Rebecca Solnit Offers Optimistic View on Climate, Local YUCCA Youth Wins National Leadership Award, Study Shows Important Outcomes from Early Childhood Ed, & More on a Post-Capitalism “De-Growth” Future

Today, we offer quotes from and links to three pieces that all bring good news, recognition for a co-founder of YUCCA, Solnit on climate, Harvard on the benefits of early childhood. We also offer our first deep dive into the “de-growth, Less-Is-More work of Jason Hickel, today examining a more historic understanding of how capitalism developed, fascinating and not how we learned it in school. Finally, we offer four video, two from Jason Hickel on capitalism and the necessity of moving toward a “de-growth” economy, followed by a 3 minute video on neoliberalism that just lays out clearly what it is. We then close with an excellent talk from Naomi Klein describing implications and consequences neoliberal colonization of the Global South during the 90s and turn of the century. Taken together, a good tour. Journey on!

Taking the time to read deeply matters. For four years, I’ve been immersed in reading online articles that were fodder for the next post. The result was a broad, but ultimately superficial sequencing of pieces. Since the session, I’ve spent far more time reading books on policy, language, and history to achieve a far deeper appreciation of the implications and limitations resulting from being ensnared in economic and political systems predicated upon colonization and capitalism. Today, we share a bit of what we are encountering about our current economic and political systems and what could be next, all part of the Rethink process.

What’s Coming

Wednesday, May 12, 6pm Rethink Our Democracy, Huddle II. Before we dive in, we offer an invitation to be part of the Rethink process. In our first huddle, we laid out the basic scope of what we propose to accomplish in forming a 501c3: a more sustainable organization and the capacity to take deeper dives into the need for systemic change. We want to come to the Roundhouse with our ideas, not just react to theirs. Please feel free to join our discussion tomorrow. No obligation to do more than that. We need people’s input and then if you find a way you can help with the research and/or with helping to form alliances with organizations who could become involved with these issues, please join us tomorrow night. Click here to register.

An Intro to the Coop, Thursday, May 20, 3pm-4:30pm MT. As part of Rethink’s efforts to forge new alliances, I met with leadership from the Cooperative Catalyst and others interested in exploring how the development of worker cooperatives could contribute to democratizing the work place in NM. And then last night Roxanne sent me an event brite talk sponsored by the Cooperative Catalyst. Small world.

A co-op is a member-controlled and member-owned business that operates for the benefit of its members. They exist in every industry and range in size from five owners to thousands. A true form of economic democracy, the co-op model provides an innovative and equitable way for individuals and communities to come together to start a new business or adapt an existing business into an employee/member-owned enterprise.

In this free virtual workshop, the Cooperative Catalyst of New Mexico is partnering with HIVE @ UNM-Taos to introduce the cooperative model to New Mexico entrepreneurs. In this ninety-minute webinar, we will cover the basics of cooperatives – what they are, how they are different, how to form one, and what additional resources are available to get started on your co-op journey.

Click here to register.

What We Are Reading

From Cison PR Newswire: The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Announces Honorees for the 30 Under 30 Changemakers Awards” and Youth United for Climate Crisis Action (YUCCA) co-founder Artemisio Romery y Carver was chosen as one of just 30 changemakers nationwide. Kudos to Artemisio!

Artemisio Romero y Carver, 18, Santa Fe, N.M. Artemisio is a high school senior at New Mexico School for the Arts—and a climate activist. He is the co-founder and policy director of Youth United For Climate Crisis Action (YUCCA), a local nonprofit that trains young activists in social and environmental justice organizing and supports intergenerational campaigns to advance climate justice, transformative education, sustainability, democracy, and civil rights. To make it easy for young people to engage in action, YUCCA endorses candidates, lobbies for legislation, and organizes protests, giving their youth advocates a powerful introduction to active citizenship. His writing has appeared in numerous publications. In Spring 2020, Artemisio was named Santa Fe’s youth Poet Laurette and earned First Place in Specialty Articles during the New Mexico Press Women’s 2020 Communications Contest.”

