ERE Blog post: Ecological capitalism and consumer capitalism

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Hristo Botev
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Re: ERE Blog post: Ecological capitalism and consumer capitalism

Post by Hristo Botev »

AxelHeyst wrote:
Tue Jan 12, 2021 10:57 am
Ninth - we wake up one day and realize we're co-facilitating a lifeboat community of mostly competent post-industrial citizens, even though that wasn't our plan.
This is perfect. Also, I think it's the plot of Parable of the Sower; which is interesting, as the initial "community" in that book (centered on "place"--i.e., their walled suburban neighborhood/cul-de-sac; and to a lesser extent on family and a lesser extent on religion) ended up falling apart; to be replaced by a religion-focused community, as I recall.

7Wannabe5
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Re: ERE Blog post: Ecological capitalism and consumer capitalism

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

@AxelHeyst:

How are tax advantaged retirement accounts still in existence at level Eighth?

Also, maybe it’s a generational or regional difference, but most of my social circle does know how to garden, cook, build a shed, change a tire, etc, but they are still tied to career/million $ retirement due to comfort/security/status etc. So, my perspective is that there is actually a good deal of untapped skill in society that could come into play in any crisis.

AxelHeyst
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Re: ERE Blog post: Ecological capitalism and consumer capitalism

Post by AxelHeyst »

7Wannabe5 wrote:
Tue Jan 12, 2021 12:25 pm
Most of my social circle does too, but there's a larger conversation going on in the forum about a sense of isolation and loneliness due to being "extreme" in terms of frugality/ERE skills/rejection of consumer society, and a seeking after finding like-minded individuals (e.g. in 2bs1's journal). I think you're likely right that there's more skills out there than perhaps we're giving credit, but it's difficult to accurately/objectively assess that.

I didn't mean "Eighth, ..." to correspond to WL8. Just the progression of what's happening in that narrative - at that point, you no longer have any friends who wouldn't have the financial savvy to take full advantage of tax-advantaged accounts, for just a small example. (It's also in my head because I myself am currently going through the noob phase of taking full advantage of tax-advantaged accounts). A better example could be filled in there I'm sure.

white belt
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Re: ERE Blog post: Ecological capitalism and consumer capitalism

Post by white belt »

AxelHeyst wrote:
Tue Jan 12, 2021 1:14 pm
I didn't mean "Eighth, ..." to correspond to WL8. Just the progression of what's happening in that narrative - at that point, you no longer have any friends who wouldn't have the financial savvy to take full advantage of tax-advantaged accounts, for just a small example. (It's also in my head because I myself am currently going through the noob phase of taking full advantage of tax-advantaged accounts). A better example could be filled in there I'm sure.
But surely at a certain point your social circle will expand enough to incorporate those outside of the traditional personal finance realms? Someone like Rob Greenfield or Mark Boyle don’t care about taking advantage of tax-advantages accounts because they have very little need for financial capital. Even in hardcore ERE land, maximizing tax advantage accounts doesn’t matter that much if you’re spending/making <$10k.

Hristo Botev
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Re: ERE Blog post: Ecological capitalism and consumer capitalism

Post by Hristo Botev »

white belt wrote:
Tue Jan 12, 2021 1:30 pm
Someone like Rob Greenfield or Mark Boyle don’t care about taking advantage of tax-advantages accounts because they have very little need for financial capital.
I think the "tax-advantages" of ERE--at the Chop Wood, Carry Water level--are more in line with simply not having to pay income taxes, at all (legally): https://www.robgreenfield.org/tax2020/; https://www.robgreenfield.org/vows.

white belt
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Re: ERE Blog post: Ecological capitalism and consumer capitalism

Post by white belt »

Hristo Botev wrote:
Tue Jan 12, 2021 1:35 pm
I think the "tax-advantages" of ERE--at the Chop Wood, Carry Water level--are more in line with simply not having to pay income taxes, at all (legally): https://www.robgreenfield.org/tax2020/
Right, but what I think I’m trying to say is that you might associate yourself with people that arrive to a similar “ERE lifestyle/solution” from a completely different starting place/methodology. For example, Rob Greenfield pursued his lifestyle from an environmental impact perspective, not because he read a FIRE blog. I think some on here (7WB5, J+G) arrived to ERE without much financial net worth or earnings, but were drawn to other aspects of the lifestyle.

