Alternatives to Corporate Globalization By Independent Media Center of Philadelphia ALTERNATIVES to CORPORATE GLOBALIZATION Is a new world possible? Activists who fight corporate globalization certainly believe so. Those struggling to oppose corporate globalization are more than simply critics of the current system. Though global opposition to the negative effects of the world's current economic and political systems continues to grow, every time those protesting corporate globalization appear en masse to call attention to a global financial body like the International Monetary Fund or World Trade Organization, their critics accuse them of offering little more than condemnation. "We know what you're against," critics say, "BUT WHAT ARE YOU FOR?" The truth is, activists struggling to oppose corporate globalization offer many models of alternative ways to envision a new society. From developing viable economic alternatives to global capitalism to creating more effective ideas for educating children, from envisioning non-hierarchical means of organizing society to conceiving ways to enable more equality in interpersonal relationships, those who hope to create a better world offer infinite visions for a way to do just that. Below are links to web-based resources that offer examples of ideas for what some of those alternatives may be. Some of the below links and resources complement one another, others are directly contradictory. Some of the below ideas been proven to work on a small or large scale; some are only ideals that we, raised as competitive creatures in a hierarchical society, have not yet been able to achieve. Despite these differences some themes keep coming up in all of the ideas below -- sustainability for the Earth and those who live upon it, true justice and equality in social and political interaction, reorganization of power and resource distribution, diversity and multiculturalism as opposed to cultural or racial homogeneity, a healthy balance between the individual's personal freedom and the creation of a functioning society, practical decision-making processes that empower all to reach our human potential while having control of the world as it affects us. Below you will find theories and ideas based upon the simple concept that creating a world based upon these precepts IS POSSIBLE. This is a developing resource which is currently quite incomplete. Feel free to suggest changes, revisions and new links to the "alternatives" working group by e-mailing us at Discuss this feature How/what to post to the "Alternatives" Newswire Table of Contents Organizing Society Economics Environment Political Structures Education Media Health Criminal Justice International Decision-Making/"National Defense" Personal Choices Conceiving the Alternatives Living the Solutions Resources How to Help Develop This Page Organizing Society How will a world based upon the needs of people and not on corporate profit look and feel? How will humans act in a society that values and supports us as individuals? How will people work together day-to-day to create a free and just world? Hierarchies abound in Western society. Climbing the social and economic ladder, often on the backs of those less fortunate, is a core element of life in the Western world. Often we forget how insidious life in a society based upon hierarchy can be. We seldom think about how differently we would treat each other and ourselves if we did not always feel the need to conquer everyone else. Is hierarchy in human society simply the embodiment of evolution's "survival of the fittest?" May humans not assure their own survival by cooperating in communities rather than by fighting for personal dominance? People who envision a better world often suggest the healthiest form of human organization to be not in hierarchies but in collectives in which people make decisions by consensus. In functioning collective organizations people make decisions together through open discussion, shared reasoning and a dedication to the belief that everyone must participate in a decision proportional to how that decision affects him or her. Consensus is a thriving form of decision-making that has existed throughout time. How would having to make decisions together rather than against one another change the focus of society? How would we behave differently if we each had a say in the decisions that affect us? Economics How do activists who challenge corporate globalization envision a just and well-functioning global economy? Do we not need "free trade" in order to assure that all nation's economies experience the benefits of material production? Most "anti-globalization" activists would say the world benefits infinitely from the kind of globalization that facilitates international friendship and solidarity, not from the kind of corporate-dominated, profit-driven globalization that allows powerful businesses and national governments to benefit from the labor and resources of others. Some activists support what has come to be called the practice of "fair trade", international commerce regulated to assure human rights concerns are addressed. Advocates of fair trade assert that if everyone received a living wage to compensate them justly for the world they do or even a "Guaranteed Annual Income" regardless of the job they have the world's economy would thrive. Others who want to radically redefine work view these solutions as simply perpetuating the owner/worker system and would like to see the whole notion of "wage slavery" abolished. Even those who support fair trade practices do not claim that regulation or voluntary compliance by corporations alone will solve the world's economic problems. Many activists who fight corporate globalization strongly condemn capitalism as an economic theory that institutionalizes inequality. In today's globalized world, powerful corporations manipulate national economies to enhance their profit, controlling natural resources found around the world to benefit their shareholders, manipulating social structures in order to assure a willing and undemanding global workforce. They do so in the name of "competition." While some capitalists point to the virtue of competition as a part of human nature so elemental that we must base our economy upon it, others point to equally elemental instincts for cooperation. Most would say that both are present in the core of humans, but the existence of a survival instinct does not mean we must dominate each other in order to thrive. Many who live in capitalist states support the current model because they believe it to be the only option. Is global capitalism effective, sustainable or desirable? Even if we do concede that capitalism