Freeconomics and Mark Boyle, The Moneyless Man

I just finished reading Mark Boyle’s book The Moneyless Man and found it hugely inspiring. Mark was an economics graduate and businessman who discovered Ghandi. Ghandhi’s “Be the change you wish to see in the world” became the ethos by which he began to live and Mark started a Freeconmic movement, one in which members gave freely to those in need. This movement operates in over 150 countries around the world in town and city communities. The Freeconomic Movement operates on a Pay-It-Forward ethos. As he puts it in his speech (linked below) “For thousands of years we have been looking at life through a lens of “What can I take”. Imagine on a table in front of you there are different lens and we take off our old and put on a new one of “What can I give?”

“Imagine a world where we can give without expectation of receiving anything in return to someone who needs help.”

From an ecological viewpoint Mark discusses the toll consumerism has taken on the planet, the wasteful nature of it. In the UK 1/3 of all food traded through supermarkets etc is wasted, thrown out by either the stores or the consumer – much of this food imported from all around the world just to be dumped. Much of this food is grown by poorer countries who use low paid workers to produce it, the expense of getting it to our shops/homes grows with every step of the journey not only adding to the cost of the product but it takes a toll environmentally…then so much of it is dumped. The same could be said for many of our purchases which end up in landfills sooner or later.

From a humanitarian viewpoint, how much food, warm clothing, furniture etc is dumped when so many have so little and go hungry, not in only third world countries but in our own?

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In late 2008 Mark made a commitment to try living one year without money. He advertised on Freecycle for something he could live in and was given an old caravan, he made a rocket stove to cook on. He found an organic farmer who was willing to let him live in a small area in return for some work. He dug a hole to use as a loo, surrounded it with a makeshift tent he could also use as a camp shower. He also was given a fire and used waste wood to heat his caravan. He used an old bike to get around or walked many miles many days. He grew his own food, foraged and went skip diving. He talks of feasts him and his friends threw for up to 1500 people on waste from supermarkets, donations from many different sources (though I expect his profile in the area possibly helped alot there) He not only survived the in the year but at the end of his time realised how much happier he was, that he was a better person for it and decided to stay. The proceeds from his book are going towards land for a Freeconomy Community to set up their own place and this will not be a closed community but an open one.

Few of us would be willing or feel able to give up money, for those who would like to he shows it’s possible. But I found him inspiring for many reasons …he puts his money (or lack of!) where his mouth is, he fosters generosity rather than greed, he raises awareness of all sorts of ecological and society issues, he is a man who has taken up the “Be the change you wish to see in the world” challenge and run with it expecting nothing in return. His Freeconomy communities run much like Freecycle, people can advertise for stuff they need whether it be a lift somewhere, a couch to sleep on, tools, food…whatever. People can trade good for services or skills or just give freely. I am seriously considering starting one up here in our town but it does need thinking about. There will always be the takers who use something like this the wrong way, there is always potential for not so nice people in society to take advantage but… there are alot of good reasons to do this too. Many years ago I belonged to a Green Dollar Community where people traded skills and items with others expecting they in turn will recive what they need from others. I became very frustrated by doing alot of work for others who weren’t prepared to do their bit in return. This is different, there is no expectation here that you will receive anything in return, only that those you give to may one day pay-it-forward. People can get together to hold book or clothing swaps, family days etc. As an introvert I find this idea a bit scary 🙂 as a person who does care about the effect poverty has on people and communities I think it’s a brilliant idea. Anyway….bears some consideration.

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 To watch Mark Boyle’s talk on Ted X see here It runs for 15 minutes. Or an article he did for The Huffington Post here

The Sydney Morning Herald did an article on the rise of this in Australia while people are finding things tough and it appears to be successful and well used.

 

Pathological consumption

A great article on Whole Larder Love I found really interesting and other’s might (Thinking of you Jess). Rowan has a great blog on living off the land. The writer here discusses the behaviour of novelty gift buying for the people who already have “everything”. My thoughts are what a difference it would make if those loved ones were bought something from local artists or producers instead – handmade soap, chutney or even a basket of nice breads etc would be preferable to me that any “novelty item.

 

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 11 December 2012

There’s nothing they need, nothing they don’t own already, nothing they even want. So you buy them a solar-powered waving queen; a belly button brush; a silver-plated ice cream tub holder; a “hilarious” inflatable zimmer frame; a confection of plastic and electronics called Terry the Swearing Turtle; or – and somehow I find this significant – a Scratch Off World wall map.

They seem amusing on the first day of Christmas, daft on the second, embarrassing on the third. By the twelfth they’re in landfill. For thirty seconds of dubious entertainment, or a hedonic stimulus that lasts no longer than a nicotine hit, we commission the use of materials whose impacts will ramify for generations.

