Posts Tagged ‘commons’

The People’s Internet

November 27, 2017

It is shocking that in a major American city like Detroit, a city that had two major car companies, 40% of the city lacks access to Internet.

Net neutrality is a big political issue. We cannot have a handful of companies controlling access to the Internet. That access has to be for everyone, rich or poor.

In Detroit, the Equitable Internet Initiative is building community-owned wireless internet infrastructure in towns that big telecom won’t touch. Hundreds of towns have built their own internet service providers. Rural communities are putting wireless internet antennas on top of mountains, grain silos, and tall trees. The fastest internet connections in the United States are provided by local governments, not big telecom. In Southern California, Tribal Digital Village is using unused television spectrum to deliver internet. All over the country, big telecom is being rejected and subverted, and you do not need to have a pile of money, an army of lawyers, or a degree in network engineering to take action.

In England in rural areas, local people are digging the trenches, laying fibre optic cable.

In Greece communities are building their own broadband network.

Postcapitalism, people are taking control of their own political, social, employment space.

Building Communities of Commons in Greece

July 21, 2016

 Sarantaporo area, situated at the North of Greece, is an agricultural and husbandry region, also hit by the crisis. But even prior to the crisis, state’s attention to the area was poor. Youths were migrating to big cities or abroad. There was no Internet connection, and locals were isolated and deprived of basic services, e.g. medical aid.

At 2010 a group of people forms a community wireless network aiming to connect the villages among them and with the rest of the world. In time, and as the project matures, Sarantaporo.grcommunity aims even further. They want to be the catalyst so that the locals (re)organize cooperatives based on the wireless network, (re)enliven their economy, make it sustainable, more extrovert and independent of state and corporative control.

In doing so, they produce knowledge and build bridges between the hi-tech of a wireless network community and the real-life challenges of a rural community.

Other villages expressed an interest in having their own wireless network, and the villages form a network.

The networks gave been built by volunteers, with equipment donated by ….

In October 2015, the media arts collective Personal Cinema which produced the documentary, in collaboration with the Sarantaporo.gr team, launched a crowdfunding campaign at the Spanish crowdfunding platform goteo.org and succeeded to collect an amount of money that facilitated the realization of the documentary.

The soundtrack can be found on bandcamp.

What this points to is the future, building networks of social enterprises, open coops, all cooperating with each other,  contributing to the sharing economy, collaborative commons.

John McDonnell is talking of a post-Brexit future investing in green infrastructure, education, creation of investment banks. Some of this funding should go into establishing social enterprises.

Sarantaporo

January 4, 2016

Sarantaporo and surrounding villages in northern Greece are demonstrating what is possible, when local communities work together in the collaborative commons.

It demonstrates a way forward for all of Greece, following the disgraceful surrender to the EU by Syriza.

Syriza have shown, cannot trust or rely upon politicians, people have to take matters into their own hands, organise their own affairs.

Building Communities of Commons is a crowdfunded documentary to raise wider awareness.

A Post-Capitalism future, open coops, collaborating in the open commons.

What next?

Local renewables feeding into a community owned and controlled local grid, surplus generation fed to other local grids, any profit ploughed back into the local grid or used to fund local community projects.

Flatpack Democracy revolution, local citizens controlling the local town hall, networking with other citizen-controlled town halls.

Local currencies.

The UNSHARING ON-DEMAND economy. Of giving a new name to an old scam…

December 3, 2015

rickshaw 1.jpgI lived through the 2000s’ “new economy”. It was supposed to be wonderful. Internet sales were to sky rocket and expand with no end in sight, very much like the infinite expansion of the universe. It was the time when you could take a company public with a business plan written on a single sheet of paper (single sided). Ah, the good ole’ days.

And it all came down crashing. The NASDAQ had risen to over 5,000…and plunged to 2,500. So did the NYSE index. Trillions of $$ of wealth were wiped out. What happened?

For starter, Internet commerce did not expand at the speed of light. Funny how basic human behavior can come in the way of even the shrewdest marketing scam. Then, as cunning as investment bankers are, there is only so much junk they can push on the market before folks realize that, well, it is junk. By that time, the Wall Street crowd had had a field day. But, sooner or later, the music had to stop. It did. The saddest part of it all is this: 1 – even perfectly legit companies with great offering got hammered and 2 – millions of people got screwed, having bought into the “the New Economy is going to make us all rich”.

rickshaw 2You would think that having endured a man-made tsunami, we would collectively become wiser. Apparently not, because in 2008, more trillions of $$ (most of them entirely speculative) got wiped out in the span of THREE months and the economies of the western nations came close to the edge. What was then the reason? Easy enough: that the real-estate market would expand forever like the universe or even faster.

For the past few years, a crop of “new” companies have emerged that want you to think they are “disrupting” existing business models. I think that the Wright brothers, when they flew an airplane for the first time, did actually introduce a disruption worth noting. Reserving an apartment or a cab via an iPhone? Disrupting? Really? Asking groceries to be delivered to my door step via an app? Disrupting? Well, we all have our own notion of what “disruptive” means, right!

Now, here comes a new terminology: the “sharing economy”. Sharing what, if I may ask? Or the “on-demand workers economy”. Hummm…not sure if the folks coming up with these “new” terms realize, but, by and large, we have lived for CENTURIES in the realm of “on-demand workers”. The fellow who has been delivering my favorite Indian food for the past 10 years is very much “on-demand” as well. My ancestors in the Middle Age, in France, were very much “on-demand workers”. I tell you what: it is not because you give your “on-demand workers” an iPhone that you 1 – elevate their status, 2 – increase their wage earning potential and 3 – make them less dependent on your whim.

rickshaw 3I have attached various pictures of“rickshaw” to this posting. Why, would you ask? Why indeed. Simply because the so-called “sharing economy” is very much a derivative of the “richshaw economy”. The Uber and their cohorts are now engaged in the justification of the exploitation of the labor they employ. (Yes, very much like “employees” without the benefits). “We provide opportunities for all these folks to earn a decent income with flexible hour”. How do you spell lie. L- I-E. The likes of Uber control the market their drivers operate in so the Uberites can do as they please…and they do. Surge pricing. Heavy discount. There is nothing. As in N-O-T-H-I-N-G that the drivers can do. Nothing. As for “flexible” hour, it is only as flexible as the amount of money you want to make under Uber Alles. Understand that there is NO difference between a Uber driver today and a poor fellow who pulled a tuk-tuk one hundred year ago.

