Despite the depth of financial problems facing the world I find it strange that there has been so little discussion of alternatives to the current dominant economic system. We seem to be locked into a corporate-industrial-military-technological system that denies and backgrounds our dependence on a well functioning earth system, and a supporting social system.

If we consider the possibility of even greater dislocations that may arise from an ecological and/or social system collapse, then there is an even greater need to look for viable alternatives. How did we ever believe that the economy could expand exponentially, even as our social and natural capital eroded, and most people in the world struggled ever harder to make ends meet?

So much discussion is based on the need to “fix” the current system. But is this what we truly want? Surely, it’s time to redesign, and re-imagine the entire system. This is harder that we think – since our minds have become colonised by the logic that produced this system in the first place! As David Kidner states in his brilliant book, Nature and Psyche: “There is a danger that our alternative visions of the future may be a lot less alternative than we think (since) they may be as “rationally” determined as the industrialism that it is intended to replace … there is the danger that environmentalists may be the unwitting carriers of the virus of industrialism to previously uninfected areas.”

So where do we look for real alternatives? Do alternatives exist that are based on earth honouring ways, alternatives that value life over money, alternatives that attack the underlying cause of the current economic (and potential ecological and social) collapse, not just its symptoms? Well, I’ve looked a few ideas that may spark my interest, and share them below.

Have a look at Transition Culture – a movement that provides information on the radical relocalisation of our cities and towns, based on low energy systems and local food growing. The question from Transition Culture is: How can we design (energy) descent pathways which make people feel alive, positive and included in this process of societal transformation?

David Korten, author of When Corporations Rule the World, also argues for a new economy-locally based, community-oriented, and devoted to creating a better life for all, not simply increasing profits. He says that it will require courageous and imaginative changes to how we measure economic success, organise our financial system, even the very way we create money.

There are some beautiful ideas in the idea of the Gift Economy – a system based on meeting people’s needs based on the giving and receiving of gifts. The current economic system is based on the exchange mechanism, where everything is defined in terms of its own aspects of categorisation, competition, quantification and measurement, at the same time hiding the activity of the gift paradigm. This concealment is an important factor in degrading the value of gift giving. For example, modern economies deny and background our dependence on both women and nature, and privilege ways of being that are harmful to the earth and ourselves.

There are so many good ideas, so much new thinking and imagining for building a sustainable future for ourselves, the earth, and other species. You won’t find much of it discussed in mainstream media. It involves thinking at the edge – of exploring ways of being that are new and exciting. Not all will work, but shouldn’t we at least try some?