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The SharEconomy is coming

The modern world is one of diversion and alienation. So it’s advisable to turn everything off that is a distraction: mobile phone, television, radio. Make yourself comfortable, sit down and relax. Because only people who allow themselves time are able to think. Only people who read and understand, reflect and make their own good decisions.

This story is set here, on our planet Earth. It is fairly certain that, in 30 years, there will be ten billion people living on the planet. +++ Population growth is going up in a negative spiral. +++ With every additional citizen on Earth, diversity and space are decreasing. +++ With the continuous growth in the world’s population, the consumption of resources also goes up, and of energy, the volume of rubbish, and stress. +++ For this lifestyle, the resource-hungry industrial economy produces more and more food, more and more cars, more and more consumer goods. +++ And global warming increases. +++ There are extreme weather events, storms, rain, floods, landslides and earthquakes, forest fires, droughts. +++ Human consumption behaviour is reminiscent of the string orchestra on the steamship Titanic. +++ They simply kept playing while the ship was slowly sinking. +++ But with more and more growth and more and more consumption, our planet’s crude oil reserves will also shrink more quickly. +++ Crude oil, gas, iron ore, coal, copper, phosphorus, uranium, gold, silver, platinum, nickel, zinc… water. +++ How will the behaviour of humanity develop if the extraction of such key resources can no longer be increased, but rather shrinks? +++ Just gazing at growth rates hinders one’s view of a sustainable understanding of prosperity. +++ Following the dictates of competitiveness, life on our planet is becoming uncomfortable.

Will humanity be able to change its behaviour from waste to frugality?

Who are we, and are we capable of developing?Will humanity be able to change its behaviour from waste to frugality? And if so, how, when and where is it going to begin? Or is it going to keep living in this stressful scenario of decline, as on the Titanic? Or will the daily striving to be competitive and dominant develop rather towards a society of sharing, bartering and giving, where conservation and recycling become the most important principles of a new form of economy? What is the alternative to more and more cars, more and more air travel, more and more meat consumption?

What’s mine is (y)ours?
All the ideas are still new, but they are already anchored in the new society. Question: would you be prepared to go without something for the sake of your children’s and your grandchildren’s future? Your car? Your daily helping of meat? Your holiday flight? For many people, wanting or having to save money and resources and thereby live more ecologically is the first step towards escaping from the mentality of consumption and joining an economy based on the common good and happiness.

It began decades ago with papers like “Ocasião”, “ExchangeandMart” and “Sperrmüll”, the growth of the internet and the sales platform “eBay”, the advertising and the exchange of information about used goods. We have witnessed a far-reaching change, the beginning of a paradigm shift. Today, we have to ask ourselves whether this will continue, and if so, how? Do we still need our own cars, our own houses, and salaries in exchange for work? It is not yet possible to categorise the idea of this new way of running the economy in political terms. It involves conservative values such as community and the preservation of values, and progressive ones such as change and equality.
The new SharEconomy offers every participant a new structure: a local, regional, national or worldwide network. If the supplier-client model of the traditional economy may have appeared to be the only possibility hitherto, it has now been joined by the new peer-to-peer model. In a peer-to-peer network, everyone is on an equal footing, and can make use of services as well as provide them. The contrast with the peer-to-peer model is the old supplier-client model, where a supplier offers a service and a client uses it. In peer-to-peer networking, this distribution of roles no longer applies. Each participant is a peer, because he or she can both use a service and offer one.

Example 1:


FoodOwing to the systemic economic crisis, combined with long-term unemployment and the steady impoverishment of many, the proportion of citizens, especially pensioners, living below the breadline and able to afford less and less to live off, has been increasing for five years. On the other hand, the rich are getting richer and richer. How can it be that half of the food we produce ends up on the rubbish dump? Ploughed under by farmers following the harvest, or chucked away, gone bad in the wholesaler’s warehouse, gone to spoil while being transported to market or to the factory, rejected during production, at the wholesaler’s and in the supermarket, food that the consumer chucks in the rubbish bin or flushes down the toilet. The range of goods and the waste of energy is unending. Approximately a quarter of our planet’s total water consumption is wasted on the production of food that will later be destroyed.