Now where is the “sharing” in the Uber scam? What is being shared? Certainly not the cost of running a regulated taxi business subject to municipal regulations and taxes. Income? Well, Uber takes 20% of the driving fee. For what precisely? Just think about what exactly they get paid for? And you tell me if it is not a racket. The drivers share what…they certainly share their income with their “employer who does not want to be called an employer but an app”…get out of town! The drivers, however, do NOT share into the insane valuation that Uber’s shareholders are claiming they are worth: $50B…basically to break just about every municipal laws on the books, con the customers, exploit the drivers while showing the finger at everybody in the name of the “sharing economy”. Does it sound familiar? For some of us, it does…it sounds like 2000…2008….and for some us old enough, some scam years before…

rickshaw 4Well, Philippe, this is about technology. No it is NOT. It’s just an app that allows a person to send a message to a driver for a lift. All the other things are just gimmicks.Taxi dispatch via the internet is not new. And the Uber app is not unique. That’s just exploiting the technology developed by a whole lot of other people. But Uber, Airbnb and all the “sharing” economy gigs are NOT technology companies: they are B2C companies who are trying to paint themselves as the “cool guys”…most of them would not recognize a technology innovation if they saw one. They are marketers of the worst kind and have created business models with ZERO innovation and ZERO defensible position. Commodity. Thus they need to spend gargantuan amounts of cash to build market share…market share that has no stickiness to it…but what do they care if they can exit fast and cash out their shares and get handsomely rich in the process. Hey, the “sharing economy”…not sure they will do the “sharing” though.

I saw recently a post on Linkedin by some folks who were all “mesmUberized”:no assets, no cars, no employees (hum not sure about that), no insurance, no regulations, no taxes…and lots and lots of cash. What’s not to like? Amazing. What a new concept! Well, not quite. In the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s, this used to be called a name: racketeering. And, if convicted, it would send you to jail. Today, they call it the “sharing economy”…

Amazon recently announced that they wanted “people” to carry packages for delivery. How cool is that? Hey, you do not have a job but you have a cell phone? Got a deal for you! Why don’t you deliver this package on 5th Avenue!

rickshaw 5.jpgThe “sharing economy”. The “on-demand workers”. Give me a big f… break! Call it what it is, please. Scam the consumers. Scam the workers. But please, pretty please, with sugar on top, call it what it is: the UNSHARING economy! Make whatever amount of money you can. But do not try to make us believe that you are doing it “to provide flexible hours and income to workers”. Please this is insulting. We know what you are…you predate on gullible people and displaced workers.Same as folks like you who did it a 100 years ago. Nothing has changed. You did not “disrupt” anything…you called it something else….that’s all!

— 

I have had a very fun life so far, and I am not done yetJ. I am helping high-tech businesses get off the ground and turning around faltering businesses. I am the father of a wonderful 23 years old daughter. I am also a passionate dressage rider. By the way, I do not have a book to sell. I do not want to teach you about the 10 ways to be cool under all circumstances…and YES, I wrote this post myself (for better or worse).

Originally published on LinkedIn.


I am pleased to see I am not the only one to recognise, Uber, Airbnb et al are not the sharing economy.

What we have are serfs working for death star apps.

There is nothing innovative about Uber, we have an unregulated taxi sector unfairly competing with a regulated taxi sector.

Uber is not, as often referred, a technological innovation, disruptive technology destroying an old way of working. It is an unregulated outfit, unfairly competing with legitimate, regulated taxi drivers. From the viewpoint of the Uber driver, working all hours for a pittance, take all the risks, put in the capital investment, meanwhile Uber creams off the profit.

We have, as Paul Mason described at PostCapitalism: Envisaging a Sharing Future, silly money chasing silly projects.

The sharing economy, is people working together,  open co-ops,  collaboration, sharing of knowledge and skills.

PostCapitalism: Envisaging a Shared Future

November 3, 2015
St Paul's Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral

Paul Mason signing PostCapitalism

Paul Mason signing PostCapitalism

Paul Mason discussing PostCapitalism, the conclusions of a shared economy not the analysis, at St Paul’s in the City of London, under the auspices of St Paul’s Institute.

St Paul’s within the heart of the City of London. Does capitalism have a heart?

A couple of years ago, Occupy were camped outside offering a different narrative.

Capitalism is a complex system. Every complex system adapts to its environment, and in doing so, modifies its environment. There comes though a point when it can no longer adapt, it breaks downs, flips to another state, dies and its niche occupied by another complex system.

Below St Paul’s, lies a Roman Temple dedicated to Diana. St Paul’s is built on the site of a medieval cathedral.

The Roman Temple was built by military occupiers, probably using slave labour. The medieval cathedral by a feudal system. Wren’s St Paul’s built by mercantile capital.

Capitalism is not set in stone, though the City of London would have us believe so. Mercantile capitalism was followed by industrial capitalism, now we have financial capitalism.

Capital used to finance innovation, invest in productive systems, this generated wealth, from which we all benefited. Now we have financial capitalism, money is invested to create money, silly money chases silly projects like Uber and AirBnB.

Post-WWII we had growth through the 1950s and 1960s. It came to an abrupt end in 1973.

We are seeing boom and bust, bubbles, but no real growth. Crisis follows crisis. We are not seeing innovation.

Marxist Theory of Value, land, capital and labour, determines price. We now have a fourth factor, knowledge, intellectual property.

