Community Sufficiency Technologies

WHAT ARE COMMUNITY SUFFICIENCY TECHNOLOGIES?

There are two ways you can invest your discretionary time and money.  You can invest in trying to make a profit, in which case, your investment is subject to all the market forces and the corresponding risks.  And/or, you could invest in the capacity to provide for yourself, in which case, for those things, you don't care what happens in the market.

 

The market has produced a wonderful array of products for reasonable prices but it is not the only way to produce things.  For any particular item, and for food in particular, it is within the power of each individual to decide whether to purchase that item in the market or produce it for themselves.  Each choice has different consequences in regard to the health of your body, your relationships with those around you and the habitat in which you live.

 

The second approach is generally undertaken by families, it is known as "self-sufficiency".  But doing it as a community is much more efficient and not nearly as lonely.  A family's self-sufficiency is limited by the family's time and money.  The discretionary time and money in a neighborhood is sufficient to produce almost anything.  Owning a share of the capacity to provide for ourselves could be no different than owning a share of a corporation trying to make a profit, except that, if we are doing it as a neighborhood, the neighbors are involved in the day to day operations and not relying on a Board of Directors and hired management to make decisions in private meetings, and the incentive is to produce enough, a sufficiency, and no more.

 

In the market we have a feed back loop that rewards efficiency of scale, resulting in bigger companies making fewer products.  Local systems of production, owned by the consumers of what they produce, create a feed back loop that rewards efficiencies of integration.  We can use each resource for many purposes, stacking functions and reducing costs.

 

Imagine a system of gardens and greenhouses that produced enough food for the entire neighborhood (Neighborhoods already own much of what is required).  Imagine that anyone in the neighborhood could get a share of that food by doing what they enjoy . . . fixing cars, reading to kids, cooking, sewing, carpentry, home repair, gardening, making cheese . . .  Every Dollar that a neighborhood saves, producing for itself what its members would otherwise purchase in the market, is a Dollar that could be invested in more capacity to produce, creating the opportunity for even more savings.

 

When we produce for sale in the market, we seek to increase profitability to attract capital.  When we produce for our own consumption we seek to increase productivity to attract labor.  In that scenario, labor is not a cost, it is a contribution to the production and the more participation you have, the less each participant has to do.

 

ANALYSIS

Production for the market is limited by what is relatively scarce to someone else who has the money to pay for it.  If you have the capacity to fulfill such a niche, you can convert your capacity into money, and the incentive is to produce as much as you can for as little cost as you can.  Those are incentives to economies of scale, maximizing one time capital investments in tools in order to minimize the on going cost of labor.

 

If you have the capacity to produce for yourself, the incentive is to produce exactly what you need . . . a sufficiency.  That is an incentive to make the best use of available resources.  It is an incentive to integrate the function of those resources.  When we integrate the needs and products of more people and more species, realizing the biological potential within the range of our ability to influence, we increase the flows of goods and services by maximizing participation.  Our quest to increase the quantity of interactions is balanced by the limitation that interactions do not take place unless they fulfill a need of both parties to the transaction.  That is a qualitative limit to participation that leads in the direction of balance in the system.

 

If each human begins to consciously choose which things they will purchase in the market and which things they will produce in conjunction with their neighbors, we open up new opportunities for people who have limited marketable skills and for species that do not have a market, to participate in producing a healthy habitat.  That will tend to stabilize the system, including the economic system, the social system and the ecosystem within the habitat.  That is how we will heal nature and end poverty.

Anthony Prichard asks:

The growing team pays into it or shares into it? How do they keep track? ie. you will get one bucket of pears at harvest for one hour of mechanics work.

And I responded:

This is probably the hardest concept to get across.  We are so used to first converting to money . . . to determine value . . . and then distributing based on monetary value.

First, think of growing team members as partners in the business. So long as all the partners are working, they share the profits. That divorces the value of what is contributed from the value of what is distributed.  If the business is a failure there are no profits . . . no matter the value you contributed.  If the business is a success there could be huge profits . . . even if you really didn't do much.

