Scientific support for a sharing economy

car share logoI’ve talked before about sharing resources instead of buying them, for instance borrowing power tools rather than spending loads of money on a set of your own. In my experience, when you’re short of cash borrowing and sharing can be a lifesaver. Now there’s scientific support for a sharing economy, as reported in a letter in last week’s New Scientist magazine.

Friends of the Earth on a sharing economy

Apparently, in a recent report for the environmental activist group Friends of the Earth, Julian Agyeman, from Tufts University in Massachusetts USA, suggests that the growth of a sharing economy ‘disrupts individualistic and materialistic capitalist economies’. It’s music to my ears, having long been a critic of our crazy consumer system, where the minute we all stop buying a constant stream of new ‘things’ the whole edifice collapses.

Sharing stuff like cars, rooms, power tools and office space used to be more complex than it is now but it’s getting easier, mostly thanks to the internet and other new technologies. Stuff like 3d printing and collaborative digital projects give ordinary consumers like us all manner of exciting opportunities to become manufacturers ourselves. And sharing also delivers opportunities for people on low incomes to access resources that were once completely out of their reach.

Our planet is home to a massive 8 billion people, and it simply can’t sustain every single person on it owning their own car, power tools, whatever. According to Friends of the Earth and the scientists behind the research, “The sharing economy offers a more resource-efficient and equitable path”.

Here’s what the FOE article says on the subject.

Sharing is commonly thought of as a means to reduce resource use and/or save money.

Car-sharing, libraries and couch-surfing are often cited in articles about sharing. But in his think-piece for our Big Ideas project Professor Agyeman asserts that sharing is much more than that. He argues it is a political act. It disrupts the individualistic and materialistic vision of capitalism he says.

In his thought-provoking think-piece Professor Agyeman sees a tension between private control of spaces in the city with the rights of poorer and marginalised communities to use and share that space.

If you’d like to read more, it’s fascinating stuff. You’ll find the full article here on the FOE website

What do you think? We’d love to know your views…

(Many thanks to the excellent for the image.)