How long can we go on like this? Our hyper-consumerist society is leading us to the depletion of the planet's resources, something that ultimately would imply the extinction of our species. Considering what has been seen, there seems to be a fairly broad consensus that the system needs a rethinking, a 180º turn that the new collaborative economy initiatives that have emerged in recent years are already applying.
At a time of crisis, both social and economic, these types of initiatives are a natural response to this destructive trend. Collaborative models - which already existed before the technological boom in the form of orchards and urban markets, for example - defend a society that makes better use of all available resources and tries to share them on a large scale thanks to the use of new technologies.
To reflect on the potential of the collaborative economy and a hypothetical future based on recycling, reuse and the exchange of goods, we have spoken with two referents of the collaborative environment: Luís Tamayo, sociologist, professor at the UOC and member of the specialized Collaborative Consumption medium , and Javier Creus, founder of Ideas for Change and creator of Pentagrowth, an initiative that analyzes accelerated growth.
VICE: What do you think would happen if we only bought second-hand things from now on?
Luis:It would change the economy radically, to begin with it would change our perception of the world. We would surely be a more sustainable and environmentally friendly civilization, we would have more common sense and we would discard the throwaway culture.
Javier: We would do much more with much less, we would be able to use all available resources, as a society we could aspire to different things.
And could we live a long time without producing new things?
Luis:Let's see, it would not be about stopping production, it would be about applying more common sense. We couldn't recycle forever, but we could make more reasonable use of things.
Javier:Of course, the new has a special magnetism and without it we would not have explored the world, but it is about recycling and reusing certain objects, also starting to think about things that, instead of expiring over time, improve over time.
The collaborative economy is more related to products such as clothing or technology, could it be applied to other more finite products such as food, for example?
Luis: Of course. There are many projects that try to change the use that we give to all the food that we throw away at home, in supermarkets or restaurants. It's the same as when we talk about cars or flats: an empty taxi is garbage, an empty room too, and the tomato in the fridge that nobody eats, the same.
Javier: There are transport trucks that are full and return empty. If when you return you make them collect leftover food from supermarkets and distribute it to restaurants, you take advantage of the entire journey, that is the essence of collaborative logic.
To what extent would changing the rapid consumption model to a collaborative one affect capitalist industry?
Javier: The smartest companies have already realized that if they do not get to do more with less, they will have competitors capable of doing it. If someone shifts the cost structure, you stop being competitive, so you have to adapt.
Luis: Think that the two models are already living together, it does not have to be a problem. Today I travel to Badajoz in BlaBlaCar and return by bus.
It seems that we are facing a boom in this type of economy, especially due to advances in technology. Are millennials and generation Z more akin to this model?
Luis: The generation of our parents and grandparents were based on possession, the more you had the richer you were. Now access matters and not property, the new generations want to live the experience and they don't want the car, they want the trip.
Is Spain a country where the collaborative economy has a lot of weight?
Javier:We do not realize it, but we are one of the most plastic countries in the world. The speed at which we Spaniards change values, structures and priorities is staggering. Think of the transformation of society from the death of Franco until the nineties: abortion, divorce, army, employment, authority… everything has changed radically. Now that the crisis has come, we have changed again. We are a society where the family has stopped the impact of the crisis, so we are used to giving ourselves favors and collaborating.
The current system contributes to the construction of an ultra-individualist society, but the collaborative economy seems to be based on the opposite. Would we change a lot if this new model is generalized?
Luis: In our essence, both the collaborative and competitive gene coexist. Collaborative consumption generates more awareness of the common, of the shared. What happened until now is that we had overdeveloped the competitive gene and we had banished the collaborative. If we start this second engine again, we will do better in life.
Would this type of economy give us a greater sense of community?
Javier: Not necessarily. Keep in mind that the underlying motivation is often economic and personal ties are not established. Now, if it makes more city. If the city is the place of chance meeting, the random relationships are densified and therefore a very interesting base trust network is created.
Is there any limit to the application of the sharing economy in our day to day?
Javier: This is a shock, because it breaks into unexpected industries and beyond the control of the state in labor, fiscal terms… The more organized a sector is, the more shock. Hoteliers or taxi drivers ask for time. Our institutions have a very big challenge ahead, they are in crisis. There are three pillars in question: ownership, since it has now been seen that for many things access is better than ownership; work, since it seems that the only legitimate income is that from work, and if you remove the blindfold, you see that 40% of society lives on income or social assistance. Everyone needs an income, but there is no job for everyone, so it is necessary to separate work and income; the third is representation, according to which decisions we have alternative and more participatory formulas to have the vote of a representative.
Luis: The sharing economy is here and it is here to stay. Regardless of whether it will save or destroy the planet, it gives us possibilities that we did not have before.