In order to counteract both problems, the social and the ecological-economic, the www.bancoalimentar.pt (food bank) and www.re-food.org were founded in Portugal (read our interview on page …), as well as the cooperative www.frutafeia.pt supported by crowdfunding and the Calouste Gulbenkian foundation.
The Cooperativa FrutaFeia CRL [“fruta feia” literally means “ugly fruit” in Portuguese] based in Lisbon buys agricultural produce for its customers directly from farmers in the area, who would have to throw out the fruit and vegetables that do not always meet trading norms or sizes, because the supermarkets refuse to offer them to their clients. (Exceptions prove the rule: Intermarché France, Inglorious Fruits campaign, read our interview on the subject with Philippe Bourroux on page … ) Once a week, FrutaFeia offers several hundred clients two types of basket full of fresh fruit and vegetables, which they deliver to central points in Lisbon: 3 – 4 kg for 3.50 euros and 6 – 8 kg for seven euros. These are the first hopeful attempts in Portugal, and they are multiplying: increasing numbers of people are buying food that is traded directly and fairly, paying attention to seasonal and regional offers, and others are giving food away for free. The solution is: live more frugally, use energy more efficiently and the land more sustainably, treat yourself and the environment with greater awareness, and network more – and drive less…

Example 2:


MobilityFor most of the time, a car stands parked at the roadside or in a car park. Why are there so many cars just standing around useless, João Figueiredo from the Portuguese lift agency Um Coche wonders? Why do I need my own car? Nowadays, many young people no longer associate having their own car with the feeling of freedom promised by the manufacturers, but rather with traffic jams and the permanent hunting for parking spaces, plus the high cost of fuel, repairs and insurance. (Read the report on this subject “A month with no car …“ on page …) The trend of young people buying their own car, especially in cities like Lisbon, Porto and Coimbra, has decreased dramatically in recent years. That is the only explanation for the huge success of platforms like www.transportespublicos.pt, www.umcoche.com, www.blablacar.pt .
In Germany, things have already moved one small step further. There, the website www.tamyca.de acts as an agency for private cars including insurance between car owners and users: private CARSHARING is gaining ground, to the detriment of commercial car rental firms such as Sixt, Hertz and Europcar. At the Lx-Factory in Lisbon, CARRIS is the first regional public service provider to start up www.mobcarsharing.pt on a commercial basis. The growth of an alternative scene will transform our country in the long term.

Example 3:


LivingThe kids have grown up and left home, what was the children’s room for many years is now empty and unused – or – your marriage fell apart, and several rooms are empty. What do you do? Rent them out? By the day, week or month? People who travel have many stories to tell. This is the only explanation for the great success of the platforms www.airbnb.pt and www.couchsurfing.org, which meanwhile have over seven million users. (Read our interview with Paula Morgado and Esmeralda Anjos) Couchsurfing is also the answer to current environmental disasters: when hurricane Sandy hit New York in October 2012 and made many thousand residents temporarily homeless, other New Yorkers opened their doors to them in solidarity and offered them their empty rooms and a couch. This is how Couchsurfing was born, and its success has spread around the world.

In Portugal too, more and more people are asking themselves why we should prop up an ailing economic and social system, into which one pays more and more taxes and gets less and less back, and cannot participate in the decisions about where the tax revenues end up: fewer and fewer social services, lower pensions, less education, less medical care, less solidarity, and less and less training and fewer and fewer jobs for young people – along with more and more bureaucracy. It’s no longer difficult to find a solution.
There are now 5,143 groups and 7,662,862 members worldwide in the alternative Freecycle network. In Portugal, there are groups in Coimbra, Torres Vedras, Alcobaça, Aveiro, Braga, Covilhã, Faro, Funchal, Leiria, Lisbon, Loures, Porto, Sintra, Torres Novas and Viana do Castelo. (https://www.freecycle.org)

Example 4:


