Quotes on P2P and Commons-Oriented Ecology

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David Bollier:

"Historically, commoning has been the dominant mode of managing land and even today, in places like Africa, Asia and Latin America, it is arguably the default norm, notwithstanding the efforts of governments and investors to commodify land and natural resources. According to the International Land Alliance, an estimated 2 billion people in the world still depend upon forests, fisheries, farmland, water, wild game and other natural resources for their everyday survival. This is a huge number of people, yet conventional economists still regard this “subsistence” economy and indigenous societies as uninteresting because there is little market-exchange going on. Yet these communities are surely more ecologically mindful of their relations to the land than agribusinesses that rely upon monoculture crops and pesticides, or which exploit a plot of land purely for its commercial potential without regard for biodiversity or long-term effects, such as the massive palm oil plantations in tropical regions.

Commoning is a way for we humans to re-integrate our social and commercial practices with the fundamental imperatives of nature. By honoring specific local landscapes, the situated knowledge of commoners, the principle of inalienability, and the evolving social practices of commoning, the commons can be a powerful force for ecological improvement." (http://trise.org/2017/04/30/the-future-is-a-pluriverse-an-interview-with-david-bollier-on-the-potential-of-the-commons/)

On the importance of maintaining Natural Capital

"‘For the management of renewable resources there are two obvious principles of sustainable development. First that harvest rates should equal regeneration rates (sustained yields). Second that waste emission rates should equal the natural assimilative capacities of the ecosystems into which the wastes are emitted. Regenerative and assimilative capacities must be treated as natural capital, and failure to maintain these capacities must be treated as capital consumption, and therefore not sustainable.’"

- Mathis Wackernagel [1]

On the Difference between Ecology and Environmentalism

"Environmentalism tries to patch things up, applies band-aids, cosmetics, to the environment. It sort of takes hold of nature, strokes it, and says, ‘Produce!’ It tries to use soil, pour chemicals into it and if only they weren’t poisonous everything would be great. Whereas ecology believes in a genuine harmonization of humanity with nature. And that harmonization of humanity with nature depends fundamentally on the harmonization of human beings with each other. The attitude that we’ve had towards nature has always depended on the attitude we’ve had towards each other."

- Murray Bookchin [2]

What we need to measure first of all: Carrying Capacity

From James Quilligan on Carrying Capacity as a Basis for Political and Economic Self-Governance:

"No major civilization has EVER practiced carrying capacity as a basis for political and economic self-governance; carrying capacity has only succeeded in small communities. Of course, we know this from the modern Ostrom view of the commons; but Ostrom never put her finger on the pulse of carrying capacity as the *self-organizing principle between a species and its environment*. Nor has the commons movement recognized the importance of an *empirical way of measuring the metabolism of society* through the cooperative activities of people using resources to meet their biological needs. In other words, Ostrom and the commons movement have yet to define the dynamic equilibrium which they seek as the balance between two opposing forces - population and resources - which continually counteract each other. Instead, the commons movement is more focused on counteracting the Market and the State than on measuring the replenishment of renewable and non-renewable resources and managing them to sustain their yield. In short, the commons movement does not seem to be producing alternative indicators for the productive and provisioning which can be used to guide policy. ... (We must) ... establishes empirical targets that will bring down exponential growth to arithmetic growth levels; and thus organizing society according to the dynamic equilibrium between population and the availability of food, water and energy. ... If we don't know how to develop evidence-based policy for a soft landing toward a reasonable level of subsistence -- and I've seen very little of this in the commons movement -- then I don't know how we expect to create a long-term system for meeting human needs through sustainable yields. I would hope that the commons movement begins to create the basis for a viable new society by actually focusing on the optimum rate at which a resource can be harvested or used without damaging its ability to replenish itself."

