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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Why work isn’t working

Posted by steve on March 18, 2008

Regular readers will remember that one of the major tenets of my book and this blog is that the sustainable city abandoned work as a way to generate a standard of living. In fact, it was one of the first of the old ideas to go.

Work as we know it was replaced by the voluntary ”go along” society. Food and housing were provided free and this meant there was no need to ”go to work” to earn pay to be able to buy these things.

Now more than ever it seems this insight rings true. Work is such a bad invention we need to drop it and replace it with something better. It has become such a counter sustainable phenomenon that it can’t be fixed. The downsides are so many … let me list them

No-one is working towards sustainability

As no-one ( or very few) have it in their job description to ensure their organization makes every effort to reverse the counter sustainable trend, work ensures there is little being done to move in this direction. In fact, if you add up all the people and then their hours they work to put us in the irrevocable rut of counter sustainable development, you’ll see what a formidable force it is that is driving us. This force is taking us to what might be a climate system collapse and a near extinction event.

Environmental burden

All of these hours come with them the support of thousands of energy slaves in the form of fossil fuels. These fuels are used not only to transport large amounts of materials back and firth but also to extract resources from the Earth and to drive manufacturing processes that leave authorities and individuals to clean up the resulting externalized waste.

It is no fun

Let’s face it for most people most of the time it is no fun. Isn’t that a sign we are doing something wrong?

It is not meaningful

Because there is little in people’s job descriptions that describe how they are to work towards a sustainable development, there is little in the design of the job that offers anything with meaning. On the contrary, employees are expected to give bad (read cheap) service, not do more than the minimum expected for customers and preferably get the customers coming back paying more for less.

It is not generating standard of living

I often hear ”you have to go to work to pay the bills”. Sure. But look at how many HAVE work who cannot afford a standard of living anyway. From workers in the low cost factories making stuff, to the part time employed, young, shop assistants who sell you the stuff – there is a long chain of people who can’t actually support a family on their wages.

Not generating wealth

Even statistics for Sweden from Statistics Sweden reveal the rich are getting richer and the poor are owning less and less percentage of the wealth generated by the work they do. In fact, statistics show that productivity has risen faster than wages over the last decade.

Now is not the time

With energy prices and Carbon Dioxide restrictions set to upset the apple cart of ”Business as Usual” for ever, pulling the lever of ”more work” or ”work harder” is not going to work. Working harder to introduce – say – better engines, better houses, energy saving gadgets – is that really going to work when there is less and less money to invest, people have less to spend and are less interested in investing in alternatives.

We have to let go.

With all the researchers, with all the alternative organizations, with all our innovativeness and creativity and determination we must start now to replace this monster. There are several small steps we could start with.

Make labour free for all “do good” organizations.

All the non-profit organizations that are moving in a sustainable direction ( after approval) could be allowed to engage unemployed people at no cost. The unemployed person keeps their benefit, continues to look for work, but is engaged in the activities of the non-profit. By the same token, employees of this organization could be exempted from employers’ taxes etc.

Set an “enough to live on” level of income, and let people earn this before tax kicks in. People who wish to could work part time but be guaranteed at least a minimum.

Introduce a citizen’s wage whilst encouraging the spread of sustainable-oriented non-profits.

If you run a company you could consider doing what 1001 hal (danish) or the Mango group
both of these groups have a policy of flat wage .. the same for all, and only taking on projects that allign with their values. They value experience and fun over profit. And time with their children instead of endless overtime.

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