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How Community Energy Initiatives Can Be An Effective Tool For Degrowth

The consensus among scientists is resounding: climate change poses a grave threat to both human wellbeing and the overall health of our planet. We need to dramatically cut down on emissions across all sectors and industries, with bold actions in this decade. This process must be fair and prioritize equity, inclusion, climate and environmental justice, and social justice. At its heart, this process calls for a reevaluation of our approach to “development”. It is evident that ceaseless economic growth driven by capitalism is neither sustainable nor desirable in the long run. Instead, we should strive to downsize our patterns of production and consumption in a way that prioritizes human wellbeing, ensuring that everyone can thrive.

The US Moneyless Economy Is Booming

Humans have a serious stuff problem. We keep making and buying new things when most of the time we could find those things in great condition, secondhand. Instead, we’re making trash at such a rate that an unfathomable 40 percent of the ocean’s surface is now covered in trash islands, and there is literally more than a ton of trash for each one of the 8 billion people on this planet (9 billion tons, and growing). If these heaps of waste (the lion’s share of which is produced by corporations rather than individual households) aren’t mortifying enough to drive people toward the free economy of reuse, maybe the lack of a price tag is — especially given the staggering wealth gap and cost-of-living crisis in the United States.

New Report: The Dollar Store Invasion

Dollar General, Dollar Tree, and Family Dollar are targeting vulnerable communities, opening stores at a breakneck pace in urban and rural areas alike. It’s tempting to assume that these chains simply fill a need in cash-strapped places. But the evidence suggests that dollar stores are not merely byproducts of economic distress; they are a cause of it. Through predatory tactics, the dollar chains are killing off grocery stores and other local businesses, leaving communities with fewer jobs, diminished access to basic goods, and dimmer prospects for overall well-being. As these losses mount, dollar stores are facing a rising tide of grassroots opposition.

Community Broadband’s Broad Appeal

Fairlawn, Ohio - There is a recent story out of Fairlawn, Ohio that perfectly illustrates the future of Internet access in this country. For years, the small town was at the whims of large, incumbent Internet providers. The Internet was so slow and unreliable that businesses threatened to relocate, jeopardizing the economic vitality of the area. The mayor, alongside city leaders and council members, realized that the various incumbent providers were not going to cooperate, and to save their city, they would need to build their own city-wide fiber-to-the-home network. On this episode of Building Local Power, Christopher Mitchell, Director of ILSR’s Community Broadband Networks Initiative, and Sean Gonsalves, Senior Reporter and Editor, explain how, in the 5-plus years since the deployment of its city-wide network, “Fairlawn is doing so well [that] they are now boosting speeds and slashing prices.”

A Dazzlingly Precious Gift From The Future

The Vauban, Freiburg, Germany -  During my talks, I often invite people to time travel in their imagination to a 2030 that’s not utopia, or dystopia, but rather is the result of our having done everything we could possibly have done in those intervening years. We do it because, as Walidah Imarisha puts it, “we can’t build what we can’t imagine”. Unless we cultivate longing for such a future, it will never happen. In spite of having done that exercise now over 100 times, the responses are pretty much always the same. “The birdsong is louder”. “There are far less cars”. “The air smells so much cleaner”. “The streets are full of kids playing”. “There is a strong sense of community”. It’s exciting then to be able to announce that this week I actually managed a spectacular feat of time travel to visit the future they dream of in that exercise, immersing myself in its magic and its deliciousness, with all my senses.

A Roadmap For High-Trust Communities

Fabian mentioned Enspiral. So that's where I wanted to start my story, is this really high-trust community. And that word community is really overused, maybe, or is overloaded with different definitions. So, for me, my experience of the Enspiral community is what I have in mind when I talk about community, it's within that group. I found people that I can call up and say, "Hey, I need to borrow $1,000 'cause my car has exploded." And they say, "Sure." You know, that sort of like instantaneous, no questions asked, "I'm here to support you in a practical way.". I also found people who were willing to go along with my weird ideas, and collaborate, and test out until we find out, "Yes, we do have a business here. Yes, we're going to have a startup and I've got my co-founders ready to roll."

The Challenge For Communities To Rise And Take Care Of Their Own

As the federal government abandons its responsibilities, it will be up to the states, the cities, the communities, and the people to rebuild a unified state. Amid all of the news coming out of the Trump administration in the past couple of weeks, one vision stands out: a disintegrating federal government. If that happens, what’s next? If the stakes weren’t so high, we could enjoy the opportunity to debate the limits of federalism all over again. How much power should the federal government have vis-à-vis the states? That debate is as old as the republic. But a series of events is making this an existential question. President Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon once spelled it out in plain language: Trump sought nothing less than the “deconstruction of the administrative state.”

Change That Starts With Communities

By Rob Hopkins and Cormac Russell for Resilience - After Hurricane Sandy, Noam Chomsky was critical of Occupy Sandy, who often reached communities before the first responders, saying this is a terrible idea because this is exactly what neo-liberals want, for us all to do everything so they can make the government even smaller. How do you view that tension? Chomsky’s version of reality is obviously highly respected but I’m going to have to part company with him. I think government, and even more evolved welfare states (I was in Denmark last week for three days), clearly at their best are an extension of us, not a replacement for us. It’s important to say that there are certain things that individuals, families and communities can do that are irreplaceable...
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