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.)

Advertisements

It’s time for a pro-life economy (no, not that kind of pro-life)

From the tragic story of adjunct professor Margaret Mary Vojtko’s death to my own adventures in job insecurity, everything I’ve read and experienced has convinced me that we need a pro-life economy.

Not in the traditional anti-abortion sense (ugh), but in the sense of putting human lives first, and profit second. And since our lives are inextricably tied to the health of our planet, we need to prioritize that too.

We need jobs. Green jobs, well-paid jobs, jobs with benefits (or government systems to provide those benefits).

We need an end to the ideology of infinite growth–which, in a world of finite resources, is quite literally unsustainable–and a focus on human health and happiness.

We need an end to the casual cruelty of corporate capitalism–the callous profit-seeking that allowed an adjunct professor to die penniless, near-homeless, and uninsured while the university’s president received a $700,000 salary.

Bill McKibben succinctly summed up what’s wrong with our economic system in his 2007 book Deep Economy: the Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future:

Alongside the exhilaration of the flattening earth celebrated by Thomas Friedman, the planet (and our country) in fact contains increasing numbers of flattened people, flattened by the very forces that are making a few others wildly rich.

His observation is even more true now than when he first made it, back in the less-shitty days before the Great Financial Crisis.

Continue reading

This is what a deep economy looks like: Cupcake Camp Boston (plus OOTD)

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may have noticed that I’m a bit obsessed with Bill McKibben’s book Deep Economy. This is because McKibben so clearly articulates a vision for a future that is livable, community-based, and joyous–a future that will destroy neither the planet nor the lives of its inhabitants. His book is both practical and visionary: both a blueprint for creating a healthier society and an exploration of what that means.

And so, when I recently attended Cupcake Camp Boston, I couldn’t help but see it as one delicious example of a deep economy: a tiny, tasty model of a society built around community connection rather than profit.

Cupcake Camp promotes both local businesses and community togetherness, with a good helping of buttercream frosting. The basic idea is that you pay a small fee to sample a certain number of cupcakes from local bakeries. (Ironically enough, I didn’t end up eating a single cupcake! By the time I arrived, tickets were sold out, so I just wandered around. A few of the booths gave me cupcakes despite my lack of a ticket, but I was too full from breakfast to eat them, so I was planning to save them for later…until they started getting all melty, so I gave them away instead.)

In addition to the cupcakes themselves–which are both a great deal for the consumers, and great publicity for the bakers–there were all sorts of fun, free activities, including a cupcake relay race and a cupcake eating contest!

Continue reading

Why climate justice matters to me

A fossil fuel divestment rally at a college where I’ve worked. You can see me on the right. Photo by James Ennis.

So, you may have noticed that I’ve been blogging more and more about climate change/climate justice.

I’m not going to stop writing about fatshion, fat acceptance, and pretty things–in fact, I’ve got several outfit posts in the works, and lots of interesting stuff about sustainable fashion. (I just need to sit down and put it together!) But climate justice….well, it’s where my heart is right now.

I’ve been aware of global warming for as long as I can remember–I learned about greenhouses gases in elementary school. And I’ve known for years that things are pretty bad, and only getting worse. But there are so many terrible things in the world–sometimes, you have to push some of them to the back of your mind to stay sane.

So I pushed what’s happening to our planet to the back of my mind, mostly.

But lately I’ve found I can’t do that anymore.

I’ve been tip-toeing the fine line between recognizing the urgency of the problem and getting overwhelmed: vacillating between hope and hopelessness, action and inaction. Doing my best to push through it all, and just act.

Continue reading

Are fatshionistas pioneering a deep economy of fashion?

I’ve been doing more thinking about the ethics of fa(t)shion, while also re-reading one of my favorite books: Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future by Bill McKibben.

In it, McKibben argues that our growth-focused global economic system 1.) creates extreme inequality, 2.) is environmentally unsustainable, and 3.) fails to make people happier, because so many people are isolated, stressed out, and lacking community support.

He proposes switching to smaller-scale, community-based systems, and gives examples from all around the world: from the organic farming system that developed in Cuba after the fall of the USSR, to a cooperatively-owned clothing store in Wyoming, to a city bus system in Brazil.

It’s a brilliant, fascinating, hopeful read.

And it got me thinking: are we fatshionistas on the forefront of a new deep economy of clothing?

Lacking more traditional options, we’ve developed community-based means of shopping: from pop-up shops to clothing swaps to rummage events like Boston’s Big Thrifty and New York’s Big Fat Flea.

Continue reading