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The age of sharing

20 June 2012

As we celebrate National Sharing Day, let’s make sure we advocate for sharing in all its forms. The true milestone for the Age of Sharing will be the creation of a global sharing economy that ensures we end poverty and live sustainably.

It is no exaggeration to claim that humankind is rapidly moving into an Age of Sharing. As this week’s National Sharing Day will highlight, the sharing economy is alive and kicking. In fact, the act of sharing is deeply embedded in the human psyche as something we have practiced for millennia in our communities and families. Without the act of sharing and giving, there would be no social foundations upon which to build our economies and civilisations.

But there is much more to the sharing economy than people often recognise. The process of sharing is also a central feature of the modern welfare state - the most advanced sharing economy that humanity has ever created. In welfare states, through the process of progressive taxation and redistribution, we share a proportion of our financial resources so that it can benefit society as a whole. Since the Second World War, the vast majority of tax money has been used to ensure that healthcare, education and other social services are accessible to all.

This is particularly important to note at a time when government austerity measures are dismantling the social protections and public services that many generations have fought for. It is a mistake for policymakers to erode the sharing economy in this way as it undermines fundamental human rights and pushes people into poverty and destitution. On the contrary, we must find ways of sharing more – not less – of what we have.

Only a sharing economy can reduce the massive levels of inequality that exist today. The bottom half of the world’s population currently share only 1 percent of the world’s resources, while the richest 1 percent own 40 percent of the world’s total wealth. The inevitable result of this dire lack of sharing between and within countries is extreme poverty and life-threatening deprivation for millions of people. According to statistics published by the World Health Organization, over 40,000 people die each day from entirely preventable causes such as malnutrition and diarrhoea.

The true milestone for the Age of Sharing will be the creation of a global sharing economy. Not only can sharing what we have on a global scale prevent needless death and destitution in the developing world, it is also our only hope of averting ecological disaster. As many campaigners mobilising around the Rio +20 ‘Earth Summit’ know only too well, unless we conserve and share the world’s resources there is no hope of reducing CO2 emissions or creating a sustainable world fit for the 21st Century. A global sharing economy will require us to respect nature's limits, which means we have to curb our excessive and wasteful patterns of production and consumption and learn to live more simply, especially in rich countries.

As we celebrate the sharing economy on National Sharing Day, let’s make sure we advocate for sharing in all its forms and send a clear message to policymakers that systems of sharing - whether local, national or global - must not be undermined. Instead, we must demand that all forms of sharing and redistribution are scaled up if we are to create sustainable economies that reflect what it really means to be human. 

This article was originally published by The People Who Share