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Yesterday James Wells issued a call for folks to "declare independence from what is harmful, yet somehow accepted in our world."  His own contribution had to do with wasteful consumption; I commented that his topic was fortuitous in that I had had a mini-epiphany of sorts on that subject just the previous night, and he suggested that I write a diary about it.  And so, here is my own modest contribution to that theme on this independence Day.

A few weeks back I made mention of an initiative that I am helping to get started here in the Lansing area that will hopefully create a Mondragon-type worker-owned and -managed cooperative business enterprise (something I said that I would write a diary about and haven't yet got around to but will in the near future).  As this project has gotten underway I have had the very fortunate opportunity to begin collaborating with a couple of young folks who have launched the Mid-Michigan Time Bank.  Christian and Edge remind me of myself when I was their age.  Full of piss and vinegar, these two recent MSU grads have eschewed a free ride through Graduate School and employment in Corporate America to instead forge a path that includes going door-to-door to recruit people into the MMTB.  They are also working to start an eco-village outside of town with a group of like-minded friends.  Their enthusiasm and optimism for creating a future that they might want to raise children in someday is inspiring; I wish that all Americans shared such commitment.

Anyway, the other night I was contemplating the sale of my 1996 Sonoma pickup truck to help with some financial difficulties I'm having, when suddenly it occurs to me: why not donate the damn thing to the MMTB?  I only use it occasionally for hauling manure and very large items, anyway.  Instead of having it sit virtually unused in my backyard gathering leaves and mouse nests, the MMTB members could be using it to help them in their projects in all sorts of ways, especially when Chris and Edge and their friends get their eco-village off the ground.  It will still be available for my own use when needed, and the donation will be a nice deposit in my time bank account that I can draw on in the future.  Yes, I need the money right now, but I'll find another source for that somehow.  This is a much better idea.  I like it.  A lot.

So this gets me to thinking about all the other stuff in my home and garage and shop that is just lying around unused and gathering dust.  That router: I bought that many years ago for one project and have used it only a few times since then.  There has got to be someone who would love to use it on a project for a fellow member.  Same with my SawZall: three or four projects in all of fifteen years.  The list goes on.  All this stuff that I conspicuously consumed long ago could right now be in the hands of people like Chris and Edge who have hardly any stuff at all and could be using to build that better sustainable world we all so want to see happen.

That's what Collaborative Consumption is all about:

Collaborative consumption is a class of economic arrangements in which participants share access to products or services, rather than having individual ownership. Often this model is enabled by technology and peer communities
The concept has been championed by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers in their 2010 book What's Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption. In June 2010, ABC Television's Big Ideas programme included a segment showing Botsman's speech at the TEDx Sydney conference in 2010, describing collaborative consumption as "a new socio-economic 'big idea' promising a revolution in the way we consume". In 2011 Botsman described it as a social revolution that allows people to “create value out of shared and open resources in ways that balance personal self-interest with the good of the larger community.” At TEDGlobal2012 Botsman articulated that the concept of trust, across multiple platforms, would constitute the currency of a new collaborative economy, asserting that “reputation capital creates a massive positive disruption in who has power, influence and trust."

In 2010, collaborative consumption was named one of TIME Magazine's 10 ideas that will change the world. The financial crisis of 2007–2010 and subsequent housing bubbles have prompted consumers to reconnect through peer-to-peer marketplaces that are turning underutilized assets and resources into new jobs, income streams and community networks. Napster pioneered peer-to-peer file sharing and subsequent platforms have emerged to facilitate the sharing of content, cars, bikes, tools and random household appliances. A growing generational shift has begun where consumers are less compelled to own, but place more value on access.

In the twenty years I worked as an Environmental Engineer at General Motors I accumulated a fair amount of stuff.  And although I'd like to think that as a fervent environmentalist I made positive contributions to our planet working inside the system, in all honesty I really can't say for sure right now that if I were to sit down and do a full accounting of all the costs and benefits of my actions during that time that I would come out favorably in the karmic scales of environmental justice.  If not, at the very least my current decision to begin putting these tools into the hands of people who need them most and are helping to build a more just and sustainable future might in some small way help redeem my past conspicuous consumption.

And so, on this Independence Day, I encourage you to take a look around at all the stuff you own and don't use very often and ask yourself the same questions I did.  Then go find your local time bank and get involved.  If there isn't a local time bank, think about starting one in your area.  A sustainable and prosperous future is not going to come about on its own or with lofty-sounding goals written on a blog post.  It's going to happen one router and SawzAll and pickup truck at a time.  As Barack Obama put it:

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.
Happy Independence Day, everyone!

Originally posted to lehman scott on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 03:16 PM PDT.

Also republished by Changing the Scrip.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (7+ / 0-)

    Pessimism of the intellect; optimism of the will. - - Antonio Gramsci

    by lehman scott on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 03:16:16 PM PDT

  •  Lending libraries (4+ / 0-)

    Not exactly like a time bank, but still are collaborative ways to deal with "stuff".  (the link below includes links to other sites with comprehensive "how to" on setting one up.

    Tool Lending Libraries work just like book lending libraries, except they allow the temporary use of tools instead of books. They allow a community to access the tools they need, without needing to purchase and store the equipment. For many makers, the use of tools at home doesn’t justify the purchase price, and tool lending libraries can help fill the gap.

