Greetings to all Occupiers in this cafe.

The "Core Conversation" thread seems to be rife with talk of a different structure and process for what we call our "economy." I am creating this thread with the idea of hauling all that rich conversation over here and re-opening the Core Conversation thread to an exploration of other topics that might one day grow up to be their own threads as well.

Here is where we can critique the old economy if that is your bent, thrash out the meaning and structure of a new economy, the values we hold most dear about energy exchange with our world that truly values the others who share this world, whether it is by legislation or by grass-roots one-brick-at-a-time rebuilding. What needs tweaking? What needs to be discarded.

How do we begin? What are the steps? Where is it happening already? 

Here are some resources I am familiar with:



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If this isn't a core conversation, I don't know what is.

Congrats to you both.


Viktor Papnek also took up a "wholistica" design  practice and spoke clearly and wisely against what Bucky caled "Obnoxico"

Victor Papanek (1927 — January 14, 1998[1]) was a designer and educator who became a strong advocate of the socially and ecologically responsible design of products, tools, and community infrastructures. He disapproved of manufactured products that were unsafe, showy, maladapted, or essentially useless. His products, writings, and lectures were collectively considered an example and spur by many designers. Papanek was a philosopher of design and as such he was an untiring, eloquent promoter of design aims and approaches that would be sensitive to social and ecological considerations. He wrote that "design has become the most powerful tool with which man shapes his tools and environments (and, by extension, society and himself

His designs weer defintely "wholistica", to use David lovely term,  simple, inexpensive, efficient universally accessible.

 We have to go back to this era for  the examples  of a wholistica production ethic and for the thinking and writing pointing us to a "regenerative" or "thriveable: economy.


.no one I know of has done it so well. or spoken so clearly to the non sustainability and destructivemness of of Obnoxico as these thinkers and designers.did.

Modern Governor Jery Brown in his first terms, against a barrage of constant ridicule tried to bring these values to political life and was a isible person in public office wholived, modeled these values..

That way of thinking and envisioning somehow got lost in the shuffle whe we got crazed about feeding the tapeworm of capitalism..dwelling within us like a parasite.   We became enchanted Obnoxico and went into debt to have more and more of that. .

Looking back as Aerin suggests as we see what is before us clearly is a way to put on the mind of 99% without reinventing the wheel..incorporating what is good and bright and worthy into our seeing of what is before us now.  From that elevated place we can co-generate, co-envision what thi smoment in time requires of us.

While there are certainly some visionary ideas from earlier eras, there has been much more creativity invested toward sustainable design in recent decades.

These include: Global Manifesto for a Happier Planet, Deep Ecology, Charter of Rights & Responsibilities, the three E's (ecology, economy, equity), the Precautionary Principle, Natural Step, Houston Principles, Ceres Principles, Forest and Marine Stewardship Councils, Alliance for Sustainability & Asimolar Seven Challenges, William McDonough, the Hannover Principles, regenerative design & Cradle-to-Cradle production, John Todd's Ecological Design, Sanborn Principles, Biomimicry, Permaculture.

In fact, there has been a steady evolution of the core value of Design, from industrial, to efficient, to green, to integrative, to ecological, and to regenerative (which means far more than it did for Bucky - as design which restores the natural landscape).

As a pioneer designer and builder of sustainable homes, and an instructor of sustainable design and construction, here is my summary of some of these key design principles from a course I taught called "Thinking Like a Mountain: Sustainability from the Ground Up":

And here are links to a 10-part series, called "Riversong's Radical Reflections" on shelter that I was invited to write for


 Does the heart of a sustainable economy requre that we also reconsider  what we should regard  as "the commons" and how a sustainable  thrivaeable economy would express that, realize that.

  In particular I am pointing to a fundamental question about who owns a nations natural resources..its  water, its gold, silver, copper,berylium, minerals, precious stones, coal, oil copper etc. Alaska's Permanent Fund is an example of how eranings from oil are redistributed per capita.  Wyoming has a fund based on other commodities; New Mexico one based on leases of public lands and certain other revenues.) Neither of these make disbursements) 

They are called "sovereign wealth funds" and most usually are established with trade surpluses , most based on oil, and most are a way of generating eranings on that revenue through investment.  (whole canof worms and lots of issues but also opportunities there.  For purposes of this conversation it is only important to know that such funds based on commodities exist all over the wolrd ( mostly oil reveue based) and one at least, Alaskas Permament Fund disburses dividend per capita to every citizen of Alaska.

Such a fund, based on public revenue from sale of all  natural commodities, (minerals, metals,oil gas tec.) could result in  a dividend for every man woman and child sufficient to meet basic food and shelter needs.(this year on oil alone alaskans got $1,200 each and oil is only part of  Alaskas valuable natural commodities extractions for sale.  Alaskas disbursement is based on a  growth driven investment straetgy but the fund a "peoples commodity fund" doesn't have to to have  that could make larger up front disbursements at the point of extraction. 


In essence , it's  a kind of revenue sharing where instead of going straight into treasury or the central bank a fixed share of public revenues  go directly to the people.  A child's share would accrue from infancy until majority ( to insure it is available to the child at maturity) so that young people graduating from high school would have an endowment  to begin adult life with.

