Changing the Paradigm of Being, Part 2: Manifesto

Did you miss Part 1?

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Preamble

Taking into account that:

  • we live on a limited planet with limited natural resources;
  • that our current socio-economic system, which encourages consumerism and materialism, is not able to bring us sustainable development and sustainable living, neither does it promote personal happiness and satisfaction;
  • that for reaching sustainability, we need a paradigm shift: changing our focus of consciousness from “having” to “being”;
  • that social change is possible only after we reach a critical mass of individuals, who have already changed their own lives or are willing to do so;
  • that a person can change his way of living much easier, if he has the support of people with similar values;

Taking into account all of the above, I urge for the establishment of a network of societies (associations) for sustainable living and self-actualization. Following the principle of decentralization, such a society should be formed in every country, state, region or large city. In each territory more than one of such societies could exist and operate at the same time. Each of them should remain independent, but cooperation between them is welcomed.

Societies that already exist can become societies for sustainable living and self-actualization by transforming themselves and aligning with principles set forth in this manifesto. Societies for sustainable living and self-actualization should follow (to the greatest degree possible) these principles:

I. Purpose of societies

The purpose of societies is to bring together individuals who want to live a sustainable lifestyle and pursue self-actualization – individuals who share similar values, have a similar stance on the problems of our modern world and a similar vision for the future: a vision presented in this manifesto.

The purpose of societies is to encourage cooperation between members in all areas of life – personal as well as professional. The purpose of societies is also mutual support and assistance between members. Societies can also organize educational, social and other events that are in some way connected with these activities. Each society can have its own additional purpose.

II. Foundational principles

Members of societies agree upon the following principles, on which the activities of societies are based:

  • Basic human needs are certain material goods (food, water, shelter, clothes, footwear, heating…), good social relations, and physical and psychological health
  • To satisfy these needs everybody should have an opportunity for employment, access to healthcare, and a safe social environmentBasic human needs
  • The notion of economic growth is an outdated concept; gross domestic product (GDP) cannot be the measure for defining success of a society – the most important criterion for how successful a society is, should be the degree to which basic human needs of members of a society are met
  • Globalization has both positive and negative aspects; to minimize the use of energy for transport we should localize production of goods to the highest possible extent (e.g. local food)
  • Fossil fuels should be gradually replaced with alternative energy sources (biomass, wind, sun, geothermal energy, water power, the tides…), and our total energy needs should be reduced (energy-efficient buildings, public transport…)
  • Environmental impact of consumer goods should be minimized – we should follow the waste hierarchy (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle); each product should be made in such a way that it lasts for as long as possible
  • We should search for a balance between the economy, the society and the environment – this can be done by advocating and implementing social justice, sustainable development, public health, and by slowing down population growth.Society, economy, environment
  • Individuals, who want to be part of downshifting (living a simpler life to escape from the rat race of obsessive materialism and to reduce stress), should be encouraged.
  • All of these changes must be implemented in a peaceful and democratic manner, taking into account the rule of law; if the state and its policies are not capable (or willing) of accomplishing these changes, the civil society has the right to self-organize, within the limits of applicable law
  • If the laws of the country get in the way of achieving positive social changes, the civil society has the right to use all legitimate means necessary to change these laws (demonstrations, strikes, petitions, lobbying, boycotts, informing the public, finding consensus in society, voting opponents out of power, etc.)

III. Activities of societies

The activities of societies for sustainable living and self-actualization will be as follows:

  1. Educational activities and information for members
  • Organizing lectures, seminars and courses on ecology, sustainable development, sustainable agriculture, green building, health, nutrition, personal development, etc.
  • Organizing cooking classes for healthy diet
  • Organizing courses on gardening and permaculture
  • Providing information about products on the market that pose a threat to health or the environment
  • Providing information about products and companies that are in alignment with sustainability principles, are health-beneficial and treat workers fairly
  1. Protecting the environment and reducing consumption
  • Organizing field trips to local organic farms (promoting community-supported agriculture)
  • Organizing clothing swaps and other used goods swaps or flea markets
  • Organizing environmental volunteer projects (e.g. waste clean-ups, revegetation, environmental monitoring…)
  • Planting and cultivating a community garden (if available)
  • Creating an ecovillage or an eco-neighborhood for members that want to live in that kind of setting
  1. Social activities and mutual support
  • Organizing social events, trips and picnics
  • Organizing charity campaigns (financial and material donations) for members that got into financial difficulties to the extent that their basic human needs could not be met
  • Negotiating for discounts and other benefits that members could use with various companies and producers – especially with organic farmers and merchants of ecological products
  • Legal and organizational assistance for members who want to establish a social enterprise (cooperative, mutual organization, social business, charity organization…) or start their own business
  1. Developing and deploying web applications for social change