raises the level of material wealth for some, are we in the West necessarily happier because we have a higher standard of living? Are there viable alternatives that conceive the world economy as a function of human interaction? The expanding school of "participatory economics" emphasizes the individual's happiness as part of the economic model. "Parecon" values each person's inherent abilities and cultivates his/her interests, encouraging the creation of a nurturing and equitable workplace. Through a "balanced job complex," no one person collects the rewarding tasks while forcing others to resign themselves to the most odious. This sharing of tasks enables each person to realize his or her abilities in a way that a top-down command structure that solidifies class differences (some being primed to take leadership roles, other sectors of society "bred" as followers), does not. Projects that run according to participatory economic principles such as South End Press and Winnipeg's Mondragon Bookstore do so based upon theories of collective and consensus-based decision-making. Many who support the theories behind alternatives such as Parecon point to indigenous cultures as an example of communities in which the economy enhanced, rather than hindered, cooperative social interactions. Many indigenous communities operated according to equitable systems of barter and sharing. One example is the "potlatch" system, what some people today call a Gift Economy. In this system, people share economic resources, each enabling the other to offer his/her own natural skills to the community while receiving equal amounts of contribution in return. Rather than wait for a change in the global economy to develop equitable economic models, some choose to run functioning businesses with a form of economic organization that does not rely on a top-down business model. For example, cooperatives, organizations in which workers share both the effort and the benefit of that effort, can be found around the world. Co-ops build community and promote grassroots economics. The Mondragon cooperatives in the Basque region are an often-cited model of a large-scale success of this model. These co-ops allow for direct worker ownership which leads to an often radical definition of what working in them means to the individual involved. They sometimes succeed, as do other successful co-ops around the world, such as Kerala, India's, Kerala Dinesh Beedi, even though they face difficult challenges when forced to remain sustainable while competing to survive in capitalist economies. Some communities that support alternative forms of economic organization such as the co-operative have taken more comprehensive ways of addressing the need for viable alternatives, working together to build their own local currencies as a means of decentralizing, equalizing and humanizing the money supply. In Ithaca, New York, in the United States, community members earn "Ithaca Hours" which they may redeem for goods in participating local businesses. In several communities people receive Time Dollars for their work and can redeem them for products or can exchange them with neighbors who return an equal amount of work. Communities around the world are implementing local currency systems on a variety of scales and with varying degrees of success. There is much more to learn about these "LETSystems" and many variations are still to be tried. Environment One does not have to be a radical to hold what was once perceived to be a radical stance on the environment. With over six billion people living on an increasingly polluted Earth, actively working toward a sustainable future may be the only way humans will have a future at all. How do those who believe that nature is not here for humans to exploit view the plants, animals, sun and earth? Those who believe in deep ecology have come to view the environment and all the human, animal and plant life upon it, as so deeply intertwined that the existence of each being is an elemental function of the existence of another. This view leads to alternative ways for people to envision the world around them. Living sustainably on earth means we must explore means of using renewable energy, taking advantage of solar, wind, biomass and hydroelectric power that is clean, efficient and healthy for people and the environment. By reconsidering energy systems to distribute power locally rather than nationally or even internationally we could develop a much more efficient alternative to today's system that allows multinational energy corporations to determine the distribution of the world's diminishing natural resources. Living sustainably on a global scale would also mean that we must reconceive the world's food production and distribution structures, reshaping the way we conceive the food we eat to assure access to all. Worldwide agricultural practices have become dangerously profit-driven, with agribusiness gobbling up family farms and replacing them with factory farming methods, as well as genetically altering seeds in a way that creates monocultures as opposed to the seed diversity that had been the basis of agriculture for millennia. Farmers are struggling to create agriculturally and economically sustainable ways of farming, reviving time-tested methods of diverse, "life-centered" farming practices allowing for biointensive solutions. Some have developed systems for sustainable permaculture which encourages agricultural practices that are finely in tune with the natures own processes and cycles. Of course one can not farm sustainably without access to land. Members of Brazil's MST ("Landless Workers' Movement," have reclaimed over 15 million acres of farmland for 250,000 families, developing alternative economic models that emphasize sustainable agriculture. Other farmers, such as the villagers of Siberia's Lake Baikal, are participating in projects that emphasize local and sustainable land-use planning and organizing land through community land trusts, "a form of common ownership land in accordance with a charter based on the principles of sustainable and ecologically sound stewardship and use." Today much of the world's population is concentrated in urban areas, but that doesn't mean we have to surrender our cities to become environmental wastelands. With consciously sustainable urban planning we could remake our cities into diverse, green, beautiful places that enable people to live comfortable, "slower" lives. People in some urban areas have begun to reclaim the green space in them, developing abandoned lots into community gardens. Rather than increasing car traffic that creates traffic congestion and increases pollution, some cities are implementing (or at least considering) more environmentally-friendly modes of public transportation like light rail, "SmarTrams", Transglide bicycle systems, "Automated Beamcarried Traffic" and other inventive modes. Others propose promoting cities that are partially or completely car-free, supporting bicycles as the most environmentally-friendly mode of urban transit. Some have applied their passion for sustainablity not to urban life but to suburbia, promoting "conservation design" as a way to reclaim suburban space to make it livable. Some communities are radically redesigning themselves to become so environmentally friendly as to be considered "eco-villages". Eco-villages like the German eco-community of Styerberg, the city of Bamberton, Canada, or EcoVilla in Ecuador have developed workable alternative ways of conceiving living areas in a matter that are environmentally sound. Political Structures How do people get together to make decisions about the way to share resources and services in their communities? One embedded "fact" of corporate globalization is that our current "democratic" structures, as corporate and political leaders define that term, allow people to choose their governments and, through their governments, they have chosen the world's current systems. Is that the case? Some would say that even in the world's most self-satisfied "democracies" people have little choice but to vote between increasingly wealthy "leaders" who claim to represent the community's interest. Though most western "democracies" do allow for multiple parties to vie for the public's attention, the United States, which often foists "democracy" on other nations as a condition of economic support, doesn't even allow for proportional representation which would at least allow citizens to elect representatives with different points of view. As a viable alternative to increasingly large representative government, many activists advocate processes by which members of a community may participate in direct democracy. Direct democracy assures people will have actual rather than imagined control over the decisions that affect them. Some believe that the way to gain control over our communities is to localize decision-making as part of a general shift toward local self-reliance. The concept of "libertarian municipalism" espouses the idea that people must take charge of their local institutions and from that action good things will grow. Education Many of those who espouse alternate forms of education would say that the current school system exists less to teach a student how to think than to teach a student to obey society's rules. There are many alternative ways of educating children to encourage their natural curiosity and enhance their inherent interests and abilities. Some have proven to be more sustainable than others, but most support the concept that humans are inherently able to learn upon their own motivation and with tremendous effect. Different alternative schools work on a wide variety of principles but most support the idea that every student is an individual with valuable abilities and thoughts to nurture. Alternative schools often replace top-down school instruction with democratic school governance that requires school children to learn through taking responsibility for their actions. Some say that a formal school environment is not as effective for doing this as the home, in the care of loving parents who enhance education by taking it out of the classroom and into the real world. Home-schooling has become an increasingly viable alternative to state-sponsored schools. There are some who believe current modes of classroom schooling are so harmful to the human spirit that the best thing one may do for a child is "deschooling," removing the child from a restrictive school environment and placing him/her in a position to learn from the world. Students who are "unschooled" develop their abilities for natural learning, opening the possibility of having the world as their classroom. Media and Information People around the world have realized that in order to see themselves and the world as they know it portrayed in the media they can not wait for the for-profit corporations or governments that control most of the mainstream media to do so. People have taken control of their own media, producing tens of thousands of magazines ('zines), opening myriad microradio and community radio stations and starting their own video projects, television stations and even television networks that broadcast non-corporate information. Indymedia is only one example of an alternative media institution that changes the way people relate to the information around them. The Active code that powers most Indymedia sites empowers people to "be the media" by taking control of media production. Other web sites like Kuros5shin and Slashdot empower site users to become the organizers of the information within, blurring the line between media "producer" and "consumer." One thing that most alternative non-corporate media resources have in common is the belief that information should be a free resource that helps people learn and grow, not a commodity that may only be bought and sold. Today many information producers have chosen to specifically license their creations to be used by the public not "copyright," but "copyleft". Some truly revolutionary means of information distribution, such as Freenet, allow people to share media and artistic information directly with one another rather than having to go through a for-profit distributor. Computer programmers who believe in this model of distributing information enable their work to remain "open source," the underlying code available for all to see, so others may learn from and improve upon their efforts. The tremendous worldwide success of the Linux Operating System, an open source operating system that encouraged programmers around the world to work together to improve it in an open manner, is an encouraging statement that an alternative form of information and work sharing is able to empower people to achieve more together than they would on their own. Health In most "industrialized" countries health care is viewed as a right, something everyone should be able to access. The United States is somewhat unique in not providing a socialized form of medicine, causing people to struggle to create their own solutions, such as co-operative local health care systems. Many accuse Western medicine of coldly quantifying life into scientific formulae, not considering the spiritual and emotional aspects of a healthy life. Some in the West are increasingly attracted to alternatives to Western medicine, seeking out solutions based in