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Lift Review: The Resilience Imperative

THE RESILIENCE IMPERATIVE: Cooperative Transitions to a Steady-Sate Economy

Michael Lewis and Pat Conaty. New Society Publishers, Canada. 2012.

This is a sizeable paperback book (text 341 pp, notes 21 pp, bibliography 9pp, index 14pp) by writers very experienced in the USA, Britain and Canada, in the fields of economics, community development, the social and cooperative economy, and more. It would pay to use a strong bookstand when reading it!

There is no denying that we now face a combination of challenges that require radical changes: peak oil, climate change, a growth-addicted global financial system, and gross inequity. To help the reader keep focus, key terms are neatly provided: “SEE Change” = Social, Ecological, Economic (instead of the old Sea-Change). And in these fields of SEE Change we must ‘SEE our planet and our place in it differently’; we must ‘SEEK strategic pathways through which to bring into balance our relationships with each other and with the earth’; we must ‘SHARE what we are learning, spreading the knowledge far and wide; and we must ‘SECURE the paths we cut through the hubris of our 21st century predicament’. An analysis of how we came to be in this situation is followed by the “five exit ramps”: resilience – strengthening our capacity to adapt; reclaiming the commons; reinventing democracy; constructing a social solidarity economy; and pricing as if people and the planet mattered. These concepts are then explored, with many detailed examples, throughout the book, enabling readers to understand and make use of them in their own situations.

After a chapter on the rise of the ‘free market”, corporate power, and the banking system, the following chapters give details of the history of several issues, with fully described examples of alternative methods of dealing with them, that have been developed, succeeded or failed, in many countries, over a long period of time. The issues covered are: interest-free lending; affordable housing; energy sufficiency; sustainable food; localizing economy; banking innovations; securing the gains by federating the change agents; economic democracy and cooperative capital; transitions in ownership transfer; and how we can break free from the contradictions in our systems towards true resilience. In the Epilogue, an excellent summary is provided of the seven resilience principles and the seven cooperative principles, the best foundations for action.

Several chapters include a section on the Hartwicks, a hypothetical Canadian family of 5, discussing and providing charts on the financial effects of the innovations in the chapter.   The final chart at the end of the book reveals huge savings over 25 years, in finance and life energy. A particularly useful section comes at the end of most chapters: ‘Transition Factors’ analyses the key influences in the development of the case histories; and ‘Resilience Reflections’ provides an overview, looking back and making connections with other related endeavours in the field of resilience. Clear, strong statements of what is required provide an excellent focus; for example, in the chapter on ‘Ownership Transfer’, “We know change is possible. Likewise, we know the current unprecedented corporate concentration of wealth and power produces economic growth that breeds inequality and unsustainable exploitation of the natural world. The resilience imperative demands we repatriate ownership and regain influence over the enterprises that affect the communities and regions we live (in). We cannot navigate transition unless we have much greater control of our own economic resources.”

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