Tag Archive | sharing systems

Your grandchildren will hate you

Eugene is pleasant in the spring.  Flat enough to be excellent to bike almost everywhere, with little car traffic which is mostly well behaved.  The university brings new faces every year and clever talk. There is an impressive array of restaurants and natural food stores to serve locals and visitors alike.  Well maintained parks and nature preserves surround Eugene, with accessible hiking and biking.

bike trail eugene

The politics of the town are mostly liberal to progressive with some colorful radicals thrown in for spice.  It is also where some of my favorite people in the world live, including Tree and Abigail.  Abigail invited me to present at her work with SWAT (Sexual Wellness and Advocacy Team).  She wanted to do group trust building, so i did an introduction to transparency tools which was quite well received.

When i got there, some students expressed interest in the communes so i did a rapid introduction of them.  Which ended with the lines:

We keep track of our energy and materials use within the income sharing communities and what we find is that our per person carbon footprint is about 20% of that of our mainstream US counterparts.   This 80% reduction in carbon emissions corresponds with where the UN’s IPCC thinks all industrial countries should be by 2050.  The problem is that almost no one else knows how to get here.

The communes are not brilliant in our use of renewables.  Nor do we carefully conserve every kilowatt hour of electricity.  The thing we are really good at is sharing resources.  In my view, this is the only way to save the world while maintaining a lifestyle which is vaguely similar to what people in rich countries are already experiencing.  If your grandchildren don’t hate you, it will be because as a nation we figured out how to share resources well.

Switching to Renewables is just not enough

Switching to Renewables is just not enough

Frankly, i think i went over the head of some of these otherwise clever students.  It is not a message one hears very often and people are generally dismissive about the significance of sharing.  And for me there is no escaping the importance of it.  It is at the center of the Point A project and much of the outreach work we do.

If Willow has kids, i want them to like me.

commune kids

Willow and the commune kids – circa 2015

Unmeasurable antidotes

I have a complaint about science as the current principal truth model.  For science to function you have to have repeatable experiments and you have to be able to measure things.  For many things which i think are important (revolutions and romances jump to mind) both repeatability and measurability are impossible.  There are no good metrics and they are often chronologically unique.  This does not make science in itself bad, but it certainly causes distortions, where we focus on less important things because we can “get more truth” over there.

Lack of love we can measure

Lack of love we can measure

Similarly, the mainstream promoted values of self reliance and independence have negative side effects.  The commercial interpretation of self reliance and independence is that you need to uniquely own everything you need to survive and thrive.  This leads to tremendous idle capacity.  Which leads to the accelerated degradation of the planet.

Trust me, there are lots of alternatives

Trust me, there are lots of alternatives

Some years back the globalization fans were fond of calling it a TINA proposition. There is No Alternative.  This is a catchy name for a profound failure of imagination. Globalization is the current flavor of industrial capitalism which feeds our insatiable need for stuff.  When i talk with mainstream audiences, the idea of affluent people consuming less to save the planet for future generations it goes over pretty poorly. Even the most radical of audiences think that voluntary austerity is an anti-gravity proposition.  But then i pull out my trick question.

“What if i told you that you could work less and have access to more wealth and resources (and save the world as a secondary side benefit)?  This often gets people’s attention.  Especially busy people, who are already pressed for time, think this might be a lovely solution and they want to know more.

Where can i find more time?

Where can i find more time?


The principal thing which stops people from living this more luxurious lifestyle is trust.  Because we are generally unwilling to trust other people with your stuff, everyone has to have their own everything.  And almost all of it sits idle almost all the time.  If alternatively we can trust each other, then we can share.  This is not a trivial proposition.  There is logistical leg work, like avoiding brittle sharing agreements, including scheduling and routine or catastrophic repairs.

And this is where community comes in.  More important than any of the products of our cottage industries make, communities are trust building engines.  We are not perfect, certainly and some are much better than others.  But at their core communities share things, both socio-cultural and material.  These cultures help us share and build trust.

