Garden’s Edge is a 501 (c)3 non-profit corporation that works in New Mexico and Guatemala to revitalize local culture and economy through projects in sustainable agriculture and environmental education.
In the summer and fall of 2009, The Garden’s Edge and members from Qachuu Aloom taught workshops, provided technical assistance, and shared traditions with farming communities throughout New Mexico and Arizona.
There were a total of 281 participants in the 17 workshops, including youth, adults, and elders.
Seed Saving Workshops: These workshops were designed to present farmers with information and techniques about saving seed adapted to their specific farms and gardens thus increasing yields and crop hardiness, as well as decreasing farm inputs.
Seed Bank: We are establishing a seed bank, based in Albuquerque, that includes crop varieties that are suitable to the soils, climate, and culture of New Mexico.
Seed Saving (Field Trip and workshops with Jardin del Alma Farm):
The Goal of these workshops was to:
1.Encourage established growers to begin saving seeds on their farm.
2.Provide growers with a possible market/buyer for their seed, helping to increase farm income.
3.Find growers to grow out heritage New Mexican seed from the abandoned Ghost Ranch Seed Collections, which includes many New Mexico heritage crops in threat of extinction.
“Thanks for the inspiration and knowledge. Without this we wouldn’t have known how to save our seeds. It gives us a whole new perspective of where we should go with our farming project.”
“We only knew so little about this, and now we can start a seed bank in our own community” – From workshop participants, 2009
Workshops and Cultural Exchange Participants:
TNAFA(Traditional Native American Farmers Association) Hopi, Picuris Pueblo, Santa Domingo Pueblo, TEWA Women United, Santa Clara Pueblo, Isleta Pueblo, Santa Fe Indian School, San Felipe Pueblo, Dine Agriculture (Navajo, Shiprock), Leupp Family Farm (Navajo) Arizona, Tierra y Libertad, Tucson Arizona .
Community Groups: Penasco and Dixon Farmers, Northern New Mexico Community College, Resolana (Española), Seeds of Change (San Juan Pueblo), Sanchez Farm,
San Juan College (Farmington), Jardin del Alma (Monticello), Albuquerque Farmers/Growers, Barcelona Elementary School, Cuidando los Niños (Homeless Women and Children Program, Albuquerque).
Native America Calling
Traditionally, most Native tribes subsisted on diets that were largely vegetarian and both gluten and sugar-free. Today many health professionals advocate foods that resemble more traditional Native American diets. But these foods can be hard to come by or extremely expensive. How is it that a diet once eaten freely by our hunting and gathering ancestors can be so expensive and exclusive today? And if going 100 percent raw or vegetarian is out of the question for you, what health benefits will you gain by becoming partially raw or vegetarian? Guests are Brett Ramey (Ioway) Urban Lifeways Director for Native Movement Arizona and Lisa Charleyboy (Tsilhqot’in).
David Holmgren is co-originator (with Bill Mollison) of the permaculture concept and author of the recent book, PERMACULTURE: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability. He talks about the need to move beyond the lulling hope that ‘green tech’ breakthroughs will allow world-wide ‘sustainable consumption’ to the recognition that dwindling oil supplies inevitably mean a mandatory ‘energy descent’ for human civilization across the planet. He argues that permaculture principles provide the best guide to a peaceful societal ‘powering down.”
Countdown to April 15th T.E.A. Party – Here’s what you need to know:
5:00 – 5:30 * Enjoy music on the Plaza
* Visit candidates and organizations that support the T.E.A. Party
* Register to vote
* Donate non-perishable food items for the Food Depot
* Get a copy of the Constitution from the Heritage Foundation
(reg. $4.00) for just $1.00
5:30 – 6:30 * Welcome Address
* National Anthem
* Salute to the Military and Public Safety heroes
* Featured Speakers:
- Brianne – College Student – what young people worry about
- Mary Ann – Young mother – the future for our kids
- Dr. J.R. Damron – the secrets buried in the health care bill
- Jared Hamilton – voter fraud
- Keynote Address – Jim Scarantino from New Mexico Watchdog
- Sheryl Bohlander – Call To Action
6:30 – 7:00 * Enjoy music
* Visit candidates and groups that support the T.E.A. Party
* Register to vote
* Donate non-perishable food items for the Food Depot
* Get a copy of the Constitution from the Heritage Foundation
(reg. $4.00) for just $1.00
WHAT TO BRING and WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
* Do you have a video camera? Although we hope we don’t get protesters at our rally, we would like to have as many cameras going as possible to capture any disruption. You might also enjoy filiming the event for your own enjoyment, of course. If you do bring your camera and have photos or videos that you would like to share, please contact us after the event at SantaFeTeaParty@live.com. If you would like to have some of them posted on our website, please indicate that you are giving your permission.
* There will be several barrels around the Plaza for you to drop off donations of non-perishable food items which will be delivered to the Food Depot. Please join us in stocking the shelves for this great organization.
* The weather can be unpredicatable – cool, windy, rainy, or perfectly warm and sunny. Please be prepared and be comfortable.
* We will not provide any refreshments at the rally. You can bring your own non-alcoholic beverage and/or picnic or purchase items at the local businesses. PLEASE USE THE TRASH CANS TO DISPOSE OF YOUR GARBAGE. Restrooms are also not available on the Plaza, but La Fonda is across the street and has facilities that are open to the public.
* Be comfortable and enjoy the event! You may want to bring a folding chair since there is limited seating provided. Remember that we cannot stand or have chairs on the grass – only the concrete areas.
* Be sure to sign up at the T.E.A. Party table so you will continue getting updates on future T.E.A. Party events, Action Alerts that will let you know what the issues are and how you can help, and about future meetings.
* Finally, please support our local businesses and stay in town for dinner afterwards! We are fighting for their success and prosperity, too!
SIGN THE PETITION!
The Sante Fe T.E.A. Party, as well as several other groups around the state will have petitions at the rallies that will be delivered to the Attorney General after a Press Conference in the coming weeks. The petition will urge the Attorney General to join other states in opposing this law – not only does it appear to be unconstitutional, it will have a devastating financial effect on New Mexico. Please come to the Plaza and sign the petition! So far, 10 states have filed suit to stop the Health Care Reform law from imposing on their states.
We will keep you posted on the schedule for the Press Conference and delivery of the petitions. We are hoping to organize a LARGE event, so if you can join us, we’d love to have you! Details will also be posted on our website at http://www.SantaFeTeaParty.blogspot.com.
The organizers of the Santa Fe T.E.A. Party have gone to great lengths to organize a peaceful, family-friendly event that gives the public a platform to voice their concerns over fiscal irresponsibility, the over-reach of the federal government, the unsustainable debt, etc. We respectfully ask that participants honor our efforts by maintaining civility, common sense, and non-violence.