AxelHeyst
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Re: ERE Blog post: Ecological capitalism and consumer capitalism

Post by AxelHeyst »

white belt wrote:
Tue Jan 12, 2021 1:30 pm
Yes yes, you're completely right. I was going for "some example of basic financial savviness" but my own financial savviness is too low at the moment to have come up with a more appropriate example. My poor example has derailed the larger point I think! I wasn't trying to imply that all of your friends are Rob Greenfield/WL8 at that point, merely that you no longer have to suffer the company of WL0 consumers who are completely clueless.

Hristo Botev
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Re: ERE Blog post: Ecological capitalism and consumer capitalism

Post by Hristo Botev »

@whitebelt, I think that's what I'm trying to say as well. The folks in my life, IRL, that I've gravitated towards over the past 2 years are folks who are operating at Wheaton Levels above me (not hard to do), but who'd never heard of ERE and, honestly, perhaps haven't given enough thought to retirement savings and financial investments. Turns out none of these folks are "wage slaves," as they all own their own businesses crafted around things that they'd do even if they weren't getting paid; it's just instinctual for them to have structured their lives that way. I had a conversation yesterday with one of these people where "early retirement" came up, and it was a completely foreign idea to him--he said he cannot imagine the idea of ever retiring. That's part of why financial investments and retirement don't really interest them or probably even demand much of their mental bandwidth, it's not something they really need to worry about. They'll always work, voluntarily, and they've got the skills (and continue to develop more skills) that others will always be more than happy to pay for. Money is a tool that they sometimes need to, e.g., by other tools, but they also are just as likely to barter services for services, or goods for goods, or goods for services. And none of this has anything to do with ERE.

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Re: ERE Blog post: Ecological capitalism and consumer capitalism

Post by jacob »

FWIW, the money/retirement/tax concerns are dropped or become a minor focus around WL6. [RE] was just something to do with all the money one doesn't really need but people insist on paying anyway.

Note that "money" only occupies one chapter in the ERE book. It's not really what ERE is about. In particular, financial capital is only one kind of capital among several even if it is practically the only one for the salaryman quadrant other than the specialized job that earns it.

7Wannabe5
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Re: ERE Blog post: Ecological capitalism and consumer capitalism

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

@Axelheyst:

I liked your description of the levels. It just struck me funny to imagine a situation where people are living in multiple improvised shelters in suburban backyards reverting back to coppiced woodlands, but they're still offering each other water cooler tips about tax breaks. I don't know if you are old enough to remember the Sesame Street tune that goes "One of these things just doesn't belong here...?'" Maybe these folks at Level 8 would be chatting about the going rate for lending a piglet out to be fattened or options on wine presses for estimated to be bountiful harvest or venture capital for purpose of expedition to semi-distant landfill to dig for copper salvage?

OTOH, I don't think it is insignificant note that most designs/models/myths towards acceptance of resource limitations retain some form of open feed/flow to the current reality of modernity. So, it's kind of like they're all keeping their space suits on until "Mars" has an "atmosphere." I don't like the techno-optimist designs but I also don't like the feudal villagecommunitarian designs, because they both rely too much on magic, mythology, and either too much bad math or too little good math.

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unemployable
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Re: ERE Blog post: Ecological capitalism and consumer capitalism

Post by unemployable »

He left out Level 10, where a neighbor complains to the HOA that they've gone too long without cutting the grass and have unapproved structures in their yard and have to take everything down.

AxelHeyst
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Re: ERE Blog post: Ecological capitalism and consumer capitalism

Post by AxelHeyst »

Ha, yes. In the nominal Wheaton scale progression my current remedial level of financial knowledge is very out of place.

But in my defense, I think we’re also projecting our notions of the future on to my little narrative. I was thinking that level 8 with the friends in the backyard might be in a couple years. Not a Kunstler post collapse world, just one with a few more downward steps under its belt. Half of those backyard peeps might still have remote corporate jobs and 401ks, half would be Rob Greenfield acolytes from a totally different trajectory, but all are coming towards this higher Wheaton level progression.

And so to Jacob’s point, the interesting conversations aren’t about investment plans n tips because everyone is beyond that and money is boring/incidental.

AxelHeyst
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Re: ERE Blog post: Ecological capitalism and consumer capitalism

Post by AxelHeyst »

unemployable wrote:
Tue Jan 12, 2021 5:13 pm
The neighbors love us. We fell their trees, help with yard work, share homebrew, watch their kids... the other week a building inspector came by and our neighbor ran them off.