We have global monopolies, the like of which we have never seen. Companies like Apple. It costs 99 cents to download a track, because that is what Apple says it will cost. It is not determined by the market. Same applies to an iPhone. Apple uses its monopoly position to determine the price.

But this is not sustainable. Knowledge is free, it can be freely reproduced.

Check out FairPhone, or One Plus One or One Plus Two. Contrast with the latest offering from Apple or Samsung.

The price of stuff is tending to zero. Price is a signal on which the market functions. If the price is zero, the market can not function.

We need to move to open co-ops, a sharing, collaborative, gift economy, where we all contribute to the global commons, and draw upon the global commons.

Linux was created by collaborative effort, as was Apache. The internet runs on Linux and Apache, on Open Source Software, the world’s supercomputers run on Linux.

We can achieve more through collaboration, sharing, cooperating. Hierarchical systems are not efficient cannot easily adapt, networked systems are efficient, can rapidly adapt.

The share of wages of the global economy is declining. It is being driven by credit, confected money. If workers lack money in their pocket to spend, we are heading to crunch time.

Many jobs are robotic in nature can and should be replaced by robots. Freeing people to pursue more productive lives. This would necessitate a Basic Wage, sufficient to live on.

Agora is a bar in a quiet plaza in Puerto de la Cruz in Tenerife. It is difficult to sit on ones own, people draw one into their conservations. These are externalities, which makes Agora an interesting place to be. Agora benefits because sells more drinks. Contrast this with facebook, we all contribute, we are the product, we produce the content,  facebook then profits, it captures and privatises the externalities.

Ann Pettifor gave a synopsis of PostCapitalism, but in her criticism, showed she had read but not understood. She confused Uber and AirBnB with the sharing economy. A common mistake.

Uber is a cowboy, unregulated taxi operation which offers unfair competition to legitimate taxi operators. The drivers take all the risks, Uber creams off the profits, and pays no tax.

Uber is often used as an example for what is referred to as the sharing economy, but in reality, and and there are many other examples, we have surfs working for apps.

Ann Pettifor is correct to raise her grave concern at this rapidly growing sector of the economy, but should not confuse it with the sharing gift economy, collaborative commons.

Phillip Blond seemed to have completely lost the plot. He talked of morality, bringing justice and fair play into the world. He did not understand the concept of artificial scarcity, monopoly, which forces up the price of what should be freely available. He talked of expensive art. His point though that all could be producers, was relevant. In the sharing, collaborative commons, we all have the opportunity to become producers and consumers, often making our own unique contribution.

Elizabeth Oldfield chaired the meeting. One of her rare interjections was to ask Ann Pettifor the meaning of rentier economy. Earning money from money, not from hard graft, getting your hands dirty, not from labour or the land.

Why is your book not free?

A good question. When we create, we draw upon what went before. Working for the Channel 4 and before that the BBC, public money has paid for the work.

We could also ask, why Penguin, why a big corporate publisher? Why not Zed Books, a small publisher, a co-operative, is that not more in keeping with the ideals of PostCapitalism? The Global Minotour is published by Zed Books, as is Change Everything. Or why not publish Unbound Books, which crowd funds books? It could be argued exposure, Penguin gets books on the shelves. But does not a book like PostCapitalism spread by word of mouth?

A hardback, a real book, real costs, paper, trees, shipping, warehousing, shelving, booksellers. With an e-book, the costs are zero. The costs of the servers written off years ago. Robots convert to appropriate download formats. Any publisher that charges more than a pound is blatantly ripping people off.

hardback

  • Foyles — £16-99
  • Guardian Live — £15-00
  • Penguin — £14-00
  • Amazon — £11-89

e-book

  • Kindle — £9-99
  • Kobo — £9-99
  • Google Play — £9-99

A couple of years ago, Paulo Coelho offered his entire back catalogue at 99 cents an e-book, a book for the price of a song. Downloads shot up by several thousand percent.

Jeremy Rifkin received a lot of stick for the high price for the e-book of The Zero Marginal Cost Society, a book the entire thesis the collaborative economy and the cost of stuff tending to zero.

Contrast with Sacred Economics, available for free download, pay what you wish, accept it as a gift from the author. What will you gift in return?

Or Europe after the Minotaur, an update of The Global Minotaur, available as a free download.

Phillip Blond spoke of friendship.

In the sharing economy, everything has a story, a social interaction involved. Not an anonymous purchase in exchange for cash.

I gave a friend a special 25th anniversary limited edition of The Alchemist. I have never before seen someone jump for joy. She did, when she looked inside and saw it was signed, not only signed but signed to her. She could not contain her joy, she ran across the road to tell her mother.

Would she have had the same joy had she bought a copy for cash? Yes, she would have had the pleasure of reading but one copy would be no different to another, replaceable if you have the cash.

If I go away, I do not load a Kobo Reader (far better than Kindle), I take real books. When I have read, I give them away.

I have bought four copies of PostCapitalism. I gave my orignal copy away to my friend. Ten days ago, on my way to Yanis Varoufakis in conversation with Paul Mason, I bought a copy of PostCapitalism to replace the one I had given away. At the venue I bought a copy, then a second copy, of The Global Minotaur. Sadly I did not get them signed. This evening, I brought along my copy of PostCapitalism, and bought two more. One signed for me, two to be given away as gifts.

Having bought four copies, should I not be entitled to free e-books?

Every book should have a unique code, use it to download the e-book. You have already paid for the book, the only difference is the format within which you read the book.

If I give my work away free, should others profit from my work?

Michel Bauwens, founder of P2P Foundation and leading advocate of the sharing economy, has suggested a new type of  licencing agreement. Contribute to the commons, from which all can freely draw, but if for-profit draw then they pay a contribution.

Those not familiar with the sharing, collaborative economy, are dismissive, think it will not work, they often give music as an example, people will not pay they will abuse the system.

Bandcamp shows they are wrong. Musicians will release their work, often at low price with people opting to pay what they think it is worth. Fans will willingly pay more than the asking price.

