Comparing the monetary, resource and ecological costs of industrial and Simpler Way local production: Consider egg supply.

 

T. Trainer, A. Malik, and M. Lenzen.

7.6.2018

Abstract: Global sustainability requires very large scale reductions in rich world per capita resource use rates. Globalised, industrialised and commercialised supply paths involve high resource, energy, dollar and other costs.  However “The Simpler Way” involving small scale integrated localized settlements and economies can enable enormous reductions in these costs.  Most transport, packaging and marketing costs can be eliminated, and various outputs such as animal manures, kitchen scraps, garden biomass, household grey and black water can be transformed from costly “waste” disposal problems into direct inputs to other functions such as methane digesters, composting, and fish and animal feeds. Thus there are also savings on the cost of inputs of fertilizer and water etc. In addition the industrial supply path tends to have many negative “co-products”, most obviously pollution effects, whereas the local path avoids these while providing important positive co-products and social benefits. This study uses input-output analysis of one product, eggs, to illustrate the magnitude of the difference between the two paths. The implications for sustainable development are profound. The Simpler Way would enable the required reductions in resource and ecological impacts to be achieved, but only if extremely radical changes are made in economic, political and cultural systems.

            Introduction.

There is now a strong case in support of the general “limits to growth” claim that planetary resource demands and ecological impacts have far exceeded sustainable levels. The World Wildlife Fund’s “Footprint” index is an effective illustration of the magnitude of the overshoot. (WWF 2016.) It indicates that the amount of productive land needed to provide current “living standards” for Australians is in excess of 7 ha per capita.  If by 2050 the expected world population of 9.6 billion people were to rise to the present Australian way of life approximately 67 billion ha of productive land would be needed. But there are only about 8 billion ha of it available on the planet (and at current loss rates the present area of agricultural land might have been halved by then.) Numerous other measures and studies confirm a multiple of this order. (TSW, 2017.)

The magnitude and significance of this overshoot is not well understood. The basic implication is that present rich world per capita rates of resource and ecological impact are in the region of ten times the levels that would enable a sustainable and just world. Yet the supreme priority is economic growth, i.e., to increase levels of production, consumption, “living standards” and GDP without limit. The belief that technical advance could enable all people to rise to present rich world levels, let alone enable further limitless growth, is implausible in the extreme. (TSW, 2017.) If these limits claims are sound they mean that the rapidly worsening global predicament cannot be solved unless there is De-growth down to per capita resource consumption rates that are around 10% of current rich world rates.

The main goal of The Simpler Way project is to show that this can be done, but only if there is enormous change away from the structures, systems and values of consumer-capitalist society. (TSW, 2017.) Understandably this perspective is usually regarded as so unrealistically optimistic as to be not worth attention. However the Remaking Settlements study (TSW, 2018) derives a detailed numerical assessment of the technical feasibility of reorganising the land uses and socio-economic arrangements of a normal outer Sydney suburb to achieve reductions of the required order. The study shows that it would be possible for the inhabitants of such a suburb to live well on something like 10% of present Australian per capita dollar, energy and footprint costs, while greatly improving the quality of life.

The large scale reductions envisaged in resource use and ecological impact are attributable firstly to changes away from affluent-consumer personal lifestyle values, but more importantly to transition to highly localised and self-sufficient systems.  These enable elimination the need for many functions that are essential for the supply of goods and services in the present globalized economy, especially transport services. This study of egg supply illustrates the magnitude of the differences achievable. It will be argued that in general the large differences in dollar and resource costs applies to many other of the infrastructures, products and services require for a satisfactory quality of life in a sustainable society, and that the implications for sustainable development are profound.

The two supply paths.

 

Following are lists of components and characteristics of the two supply systems. The indented passages refer to backyard poultry keeping, and to neighourhood cooperative systems involving 50 chickens.

 Long chains and complex networks for the provision of large volumes of industrial inputs, including power, fuels and materials needed to produce and run steel mills, fishing fleets, factories, tractors, chemicals, silos, warehouses, trucks and supermarkets, and the associated indirect need for roads, hospitals, skilled personnel, offices, insurance, etc.

Small scale community co-operative and backyard poultry keeping can be organized with almost none of these material or energy inputs, for instance where shelter takes the form of mud brick “vaults” and fencing is made from bamboo.

Many vehicle and transport links are involved, e.g,, in farm machinery, delivering inputs to feed producing factories, delivering feed to farms, taking eggs to warehouses  and supermarkets, and finally to households. At several stages wastes have to be transported to disposal sites.

