A Glimpse of a post-meltdown sustainable economy

Yesterday at Lilac Co-housing, we had an event attended by non-residents worried about climate change. I complained that no one was joining me in screaming “The Ecosphere is on Fire!” from the house tops. They said that was because everybody who agreed with me had just moved on. But my message contained two parts, ‘business as usual’ is still the norm, despite Greta Thunberg’s and XR’s efforts but the second part of my message was that I have a potentially mind-changing but initially unpopular suggestion.

I do not understand why  anyone who agrees with me on the second part is not alongside Greta in screaming “I want governments to panic”, and “System Change not Climate Change” Yes (they seem to say) the Ecosphere is in grave danger, but we are so sure that your basic income strategy will not work,  there is no point in trying it, however dire the threat.

So I must start from somewhere else.

I have an antique clock, and a vacuum cleaner. The clock works, but the quarter-hour strike does not. The vacuum cleaner, purchased some time in the 1970s, worked perfectly, until one day last week it just didn’t.

I cannot now find anyone able to repair either.

A bit of detective work established that the clock repairer who did a major overhaul about 6 years ago had closed his workshop at least 4 years ago when he contracted cancer. The clock is not important, but I am dismayed by the loss of all that expertise. I had commented to him at the time of the overhaul how the unconditional basic income (UBI) would have enabled him to offer an apprenticeship, initially for no wage until the school-leaver’s ability became apparent. But the system now is such that zero wage apprenticeships are not feasible, so that the no school leaver would even consider it.

Could the UBI re-create the mind set which existed as recently as when the clock repairer left school, and embarked on his lifelong career? I would like to see it tried.

The case of the vacuum cleaner opens a more serious can of worms. Repair could potentially devastate the production of vacuum cleaners. But the principle is not limited to vacuum cleaners, Repair would have the same effect over swathes of the currently conventional economy., cars, fridges . . .

The hoover repair shop simply shook their heads and said “ They don’t make parts for that model now”. So I bought a new vacuum cleaner. But it still goes against the grain to scrap what is almost certainly a functional cleaner with a minor fault. There used to be repair shops who could service such items, but they did depend on specialized parts which only manufacturers could supply.

If a post- collapse economy does emerge, a whole range of latter-day blacksmiths will be a part of it. (Think cars in Cuba.) They will do everything blacksmiths always did, but they will also have available the skills made possible by computer technology. The expression ‘3 D’ comes to mind.

If this is ever to be a reality, the transition from the threatened vested interests, which are doomed anyway by ‘business as usual’, to the kingpins of the new potentially sustainable economy needs to start now. There is no sign of anything of the kind.

I wonder if a basic income might help to kick-start this dialogue?

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