Sita Sings the Blues was released without the usual copyright restrictions. People can show, they are trusted to pay the producer.

In the spirit of the gift economy, tickets were free. Less than one hundred tickets still available the day before. On the night, not a single ticket left, 2,500 people. What will be their contribution to the gift economy, having accepted a gift? Mine, you have just read.

An ideal follow up meeting would be Paul Mason in conversation with Michel Bauwens discussing the sharing, collaborative economy.

Paul Mason is author of PostCapitalism and economics editor of Channel 4 news.

Bologna a Laboratory for Urban Commoning

June 14, 2015

Anarchist anthropologist David Graeber argues in his recent book, The Utopia of Rules, that bureaucracy is the standard mechanism in contemporary life for coercing people to comply with the top-down priorities of institutions, especially corporations and government.  Anyone concerned with the commons, therefore, must eventually address the realities of bureaucratic power and the feasible alternatives. Is there a more human, participatory alternative that can actually work?

The good news is that the City of Bologna, Italy, is pioneering a new paradigm of municipal governance that suggests, yes, there are some practical, bottom-up alternatives to bureaucracy.

Two weeks ago, the city government celebrated the first anniversary of its Bologna Regulation on public collaboration for urban commons, a system that actively invites ordinary citizens and neighborhoods to invent their own urban commons, with the government’s active assistance.  I joined about 200 people from Bologna and other Italian cities on May 15 for a conference that celebrated the Regulation, which is the formal legal authority empowering citizens to take charge of problems in their city.

Collaborare a Bologna

Collaborare a Bologna

How does the program work?

It starts by regarding the city as a collaborative social ecosystem. Instead of seeing the city simply as an inventory of resources to be administered by politicians and bureaucratic experts, the Bologna Regulation sees the city’s residents as resourceful, imaginative agents in their own right.  Citizen initiative and collaboration are regarded as under-leveraged energies that – with suitable government assistance – can be recognized and given space to work.  Government is re-imagined as a hosting infrastructure for countless self-organized commons.

To date, the city and citizens have entered into more than 90 different “pacts of collaboration” – formal contracts between citizen groups and the Bolognese government that outline the scope of specific projects and everyone’s responsibilities. The projects fall into three general categories – living together (collaborative services), growing together (co-ventures) and working together (co-production).

Phase I projects over the past year included a kindergarten run by parents, a “social streets” initiative, and an urban agricultural coop.  In the coming year a new set of Phase II test projects selected by citizens will attempt to extend the scope of the efforts – perhaps with collaborative housing and new sorts of social services provisioning, perhaps with new co-learning programs in the public schools and neighborhood markets.

Bologna’s self-declared ambition to become a “city of collaboration” has deep roots in its culture.  It has long favored decentralized political authority and encouraged active citizen participation.  Mayor Virginio Merola explained the city’s unusual stance toward development:  “Our city relies upon common assets and social relationships – but we are also a city based on human rights and duties.  Our traditions as a city have been based on collaboration.”

When Merola addressed the conference, he got quite emotional:  “Being an attractive city means first of all, loving each other and not excluding,” noting that lots of Bolognese residents come from southern Italy and that there are 120 different ethnic groups in the city.  In an apparent slap at fashionable technocratic management ideas, Merola said, “We are an intelligent city because we believe in feelings,” adding that “smart cities can be stupid.”

Unlike so many politicians who remain committed to tight, centralized control, Merola and his staff understand the virtues of decentralized participation: “The less that central administration is doing, the more things are working,” he said. “Everybody needs to have power to do something for their lives.”  In this, a venerable Bolognese ethic meets up with Internet sensibilities, yielding a new model of city management.

The City of Bologna is quite serious about becoming a “city of collaboration.”  City officials regard it as a unifying vision, and almost a brand identity – one that aligns Bologna with some of the larger trends sweeping global culture today, such as open source software, social networks, and DIY innovation. The City has even developed a “personalized logo”that allows anyone to produce a unique symbol that is graphically integrated with the general city logo — as if to say, we are all different, but we can all be Bolognese.

Luca Rizzo Nervo, the city’s development officer, explained that Bologna’s community development model “goes back to the real meaning of community. We need a collaborative ecosystem – a new way of living and working together.” Nervo hopes to create a national and international network of collaborative cities.  Torino is already in the process of adopting the Regulation, and a number of other Italian cities, including Alessandria, Muggia and Rome, have expressed interest in the concept.

Of course, it’s not as easy as passing a new city ordinance.  What’s really needed is a new cultural orientation and cultivation of new social practices – and those take time and commitment. It requires a retreat from bureaucratic formalism and an appreciation for the power of informal process and personal relationships.

Becoming a “collaborative city” requires that various stakeholders find new ways to work together, moving beyond political gamesmanship and bureaucratic maneuvering. Citizens, business, schools, and government, among others, have to learn how to make long term, good-faith commitments to each other and the process. Inevitably, any city will have to do its own experimentation and adaptation to learn how to make collaboration work within its distinctive culture.

This process, however, has the distinct advantage of limiting political conflict and ideological factionalism.  Because goals are mutually set and programs co-designed, everyone’s focus is more on working through differences than on trying to “beat” the political opposition. The openness of the process also helps avoid NIMBY-ism (Not in My Backyard) and refresh the legitimacy of government action in an ongoing way. Unlike a bureaucracy, the system is designed for rapid citizen feedback and constant iteration. In time, citizens realize that they can adopt a different attitude toward government and become meaningful participants in the process of self-governance. The city truly does belong to them.

Professor Christian Iaione, a legal scholar and commons activist, has been the driving champion of the Bologna Regulation, working through his law school in Rome, LUISS, and a project called LabGov (Laboratory for the Governance of Commons).

Iaione considers the project an attempt to mimic the social dynamics of open source software in city government – the “Ubuntu State,” as he puckishly calls it.  (“Ubuntu” is a South African Bantu term that literally means “human-ness,” but more broadly means, “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity,” as Wikipedia puts it.)