Such a "Fund of the Commons" could be created nationally and for each state without resolving or changing  the rule of law on who owns these commodities in the first place..just on the principle that public revenue from any aspect of raw natural commodities "harcesting" or public lands  sales or leases should be shared directly with the people. 

Such a fund with "we the people" as shareholders and directors in common could also support invetsments in sustainable, thriveable tehnologies  not necessarily tied to open sourcing of medical reserach, public ownership of patents that serve humanity and our planet, now and in the future. The present funds invest in the 1% furthering "obnoxico"..this fund could serve "wholistica" ( see below for how we are using these words to describe the heart of a sustaianable economy) 

Such a fund has good ground in common law in the sense that it is comparable to "leavings" ( is that the right word?)  the food and harvest left at the perimeters of private land for the poor to gather .(sure beats" freeganomics" or whatever dumpster diving is called)

For purposes of this conversation I guess the central question is should the people receive a direct  share from all public income from raw materials extraction? 

The underlying question  is are these raw materials in the common or, as now defined private.  The little town of Shapleigh Maine in their succesful fending off of Nestle Co. settled this'passed a law which   forbade any owner of land to extract water for sale.  Period.  Tricky but possibly a precedent  that could be extended to other natural resurce commodities.

The core question is do we need to revisit and restore "the commons" ? What is in "the commons"?

I've been aware that considering notions of the commons looks promising in some circles I haven't joined.  It seems to me that it is an unnecessarily long and complicated approach to sustainability, if it even is one.  It looks to me like putting the cart before the horse, a sort of hit-or-miss socio-economic engineering.

If each emigrates to where s/he is and lives wholly at human scale, interdependence with all other beings will be the way.  The commons simply will be within the whole living system, as it has been always for non-human beings.

I agree with that, David.

I am not speaking from inside any circle or cult considering this..I am speaking from my own thought, my own intution about what I see.

 What I am talking about as a "restoration of the commons"  already has "legs" and acceptance through the rather common use of sovereign wealth funds..Alaska's in particular because it already includes the annual public dividend and breaks ground for wider applications of this idea.


Also in the context of a discussion where we put on the mind of the 99% to look at all around us and our possibilities from that point of view, I was very excited by what the poeple Shapleigh, Maine did ..1,200 people in a remote rural maine community sucessfully fending off Netsle's attempt to lawfully extraxt and sell water  under the name "Poland Spring Water".

Why couldn't any state or town iuse that same mecganism to completely reverse access to natural resoyrces by the 1%.  magine what might have hapened in that little town in North Dakota if they had done this before that huge leasehold was acuqired by one or two oil companies who know own all that oil with no mechanism for the people of Wlliston or North Dakota benefiting from that.

That little tiny town could have passed a referendum forbidding the sale or lease of any private land for the extraction of any natural resources or setting terms and conditions for that where "the public interest" would be more central to decision making than profit.

What's more, this can done by referendum.. By people's referendum..At the local level..where tese natural resources are.

I am intrigued by the idea of using this widely used mechanism to effect an almost immediate shift in commodity generated revenue away from "obnoxico" and towards "wholistica" .

The reason I am so intrigued with that is because it is the 1%'s competion for and pre occupation with these natural resources that  is  at heart  not only of income disparity but of one nation exploiting and controling another.

It goes right to heart of capitalism right to the heart of ancient enduring perpetuating control of natural resorces by an elite on the backs of an exploite and suppressed 99%..

here is a link which describes what the people of tiny little Shapleigh Maine did to tak e back control of their water..and I didn't even know this overturn Citizens least in their town!!! Love it.  Local control at its beuatiful most remarkable best

There are a number of problems with what you propose. First, this won't happen at the national level because the corporations (and those who believe in the primacy of private property and "free" markets) already own the government.

Second, on the state level (where it's somewhat easier to implement) it is used as a buy-off of popular resistance to extraction. It's much more difficult to organize opposition to destructive extraction if everyone's getting a share of the booty.

Third, you're using the key terms of exploitation in order to try to circumvent it - such as "natural commodities" and even "natural resources", "people's commodity funds", "revenue sharing", "dividends", "public ownership of patents". Einstein taught us that we can't solve problems with the same mindset which created them.

While a number of rural communities, well before Shapleigh ME, had already outlawed corporate personhood (led by POCLAD, that is a strategy which will require a lot of expensive legal fights all the way to the (very conservative) Supreme Court - fights most small communities cannot afford.

But, more importantly, we don't need to reinvent the commons, since the earth as common property (or, later, trusterty) has been a core value of the American experiment.

"God gave the world in common to all mankind." - John Locke

"The earth is given as a common stock for man to labor and live on." - Thomas Jefferson

"There are two kinds of property. Firstly, natural property, or that which comes to us from the Creator of the universe - such as the earth, air, water. Secondly, artificial or acquired property - the invention of men. In the natural property all individuals have legitimate birthrights. Men did not make the earth. It is the value of the improvement only, and not the earth itself, that is individual property." - Thomas Paine

"The land, the earth God gave man for his home, sustenance, and support, should never be the possession of any man, corporation, society, or unfriendly government, any more than the air or water." - Abraham Lincoln

Thomas Paine's last pamphlet, Agrarian Justice (1787) offered a very specific social security program funded by an estate tax to pay a portion to every youth entering adulthood, every elder, and the lame and blind.

