Jobs in a shareable society: how do we get paid if no one is buying?

Despite my love of shiny shiny things, I am generally in favor of a society focused less on consumption and more on community. Our current levels of consumption as a society are unsustainable and harmful to both workers and the environment; if you want a good in-depth analysis of these problems and some potential solutions, I highly recommend Annie Leonard’s book The Story of Stuff.

But there’s one thing I keep wondering when I think about transitioning to a less stuff-focused society, and reading this post about planning a shareable wedding helped me put my finger on it.

The author’s wedding, which included contributions from creative friends and lots of DIY, sounds wonderful. I especially like the idea of a make-your-own-mojito station, which I’m totally stealing for future use:

Think about all the things you can make instead of buy. Instead of programs, we painted the day’s agenda on a big smooth piece of wood, propped up on an easel. Instead of a full cocktail bar, Michael made a giant pitcherful of sugar-mint-lime mash the day before, and guests enjoyed the make-your-own-mojito station with instructions and ingredients. And instead of store-bought invitations, we designed and formatted our own, and printed them at a local copy business for under a hundred dollars.

I have no problem with the author, or anyone else, planning their weddings or other events this way (although I would caution anyone considering using “friendors” to think about it carefully and be aware of the risks).  But when I see such stories held up as a model for “how we should do things,” it leaves me wondering: if everyone did it that way, what would happen to all the professional photographers, florists, wedding coordinators, artists, designers, craftspeople, and bakers?

More broadly, if we move toward a model of sharing–that is, replacing paid labor with volunteer work done by friends and family–where does that leave people who make things and provide services for a living?

One potential way around this conundrum is the basic national income, which would free people from having to work to survive. Under such a system, people who want to make art could do so without having to find a way to make money from it, and people who want to volunteer for their friends could do so without losing out on much-needed wages. But even then, there are probably many people who would want to do these types of work. After all, being an accessory maker, photographer, event planner, graphic designer, florist, or maker of tiny wedding cake replicas sound like fulfilling and rewarding jobs–exactly the kind we’d want more of in a new economy.

How do we move away from ubiquitous commercialization, from the constant beating drum of buy-buy-buy, without devaluing creative work?

I know this is a rather theoretical question, as we’re nowhere near a large-scale shift away from consumption. But I care about figuring out social and economic models that would work for as many people as possible.

Saturday Links, 7/6/13

I love this collage made by Hannah.

I apologize for the lateness of this week’s links! But it was totally worth it–yesterday I had an epic day celebrating the birthday of one of my close friends, involving: laser tag, arcade games, pooling together our arcade tickets so that the birthday girl could win a crayon-shaped lava lamp, dinner and drinks at an Irish pub, and then hanging out and playing board games while wearing fancy dresses in a room at a historic downtown Boston hotel.

It was all-around awesome. I have amazing friends, and sometimes having all-day adventures with them, and getting away from screens and thinking too much, is exactly what I need.

Fa(t)shion
-ModCloth has been taking some great steps toward expanding their plus size range (and making it actually sized like typical plus clothing, unlike their old sizing system, in which a 4x was equivalent to a small 22). One example of the gorgeous stuff they’re putting out is this Edwardian dress, which is coming soon. I can’t even begin to describe how much I love and want it!
-I recently came across Eff Yeah Indigenous Fashion, which showcases indigenous art, fashion, and design from around the world. Most of their posts include links where you can support indigenous artists. For example, one of my recent favorites: PowWow Styles, which is colorful beaded jewelry made by a woman from the Cree/Sioux tribes.
-Eff Yeah Indigenous Fashion also has some good posts on how to appreciate indigenous fashion without appropriating it.
-This pastel jeweled flower crown is pure eye candy.
-Domino Dollhouse has a 40% discount code, listed on their homepage, which expires tomorrow. If you’ve been waiting to get something from them, now is your chance.
-In other DD news, check out this sneak peek of two dresses that will be available soon. I love both of them!

Fat Activism
-Closet Puritan talks about the ways that fat people are often gaslighted.
It isn’t over until the fat babes sing: an ode to musicians of size.
-Awesomeness: fat, happy, and healthy women photographed by Gabriela Hasbun.
-Ragen is starting an exciting fat activism history project (at the bottom of the post)!

Communicating climate science through music:

Climate and Sustainability
United we sweat: building a fossil fuel resistance.
-A lyrical and powerful alphabet for climate change.
-The Boston Globe has a great article about churches and other faith groups divesting from fossil fuels.
-On a related note, a major Norwegian pension fund has dropped tar sands investments.  Woot!
-The GROW (Gather Rise Organize Win) divestment gatherings look really promising.
-Bill McKibben, my #1 climate justice hero, has a new book coming out in September! He’s a brilliant writer, and I can’t wait to read it.
-Sandra Steingraber, another one of my climate justice heroes, writes about the silence of science and the eloquent activism of people of faith.
-Yet another climate hero: Tim DeChristopher on Letterman: “stop and think about what it means to be too late” on climate.
-Beautiful and haunting: artist Chad Wright portrays the American Dream washing into the sea.
Michael Pollan on agriculture’s role in fighting climate change.
Obama’s Lincoln moment?

Everything Else
-An poignant reminder not to judge poor people for their devices: a homeless man and his BlackBerry.
More women are dying from painkiller overdoses: epidemic, or something more complicated?
-A different, and equally important, perspective on the Indian Child Welfare Act (which I talked about in last week’s Friday links): My uterus will not be used to fill your tribal rolls. I really like this comment on the piece as well.
Rachel, Trayvon, and the saddest thing I’ve ever read.
Playing by the rules: white privilege and Rachel Jeantel.
An open letter to new Teach for America recruits.
Entitled students, grades, and obedience: what is education for?
Putting googly eyes on everything is the best thing ever.

Friday Links, 11/18/13

I would like to lease some joy. (Sign seen in Milford, CT)

Fat Activism
-All of Rachele’s Shame-Less Ads are amazing.
-Help get fat activist and all-around badass Nomy Lamm to L.A. to audition for the Voice!
Before and after: why weight loss commercials are dangerous and how fat acceptance saved my life.
Fat woman falls through New York sidewalk and it’s high comedy to a bunch of jerks. Uggh.
-Redefining Body Image (which is on fire, btw–if you’re not reading them yet, you should be!) has put together a Big Fat List of myth-defying health resources.
Introducing Aerodynamic by Katy Russell, a series of awesome fat-positive art.
-Huzzah for fat-pos bridal shops!

Fa(t)shion
-How to dress for the Edwardian Ball.
-This is a really cool idea for organizing earrings.
-A great directory of plus size stores.
Bow ties are making a comeback.

Seashells on the beach in Milford

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