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Everything written by Michel Bauwens

The anti-democratic and anti-social design foundations of the Euro

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
7th August 2015

“This was not a mistake; this was not something that they tried to avoid. It is what they wanted to happen, a crisis that would cause a realignment of political power and the end of the European welfare state.”

Excerpted from an interview with Greg Palast:

“Mundell, who taught at Columbia University, won the Nobel Prize for his writings on currency, and what’s interesting is that he won the Nobel Prize for the theory of optimum currency areas, the theory that nations should join currency unions when they have similar economies. Therefore, agriculture economies should have a joint currency; he thought the US and Canada [should] have two different currencies, east-west, not Canadian-American, but the western US should have one currency with Canada, and eastern Canada and the eastern US should have one currency. In other words, he believed that a combination, like putting Germany in the same currency zone as France and Spain, would be ridiculous; it’s a violation of his core theory through which he won the Nobel Prize.

Why is this important? This is the very same guy who is the inventor, you could say, of the euro, which he called the “europa” – that there should be one single common currency for all of Europe, damn the optimum currency theory. Now why would someone suggest a currency that is exactly the opposite of everything he’s taught? I spoke to him about this, and he said that it has nothing to do with creating a good currency. It has everything to do with changing the politics of Europe. He was very, very right-wing. He is the creator of another economic theory, which wouldn’t get him the Nobel Prize; in fact, it’s called “voodoo economics,” supply-side economics. That is, the more you cut taxes, the more tax revenue you get. The more deregulation of business you get, the better your economy – and if you deregulated the banks, there would be less risk in the banking system. All of those supply-side systems, which we call “Thatcher economics,” “Reaganomics,” after Ronald Reagan, it’s all been discredited; it’s all called “voodoo economics,” and yet, that’s what the euro is. It’s an instrument of voodoo economics.

“This was not a mistake; this was not something that they tried to avoid. It is what they wanted to happen, a crisis that would cause a realignment of political power and the end of the European welfare state.”

By having one currency for Europe, and with it, a rule – remember, with the euro comes the rule that you cannot have more than a 3 percent deficit or 60 percent of debt compared to your gross domestic product. That means that no nation, because you don’t have your own currency, has any control over monetary policy or fiscal policy or currency exchange rates. Basically, you lose complete control of your financial system, and he said, “It gets rid of the meddling of parliaments and congresses and governments to fool around with fiscal and economic policy.” What he meant is that democracy gets in the way of good economics.

So, what happens when you get rid of democracy? He says, “That leaves government only one choice,” the only choice when there’s a crisis, as we have now. When there is a crisis, governments will eliminate labor union power, will eliminate government regulation, will privatize industry, power companies, water companies, because they’ll need to pay off their debts, and basically, the power of government and labor unions, the working class, those powers will be eliminated, and wages will fall. In order to maintain employment, governments will allow wages to fall and regulations to die.

In other words, this crisis, in Mundell’s terms, is what he had planned and what the creators of the euro had planned. Crisis is part of the euro plan, a crisis that would cause a realignment between business and labor in Europe, and that the welfare state of Europe will be destroyed, and that’s exactly what has happened. What you’re seeing now, with the collapse of the southern European economies, including Greece and Spain and Portugal, what’s happening here was part of the euro plan. This was not a mistake; this was not something that they tried to avoid. It is what they wanted to happen, a crisis that would cause a realignment of political power and the end of the European welfare state. By the way, the end of the European welfare state caused by a crisis is a quote from Mundell. That’s exactly what he told me and I have it on tape.”


Posted in Anti-P2P, P2P Money, P2P Public Policy | 1 Comment »

Reclaiming land for ecological farming through the Ecological Land Co-operative (UK)

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
6th August 2015

“As Simon Fairlie bluntly describes in The Land magazine, “nearly half the country is owned by 40,000 land millionaires, or 0.06% of the population, while most of the rest of us spend half our working lives paying off the debt on a patch of land barely large enough to accommodate a dwelling and a washing line.” *

The Ecological Land Co-operative is “working on a model for actually reclaiming land from industrialized agriculture and making it available to local, small-scale agroecology and permaculture projects”

Here is a video on one of their first successful projects:

“Filmed in December 2014, this video takes a look at life at Greenham Reach, a cluster of three new affordable smallholdings for new entrants to ecological agriculture. Greenham Reach is in Devon, England. The project was developed by the Ecological Land Co-operative, a social enterprise set up to widen access to land in England.”