- James Quilligan, Fb, August 2017

Contemporary Civilizational Change needs to be global, conscious, and relatively fast

“In the past, all transitions in the forms of civilization were slow, local/regional, exclusive, optional and unconscious. Today, we are faced by the need to undertake a GT in our dominant form of civilization that, in contrast, must be fast (by any historic standard), scalable to the whole planet, inclusive of all 7.4 billion of us, recognized as required and conscious. This last requirement also implies that today we must not only be conscious about change at every scale, but must develop a capacity for meta-consciousness about change at every scale.”

- Ruben Nelson of Foresight Canada [3] [4]

On the Value Revolution that is taking place

"Under the radar of mass media and mainstream academia, a value revolution is taking place that is promising to transform humanity’s very notions of wealth and economic development. Expressed in an explosion of both traditional academic indicators and innovative new quality-of-life and sustainability measures, this value revolution is not simply revealing previously invisible “full costs” of production, but also “redefining progress” more positively—from quantity to quality. Economically, our ways of growing and distributing food, providing & using energy, building buildings, making and exchanging clothing, etc. are being reexamined not only to reduce their negative impacts, but also to more fully express their social and ecological potentials. They are geared not simply to the sustainability of communities and ecosystems, but to their regeneration—to make economic development, as eco-architect Bill McDonough would say, “not just less bad, but good.”

- Brian Milani [5]

The Necessary Ecological Function of Money

“If we say that money comes from ecological function instead from extraction, manufacturing buying and selling, then we have a system in which all human efforts go toward restoring, protecting and preserving ecological function. That is what we need to mitigate and adapt to climate change, to ensure food security, to ensure that human civilizations survive. Our monetary system must reflect reality. We could have growth, not from stuff, but growth from more functionality. If we do that and we value that higher than things, we will survive.”

- John D. Liu [6]

Charles Eisenstein on the Illusion of Separateness

"Technology is both a cause and a result of our separation from and objectification of nature. It distances us from nature, as today's artificial environments, reliance on machinery, and processed foods exemplify; on the other hand it is precisely our conceptual distancing from nature that encourages us to apply technology to it as an object of manipulation and control."

"The distinction between self and environment is minimal among the earliest form of life, the bacteria, which blur the self-other distinction with their fluid sharing of genetic material. Even higher animals and plants, however, rely upon on another for the co-creation of the internal and external environments essential to their mutual existence."

"No plant or animal is a completely individuated, separate, distinct being....there is no clear-cut, absolutist definition of the self or the organism; our belief to the contrary is only a projection of our mistaken view of our own selves."

~ Charles Eisenstein, The Ascent of Humanity [7]

William D. Ruckelshaus on why the transformation needs to be fully conscious

"Can we move nations and people in the direction of sustainability? Such a move would be a modification of society comparable in scale to only two other changes: the Agricultural Revolution of the late Neolithic and the Industrial Revolution of the past two centuries. Those revolutions were gradual, spontaneous, and largely unconscious. This one will have to be a fully conscious operation... If we actually do it, the undertaking will be absolutely unique in humanity's stay on the Earth." (http://blog.interdependencedesign.com/2009/11/15/the-fourth-phase-is-calling.aspx)

Joanna Macy on the Great Turning

"A revolution is underway because people are realizing that our needs can be met without destroying our world. We have the technical knowledge, the communication tools, and material resources to grow enough food, ensure clean air and water, and meet rational energy needs. Future generations, if there is a liveable world for them, will look back at the epochal transition we are making to a life-sustaining society. And they may well call this the time of the Great Turning. It is happening now." (http://www.joannamacy.net/html/greatturning/persguide.html)

Daniel Pinchbeck on the current state of Planetary Initiation

"We are on the cusp of realizing ourselves as one species organism, in symbiotic relationship with the planetary ecology as a whole. Once we make this leap, we will share resources equitably, adopt cradle to cradle and no waste manufacturing practices, and shift from competition to cooperation as our basic paradigm. We will go from acting like a parasite or a virus on the earth to becoming the earth's immune system." (http://beamsandstruts.com/podcasts/item/1150-darrintwo)

