A few months ago I approached Interface Flor -- the most supply chain sustainable company in Britain, if not the world-- about participating in our little experiment. As you may have guessed we're having trouble finding a company that is willing to run the experiment (crazy, right?;) We thought, the most environmentally sustainable company in Britain must be wiling to give something like this a go.
I engaged Ramon Arratia via Twitter, emailed, and he replied that he "profoundly disagrees" with the premise of the experiment. He said:
(n.b. @ann_lytical is Betty Worker's alter-ego Ann Danylkiw, producer of this film-like-thing-we're-up-to)
My response was, 'great, want to say that on camera?' And so off I went this morning to see Mr. Arratia at the InterfaceFlor showroom in London (super-swanky, by the way).
Arratia expanded on his disagreement for me:
(clip, full interview will appear on the site shortly, and will be edited into the final film-thing)
We understand what he's getting at: it's society we have to change; we have to make people realise that there is value in things other than consumption. And he's dead on that when thinking about sustainability we get too focused on the materials.
Where we disagree and where we think he fails to connect consumption with well, sustainable economics is that (it's an assertion of nef's work upon which this idoc-webdoc-experiment-thing is based) if we have more time we will do less "quick-fix" consumption. Arratia wants us to build a knowledge, passion, life's work kind of economy -- a socent driven economy-- whilst... people continue to work at jobs they hate full time??
Arratia says he wants people who love history to be able to sell that and then work as much as they want full time. We're familiar with this attitude: it's common amongst socents. But what they often fail to realize (though Arratia does?) most people work at "crap jobs" that they hate, should they be given the time opportunity to retrain or study what it is they really love?
Nef's work contends that it is a time issue; Arratia says it's impossible to ask people to work fewer hours because they will still want to consume and even status consume.
We don't buy that, necessarily: nef's assertion in the "21 hours report" is that people will stop "quick-fix" consuming and fix things themselves, make meals at home, upcycle things themselves. We're not certain what will happen to consumption. We suspect that consumption will possibly increase in the short to medium term* if people had more time to not work but we'd like to see, which is kind of the point of running our little experiment. But it looks like Mr. Arratia won't even consider it for InterfaceFlor.
After all, for the company that tries our experiment, we're asking that they hold income for their employee participants constant. That is, we suspect the story is in a realisation that comes with discovering what you can do with time when you've got it. We spend so much time going from A to B to C that we haven't time to stop and think, for our brains to relax enough to subconsciously process our lives and then realise innovations we could make (personally and professionally). That's the other mistake Arratia makes: he assumes that people who manufacture things, that knowledge and creativity aren't part of their jobs; if you empower employees, no matter what the job, creativity and innovation-- knowledge economy-- are involved, but I digress.
What do you think, are we talking past each other? Are we off our rockers and Arratia is right?
Do you work for a company and would like to disagree with us on camera, as Mr. Arratia has?
*If we worked fewer hours, consumption might increase:
Culture is orientated towards consumption, we have arguably forgotten how to fix things and make things for ourselves. Though it shouldn't be assumed that we should or would make things for ourselves. As we move towards a professionalised "knowledge" economy (not in the accurate, but rather pop-politics sense) it might be that goods become worth more, more bespoke because there's more knowledge and artisanship required to make them (see Markus Albers, for a start, Juliet Schor too). So consumption (unless economic revaluation happens, but even then???) would monetarily increase: we'd buy less but higher value goods. We might also spend less on 'stuff' for the need to spend more on high value services like education (though to what extent will the cost of education fall if people start offering courses over the internet, time banking in exchange for instruction).