by Monica Picavea, originally published by Degrowth blog | Nov 23, 2015
Brazil is an amazing country, full of natural richness and blessed with many beauties. It has, however, a terrible sin on his shoulders: the thought that everything has to be done in a different, shorter, and faster way – in a way that takes advantage of everything. This is also why Brazil is currently undergoing a huge economic and political crisis, particularly reflected by the lack of confidence of our people in our government. At the same time, this is precisely what makes people overthink their values, and so a silent revolution is happening.
I work with the Transition Town Movement in Brazil from the moment it has started in our country. Being one of the people who brought it here, I feel like a witness of how its seeds are growing and how we start thinking about another way of living that is more sustainable and resilient.
In the early times of the movement we talked a lot about peak oil and climate change and about how we can degrow our consumption and stop climate change. Today, however, with the passing of the years and the growth of the movement, we feel that one of the biggest contributions of the movement to our society is incentivizing cooperation between people and encouraging creativity to find solutions to these problems.
This collaboration is even creating new ways of doing business in Brazil, the “collaborative economy” or “reconomy” where growth and consumption are not the highest priority, but the pursuit of a meaningful and much happier life. In the light of this, there are suddenly many beautiful business proposals around where collaboration and not consumption is the key to this new way of living. Some of these innovative business ideas I would like to share with you here.
Collaborative economy: examples from Brazil
After doing a course offered by the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) on designing sustainability, a girl from Rio De Janeiro called Camila Carvalho realized that people possess many things they hardly ever use. She thought if more people could share the same equipment instead of everybody possessing it, the amount of equipment around could significantly decrease while still giving people the opportunity to use it whenever they need. So she joined up with two more friends and created a site called “TEM AÇÚCAR” where you enter the location of your home and get connected with people nearby who offer or need specific things.
I personally had a great experience with it, sharing with a boy from my neighborhood a sawing machine. I happen to have one on my farm which I don’t use everyday and he needed it to saw pallets for making a bed. This way I got to know a neighbour who has the talent to make furniture from recycled things. He is now part of my teachers network and whenever I need somebody to teach how to make furniture I call him. This site that connects people with their own neighborhood and helps them to build relationships even beyond sharing things is a good example for collaborative business. I believe that this kind of system helps to degrow the economy while making it more and more collaborative and happy.
70 % of the people in Latin America are open for sharing services
According to a 2013 Study by Nielsen Consulting, 70% of the people of Latin America are willing to participate in sharing services as opposed to only 52% in North America.
A second example is a young girl called Lorrana Scarpioni who left her law course to follow the dream of a social enterpreneurship, after watching two documentaries on alternative and online colaborative economies. She had the idea to create a platform for the exchange of something very valuable: time.
Thus was born Bliive, a network that today is already used in 55 countries by over 15,000 users. The operation is simple. The user signs up and offers an activity such as an hour’s piano lesson for example. In return, he or she gets “TimeMoney”, which can be exchanged for any other activity offered by another user on the site, such as English classes or basic self-defense. Site members can also donate their free time in working for NGOs registered by Bliive.
The goal of Bliive is to create a different and healthy currency. Many people do not have money, but have other potential and good things to exchange. What was missing was a coin or platform to facilitate these exchanges. By creating an economy where change is material, it creates a wealth of systems where people can use their talent as payment.
Another great movement here in Brazil are exchange fairs that people increasingly use to reduce their consumption and avoid the waste of goods. Often, something that no longer makes sense to one person may be crucial for another, and by exchanging these things w e can create abundance without consumption or waste.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) projects – also spreading in Brazil – are another great way to create resilience, conscious consumption and responsibility and give more value for the people that work on the fields to produce our food. In these initiatives consumers collaboratively finance the farmer(s) who produce their food and also help working on the land.
However, in order to make all these change towards degrowth become reality, I feel that we have to change our beliefs in the first place and find another meaning for things.
