I think one of the most compelling aspects of your story, Mark, is that you studied economics and thus people tend to take you more seriously than the usual environmentalist. From an economic perspective, if the freeconomic movement were to take off and people worldwide adopted it, how would that disrupt the current economic machine? Is it possible to predict what would happen if huge chunks of society stopped using money for their daily transactions?
It would act in the same way the current market system current acts – supply and demand, and the market responding to a change in social values. It’s about evolution, not revolution, about transition and transformation. My educational and career background is in some ways very fortunate – if you want to find solutions to the flaws of the current system, you must first understand how it works.
What is harder to learn are the primary skills – a care for the planet, for humans, for animals and other species, and a desire to live as gently as possible.
It takes 2 mins to teach a person how to plant a seed, but it can take years to convince them of the importance of planting that seed.
The overriding root cause of almost every major issue in the world today is our disconnection from what we consume. Money has enabled us to have huge degrees of separation between the consumer and the consumed. Until we reconnect with Nature, nothing will change.
Be the change you want to see in the world, whether you’re a minority of one or a majority of millions. Reconnect with your local environment and community. Surrender to the world and enter into the organic flow of giving and receive freely, and unconditionally.
I'm not for a moment suggesting we should all go money-less tomorrow. It's about transition. All I am trying to say is that I believe money is like oil: if we are going to use it, let's at least use it to build sustainable infrastructure for the future, and not meaningless tat. And I just wanted to show that you can live a really happy, healthy life without so much money or stuff. That's all.
I also want to encourage people to reconnect with what we consume and make more sustainable choices. Paul McCartney once said: "If slaughterhouses had glass walls, we'd all be vegetarians". Well, if people could see the state of war-torn Iraq, we'd all be cyclists. If you can, try to reduce consumption to as much as your specific situation allows you to. All our energy needs are different; I don't have kids which means I need much less.
Money does not create things. We create money, and almost all of it as debt. It is simply a means of exchange, a way of apportioning reward to people for their labours, nothing more. But whilst it is fantastic – too fantastic – at facilitating exchange, it has become a tool that has allowed us to strip the earth bare, at an extraordinary rate, of almost every resource we've been gifted. It has made things too easy for this generation, and too difficult for the next.
There are many ways you can get all the things you need to survive – and thrive – without money, and they're usually much more fun (though less convenient) than going shopping. The ultimate in terms of sustainability and satisfaction is to build a relationship with your local natural environment. Make ink and paper from mushrooms, pillows out of wild reedmace and spoons out of local green wood. Go camping, light your fire with a bow drill and eat and sleep alfresco. Unless we reconnect with nature, runaway climate change is inevitable, as we'll have no deeper understanding of the consequences of consumerism, and without that understanding, the level of change we require will remain a holy grail.