Little or no transport involving fuels need be involved.

Agribusiness must provide large quantities of inputs to feed production factories, thereby contributing to soil-mining, soil carbon depletion and non-return of nutrients. Use of pesticides and artificial fertilizer has damaging effects on soils such as acidification and runoff into waterways. Similarly commercial feeds include fishmeal involving various resource and environmental costs.

Local production can use local feed sources which completely avoid these inputs and effects.

Agribusiness requires production of artificial fertilizers which is an energy-intensive process and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

When feed is largely or entirely recycled nutrients from household and garden wastes and provided by free ranging no artificial fertilizers are required.

Factories need to be constructed to produce chicken feeds, farm sheds, trucks, packaging etc.

Need for factories is at most very low and can be negligible.

Dollar, materials and energy costs for the operation of egg farms are considerable

Local egg production via backyards and cooperatives typically involves no operational dollar or energy costs, apart from feed (which might be provided at no cost from local sources.)

Various chemicals need to be produced, including growth stimulants and hormones, and disinfectants and biocides to control disease in cramped sheds.

These substances are rarely needed in small scale local systems.

Several kinds of waste must be dealt with in the energy-intensive industrial system, including agribusiness wastes, manures from egg farms, packaging, kitchen wastes and various sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Contaminated manure cannot be recycled, and is far from the soils that produce the feed. Thus large quantities of material have to be transported, processed and/or dumped.

All “wastes” from local production not only do not need to be dumped but are valued inputs to other functions. Most obviously manures go to gardens, methane digesters and aquaponic systems, contributing to almost total recycling of a constant nutrient stock from soils through kitchens and human and animal waste streams back to food producing soils.

There are significant post-farm costs, including packaging, marketing, transport to supermarkets, supermarket overheads (e.g., lighting), transport to households, waste disposal from households.

Local production typically includes no energy, resource or dollar  costs for these items.

There are many overhead costs, for insurance for insurance, health inspectors, workers’ travel to workplaces, OH and S systems, consultancies and legal services, interest on loans, and corporate profits. Some of these are compounded at several levels, e.g., the markup on grain sold to the feed producer contributes to the price at which he sells to the farmer and the farmer’s markup is on a cost total including the grain producer’s markup.

Usually none of these costs are involved in local production.

Many highly trained and expensive people are required, mostly working at screens in offices.

No formal skills or credentials are needed. The necessary expertise is relatively simple and can be maintained through informal local interaction. Thus children, ordinary people and those physically or mentally disadvantaged can make valuable contributions to egg supply.

Systems are capital-intensive, involving dependence on the finance industry and competition for scarce/expensive capital. New and small producers have great difficulty getting started in the industry. Payments for use of capital drain wealth out.

Village production need involve no capital investment and production in normal rich-world communities might involve very little.

Large scale, industrialised and globalized production contributes to the elimination of country towns and country living.  Small farms and towns cannot compete.

Local production contributes to community self-sufficiency and resilience, and there is a place for small private farms within village economies.

The conditions poultry experience are not satisfactory. The minimum legal per chicken for ”caged” egg production is 0.07 m2, about the size of an A4 sheet and barely sufficient for a chicken to turn around.  (Doorstop Organics, 2018.)

            Ideal conditions can easily be provided.

The “co-products” are mostly if not all negative; e.g., wastes, packaging, emissions, requiring resources to deal with.

Co-products are positive. In addition to manures provided poultry can clean up and cultivate garden beds, they eat slugs and fallen fruit fly infested fruit thus reducing/eliminating the need for pesticides, they can find much of their own feed by free-ranging, they provide meat, spread manure on fields, can be housed in greenhouses enriching CO2 content, help to keep grasses down in orchards and on fire breaks, and they reproduce themselves. In addition they are sources of diversity, leisure and entertainment in settlements.

Numerical conclusions: a)  The Industrial production path.

This section attempts to quantify the main cost factors involved in these two different supply paths, assuming Australian conditions. It uses the national input-output tables that are available for various industries. (ABS, 2016a, 2016b, BREE, 2013.)

The annual industrial/commercial production chain for eggs in Australia supplies around 5 billion eggs p.a. The dollar cost of production at the farm, including all inputs, totals $150 million p.a., corresponding to c. 3 cents per egg. When all the farmer’s mark up is added the mid 2018 wholesale selling price at the farm-out gate for “caged eggs” is c. 8 cents/egg. (Poultry Hub, 2018, Tractor Supply Co., 2018 and a similar E.08 in Europe, Deze, 2018.)

