The Abundance Manifesto
We look forward to that time when sustainability has evolved sufficiently into a science that it can put a collar around the expediencies of capitalism.
Humanity is embattled by forces that have gained dominance through exploitive practices. Disciplining and regulating those forces through grassroots efforts has become increasingly necessary and wearisome. The strategy of rebuttal has become an agony of ten thousand sieges, a holding pattern, waiting while hopefully humanity evolves.
The purpose of this treatise is to outline a better strategy, one that doesn’t hope to break into the castle of corruption: but instead to drain it of support, abandoned to crumble into history. This strategy refutes the SDG goals of ending poverty and hunger, that twin-headed snake of economised entitlements. But rather it claims for humanity the greater goals of peace and prosperity through abundance.
For that goal to be achieved the structures that stabilise it must necessarily be founded upon sustainability and morality. This article outlines a framework of that sort which could be developed now, by pioneering groups establishing their own proto-village settings of regional relevance. That will require a new kind of citizenry, a new kind of food system, and a deeper understanding of the principles of sustainability – all meshed into a framework of mutual responsibility, and self-organised through principled critique. 4 The proposed framework is based upon a single and easy to understand principle – the Abundance Axiom, as detailed below.
The U.N-promoted idea of sustainability confines its meaning to environmental input-output systems. Here we promote sustainability in a more universal sense.[ 4 ] Sustainability in this larger sense is definable but complicated by the role of time. Because the meaning of ‘unsustainable’ is more obvious – whatever is self-eliminated through its own (in)action – for the meantime consider ‘sustainable’ as meaning the opposite of that.
Sustainability is not the aim of life, it simply underlies every pattern of life. It is the final judge of all agendas, that to which every arrogance must eventually yield. Beyond its compass no life is possible and humanity has no future there.
One of the ironies of Christianity is how despite Jesus’ clearly recorded condemnation of the money-changers those of that ilk came to rule the world from the bridge of the very vessel that was launched in his name. Why that happened is plain enough – money has no friends, and markets generally favour the unscrupulous.
But the real point to consider is how to realign the axis around which that process revolves. Trapped here in this ‘bankosphere’ which requires that all must pay to live, the urgency of scarcity is now a treadmill that drives our felt need to get ahead. And so we deny ourselves the garden of life by destroying it.
This seemingly unstoppable destruction has been entered upon the world through unethical capitalism. Yet, as with global warming, through sound purpose this too could be arrested within a decade. Take note though, that no matter how cleverly you place the blame for these global crises, their solutions are at core much the same.
At some level all sustainable solutions will require that the you and I of us must live in sustainable accord with the whole world: not just the natural environment. How that might arise is through moral and personal responsibility (for the whole world). If that does not come about, then you and I are entirely to blame.
All You Need to Know about Life
At some point in life we all reach the chapter called, “Why Am I Here?” We find its first page crammed with religious symbolism that are so diverting, even disturbing, that few people ever venture beyond it. Indeed, the concepts and the demands thereafter do become more imposing, and beyond even Youtube.
The familiar marketing of God, Truth and the Hereafter is contrived to appeal to the hunter-gatherer herd, whose everyday living is rooted in the one concern: ‘What’s in it for me?’ Religious starter packs recognise that basic requirement. They are presented as an ‘all you need to know’ funnel-shaped path, reflecting more the minds of their creators than of their incumbent Creator.
One important section of the layman’s path where religion has staked a claim is morality. This topic is of particular interest here because morality is etched above the entrance-way to peace, our proclaimed goal.
Since Egyptian times morality has been of interest mainly for philosophers and dramatists. We suggest that it should be re-invigorated in light of current world trends. The damage being caused by its absence is well-known, but the task of arresting the trend seems to be the lot of those least rewarded by it. Is it time for the meek to inherit the earth, yet?
God sides with the best shot.
Nature sides with the sustainable.
‘Unless society as a whole functions in an inherently morally right manner, society as a whole is unjust and an outlaw.’