Remember that the media will seek out anyone who appears to be a radical – please don’t give them any ammunition. It is our sincere hope that the messages we deliver at this event – and future ones – will be based on common sense, logic, facts, and that in the end, we will be able to build a strong coalition of voters from all political parties and all walks of life that will indeed bring about the changes we all hope for.
But Why Does This Guy Want To Infiltrate
And Destroy The Tea Party Movement?
Meet Jason Levin, quite possibly the scariest man in the tea party universe. An Oregon technology consultant, Levin is the leader of Crash The Tea Party, a plan to take down the tea party from the inside. Levin says he’s got a growing cadre of supporters across the country, and conservatives from the message boards to the set of the Sean Hannity’s show are getting nervous.
“Our plan is not to shout them down,” Levin told me yesterday, “but to infiltrate them and push them farther from the mainstream.”
The scheme reads like a sequel to “Being John Malkovich”: Levin’s group of protesters plan to get in the heads of tea partiers at the Tax Day Tea Parties nationwide Thursday and manipulate them right out of relevance. They’ll dress like tea partiers, talk like tea partiers and carry signs like tea partiers. In fact, according to Levin they’ll be completely indistinguishable from tea partiers, except for one thing — they won’t be out-crazied by anyone.
“Our goal is that whenever a tea partier says ‘Barack Obama was not born in America,’ we’re going be right right there next to them saying, ‘yeah, in fact he wasn’t born on Earth! He’s an alien!” Levin explained. He said that by making the tea parties sound like a gathering of crazy people — his group’s goal — the movement will lose its power.
Levin said he got the idea from a counter-protest to the infamous Westboro Baptist Church group held outside Twitter headquarters in January. Levin said the Westboro group broke up after counter-protesters showed up holding signs “even crazier” than the ones held by the Westboro group. “They realized they couldn’t get their message out, so they just left” Levin said.
On the Crash The Tea Party website, managed by Levin, he explains how the plan will work. “Whenever possible, we will act on behalf of the Tea Party to exaggerate their least appealing qualities (misspelled protest signs, wild claims in TV interviews, etc.)”
“The lower the public opinion of them goes, the less coverage they’re going to get in the mainstream media,” Levin said when I asked him about the plan. “Then the GOP stops listening to them and they disperse and they go back to their militias and cabins in the woods.”
He emphasized that his group is non-violent, and not interested in “perpetuating racism, homophobia or misogyny.” Levin said that “members are free to do as they wish,” but if violence breaks out at a tea party rally on Thursday, or more epithets like the ones thrown around during the health care debate are heard, it won’t be because of his group.
He explained the distinction to me this way: If you see someone wearing a Nazi uniform at a tea party, it could be one of his members. If you see some one wearing a Nazi uniform throwing a rock, it’s definitely not one of his members.
I asked him if he was worried publicly proclaiming that the most extreme people at the tea party rallies could be plans plants might help the movement he’s trying to destroy. The tea party movement is struggling with its own identity, and some in the movement have already claimed that some of the darker chapters in its history (such as the death threats that came after the health care vote) were fantasies created by liberal infiltrators. Levin said no matter what the tea parties say about his plans, it’s a “win-win” for his group.
“What can they say?” he said. “Either we’ve infiltrated their group so pervasively that they might as well hang it up, or we haven’t infiltrated them that much they really are just racists.”
Levin said he has 66 member groups (and growing) across the country planning to fan out at tea party gatherings on Thursday.
And while it’s not clear how big the group actually is, or how serious the effort will be, the idea has already set off a small panic among tea partiers and their supporters. Upset tea partiers have posted Levin’s address and phone number on the FreeRepublic.com message boards, leading, he said, to “silly threats” against him and his family. On Friday, Sean Hannity attacked the group in a segment on his radio show. And tea party groups across the country are warning their members to be on the lookout for the infiltrators. In Oregon, a tea party group has said it plans to get the police involved if they catch any of Levin’s organizers.
Levin said all the attention just serves to make his plan more successful.
“How do you spot a fake tea partier? Do they have a tea bag tattooed on their forehead?” he said. “Thanks to us, the next time you’re at a tea party and you see a guy with a misspelled sign you’ll have to say ‘is this guy an idiot? Or is he just an infiltrator?”
Late Update: Dave Weigel reports on FreedomWorks’ plan to expose infiltrators like Levin and capture them on video at the Tax Day rallies on Thursday. The group is taking Levin’s plan — and the possibility of other infiltrators — pretty seriously, and is planning to point out and confront anyone with a “racist or offensive” sign at a rally on Thursday.
Come to our second monthly meeting!
As well as discussing the event topic this month, I would like to hear from people where they would like to hold these events and what kind of format they might be. As of now we are meeting and having discussions. Maybe we could arrange to meet at a local cafe and have a more casual event. Since these events are sstill pretty small, these more casual events could serve as a springboard for more formal events in the future. Just a thought for next time.
Let me know what you are thinking.
From “Another Turn of the Crank”
By Wendell Berry
If the members of a local community want their community to cohere, to
Flourish, and to last, these are some things they would do:
1. Always ask of any proposed change or innovation: What will this do to
our community? How will this affect our common wealth?
2. Always include local nature – the land, the water, the air, the native
creatures – within the membership of the community.
3. Always ask how local needs might be supplied from local sources,
including the mutual help of neighbors.
4. Always supply local needs first. (And only then think of exporting their
products, first to nearby cities, and then to others.
5. Understand the unsoundness of the industrial doctrine of “labor saving”
if that implies poor work, unemployment, or any kind of pollution or
6. Develop properly scaled value-adding industries for local products to
ensure that the community does not become merely a colony of the national or global economy.
7. Develop small scale industries and businesses to support the local farm
and/or forest economy.
8. Strive to produce as much of the community’s own energy as possible.
9. Strive to increase earnings (in whatever form) within the community and
decrease expenditures outside the community.
10. Make sure that money paid into the local economy circulates within the
the community for as long as possible before it is paid out.
11. Make the community able to invest in itself by maintaining its properties, keeping itself clean (without dirtying some others place), caring
for its old people, teaching its children.
12. See that the old and the young take care of one another. The young must
learn from the old, not nessisarily and not always in school. There must be
no institutionalized ‘child care’ and ‘homes for the aged’. The community
knows and remembers itself by the association of old and young.
13. Account for costs now conventionally hidden or “externalized”. Whenever possible, these costs must be debited against monetary income.
14. Look into the possible uses of local currency, community-funded loan programs, systems of barter, and the like.
15. Always be aware of the economic value of neighborly acts. In our time the costs of living are greatly increased by the loss of neighborhood, leaving people to face their calamities alone.
16. A rural community should always be acquainted with, and complexly connected with, community minded people in nearby towns and cities.
17. A sustainable rural economy will the dependent on urban consumers loyal to local products. Therefore, we are talking about an economy that will always be more cooperative than competitive.
