We are in a climate emergency that our politicians refuse to admit.
But then, politicians are famous for not only diagnosing problems incorrectly but also applying the wrong remedies. So, if we care about the Short Now, the lifetime of a child born today, we will need to address the climate emergency ourselves.
All is not despair, we have many inspiring examples. Greta Thunberg, the 17-year-old Swede is one. In her words, she has “shop stopped”.
She no longer buys new things unless she absolutely must.
She wears what she already has, or borrows clothes from her younger sister, her mom or her dad, whoever.
How does this help the climate and the environment?
When we share, instead of buying, we cut consumption of resources. This means less land is grabbed away from forests, mountains and rivers to extract more resources, build more factories, warehouses, malls, expressways, and speculate real estate.
This means less material is extracted from the forests, mountains and rivers. This means less goods are moved around on roads to get to factories and malls. This means less energy is used up in manufacturing and transportation. This means less pollution by manufacturing and transportation. This also means less greenhouse gasses. This means saving the trees that absorb the atmospheric carbon, release oxygen, provide spiritual spaces and much more. This also means less used foods are thrown away into our landfills. And this means we have less land used up for our landfills.
This means we get more open spaces, wilderness, cleaner air, and cleaner and plentiful water.
This means we have safer and decongested roads. It means we have more local economies, building greater community. This means wealth is distributed more evenly, not sucked away to a few investors who get super rich while many others must migrate to find better life or livelihood.
This means less of global warming and consequently less extreme weather, less failure of crops, less loss of land due to floods and sea level rise, less environmental migration. All of this means more peaceful lives with greater harmony and joy in our communities.
Annually our consumption results in releasing 42 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere. In 2018, the United Nations scientists had indicated that an addition of 420 billion tons of carbon to the atmosphere will raise the global average temperature by 1 degree. If we want to ensure the temperature doesn’t rise beyond 1 degree, we have no alternative but to consume less. We must find ways to shop stop.
If 17-year-old Greta can do it, can’t we?
Many ordinary folks are making that little extra effort to create extra-ordinary contributions to enable us to shop stop.
WhatsApp Swap communities is one such effort that originated in Pune in March 2019 and is spreading rapidly to make shop stop possible for the rest of us.
Swap communities on WhatsApp are one of the easiest ways enabling their members to find the goods they want to consume or dispose what they don’t consume and shop stop. Members post a picture of product, name of product, the timeframe used, reason to let go, whether it is a sale, barter or donation, the price, and from whom, where and how to pick it up. The communities also share requests for goods that state what is required, where and for what price.
Akshay Singh, one of the co-founders of the first Swap group in Pune stresses the need for these communities to be local. “That way, we encourage local community”, he says. “Each Swap community needs a curator, one who ensures focus on swapping and “no” business posts or enquiries, promotion for an NGO or a service” he adds.
Pune already has 10 Swap communities helping its members to find ways to declutter their lives yet enjoy all that life has to offer.
The fast spreading decentralised, local Swap communities across different cities seems to be the way ahead.
Hema and Swapna, curators of communities in Bhosale Nagar and Baner respectively, point out that some of these communities are also swapping knowledge, ideas, recipes, skills (cooking, music, acting etc.), plants, and even good wishes for a greener and more sustainable world. Some have found spaces to create Swap events where the swapper communities can display their swap items and brings the community closer.
As Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Cleaning Up: The Japanese art of decluttering and organizing, puts it “When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too”.
Many swappers are also discovering the magic of letting minimalism into their lives and the peace, tranquillity and joy it brings to them.
Shop stop is the easiest way to start to declutter our lives and begin to discover minimalism. If you have discovered other ways to shop stop, do share them widely.
It is also the easiest insurance to the Short Now, the lifetime of a child born now. If you haven’t yet, when will you be a part of a Swap community in your neighbourhood or seed a new one?
He can be reached @AnupamSaraph