Collapse Is Here

T. Vijayendra

The novel corona virus or COVID 19 has finally triggered the collapse of the industrial/capitalist economy. In the first part of this article we outline this collapse and the solution that has been proposed for the last decade and a half by a variety of green initiatives all over the world. However, the COVID 19 has also posed an unforeseen challenge. About the best method of facing the challenge of COVID 19 is to maintain social distance in coming 6 months or so. But then how do we implement these 'solutions' keeping the social distance that is necessitated by this very COVID 19 that has triggered the present collapse. Can we wait for 6 months for the storm to be over? In Part II we will consider this.

Part I: The Collapse
1. Ever since 2008 financial melt down, the world economy has been on a slow recession. It has been said that it has been the longest drawn recession in the history of capitalism. People expected a repeat of the phenomenon in about 10 years based on earlier cycles in the past 50 years. Through out last year a bigger recession has been setting all over the world. Many have been expecting a 'Black Swan' (The black swan events is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise and has a major effect.) event to trigger this. Only a couple of months ago people were talking of Australian bush fires or locust attack could be such a trigger. As it turned out, COVID 19 proved to be the black swan event.

2. This event is once in a century event and has been compared to Spanish Flu of 1918 when 50 million people died. In India18 million died, so much so that there was no population increase between 1911 and 1921 census. Other such event in India have been Bengal famine of 1943 and partition riots of 1947 where the death toll has been in hundreds of thousands, approaching a million.

3. This time it is different from any of those events mentioned above. We do not know what the number of deaths would be. Probably we would never know in India because of under reporting. However this crisis is an end of era event – end of the era of industrial society/capitalism era.

4. The reason is that, it is bringing a host of other crises together and the whole crisis is bigger than the parts. The parts are: 1. Global Warming 2. Resource depletion 3. Ecological degradation 4. Growing Inequality and Social Unrest.

5. The results of this mega crisis are:
i. Collapse of the present economy
ii. End of globalisation
iii. A big reduction of many sectors of economy e.g. air travels, auto industry, tourism, petro- chemical industry, iron and steel, coal and many many more.

6. The alternative will consist of:
1. Equality 2. Scaling down of the use of resources-particularly energy 3. Local self-sufficient economy 4. Ecological restoration of the present degraded ecology 5. A value system or ethical base which is more cooperative and less competitive than the present society.

7. At a political level it will be federation of states based on ecology. For example present day India can be a federation of 65 states based on ecological regions. The borders – both internal and international borders will be ecological soft borders – a border across which there is no tension.

8. How the local will be organised depends on local ecology. I have elaborate this in the booklet: A call for local action in the wake of global emergency.

9. Essentially there will be about 10 areas around in which the local economy will reorganised. Some existing examples are the transition town movement cities around the world.

10. These 10 areas are: 1. Air 2. Water 3. Waste Management 4. Food Production 5. Energy 6. Health 7. Education 8. Housing 9. Commons and Heritage 10. Employment Generation and Entrepreneurship.

For details see the booklet 'Kabira khada bazar mein: A call for local action in the wake of local emergency'.

Part II: Rebuilding the economy keeping the social distance
1. On the face of it it seems an insoluble problem. We have the theoretical option of waiting fort six months – let the storm blow over and then we start rebuilding. But we don't know what happen in these 6 months and whether we can delay it by these 6 months. So we have to start thinking how to start rebuilding the economy through facing COVID 19 – through following the discipline of social distance.

2. One possible answer is to study the rise and decline of this pandemic. We notice that it started in China in may be December 2019 and while it spread quickly all over the world, in China itself it has been brought under control. In many parts of the world its spread is minimal and they may escape relatively unhurt. These parts of the world are 'undeveloped' in the modern sense, that is penetration of capitalist society is minimal. So the new initiative should start simultaneously in both the areas: Areas which have recovered and areas which are not likely to be affected seriously.

3. We see at once that there are advantages in both the areas. In the areas where recovery has occurred-they are very developed and with high level of education, health care and environmental consciousness. Some thing like the conditions that were obtained in Cuba in 1991 when they faced this kind of crisis. Can we expect that these areas – China, South Korea, Japan etc. may respond like Cuba did?

4. The backward/undeveloped areas. Many of these areas are tribal/indigenous people's area. As it is they don't face any problem on their own. Many of them have healthy traditions of the kind of things that we desire. They don't need to rebuild so much. The main problem is to remove the capitalist penetration and influences of the market economy – influences of the glitter of urban life – clothes, films, English medium schools, smart phones, motorcycles and so on. It has been a tough problem so far, but with the economic collapse it may become relatively easier to face these problems.

6. In India it started with Kerala on January 30 and Kerala will probably recover first. There has been a talk of Transition Kerala. Such a group should immediately get active through social medial/whatssap etc. Also within Kerala, particularly in Northern Kerala there are indigenous areas and work may start there first.

5. What we do in areas which are in the middle of the pandemic? The first thing to do is to organise relief within the paradigm of social distance. Solutions are emerging daily all over the world. Basically home delivery of food and medicines to all the people and keep the health services going. Meanwhile through electronic/social media local green groups should start planning concrete plans of recovery and rebuilding step by step. Many ngos have good experience in disaster management. Some good initiatives will come from them.

March 21, 2020
P. S. I wrote the above on March 21. Within 7 days the collapse, at least in India is staring at us. (See Jayati Ghosh's interview by Karan Thapar, The Wire.) Even that is old before the lock down. In the last two days alarming reports are coming. So, I decide to circulate widely for what it is worth. Who knows if we will access to internet.

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Apr 2, 2020

T. Vijayendra

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