The Santa Fe Evolver is collaborating
with individuals and organizations in
the Santa Fe area, organizing film
screenings, workshops, panel discussions,
regular news letters and podcasts,
and much more in an effort to
create a symposium for cultural transformation.
We are participating in the
internationally synchronized Evolver
Spore Events that occur around the
third Wednesday of each month. If
you are interested in being involved in
any of these areas, get in touch.
Listen in to “Local First Radio” (Santa Fe Alliance) Sundays 11AM to 12Noon. Get involved in your community and stop by for the Green Drinks events. Check out what the Santa Fe Alliance is up to http://www.santafealliance.com/
Check their Event Calendar
About the Santa Fe Alliance
|Location:||Zia Diner, 326 S. Guadalupe, Santa Fe, NEW MEXICO 87501|
|Description:||Learn about the Farm to Restaurant project, Cook with the Chef, and meet the new ED of the Farmers Market. Meet others who want to support our local food economy and security, just like you!|
|Contact Info:||Kathleen Chambers, email@example.com|
Sunday 11AM to 12Noon – “Local First Radio” (Santa Fe Alliance)
Keep up on what is going on in the local business world here in Santa Fe.
Simon Brackley, President and CEO, of the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce hosts local businesspeople and community leaders on the weekly Taking Care of Business radio show on 1260 AM.
Sundays 10AM to 11AM – “Taking Care Of Business” (Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce)
Not our trader joe’s, but close enough.
Is there such a thing as affordable Dharma in Santa Fe? Where can one go to learn the dharma in such times?
Is there any such thing as affordable yoga in Santa Fe?
Weigh in in the comments.
I am not quite sure what got into me last night to listen to the presidential debate, but I did, in its entirety.
It reminded me of a couple things. The main thing that came to mind is when you call service xyz (credit card, bank phone service), whatever, and you keep getting sent to a different department, until finally you get a dead end recording or a loop that sends you in circles. When you do talk to someone, they tell you that its not their fault or that another department is in charge of that issue. Isn’t that frustrating?
Well, that’s the feeling I get after listening to the debate last night. The other guy did it, or the other party’s policies are responsible. Funny thing is that I believe them. The other party is responsible, both of them. The whole thing is rotten.
Check out this zine for some possible solutions, use the first (imposed) one to make copies to hand out, its a great season to spread the word!
Voting VS Direct Action
Yet another interesting post I found on the interwebs about alternative currencies . . .
A New Kind of Money to End Money
Originally published on Reality Sandwich June 10, 2008.
This piece will look at the new money that is coming into being, and which will replace money as we know it. Money will still be in use, but it will be of a nature that reflects the social relations between people as one that engenders cooperation and mutual respect. As such, I will not traverse more familiar territory that has been explored and expressed better than I could ever do. What I will do is look at three stages in the move from today’s crumbling debt based monetary system, to the transition and establishment of complementary currencies (CC) holding sway: this would signify the end of Money as we have known it.
It is hoped that for those of you who may not have heard much about CCs/new money before, and how they are the part of the wave that is cresting and which will move with us right into the future, then I would suggest some excellent starting points. To have a good acquaintance with the current crisis in money and credit and to get a better perspective of what follows please check out the following:
The Reality Sandwich blog entries “The End of Money?” and “Money: a New Beginning” parts 1 and 2 by Daniel Pinchbeck and Charles Eisenstein, respectively. Another site that is strongly recommended is Eisenstein’s “The Money of the Future” at http://www.ascentofhumanity.com/newmoney.php, which is an excellent primer on what the new money is about.
The Three-Step Move
The three-stage move I am looking at towards new money is descriptive as it is prescriptive. The first stage will involve a move to a new gold standard due to the impending collapse of the US dollar (USD) and other major fiat world currencies. The dollar will still be in use in the future of course, but it will collapse mainly as a global trading currency and in being used as a reserve currency by national banks of some countries. The second stage involves the rise and enhancement of social businesses as envisaged by Nobel Peace laureate Dr Muhammad Yunus. The third stage will see the establishment of CCs/new money as the prime form of value exchange, relegating national currencies to a limited role.
We need to be clear in understanding that national currencies will not just disappear. The role of CCs is that of complementing other forms of currencies. What will transpire in the years ahead will be the rise of a highly sophisticated system of barter with decentralized sources of new money taking center stage, thereby relegating national currencies to a disciplined and specific role.
The current credit crisis the world is facing is a result of an untenable debt based system of monetary expansion. This is primarily due to the effect of central banks like the US Fed which expand the money supply through the banking system via a pyramid scheme of expanding money which does not actually exist. This comes about by a system of double entry book keeping and expansion of credit. To get a good idea of how this works, check out the wonderful Creature from Jekyll Island by Edward Griffin.
This pyramid method of expanding money supply has been possible largely due to the use of floating fiat currencies, meaning money that has been unhinged from the gold standard and subject to being printed whenever it is convenient for it to be cranked out. This is soft money that has no tangible backing. A gold backed currency is a hard currency. The US only went off the gold standard in 1971 thanks to President Nixon thereby forcing other nations, by 1973, to all have full floating currencies as well. The reason for Nixon’s move was manifold, partly due to a misunderstanding of how the gold standard works and also, as is sometimes mentioned, the need to print more money to finance the Vietnam War.
Politicians tend to veer away from the discipline of the gold standard because it forces them to stay within the base money supply and ensure convertibility of their national currency into gold. This makes it difficult for self serving political projects and what are now known as earmarks (of the pork barrel kind) to be fully put into play unless there are lots of cash swirling about. But too much money in the system tends to lead to devaluation and eventually inflation which is devastating especially to low income people and the middle classes. Ron Paul’s latest book The Revolution: A Manifesto touches on this specifically.
(Please do check this out for greater insight into the matter: http://www.lewrockwell.com/paul/paul319.html)
The fact is the gold standard has long been a preventive cure for unnecessary wars. That is because politicians cannot just print cash to justify their next act of international ambition. It may be of interest that as this is being written, USD has fallen to almost $1,000 per ounce of gold. This is just the beginning. This fall in USD value is a massive vote of no-confidence in the politicians at Washington, politicos at the Fed and chieftains of the banking industry.
Today’s headlines are the rising of oil prices to USD135 per barrel. What is not fully explained by the media pundits is that this is due not to a shortage of oil as such, but to the devaluating USD. There is far more money in the system than demand for it, which is the classic cause of inflation as we know it. So calls for oil from strategic reserves to be used, and trashing the Arctic and other areas for even more oil is NOT the answer.
Fiat currencies are among the principal causes for misdiagnosing problems and leading to even worse ones. A similar spike occurred in oil prices, as research will show, in the early ‘70s after Nixon wrenched the US off the gold standard. Yes, there were problems in the Mid East (when were there never?) but the surge in quantity of fiat USD was central to the rise in energy prices.
