Eco-Warrior Challenge No. 2: Day 5

When discussing ownership and possession we tend to think about things.  But today we’re going to step outside the box.   Are you prepared to let go of your ideas?

After selling the house, giving away all my furniture and since pruning my goods down to what I can fit into two panniers, a top box and a treasure box, I realised that I found it difficult to give up my intellectual ‘property’.  Several boxes full of old essays on education, the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of science, psychology reports, action research reports, the theoretic chapter of a PhD on implicit learning, photographs I’d had specially printed and all my teaching materials.  I had spent 5 years in a virtual world roleplaying with a wealth of stories I’d created or contributed to the creation of and felt irritated when others who continued roleplaying after me had “changed the history” of my characters.

But I’ve learned to let it go, not least because I’m humbled by those who share.

In “Green Yorkshire”  I wrote a review of my visit to Incredible Aqua Garden, Todmorden.  Todmorden was the forerunner of the Incredible Edibles movement, turning over public space to the production of food.  It’s now highly organised with a trail you can follow which enables a visit to each of the initiatives around town.  The route is designed to bring you past local businesses to help support them.  It is now monitoring its local economy by tracking the production and sale of free-range eggs in the community.

The aqua garden produces food using a system of aquaponics.  Large fish tanks produce waste which is filtered through vegetable beds, fertilising them for food growth.  The water returns to the tanks, clean.  But more impressive is that all the designs for the system are open source.

Open Source

The term ‘Open Source’ was originally used to describe computer programmes that were freely distributed with the ‘source’ code used to design the programme.  You may be familiar with, or even use, two powerful programmes that are open source, Gimp and Blender.  Compared to the near £50/month to get the same creative power from Adobe, this is an absolute gift.

The term has now been extended to include other freely distributed designs.  Incredible Aqua Garden makes all the designs for their aquaponics system freely available, including the electronics circuits and software.

One of the most innovative open source design systems I’ve come across is Precious Plastic.  I’ll let it speak for itself:

How amazing is that?  All you need to start your own business.

A case could be made that a business like this would only encourage more plastic consumption – as we don’t need to feel guilty about it any more – it can be recycled.  Consumption will be the theme for next week’s challenge.  But, for now, let’s enjoy the sharing of intellectual property to deal with contemporary problems.  It’s to be commended, not denigrated.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons helps you legally share your knowledge and creativity to build a more equitable, accessible, and innovative world. We unlock the full potential of the internet to drive a new era of development, growth and productivity.

With a network of staff, board, and affiliates around the world, Creative Commons provides free, easy-to-use copyright licenses to make a simple and standardized way to give the public permission to share and use your creative work–on conditions of your choice.”

How many of you are making use of the free images out there to support your blog?  Yup, me too.  When I haven’t got a picture to go with my post – I look for a free to use image.  But how many of you give back?  What do you share?

It took me a long time, but I eventually added a creative commons share alike licence to my work.  I passed on all the academic books and articles relating to my intellectual work.  I finally shredded and composted that paper trail of old ideas.  I let it go psychologically as well as physically.  Occasionally I wonder if I made a mistake, but mostly I feel free of it and the felt obligation to do something with it.  My life has moved on, but if anyone ever becomes interested in the questions I posed, I can point them toward suitable literature and explain how I approached the problem.  There would be a certain pleasure in seeing someone else do something with it.

Nature’s Gift Economy

In nature, there are many mutually beneficial relationships, which could be described as an economy, such as bees collecting nectar in exchange for pollination.  However, there are some relationships which are uni-directional.  Bacteria which help to fix nitrogen in soil don’t directly benefit from it.  But the process triggers a chain reaction whereby the growth of fungi later in the chain provide nutrients for the nitrogen fixing bacteria.  However, these kinds of exchanges aren’t conducted with a sense of credit and debt, this is just what organisms do (Charles Eisenstein, 2011).

Why don’t we?

I used to feel awkward about asking for help and also when offered or given help when I needed it.  I think part of that was feeling I couldn’t repay in kind.  But age has taught me that there is a time it possible to be that helper for someone else.  Learning to receive is as important as learning to give.

A gift economy

I pass by a house on a walk into the nearest town and during harvest, they make their surplus freely available.  They put apples, plums and vegetables into bags with a sign to help yourself.  No one takes more than one bag of anything.  Similarly, Incredible Edibles committees also report that no-one takes more food than they need from the crops available.  These small gestures are the seeds for a larger gift economy.

A novel idea was suggested by Larry Korn, permaculture teacher.  He advised acquiring fruit tree stock that had not had the central branch cut.  If it had been (which is usual), the tree would need to be forever pruned.  One feature of permaculture is an economical labour inputs.

It was one of those times I woke up.  Of course!  Why is it that humans felt that they were better than nature that they should shape the tree more productively?  Surely the shape of the tree that evolved would be the most efficient and productive for that tree?  Why do we prune?  Trees are pruned to make the tree more productive for human purposes.  To maximise yield at lower levels to ease human access.  Larry Korn suggested leaving it be.  What fun we had as children climbing into those higher reaches of the tree.  Why not share some of the yield with birds and animals?