I found the conference both inspirational (testimonies from various citizen groups) and educational (commentary from Sheila Foster, a law scholar from Fordham Law School who has written about urban commons, and from Neal Gorenflo of Shareable magazine, which is a big proponent of “shareable cities” policies).

The concept of urban commons has been gaining a lot of visibility lately.  Here’s hoping that its various advocates, thinkers, and project pioneers will find each other soon and begin to build a new school of thought.  It’s hard to imagine a more effective, attractive way of reclaiming our cities and making them happy, liveable places.

David Bollier

Reposted from David Bollier blog.

Note: Some links in the original did not work. These have been corrected.

eGaia

January 25, 2015
eGaia

eGaia

It is the convergence between commons and co-ops that will create a new economy and a new society. — Michel Bauwens

A story, a group of stories, people telling stories, stories of the future, stories from the future.

In eGaia, three interlocking economies described

  • local co-operative
  • regional
  • global

Within the local economy, everything is on a sharing basis, no money, people are expected to keep in balance, and contribute their fair share. It goes one stage further than granting a Basic Income.

For what the local economy cannot supply, will source from either regional or global economy, for which a financial exchange takes place, using a digital currency, there being a regional and global currency.

If one of the businesses operating within the local economy requires money, it goes to the regional bank. Free money is created (ie interest free), when paid back, the money self-destroys. The economy is not built on debt.

Additional accounts are kept of ecological footprint of every transaction.

Businesses innovate to offer a better service, not to gain a competitive advantage as not in competition, and will share their innovation.

All carried out by means of smart phone apps.

As Rob Bell explains in Love Wins, it is not that money is the root of all evil, it is what we do with money.

We can look around, see things that need to be done, but we lack the money, we can look around, see things that need to be done, but we lack the time, we have to work to earn a living.

Money is a means of exchange. I have something you want, we agree a price, an exchange takes place, money changes hands.

Usury places a levy called interest on what would otherwise be free money. The economy has to grow to service the debt. Companies sell us things we do not want to increase their market share. We cannot have linear growth on a finite planet.

Man has always had an impact on the environment. Civilisations have risen, then collapsed, when they exceeded the carrying capacity of the land. Once it was local, then regional, now the entire planet. Mass species extinction, habitat destruction, global warming, Those at the front line of extraction, are in conflict zones. We need several planets to sustain our extraction, we do not have several planets, we have one.

The problem is not Peak Oil. Innovation opens up more resources. The problem is that innovation is opening up more hazardous sources of oil, tar sands, fracking, deepwater, Arctic. The problem is, we cannot burm even known resrves, if we are to keep global temperature rose below 2C, and even 2C will lead to more extreme weather events. If we go beyond 2C, all bets are off, the models begin to break down.

We are naive, arrogant even, if we think we can save the planet. Recent extreme weather events has shown, Gaia always has the last laugh. We cannot. Nor do we need to create Gaian feedback loops, these already exist. The role of Man, is to learn from Gaia, and to act as custodian of Gaian feedback mechanisms

Early lifeforms emitted oxygen as a waste product. Oxygen is toxic. Later life forms learnt how to deal with oxygen.

Oxygen is kept within very narrow limits. Too high and there would be spontaneous combustion, too low and most life on earth could not exist.

One of many Gaian feedback mechanisms.

We know that to keep global temperature rise to below 2C, 80% of known carbon reserves have to be kept in the ground, and even 2C will lead to more extreme weather events.

This raises two points:

  • oil companies worthless
  • why are we still exploring for new reserves

The value of oil companies is the value of their reserves. If they cannot extract, the value of the oil companies becomes worthless overnight.

New extraction is increasingly hazardous: tar sands, deepwater, fracking, Arctic.

A different way of looking at the stored carbon is to go back millions of years. Carbon cycle was not perfect. Trees (strictly speaking not trees) formed coal, simple lifeforms formed oil. If we release this carbon that was extracted from the atmosphere, it means we return to the prevailing climate at that time, if we release within a few hundred years, we trigger thermal runway.

Insanity: UK government is granting fracking generous tax concessions, paying to drill. An Infrastructure Bill passing through Parliament will make it a legal obligation to maximise oil exaction.

Rapid growth is not the norm in the natural world.

We see it when we introduce an alien species to an island, with no natural predators, Rapid growth usually followed by catastrophic collapse.

We see it with cancer.

We see it on bare land, for example following a forest fire, or rapidly retreating ice at an interglacial, rapid growth by pioneer species, secondary species follow, and eventually steady state of a mature ecosystem, The interaction between the species creates the environment, the environment creates the conditions for the species.

In a rainforest, the rain is created by the rainforest.

Important is trophic cascade and keystone species. Remove the keystone species, rapid collapse. It is the keystone species that maintains the diversity.

Cod, wolves and whales are keystone species.

Traditionally, it was thought ecosystems developed from the bottom up: the soil determines the vegetation, the vegetation the herbivores, the herbivores the carnivores. We now know this not to be true, it is the top predators, the keystone species, those whose influence extends far beyond their numbers, that determine an ecosystem.

Top predators, in what is known as trophic cascade, can have an effect all the way down the food chain.

Reintroduction of wolves to the Yellowstone National Park, affected the landscape.

With no predators, the deer populations soared, destroying the vegetation and trees, denuding the landscape.

Though wolves were small in number, did not kill many deer, they changed the pattern of behaviour of the deer, the deer avoid the places most likely to be ambushed by wolves. In those areas, the trees recover, birds return, bears return. Beavers return, beavers damn the rivers, providing more habitats for mores species. The river changes. The trees stop soil erosion, the landscape changes.

The wolves may kill a few deer, but they also create life, they create the conditions for life to exist in more varied variety than existed before their introduction.

The Japanese would argue killing of whales, in fact the Japanese will find any excuse to kill whales, more krill, more fish.

Killing whales leads to fewer krill.

Whales stir up the waters, bring nutrients to the surface.