(To speed up development and to serve the common good, all such applications should be licensed as open-source software. Other groups with computer programming skills may be invited to collaborate on this endeavor and already existing open-source software may be utilized. Alternatively, existing commercial applications and services may be used, for as long as they provide acceptable solutions. In addition, offline solutions to some of these problems can also be implemented, though their utility will be limited).

  • Deploying a web application for donating, lending, trading or swapping items (e.g. cars, clothes, furniture, tools…) or offering services (carpooling, hitchhiking, house sitting, hospitality exchanges…)
  • Deploying a web application for crowd funding – for donating, lending or investing money to socially beneficial or green projects. Whether loaning money with interest is allowed or not, is up for each society to decide.
  • Establishing LETS (Local Exchange Trading System) between members of a society. Web application for LETS should enable that a part of a payment could be made in national currency, allowing for any potential taxes to be paid.
  • Establishing publicly accessible database of products on the market that pose a threat to health or the environment, as well as products and companies that are in alignment with sustainability principles, are health-beneficial and treat workers fairly. Database should be accessible on the internet and through mobile application for smartphones – users should be able to check if a particular product is in the database by capturing its barcode with digital camera on their phone. All information in this database should be protected with Creative Commons license.
  1. Public relations and commitments
  • Promoting societies in social and mass media and acquiring new members
  • Creating a website and an internet forum for each society
  • Promoting sustainable development, healthy lifestyle and personal development
  • Promoting lifestyle that puts less emphasis on acquisition of unnecessary material goods. Instead, more time and money is put into activities that benefit health and strengthen interpersonal relationships (sport, relaxation, cultural events, vacation…)
  • Advocating tolerance, democracy and human rights, equality before the law, and peace in the world

IV. Umbrella organization(s)

Societies for sustainable living and self-actualization can establish an international umbrella organization. This organization should have no direct influence on the workings of its members (the societies), however it will have the authority to give advice and to coordinate some of the larger projects. The organization will:

  • Organize international conferences/teleconferences for members to discuss current problems and assignments
  • Coordinate development of open-source web applications for social change, that have been described above
  • Maintain an official website, which should enable users to find any member society in their own or any other region of the world
  • Oversee the statutes and workings of its member societies. If misalignment with the core values of the organization (principles set forth in this manifesto) is detected, the organization can issue an opinion or start a procedure for expelling the rogue society

Societies, groups and organizations other than societies for sustainable living and self-actualization, can also be part of the umbrella organization (as associate members), if their purpose is in the spirit of this manifesto.

In principle there could be more than one global umbrella organization, and there will be many regional ones. New ones can be formed as needed. The whole system of societies and their umbrella organizations should function much like a network and therefore had minimal hierarchical structure. With no strict hierarchy, there will be no single point of failure.

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Final Remarks

In the next several posts I expand on some of the issues mentioned above. The following writing can also be considered as being a theoretical foundation for my manifesto. Continue to Part 3: Cooperation and human nature.

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Posted on December 21, 2012, in Social change and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I applaud your efforts to set down your own conception of an ideal society. This is an exercise we all should be engaged in not least because it provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the type of society we want to live in and identify where our own society is found wanting.

    The phrase “utopia” is today often taken as a slur with the meaning “impractical” “idealistic” or detached from reality. Whatever the origins of this modern misunderstanding, this is not how I see the utopian tradition. The best utopias almost always emerge out of a time of political, economic and social crisis or as a response to deep intellectual and technological change. Utopias are responses that are meant to be not mere daydreams but solutions whose implementations are possible. Utopias need to correctly identify the problem(s) of the society it seeks to address and provide feasible solutions. Your manifesto meets all of these criteria.