The lowest supermarket retail price for eggs is c. 30c/egg. (Woolworths Catalogue, 2018.) This is for “caged eggs” and the price for free range eggs can be more than three times as high. The appropriate comparison in this study is between the cost of local production and that of free range commercial eggs (not caged), as the local production figures below assume a) pens providing 1 m2 per chicken which is the minimum area for free range commercial eggs, along with b) free range conditions in which chickens spend most of their time.

The national input-output tables show that the total energy cost of production at the supermarket checkout counter is 828 TJ, corresponding to 0.166 MJ per egg. This value includes “direct” energy used in production such as energy used on the farm and in transport links, and “indirect energy” used in the production of all inputs to the farm and other elements of the supply chain, including for instance (the relevant fraction of) the embodied energy that went into construction of the factories that made the packaging, warehouses, trucks etc..

b): The alternative path

The system assumed is a neighbourhood chicken cooperative with 50 hens in the flock, each laying 240 eggs/y. (Deze 2018 reports the total per chicken can be up to 319.) Chickens are kept in a 7 m x 7 m pen to midday then allowed to free range in paddocks, gardens, woodlots and orchards.

Approximate materials and costs.

Shed 2m x 4m. Tin roofing 8 m2, @ $10/m2 =                   $80       27 kg steel

Mud brick walls no dollar cost.

Sawn timber for perches, etc.                                              $30(?)    5 kg wood

Hardware                                                                             $10 (?)

Paint                                                                                    $10?            

Nest bedding “free” from gardens, woodlots etc.

Pen. Fencing wire, 1.2 rolls @ 90 mm x 50 mm.                $75       12 kg steel

8 Star posts 6 ft.                                                                  $60       28 kg steel

Feed troughs, laying nests, water  … no cost added.

Lifetime of equipment assumed.  50 years.

Areas

 The above dimensions provide 1 m2 per chicken when penned in the area stated above. Therefore the cost for pen conclusions below are for much greater areas than the minimum legal area for the free range label.

A cost for fencing of the free range areas might be added, but it will be assumed here that for the most part these are already fenced for other purposes such as to keep stock and foxes out of orchards, gardens and paddocks. Thus if fencing of these areas was included the multiple functions these areas perform would mean that only a fraction of their cost should be accounted to egg production.

Note that all above materials costs are for small scale retail supply from local hardware stores, not for the much lower bulk rates that would be paid for materials going into construction of large scale development of commercial chicken farms.

In some situations, especially rural settlements and Third World villages, no steel need be used as chicken shelter can be made from mud brick “vaults”, and pen fences can be mud brick or woven bamboo or branches.

Poultry Feed.

Stated feed requirements for poultry generally range between 100 g/d (Poultry Hub, 2018), and 120 g/d. (Citifarm, 2018, Tractor Supply Co., (2018.) The latter figure will be assumed here, i.e., 0.12 kg/chicken/d.

In ideal conditions all food can come from free ranging.  In addition the volume of kitchen scraps and garden “waste” is much more than sufficient to feed chickens, and is rich in minerals, proteins and grain products. According to Foodwise (2018), the average NSW household throws out $1,036 of food every year, 345 kg/household or 4 million tonnes costing $8 b/y. At 2.7 pp/household food waste per person would be 125 kg/pp/y, or 0.35 kg/pp/d, which would be enough to feed three chickens, or three times the number needed to meet average per capita egg consumption.

Australian egg consumption will be assumed at c. 213/pp/y, (AgriFutures (2017.) Chickens are being assumed to lay about 240 eggs per year (again Deze, 2018, reports 319), therefore 1 chicken could supply 1+ person, while consuming 0.12 kg/d of feed. If it is assumed that 5% of total feed is in the form of supplementary grains, then about 0.006 kg/d of this feed would be needed, i.e., .009 kg, per egg produced. At the local level this small quantity might come from small scale special planting, for example of corn. Retail chicken feed costs c. $2/kg but the bulk wheat price is much lower, at c. 25c/kg. (Australian Wheat Board, 2018, Department of Primary Industry, 2018.) If cooperatives purchased feed grain at 30c/kg the cost per egg for the supplementary feed would be 0.25c.

The energy cost of the supplementary feed can be estimated using the national input-output data, stating a 45 TJ feed cost for the 5 billion eggs produced commercially p.a., which is 9 kJ/egg.  The assumed 5% of this is 0.45 kJ/egg, a negligible amount.

