As Jeff Rubin, former chief economist for CIBC World Markets, puts it, “Our world is about to get a whole lot smaller.” Due to escalating fossil fuel prices and carbon levels, we soon shall have no choice but to obtain more of our basic needs from producers much closer by and sell more of what we produce to markets much closer by. We have to reweave our economies to make them more self-reliant, locally and regionally.
To do this effectively, we must address the issue of ownership. The global economy in which we currently live is characterized by a massive concentration of ownership. This is not going to disappear overnight. But we must be proactive. Ownership of the means to finance, produce, and distribute goods and services has to involve more people. It must become more local and more democratic, and more citizens must be engaged as co-producers rather than mere consumers.
Without ownership of the means of production we are vulnerable to the short-term profit orientation of distant owners. Without ownership we are more vulnerable to disruption from rising fossil fuel prices and volatile climate events elsewhere. Without ownership there is no sure way to reinvest surpluses into adaptation and transition where we live. Without ownership oriented to local benefit, to greater democracy, and to social and environment returns on investment as well as financial returns, citizens will not assume the duties of co-producers, and become aware and deliberate in their consumption choices. Without that engagement of citizens, we will have great difficulty achieving levels of aggregate demand sufficient to sustain local and regional self-reliance.
The issue of ownership is an enormous challenge. To move on it we have to co-ordinate the engagement, planning, and action of a range of community and sector stakeholders.
For example, to reweave the food system to serve local and regional markets requires a range of initiatives in production, processing, warehousing, distribution, and marketing. This effort will involve planning, organization, technical assistance, and financing well beyond the means of any single firm. Instead, it must occur co-operatively. It must be the common endeavour of local and regionally-owned private business, social enterprises, community economic development organizations and public agencies. Co-operatives and nonprofits as well as municipal and community development organizations are key to bringing together the pieces of the transition puzzle.
CCCR has a long history in several areas relevant to the challenge of local ownership and self-reliance.