millennia of community and social use in the East. Activists who fight to humanize and equalize their nation's healthcare systems question why the belief that humanity and community support should be at the center of a person's medical care is such an alternative concept. Criminal Justice Often both those who defend traditional prison systems and those who struggle to reform them do so with the belief that the current system of crime and punishment is, at its core, society's only option for addressing harmful behavior. Even the most strident reformers often try to make the current system "work better" rather than replace it with a fundamentally different way to conceive justice. Are there alternatives to the world's current penal systems? Would not a thorough restructuring of society to promote fundamental human rights provide individuals who currently find refuge in crime with impetus to help society rather than harm it? Some who are interested in fundamentally re-envisioning the justice system have embraced initiatives that are based upon ancient systems of tribal and community-based justice. While diverging from one another in practice and effect, "new" forms of criminal intervention share a drastically different relationship between individual and community than any punitive system. Among a wide variety of experiments, programs like those that practice "restorative justice", a system that encourages people who conceive crime not only as a violation of law but as a violation of a human relationship, "victim-offender mediation" and "victim-offender reconciliation" which allow victim and "offender" to meet so they may each recognize the other's humanity and "peer justice" which encourage offenders to face their community so they may really understand the effect of their crimes on society, at least affording some trust that perpetrator and the victim of a crime will be able to find justice within the context of their community. International Decision-Making/"National Defense" In times of international turmoil such as these one can hardly conceive a world in which nation would not fight nation, let alone a future in which national borders disappear altogether to allow people (and their ideas, their culture, their human potential) to freely move around the globe. We often forget that the nation-state itself is a relatively new invention in human history; for millennia people organized themselves not along national lines -- especially not within nations whose borders may have been drawn by imperialist conquerors -- but according to a more organic association with a family, a village, a tribe. There are many who promote a return to this kind of pre-national world in which people would develop their own natural methods of familial or communal affiliation. Others simultaneously support the easing of borders while still encouraging greater international cooperation through non-governmental bodies such as the United Nations and the "World Court." For example, rather than the United States taking unilateral military action during times of international crisis, many would rather see global conflict resolution, non-violent peacekeeping and sometimes even multinational military forces being allowed to take a determining role. There are examples of non-violent peacekeeping operations working to solve international conflicts, as well as visions of large scale unarmed peace forces that could mediate international crises. There are also examples of offensive military armies, such as the anarchist "Iron Column" militia during the Spanish Civil War, that have been organized more democratically than most contemporary armies. In Japan, despite recent political motion within the nation to change or circumvent it, Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution renounces war or the threat of war and forbids the nation from developing an offensive military force. How would the world be different if international non-governmental institutions had more power relative to those of individual nations (or, for that matter, multi-national corporations)? How would the world be different if more nations had, as an inextricable part of their constitutions, articles renouncing war? How would the world be different if nations, as we know them now, did not exist at all? Personal Choices The most direct way that one may create alternatives to homogenous culture is to infuse one's personal life with equality and individual self-determination. Today's popular culture is so all-encompassing that virtually every time someone chooses to spend time reading, walking outside, sitting in silence rather than watching television s/he is, in a sense, making a powerful statement. People connecting with each other rather than with celebrities and supermodels are often considered to be out of step. Today art is a commodity to be bought and sold rather than as something to intrigue and inspire, culture is a marketing gimmick meant to create profit. In such an atmosphere creating controversial culture is a financial risk few dare to take; homogeneity is safer, and deemed more profitable, than views that challenge the mainstream. Those who embrace non-commodified culture often find themselves skirting the outside of society. Still, most who embrace alternative lifestyles are indistinguishable from the rest of us. They work the same jobs as everyone else, have the same interests as those around them, do the same things as anyone on the block. Many supposedly "alternative" beliefs are so commonplace that if people felt comfortable discussing them -- for example, a belief that the materialism so elemental to Western society is harmful to the individuals in that society -- we would realize how tenuous "mainstream" society is. Sometimes people live alternative lifestyles because they simply have different ideas and sensibilities than others. Others consciously connect their personal choices to a belief in the possibility of viable alternative ways of life. For example, while some do not eat meat or food containing animal products for health-related reasons, others do so because they believe humans and animals should share the earth in an equitable manner. Many vegans consider their choice to not ingest any animal products to be a statement that humans should not utilize other living beings for our own sustenance. Vegans and vegetarians may disagree about many things but they do agree that eating a diet composed of fruits, vegetables and legumes is a viable and more sustainable alternative to raising animals specifically for slaughter. Some have embraced various forms of macrobiotic and raw food diets as a manner of bringing themselves closer to the natural  agricultural