Free Money Day: Sharing Is Common Cents

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Sharing Is Common Cents

It’s one of the most basic relationships most of us interact with on a daily basis: money. Just like anything else, if you love something set it free (or even if you don’t love it, just value it or put up with it). It’s time we started to challenge our perceptions around money. That time is nearly here – September 15th.

In just a few days you could be giving away your money to start a discussion about sharing economies, community, cash and alternatives to our unstable, unsustainable growth economy. It’s Free Money Day on September 15th, directly from the source:

What Is It?

On September 15th, at various public locations worldwide, people will hand out their own money to complete strangers (two coins/notes at a time) asking the recipients to pass one of these coins or notes on to someone else.

The Aim?

Raise awareness and start conversations about the benefits of economies based on sharing, as well as offer a liberating experience that gets us thinking more critically and creatively about our relationship with money and how we could have new types of economic activity.

The purpose of Free Money Day is to re-engage with money, re-exploring the way we relate with it and use it, and the possibilities that exist outside of it, in order to reinvigorate some of these democratizing ideals and bring them into practice.

You can register to host your own Free Money Day event here, and sign up to receive updates here. All the information you’ll need to organize a fun and successful event is posted on the Free Money Day website. And don’t forget to join the discussions leading up to and following September 15th.  We hope you’ll agree that this provides a great opportunity for us all to have some courageous conversations with the bonus of some fun added in!

Also, check our the Free Money Day video on YouTube:

This is a project that we’ve been working very diligantly on over at the Post Growth Institute (an international collective identifying, inspiring and implementing new approaches to global well-being without economic growth, co-founded by yours truly). I’m incredibly excited about this project and I hope you will join in!

Towards A Not-For-Profit World

I’ve often thought that the profit motive is one of the roots of our problems. That’s basically the statement behind the documentary The Corporation, which shows that the corporate model is, clinically speaking, a psychopath. When we are constantly chasing the “up and to the right” we are no longer striving for enough but more than enough. And the more than that. And still more than that. Profit motive drives the growth economy.

My wife’s been doing a lot of reading for a class about diseases around the world. One thing she commented on was regarding the “industrialization” of a lot of third world countries, namely those in Africa around the time AIDS appeared. These relatively flourishing countries had small, cyclical economies – that is, economics that produced enough for everyone involved. (Rob Hopkins talks about a similar economy in the intro to The Transition Handbook) These countries we not “developed” by western thought, but most everyone had a job and a stable home. Farmers produced enough food for their families and those in their community.

Then in come the western industrialists, saying “you can produce more than that and sell it to people in the next city/county/country to make more money!” And it was all down hill from there… Then the westerners leave the country pillaged, in ruins and aimless. No one benefited by the introduction of the growth concept in these examples except for the big company’s pocket books. And in order to feed that profit motive, in order to make even more money, these companies move on to the next unsuspecting country.

What if we were to change this line of thought? What if we were to introduce a cyclical line of thinking back into our corporate models? Instead of constantly “up and to the right” what if we said we need to maintain a certain level in order to sustain our employees, our country, our planet? What if we reinvented our way of living to serve our community and ourselves instead of just our bank accounts? Where is my rambling going? Well…

Donnie Maclurcan is a fellow Post Growther whom I’ve had the pleasure to work with a lot recently. (He also wrote a guest post a while back) He gave a TEDx Youth Talk a while back that is now available online. His concept is this: change the world to a not-for-profit model. Remove this destructive and unsustainable profit motive and focus on enough, on sufficiency instead of excess. I particularly love the story of the African village.

Check out the video:

The Green Economy vs US Politics

My apologies for the near two weeks of silence, we’ve had some computer issues in my house and a wave of fall cold. I’ve been twitting when possible, but limited computer time has made it difficult to write much. Here is something I think you might find interesting…

The United States political arena is mind-bogglingly idiotic. There, I said it. The fact that our media and politics can take a scientific fact (climate change) and turn it into a “four-letter word that many U.S. politicians won’t even dare utter in public” is despicable, detestable and degrading to the intelligence of the American people. Thomas Friedman just wrote a great article about the “next great global industry” and how our media-political system has pushed us behind the curve.

