Give a Gift - Save the Planet..?

To stop climate chaos we're going to have to change the way we think. And I'll show you why gift giving might be the best way to do that. Gift giving might be the most practical, down-to-earth dirty way to stop climate change.

green gift Since the invention of the steam engine in 1788, we've gotten ahead by burning fossil fuels and changing our climate. Today, industries that sell products based on fossil fuels are going bankrupt. Cars. Suburban houses that rely on cheap fuel for heating, cooling and transport to and fro. Airlines. Burnt fossil fuels are changing weather patterns, average temperatures and distributions of plants and animals.

To make a buck, and re-make the climate, we had better think differently. For example - when you look at a plant, you just see half. The other half is below ground. You can't see roots, but they're necessary for nutrition and stability. What are the roots of a climate friendly economy? Do people make money by selling ideas? Or giving them away?

You can't give things away forever. But if you give away enough to make a new market, then you can make a killing in that market. Elliot Coleman grows fruits, vegetables, poultry and grains in coastal Maine all year round. He might be the most famous gardener in the United States.

Over forty years of farming and thinking about farming, he's come up with ideas for tools that will make small scale farming and gardening more efficient. I suppose he could've made some money selling those tools, or the ideas for those tools. Instead he gave them away. Gave the tools away to blacksmiths, metal workers who could increase the number of the tools, sell them to others who need them. And all those folks using Coleman's tools to garden? They buy Coleman's books. And they buy tickets to his speeches, buy his produce, and tell their friends about him.

Here's a video of him explaining this:

Seth Godin calls this the best marketing of all. Give someone a gift. Give an amazing idea, a new tool, a new perspective, a few sentences that change their mind, change the way they see the world, change their world, leave them excited and breathless in an entry to a new world.

He writes that “ When done properly, gifts work like nothing else. A gift gladly accepted changes everything. The imbalance creates motion, motion that pushes us to a new equilibrium, motion that creates connection.”This kind of thinking makes Seth Godin a best-selling writer, speaker, blogger and entrepreneur.

Elliot Coleman writes powerfully about the power of being a farmer on Grist:

“Small farmers are a threat to the consolidation of absolute power. Thomas Jefferson said he didn't think we could have democracy unless at least 20% of the population was self-supporting on small farms so they were independent enough to be able to tell an oppressive government to stuff it. It is very difficult to control people who can create products without purchasing inputs from the system, who can market their products directly thus avoiding the involvement of mercenary middlemen, who can butcher animals and preserve foods without reliance on industrial conglomerates, and who can't be bullied because they can feed their own faces.”

Thomas Jefferson's vision of so many small farmers stretched across the United States might be unreasonable in today's world, without slavery and with far higher expectations for living standards. While Coleman is right that producing your own food is “one of the most relentlessly subversive forces on the planet”

I think that Godin and Coleman have another practice of power that can be incredibly subversive. Gift giving. This is pretty abstract, so lets provide a down in the dirt example of gift giving to combat climate change. Make a compost pile and use that magical fertilizer to grow some food. Give the food to someone who lives near you. You've avoided emissions from the production of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer and food transport. You've sequestered some carbon in the soil in the form of your compost. And maybe you made a friend.

Read more cool stuff on Celsias:

Age Old Wisdom for the New Economy

The World Needs Your Passion

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  • Posted on March 9, 2010. Listed in:

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