patterns of the earth. People who live alternatives and understand how their personal choices affect those around them realize they must relate as equitably as possible to those in their lives, from sharing the raising of children equally with their partner to pursuing open and honest sexual relationships. Some challenge the prevailing precepts of a "healthy" sexual relationship by devaluing marriage as the most desirable social relation or by embracing the idea that one may love many. Some work with their partners to develop "open" or "non-monogamous" relationships, allowing for the idea that honesty about natural human desires makes for the strongest bonds of love. Most organized religions would disapprove of this kind of open sexuality. Some who live social alternatives do shun organized religion altogether, Some who still believe in them do so in non-traditional ways, accepting their faith as a mandate to inspire the type of social change that will enable equality for all. Others are developing their own views of spiritual connection to an unknown force, to each other, to the Earth itself. Some follow ancient spiritual paths connecting the natural world to the personal one that lead them to paganism or Wicca. In the West one often forgets that the majority of the world's population practices Islam and other ancient and introspective religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism and forms of Taoism, assessments of the world and how it works that present human life in far different terms Christianity or Judaism. In a very real sense, Western religions such as Christianity and Judaism may be viewed as "alternatives" to more ancient and more widely practiced views of spirituality. A key element of living according to one's beliefs is often the realization that others should be able to live as they would like as well. For example, many who pursue alternatives disagree with state-based laws that prohibit personal choice in matters such as whether or not to use mind-altering substances, supporting alternatives such as legalization or "harm reduction." Those who believe in personal freedom do not support religious or state control of human life, concerning everything from the choice of a woman whether to give birth to the choice of every person to determine when and how s/he dies. Conceiving the Alternatives People around the world have begun to come together to turn condemnation of the world's current systems into the search for solutions. The Zapatista rebels of Chiapas, Mexico, played a key role in focusing global attention on neoliberal economics by calling two international "Encuentros for Humanity and Against Neoliberalism," the first in Chiapas in 1996 and the second in in Barcelona in 1997. At the People's Summits in Santiago, Chile in 1998 and Quebec City in 2001 thousands of concerned citizens provided criticisms of and alternatives to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) "free trade" zone. In January of 2001 a thousand delegates from around the world met in Porto Alegre, Brazil, for the first World Social Forum a massive and ambitious convergence of reform-based and revolutionary social-justice organizations. Activists came to Porto Alegre to offer viable alternative solutions to global capitalism in areas such as The Production of Wealth and the Social Reproduction, Access to Wealth and Sustainability, Civil Society and the Public Arena and Democracy and Citizen's Power. Many radicals criticized the World Social Forum because many of its convening organizations offer state-based or reformist solutions rather than a comprehensive reconfiguration of the world's power structures, but its attempt to focus on positive alternatives will continue in Porto Alegre at the World Social Forum 2002. Living the Solutions One may argue that solutions to the world's problems can be found by exploring the sustainable and equitable ways people have lived for millennia. Most alternatives proposed in the articles linked on this page were day-to-day realities for people who lived since the dawn of humanity in pre-industrial, pre-capitalist, communally-based societies that practiced sustainable management of their environment, directly democratic political structures, local economies and decentralized distribution systems of important goods such as food and other essential resources. Of course not all pre-industrial societies were equitable, just or even sustainable. While few advocate returning to a pre-industrial way of life, questioning the tenets of modern culture and techonlogy as well as learning from the positive qualities of non-Western and ancient societies will enable us to realize that alternatives that seem to be "utopian" or "unrealistic" are proven by experience to be effective. At a few points in history people in Western societies have been able to work together to overwhelm dominant structures and live the alternatives. Scholars of these periods disagree as to the reasons for their being short-lived, but they do point to particular historical instances in which proposed alternatives became realities as an example of the possibility for social change to occur. In Paris, for example, activists formed the Paris Commune, an 1871 experiment in the citizens' control of their society that ended only after government troops recaptured the city by force. The Spanish Revolution of the mid-30s pitted anarchists against fascist dictator Franco and offered, through the collective organizations of the Spanish anarchists, inspiration to those who believe in the viability of non-hierarchical social structures. The Spanish Revolution could not have happened without generations of communal society and organizing taking root in Spain . Ultimately, facing the better-armed troops of Franco and the Communists, and making political agreements with the existing power structure that some say doomed the revolution, the anarchists failed to maintain power. Some point to Tanzania's Ujaama political structure being a combination of African communalism and socialism that had the possibility of fusing traditional values to industrial production, before collapsing under the weight of authoritarianism, bureaucracy and economic realities imposed from both inside and outside the nation. Soviet communism is a controversial "utopian alternative" to industrial capitalism that had elements of success and elements of serious failure. Scholars debate why the Russian Revolution failed to yield a society based upon true equality -- inherent flaws in Marxist theory? inherent flaws in human nature? inordinate pressure from the outside? In real terms people in those societies were not allowed the freedom of thought, motion