Welcome to EarthConnected!

This blog is part of a conversation with other people who want a radically changed culture. Are you working towards a practical collaborative sustainable way of living? Looking for ways to create an economy run not for financial gain but for quality, social need and a healthy environment? Exploring ways in which we could grow community based economies?

I think there are practical routes through to it, using communications technologies and systems principles. I spell out all of this in my book eGaia, Growing a peaceful, sustainable Earth through communications.

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Stop the pylons: Alternatives to the “East Anglia GREEN” transmission line proposal

The best solutions to our energy future don’t require massive new electricity grids

There is a new campaign that I’m beginning to get involved with. It builds on my early experience as Director of the Open University Energy Research Group many years ago, but also is an opportunity to present a genuinely sustainable solution to our energy problems.

The Issue

National Grid is proposing to build “a new 400,000 volts (400 kV) electricity overhead transmission line” across East Anglia and is presenting it as a ‘green’ solution: “a crucial role and pivotal in turning the UK’s net zero ambitions into reality.”

They say:
“The existing network in East Anglia currently carries around 3,200 megawatts (MW) of electricity generation. Over the next decade we expect more than 15,000 MW of new generation and 4,500 MW of new interconnection to connect in the region.

That is, they say their network needs to carry SIX times the power it does now. Imagine the current set of pylons and the lower voltage feeder networks around East Anglia expanded by a factor of six. A large and growing number of people are very upset by this prospect and rightly so.

National Grid present this six times expansion as a necessary fact, and are consulting only on the details of the proposed new transmission line, such as whether it should go east or west of Roydon. But of course, it isn’t a fact, it is a fantasy, and a dystopian fantasy too. It is applying 20th century thinking to a 21st century problem, but a much better 21st century vision is available that is much more environmentally sound.

Here’s a 2 page document I wrote that gives a more sensible alternative.

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A New Common Sense

This little 3 minute video was first published in May, in the first lockdown. My hope is that it will be used as a starting point for group discussions, by groups looking to build a new kind of future, as the pandemic subsides.

Really, what is The new common sense?

I’m really proud of this video, love the graphics and all the little personal contributions. It was a group effort, that included various family members and close friends. The YouTube page says:

We hope this video will inspire you to think about what you would like to see happening after the pandemic. Add your own selfie and see others on our FaceBook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/52237… Also, for more information: https://planet.coop .

Created and produced by Gary Alexander, Madeline Lees, David Alexander and Daisy Lees. Graphics by Alex Brenchley. Special thanks to Maty Sene Carpenter, Anna Mudeka, Samira, Clive, Aicha, Sinder, Rama, Mimi, Arthur, Max, Jane, who all feature in the video. Thanks also to Vibha, Ali, Hamidou, AH, Renata, Keely, Dulcie, Sam, Basil, Jon and Angela.

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Planetmakers Platform

For much of the past year I’ve been working on a major new project, which has gone through various incarnations and working titles. It started with my presentation to Open:2018, where I was proposing that we build the Open Coop’s long standing design for “PLANET – An open-source operating system for a collaborative, sustainable economy” on top of Holochain.  Then we discovered a €1 Million EU prize, Blockchains for Social Good, that seemed perfect to fund it. We put in an application for that prize on 2nd Sept 2019!

For a quick overview of the project look at our new website, planet.coop (isn’t that a great URL?), and for a fuller description, download a copy of our EU Prize application (also found on the About page of the website).

We may or may not win the EU Prize, but applying for it has meant that the vision I’ve been writing about in eGaia, and Partnership for People and Planet now has a great start. We have a good team and a fine set of partner organisations working with us, and think we are in a strong position to get other funding should we not get the EU prize.

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Theresa May’s con trick and a real solution

Here’s what I think is the confidence trick in Theresa May’s current stance.

The Prime Minister claims that the deal she has negotiated is the only one possible, which may be true, but only given her ‘red lines’. If they are loosened, a different deal is possible.

In particular, her insistence on no customs union (i.e. getting out of the tarriff-free EU), requires new tariff agreements on all forms of goods and services. That affects all borders, including the Irish border and all ports. With an economy totally integrated into Europe after 40 years of free trade that will take a lot of time to negotiate, most of which is left to the ‘transition period’, after we leave the EU. It isn’t part of the ‘deal’. That is why the EU has insisted on the backstop, which basically keeps us in the customs union until  those new tariffs are agreed. So the backstop really is very likely to be needed, and probably for a long time.

