There are two main political/social approaches being articulated in relation to our ecological crisis. They are the reformist and systemic models and within them comprise centralist and decentralist strategies.
The reformist model operates within the current capitalist market economy and political paradigm and seeks to change those aspects that are problematic without changing the actual structure or philosophy of the system itself.
The systemic model attempts to identify the root causes of the problem and focuses on changing the political and economic structure of the system to address the crisis.
Let’s look at the reformist model first. Some proposed strategies would include: employing green technologies, reducing consumption, replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources, converting agricultural practices from intensive to more sustainable methods of food production, limiting the shipment of products over long distances, reducing air transportation of people and products, promoting mass transit and less use of privately-owned cars. Other more global interventions would include reducing the growth rate in all countries including overall population growth and not trying to enhance or increase current standards of living.
These suggestions might work in developed nations but would be unacceptable to undeveloped nations with sub-standard living and working conditions. Another concerning issue is that the growth economy of developed countries relies on the workforce of undeveloped nations for cheap labor so it is more advantageous for underdeveloped nations to remain impoverished. The inequality of wealth and resources in the world is one of the most difficult problems we have yet to face and resolve.
Our present lifestyles counter the logic of living sustainably and being satisfied with less and the market economy continues to seduce us to continue our trend of endless consumption. People want or demand creature comforts and have difficulty limiting personal wants and needs. Our current economic and political structures are built on the premise that economic growth is mandatory for societies to flourish. So, it appears that the notion of a capitalism that is eco friendly may be theoretically possible but untenable in application due to our ingrained ideologies and current lifestyles.
The systemic model examines the premises on which an application is based, helps eliminate those options that are contraindicated and focuses on those that appear to be plausible for consideration. The systemic method questions fundamental premises for validity and applicability. Interventions are then trialed and assessed for viability and modified as needed. This means of assessment can be applied within large or small systems with viable results.
The centralist approach within the systemic model includes concepts of socialism, ecosocialism, eco Marxist and participatory economics philosophies. The end goal is to produce a sustainable growth economy that is regulated and maintained by socialist or democratic planning: by the producers of products and services, the workforce and consumers.
The decentralist approach proposes that all planning and regulation be done at the local level such as in local communities, eco villages and eco cities with populations of 25 to 30 thousand people within an inclusive democracy framework. It is thought that those living in a particular region will understand and be better equipped to address local ecological issues than a large organization or bureaucracy located in a distant city.
However, just reducing the size of cities to villages will not bring about change unless the values of the political and economic systems change as well. Thus, the growth economy needs to be replaced by non-growth entities where all power and control is de-centralized, equal and is governed by the democratic process.
The Inclusive Democracy model is a departure from the traditional views of democracy and socialism. It attempts to combine viable concepts from both contexts and also includes new ideas from the ecology, ecofeminism, identity movements and other constructs that might apply. The primary considerations proposed are radical decentralization and self-reliance in local settlements, eliminating the concentration of power institutions at all levels and converting the goal of production from growth as a goal in itself to supplying products and services that fulfill essential human needs and those that enhance the quality of life. The ultimate goal then is to unite society and nature in a relationship that is symbiotic. This implies equal power and wealth, a disposition of collaboration and cooperation among all people in the world and a respect for nature and its bounties. Conditions needed to insure an Inclusive Democracy include:
*All people must have an equal distribution of economic power.
*An Inclusive Democracy must recognize and incorporate the needs of the workplace, the household, the education system, and any other institution that is related to the workings of society and that requires self-management.
*An ecological democracy will be practiced so nature will be free of human domination and allowed to evolve to its own destiny.
It is thought that decentralizing society, creating smaller settlements and using participatory democracy and economics will link individuals closely with their habitat. This will presumably make them more aware of local ecosystem needs and how to live within them sustainably. This context should foster a sense of belonging and commitment to a particular region and its natural resources and beauty. This notion coupled with collaboration and cooperation could create the ingredients for a new societal ethic that fulfills the needs of humanity and the biosphere.
The Inclusive Democracy model would work only if the values and practices of our modern growth economy undergo radical change. As much as this model presents seemingly workable alternatives and a likelihood of success, there is no guarantee that humanity would choose to move in this direction or that such interventions would be ultimately successful. However, its framework does address the ecological crisis in a manner that seems most likely to realize positive outcomes and a context for a new and better human society to manifest.
In light of the fact that our current philosophies and lifestyles have been acknowledged to be unsustainable, humanity will have to choose between a continuance of its present philosophies and behaviors or an awakening to other possibilities that might enhance our capabilities as a species and allow us the opportunity for grander evolutionary exploits.
“Fotopoulos, Takis. “Inclusive Democracy as a political project for a new libertarian synthesis: rationale, proposed social structure and transition.”The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, volume 6, no. 2/3, (Spring/Summer 2010) Barcelona, CNT century conference (April 10, 2010), inclusivedemocracy.org/journal/vol6/vol6_no2_takis_CNT_Barcelona_2010.htm. Accessed 31 May 2020.