China’s leaders are mostly engineers and scientist. They understand scientific data, unlike our leaders that are politically-driven lawyers and scoundrels – they only seem understand money. It’s just unfortunate that most of the money is held by oil and coal companies with free reign to purchase elections and fund anti-climate campaigns. From Friedman’s short article “Aren’t We Clever?“:

“‘There is really no debate about climate change in China,’ said Peggy Liu, chairwoman of the Joint U.S.-China Collaboration on Clean Energy, a nonprofit group working to accelerate the greening of China… The push for green in China, she added, ‘is a practical discussion on health and wealth. There is no need to emphasize future consequences when people already see, eat and breathe pollution every day.’

“So while America’s Republicans turned ‘climate change’ into a four-letter word — J-O-K-E — China’s Communists also turned it into a four-letter word — J-O-B-S.

“‘China is changing from the factory of the world to the clean-tech laboratory of the world,’ said Liu. ‘It has the unique ability to pit low-cost capital with large-scale experiments to find models that work.’ China has designated and invested in pilot cities for electric vehicles, smart grids, LED lighting, rural biomass and low-carbon communities. ‘They’re able to quickly throw spaghetti on the wall to see what clean-tech models stick, and then have the political will to scale them quickly across the country,’ Liu added. ‘This allows China to create jobs and learn quickly.'”

So the old worry of communism may not be too far off – they are in fact stealing jobs from us. But not because they are communists and we are capitalists, but because they are intelligently transitioning to a new green economy and we are busy arguing over whether or not to trust the science.

Note: don’t let my tone make you think I don’t believe the US can transition to a greener economy, far from it. It is just frustrating to be in the one country with a non-functioning congress. If anything, I want you to not let the regressive party (republicans) win seats in this next election – it will make things worse. Vote out the idiots who don’t “believe” in the science!

How Much Is Left?

How Long Will The Bounty Last?

I’m taking the week off to head out of town with the family. I’ve got some drafts in the works, but it won’t be until I get back before I finish them. Expect some posts next week sometime. Until then, enjoy this great interactive inforgraphic…

I’ve been discussing limits in the last few posts. Here is a great interactive infographic put together by Scientific America that shows the limits of what our planet can provide. If we keep growing our economy, producing (mostly) useless junk and waste, how long can we expect to keep it up?

It reminds me of peak oil. Of all the wasteful things we use oil for (fuel is the biggest one – so many other things we are capable of using as fuel and energy that are renewable and sustainable), we are running out of oil incredibly quickly. But there are much more important things that we use from oil, like plastics and rubber for medical supplies, for instance. we would be able to keep these more important (and less destructive) uses of oil longer if we gave up the heavily destructive and wasteful uses like fuel. It’s all about sustainable scale and efficient allocation. We’ve got to make the non-renewable resources last and focus on transitioning to using only renewable resources within their ecological limits.

Have a good week, I’ll be back…

The Sigma Of Growth

We need a social revolution to sweep the country (and the world): changing the business-as-usual economy into a stable, sustainable, human-oriented economy. A transition to a just, dynamic steady state economy will require movement of the people. This has me thinking that one thing we need is to create a stigma around pro-growth supporters: those that support continued economic growth in the face of ecological and social degradation.

In the seventies it was “the man.” The Man was keeping us down. The Man was taking our money. The Man was pushing his agenda of consumption, 40-hour work weeks and corporate profit. Today that stigma has been replaced with acceptance and encouragement! We need to bring back the Man, but we also need to create a similar stigma on the pro-growthers, the liquidators.

I propose “growther.” It sums it up pretty well. It should be used in disgust and disapproval, like “that’s the agenda of a growther trying to destroy your work-life balance” or “those growthers are driving our planet towards collapse” or “you ignorant growther!” I’m open to other ideas, too, so please chime in!

No-Growth Economics and You

Kevin Drum with Mother Jones has a great blog. However, I was surprised to read a recent response to a no-growth article – Kevin is apparently a growther, not willing to accept the fallacy that is continued economic expansion on a finite planet. What Kevin might not realize is that increasing the size of the macro-economy on a planet that doesn’t grow, with resources that remain constant (actually, since we’re in overshoot, our resource base is steadily decreasing), means increasing scarcity, not wealth.

