Let's focus our time and energies on the path forward out of this broken system and suicidal paradigm now, as we may never have another chance like this one
We know that the authoritarian ruling regimes are using the pandemic, as best they can, to further their agendas. This includes dissolution of civil liberties and use of the Government's emergency powers to provide more funding for corporations and Wall Street (the parasitical financial services industry). However we also see that the Capitalist machine has been at least temporarily stopped in its tracks. It is not clear if it will be possible to simply re-start the world economy as it was. It may need something like a re-set. In fact, this is what Left Wing and ecological activist movements have been demanding for decades. So the crisis presents a tremendous opportunity for the alternative to emerge. How can that opportunity be seized?
We know that, no matter what we do now, in a few short years humanity will be in a similar global "fight for our lives" due to the ecological emergency. It is impossible to give an exact timeframe for this. It could be sooner than we imagine. It could be one, two, three, five, or seven years away. In fact, we are already in a very critical situation when it comes to the ecological health of the planet, and some believe that it is already too late to avert civilizational collapse or even our extinction as a species. We do know that by the time it becomes an immediate existential threat for the developed world, as the virus is today, it will be too late to avert catastrophic breakdown.
Europe was 1.4 degrees Celsius warmer last winter than ever before. This is a massive jump. We are seeing rapid annihilations of forests and tropical forests, including the Amazon which is the heart of the Earth's hydrological system. We are seeing horrific declines in insect populations. We are seeing massive fires burning down the forests in South America, Canada, Indonesia, Australia (with a billon animals dead), and the US. Each of those fires accelerates warming as it removes our "carbon sinks." We are seeing a collapse of the world's coral reefs and an emptying out of the oceans. We are witnessing unbelievably rapid changes to the Arctic.
We can therefore say with absolute certainty that our best - perhaps our only - hope for our future is that industrial civilization does not go back to normal once we "flatten the curve." We must extend this global time-out until we figure out how we can move, as a unified planetary community, into a regenerative social system. What this would mean is that, even as the immediate crisis abates, we only reactivate essential production and economic activity. We stop buying unneeded consumer goods, stop tourism, stop eating meat as much as possible, stop jet-setting to international conferences and festivals, and so on.
We then have to present a shared demand on the part of humanity... I admit I don't know how to do this. I realize humanity is not a "unified planetary organism" at this time. Most people are just trying to get by in the current system, pay their rent and debts. They don't have the luxury to think about the larger perspective, even about climate change and mass extinction, etc. Also there is such a huge disparity in quality of life between the wealthy and the poor, as the pandemic has also revealed. When "sacrifices" are required, they tend to be brutal for the poor and not so bad for the rich. Perhaps, if we agree on the agenda, we can envision a way to spread the message effectively. (Think "six degrees of separation").
Who, reading this, agrees that this is a reasonable and even necessary demand: That all non-essential parts of the industrial economy remain shut down, even once the pandemic curve flattens, so that human society reorients around, prepares for, and faces the ecological emergency together?
Let's say by some miracle, something like this happened. Then what do we do next?
I love the idea, put forth by Extinction Rebellion, of a Global Citizen's Assembly. This could be held virtually. Let's envision that an open-source blockchain-based voting system could be built quickly that would allow everyone on Earth to participate directly and continuously. (Yes I know there are people without access to digital tools - it is a real issue but let's table that concern for now). Obviously we see with Facebook that we can have billions of people on one platform, so it is possible to envision something like a collective virtual dashboard designed to serve humanity in making a leap forward.
Perhaps this Assembly could be orchestrated dramatically, like a court case, where you would have the randomly chosen Citizen's Assembly as a Jury (with everyone else able to vote and contribute in real time), while the case for and against a rapid transition to a regenerative society was made by movement leaders (Greta T etc), economists, and scientists. Then the global community votes, in real time, on how we accomplish this. For instance, we will need many millions of people to focus on restoring soil, healing local ecosystems, local food sovereignty, etc. How does this get funded? What kinds of systemic changes must be made to the economic system so that essential work is supported and destructive acts are stopped?
I believe the progressive community needs to rally around a plan - best would be one single shared initiative - to lead us beyond the current political and economic system and establish a tangible new system. Here is one proposal for how we do this - even in a few months, potentially, we could do this.
I know that many people have their own ideas and proposals. Please put them in the comments. They could all be proposed to this Citizen's Assembly or global direct democracy forum.
Let's focus our time and energies on the path forward out of this broken system and suicidal paradigm now, as we may never have another chance like this one. If this idea doesn't tickle your pickle, please propose a better one.
Read Campfire's report on the UK parliament's first Peoples Assembly organised by XR in October 2019
Brett Hennig convened Campfire's first Peoples Assembly at Campout 2019.
More about Citizens Assemblies
New Doughnut Economics models from Kate Raworth