Phytoplankton feed on the nutrients, zoo plankton feed on the phytoplankton, fish feed on the plankton.

Phytoplankton capture carbon which is then carried down to the ocean sediments. Millions of tonnes of carbon capture.

The presence of whales, leads to more life, not less.

Top predators are not only affecting life all the way along the food chain, they are impacting on geophysical processes.

Instead of loony schemes to seed the oceans, imaginary machines to suck CO2 out of the air (and then pump into oil wells to extract more oil), protect whales.

Gaia does her job, if we let her.

Millions of years of co-evolution, networks within networks, mutual coexistence, should tell us how to organise our affairs in a manner that works.

Hierarchical system do not work, for one simple reason, it requires perfect knowledge of what is happening at the next level.

Self-organising networks, are adaptable, have feedback.

Exponential growth within finite resources, leads to catastrophic collapse.

We cannot propose a future, project it on the past, then use that as justification for the future we wish to see.

We cannot say, hunter-gatherers may have engaged in war with surrounding tribes but it led to little blood letting. Where is the evidence?

We can speculate on a sharing society, we can look at indigenous cultures today.

What we see is hunters sharing the kill. Very good reason for this. Spoils of the hunt do not keep beyond a few days, therefore better to share, and hope those we share with, will invite us to share when they have good fortune.

As Carla Stang describes in her description of Mechinaku in her essay Rampant Rainbows and the Blacked Sun in Dark Mountain 6, they have a deep and intimate relationship with the world around them, treat it with reverence and respect. But she also makes the point, we cannot apply our external views, we have to take what we see within its own context.

Nor is sharing, reciprocity, restricted to indigenous cultures.

In Istanbul, not knowing how to pay for the tram, an attractive local female kindly paid for me. I commented that it would be easy to hop on the tram, hop off, without paying. This was treated with horror, that I could even have the thought let alone carry out the act. It was something you simply did not do.

There is not a clear division between hunter-gatherers and agriculture. Hunter-gatherers will often plant trees, tend gardens.

Speech possibly evolved from music, music from the rhythmic sounds we hear around us.

Nonsense to claim ‘language functions to deny reciprocity with nature’.

Do we see this with Celtic writing or Zen masters or or Hildegard von Bingen or Henry David Thoreau or Ralph Waldo Emerson or Aldo Leopold or Wendell Berry?

Of course not. The disconnect is with the myths we tell, that got ever greater traction during the Industrial Revolution, that Man has Dominion over Nature.

Henry David Thoreau:

The earth I tread on is not a dead, inert mass. It is a body, has a spirit, is organic, and fluid to the existence of its spirit, and to whatever particle of that spirit is in me.

Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Many eyes go through the meadow, but few see the flowers in it.

Aldo Leopold:

enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants and animals

the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts

changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain members and citizens of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such.

We now need a new narrative, Man in cooperation with nature. A new narrative the Dark Mountain Project has tried to foster.

The limit to the size of cities was not the carrying capacity of the land. It was the ability to transport food and goods in, and waste out. This changed with the arrival of trains.

The Industrial Revolution did not start in England because of nearby colonies to exploit. It started because James Watt invented a reliable steam engine in 1776 and the availability of coal.

Steam did not have an immediate advantage. Water mills were more powerful than early steam engines. Wind and water were free. What led to change were several factors, no longer reliant on the whims of nature, can work night and day, steam is transportable. Watermills, windmills, located where supply of water and wind, usually in the countryside, not a ready supply of labour if a strike, not so easy to replace workers. In cities ready supply of labour, close to market.

Propagation of the myth we destroyed our woods. It was lack of use that destroyed our woods, they were used sustainably. A myth Oliver Rackham has long demolished.

Basic premise of eGia, is that Gaia needs Man as its nervous system, hence eGaia.

What does it mean for the Earth to function with the coherence of an organism with humanity analogous to its nervous system?

At best this is arrogance.

Gaia functioned without Man, Gaia will continue to function without Man. The best Man can do is act as Custodian of Gaian feedback loops, to claim more is arrogance, the same arrogance that led Man to believe he was Master of Nature.

Hurricane Katrina, Sandy, typhoon in the Philippines, showed Man is Master of nothing.

Man evolved as part of the natural world, was part of Nature, the downfall of Man was when he became apart from Nature. We need to rewild our natural world, but we also need to rewild ourselves, even if it a walk barefoot along the seashore, paddling in and out of the waves.

You cannot take societies, close knit, good community relations, and transfer their dispute mechanism to other societies that lack those close community links. People agree, because they do not want loss of face.

But it can work both ways, close communities can lead to abuse. Pakistani girls being brutally gang raped, not able to speak out, and if they do threats of violence, forced marriage. Or girls in Nepalese communities, forced into marriage. They feel twice violated, as they lack the human rights of the wider society as wider society turns a blind eye.

Unbelievable ignorance on Israel-Palestine and Middle East. It is not caused by fear of the other, that is the symptom. It is caused by seizure of land, brutal occupation, Palestinians kicked out of their homes where they have lived for generations, villages that have been there for centuries, denied water, electricity, because they lack planning permission, destruction of olive groves, Gaza kept as a prison camp, massive destruction of Gaza.

Jews and Arabs had lived in pace together for generations, until Zionist terrorists established the State of Israel.

It is easy, as Canon Andrew White says, to talk to your friends, you have to be prepared to talk to your enemies. He has earned the trust of Sunni and Shia leaders in Iraq, got them to sit down and talk to each other.

Truth and Reconciliation worked in South Africa, because of the culture in which it was embedded.

In close knit communities, slight on one family, a slight that has to be avenged, goes on for generations.

Sustainability, a much abused word that has has become meaningless. Everything has the in word sustainable attached. A greedy developer trashes a town centre, it is called sustainable. And what is it we are wishing to sustain, the present inequitable, exploitative greed-driven system that is trashing the planet?

What we should be looking to achieve is steady-state, emulate Gaia.

