The average job search takes at least four months(Bloomberg). In that time, most job seekers apply their talents to few things. Their specific talents go unused within gaps of employment. With unemployment affecting over 10 million people (bls.gov), I can only speculate the amount of lost productivity caused by it. Recognizing the potential of so much wasted capacity and how accessing it can greatly benefit society should be important. The potential is clearly visible in the employment data and I believe the model to use for accessing it is found in freeganism.
Freeganism is a movement that “practice strategies for everyday living based on sharing resources, minimizing detrimental impact of our consumption, and reducing and recovering waste”(Freegan.info). Freegans are those whom recover what others have thrown away and put it to use. The most famous way of doing this is “dumpster diving.” Dumpster diving “involves rummaging through the garbage of retailers, residences, offices, and others”(Freegan.info). The idea of going through someone’s garbage may seem off-putting, however the usefulness of what is found there can be quite astonishing. The organization Food Not Bombs employs dumpster diving as one way of acquiring food to feed the homeless, hungry, and others. Food Not Bombs “recovers and shares free vegan or vegetarian food with the public in over 1,000 cities around the world”(FoodNotBombs.com). When organized in a large, structured format, freeganism can achieve two important goals simultaneously: reduced wastes in resources and reduced need for such resources. This approach to unused resources provides a framework for thinking about another wasted resource: unemployment.
Currently there are 11.8 million people unemployed (bls.gov). Table A-14 breaks down unemployment by sector. This data shows us what specific skills, by the thousands, is presently unused. The Bureau of Labor Statistics data does not include the 1.7 million students expected to acquire their bachelor degrees this year. This number is expected to rise yearly, eventually hitting around two million bachelor degree recipients annually by 2020(NCES). With so many people currently unemployed and many graduates having very low job prospects, a large amount of human capacity will be wasted. This unused capacity should be viewed as a “social dumpster” where potential productivity is thrown out. The time between employment and unemployment should be a temporary space from which wasted capacity can be rescued. This space contains very useful resources that can be applied to a variety of social issues. Like the freegans whom decided to make efficient use of wasted tangible goods, society should go dumpster diving. Society should have an institution that reduces the waste of capacity and reduces the need for such capacity. Society should have an institutional freegan. Similar to Food Not Bombs, society needs a structured organization designed to apply the unused skills of the unemployed to specific problems in need of those skills. This entity will use the specific capacity of the unemployed to meet specific short-term needs. This institution can “dumpster dive” through the unemployed with the goal of using some of the lost productivity. If only a small portion of the unemployed applied their specific skills to issues, there is a guaranteed return on their investment in the form of reduced social need.
Freeganism, as a model, is successful in reducing need through existing resources. As a conceptual model for dealing with excess capacity, freeganism allows for society to efficiently use current human resources to reduce the need for services. Dumpster diving is the hallmark of freeganism. It is an efficient way to meet needs through unused goods. It has proven successful when given large scale structure and purpose as with organizations like Food Not Bombs. Due to unemployment there exists an enormous amount of unused capacity in a “social dumpster.” Society needs a dumpster diver, whom better than a freegan.