Growl module: solidarity & cooperative economy


The anti-extractivism movement

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The anti-extractivism movement might be a decisive tool towards the deceleration of growth since it resists those vital raw materials for perpetuating the western type so called “development”. There were always supporters of extraction (either of drilling oil in the Amazon-eg: Yasuni-, mining copper in the cloud forest of Intag, or uranium in fracking in several parts of the world43) in the communities where mineral or oil extraction has been proposed. Often, as has been documented by Carlos Zorrilla and others, these support-ers have been bribed with promises of money, jobs, cellphones, televisions, alcohol, and other trappings of western modernity (Matt Ford, 2014)44. Sometimes we might be obligated to break our alliances with the Left, because of its uncritical stance toward the extractions ventured by the left wing governments of eg Bolivia or Ecuador. True, they have an anti-neoliberal record, BUT by claiming to exploit minerals for satisfying the needs of the local people and not the insatiable desire for profit of the transnatioanal corporations, despite the fact that both of them the “rights of mother Nature” are recognized and properly codified into their constitution of 2008 and 2009, not only devastate indigenous and subsistence cultures and destroy ecosystems, but they continue the Paradigm of commodifying the earth and destroying natural and social environments for monetary gain
After all, the nationalized oil industry of the populist military regime in Ecuador in the 1970’s continued to destroy the Amazon and its communities in very similar way to its predecessor Chevron and the nationalized mines in Bolivia after the 1952 revolution did not change radically the lives of the miners (Matt Ford, 2014)

We clearly need a different definition of poverty: as local representatives of the indigenous Ecuador communities –which would be classified as poor according to European cut-throat monetized standards have pointed out, “Industrial mining is not sustainable…The gold and the copper will be gone in a few years, leaving behind nothing but poisoned earth for our people. we cannot put at risk sources of water that can sustain us over the longterm in exchange for a few short term economic benefits We can have an economy here without destroying nature and the culture..

Democratization, which means that a redistribution of the wealth is absolutely necessary, because big economic inequalities destroy the possibilities for a democratic society. an ecological society is impossible without economic democracy. Relocalization accompanied by democratic discussion, is a vital element on the road to degrowth.
As regards scale and place: there is a huge difference between a small, locally rooted enterprise, albeit a for-profit one and a large corporation. A small, locally-rooted enterprise can be seen as producing positive externalities, including stable and long-term employment (Douthwaite, 1996: 35-37). If such a local enterprise satisfies the real and basic needs of a community, and uses - as much as possible - local resources and products, aspiring to localised provisioning patterns, we can see it as being truly efficient: not in the narrow financial sense mentioned in section 2, but, instead, efficient in materials and energy use, an important aspect in a degrowth society. Our emphasis on local basic needs satisfaction in a degrowth economy is also fuelled by a concern that communities provide for themselves in the face of possible energy supply and financial system discontinuities or collapses, which may well occur in the future (Douthwaite, 1996: 47-51). Last but not least, we believe that the environmental dimension in the social enterprise ethos is just as important as the social aspect. Besides emphasis on local material and energy flows this may take many forms (from organic farming to building insulation, depending on the activities of the enterprise, see also Johanisova, 2008).

Public space dialogue on every aspect of political life and restriction of the big corporations activities, which tend to degrade “time consuming” discussions (dare less democracy!!). That democratization process might be able to confront large and ever-growing companies, which due to their economic strength and influence are able to evade local standards and taxes and externalise an ever-growing proportion of their costs onto other players, such as their workers, nature and future generations, in favour of social enterprises loosely as organisations involved at least to some extent in the market, with a clear social, cultural and/or environmental purpose, rooted in and serving primarily the local community and ideally having a local and/or democratic ownership structure (onemember- one-vote rather than one-euro-one-vote).(Korten, 1995; Martinez-Alier, 2002: 10-15 in Nadia Johanisova, Tim Crabtree, Eva Franková, 2013)
Democracy is not just a procedure but, instead, it is a politeia, i.e., “a regime aspiring to social and personal autonomy (to set your own rules)” (Castoriadis, 1996: 221-241). Such a conception of democracy equals “direct democracy” ie, the direct exercise of sovereignty by the people themselves, where all forms of “ruling” are excluded and all citizens equally share the political power (Fotopoulos, 2010)45

That perception of democracy is more than vital in front of the recent fierce attack against it by an elite which clearly expresses itself through books like the one by the journalist Laszlo Trankovits who is hinting at Willy Brandt social modernization slogan “dare more democracy” propagates by its title openly “dare less democracy” for the same reason!