Cison PR Newswire: The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Announces Honorees for the 30 Under 30 Changemakers Awards”

From Harvard University: School Effectiveness & Inequality Initiative: “The Long-Term Effects of Universal Preschool in Boston”. We were heartened to hear this most welcome news, as it will be useful next summer when we begin a campaign to educate voters about the benefits of quality early childhood education. This study produced some very strong findings. In addition to the quote below, check out the two charts with the details.

” New research from economists Guthrie Gray-Lobe (UChicago), Parag Pathak (MIT), and Christopher Walters (UC Berkeley) studies the short and long-run impacts of Boston Public Schools’ universal public preschool program. It is the first study that uses a randomized research design to examine the long-term outcomes
of children attending a large-scale program. The researchers find that attending a Boston public preschool led to positive long-term impacts on educational attainment as attendees were more likely to graduate from high school and enroll in college.”

From Harvard University: School Effectiveness & Inequality Initiative: “The Long-Term Effects of Universal Preschool in Boston”
From Harvard University: School Effectiveness & Inequality Initiative:
“The Long-Term Effects of Universal Preschool in Boston”
From Harvard University: School Effectiveness & Inequality Initiative:
“The Long-Term Effects of Universal Preschool in Boston”

From Environment Opinion: “Dare we hope? Here’s my cautious case for climate optimism” by Rebecca Solnit. It is so rare to find anything that even hints at optimism when reading about the looming climate catastrophe, so when I saw this, I had to share. Solnit is hardly one to be afraid from airing the brutal realities of climate change, so her optimism is appreciated.

“The organization Carbon Tracker, whose reports are usually somber reading, just put out a report so stunning the word encouraging is hardly adequate. In sum, current technology could produce a hundred times as much electricity from solar and wind as current global demand; prices on solar continue to drop rapidly and dramatically; and the land required to produce all this energy would take less than is currently given over to fossil fuels. “

From Environment Opinion: “Dare we hope? Here’s my cautious case for climate optimism” by Rebecca Solnit

Less is More, by Jason Hickel

I’ve been reading this for three or four days, am now about 1/3 of the way through it and have found it to be extremely germane to the work Rethink Our Democracy intends to conduct. Of particular note is how Hickel reviews Medieval history to offer a very different view of how capitalism first developed, a view we certainly were not taught in school.

Commonly, capitalism and the industrial age are given credit for ending feudalism, but this is not the case. In about 1350, serfs rose up and resisted the terms under which feudalism operated, refusing to work without wages, refusing to pay the taxes and tithes required by nobles and demanding direct control over the land they tilled. Because land was cheap and labor scarce, workers were able to bargain with nobles over the terms of their work.

Workers created “commons” which were tilled and harvested by communities and for community benefit, with work becoming a matter of collective self sufficiency, with workers only working for lords to earn income and on terms largely dictated by workers. Historians have come to describe the period between 1350-1500 as “the golden age of the European proletariat.” However, as Hickel describes this was not a situation to the liking of the nobility and as technology began to evolve and industry needed cheap labor, the nobility across Europe joined forces with the Church and the growing merchant bourgeoisie .

“The egalitarian conditions of post feudalist society–self-sufficiency, high wages, grassroots democracy and collective management of resources, were inimical to the possibility of elite accumulation, Indeed, this is exactly what elites were complaining about.”

Less is More, by Jason Hickel

In about 1500, nobility, the Church and the bourgeoisie united to end peasant autonomy through a process called “enclosure.” Rather than restoring feudalism, the nobility drove the peasants off their land (the commons), fencing that land off, privatizing it, and limiting its use for only the elite. By taking the land (enclosure), the nobility deprived peasants of any means of earning a living or growing food. By taking the land, the elite had created the capital accumulation needed to fund the industrial revolution and by driving peasants into abject poverty, they created the cheap labor needed to work the developing factories.

At the same time, in the Americas, European invaders “enclosed” all of the “new” world colonizing indigenous people and then, to produce the labour needed to drive the mills in the northeast and the cotton industry in the south, they enslaved approximately 12 million African Americans and between 3-5 million Indigenous people, as well.

