DIY Food Manifesto
Originally titled "The Gift Economy: An Economic Framework for the Economy of Communion?" this manifesto was written by Richard Nelson was presented at Sustainable Resources 03, a conference at the University of Colorado, Boulder
At this time (2003) I did see the power of DIY, however in the personal struggle to live, I continued at that time to set Sola Roof DIY aside and give the commercialization of Sola Roof my first (perhaps only) priority. I was just then setting up the Sola Roof Wiki, and I had committed my Nelson Intellectual Property to to the Open Source community under our Creative Commons Public License. Since 2010 I have shifted the focus of my own energy to the promotion and development of the Sola Roof DIY technology - even in the commercial collaborations I am asking and inviting business and government/university supporters and collaborators to start on the Sola Roof Tech learning curve by building DIY Food Projects, which also serves for quick, low-cost "Proof of Concept" - since the important goal with a new technology breakthrough is successful replication which enables a wide consensus to form that we have a true paradigm shift opportunity.
Since the authorities and so called leaders are so negligent to check simple facts and establish the truth that self-reliant, abundant living is within reach of all families - it comes down to the families themselves to mobilize a Sola Roof DIY movement - and I have called this DIY Food - "grow your own food" for family food security, safety and nutrition. Families can avoid consuming toxic and polluted food and learn skills that are very important but could even become lifesaving.
Solutions often exist to our most urgent problems and fail to be applied because the conventional economic system and its commercialization process cannot bring certain types of technologies profitably to the market. When an innovation will increase revenues and profits, then there is potential that it will be viable as a business venture. But if the innovation primarily creates benefits to the quality of living or saving our environment, produces conservation, reduces consumption or makes it possible for end-users to access free energy, water and food production, then there is a problem - because there may be little or no "returns to capital" from the end-users that would normally provide the incentive to attract investors.
Today the technologies that are greatly valued result in "consumer products" and higher rates of consumption. Technologies for sustainable living primarily will create savings and reduce consumption. This creates distributed wealth that is realized by the end-user. However, it is difficult to account for the wealth that is created. A further problem for our conventional business approach is that distributed wealth is often produced not so much by new products or hardware but by software and knowledge. Because of this the corporate world is engaged in an aggressive effort to establish property rights over knowledge and information. Hardware and materials are becoming commodity items that have low profit margins while the larger potential for earnings are found in systems, programs, networks and methods that are non-tangible.
Our concepts of private property were invented by capitalists who long ago established the rule of law and the power of the elite ruling class to enforce with arms their ownership of the land, resources and production - these are the mechanisms of the Command Economy. We have come to see that these concepts are limited and regressive and cannot provide an equitable foundation for universal prosperity in the new millennium. We are entering an era of resource depletion and face serious shortages of material necessities and in response the Command Economy is shifting its focus towards the control of intangibles. This attempt to fence off essential know-how, software and knowledge applications into domains of private property may succeed, and if so, we may all become knowledge serfs rather than knowledge surfers.
I will say for those who understand this language that abundant, free resources can emerge if, at this critical point in history, we can act with faith in each other and build the Gift Economy. The question is: Can we summon the vision and the courage to believe in a future where the divisions that separate people will be replaced by an authentic communion among all communities; knowing that this communion is the true source of world unity and peace.
The Gifts of sustainable energy and resources have been kept out of reach because of our ignorance and lack of communion with Creation and each other. How are we so trained and conditioned into habits of thinking and patterns of behaviour that lead to our separation from true wealth? We begin by putting our children into mental straight-jackets in school, where "free thinking" and creativity is stifled. We almost exclusively rely on the pass/fail method of advancement, on the precise regurgitation of information - only certain talents are measured and others are de-valued. We dwell on problem analysis but have little training in the methods of discovery and solution creation and emergence of innovations.