Kevin Carson on Internet and Energy


"To the extent that the P2P model facilitates economic relocalization by substituting the movement of information for movement of goods (i.e., the movement of information on how to produce goods locally for the movement of centrally produced goods), Peak Oil and the increased cost of moving goods may provide strong market incentives to economic models based primarily on the movement of information. In that case, the expansion of information movement capabilities as an alternative to investment in long-distance transportation and overseas production facilities (the Ponoko/100kGarages model using local shops), and as an alternative to the movement of people (teleconferencing and telecommuting), may actually be a powerful multiplier of energy efficiency. If the money and resources devoted to Internet infrastructure results in a corresponding tenfold reduction in the money spent on containerships and trucks, it’s pretty much a no-brainer." (http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/p2p-peak-oil-and-the-degrowth-scenario/2010/05/22)


"Digital technology and the network revolution are at the heart of what’s creating the potential for a low-impact, less resource-intensive economy. Green and high-tech are allies against mass production and the mountains of deliberately obsolete goods piling up in our landfills, and against the globalist economic model of truck/containership warehouses linking points of production and points of consumption thousands of miles apart. If any single thing reduces the need for fuel, it will be shifting wherever feasible from the movement of material to the movement of information."

Herman Daly on the Steady-State Economy

"The closer the economy approaches the scale of the whole Earth the more it will have to conform to the physical behavior mode of the Earth. That behavior mode is a steady state—a system that permits qualitative development but not aggregate quantitative growth. Growth is more of the same stuff; development is the same amount of better stuff (or at least different stuff)." (http://www.theoildrum.com/node/3941)

Paul Hawken on Sustainability

Paul Hawken on the emergence of the sustainability movement:

""I now believe there are over one million organizations working toward ecological sustainability and social justice. Maybe two.

By conventional definition, this is not a movement. Movements have leaders and ideologies. You join movements, study tracts, and identify yourself with a group. You read the biography of the founder(s) or listen to them perorate on tape or in person. Movements have followers, but this movement doesn¹t work that way. It is dispersed, inchoate, and fiercely independent. There is no manifesto or doctrine, no authority to check with.

I sought a name for it, but there isn't one." (from his book Blessed Unrest, cited by http://thenetworkedbook.blogspot.com/2007/05/networked-book-adhocracies-turning.html)

Paul Hawken on redesigning markets for sustainability:

The Creation of Waste: "We need a different kind of growth, one that reduces and changes the inputs of raw materials and energy, and simultaneously eliminates the outputs of waste."

The False Efficiency of the Free Market: "Markets are superb at setting prices, but incapable of recognizing costs."

Markets Ruling Nature: "The sheer size of the largest corporations tends to grant them the political and economic power to externalize costs that should properly be absorbed by the company and therefore be factored into the price it sets for its product."

The Hollowness of Corporate Culture: "The growing power of corporations has not been accompanied by any comprehensive philosophy, any ethical construct, other than the accumulation of wealth as an end of itself."

Altering Incentives through Green Taxes: "We must design a marketplace that obviates acts of environmental destruction by making them extremely expensive, and rewards restorative acts by bringing them within our means." (from his book The Ecology of Commerce, cited at http://www.strategyandcompetitionbooks.com/Strategy-and-Competition-Books/The-Ecology-of-Commerce.htm)

On the Energy-hungry Internet

Equipment powering the internet accounts annually for 9.4% (or 350 billion kWh) of the total electricity consumption in the US, and 5.3% (or 868 billion kWh) of the global usage. [8]

Elinor Ostrom on the Seven Generation Rule

Our problem is how to craft rules at multiple levels that enable humans to adapt, learn, and change over time so that we are sustaining the very valuable natural resources that we inherited so that we may be able to pass them on. I am deeply indebted to the indigenous peoples in the U.S. who had an image of seven generations being the appropriate time to think about the future. I think we should all reinstate in our mind the seven-generation rule. When we make really major decisions, we should ask not only what will it do for me today, but what will it do for my children, my children’s children, and their children’s children into the future.

