We live in a world governed by institutionalized irrationality. All attempts to adapt to environmental changes such as global warming, ocean acidification, land degradation, and loss of biological diversity are therefore doomed to fail. Adaptation strategies are counterproductive and threaten our survival, because they avoid the root cause of the ecological crisis: the capitalist system. The inconvenient truth is that capitalism cannot solve its own problems, only move them around geographically, exacerbate them – create new problems. As a social system, capitalism has never been about equality or sustainable human development.
It is time to rethink, time to relearn, time to create the next society. We are determined to replace an undemocratic and destructive social system with a new one and 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 makes it possible for 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 equal collaboration. 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. At the global level, we lack institutions that prevent crimes against humanity and the planet.
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. Open, spatial initiatives of this kind, collectively designed for collective action, encourage us to become active participants.
The necessary, citizen-led transformation of society is both radically democratic and radically creative, which means that we get more power to change and more control over our lives – the keys to social trust and an even distribution of power and influence. This is an open, multidimensional process that presupposes active citizens and collective capacity – technological as well as organizational – to create new collaborations, new spatial patterns and structures.
No matter where we live and what we struggle for: the formation of popular assemblies and institutions that protect our right to shape our common future begins locally. The question is not if, but how democratic and creative, radically redefined neighborhoods, can contribute to the development of a more peaceful and sustainable society.
It is hard to imagine a sustainable society without literate, responsible, critically thinking people, so neighborhood transformation can easily be understood as a learning process. This is curious, collaborative, lifelong learning. This is learning that aims to make our common environment – buildings, streets, bridges, tunnels, gardens, parks, forests, soils, streams, rivers, ponds, lakes – biologically and culturally regenerative, both life-sustaining and life-enhancing.
From molecules to urban ecosystems: there are endless ways to reshape our neighborhoods – and minimize the use of energy and materials – if we learn to mimic complex natural ecosystems. We already have the the tools and an unrivaled source of inspiration. What we need now is nature-inspired systemic change, not only a new surface.
We recognize 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 does 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; a regenerative culture; free access to information and collaborative technology; safe and healthy environments for all; free education and research; neighborhood-based food and energy systems; and, to make everything work together, globally interconnected networks of neighborhoods, cities, and regions.