Watch it here:

An explanation by Shaun Chamberlin:

“Since the two key barriers to the simple aim of living and working on a piece of land are extortionate land prices and the intricate absurdities of the planning permission system, we have been pioneering a way to get around both.

The basic idea of the Co-operative is that it buys land that has been, or is at risk of being, intensively managed. It then uses its expertise and experience to oversee the process of securing planning permission for building low-impact homes on site and putting in basic off-grid infrastructure.

Once this is achieved, the land is made available at an affordable price to people who have the skills to manage it ecologically, but who could not otherwise afford to do so. The money received from the purchases (or rental, if they prefer) by new residents then goes towards the co-op’s purchase of another intensively managed site, where the same process is put into action, allowing more land to be “rescued” from industrialised agriculture.

Planning permission for homes is secured before prospective residents of a site are asked to make any financial commitment, but they do have to agree to a strict management plan which requires that the land is always managed so as to maintain and enhance habitats, species diversity, and landscape quality, and to facilitate the provision of low-impact livelihoods. There are also conditions stipulating that if they ever want to sell the land and move on, then it must be sold at an affordable price, so that it is never priced out of reach. Beyond these requirements, the land is theirs to steward as they see fit.”


Posted in Food and Agriculture, Peer Property | No Comments »

A Torus Network for democratic decision-making ?

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
6th August 2015

Sabrina Presti, who works with the Catalan Integral Cooperative in Catalunya, has developed a proposal for a democratic decision-making system, or more generally to allow them to cooperate together around shared objectives, that is based on the geometric ‘Torus’ form, encoded in a software platform.

Sabrina is Spanish-speaking so the English version of this text is not perfect, but we thought it was important to spread this proposal even in this to be perfected form. You can also consult it or jump to specific sections on the Commons Transition Wiki.

Torus Network by P2P Foundation


Posted in Default, P2P Governance | 1 Comment »

Debating Common Wealth Trusts (1): public funds, vs basic income, vs commons funds

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
6th August 2015

Via Thomas Hanna:

(from a series of reactions to a proposal by Peter Barnes)

“While Alaska is the only state to use its public fund to directly provide a level of universal basic income, other states do use the revenues they generate to fund a variety of social services (primarily public education). In Texas, for instance, revenues from the Texas Permanent School Fund—which acts similar to a Common Wealth Trust in that it directly owns and manages millions of acres of land in perpetuity—support public schools in every county and city both through direct transfers and bond guarantees. Revenues can also be used for other interesting public purposes. In Alabama, for instance, roughly 10 percent of the annual income from the Alabama Trust Fund is invested in the Forever Wild Land Trust Fund, a fund established by voters in 1992 to purchase, maintain, and protect natural areas of the state—similar, at least in its environmental orientation, to a Common Wealth Trust, albeit governed by the state rather than an independent non-profit.

In my opinion, this raises the question as to whether it would be more effective or even more equitable to distribute revenues from a public fund or Common Wealth Trust as universal basic income (as suggested by Barnes and is done in Alaska) or in other social or environmental ways. On the one hand, there is no indication that a basic income alone will provide the means or incentive for citizens to move to more environmentally sustainable practices. (It has not done so in Alaska). Moreover, for individuals at higher wealth and income distributions, a universal basic income could possibly serve to further increase patterns of consumption that undermine ecological sustainability. Accordingly, using revenues from Common Wealth Trusts for other public and environmental purposes may prove to be more effective at increasing environmental sustainability and reducing social inequality, at least in the short-term.

On the other hand, a universal basic income could have the not insignificant benefit of uniting people across classes behind the Common Wealth Trust idea, making it more attractive and resilient politically. This can be seen in the popularity and profile of the Alaska Permanent Fund, by far the most well-known of the American public funds in existence. This could be particularly important if the Common Wealth Trust concept expands beyond resource (and particularly fossil fuel) extraction to other areas, as Barnes suggests.

