Home
Subscribe
Current Issue
Back Issues
Search
Further Resources
About Us
Contact Us

Pacific Ecologist

APPROPRIATE development: the sustainable alternative

Market forces respond only to financial imperatives and are responsible for most of the poverty, suffering, conflict, ecological destruction and under-development in the world, says TED TRAINER. He examines key assumptions of the dominant development paradigm and defines a more appropriate development model, which could easily be implemented worldwide to restore ecological health and speedily bring a high quality of life to ALL human beings.

The vast development literature, at both academic and activist levels fails to acknowledge there is an alternative to the dominant conventional idea of development, which might be termed Appropriate Development. Even critics of development theory and practice, especially among NGOs (non-government organisations) and the political Left, unwittingly adhere firmly to the conventional, capitalist idea of development and show little sign of recognising any other model as possible, let alone preferable.

In this article I want to show the great difference between the two concepts, and argue that conventional, capitalist development, causes and cannot solve major Third World problems, whereas the alternative path could easily do so, if the power and interests of those who currently benefit from capitalist development could be overcome. Here are some core assumptions, taken-for-granted in the dominant idea of development (in bold type), followed by critical comment and the alternative view.

Assumption 1: Development, progress and improving human welfare are essentially about increasing the amount of goods and services people can buy. More production and sales, increases wealth and benefits for everyone. Development is therefore basically about increasing volumes of business turnover, i.e. the volume of production for sale, and thus GDP. In other words, economic growth is more or less equivalent to development, or at least its most important element.

Firstly, consider the extreme narrowness in not only identifying development as a predominantly economic business, but of assuming the only thing that matters in an economy is whether sales are increasing. Obviously development should be about improving all aspects of a society, including: quality of food, water and health services, opportunities for leisure and cultural activity, the level of debate and discussion, processes for government and administration, moral standards, geographic and aesthetic conditions in which people live, citizenship and social responsibility, social cohesion, equity, concern for those less fortunate, quality of life, security, ecological sustainability, and especially improving living conditions of the poorest. The main aim of the economy, should be to improve conditions of life in this wide arena, not just to indiscriminately enlarge production all the time.

Secondly, this indiscriminate element in the conventional approach to development is seriously mistaken. It says "Don't worry about what to develop - just free capitalists and markets to decide." A sensible discussion on development must begin with crucial questions such as, what do we want produced first, where should development resources be focussed to do most good, what should we make sure is not developed, what kind of economy do we want to build, and when will we know we have a satisfactorily developed economy. Increasing the amount people can buy might be relevant, but it is far from the whole or most central point.

Appropriate development is not possible unless deliberate decisions are made about goals and means and deliberate action is taken to develop what's socially desirable. Often this would require contradicting and preventing what capitalists and free markets would do.

Appropriate Development focuses on developing what is needed, which is totally different from development to facilitate what will maximise GDP or business turnover. Many regions with high GDP growth rates have very little or no improvement in living conditions of the poor, but there are some remarkable cases where the "poorest" people have a high quality of life, despite extremely low GDP per capita, such as Kerala and Ladakh in India (below).

In fact, the relation between growth and Appropriate Development is in general quite contradictory. If the goal is to maximise GDP, it will actually prevent appropriate development, because it will ensure development resources will go into whatever will maximise sales for people with money, not into what will most satisfy urgent needs. Hence 60 years of conventional development have greatly enriched the rich while the Fourth World of more than 1 billion people are stagnating or going backwards. About forty countries now have lower GDP per capita than they had 20 years ago.

To define development as increasing GDP is precisely what suits the rich, because it puts top priority on:

  • the freedom to invest in developing what is most profitable and will result in more sales;
  • on freedom for those with more purchasing power to gear production to their demand;
  • on structuring Third World economies to supply goods to rich countries.
All of these are exactly what owners of capital and consumers in rich countries want, but they obviously shift Third World productive capacity from meeting the needs of Third World people to meeting the demands of rich-world investors and consumers.

