Economics, Energy & Colonialism
The political focus of my output work during this period, has been around economics, with emerging themes of energy, racism and colonialism. My original output design stated an intention to explore regenerative economics and economic relocalization, solidarity economies, bioregional economics and alternative systems. However to do these successfully I needed to understand current dominant economic systems & paradigms.
My Work During this Output Period
- Recorded my observations around capitalism & anarchist points of intervention daily in my OP3 tracker.
- Read several books & articles including Accumulation of Freedom, Sacred Economics, Moneyless Manifesto, Regenerative Enterprise, Gaian Economics & several articles on financial permaculture. (All detailed in my resource review)
- Integrated my anarchist thought into my personal finance and livelihood designs, as well as my design for social enterprise, Feed Avalon.
- Participated in the UK’s most radical funding organisation for social change, The Edge Fund.
- Wrote an article, an anarchist critique of social enterprise.
- Delivered a grassroots fundraising workshop & created a handout re-visiting the not for profit industrial complex.
- Created the mindmap below detailing my key learnings.
Racism & Colonialism
- Read a number of zines and books (see resource review).
- Explored racism and the prison industrial complex for the Empty Cages Collective.
- Questioned colonialism in North American ‘neoagrarian’ movements in the US at the Oxford Real Farming Conference & Food Sovereignty Colloquium.
- Organised the second South West Extreme Energy Gathering, supported new group Avon Coalition Against Big Biofuels to start, and read the book 'Sparking an Energy Revolution'.
Economics & Agroecology
My key learnings around how our economic systems affect the speed and scale of transition to agroecological practices included:
The violence of the food system is skilfully hidden. Through this output work I recognised the invisibility of capitalism and its violence. The impacts of what we eat are hidden. Creating gardens can be often dismissed by radicals, yet by continuing to ignore that fact that we need to eat and that we are responsible for feeding ourselves, we continue to perpetuate a neocolonialist domination of the global south and patterns of harm and exploitation globally. It shouldn’t stop at creating gardens however, capitalism ultimately needs to be dismantled and relegated to history.
The financialisation of the food system affects us all, and the capitalist mindset influences the alternatives we are pursuing. My time at the Food Sovereignty Colloquium brought into my consciousness the financialisation of the food system. While I can see the impact of trade rules and regulation on food, I can also see very clearly the financialisation of our thinking. We have little ability to see beyond the financialisation of our food, we call for radical markets and radical retailers, for fair wages for landworkers, yet our poverty of vision never brings into question, should we commodify food at all?
Image from the Rainforest Action Network
This led me to explore non commercial agriculture, as developed by a comrade Jan from Reclaim the Fields. “Non-Commercial Agriculture is a concept that tries to abolish direct exchange and moves towards a gift economy. It rests upon the idea that we can establish networks in which everybody contributes their skills voluntarily, also their products etc… without the expectation of a direct return. However, everybody in this community can access this common pool of skills and produce. Non-commercial production tries to overcome capitalist logics and has the goal of establishing a needs-based economy.” Jan warns of models that reproduce the capitalist logic.
The privatisation of land, essential to capitalism, is fundamental, therefore recollectivising land ownership in order to support agroecology, will be one of our greatest challenges. At present a myriad of community land opportunities exist, however if scaled up, they could threaten power balances and ignite substantial state repression to preserve their interests.
That access to capital is still necessary to accelerate agroecology. This capital can be accessed through the multitude of alternative economic models being produced, for example 'Slow money for slow food', crowdfundraising, landsharing, solidarity economies and more.
Picture from the School Farm CSA in Devon, South West UK who have been crowdfunding to purchase land.
Infographic produced by Margherita Gagliardi, who I met at the Food Sovereignty Colloquium at the Hague. It is based on a paper called Financialization, Distance and Global Food Politics, written by Jennifer Clapp, Professor of the University of Waterloo, Canada.