Laszlo Trankovits argues that frequent elections and the concomitant fear of politicians of losing them, revelations on the Internet (WikiLeaks), the inclination of everyone to his/her say and participate in everything, prevent the state and its institutions from functioning effectively and impose the painful albeit necessary social cuts needed desperately by the German managers in order to compete and outstrip eg China, whose huge development leaps which are considered tremendously successful compared to the West's loss of global influence. The German managers and industrialists are enchanted with China's economic success, which, to their opinion causes "doubts about democracy's superiority". In "western democracies" we are accustomed to "years, if not decades of debate on the construction of a new power plant, airport or railway station", they lament. They then hope for fewer elections longer legislative periods, more centralization, more concentration of power, more control, less involvement of the Federal Constitutional Court with new laws, no more demands for social justice and transparency" because is "counterproductive and paralyzing" for any "governance efficiency and instead promotes competence, decisiveness and leadership, a deep commitment to capitalism and profit (sic), dismantle democratic procedures, replace them with pertinent, depoliticized, bureaucratic procedures inducing a bit of dictatoship46

Alternative sources of inspiration--Have a look to the world with inquisitive eyes in searching for inspiration from different cultures than our own: “buen vivir” in Latin America, Buddism in Asia, might be sources of alternative philosophies of life converging with the aims of at least a part of the ecological movement. At the same time we have to take into account that the creation the creation of a public space might be a excellent tool to revitalize and trigger self-realization procedures in people which will provide new meaning of life and human development paths absolutely divergent to the appeal of materialism, which today is employed to fill the existential void through the satisfaction of consumerist wants (Whiteside, 1994: 355)


Education--We are about to confront an absolutely necessary major change in our lives: from the culture of consumption we have to evolve ourselves and join a kind of voluntary simplicity culture, whose ingredients although we know they are different, we cannot yet define them with absolute certainty.

Education has intrinsic value. Of course education should prepare everyone for

productive roles in the economic sector, nevertheless, it is a fatal mistake to limit its role only to that function, or we lose something of its quintessence, in neglecting history, music, the arts, physical education, pure science, the study of other societies, times and cultures, condemn learners to a generalized amnesia, deprives people of the capacity to enjoy leisure and, the most pernicious of all, renders the population vulnerable to totalitarian regimes, because of ignorance and apathy. In other words education is not a simple training process

to secure future employment or an “investment” to receive dividents of it in the years to come, in order to be able to survive “in the frenzy of getting and having”.

Remember the past and taking care of the future (the time variable)--Immerse children into person to person relationships, experiencing each other, learning from older individuals and in that way exploring themselves, communicating deeply in a “soul sharing” way, rather than interacting with machines trying to transmit all kind of information. Have a sense of rootedness in history, being conscious of the perspective and, learn to be responsible about future generations. Approach the every day life of lay people in history and not that of tyrants, kings, heroes etc (Diogenes and Alexander the Great)
Organize educational experiences in such a way as to develop consciousness both inwardly (ie in depth self realization in both logic and imagination, intuition, inspiration) and outwardly (coming to know the Other-planet, society, persons, ecosystems in a non manipulative and controlling way, contacting the Other not as an object but as a person)
Reliance education: being into the dependence-on-the-market mentality (and lack of time), we have lost our knowledge for basic life sustaining tasks like growing food, making clothes, maintaining mechanical, plumbing or electrical devices, creating entertainment, making art, along with the corresponding personal freedom, self esteem. We need to construct local dense networks of local and regional self reliance through production from local resources using local labour to meet local needs (relocalization)

Delusions:

The arrogantly excessive emphasis on the individualistic ego, minimized, obscured and degraded the importance of the connectedness and interdependence. That way of perceiving humans as fundamentally discernible, detached and separate from the rest of Nature, might be at the roots of our ecological havoc. Besides, the essence of people cannot be found in them, but rests with the myriad of transactions with their biotic and abiotic environment (Capra, 1987· Morowitz, 1972· Desjardins, 1993). No human being is an island. Moreover, ardent individuals who crave to promote their unique egos are much more inclined to be recruited into the consumerism ethos and consequently hugely more profitable for business, than humble community members who cooperate, find common grounds and live and possess the wealth collectively.