A related question concerns the critical concept of local community economic stability. Many cap-and-dividend (or fee-and-dividend) proposals envision some sort of conscious, planned effort—for both political and economic reasons—to reinvest proceeds from the program in local economies that are currently reliant on carbon intensive industries. The same would likely have to apply to the Common Wealth Trusts, especially an atmosphere trust (auctioning off the rights to dump carbon in the air) or mineral trust (charging to extract fossil fuels and other minerals from the ground). This suggests a broader conceptualization of Common Wealth Trusts beyond simply non-profit actors independent of the state that distribute proceeds equally to all. Rather, they likely would have to interact in some way with a democratically responsive and participatory economic planning system based on the goals of local economic stability, ecological sustainability, and social equity. Moreover, with issues as complex as climate change and ecological sustainability—to say nothing of local economic stability in a massive continental system such as the United States—such a system would likely have to be dynamic and evolve over time. This, in turn, raises fundamental questions regarding the structure, ownership, and governance of Common Wealth Trusts and their relationship to democratic politics.

These issues only become more acute when we consider that, as many environmentalists and others have pointed out, truly addressing climate change in any sort of equitable way will require a redistribution of resources from (and/or greater sacrifices by) richer countries that developed on the back of carbon emissions to poorer developing countries that have traditionally been low-emitters. Instead of providing all U.S. residents with dividends of up to $5,000 (as Barnes suggests), one alternative might be that Common Wealth Trusts would, for a time, be used to invest in renewable energy infrastructure in communities destabilized by a decline in fossil fuel extraction and/or sent overseas to help developing countries grow their economies in a less carbon-intensive direction.”


Posted in Commons, Commons Transition, P2P Governance, P2P Public Policy | No Comments »

Jakob Rigi on Building on What We Have Achieved So Far

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
5th August 2015

Jakob Rigi is a marxist researcher focusing on peer production, who here offers an analysis of “What Needs To Be Done” in the current configuration. The text appeared in the Networked Labour mailing list.

Jakob Rigi:

“We can reach there by critically building on what we have so far achieved.

Who is the we? Answer: The current and in the making anti-capitalist social movements and individuals. Although I am very critical of Hard and Negri’s theory of capitalism I think that we can borrow the term multitude from them to name the we. We are the multitude: The multitude of exploited, the repressed, and the rebellious.

What do we have achieved so far? We have achieved three major things:

1) We have invented a new form of political organisation, that is the organisation through de-centered networks which is far more democratic and horizontal compared with previous top-down organisation. One should not counter-pose this new form of organization to face- to-face locally based organizational form since they supplement each other. This new form of organization should be counter-posed to old form of top-down structures of parties and unions. So the whole problem of organising through the net versus grass root activism is a false problem. Grass root, local and face to face activism and organisations converge into a larger force,-organization through horizontally connecting with each other through the internet and other means . I know that horizontalism has been validly critiqued but still want to keep the word horizontal to distinguish this new form of organisation from the old party and union form. Horizontalism should be critiqued and modified not discarded.

2- Our second major achievement has been to overcome the identity politics. In the wake of crises of social democracy and the Stalinism accentuated by 1968 identity politics became hegemonic among the left. One only was concerned with cultural-symbolic identities of local nature. One only fought in her own local corner. Very concepts such as capitalism and anti-capitalist struggle were dismissed as totalitarian and essentializing. The new movement starting by Zapatisto rebellion of 1994, continuing through Seattle 1999 and many other similar protests and peaking in 2011 completely changed this in two ways. First, it identified capitalism as the common enemy; second, it put forward the slogan another world is possible. The new movement combined the best aspects of the old left and identity politics. Like the old left they defined a common enemy namely capitalism and a common goal namely the other possible world. Like identity politics it celebrated difference. It was a unity in difference.

3- The third achievement has been the invention of common based peer production. Now the first two achievements being aspects of the same movement have a common history. The history of common-based peer production, on the other hand, only partially coincides with the history of the two other achievements and this happens to be to source of one of our major weaknesses.

These achievements produced in relatively short periods of time (since 1994 in the case of first two ones an in the case of peer production since 1984 when Richard Stallman launched(GNU//GPL) are immense.

Yet we suffer from the three following major weaknesses.