"Capitalism, as a social-economic system, is necessarily committed to racism and sexism. For capitalism must justify and mystify the contradictions built into its social relations - the promise of freedom vs. the reality of widespread coercion, and the promise of prosperity vs the reality of widespread penury - by denigrating the “nature” of those it exploits: women, colonial subjects, the descendants of African slaves, the immigrants displaced by globalisation.
At the core of capitalism there is not only the symbiotic relation between waged-contractual labour and enslavement, but together with it, the dialectics of accumulation and destruction of labour-power, for which women have paid the highest cost, with their bodies, their work, their lives.”
- Silvia Frederici, Caliban and the Witch
Cultivating Alternatives: Anarchist Economics
However resistance to capitalism is everywhere and alternative economic thinking is abundant.
Anarchist economics as well as resisting capitalism, is about degrowth and accelerating the manifestation of the gift economy. Alternative economic frameworks that are in existence, include the following (please note I will not go in to detail - readers can self forage at their leisure, or see the links in my resource review):
- Financial permaculture - The conscious whole system design of human financial systems to create a zero waste economy that cares for the earth, the people and distributes surplus of material, currency and knowledge in a fair and equitable manner. (From http://www.financialpermaculture.org/?page_id=84)
- Regenerative economics - my reading centred on Ethan Roland's book 'Regenerative Enterprise' including his focus on different forms of capital.
- Degrowth - Sustainable degrowth is a downscaling of production and consumption that increases human well-being and enhances ecological conditions and equity on the planet. Read more.
- Solidarity Economies - seeking to build an economy and culture of solidarity beyond capitalism (See various definitions and links here).
- DIY cultures - A large impact on my childhood & teenage years were DIY subcultures. These were non-commercial creative do it yourself environments that encouraged resourcefulness, sharing and expression. Meeting the folk from DIY Space for London recently reminded me to take inspiration from the creativity, energy and history of the DIY movement.
- Gift Economy - A society within which people share their skills, time, knowledge, information or material goods with each other without any formal, explicit, or precise exchange (Mark Boyle).
However there are definitely some blind spots in terms of approaches advocated by gift economy advocates. In Mark Boyle’s “Moneyless Manifesto”, the attention is near enough totally on individual lifestyle and consumer choices, coming from a glaringly obvious place of privilege. Charles Eisenstein also makes it clear that the state still has a role in the gift economy. Their failure to observe the accumulation of capital, as only being possible through coercion from the state, disappointed me.
The Political Agroecology of Energy, Economics & Colonialism
"Control oil, you control nations; control food and you control the people."
-Henry Kissinger, 1974 (National Security Study Memorandum 200: Implications of Worldwide Population Growth for U.S. Security and Overseas Interest)
Its hard to explain the interconnected threads that have weaved through my thinking, observation and design processes, however I have tried to explain in fewer words as possible:
Economic Growth Society
- Based on expansion & accumulation & destruction of eco-social systems >
- Needs energy incl. increasingly extreme forms of energy (fracking, tarsands etc) >
- Requires repression to function
- Needs exploitable labour >
- Needs access to land > colonialism
- Displacement from land & means of production >
- To then be sold food produced by industrial agriculture >
- Dependent on fossil fuels >
- Requires repression to function
Perhaps I am seeking connection between my areas of struggle - food autonomy, energy (resisting fracking), the growth of capitalism (prison industrial complex) and the commodification of life (animal liberation struggles). However connecting the political, economic, ecological and social dots are essential for transforming capitalist relations.
In anti-fracking movements there are strong proponents of renewable energies, that constantly try to frame the debate as fracking vs renewables. I swim in a sea of liberals trying to call attention to the power relationships at play, and in reading 'Demanding an Energy Revolution', find echoed concerns,
"All the energy-efficient technologies in the world, though undoubtably crucial to any long term solution, cannot, on their own square the circle by reducing the total emissions of a system based on continual expansion".