Opting Out of the Corporate System New Zealand-Style

Living the Change: Inspiring Stories for a Sustainable Future

Directed by Jordan Osmond and Antoinette Wilson (2018)

Film Review

This documentary features activists from around New Zealand who have inspired their communities to begin making the necessary changes for a sustainable future. I know several of them personally and found it really gratifying to see their decades of effort (for many of them) acknowledged.

Among activists featured are Helen Dew and Phil and Sharon Stephens from Living Economies.* All three were instrumental in starting local currencies, time banks and savings pools in their own and other communities.

In the film, Helen speaks about the link between our debt-based economic system and environmental degradation. Sharon, in turn, speaks about the need for all of us to downsize our lifestyles rather than depending on resource depleting solar and wind technology to save us. Mike Joy, freshwater ecologist at the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies at Victoria University, Joy speaks about the urgent need to transform our food system away from monoculture cropping and the heavily reliance on fossil fuels that supports it.

Also featured are

  • Action Ecology founder Shane Ward
  • Te Mahi Kai, a school that uses Time Bank volunteers to teach children to grow and prepare their own foods
  • The Baywater Repair Cafe – where volunteers help community members repair bicycles, appliances, furniture and clothing instead of discarding and replacing them)
  • the Magarara Station (which practices and teaches regenerative farming) and various other organic and permaculture-based farms and Community Support Agrculture (CSA) schemes**
  • Leo Murray founder of Why Waste (which helps families and business with waste reduction projects. Replanting New Zealand (one of NZ’s many native tree replanting projects),

Non-Kiwi economist Charles Eisenstein introduces the film by explaining that collapse of our current economic system is inevitable, as it depends on infinite growth, which is impossible with finite natural resources. Given our economic system’s dependence on continuous growth, it will collapse once the wealthy elite has exhausted all the natural resources that can obtain easily and cheaply. According to Eisenstein, nearly all of us have a deep longing for another system that involves a greater connection to nature and to one another in community. It’s simply a matter of finding ways to act on those feelings.


*Living Economies is a NZ charitable trust, whose purpose is to educate and support Kiwis in finding alternatives to our current corporate-based economic system. See https://livingeconomies.nz/about/our-work

**Community Supported Agriculture is a system in which a farm is supported by local consumers who purchase prepaid shares in the farm’s output which they receive periodically throughout the growing season

The full film can be viewed on the Māori TV website for one more week: Living the Change

 

 

 

Local Currency Update: Opting Out of the Bankster Money System

According to the Guardian, renewable energy provider Good Energy has agreed to accept the Bristol pound in payment for electricity and gas bills. The company claims to be the first in the world to accept payments in local currency. Bristol residents already use the Bristol pound to pay for groceries, bus fares and council tax (ie real estate taxes).

The Bristol Pound is an alternative currency launched in 2012 to help keep cash in the local community, as opposed to the deep pockets of multinational corporations.

Run as a not-for-profit partnership with Bristol Credit Union, the Bristol pound is the first city-wide local currency in the UK and the largest alternative to Britain’s national currency (pounds sterling). There are approximately 750,000 Bristol pounds in circulation.

Local or complementary currencies are an ideal way for communities to opt out of the corporate money system. Their use has expanded exponentially since the 2008 downturn, especially in European countries like Greece, Italy and Spain. Devastating austerity cuts have left millions in southern Europe with no access to euros, the official currency.

My town New Plymouth has their own local currency, the New Plymouth talent, though it’s not as widely circulated as the Bristol pound. We also have a Time Bank (which I’ve just joined), which allows members to earn time credits providing services for other members. They can use these credits (instead of money) to purchase services from other members. It’s a great alternative for unemployed, retired and disabled residents who are short on cash due to the economic downturn.

The Steady State Economy Movement

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Enough is Enough

Rob Dietz and Dan O’Neill (2014)

Free PDF download at steadystate.org/

Book Review

Enough is Enough is the report of the world’s first Steady State Economy Conference in June 2010. The concept derives from Herman Daly’s 1977 book Steady State Economy, published five years after the Club of Rome’s infamous Limits to Growth.

The 2010 conference was organized around two basic premises: 1) that the drive for unlimited economic growth is making the planet uninhabitable and 2) that transformation to a steady state economy is essential if we’re to have any hope of preserving the human species.

Enough is Enough begins by outlining why unlimited growth is impossible on a finite planet with finite resources. It goes on to define a steady state economy as having four key features: it’s sustainable, it provides for fair distribution of resources, it provides for efficient allocation of resources (i.e. it doesn’t rely solely on the free market in situations where the market can’t allocate resources efficiently) and it provides a high quality of life for everyone.

