“Financial Collapse and the Reversion to the Local” by Sir Julian Rose
Read the daily news, even in a relatively mainstream newspaper, and you cannot fail to notice that an unprecedented event is unfolding in front of our very eyes; the simultaneous collapse of two of the World’s largest economies: the US and European Union.
Both appear to be teetering at the edge of a financial precipice and the great politico-bureaucratic machines that run the show – on both sides of the Atlantic – seem incapable of agreeing what economic medicine might keep this beast on the rails.
They, and we, are now learning that in a finite world no resource is infinite, least of all institutionalised financial wealth whose very existence is dependent upon interest payments made on capital lent to those who cannot sustain the levels of repayments demanded of them. In a ‘debt based’ economy (which ours is) all participants will ultimately land up losers.
We cannot know the exact timing surrounding the unhinging of a large sector of the global market place, but that some form of large scale collapse is imminent, there can be little doubt.
With this collapse will also ultimately go the entire foundation of modern day capitalism, and particularly the ‘perpetual growth’ based economic formulae that have driven this planet to the edge of ecocide and the mad growth machine perilously close to its own ultimate demise.
The vast debt based financial manipulations of the past decade already signalled that a global crisis was in the making. And attempts to solve this crisis by applying an ever tighter squeeze on the already minimal assets of the working man and woman has now reached a ‘back against the wall’ point of no return, provoking the first waves of citizen based ‘non compliance’ uprisings. We are likely to see more of these as the elite bankers and corporate despots who hold the reins of power, try to hang onto this power by exerting their repressive authority on an increasingly disenchanted populous.
The entire edifice which we were led to believe constituted the secure foundation of a modern civilisation, is now falling on its knees and the centuries old profligate ‘top down’ theft of both people and the planet is now rebounding on its perpetrators, dragging all and sundry in its turbulent wake. As a result, we are, in the next half decade, going to pass through the vortex of a huge change to our customary ways of life. A change for the better, if you don’t like the ‘take-all’ consumerist package at the helm of modern neo liberal capitalism. A change for the worse if you do.
Desperate rescue attempts will of course take place in which billions of dollars, Euros, pounds, yen and roubles will be thrown at the sinking banks, financial institutions and corporate marketing machines, in a vain attempt to resuscitate – one more time – the dying machine. But it won’t rise again because there is no crane big enough to lift it out of the grave it has dug for itself.
What will this mean to you and I?
Well, that depends on how reliant we each are on the trappings of the neoliberal consumer society.
If we are heavily reliant, we will have a long way to fall and will not have an easy landing. If we are not too trapped we will have less far to fall and may have a softer landing. However, we will all be subjected to an intense propaganda campaign as the wounded beast throws out its grasping tentacles to try to further enslave us in its accelerating demise. Beware of this. We will be heavily indoctrinated not to let go of old patterns of thought and behaviour which give a false sense of security concerning the strength of the status quo to see us through “these hard times”. We will be lent on – even by many of our friends – to tow the line and submit to the “austerity” measures dictated by our increasingly autocratic governments. Beware of this, for it is a deception. Austerity demands that hard working people continue to cut back on their meagre savings in order to enable the elite wealth mongers to maintain their seemingly impenetrable financial empires.
Crises are created by those at the sharp end of the power pyramid and have proven to be invaluable tools for the enslavement of the many. The main card in their austerity pack is the ‘fear card’. If we can be made to feel sufficiently frightened of what may lie on the other side of the collapsing financial world which is their citadel, then we will be more likely to do all that we are asked to do to avoid further rocking the boat. However, this is the road to unconditional slavery – and its what dying monsters feed upon to retain their self delusions of power.
So, if we want to avoid serfdom to the beast, we had better sit down and honestly ask ourselves here and now – before its too late – just what might lie on the other side of global economic collapse?
It will require some fortitude to look this question in the eye. It will require a deepening of our perceptions of what is actually going on around us and a willingness to research what forces stand behind extreme cyclical historical events. It will require recognition of the part that we ourselves – as well as our ancestors – have played in bringing about such crises and an awareness of the fact that they are largely a reflection of our own state of being. For the road to the great collapse is a long and pot-hole strewn one and is made up of many decades of blind adherence to false Gods.
We are all complicit – on different levels – and only by admitting this can we start to put things right.
Only when this first hurdle has been crossed will we be able to start constructing a proper platform for positive change. A platform which necessarily reintroduces us to some very simple premises concerning what steps to take to avoid being swept away, or reduced to serfdom, by the tsunami of global upheavals that are now under-way. I use the term tsunami advisedly because the way the planet has been treated over many generations of abject resource plundering, perpetual war and the toxic poisoning associated with excessive corporate greed, has resulted in a state of unprecedented geological, atmospheric and social destabilisation. A state mirrored by the current financial meltdown itself. How could it be otherwise? The two are inseparably locked into a cause and effect domino that has now reached breaking point.
Our ecology and climate cannot exist in hermetically sealed isolation from our financial activities.
