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A Possible Future: 2010

It's the year 2010. Life has changed in remarkable ways that no one had anticipated. Civil disobedience spread from Seattle to Washington, DC, and then on to the Democratic and Republican conventions, and to Prague. Tensions increased as police tried to prevent further blockades of the type that shut down parts of Seattle and DC. Despite their efforts, the protests grew.

While some were organizing street protests, others were quietly withdrawing their support from the institutions of corporate globalization and creating new, localized foundations for the economy. The transition was at first largely unnoticed by the media:

College students concerned about sweatshop labor, shunned clothes with corporate logos; it became cool to buy and wear clothes made locally or fair-trade certified.

After a major food scare, similar to England's Mad Cow Disease, consumers turned to local farmers and processors to ensure that they could get safe foods.

Businesses also began buying locally as rising oil prices forced up the costs of transportation and reduced reliability.

The desire for independence from corporations coupled with consumer demand for locally produced products inspired a new wave of entrepreneurship.

• The Steelworkers Union, after years of being locked out, bought Kaiser Aluminum from the Maxxam Corporation; union pension funds provided the financing. The Steelworkers produced renewable energy generation technologies just in time to supply the green energy boom.

• Temporary workers, tired of agencies skimming off large portions of their pay checks, formed their own temporary employment cooperatives. These groups helped employees spin off worker-owned businesses.

• Nonprofits launched new businesses that provided independent sources of long-term funding.

• High-tech workers, disillusioned with the rat race, formed “dot.com” companies that featured the social and environmental cost of each product sold.

• Farmers turned their production to supplying the growing consumer demand for local, sustainably grown food; locally owned grocery stores, co-ops, farmers markets, and community-supported agriculture flourished. New business started up to process farm products into products ranging from jams to cheeses.

Responding to citizen demands, local government supported local farming through land-use laws, tax policies, and community land trusts that preserved existing farm land and made additional land available to landless farmworkers.

Just as widespread home ownership was a mainstream political goal in the ‘50s and ‘60s, developing strong and diverse local business and agriculture sectors becomes a consensus goal of the ‘00s and ‘10s. Those businesses that involved employees in ownership and decision-making turned out to be far more productive and agile and they quickly won the loyalty of customers, employees, and suppliers. Since they were part owners, employees chose to reduce work hours and take long vacations and sabbaticals, which further increased their productivity and creativity on the job.

The employee and community-owned businesses tended to stay put. People moved less often, and they began to view their ecosystem as the one that would feed them and their children – body and soul – far into the future. Youth groups adopted rivers and streams to protect. A region's natural heritage became central to its identity; environmental consciousness became second nature.

Political shift

Political changes mirrored the changes in economics. As people developed a greater sense of control over their futures, some of the energy went out of the backlash against women's rights, civil rights, and immigrants. Diverse talents and cultures became a treasured asset as each region became more self-reliant, and each community became proud of its particular offerings in food, music, art, and theatre. While unresolved issues remain between races and nationalities, the hostility that came from economic and social insecurity dissipated, allowing dialogue to proceed openly and with few hidden agendas.

Meanwhile, the post-Seattle movement linked up with Granny D and succeeded in getting campaign finance reform through the US Congress. Political leaders who no longer had to center their attention on campaign fundraising were free to turn their attention to the issues most affecting voters and their children.

As local farms and businesses thrived and politicians grew in independence, any residual support for economic globalization crumbled. There were simply no constituencies for globalization outside of those high in the corporate hierarchy and their hired pundits.

Just as Soviet communism and apartheid crumbled quietly when their legitimacy wore out, corporate globalization's legitimacy dipped to very low levels. To their chagrin, corporate leaders found they could no longer count on government to subsidize their international adventures or to use the military to enforce their interests abroad.

Realizing that the US government would no longer force them to adopt policies that favored foreign corporations, people throughout the world stepped up demands on their own governments for democracy and local accountability. Their resources and markets were no longer fair game for foreign interests; their militaries no longer subsidized by foreign governments, and democratically elected governments turned from accountability to foreign powers to accountability to their own people. Worldwide, people and their elected officials became far less willing to cooperate with corporate extraction of wealth.

The global race for the almighty dollar has lost its shine as the organizing principle for society. People no longer believe that someone has to lose in order for others to win. Instead, another view has taken hold: we all are stronger in diverse, flexible, democratic, and free communities when we all win.

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