Some of the most appropriate development initiatives would dramatically reduce GDP. For example if some land growing luxury crops like coffee to export to rich countries was transferred to producing food by and for local people, GDP would drop. In continuing to associate increase in GDP as the goal of development, the more inappropriate development becomes. Increasing GDP is not a goal of Appropriate Development though some of its elements may increase production of some items for sale; others will reduce GDP considerably. A well-developed Thailand for instance would have far less work, production, trade, foreign investment and GDP than it has at present.

Assumption 2: - Development results from the investment of capital. Therefore it's necessary to persuade people with capital to invest, or to borrow. What is developed is decided by those who own capital. Governments must attract owners of capital to invest.

In our society, capital is mostly owned by very few people and they decide what is developed by investing their capital in whatever will maximise their incomes.

Appropriate Development recognises there can be an important role for capital, and is not opposed to foreign investment and loans. But it emphatically rejects "capitalist" development. Firstly it's farcical to assume you will get a good society if the things that are developed in your country are determined by what will most enrich a few already extremely rich people living on the other side of the world! You will hardly get development of things to meet the most urgent or basic needs!

What we get of course is development of enterprises that use land, resources and labour to produce luxuries to export to rich-world supermarkets, at the lowest possible return. But if you are one of the perhaps 50 countries where transnational corporations can't maximise their profits producing anything at all, then you will get no development at all. This is absurd, morally repugnant, catastrophic, and unnecessary. Those fifty countries have great productive capacity and could develop into very satisfactory societies without any poverty with thriving economies, rich cultural systems and a good quality of life for all, if development was conceived in terms of putting local resources into production to meet basic needs.

The second point is even more important. Appropriate Development doesn't assume capital is important or a necessary factor for development. (Note - even Marxists take capitalist development for granted; they assume there can't be development without investment of capital, but they don't want capital privately owned.) This is the fundamental contradiction between conventional and Appropriate Development. Little or no money capital is needed for development that meets basic needs and provides all with a good quality of life. Except in extreme cases, all the resources necessary for this are there, in the land and people's labour. What is needed is the organisation that an Appropriate Development vision brings, so people work together to devote productive resources around them immediately to produce what they need.

Instead we have the painfully tragic situation where millions of people suffer malnutrition, poor housing, inadequate water supply, poverty, unemployment, depression, illness etc., while often enough all around them are abundant food-producing and house-building resources. It's not that poor people don't understand this. Many pursue Appropriate Development as best they can. The problem is that the rich, especially rich countries, will not permit Appropriate Development.

Assumption 3: - Plunge into the market! To acquire things, money must be earned by producing something that can be sold. For the country to be able to pay for development and acquire goods, it must earn from exporting. Development is best determined by market forces, which maximise efficiency in allocating resources. Market forces must determine what is produced, who gets it and what is developed. Non-market exchanges must be eliminated. All productive items, including land, must be made into commodities for sale in a market. Productive activities, taking the form of "subsistence" outside the market must be moved into it.

The market system could play a (minor) role in a satisfactory economy, but the market is directly responsible for most of the poverty, suffering, conflict, ecological destruction and under-development in the world. This is because market forces ignore need and what is just, appropriate or ecologically necessary, and respond only to financial imperatives. Thus in a market system things go to those who can pay most. Market systems for allocating things or deciding what is developed are precisely what rich people, corporations, banks and consumers want because such systems guarantee they can take all available resources while the poor get few if any. Thus each person in America gets about 26 barrels of the world's scarce oil every year while the poorest one billion people get almost none, and 600 million tonnes of grain, a third of world production, is fed to animals in rich countries every year while more than 1 billion people are malnourished.

These massive contradictions are inevitable consequences of the fact we have a global economy in which allocation of resources is determined by market forces. This process enables the richest few to take what the poor need.

