Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Are you kidding... Free Money Day?

Zero-credit is delighted to invite Brazilian journalist, Renato Gianuca, to share his views on the forthcoming Free Money Day, which takes place across the world on Thursday 15th September.

What would our communities look like if some of us had less money but more time to care foreach other? That is one of the main questions posed by Free Money Day, which is an initiative of the Post Growth Institute, a global network spanning Australia, Europe and North America. Imagine that in your life, only for a day, you could live this experiment. What would it be like?


Free Money Day
Fortunately, the opportunity is about to be presented. Prepare yourself and your friends: Free Money Day will take place on September 15th, 2011 at various public locations worldwide, such as streets, squares and parks. And you could host one of them.

It will be very simple: people will hand out their own money – two coins (or two notes) at a time – to complete strangers. They will ask these strangers to then pass on one coin (or one note) to someone else.

Is it a strange notion? Maybe. Will it actually change the economy? Not likely. The intention behind Free Money Day is twofold: to invite people to experience the freedom of physically letting go of money, and to start conversations with strangers about the possibilities and benefits of more sharing economies.

The key message is this:  sharing is common sense.

A World Beyond Growth
Relying on less ‘stuff’ and less money is an important step towards both individual wellbeing and collective sustainability. It reduces our global environment footprints. It encourages us to deeply consider the question: ‘how much is enough?’ It enables us to see the fallacy of believing that constant growth (of our bank accounts, salaries and economies) is an indicator of progress in and of itself. It reduces social isolation. It increases interdependence and community. The list goes on…

Beyond considering the potential benefits of a decreased reliance of money, it is also important to critically engage with some of the realities that our current growth-fetish propagates. This engagement lets us better recognize the necessity of economic transformation. First, despite unprecedented affluence, we live in a world of ever-growing social inequality. Second, we continue to rely on the exploitation of finite natural resources, despite the steady production of more and more ‘efficient’ products. Finally, as we have all been witnessing since 2008, when global economic systems crash, the suffering is widespread and often hits hardest those without the luxury of a ‘safety net’. With the social, environmental, and economic costs of growth clear, it is up to us to chart new paths towards global prosperity.

We are living in uncertain times, worldwide. In the USA, for instance, writes Barbara Ehrenreich,  “media attention has focused on the ‘nouveau poor’, that is the formerly middle and even upper-middle class who lost their jobs, their homes and/or their investments in the 2008 financial crisis and the economic downturn that followed it. But the brunt of the recession has been borne by the blue-collar working class, which had already been sliding downwards since deindustrialization began in the 1980s”, she adds. With deeply interconnected global economies, we are seeing that this is not only an American problem.  It will take a large-scale systemic shift to alter this trajectory.

A Global Movement
Initiated by the Post Growth Institute, Free Money Day is intended to engage citizens worldwide in conversations that question current economic realities and encourage consideration of realistic alternatives. As the Institute’s website states, this is an organization committed to “the end of bigger, the start of better.” According to the group’s spokesperson, Dr Donnie Maclurcan, a big part of doing so involves “preparing for societies that consume much more collaboratively”, in which wellbeing and justice are prioritized over economic growth for its own sake. Whilst justice and economics may often be seen as distinct issues, Ehrenreich sees it otherwise:

“The most shocking thing I learned from my research on the fate of the working poor in the recession was the extent to which poverty has indeed been criminalized in America. (…) The second – and by far the most reliable – way to be criminalized by poverty is to have the wrong color skin. (…) Whole communities are effectively ‘profiled’ for the suspicious combination of being both dark-skinned and poor,” writes Barabara Ehrenreich in the afterword of her new book “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America”, published August 2011 by Picador USA.

According to Dr Maclurcan of the Post Growth Institute, “Growth is simply not working for most of us, including the natural systems of which we are all a part.” If the financial meltdown of the Global Financial Crisis has been horrendous, it will be nothing compared to an ecological collapse. Continuing to idealistically rely on exponential growth in a finite world is nothing less than exposing ourselves and the world to immense risk.

The observations and concerns from the Post Growth Institute reflect the considerations of the French writer Edgar Morin, who was in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in August 2011. In his speech in the Rio Grande do Sul Federal University, Morin said emphatically: “It is possible to conceive another policy away from the simplest concept of ‘we must grow’.” And added: “We are speaking of a policy capable to offer more life quality to all citizens and an economy more social, with more solidarity and cooperation. We must go on to the positive aspects that promote global solidarity among citizens and the riches brought by these exchanges. But we should de-globalize … to protect the local and regional realities.”

Get Involved
There may still be some doubt among readers: aren’t notions of post growth economies nothing more than utopian dreams?  Maclurcan of the Post Growth Institute sees things differently: “You’d have to be an idealist to think we can grow on like this”, he says. Rather, referring to movements such as Transition Towns, collaborative consumption and open source software, Maclurcan believes that post growth futures are, in many ways, already here, “we just haven’t yet named it as such, or developed an over-arching vision, like a ‘not-for-profit world economy’” he says.

To find out more about Free Money Day, please visit www.freemoneyday.org. There you can subscribe to receive updates, find out where events will be taking place near you, or even learn how to organize your own FMD event. Remember, it’s September 15th. Anything you can do to support the movement: host or attend an event, participate in conversations online or on the ground, or give thought to notions of alternative economies… these are all valuable contributions to embracing post growth futures.


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