If I believe that invisible “back rays” originating from the constellation Pleiades cause me to be unlucky in love, my friends might gently suggest that I seek counselling. But if I believe that an “invisible hand” guides the economy ensuring efficiency and general well‐being far surpassing any individual’s ability to comprehend or control—I could be an economist (Burch, 2012: 13).

Efficiency// An economy can be “efficient” and still be ecologically unsustainable and socially unjust


Grow or die// We wish death was not a reality. So we try to escape it partly through focusing attention on growth (Burch, 2012:14)

Free market capitalism EQUALS democracy, freedom, respect of human rights and technical progress

Continuously improving technology without also continuously improving human character merely guarantees improved tools for multiplying suffering

The “affluence” dream of Cornucopians should be totally and irreversibly denounced, in favour of a sufficiency culture


Experiential or transformative (juxtaposed to informative) education

Traditional education is a kind of information transferring (cognitive domain) whereas what we need in front of the multifaceted crisis is a kind of transformative learning (aesthetic, experiential, emotional, intuitive domains), in order to change the direction of consciousness. Learning through experience is not a new concept for the college classroom. Notable educational psychologists such as John Dewey (1938/1998), Carl Rogers (1902-1987), and David Kolb (1984) have provided the groundwork of learning theories that focus on learning through experience or learning by doing.

In combating delusions mindfulness47, ie "the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one's attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment", might be a useful tool.

In other words be in contact with yourself, think deeply, meditate, reconsider your needs (as an old slogan of the ecological movement urged)

In other words, new thoughts about reality AND a new way to perceive it, to experience it, to feel about it, which might awaken the sense of connectedness with other people, non human beings, species, ecosystems, the planet. A new state of mind in which consciousness is considered as a socially constructed entity and not as belonging to a mass of specific kind of tissues into the brain.

The corresponding methods for that reorientation of our mentalities are not that much facts learning procedures (although they should be included), but also educational experiences which aim at making people to surface their deeper desires and needs, by storytelling (Gersie, 1992·Nanson, 2005· Aggelidou and Tsilimeni, 2009), role play48, guided imagery49 (elsewhere named visioning-Burch, 2012:24), automatic writing50, psychodrama etc. All those techniques, through relaxation and the creation of a security feeling among the members of the group, bring into light hidden tendencies of people towards sensing the world deeper, feeling human and non human emotions (empathy), reflecting on one’s past events and at last prepare them for the appropriate change of consciousness orientation and bring forwards the desired (peaceful, ecologically benign) state of living. Of course those methods are only techniques and do not guarantee by themselves that specific direction, given the fact that are very much used by students of management schools51 to make them more able to manage difficult situations or simply increase their effectiveness and efficiency. Freire might be an educator who is both experiential and oriented towards social change. Social change is the aim of real education. Social change springs out of personal change, which in turn springs out of the transformation of our conscious awareness (conscientization, is Freire’s term). Our consciousness develops by interacting with others in understanding our lives and then it drives us to engage in the changing of those lives, acting as architects of our own history rather as spectators (victims) of the oppression on the part of social forces or institutions. The final aim is not to implant a whole ideology but to create a social space where everybody would feel comfortable to pause, reflect, give names to “things” happening out there, imagining other possibilities and perhaps take initiatives for a major or minor change in life