In addition, when market forces are allowed to determine what is developed the productive capacity of the Third World is devoted not to producing what Third World people need, but what consumers in rich countries want. In some countries, more than half the best Third World land grows luxury crops for export to rich countries. Similarly, most factories produce goods to export, not the essentials their people need. Advocates of the market claim this is the most "efficient" way of allocating things. But this is true if "efficient" is defined only in terms of what will make most profits. If your goal is to meet human and ecological needs, then obviously the market is the most appallingly inefficient system!

Trickle down

Consider the benefit that "trickles down" to people from conventional development. People in Bangladesh producing shirts are paid 15 cents an hour, part of which they must then spend buying from supermarkets owned by rich-world corporations. They would be far better off if most of their work time went in producing the basic items they need in small local farms and firms processing local resources. But rich countries and their agencies such as the World Bank will not allow this. Development is only allowed to take the form that suits corporations seeking to maximise profits according to market forces. The World Bank's Structural Adjustment Packages expressly prohibit anything else, and eliminate any other arrangements governments might have in place, especially state-run enterprises and subsidies for poorer people. The only form of development they permit and enforce is development of precisely what suits corporations and rich world consumers.

Just think what would happen if markets were not allowed to determine allocation and governments decided what was developed and who was to get what is produced. Good governments would make sure their people got the wealth the land produces. Bad governments would make sure local ruling elites got the most. Either way, rich-world corporations and consumers would get less! But that's not acceptable to them - they want a system that enables them to get most of the available wealth. Having market forces determine who gets wealth ensures the rich get wealthier, and legitimises the situation. It makes it seem okay because everyone is free to bid in the market. This is why rich-world spokespeople, notably President Bush, constantly harp on about the importance of "reedom." What they mean however is only the freedom of the rich to take what they want and invest in what they want, as distinct from the freedom of poor people to escape hunger or produce what they need for themselves.

Obviously development of what is appropriate for the vital needs of people, societies and ecosystems is not possible unless much production, distribution and investment takes place contrary to market forces. Many things should be developed that are not very profitable or not at all profitable. The general principle is, market forces prevent appropriate development. Yet again, conventional development theory totally rules out any "interference with market forces."

Another serious fault with a market economy is it pits us all against each other as individual competitors in the market place. But the best way for humans to do things is cooperatively. Most things work much better if done by people working together, pooling their capacities, striving for the common good, ensuring all are looked after and no one is excluded. But conventional economics disqualifies collective values, which again suits the rich and powerful very nicely. They don't want people to unite to take control of their situation. They want everyone to compete as isolated individuals against them, in the market, where the rich can win and take what they like.

Appropriate Development rejects the absurd conventional economic assumption that the best for all results if individuals compete against each other, pursuing their self-interest in free markets. In a satisfactory society there could be much freedom for individuals, many small private firms, and a (minor) role for market forces (under careful social control), but the main institutions and procedures would be cooperative and collective, and there would be considerable regulation of the economy.

Assumption 4: - Plunge into the global economy! Individuals and nations must find something to produce and sell, because they can't expect to acquire anything unless they sell something, including their labour. So, crank up export industries, and entice foreign investment. Trade! That's crucial to accumulate capital, to pay for imports, loans and infrastructure development.

Again the fundamental mistake is assuming the only thing that matters is getting money to buy things. It ignores the key to Appropriate Development, which is the immense capacity for self-sufficiency outside the monetary economy. Conventional development theory and practice have no interest in the fact that households, communities, localities and nations can easily produce for themselves most of what they need, without dependence on capital, markets, corporations or banks. They might not produce as "efficiently" as distant corporations, but that is of no consequence.

The key principles of Appropriate Development are:

  • Minimise economic connections with rich countries and the global economy
  • Borrow very little if anything
  • Export only a few surpluses to import just a few important items
  • Allow foreign investors in only if they agree to produce necessities on your terms. Maximise local and national self-sufficiency. This enables security from the devastation the global economy can incur if export prices fall or capital moves out. No matter what happens to coffee prices or on Wall Street a country can continue to provide most if not all it needs for a high quality of life.
Assumption 5: - Globalisation is good. It brings a bigger, more unified and integrated world market for Third World countries to export to and from which they can buy the cheapest suppliers.