Changing beliefs for a degrowth economy
Today when we think about a degrowth economy, about fostering the transition towards it and supporting more resilient lifestyles, I imagine – departing from systems theory – that we need something deeper; some kind of economic acupuncture that can trigger specific points that reverberate throughout the whole economic system.
At the same time I don´t imagine that this will transform the macro economy or the stock exchanges or our financial system that is based on capital accumulation and the creation of debt. I do imagine, however, that it can be effective on the level of microeconomics, based on local resilience and alternative ways of meeting our needs that emerge alongside the era of consumption.
In the Transition Movement that I’m part of, when we talk about reconomy or a degrowth economy, we think that each person as an individual is the beginning of everything. Therefore, the first thing we have to think about is reframing our thought patterns that are currently based on the logic of accumulation and consumption into something that really makes us happy. We are born into a society that is based on the so-called “development“, which in this case means growth and increasing production and a consumer economy.
If we left this nefarious principle untouched, never get a consistent equation because nothing in the world is infinite. We live in a finite world, and so are we. Thus, the first thought that comes to me would be to reframe the understanding of development. True development must begin with our personal development and knowledge which will give us a good idea of what we like and what we dislike, what makes us happy and what does not matter, so that we can devote more time to what is important to us.
Within this new frame, we will also develop a new understanding of work: instead of providing us with more financial wealth and making us able to accumulate more and more stuff, is will be aligned with our talents and calling and become a source of happiness and meaning in our lives, no matter what we buy. When we start thinking that life is finite and that we must focus on what is of most value to us,we reconnect with who we really are.
A study of the Transition Towns Movement has discovered some of the core beliefs that make us think how we think. Deconstructing these is an important key to any economic degrowth. They are:
1- Shortage – Our belief that there is not enough for everyone makes us accumulate and consume more than we need. As a result there will indeed be not enough for everyone. So our perception of scarcity leads us to create the reality of scarcity, which is one of accumulation and waste.
2- Disempowerment – Our society gives us the belief that we are disempowered and that solutions are always out of our reach in a place beyond ourselves. This is a form of control that keeps people in a state of latency where they do not react and often fall into the tick of the complaint and continue searching for solutions that are far from their range.
3 – Insecurity – As is generally known, fear is one of the main forms of control. Throughout history it has always been used for subduing people and controlling the system. The media for example continuously plant fear in our heads by concentrating on bad news. If our life were indeed as bad as reflected in TV shows, the world would have already ended. They only show a fraction of reality and mostly the worst possible of it. This makes people end up living this ominous reality and finding life very bad, spending hours watching programs about gossip and stories far away from their own lives.
4- Disconnection / Isolation – The internet creates a sense that we no longer need the contact or direct collaboration between human beings. This creates superficial relationships that don´t help us to develop personally and get out of our comfort zone. What if we actually lived our own lives, and spent more time on things that make sense to ourselves.?
5- Uselessness – Last but not least there is the belief is that we are worthless. That what we do has no value and that the world does not want us. This compels us to inconsistent and competitive attitudes and makes us hostile towards others in search of recognition and status at any cost. But the truth is that, no matter what they say to us, we all have a talent and a single value, but we need to find it. In the end, we know better who we are and what we do well and and from there we can put it in the service of the world and society.
It is very clear to me that reconomy starts with creating new beliefs and has much to do with the internal transition of the human being.
In the imaginary of reconomy we create inclusive businesses and seek to share the common good beyond profit and the resilience of communities. Furthermore, reconomy must be based on matching community needs with talents available in the communities
According to the Berkana Institute in California who does research on change, this only occurs at intersections. This means that evolution is only complete when two thoughts, ideas or projects come together – even if going in different directions and to different places – leaving one to elegantly and delicately influence the other, creating an evolutionary process for both.
By creating a new way of thinking and understanding the world we will create this new economy which has everything to be more resilient in a happier society.