is fun to play, AND it shows the powerful potential of the cooperative model.

Transition Towns

The Transition Town Movement was founded by Rob Hopkins in 2006 on the premise, described in this video clip that we have reached peak oil and that climate change is here to stay. The logical consequence of those two basic facts is a dramatically changed economy. The movement is worldwide and going viral, with 103 Transition initiatives in the United States.

The goal is to proactively create resilient communities to dramatically reduce fossil fuel consumption and to bring back the forgotten skills that will serve us in the new economy. This is known as reskilling.

The beauty of the Transition Town movement is that each community creates its own solutions, unique to it’s challenges and resources. Transition Rogers Park, of which I am a member, works on permaculture, gardening, transportation and much more.

Be careful what you ask for. The exquisite irony of  the worldwide financial crisis and the unimaginable ostrich-like behavior of the 1-percenters and the American Tea Party is the Law of Unintended Consequences. Congress, cowed by the Tea Party’s  zealous commitment to not tax anything, is teaching millions of people to go around the traditional economy. People are learning the utility of barter, of thrift shopping, and of not buying anything. Period. A hungry person is a quick learner.

A fundamental plank of cooperatives and the Transition Town movement is supporting the local economy. This is not an easy shift but it is long over due and we will be far better off in the long run.

Bye, bye big box. See ya Sears. Way later, Wal-Mart.

One thought on “Build a Bridge in a Hurricane

  1. Thanks for commenting. What is BAU? I think the beauty of the movement is that “their list of things to do at this time” does not exist.

    Paul Krugman had a good take on this in his Op-Ed Confronting the Malefactors, Confronting the Malefactors

    A better critique of the protests is the absence of specific policy demands. It would probably be helpful if protesters could agree on at least a few main policy changes they would like to see enacted. But we shouldn’t make too much of the lack of specifics. It’s clear what kinds of things the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators want, and it’s really the job of policy intellectuals and politicians to fill in the details.

    Cooperatives are an interesting vehicle for change because, as member owned, operated and governed, a co-op is organized however it’s members want it to be. The environment, push for organics, local sourcing are close to the heart of many cooperators.
    Realistically, the changes that we face are so far reaching that the ways to get there will be as varied as the individuals on the journey.
    OWS looks like a game changer and it’s high time for that.

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