There are, as with many of his posts, tons of comments. I have made a few and I invite you to comment there as well. Here are the first two of mine:


I’m seriously disappointed in you. I mean, truly disappointed on a massive scale. Of all people, I figured you would see the truth behind this argument and the ridiculousness of the idea you can continue economic expansion on a finite planet equitably.

You seemingly failed to do any other research around it and jumped to the conclusion (falsely) that a non-growth centered economy wouldn’t work or wouldn’t be pleasant. Actually, most of human history was a steady, non-growing economy and we did just fine. Why do we suddenly think the last hundred years is how the next thousand will go?

Read Tim Jackson’s Prosperity Without Growth. It’s a book, but also available as a shorter report or even as a summary if you really don’t have time. Or read Peter Victors book, mentioned in that article, where he actually shows how a future in a steady state economy is desirable over the continued expansion of the economy.

Basically we have two options:

(1) Focus on development (not expansion) of our society in a sustainable fashion, thus improving the lives of most of the population and actually confronting climate change, hunger, and poverty; or

(2) Keep betting on the horse that has been losing the game: growth. Meanwhile, as our economy expands and our biosphere REMAINS THE SAME SIZE, we will each of us have less and less – less water, less food, less fuel, less nature. Further growth = increased scarcity.

Growth has failed to increase our happiness (after a certain point of basic needs, further growth adds little or nothing to our happiness).

Growth has failed to end poverty: it has, in fact, increase it.

A non-growing economy would not be stagnant. A dynamic steady state economy is the result of focusing our energies on improving our society instead of making it bigger. We actually have a chance of accomplishing the things that the growth economy has failed at: eliminating poverty, improving equality, tackling climate change.

The last one is without a doubt, absolutely impossible in a growing economy – for the very same reason why we cannot improve our technology fast enough to make up for growth (also known as decoupling, which is a myth).

Lastly, we our ultimately bound by the physical laws of the universe – the laws of thermodynamics will eventually make any further improvement in efficiency, and therefore growth, impossible.

Please read up on this topic before you go spinning the dogma of growth. Economic growth is the largest threat to human society.

Joshua Nelson

And, in response to a comment about decreasing work hours and increasing leisure time:

Actually, total work hours were decreasing steadily because of increasing productivity from the beginning of the industrial era until the 70s/80s. Then came the worse president in our nation’s history: Ronald Reagan. History will remember him as the president who eliminated publicly funded college, threw a bunch of mentally ill out on the street to fend for themselves and pioneered the vision of growth-at-all-costs, greed-focused economics.

What happened in that era was a reversal of that decreasing work hours trend. Prior to this shift increases in productivity would partially decrease work hours and partially increase production (grow the economy). Today, all productivity and efficiency increases go directly to expansion of the economy, because work hours remain the same (or increase), dumping it all into growth.

A good book on this topic is Juliet Schor’s Plenitude: The Economics of True Wealth, or you check out her lecture at a Seattle City Hall event.

We could eliminate our staggering unemployment by cutting back the average work week. We could do away with economic expansion by, in part, placing all productivity gains into producing the same amount in less time – working less, put still producing. This is where the more leisure time comes from: less work, similar pay.

They’ve partly been doing this in many European countries (where they continued on the path we gave up in the 70s/80s). The French work 35 hours a week and Germans have a flexible work week. Most Europeans also get around 8 weeks of vacation a year (not like our measly 2 weeks in the US) and in some countries (Sweden) there is 3 months of paid maternal and paternal leave after a birth. [Update: Sweden specifically has 16 months paid leave as it turns out]

Any wonder why these countries consistently rate higher on happiness and well-being metrics?

We should be focusing on prosperity and improving human well-being, not making more stuff and destroying our planet. The results are in on the economic expansion: it only works to a certain point, after which is actually undermines our happiness. Besides, why are people so opposed to working less and having more free time? I’d love to have more time with my son, focusing on my writing, reading, or actually getting to the gym. I find it so strange that there is an uproar against having more free time.

Perhaps the view of a better world is too must of a fright because it shows clearly the flaws of the current world?