The Church and religious philosophers played a key role in the enclosure/colonization transition to European capitalism. If capitalists were to treat nature as its servant, rather than kin, then a new world view needed to emerge. The emergence of Christianity transformed how people viewed their relationship with nature. For millennia, people had embraced “animism” as their world view, with mankind viewing their relationship with nature to be reciprocal and where nature was imbued with human, even spiritual qualities.

With the emergence of Christianity and philosophers like Descartes and Francis Bacon, that world view was completely reversed to one in which nature was wild and needed to be tamed. If the land and water were no longer viewed as “kin” then deforestation and mineral extraction were not viewed as ethical transgressions against kin, but rather as a manifestation of man assuming rightful dominion over natural resources. In this world view, even man is viewed as a material resource that needs to be tamed and managed as a cog in the wheel, thus justifying the enslavement of millions in America and the colonization of indigenous peoples throughout the western world.

Thus, Nickel concludes that three factors were necessary to creating European capitalism: elite capital accumulation; a cheap workforce; and a world view that considered nature and even humans as being nothing more than resources to be harnessed in service of profit.

While our text books taught us that the industrial revolution and capitalism had freed men from slavish work in the fields, the truth is that after the enclosure and colonization had done their work, men were no longer living democratically in a agrarian world that they managed for collective good, but rather were existing in an every-man-for-himself economy where the merchants and nobility dictated inhuman working conditions with wages that were driven by thirst for profit, not by a desire to provide a dignified living.

“Enclosure and colonization were necessary preconditions for the rise of European capitalism. It destroyed subsistence economies, created a mass of cheap labour, and by generating artificial scarcity set the engines of competitive productivity in motion.”

Less is More, by Jason Hickel

Hickel has set the stage for his exploration of what a post capitalist system could look like by introducing first a correct understanding of how capitalism emerged.

Less is More Book Discussion, Tuesday, June 8, 6pm-7pm: Please consider calling your local bookstore and purchasing a copy of Less is More. While the book discussion will be informative even without having read the book, quite obviously we will have a richer discussion if many have read the book. Click here to register for this Retake Conversation.

What We Are Watching

Less is More with Jason Hickel

As promised, we provide two videos from Jason Hickel. The first 12 minutes and then a second extending for 28 minutes. Together they lay out the reasons why De-Growth is our only path to a just transition and what a de-growth future could look like.

The second video follows just a few seconds after the first talk ends. Hickel’s de-growth economy would not create lives lived in austerity, but rather lives lived in balance with our earth and our own instincts. Instead of working 60 hours a week, we would work 20-30 hours a week, affordable through the drastic redistribution of our wealth and the income generated by our work. Watch on!

What is Neoliberalism?

This is a 3 minute, very short description of neoliberalism. If you have read the term without fully appreciating what it means, this will take care of that.

Naomi Klein on Neoliberalism

Naomi Klein clearly lays out how neoliberalism is a tool for imperialism world wide and how the oligarchy uses moments of economic or environmental shocks to require abrupt concessions to corporate priorities and profit at the expense of the Global South, its workers, its democracies, and its environment. Very worthwhile.

In solidarity, hope, and gratitude,

Paul & Roxanne

Categories: Economic Justice, Community & Economic Development

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3 replies

  1. Based on your summary, Jason Hickel’s book looks interesting. However, I don’t see mention of the key reason for the rise of wages and peasant power in the 1300s—the Black Death. After one-third of Europe’s population died, starting in the 1340s, there was a huge labor shortage and able-bodied workers could earn more and have more say over employment. Economic inequality declined. I recommend Walter Scheidel’s “The Great Leveler” for an explanation of how plagues and wars and other catastrophes have reduced inequality.

  2. Also worth a read regarding a worldview where land, air, and water are kin is the wonderfully well written “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer. In it the author explores conservation, exploitation, capitalism, and indigenous wisdom from her twin perspectives as a PhD ecologist and member of the Potawatomi Nation.

  3. this is a test comment. Just checking the system

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