* Alexandros Georgopoulos is a professor at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, department of pre-school education, teaching Environmental Education. He has also published articles and books on environmental ethics, peace studies, non violence and experiential education. His email address is ageorgop@nured.auth.gr
References
Boggs, J., G., Mickel, A., E., Holtom, B., C. (2007) Experiential Learning Through Interactive Drama : An Alternative to Student Role Plays, Journal of Management Education, (31) 6, pp. 832-858
Bryant, Raymond L. and Sinead Bailey. (1997) Third World Political Ecology. Routledge.
Burch, Mark, A (2012) Educating for simple living, Simplicity Institute Report 12j
Castoriadis, Cornelius (1996) La démocratie comme procédure et comme régime, La montée de l’ insignifiance, Seuil, Paris
Fotopoulos, Takis (2010) Direct Democracy and Degrowth, The International Journal of INCLUSIVE DEMOCRACY, 6 (4), Fall
Jackson, Tim (2008b) Lifestyles για την Αειφορία, στο Η Κατάσταση του Κόσμου: Καινοτομίες για μια Πράσινη Οικονομία, ΔΗΩ και Ευώνυμος Οικολογική Βιβλιοθήκη, Αθήνα
Λατούς, Σερζ (2008) Το Στοίχημα της Αποανάπτυξης, Βάνιας, Θεσσαλονίκη
Latouche, S (2005) Dιcoloniser l’imaginaire – la pense creative contre l’economie de l’absurde, Parangon, Lyon

Nadia Johanisova, Tim Crabtree, Eva Franková (2013) Social enterprises and non-market capitals: a path to degrowth? Journal of Cleaner Production, 38, pp 7-162013

Thomson, E., P (1991) (1991). The Making of the English Working Class. Penguin.

Whiteside, Kerry, H (1994) “Hannah Arendt and Ecological Politics,” Environmental Ethics, 16 (4), Winter.




Politics, Ecology, Local authorities and Degrowth

Ioannidis Eleftherios

Mayor of Kozani


My birthplace, which I currently serve as a Mayor, has experienced a limitless economic “development” (growth), during the last decades. Enormous investments, huge open mines, industrial facilities, extractive activities, caused a transition and a gradual adjustment of the production model of the whole area, within a few years, from the agricultural to the industrial sector. Evidently, that resulted in wages and population increment, but also triggered an excessive private consumption. Furthermore, this excessive economic growth contributed in the dramatic environmental degradation (soil, underground waters) and the excessive non-renewable natural resources consumption (Lignite), which led in massive urbanization and imposed a one dimensional production model based mainly in lignite deposits exploitation, the degradation of the natural capital of our area and the increment of a peculiar consumerism.
Nowadays, this model is collapsing. This collision, seen in the context of the overall national crisis, becomes even sounder. Our area experiences a multidimensional ecological crisis which is simultaneously economical, social, and environmental.

The current growth model clearly illustrates what are the consequences of political decisions that lacking of ecological perspective. The crisis that Kozani experiences, reflects the crisis the whole Greece experiences as the result of an unsustainable prototype of economic development, which respectively has been adopted, more or less, at the global level and led in a growth-mania which ignored the crucial ecological limitations and caused an extreme natural resources exploitation. As a result, a global structural crisis of the business-as-usual economic paradigm has now emerged.

The actual sustainable economy is based on the rational utilization of natural resources. In that sense, any political action that ignores this fundamental principle will sooner or later lead society in crisis.
The local government is called upon to play an essential role as the institution which stands by the citizen, by promoting an innovative production and consumption model that pursuit the prosperity of the citizens as individuals and as a collective societal entity, beyond the “growth” oriented stereotypes and prejudices of the past. The promotion of social solidarity, the support of the cooperatives, the protection and improvement of public goods and the public space, the promotion of culture and sports, the alternative organization models (i.e. alternative currency, banks of time, urban cultivations, etc) are some of the policies that the local governments ought to be pioneers. These alternative policies may not increase GDP, may not demand enormous investments and capital, yet indeed improve the quality of life, the well-being, of citizens, further strengthen the bonds of society and set the basis for a social and production model that promotes equity among humans and between humans and the ecosystems.
It is more than obvious that, concerning the current production-consumption model which is based on the excessive non-renewable natural resources exploitation of a finite planet, mathematically leads in destruction that will mostly affect the poorest and developing countries.
There is a crucial need for common action of society and local public authorities.
In order to prevent the forthcoming disaster we ought to act now following the declaration: “think globally, act locally”. The local governments have to word hard towards this objective!
Cordially,
Ioannidis Eleftherios, Mayor of Kozani.

