Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Accidental Encounter with Bale Straps

It's been over a year since I updated this blog. Shameful really. I will attempt to catch up. 

I was on sabbatical from August 2012 to 2013, based primarily in Vancouver, Canada.

In August 2012 I'd wanted to get a case of tomatoes to make sauce so I went to visit Annie Moss who owns an organic foods distribution company. While there I noticed heaps of baling straps. These single-use straps are found around nearly every box shipped across the globe. Binding box to box, paper to paper, and everything to pallets. Even though Annie intends to recycle them the waste factor irked me to no end. I gave myself the task of figuring out how to reuse or upcycle them. After countless youtube videos and cut up fingers I managed to make a basket using a basic weaving technique common around the world. This gesture led to several interrelated threads, the first being an experiment with bartering. 

I brought my first basket to Annie and made her a proposition – with her trash I would make her a basket each week, and she would let me have as much ‘seconds’ as I want. Seconds, in their terms, mean fruits and vegetables that are a little too old or misshapen to resell to stores. Annie agreed. I get so much food that I play vegetable Santa for several friends and families on a regular basis. Annie gives the baskets to the workers and her favorite farmers and vendors. Annie was my first bartering partner, leading to others. Many baskets later, still not a cent has changed hands.

I hope to be able to find straps upon return to Hawai'i, to continue to make baskets and barter.

All this said it is important to note that bartering is not at all about reclaiming the commons. David Graeber's book Debt: The First 5000 Years is helpful in explaining. Through copious evidence Graeber debunks the common myth that primitive bartering was the origins of monetary economies. In fact it was the other way around (see chapter 2 "The Myth of Barter").

After learning from Graeber about the flaws of my assumption I experimented with other ideas using the bale straps and basket making. Ideas more in sync with the politics of Eating in Public's (the other me). Subsequent posts will provide more information. 

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