Food self-provisioning as an answer to the metabolic rift: The case of ‘Dacha Resilience’ in Estonia

Abstract: Agriculture is not only an essential nexus between society and nature but in its current industrial form also a possible threat to ecological stability. This article explores how a supplement to the conventional agrifood system alleviates the negative consequences of the industrial food production system that manifest through the metabolic rift (Marx, 1981). During fieldwork in Estonia ten semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted to analyze the practice of Food Self-Provisioning (FSP) in (peri-)urban dachas – a Russian term for a plot of land with a seasonal allotment house, mostly used for food production.
Using McClintock’s (2010) three-dimensional framework of metabolic rift that consists of ecological, social and individual dimensions, we demonstrate how FSP not only contributes to mending all these rifts but also increases resilience on various levels. As a region-specific practice of “quiet sustainability” (Smith and Jehlička, 2013) it displays an environmentally friendly alternative to the conventional agrifood system and serves as a strong example of sufficiency and moral economy. Furthermore, by its practice it not only challenges the continuous commodification process of ‘fictitious commodities’, such as land, labor and food (Polanyi, 2001; McClintock, 2010), but it defies market logic in general. Therefore, this article proposes FSP as a viable, but largely underestimated and even stigmatized, model of alternative sustainability, already widely practiced in post-socialist Europe.

Journal of Rural Studies, Volume 68, May 2019, Pages 75-86

Degrowth, Commons and Climate Justice: Ecofeminist Insights and Indigenous Political Traditions

Abstract: This paper discusses indigenous forms of conflict resolution, resource governance, asset redistribution, leadership and sharing in relation to degrowth, sustainability, commons, and ecofeminist theory as well as current environmental politics in North America. It highlights North American and global examples of traditional and new forms of “commons” which help to meet local subsistence needs and develop communities’ social, political and economic resilience in the face of climate change. Sustainably governed commons (which prevent open access by outsiders) make possible dynamic risk-reduction, addressing the shortcomings of both market and state-
oriented governance. The focus on equity and sustainability rather than growth is increasingly pressing as climate change threatens human subsistence worldwide. Indigenous traditions and leadership are central to the current political relevance of these (re-)emergent systems. Drawing on the literatures of ecological economics, political ecology, degrowth, indigenous law and politics, and ecofeminism as well as the work of Elinor Ostrom and Charlotte Hess to situate these ideas, this paper sets out a framework for assessing climate resilience from an equity standpoint, in terms of commons-readiness. From this perspective, climate justice – the local and global equity of climate change impacts and procedures – advances in parallel with the (re)establishment of sustainably – governed commons.

Stadt und Postwachstumsökonomie – Suffizienz plus Subsistenz ergibt ökonomische Souveränität

Herausgeber: Der überbordende Konsumwohlstand ist einsturzgefährdet und unserem Wohlbefinden zunehmend abträglich. Suffizienz und urbane Selbstversorgung hingegen verringern die Abhängigkeit von Geld, Ressourcen und Wachstum. Dabei gewinnt die Kommune als bürgernahe Gestaltungsebene an Bedeutung.

Permaculture in Ethiopia – Community gardening, agriculture & climate adaption measures

Interview with Asmelash Dagne from the Solikon-Congress for Solidarity-based Economy and Transformation 2015 in Berlin.

From the program:
Small-holding farming and permaculture gardens have something in common: they provide their people with food and they are a self-providing or subsistance economy. Permaculture is also being used to mitigate the effects of climate change. It is helping farmers rejuvenating the soil and fight desertification.
In Ethiopia, the organisation “SMART” is teaching farmers permaculture and implements and operates a number of solar powered wells in rural Ethiopia. Permaculture is a system of agricultural and social design principles centered around simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems. SMART stands for Sustainable Management of Alternative and Renewable Technologies.

Asmelash Dagne is a techear and in charge of food production within the local Ethiopian NGO SMART. He is also a part of the movements Slow Food International and 10,000 Gardens in Africa.

Recognition of unpaid work in the perspective of degrowth

Transcription of an oral session by Linda Nierling at the Second International Conference on Economic Degrowth for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity in Barcelona with the title “Recognition of unpaid work in the perspective of degrowth”.