1-Lack of a program. While these movements courageously launched the slogan “ a new world is possible” activists had and still have a very vague notion of the contours of this possible world. Reformists took this new world to be a return to Keynesianism , a modified capitalism; more radical sections of the movement of anarchist or autonomist bent claimed that our practice prefigures what to come and when it comes we will know its shape. So, their attitude was, don’t bother about it now and let’s us only rehearse democracy and horizontalism. This theatrical practice would necessarily fail to attract millions of ordinary people. Since these people do not confuse theatre with life. The irony was that the outline of this new society was already given in peer production. The political movement was somehow peer produced (the whole rehearsal and practices of horizontalism and democracy was a form of peer production of politics) but it failed to understand historical significance of peer production and to consciously adopt it as its program for change and present it as an alternative to capitalism. So our first task is to craft a program with peer production as its core. Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis should be lauded four attempting to craft a program; but, they do not tell us how the major means of production namely land and other strategic means of production can be transformed into commons. I have a more detailed picture of my own version of this program which is not possible to discuss here. The crafting of this program must be a collective work.

2- And this brings us to the second major weakness of our movements which is the fear of taking power and expropriating the expropriators. This fear and incapacity was elevated to a virtue not only by anarchists but also by major Marxist radical thinkers most notably Alan Badiou, John Holloway and Antonio Negri. In spite of their differences all three argued that we do not need to touch the state. Negri was arguing that the multitude was creating communism independently from state and capital. Anarchists and these thinkers shared the following proposal: We don’t care about capital and state, we build our own life autonomously form state and capital. But how can you do that when the earth as the principle productive force is already owned by capitalists? Are you going to produce another earth? Or migrate to another planet? The autonomist exodus from capital can be only an exodus to another planet, since capital has conquered all aspects of life on the earth. Earth must be free from capital, but capitalist character of the earth is guaranteed by the state. No autonomous life is possible unless we free the earth from capital and therefore must confront its guardian namely the state. To make a long story short the expropriation of capitalists and abolishing of their state must be a major plank of our program. Related to this we should present the peer to peer form of governmentally which is already operative in both peer production and social movements as a new form of governance. This, while not a state, is an adequate form of governance on all levels (local, regional and global). I call the fear of taking power and expropriating capitalists as a Soviet syndrome. Things did not go wrong in the USSR and elsewhere because they took the power and expropriated capitalists but for the reason that the new power perpetuated the class rule in a new guise. So it is time to put an end to the Soviet syndrome. And in this point our program is different from that of Syriza’s and Corbyn’s who entertain the delusion that they can conquer the capitalist state from the inside and then use it for socialising means of production. So, they are “Stalinists” in a new guise, since they are statists. Their socialism will be inevitably a form of capitalism or a new class rule.

3- Our third weakness which also has to do with the Soviet or more correctly a Leninist syndrome namely the syndrome of vanguard party was our aversion to political organization. The aversion of activists towards corrupt/authoritarian Stalinist and social democratic parties and related forms of unionism, and top-down structures of Trotskist and Maoists parties which foster conformism are certainly justified. Yet, the necessity of a political organisation like the First International is indispensible for advancing an anti-capitalist revolutionary struggle. The main aspects of this organisation are : a) its program; and b) its form. Its form is must be that of peer production. It must be a distributed network of distributed networks. In a way the movements so far have invented this form. What is lacking is continuity in both time and space. We need an organisation which globally unify around a common program and consciously continues to exist in order to propagate the revolutionary program. Its permanence and its global reach are important. How, its different sections coordinate their actions and relations is an open question and is up to them. Each section can modify the general program as it fits its own conditions and interests. Yet, the universal and long term interests of the movement as a whole must come first.

Now let’s assume that we have the program and the organisation. Then how do we proceed towards our final goal?

The answer is: by participating in and being part of all small and big progressive struggles on all corner of the planet, supporting their progressive sides and critiquing their limitations. Propagating our program among participants, we shall try to convince them to adopt it as their own, to modify it and to develop it further. And we will learn from them and accordingly change our program and organisation. Expanding peer producing communities and supporting them will be a major aspect of our activism. But this should be a component of a political revolutionary struggle and not merely a form of entrepreneurial activity that aims at making profit. For example those of us who live in the UK should support Corbyn’s candidacy and reforms that he proposes but explain to people that these reforms although good do not change the nature of capital and its corresponding oligarchy. We need a social revolutions that abolishes capital and state and establishes peer production and the will of multitude.

