This issue of YES! tells the stories of people who have declared independence from the global corporate economy. These folks are not waiting for government or corporate leaders to get the economy working for ordinary people. They're taking action at the local level to provide livelihoods and goods and services that meet our needs without devastating the planet.
Their initiatives focus on the economic worries that are front and center for most of us. For 85 percent of Americans, the issues of poverty and affordable health care are more important than abortion and same-sex marriage, according to a poll by the Center for American Values in Public Life. And 83 percent favor raising the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour.
The economy is central not only to our well-being but to the moral character of our nation. We once believed that those who worked hard and played by the rules would have a good shot at a secure life. No longer. Wages and salaries have stagnated for decades, while the costs of housing, energy, health care, and education have risen steeply. People who once believed they had secure careers now find their jobs outsourced or downsized, and their retirement plans scuttled.
As the way of life we counted on (or aspired to) moves out of our reach, what do we do with the insecurity we experience? Where is the political debate about the essential question of economic security?
In the mid-term election campaigns, politicians played on our fears of immigrants and terrorism. And as they have done so often in our history, they blamed our anxiety on a distant enemy and, at home, on a disfavored
But this scapegoating not only harms those singled out for blame, it prevents us from identifying the real causes of our insecurity and the potential for new, common-ground solutions.
Since NAFTA, immigration rates have increased dramatically. The free-trade, free-wheeling corporate economy has displaced Mexican farmers as well as U.S. workers. And this system, which is eroding our manufacturing base, the strength of our communities, and the quality of the environment, is also undermining the ability of parents to provide for their children—in the United States and throughout the world.
Yet we have become so dependent on corporations for jobs and life necessities that it's hard to see the alternatives. But there are alternatives—elegant local alternatives.
Local farmers and entrepreneurs are providing livelihoods that also sustain Earth's life-support systems. Some of these ventures are cooperatives, some are owned by a community or by a local government, some are mom-and-pop businesses. Local farmers are linking directly with consumers; energy providers are producing renewable, decentralized power. Others are building a variety of climate-friendly, human scale, community-rooted enterprises.
These local enterprises are the economic lifeboats that will keep us afloat if we do someday experience a collapse triggered by climate disruptions, peak oil, or a currency meltdown.
But we don't need a catastrophe to experience the tremendous benefits of independence from the global corporate economy—freedom, relief from the fear that comes of dependency, and as Bill McKibben says, a security built from ?belonging, not from belongings.
Sarah van Gelder is Executive Editor of YES! Magazine.