and action that individuals require to participate willingly in an experiment that thorough. Cuba is equally controversial as an example of a viable alternative society, but we may should be able to learn from studying its medical and educational systems how to develop more equitable institutions elsewhere. Some people have chosen to live their view of the solutions together in planned or conscious communities. From those who live in cluster housing in Denmark to people who live and pursue permaculture at Wisconsin's Dreamtime village, people who choose alternate forms of housing often do so both for their own personal health and the health of those who will benefit from their experiments. Many "intentional communities", some large and some small, are built around an experimental idea, purpose or theory of organization. Most who live or have lived in intentional communities like The Farm and Twin Oaks are far from the "hippies" who populated communes around the world in the '60 and '70s. Today's intentional communities present diverse alternatives to the mainstream. Today's progressives look to some positive examples of communities that are taking control of their own affairs to produce a more equitable society. Gaviotas, Colombia, has been called a "model city" because of its ability to thrive while still finding sustainable solutions to its problems. Some city planners refer to Curitiba, Brazil as an example of an urban area that has been able to solve typical problems with good city planning and the development of sustainable approaches to the city's rapid growth. In Porto Alegre, Brazil, citizens are involved in a participatory budgeting program. People in the state of Kerala, India are experimenting with decentralized planning and local decisions-making in an attempt to facilitate direct democracy and improve quality of life. Some look to projects like Boston's Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative to present positive models for how to revitalize "depressed" neighborhoods in industrialized nations. Radicals sometimes criticize these experiments for not being bold or comprehensive enough and argue that similar breaks from the status quo will spread across the globe when people demand them. Resources There are many resources to which you may go to find information about positive, viable alternative ways of organizing society. Please suggest the many we have missed by posting them to the Philadelphia IMC's "alternatives newswire." Alternatives to Globalization FAQ: Help develop this important frequently asked questions file about alternatives to corporate globalization. Yes Magazine: This magazine, published by the Positive Futures Network, continually offers information about viable alternatives and how to achieve them. In Context: The Context Institute began producing this quarterly of humane sustainable culture in 1979. The E.F. Schumacher Society: The Schumacher Society offers "resources for community renewal and environmental sustainability, primarily offering information about local currencies, community land trusts and other issues relating to "decentralism." Whole Earth Magazine: Whole Earth Magazine has long been offering information about positive alternatives and sustainable living. Check out Whole Earth's resources section. Resurgence Magazine: Offering both critiques of the status quo and practical solutions to the world's problems. What would an anarchist society look like?: Taken from the Anarchist Frequently Asked Questions site, this section offers a vision of how a society organized according to anarchist principles would work. Also see's Anarchism in Action. Community Information Resource Center: A "networking hub and information source dedicated to building a better world," focusing on ideas about alternative economics and on practical work in the Tucson, Arizona area. Conscious Choice: This "Journal of Ecology and Natural Living" offers information about viable alternatives in a number of areas such as environmental, health care and other personal and public concerns. This site is "dedicated to a sustainable future," specifically focusing on developing resources for the use of solar energy. Znet: Z Magazine's on-line site offers thousands of articles about people challenging the status quo, often by building and promoting viable alternative institutions. (From Z Magazine: Michael Albert's What are We For?) Rocky Mountain Institute: The Rocky Mountain Institute is an "entrepreneurial, nonprofit organization that fosters the efficient and restorative use of resources to create a more secure, prosperous, and life-sustaining world." Its web site offers information about approaches to developing sustainable, environmentally sound communities, espousing ideas promoted in Pawl Hawken's Natural Capitalism. Sustain Dane's Resources: Resources about sustainability from Sustain Dane, "promoting sustainability in the Madison (Wisconsin) area." Global Ideas Bank: The "Global Ideas Bank" offers a place for people to share their own innovative ideas for how to improve society and the world. How to Help Develop this Page The group of Indymedia volunteers that is maintaining this page does NOT claim to represent the ideals of everyone in Indymedia or the Indymedia network as a whole. We an autonomous working group that operates within the context of the Indymedia network. You may join the working group by subscribing to the list -- go to the, clicking on "www-features-ongoing" and follow the instructions. The www-features-ongoing group has consciously tried to present alternatives in action -- ideas that have been proven to work in the past or are currently successful, theories that are more than utopian visions but that have firm root in established human processes and interactions. We tried to offer a broad array of alternatives, some that demand fundamental social change, others that focus on reforming the current system. We have not aimed to provide the definitive guide to ideas for building a new world -- as we said, there are almost infinite ways of envisioning a healthier society -- but to present a handful of concepts that may inspire further exploration and action. We encourage those of you who are unfamiliar with the practice of considering alternatives to look past pat responses such as, "but that simply wouldn't work!" or "that's not human nature!" to consider the possibility that functioning human systems have changed throughout time -- during days of feudalism, who would have imagined that industrialization would exist? During the centuries of monarchy, who would have imagined that democracy would be able to function? How attuned to human nature is the current nature of factory