Competition year: 2004
About Ted Trainer
THE WAY IT COULD BE:
AN OUTLINE OF THE GLOBAL SITUATION, THE SUSTAINABLE ALTERNATIVE SOCIETY, AND THE TRANSITION TO IT.
Part 1 (of 2)
Faculty of Arts, University of N.S.W.
For detailed documentation on the issues discussed here see
For an account of The Simpler Way in the form of a 220 page "novel" describing the fictional visit of a journalist to a town which has followed The Simpler Way, see
The form a sustainable and just society must take cannot be discussed sensibly unless we first clarify the essential reasons why the present society is unacceptable. The argument in the first Section below is that this society is grossly unsustainable and unjust and that a satisfactory society cannot be achieved without extremely radical change on several fronts.
The first of the two core mistakes in this society is the reliance on market forces, which guarantees worsening inequality and injustice. The second and even more important problem is the obsession with ever increasing affluence. This directly fuels the major global problems of resource depletion, ecological destruction, Third World deprivation, conflict and a falling quality of life.
Section 2 draws the inescapable implications for the basic a satisfactory society must take. It must be based on non-affluent lifestyles, high levels of self-sufficiency within localised economies, cooperation and participation, an almost completely new economic system, and therefore some very different values.
Section 3 briefly discusses how me might best work for such a transition.
Section 1: THE TWO BASIC MISTAKES.
There are two major faults built into the foundations of consumer-capitalist society causing the main global problems threatening our survival. The first is allowing competition within the market to be the major determinant of what is done in our society.
Fault 1: THE MARKET; GLOBAL INJUSTICE.
Markets do some things well and in a satisfactory and sustainable society there could be a considerable role for them, but only if carefully controlled. It is easily shown that the market system is responsible for most of the deprivation and suffering in the world. The basic mechanisms are most clearly seen when we consider what is happening in the Third World. (For detailed documentation see Note 1.)
The enormous amount of poverty and suffering in the Third World is not due to lack of resources. There is for instance sufficient food and land to provide for all. The problem is that these resources are not distributed at all well. Why not? The answer is that this is the way the market economy inevitably works.
The global economy is a market system and in a market scarce things always go mostly to the rich, e.g. to those who can bid most for them. That's why we in rich countries get most of the oil produced. It is also why more than 500 million tonnes of grain are fed to animals in rich countries every year, over one-third of total world grain production, while 1.2 billion people are malnourished.