But the monetarists and the neo-classical economists that are largely responsible for the economic rut we are in are great believers in fooling around with the money supply. It not only, they think, gives us lots of “moolah,” but allows the economy to expand. Yet, what it does instead is lead to bubbles and booms and busts. Money becomes a tool manipulated via interest rates by unelected super-bureaucrats at various central banks.
For instance, check out a recent book by one-time Fed governor-general Laurence H. Meyer in his A Term at the Fed, chronicling the crucial years of 1996-2002. He states that the key things the FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) was interested in were NAIRU (Non-Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment) and the Taylor rule. What this basically means is that Fed gurus would manipulate rates based on economic theories of the Phillips Curve and what the acceptable rate of unemployment was before inflation would kick in, and also when GDP would move away from expected/estimated GDP growth. All this would make it necessary to raise/drop rates based on projections. How effective do you think these people can be within the constraints of the highly charged political framework they operate in? Look around you for the results.
Also, it is worth checking out Bonner and Wiggins’s book Empire of Debt to see why the USD cannot last as it is the way it is going. How can the world’s greatest debtor nation with trillions of dollars of debt carry on by increasing expenditure, lowering rates, and not a sign of increasing taxes on the horizon? How much of this money that is being pumped in can stay the course without leading to severe devaluation? Is there productivity to match this artificial influx of cash into the economy? To what extent can you tell a drunk that the way to get over his inebriate state is to drink another bottle of vodka 75 proof? Who will pay for all these debts (or clean up after the drunk for that matter)?
What is happening now is similar to Americans who go to a diner, have a meal, and tell the cashier to pass the check to their grandchildren. The future generation will have to pay for all the current debt. It looks like there is going to be a massive devaluation of the USD coming up (best way to settle debts is to lower the value of what you owe, too) and alas, record hyperinflation. At the first sign of this, or something to this effect, states like Japan and China are going to throw their US bonds in saying, “Give me the money!” When that happens there will quite likely be a run against the dollar world wide, and then my friends, financial meltdown takes on a new meaning.
All that glitters is sometimes gold
That is why the historical move as practiced in the past will be the viable return to gold. It has been tried, it has been tested, it leads to economic growth and expansion because it is stable money and brings along low taxes. But we will also have been so badly bitten by fiat currencies, that CCs and new money will be the answer whether anyone likes it or not. If you do some research you will find that even Karl Marx advocated a gold backed currency.
We will finally come to see the need to move beyond the blinkered cost-benefit analysis of neo-classical economics to a new kind of economics. Part of that involves going back to basic human values, of older ways of life, of ancient spiritual teachings and practices, and an ecological approach to economics. Part of this process involves going back to mutual trust and reciprocity between people and to the system of barter represented by CCs. Part of this also involves going back to what has worked for millennia, the gold standard.
A new gold standard does not mean 100% reserves of gold backing a currency hiding in a vault somewhere. The new gold standard would be something as advocated by Nathan Lewis in his outstanding Gold: The Once and Future Money. Basically, how it works is that all the currency in a nation will be backed by a value of gold per ounce. What Lewis suggests for the US is a range of USD 360-380 per ounce of gold (lots of USD will have to be recalled and done away with).
The issue of convertibility comes in when the government authorizes banks to give back gold certificates (representing the gold) to those who want to cash the USD for gold. The use of gold certificates is how gold is bought and sold today – nobody goes around lugging nuggets and bars anymore (as some critics think). The banks will hold enough gold as reserves to provide for conversion if required, but this will not happen often as long as the money supply stays disciplined to the value of gold at the fixed exchange rate.
This is where the value of convertibility comes in. Convertibility ensures that the Fed/Treasury maintains and adjusts the base money supply to allow for the demand and supply of USD based on people’s use of Money aligned with the backing in gold. This calls for financial discipline and an end to fiat money 100%. If the supply of money exceeds the gold backing, and that leads to people trading in cash for gold, the Treasury sells gold to banks and takes in cash. If and when the opposite occurs, the Treasury buys gold back and provides cash accordingly. This is a self regulating mechanism akin to what Adam Smith envisioned. The interest mongering monetarists will no longer be the uber bureaucrats controlling fluctuating rate mechanisms and swinging currency values.
The range of movement for gold prices will be minimal. One reason is because only 2% of gold is mined worldwide every year and there is only limited use for it. Apart from dental work, limited industrial use, and jewelry, gold is a singularly useless metal. Apart that is from being used as an ultimate Monetary measurement – its sole purpose of existence. And anyone deluded enough to try to hoard gold is going to find that he is going to need cash sometime and will have to, well, trade the gold in back for gold backed currency. With the rise of CCs and new monies, there is hardly going to be a scarcity of national currency. This will also spell the death of the money market as we know it. In itself, when the gold standard is in play, the gold does nothing for hoarders because the national currency is now as good as gold.
The system would work the same on the international level and, except unlike what Nixon feared was happening, countries that move back to gold and trade with the US are not going to start throwing USD back and say, “Send me the bullion, dude!” They will have the same process in exchange for gold certificates as individual users of currency. What matters is that as long as the US money base is not inflated (as per fiat currencies), the strict discipline and convertibility of USD to gold means they do not need gold to be shipped to them. When they know they can convert USD to gold and trust has been sealed on this, they simply exchange the gold certificates again to buy back the very stable and clearly guaranteed USD. Also, in all this exchange the gold does not physically ship away; what happens is as was done in the post Bretton Woods period, the gold is shifted to an account of the country in the secure vaults of a bank.
So now we have a stable money system backed by gold. There is a fixed exchange rate that ensures this. Gone are the days of currency speculation and falling USDs. But wait, shout the final coterie of monetarists out there, how are we going to create money now that the Fed has been reinvented, and since fiat money and its printing presses cannot just operate to satisfy the political whims of those in charge: how are we going to create jobs, they scream.
Well, by being actually productive for a change and not via the so-called productivity of the wild speculative frenzy of money markets. Interest free banks will operate (some research will show that they exist) and the pyramid scheme of double-accounting-money-expansion will be replaced by the rise of social businesses and CCs. We do not need so much money to make things work. National currencies backed by gold will serve the purpose of official government transactions and trade, while the new system of money will complement this and start a new productive and healthy drive to creating genuine wealth.
A Marxist way to be capitalist?
Then comes stage two of the Three Step Move. In order to lessen the burden and need for national currencies, the social business model will start to play a prominent part around the world. This idea is an extension of what was put forward and practiced by Dr Muhd Yunus who won the Nobel Peace prize for his idea of the Grameen Bank which gave microcredit for the world’s poor. In his latest book, Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism, Yunus explains that a social business is an enterprise quite different from a cooperative or a charity. It is essentially a business set up to provide necessities for the poor like drinking water, food, or healthcare.
