Co-operation is a big part of the fix, says Jonathon Porritt

Sensemaking / Co-operation is a big part of the fix, says Jonathon Porritt

The Founder Director of Forum for the Future believes co-operatives could transform today’s “capitalist wastelands”.

14 Feb 2012

The Founder Director of Forum for the Future believes co-operatives could transform today’s “capitalist wastelands”.

What exactly is it that keeps us blind to the reality of our world today? Is it the coma-inducing pap fed to us by the mass media? Or the increasingly desperate efforts of our politicians to keep us in the dark? Or our own dread of having to recalibrate practically every one of the basic assumptions which guide our daily lives?

Here’s the reality from which we avert our eyes:

  • The current model of capitalism is finished. However many summits they convene, however many trillions of dollars they pump into reviving its corpse, there’s no going back.
  • Our planet has taken a terrible hammering from that model of capitalism, leaving us a legacy of acute resource shortages, accelerating climate change and a toxic, degraded environment.
  • The alternative to that model of capitalism is not communism or some kind of command-and-control socialism. It’s a very different kind of capitalism – sustainable capitalism.
  • At the heart of sustainable capitalism lies the concept of social justice, interpreted most easily as fair shares for all. And the most powerful expression of that today is the global co-operative movement.

For those prepared to listen, that’s what the Occupy protesters are trying to tell us.

As the Australian commentator Paul Gilding puts it: “They’ve given focus to what people are already seeing and feeling: that our problem is not just debt, or inequality, or recession, or corporate influence, or ecological damage. It’s the whole package. The system is profoundly broken and beyond incremental reform.”

But where will that unleashed energy of the Occupy protestors take us? The resulting debate is certainly invigorating – but hardly very helpful from a more radical sustainability perspective. There’s still so much missing.

For one thing, there’s still no recognition of the ‘double jeopardy’ in which we now find ourselves – with the near imminent collapse of the ecological systems on which we depend, particularly a stable climate.

For another, there’s very little recognition that part of the solution (a big, big part in my opinion) already exists. It is already delivering benefits to billions of people, and it has the potential to transform today’s capitalist wastelands into thriving, productive and still market-based enterprise.

As you’ll see in the forthcoming articles that make up our Special Edition, ‘Shared Future’, that’s what co-operative means. That’s what it already does.

It’s the big, benign elephant in the room, and it’s time we put it to work!

Jonathon Porritt is Founder Director of Forum for the Future.

Interested in what you've read here? Want to find out more? Then come to The Co-operative, Forum for the Future and Co-operatives UK's event 'The Co-operative Opportunity: how to reboot a sustainable economy' in London on Wednesday 15th February. For more information and to apply for a place, click here.

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