Born in Peristeri, Attica resident in Mavrodendri Kozani. Graduate of the Executive Board of Cooperative Organisations (Technical School of Messolonghi). Member of cultural association of Mavrodendri and president in 2001. Coordinator of conferences relevant with Social Economy, European Programs, Local Government, Environment. Pioneered in the establishment of the Social Solidarity Clinic of Kozani. He worked in the private sector during 2002- 2012, as a medical equipment business owner. Active member of the Ecological Movement of Kozani. MP Candidate in 2007 with the Eco-Green Party in 2007 and 2009. Mayoral candidate with the Municipal Movement 'Kozani- a place to live”, in 2010.


Municipal Movement “Kozani, a place to live”: http://www.toposnazeis.gr/

Ecological Movement of Kozani: http://www.ecokoz.gr/home/index.php

Municipality of Kozani: www.kozanh.gr

CASE STUDIES

AGRONAYTES Consumers and Farmers Network

CSA – Community Supported Agriculture groups in Athens, Greece

http://agronaftes.blogspot.com/

The intensifying of agriculture production in combination with the massive urbanization has substituted the relation of producer-consumer with an exceptionally complicated system. Whoever profits of this system begins to strike strong concerns in front of the obvious henceforth disadvantages of price and quality of foods that reaches in consumers’ hands in addition to all not ecological and energy and food wasting practices of today’s system. Agronaftes group participating in the solidarity trade stop parasitic trading actions with obvious profit for the consumer. Simultaneously we build the essential trust based in close contact with the producers which guarantee the food quality without certification organizations which they can not substitute the human relations of confidence.

The group Agronaftes has formed a network of farmers-consumers that aims to develop a network of producers of agricultural products and foods, with the immediate connection to the consumers. The Agronaftes contribute in volunteering basis to serve the farmers and the final consumers. Important aspects is also that we try to promote with our actions high organic food quality, self-sufficiency, lower waste of foods and energy, as well as the social organisation in local neighbourhood level. We aim with simplicity and enjoyment in our implemented actions, as ‘if it is not fun, it is not sustainable’.

Agronaftes have four types of activities:
1. Provision of agricultural products from selected producers of Peloponnese (southern Greece) with minimum quantity completion order of the available products. All products come from small scale independent producers whom we know and trust.
2. Management and cultivate a collective garden (called Agronafto-kipos) which constitutes a example for sustainable garden that provides clean food. It is located at Asopos village near Monemvasia, Peloponnese and it welcomes volunteers and new cultivators that they wish to shared knowledge and efforts.
3. Initiative of CSA groups operating in weekly subscribing base in the Athens area, mainly for vegetables from local organic producers, but also fruits and other foods..
4. Presentations and promotion of the CSA model to new groups, producers and wide public. We support the CSA model and help in the formation of new groups by giving speeches, presentations, participating in festivals and congresses. Support comes in many ways by sharing existed knowledge for consumers, groups’ coordinators and producers to how understand and adjust in the CSA models demands
Note 1: This report focuses on the CSA activities of Agronaftes and mainly aims in the description of group dynamics developed emitting theoretical descriptions about CSA definitions. They are attended by Thomas Anemos, where the other activities described in #1 and #2 above are attended by Vangelis Vlahakis.

Notice 2: In Greek language we have named CSA as KOSAP (as it has sounding affiliation with ‘Coop’).
Historical elements of the Agronaftes KOSAP groups:

In 2010-11 the Agronaftes initiative began with the voluntary effort of two members of the Eco group OikoHoria which is promoting and supporting the intentional community movement in Greece. The creation of the CSA project KOSAP of Agronaftes was first time presented in the members of the OikoHoria group in November 2010 and second time in a Ecological festival in Marathonas on May 2011, where we come in contact with our first interested producer. More presentations to other groups, festivals and congresses were followed.

