Is Peer-to-Peer Energy the Next Big Sharing Thing?

By Guy James


In Spain, solar panels are being taxed so that it is less financially viable to produce one’s own energy than it is to connect to the grid owned by the major electricity providers – no coincidence that the ex-premier of Spain now works for the main electricity company (which was of course privatised on his watch).

However in the Netherlands, things are different – the utility company (the middleman who was previously necessary in the provision of electricity services), can now be bypassed. Shareable’s Cat Johnson explains:

Selling excess solar or wind energy back to the power company is not a new idea. But what if, instead of selling renewable energy back to companies who then sell it to our neighbors, we could sell the energy directly to our neighbors?

Read More…


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Only Human? 14-16 November

By chrisfremantle

Picture after picture [by photographer Chris Jordan] depicts the decomposed bodies of albatross chicks – just bones, feathers, and a beak remaining, and in the middle of each, a multicolored pile of plastic and other debris: cigarette lighters, bottle tops, toy soldiers, and so many other little items.”

“Millions of years of albatross evolution – woven together by the lives and reproductive labours of countless individual birds – comes into contact with less than 100 years of human “ingenuity” in the form of plastics and organochlorines discovered or commercialized in the early decades of the twentieth century.”

Reading Flight Ways: Life and Loss at the Edge of Extinction by Thom Van Dooren in preparation for chairing a discussion on Sunday 16th November at the Only Human? Festival in Glasgow.

The humanities and creative practices have a role in comprehending the meaning of the anthropocene, where all of the world is affected by one/our species. We have a role in addressing extinction, the end point of millions of years of the evolution of, for example, the albatross becoming itself as a species, and its-selves as individuals. We have a role in challenging human exceptionalism. Face it, we need to talk about it.

