Four Things You Can Invest in to Help Build a Liveable Future
Dedicate time or money or both.
By Katarzyna Gajewska
Recent events have demonstrated that no one can be completely safe from a global pandemic. And while the virus is certainly not a “great equalizer”, full protection cannot be bought, no matter how much money you have.
The pandemic is just one of a series of events humanity has set in motion with decades of environmental destruction. An economic system based on endless growth has brought these conditions about — and it’s clearly no longer fit for purpose.
The transition to a post-growth economy is a step towards a future where all people, companies, and the planet can thrive. Here are four interrelated things you can invest time or money in to build resilience and help co-create that safety net, at an individual, community, and ecological level.
Human encroachment into natural habitats and diminishing biodiversity may facilitate the spread of other plagues. It is not an abstract ideal but a reality affecting each one of us. If you have money, supporting initiatives protecting biodiversity is an investment in your safety and preserving a livable world for your children. If you have time, consider how your consumption may affect biodiversity and make a commitment to taking more conscious decisions.
2. Localized food supply
The coronavirus outbreak has revealed systemic problems in food supply chains. To prepare for, and ideally avoid, future pandemics it’s worth considering how to shorten food supply chains so that retail and production can adjust to the requirements of self-isolation. E-commerce giants have benefited from Covid-19 and are predicted to increase their market share. But what about the significant externalised costs? A huge price is being paid by workers and the people they live with, for example. It is much more difficult to maintain safety measures in vast warehouses than in smaller units. Plus, the selection of products offered by these companies is also less healthy than what could be offered in a more decentralized system. Large scale retail increases the risks by undermining health, hence immunity to the virus.
Due to the quarantine, meat processors shut down or limited their activities because of lack of labor. A chicken processing company had to euthanize two million animals. Some calculated reduced demand for their products because they were delivering to big organizations. From the US to Germany, big meat processing companies have been blasé about the protection of their workers, causing dangerous local outbreaks. At the same time, demand for local suppliers has surged, demonstrating the superiority of community-supported agriculture when dealing with the challenges of lockdown.
Currently, we are paying the price of not having a well-established network of self-organization among consumers and direct relations with local farms. Autonomous farmers with a stable network of customers are better able to organize dynamically and adapt to urgent situations. If you have money, you might consider investing in small farms that cultivate a variety of plant and animal products rather than mono-cultures that require industrial processing. Having such farms as part of your landscape enables flexibility at times when it’s better to cut off any circulation. If you have time, you can think about how to promote local farms in your vicinity so that they can continue their work.
While responses to some natural disasters have highlighted a tendency for people to help each other in times of crisis, self-isolation and quarantine inhibit such connection. It’s therefore essential to think about how we can build community ties, to preempt the next crisis and ensure we’re ready to respond in a coordinated way. Even if you consider yourself independent and able to buy anything, think of the consequences of having people not obey the rules because they are not embedded in the community. It is more difficult to implement “freedom” limiting measures in an individualist society. In times like this, your health depends on other people’s health and their solidarity.
If you have money, it’s worth investing in events, spaces, and organizations working to generate community connection and belonging. Sponsoring spaces where people can meet rather than consume is more relevant than ever, in a time when public space is increasingly being overtaken by commercial interests. Human relations are also interrupted by the interests of social media to keep us glued to our screens, with isolation and lonelniess on the rise. If you have time, you can consider what the ways of meeting and organizing things with your neighbors are to enrich your social life. Anything that brings people off the screens is a step in the right direction.
All the above boils down to one thing: education. The school as we know it prepares young people to either be an obedient worker or unemployed due to rapid automation, rather than able to self-organize and create something new. We need young people who are capable of taking initiative to change the mode of production. It requires the capacity to cooperate and be part of a community. Changing the way we think about education enables an appropriate response to the crises to come. The vast resources and information available should be applied to enchant and empower young people to build the confidence in community, find their purpose in life, and align with life-giving ideals. Once they find their place and their people, they will figure out how to generate a new system — one which responds to the current challenges. If you have money, fund a school and scholarships for alternative education. If you have time, think how you can expose young people (and yourself!) to the growing range of extra-curricular education.
Finally, we need to reconsider the word investment. What’s the point of accumulating money if you may lose everything to a pandemic? What’s the point of generating capital if you’re approaching an economic crash? Investing into sustainability is an investment in quality of your life — and in a future where wealth means far more than money.
Katarzyna Gajewska is an educator and author.
Find out more about the Post Growth Institute on our website.