Distributed by Our Blue Collective – If you enjoyed this article, read the newly released book New Age Socialism by Casper Rove at https://ourbluecollective.org/shop/ols/products/new-age-socialism
Eco-localism advocates for a planned settlement based around a democratically controlled administration that engages in economic activity in order to reduce the costs of living for its members while prioritizing sustainable agriculture and green energy. Ownership of property and economic equipment by the people and for the people allows the community to hold onto its own wealth instead of sending it to landlords or far-away corporations. All profits go to the members of the community. Meanwhile, the democratic nature of the administration grants the ability for residents to overrule decisions usually made by the market – relying on fossil fuels or agricultural chemicals, as examples. Other than that, it would operate just like any other business.
The cooperative or collective would be headed by an administration that represents the community as a whole. The methods of democracy can differ based on what the community prefers, but the basic tenet is that a few individuals would be elected to run the cooperative with major decisions left to referendum. The administration is an empowered actor but respects the fact that every individual is a vested member.
The land requirements would be exceedingly low. It has potential in both economically wealthy areas, where carbon emissions are the highest, and in poorer areas with slightly altered versions . In wealthy regions, the surrounding economy would offer plenty of external employment opportunities for the population to support itself. Otherwise, an income industry could support the basic eco-localist infrastructure. This type of community represents a credible way for philanthropists or governments to sponsor self-perpetuating development in impoverished regions of the world.
Some of the potential infrastructure that could be installed by a collective include an agricultural production facility, grain storage, apartment buildings, thermal lines, an anaerobic digestion facility, a restaurant, and grocery store. The living spaces would be rental properties owned by the collective and rent would be charged without the substantial markup currently seen in rental markets.
There’s cooperative-owned land set aside for animals, orchard space, garden space, a greenhouse, and other economic activities. The center community building would be a facility with the combined capacity of a coffee shop, diner, and bakery. A grocery store and gas station would be attached as well. These are normal facets of life, but the difference is that the profits of these collective-owned operations would go towards reducing the costs of living for the individuals of the community.
There would be a decent amount of employment opportunities coming from the cooperative such as gardeners, farmers, and store clerks. A large number of these would be part-time like beekeeping or raising livestock guardian dogs, with individuals filling the rest of their income however they see fit. An important part of these intra-community jobs would be apprenticeships to share knowledge.
Many farm owners don’t actually do the farming themselves these days. They simply own the land and a working farmer pays them rent to grow crops on that land. If a collective operated similarly, the community would have a revenue stream or the fruits of mechanized farm labor. The collective would pay for a farmer to farm the land and receive the harvest as a result. The available farmland could be divided – with one growing low-impact grasses that would produce hay and grazing land for livestock. The other section would be a crop rotation containing wheat, oats and other row crops. Any bounty from mechanical harvest not used by the residents would just be sold on the market like any other farming operation – funding the collective. After the grasses and grain rotation are done with their cycle, the two fields would swap in a system designed to protect the long-term viability of the soil.
Many people interested in eco-localism would probably like to see subsistence agriculture take place. That might look like large gardens and orchards maintained by the collective, for the purpose of producing purchasable food. Egg-laying poultry could graze in a permaculture food plot field – stocked with productive perennials. Meat poultry can be given access to the orchards to clean up the ground and graze – breaking the pest cycle. The collective could raise a few pigs each year, taking advantage of local food scraps.
Irrigation systems are already mainstream, and they could be fitted to distribute fertilizer and other farming chemicals. This represents an initial investment but increases yields overall, protects from drastic yield failures in drought years, and replaces the process of manual tractor application of farming chemicals.
An income industry just refers to production capacity owned by the collective that is designed to produce goods to be sold for revenue. The income industry pays its employees a wage, but then the additional profits are used to reduce the community’s costs of living.
The acres of farming in the collective would produce a large amount of hay and this can be used to sustain wool sheep. The wool from these sheep can then be processed by the collective into wool rugs or blankets. Another potential income industry could be silk products. This would entail growing mulberry trees, dye plants, and raising silkworms. The silk produced could be turned into socks or robes with waste going to livestock. The income industry could be tractor repair, extending the life of the collective’s own equipment while earning income.
