Towards A Not-For-Profit World

I’ve often thought that the profit motive is one of the roots of our problems. That’s basically the statement behind the documentary The Corporation, which shows that the corporate model is, clinically speaking, a psychopath. When we are constantly chasing the “up and to the right” we are no longer striving for enough but more than enough. And the more than that. And still more than that. Profit motive drives the growth economy.

My wife’s been doing a lot of reading for a class about diseases around the world. One thing she commented on was regarding the “industrialization” of a lot of third world countries, namely those in Africa around the time AIDS appeared. These relatively flourishing countries had small, cyclical economies – that is, economics that produced enough for everyone involved. (Rob Hopkins talks about a similar economy in the intro to The Transition Handbook) These countries we not “developed” by western thought, but most everyone had a job and a stable home. Farmers produced enough food for their families and those in their community.

Then in come the western industrialists, saying “you can produce more than that and sell it to people in the next city/county/country to make more money!” And it was all down hill from there… Then the westerners leave the country pillaged, in ruins and aimless. No one benefited by the introduction of the growth concept in these examples except for the big company’s pocket books. And in order to feed that profit motive, in order to make even more money, these companies move on to the next unsuspecting country.

What if we were to change this line of thought? What if we were to introduce a cyclical line of thinking back into our corporate models? Instead of constantly “up and to the right” what if we said we need to maintain a certain level in order to sustain our employees, our country, our planet? What if we reinvented our way of living to serve our community and ourselves instead of just our bank accounts? Where is my rambling going? Well…

Donnie Maclurcan is a fellow Post Growther whom I’ve had the pleasure to work with a lot recently. (He also wrote a guest post a while back) He gave a TEDx Youth Talk a while back that is now available online. His concept is this: change the world to a not-for-profit model. Remove this destructive and unsustainable profit motive and focus on enough, on sufficiency instead of excess. I particularly love the story of the African village.

Check out the video:

Carrying Capacity And Overshoot

There once was a time when I was a very active homebrewer, making upwards of 14 batches of beer a year. Things have slowed down on that front quite a bit since having our son (not to mention my increased activity blogging and working on post-growth projects). Nowadays I make mead, wine and the occasional beer. The mead and wine are much easier to make in terms of labor hours, but require much more patience.

I bring this up because recently I have been thinking about the magical thing that drives that hobby of mine: yeast. They are amazing little creatures, and some even consider them to be proof of a higher power (that old Ben Franklin quote “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”) More to the point, I’ve been thinking about how much we seem to have in common with yeast:

  • They consume feverishly, producing wastes that slowly build up in their environment.
  • They produce CO2 in amazing quantity.
  • Their population reaches in the billions, each one is bent on consuming over everything else.
  • Eventually their waste (in the case of yeast, alcohol) spreads so far and wide into their environment it turns an otherwise supporting system into a killing system – they die in their own waste, poisoned by it.

We’ve definitely started to edge into the last one, but we already have hit the first three. Our economy and society, most especially here in the United States, relies and exists solely to consume (and produce things to consume). We’ve released so much CO2 into the atmosphere that we’re altering our beautiful ecosystem’s ability to support life. Our consumption continues to rise, but so does our population – both adding to the problem.

The pity is that we can’t bottle up our waste and toast it over a good meal with friends, like we can with the “waste” yeast cells produce. Maybe instead, we can learn from their experience – if we consume too much, produce too much waste, we will have a massive drop in production capacity and population. We can choose a different path. We can choose to stabilize our consumption, work to remove the CO2 from our system and try to restore a lot of the ecosystem we’ve destroyed so far.

This month is all about the Global Population Speak-Out. I’ve signed up to write some posts, and the GrowthBusters have decided to write a few more on our Post Growth blog. Let’s start talking about population and consumption – they’re getting out of control and we’re starting to look like we have the collective intelligence of single-celled organisms, so let’s start acting like we’ve actually got the intelligence of an evolved, sentient spices, huh?