We don’t have units to measure trust.  There is little critique of “self reliance” and it’s associated idle resources.  But there is an alternative.  If you are interested in this low hanging fruit of a better world, i would encourage you to strongly consider coming to this years communities conference. August 29th thru Sept 1, 2014 at Twin Oaks in Virginia.

Anarchist Studies Grants – Deadline Feb 15th

Lots of people are motivated by deadlines, i certainly am.  So when i saw that the deadline for the Institute for Anarchist Studies writing grant was Feb 1st and it was Feb 1st and i had no time to write anything, i did what any self respecting disorganized organizer would do – i emailed asking for more information.

To my joy, the deadline had moved a couple of weeks and it was still possible for me (and perhaps you) to get an application in for a grant for an essay (or translation) on how to improve the world as seen through an anarchist lens.  Since Feb 1st they have pulled down the link which tells you that the deadline has been extended and what the application process is.  But in the noble anarchist tradition of leaking information, at the bottom of this message is what you need to do to be considered for the small grants of between $250 and $1000.

reading in the flames

What is important to me, is what it is we should be writing about.  Unsurprisingly, for those who know me, i want to do a piece on sharing systems.  Specifically, how sharing systems which have been developed in the commune can be exported to Babylon.

But if you identify as an anarchist who thinks part of the work that you need to do is share powerful ideas with others, this might be your grant.

If i could split in three, i think what i would write about is:

  1. How to spark a social network to replace Facebook
  2. Tools for living without money
  3. Exporting sharing systems from the commune to the mainstream

What should you be writing about?

commons not capitalism

So this is what you would have gotten if you had asked before Feb 1st for the information about the grant.  But it actually appears that the website has expired, rather than that they intentionally stopped sending stuff out.


Thanks for contacting us about our grants for writing and translation projects. Due to ongoing issues with our application and Web site, we have extended our winter deadline for proposals. Grant applications are now due by or before midnight EST on February 15, 2013. We apology for any inconvenience or delay. We’re working on a totally new Web site that will be both attractive and functional, offering an easy online application for future grant rounds.

For now, below you’ll find the grant application questions. Please address them succinctly yet fully, and return them to us via email: anarchiststudies@gmail.com.

– Please fill out the questions below, and acknowledge the fine print.
– Please attach a writing sample, no longer than 5 double-spaced pages in length, as a .doc file.

We look forward to receiving your grant application, and will be in touch with all applicants with our decisions by the late March or early April.


David Combs
Institute for Anarchist Studies

Tentative Project Title:

Your full name:

Your email address:

Your full address:

Your phone number:

Project completion date:
Note: Your essay must be completed within six months of being awarded a grant.

Project Summary:
Please provide a succinct one- to two-paragraph summary of your essay project, including as applicable your main points, key argument(s), and research or other supporting materials.

Project Approximate Length:

Project Insights:
What insights does your piece offer into social, political, and/or economic structures of domination? What contributions does it make to efforts to abolish or radically transform these structures and create a free, just, and cooperative society?

Project Importance:
Why is your essay project especially important at this particular time? Please provide a one- to two-paragraph summary on how you see your essay project fitting into the current context of anarchist/radical thought and/or organizing.

Project Influences/sources:
If applicable, briefly note any key theoretical influences/sources for this project.

Project Personal Experience:
What experience do you have that is relevant to your project? This can include experience with the methodology you are proposing here, pieces you have written on related themes, educational or organizing/activist experience, research, employment, languages, and so on. If your application is for a translation, include your translation experience. Please explain why you feel that you would be a good candidate to undertake and complete this project.

Language of project:
What language will the work be written in? If it will be in a language other than English, can you provide English translation?

If writing a translation, do you have the translation rights? We will not consider applications for translations without the original author’s permission.

The IAS is interested in having the essays it funds be as widely available as possible in forms that are relevant and accessible to radical movements and thinkers. To this end, we attempt to publish as many of the funded essays as we can, but also appreciate efforts by the grantee to disseminate their work.

