Reflections

Buy Nothing Day 2010 essay

Buy Nothing Day 2010

Consumerism and growth seem to dominate policy thinking in the United States.  Politicians are obsessed with economic growth, or recently the lack thereof.  Everything except the military is at risk of being defunded if tax revenues do not rise.  Maybe it is just the priorities that are askew, both those raising economic growth above all other values and those funding the military before all other priorities.

I tend to think we are essentially at the end of economic growth.  The collapse of global ecosystems means that growth will be very hard to create, and what growth we do see will mostly be the result of financial manipulations rather than real economic development.  The housing bubble and the financial bubble were the direct result of a lack of productive places to put investment capital.  There are no new forests to cut, no new fisheries to exploit, no country that has not already been brought into the market economy.  Without new resources and consumers economic growth slows to a crawl.  The rich go crazy and invent new economic shenanigans to suck up more money, since the old and tried (tired) methods, no longer have juice in a world of airplanes, the internet, and 7 billion people.

Eventually we are going to have to reach a new equilibrium for our economy.  That new equilibrium will be underpinned by the understanding that we have to use less and share more.  We have to heal the ecosystems that feed and cloth us, and the only path to this requires us to end poverty rather than foster ever greater accumulations of wealth by the few.  Often I describe the way forward with this quote:  You can not heal ecosystems without ending poverty, you can not end poverty without healing ecosystems.

It is this dual mission that lies at the heart of my understanding of the Buy Nothing Day winter coat exchange.  Without a serious effort to end poverty we shall forever be caught up in the more game, the use of ever more, ever faster, until it completely runs out.  Without cultivating a serious ethic of healing the ecosystems of planet earth so that they can continue to support us we shall see an ever widening gap between rich and poor as resources are more and more reserved for the rich, driving the vicious circle that leads to wars for oil, massive oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico, the destruction of the forests that are the lungs of the world, and fishermen resorting to piracy to keep the industrial fishing fleets away from the areas they fish to feed their families.

It it important beyond what I can describe that the piracy in Somalia worked well enough that local fishermen are again able to catch fish and feed their families now that the industrial trawlers are  staying way.  Why did it take these extreme measures so that people can feed their families?  Must the rich take everything they can grab?

Instead of screaming I try to channel the instinct to heal the world into something productive.  Much of my time this year has been taken up seeking ways to collect up all the food scrap in Rhode Island so we can turn it into compost and use the compost to revitalize a local agriculture here focused on growing our own food.  The benefits of this are vast.  Reduced carbon emissions, healthier food, more local jobs.  Buy Nothing Day in Rhode Island works the same way.  A resource that is being squandered (in this case winter coats sitting in closets) can save landfill space, save on the emissions generated buy making and shipping coats, and place new resources in the hands of people who can most use them, without generating new dollars of funny money.

I am dedicating my work on BND this year to the people who live along the Gulf of Mexico.  The rush for oil has lead to massive pollution, the loss of livelihoods, the destruction of the foods that feed them.  A new economy, one based on using less and sharing more is the only way forward in the Gulf, and in Rhode Island.  Join us at a Buy Nothing Day winter coat exchange  in your neighborhood ( there are 5 sites in Rhode Island;  Providence, Pawtucket, South Kingstown, Newport, and Woonsocket) on November 26 and take that step towards a better Rhode Island.

Local Action: Making Dreams Come True – You Can Do It

November 24, 2009 by Deanna Taylor

Today is Green Blog Action Day, a project of Green Change which was inspired by the global day of blog action on climate change. The topic: Local action. Check out all the Green Blogging going on over at Green Change to see what people around the country are writing about local action. My local action topic for today is a story about how I grew into taking action on a local level that is making a difference in my community.

As a young child I decided that because there was so much greenery on the earth my favorite color would be green. I grew up appreciating the beauty of our planet due to the inspiration I had from family that influenced my love for life. That inspiration led to personal practices that have helped me to work towards reducing my footprint on the world. One of those practices is that of consuming only what is necessary. This continues to be a practice which I constantly examine and refine in my life. I buy clothing at thrift stores and make my own jewelry and handbags, for example. I grow a lot of my own food. I compost. I recycle. I take public transportation and walk as much as possible. It is no wonder, then, that the Green Party, a party that promotes values near and dear to my heart, would eventually become “home” to me.

