New paper –
Note, for more recent work see the Steady State Manchester site, especially the report: In Place of Growth: Practical Steps to a Manchester Where People can Thrive without Harming the Planet. I will continue to post material here that is either less immediately relevant to the project of a Steady State Regional Economy, or that represents personal opinion rather than that of the SSM collective.
We are living in unprecedented times. At least three linked crises are coming together to threaten not only our accustomed standard of living and financial security, but also the resource base of the late 20th century economy and way of life, and the capacity and integrity of the earth’s natural systems on which we all depend. This conjuncture of crises requires urgent and drastic action- if it is already not too late – that completely restructures the way we organise to produce and distribute the things we need to have worthwhile lives ,and do this fairly and sustainably. The following outline tries to do this for a regional level of analysis – using the example of what we are calling the Manchester bioregion.
1) The New Green Deal and the replacement economy.
The New Green Deal (NGD) pamphlet was issued in summer 2008 by the New Economics Foundation. It was prescient given the accelerating impact and predictions of climate change and the deepening economic crisis resulting from the bursting of the financial speculative bubbles. A third problem area the NGD identifies is the energy crunch: which properly stated is not just the approaching scarcity of oil (which is at or near world peak production now) but also the pressing need to stop basing the economy on hydrocarbons altogether. The NGD attempts to address this trio of threats in an integrated way. That it is not entirely successful is not really the point – these three problem areas define the context for any alternative approach. The NGD outlines a kind of green Keynesian approach: sustainable development with social justice. It fails to fully recognise that this trio of problems is the combination of the latest crisis in capitalist accumulation with the planetary limits to capitalism. But we can use it as a starting point for plans, projects and struggles at local, bioregional, national and international levels. Key to this is the idea of a replacement economy to take the place of both the finance bubble economy and the economy of real production and distribution that is not only unsustainable but hurrying the ecosystem to destruction .
2) The Manchester-Mersey bioregion
Manchester and the area around it has been variously identified and described as Greater Manchester, the North West and more recently as a city region. It has been a dynamic region economically and is home to several million people (depending on where we draw the boundaries). Current economic orthodoxy sees its future development in terms of certain key sectors: advanced engineering and materials, biomedical, business and professional services, construction, creative and digital industries, energy and environmental technologies, food and drink This all needs rethinking in the context of the triple crisis of climate change, decarbonisation/energy crunch, and the collapse of the neoliberal accumulation regime. Because of the imperatives of reducing energy expenditure and (re)generating a real local economy it is at the Regional level that transformative green strategies can make the most sense. It is unsustainable to import our food and our sources of wealth from outside the region. Some needs will have to be met from imports and trade but a principle of subsidiarity needs to be applied – only bring in those things that are both necessary and cannot be sourced or made locally. Yet it is difficult to see how most needs could be met within a small local area. It may therefore make most sense to think of the region as a “bioregion” – for example the area of the Mersey watershed, wherein there is potentially sufficient diversity of ecologies and natural resources – which will in turn have to be safeguarded and repaired to secure the sustenance for human settlement.
This is not meant to be an alternative to the work going on regarding ‘transition towns’ but rather as a necessary complement to that approach. The coalition of people working towards this future will increase as the triple crisis intensifies and as incentives for endogenous sustainable development get embedded. At this stage it is enough to list (not exhaustively) key proposals for a bioregional NGD.
A Green Deal for the Manchester-Mersey Bioregion by Mark Burton https://greendealmanchester.wordpress.com/ is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.