Project IAS Publishing:
Are you open to having your completed essay project be published in Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, or as part of a small book series by the IAS and AK Press?

Project Publishing:
What other plans do you have to publish or otherwise disseminate your essay beyond possible IAS publishing opportunities?


Terms and Conditions

Relationship to IAS:
I am not. I am not an officer, director, member of the grant selection committee, or any other committee of the IAS. I am not related to anyone serving in any of the above capacities.

Project Completion:
Yes, I agree. I will complete the above project within six months of receiving the grant (generally August 30 or January 30 of a given year), and I will send a finished copy of the essay or translation to the IAS by this date.

Yes, I agree. Whether I own the piece’s copyright or not, I grant the IAS permission to publish the completed work in the IAS journal Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, as part of an anthology, or in a small book format.

Yes, I agree. If I am awarded a grant and the IAS decides to pursue the publication of my essay in its journal or as part of a book series, I am willing to work with an IAS editor to prepare the essay or translation for publication.

Acknowledge IAS:
Yes, I agree. Whether I own the piece’s copyright or not, I grant the IAS permission to publish the completed work in the IAS journal Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, as part of an anthology, or in a small book format.

Yes, I agree. If the project must take more than six months to complete, I will request in writing an extension of the deadline, no less than one month before the original deadline. If I fail to request an extension, or if the IAS does not accept the request, I will return the grant money.

Money Return:
Yes, I agree. I will return the grant money in full if I fail to complete the project in the required time frame.

Publish without funding:
Yes, I agree. If you are not funded, another support we offer is posting info re: projects on our Web site. Would you be ok with this?

Drunk TORing

Christina was excited, she came back from lunch and in front of her room was an unmarked bag with some exotic coconut alcohol that she had tried for the first time relatively recently.  “What a nice present” she thought and her mind started rushing to who it was in the community that knew that she liked this brand and why they might have chosen to give it to her.

Alcohol is complex in the community culture.  There are a small number of events where the community provides it.  And we have recovering alcoholics who feel less welcome at these events.  Since long distance phone calls (including to a number of other countries) are now free, my guess is that various forms of alcohol are one of the item that a large fraction of individual allowances are spent on.  But at $75/month allowance for everything, this does not represent all that much alcohol, even when purchased in a thrifty way.  And there is chocolate, which the community does not really provide in any quantity to be bought with allowance money as well.

As she investigated her present further Christina found out that while slightly intoxicated on this same coconut elixir the night before, she had written a TOR for the drink and Bochie had submitted the TOR for her.  So she had ordered it herself.  I appreciated that she reframed it as a present from herself.

This story is really an excuse for me to introduce the Twin Oaks TOR system.  TOR (pronounced “tour”) stands for Twin Oaks Request.  And it  is the name of the white or pink pre-formated slip of paper which instructs the tripper as to what it is you want them to pick up for you whne they drive into town.  The Tripper/TOR system is both reliable and comprehensive.  The trippers are experienced shoppers, they know where the bargains are, they know where service and selection are, the trippers will even work together so if you request something from Louisa, but it is not in town, they will call the Cville tripper to see if they can get it for you instead.

This dovetails back into the whole discussion about sharing and reduction of resource use.  We have 50 fewer cars then our mainstream counter parts.  We do this by satisfying the need for cars in different ways than most US americans.  Specifically, we dont commute to work, we centralize our shopping and we coordinate rides.  The TOR system is so powerful that unless you love the act of shopping, it rarely makes sense not to use it.

And of course some folx are way ahead of us

Someone else will go to multiple locations to search for what you want, someone else does what ever accounting is needed for it, someone else picks it up and delivers it to your specified location and someone else will even return it if soem mistake was made.  And this someone (the tripper) does not even expect you to thank them for this work, it is just part of their job.  Part of our rich infrastructure.

So rich and so easy to use that sometimes you surprise yourself with presents.