It is time to rethink. All attempts to adapt to environmental changes such as global warming, ocean acidification, land degradation, and loss of biological diversity are doomed to fail. Adaptation strategies are counterproductive and threaten our survival, simply because they avoid the root cause of the global ecological crisis: the capitalist system. The inconvenient truth is that capitalism cannot solve its own problems, only move them around geographically. As a social system, it has never been about sustainable human development.
Time is running out, but we are hopeful. We believe that it is still possible to change direction, still possible to solve the crisis – if we come together and create a society that enables us to live well within the planetary boundaries. However, the transformation to a democratically governed and ecologically literate society requires a socio-ecological revolution.
From a survival perspective, it is obvious that we need new forms of democracy and new forms of solidarity, but also new forms of cross-border collaboration at all geographic levels. At the local level, the root level of a thriving planet, we need new relations to the web of life, to everything from the food we eat to the people around us.
Democracy and creativity
Although the crisis is deep and the future uncertain, there is no reason to stop imagining the good life, a more meaningful and responsible way of living – another culture. As more and more people live in cities, it is becoming increasingly important to develop our potential together with others and, more specifically, to explore the socio-ecological possibilities of the urban.
The necessary, citizen-led transformation of society is both radically democratic and radically creative, which means that we are given more power to change, more direct control of our lives. This is a multidimensional process that presupposes active citizens and collective capacity – technological as well as organizational – to change spatial patterns and structures. It begins with the formation of popular assemblies and institutions that protect our right to shape our common future. It begins locally. The question is not whether but how democratic neighborhoods, the interactive spaces of creative learning and collaboration, can contribute to the development of a culture of sustainability.
It is difficult to imagine a democratic and sustainable society without literate, responsible, critically thinking people, so the emergence and development of democratic neighborhoods, the social roots of sustainability, can easily be understood as a learning process. This is curious, collaborative, lifelong learning with a vision.
We realize the need for closed cycles and increased self-sufficiency, but do not forget that the degree of openness to the outside world limits our possibilities. Self-imposed isolation will not solve our problems. Sustainable human development is not limited to the local level. It is dependent on biologically and culturally diverse local environments, open to all and shaped by all, but also coupled to higher levels of socio-ecological organization.
Socio-ecological regeneration is about changing from below, about making democratic neighborhood institutions scalable, about lifelong learning and sharing of resources, about removing all forms of oppression and violence, about increasing the complexity of urban ecosystems – the list can be made longer. If regenerative neighborhoods inspire us to think in new ways, help us to meet our needs, and, no less important, bring us closer together and closer to nature, we are probably moving in the right direction. A regenerative, neighborhood-based culture allows us to develop our full potential, but without destroying the foundation of all human development: the biosphere.
About Slow Society Go
Slow Society Go is an independent initiative that aims to make the world a place for learning, collaboration, and socio-ecological regeneration. By exploring the socio-ecology of neighborhoods, we hope to contribute to a sustainable society. In our view, this is a society with: democratic governance at all levels; ecosystem-oriented social and cultural practices; free access to information and collaborative technology; safe and healthy environments for all, no matter where we live; free education and research; neighborhood-integrated food and energy systems; and, to make everything work together, globally interconnected networks of neighborhoods, cities, and regions.