The wounds we inflict upon our this Earth reverberate throughout and the repercussions return to haunt us. So, in taking our first steps of mitigation in the face of a world succumbing to both geological and financial turmoil, some very elementary questions shift into the foreground:
“Will I have the ability to procure enough food to feed myself and my family?”
“How can I be sure to have regular access to this resource?”
“How will we ensure that we have the basic security of a home, fresh water, warm clothes and enough energy to provide warmth, light and adequate cooking facilities?”
“What about our friends?”
“What if our savings are not enough to buy what we need?
“What if supplies dry-up?”
All these questions will crowd into the mind once we allow ourselves to face the truth. They are very valid questions – and they have answers. However, the right answers will not be arrived at via panic or fear. They must be nurtured into existence through prioritising another medium, an approach to problem solving which draws upon our latent creativity, inventive powers and love of life. As Albert Einstein so aptly pointed out “One cannot solve an existing problem using the same mode of thinking which created it.”
Metaphorically speaking the answer to all our questions lies ‘right in our own back yards'; and metaphysically speaking we will be guided – provided we remain flexible enough to allow our old skin to fall away and a new skin to emerge in its place. The very same process which our planet is now undergoing via the tumultuous cleansing process which will ultimately throw-off the toxic burden of generations of misguided inhabitants.
So now is the time to act in mitigation against being caught on the wrong foot before the collapsing structures of the old regime force us into last minute panic based survival actions. It is now time to seek out real answers and take real steps.
Emerging amongst the detritus of failing financial institutions and the war stained ambitions of global corporate giants, is a growing awareness that we have almost completely neglected the resources we have available to us right in front of our eyes; that a global problem often has a local solution and that this solution might not involve a seemingly inevitable descent into a lowly and disagreeable struggle to survive. On the contrary, it could lead to a more honest and simple approach to life which could enrich, rather than impoverish, the spirit while redeeming a lost sense of connection with the natural world.
Should enough of us decide to pursue such a path now, we just might be able to relieve our planet of a whole extra level of suffering which is sure to be experienced unless a significant change of course is undertaken by a critical mass of humanity.
In the final analysis, there is not much choice in this matter. Once a combination of crises in the food, air, energy and water sectors reaches criticality – many are either not going to be able to afford to fulfil their customary daily needs or will not be able to access them due to transport and infrastructural blockages.
However, we are conditioned to believe that such events will probably never actually happen in Western Europe and North America. Our corporate owned western media does not want to unduly alarm paid up members of ‘consumer-soc plc.’. They don’t want too many thinking they might have to change their ways – for example by ceasing to watch TV and to stop buying from supermarkets. So, as long as we carry on consuming “the daily diet for the dumbed down” there is little or no chance of responding to the rising winds of change that are blowing across our overburdened planet. But free the mind and take a few steps out of this virtual reality world which we have so carefully constructed for ourselves – and suddenly the truth starts to make itself felt.
And just what is this truth?
It was put very nicely by Dr Fritz Schumacher, the author of Small Is Beautiful, some 40 years ago. While lecturing in North America, he was asked if a switch from fossil fuels to human scale and regional renewable energy sources would mean that we would all have to accept “a lower standard of living?”
“No” he replied “I don’t subscribe to the term ‘lower standard of living’ to describe a state in which we freely elect to move towards a life of voluntary simplicity.” A life of voluntary simplicity means a turning away from the heavy ecological footprint excesses of our 21st century consumer society and finding that we can manage well enough – or even rather better – on rather a little; provided that this ‘rather a little’ is genuinely good quality and doesn’t harm our environment, our body or our soul. An aware mind and a light ecological footprint are therefore prerequisites for life both before and ‘after the crash’ and as soon as we can get started on on them the less devastating the repercussions of this crash will be.
Rather than list the thousands of localised self sustaining group initiatives that are currently emerging in counterpoint to the tottering globalised economy, I prefer to recommend that we pay attention to what I have named “The Proximity Principle.” The Proximity Principle is perhaps best understood as a blend between a law of physics and what we once called ‘common sense’. It instructs us to think and act on the basis that where we reside (hamlet, village, town, city) is the centre of a circle – and what we need (daily necessities) fan out around that centre like spokes from the hub of a bicycle wheel. It says that we should try to access the majority of our daily needs for our physical well being and nourishment from an area as close as possible to the centre of the circle where we reside. Thus we seek to access our fresh food ‘from our own garden'; our local independent small grocer; our farmers market – or perhaps even directly from our nearest ecologically aware farmer.
Large cities present a serious challenge: some highly creative collective ‘greening’ is about the only practical life line available to citizens living in population densities of over 1 million. Very large cities like London access the great majority of their food and energy from abroad and this makes such city dwellers particularly vulnerable to the increasing oscillations of the global market place.
For such vast conurbations, the provision of food alone requires an energy intensive and complex coordinated operation which is likely to break down once secure financial backing is no longer guaranteed. Processed foods require a further energy input and long distance transportation yet more.