How it works is that companies or people put in capital to set up the business and provide low cost products for the poor. Once the money invested is earned by the initial investors, all other money that comes in goes towards financing the business itself. Hence, this becomes an exemplar of a self sustaining enterprise. This is a non-profit, non-loss business which does not answer to shareholders in providing them great returns on equity, just the basic sum they put in for that equity. The example looked at in detail in the book is how French corporate giant Danone provides daily yogurt cups that cost 6 Euro cents (9 cents US) for the Bangladeshis.
This will ensure that the poor (and even those belonging to low income groups and not necessarily classified as the poor) can also have similar set ups working in their favor all over the world. This concept is spreading throughout many developing countries even as of now. So in the long term, the need for national currencies when such businesses are up and running will be for a limited period. Money given as aid and charity will be lessened as more of such social businesses take center stage. And these businesses can also eventually operate under the auspices of CCs and the new money, which leads to even less of a demand and strain in siphoning off national currencies to meet the needs of commerce, etc. The days of scarcity of national currencies will slowly become a thing of the past, and so will all the negative competition that this process engenders.
Money like you have never seen it
Here we will look at CCs briefly in the context of what they are and how they operate according to the ideas of Bernard Lietaer, the former senior Central Bank executive of Belgium who has proposed a new money called the Terra. The ideas that follow will be based on and evolved from those of Lietaer. What will be proposed as a CC that can be used in conjunction with the Three Step Move is a currency that I call the Indigo.
Briefly, a CC is one that involves the use of private money or scrips as distinct from national currencies, which are national legal tender. As Dr Gill Seyfang says in her important “Bartering for a Better Future? Community Currencies and Sustainable Consumption”, a CC is “the generic term for a wealth of alternative types of money which are springing up in communities throughout the world to address social, economic and environmental needs.”
Seyfang goes on to elaborate three main types of CCs. These include Local Exchange Trading Schemes/Systems (LETS) which aim to “rebuild local economies through cashless exchange; Time Banks [that] promote volunteering, civic engagement and mutual self-help by rewarding unpaid work in the community; the…NU-card, a mainstream ‘green loyalty point’ currency piloted in the Netherlands which incentivises sustainable consumption.”
The focus here will be on the CCs which would fall under the LETS type of new money, or what Lietaer would also classify as the Terra new money. According to Lietaer in his influential The Future of Money, there is a four-tiered monetary system for the future. People and businesses will routinely and comfortably deal in this multiple currency system, just as we today use all kinds of value cards, air miles, vouchers, credit and debit cards and virtual currencies in the course of our lives.
The first tier of this monetary structure would be a “global reference currency” that is not linked to nation states as such. This currency, which is what the Terra is supposed to evolve into, is there to provide a steady reliable type of money that can be used for international trade. The Terra will be based on internationally traded items like gold, copper, and wheat. It appears that Lietaer believes this kind of new world currency could morph into being from various corporate scrips used in cashless trade between businesses today.
Apparently, 400,000 businesses in the US are linked to about 700 barter exchanges, which result in $8.5 billion in cashless trade. It seems that this kind of trade rips along at 15% a year, three times the speed of dollar commercial exchanges.
A second tier in this monetary structure would be, for example, certain multinational currencies utilized by what would be deemed as geopolitically close countries. This could include, say, the NAFTA dollar, the Euro, and an ASEAN (the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations) currency.
On the third level, we have some remaining national currencies which run within or outside the multinational currency regions. But this time, individual states no longer have the monopoly in issuance of currency.
At the fourth level, we have CCs/new money as has been discussed. To Lietaer, these CCs could have an expanded role and greater influence, as they may be widely used and exchanged through community internet clearing houses. The Terra, as it is envisaged now, would have evolved from this category. What we need to look at in some detail is what the Terra is and how this may affect its future as a world reference currency.
The Terra is a CC that would be issued by a nation’s central bank. As outlined by Lietaer in his seminal “A ‘Green’ Convertible Currency”, what we will have is a “commodity-based currency, [for ] a … New Currency backed by a basket of from three to a dozen different commodities for which there are existing international commodity markets. For instance, 100 New Currency could be worth 0.05 ounces of gold, plus 3 ounces of silver, plus 15 pounds of copper, plus 1 barrel of oil, plus 5 pounds of wool.”
This CC/new money is therefore backed by the valuation of the commodities in the basket at the value of the national currency of the society it originates from. So in the US the value of the basket, in terms of USD, will determine the exchange rate between those trading in USD for the Terra in America.
Once again, we need to understand that the Terra works in tandem with the national currency and is not a new money that supplants everything else in its wake. As the Terra TRC (Trade Reference Currency) White Paper by Takashi Kiuchi, Chairman of The Future 500, states:
“The Terra is designed as a complementary currency operating in parallel with national currencies. Therefore, everything that exists today as monetary and financial products or practices continues to exist. The Terra mechanism is only one additional option available for those international economic actors who voluntarily choose to use it.”
Of course, this may advance into the more generic realm of the four tiered monetary structure put forward by Lietaer. So the Terra would be used as a complement in international trade alongside national currencies. The idea being to not only provide an alternative, but wean nations away from relying on conventional currencies which are fiat money subject to the swings of money markets and the designs of central banks and politicians.
But herein lies a problem. The nub of the issue is that the valuation of the Terra basket is done in the US, for example, in terms of USD. At this point, all hell may break loose due to the unreliability of fiat currencies. That is why the Three Step was proposed to overcome the problem of the Terra’s system of backing and help move it further onto the path of its contribution to the world.
Moving the Terra back to Firma
The trouble is how stable can the value of the Terra basket be when based on a valuation of what the source of the problem of our monetary system is: floating fiat currencies. Given the vagaries of the floating currency, anytime a disruption occurs, like the impending crisis coming for the USD as discussed earlier, the value of the Terra basket is going to be affected severely.
So I put this question to Lietaer himself and in a recent email (received only just as I was starting to write this piece), he says in effect that, yes, the components of the basket are quoted in whatever national money as they are today. But, however, the Terra instability I mentioned “is the one reflecting changes in value of those national moneys, not of the Terra. If there is a drop in value of the US$, that would simply mean that the
Terra /in US$ /becomes more expensive. The real measure of value is the basket of the Terra itself.”
But it seems to me that it begs the issue of what is the value of the Terra? That is, it is measured in the national currency, but that currency is unstable due to its floating fiat nature, and in the case of USD … potentially worse is yet to come. And it gives rise to another exchange rate problem of the falling currency of the USD, say, and the now ever more expensive Terra. This seems like it is back to Money as we still know it today.
Which is where gold comes in: once a national currency (e.g., USD) is on a fixed real value exchange to something truly stable and reliable like gold, the problem vanishes completely. Now we have a Terra basket valued solidly to commodities valued solidly to a currency fully backed by the value of gold. No more exchange rise-and-fall fiascos associated with fiat currencies.