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A Collapse of Time, Part I

By AvivaRahmani

49 leading environmental activists from all over the world convened at Cooper Union for a two-day Teach-In conference this weekend on Techno-Utopianism & the Fate of the Earth; why Technology will not Save the World, presented by the International Forum on Globalization and the Techno-Utopia Project in collaboration with the International Center for Technology Assessment, the New York Open Center and the Schumacher Center for New Economics.
Throuout the two days, they reminded us that revolutions start and even are carried out by a handful of people. Tho the reality is grim, we have the means to resist. The first act of resistance will be to get out the vote in the USA next week, despite the feelings of learned helplessness in the electorate. The changes they discussed in this event have all happened very quickly, in the past ten years, and our time is short to forestall the worst damage of what has been set in motion.
I took many notes and will add installments, links and pictures to this post over the next few days, as I have time. First, I want to just set it all down. I took the notes so fast that I’m not sure I always got the precise quote or the attribution so apologize for that. It will need to be better organized later.
The general message was that corporations have bought governments internationally, and especially, in the United States, where the Koch Bros have bought most Universities, the US Congress and are about to buy the Senate. However, there is a vigorous resistance movement led by Indigenous Peoples and young organic farmers. The goal of the Koch Bros and their cohorts is a state of perpetual global nuclear war fueled by conscienceless extractive industries, manned increasingly by intelligent robots and enslaved and indentured human labor, thanks to vast over-population. Science fiction horror story? Not anymore.
The antidote is accepting limitation, effecting structural change, collaboration without ego, facing how addicted we are to the delusion of cheap, easy, fast energy. We must come back to our bodies and the earth. “Efficiency” only increases competition and alienation. Negative consequences are inevitable (Barry Commoner). There are no techno fixes. Over-population is the friend of business and religion (but not the earth). Over-population began with agriculture, not the industrial revolution, when we got the idea we could control nature. At the advent of agriculture, the human population exploded. Everything has a cost. Progress is a process of diminishing returns. The weakness of the scientific method is reductionism. We now have market driven education. There was a time when the UN had regulatory control over corporations, but pressure from the US gutted those provisions.
Helen Callicott: Congress has now allocated $1 trillion to new nuclear programs that even the Pentagon did not want. 1 million people died from Chernobyl. Nothing should be eaten from Turkey or Japan because it is so radioactive. Fukushima still releases 3-400 tons of radioactivity into the Pacific Ocean daily. This is a crisis without end. The goal now is nuclear power to explore space for mineral extractions by the military industrial complex.
Wes Jackson: “technology shapes culture. Biodiversity (should be) the metric for success. Efficiency is inherent in natural integrities.”
“How to survive genocide (towards the goal of extractive industries)?”
weapons of war have become the US’s primary industry. $.59 of every tax dollar goes towards the Pentagon. 10% of Maine’s economy is now military and they plan to put missile sites and toxic fuel in the Rangeley Mountains at a cost of $4 billion to benefit Boeing. The Chicago Crown family is being “rewarded” by Obama for their support of his election with the Rangeley contract. The Pentagon didn’t even want it. Not even Congress wanted it but Obama did.
Vandana Shiva: “We defended the freedom of the seeds. Monsanto earned $10 billion from seed patenting in the US alone. They have bought the biggest soil database. They are sueing seed libraries. In 2008, Ghandi taught us not to obey bad laws. The propaganda for this corporate biopiracy is being packaged as religion, referring to “miracle” seeds and apostles.
GMOs are failures. They advertise results before they have them and then can’t verify anything. Instead, indigenous yields are 10- 100 times what Monsanto can deliver. Monsanto delivers “food” commodities that aren’t actually food. They measure “yield” but not nutrition. GMO agricultural land produces 30% of food but destroys 70% of the earth’s biodiversity.”
Atossi Soltani on work in the Amazon: “Indigenous peoples are the guardians of the earth. Their lands are the same lands where we find 80% of the earth’s biodiversity. 4% of the world’s population are protecting that 80%. We must subvert the war paradigm that leads to deforestation. This means being good to our ancestors. The most biodiverse lands are threatened today by oil companies. When 800 000 Ecuadorans signed a petition to keep the oil in the ground, but President Rafael Correo went back on his campaign promises and over rode the petition.
Richard Feinberg: “the party (for us) is over. Adam Smith warned us that applying supply and demand to nature is a recipe for disaster. (But now) labor (humans), and land (nature), have all been commodified. EROEI: energy return on energy investment. We need FRED: Facing the reality of Extinction and Doom. Efficiency = ideological displacement, cognitive belittlement and fictitious commodities unless we can re-embed the economy in ecology and nature. Denial of limits means the loss of beauty. (Because) we haven’t accepted limitation, the banks have been allowed to get even bigger and more irresponsible. The coming crash will be 10X worse than what we saw in 2008.
Quote from a Chinese GMO scientist: “we can now produce anything, anywhere, without people.” This will mean the end of countless small farmers world-wide, for example in Haiti where they produce vetiver for perfumes or in Madagascar where they produce vanilla.
Anthropocentrism, arrogance, greed run amuck.
The question this begs is, without real education, jobs, or governance, what will happen to the billions of useless, disenfranchised, impoverished people of the world, let alone, the remaining wildlife?
Pat Mooney: “the rich see what’s coming. The poor can’t get out of the way.”
We need:
1. public education
2. exposure
3. strategy
Ralph Nader: “organize, organize with the right, organize. The biggest asset these corporations have is to inculcate feelings of powerlessness. How they have done this is:
1. technological development
2. secrecy
3. alliance with the state
4. buying time with a science backlash
5. They have confused corporate science with academic science
6. They have compromised academic credibility in Universities with “research” money
This is the golden age of exposure documentaries but the missing link is distribution. The best films might reach 150 000. The best book might reach 10 000.
The public must wake up, be woken up. Start small, in one place, 1 congressional district. Organize with intensity, persistence. Change the zeitgeist.
The prescription: clear thinking. (But) the public (seems) bored with solutions.
(Is it) easier than we think? How much does it take to effect change?”
Bill McKibben: “I (still) feel fear dominated by sadness. ‘We have become as gods, destroyers of the world.’ Restraint is a gift. The climate change movement is conservative. The oil people are reckless radicals. This will be a leaderless movement. We will be protean.”
Personally, I felt devastated and physically sick, as I had written on FB Saturday night, by the sheer scale of evil ambition and ruthless exercise of financial power that was being detailed. I also found myself thinking that the community appeal of the presenters would not be met (at least among ecological artists, whom I think should be spearheading a response) because the market forces on us still make ego and competition too tempting distractions from what is required, which is grounded in a profound generosity of spirit and vision- that little in art world traditions fosters.

However, I do still think most of us can (and should) be part of a significant movement. As I stressed, it just takes a few, not all of us.

What the presenters spoke about that answers spiritual questions on Sunday, was the sheer faith in that possibility of the power of the small and few, not just in terms of activist organizing, but the very personal capacity of humans to rise to these challenges and how those few people can turn a tide (what for me, represents what I term trigger points). I think that is a profoundly spiritual position. I suppose I didn’t write more about it yesterday because it both seemed obvious to me and I was still reeling from much of what I’d heard and been thinking about.

Finally, Sunday, which is what I will write more about asap, was all about models of incredible courage and beauty, mostly, as I wrote before, from Indigenous and young people. In the case of the former, the spiritual was explicit in many forms and deeply inspiring, even cathartic to hear.

A theme that emerged at the conference Sunday, was that property-based laws that protect corporate banditry are unjust, must be resisted and fought, just as people fought for slave emancipation and suffrage. That analogy was repeatedly made and framed as the “integrity of whole communities,” including whole rivers, etc. Winona LaDuke & a woman from the Amazon were amazing on this topic. That is what I will write about next.

