Work: Production, Labour, & Goods

After the 2008 crash, millions of middle and lower class Canadians and Americans lost their jobs while the richest walked away nearly unscathed. A narrative was established that in order to kickstart the economy and create jobs there was one single option – ramp up production and consumption. The 2020 pandemic has again demonstrated the precarious nature of many jobs and how quickly millions of people become scared of being unable to feed their children. This time, it has also highlighted the sheer number of bullshit jobs and useless positions that need not exist, and the world keeps turning. Aquinas famously said that “to live well is to work well”. In the industrial revolution the nature of work and production changed, removing community and meaning from craft and labour. This newly established system of work and production quickly depleted life’s resources, wreaking havoc on both our psychological and ecological well-being.

Now, faced with a growing crisis of meaning, ecological emergencies, recognition of precarious work, and diminished community we need to be innovative in ensuring people have all that they need to thrive. We need to reevaluate the purpose of ‘work’ – to ensure that work and production fill people with meaning and fulfilment, contribute positively to community while reconnecting us with others, and exists for reasons beyond the necessity of ‘pay’. Many of the recommendations below ask us to internalize the process of production as making things in our own communities is linked with improved self-esteem, increased community connection, decreased consumption, and improved human-Earth relationships. We also ask everyone to rethink the way communities organize and support one another’s passion work and how we think about paying people for their work. We are asking people and governments to rethink and redefine ‘productivity’ and take a slower approach.

We want to emphasise that this is not austerity – communities need basic services, essential services, higher minimum wage, organizing together, women as leaders, home as a leader, and care as a leader.

Go back to our full list of topics.

How can you make a difference?

  • Craft, crochet, publish, cook, reuse, repair, paint – just make! And teach your children to do the same. Not only will it mean you need to buy less, but making improves self-esteem and long term resilience.
  • Support local establishments and entrepreneurs as often as possible. The “stuff” you buy will have more meaning, you’ll be supporting your local community, and helping others in your community stay committed to their passions. 
  • Explore options for creating based activities such as building a community garden or enhancing an outdoor public space in your community. Some municipalities and grant programs support these endeavors.
  • Do the job you want to do rather than working for high income. With greater systemic change throughout the system this will increasingly become an option. In cases of job loss – this is an opportunity to shift a local or entrepreneurial endeavor. 
  • Support open source/sharing/peer-to-peer platforms
  • Retail-level investments in local enterprises, particularly nonprofit and cooperative enterprises

Policy Suggestions

Local and MunicipalFederal & Provincial/State
Enforce minimum mandatory outdoor Support investments in community based tools and programs such as 3D printers in libraries, opening a tool library, hosting repair cafe evenings for citizens, and turning wood shops at high schools into maker spaces with broader use.Public jobs guarantee for essential services, regenerative agriculture, restoration, and resilience
Support work-from-home strategies to allow for complexities of lifeRethink pay, income, and finance
Provide entrepreneurial start-up funding and incubation hubs for technology, social services, food services, and physical goods. Make affordable space for start-ups, creative hubs for artists, and sponsor locally relevant events to showcase this work (festivals).Include ‘making’ in elementary curriculum
Work with existing building owners with vacant spaces to find alternative options for free or nearly free startup spaceSponsor spaces and workshops in creative industries such as theater, music, and film to provide greater feelings of community.
Full or partial municipal and nonprofit/philanthropic takeovers of critical enterprises struggling during the economic crisisMake reskilling a free option for anyone over the age of 40 and in some additional circumstances such as digital literacy for women and skills based programming for youth.
Support for the conversion of traditional businesses into cooperatives and nonprofit social enterprisesCreative commons and opens-sourced intellectual property usage rights for findings from public investments in essential services

Allies, Related Resources, and E4A Publications

Change in Action

While not all of these projects direction involve E4A, they are great examples of diverse examples of socio-ecological change in action.

To suggest a change, edit, or update please contact us! You are also welcome to explore and comment on our collaborative Google Document where we share ideas and resources.