ServicesAn electric drill or a saw is only in use for some three to four hours a year. Isn’t it possible just to borrow them? In the pre-digital age, you could often borrow tools from neighbours or friends. Today, people who have never met are lending each other tools and services in a virtual portal or a time bank. This operates along the lines of “I can offer baby-sitting, who can do my garden? I can mend water pipes, who will cut my hair? Drill to lend, fan needed…” www.community-exchange.org. While there are now nine initiatives in Portugal where people can offer their services to each other, Spain leads the way in Europe with 208 barter exchanges, followed by Finland with 45 and the UK with 15.
Repair it, don’t throw it away.
servicesRepairing machinery has gone out of fashion with most people. They simply no longer know (or not yet) how to repair things, and chuck out a broken coffee or washing machine, or vacuum cleaner. People who don’t know how to repair electrical appliances, for example, can go to the Repair Café nowadays. Here there is a valuable exchange of knowledge. In this way, things can be used for longer and don’t get thrown away. Valuable raw materials and lots of valuable energy are saved, which would be needed for the production of new items. This also applies to CO2 emissions. Because CO2 is released when new items are produced and when used items are recycled. “Repair it, don’t throw it away” is becoming an increasingly important part of the new SharEconomy and it is only a matter of time before the first Repair Café arrives in Portugal too. The idea comes from Holland, and, since 2009, has led to more than 400 Non-Profit Cafés opening up worldwide: in Belgium, Germany, France, and in the UK, the USA, Brazil and Australia, among others. In the places where Repair Cafés are to be found, there are tools and materials available for all sorts of different repairs. For example, for clothes, furniture, electrical appliances, bicycles, toys and much more. Repair experts are present at the cafés: electricians, dressmakers, carpenters and bicycle mechanics. www.repaircafe.org It is only a matter of time before the first Repair Café opens its doors in Portugal.

Who will win, the shark or the shoal?
Those people are also successful who believe in their own success. Because people who have had the experience of being able to be a genuine part of an equitable, solution-oriented community, see their helplessness and frustration, their depression and anger disappear, and negative energy transformed into positive energy. This creates contented, happy participants in a new form of economy which is fundamentally different from the traditional one. Production, cooperation and sharing are rooted in the positive spectrum of human behaviour. They differ fundamentally from the struggle to compete, the confrontation and the assertiveness of a win-lose economy that gets lost in the short-sighted desire for growth at any cost. People’s long-term well-being and contentedness with their own lives are values that have not increased significantly despite economic growth and the sixfold increase in the worldwide gross national product between 1983 and 2013 from 11.6 to 74 trillion dollars. In the UN’s second World Happiness Report published in 2013, Portugal tops the European scale of “unhappy” countries, together with Italy, Spain and Greece. Incidentally, you can’t be successful if you don’t believe in your own success.

Example 5:


Livrowww.ouishare.net is a think and do-tank with the mission of supporting citizens, public institutions and businesses and creating a form of economy that is based on sharing, cooperation and transparency sustained by horizontal networks and communities. The French initiators of OuiShare, which was founded in Paris in 2012, are convinced that such a new economy could solve many ecological and social problems. A group of enthusiasts quickly grew into a worldwide community spanning 25 countries in Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. Fifty “connectors” link up over 2,000 members worldwide. OuiShare meets once a year in Paris to exchange experiences.
Another network that operates both worldwide and nationally is www.wwoof.com. The federation WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) was founded in Britain in 1974 and is based on the idea of bringing people together who lead their lives in the countryside close to nature – or who would like to discover this. Today, WWOOF is working in 60 countries on all the continents. In Portugal, 141 farms are offering people the possibility of finding out what it means to produce your own food, to live from agriculture as a small-scale farm or to try out ways of being self-sufficient in the countryside. WWOOFers help out as volunteers on organically run farms, are integrated into the farm community and family and are given board and lodging. The priority is passing on theoretical and practical knowledge. You can read the interview with Rodrigo Rocha in the box alongside.