Wovon Menschen leben – Arbeit, Engagement und Muße jenseits des Marktes

Auch im 21. Jahrhundert leben Menschen noch ebenso sehr von »Luft und Liebe« wie von Geld und Waren. Natur, Muße und Gemeinsinn bilden die Ressourcen, von denen und für die sie leben. Zwei Drittel der gesellschaftlich notwendigen Arbeit bestehen aus Hausarbeit, Eigenarbeit und Ehrenamt. Welche Bedeutung diese »andere Ökonomie« im Alltag von Menschen auch hierzulande immer noch hat, zeigt das vorliegende Buch anhand zahlreicher Fallbeispiele und zeitdiagnostischer Analysen. Die Porträts sind Menschen aus unterschiedlichen Schichten und Milieus gewidmet, die »für andere sorgen«, »ihren Nahraum gestalten«, »Natur bewahren« und die Dinge ihres Alltags »selber machen«.

Die Autorinnen lenken die Aufmerksamkeit auf Formen von »Arbeit, Engagement und Muße«, die jenseits bzw. »im Schatten« der Marktwirtschaft und oftmals unbemerkt von der Öffentlichkeit praktiziert und gelebt werden. Ohne private und öffentliche Eigenarbeit – so das Fazit dieses Buches – kann kein Mensch, kein Gemeinwesen und keine Wirtschaft auf Dauer existieren. (Klappentext des Buches)

ISBN: 978-3-86581-243-8

Is small still beautiful?

Aus dem Text: Mobiltelefon, Laptop, digitale Photokamera, je kleiner, desto besser. Der über dreißig Jahre alte Buchtitel Small is Beautiful könnte auch der neueste Werbeslogan von Sony sein. Doch hinter der modernen Mini-Technologie versteckt sich immer noch der alte Industriegigantismus den Schumacher einst im Blick hatte.

Essay über das Buch “Small ist Beautiful” von Ernst Friedrich Schumacher. Worin Wolfgang Sachs auf Schumachers Technologie Kritik, aber auch seine ganzheitlichen Forderungen für eine Wirtschaft “as if People Mattered” eingeht.

Subsistence and Sufficiency – Which skills support these attributes of a post-growth culture and how do we have to encourage and embed them further in the sector of education?

This media entry is a stirring paper of the Group Assembly Process (GAP) at the Degrowth Conference in Leipzig in 2014.

This paper belongs the group Learning for degrowth.

Self-providing as a motor for Degrowth

This media entry is a stirring paper of the Group Assembly Process (GAP) at the Degrowth Conference in Leipzig in 2014.

This paper belongs the group Consumption.

Prosperous Descent

Subtitle: Crisis as Opportunity in an Age of Limits
The publisher: Calling for a sufficiency-based culture of ‘simple living’ to underpin a macroeconomic framework of ‘degrowth’, Samuel Alexander draws on a remarkable breadth of economic, political, ecological, and sociological literature to explore the radical implications of living in an age of limits. Written with clarity, rigour, and insight, this book will both challenge and inspire.

Note: The pdf of the book is available on a ‘pay what you want’ basis.

ISBN-13: 978-0-9941606-0-7

De-growth: Do you realise what it means?

Abstract: The implications of de-growth are much more far reaching and radical than seems to be appreciated. It is important to start with a brief consideration of the magnitude and nature of the global predicament, because when this is understood it becomes clear firstly that consumer-capitalist society cannot be made sustainable or just, secondly that a satisfactory and viable post-capitalist society must take a particular form, and thirdly that specific implications for transition strategy are indicated.

Futures, Volume 44, Issue 6, August 2012, Pages 590–599, Special Issue: Politics, Democracy and Degrowth

Economic democracy: A path for the future?

