Illustration by Antía Barba Mariño for 'Guía para o descenso enerxético' (2013). Fragment.
Illustration by Antía Barba Mariño for 'Guía para o descenso enerxético' (2013). Fragment.

CDRCs: A proposal concerning work, resilience, and the repopulation of the countryside

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(First published in Spanish in Crítica Urbana magazine. Translated by Mark Burton and Steven Johnson.)

Work sharing, the repopulation of the countryside, and the urgent recovery of resilience in the face of pending ecosocial collapse are objectives that can be pursued simultaneously and synergistically. The proposed model, Community Development and Resilience Cooperatives (CDRCs[1]), relies on three fundamental pillars to articulate its strategy: direct democracy, cooperativism, and agroecology.

The objective of the proposed plan[2] is multi-pronged and profoundly transformative and ecosocial in nature, to be realized by a system of holistic action whose elements mutually reinforce and sustain each other: sharing work and moving towards full and guaranteed employment; reducing dependence on wage employment; rebuilding community (local) resilience and community ties; creating urban-rural bridges which enhance the resilience of urban metabolism; encouraging the transfer of labour to the countryside to increase local food production and food security; increasing the population’s knowledge and skills for food production; improving health through an ecological diet; transforming the food system toward an ecological agriculture with polycultures located close to the consumers; moving towards genuine democracy; promoting cooperative work as a non-capitalist way to meet basic needs; protecting biodiversity; and mitigating climate chaos.

How it would work

CDRC: Community Development and Resilience Cooperatives
Illustration by Casdeiro
Promoted by the State with the voluntary participation of municipalities, a programme of local CDRCs would be set up, offering participation in them to unemployed people as a priority or to people who are willing to reduce their working hours within work-sharing schemes, but with a proportional or partial reduction in salary[3]. At the same time it would allocate public lands in each area, and buy, rent, or expropriate others, in order to hand them over to the CDRCs to be self-managed by communities, on the condition that they are used for agroecological production, polyfunctional forest plantations, or rewilding projects that are compatible with, and function synergistically with, the areas dedicated to sustainable human use, and other compatible purposes, always oriented towards satisfying local basic needs. In addition, the State would buy, rent, or expropriate dwellings in these work areas to house the people who work full-time in them, offering this incentive of free housing to encourage those who only work part-time to work full-time. Here, the co-housing model, as yet little explored in rural areas, could be encouraged. The CDRCs themselves could also undertake the refurbishment or construction (using ecologically low-impact methods) of such housing.

The CDRCs would have the primary objective of ensuring the supply of healthy food to their members, and would be democratically governed by their members, with minimal State intervention limited to some accounting and supervision to ensure that they are using the resources for the intended purposes and that they are truly functioning as entities of economic democracy. They could sell their surplus production to local non-members via stores, shops, or local markets. Monetary income could not be distributed and would be reinvested in expansion and improvement for their collective purposes, in the style of common lands. Their purposes would include other activities that are directly related to providing the basic needs of the community: housing, education, energy, health, recreation, etc.

This type of cooperative created by the State can take inspiration from the experiences of cooperativists in Cuba during the Special Period and other experiences of self-management in other times and countries such as Yugoslavia or in Barcelona during the Spanish Revolution of 1936, although in the latter case it is worth remembering the great tensions that marked the coexistence of the government of the Second Spanish Republic and the self-managed cooperatives.

Benefits

The incentives for participating in this plan would be multiple and diverse, depending on the actors involved.

  • For persons who were already employed: learning of skills, empowerment concerning work and food, greater job satisfaction, significant reduction of expenses (mainly food), etc.
  • For unemployed participants: the same, plus reducing housing expenses (free housing).
  • For families: improved health, through better diet and reduced exposure to toxic agrochemicals, greater security through increased community resilience, and the rebuilding of social ties.
  • For urban neighborhoods: for every person who is employed full-time who reduces the workload by 50%, another person will be able to find that much employment (and, incidentally, can also join a CDRC); a better social life; increased availability of surplus organic food produced by the nearby CDRCs; etc.
  • For companies that facilitate their employees’ participation in CDRCs: mainly tax benefits.
  • For companies located in the target areas: economic reactivation, greater availability of labour; increased sales and business, etc.
  • For rural areas: repopulation and recovery of public services associated with the population level (educational centres, medical centres, transport, etc.); social revitalisation; rejuvenation of the population; cultural and generational exchange of knowledge; improvement of economic and social activity in general; increase in local employment in sectors related to housing: rehabilitation, retrofitting, construction, ideally in the form of cooperatives; incentives for the emergence of housing cooperatives; reduction of costs and risks due to uncultivated lands (fires, clearing, etc.); etc.
  • For the State: self-financing of a job sharing system without having to cover part of the salaries; reduction of health costs by improving diets and reducing pollutants; general increase in the resilience of the country; increase in food security and reduction of the possibilities of social unrest in a context of collapse of the capitalist system.
  • For the biosphere: reduction of emissions by reducing the ecological footprint of industrial food transported over long distances; reduction in the use of agrotoxins and GMOs; protection of biodiversity; etc.

Needed resources

To implement this plan, public lands suitable for cultivation (and rewilding) would be needed in and around cities, as well as spaces for storage and distribution, and vehicles and fuel for sustainable transport of participants between the city and the areas of cultivation. (Where public transport already exists, funds would be needed to make the service free of charge.) Funds would also be needed for the acquisition of tools, seeds, and other necessary equipment and consumables, and for hiring advisors and trainers to collaborate with the CDRCs in their start-up, management, and supervision. The collaboration of public media would also be necessary to explain and disseminate the plan.

With regard to the sensitive matter of fuel, the possibility could be studied of fuelling diesel vans with recycled oil from local restaurants and public and private kitchens, which would be collected and processed by the CDRCs themselves. The need for transport between the urban residential areas and the work areas of the CDRCs is one of the points of the plan that needs to be designed with the greatest care. Priority could be given, in any case, to people who wish to move to the rural or peri-urban work areas (bringing housing closer to the new place of work). And the most sustainable transport methods possible, and other mitigation measures, could be used. If the CDRCs have some urban or peri-urban spaces at their disposal, these should be prioritized for part-time participants to work in, while areas further away from the city would be ideal for resettling those who were previously unemployed.

Illustration by Antía Barba Mariño for 'Guía para o descenso enerxético' (2013).
Illustration by Antía Barba Mariño for ‘Guía para o descenso enerxético‘ (2013).

Notes

[1] The name and concept are inspired by Ted Trainer‘s CDCs.

[2] Instituto Resiliencia would like to thank Vicent Cucarella, Carmen Duce, and Xabier Pombo for the ideas, suggestions, and comments that they contributed during the writing of this proposal.

[3] This would be an important detail to carefully define in the plan. The availability of food and other basic goods thanks to the CDRCs could make up for the loss of part of one’s salary, and the State could meet any remaining shortfall by providing further monetary or non-monetary benefits. Reducing working hours without reducing wages is not very compatible with the objectives of degrowth, in the opinion of some authors.

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Public speaker and writer on Peak Oil and other threats to industrial civilization. Author of La izquierda ante el colapso de la civilización industrial, We, the detritivores and coordinator of Guía para o descenso enerxético. Founder and coordinator of 15/15\15 magazine.

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