    I've seen them suggested for various kinds of hand tools, hammers, drills, etc; and also for gardening tools such as mowers, hoes, hedge clippers, etc.

    “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

    by Catte Nappe on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 03:42:17 PM PDT

  •  One sawzall at a time (5+ / 0-)

    For a sustainable future, the policy stuff is huge as well - BUT leading by example, and living that future, is a really key part of that.

    Thank you for declaring independence from the need to own everything you use,

    •  Thank *you*, James! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      James Wells, citisven

      I think if everyone participated in both policy and practice that would go a long way in getting us where we need to be.  I know I've been focusing way too much on the former for quite a long while.  It wasn't until I recently received a much-needed kick in the pants from an older and wiser activist mentor that I started spending more time on the latter and rediscovered how rewarding wearing a pair of ground boots can be.

      Pessimism of the intellect; optimism of the will. - - Antonio Gramsci

      by lehman scott on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 04:32:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great stuff. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lehman scott, James Wells, citisven, DawnN

    This is an important initiative and a much-needed change in our ways of thinking.

    Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

    by WarrenS on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 04:22:27 PM PDT

  •  Great diary, lehman scott (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lehman scott, James Wells

    These are all topics I've dabbled in quite a bit — from ecovillages to time banks to co-ops to collaborative consumption. They all are responses to the deep desire and need for change that so many of us are feeling and that James articulated so well in his diary yesterday.

    Regarding collaborative consumption, I'm a bit suspicious of that term (as well as "sharing economy") and some of the places the movement has been going. I much prefer the idea of collaborative creation, because as long as we're just looking at everything as objects of consumption, we're still in the business of extraction, just a little bit less of it and as a team.

    Hope to see more of your writing here, these are such nutritious and important discussions to have if we want to make the deeper, more structural changes needed to live in harmony with the earth's ecosystems.

    Ecology is the new Economy

    by citisven on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 10:52:26 PM PDT

    •  Thank you so much, citisven. I share your (0+ / 0-)

      suspicion of the term collaborative consumption.  Actually my feelings tend more towards aversion, given the central role that scaling back consumption will play as we power down.  But I guess you have to start somewhere - - it's not what you'd call an easy task to try to unwind 150 years of cultural conditioning.

      I very much like the use of collaborative creation model - - thanks for that link.  CCr does bring in maker elements not in CCo that are going to be crucial through and after the transition.  I've been aware of the maker movement for some time from being a long-time Boing-boing reader, but i hadn't thought that much about the possible synergies with the TB/CCo movement.  Very interesting.  It really does take the general cooperative/collaborative approach to the next level.

      One of the aspects of all of this that I find so daunting is how few people are aware of this emerging Renaissance, let alone exploring and participating in it.  While it's all well and good to see the growth of Maker's Fairs and Time Banks all across the country, the overall number of people involved just seems insufficient to generate the energy level necessary to precipitate the fundamental systemic transformations that are going to have to take place if these efforts are to accomplish anything more than empowering a relatively small number of the American populace.

      Perhaps my impatience stems from my age.  I want to see things change in big and fundamental ways - - it just seems to me that our financial and socioeconomic institutions are running out of time.  Every possible policy knob has been twiddled and switch flipped in every conceivable combination, and with every renewed attempt things just seem to get worse.  I feel that if the types of economic transformations that are meeting with such success from the ground-up are not soon communicated to the American public at large in such a way as to generate a national dialogue on these fundamental issues that we may as well throw in the towel on Western Industrial Civilization.

      But that's on a bad day when I'm feeling pessimistic.  Days when I talk to Chris and Edge as they are tending their community garden on the vacant lot they have appropriated for that purpose I feel a lot more optimistic.  Maybe in the end it really will be all about local practice, and national policies will be irrelevant.  I really don't know.  There are so damn many Americans that are absolutely clueless about the speeding locomotive barreling straight at them.   It's really quite frightening sometimes.

      That sharing-for-profit article was quite thought-provoking, too, thanks for that link, as well, Sir!  Adios and thanks for commenting, I'm off to bed!

      Pessimism of the intellect; optimism of the will. - - Antonio Gramsci

      by lehman scott on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 12:01:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  collaborative consumption ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lehman scott

    one of things I love about transition towns is this focus on group ownership and sharing services ...

    •  Yes, that is one of their greatest strengths. TTs (0+ / 0-)

      work so well in GB where town-sized population centers are so historically prevalent. I haven't followed their development so much here in the states, but the impression i've gleaned so far is that it's a lot harder here because of so much damn suburbia.  They tried quite hard to get one going in Ann Arbor a couple hours down the road from me but it unfortunately failed.  Not for lack of trying, though.  I think there's an optimal population distribution/density/demographic formula or something that makes the probability of success for the approach much more likely and if one strays too far from that target range it just takes a lot more work to get it to the point where it's self-sustaining.  At least that was my take from following how things went in A2.  It's sad, too, because I know A2 well, it's where i got my BSE.  I would have thought it a no-brainer to make A2 a TT.  Maybe it was the transient student population or something, I don't know.  I sure hope someone did a post-mortem on the experience, it really could be very valuable information for future initiatives there and elsewhere.

      Pessimism of the intellect; optimism of the will. - - Antonio Gramsci

      by lehman scott on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 09:11:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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