work? How can we claim that Western ways are the only ways consistent with human nature when they run contrary to the values and practices of so many indigenous, "natural" societies? We encourage those of you who are actively pursuing alternatives not listed here to suggest links to go on this page by e-mailing them to Discuss this feature --------------------one of links offered in the economics section provokes me to post it and attach a comment after barely looking at it --- The Gift Economy Not all economies are based on maximizing personal gain - some are founded on giving by Gifford Pinchot One of the articles in Business On A Small Planet (IC#41) Summer 1995, Page 49 Copyright (c)1995, 1997 by Context Institute | To order this issue ... Part of the pathway to a sustainable society comes from government actions such as regulations, taxes, subsidies, and partnerships that bias the market towards serving the common good. Part of the pathway to sustainability comes from building organizations with the capacity to support employees, to serve customers and stockholders, and to deliver ecological benefits - all at the same time. But neither government regulations and incentives, nor breakthroughs in corporate ability to address multiple bottom lines can ever be enough unless the people in the system care about more than a selfish vision of success. According to philosopher Lewis Mumford, fundamental change in civilizations comes when the culture changes its vision of what it is to be a human being. After a long period of seeing ourselves as conquerors of nature, we are due for such a change. We will begin facing the challenges caused by expanding technological power and growing population when we change what we are striving for. We need a new definition of success. Systems thinker and psychologist Gregory Bateson calls our view of ourselves as isolated individuals, "the epistemological error of Occidental civilization." Arne Naess, the Norwegian philosopher of deep ecology, suggests that we are at last moving beyond this error to a larger sense of self, a self which includes the planet. As Joanna Macy, another deep ecologist, puts it: "The obvious choice is to extend our notions of self interest. For example it would not occur to me to plead with you, 'Oh, don't saw off your leg. That would be an act of violence.' It wouldn't occur to me because your leg is part of your body. Well so are the trees in the Amazon rain basin. They are our external lungs. And we are beginning to realize that the world is our body." If Joanna Macy and Arne Naess are right that a larger sense of self is spreading rapidly, then the growing health of our larger self will constitute a success more important than the triumph of our little self over our neighbors. Taking Pride in Contribution The first step toward a sustainable sense of success is taking pride in the value of our contributions to others rather than taking pride in the value of our possessions. By extension this means striving for quality in the use of whatever power we have rather than working to get more power over others as an end in itself. In this view, profit and wealth may help us to contribute, but they do not themselves constitute business success. If we went to the grave with riches gained by gutting the pension fund, or selling pesticides we know cause more harm than the insects they control, would we count our business lives successful? On the other hand, what if we stewarded a small company that repeatedly introduced more ecological ways of doing things? Maybe other larger players who quickly copied the ecological innovations gained much of the material reward. If we barely made ends meet, but clearly made the world a better place, is that a success? Defining success by what one gives rather than what one has is neither a new practice nor an overly idealistic view. It is rooted deep in history and human nature, and is more basic than wealth or money. The Gift Economy In the potlatches of the Chinook, Nootka, and other Pacific Northwest peoples, chiefs vied to give the most blankets and other valuables. More generally, in hunter-gatherer societies the hunter's status was not determined by how much of the kill he ate, but rather by what he brought back for others. In his brilliant book The Gift: The Erotic Life of Property, Lewis Hyde points to two types of economies. In a commodity (or exchange) economy, status is accorded to those who have the most. In a gift economy, status is accorded to those who give the most to others. Lest we think that the principles of a gift economy will only work for simple, primitive or small enterprises, Hyde points out that the community of scientists follows the rules of a gift economy. The scientists with highest status are not those who possesses the most knowledge; they are the ones who have contributed the most to their fields. A scientist of great knowledge, but only minor contributions is almost pitied - his or her career is seen as a waste of talent. At a symposium a scientist gives a paper. Selfish scientists do not hope others give better papers so they can come away with more knowledge than they had to offer in exchange. Quite the reverse. Each scientist hopes his or her paper will provide a large and lasting value. By the rules of an exchange economy, the scientist hopes to come away a "loser," because that is precisely how one wins in science. Antelope meat called for a gift economy because it was perishable and there was too much for any one person to eat. Information also loses value over time and has the capacity to satisfy more than one. In many cases information gains rather than loses value through sharing. While the exchange economy may have been appropriate for the industrial age, the gift economy is coming back as we enter the information age. Doing Business as a Gift to Society The next step in the move toward sustainable business is to make the business itself a gift to society. Companies that use sulfuric acid end up with a hazardous waste. DuPont, instead of distancing itself from the hazardous waste generated by its customers, saw this problem as an opportunity to differentiate its offering in one of the most basic of commodities. The company took back the spent sulfuric acid, purified it, and resold it. This was good business because once DuPont got good at it, recycling turned out to be cheaper than creating from scratch. It also gained the company market share and margins in what had become to others a low-profit, uninteresting commodity. In this case, DuPont does well by doing good, thus winning both the exchange and gift paradigms. The sign of excellence in a new world of the larger self is not vast