Local Action=Personal Responsibility

As a younger woman growing up in Frederick County, Maryland, about 50 miles west of Baltimore, each Thanksgiving I would watch with intrigue as the local news would air the piece about the huge Thanksgiving Feast organized by this amazing woman – Bea Gaddy, the
“Mother Teresa of Baltimore”, a woman who grew up in poverty and rose above her life’s challenges to become a successful advocate for human beings on our planet.

Each year I would continue to be inspired by the stories published about Bea Gaddy and her efforts. I would think to myself “I want to be like her when I grow up.” She demonstrated a level of community action that touched my heart and warmed the souls of tens of thousands of people through the years. Then one day my wish began to come true.

Local Action=Following Bea Gaddy’s Mission

I became involved with the Green Party when I moved to Utah in the late 90’s because of everything the Green Party advocates with regards to life on earth. I became active at the national level and met many great people. One person I met from Rhode Island, Greg Gerritt, told me
about the Rhode Island Green Party organized “Winter Coat Exchange” held each year on Buy Nothing Day, the day after Thanksgiving….the heaviest shopping day of the year. This year is the 12th year for the Rhode Island event where thousands of coats are now collected and
given away. All types of community organizations have become involved. The idea: “If you need a coat, come get one. If you have a coat, we know someone who can use it.” As I learned more about this event, I knew that I had to organize a sister event in Utah.

Local Action=Community Action

I had participated in Buy Nothing Day actions before. At malls and shopping places I would join dozens of activists in “anti-carol” sings, with messages about the pitfalls of consumerism, including its impact on our planet. But something just wasn’t working.
Shoppers would hurry past us as we sang and any leaflets we handed out ended up on the ground. I was frustrated. There had to be something else that could be done on this day to have more of an impact. Something that would touch the hearts of people as they spent their money on material goods that day. The concept of a coat exchange was something I decided to pursue.

Local Action=Pulling people together for a common good.

The first Community Coat Exchange was held in Salt Lake City, Utah The day after Thanksgiving in 2006, with about 300 coats collected, and 100 given away. TV cameras showed up and people responded positively to the idea. The next year we collected about 400 coats and gave away 200. Last year we collected over 700 coats and gave away 600. We now have 5 collection sites. People from all walks of life participate. The event is growing. Next year we hope to have a sister event in Ogden, a city north of Salt Lake City. We have more community partners. We get some media attention, but there still seems to be more “news” at the malls where people are shopping. No matter. As we grow, we touch lives and warm hearts in our local community.

As I reflect on this growing event, this local action, I have come to realize, on a small scale and relevant to my world, that my wish has come true, thanks to everyone in my life who has influenced me – my amazing and wonderful husband, my parents, my grandmothers, my
siblings, my children and grandchildren, my wonderful friends, my Green Party colleagues from around the country, and others in the world who have inspired and influenced me.

I am growing up to be like Bea Gaddy.

My desire now is to continue to grow and serve our community in ways that all people will benefit from efforts such as the Community Coat Exchange: A local action that has made a difference to the lives of countless people….to the life of the disabled man who just
needed to talk to someone (and get a coat)….to the families of refugees who were in need of coats for the cold Utah weather….to the war vet who was struggling to get the care he needed to survive….to the women who were being sheltered in a domestic violence victim shelter and needed winter wear for their children….to the homeless men who came to stock up on winter wear for the weather in which they were forced to live….to the school children who collected coats at their schools for the event….and for the many people who realized that shopping on Black Friday was not as important as giving back to the community and taking pause to consider how to better protect and prolong the life of our planet.

Local Action=Making dreams come true. You can do it!

Buy Nothing Day 2009 Essay  Greg Gerritt 10/1/09

More and more in my work I come back to this little triplet that popped into my head years ago and continues to inform my work:  We can not end poverty without healing ecosystems and shutting downing the war machine.  We can not heal ecosystems without ending poverty  and shutting down the war machine.  Shutting down the war machine is integral to ending poverty and healing ecosystems.