This stable CC of the Terra then goes onto its next phase, which is the process of demurrage that comes in thanks to the genius of Silvio Gessel. The currency, in true ecological fashion, has built in entropy that allows it to depreciate at the rate of say 10% a month, which means that if it is not used in 10 months time it will be worth nothing.
This is where the value of this type of CC becomes apparent, as it forces the use of the currency in productive enterprises and not in hoarding or speculation of money markets. This inevitably leads to the kind of stimulus to productivity that standard Money can never equate. As seen in practice throughout history, the demurrage of this kind of new money or scrip leads to rapid growth and it does not place a strain on national currencies, nor create the harmful economic competition that national currencies foster. In fact, with a shift back to gold, the CC will truly be a complementary currency in every sense of the term as it comfortably complements the use of stable non-inflationary national Money guaranteed by gold.
The use of the Terra as shown in the Terra TRC White Paper involves a TRC Alliance that issues out the TRC to an oil company producing barrels of oil. The value of barrels of oil for sale is then translated into Terras through a currency conversion. The Terra is then used among those allied to the TRC network, as the demurrage takes effect. The demurrage takes place over the period of a year.
Indigos and Terra Firmas
With all this in place, I will look at a specific type of CC, the Indigo, that can be used within a LETS framework of a community and which is a parallel prototype of the Terra. This is the kind of currency that can be used before long and can evolve to the type envisioned in the form of the Terra (with the use of a commodities basket). The following way of creating the Indigo is an analogue of Terra creation adapted accordingly from the TRC White Paper.
Let us say we take a community of several municipalities or a province. This would provide a framework for a healthy dose of activity and business. These steps would follow in the creation of Indigos for a community of 50,000:
- Let’s say the population of 50,000 has a median income of $24,000 a year (this national $ is backed by the new gold standard).
- We take one-third the median income (as the rest of the income will be for other use, savings, insurance, etc) and multiply that by 50,000 so we get $8000 x 50,000 = $400 000 000.
- The basket of commodities for the Indigo includes the value of selected areas in townships like property value of public housing, areas of green spaces and/or agricultural land, community playgrounds, and healthcare centers. Choice of items and areas can be changed or rotated. So let us say that the value of this basket comes to $500. (Figures chosen are for simplicity to get the calculation going.)
- We now have $400,000,000 divided by $500 = 800,000 Indigos.
- The Indigo has a 1:1 exchange with the $ (national currency). So this amount within a year is available from banks in the area. People buy them and this paper and virtual currency system (which will have a proper system of accounting) starts with its demurrage from the moment of purchase.
- The rate of demurrage is 8.3% per month, which means that the Indigo will be worth almost zero right at the end of the time period of the year from its issuance. This would come to about 0.27% depreciation of the Indigo per day.
Anyone can cash-in on the Indigo at the bank at anytime for an equivalent $ exchange, which would be less than initial purchase due to the demurrage. The difference from loss in $ value from the cash-in (thanks to demurrage) goes into a fund that various municipalities or communities will redistribute as funding for community projects. These recipients from the cash-in fund are designated each year by each local government (for e.g.). This is gleaned from the practice of demurrage used in certain north European townships where the cash-in ‘loss’ goes to various good causes.
All national money used to purchase the Indigo goes to a community fund. This fund will also issue out reimbursements from depreciating Indigo notes and also keep the difference from cash-ins. At the end of the year, the community fund is recycled into community projects, etc.
What happens to Indigos cashed-in early? Well, they are up for sale to others. They are still bought at the 1:1 ratio with national $. So if the Indigos are reacquired say 6 months before their expiry, then the demurrage that kicks in will be twice the official one. That is because the money is not an infinite value store, nor like the pyramid scheme expansion of current Money. That is one of the reasons for the demurrage, to eradicate pyramid schemes for money and an obsession in it as an end in itself.
So the reacquired Indigos with a shorter life span simply leads to more intense usage of the Indigo which is all the better in promoting growth. Also, if there are further cash-ins for reacquired Indigos, then the cash-in difference goes back as usual to the community fund. People who acquire cashed-in Indigos would be aware of this and would participate wholeheartedly in what is a community currency.
This process only emphasizes the natural and ecological nature of the Indigo and such CCs or new money. It is meant to decay and rejuvenate again when the next batch is issued for the following year based on renewed calculations for the Indigo currency basket. This is ecological money.
This reinvestment cycle from the use of the Indigo is a great way to improve community wealth. This in turn adds to societal growth. In the end, it is about the community, not the money per se. This in turn ensures that anyone buying and selling Indigos thinking they can “profit” or “make a killing” in exchanges with the $ are genuinely mistaken. They have to spend the new money or they will simply lose its monetary value. So when they realize this and cash-in, the difference from this goes back to the community yet again. The purpose of the new money is always to promote growth, mutual trust and reciprocity, and more $ actually put back into the community.
This is a complete virtuous cycle meant to move forwards and upwards with communities gaining more and more each time. It is win-win in the best sense of the term. At an international level, the Indigo would transform into a firmer version of the Terra. Now we can have a Terra used by individual states backed not just by commodities, but by a nation’s value of other natural land areas, and high end human spaces. Cash-ins would be given to the state treasury for reinvestment into communities and/or national areas in need of assistance.
Or let us take it a step further. If the world’s nations have generally moved back to a gold standard, then a new world currency could develop backed by an international basket of swathes of the Amazon, arctic wildlife areas, world cultural icons, commodities like rice and wheat, solar and wind farms, etc. The basket would be measured in this case against the value of gold. So when this new world reference currency comes into play, called the Terra Firma, we actually finally have a stable world currency which can be cashed in any country because the equivalent in national $ will be given back with ease since everything is now measured in terms of stable gold value.
So a Terra Firma worth say 10 ounces in gold may be cashed in (after demurrage sets in) for the national currency in its country of use depending on that national currency’s gold value. The difference from the cash-in goes to a national fund of the country which reinvests into either needful areas in that country or splits into reinvesting at an international level as well (that is, the reinvestment is handled by, for example, a new and reinvented UN backed International Monetary Fund). Since the basket involves world heritage areas and resources, a UN type body can supervise reinvestment into similar areas. This needs further clarification for as of now, international law is such that the natural green areas of the world, for example, would fall under the jurisdiction of the nation state it is in. In the end, the plan is for the world community to gain from this, and it reduces again competition for national currencies.
There will be a national CC fund from which countries participating in the Terra Firma Alliance will buy their new money from. The fund will also handle reimbursements and keep the difference from cash-ins. All the money earned here will be recycled into community/national community projects as designated by national government in consultation with some local governmental entities, at year end. Similarly at the international level, a UN body (IMF) would look to the reinvestment process from money earmarked for it from the relevant national CC funds.
One objection that tends to arise is would people start to rush to change national $ for Terras or Terra Firmas? Why would they when there would be a four-tier world currency system and a whole host of CCs and new money all over the world among different communities to use? Terra Firmas are but the top layer of a multi-tier monetary environment. This decentralized use of money ensures we will relate to and use money in completely new and sophisticated ways different from the way it is used and viewed today.
