Its a difficult thing, the much wanted energy transition. Last week the daily news broadcast showed an interesting example of that. The provinces have to build wind turbines and search for acceptable locations, but the residents around are revolting. Complaining of shadow effects, birds killed, NIMBY etc, you name it. Even going to court, and that can create large unrest in the region, we now know. (even a major victory , for a new political party Forum for Democracy , using wrong costs calculations for climate change measures… )
But here at this location in the province everything had turned out well. How? Let me guess. With money? Exactly. After the initiatives were packaged as ‘residents’ cooperatives’, the wind park was built. Residents are co-owners, and earn from it … Amazing, how easily does someone drop their principles. Just as well as we all participate in the postal code lottery for charities, right? ( in NL part of the lottery income goes to charity)_
Apart from the fact that money apparently does not stink, it is understandable: why the residents have the misery, and a commercial company runs away with the profit ?
In Güssing, they already understood this back in the nineties . A small town in Austria, around 3000 inhabitants, where the mayor, Peter Vadasz, once summed up the energy bills, which that disappeared from the region to some foreign energy company . That was more than enough to make his own municipality energy neutral, and after 15 years of struggling, with the help of some friends, they succeeded: Güssing is energy neutral and instead of 6 million was drained from the region, by now more than 10 million was going around locally, and the once shrinking town turned into growth, with many new businesses. And not with the help of an offshore wind farm, such as in Samsø, Denmark, but in a rural municipality. And it also didn’t shift the burden to the expense of agricultural land.
Apart from money: it apparently works, cooperative cooperation and ownership.
But if it works with windmills, as in the Dutch province, why wouldn’t it work at other things? Municipalities also have to stimulate housing retrofits in their neighborhoods, because of the energy transition and so on, and why not tackle it equally cooperatively. And I do not mean ‘collectively’ but cooperatively, with an interest of the residents in the approach: For example, they donate all roofs to a holding company, owned by the residents, which then installs solar panels for them, and starts producing, and earning … The neighborhood-roof-cooperation.
There is a lot of productive capacity in a neighborhood that has not been used up to now. Years ago I was involved in an exploratory study into a poor neighborhood, and the question was: can we improve that neighborhood, but with a revenue model: where the residents make their own neighborhood productive: like through energy production, as a cooperative, or with urban agriculture , through small businesses. That knife cuts on many sides: there is income, less unemployment, fewer social security payments, increased livability and social contact , less illness etc. Why not? It has been shown earlier, such as in Curitiba, Brazil, about which I will write some next time.
And even the public space is an option: All public space managed by a cooperation, and use the land for heat and cold storage, for example. And if we do have joint ownership and control over the land in public space, there is more to be gained from it: we take away half of all (neighborhood) roads, make it all one-way traffic, (who ever brought up the idea that this by definition should be a two-way street everywhere? ), and lease the freed surface for , as an example, growing biobased insulation fibers, like flax or hemp. Because materials for the energy transition must also be produced circularly somewhere. Moreover: the municipality has less road maintenance (half…), and a lot of free road material that can be used elsewhere. Excuse me, by the cooperation of course ….!
The neighborhood as a revenue model for the neighborhood residents, let’s see if that works. Which should not be a surprising idea: many municipalities are already giving away their squares and roundabouts to commercial companies that do the maintenance and place advertising signs in them. So why not the residents themselves?
The government is trying to build up support for the energy transition, so apply that literally: let the residents build up their own revenue model …
But even then, lets bring this another step further: Because why would you accept farmers in your region, with all that nuisance, and smell? And with (animal) disease outbreaks, soil depletion for food to be exported, and so on? Unless you are part of it, co-owner, and promote bio- agriculture and get your box of organic vegetables every week or pick up half a pig every year fro your freezer …
If that works, and it seems like to like many cooperative initiatives show, it illustrates that the individual capitalist or liberal approach is not working, the one with focus on the individual, the free market and property. It shows we are on our way to a collectively run society, the only way out , to control the adverse effects of our system, one where everyone ‘earns’ from the country … The direct and literal “democracy”, with everyone is literally with a direct interest and responsibility .
And as it turns out: Land is ultimately the greatest common denominator, and the actual capital of a society. What I also extensively analyze in the book Broken Cycles. (Soon available in English)
The ultimate transition is, of course, that we divide and share the entire country among the inhabitants. Not only the neighborhood, but literally: the whole of the Netherlands. Because why would the space that we have to live in be in the hands of a few, who own it, and channel profits away from the regions, thus draining people’s capital, and next making us dependent on the marketing of bad products and the goodwill of the billionaires?
So also bring in the cooperative also the cities and business areas: We are all co-owners. Not directly of course, more as a management company, but with direct shares, and not via a misty detour construction of too few taxes , which the government then uses to give companies even more benefits. No, we share direct ownership of everything produced on our shared land and share the profits. the Netherlands managed as a cooperative. The most direct democracy. Simple, is it?
Am I now going too far out of the box, or is this just plain reasoning, to take care of things properly?