- Elinor Ostrom, the 2009, Nobel laureate in Economics

We need an ethic of ecology

An ethic, ecologically, is a limitation on freedom of action in the struggle for existence. An ethic, philosophically, is a differentiation of social from antisocial conduct. These are two definitions of one thing. The thing has its origin in the tendency of interdependent individuals or groups to evolve modes of cooperation. The ecologist calls these symbioses. Politics and economics are advanced symbioses in which the original free-for-all competition has been replaced, in part, by cooperative mechanisms with an ethical content. The complexity of cooperative mechanisms has increased with population density, and with the efficiency of tools...The first ethics dealt with the relation between individuals...Later accretions dealt with the relation between the individual and society. The Golden Rule tries to integrate the individual to society; democracy to integrate social organization to the individual...

There is still no ethic dealing with man's relation to land and to the animals and plants which grow upon it. Land, like Odysseus's' slave-girls, is still property. The land-relation is still strictly economic, entailing privileges but not obligations.

- Aldo Leopold, Sand County Almanac,1949 [9]

The inherent sustainability of distributed manufacturing

"Personal-scale manufacturing machines ... enable small manufacturers to make one product at a time in response to customer demand, and scale up production as the product sells. ... Regular people and small manufacturing companies that lack investment capital will be able to set up low investment, “start small and scale up as it goes” businesses. With local, onsite production, long-distance shipping of the completed item is no longer necessary. Products and parts can be made only when they’re needed, saving on storage space and the costs of maintaining un-used goods and products."

- Hod Lipson & Melba Kurman [10]

Paul Hawken on the unity of the natural and the human

“As long as you think that nature is ‘out there,’ then you have the basic separation that allows you to see the environment as ‘other’ and people as distinct from that, and that separation of ‘self’ from ‘nature’ is really what white man brought to civilization. That is the disease, the deep, deep wound that will be healed one way or the other in the decades to come.”

- Paul Hawken [11]

A green economy is a knowledge-intensive economy

"A green economy is the ultimate knowledge-based economy: by definition, it replaces materials and energy with human intelligence. Both EPR and the non-governmental certification systems are based on the life-cycle approach and, increasingly, rigorous life-cycle assessment (LCA). But qualitative development involves far more than simply new values and information; it also demands a market and regulatory revolution, entailing a gradual—but fundamental—shift in the form, content and drivers of economic development. For a growing number of green thinkers, the main elements of this restructuring come down to (1) an increasing focus on producing services rather than products, and (2) reorganization of production and consumption in closed-loops, either integrated with, or imitating, ecosystems—what’s been called “economic biomimicry.” This cannot be achieved simply by beefing up environmental protection against nasty brown markets and production processes, but by a transformation that increasingly establishes social and ecological values as the prime driving forces of a new kind of market."

- Brian Milani [12]

Waste is (also) a mental construct

""Yes, Waste does exist. But it is a mental construct. It’s a term that puts the blame on the object and masks the real cause of negative value: our failure to design suitable contexts. Waste was and still is a choice. It did not suddenly appear out of nowhere to cause us trouble. I realise the marketing wizards will disagree with me, but here’s an idea for a slogan: “Waste exists only in our minds”. Today we gradually start recovering this ‘Waste’ to use as a resource for new things. It has become quite the hype as well, spurring a generation of entrepreneurs and researchers. This hype of recycling and upcycling and whatever -will-make-me-look-good-cycling is a big step towards a direct, positive ecological impact. However, it does not address the mindset that created the problem. The mindset that attached value stickers to things. People are merely replacing the stickers that say ‘WASTE’ with stickers that say ‘USEFUL’. Same idea, still handing out stickers. It’s time to stop transferring the guilt. It’s time for a shift in perspective. Let's throw away the very concept of waste altogether. The beautiful thing about discarded ideas is that they pile up without creating a mess and instead serve as a symbol for how far we have come. So let's stop using the term ‘Waste’. Let's use something that describes reality a little better: ‘Wasted resources’. Let’s transition to a Post-Waste Society."