The authors focus on four basic steps essential in the transformation from a growth-based to a steady state economy:

1. An agreement to limit resource use – renewable resources (eg forests, fisheries) are harvested no faster than they can regenerated and non-renewable resources (eg fossil fuels) are consumed no faster than the wastes they produce can be recycled. There are a number of possible policy tools for making this happen: an outright ban (similar to current fishing bans), ecological taxation (eg carbon taxes or oil extraction taxes similar to Alaska’s petroleum tax), cap and trade (sets an overall cap and auctions off permits to pollute or mine up to that cap) and cap and share (sets an overall cap and distributes free permits to pollute or mine among all citizens).

2. Population stabilization – through non-coercive population policies that balance immigration and emigration and provide incentives to reduce family size. Examples include increasing access to birth control and education and full equality for women.

3. Inequality is reduced through policies that encourage worker cooperatives, employee ownership, shareholder participation, gender balance in positions of power, a Universal Basic Income (see The Case for Unconditional Basic Income), a cap on pay differentials between workers and management and progressive taxation schemes.

4. Monetary reform – in addition to prohibiting banks from creating money out of thin air and transferring the power to create money to a public authority, there needs to be more promotion of local currencies to stimulate local economies.

5. New progress indicators – substituting something similar to the Human Progress Indicator (HPI), which measures environmental and human well being, for Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which merely measures money.

6. Commitment to full employment – we need to use automation to eliminate onerous and unemployment work, rather than eliminating jobs, as well as shortening the work week (in conjunction with a UBI) to enable more people to have jobs.

7. New attitudes towards business and production – we need to incentivize businesses to achieve “right” sized profits that are large enough to guarantee a company’s economy viability but not so large they exceed its ecological allowance.

8. Global cooperation over resource use – we need to agree all trading partners wind down growth simultaneously. Otherwise steady state economies could experience significant trade disadvantages.

9. New consumer behavior – we need to promote new values that emphasize the positive aspects of a steady state economy (community connectedness, friendship and creativity) over the competitive individualism, hedonism, status and achievement that are emphasized in a growth economy.

10. Engaging politicians and the media (which will be the hardest) – by doing more research and analysis of the steady state model, creating forums to engage the public, politicians, policy makers and academics and to working for small changes at the local community level.
Rob Dietz is the European director of the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE). More information about CASSE at http://steadystate.org/

In the video below O’Neill talks about their book.

 

How Private Banks Create Money

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Money and Life

Katie Teague (2013)

Film Review

I highly recommend this film for its clear explanation of the mechanism by which private banks (not government) create money out of thin air by initiating loans. Because the bank doesn’t create the compound interest they charge on new money, the borrower must find it elsewhere in the economy – when other new debt is created. The only way to sustain this exponential growth in public and private debt is through a frantic obsession with economic growth – leading to rapid depletion of all the earth’s natural resources, while simultaneously poisoning our air, water, and food with toxic waste.

The film features interviews with world famous antiglobalization and sustainability activists, including Vendana Shiva, David Korten, Ellen Brown, Charles Eisenstein, Bernard Lietaer and Vicki Robin.

For me, a highpoint of the film was the discussion of the role of artificially created consumer demand in this frantic drive to “liquidate” the earth’s resources. I also really enjoyed the section on the psychological factors driving billionaires to constantly acquire more money – and the replacement of “trickle down” with “suction up” economics.

A Cancer on the National Economy

My favorite part, however, was the section describing American’s finance sector as a “cancer” on the nation’s economy. As investment banking has morphed into casino capitalism, only 5% of Wall Street transactions relate to the production of real goods and services. This is in contrast to a healthy economy, where the finance sector functions like a utility and consumes only 10% of a nation’s wealth.

The trillions of dollars investment banks like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and Bank of America speculate on derivatives is little different from betting on horses or roulette. The only difference, according to one economist, is that Las Vegas won’t let you gamble with money you don’t have. With some derivatives purchases, traders commit their banks to positions that are 30-40 times greater than their entire holdings.

Solutions Disappointing

The solutions offered by the filmmakers were a little disappointing. The need to end the role of private banks in money creation, by handing this role over to federal and state banks, is a no-brainer. The film calls for viewers to join grassroots groups (such as the US and UK Green Party) organizing to demand this type of reform.

The suggestion for people to opt out of the corporate money system by joining local groups using barter and local currencies is another extremely practical suggestion.

The third suggestion is to find concrete ways to value relationships more than money. Examples include socially responsible investing and extreme charitable giving (in the example, one family gives away 60% of their income). While the life histories of these individuals is extremely inspiring, I suspect they’re unlikely to resonate with the vast majority of Americans. They’re too busy working three jobs to put food on the table – or borrowing on their credit cards to buy shoes for their kids.

Enjoy

photo credit: TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³ via photopin cc