Today’s challenge:

Sow a seed for a larger gift economy.  What can you freely give today?



Eisenstein, Charles (2011). Sacred Economics: Money, Gift and Society in the Age of Transition. Evolver Editions.


5 thoughts on “Eco-Warrior Challenge No. 2: Day 5

  1. We’ve kind of already done this a couple years ago. Drollery planted some grapes to make wine then decided he really didn’t like the taste of them. We were going to rip them out and put them in the garbage and then we noticed the birds feasting away. We feed the birds year round, so we decided it might be a good thing if they had a little fruit in their diet and left them there. It’s been pretty cool to watch them. Still have planted any other grapes! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Love that! I know a woman in a very arid part of Spain who observed that the blossom drop from one of her trees, which she swept into a heap, started to compost and she realised her garden didn’t need to be as arid as it was. Completely changed her approach and now has a thriving natural garden with so much birdlife.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. At first it’s a daunting thought – getting rid of ‘stuff’ that you really don’t need. It just so happens I’ve done all this.
    I’d spent 30 years in my job travelling around city to city, country to country and had amassed a ridiculous quantity of stuff as each time I moved I had basically started again from scratch. I reckon I had lived in around 45 different houses and flats in total. Each move would entail yet more stuff going back to my UK base. 30 years later I had 2 walk-in off-hallway stores floor to ceiling jam packed, 4 wardrobes of clothes, a mountain of paper stuff, work literature, books, files, you name it. For example, I had 7 irons in their boxes hardly ever used.
    I couldn’t see the walls in my spare bedroom for wall shelving filled to the brim with paper stuff.
    That said, my house was highly organised, I knew exactly where everything was and everything was off the floor. There were no such piles of junk that you see on TV! No way I could stand that scene for a second.
    So I sat down and worked out what had to go. My plan was I’d sell my place when I’d finished the purge.
    Come selling my place I’d owned 20 years, I gave all the furniture and tools stuff away to friends and Oxfam. Some people are too possessive about furniture, but I could not care less about it, so it was easy for me to give it away. Wall picture stuff, some lovely wall mirrors from flash hotels, house deco junk, plants was all taken by friends.
    Clothes, about 20 suits, jackets, trousers, ties all hardly worn went to Oxfam.
    My work stuff, about 6 huge boxes needing 2 people to lift each were an issue. So I bought a scanner and went through it all, scanning what I wanted to keep. That was a mammoth task and took a month to do, but worth it.
    Hundreds of books, nearly all novels went to Oxfam. I kept reference stuff and most of my history collection.
    Mountains of music mags, 20 years worth went to a guy with a 2nd hand shop.
    I had some 400 video tapes of music stuff that I copied over to DVDs. Smart move, as they now reside in just 2 shoe boxes in a far more orderly form. Hundreds of records I didn’t want were sold off to 2nd hand shops.
    I kept 2,000 LPs and 3,000 CDs, but have since bought another 1,000. I still have some 500 cassette tapes I never got around to CD-ring, mostly Dylan concerts bootlegs that will never be discarded!
    Anything else of an ancillary nature got dumped.

    Your ‘stuff’ collection is determined by the design of your home. Here in UK, for some reason – probably to do with heating issues, we generally live in a collection of rooms – living – dining – kitchen etc. I really don’t like that style at all having experienced a very different lay-out decades ago. I could never live like that again.
    Now I have a place where day-to-day everything happens in one room and it works so much better for me.
    My main room is all shelved up to the max and it works great. Clutter free and user friendly.
    My friends think I like to live in a ‘laboratory’! I think they’re right, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Are you saying that by virtue of the limitations of space you work in, apart from adding to the music collection, it helps with not re-accumulating stuff again? I also purged myself of stuff when moving house, and found it so liberating I wrote a post on it – The Weight of Property – but I found the next challenge was to stop the cycle of consumption, so it doesn’t happen again – it’s going to be a future theme.


      1. Basically…yes, I have to admit that. I buy music stuff all the time and beyond help. It’s all about design of shelving and beats the need for painting as there’s no walls to see! But I do still have one half length of wall as yet unscathed. It’s ready and waiting…
        Other than that I waste my money on nothing much else. I got rid of my car last year as I simply rarely needed or used it as public transport is excellent. The underground is 2 mins walk and just 2 stops to city centre. Haven’t missed the liability of the car (and expenses) for a minute.
        The building I now live in is very modern with centralised heating which costs a fixed fee of £35 per month which is a fairly good deal these days.
        In answer to your question – it’s not so much limitations of space – that isn’t as yet a chronic issue, but more a case of attitude to “do I really need this?”. I don’t buy ‘nice to have’s’, just essentials and with a bit of personal discipline it’s really easy to do.
        Even back to basic common sense stuff such as instead of chucking slightly worn shoes out, I get them repaired. I didn’t used to do that. I had some clothes I liked but didn’t like the cut, so had them remodeled by a tailor and they’re better than anything I could buy for good money. Even food waste becomes something else with a chopping machine and I’ve found new personal highs with the delights of roast potato, stale bread, lettuce and left over baked beans soup!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s