DIY Ecology Overview
…a world in which imperfection is accepted and dealt with. In which we don’t try so much to strive for what we don’t have and instead deal with what’s actually here. Innovation and improvisation is key. DIY culture is nothing new. In the area of ecology it is growing. In light of the protests in various parts of the world, and the threat of government bankruptcy, I am seriously questioning the story that we have come to believe about the nature of life here. The notion that never-ending monetary growth and ever-rising consumption is the best thing civilization has to offer is unsettling. Why has life become about earning a living instead of just living? So I want to do some writing and thinking about alternatives. I have already said much about democratic education, but I think there are other facets of life that also need to be decentralized. From this I have thought to call it “DIY Ecology,” or DE. I’m sure this has been coined elsewhere, but this is my version, and I am sure there are many others (it wouldn’t be DIY if there was only one methodology, now would it?). I make a distinction with DIY because society has already come to the realization that ecological stewardship and mindfulness is necessary for the survival of the planet and all the things it provides life for. However, my qualm is that the current ecological movement is at risk of becoming more commercialized. Ecology and permaculture is not a capital venture or an economic choice. It is an absolute necessity if we want to live more efficiently, conscientiously, and with emotional well-being. Rather than create markets of “innovations” that are inaccessible to most “consumers” in terms of creation and repair, we need to open the building and skill sharing to the people. We already have doses of DIY technology – open source, youtube, hacking. DE merges the technology with permaculture. We should use technology to make certain things easier, but at the same time focus on community, locality, the health of our environment, and frugal sustainability.
If a society like what I describe were to arise (and in some ways it is) it will probably develop in pockets and spread slowly. The following series is a half fictional, half underground hybrid of what is possible in society. The verb tense changes a lot – sorry in advance.
The United States.
The idea of a debt based economy is preposterous – why should our lives be based on never having enough? Unending growth of economy, money, and material goods is not possible. Yet politicians always talk about raising the economy and encouraging consumption in order to “boost” it. In the early stages of DE society, people sit around in unemployment, hoping for a bone to be thrown to them. But after much squalor, those who are ingenuous or most wanting to survive will find and learn various ways to live within their means.
This mean-based economy yields many things. Things once reserved for the poor or impoverished become respected. Clothing exchanges and “free stores” are popularized due to the realization that we already have enough clothing. The problem was that the monetary system unevenly distributes the amount of clothes available based on who could afford them, rather than based on who needed them. It also encouraged over-consumption through fallacious ad populum advertising (people were led to believe they needed more and more). The early 2000’s was the decade of throwback fashion anyway, and so that continued on with the increase in people trading and giving away clothing. Throwback fashion lead to skillshops and workshops where people who knew how to tailor and mend clothes helped and showed people how to make their clothes fit and look nice. Something that used to be a “college thing” was adapted by others, and people are satisfied with leaving unwanted clothes out in the open in “freeboxes” for others in to take. In order to keep up, stores like the salvation army and thrift stores became free stores – and tradeshops. Clothing centers like target/walmart/forever21/ross lost millions in profit or shutdown. Stores are broken into and clothing is taken and redistributed into the community. Sometimes groups get together to send surplus over to other states/countries once their own community learns to use the most of what it has. The euro-centric profit-based fashion system thus lost hold over the U.S., and people became okay looking how they wanted to look. Local fashions become more distinctive.
Power companies, and places of infrastructure become more important than ever. But something happens. The aging of “the grid” finally catches up. Brown outs and black outs increase. This causes bosses to strategize with specialists about ways to deal with the problem. Power is purposefully shut off at 3am, 10pm, 2am – for x amount of hours depending on the density of the city. There is first gripe and protest, but public service campaigns revealing the weakness of the system are eventually understood. This causes a good thing. People re-learn the importance of nightfall. Companies change hours of operation so that workers only work during the day. This causes a slow down in the delivery of goods and services. People learn to deal with the time it takes to receive goods or they start relying on local services.
Trains, planes, and buses – I don’t know what that would look like without much money. Disorder at first, but then people will figure something out. Ethanol might finally triumph when the oil companies shut down. In real present times, people have figured out ways to convert used cooking oil into fuel. I dunno. With the lack of money, anarchistic tendencies develop, and what I mean is that people figure out ways to do things themselves without money or government directives. There have been times for instance, that I rode the metro bus and the driver decided to just let people get on, even when the change machine was working. Relying less on money might increase such tendencies. Perhaps first come first serve becomes important. Maybe the seniors and handicapped are taken from place to place for free at certain times of the day by para-transit volunteers. Carpooling may increase when the bus service becomes more scarce. Meet the new and old neighbors, they won’t bite.
Without gov’t money, street maintenance will decline, and cars will not be as useful as they once were. This causes a long period of service redistribution, in which the main buildings of schools, hospitals, markets, and other areas, once located “downtown,” are put into more local branches. Small businesses and tradeshops thrive and places to get goods. People who repair things become very important as the manufacturing system breaks down once the infrastructure breaks down.
Permaculture takes precedence when the delivery of goods slows down. Eco-villages, urban “farms” and community gardens are commonplace. “Food Not Lawns,” “Edible Estates,” and seed swaps are popularized. People get together to transform their neighborhoods into local food sources. In rural areas the same things are adopted, and farmers turn their attention to the nearest communities/cities now that they aren’t competing for money. Miracle grow and soil chemicals are no longer used when people use lawn-space to grow food. People get crafty and use the city-scape for food as well as art/design. So they line the streets with native plants and food. Also people learn to rely on edible weeds such as dandelion, purslane, lambs quarter, and young japanese knotweed. The homeless will have a lot of food available, and they will probably be on raw food diets from the food they steal (yes, they WILL steal the food, and they might redistribute it to others). Food Not Bombs initiatives gain ground. It is normal for neighbors to get together to cook and serve meals for the homeless.
Gangs and Drugs. These things will always be around. This is something I have NO understanding of. Will lack of money cause the drug cartel to lose power? I don’t know because addictive drugs are so powerful that people will do anything to get them. In a society that doesn’t use much money, will addictive drugs be freely handed out? Maybe drugs are used because the monetary society causes alienation and too much stress. Maybe people who make drugs like meth or heroin will be alienated by their new communities which have come to know and depend on each other. maybe addictive drugs thrive because there is no community to put your time into. As far as gangs – they will rule certain areas by the threat of violence. This is obviously a negative thing. The communities strong enough to not back down and/or integrate gang members into their activities will do the best. Likewise a place that is deeply involved in a network of people might have a better chance of averting youth initiations. Communities of color will have the hardest fight with this issue. In some communities, the police might become gangs. This is more guesswork than anything else I am writing about.
Well, that’s it for now. My views are far from soundproof. It’s just fun to speculate.
Posted on July 8, 2011, in Bureaucracy, Ecology, Grassroots & Open Source and tagged Community, culture, eco-village, ecology, Economy, free, grassroots, ideas, Life, living, permaculture, society, sustainability, trade. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.