A year without money and consumption: mission possible
For one year Greta Taubert gave up everything as part of an experiment to live life without money. The German freelance journalist renounced consumer society to survive on little more than what she could produce, make, recycle or barter for herself. She has written a book about the experience - "Apokalypse Jetzt!" -- German for "Apocalypse Now".
"My generation never had to deal with anything existential. We don't know how to barter, to repair, to grow, to harvest, to heat, to be self-sufficient. All we know is how to go the supermarket and the shopping mall. This keeps us very dependent on the fact, that everything stays as it is. That we consume, consume, consume. Because that's the base of our system. But we just can't go on with this hyperconsumerism: Our hunger for new goods grows, but resources are limited. We will be confronted with a situation of less - sooner or later. Why should we wait until misery forces us to act?"
"I knew nothing about growing food or collecting fruits or hunting when I started. The mushrooms I tried to grow in my shower cabin perished, my own attempts of urban gardening in my backyard were not very fertile. And I'm also not allowed to use a gun to shoot an animal. There was no way round that I find people to help me. And I did. I went fishing, hunting, collecting mushrooms and learned some basics about agriculture".
"Trash is the ugly mirror of our society. At the end of shopping day you see the sad leftovers of this perverted logic of "anything-at-any-time".
I talked with Greta on Skype about her experiment.
Greta, how someone could live without money?
It was not that I was planning or intending to live without money. Because i don't think that money itself is the problem. Money is like a hammer - you could destroy somebody's head or something beautiful, so it was not about money but more about this more and more, this hyper consumption that is obviously tearing us down in the end. It's not a criticism about capitalism and stuff, it's a very basic idea of what do we do if we don't have this comfort and this hyper consumption no more. So I was looking around in my flat that I'm sitting right now and recognize that the table, the chair, the things I eat, the things I wear, I don't have any connection to them, I don't know how they are produced or even how to build a chair or what it takes to to sew something that you can wear or tailor. So I try to get back to that basic things, to do them by myself.
Why this was important for you?
Because if we don't appreciate what we have, it's clear that we have the desire to just consume it, use it and throw it away. You start to get back to the value of things because you do them yourselves or you get to know the procedures and then you you're able to appreciate it much more.
Tell me more about the experiment itself. How did you manage to live without money for a year?
The long-term experiment during one year was not to go shopping anymore. All the clothes, accessories, furniture, technology, I try to get in different ways like bartering, sharing, mooching, not sealing by the way, or doing it all by myself, growing stuff. It was very important for me to get also back to the topic of food. I made several experiments. For example I I tried to have my own garden on the balcony, in my bathroom tried to grow mushrooms, and I went for collecting mushrooms here in the area of the urban gardens and woods. I went hunting with a hunter in a city. And because I still had appetite, I still had hunger, I started to join the community that's called Community Supported Agriculture. we are a group of around 40 people that produce our own vegetable and fruits. So I started as a normal meat-eating woman, went to vegetarian, went vegan and also finally went to row food that I could only collect and find. So it's a special diet. Basically I only ate herbs and fruits during that time.
What was the most difficult thing during the experiment?
Almost everything. I got to the point where I said: I can't take it no more.
The physical aspects of it. Hunger for example. It's just normal when you only eat herbs, nuts and fruits. There have been psychological issues like "How do i get into that world of for example Freeconomy Community, people that don't use money, that live from the dumpsters, that are free in the world and try only to do hitchhiking, mooching on the streets. This was also very hard for me - to drop the thought: "Okay, I'm an independent woman, I'm emancipated, I can solve any problem I want, but then you realize: No, if you don't use money or if you don't join the community of Freeconomy, you have to put yourself out there and ask people for help all the time. You have to knock on the door of your neighbors and ask them: "Okay, can you borrow me this and that?" You have to ask people- experts whether they can show you how to build a lamp or how to repair your technique and stuff. So I was in the position of begging people all this time to help me and this was exhausting also. And I'd say this was always a big step or a barrier to jump over all the time.
Is a life without consumption possible?
Everything is consumption. The question is how do we consume. And there is a lot of things we can do and that we can work on because what we see right now in our societies, and that's not just Germany, that's all Europe, and that's all the Western woel,d, is a hyper consumption. And the logic of consuming more and more and more in order to waste more and more and more. Because this is the logic of capitalism. We have to grow constantly in our productions so there is no real normal basic needs no more. And we we have to really find out what we need, and mostly control of the waste that we produce. Because it's clear that I'm not going out to say: "Come on, go hunting or just grab your own fruit that you need". That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying: "Take care of what you really need and what you put aside later on".