In his brilliant book, How The World Really Works, Vaclav Smil concludes:
…of all the risks we face, global climate change is the one that needs to be tackled most urgently and effectively. And there are two fundamental reasons why this combination of speed and efficacy will be much harder to realize than is generally assumed.
Dealing with this challenge will, for the first time in history, require a truly global, as well as very substantial and prolonged, commitment. To conclude that we will be able to achieve decarbonization anytime soon, effectively and on the required scales, runs against all past evidence.
This is a somewhat bleak outlook which, combined with the news that “soon the World will be unrecognisable” and that most scientists have been practising ‘climate appeasement’, is worrisome indeed. Now that wildfires are popping up all over Europe, the impacts of climate change and the urgent need for effective collaboration has never been more obvious – or daunting.
However, Smil’s final words, at the end of the last chapter of How the World Really Works, are “The future, as ever, is not predetermined. Its outcome depends on our actions.” This is no time for despair. It is time for collaboration and, as our friends at Shareable point out, collaboration can help us harness the power of optimism.
“Joining others in working towards a positive goal generates even more positive energy than working individually”.
At The Open Co-op, our current mission is to catalyse collaboration at scale. We are working to bring people together, and to develop the digital tools which will make global collaboration simple, normal and effective.
Kim Stanley Robinson, is another favourtite author at The Open Co-op. His latest book, The Ministry for the Future, follows a new organisation, established under the Paris Agreement, which advocates for the world’s future generations of citizens. It’s a great read, which highlights how climate-focussed direct action will increase in the coming decades, and explores multiple solutions to reverse climate change and create a regenerative economy.
What’s particularly exciting about Ministry for the Future is that KSR actually describes a version of (what we call) PLANET as part of the solution:
“The AI Group is making open source instruments which mimic the functions of all the big social media sites… [which] will protect their data for them using quantum encryption… Their privacy can then be a resource for them. They can sell their personal data if they want… and the public ownership of these sites as a commons, should be enough to entice every user on the planet to shift. Publicise it, make it easy, set a date, be ready to handle the influx. Boom.”
He goes on to describe some of the effects once these open source tools are live:
“Then people began to share the news that you could transfer everything going on in the rest of your internet life into a single account on YourLock, which was organised as a co-op owned by its users, after which you … could use [your data] as a negotiable asset in the global data economy, agreeing to sell your data or not … [for] micro-payments … mainly health information, consumption patterns, and finance. The royalties for being oneself in the world machine were not insignificant, a kind of lifetime annuity, small but useful. And so people began to make the shift, and one day that typing point arrived where nonlinear shear occurred, like an earthquake, and suddenly everyone had a YourLock account and would henceforth be conducting their internet life by way of it. A whole new internet ecology, the much-hyped but previously vaporwareesque Internet 3.0”
This is the vision which PLANET aims to bring about; a mass-shift from the proprietary walled-gardens, to open source, collectively owned alternatives. Kim goes on to describe the transformative power of cooperative ownership:
“…its users were its owners and thus made whatever money it made, mostly, by way of advertising fees. It was somewhat like a credit union, perhaps, inserting itself into the social media discourse space. As with a move from bank to credit union, instead of the company using the consumer, the consumer used the company, and owned it too. What did the company per se get out of it? Nothing, because a company was nothing. It was just an organisation devised to help its employee-owners, nothing more.”
Friends of The Open Co-op will recognise the similarities in what KSR describes to the PLANET vision. He doesn’t exactly offer anything new, or particularly insightful (and even suggest that YourLock would be built on blockchain, which we’re not convinced about) but regardless, the very fact that he describes something so similar to the vision we have been working towards since 2004 is very encouraging. More than encouraging. It’s validation.
It’s validation that our efforts are well placed – and motivation to continue our mission, to inspire, encourage, gather, unite, and explore any and all ways to encourage collaboration at scale; To encourage the “truly global, as well as very substantial and prolonged, commitment” which Smil notes is fundamental to solving the climate crisis.
At The Open Co-op, we’re making steady strides with the Murmurations protocol, and a new working group is forming to push forward the Offers and Wants schema and develop a decentralised means to exchange goods and services and to support gift economies and mutual aid networks… We’re providing cooperatively owned infrastructure for web meetings and email and office tools – all of which are powered by renewable energy… but we still need to do more. We need more DOers to get involved in creating the new economy and building the tools to enable collaboration at scale.
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Catalysing collaboration at scale is not easy, but it’s a mission we can all get involved with – and the first step is communication. So, tell us what you’re doing, what’s inspiring you, what you need help with, or what you can offer – what have you got to lose!?