    What are the problems your manifesto identifies? Two large ones that I can see: the first that our current economic system is unsustainable from the viewpoint of the environment, the second that it is detrimental to the self-actualization of the human person.

    A couple of reference that might help you beef up your manifesto and then a little skepticism: for a few years now some economists have been questioning the adequacy of GDP as a measure of economic performance. The problem with GDP is that it is just far too blunt a measure. Producing Lucky Strikes has and early childhood education are each measured as net increases to GDP- and the former’s contribution can be larger than the latter if more money is spent producing and selling the product. GDP also enshrines waste: throwing away food is counted as a net positive because more food needs to be produced. Alternative measures to the GDP attempt to take into account impacts on health and the environment along with differences on human living. Building a public park should score higher than building a parking lot.

    The economist Amartya Sen with his Human Development Index is at the forefront here:

    http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/Amartya-Sen-interview-transcript.1.pdf

    During the early days of the contemporary environmental movement Ernest Callenbach wrote the utopian novel Ecotopia which lays out the idea of a localized, environmentally sustainable form of society that might also provide you with some ideas.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecotopia

    The problems your manifesto seeks to address are overconsumption and environmental sustainability. It focuses on returning economic and agricultural activity to the local level, but I wonder if it misses the global aspect of our dilemma. The problem, it seems to me, is one of the differentials in economic and social development between the developing and developed world.

    Part of this problem is that people in the developed world have reached the absolute peak of environmentally sustainable economic life whereas many in the developing world are just entering or show every aspiration of wanting to enter middle class life. In the developed world population growth is not the problem- rather population in societies like Japan are collapsing whereas population in much of the developing world continues to rise.

    http://www.prb.org/Publications/Datasheets/2012/world-population-data-sheet/fact-sheet-world-population.aspx

    I am less than convinced that local production of food can feed the world’s billions or that alternative energy is at the point where it could replace fossil fuels without civilization as we know it collapsing. Both might require genetic or technological interventions you might not be comfortable with: say the synthetic mass production of meat and vegetable matter, the genetic engineering of food staples and other crops to live in multiple environments or indoors, and the use of nuclear energy.

    Addressing such concerns would help bridge the gap between your ideal society and the world in which we are living.

    • Thank you, for you extensive comment. I am glad that you generally find my manifesto viable.

      To answer some of your specific concerns, let me first stress that I am aware of alternative indicators of welfare, beyond GDP. One of them, Human Development Index (HDI), encompasses fields of wealth, health and education, but lacks any environmental aspect. There are other indicators that try to address environmental sustainability as well. In my opinion, there will never be one single indicator that measures our well-being perfectly. The world is too complex for that. But, this applies to GDP as well! So the first thing we can do is to stop pretending that GDP is much more than a measure of how much money changes hands in one year.

      I also do not expect that localization of the production can be achieved 100 %. This applies to food as well. When I wrote that we should strive for localization of food production, I didn’t mean that no food should be shipped anywhere. But if we could greatly reduce the average distance that our food travels before ending on our plates, that would be a good thing.

      Furthermore, when I wrote that fossil fuels should be “gradually” replaced with alternative energy sources, maybe I should be more specific: I don’t think that this transition can be achieved in a few years or even a few decades. It will take a few generations to completely replace fossil fuels with cleaner energy sources. But that doesn’t mean that we can afford to wait and do nothing today! The sooner we start this transition, the better.

      The gap between developing countries and developed world is indeed a great problem that my manifesto didn’t address at all! That is because I do not have any all-inclusive answers to offer. The disparity is colossal: developed countries have stabilized their population (more or less), but have also reached unsustainable consumption levels (not just from environmental perspective, but also in terms of accumulation of consumer and government debt), while developing countries still have a substantial population growth and at the same time they have a legitimate aspiration to improve the lives of their people, many of whom live in an absolute poverty.

      So, one could say, that my manifesto predominately addresses readers from developed, industrialized countries. I don’t see anything wrong with that, though! The Western way of life has become a target lifestyle for people in developing parts of the world as well. If the ideal in the West gets changed from a consumer society to a more sustainable lifestyle, then there is a good chance that the goal for the rest of the world will change as well. In my opinion, developing countries don’t have to follow the path of the West: they can skip the overconsumption phase and go straight for sustainable development. Yes, that includes improving material conditions and helping people out of poverty. But it does NOT include having 812 motor vehicles per 1000 inhabitants, which is the case in the United States.