‘Fresh local food’ however requires very little energy input and is alive with vital nutrients and vitamins that are lost in transport, packaging and days on neon lit supermarket shelves – all factors contributing to the demise of our planet Earth. And so with energy: start again from your own wood burning stove; passive and photovoltaic solar panels or small wind generator – or link into a community renewable energy scheme. Obtain your firewood from a local timber merchant or farmer/forester. Make a serious effort to wean yourself off ‘the national grid’ and the super market (hugely consumptive energy footprint) and start supporting the local traders of your community: when the chips are down and the lights have gone out – it is here where your solution lies and the relationship we build with our local community will define how well we cope down the pathway to ‘voluntary simplicity’. It is only at the local level that we can participate in the intimate trading transactions that connect the ecological farmer, forester, blacksmith, baker and transporter. Having money will not be so important when bartering and exchange once again become community led activities. Unless we are connected into the dynamic of this infrastructure, our chances of getting through coming seismic events without too much pain are very small.
By following “The Proximity Principle” we will be guided towards the most elegant economic, ecological and socially constructive solutions concerning the sane management of our daily lives.
Such an approach also has the potential to catalyse a renaissance of meaningful relationships and cast a fresh light on shared creative endeavour – in the fields, on the streets and in the home. We will discover that there really are local solutions to global problems.
August 1st 2011
Julian Rose was born in March 1947 on the Hardwick Estate in South Oxfordshire’s Chiltern Hills, the youngest of four children. On the premature death of his brother (1963) and his father a few years later, Julian suddenly found himself thrust from being the youngest sibling to becoming the heir to the thousand acre estate and baronetcy, passed down from his great grandfather.
After two generations of historical hardship, undergone in order to rescue the then mortgaged estate from bankruptcy, the estate had been left in a somewhat perilous position – presenting a significant challenge to the young protege.
Julian took a ‘hands-on’ approach to this challenge; seeing himself as fulfilling the role of a trustee of the land and it’s dwellings and as ultimately responsible for passing them on in perpetuation to future generations.
Under pressure to adopt mainstream chemically assisted agricultural methods, Julian surprised his contemporaries by commencing the conversion of the land to organic farming methods, which he set in motion in 1975, thus becoming one of the early UK organic pioneers. After witnessing the habitat destruction caused by agrichemicals, he vowed to protect the biodiversity of the land and it’s soils and to maintain an important refuge for all kinds of wildlife.
To try and make this way of farming into a financially viable proposition at a time when there were not yet any organic premiums, he decided to locally ‘direct market’ all the products of the farm himself, with no middleman. Starting a small organic dairy herd, he tended the animals and delivered their unpasteurised milk and cream to local families, probably becoming the only titled milkman in England! Later, when the government tried to ban unpasteurised milk, he led a successful high profile campaign to save it, drawing praise from the Prince of Wales and scorn from the big dairy chains. The farm went on to win national awards for its home produced cream, smoked bacon and innovative farm shop.
In the estate woodlands, Julian continued the tradition passed down to him, of maintaining a mixed variety of species and managing them according to system of commercial and conservation principles. Recently he has opened up the woods for increased public access and in support of socially and educationally disadvantaged young people seeking the therapeutic advantages of a mixed forestry environment.
Julian has ensured that a core of the estate’s cottages are let-out at non commercial ‘affordable rents’ to those who cannot compete with the high prices of the South of England, with the emphasis on maintaining a working rural community rather than on maximising profits.
Outside the estate, Julian has taken a passionate interest in supporting the revival of hard pressed rural economies, putting a high percentage of his working time into socio-economic and environmental campaigning causes, as well as founding or co-founding several non governmental organisations. In the face of climate change concerns and post peak oil pressures, he recently came up with a formula for localised food, fibre and fuel known as “The Proximity Principle.” He has served on three national Agriculture and Rural Economy committees, including for the BBC, and has been asked to provide advice to government. Julian was a board member of the Soil Association throughout the 1980’s and 90’s and is a patron of the Small Farmers Association and Natural Food Finders.
A commitment to helping those who cannot easily help themselves has most recently taken him to Poland, where he applies his energies to fighting for the retention of ecologically benign peasant farming methods with the International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside, of which he is President. The Polish countryside is under intense threat from the European Union and international agribusiness corporations and genetically modified organisms.
Julian started out as an actor and stage manager. Firstly in traditional repertory theatres in the UK and then, as actor/assistant director, in an international experimental theatre company that eventually became based in Antwerp, Belgium. His experiences in the creative arts imbued him with a desire to bring into a constant and dynamic interrelationship, practical and artistic mediums of work to which he now adds spiritual and social concerns.
He is the author of many articles and has broadcast extensively over the years, recently becoming the author of the book “Changing Course for Life – Local Solutions to Global problems.” He has lived and worked in Australia, America, Belgium and Poland and has a son and a daughter, now in their mid twenties.