by Katherine Jacobs
On Sunday, September 3rd, neighbors from the far corners of Seattle gathered in the basement of the Columbia City Church of Hope to get hopeful and nerdy about social ecology.
What is social ecology, you ask?
Great question! It’s a theoretical framework that offers an alternative to our current political/economic system that I will summarize with the following two points:
- Ecological destruction and domination of the earth is directly tied to our exploitation of one another.
- It doesn’t have to be that way.
In the depths of my despair about the current state of things, I am inspired by the “it doesn’t have to be that way” part. There is a recognition that while the system is profoundly problematic, burning it down isn’t really a useful solution. Instead, social ecology focuses on evolving a new system that takes care of people and the planet through movement building and organizing at the local level.
The political theory at the heart of social ecology is libertarian municipalism (not related to American libertarians), which proposes a federal structure of allied communities. The town or neighborhood would be the center of decision making, allowing average citizens to be meaningfully engaged with political choices that impact their lives and communities. This theory also proposes a separation between policy and administration so that policy decisions can be made by members of the community, while administration can be carried out by people with careers in government.
There have been a few real world experiments in carrying out these ideas that are pretty encouraging. Barcelona en Comú started as a grassroots organization with no funding in 2014 and gained control of the city through the pre-existing electoral structure on a platform of social justice and fighting corruption. Similarly, Jackson, Mississippi’s Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, which is structured on neighborhood-based people’s assemblies and economic cooperatives, won the recent mayoral race by 95% and is backed by their city council.
Why not Seattle? The premise of the NAC is to establish a platform for community members to work together at the neighborhood level in taking power over the policy decisions that shape our lives. If that’s appealing to you, learn more about social ecology with the resources below, and get involved with your local NAC.
Ecology of Freedom, Murray Bookchin
Ecology of Everyday Life, Chaia Heller
Rojava and Bakur
Institute for Integral Studies
Barcelona en Comú