What if people horde this new money and try to create shortages? Please go ahead and watch the demurrage eat away at your “golden hoard.” Again, there is such a choice for the new money in a multilayered monetary system that makes hoarding quite meaningless. There is the assumption, I must admit, that in the years ahead there will be a fundamental shift in human nature. And that shift would be complemented by CCs (proving its complementariness yet again) and that will ensure the growth, success and meaningfulness of the new money.
How it all hangs …
So, my friends, at the end of this experiment in ideas for CCs and new money, the Three Step move is of use because the crash of floating fiat currencies is in the works whether any of us like it or not. The USD, which some countries are rethinking as use as a reserve currency even as you read this, is going through the calm before the Great Debt Unraveling. When this happens the natural recourse of nations, as has been done throughout the ages ,will be to return to the stable form of money that it has always used in such times: gold.
The advent of a new gold standard will see to a stabilization of the world monetary system. This will also allow for the flourishing of innovative forms of business like social businesses and CCs and the possible advent of the Terra. Examples of use of CCs linked to stable national money would be the Indigo, which can be fine tuned and improved by those better experienced in the operation of CCs. This in turn could lead to the Terra Firma, a real world reference currency.
These will be the first moves in serious decentralization of power from central governments, and to a more democratic participation of people in their communities and countries. Whichever way one wants to see this, it cannot but bode well for all of us in the long run by returning to what matters more than all the money in the word: human values.
Be well and happy.
Images by Roby72 and jenn_jenn, used under Creative Commons license.
We can send help through our local sister cities projects.
Here is the best info I can find out for Santa Fe so far, let me know if you find better info!
Santa Fe Sister Cities Committee
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Arts Commission Conference Room
125 Lincoln, Suite 100
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Some general Sister Cities info . . .
Start A Sister City
What is a Sister City, County or State Relationship?
A sister city, county, region, or state relationship is a broad based, officially sanctioned, long-term partnership between two communities, towns, cities, counties, regions, or states in two countries.
Sister city partnerships have proven to be more effective than any other international program in carrying out the greatest possible diversity of activities because they are naturally inclusive of every type of municipal, professional, business, educational, humanitarian, scientific, and cultural exchange or project.
Sister city programs are unique in that they concurrently engage the communities’ three main sectors: local government, business, and a variety of citizen volunteers representing every sector within the community. (Definition thanks to: Sister Cities International)
USCSCA is the only organization in the U.S. recognized by Cuba that can develop an official sister city, county, or state relationship with Cuba.
Please contact USCSCA for information about how you can get involved!
We have PowerPoint presentations, sample resolutions, videos, and many other helpful tools to help you get started.
Official Partnership List 2004
(Listed by U.S. state & city or county – Cuban city, municipality & province)
Official U.S.-Cuba Sister States:
(PA) Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – Matanzas Province
Officials U.S.-Cuba Sister Counties:
(FL) Manatee – Manati, Las Tunas
(CA) Santa Cruz – Guama, Santiago de Cuba
Official Sister Cities:
(In order of official signing)
(AL) Mobile – Havana, Havana
(WI) Madison – Camaguey, Camaguey
(PA) Pittsburgh – Matanzas, Matanzas
(IN) Bloomington – Santa Clara, Villa Clara
(CA) Richmond – Regla, Havana
(CA) Oakland – Santiago de Cuba, Santiago
(WA) Tacoma – Cienfuegos, Cienfuegos
(PA) Philadelphia- Cardenas, Matanzas
(ME) Brunswick -Trinidad, Sancti Spiritus
(NY) East Hampton – Playa, Havana
(NM) Santa Fe – Holguin, Holguin
(MA) Cambridge – Cienfuegos, Cienfuegos
(NM) Las Vegas – Banes, Holguin
(CO) Boulder – Yateras, Guantanamo
(IL) Bloomington/Normal – Calibarien, Villa Clara
(IL) Bloomington/Normal – Remedios, Villa Clara
(CA) Berkeley – Palma Soriano, Santiago de Cuba
(WI) Milwaukee – Nuevitas, Camaguey
(MI) Ann Arbor – Remedios, Villa Clara
A Few of the many U.S. cities with working committees!
(Contact USCSCA to find out about your community!)
(WA) Seattle/King’s County – Bayamo, Granma
(DC) District of Columbia – Havana, Havana
(FL) St. Augustine – Baracoa, Guantanamo
(MD) Baltimore – Matanzas, Matanzas
(LA) New Orleans – Mariel, Havana
(OH) Cleveland – Ciego de Avila, Ciego de Avila
(GA) Atlanta – Pinar del Rio, Pinar del Rio
(IL) Decatur – Camajuani, Villa Clara
(MA) Boston – Cienfuegos, Cienfuegos
States with people currently working together to build State-to-Province relations with Cuba!
Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin& Virginia.
Can You Imagine a Better World?
Welcome again! On this page we invite you to imagine a better community and a better world, and to see how we can build it together, starting right now. Click on the photos to see what people are saying about this project, and then take a moment to see why this is needed, how it will work, and how you can get involved. Thank you!
1. What do we mean by a better world?
2. The challenge: so many missed connections
3. The opportunity: we have so much in common
4. How? Like stores and libraries
5. Some solutions
6. Getting started
7. What you can do right now
1. What do we mean by a better world?
We want to live in a world where all people can live free and dignified lives, where any person who wants to help another can do so, and where no opportunities for action and collaboration are missed or wasted.
That’s the vision, the ultimate goal. To get closer to it, we believe that:
- All over the world there are many people who share similar values, dreams, and challenges.
- With all the tools we have now, we can communicate like never before.
- If all of us had more opportunities to connect and work together, online and face-to-face, in neighborhoods, villages, schools, and workplaces, the world would be a different place. How different? We don’t know, but together we can find out.
2. The challenge: so many missed connections
There is a good chance that right now, on different floors of an apartment building somewhere in your country, two people are looking out their windows and wishing there were a garden or a playground below instead of a dirty lot. But acting alone can be difficult, and in many neighborhoods, both rich and poor, there is no way for people to know that they are not alone—that down the street, or two floors above or below them, there may be others who would gladly work with them if they only knew where or how to find them.
This problem is part of a bigger challenge: to get involved in our community, most of us need a few things in place. We need some hope and some trust, a minimum of freedom, and access to others who may want to work with us. In addition, we may need more information about the problems we want to solve, stories and ideas from people who have dealt with similar issues, and options for action that make sense to each of us.
Some people have access to all this, but many others do not. As a result, millions of opportunities for action and collaboration are missed every day. Think only of one neighborhood, one school, or one village you know, and of how much more could be done there with the available resources. If you then add up these unfulfilled possibilities all over the world, the picture that emerges can be both exhilarating and heartbreaking. Here are some more examples:
- With over six million NGOs and nonprofit organizations working on every possible issue, most social and environmental problems have been tackled somewhere in the world. Unfortunately, many organizations with great programs lack the means to reach everyone who needs them.
