Thursday, August 23, 2007

Word of the Day - Freegan

It's the compounding of the word "free" and the word "vegan"--which is a person who avoids products from animal sources or products tested on animals in an effort to avoid harming animals. The PETA crowd for example...

But Freegans are so much more than non-leather wearing, carrot-chomping, rabbit-loving folk. According to

Freegans take this a step further by recognizing that in a complex, industrial, mass-production economy driven by profit, abuses of humans, animals, and the earth abound at all levels of production (from acquisition to raw materials to production to transportation) and in just about every product we buy. Sweatshop labor, rainforest destruction, global warming, displacement of indigenous communities, air and water pollution, eradication of wildlife on farmland as "pests", the violent overthrow of popularly elected governments to maintain puppet dictators compliant to big business interests, open-pit strip mining, oil drilling in environmentally sensitive areas, union busting, child slavery, and payoffs to repressive regimes are just some of the many impacts of the seemingly innocuous consumer products we consume every day.
According to the website, the strategies for "Freeganism" include:

1. Waste reclamation - Yup, that would be "dumpster diving" aka "digging through the trash." I always thought that chick who rummaged through the dumpsters at 6 am was a homeless person--turns out she's a Freegan. She's also a major pain-in-the-ass waking the entire neighborhood up with her foraging, but that's another topic.

2. Waste minimization - OK, if we MINIMIZE waste, what will there be to reclaim? Freegans recycle, compost, repair and reuse whenever possible. Did anyone have a older relative that saved tin foil in a giant ball? Or one who meticulously opened gifts so as to save the wrapping paper and ribbon? Or perhaps knows someone who has a pile of completely unusable old MacIntosh computers stacked up in a corner? I bet you thought they were frugal or a pack rat, but in reality they're FREEGANS.

3. Eco-friendly transportation - You might think this refers to George Clooney's Tango--but Freegans are more environmentally conscientious than People Magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive," Leo DiCaprio or even Al Gore! Freegans choose not to use cars for the most part. They use other methods of transportation including trainhopping (the preferred method of transport for hobos--I mean "Freegans" is now "eco-cool." Perhaps Roger Miller's "King of the Road" will start zooming up the charts at iTunes...), biking, walking, skating, and hitchhiking. (They left off scooters, Segways, kayaking and hang-gliding--all viable and eco-friendly modes of transportation...)

Says the official website, "Hitchhiking fills up room in a car that would have been unused otherwise and therefore it does not add to the overall consumption of cars and gasoline." Are they kidding? Didn't their moms tell them to never accept rides from strangers? They've made horror movies about what happens to people who thumb for a ride...

4. Rent-free Housing -
Freegans believe that housing is a RIGHT, not a privilege. Seriously? Man, now I really need to check into being a Freegan! My little studio costs me a grand a month. I can think of better things to do with that cash. So how does one score some rent-free housing? According to
"Squatters are people who occupy and rehabilitate abandoned, decrepit buildings. Squatters believe that real human needs are more important than abstract notions of private property, and that those who hold deed to buildings but won’t allow people to live in them, even in places where housing is vitally needed, don’t deserve to own those buildings."
Hmmm--I just watched Midnight Cowboy the other night and I thought Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman played two guys who were forced to live in a decrepit, condemned tenement building because they had no money. In reality, they were FREEGANS! How cool is that?

5. Going Green - It's a huge issue these days--the ecosystem, global warming, sustainable living. What could be wrong about going green? Again, freegans take things one step further by not merely buying organic or growing their own food, but by becoming "wild foragers"--and some even "
take the foraging lifestyle even farther, removing themselves from urban and suburban concepts and attempting to "go feral" by building communities in the wilderness based on primitive survival skills."

Speaking of horror movies, I'm getting a pitch idea...A group of college co-eds get lost on a hiking expedition in the wilderness. With no contact with civilization they are forced to forage to survive! I call it "Night of the Living Freegans."

6. Working Less/Joblessness - Is this a great lifestyle or what? You thought Seth Rogen played a slacker in Knocked Up? Nope. He was a Freegan! Your thirty-something son who lives in your basement and plays video games all day? He's not a loser, he's a Freegan! We don't have to be mindless drones, working for "the man" to pay the rent. We don't have to contribute to "the system." As Freegans, "
we begin to realize that, as workers, we are cogs in a machine of violence, death, exploitation, and destruction."

Raina Kelly, a writer for Newsweek, is testing out the Freegan lifestyle for 30 days and blogging about her experiences at Newsweek online. I don't believe her experiment will include quitting her job, moving into a cardboard box or foraging through dumpsters, but a more sensible and moderate application of the philosophy.

As for me, I think I'll head down to Palisades Park in Santa Monica, round up a few homeless guys sleeping on the ground and put together an expert panel on the subject. Check us out at The Learning Annex seminar titled "On the Fast-track to being a Freegan."

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