Second, think of producing for your own consumption.  We don't have to convert things to money before we distribute them . . . and it does not matter what the market value is . . . the team decided to produce it because the team members value it.  We call that use value which does not change as opposed to market value which is a function of scarcity.  When something becomes abundant it loses market value . . . the use value remains the same.

Third, think of these partners producing for their own consumption. They decide how much work will go into each product (not just the growing also the car fixing, carpentry, baby sitting . . . ) and to the best of their ability they produce enough for the group . . . a sufficiency.

So say we have a cold spell just after you planted the tomatoes. Now we don't have as many tomatoes as the team could use.  How will they be distributed?  In my experience the team will share them fairly . . . without resort to measuring the monetary value of each contribution.  Those who have contributed least want to be fair . . . sometimes even more than those who have contributed most . . . who are willing to give away their share.

The bottom line is, if someone thinks they are not getting fair value for their contribution, they will stop contributing.

 

Revisions

should self sufficiency be consistenly hyphenated? - Yes
"capacity to provide for yourself" is an important concept, consider italic or bold. OK
A family's self sufficiency is limited by the family's time and money.
AND talent.  (Thinking about this . . . the "we can help" is about creating models that others can follow)
relying on a Board of Directors ... actually, we are already finding that LSI needs leadership both willing and capable of making decisions for the group ... in private meetings, however, your point on "hired" is correct.
efficiencies of integration ... i suggest an expanded explanation of this phrase before it is used in this context.  my guess is that people will read this and gloss over because they don't fully understand the concept.
"gardens and greenhouses" ... chickens, honeybees, and more ...
"even more savings" ... we need a for example right after this.  Something like:  The moment Ruth harvests an egg she has just saved $0.50 ... or whatever.
"increase productivity to attract labor" ... another very heavy concept that would benefit from examples for the average Joe to get it.
"Production for the market " ... this paragraph wants an example.
"If you have the capacity " ... excellent.  think about moving the analysis paragrahs up front and having just one section.  Explain the self sufficiency and how it differes from community sufficiency, then explain how market forces naturally reinforce different behaviors than does producing for self/community.
"do not take place " ... this should actually be "do not repeat"
"If each human begins to consciously " ... this might make a good first paragraph.  Plus, I want to rewrite it to break down the concepts into shorter sentences so simple minds like mine can really understand what you are saying here.  It's jam packed.
looking through some old email i found this which is good words for integrating here when we get to reworking this page.
David Braden wrote:
I want to hold open the offer of joint learning with the permaculturalists.  I would have taken a different approach, like take a PDC, if I thought that was the best way to move the "movement" beyond landscape design.  But, if I became a permaculture teacher, I become a competitor with all other permaculture teachers . . . and they can all safely ignore what we are saying because they have to promote the value of their classes.

The harder thing to do, which I have not yet figured out, is to make it apparent that working together to make permaculture relevant to the daily lives of ordinary people, creates abundance for all who understand the principles of permaculture regardless of the source of that knowledge.

That goes to the issue of which words we will use to describe what we do.  I too like the concept of sufficiency.  I use it when describing the limitations of the market system.  Production for the market is limited by what is relatively scarce to someone else who has the money to pay for it.  If you have the capacity to fulfill that need, you can convert your capacity into money, and the incentive is to produce as much as you can for as little cost as you can.  Those are incentives to economies of scale, maximizing one time capital investments in tools in order to minimize the on going cost of labor.

If you have the capacity to produce for yourself, the incentive is to produce exactly what you need . . . a sufficiency.  That is an incentive to make the best use of available resources.  It is an incentive to integrate the function of those resources.  When we integrate the needs and products of more people and more species, realizing the biological potential within the range of our ability to influence, we increase the flows of goods and services by maximizing participation.  Our quest to increase the quantity of interactions is balanced by the limitation that interactions do not take place unless they fulfill a need of both parties to the transaction.  That is a qualitative limit to participation that leads in the direction of balance in the system.