Dark Optimism is the not-for-profit public interest research, activism
and writing of Shaun Chamberlin, author of The Transition Timeline, working with
a wide network of friends and partners around the world.
We are unashamedly positive about what kind of a world humanity
could create, and unashamedly
realistic about how far we are from creating it today.
Off the back of my recent post on Transition Money, this excellent new short film, 97% Owned, explains the privatised, debt-based money system we currently use. The one that allows UK banks to simply create around £200,000,000,000 (£200bn) a year and use it as they see fit – without any oversight – to shape the economy and control politics, causing crises, creating inflation and pushing house prices out of reach.
Most of us work for money, but these people are magicking it up and then using it to pay others to do whatever they please. How is this different from legalised slavery?
And we are the slaves. There are alternatives, and yet we continue accepting this system scam, largely because we have been tricked to believe that economics is complicated and *yawn*boring! And yes, I have to admit, what could be more boring than being able to create money from thin air..?
Last month I was one of forty or so attendees of the Transition ‘Peak Money’ day. It was a fascinating collection of people, from theorists to activists, and a potent opportunity to reflect on the challenges facing us all as the glaring errors at the heart of mainstream economics take their toll. This post is far more personal reflection than report, as Rob Hopkins has already done a great job on that front.
The key theme that seemed to run throughout the day, then, was ‘collapse’. Sadly, I was an hour late to the event, but the first sessions I witnessed were reports from Transitioners in Portugal, Ireland and Greece on the ‘front line’ impacts of the economic crunch. The talk was of collapse having already happened for many families and communities there, with statistics quoted including an 89% increase in Greek unemployment in three years, and Irish suicides having doubled since 2007.
They pulled no punches. Most of us were left grey and shaken as the harsh realities of the crisis were relayed. For me, a defining memory of the day was watching the alternative economists listening to this – people who have spent decades warning of these outcomes and trying to head them off – their heads shaking sadly with lips pursed, hands involuntarily coming to their faces in dismay as their Cassandra curse unfolds. Of course, the statistics were not new to them, but hearing these stories in person somehow always brings a heavier human impact. Watching that impact reflected in their expressions felt almost inappropriate, yet doubly powerful.
Having been invited to be this week’s Social Reporting guest editor and introduce the theme of economics, the burgeoning ‘Occupy’ movement seemed the obvious place to start.
Over the last couple of months I have been fascinated as the occupations started with OccupyWallStreet on Sept 17th, followed by others joining in solidarity around the world, including OccupyLondon, which has been the London Stock Exchange’s new neighbour since Oct 15th.
I’ve not been well lately, so haven’t been able to be there as much as I’d like, but I have been following events closely online and visiting when I can. It has been interesting to note that most of those I have met at OccupyLondon hadn’t previously heard of Transition, and that got me thinking about the parallels and differences between the two movements…
So here I am. I fully intended to be giving the England match my full attention right now, but I’ve been left distinctly restive by this afternoon’s long session by Stoneleigh of The Automatic Earth, and feel the need to put some thoughts down.
Including the extensive Q&A session her talk lasted virtually three hours and covered a lot of ground, starting from a good runthrough of the ‘peak energy’ situation, but quickly focusing in on finance, as she believes that this is the factor that will most dramatically shape our immediate future. Notably, the talk attracted almost half the attendees of the Transition Conference, despite the numerous other Open Space sessions taking place at the same time.
His simple indisputable explanations of topics such as why economic growth does not equal prosperity are invaluable, but most impressive to me was the clarity with which Chris distinguishes between his own beliefs and the facts he is sharing which have shaped those beliefs. For example, he states up front his belief that “the next twenty years are going to be completely unlike the past twenty years”, and then shows us just which facts have led him to that belief. It becomes hard to disagree. Read more »
In fact I have had a real sense, both through public events and private discussions, that things are starting to shift – that finally a recognition of the collective nature and overwhelming severity of these challenges is starting to spread. That said, at this stage the problems still appear to be worsening more quickly than our awareness is improving and, crucially, the real challenges of the interactions between these crises and the implications of addressing them still remain largely unacknowledged. Read more »
I have just watched the BBC’s outstanding thriller Burn Up, starring Rupert Penry-Jones, Marc Warren, Bradley Whitford and Neve Campbell (trailer available here).
It is a dramatic account of the intrigue, betrayal, sex and violence surrounding characters in the oil industry, international diplomacy and the environmental movement in the build up to the international conference that will decide on the successor to the Kyoto Protocol. For those who haven’t yet seen it, be aware that the discussion below the cut contains spoilers. Read more »
As George Carlin once said, “they call it the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe in it”.
At the risk of this blog becoming ‘review corner’, that seems the perfect introduction to the book I just finished reading – Dmitry Orlov’s brilliantly enjoyable Reinventing Collapse. This is a true work of dark optimism, with a fair dash of dark humour to boot.
In it, Orlov draws on his experiences of the collapse of the Soviet Union to explore the future American residents like him are likely to face as the effects of the USA’s disastrous economic, energy and foreign policies take hold. Read more »