In 2011-12 began the first three teams in Halandri, Vrilisia, Pagrati in Athens area with 15-30 baskets of vegetables per group supplied by one organic producer.



In 2012-13 the teams became four in Halandri, Ag. Paraskevi, Pagrati and Thisio with 15-35 baskets of vegetables per group and we changed the first producer, added two new producers and occasional other two organic fruits producers.


In 2013-14 the groups were multiplied in many other neighbourhoods (look below) mainly due to initiative of one of our producers to accept and organise smaller in number (5 baskets) deliveries in more locations.

This year 2014-15 we continue with the four large teams mentioned above and the many smaller ones in the districts of Kifisia, Amarousio, Illioupolis, Argiroupolis, Alimo, Faliro, Kipseli, Exarhia, Gizi, supplied by the two producers. We reported big help coming from one producer himself who has embraced the initiative and support it himself bringing also in his customers and delivering as minimum 5 baskets in close neighbourhoods rather than the 20 baskets minimum which was the initially number required.

The basket continues to include more than 8 kilos organic seasonal vegetables. The vegetables are delivered in bags which are easier to transport, carry and required no other action on delivery since that the consumer collects a new full bag and returns the empty bag. The compensation is 10 euro, payable upon delivery for acquaintance with new consumers. Strong objective this year is to introduce the advance monthly payment of 40 euro for 4 baskets, ensuring that missed baskets can count towards next month subscription. Advance payment will be made straight to the producer in order to avoided monetary exchange on the streets which may have possible future legal restrictions; so in this case the producer carrier only delivers and is not selling on the streets.

Today, after three years of operation of the KOSAP groups, we can say that the initiative is increasing and embraced by more consumers. The groups function independently operating autonomously by the volunteers of each group. Agronaftes keep contacts, pass new signing up consumers thought the web blog to the groups, and invite all to affiliated public activities.


We saw two models developing and coming to existence:

(a). Bigger member groups of 20-30 members with active coordinator from the consumers, which model encourages and other type side orders.

(b). Smaller member groups with active coordinator from the producer side, which encourages larger distribution, more convenient for new members to join and offers more support for new groups to start.
We see smaller interest and strong reluctance from new producers to join the KOSAP models. Also we would like to see small beginner producers to be supported by CSA groups and be a model for others. These are direct objective for further evolution. We slowly understand the dynamics of CSA growth in Greece and how it is determined by different involving factors and sides of interest. Some mentioned here are: the consumers’ dietary and purchasing habits, the organizing willingness of the volunteer coordinators of the groups, the producers cultivating and distributing practices, the perception of average dietary habits for sufficient balanced vegetables basket, the groups coordination ability to choose the location for convenient deliveries and attracting new participants, and last but not least, what is good organic product offers for the consumers. Also the dynamics of growth determined by the personal acquaintances and relationships of building confidence that are well needed. This fact we also try to promote and support with visits and annual celebrations at the producers’ farms. In June 2013 and in June 2014 we made the 1st and 2d open gathering celebrations for all groups and interested individuals and hope to continue next year. We would like also to see groups in other large cities beside Athens area being developed in the future.

Photo from first annual gathering June 2013

Fruits and other products:. We have some experience with fruits, especially with oranges distributed with minimum filled orders. We have also one oranges producer who distributes also other fruits from third producers in order to be active all year around and delivers at the same time with the vegetables bags. The group in Pagrati also orders other products in bulk quantities (beans, flour, oil etc). Members of the group in Halandri they have been inspired and contributing in organizing successfully mass distributions of foods without intermediaries (this action is called ‘Mazi na ta Fame’).

Total assessments of the current activities of the KOSAP groups.

Today one of our producer delivers daily 50-70 baskets, five days a week, which counts to 300 baskets per week, with total turn over 3 tons of organic vegetables per week. Also he supplies by request eggs, cheese, tomato sauce, pork and lamp meat when are available. Our second producer delivers about 50 baskets per week, counting for total turn over half ton of organic vegetables per week. He also supplies by request yoghurt and flour. These activities seem to nourish about 350 families (or 1500 individuals).




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