Now, assume that we have a global well entrenched organisation which consists of thousands of smaller organisations which is supported by millions of people in different countries. And assume further that in a country where most social movements are united around our program which enjoys the support of the majority of population there is a revolutionary situation. Revolutionary situation is a situation in which the ruler cannot rule as they used to rule and the ruled do not submit to their rule anymore. In this situation mobilising the broadest number of people we will occupy not merely parks and squares but the main sites of economic and political power. Will abolish private property and the state and replace them with peer to peer forms of the production of goods, meaning and social relation.

What is the difference of this form of take-over of power with that of Syriza’s and Corbyn’s. They do not question the premises and the legitimacy of the capitalist state which is an oligarchical form, since, it is money that decides. (Just look how APEC is sabotaging Obama’s nuclear treaty with Iran by publishing ads and bribing journalists and intimidating congress men. Obama recently confessed that he found himself powerless against the power of money.) Then, they think that they will try to outsmart capitalists and change this oligarchical state to a socialist one. A project that social democracy tried and failed. The crashing of Syriza by German bankers is a good lesson for those who think that they can outsmart capitalists on their own playground. They can extract concessions from capitalists in certain circumstances, and this is not a bad thing, but such concession will never change either the nature of capitalist society or the oligarchical state.

In our case the new power is not a power in the conventional sense but the materialisation of the collective will of the multitude. It is a power to. It is only against only those ex exploiters who try to revive the conditions of exploitation. Those ex exploiters who accept the new order will be welcomed into it as anyone else.”


Posted in P2P Theory, Peer Production, Politics | No Comments »

DEMOS XXI – supporting an important Web Documentary on 21st cy democracies

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
5th August 2015

“As many recent events have made clear, such as the recent agreement with the Greek government, representative democracy is in a deep crisis, yet at the same time, we see a tremendous revival of self-organisation and therefore democracy in practice, emerging from civil society. Hence, we need bridges from the innovation and experimentation coming from civil society (including major technological innovations), back towards the formal world of politics and representation. Democracy can only be renewed and made real again, if the advanced practices of civil society can become the new normal for our political societies.nThis is why a research and documentary project like DEMOSXXI deserves our full support.!”

Details of an important deocumentary project that merits your support, via: http://www.kisskissbankbank.com/demos-xxi-the-democracy-sharing-experience

Watch their crowdfunding appeal here:

More explanations:

DEMOS XXI “Today's Solutions for Tomorrow Democracy” by DEMOS XXI


Posted in Campaigns, Open Government, P2P Action Items, P2P Governance, P2P Public Policy | No Comments »

Climate Change, Values Change, Social Change (2): Foragers, Farmers and Fossil Fuels

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Michel Bauwens
5th August 2015

“The 21st century, he says, “shows signs of producing shifts in energy capture and social organization that dwarf anything seen since the evolution of modern humans.”

If you read only one post-Naomi-Klein climate change essay this year, let it be the one by Margaret Atwood. In this essay, she focuses on how different energy regimes are also related to ethical systems and social organisation, and she mentions two important books on the subject.

The second one is:

* Ian Morris. Foragers, Farmers and Fossil Fuels: How Human Values Evolve. Princeton University Press, 2015

Margaret Atwood explains:

“Anthropologist, classical scholar, and social thinker Ian Morris, (in his) book, Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels: How Human Values Evolve, (which) has just appeared from Princeton University Press. Like Barry Lord, Morris is interested in the link between energy-capture systems and the values associated with them, though in his case it’s the moral values, not only the aesthetic ones?—?supposing these can be separated?—?that concern him. Roughly, his argument runs that each form of energy capture favors values that maximize the chance of survival for those using both that energy system and that package of moral values. Hunter-gatherers show more social egalitarianism, wealth-sharing, and more gender equality than do farmer societies, which subordinate women?—?men are favored, as they must do the upper-body-strength heavy lifting?—?tend to practice some form of slavery, and support social hierarchies, with peasants at the low end and kings, religious leaders, and army commanders at the high end. Fossil fuel societies start leveling out gender inequalities?—?you don’t need upper body strength to operate keyboards or push machine buttons?—?and also social distinctions, though they retain differences in wealth.