Example 6:


MoedasAnother community meets on the net every day, or even every hour. It comprises those who use their money to get good ideas off the ground and catapult dreams into reality: the production of a music CD, a book, a film project, an agricultural or craft business. Crowdfunding can kick-start innovation and green technology, science and research, as well as traditional crafts that are dying out and that traditional banks finance more and more rarely. “With an investment of between ten and a thousand euros, everything is possible,” says Pedro Domingos of Orange Bird Lda., the start-up company from Oeiras, who has made the Portuguese crowdfunding GLS Bankwww.ppl.com.pt the frontrunner among the democratic financing platforms in this country. Along with the crowdfunding www.massivemov.com from Porto, there are now two such platforms in Portugal. But what is still missing in Portugal is a green, transparent and sustainably run bank such as those that already exist in Germany (www.gls.de), in Holland (www.triodos.com), in Switzerland (www.abs.ch), in Italy (www.bancaetica.it), in France (www.credit-cooperatif.coop) and in the UK (www.ecology.co.uk), and that are organised globally under www.gabv.org.

Example 7:



energyInstead of just consuming electricity passively no matter where it comes from – from a socket of course – much better is to produce solar energy locally, feed it into the system and sell it. The law has 27 articles that it’s worth reading carefully. The law in question is Decreto-Lei n° 363/2007, signed by one Anibal Cavaco Silva on 25th October, 2009 and by José Sócrates Carvalho Pinto de Sousa. Both are not completely unfamiliar to us. Both of them appear more or less frequently on the television news. This law is the basis of a European Union directive to produce a certain amount of renewable energy oneself, locally, and it undermines the forced monopoly of electricity production. Over the years, more than 9,000 private Portuguese households will become certified electricity generators with a capacity of over 30 megawatts, who sell their sustainably produced electricity to EDP. There are up to 3,000 hours of sunshine in Portugal annually. The return is guaranteed over eight years. An unparalleled success story is changing people’s investment behaviour. They take their money, don’t deposit it in the bank, don’t speculate with it, but invest it sustainably in local, self-sufficient energy structures, and feel good in the process.

Shared success stories tell of successful shared activities, and they grow with the second, third, fourth story etc. What is important is that success stories spread widely across a whole society, and are told and retold: in conservation, urban and traffic planning, in changing the health and education systems, in the media, in political and economic reforms, and finally in climate negotiations too. An economy that is orientated to people’s needs is always local to start with, then regional, and it works in a circular rather than linear manner. Products must be non-toxic, and repair-friendly. The promotion of happiness – and no longer of material prosperity through growth – the preservation of nature and its resources, and the promotion of thriving relationships, trust and friendship must take centre stage in any allocation of subsidies. It is only then that a new frugality will develop, which is reflected in our lives as a whole: not only on the basis of abstract figures, but especially in concrete ideas, in the words and deeds of a new SharEconomy, in bartering, sharing and giving, and is measured in terms of gross national happiness.

About the author

Uwe Heitkamp, 53 years old, started working after university in daily newspapers and from 1984 on in public tv broadcasting companies such as WDR (Collogne), NDR (Hamburg), SDR (Stuttgart/Baden-Baden) in the ARD (first programme), wrote several books and directed the cinema movie about the anti nuclear movement in Germany in 1986 (Wackersdorf). After emigration in 1990 he founded 1995 the trilingual weekly printed newspaper “Algarve123”  and later the online edition www.algarve123.com. Heitkamp lives for 25 year in Monchique, Portugal. He loves mountain hiking and swimming in streams and lakes, writes and tells stories of success from people and their sustainable relationship between ecology and economy. His actual film “Revolutionary Roads” tells the 60 minute story of a long walk crossing Portugal. 10 rural people paint a picture of their lives in the hills of the serra and the hinterland. The film captures profound impressions of natural beauty and human life. Along which path is the future of Portugal to be found? (subscribe to ECO123 und watch the documentary in the Mediatec)

About the author

João Gonçalves (31) Was born in Serpa, and holds a degree in Marketing, Business Communication, and Audio-visual Production from the University of Algarve, in Faro. He is currently working as a director, cameraman and editor. He lives in Faro.

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