Or, yeah, we get booted and go in on some land together where freedom isn’t illegal yet.

7Wannabe5
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Re: ERE Blog post: Ecological capitalism and consumer capitalism

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

@AxelHeyst:

Good call. I was doing an inappropriate Kunstler overlay on your description. I find his novels rather compelling, but also rather maddeningly unrealistic. It's less than 20 years since people were eating Big Macs, but tractors have been completely replaced by some magical sea monkey like draught horse breeding program?

@unemployable:

I am actually currently reading "Code for Home Owner's" in the Black and Decker series, because I am considering bidding on a dilapidated house, and if you can't beat them...

Western Red Cedar
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Re: ERE Blog post: Ecological capitalism and consumer capitalism

Post by Western Red Cedar »

jacob wrote:
Sun Jan 10, 2021 1:08 pm
As for my strategy in spreading the word, I see it as inspiring/teaching the lieutenants rather than the soldiers. Starting at a high Wheaton level is a way of leveraging the message. If you can influence e.g. 10 people at the next level below who in turn can influence 10 at the level below then the reach becomes quite large 7 levels down. It's more subtle that way but not much less effective---kinda like being the one writing the economics textbook that guide the way politicians think rather than being the king.

Of course I have to feel some frustration that the message gets diluted as it travels down and outwards from the source ... but something is better than nothing. If the original message has been reduced to the factoids that it's savings rate and not 1M that determines ER and that ER is "financial income > spending" and not "age > 40" at the lowest level, so be it.

I note I caught a material number from COVID in the spring as people were suddenly forced to rely on themselves instead of their stash. It's like the whole forum just jumped a Wheaton level and never looked back.
The COVID outbreak, at least in the spring, was a personal eye-opener as to how fragile a system is that relies heavily on money to solve problems.
eco-anxiety wrote:
Sat Jan 09, 2021 11:36 am
I think this post underscores the heart of ERE and what differentiates it from the FIRE movement. The vast majority of able bodied people can retire early by cutting back on their rampant consumerism, but when you really internalize the destruction that even the socially-prevalent act of owning a car has on the environment you jump to wanting the next level of independence. What I think is interesting about that jump is that it is not necessarily a jump in financial independence but a jump in independence from society. You are distancing yourself from where society has landed on the Wheaton Scale [on average] and that creates friction between yourself and society. Berry/Jacob are advocating that people set up a model of what they want society to look like and then try to draw people towards that model to ultimately influence the direction of society.
I think the challenge with addressing climate change or environmental issues by modeling through individual behavior is that consumerism is heavily woven into our cultural paradigm. It's great to have examples like Jacob, Berry, Salatin, or Greenfield living radically different lifestyles, but those examples are essentially incomprehensible to the masses.

The larger problem is that much of the developing world, or at least their political leaders, have fixated on a westernized, growth paradigm which is adding fuel to the fire. Paradigm shifts don't happen easily. I tend to look to policy solutions and behavioral economics (Thaler/Nudge) as a more expedient means to make changes. Of course, this may be simply because that is the framework I look at to solve these type of problems professionally ;)

In many ways our culture is extremely advanced - technology, communication, efficiency, etc. - but we are kind of like spiritual/emotional toddlers.

mooretrees
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Re: ERE Blog post: Ecological capitalism and consumer capitalism

Post by mooretrees »

The one area of the string drawing from the original blog post I struggle with is investing. This is a big area of ignorance for me (obviously!), but while I'm working on being more of a producer and less of a consumer, it scares me that I'll be investing with those same industries that are causing huge environmental problems in the first place. It seems on one level to be really clear about not being a consumer, but on a larger level to part of the very problem I'm personally avoiding! To date I haven't put any energy into researching how to solve this problem and am more focused on reducing my carbon footprint on my small level.

The way I suppose I'm solving this currently is to maintain part time work rather than working full time to save and invest and then have passive income. Not sure how long this is a good solution, but it's working so far.

the_platypus
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Re: ERE Blog post: Ecological capitalism and consumer capitalism

Post by the_platypus »

I think the way to scale up ERE principles is to change the culture in some local context. I think that means people have to be exposed less to mass consumed media (and its corrupting influence), be open to learning from traditional/older cultures/religions, and be willing to put community (location) before their career. I think in a local community, the people who do this, would be the people who you could work with to integrate ERE principles and build a more resilient/sustainable/happy community.

