B14: Borrow and Barter

This morning I watched a news piece about Muhammad Yunus "banker of the poor." He was on a program from New Zealand, International Dateline, on Link TV. Mr. Yunus, a Nobel Prize winning social reformer, explained what inspired his work and the micro-loan concept. He described the complete failure of conventional banking and capitalism.
'If the banks lent to the rich, I lent to the poor. If banks lent to men, I lent to women. If banks required collateral, my loans were collateral free. If banks required a lot of paperwork, my loans were illiterate friendly. If you had to go to the bank, my bank went to the village."

My own resistance to the conventional banking world and my rebellion against a money culture is primarily one of non-consuming and frugality. Borrowing and barter are also concepts I advocate. My life is filled with interactions with those around me where money isn’t exchanged. Yesterday I spent several hours teaching a nurse in the neighborhood how to use Excel. She wants to set up a chart for her work, tracking her patient care. She gave me a mattress several years ago when I was having back problems from a broken down mattress. I have asked her if I might borrow her bike in the upcoming weeks to see if I can get myself into a biking frame of mind.

Today I am working with a young mother who keeps the family business books. I learned how to input expense receipts and invoice payments into Quick Books. We will look at this approach versus what she used before to decide what works best for them. We also have a history of barter with her husband doing construction projects for me and with me. I have sewed some curtains for her. The good news bad news is the family business is booming, the family business is taking all of her husband’s time. Poor me.

Another neighbor loaned me her coffee grinder this week (forgot to grind the beans at the store) and I will loan her my food processor to make hummus. She borrows my vacuum and I borrow the shredder. We borrow ingredients from each other and share food we when we made batches too big. She has also paid me to do work for her business. There are no hard and fast rules.

I could go on and on with these examples. This is a community safety net and I value it highly. I don’t think micro-loans and community barter and borrowing will solve the crisis that is capitalism. The answer isn’t communism. New economies are as illusive to me as new post oil sustainable cultures. Right now I am in transition from everything I have ever known. I believe our nation will be going into a transition following the upcoming political and economic changes on the horizon. It is so difficult to envision the unknown.

One last word on borrowing . . . I believe our blogosphere is the most profoundly apt example of borrowing. We borrow each other’s tips, quotes, links, videos, photos, references and inspiration. Today I asked a fellow blogger if I could borrow from her two-part series about her EcoAction group’s work from her Step Wise blog.

Sustainable design depends on "back-casting"; visualizing the future based on sustainability principles, then imagining what would need to happen to make it so. This is a different beast than fore-casting, which tends to be limited by our present and what we think is possible. Let's go!

Visioning Exercise:

If you haven't done this sort of thing before, take some time to think about the things that you care most about. Remember that sustainable lifestyles are positive for you and your family, community, economic viability and environment. Then take a piece of paper and think through the answers to the questions below. You don't need to answer all of them, just enough that you can have a truly vibrant picture in your head of what you want:
Envision your ideal sustainable lifestyle in as much detail as you can. What do you do? Where do you live? What is your community like? How do you spend your time? Which of your values are you expressing? Then, to think it through:
  • What's in it for me and my family?
  • How will it fit in with our lives?
  • Why do I do the things I do in the first place?
  • When my vision is complete, how will I know it?
  • What will a typical day look like for me?
  • What will my environment and home look like?
  • What will my neighborhood and community look like?
  • What are the key components of my life?
  • What is it that pulls me out of bed every day?
  • What part of this makes me happy?
  • What are my talents?
  • How will I use my talents in this vision?
  • What are my strengths?
  • What are my weaknesses?
  • What could derail me?
  • How will I handle the areas that are weaknesses?

She has many more examples of the exercises including collage images. Information/concrete steps were favored by those who didn’t go for the envision exercises. For them, a nuts and bolts compendium of ideas was thought of as most useful. The full posts should be read for some rich details of this group approach to EcoAction (her word).
I borrow her opening:

This is a fun and easy way to keep your sustainable dreams literally in front of you. It is one of the ways of making the vision in your head tangible, or of developing a vision if you aren't already in touch with it.