Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The New Economy

The world is in transition. Communities are working to move away from the old economy based on ecological destruction, gross inequality, and political paralysis and transitioning to something new—an economy based in equity, sustainability, and true democracy.

This interactive graphic is one attempt to capture the ongoing work to build this new system. But what will this new system really look like? That’s an open question. Lend your thoughts and tell us what’s missing from the picture.


People are building new, durable systems that will be sustainable over the long term and are not reliant on fossil fuels.
  • Food – Folks everywhere are growing more of their own food and finding ways to directly connect farms to consumers. Permaculturists, composters, and chicken lovers are all essential for the new economy.
  • Energy – People are building the renewable energy of the future: wind, solar, and hydro – and improving energy efficiency on a huge scale. In the new economy, energy sources will be less centralized and community controlled.
  • Transit – People are changing the infrastructure of where we work and live to cut fossil fuels out of the picture. They’re making streets safe for pedestrians and bicyclists, improving public transportation, and rethinking how to use rail and waterways.
  • Buildings – We need green cities, green buildings, and houses that breathe. The green building community has shown that living buildings are possible and green design can be cost effective, despite an economic structure that works against it.
  • Health – The old economy is disastrously bad at keeping us healthy. From industrial food to toxins in everything, a movement is underway to “cure the cause” and rid our economy of things that make us sick. Check out JP NET’s work on a “Cancer Free Economy.”
  • Education & Skill-Building – The Transition movement has been ahead of the curve in calling for a great “re-skilling” to prepare people for the future. People are skilling up in agriculture, alternative health care, green building, engineering, upcycling, composting, repurposing, and much more. Alternative educational scenes are popping up to meet these needs, from community reskilling workshops to online peer-to-peer educational networks.
  • Work & Livelihoods – The “business-as-usual” economy just isn’t employing enough people. Even for many people with traditional jobs, wages are low, benefits are bad, and the work itself is numbing or degrading. People are dropping out of this to pursue livelihoods of the future in agriculture, green building, activism, arts, and more. Also, people are homesteading, bartering, gifting, and sharing to meet their needs.
  • Business – The huge “Shop Local” movement supports place-based businesses whose revenues multiply in the local economy. Excellent networks like Business Alliance for Local Living Economies support and connect these businesses. Entrepreneurs also have a special role to play in creating new businesses in the sectors of the future.
  • Preparing for Emergencies – Bigger and more frequent hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and droughts are unfortunately part of the new normal. Preparing for them with neighbors is essential. Many neighborhoods are finding that prep can be fun, if you do it right, and can create lasting connections. Check out JP NET’s work on “Preparedness Pie Parties.”


People are fighting to dismantle the old system that is creating climate chaos, gross inequality, political paralysis, race and class divisions, and more.
  • Climate Action – For the planet to remain livable, we’ve got to reduce carbon emissions. All our work to build community, wealth and resilience hinges upon this. and other climate activists are working hard to stop the Big Oil, Gas, and Coal companies from stealing our future.
  • Wall Street vs. Main Street – Ever since the financial meltdown of 2008, people across the country are coming to see that the Wall Street-based economy is rigged for the benefit of a tiny minority. They’re fighting growing economic inequality and working to revitalize Main Street economies to benefit the 99%.
  • Ending Corporate Personhood – A huge movement has sprung up to revoke corporate personhood and declare that corporations are not people, and money is not speech. Visit “Move to Amend” for more.
  • Environmental Justice – For decades, this powerful movement has been fighting the way environmental burdens such as pollution, industrial facilities, and crime disproportionately impact communities of color.


Vibrant communities and new forms of wealth are the heart of the new economy. People are relearning the skills of community by relying on each other to meet their needs. In this way they are building shared forms of long-lasting wealth.
  • Cooperative Ownership – Inspired by the Mondragon area of Spain, Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland, and many more, a huge movement of worker and consumer owned businesses are on the rise. Cooperatively owned forms of housing and community land trusts are also increasingly used as tactics for building communal wealth and ownership.
  • Gift Economy – As Charles Eisenstein puts it, “Community is woven from gifts.” People are pulling away from the money system by relying on each others’ gifts and skills to meet their needs.
  • Time Banks – It is possible to exchange goods and services without money. By using Time Banks, people are trading hours instead of dollars. Visit Time Banks USA for more.
  • “Slow Money” & Community Finance – There are lots of ways to pull money out of the old economy and reinvest in the new. There’s a huge movement to “divest” from fossil fuel companies. And community banks, credit unions, and local currencies aim to create local wealth that stays put and multiplies in a community.
  • Protecting Common Resources – Air, water, land, language, the Internet – all of these are things we hold in common. They are natural human rights and must be protected from privatization. Visit “On the Commons” for more.
  • Healing Race & Class Divisions – We all must live well in the new economy, and this means we must come together as community across entrenched, historic divisions. People are bridging race and class divides and building neighborhood solidarity.
  • Leadership – The new economy is a “leader-full”–as opposed to leaderless–movement. In the new economy everyone has something to contribute, and every contribution is essential. People are finding innovative ways to lift up each others’ talents for the benefit of all.
  • Governance – New economy builders are working to create transparent and accountable forms of decision-making, and pressuring official governments to to do the same. Town Hall style democracy provides a model to build on.
  • Connection – At its heart, the new economy is about being in right relationships with each other and the earth. Groups like Resilience Circles and Transition Towns place the human relationship at the center of the work, and deliberately work to overcome pervasive social isolation.
  • Inner Transition – As the Transition movement puts it, “The challenges we face are not just caused by a mistake in our technologies, but are a direct result of our worldview and belief system.” If we need an outer Transition, what is the inner Transition that goes with this? Read more from the Transition Network.

Here comes the New Economy!
The “new economy” is an economy that works for everyone in harmony with the planet. It is based in ecological balance, equitable distribution of wealth, and living democracy. Builders of the new economy envision a system of locally-rooted, cooperative, equitable economies that enhance well-being for all.
The new economy contrasts to the current economy, which is characterized by resource depletion, fossil fuel dependency, gross inequality, financial instability, political paralysis, and disconnection from community and nature.
“The broad goal [of the new economy movement] is democratized ownership of the economy for the “99 percent” in an ecologically sustainable and participatory community-building fashion. The name of the game is practical work in the here and now—and a hands-on process that is also informed by big picture theory and in-depth knowledge.”  – Gar Alperovitz, Alternet
Our communities are already feeling the effects of climate change, economic instability, resource depletion, and political paralysis. In order to thrive in this changing and challenging world, neighbors are coming together to build resilient communities and institutions. Many are doing so under the umbrella of the “new economy movement.”
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