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Reuse Society

Shared Goods Versus Owning Your Own

Liked Every child on their own trampoline (The Earthbound Report)

However, there are reasons why I didn’t buy them a trampoline the first time they asked. Or the second, or the 34th. There is something that makes me a little uncomfortable about it, and it’s more than the aesthetics or the safety.
Looking out of my daughter’s bedroom window, I can see a grand total of seven different trampolines in back gardens. Almost every family with children has one, of varying sizes and quality. Some are used all the time, some rarely. But it seems to be almost universal now. Every family has its own trampoline.

Meanwhile, the playground round the corner falls apart quietly. It’s usually empty when we go there.

Private affluence is individuals gaining things for themselves – possessions, nice homes and experiences, trampolines. Public affluence is money spent lavishly on things that are shared – libraries, parks, buses, playgrounds.

Capitalism pushes us towards private affluence. We aspire to acquire our own things.

Having access to your own things looks like progress, but there is a cost. Community is one of the victims. Shared spaces are places where community happens, where people mix and meet. Nobody makes new friends on their own rowing machine, in front of the TV.

Was just reading Four Thousand Weeks and he brings up the deceptive seduction of convenience. We try to strip away all the minor inconveniences and frictions in life but a lot of them are what make us part of our community.

Public affluence builds community, saves resources and reduces inequality. In an advanced economy such as Britain’s, public affluence is one of the best ways to increase quality of life without increasing environmental damage. “Public affluence”, writes urbanist Mike Davis, “represented by great urban parks, free museums, libraries and infinite possibilities for human interaction – represents an alternative route to a rich standard of life based on Earth-friendly sociality.”

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at tracy.durnell@gmail.com. She/her.

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