Globalisation has been a massive catastrophe for the poorest half of the world's people. (For extensive documentation see http://www.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/DocsGLOBALISATION.html.)

  • It forces the poorest and weakest to compete with the very strongest for resources and markets;
  • It prohibits Third World governments from regulating, protecting, assisting or intervening. That is it prevents them from taking control of their own development;
  • Development is only of whatever corporations want to develop and unless governments assist this their country will be boycotted by investors and banks and the World Trade Organisation;
  • Globalisation enables corporations to enter and take all the resources, markets and businesses they want;
  • Globalisation forces poor countries to compete against each other to export resources to rich countries as cheaply as possible. Globalisation enables corporations to destroy local businesses and livelihoods, by capturing sales and putting local people out of work;
  • Globalisation allows corporations to take over industries meeting basic needs such as water supply, and to maximise profits by jacking up prices and cutting supply to the poor. If governments resist they come under massive attack from rich world institutions, e.g., they are cut out of trade and cut off from loans.
Assumption 6: - Development is slow. Development problems can't be solved quickly because capital can't be accumulated quickly. Development is uneven. Some people and sectors will develop more rapidly than others. Inequalities will increase. Those rich in the first place will increase their wealth.

Conventional development has seen some improvements in Third World living conditions over the last 60 years. Averages for infant mortality, literacy rates and life expectancy have improved greatly. But the fact some progress has been made does not mean conventional development is satisfactory. The major criticisms of the situation are: most benefits have gone to the rich in the Third World and especially to rich countries and their corporations. Conventional development delivers only a miniscule fraction of the wealth generated to Third World people. Appropriate development would produce far less increase in GDP, but all the benefits would go to people in proportion to their VITAL needs.

The rate of improvement is extremely slow. Let's ignore the many countries where GDP per person is actually falling. In the other cases the real incomes of most people would take 30 to 100 years to double, and after 60 years, half the world's people would still have an average income of about $800! This is a grossly unsatisfactory rate of development even when narrowly defined in dollar-income terms. Consider how intolerably slowly conventional development benefits most people. Assume the poorest billion are increasing their $1 a day incomes at 1% p.a. It would take them 350 years to rise to $25 a day, and it would take something like 200 years for them to rise to the present average income in rich countries.

A development model should be judged mainly by how well it solves the most urgent problems, i.e., improves conditions for the poorest. Yet there is much evidence showing conventional development is making conditions worse. Appropriate Development enables all people to meet basic needs and achieve a good quality of life in a few years if not months. There is no excuse for anyone being left behind, let alone to have to wait generations until satisfactory conditions trickle down from the obscenely rich.

Clearly, conventional development is a process of expropriation, of taking wealth from others. Once Third World people had all their land, forests and fish. Now they have hardly any, while the wealth they produce flows mostly to rich people far away. This is theft, but disguised because it happens via the "free," "voluntary" that is, unregulated market. Conventional development has developed the Third World into producing mostly for the benefit of rich people. Conventional development is therefore best described as a form of plunder.

Assumption 7: - The ultimate goal of development is to become like rich countries, with high material "living standards" and GDP, and with predominantly "modern" or Western ways.

This is the most ignored factor in the development debate and the goal is quite impossible. There are nowhere near enough resources on earth for all people to rise to present rich-world "living standards" and rates of resource use - let alone enough for rich countries as they continue to pursue growth. (See "The Limits to Growth" analysis, http://www.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/06b-Limits-Long.html )

Appropriate Development enables the preservation of indigenous culture against the onslaught of Western consumer culture and dominant corporate media. Often, small scale, local radio systems can be quite sufficient and effective. Local people can provide most if not all the artistic and dramatic material needed.