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Co-ops and Commons: Exciting Convergences in the UK

By David Bollier


New Start magazine, a British magazine associated with the Manchester-based Centre for Local Economic Strategies, has just come out with a terrific issue (#525, October 2014) about co-operatives and commons. The essays focus on how “more democratic forms of ownership – of land, housing, workplaces and the public realm – can revive our places.”

While most of the essays deal with British co-ops and commons, the lessons and strategies mentioned have a relevance to many other places. Consider land ownership, a topic that is rarely a part of progressive political agendas. Steve Bendle, director of a group called Community Land and Finance, offers a clear-eyed assessment of how government is obsessed with enhancing the value of land for landowners and developers – while largely ignoring how land could be used to serve citizens, taxpayers and the wider community.

Unneeded land and government buildings, for example, are generally put up for sale on the market rather than used to serve the needs of a community for housing, work spaces or civic infrastructure. The assumption is that privatized, market-driven uses of the assets will yield the greatest “value” (narrowly defined as return on investment to private investors).

When government (i.e., taxpayers) finances new roads, subways or rail systems, the market value at key locations and buildings invariably rises. But government rarely does much to capture this value for the public.

Bendle concludes: “So developers and landowners make profits, while the public sector struggles to secure a contribution to infrastructure costs or to deliver affordable homes despite successive attempts to change the planning system.”

There’s a better, more commons-friendly way, says Bendle: Use community–owned land and revolving co-operative capital finance as “the platform for a wide range of ‘apps’ including co-ops, community land trusts or co-operative land banks at the garden city scale. What these co-operative place-making social enterprises could deliver is not just housing but could include renewable energy, community food and agriculture, social care co-operatives, car share schemes and community transport.”

Bendell quotes Winston Churchill, writing in 1909: “Roads are made, streets are made, railway services are improved, electric light turns night into day, electric trams glide swiftly to and fro, water is brought from reservoirs a hundred miles off in the mountains – and all the while the landlord sits still. To not one of those improvements does the land monopolist contribute, and yet by every one of them the value of his land is sensibly enhanced.”

There are many other compelling features in the special issue of New Start, edited by Clare Goff:

Q & A with Tessy Britton: Building an Urban Commons: Tessy Britton has documented people-led initiatives across the country. She talks to New Start about having her imagination captured by the idea of widescale creative civic participation.

Lambeth Council: Learning Lessons in Co-operation: An empty shop in south London is helping Lambeth council workers change the way they do their jobs. Clare Goff visits the ‘co-operative council’ and finds a changed conversation taking place.

How to…. Create Tomorrow’s Garden City: Winner of the Wolfson Economics Prize for their vision of a 21st century garden city, Urbed’s Nicholas Falk talks through his winning entry and urges new garden cities to capture the ‘common wealth’ for local good.

Local Policies for Building Common Wealth: We need to move beyond ‘projects’ and towards policies that help build and sustain community wealth, says John Duda of the Democracy Collaborative.

10 Ideas for Change: Co-operative Local Economies: Rooted in community and in the democratisation of ownership, co-operative structures allow citizens to reclaim power over their workplaces, their open spaces, their housing, and public realm. Here are ten ideas for building grassroots democratic economies.

How Local Authorities Are Supporting Community Land Trusts: There are now 170 CLTs across England and Wales, half of which have formed in the last two years. This rising movement builds on a rich history in the UK of defence and stewardship of the commons, which includes the three thousand valiant rebels killed by the state in 1549, whilst protesting the illegal enclosure of common lands.

Land: the elephant in the room. Pat Conaty explores how Letchworth, the first garden city, was able to capture lease income from the land by having co-operative ownership of land and infrastructure. The revenue from commercial buildings could then be reinvested continuously in community improvements.

We need a social economy. Ed Mayo of Co-operatives UK describes the formation of a Social Economy Alliance that is bringing a specific policy agenda to politicians.

Places as platforms for civic collaboration. Joost Beundermanof Civic Systems Labs proposes that we regard government as a platform that makes people true collaborators and supports them in contributing what they want — instead of of government simply executing tasks set by others.

Recommended reading!

Originally published in


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Peadar Kirby in discussion with Michel Bauwens

By Kevin Flanagan


Continuing our series from Open Everything we have today Professor Peadar Kirby, a resident of Cloughjordan Ecovillage in discussion with Michel Bauwens.

If you are interested in other videos from this series see presentations by Peter Couchman , John Restakis and Michel Bauwens .

Open Everything took place last month at Cloughjordan Ecovillage in Ireland and was organised in partnership with the P2P Foundation, Cultivate and WeCreate FabLab.

Question and Answer Session


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