Abstract: As opposed to political democracy and its attempts at power control in the public sector, the concentration of economic power, and its antidote, the concept of economic democracy, has received much less attention. In the paper, we first offer a definition of economic democracy as a “a system of checks and balances on economic power and support for the right of citizens to actively participate in the economy regardless of social status, race, gender, etc.” Based on our definition, we suggest six possible faces of economic democracy and look at their implications for the vision of a sustainable, equitable and non-growing society, as discussed within the degrowth movement: (1) Regulation of market mechanisms and corporate activities. Regulation is one of the most obvious paths to curbing economic power, hence we highlight the issue of deregulation vis a vis possible degrowth policies. A revision of the free-market paradigm is suggested. (2) Support for social enterprises. We discuss different forms of democratic governance within enterprises and suggest that co-operative approaches, common in social enterprises, are better suited to a degrowth economy. (3) Democratic money creation processes, including pluralist community currencies, are suggested to counter economic power caused by the practice of fractional banking. (4) Reclaiming the commons (especially in their original sense as communal land stewardship systems) both conceptually and physically is seen by us as an important aspect of enhancing economic democracy. (5) Redistribution of income and capital assets is discussed as another approach to achieving economic democracy. (6) Finally, inspired by Vandana Shiva, we suggest that a broader view of economic democracy would involve a diversity of production scales and modes, including small-scale, subsistence and self-employment.

Futures, Volume 44, Issue 6, August 2012, Pages 562–570, Special Issue: Politics, Democracy and Degrowth

What economic democracy for degrowth? Some comments on the contribution of socialist models and Cuban agroecology

Abstract: While degrowth is about reducing energy and material flows in the economy while sustaining basic human needs, capitalism fosters the opposite trend. How then is degrowth to be implemented on a large scale? In line with different critical intellectual traditions, we argue that degrowth is unlikely to occur within an economy based on capital accumulation and free market of assets. Our objective is then to preliminarily investigate the links between economic structures, democratic principles, and degrowth. We do this, firstly, by briefly exploring some of the main theoretical models of economic democracy in order to find out their potential for achieving sustainable degrowth. In our view, models of self-managed socialism have the best potential for this. Secondly, we intend to learn some empirical lessons from a countrywide experience: Cuban agroecology, today’s largest real-life experience of agroecological “degrowth”. Our hypothesis is that the Cuban economy, which limits the private accumulation of capital and of productive assets, is in a better position for achieving forms of sustainable degrowth than capitalist economies, but that it would be even more so with more democracy. The Cuban agricultural system faces the challenge to free itself from the central planning tradition. This could be achieved by following the current process of giving increasing autonomy to small producers. Specifically, we argue that small-scale farmer cooperatives have the best potential for achieving the degrowth-oriented goals of agroecology.

Futures, Volume 44, Issue 6, August 2012, Pages 600–607, Special Issue: Politics, Democracy and Degrowth

A historical exploration of ruralist ideology in Spain and its importance for the degrowth and democracy debate

Abstract: In this article, I point to the possible danger of degrowth theories and practices idealizing self-sufficiency. While most of the degrowth literature addresses such projects from a bottom-up vantage point, I argue that there is the risk that degrowth practices emulate authoritarian regimes if such endeavors are imposed in a top-down and centralized way. I intend to develop my argument in two ways. First, by showing the existence of certain minor strands of contemporary degrowth literature that can be deemed as conservative. Secondly, by making explicit how relevant was the ideal of self-sufficiency in the general rhetoric and certain practices of fascist and dictatorial regimes during the 20th century. In summary, I argue that studying the historical roots and ideological connections of green discourses such as degrowth with conservative and non-democratic thought can be relevant to prevent green and alternative ideological discourses in relation to self-sufficiency to be captured and manipulated by political forces with a reactionary agenda.

Agency is not enough: obstacles to back-to-the-land and agri-food downscaling

Abstract: From a degrowth point of view, organic farming, re-localization of production, alternative supply-chains are part of a socio-ecological transition in agri-food systems to reduce social metabolism. Similarly, back-to-the-landers choosing a simpler, autonomous, and close-to-nature agrarian life are seen as practitioners of that transition by re-working the imaginaries, building other food regime, and “escaping” labor alienation. I argue that these normative aspects are based in a simplistic understanding of how agri-food downscaling and back-to-the-land works. From a case-study in the Basque Country with back-to-the-landers engaged in agro-ecology and alternative food networks, I show that any transition is constrained by conditions as the access to land or the general costs of living. Those barriers also limit “escaping” labor alienation. I conclude that this implies obstacles to individual agency and that any transition depends on the success of political networks to change the institutions that govern access to land and costs of living.
Key-words: Back-to-the-land, agri-food downscaling, degrowth transition
Narrative step: Building strategies for transformation