Assumption 8: - Rich countries help poor countries develop. They give aid, foreign investment and trade with them.

Rich countries are certainly very keen to assist conventional-capitalist development in the Third World, i.e., development of the kind that enriches themselves. But they will not tolerate Appropriate Development, and they can't because it would mean their own demise. They cannot maintain their "living standards" or economies unless they continue getting most of the world's wealth and Appropriate Development would put an end to this.

For the past 500 years, the main relationship between rich and poor countries, has been one of invasion, looting and thuggery. History has been about the struggle among the strongest nations to gain control and dominate an empire. Beginning with Spain and Portugal, a series of western powers led the conquest, destruction and plunder of the Third World. In the 20th Century, the struggle to control and expand empires generated two world wars, in which the British were exhausted and the US surged into dominant position. Since World War 2, the US has intervened in the Third World with military force about 60 times, killing more than 16 million people. It now maintains the empire from which rich countries derive much of their wealth.

Our empire is run by the corporations and governments of the richest countries. They go to a great deal of effort to keep Third World regimes to policies that benefit us, that is, to make sure governments adhere to conventional development strategy. The empire is kept in place mainly by the normal functioning of the economic system. This allows the very few who own most capital to develop whatever will most enrich themselves and automatically forces poor people to continue to suffer low wages in plantations and sweatshops while the wealth they create flows to our supermarkets.

From time to time, poor Third World people object to what's happening and then force and fear are used to keep them in the plantations and factories. Rich countries have a very long, extensive record of assisting Third World regimes to silence workers in plantations and factories. This includes financial and military assistance, subversion, assassination, arms supply, training torturers and direct military destruction and invasion to depose governments that do not rule in our interests, and install ones that will. ( See http://www.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/10-Our-Empire.htm and Pacific Ecologist issue 4, Terrorism & American foreign policy.)

High "living standards" in rich countries cannot be maintained without the repression and violence required to maintain our empire. We cannot expect to continue getting far more than our fair share of world resources unless we maintain the systems that deprive most people of a fair share. Many who profess concern for the plight of the poor, or want world peace, or ecological sustainability, fail to grasp that their own rich-world "living standards" are the basic cause of the problems. Such goals cannot be achieved until rich countries stop hogging far more than their fair share. If world resources were shared equally now, you and I would have to use about one sixth the per capita amount we currently consume.

Consider Ladakh

One wonders what conventional development economists from the Left and the Right would make of Ladakh, a region near Tibet where people live in extremely difficult conditions at around 14,000 ft, with only hand tools, animals and no modern technology, on an average GNP per capita of almost nothing. Yet this is a complex, culturally rich, and admirable society, with a great deal to teach the affluent societies about civility, humanity, community, social justice and ecological sustainability. (Norberg-Hodge, 1991).

Ladakhis are kind and generous. They have extensive community support systems. They look after and value their old people, they have a rich spiritual life, a relaxed lifestyle, and robust, sustainable food-producing systems despite fierce cold winters and a short growing season. Their production is labour-intensive, yet the pace of work and life in general is relaxed, with much time for ceremonies and religious observance. No one is isolated or lonely, they do not waste but recycle everything, they have no interest in power, domination or competition. They are very conscious of their dependence on nature, are multi-skilled and practical, and they live simply. There is no crime and no poverty and no drug problem and no social breakdown. Above all they are very happy people.

A strong case could be made for saying Ladakhi people have a far superior culture to that of the rich western countries. Yet their "development" was achieved without increasing the monetary value of production, sales, incomes, exports, etc and without accumulating capital. It is due to the organisation of existing resources, especially labour, skills and the co-operative spirit of people in ways which enable easy, pleasant and secure production of basic goods and services and the provision of a very high quality of life. The existence of Ladakh, and many other "primitive" and "peasant" societies confronts us with the serious mistake of assuming development has to involve generations of suffering while capital is slowly, painfully and inequitably accumulated, and while most of the benefit of development flows to others. Ladakhis do not need supermarkets, television, freeways, cars, throwaway products, and packaged imports, higher incomes or a higher GNP. In fact it is precisely the coming of these things, the penetration of Western economic forces, that is now rapidly destroying the ancient culture of Ladakh.

