L7 Sustainable Design

Tools For A New Political Economy

Sustainable Design

Honoring the Earth - as a Closed Energy System - in a Level 7 Political Economy

This topic has been carefully thought through by so many prolific and talented folks that I can only tip my hat to them as I organize what I think are important concepts. In particular, the work of Odum, Holmgren and Pogany seem to introduce a harmonious resonance as they point toward both the challenges and solutions of sustainable practices - in terms of food and energy production, collective consumption, a different global economy, glocalized modeling and so on. I’d like to thank David Macleod (see
https://integralpermaculture.wordpress.com/about/ and search for David’s articles on http://www.resilience.org) for introducing me to many of these resources, as well as his own informative insights and encouragement in this area.

Here then are a few highlights regarding peak oil demand, Permaculture, Pogany’s “Global System 3,” and other ideas that I find compelling, tailored or reworked with some of my own language:

  • Environmental Consciousness - It must become a given (via the unitive principle and its expression in cultural development) that human beings see their relationship with the Earth and all its ecosystems as cooperative and mutually supportive, rather than exploitative and anthropocentric.
  • Eco-Synergistic Energy - The operational assumption that we have already passed the point of being able to rely on cheap fossil fuels for energy production, and that we need to shift rapidly to energy production that works with Nature (and in fact imitates it) instead of consuming natural resources. Intrinsic to this approach will be a fundamental commitment to high quality energy storage, and ideally one that replicates and/or interacts with biological systems.
  • A “Breathing” Economy - Embracing economic rhythms that are much closer to a cyclical steady-state than more growth-dependent boom and bust.
  • Zero Population Growth - A deliberate and perpetual reduction in fertility rates to minimize human impact on the planet.
  • Radical Reduction in Consumption - Not just in terms of waste and recycling, but in aggressively attenuating a consumer mentality that drives overconsumption and overproduction.
  • Create or Enhance Mutually Supportive Systemic Relationships - Instead of segregating and isolating functions, technologies, systems, individuals and communities (i.e. the “silo effect”), integrate them in mutually supportive ways. Along the same lines, observing where ecological patterns and human patterns (cultural, behavioral, economic, etc.) intersect in constructive, mutually supportive ways can offer fruitful insights for praxis.
  • Support Diversity’s Ascension Over Homogenization, and Celebrate “Small and Slow” - This harmonizes with the subsidiarity principle, with the aim of distributed inter-reliance rather than centralized concentration or large-scale homogenization of resources, production, etc.
  • Encourage Community Self-Regulation - Consult Elinor Ostrom’s CPRM approach regarding this.
  • Be Guided by the Doughnut Model - Operating within planetary boundaries while recognizing what is essential. You can read an overview of Kate Raworth’s ideas here.

I would only add that without a concert of approaches such as all those suggested for a Level 7 political economy on this site, such efforts at sustainability will inevitably fall short. For example, capitalism itself — certainly in its current croniest, globalized neoliberal form,
but quite possibly any form — is simply too powerful of a juggernaut to achieve meaningfully sustainable practices; commercialistic corporationism, together with its servant of conspicuous consumption, will always undermine efforts at sustainability in order to drive the frenetic growth upon which it relies.
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