Grassroots-driven social change is accelerating all over Europe, but particularly in the Netherlands, which had to suffer the dislocating effects of ultra-neoliberal policies since 2005, and where the population has reacted through an exponential growth of civic and cooperative initiatives, as documented in Tine De Moor’s Homo Cooperans study. All kinds of transition events draw hundreds if not thousands of attendees, and it is also being translated in policy proposals.
Here is one of the platforms, from the dutch Great Transition Initiative, which I co-signed, even though to my taste, it still underplays the key role of the commons in this process. But all the policy planks make sense and represent steps forward.
Secured livelihoods and sufficient employment. One hundred percent renewable energy. Clean manufacturing processes that use scarce resources smartly and efficiently. A local democracy that puts people at the center stage. We have everything to accomplish this: the knowledge and technologies, the funds, the tools and the organizational ability. What’s keeping us, then?
What is keeping us are vested interests and powers that cling to their positions and to an economy fixated on growth, with minimal rules and maximum profits at the lowest cost. Social and environmental costs are passed on to the society at large, disrupting communities and countries and leaving an uninhabitable world to future generations.
Whe are not going to let that happen any further. We are going to bring the economy into balance with people and the environment. Environmental degradation undermines the basis of human life. Because its effects show up with delay and then turn out to be irreversible, the moment to act is now.
The value of people and nature
The vision behind The Great Transition is focused on quality and well-being, not on wanting more and more. In this vision human and ecological values precede financial values; money is only a means. There is simply much more of value than money can express. That is why we choose an economy that remains within the limits of nature and that is not dependent on growth: a circular and regional economy, that does not rely on intractable world markets for the satisfaction of our basic needs. An economy in which knowledge, work and income are fairly shared. In short, we choose an economy at the service of women and men, young and old, not of money.
This requires active citizens who take their responsibility. Citizens who work together and make an effort for their surroundings. Citizens who also hold their politicians accountable. Citizens can take many initiatives but if politics-at-large does not cooperate, we will not escape social and ecological hardship. We need political leaders who reclaim power from the markets and limit the influence of (large) companies. Leaders who abandon the dogma of economic growth as an end in itself. Leaders who understand how the ecological crisis removes the ground from under our feet and who dare to tackle the crisis at its roots.
Balance with the Earth
The compulsion of constant economic growth and a limited understanding of true prosperity are the forces that underlie the ongoing economic, social and environmental problems. These problems are intertwined and can therefore only be addressed in concert. Thus, a relaxed society cannot be achieved without redistributing work. And that is only possible by shifting the tax burden: less on labour and more on pollution and on the use of raw materials, on profit and on wealth. As a natural consequence, energy transition becomes more attractive. Also the circular economy will come in sight.
Trust can overcome the fear of change, only when the economy is in balance with the Earth and is subservient to society; and when inequality decreases. Platform Fair and Green Economics shows the ten changes that are possible and necessary to achieve the Great Transition. If we all contribute, the transition will come!
We are aware that we live in a globalized world with strong interdependencies. We can use them to our advantage by jointly undertaking what we can do in and from the Netherlands and Europe. This will show how anywhere in the world we can contribute to a good live for all.
The 10 points of the Great Transition
- Reduce large differences in purchasing power and wealth. Inequality is bad for our democracy, economy and the environment.
- Aim for a 24-hour working week and examine the possibility of a basic income.
- Invest on a large scale in a circular, regional economy for the coming 15 years.
- Shift taxes on labour to taxes on scarce natural resources and harmful emissions.
- Use a dashboard of indicators that properly measure our prosperity and abandon the one-sided focus on GDP growth.
- Invest in the necessary energy transition and switch to 100 percent renewable energy within 20 years.
- Stop “reversed development aid” and terminate the Dutch tax haven.
- Place money creation under public governance and circulate it debt-free and interest-free.
- Formulate requirements for a sustainable, inclusive and democratic Europe.
- Rethink economics: put the “real world” back in the models, theories and classrooms.