Clarifying Appropriate Development

It's important to understand Appropriate Development is not a path to rich-world living standards or "prosperity," a consumer society, glamorous cities, high incomes or great national wealth, power and prestige. The outcome will not be expensive possessions, palatial houses full of gadgets, or jet-away holidays. Some things will be produced much less "efficiently" than transnational corporations can produce them. "Living standards" will be far lower than in rich countries, but there will be a higher quality of life and a happier society. The aim is to guarantee materially simple, satisfactory living standards for all, and to preserve culture, traditions and ecosystems.

It's not that we must reluctantly abandon the goal of developing rich world affluence and accept the low "living standards" of Appropriate Development as a compromise. We strenuously reject the conventional goal, primarily because it's impossible for all to achieve and condemns the world to alarming problems of deprivation, terrible environmental destruction and conflict. We reject the consumer society because The Simpler Way is far more satisfying, because living simply in a highly self-sufficient community, devoting most time to arts and crafts, gardening and community activities is much more rewarding than competing frantically to survive and succeed in the consumer society. The Simpler Way is a far superior culture compared to the consumer society.

Appropriate Development is of course a mortal threat to the interests of transnational corporations and banks, Third World elites, and people who shop in supermarkets in rich countries. It's incompatible with globalisation, and with fundamental elements in Western culture, like notions of progress, "living standards," the supremacy of competitive individualism, and especially acquisitiveness and wealth seeking.

Billions of people are trapped and enslaved in conditions of appalling poverty, exploitation and oppression, not by the guns and prisons of the dominating classes, but by believing development can only mean conventional, capitalist development. The most powerful action to take to free the Third World is to help people understand and reject the vicious ideology of conventional-capitalist development theory and practice, and to realise there is another way. The supremely important task for anyone concerned about the fate of the Third World is to acquaint people with the Alternative Development vision.

Notes on Appropriate Development at the practical level

Here is a brief outline of the main themes of Appropriate Development. Its great advantage is to quickly enable a high quality of life for all, when local people put local resources into producing what they most need, with simple technologies. These ways are as useful and necessary in both rich and poor countries. Especially important in Appropriate Development is the collectivist spirit and institutions. Perhaps the most erroneous and vicious element in the dominant neo-liberal doctrine is the assumption people must function as isolated entrepreneurs seeking to maximise their own welfare. A society cannot be made up of individuals pursuing self-interest. Society only exists when there are collective values, like concern for the public good, the welfare of others, especially those less fortunate, and public standards and institutions.

My credentials for making these claims, are that I live in frugal ways in a relatively self-sufficient homestead, and for many years have been associated with the Global Eco-Village Movement where thousands of small groups now live more or less according to principles of The Simpler Way, demonstrating the social practices that must be adopted if global problems are to be resolved. From this I known the simpler way is workable and rewarding.

Food. All food can be produced in home gardens, community gardens, "edible landscapes," and commons, small local farms and dairies, within the settlement or close by. Energy cost can be almost zero except for steel tools, little machinery (perhaps a tractor owned by the farmers coop), pipes, small pumps for irrigation, small dam construction. Artificial fertiliser is not needed, given total recycling of food, household, crop and animal wastes. There must be intensive use of permaculture design principles. Most gardening would use only hand tools, with intensive harvesting of tree crops, and little ploughing (mostly by horses.) Poultry, rabbit and fish production would occur in small pens and ponds, via cooperatives or small firms. Use of commons and "edible landscapes" in settlements provide free fruit and nuts.

Building. Houses, premises for firms, community facilities, storage and animal sheds can be built from earth, bush poles, kiln-fired tiles, sod roofs etc., at very low with sometimes almost no dollar or energy costs.