      Lastly, there is an issue of genetic and technological interventions (such as genetic engineering and nuclear energy). I do not oppose these technologies for the sake of opposing, or because of some spiritual beliefs. My main concern is safety (we all still remember Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011). Nuclear fission will probably stay with us for some time to come and there may even be some breakthrough in nuclear fusion, but we should not take these technologies lightly. The same goes with genetic engineering: there may be a time in the future when genetic engineering is warranted, but it should be done to solve real problems that cannot be solved otherwise (and only after long-term consequences have been studied carefully). It should not be done solely to increase profit for some multinational corporations who bribe legislators and get their way.

      I will try to incorporate all of the above into Part 3: Final Remarks. In the meantime, I invite readers to check your blog “Utopia or Dystopia” (http://utopiaordystopia.com).

  2. * How does “Manifesto for sustainable living” fit into the grand scheme of activism? *

    If #WaveOfAction is a movement of movements, what is then Manifesto for sustainable living?

    It is one of the blueprints for organizing activists that care about sustainability and conscious living. It offers helpful suggestions to various existing groups and movements throughout the world, as well as those that are yet to be formed. It is not exclusionary: any group of people can organize itself according to the principles presented in this manifesto – either in part or in whole.

    There is no organization or movement behind this manifesto. The text is simply presented to the world, and then it is up to YOU, dear reader, to connect with like-minded people in your local environment and put these principles into action. You don’t need anyone’s approval to do so.

    Association of people becomes a “society for sustainable living and self-actualization” not by calling itself so, but by following certain principles described in this manifesto. There is no need to change the name of your existing group or movement.

    This manifesto is still a work in progress. The text may be updated someday in the future, and will eventually be released under Creative Commons. Any suggestions that may improve this manifesto are welcome.

    Originally posted to: https://waveofaction.org/index.php?do=/sustainabilitymanifesto/

  3. I have been reading all these posts about social change and I agree with you on almost everything. I appreciate your realistic point of view. However I find some insurmountable difficulties.

    1.You propose to reduce consumerism. I think it´s crucial. The problem I see is unemployment. It is said that consumption is the motor of economy in our current system. How could we solve this problem?

    2.I agree that we don´t need so many material goods to be happy but advertising is the new church that provides us with quite opposite values. And it is everywhere everytime surrounding us. How can we fight such formidable power in order to make people aware of the right values?

    Sorry for my English if I make some mistake.

    • Consumerism certainly promotes economic activity, which increases the speed of money – more money changes hands faster, more taxes are collected, profits and GDP are higher, so in theory there should be less unemployment and less poverty.

      In practice unemployment never went away. More and more jobs were displaced by automation, and in recent times, robots and computers. So, people had to invent new jobs and so we got new products and services (which is generally a good thing). The question is, whether this can continue forever, or will we have to introduce some drastic measures, like reducing work week from 40 hours/week to maybe 30 hours/week, in order for everyone to have a job in the near future. I think reducing workweek would also be a positive thing as people would have more free time and be less under stress.

      The real problem is hoarding a lot of money. If people with money do not spend their money, then poor people cannot earn it enough for living. This problem is “solved” by consumerism and getting in debt – you encourage a lot of spending and living beyond your means. Unfortunately, this is not good for the environment.

      There are no easy answers here and I don’t claim to have all the answers. I certainly don’t advocate for all economic activity to stop, but when you are thinking about buying a product maybe ask yourself if you really need it. Could you buy a more environmentally friendly alternative instead? Or maybe you don’t need to own a product, maybe you can pay for the service and achieve the same goal (e.g. buying a car vs. using a public transport)?

      • At the beginning of the 20th Century some predicted that by the end of the Century people wouldn´t have to work because machines would work instead. Of course they weren´t talking about poverty but utopia. It should be like that: less population (control of population growth), less consumption, less work and more leisure time and therefore major sustainability. The problem is that this economic system doesn´t let this happen because it can´t do it. What would the incentives be?

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