What do YOU find risky? Why is it that we find home, life and car insurance so normal yet can't be bothered to mitigate risk arising from energy-use, economic bubbles and climate change? Maybe we are being silly? I was wondering whether Transitioners are over-estimating risk and trying to make High Wycombe too safe. What would we lose in more resilient communities? Afterall, without risk there are no returns...

I did wonder about the relationship between wealth generation and risk taking. "Fortune favours the bold" we are told. If nobody took any risks then what a dull and poor society we would live in. So how do we avoid risk yet take the very necessary risks we need to keep our economy generating sustainable prosperity? Is the occasional bubble a good thing? It has been said that a few bubbles in the flow of economic activity is benign. I wouldn't disagree but what we have seen recently suggests that the bubbles are getting bigger than the stream. What is going on?

If someone wants to start a business manufacturing energy efficient lightbulbs in High Wycombe we would welcome this but have the full knowledge that this remains a very risky enterprise in a globalised economy where cheap consumer goods are best made in China. It is cheaper there in our definition of "efficient" because we exclude externalities - like the future. We won't change that until the cost of transport causes the importation costs to rise to cancel out the economic advantage. That is a certainty but it will happen at some point in the future so we discount it. A risk. But our competitors discount the future so there is no level playing field unless consumers CHOOSE the sustainable option. That is how FairTrade works. We are not rational consumers but we are on a budget.

One view could be that every human enterprise damages the planet so we should all stay in bed. I don't go for that. Firstly that is a pretty extreme viewpoint and secondly the only alternative is doing nothing. If we all did nothing we would all curl up and die. Not a preference. So we need some medium position. In Transition we would choose the position of resilient communities. A resilient High Wycombe. These are interconnected villages making local decisions about their food, energy and economics that take into account the needs of people seven generations from now. We prefer a different discount rate from that chosen by conventional economics. We share the responsibility for the world that the seventh generation will be born into because we have the resources. They will not. That is our choice. Our informed opinion. But few in Wycombe choose this path.

Is our discount rate innappropriate? Am I assuming too much about the resources that will be available to our children? Maybe. However a few facts are quite evident: they will face a more turbulent climate (than we have) - with an unwieldy human population. They will not have fossil fuels in the abundance we have. They will need to feed a lot of people and find an abundant feedstock to replace fossil fuels, to make things, and move them around. Even if someone perfects nuclear fusion tomorrow this won't be able to create the chemicals we need. However it would replace the use of fossil fuels in our energy system freeing up those valuable hydrocarbons to be used in making useful things. Hence preventing all that carbon from going up in smoke. It could happen but there is no point assuming it will if it hasn't.

So that is the challenge we face. It is a risk with such a high certainty of happening that we should not discount it. Unless we are mad or bizarrely optimistic. But neither can we completely remove risk. We will need free enterprise to drive the micro-economies of our communities. We will need risk takers. We will need a lot of risk takers. In essence Transitioners are taking a risk as we are gambling that there will be LESS resources tomorrow. However, our risk has low costs. Choosing a Transition actually does no damage. It is a safe path for a future with depletion or abundance. Risk-takers will sometimes fail. We cannot protect ourselves from failure. It is the creative destruction of capitalism that ensures we evolve and flourish. Change is good but it needs a direction to make it sustain. We will not have a nanny-state anymore to care for us cradle to grave. Those days are over. We will need to be more resilient.

There will be a lot of creative destruction in future. Entire industries are going to collapse and new ones take their place. We will need people to stick their necks out a bit further than we have been used to. Not everything will work. In fact most things will probably fail before a better solution can be found. Indeed, in the long term, ALL solutions may well be over-taken by something better. This is not to be feared. We just need to draw a boundary around the human enterprise so that it is at the human-scale. It must become more local again to limit the damage of failure. A resilient community will make lots of mistakes and there will be setbacks. However, the failures we lead to success and the only suffering will be temporary & localised.

The risks we CANNOT face any longer are the global ones. The tradegy of the commons (where we all burn fossil fuels) will now effect the GLOBAL climate not just that in Wycombe. We can't just move away from the trouble caused. The global economy will crash an crash again on a turbulent stream of credit bubbles that get larger and larger to be dashed against the rocks of resource depletion. When our systems of governance and finance are too large to fail then we will all fail and the effect is collapse. We must avoid collapse. If everything collapses there is no support mechanism to bring up the replacement technology and culture. I do not believe in collapse as enevitable. We must avoid sudden collapse and I know we can do this but ONLY if we think that it MIGHT happen - thus mitigate the risk. We must not ignore it out of misplaced faith in gods and markets. Or markets as gods.

The bottom line is that a resilient community may not be perfect but it will allow us to avoid collapse. There is a better way. That is as good as it gets. I can't see it being idyllic. We'll still be fighting over something or other of value. It will be a world where we have mitigated global life-threatening risk. Life will not be dull. It will be thrilling in a very different way. If there is not risk no one will be inspired, but at least when someone does put their neck on the block they know that a failure is contained to their tiny corner of the system - and will not spread to destroy the lives and livelihoods of billions of people. It can only be better than what we have. It will be the end of stupid.

I'll vote for it. Join me.

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