Transport. Greatly reduced demand for goods would be met mostly by work and leisure places located close to home. Highly self-sufficient settlements require little imported or exported goods or materials. Access to work, leisure and shops/markets would be mostly on foot or bicycles. Leisure-rich localities involve little travel for recreational purposes. Only a few private or community cars and light trucks would be needed. There would be local bicycle repair factories. Much of the diminished need for transport and ploughing could be met by horses. Thus there would be very low demand for biomass-produced liquid fuels from local land. Small firms build drays, carriages, buggies, horse-powered equipment, boats and barges.

Furniture. Furniture would be made to last, mostly from wood, bamboo and local fibres. Wooden gates, fences, handles, seats, window frames, cabinets, beds etc can be made by hand tools or simple machinery at little energy cost; with intensive repairing and recycling. There would be little need for plastic or metal.

Machinery. Windmills, watermills, pumps, 12-volt electrical systems can be made and/or maintained by local handymen and small firms, using steel strip and rod, lights, motors, PV panels etc, mostly supplied by regional factories. Small, localised systems for water and energy supply and waste recycling, can be simple and constructed and maintained by ordinary people (with access to professional expertise as required.)

Hardware, kitchenware, appliances, hand tools, glass, paints, stoves, fridges, heaters, cutlery, pottery, soap, pots, pans, etc. mostly produced in local regional factories and foundries. Machinery powered mostly by wood fuelled Stirling engines and electricity, plus other renewable energy sources. Goods designed and built to last and be repaired, reduce lifetime energy and materials use.

Clothing and footwear can be made and repaired at home or small local firms, using treddle or electric sewing machines, from bulk cloth and local wool. Clothing would be mostly tough, simple and functional, intensively repaired and recycled. Regional factories would mass-produce cloth, simple machines, rope, leather, footwear, appliances. Woollen goods could be made, from local sheep, via spinning and knitting as hobby/craft production; belts, bags, harness from hand-produced leather work.

Materials. Many sources in the locality, include earth, herbs, timber, clay, insulation wool, leather, fibres, plant sources of chemicals, oils, medicines, waxes, soaps, dyes, bamboo, stone, leather, feathers, rushes and reeds. Much use of wood and plant sources. Local timber plantations and small bush carpentry firms, mostly using hand tools. Sheep kept locally, used for fire-break clearing, fertilising, pets. Much material should come from village commons, i.e., land owned and worked collectively.

Leisure, entertainment. Much of this can be home and community-based, including productive crafts, hobbies, drama groups, local musicians, courses, lectures, discussion groups, concerts, celebrations and festivals. There would be leisure-rich landscapes, including little farms and firms, artists, ponds, forests, and community facilities.

These technically simple practices can provide most basic necessities quickly and easily, via households, small firms and co-operatives. The pace of life and work would be very relaxed; far less work needs doing than is currently. Most development, administration and maintenance of communities would be achieved via voluntary committees, working bees, and town meetings, practising participatory democracy. These practices require little or no capital, foreign investment, or trade. They mostly take place outside the market sphere, making little contribution to GDP. The role of the state should be to facilitate local development, by providing infrastructures; materials that can't be locally produced, such as steel; and by providing educational and advisory services.

Appropriate Development is about communities taking control over the development and management of these collective infrastructures. This can quickly, easily eliminate many problems, notably unemployment. All who want work can be given a share of work that needs doing, which can't happen if labour is treated as a commodity to be used, priced and dumped according to the whims of market forces.

Ted Trainer, senior lecturer Faculty of Arts, University of N.S.W, http://www.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/. Dr Trainer is author of several books including The Conserver Society: Alternatives for Sustainability, London Zed Books; and is organiser of The Simpler Way: Analyses of global problems and the sustainable alternative society. Dr Trainer has been developing his ideas on sustainability at his home in Sydney for 40 years.

© Copyright - Pacific Ecologist. Reproduction with permission encouraged.

Printable Version