A recent documentary film, " A New Economy," explores what might happen if working together for the common good were to become the most common business model.
Can the world be saved? Can co-operation save us? Or can global capitalism, with its dependence on the infinite exponential economic growth demanded by return on investment, continue unabated without exhausting the resources that support our economy and ending our civilization? The answer to the latter question is arguably "no." The answer to the first question -- can co-operation save us -- may well be yes, if we can achieve a paradigm shift in values, this film suggests.
It will be shown in Rossland, at the Old Firehall, on Thursday evening, March 30. Doors will open at 6:30 and the film is to start at 7:00. Admission is by a cash or food donation to the Rossland Food Bank.
Addressing the shift in values, one of the people in the film says, "What is wealth? It's not money. Fresh air to breathe, family, community -- is real wealth."
London School of Economics sociologist Richard Sennett appears in the film and states, “This isn’t touchy-feely stuff; this is about getting the world to actually work.”
The documentary highlights several organizations striving to build a more co-operative future. By putting human well-being before maximizing profit, they are working to change the basis of an economy now focused instead on bigger profits for big business.
The film is brought to us by a group of dedicated West Kootenay co-operators, including representatives from Nelson & District Credit Union, Kootenay Savings Credit Union, Kootenay Insurance Services Ltd. and the Rossland Sustainability Commission.
“Like many of our local businesses, including our local credit unions and the Carshare Co-op, all of the remarkable businesses in this film have embraced people-friendly, democratic, and cooperative ways of running their enterprises,” says Tara Howse, chair of the Rossland Sustainability Commission. “Driven by their desire to build a better, more humane world, each business balances their social, economic and environmental bottom line in their own unique way.”
What about economic growth? Apart from this film, that question is a hot-button issue. The authors of "Limits to Growth -- the 30-year Update" quote Aurelio Peccei, founder of the Club of Rome, who stated in 1977 that those who accused the Limits to Growth report of advocating for zero growth "have not understood anything, either about the Club of Rome, or about growth. The notion of zero growth is so primitive -- as for that matter, is that of infinite growth -- and so imprecise, that it is conceptual nonsense to talk of it in a living, dynamic society."
There has been debate about "green growth" and "de-growth," but a recent study from Professor Jeroen van den Bergh of Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona takes a different approach altogether. His studies suggest that both the so-called "green growth" and also attempts to reverse growth trends "jeopardize environmental or social goals." Instead, he proposes an approach that examines what societal goals are needed and how best to achieve them, without focusing on growth (or anti-growth) as a goal at all. Readers can find a more detailed description of his proposal at this link. Is his approach compatible with the co-operative model that could save the world? Readers can view the report at the link above, then see the film and think about it.
For those who aren't familiar with the concept of cooperation, here's an extremely concise description: "a co-operative is a number of people pooling resources to achieve something they cannot achieve individually."
Co-operative businesses contribute significantly to the local economy in the Kootenays;
approximately 500 people are employed by local co-ops, with over 90,000 member-owners. Local co-ops range from credit unions to a worker-owned co-op bakery and from housing co-ops to retail stores, and more. Together, these co-operatives represent over $30 million in wages and benefits invested back in to the community annually.
The international co-operative movement has adopted a set of principles that define cooperatives. For interested readers, here they are:
1st Principle: Voluntary and Open Membership
Co-operatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political, or religious discrimination.
2nd Principle: Democratic Member Control
Co-operatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary co-operatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and co- operatives at other levels are organized in a democratic manner.
3rd Principle: Member Economic Participation
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the co-operative. They usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate any surpluses of the co-op.
4th Principle: Autonomy and Independence
Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their co-operative autonomy.
5th Principle: Education, Training and Information
Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public - particularly young people and opinion leaders - about the nature and benefits of co- operation.
6th Principle: Co-operation Among Co-operatives
Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional, and international structures.
7th Principle: Concern for Community
While focusing on member needs, co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies accepted by their members.
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A climate scientist recently posed a question to citizens of the world: "Have you had your "Oh shit!" moment yet?" This film is recommended for both those who have, and those who have not, had that moment.