So it looks at what is desirable sustainability in physical and biological terms while ignoring constraints due to entrenched beliefs, our current economic system …

Really! No one ignores economics factors, and economic factors do not apply constraints, far from from it, it is the economic system of exponential growth that is causing the problem. Fundamental to any discussion.

It is nonsense statements like this, and sadly not an isolated example, why eGaia lacks any credibility.

Similarly

What would it mean if humanity were organised so that looking after the health of the whole of the living Earth were one of its living values?

Gaia is more than capable of looking after Earth. What we require of Man is stop damaging her control mechanisms.

For our material needs, we need closed loops, where the output of one process feeds into another. Emulate the natural world, where there is not an accumulation of waste in either time or space. Use naturally occurring materials, and where we use man made for example plastic and steel, we copy the natural world, form closed loops. And any toxic materials we eliminate from our cycles. We have to move away from a linear systems, of extraction, sweatshop production, six months in the home, then onwards to landfill or incineration. A linear system producing stuff we neither need nor want, that does nothing to enhance our quality of life.

We need diversity, localism, co-operation, mutual support, sharing, collaborative commons, the greater the diversity, the greater the adaptability.

We need rewilding of our natural habitats. Reintroduction of keystone species like wolves, reintroduction of the European beaver. Beavers improve watercourses, enhance diversity, clean the water, stop downstream flooding. Rewilding also benefits Man, when we visit wild places.

We need agro-forestry. Greater output, supplying local markets. We should not forget the towns, which can be productive.

In Brazil, every municipality is funding perma-culture courses.

We need locally owned and controlled energy grids, into which feed local sources of renewable energy, only the surplus fed into the National Grid.

We need as Michel Bauwens has outlined, something more than co-ops, we need co-ops that contribute to the commons.

We need as Russell Brand has outlined in Revolution, autonomous, self-organising networks, that cooperate with other networks, the only restraint, no harm to others, either internally or externally, and no harm to the planet.

Kyoto was not a failure per se. It was a failure because it lacked teeth, no enforcement mechanism, contrast with various trade treaties, contrast with WTO.

We need polluter shall pay, reflecting the real costs of externalised costs, which we all pay, but indirectly. Not complex financial instruments for speculators.

A large number of smaller organisations, can become niche players, cooperate with each other.

No mention of the marginal costs of stuff falling. This is important, as can produce locally, 3D printing, open source, open source workshops. If marginal costs near zero, viable to produce locally, as shipping costs and energy dominate.

In Barcelona, the city has given a pledge, by 2020 one FabLab in every neighbourhood. By 2050, half of all food production and manufacturing to be local, through distributed manufacturing

Most products, the embedded energy is higher than the energy costs in use. Becomes of vanishing importance the efficiency of the product. Therefore quality products, designed to last, easy to repair.

FairPhone is an excellent example of a phone designed to be repairable, recycled, non-use of materials from conflict zones.

TechStart an example of a community enterprise, take in old computers, refurbish, re-sell at low price, reuse components, training, net cafe.

Bandcamp encourages music sharing. If you like, pay for the music.

Bristol Skipchen surplus food cafe does what it says, recycles waste food into delicious meals.

A cooperative economy is not the same as a moneyless economy. A moneyless economy, is a sharing economy, a gift economy, collaborative commons.

Co-ops benefit members of the co-op. Collaborative commons are shared resources.

In Quito, housing co-ops have reclaimed ravines used to dump rubbish as public parks.

When we share, everyone is richer.

An Open Co-op exists to supply a need, not to make a profit. Everyone who is impacted by the Co-op has a say. It contributes to the commons. Open Coops co-produce commons. An Open Co-op innovates then shares the information. Open Co-ops linked globally, can outperform multinationals.

Innovation in the market is to seek a competitive advantage. If no profit, innovation is shelved. It is not for need.

Much of the internet is built upon Open Source Software, collaborative commons. People choose to contribute, they are not forced, are not paid.

There is a growth in co-ops during economic crisis.

Co-ops are not any more likely to make a more stable economy. In a downturn, yes, less likely to lay off workers, they would more readily agree to a wage cut, and we are seeing that in non-co-ops, as companies are recognising it is easier to recover if have not lost skilled workers. On the other hand Open Co-ops yes, due to the greater involvement of society and their contribution to the commons.

For an information based economy, existing social networks are not a good example to build upon, in a commons based economy it would be peer-2-peer networks.

Social networks did not trigger either Occupy or the Arab Spring, though have proved useful to coordinate activity.

An information network is not a necessary condition to safeguard the planet, though can be a useful tool.

The availability of cheap air travel has not led to understanding of other cultures, quite the opposite.

NGOs do not suggest a way forward. They are little more than businesses, supplying a need, touting for money. It is far better we organise to satisfy those needs ourselves.

Global events like Band Aid and Live Aid have not led to better understanding, these were music events, little else. They emphasised the victim culture, reliant upon the West to mount a rescue. The release of the Band Aid single Band Aid 30 for Ebola has been heavily criticised and rightly so especially when there was a superior West Africa release, Africa Stop Ebola, superior in every way, musically and in the informative message that it carried.

The kibbutz movement in Israel is a very poor example to give as to the way forward, not unless suggesting use terror to illegally occupy the land of others, destroy their olive trees, steal their water, carry out ethnic cleansing, in order to establish our idea of what a community should look like.

The future is already here.

Look to the work of Michel Bauwens and FLOK and P2P Foundation.

In Quito, housing coo-ops are reclaiming the ravines and turning into public parks.

We do not need banks, when we can crowd source.

StartJoin is a platform to crowd source for community and cultural projects. It even has its own crypto-currency StartCoin.

Bandcamp facilitates sharing of music, and if you wish to pay, bandcamp facilitates that too.

Crisis stimulates innovation.

Sandy hit New York, the authorities were only interested in getting Wall Street up and running to show businesses as usual. The only help in poor districts, the worst hit, came from Occupy Wall Street, reformed as Occupy Sandy.