We direct our advanced students into isolated, independent and secretive work through competitions that reward individual brilliance but work against collaboration, disclosure and sharing. We inculcate the value of secrets and train young minds to distrust team work and common knowledge. We establish a culture where advanced knowledge is horded; research is motivated by greed; and common sense is abandoned and given no status. We live in a world where most are overwhelmed by problems but we have faith only in experts and the "qualified" elite. Why are THEY so powerless to solve the problems? Why is the whole world fast approaching resource exhaustion, ecological collapse and a human die-off of unimaginable proportions?
Conflict and an ongoing condition of warfare is now the norm and our societies are well on the way to becoming police states. However, we have no war on poverty, hunger and the conditions that give rise to illness and stress and conflict. We have no security on a personal or national level and the international sphere is a field of land mines. Why, with all the knowledge that now abounds do we continue to race towards disaster? Is there any doubt that the answer is that we face a spiritual dilemma and need to find our common will to build a better future based on common sense and on the goodness of the ordinary person?
The first step towards universal freedom and security is to be confident that the solutions to our common problems already exist or will emerge without the application of the resources that are controlled by the elite and powerful. We can find these solutions through Grass Roots action that is empowered by a DIY approach. Working as individuals we cannot succeed; together we can release the power of the Gift Economy through our COLLABORATION. This is the key that will unlock our capacity to change our lives and our world for the better. Full disclosure and sharing of all our knowledge and talents can now move ahead through the means of an Open Source collaborative community.
As a practical initiative and experiment with the workings of the Gift Economy, I am attempting to establish a worldwide movement for Open Source solar and Eco Living technology and then link this community that have solutions to those that are in need. The needy are people everywhere living non-sustainable lifestyles - most certainly those in the west who are the source of most of the damage to people and the planet. What I am suggesting is that we replace the language of Globalization that refers to "developed and non-developed" communities with a more useful designation that would identify peoples living "sustainable or non-sustainable" lifestyles.
Pay It Forward is an economic mechanism of the Gift Economy - it is a voluntary acknowledgement of the benefit (financial and otherwise) that individual members have received from the Open Source community and I am suggesting that every member who becomes an end-user of the "free" know how will make a gift of 3 to 10 percent of their project cost (and/or income if it is a commercial use) and pay this into a DIY Food project of their choice that will be described on our community website. DIY Food humanitarian initiatives provide a mechanism for individuals and families to give a hand up to other families and communities who then can also join the chain of contributors as they become stronger. Not only money, but also technical support, time and guidance will be volunteered by our internet community through an Open Eco Community.
While Pay It Forward is similar to micro credit the difference is that the money that is contributed is not paid back (like a loan) but is paid forward as a gift. Unlike a "charitable gift", and somewhat like the concept of a loan, the recipient of the assistance has a moral obligation to arrive at a stage where they can send the same or more assistance forward in a never ending (and accumulating) chain of support for others to adopt sustainable living lifestyles. Thus the users of Sola Roof DIY knowhow are never just free-loading the system developers and technology contributors, but are also contributing building the community's economic strength and quantifying the value of their activity. The entire system would be self directing and organic in its operations - a distributed intelligent network.
The idea is that we should act to help ourselves by collaborating to create, use and share the Sola Roof DIY know how providing first to ourselves the means to live sustainably and then out of the benefits we have received that we will be capable and can afford to help others. Through the Internet, without the intervention of any government or the creation of any new organization we can mobilize a huge grass roots initiative for DIY Food that can bridge the gap that now divides communities and deliver the results directly where the need is greatest.
The emergence of our worldwide Open Source community will release the energy and wealth of the DIY Food Campaign, which has a miraculous capacity to multiply and increase the wellbeing of us all and to restore, renew and revive the planet. True wealth is different from material wealth because it rests on these human resources - knowledge, love, compassion and hope - which are not depleted by their use. These resources of mind and spirit are not restricted by physical limitations and the finite value of material resources. The resources of the DIY Food Campaign are sustainable and so as we begin to mobilize its power we will see that previous limitations will fall away and the power structure of the world will change.
This manifesto is also related to an earlier open letter written in response to 9/11, which is: Collaboration Is The Key.