A Moral Revival
It is easy to understand the current blurring between morality and values. Historically the primary patrons of morality were the blood-soaked religions whose philosophies were rooted in subjective prejudices like good, bad, and evil. But perhaps morality has a foundation outside the common religious framework. Could we link it to a pay-off outside the propositions of afterlife insurance? This was a possibility of great hope in mid-19th century Europe where, shaken by the scientific discoveries of the Age of Reason, Christianity’s iron grip on truth began to loosen: a moral abyss loomed. However, two centuries later their fathomings have left us with only inspiration, not bridges.
So here is the framework we propose, a bridge in wire-frame for you to examine. Most simply put, love (in the spiritual rather than organic sense) is the arrow of action; with morality the aim of its purpose. If that purpose is happiness, peace and mutual prosperity then what follows is a way to improve one’s aim through practising bridge-building in a moral direction.
Sovereignty means not having to ask permission: Common Law means not hurting other people: Sustainability means perpetuating the natural framework. To negotiate a society founded upon these requires personal responsibility.
The Abundance Manifesto
The Abundance Manifesto is neither politics nor religion. It is a self-critical tool that can be applied to all agendas. It encourages social morality as personal self-interest through rational reflection rather than as anticipation of karmic consequence in the near- or here-after, nor the usual moralisms.
It satisfies the inherent form of sustainability in that the path to the solution is identical to the solution itself. Further, it provides a framework for sustainable living which can be adapted to almost any environment and scaled up from personal to organisational considerations.
The Abundance Manifesto proposes that everything necessary for peaceful prosperity; social justice; food security; personal health and happiness is embodied here in the following enquiry…
“What are the things I can do, which no matter how much I continue doing them, and however many others do the same, the benefits only increase for everyone, indefinitely?”
Abundance is possible without money
— wealth is not.
Abundance requires sharing
— wealth does not.
This is what we call the Abundance Axiom.
All of its outputs fit into one or other of these categories
of the Sustainable Abundance Framework …
|Practical living||Motivating influences|
|1. food, health & care||4. sustainability analysis|
|2. resources & environment||5. personal growth|
|3. social & economic tools||6. spiritual purpose|
Whatever the fulfillment of this framework may seem like now or actually become in the future, this is the direction humanity will need to take in order to survive its resource-depleted future. For, behind the intricacies and beguiling artwork of Nature there is always the relentless and inescapable grinding of sustainability.
The Abundance Axiom is elegant in its simplicity, flexible in its purpose, and self-demonstrating in its practice.
Like Buddhism it validates the importance of moral purpose without invoking religious authority. It also provides us with a tool to examine the intention of what is ‘Right’ – in the Buddha’s Eight-fold Path – for cultural clarification.
In contrast to the Scarcity Axiom
Market economies are organised around resource enclosure: the prerequisite for wealth extraction. Within that framework material value is determined by competition and consumer perceptions, while moral value is determined by licensed rule-makers and enforcers, and their perceptions. Once people are confined to that framework it is the ‘Scarcity axiom’ of modern economics that prevails… “I can do or have everything I like as long as I pay for it, according to their rules.”
Together with the (screw-you if I can) profit-motive of neo-liberalism that axiom forms the doctrinal basis of current capitalism.
Natural economies are less primitive. They utilise abundance, diversity and self-dispersal to ensure self-organising sustainability and resilience. What we are concerned with here is about unfolding the means for transforming the former into the latter. Electoral democracy is inadequate, it has become an outdated visionless ritual that is unable to escape the dwindling of its own orbit. We must instead look for a bottom-up approach: a scalable way for groups to self-organise.