The second part of his argument is more pertinent to our subject, for he postulates that each form of energy capture must hit a “hard ceiling,” past which expansion is impossible; people must either die out or convert to a new system and a new set of values, often after a “great collapse” that has involved the same five factors: uncontrolled migration, state failure, food shortages, epidemic disease, and “always in the mix, though contributing in unpredictable ways–- climate change.” Thus, for hunting societies, their way of life is over once there are no longer enough large animals to sustain their numbers. For farmers, arable land is a limiting factor. The five factors of doom combine and augment one another, and people in those periods have a thoroughly miserable time of it, until new societies arise that utilize some not yet exhausted form of energy capture.

And for those who use fossil fuels as their main energy source?—?that would be us, now?—?is there also a hard ceiling? Morris says there is. We can’t keep pouring carbon into the air?—?nearly 40 billion tons of CO2 in 2013 alone?—?without the consequences being somewhere between “terrible and catastrophic.” Past collapses have been grim, he says, but the possibilities for the next big collapse are much grimmer.

We are all joined together globally in ways we have never been joined before, so if we fail, we all fail together: we have “just one chance to get it right.” This is not the way we will inevitably go, says he, though it is the way we will inevitably go unless we choose to invent and follow some less hazardous road.

But even if we sidestep the big collapse and keep on expanding at our present rate, we will become so numerous and ubiquitous and densely packed that we will transform both ourselves and our planet in ways we can’t begin to imagine. “The 21st century, he says, “shows signs of producing shifts in energy capture and social organization that dwarf anything seen since the evolution of modern humans.”


Posted in P2P Books, P2P Ecology, P2P Energy, P2P Lifestyles, P2P Subjectivity | No Comments »

Pavlos Georgiadis on a Plan C for the agricultural and food system of Greece

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
4th August 2015

In this article, What do the powers that be have planned for Greek Agriculture?”, author Pavlos Georgiadis analysis the negative consequences of the neoliberalisation of Greece on agriculture, a situation which will be much worsened after the recent accord:

He writes that:

“Despite the potential of our land, Greece now imports the majority of its food and on average we are the second most obese people in the EU. These abnormalities are largely attributable to the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy, which has supported the growth and development of a very narrow range of large-scale monocultures, almost entirely for export purposes. The failures of the CAP have had a profound effect not only on our food culture and agricultural skills, but also on the landscape of the country. In just three decades, Greece has lost most of its local agricultural varieties and almost all of its dry land, low-input agriculture was pushed out of the market. In Crete, a large number of two-thousand-year-old olive trees were turned into firewood, within a very short period of time.”

He also proposes a counter-strategy in the following video presentation. His idea also involves the creation of an innovation cluster of “Food Hubs” across Greece. These Food Hubs are physical meeting spaces for startups, social enterprises, investors and food communities, with the aim to generate opportunities for youth in the food economy.

For updates on Plan C (i.e. commons-centric) proposals regarding Greece, see our page here.

Watch the video here:


Posted in Commons Transition, Food and Agriculture, P2P Public Policy | No Comments »

Climate Change Effects of Existing Common Wealth Trust Models

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
4th August 2015

There is considerable interest among scientists and citizens to address climate stability. The role of common wealth funds are likely to be a very important component of effective transitional strategy, from a public support perspective. Most any program faces formidable resistance from industry which has sunk assets. Many people feel we don’t have comfortable margins of time enact meaningful policy. Foremost, a functional declining cap on GHG emissions is essential. A cohesive and pragmatic commitment to redirect commonwealth fund revenue is an absolute priority.

Excerpted from Tom Bowerman:

1. The Alaska Permanent Fund is a direct dividend returned to all citizens of the State of Alaska derived from a rent against oil extraction. Although it generally fits the definition of a guaranteed basic income, in reality it falls short due to sizable annual fluctuations, low of $331 in 1984 to high of $3269 in 2008, $1305 in 2009. The fluctuation is caused by variations in investment returns from the $34 billion fund, which vary dramatically annually; the dividend would be $1300 / year if the find yielded a steady 6% annual return or about 3% of the average annual state income. Economist Scott Goldsmith gives a reasonable overview in: The Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend: A case study of implementation of a basic income guarantee (2010). This study suggests two weaknesses for climate stability policy. First is that the oil revenue dividend is expended mainly as conventional consumption, and, second, it creates a citizen demand for more income and hence extraction of fossil fuel to keep the revenue dividend coming. There is no evidence of contribution to climate stability.