Greek economy has shrunk by over a quarter leaving many unemployed and destitute, no longer entitled to free health care, sell off of public assets. People are now organising their own affairs, with Syriza, with its roots in Occupy and opposed to austerity, on the brink of a historic election victory.

eGgaia is not a book I would recommend. Had it been limited to the fictional account of the future, it would have made an interesting pamphlet, but nothing more. It has been padded out with irrelevant material, even worse, much is inaccurate assertions.

It is available as free download, or as a print-on-demand book only the publisher fails to comprehend print-on-demand, and had to be chased for an ordered copy. Irony seems lost on the publisher, inappropriately called Fast-Print.

I would though recommend Revolution and Sacred Economics.

FLOK

January 24, 2015

FLOK Society is a highly ambitious project in Ecuador, to create a peer-2-peer society.

FLOK, Free Libre Open Knowledge, an Open Commons based society, the opposite of privatised knowledge, protected by patents and copyright.

Intellectual property rights, patents, copyright, stiffles innovation. If knowledge is shared, we accelerate innovation.

It is the users who create the value of facebook, with no users, we have an empty walled garden, with no value. But even though users happily create the content, and do so freely, it is facebook that capitalises on that value.

It is not only facebook, TripAdvisor would have no value, were it not for the reviewers, who freely contribute their reviews.

A corporate platform captures the value of the contributors.

Crowd working, the users bid down the value of their labour, it is a race to the bottom. In US now down to $2 per hour (way below the minimum wage).

Uber operates outside the regulated sector, wages of taxi drivers driven down, Uber creams off the profits.

Bandcamp, the site facilitates sharing, users can download content and pay contributors if they wish.

Facebook, there is interaction between users, the information content created by their interaction is creamed off and sold by facebook.

With bandcamp there is interaction, the site facilitates interaction, but it also facilitates a mechanism for creators of content to be paid, with bandcamp taking a small cut for the service it provides.

Value is created in the commons.

Open Source Software, people freely create and contribute, no one is forced to, all benefit from Open Source Software which is freely shared, ie it is placed in the digital commons.

To stop global corporations from draining the commons, we would have to have a licence, whereby contributors to the common can freely share and benefit, but those doing so for profit, would have to pay. Global corporations can also innovate and contribute there is though the danger, they innovate for their own narrow benefit, for example to maximise market share, rather than for societal need.

Co-ops – sharing – commons

January 13, 2015

It is the convergence between commons and co-ops that will create a new economy and a new society. — Michel Bauwens

As we have seen with the financial crash, austerity and global warming, the existing system is not working, not only is it not working, it is broke beyond repair.

Labour tries to sell to the highest bidder. But it is time limited. If not sold today, it cannot be sold tomorrow.

Capital on the other hand, if not sold today, ie usury, can be sold tomorrow. Capital does not vanish at midnight like Cinderella’s coach and horses.

Global capital roams around the planet, footloose and fancy free, looking for lack of regulation, lack of environmental standards, the cheapest, dirtiest location.

The economy is built on debt. Even if we are not in debt ourselves, we are servicing debt, as the products and services we buy are built on debt. Built on debt in China, then shipped at high environmental cost to market. The Chinese ironically, when the rest of the world cuts public services, has spent our money on infrastructure to ship to market their products in huge container ships.

Global capital is extractive, it extracts wealth, it externalises its costs, and cons us into buying junk we do not need or want.

If we put to one side the lies we are told, we can all see the economy has flat lined. Yes, austerity and the greed of the banks is to blame, but it pre-dates both. And the reasons are simple and fundamental, cannot have continuing growth within a finite word, at least not as measured by GDP.

But that is not to say we do not have growth. We do not have growth as measured by GDP, which is increasingly seen as a meaningless measure of anything, and certainly is not a measure of the health of an economy.

We have growth in two areas, both a reaction to austerity and Shock Doctrine

  • growth in food banks
  • growth in sharing economy, collaborative commons

Crisis stimulates innovation.

The internet exists because people are willing to collaborate, give their time and expertise free.

Gary Alexander sketches out possiblites in eGaia, as does Charles Eisenstein in Sacred Economics.

Networked co-ops, people work as they choose, not competition cooperation, innovation not for greed for need, innovation not to seek competitive advantage innovation share.

Innovation in Big Business is to seek a conpetitive advtabbage, to maximise greed.

Classic example is oil and gas industry. Innovation is leading to ever more hazardous extraction, tar sands, fracking, deepwater, Arctic. We know to restrict global temperature rise to 2C, we must limit the CO2 released into the environment, the limit means 80% of known carbon reserves have to stay in the ground. Why therefore innovate to extract more?

If I lend or give away a book, I can no longer read it. On the other hand, I can give away e-books, I still have a book to read.

I can share music.

Copyright stifles innovation.

An excellent example, Sita Sings the Blues. Annette Hanshaw, a well know jazz singer from the 1920s, and yet not known today, because Big Record Labels own the copyright and they see no money to be made on release. The film can be shown by anyone, pay the producer Nina Paley some money to say thanks.

When we innovate, we do not operate in a vacuum, we build on all what went before.

Marginal costs today is zero, or as close as. Artificial scarcity by means of copyright.

Sharing benefits everyone. Share music, more get to hear, more likely to buy, attend concerts.

Monsters sold for £25, £20 over the asking price.

Monsters sold for £25, £20 over the asking price.

Bandcamp encourages sharing. Artists are quite happy to see their music shared, they have lost nothing, a minimum price for download, the option to pay more, many do, often a lot more.

In Brighton, Infinity Food, a co-op, a pleasure to shop.

In Aldershot, TechStart, the only innovation. A community run refurbishment of old computers. Located in a dereclict shopping centre. Probabaly too ambitious, but one of the large empty units could be used to establish a FabLab.

In Ecuador, FLOK, reorganising society into Open Co-ops and Open Commons, where knowledge is freely shared in the commons.