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PacificEdge | December 18, 2017

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The Co-operative Commonwealth — a mid-course review

The Co-operative Commonwealth — a mid-course review
Russ Grayson

THE CO-OPERATIVE COMMONWEALTH is a conceptual model that offers a democratic alternative to the continuation of our present ailing socio-economic system and to big-green-system that would replace it. Unlike these systems, the co-operative commonwealth is human-scale development.

The course, Towards the Next System — the Co-operative Commonwealth, is a MOOC — a Massive Open Online Course — and it comes recommended for those engaged with the emerging technological, politico-economic and social trends that are the new society gestating in the degrading body of the old. It might be worth doing next time it is offered.

In the first week we looked at how people are today reclaiming the commons, those shared resources we use. One means of doing this to make housing affordable is through the CLT — the Community Land Trust (eg. Sydney’s Waratah Community Land Trust). The CLT model is applicable for urban housing and for rural farming.

The commons includes more than natural resources. Although much of the internet runs on private servers and telecommunications networks, it has become a public utility and is regarded by many as a commons. Now, numerous organisations and commentators are working to keep it that way. Similarly, there is a move among scientists to put publicly-funded research into the public domain as a knowledge commons rather than lock it away in costly private scientific journals.

The energy internet

This week we looked at energy democracy. Just as in our present-day society, energy is a critical resource that powers much of our lives.

Ideas discussed include distributed energy production or, as some call it, the energy internet because it is structured similarly to the node and connectors of online networks. The idea is that renewable energy systems on domestic, commercial and institutional buildings feed electrical energy to the grid and are paid properly for their role as energy prosumers (producer-consumers). The distributed energy network, just like the distributed online network, is resilient and can reroute around failing nodes.

  • renewable energy sources are distributed: solar, wind. water, tidal
    this enables distributed energy production
  • production can be via distributed and local ownership of renewable energy systems
  • transport systems can be electrified to move away from fossil fuels
  • the transition to energy systems is primarily socio-political and less technological, as we already have many of the technologies we need, which can be improved
  • energy co-operatives, such as those in Scandanavia and Hepburn Wind in Australia, enable citizen investment in the systems that power their homes and that sell surplus energy to the power grid.

Social systems

This week’s topic is social co-ops and social care, the people side of the co-operative commonwealth model.

I recommened the MOOC especially for people working with the permaculture design system as it shows how the small, local initiatives they take are part of a larger-scale social trend.

It puts the economic, technical and political elements often missing from permaculture, but which are an essential part of it, into the mix.

The MOOC is available through Canvas.

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