We know that is not true. The idea of sharing and collaborating to make sure we all have access to goods and services has the radical potential to solve our current social and environmental crisis. But standing in our way are the myths people believe about ‘sustainable consumption’, ‘the circular economy’, or ‘the sharing economy’. Grassroots groups across the Global South are already proving them wrong.
Green Action Week is a campaign to promote sustainable consumption with 50 civil society organisations across 30 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas taking part to show that sustainable consumption is really about building a sharing community.
Sharing and collaborating so that everyone has access to goods and services is not a modern Western invention. In fact, the solution to the relatively new threat of unsustainable consumption is often found in the ancient traditions of societies in the Global South. In Malaysia, seed sharing by farmers has happened for millenia, and it is only recently that large corporations have tried to prevent it – which causes higher costs, more chemicals and less plant diversity.
By campaigning and organising seed-sharing to push back against these threats, the Consumers’ Association of Penang in Malaysia are showing that a sharing community can bring back local cultures of sharing.
Sustainable consumption is about consumers using their power to make positive change – but that power is not only about what kind of straw you choose to buy with your drink. In Brazil, Centro Ecológico set up community swap events where people not only shared clothes and books but also shared their skills with each other to fix, upcycle, and avoid having to purchase new items.
An important benefit of sharing community activities is that they build stronger community relationships as well as protecting the environment.
The ‘sharing economy’ services that get the most publicity are focused on using technology to share taxis or holiday homes, but most of them are owned by private corporations and are not focused on improving social inequality or environmental crisis.
Groups like CERC-ENVIS in India are showing that you do not need a smartphone to share. In a country with many languages they are out talking to people on the street, in schools, and in their workplaces to find out what kind of sharing community people actually need – speaking a global truth in local languages.