Another thing money can buy: time

Money doesn’t buy only job opportunities, kindness, and compassion: it can also buy time.

Last night, I was poking around the Transition Lab‘s website (because yes, I still have fantasies about doing it, even though I probably won’t for a whole bunch of reasons), and I noticed an announcement about two new work-exchange scholarships they’re offering:

At Transition Lab, we face an irony: While building a new economy, we still need to charge tuition in order to pay our bills in the old economy. Yet, the students who would benefit the most from our program don’t have a lot of money, because the traditional economy isn’t working out for them. It’s a double bind that is preventing the new economy to take off.

So we are going to take an innovative leap to break this cycle: We are offering the two remaining slots in our 2014 Co-Creator Program as gifts in exchange for the gifts that students can offer our program. That’s right- full tuition to two students in exchange for what they can gift us in return. Really? Yep. Gifts for Gifts.

It’s great that the people at Transition Lab recognize this double bind and are working to make their program more accessible.

But it reminded me how easily money can serve as a substitute for time and energy. People who can afford TL’s tuition can just go, no strings attached; those who can’t have to come up with a skill that’s useful to others, and then spend their time and energy practicing it throughout the program.

It’s similar to all the festivals and events that offer volunteer slots in return for free or reduced admission. Those who can afford tickets have the luxury of spending their time however they want; those who can’t, don’t. Volunteering isn’t necessarily bad–it can be fun if you do it with a group of friends. It can be a good way to practice your skills and learn new ones. But it can also be exhausting. Sometimes you just want to relax and enjoy yourself without having to work.

And that’s not even getting into the many, many people who work multiple jobs just to make ends meet, who wouldn’t have the time to go to festivals or events if they wanted to.

I want a different world: a world in which free time isn’t a luxury, but a right. A world in which people have the time and energy to explore who they are and what they want to do.

Reducing the standard work week to 21 hours, spreading out work more evenly across the population, and instituting a basic minimum income would go a long way toward making that possible.

Speaking of which, Alyssa Battistoni’s recent essay in Jacobin Magazine, Alive in the Sunshine, is a must-read. She argues that reducing the workweek and instituting a basic minimum income is necessary to achieve both economic justice and environmental sustainability–and would also give people the time to build communities and enjoy life.

Her analysis reminds me of my favorite book, Bill McKibben’s Deep Economy, condensed into a form that’s both more succinct and more specific about policy goals. It also reminds me of this great video about visualizing a plentitude economy, made by Juliet Schor (whom Battistoni quotes) and the Center for a New American Dream:

This is the world I want to build.

(Note: just to be clear, I think Transition Lab is going great work toward building that world, and I’m not disagreeing with or attacking their decisions at all. I’m just using them as an example to illustrate my train of thought about the ways in which, in our current system, people with less money often end up with less free time and less control over how they spend their time.)

Things that give me hope

1.) New York’s Youth Poet Laureate, Ramya Ramana, reading her poem titled “New York City” at Mayor Bill de Blasio’s inauguration (transcript available here):

When I watch this young woman read, I can almost believe that change is possible. That the tides are turning. That we, the people, can and will rise.

Not just because of the beauty and fierceness and demand for justice that shines so clearly through her performance–although that alone is enough to blow me away.

But because this beauty and fierceness and demand for justice takes place at the swearing-in of a new mayor in the city that is America’s heart. The city that has been sanitized and stratified by 12 years of Bloomberg’s neoliberal policies. The city that has become an extreme–and extremely visible–symbol of an economic system that crushes lives and spirits.

The city that refuses to give up fighting.

In that fight, I see a world of new beginnings.

2.) Rebecca Solnit’s essay, “The arc of justice and the long run: hope, history, and unpredictability.”

Solnit argues that “[s]ometimes cause and effect are centuries apart; sometimes Martin Luther King’s arc of the moral universe that bends toward justice is so long few see its curve; sometimes hope lies not in looking forward but backward to study the line of that arc.” She gives examples of social and political seeds that germinated for years, decades, even centuries before bearing fruit: the role of hip-hop in the Arab Spring uprisings; the influence of Thoreau’s writing, which sold few books when he was alive, on both Gandhi and King; the effect that a seeing a talented black trumpet player had on a young man who grew up to help end segregation by aiding the plaintiffs in Brown v. Board of Education.

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Quote of the day: Veteran’s Day and Typhoon Haiyan

Image from 350.org

We are deeply grateful to the folks who have sacrificed quality time with loved ones, health, limbs, and everything else for our country. You are forever heroes to us.

But we want to honor veterans of a different war, today. Veterans who didn’t volunteer to fight, but instead were forced to. Veterans who pay a steep price, against their will, so that the rest of us can enjoy lights, fancy cars, fast trains, and every other luxury that currently comes from the fossil fuel industry.

So much love and honor to our Pilipino sisters and brothers, and our deepest apologies. We promise, everyday, to work towards a just, sustainable world, where you don’t have to bear the brunt of the burden, for the world’s extreme energy addiction.

Melodeego

Typhoon Haiyan is a horrific, heart-breaking reminder of what’s at stake in the fight for climate justice. We need to fight like hell to prevent more such disasters from happening. And in the meantime, the survivors in the Phillipines need our help. CNN has a list of ways to help here.

It’s complicated: climate justice and the nonprofit industrial complex

A few days ago, this statement from Peaceful Uprising was making the rounds on my Facebook feed, and my friends were posting celebratory comments about the climate justice organization’s transition from a traditional non-profit model to a more democratic volunteer-based one.

My first thought was, “But, but–jobs!” In this post-employment economy, I hate to see any full-time job be replaced with contingent or volunteer work–even though I know that switching from a professional-based structure to a collective one can help bring marginalized voices to the forefront.

I know there are so many problems with the non-profit industrial complex, but I also like the idea of paying people to organize, because it frees up the time and energy they wouldn’t have if they were also working to make ends meet. And organizing is a skill, which deserves compensation just as much as any other.

Then I came across these tweets from Sasha Costanza-Chock, which crystallized what I’d been mulling over. He wrote them in the context of the immigrant rights movement, but they apply equally well to climate justice or any other movement:

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