- Magna Mova [13]

On the Importance of Permaculture for a Regenerative Society and Economy

"Permaculture is a movement that began when individuals began to learn the same things that I have learned by studying ecosystems. They saw that water, plants, microbial communities and biodiversity, were all inter-related and were part of functioning ecosystems. They also saw that modern agriculture was simply wrong-headed and really was just Neolithic agriculture with tractors and chemicals. They saw that it was possible to collaborate with nature rather than simply mine the soil extracting what they wanted and laying waste to the Earth.

This is the knowledge that must be understood by all people on the Earth as quickly as possible. Once you begin to understand, you cannot go back – just like you can’t believe that the Earth is flat. When you understand that moisture is infiltrated into the ground dependent on the percentages and total amounts of organic material in the soil you, cannot believe that plowing is a good idea. There is a great unhappiness now in human civilization because everyone knows in their heart that overconsumption, waste, and pollution are wrong. Yet the existing society and economy demands that we need more and more growth even if it kills us.

We are experiencing the end of an era. We cannot burn the remaining petroleum in the Earth, we cannot burn the remaining coal. We cannot mass-produce everything to enrich a few and let billions of people starve in poverty or be serfs to serve the wealthy. We need to know that not only all people but all living things have inalienable rights. We need to live more simply. We need to know how to care for the soil, the water, the plants and the animals on the Earth. We need to use our lives to ensure that human civilization will survive. Permaculture is a way for people who understand this to share their knowledge with those who are seeking to learn more."

- John D. Liu [14]

Tragedies of the Commons Are Exceptions Rather Than the Rule

"Self-regulation has historically characterized common resource use (Jackson et al., 2000; Shiraev & Levy, 2017). Jared Diamond's book Collapse (2005) evoked much attention, with its reports on community collapse due to overexploitation of resources. But the number of unambiguous cases of such collapse are in fact few (the Viking colony on Greenland, the Easter Island, Minoan Crete), and have been factually disputed, as well (McAnany & Yoffee, 2010; Bregman, 2020). Most premodern communities managed to establish sustainable solutions to local resource use (Ostrom 1990). The Sami of the Arctic share limited grazing areas for reindeers, with agreements encompassing benefits and responsibilities in order to maintain common pastures (Barlindhaug, 2013; Marin & Bjørklund, 2015). Shared use of summer pasture, arable and meadows, has a long history across Eurasia, where resources have been regulated by common rules defining numbers of grazers, duration and associated duties, as well. The system of transhumance and setring of Northern Europe and the Swiss Alps partly roots back in the Iron age (Moe et al., 1988). Common laws included duties associated with maintenance and care of outfields, such as bush and rock removal, hunting of predators, and sowing of new grass following landslides. In Sahel, pastoralists have maintained the common use of meadows for cattle, which also included rules for shared use of the scattered acacia trees, and their protein-rich fruits (Stave et al., 2007). Through such agreements, sustainable use of common resources have been successfully maintained over centuries, without resource deterioration. A 'tragedy of the commons' is an exception rather than the rule (Ostrom, 1990; Araral, 2014)."

-Marcus Lindholm [15]

The Biophilic Nature of Humanity

"David Attenborough ("Humans are a plague of the earth") or Umberto Echo, ... claim that “the rest is just sex, copulation, the perpetuation of the vile species”. “Humans are the cancer of the Earth” t-shirts can even be purchased on the web. Based on deep ecology and recent insights in evolutionary biology, this study questions the legitimacy of such a pessimistic conception of the man-earth relation. The article departures from the paradoxical fact that humans not only destroy the environment. They are biophilious, as well. Use of flowers for ornaments, or animals as pets, are known from cultures across the world. People make nesting boxes for birds, plant trees, and dig flowerbeds, too. Biophilic behavior is universally human, known from Babylonia and ancient China to today’s suburban balconies. These two opposite faces of Homo sapiens call for a deeper exploration of human peculiarities, in order to establish a better evolutionary concept of man and environment, which even may renew hope and belief in the value of environmental education."

- Marcus Lindholm [16]