The global situation.

Global problems cannot be solved without huge and radical change. The basic cause of the problems is over-consumption -- the grossly unsustainable demand for high material "living standards" in a world of limited resources. We cannot keep up the present levels of production and consumption and resource use for long, and there is no possibility of all the world's people ever rising to these levels. Rich world per capita rates of resource consumption are probably around ten times those that would be sustainable for all. People in rich countries have their high "living standards" only because we are taking much more than our fair share of the available resources and depriving the majority.

But even though present levels of production and consumption are unsustainable this economic system must have constant and endless increase in output, i.e., economic growth. A sustainable world order is not possible unless we move to much less production and consumption, and much less affluent lifestyles, within a steady-state economic system.

Our second major mistake is having a economy which allows market forces and the profit motive to determine our fate. The market inevitably allocates most of the available resources and goods to richer people, because they can always pay more. Thus it produces inappropriate development, because it mostly develops the industries that will produce what richer people want. This economy ignores the needs of poor people, of society and of the environment. A satisfactory economic system would make sure that need and not profit determines what is done.

Underlying these faults is a culture based on competition, individualism, acquisitiveness, and obsession with wealth and luxury. There must be a value change to much more concern with cooperation, sharing, helping, caring, collective welfare and living more simply.

Technical advance cannot solve these problems. It cannot make a big enough difference to levels of resource use and ecological impact. It cannot eliminate the need for radical change in our "living standards", values and economy.

So this consumer-capitalist society cannot be fixed. It has fundamental flaws built into its foundations. Reforms to it will not solve the problems. Some of its basic structures and systems must be replaced.

                                    The alternative we need to shift to.


We cannot achieve a sustainable and just society unless we change to:

Simpler lifestyles and systems, much less production and consumption, much less concern with luxury, affluence, possessions and wealth.

Small, highly self-sufficient local economies, largely independent of the global economy.

More cooperative and participatory ways, enabling people in small communities to take control of their own development.

A new economy, one that has no growth, is not driven by profit or market forces, produces much less than the present economy, and provides sufficient for satisfactory lifestyles for all.

Some very different values, especially frugality, self-sufficiency, giving, sharing and cooperating, and the rejection of acquisitiveness and competition.

Living simply in highly self-sufficient localised economies enables resource use to be cut right down. For instance eggs from supermarkets have an energy cost that is around one-hundred times that of eggs produced in backyards or village cooperatives. Local eggs involve no transport, feed mills, chemicals, warehouses, packaging, advertising etc. And manures can go back to nearby gardens via methane digesters providing gas. Closed nutrient loops between gardens and kitchens largely eliminate the need for a fertilizer industry. People get to work on foot or bicycle.

Such communities would enable a very high quality of life for all without anywhere near as much production, consumption, exporting, investment, industry, resource use, environmental damage, work etc. as there is now.  There would be many rich alternative sources of satisfaction other than material acquisition and consuming.  Consider having to go to work for money only two days a week, having much time for arts and crafts and personal growth, living in a supportive community, living in a diverse and productive leisure-rich landscape, having socially worthwhile and enjoyable work with no fear of unemployment ... and knowing that your lifestyle is not contributing to global problems. There is no need for any reduction in socially-useful modern technology to achieve these benefits.

            The transition process?

We are heading for major global breakdown. Global problems are getting more serious and our systems are failing to provide well for people, even in the richest countries. Governments are not capable of solving the big problems rationally and deliberately; the changes needed are too big, too numerous and too difficult. And governments and ordinary people do not even understand that it is the pursuit of limitless growth and affluence that is the basic cause. So there will be no way of avoiding the coming time of great troubles.

Our task is to try to increase the numbers who realise that we must work for transition to very different ways, in the hope that as things deteriorate enough people will begin to develop cooperative local systems. This is happening now, especially in poor countries where millions are turning their backs on conventional “development” and building their own alternative arrangements.

There can be no change in structures and systems until huge cultural change has been brought about. The most important thing we can do is try to get more people to adopt this Simpler Way perspective, and to set up local initiatives such as community gardens as educational devices to spread the vision.


Although our chances of achieving such a huge transition might seem to be very poor at present it must be the goal, and there are reasons for optimism.  Many people are working for some version of it now in Ecovillage, Transition Towns,  Degrowth and similar movements. Millions in poor countries are turning away from the consumer path and building their own cooperative local systems.

The transition cannot succeed unless and until there is widespread adoption by ordinary people of the new vision and values.  Governments will not make the necessary changes. The world is running into serious difficulties now and people will realise that their governments will not be able to provide well for them and that they must come together to organise local self-sufficient and cooperative systems. This is happening in many rich-world systems.

The most important contribution we can make is to spread these ideas, by talking about them whenever possible, and organising projects like community gardens to make them into educational devices.