"It is a position not to be controverted that the earth, in its natural, uncultivated state was, and ever would have continued to he, the common property of the human race. In that state every man would have been born to property. He would have been a joint life proprietor with the rest in the property of the soil, and in all its natural productions, vegetable and animal."  

"Every proprietor, therefore, of cultivated lands, owes to the community a ground-rent (for I know of no better term to express the idea) for the land which he holds; and it is from this ground-rent that the fund proposed in this plan is to issue."

"In advocating the case of the persons thus dispossessed, it is a right, and not a charity, that I am pleading for…"

(see my article on Agrarian Justice at

Thomas Jefferson agreed:

"Another means of silently lessening the inequality of [landed] property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions of property in geometrical progression as they rise. Whenever there are in a country uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate the natural right. The earth is given as a common stock for man to labor and live on. If for the encouragement of industry we allow it to be appropriated, we must take care that other employment be provided for those excluded from the appropriation. If we do not, the fundamental right to labor the earth returns to the unemployed..." - letter to Rev. James Madison in February 1787 (president of the College of William & Mary, cousin to the "father of the Constitution")

Henry George (1839-1897) wrote Progress and Poverty in 1879, which sold over 3 million copies and was the second most read book in America after the bible. "We must make land common property," he wrote. Henry George proposed that the "rent of land should be paid to the community, satisfying the equal rights of all other members of the community without disturbing individual title to land, fixity of tenure and undisturbed possession."

Henry George articulated what was accepted by many American thinkers of the time:

  • there can be only conditional private ownership of land but not absolute private ownership of land or natural resources
  • land transactions are, in actuality, transactions of a “bundle of rights”
  • such rights must be allocated according to the moral basis of ownership
  • society must grant secure land tenure, refuse to confiscate the products of labor, and “not sell the land forever”

The ideas Henry George articulated in Progress and Poverty influenced such diverse figures as Leo Tolstoy, Clarence Darrow, Henry Ford, Albert Einstein, Sun Yat-sen, Elizabeth Magie, Frank Lloyd Wright, Aldous Huxley, William F. Buckley, Jr., Ralph Nader, Joseph Stiglitz and Mumia Abu-Jamal - and, yet, almost no American today even knows his name.

(See my article on Earth as a Sacred Trust at



Legalize local investing! by Michael Shuman on 11/10/11.

Gary, I've reached the decision that transforming the global economy requires revolution.  But the opposition is fierce and so to make progress we need a revolution where everyone wins - a revolution with no enemies. At we offer a model that aims to accomplish sustainable prosperity, community by community, so that it succeeds because it is successful, rather than achieving consensus by changing minds, with each community's unique needs met through a common model that any other community can easily adopt. IMO 

I don't think there is any historical example of a "a revolution where everyone wins", since they involve an overturning of existing power relationships. And the major social revolutions - the agricultural, industrial and cybernetic - offered some illusory human benefits (at least for some) at the expense of the many and at great cost to the natural life-support system.

And "sustainable prosperity" is an oxymoron. Ecological sustainability (within which social, political and economic systems are subsumed) is a state in which basic needs are met but no more than that, and in which each species population remains in balance with its local environmental carrying capacity. 

Marshall Sahlins, in 1966, described the "original affluent society" (hunter/gatherers) and differentiated between two fundamentally opposed forms of affluence: hunter-gatherer societies are able to achieve affluence by desiring little and meeting those needs/desires with what is available to them, while in the Western way towards affluence, "man’s wants are great, not to say infinite, whereas his means are limited..."

Yours is a position that many share, and I respect it as thoughtful.  We invite pointed criticism in the hope that we continuously improve our plans and their presentation, and so if you have an opportunity to review the material linked and would care to offer any comments, I would be grateful.  Some who expressed doubt have been swayed to some extent after familiarizing themselves with our strategy, and this perhaps because we listen to criticism and try to answer on point.

I find your two main points -- that not everyone can win a revolution, and that 'sustainable prosperity' is oxymoronic -- very interesting in the historical context you mention.  Let me respond briefly here by noting that changing the global marketplace to a sustainable system would be revolutionary and everyone would win in that eventuality, whereas everyone loses if we don't; and I concede the term 'sustainable propsperity' does seem oxymoronic on it's face, but what we are engaged in with our projects is not to simply change the global system, such as moving it to the right or left, but to establish a parallel local marketplace in every community, so that we go around the monolith.  The hunter/gatherer marketplaces were sometimes sustainable, and sometimes because they could take the marketplace with them when they had exhausted resources where they were; but they weren't prosperous because the populations were too small to accomplish the economy of scale that produces affluence.  What we are trying is to keep the global marketplace but as a weaker brother to the local marketplace, so that we can keep the open exchange of the open marketplace while having the protected resources of the local marketplace, thus 'sustainable prosperity'.


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