A New Paradigm for Labor
Sustainable labor can be anything we want it to be. Since we will need to create a new paradigm, we can shape a new world of labor. Sustainable labor must be non exploitive. We must see how all workers and our interests are interconnected all around the planet. The earth and its resources cannot be exploited and neither can the people who mold those resources into things and services that we need. When capitalist markets developed 500 years ago, not much consideration was given to resources being finite. Now it has smacked us in the face. We need to develop jobs that reflect this reality— jobs that do not depend on a theory of unlimited economic growth because this concept is a huge part of the reason we are strolling down a path of destruction.
A Global Economy that Works for Workers and the Planet
Workers need to become involved in the fight against climate change. People from all over the world are uniting in a movement that could radically change the global economy. The movement encompasses a wide range of political and economic ideas, but many folks in the movement agree that a sustainable economy must move away from the current model of exploitation. The goals of maximum profit and unlimited economic growth are a recipe for a smorgasbord of climate catastrophes. While the climate movement in recent years has made a successful effort to become more diverse, in many ways it remains a upper middle class movement, if not in character then in ideology. Granted, as the movement has become more mass and inclusive, it has begun to also be less elitist, but an “environmentalist” vs. worker divide still contributes to a misunderstanding of our mutual interest.
Many working folks may care deeply about climate change, but they are also trying to hold onto their jobs in an economy whose main concern is to create cheap and “flexible” labor. Unions in recent years have become more involved in and made alliances with the climate change movement, as the large labor contingent at the march in New York last September exemplified, but most union leaders cannot be trusted to defend the interests of rank and file workers anymore than that mythological creature, the benevolent boss, can be.
Nonalienating Workplaces Must Become the Norm
Who better to explain the alienation of work and the disregard for health and safety in the workplace than the people who live that reality? Who better to make the connection to the lack of respect for the planet and the disdain for workers than workers ourselves? An assembly line, no matter if it’s producing Hummers or solar panels, is not a sustainable model. It makes no difference what product or service the company is selling, the current model of customer service workers being strapped into a phone system and computer station cannot be integrated into a sustainable economy. A sustainable society must include nonalienating workplaces.
A New Philosophy for Technology
An entirely new philosophy must be developed around the invention and application of technology. Just because it’s green doesn’t mean it’s sustainable. Work technology today is all about getting “more” for “less.” It devalues us, our contribution to society, and our skills. A fundamental component of work technology is the concept of more production, more profit achieved by making workers skills obsolete. The philosophy that imagines this model of technology and implements it in the workplace is incompatible with a sustainable future for human civilization. We need technology that enhances the connections and collaboration between people and that is shaped to be a part of the ecosystem not one that advances ingenious ways to deplete it.
Shaping the New Paradigm
We hope to make SutainableLabor.com a place where these ideas can be discussed, analyzed, and hammered into some concrete concepts that can be integrated into the fight against climate change and for a sustainable economy. The new economy, like all economies, will be built by working people, and we must help to shape this new paradigm.