profit or possessions, but sufficient material success to allow large and thoughtful contributions to society. For some strategies of societal service, huge profits may be needed, for example to build up the capital to purchase forestry land and convert it to sustainable forestry, or to extend a chain of tutoring schools that serve those who otherwise might not read, including the poor. Other strategies for making a contribution might require only a modest income that could be used for marshalling forces for change by example or through volunteers. In a world dominated by a larger sense of self these two strategies could do equal good and would be considered equally successful. One feature of our society works directly against implementing a larger vision of success: institutional ownership of companies. In an earlier era of owner-operated businesses, an owner who thought solely of profit without regard for the effect of decisions on employees or the welfare of the community was thought to be a monster, and rightly so. In contrast, the law today forbids pension fund managers from full humanity; they are precluded by law from allowing concerns for the environment or the good of employees to interfere with maximizing return. Institutional investment laws need to be changed. A Shift from Capital to Talent The critical factor controlling success in business is shifting from capital to talent. Employees are no longer interchangeable parts. This is not good for everyone, the undereducated and those whose talents are not now in demand are losing ground. But there is a bright side. Employers must curry the favor of their talented employees who increasingly have an ethical agenda. Employees who can easily find work elsewhere are refusing to work on projects or for companies that offend their values, even if they would be well paid to do so. As this trend increases, as people take a stand for sustainability in choosing their work, even public corporations seeking the favor of bloodless institutional investors will find that sustainable companies have the best future because they have the best talent. In fields where creativity counts, sustainability is a competitive weapon. This strategy will not work if we are so pure that no realistic level of improvement would meet our standards. It will not work if we sell out for greenwashing instead of instituting real environmentally conscious practices. Biasing the system for sustainability requires some of us to be in the game demanding change. Frugality and Choice Our ability to make our talent count for change will often require us to take less for our services than if we were selling to the highest bidder. One consulting firm I know virtually requires new consultants to use their fine salaries to buy expensive cars and houses. They want them up to their eyeballs in debt so the company can have complete control over them. They want their consultants living in fear of losing their jobs so they don't ever put ethics ahead of their sales and profits. Voluntary simplicity is not just polluting less, it is having more to "spend" on integrity at work. If we can live on less, we can turn down unsustainable projects at work just as we do in our choices at home. Talented people have been making sustainable career choices in increasing numbers. This gives businesses that can provide good work towards good ends a great advantage, and this advantage will grow as the highly environmentally and socially conscious generation in school now becomes important talent to business. The real game in the business world of the ecological age is running a business or a career so as to make a contribution to the community, the nation, and even to the planet as a whole. True business competence in the ecological age is demonstrated by producing a better product or service for customers and at the same time setting new standards for reducing pollution, for creating habitat, for helping the less fortunate. We cannot play this new game until we move beyond the fear of insolvency and learn to live frugally regardless of financial success. The old status system is hard on the heart. Living for the larger self through a strategy of frugality and service opens up the heart to the glory of creation all around us. The gift is repaid manyfold. Gifford Pinchot and his wife Elizabeth are principals of Pinchot and Company, a consulting firm that helps large workplaces escape from bureaucracy and hierarchy to release the intelligence, creativity, and integrity of the members. Gifford is author of Intrapreneuring: Why you don't have to leave the corporation to become an entrepreneur (published by Harper & Row) and he and Elizabeth co-authored The End of Bureaucracy & the Rise of the Intelligent Organization (published by Berrett-Koehler). You can reach him at 206/780-2800. ----------------Resources (especially on all manner of monies and earthier currents). P(re)s: Qualify but don't do away with or discard (any stages of) hyrarchy. Unpailoadadly Ballistic aphorism: Life is not a stage rage of bridgeburnin rockytree. +  ----- A first quick comment on these my tea pleasing pages (the need of which I pleaded for over half a year ago); ----- aint no such thing as higher and/or lower archies? All we are is equal archies? Come on, where's your sense of realism? I think and feel activity and focus should be at and on smoothing transitions for the relatively more sensitive and delicate but that may imply and tie in with, thus be compensated by and compensate for a shock to the more hardy systems No? Take the lava outflow around the equator for instance (anybody got any quantity figures for me? *); it is a rare but compelling event and on the scale/time carousel of rock plant animal human (last shall feed the first to the second or short such kin-ciclin feasabilities in order to feel on and at the top) and it too has it's finest/confinement hour and gets to dominate for a spell. Wavearchy maybe? Either way, by now you will have gotten my drift, my difficulties to do with doing away with terms like hyrarchy altogether, without however, denying the need to clean them up a bit (a little more embeddiment please; involve the furtherst known reaches of scale without distilling a desire to conquer/invade them). * This outflow seems to confirm the Hamaker thesis (search my site) that seasonal iceload pressure flux on the poles translates all the way to equatorial regions via the liquid crystal-like 'gunk' and confirms a pressure increase if anything. by Ray saphunchline pionear you who has 30 Megs of meticulously tinted text for you at lots of relevant rants on dust specks realm coins and currencies coursing between and through stages of ages.