A chorus advised me not to stand. An even louder chorus tells me to avoid the word ‘Recession’ like the plague. But many of the same choristers agree with me that ‘a steady state economy, or some such ‘positive’ expression, is necessary to save the ecosphere. Make your minds up. Either we get another recession as an accident, or a planned ‘soft landing’. Still not positive enough?
I am standing because the Green Party needs to return to its original raison D’être: the global threats to which ‘Limits to Growth’ first alerted us. But in case some think we are just being alarmist, here is the positive view of a sustainable society which was adopted by the first national conference of PEOPLE, now the Green Party, in June 1974:
. . . . .
In order to visualise the impact of our policies it is necessary to outline, so far as is possible at this stage, a picture of life without economic growth. There is no such place as Utopia. The world will not become problem-free. The idea of everyone being expected to work full time for a living wage will seem strange. As the three day week foreshadows [there had just been such a crisis] there may not be enough jobs to go round. It may seem odd at first, but anyone who is content with bare subsistence rather than competing in the consumerist rat race is to be commended, not condemned. It is extravagance and misuse of resources which will be more serious than being ‘workshy’. But it is possible to reorganize incentives so that work will be shared, not fought over [What we now call the Citizens’ Basic Income appears later in the document]. There will have to be a degree of redistribution to prevent hardship for some, but unemployment need not exist at all. Some congenial, useful jobs will be created, but mindless factory drudgery will be much less in evidence. On the other hand those with ambition must fulfil it without damaging the ecosphere, the thin shell within which life is possible.
We shall aim at a society in which basic needs are met, but satisfactions will have to be found in ways other than from material possessions. There will be more time for sport, gardening, or whatever gives the individual the greatest sense of satisfaction and self respect. We would promote a return to smaller communities.
Large-scale business enterprises will not find a steady-state economy congenial, excellently fitted as they are to exploit a bygone age of abundant resources and places to dispose of their pollutants. There will be plenty of scope for initiative and enterprise, but for the ‘little’ man – the painter and decorator, the cobbler [Oops! They have disappeared], the small shopkeeper, repairers of all kinds, and the rag and bone man [who has also disappeared], who will be the front line in the repair and recycling industries on which much future prosperity will depend.
Buses will tend to replace cars and many goods will be long-life, bought on terms more akin to a mortgage than hire purchase. Pollution and traffic congestion will be reduced, in fact quality of life will be enhanced simply because people no longer have such high expectations. Science and technology will be important in the transition to ecological methods.
This is not the only possible scenario. PEOPLE does not know all the answers. We are merely looking for them in a new direction.
“This is promoted and Produced by Clive Lord as part of hiscampaign for election to the post of Leader of the Green Party. This is not an official communication from the Green Party of England and Wales.”