Setting the Context
Dr Ottilie Stolte from the University of Waikato sets the scene for understanding how our households have shifted from productive to consumptive units, and how that affects us as households and as a society in general.
She suggests that neo-liberalism values have led to a shift in how households operate/live: where profit is the measure of success and the market is seen as the best way to achieve profit, there is a push for work that was traditionally outside the market economy to be made into a marketable good or service.
What this has meant is that work that doesn’t contribute to the economy is under-valued, and a lot of this is work carried out by women (and ironically, a lot of this is under-paid even when it has been made into a marketable service – care work, cleaning, and so on).
Here is a media review talking about what can happen when neo-liberalism meets feminism:
The Work-Spend Cycle
The work-and-spend cycle is a phenomenon in which people in affluent nations remain trapped in a pattern of long hours of work and increasing consumption spending that fails to generate lasting improvements in well-being and plays a major role in ecological degradation.
Dale Southerton, Encyclopedia of Consumer Culture
For example, many work long hours and so rely on childcare services, but then need to earn more money to pay for the childcare, and so end up working longer hours.
But how can we break out?
How can we reduce the amount of outsourcing we do?
Can we shift our view of the system, so that money is a means to an end, rather than an end itself?
Can we reclaim some of the jobs, and skills we have outsourced, that we now pay for? (But while reclaiming it, throwing in a bit of gender equality, so that jobs are shared – check out Çiçek Göçkün’s TED talk).
Can we borrow, share and swap more, to reduce our reliance on money exchanges for goods and services? (This post on Alternative Economies has more info.)
Eight Forms of Capital
Ethan Roland of Appleseed Permaculture puts forward the idea of 8 forms of capital, which are often inter-related and can sometimes be exchanged for each other. Working out which we are richer or poorer in can help us identify opportunities to holistically develop/build assets in a variety of different capitals, and also engage us in shifting away from the dominant paradigm that only values financial capital.
Consumption to Production
To be more productive and less consumptive we need time (and skills). Spending more time on home skills means less time to earn money. But it’s OK! Because you don’t need as much money to start with, as you are making things that you would otherwise have to purchase.
And while we are looking at living with less money, you might want to check out the book Frugal Hedonism – a guide to having fun without spending money. Our group of Permaculture Students came up with some of their own ideas and the general consensus was nature, friends, food, drinks, a little risk (fire, mild law-breaking, etc.), or combinations of several/all have the making of an excellent time with very little financial expenditure.
Some good resources for people starting on their homesteading journey are:
- How to start an urban homestead – blog article about a family on an urban 1/4 acre plot. It looks at how to begin homesteading, including mind shifts that might need to take place.
- Homesteading 101 – for different kinds of homesteading, including in apartments, urban areas, smaller plots, and larger plots.
- Piwakawaka Valley – Homesteading in Aotearoa
- Adventures in Sustainability Waikato – Homesteading in the Waikato
And here are some links to some fun activities that may well change your life if you don’t already know them:
Beeswax wrap – Instructions from My Healthy Green Family (using oven), or video below (using iron).
Keeping productive animals
- Bees are a keystone species. Our food systems, environment, and life as we know it is directly dependent on bees. So keeping bees is great for the Earth. And you get honey and more! In fact, read 16 Reasons Why Beekeeping is Awesome for a comprehensive and highly convincing article about why beekeeping is amazing.
- Chickens and ducks, on the other hand, offer weeding and waste management services, as well as giving eggs and making (sometimes) very loving pets.
Preserving and fermenting – Common Sense Home have a excellent guide to food preservation for beginners, including cool storage, drying/dehydrating, canning, freezing, fermenting, pickling, and preserving in salt, sugar, alcohol or oil.
Home made cleaning products – there are hundreds of recipes available online, from simple ones with ingredients you’ll probably already have in your cupboard, to ones that focus on reducing environmental harm and ‘nasty chemicals’, to what might be a nearly comprehensive list of all the options, and everything in between.
Reusable pads – Anne-Marie, if you are reading this, please create a link about the reusable pads you make so that we can share and celebrate the story behind your products that look after the Earth and people. Thank you! 🙂 In the mean time, the How to Make Your Own Reusable Menstrual Pads page on WikiHow will do.