Small is Beautiful

By Marcin Jakubowski28.10.2010Global Policy

We can lead self-sustaining lives without sacrificing our standard of living. The only thing we need is the knowledge needed to create autarchic communities, and a mechanism to pass it along. The Open Source Ecology movement aims to provide that toolkit.

The greatest draw of autarchy is the possibility to take full responsibility for the world around us. Currently, we are becoming ever-more reliant on outside forces while also losing control over our own lives. But there is an alternative: we can take responsibility for the lives we lead, or for the resources we consume. We can use technology to create stronger communities and lasting bonds. E.F. Schumacher and Mahatma Gandhi were pioneers of this concept. Today, information technology is making it feasible on a larger scale.

Equality is possible

Many people believe that we are lacking the energy or the materials to live a self-sufficient life without lowering our standard of living. That is not the case. We can make sand from silicon, and aluminum from clay, if we can provide the energy and knowledge necessary to sustain these chemical processes. I believe that we can create progressive civilizations from the dirt and the brush around us. Unrestricted access to information and specialized knowledge can help us get there. We must become conscious of our innate ability to learn, to develop ourselves as we develop the world around us. We can be more versatile, more responsible, and more powerful than ever before in human history. That is not a new message in itself. Every great leader has tried to remind us of our possibilities. But today’s advances in materials and technology make the goal easier to achieve. To help us along this path, the Open Source Ecology Movement is developing a toolkit for autarchic living.

Towards a freer future

There are two ways to satisfy our needs: we can either attempt to work collaboratively and communally with our fellow citizens and men, or we can steal and kill to get at natural resources. In our crazy world, the latter is the norm. Today, prepackaged products circle the globe several times – with an enormous infrastructural effort – before reaching their destination. The same products could be produced and used locally. That is more effective and more sustainable. A direct feedback loop from resource use to living situation can help us to reduce tendencies of overuse and overpopulation. The Open Source Ecology movement believes that a progressive global society is possible. But the start is small. The toolkit currently allows self-sustaining lives for 100 people. By taking responsibility for their lives, these people can attempt to win the struggle for survival – a task that the human race will have to master in light of the challenges of overpopulation and climate change. If we can be assured of our future, we can turn to more productive cultural tasks. But it requires a reorientation of our priorities, away from a culture of bureaucratic administration and towards a close connection with nature. The choice is clear: to remain a slave to the present, or to reach towards a freer future.

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