Free range feeding can eliminate the need for shell grit. In addition crushed egg shells can be recycled. The cost per egg, assuming $1/kg for bulk supply of grit (Backyard Chicken Coops, (2018), and 0.2 kg/chicken/y would add 0.12 c/egg, but will not be included here.

Labour.

Feeding, watering and locking up chickens might take 5 minutes a day. At the Australian average annual wage income for a full time worker of $37.5/hour and assuming a 40 hour work week this cost would be $3/d. At the minimum hourly wage of $18/hour it would be $1.5/d, or 5 cents per egg produced in a day.

However labour “costs” are not easily accounted, mainly because backyard and co-operative care of chickens does not involve any dollar costs for labour, and the activity can be regarded as yielding benefits rather than costs, for instance as a leisure activity, adding to neighbourhood diversity and landscape, and as having community bonding benefits when carried out via cooperatives. This is especially significant in poor and Third World communities where time and labour can be abundantly available and might not be otherwise used productively. No labour cost for construction, production or maintenance will be included here.

            Cost totals.

The foregoing derivations can be summarized as follows.

Dollar cost:

Sheds and pens, $265, i.e., $5.3/y and 0.044 cents/egg.

Feed, 0 to 0.25c/egg

Total dollar cost  =  0 to 0.3c/egg.

 (Or 5.3 cents if labour is included.)

Energy cost:

67 kg of steel, assuming 35 MJ/kg, 2,345 MJ.

Wood 10 kg @ 0.5 MJ/kg = 5 MJ.

Cost per egg 2,350 MJ/(50 hens x 240 eggs/y x 50 years) =  3.9 KJ.

 Feed .00044 MJ.

 Total energy cost   = 4.3. KJ/egg

Thus the industrial path results in a dollar cost at the supermarket check out that is at least c. 20 times that of the local path if a labour cost is included, and 100 times if one is not. The multiple for energy costs when the industrial total ends at the factory out-gate is about 166 kg/4.3 = 39/1.

Note again that both for suburban back yard, cooperative and Third World situations both dollar and energy costs can range down to zero, through the greater use of earth etc. for chicken house and pen construction, use of food and garden wastes, and the local growing of supplements.

However these figures for the two paths are not comparable as those for the industrial path do not include any costs after the eggs leave the supermarket. These would be considerable as they include the cost of travel to and from the supermarket, home refrigeration (daily distribution of eggs from cooperatives reduces need for storage), and dealing with egg and packaging wastes.  Local supply systems do not involve these dollar and energy cost components.  Note also that the above energy costs for the industrial path do not include those incurred between the farm out-gate and the supermarket check-out, such as for packaging, warehousing, distribution, transport, advertising and supermarket operation, including overheads such as insurance, lighting and marketing.

Transport from the supermarket to the household is likely to be a significant cost. If it assumed that one dozen eggs make up 3% of a 20 kg load of groceries from the supermarket requiring a 10 km vehicle round trip, the energy cost per egg might be in the region of 1.3 MJ. Therefore a complete account which added the energy costs of waste disposal etc. might raise the cost for the industrial path to above1.5 MJ per egg.

            The social and ecological balance sheets.

There are significant cost an benefit considerations in addition to those that can be measured in dollar or energy units.  As noted above the industrial path has “co-products” which are largely if not entirely negative, such as the range of transport costs including accidents and greenhouse gas emissions, loss of soil carbon and nutrients, soil compaction by machinery, soil acidification and run off from fertilizer use, impacts on fish stocks, demand for scarce agricultural land, chemical flows to the environment, leaching and emissions from waste disposal, use of monoculture crops contributing to loss of biodiversity, and impacts of agribusiness on country towns and rural life.

In addition to avoiding those negative effects local production has mostly if not entirely positive side-effects. The chicken manures enriche soils, closed-loop flows of nutrients through settlements are enabled, poultry can clear and cultivate garden ground and assist with pest control, and their grazing can help to maintain firebreaks.  Poultry cooperatives contribute to the diversity and leisure resources of communities and provide worthwhile activities especially for physically and mentally disadvantaged people. The functioning of cooperatives within many other elements of the local economy reinforces community interaction, familiarity, responsibility and solidarity, and thereby helps to build community robustness and resilience against the onslaught of globalization. 

Smallness of scale enables integration of functions.