Joshua Nelson

Check out Kevin’s blog (outside of the growth post, generally a great blog) and comment here.

The Earth Bleeds Out

If only the words “back from whence ye came” could really have magical powers and plug the mortal wound we have inflicted upon the Gulf of Mexico (and soon her bigger cousin, the Atlantic Ocean and Eastern Coastline). Whilst our human brains convince us over and over again that we are above nature, can outsmart her, or take over her services, she shows us again and again the error in our ways. From Katrina, to Taiwan, to Haiti and many more, Mother Nature is an unrelenting and all-powerful presence in our lives. This shouldn’t be seen as an unwelcomed presence – far too often we seem to run away from nature, when we are, in fact, of nature and in nature.

I have been avoiding writing about the Gulf Disaster because it seems pretty well covered: it’s everywhere, whether you read it, watch it, or listen to it. However, I couldn’t resist promoting this incredibly moving image tool: What would the oil disaster look like if it was centered over your home? Check it out for me here in Seattle: (Thanks to nef’s Triple Crunch Blog for first showing me this site)

Gush Forth! Oh, Mighty Earth!

Imagine this were true: the largest populated area in the Pacific Northwest would be almost entirely covered in oil, even up over the Canadian border. They’re our allies, but I can’t imagine they’d be happy with that type of sharing. All of the Olympic Rainforest and National Park would be dripping wet with crude. Lake Chelan would be filled with black gold. As far south as Centralia and stretching over the many islands of the Puget Sound – all wiped out by BP’s greed for a fossil fuel. Good-bye Orcas! good-bye Salmon! Audios watersheds, fisheries, and my beautiful hometown.

They seem completely incapable of stopping the leak (some wonder if they won’t be able to do it or it might wait until Christmas). Personally, I think it is motivation to sell your car, ride your bike, and vote for a constitutional amendment outlawing corporate personhood (had this occurred prior to 1886, the government could have liquidated BP’s assets to cover everything and thrown everyone involved in jail).

All of this is the direct result of our lust for oil. We are destroying the largest fishery in the US (something like 70% of our shellfish and 30% of all our seafood comes from the Gulf), destroying priceless natural capital. For what? BP’s giant profits. This won’t finish them unless we take them to court, and even that is doubtful to have a large, positive result within a decade. At least the local economy will get a bump in GDP while everyone rushes down there to clean it up, right?

What do you think of the developments down there?

Life After Growth – Economics For Everyone

The economy’s gotten bigger, but the inequality has as well. Most of the growth in income is placed in the top 10-20% of the world. If you’re lucky enough to be that 1 in 10, or 1 in 5 people (by the way, cancer if more common now that being in that group), you might buy into the idea that economics growth is good, sustainable, and right. But think about the other four people in the room?

Growth has taken the place of our religions, our morals, and most of our society’s decisions – they are now framed by, simply, “is the price the right price.” Well, is it? We should be ensuring our economy is about “maintaining and renewing life on Earth, human life and all other life.” (Vandana Shiva)

This short film is a great synopsis of the arguments against growth. Life Without Growth – Economics For Everyone asks “what’s wrong with this picture?” and then goes further, asking “This degrowth idea might be an answer, but I don’t understand what it will look like in reality, what does it mean for me?”And it answers:

“It looks like a lot of things, that are happening right now: Voluntary Simplicity,” for one. Giving up your pursuit of more things, a bigger house, greater pay for a pursuit of less work, more fun, simple, non-complicated life.

“That sounds a bit extreme to me, are people doing this on a community level?” Yea, Transition Towns, for instance.

“Yea, but even if this is happening at a local level, the banks, the corporations and the governments – they’ll never buy it” Sure, in most cases, right now, but we can change that. And a lot of groovy things are going forward in some governments already: recognition of ecosystem services, adoption of well being metrics, et cetera.

“So, where do we go from here?” Work less, consume less, live more. Life after growth.
“Everywhere people are engaging in degrowth type activity – the beginning of a wave that is laying the groundwork for a post-capitalist future…

Because it’s not the size of the economy that counts, its how you use it!”

Life After Growth – Economics for Everyone from enmedia productions on Vimeo.