This really is an impossible situation, so she is pushing it until the last minute before we leave the EU, to frighten everyone with a prospect of no deal, and that is why she won’t agree to rule out no deal.

The anger of the vote leave people is real and justified. It is due to rising inequality and austerity, but the far right has played their usual trick of blaming it on scapegoats: the EU and immigrants. So that anger will erupt if we don’t leave now. A second referendum would give people a chance to see through the con job and so defeat the chance to leave the EU.

The real solution is a changed economy based on equality and environmental soundness. The movement to build that is now growing quietly, within the existing economy, but it is still well below the radar. For example, I spent three hours yesterday in two online video conferences about it (as a participant, not an organiser or speaker). One was the Municipalities in Transition project, bringing together community groups working with their local governments for a more collaborative and sustainable economy. The other was a progress report on the Holo project, building a decentralised internet, which would form the basis of a decentralised economy with alternatives to the dominant financial institutions.

So, would leaving the EU, especially crashing out make this more or less likely?  I don’t think that is knowable and can see scenarios both ways. The fragile, embryonic new economy could be empowered by economic chaos but it could also be squashed by an increased authoritarianism. It is a global, not a British project, so I think we would be better off building it while within the EU.

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A SHARED SOCIAL VISION: my talk to Open:2018 Platform Coops conference

I gave a talk at the Open Coop event, “Open:2018 Platform Coops”on 27 July 2018 in Conway Hall, London.  The Open Coop has recently completed putting its various talks and workshops online, so I’ve linked mine below. I thought it was a great event, and recommend people look at various of the other parts of it too.

My talk was about 12 minutes long and then there are another 12 minutes or so of questions and answers. It included four polls of the audience to see how much the vision was actually shared. See how much you agree too!

Note that I used slides that built in stages, and you will see that the poor editor who tried to turn this into a coherent video struggled with that, but the audio is clear throughout.

Alternatively, here is the PowerPoint presentation. If you look at it in presenter mode you can see my speakers notes (here augumented for clarity) and the slide builds. Alternatively, here it is as a pdf, with notes, but no slide builds. Open2018 talk with comments(ppt)   Open2018 talk with comments (pdf) (Caution: both big files.)

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Partnership for People and Planet

A world organised to serve the wellbeing of people and planet, not money and power!

The key is a new ‘killer app’, built around reputation for serving people and planet, as the heart of a mutual suppport and trading system. With it as the basis of a global network of local networks, it could be the catalyst to pull our movement together. It will strengthen us individually and collectively.

Read this to see why I have  come to believe that it is within reach: that we could make a significant start within 5 years leading to rapid growth, and then a tipping point so that by 2050 it could be approaching mainstream to the extent that mobile phones are now.

The pamphlet is short and a quick read. See what you think.

PDF version, 20 A5 pages: P3 Vision.v5.2up 

As A5 booklet for printing. Print double-sided, short edge binding: P3 Vision.v5 booklet

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A Labour manifesto for the next election!

“The ‘Wellbeing of People and Planet’ (WPP) is the right driving force for a society that actually works, and is sustainable and robust enough to survive the coming social and environmental crises. Growth in WPP needs to replace economic growth (i.e. in GDP) as a social goal, as that is what is causing the problems.”

I have sent the message below to several Labour party politicians: Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Emma Rees (Momentum), Clive Lewis and Danielle Glavin (local Labour candidate in the recent election).

What do you think?

A Labour manifesto for the next election!

I imagine you are now working on the next manifesto for the moment when the Tories come unstuck. I hope the ideas below resonate with your thinking, and would be happy to meet with you or your advisors or colleagues who think similarly, if you think it would be helpful.

I was very pleased with the Labour Manifesto and especially with its reception at the election. Traditional Labour values – about building a society that looks after people not profit – are what I grew up with. After a few decades of a Labour party that is really Tory-light, it is great to see this in favour again.

Now that you will have a little more time to prepare, you might be considering the change from ‘traditional Labour’ to ‘21st Century Labour’, which for me and many I know, means looking after the wellbeing of people and planet, not just people. It goes way beyond ‘business as usual but with more renewables’. This actually means a substantial extra layer of policy and effort: towards a really decentralised, cooperative, less wasteful, low consumption but high wellbeing, community-based society that will massively reduce the load on central government services, and provide the resilience an environmentally-friendly society requires.