The Abundance axiom matches the suggested approach. It offers us a universal compass for directing our efforts with proper alignment to the patterns of nature. What remains however is for each entity (person/ community/ organisation) to define and integrate its own purpose within that direction. By this approach their decision inputs are self-refined, using sustainability analysis and principled critiquing. 4
Food as Practice
Within that approach we set the understanding of food as the primary vector for building change and the renewal of social capital. Different aspects of growing, preserving or preparing food should be learnt by everyone as a basis for common engagement in their community. This responsibility, always an essential component of traditional societies, is tentatively being revitalised as a grassroots movement in the western world. Its potential for real change though has yet to emerge. 3
Conventional city authorities are just not attuned to the need for providing spaces for neighbourhood food systems to expand. The most notable exception has to be Havana, Cuba, where in the 1980s during their ‘Special Period’ inner-city tracts were specifically allocated for that purpose. They became so profitable that many now have long waiting lists. In New Zealand the Rotorua City Council leads the way.
What we call the socialisation of agriculture is the only way to develop truly sustainable food systems. Organic farmers are mostly familiar with permaculture and biodynamics. These approaches could easily transform agriculture, but are quite labour intensive. Conversely, less than 0.1% of people have sufficient land to exercise such systems.
Ordinary people need more access to small-scale food production. The bottleneck is the retail price of land: significant land reforms are needed. The pitchforks are not coming, but the global food shortages are.
Community as Practice
As the population density increases a chain of inevitabilities arises: the food suppliers become more remote; market competition drives product uniformity; ‘food from nowhere’ becomes the accepted norm; external interests gain invisible sway over the entire supply chain; consumer health and farm sustainability decline.
If a population becomes concerned about even one of these outcomes the only full remedy requires them increasing the socialisation of their food supply [ 1 ]. Although a part-time neighbourhood food system might seem an obvious next step, the low margins, freeloading and burn-out are bad memories for most people who have tried. In spite of their intention and effort it all comes down to the pay-off motive behind the participants’ personal commitment.
The sweet-spot of population density (for sustainable food-land-people assemblages in temperate climates) is estimated at a regional average of about one hectare per family, of six. Higher densities within towns, villages and estates, up to, say 80 people per hectare, would be offset by the broader farmscape within which they are located. Optimal habitancy patterns, local autonomy and self-reliance that match the region’s climate, landforms and resources would evolve with experience.
What eventually grows best in a toxic field are the weeds that we’d hoped would be eliminated.
In peasant parlance we use the term village to indicate a social partnership of members who have committed to a common agreement to develop sustainable living amongst themselves. The members may live apart, in which case their village is called a guild, or locally in which case it is called a hub; to indicate that it has a geographical base. A peri-rural hub that has established a code of living according to the Sustainable Abundance Framework, i.e. practising sustainability analysis as a founding principle, is called an AGRUS Hub. 2
Integrating the Abundance axiom into the Sustainable Framework is an ongoing community-building process. It will allow each group to develop its particular interpretation, priorities and agenda, through their own discussions, and in accord with their own understanding and experience. We recommend this as a step-by-step progression—to community; to healthy living; to sustainability, before attempting onto the land.
This is not a fanciful scheme, it is the future viewed through the focus of sustainability. Humanity can achieve compatibility with the earth’s natural systems, but it will take repopulating the middle ground between the crowded cities and the remote back-blocks. People who prefer to live in the city can still choose to participate at many levels.
The initial challenge is finding like-minded people willing to take it on. It will need maturity, determination and trust and there will be a lot of baggage to burn. However once the experience of sharing in nature’s abundance begins to deepen, it will outweigh the prospects of personal wealth. A tipping point will be realised and a whole generation will step forward.
This essay started by claiming a grand goal for humanity, the grandest; then imagined the shortest way to its fulfillment as being moral in its direction. Distinctly different from the moral paths of earlier times it identifies a shortcut that avoids the cliffs of religion, philosophy and economics, and provides new tools for clearing away their rubbish, along a course that goes directly over them.
The monster we have created was not our plan, but our because. We gave it life because we were educated to see the world through its eyes. Too many of us became it. By putting more attention outside its vision is how we can redirect it. This has already begun along the food vector. For those who want to hurry the larger process along the Sustainable Abundance Framework can be their machine shop for building the tools to do that.