Central in The Simpler Way perspective is recognition of the importance of smallness of scale in enabling many functions to be carried out easily, without cost and spontaneously, without need for infrastructures, bureaucracy, corporations, finance, expensive expertise and personnel, or capital. For instance the manure wastes generated by industrial egg production will be located at a site distant from possible uses, possibly on another continent.  Thus they must be dealt with by a large separate single-function subsystem involving machinery, trucks, roads, landfill sites, bulldozers and elaborate logistical system, all with associated bureaucracies and experts dealing with records, payments etc. These are among the rarely recognized “diseconomies of scale”.

However in small, highly integrated local economies the close proximity of productive activities enables outputs such as manures to immediately become valued inputs to other activities. Garden surpluses can be easily shared. Design can ensure that elements perform overlapping and multiple functions. For instance forest gardens can provide wind breaks, fruit, vegetables, grazing, honey, dyes and perfumes, leisure resources, habitat for birds that feed on garden pests, roofing shingles, chemicals such as eucalyptus and creosote, mulch, timber and firewood.

In addition to enabling the immediate and costless use of ”co-products”, proximity enables the need for various products and functions to be eliminated. For instance local egg supply does not require transport, feed production factories, packaging, advertising, insurance, PR staff, or waste treatment. Careful design can provide for such functions to be carried out automatically, as when poultry free ranging in orchards eat fallen fruit containing fruit fly lavae.

Many other functions can be organized at the local level to take advantage of the opportunities proximity and familiarity create for using outputs, harnessing human energies, providing mutual aid, recycling, and avoiding the pyramiding costs of the industrial way. For example a diverse and highly self-sufficient community with its own small firms and farms, gardened landscape, variety of artists and craftspeople, automatically provides a rich variety of spontaneous leisure activities, reducing the desire to spend money or energy on entertainment, travel or holidays away. In addition leisure committees can organize concerts, talks, adventure outings, picnics, field days, celebrations and festivals, drawing on costless local resources.

The most important integrating factor is not to do with physical or ecological design, it is to do with the social arrangements that have been established, the understandings, agreements, processes, familiarity and mutual concern whereby members of a community routinely carry out the necessary activities, such as organizing the working bees when it is time to clean out pens or relocate chickens, or prune community orchards or help the fish co-op to net from community ponds.  As Ostrom makes clear (Wall, 2013), the existence and success of commons is a matter of ideas, agreements and commitments shared within a community. Successful networks and systems are self-reinforcing; people conscientiously and willingly turn up to working bees because of the rewards, especially the enjoyable activity. The familiarity and mutual interests lead to sharing of information and ideas and the early identification of needs and problems, which are then likely to be spontaneously attended to. Synergism tends to result, raising solidarity and morale, which among other effects increases productive efficiency.

The care of older people and invalids also illustrates the significance of small  scale and integration. If facilities are located in the centre of town beside the main community garden and close to small firms the residents will be able to observe and be involved, and the gardeners will benefit from their ideas and advice. In Simpler Way settlements as in many Eco-villages today most people might need to work for money only a few days a week (…see TSW: 2017.) meaning that many will have time to drop in, help out and chat. Older people will be able to remain in their homes longer. Thus elderly people will not feel isolated, bored or useless, and the need for expensive professional “carers” will be reduced.

            The significance for global sustainability.

This paper began by pointing to the argument that global sustainability cannot be achieved unless current rich world per capita levels of resource use are more or less decimated. The Simpler Way case is that this can only be done if the currently dominant consumer-capitalist society is eventually replaced by one that focuses on local self-sufficiency and self-government, cooperative ways, non-material and non-acquisitive values, and simplicity and frugality. This study illustrates the magnitude of the reductions in resource use and environmental impact that this alternative would make possible by examining the supply of one product. The far more extensive study Remaking Settlements (TSW, 2018) considers a much larger number of itemss and finds that the implementation of Simpler Way principles could achieve reductions in the order of 95% in the total energy and dollar costs for normal outer city suburbs, but only if extremely radical changes in geographical, political, economic and social systems were implemented.

The feasibility of such reductions is supported by the findings arrived at in Lockyer’s study of Dancing Rabbit Eco-village in Missouri. (2017.) This study  found that the community’s per capita rates of car use, distance driven, and liquid fuel use were  6-10% of the US national average, solid waste and electricity use were 18%, and water use 23%.  One third of water use was recycled and three times as much electricity was generated than was used, the surplus being sent to the grid. Lockyer and also Grinde (2017) confirm the common finding that members of Eco-vilages report much higher than national average quality of life.

It must be stressed at this point that economic localism is a crucial but not a sufficient condition for sustainability. The large scale reductions claimed cannot be achieved unless there is enormous and radical change in the national economy, in political processes, and above all in lifestyles and values. There must be willing acceptance of far more frugal lifestyles than is the norm in consumer-capitalist society.

