The modern economy is tied up with consumerism and therefore being frugal and ecologically minded is itself a counter revolution that could reduce its ill effects.
The way to sustainability is in the doing, and not doing of each one of us. If we question our consumption and put it against a test of what is good for health, ecology and future generations we will find that the majority of the worlds population and policy makers are not working consciously enough on transforming the world into a biologically balanced sound Earth. If we question our consumption we will quickly see the limits and pitfalls of the social fabric we call capitalist economy. Pitted in competition with each other, human beings ruin the natural world and eat away at the ideals of humanity. One way to be reduce garbage, reduce poverty and improve the world is to get back to the Waste not, want not mentality. One persons garbage can be another persons treasure and it does not have to come with a price tag! All rules, laws, conventions that limit us from being sustainable have to be ignored and ultimately removed from this collective evolution.
When one gets creative with frugality and experiments with what can be done with what is around, much can be achieved.
As in the IPC, we are trying to find a road to sustainability and it will be different for each person, project and association however some kind of map / guideline as to what is suggested to be worked on in a logical manner over time could be developed. That said, even the most detailed of maps would have to be individualized per entity because each person, cooperative or group will be bringing their own assets, knowledge, interests and needs into the challenge of sustainability. If we can learn to share in the abundance and the scarcity then as a global society we can get to sustainability and a very comfortable, healthy state of living in very little time. If we insist on commoditising ( = turning everything into a commodity with a price) and treating our neighbors as only potential customers we will slow down the process. And it is a process, an ongoing action and non action, something to practice and to work on and this means it takes some effort and time. After all, effort over time is what creates all true wealth be it through natural causes or through human intervention. Now we should strive to create that wealth without collateral damage (be it human or any other life form) by including it in the greater (natural — biological) economy in synergistic ways.
For instance, the effort of bees over time produces what they need to continue to thrive and reproduce and also creates by products that we as humans find fascinating and useful — honey, propolis and wax. If we manage ourselves well, we are able to benefit from the labors of nature with out having to do all the effort ourselves — but some effort will always be needed nonetheless. Permaculture principles can be
used to plan and manage well on all levels and therefore our whole human civilization could function with such integral beauty.
Lets take a moment to look at human effort over time: lets take a garden as an example; it can feed us and it needs to be tended and takes time to grow. Building a house is no different… it takes our efforts to find and transport the materials, to build and furnish the spaces and it takes time to do it. Once done however, and if done smartly, we as humans can build homes that last over seven generations such as the cob homes of northern Europe or the stone homes of New Mexico or the Japanese and American timber frames. In contrast today there is no such long term vision as the economy is wrapped up in consumption for survival and in most modern homes and industrialized countries we rely heavily on cheap wood and plastic and reinforced concrete which creates structures that only can last up to 100 years without needing a total revamp! This is a waste of our human potential.
Not everything has to be self made and yet if the goal is to be ecological, the solution is often to undertake a do it yourself approach. If we are to provide services for one another, they should be services that each able bodied person should be capable of doing so long as they have access to the right tools and information but either has not access to the special materials or hardware to carry out the task or is not interested in or have a knack for those tasks. On the other spectrum, specialization of tasks is efficiency of human time and the environmental impact can be less if we don’t all need the same tools. So here-in is the dichotomy — and what I suggest is a balance between these two poles (or ways of thinking and doing). And when I mean balance I do not mean achieving it by regulation or by
enforcement but by opportunity and freely giving people the chance to create and collaborate and have the proper information — which in this day of misinformation is a challenge unto itself!
On a side note: The misinformation is spawned by so many things — it can come from malice, from monopolies trying to keep their power but just as easily by people who have read things without themselves experiencing them or those who investigate but do not get to the very bottom of an issue or subject. This could be further explored but it is not my field, time or place to look deeper into it at the moment. Back to the matter at hand.
The sweet spot between do it yourself and a society bent on specialization is collaboration under a different economic philosophy. For example, if I were to be a carpenter by trade, it may not make much sense for me to take on metal working or creating a line of beauty products (that is, unless I was personally interested in all those). The tools for each person taking on all those rolls would be replicated and thus put a strain on our common resources. However if I had access to those tools and access to those trades people openly with no corporate, cultural or religious barriers, in a culture of sharing then I could dabble with their tools and have a broader skill base which is more dynamic for those interested in life learning and which makes for a more resilient society as skill sets become stretched over many people and places.
This holistic point of view about economy has been summed up well by Wendell Berry decades ago in this following excerpt from his essay ‘Two Economies’: “We see that we cannot afford maximum profit or power with minimum responsibility because, in the Great economy, the loser’s losses finally afflict the winner. Now the ideal must be “the maximum of well-being with the minimum of consumption,” which both defines and requires neighbourly love. Competitiveness cannot be the ruling principle, for the Great Economy is not a “side” that we can join nor are there such “sides” within it. Thus, it is not “the sum of its parts” but a membership of parts inextricably joined to each other, indebted to each other, receiving significance and worth from each other and from the whole.
Now in our modern economy there is a difference in price put on different products and thus different services. This is a boundary that we must collectively seek a solution too, for it is not in my interest to become a carpenter only if the metal smith overcharges for his/her work or if the beauty products supplier puts in less effort but gains more (perhaps due to market demands — less sold so higher price or maybe because of a well known brand) or any other services where quality of the goods or service suffers just so someone can stay employed or in business or earns more. At that point I would try to make these products myself, and personally I do so when where possible. Only when we are sure the price of something is equal to the work we ourselves are doing does it seem just or fair in the larger scheme of things. It is easier to share in a sharing economy knowing that there is a balance, that one person is not a slave of another. When groups of people understand and live by this and also share the same ecological mindset then we have an association or network of people who can really create a novel sustainable economy within natures larger economy and be proud of the labor and be successful in health, happiness, experiences and goods. This is the ‘getting things done or supplying our collective needs’ aspect of community which I want to experiment with and with whom I’d like to attract to the International Permaculture Community I am in the process of founding.
On my personal quest to self and eco-sustainability I have realized that each good is thus an element that has many purposes and has numerous potentials. In light of my current life and lifestyle at the base-camp some current examples of such thinking are:
- Uses for 5 gallon buckets — humanure toilets, puke bucket, laundry bucket,construction, keeping materials, macerating lime, fermenting soaps, as a seat, short step ladder, small table, table leg(s) etc…
- Uses for unprocessed coconut coir — dried for fire starters, cut as scrubbers (dish washing), chopped tiny as a soil amendment medium.
- Uses for bamboo — split into starter trays, experimenting with possible roof option, construction, poles for harvesting and pollarding (that cutters and picker tools are added to), half cut lengths for troughs and poles smashed in the middle for piping.
I have used these items in all these ways in the last 3 months and I challenge you to try and make your own frugal living in your own areas and lifestyles… to be wise with materials. It would be nice to share such lists and information in a clear and concise way so that all people can begin to become more conscious of their impact today and the importance of being frugal for ecology.
So in closing, if we are really to tackle the pollution we all create as a human civilization we must become more openly connected and become more frugal participants in the co-evolution of a sharing economy.