The coming winter, the winter of 2009/2010, is likely to be hard times in Rhode Island, and much of the rest of the world.  Famine is unlikely in Rhode Island, but the endless war on phantoms to control the oil supply and make the the military contractors fat and happy is killing the young people of our community and bleeding the economy at a time when leaving the oil in the ground rather than burning ever more of it every year is a  much better strategy if we want to avoid run away global warming that threatens the livability of our planet.

September 25 was overshoot day.  The day we have used up all of the biological productivity of planet Earth for an entire year.  But we still have three months to go.   Forests and fish disappear. Soil washes into rivers, making it ever harder to grow enough food, while creating dead zones in every ocean. We are using over 130% of the productivity of the planet each year, diminishing the possible yield next year even as we add another 79 million people. It is only because the Earth is such a bountiful place and built up a huge stock of life that depletion has been able to go on as long as it has.

One thing rarely mentioned is that if the ecosystems that underlie the entire economy had been healthy and not overwhelmed by people, if the resource base of earth was not so nearly depleted, the financial industry would have been investing more in actual production than trying to get rich simply via financial manipulations, and there would have been no bubble.

The bankers and Wall St, in their infinite greed decided that even as the ecosystems that support us collapse they needed more money and power.  There was no place productive to put their money, so they created a housing bubble because it was the one market they could readily manipulate.  Thus the creation of the sub prime mortgage market, and the conning of people to take out sub prime loans, something they would never have done if housing was actually affordable. When the bubble burst the response to the crash by our government was, and continues to be,  to try to get house prices back up so Wall St can be made whole, even if it meant the devastation of American communities.

After 9/11 George Bush asked us all to go shopping, and that seems to be what they want us to do now, despite the ecosystems that are falling apart and the spreading poverty.  Have they lost their minds?   Shopping will not solve the problem.  Healing ecosystems and helping people find real housing will.

Is it any wonder that tent cities are popping up all over? The shelters are full, poverty is rising, and health care and global warming relief are stuck in a Congress bought by the rich and powerful who are further enriched as Congress spends ever more money on war.

Those who maintain their power by the force of the gun squander our common heritage, the planet earth. They tax the poor to give to the rich, cut services when people are most in need, force the closure the tent cities, assume drilling more oil wells and blowing up more mountains will solve our energy problems, and chase phantoms with their predator drones around the world in the name of opening markets.

Last week I was on the team that helped put on the Providence Sustainability Festival  http://www.apeiron.org/slf2009/index2.html   My current projects include working to find ways to get all of the food waste in our communities currently in the waste stream into the compost stream so we can build soil fertility and grow food, so that we are not so dependent on places losing irrigation water due to global warming,  Related to that I am one of the organizers of Rhode Island events on October 24 for the international climate action day organized by 350.org   http://www.350.org/node/6208       I hope all of you can join us either at Waterplace Park or at any of the other locations around Rhode Island that day.  If you need help starting an event in your neighborhood get in touch, I can help.

A month after the 350.org events comes Buy Nothing Day.  I like BND so much because it is the only celebration that combines all of the efforts I work on and links all of the interrelated causes of the problems we face in the community.  It links the over consuming throw away society with the poverty and ecosystem damage that scars us and allows us to remember that the war machine does not help our communities thrive. It gives us something to do that positively redistributes resources in the community, without giving in to what I call the Cult of MORE.  It gives us an opportunity to resist with a  smile on our faces.  It brings one of the most interesting crowds to the State House you will ever see.

Its time to email your friends and talk to your parish members and collect some winter coats that you can bring to the collection sites on NOvember 27.  Its time to plan to be at one of our 5 locations around Rhode Island the Day After Thanksgiving with your friends and family helping get the coats out for distribution.

I am a bit of a luddite, so I am not up on all the new media, but if you twitter, have a facebook page or anything like that and want to include Buy Nothing Day in your communications, please do.