A Simpler Way economy is incompatible with free market capitalism. It contradicts economic and cultural systems that are driven by growth and market forces to constantly increase the amount of investment, production, consumption, trade, profit, wealth, and GDP. It is likely that if the alternative supply path for eggs discussed above was extended to as many products and services as possible then national economic activity measured in terms of dollar values might be reduced by more than an order of magnitude.

Thus it is evident that The Simpler Way perspective contradicts the taken for granted goals and means of “development” as presently conceived. Whereas the overriding goal of consumer-capitalist development is limitless increase in production, consumption and monetary wealth within a globalized economy, the alternative is about providing a high quality of life for all in conditions of minimal resource use and no growth, in mostly in local economies.

The distinction is most graphic when the typical Third Word situation is considered. The capitalist conception of development takes it for granted that capital is the key prerequisite for development, that production of goods that can compete for sales in the global economy must be prioritised, that high levels of debt must be taken on to fund industrial infrastructures, that scarce national resources must be allocated to earning export income and paying off loans rather than to meeting basic needs, that the welfare of all can only benefit via trickle down as this approach delivers most benefit to rich word investors and supermarket shoppers, and that the supreme goal and measure of development is the volume of business turnover. Thus ordinary people cannot obtain necessities unless they can get jobs in the factories and offices set up by owners of capital. The latter invest only because they believe they can make more profit in that country than they could anywhere else in the world.  Their concern is not to produce what is most needed; it is only to maximize their own wealth. All elements in the extensive industrial production and consumption chains within conventional development involve investment opportunities and good business to be done, e.g., capital-intensive factories, trucks, warehouses, supermarkets etc. Local cooperative egg production would not be in the interests of international agribusiness, steel, trucking etc. corporations as it does not enable much business to be done.

Thus about 5 billion people live in poverty although they have around them most of the resources that could be cooperatively organised to produce for themselves thriving communities meeting most of their basic needs and providing a high quality of life. (See TSW: Third World Development.)

The same development principles apply in the “richest” countries.

Most people in these countries probably have to work two or three times harder than Simpler Way theory estimates would be sufficient. Most struggle to get by and levels of stress, insecurity, anxiety and depression are probably the most common illnesses now. Meanwhile inequality, poverty, homelessness, “exclusion”, drug and alcohol abuse etc. are increasing. Yet the proportion of national budgets allocated to enabling supportive stable communities that provide well for all is negligible while most goes into stimulating more business turnover.

The Simpler Way shows that this entire taken for granted world view is not just seriously mistaken, it masks a form of plunder.  Conventional development theory can be regarded as an ideology legitimising practices that enrich the rich by enabling them to get (purchase) resources the poor once had, asserting that this is the only conceivable development path. But the egg supply analysis and more importantly the Remaking Settlements study show that highly satisfactory Simpler Way communities could be developed quickly, by ordinary people, largely from local resources, with very little need for capital.

From this alternative perspective the belief that a good life for all can only be achieved via decades of trickle down from capital-intensive development is is a mistaken and vicious assumption.  The amount of resources that would need to be imported into local communities to build the simple animal pens, small dams, dwellings, forest gardens and cooperatives needed to enable a high level of village self-sufficiency is very small and could easily be afforded by national governments. Yet allocation of national resources to such purposes is actually prohibited by policies imposed on heavily indebted countries by rich world institutions, most obviously by the conditions imposed on heavily indebted countries by the Structural Adjustment Packages of the World Bank.

Obviously Simpler Way alternative development contradicts the interests of global corporations, banks and consumers. The global rich, including Third World elites, prosper most when people have no alternative but to work in plantations and sweatshops for wages which they then have to spend purchasing goods supplied by corporations. It’s no good to the owners of capital if people grow their own carrots rather than buy them from supermarkets.  Conventional capitalist development maximizes the amount of business that people with capital can invest in. (One of Australia’s richest men produces packaging; local egg supply requires no packaging.) Simpler Way communal self-sufficient development is a mortal threat to that. 

Many people in many regions are now groping towards some version of the alternative path sketched above, or working to retain and reinforce traditional formss of it, such as in Chiapas, Mexico and the global Via Campesino movement. The government of Senegal has the goal of converting 1,400 villages into Eco-villages. The tragedy of development is that so few recognize that capitalist development is at best an enormous and avoidable mistake. When egg supply is examined in these terms the magnitude of the mistake is evident.

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