Other more advanced manufacturing options could be stainless steel cups, plastic mold suitcases, wooden spoons, wine, paperclips or anything else that could be sold externally to produce income.
Public thermal pipelines or “district heating” would be a way to maximize the efficiency of thermal needs. A cold line would operate by use of geothermal wells, which is an extremely efficient and cost-effective investment. A geothermal field would also serve as a giant thermal battery, sequestering heat or cold to be used when the season changes. For each residence, basic heat exchangers would use the thermal momentum of the cold line to condition residential air to proper temperature.
The hot line would be a heat reserve for hot water. An insulated pipeline of water would run to each residence at a temperature of >120 degrees Fahrenheit. The hot line could be heated by solar collectors and cooperative-produced biogas with the potential to use natural gas as a backup.
There are multiple benefits to these thermal lines. Since the temperature of the lines are greater than the goal temperatures, the residential heat exchangers could be extremely simplistic. This means the residential units would be longer lasting, cheaper, and need fewer repairs.
Thermal lines require just a few central pieces of equipment that are significantly more energy efficient and industrially robust. Like other utilities, the proportionally lower repair costs would be divided among users.
An anaerobic digester is a tank where organic matter is broken down by bacteria in an oxygen-free environment. This system would serve as a management system for animal, human, food, and other agricultural/organic wastes. It’s akin to the industrial version of composting and produces biogas and digestate. The biogas would be stored and used to heat the settlement’s hot water line. The digestate would be treated to kill any bacteria, tested, and modified until the composition and characteristics are correct as a liquid fertilizer. From there, it would be distributed to the farming acres through the irrigation systems. This replaces synthetic fertilizers which are usually a huge cost to agriculture and the environment.
These systems are already being utilized for farming and human applications – meaning there are already companies with installation capabilities. Any aspiring collective only has to partner with one of these companies instead of reinventing the wheel.
Apartments could be prioritized to qualified individuals who want to set up practices for things like dentistry, healthcare, cosmetology, electric work, plumbing, HVAC, carpet cleaning, etc. The purpose of this is to make these services available to the community. These practices would be privately owned, and the finances would belong to the owner(s). For a large portion of the population, they would commute to a nearby city for full-time employment opportunities.
The concentration of people in the collective can leverage better rates for medical and dental insurance. The collective could also administer an insurance fund for the copays, deductibles, and peripheral costs that insurance doesn’t cover. A tailored cooperative could be specifically set-up by and for families with lifelong high medical costs or special needs.
The settlement could potentially work on self-insuring its buildings. Monthly premiums would be set aside each month so the collective can serve as its own insurance company. Everyone in the collective saves on insurance costs because the fund would accrue interest and there aren’t any stockholders and CEO salaries to pay.
The community can implement any program – anything that is better off functioning as a group. The community could hold a few pickup trucks for short-term rent. Transporting students to the nearest school can be implemented because it makes more sense to do that communally. A large-scale grain mill can be used to bake locally sourced bread every day or the community can choose to prioritize renewable energy and mitigate their footprint on the environment. The opportunities for an eco-localist community to tailor itself to serve its residents are boundless.
As momentum builds, the technical planning for eco-localist cooperatives will grow as well. Demographers need to determine the correct sizing of the various operations and the actual contracts and documents need to be drafted – but they don’t have to be reinvented every time.
When it comes to financing, the options are twofold. The first option is dividing the initial infrastructure debt between the residents. The profits of the collective would then be distributed until those personal loans are repaid. Alternatively, the collective could hold the debt itself as an institution and leverage a sort of ‘property tax’ on each residence – not dissimilar from how landlords or homeowner associations operate today. The profits of the collective would be used to keep that tax as low as possible or even at zero. If the model proves successful, there will be an excess of community profits that go towards reducing the costs of living – whether it be rent, insurance, energy bills, or something else.
As long as the business structure of the collective allows for the investments into infrastructure to be returned and the residents to experience a superior financial situation, the viability of the eco-localist cooperatives as presented here speaks for itself.
Casper Rove is a blue collar worker from Omaha, Nebraska who coaches highschool debate part-time. His free time is best spent making headway in his endeavor for sustainable subsistence farming and looking for the most pragmatic way to convert socialist thought into socialist infrastructure.