You recognise a good idea when you get to know one. Some of the details might be still a bit hazy but you love the idea all the same.
For personal and research interests, I joined my local Community Exchange System (CES) called Stadin aikapankki, freely translated “the time bank of Helsinki area”. CES is a great idea. I am still a beginner but I love it.
A quick introduction to community exchange systems met globally. They are based on the exchanges of services between members: private people and groups. Most importantly, no money is used. Instead, members have some sort of procedure to keep track on exchanged services and members’ exchange balance. The brilliant thing about CES is that my personal account enables changes between people I didn’t know before. Thus, I can provide member A with a service B and get a service D from a member E.
So far I received my account details and information about offered and needed services. I have also put out what I can offer. To my great delight I was contacted about a translation task and I have now received my first “payment” called tovi, as one hour of work equals to one tovi.
The hardest part for me has been to figure out what I could ask through my CES and use my tovi. So far I have added a request for help in the garden, as we have to turn the land for cultivation. Anyone who has dug clay ground hardened by the winter knows how it is: hard work and backache. Thus, help is appreciated.
One of the most interesting requests I noticed was written with three sentences: “I am building a house. I need an architect. A student is acceptable too.” I am very curious about this house project. What are the plans like? Seriously, could one get a house built nowadays with using only community exchange services?
I have been thinking about what it would be like to live outside the system. It all started when we cancelled our newspaper order (in Finland you get newspapers delivered to your home every morning if you want). It’s not that I consider quitting the newspaper order as living outside the system. But it led into thinking the theme as I suddenly have had more time to read other publications. By the way, it is very entertaining to read two to three different types of newspapers/magazines side by side and compare how they analyse the world. Such fun!
The more alternative publications I have had a chance to read put emphasis on the quality of life, which is, according to some views, more probable outside the system. Or as the group of eco-villagers in Siberia consider, the only alternative after the inevitable destruction of civilisation as we know it. My friend pulled me back from my daydreams and asked how would I keep contact with my close relatives and friends from Siberia. If the Siberian eco-village generator is out of order, no Skype connections for this needy villager.
More than Skype connections I have been thinking about the ways to bring about change. Despite the harshness of Siberian winters and hotness of summers, it might be easier to escape the system and stop trying to change it. Overall, is it really needed that we abandon the current arrangement completely and start out fresh? Rather we could try to hold on to our goals in everyday interactions in order to live according to our values. However, if we stay it is tempting to give in.
My friend forgot one issue definitely postponing my eco-villager career in Siberia. My skills in Russian language are nonexistent. Siberia state of mind might be calling but please let it be in some language I understand.
My personal human experiment has partly failed. My spouse got a car. I had this eco-romantic view of us leading an environmentally friendlier (urban) life without a car, relying on public transport, carpooling, and rental cars. I know it is possible but apparently not in our family. I am still going to ride the bus. However, when I asked I was told that I would be allowed in the car too. Sarcastic great.
We might give a new home for a cat or two. Or three. Actually, there are four of them needing a new place to stay. How can I say no when we can give a home to a car? Cats are great! No sarcasm. I would be the one taking care of the cat since it would be my pet. Well, most probably two cats. A cat needs company, right?
By the way, I happen to know that cats and cars are not necessarily a very good match. My dear deceased cat detested car rides. Apparently he felt unsure of himself, as his territory was long gone. He used to inform us about his disgust by meowing loudly and vomiting. These unforgettable days might be ahead of me again if the cat is allowed in the car too. Or most probably two cats.
I conducted a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities) on relocating our home in the capital area of Finland. My spouse says it is funny and abnormal. Well, too bad as I already did it.
I came into conclusion that staying where we are is the best alternative for now, event though I have a huge garden fever. Not least because we can enjoy the good things we have at the moment.
However, one opportunity in particular caught my eye in both alternatives. That is developing the community. What a chance! Actually, it is my accusation targeted towards me. Why always nag about the fact that there is not enough sense of a community instead of actually contributing into it.
I know one neighbour sings in a choir and has a lovely voice. One plays the piano and maybe the guitar and their teenager loves loud music. Two neighbours have dogs. I talk to one of my neighbours in the hallway as we both have a rented garden nearby and we stroll in muddy boots (yes Mr. Janitor, I am one of them crooks). But can you consider hearing your next-door neighbours as knowing them?
Thus, I have decided to become more community oriented while I am dreaming about my house with a garden. This must end up as a triumph, a total failure, or something in between.
This is an ongoing story of my personal human experiment. I am one among many trying to lead a more sustainable life. For me sustainable everyday life is minimising my consumption and damage to the environment, and maximizing social cohesion and a sense of community. In order lead my life (at least as it is now), I need some income. Thus, I have a job as a researcher. Plus I am rather passionate about understanding our way of living and reporting alternatives.
This story could occur anywhere. It happens that I live with my small family outside the downtown area of Helsinki. From sustainability perspective, it means challenges in transportation. Additionally, I feel my area lacks the communal lifestyle present in some other areas.
Enough of grumbling! Let’s get on with the story.