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Re: ERE Blog post: Ecological capitalism and consumer capitalism

Post by jacob »

I'm currently reading https://www.amazon.com/Local-Food-Revol ... 623170001/ which specifically lists the following order:
  1. Become aware of the problem
  2. Form community
  3. Learn as a community
  4. Refocus on solution
  5. Design community solution
  6. Implement community solution
  7. Community resilience and self-reliance
... and a lot of times this approach never makes it past stage 5.

Whereas my/ERE plan is
  1. Become aware of the problem
  2. Learn as an individual
  3. Design individual solution
  4. Implement individual solution
  5. Individual resilience and self-reliance
  6. Form community
  7. Community resilience and self-reliance
... which hasn't made it past stage 5 either.

However, there might be some value in merging the people from the two roadmaps because I think to a large degree they self-select which road they first get on. This makes failing at stage 6 a self-fulfilling (or self-selected) prophecy because their biggest strength also determines their biggest weakness.

To wit, in the former case, you often end up with a bunch of "managers" and visionaries who love to sit around socializing and talking to each other about what "we" should do yet have little personal interest/initiative to get things done. In the latter case you end up with people who are good at getting things done on their own and therefore have little interesting in socializing if it doesn't lead to getting things done faster or better than if they just went ahead and did it themselves.

white belt
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Re: ERE Blog post: Ecological capitalism and consumer capitalism

Post by white belt »

@Jacob

Maybe my personality type is showing here, but I think in the latter even if you don’t get past step 5, you at least have taken concrete action and had a measurable improvement on environmental impact (even if it’s just on the individual level). In the former you might have a community that feels like they are making a difference, but actually haven’t taken any concrete action. This is arguably the worst case because it means people will continue with their destructive habits because they feel like they are making a positive impact just by being part of an “environmental” group.

I agree the best solution is to figure out how to combine the managers and the doers, which is what every successful organization does.
Last edited by white belt on Sun Jan 24, 2021 2:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

the_platypus
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Re: ERE Blog post: Ecological capitalism and consumer capitalism

Post by the_platypus »

What keeps people together is not a desire to be sustainable or an awesome group of DIYers. It's culture. So, we have to back out of thinking about sustainability, and just think of, how does a culture persist across generations? I think it is something like this (assuming this culture is agriculture/permaculture based):

- have people who live on land near each other (in/near, say, a small town).
- those people have a common culture (festivals/holidays/religion/beliefs/dance/music/food/etc).
- those peoples' children respect/value/enjoy the culture enough to stick around and continue living there as they grow up and have kids.

Okay, now we need a sustainable/resilient culture. So, we need these people to have a belief system that looks to the future not as some promise of gain/progress/utopia/miracles, but as the present which has to/can be preserved for the future generations to enjoy, because the current situation is actually pretty good. Then, that belief system just needs to have enough scientific knowledge to know what general practices are sustainable and what aren't. Local, animal/human powered, natural materials, etc. are good heuristics (and also affordable). I think with this, there is a sustainable/resilient culture. We started with propinquity/common tradition first and then, because people met all their needs locally and didn't hate their lives and (therefore!) weren't sold on lies of future utopia, they necessarily will want things to be fairly sustainable.

Some obstacles are:

- media corrupting the youth to believe their culture is backwards and that there is something defective about them/it if only they move/get more money/wait for latest tech. If the kids move and the town just ends up being a bunch of dying elderly....well, this is small town America/churches.
- a culture that is not lively and integrated enough to keep people around (small towns are boring, cities are fun, would be the resulting attitude).
- a culture that is inadequately concerned about the future, or inadequately attentive/perceptive to the importance of non-human life and our dependence on the land. I think sometimes, religion can be corrupted to not place enough emphasis on being good stewards of the land -- "all come from dust, and all return to dust," is overlooked sometimes?
- lack of access to land or capital to acquire land. Hard to have good, equitable relations if you are a peasant, or are subservient to a landlord. I once saw an intentional community where they offered to let you (a non-voting community member) rent from one of their voting community members. Well, that changes the relationship a bit from, "that person is another equal member of the community," to, "that person will evict my ass if I don't pay up."

ETA: I think equitable relations are a prerequisite to a sustainable culture (preserve the present for enjoyment of future generations), because no one wants to be under the thumb of another for long. Therefore, there is no sustainability without a broadly egalitarian culture, else the drive to expand and "climb the ladder," will be there.

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