2. Since 2012, California’s Cap and Trade program has been collecting dividends on auctioned allowances to emit greenhouse gasses. The California emission cap declines each year so that about 3% fewer allowances are allocated with each passing year – signaling that allocations will become more valuable each year. This simulates large emitters to invest in emission reductions rather than putting it off. Furthermore, this 2015, the annual revenue is expected to exceed $2.5 billion. These funds are dedicated into two broad categories: 25% to ameliorate detrimental impacts on dispossessed low income sectors affected by the policy or climate change, the remainder as state capital investments in renewables, conservation, public transportation, and research to transition California away from climate destabilizing economic activity. The early evidence of this program is that low carbon infrastructure investments are occurring rapidly from both the free market responding as resistance to the cost of emission allowances, and state investments in low carbon infrastructure choices.”

(source, email, August 2015, via Great Transition website)


Posted in Commons Transition, P2P Energy, P2P Public Policy | No Comments »

Climate Change, Values Change, Social Change (1): Art and Energy

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
3rd August 2015

in the coal energy culture – a culture of workers and production – you are your job. “I am what I make.” In an oil and gas energy culture – a culture of consumption – you are your possessions. “I am what I buy.” But in a renewable energy culture, you are what you conserve. “I am what I save and protect.” We aren’t used to thinking like this, because we can’t see where the money will come from. But in a culture of renewables, money will not be the only measure of wealth

If you read only one post-Naomi-Klein climate change essay this year, let it be the one by Margaret Atwood. In this essay, she focuses on how different energy regimes are also related to ethical systems and social organisation, and she mentions two important books on the subject.

The first one is:

* Barry Lord. Art and Energy. AAM Press

Margaret Atwood explains:

“Two writers have recently contributed some theorizing about overall social and energy systems and the way they function that may be helpful to us in our slowly unfolding crisis. One is from art historian and energetic social thinker Barry Lord; it’s called Art and Energy (AAM Press). Briefly, Lord’s thesis is that the kind of art a society makes and values is joined at the hip with the kind of energy that society depends on to keep itself going. He traces the various forms of energy we have known as a species throughout our pre-history?—?our millennia spent in the Pleistocene?—?and in our recorded history?—?sexual energy, without which societies can’t continue; the energy of the body while hunting and foraging; wood for fire; slaves; wind and water; coal; oil; and “renewables”?—?and makes some cogent observations about their relationship to art and culture.

In his Prologue, he says:

– Everyone knows that all life requires energy. But we rarely consider how dependent art and culture are on the energy that is needed to produce, practice and sustain them. What we fail to see are the usually invisible sources of energy that make our art and culture(s) possible and bring with them fundamental values that we are all constrained to live with (whether we approve of them or not). Coal brought one set of values to all industrialized countries; oil brought a very different set… I may not approve of the culture of consumption that comes with oil… but I must use [it] if I want to do anything at all.

Those living within an energy system, says Lord, may disapprove of certain features, but they can’t question the system itself. Within the culture of slavery, which lasted at least 5,000 years, nobody wanted to be a slave, but nobody said slavery should be abolished, because what else could keep things going?

Coal, says Lord, produced a culture of production: think about those giant steel mills. Oil and gas, once they were up and running, fostered a culture of consumption. Lord cites “the widespread belief of the 1950s and early ’60s in the possibility of continuing indefinitely with unlimited abundance and economic growth, contrasted with the widespread agreement today that both that assumption and the world it predicts are unsustainable.” We’re in a transition phase, he says: the next culture will be a culture of “stewardship,” the energy driving it will be renewables, and the art it produces will be quite different from the art favored by production and consumption cultures.

What are the implications for the way we view both ourselves and the way we live? In brief: in the coal energy culture?—?a culture of workers and production?—?you are your job. “I am what I make.” In an oil and gas energy culture?—?a culture of consumption?—?you are your possessions. “I am what I buy.” But in a renewable energy culture, you are what you conserve. “I am what I save and protect.” We aren’t used to thinking like this, because we can’t see where the money will come from. But in a culture of renewables, money will not be the only measure of wealth. Well-being will factor as an economic positive, too.”


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