In Europe we witness intensive social participation, coupled to increased self-confidence. People often decide to leave government and political parties aside. They seek and find each other in loose alliances, not heavily structured, in order to vent one’s indignation of the dictate of financial markets, or for a good cause like nature conservation or better food.
The opposition between commercial activities and NGO’s, stemming from the ‘70s,has been overcome. Greenpeace makes a plea for some energy providers, and the recreational business sector participates in projects for the conservation of nature, alongside with the local Rotary and local government. Big firms serve equitable coffee to their employees, or require sustainably produced food in their corporate restaurants.
In the Netherlands, Wakker Dier (Alert Animal) is a fine example of an organisation which has accomplished much by leaving government out of the picture. Intensive livestock farming, which compresses many animals in a space as small as possible, is big business in the Netherlands. The political road to animal welfare has proven to be a minefield. Scientific reports with irrevocable conclusions have disappeared in deep archives. ‘Europe will not tolerate unilateral stricter regulations.’ Wakker Dier has developed a much more effective ground: consumer mobilisation. Surely, Europe will not oppose consumer bans on unhealthy meat?
Increasing social self-confidence
The mere fact that consumers let themselves be mobilised, testifies to a cultural revolution unheard of. Tens of years have preceded in which ‘mega meat’ and ‘pop chicken’ (approximate translations of neologisms by Wakker Dier) could not be banned from peoples’ kitchens, nor consequently from supermarket shelves (or the other way round). We can look upon this mobilisation as a token, not merely of a more thoughtful food consumption, but also of an increasing social self-confidence. Europeans are getting aware of their influence due to their behaviour and consumption pattern.
This self-confidence is all the more apparent in new ‘light’ forms of cooperation like cooperative organisations for local energy supply, nature conservation, or urban farming. Anonymous organisations like energy companies and telecom providers meet with growing resistance, while at the same time the enthusiasm for community action is growing. Rooftop solar cells produce independence from giant firms which only communicate through yearly bills and a call centre. A new world opens up for those who supply their own energy, even partially. It becomes a challenge to kill any energy guzzlers in the house, and to be as self-supportive as possible. Urban farming may not solve the world food problem, but it does provide the deep satisfaction of taking care of one’s own wellbeing. In a cooperative organisation, members can exchange experiences and inspire each other, and jointly take care of purchases, installation, and maintenance.
Renewal of society
Such cooperatives are ‘light’ organisations: based on voluntary involvement and a common cause. And the cooperative principle makes headway. An increasing number of independent entrepreneurs without personnel form insurance cooperatives for incapacity for work; parents gather to organise childcare among themselves. Cooperatives are not merely a token of social self-confidence, but also a way to escape from an increasingly presumptuous and yet powerless government. We can sum up the ascent of these new social relations as a renewal of society and the decline of the state.
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Does the future look grim?
Trend 1. Women will take the lead
Trend 2. Organisations will be founded on trust
Trend 3. New social networks are on the rise
Trend 4. Sustainability as a common goal
Trend 5. Decentralisation of industry in a biobased society
Trend 6. Small-scale energy systems
Trend 7. Europe was, is and will remain one of the most important producers of scientific knowledge in the world
Conclusion: think global, act local