Researching her film The Story of Stuff, Annie Leonard discovered that of the materials flowing through the consumer economy, only 1% remain in use six months after sale(1). Even the goods we might have expected to hold onto are soon condemned to destruction through either planned obsolescence (breaking quickly) or perceived obsolesence (becoming unfashionable).

But many of the products we buy, especially for Christmas, cannot become obsolescent. The term implies a loss of utility, but they had no utility in the first place. An electronic drum-machine t-shirt; a Darth Vader talking piggy bank; an ear-shaped i-phone case; an individual beer can chiller; an electronic wine breather; a sonic screwdriver remote control; bacon toothpaste; a dancing dog: no one is expected to use them, or even look at them, after Christmas Day. They are designed to elicit thanks, perhaps a snigger or two, and then be thrown away…. Read more here: Whole Larder Love

Food Anarchy

Smart thinking from a funny lady, I just love this.

My Watering Can

The GMO labeling fight is raging, but one has to wonder, if you don’t buy processed foods and grow a lot of your own, you can avoid these kinds of shenanigans. Personally, I try to avoid most things that are GMO foods these days anyway. I do hope it becomes a law, but in the meantime, for your viewing pleasure…. I posted this from Youtube (so no it’s not me in the video)

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Mind the Gap – A Report on Inequality

A heavier post than my usual but since watching this documentary on TV a couple of months ago it has been playing on my mind so I thought I would share it.  The statistics here speak for themselves and while I doubt me sharing it makes a scrap of difference in the world (!) it is something that concerns me, concerns everyone. This documentary investigates the new working poor.

Most of us realise that world governments are doing things wrong and we, the little people, are suffering for it. New Zealand is a small country with a population of only 4 million, but still we have followed the examples of bigger countries (America, England) to our detriment and our statistics echo what is going on elsewhere.

The video here, Mind the Gap http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__2EdGFdgTA is 45 minutes long and I am not really expecting anyone to watch it however these are a few statistics I have written down from it.

In 1984 our government changed from neo-liberalism, following America and England. They changed from a focus on social policies, brought in after the war, to business and industry… encouraging consumerism. They hoped by providing tax breaks to wealthy business owners this would have a “trickle down effect” providing better business, more jobs.

In 1953 there was a large working class in this country, a medium sized pool of medium class, a small group of rich. Today there is a large percentage of people living in poverty, a large group of what we call the new “working poor” paying large taxes to support those living in poverty, a distinct group of wealthy.

Today the top 10 % of the population own over 1/2 of the country’s wealth.

Detected social welfare fraud last year – $23 million and 800 people were prosecuted. Detected tax evasion (business, corporate) – $1 billion and 50 people were prosecuted. Undetected tax fraud is thought to be $5 billion. There is a much higher rate of welfare defrauders going to jail than those who rip off their investors.

Our government pays $1.2 billion in accommodation supplements to the poor and another $2 billion in their Working For Families scheme to supplement the low working wage or to support the unemployed.

Food costs have risen 217% in 30 years while the dollar is buying 2/3rds less.

The bigger the inequality in a country between rich and poor the higher the rates of crime, disease, infant mortality, mental illness, incarceration rates and teenage pregnancies and there are shorter life expectancy rates. Governments/taxpayers pay the costs for all this, for how long is this sustainable to support the people AFTER they have fallen off a cliff?

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Have any of you seen Kid President. He’s a little American kid who has alot to say, he’s funny (loud!) but he’s also serious. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFZGyUZ9YrM. In this video he discusses internet use – 14 million human beings follow Miley Cyrus on Twitter – on purpose! 60 million photos are uploaded on the internet each day, many of them are “selfies” or photos of what people are eating. People spend $600, 000 a day on Candy Crush!! His message in this, it’s Socktober, donate a pair of socks to a homeless person, or a tin of food, donate to a shelter. 600,000 people are homeless in America, including kids.

We can walk past the homeless with averted eyes pretending we didn’t see them, or we can help. We can keep voting the way we vote out of habit or we can start voting with a social conscience, can’t we? WE are the future, our children are the future and right now the future isn’t looking great for too many. Where are we going to be in 10 – 20 years time if WE don’t bring in change …….and maybe there is something in that saying “Be the change you wish to see in the world”.

Thoughts At The Supermarket

This original article linked through this worthy post is so worth a look. It’s just crazy – non-food food.

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I was going to share some of my day with you from yesterday today, but I came across this article on my morning browse over a cup of coffee (iced of course, when in Greece..) and decided this is so much more important.

I have thought these thoughts so many times when going to the local supermarket on Sundays for my weekly shop. The 2 litre bottles of soft drinks and the half a kilo chocolate bars are being pumped on the end of the isles, with promises of happiness, consert tickets, winnning a trip to paradise and meeting your footy hero. And at the checkout you will find even more sugar PLUS (and this is the big plus) all the magazines you need to deal with it all. I have described my love for magazines to you earlier, and this is no better. All the magazines you can…

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