The ‘Wellbeing of People and Planet’ (WPP) is the right driving force for a society that actually works, and is sustainable and robust enough to survive the coming social and environmental crises. Growth in WPP needs to replace economic growth (i.e. in GDP) as a social goal, as that is what is causing the problems. Wellbeing of people incorporates the traditional Labour values of treating people with respect, paying employees and suppliers fairly rather than as little as possible, charging customers fairly. Wellbeing of planet means being aware of and using environmental best practice.

Practical steps are to promote WPP for people, organisations and businesses through regional and community suppport organisations, through public reputation (Which are the firms that best support WPP?), and financial incentives.

The Magic Money Tree: making it work for WPP. The Magic Money tree is a very useful metaphor. It certainly exists (see this), and is the main driver of social inequality, but we can plant a new forest of Magic Money Trees that support communities and WPP.

The current Magic Money Tree can be partially bent/trained towards WPP through conventional means like closing tax havens, tax loopholes, transaction taxes, wealth taxes, etc. raising very large sums.

However, bringing money creation under government and community control is much more powerful still. (ex. Bailing out the banks cost more than 10 times as much as the proposals in the Labour manifesto.) The key is giving people access to credit, which is really all that creating money is. This means forming/supporting regional and community banks, under local control, where profits go back to the community, bypassing the conventional financial institutions.

Money is needed to help people exchange with each other where there is limited trust, but within communities (not just local ones), where trust exists and can be nurtured, gift economy practices are much more powerful. We can build community exchanges based on a mixture of money and favours to provide much of life’s basics: food, services, caring, transport, energy, accomodation. These can get people (at least partially) off the money hook, providing not so much jobs, as numerous opportunities to give and receive from their community. This can create opportunities for people to give and receive who can’t otherwise contribute much (housebound, disabled, youth, elderly, etc.).

There is much about ideas like this on my website, but I can give you links and references to many people, organisations, books, etc. who are currently working on starting points to this kind of society.

I hope you find this is in line with your own thinking, and would be happy to work with you on furthering it.


Gary Alexander

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My ‘Radical Technology’ talks are now online

I’ve been recently told that the very interesting Radical Technology Revisited conference held in London last September has now put all the talks online. I gave two talks, and so I’m very happy to give the links.

My first talk was called “Radical Communication Technology“. (View it as full screen or it cuts off the top of my head.) I was presenting a quick summary of a transition to a cooperative, sustainable society,  where we are with it now, and how communications technologies are one key to it. It lasted for about 10 minutes. I didn’t use slides but here are my notes as a one-page pdf:  RadTechTalk1Comms.

My second talk was called Green Growth: Contradiction or Necessity?   as part of a session called “Is small still beautiful?” I argue that if we mean by ‘green growth’  continued GDP growth that is somehow greener, that is indeed a contradiction, but if we mean ‘growth in the wellbeing of people and planet’, then it is a necessity, and it is growing now. The form that is becoming clearer is a cooperative society with environmental care at its heart. I list lots of starting points, and show very brief videos introducing three of them: Transition Network, Enspiral and Ecobasa. The talk lasts about 20 minutes. Here are my slides for the talk, as a pdf, which includes my presenter notes and clickable links for the video extracts.

Hope you like them. Let me know what you think.


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Don’t ditch Corbyn

Corbyn did well in the referendum. Trying to sack him is just opportunism by the New Labour/Blairite faction, and is suicidal for the Labour Party.

Rather, the Labour Party should be jumping at the opportunity to sweep up the Leave and Remain voters with a new vision: People taking back control of their own lives, not just from a bureacratic EU, but a controlling Westminster, and especially from banks and big businesses.

Lead a partnership to set up an economy that really works, that serves people and planet, is controlled by local communities working collaboratively. Set up networks of co-operatives and ethical businesses, stabilised by public reputation, not wealth.

Help us enjoy the mixing of cultures that is sweeping the world. They are not a threat, if we work to serve each other, not compete with each other. You don’t need to be in power to do this, but it will put you in power.

Top tip: IT tools make this possible for the first time.

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Toward Regenerative Society: Plan for Rapid Transition

I’ve just read this excellent paper Toward Regenerative Society: Plan for Rapid Transition, from the Center for Planetary Culture. It gives an excellent overview of the kind of society so many of us are seeking. Here’s the table of contents:

Planfor RapidTransition paper ToC

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