Charter of the deep future: plenty is enough

Old French map of Pacific Ocean

Photo: nicolas.boullosa/Flickr.

Below is an excerpt from Samuel Alexander’s new book, Entropia: Life Beyond Industrial Civilization. This book is a creative work of fiction – a “utopia of sufficiency” – which brings to life a simple living community that became isolated on a small island after the collapse of industrial civilization. Looking back from the future, the book describes the economy, culture, and politics of the community.

During the Great Disruption our community faced some very hard questions about how we were to live. In particular, we had to make democratic decisions about how we were going to structure our economy, how we were going to govern social relations, and what values were to shape and define these efforts. It was decided that we should work toward creating a constitutional document that would state, in the clearest terms possible, the kind of society we wanted to live in. This document was not intended to end our political debates, but to provide a starting point, a framework within which we could debate and move forward. It is reproduced in its entirety below, as it serves as the best summary of our social, economic and political vision.

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Charter of the Deep Future: Enough, for Everyone, Forever

We affirm that providing “enough, for everyone, forever” is the defining objective of our economy, which we seek to achieve by working together in free association.

We affirm that everyone is free to create as an aesthetic project the meaning of their own lives, while acknowledging that this freedom legitimately extends only so far as others can have the same freedom. Freedom thus implies restraint.

We affirm that our inclusive democracy does not discriminate on such grounds as race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexuality, politics, or faith.

We affirm that generations into the deep future are entitled to the same freedoms as present generations.

We affirm that respecting the deep future requires maintaining a healthy environment.

We affirm that technology can help to protect our environment only if it is governed by an ethics of sufficiency, not an ethics of growth. Efficiency without sufficiency is lost.

We affirm that maintaining a healthy environment requires creating a stationary state economy that operates within environmental and energy limits.

We affirm that a stationary state means stabilizing consumption and population, transitioning to renewable sources of energy, and adapting to reduced energy supply.

We affirm that strict limits on material accumulation are required if a stationary state is to maintain a just distribution of resources and avoid corrosive inequalities.

We affirm that property rights are justifiable only to the extent they serve the common good, including the overriding interests of humanitarian and ecological justice.

We affirm that a stationary state economy depends on a culture that embraces lifestyles of material sufficiency and rejects lifestyles of material affluence.

We affirm that material sufficiency in a free society provides the conditions for an infinite variety of meaningful, happy, and fulfilling lives.

– Samuel Alexander, Transition Voice

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Comments

  1. Auntiegrav says

    You can simplify a lot of this down to “We affirm that we will be more useful to the future of our environment than consumptive of it.”

    The opposite of consumption is not frugality: it is generosity. Equal consumption is still consumption.

    As Wendell Berry put it, “What are people FOR?”
    I submit it is to be useful to their environment in thoughtful ways (if you insist that there must be some kind of “meaning” to everything; which I don’t). Without a purpose to the universe, we should at least seek a purpose and obligation to our own offspring, since a commitment to our mortal selves is ridiculously short-sighted.
    Commitments to some imagined afterlife is equally selfish and power-serving. The only life that counts is that which persists physically to act. Actions based on unquestioned beliefs will lead to evil things.
    Questioning everything leads only to reality (that which remains even when you don’t believe in it).
    Reality demands that if we are to persist as a species, we must contribute more than we consume (sustainability is not enough to make up for random catastrophe) and do so in diverse ways (in order that SOME of us are adapted to random changes).

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