John Thackara: A Restorative Economy
What might a new economy look like? Creating stories of plausible and desirable futures - imagining them and sharing our hopes with others - helps bring them into being.
A new kind of economy - a restorative economy - is emerging in a million grassroots projects all over the world. The better-known examples have names like Post-Carbon Cities, or Transition Towns. But examples also include dam removers, seed bankers, and iPhone doctors.
A restorative economy is emerging wherever people are growing food in cities, or turning school backyards into edible gardens. The movement includes people who are restoring ecosystems and watersheds; their number includes dam removers, wetland restorers, and rainwater rescuers. Many people in this movement are recycling buildings in downtowns and suburbs, favelas and slums. They often work alongside computer recyclers, hardware bricoleurs, office-block refurbishers and trailer-park renewers.
You’ll find the movement wherever people are launching local currencies. In their version of a green economy exchange system, 70 million 'unbanked' Africans exchange airtime, not cash, using the M-pesa system. For every daily life-support system that is unsustainable now — food, health, shelter and clothing - alternatives are being innovated. Thousands of groups, tens of thousands of experiments.
What these projects have in common is that they are creating value without destroying natural and social assets. I'm not talking here about a 1960s style retreat into an imagined rural idyll, with or without a teepee. On the contrary, the most dynamic restorative design is happening in urban contexts, where it re-imagines the urban landscape itself as an ecology with the potential to support us.
Hardware bricoleur: that's an evocative job title.
Still, I would pair Thackara's vision with a broader one that includes careers for, say, quantum biologists.
(How about you? What are your #neweconomyjobs?)