- In any school, children of all ages may have good ideas about how to improve their school or their community, but these ideas are seldom heard, and these students may have no way of connecting with one another.
- In every large company there are people who care about human rights or the environment, for example, or who would like to help their business get more involved in their community, but in many cases there is no way for these people to find one another throughout the company.
- Across the Internet, thousands of online newspapers bring us news that can sadden or anger us, but very few have a link that says: “Click here to do something about any of these issues.”
- Every day thousands of international flights take off with empty seats. Why not carry some volunteers who want to spend a year working in a different country?
This sense of unrealized potential is one engine driving this project. The other is a conviction that working together across our differences we can do something about it.
3. The opportunity: we have so much in common
When athletes from all over the world get together for an international competition, the differences among them are clear. They speak different languages, and they come from a variety of ethnic, political, and religious backgrounds. Yet despite these differences, they all have much in common. They all want to win, they all want good weather and a good field to play on, and, most importantly, they all agree on the rules under which their respective sports should be played.
Similarly, there are now many people all over the world who, regardless of language, religion, or politics, agree on the basic rules within which the human game, in all its variety and diversity, should be played. These rules, which reflect how most of us want to be treated, have been beautifully expressed in countless essays, declarations, and laws. But in order to define a common ground on which to work together, we can distill them into just a few sentences:
- Working with others, in a spirit of generosity and mutual respect, we want to help build a world where all people can live free and dignified lives.
- In pursuing this goal, we do not engage in violent or illegal action, or in any action against a person or group on the basis of race, origin, nationality, religion, language, gender, sexual orientation, or physical or mental ability.
- Most social and environmental problems have many possible solutions, and what works in one place might not work in another.
- Patience, empathy, and laughter often help.
There have always been people who have taken this approach to life. The difference now is that we can reach out to one another, cut across the borders that separate us, and quickly build a network of people and organizations that want to act locally, think globally, and share what they can with others.
4. How? Like stores and libraries
Acting, thinking, and sharing are good words, but how can we all work together when each of us might approach things differently? How do we make the most of the skills, resources, and ideas that all of us have to offer, while accepting that we may not always agree on everything? To find this balance, and make as many connections as possible, we can borrow four principles from the worlds of stores and public libraries. These are:
- A broad goal: Libraries help people read more books; stores connect us with products we need (or not).
- As much choice as possible: Hundreds of novels; different kinds of products.
- A few rules: You return your books so that others can read them; you pay before you leave.
- Impartial service: Most librarians and shopkeepers don’t force you to read the books they love or to buy the products they like, but they do support everyone’s right to read and to choose
When we first built Idealist in 1995, we used these principles as follows:
- A broad goal: To help build a world where all people can live free and dignified lives.
- As much choice as possible: Tens of thousands of organizations with a wide range of approaches and points of view.
- A few rules: No one can use Idealist to promote violent or illegal action, or any action against a person or group on the basis of who they are.
- Impartial service: While Idealist offers a platform for people and organizations to connect with one another, it doesn’t favor any issue, opinion, or organization over any other. The only exception is that we strongly support the right of people everywhere to work together, legally and nonviolently, for the improvement of their lives and their societies.
Over the last ten years, these principles have been tested widely. 65,000 organizations in 190 countries have registered on Idealist, and millions of people have connected with them. These numbers are encouraging, but they represent only a fraction of what we could achieve together. To do more, we can apply these principles to a much wider set of solutions.
5. Some solutions
If we go back to the building with those two neighbors looking out their windows, how can we make it easier for them to connect, first with each other, and then with any organizations that want to work with them? One way to do this would be to have a Community Point in every neighborhood and village that wants one, where, at the very least, people can put up a note on a bulletin board and see who responds. Depending on local conditions, community points could take different forms. For example:
In any case, once a community point is set up, it could remain simple—a bulletin board on the wall or online, and nothing more—or it could gradually provide all of the following services:
- A meeting place, open all day or two hours a week, where you can come to exchange ideas, suggest and plan a project, give or take a class, find the resources you need to help yourself and others, or simply find someone to water your plants while you are on vacation.
- A new way for organizations of every kind to reach your community and work with you according to local needs and priorities. Just as your local grocery store lets suppliers of toothpaste, milk, and coffee reach many more people than they could ever reach by themselves—while allowing you to try a variety of products without having to call or visit every supplier—so community points can make it much easier for “suppliers” of human rights, preventive health, and economic development, for example, to reach and be reached by the people who want to work with them.
- The opportunity to share ideas, information, and resources with people facing similar challenges in other communities, whether in the same city or on another continent.
- The intangible but crucial feeling that we are not alone—that in our neighborhood, and all over the world, there are others who understand and support what we are doing.
The details, then, will vary from place to place, but imagine if in a year or two, no matter where you are, you could visit a local community point and immediately feel at home. Regardless of language or culture, you’d find people and organizations offering their community the widest possible range of projects, services, and opportunities, while sharing ideas and resources with people all over the world.
At the heart of these community points is the idea that if two or more people share a common goal and have a way to meet, good things will often follow. If this is true for neighborhoods, towns, and villages, it can also apply to schools, universities, companies, and other institutions. Here are a few possibilities:
Imagine if in any school two or more students with a similar idea for a good project could always find each other within a few days. To get to that point, we need a place and a time in every school where everyone can meet, supported, if possible, by a friendly teacher and by every organization that wants to serve the school and its students.
In many colleges and universities there are a variety of student groups working on a wide range of issues. What is often missing is a strong network to connect and promote all of these groups, bring more outside opportunities to the campus, and link the school in a variety of ways with the community and the world around it.
These could include, among many other ideas, helping connect people within companies (or in any other workplace) who want to work together on any issue; using the company’s web site to help employees and customers find new ways to get involved; helping companies of all sizes find a local organization to support; and connecting businesses with peers in similar industries who have found cleaner or safer ways of doing their work.
Most nonprofit organizations want to reach more people, but very few have the financial means to promote their work to a wide audience. So why not do this together? Just as some countries attract more tourists by promoting their country as a whole (instead of one hotel or one resort), imagine a series of advertisements—funny, creative, not preachy—in a variety of media, promoting action and collaboration around the world, and referring people to a web site or a telephone number that can help them find a good opportunity. To get started, in the next few weeks we’ll use Idealist to invite people everywhere to produce short videos with their own ideas (guidelines coming soon) and post them online for everyone to share.
Lastly, to tie all this together, imagine convening “community summits” of local business, media, and civic leaders, where each of them would be asked to do one small thing to help people get involved in their community. (The media, for example, can donate advertising space, while the phone company promotes a local help line in its monthly bills, and an association of small businesses invites each of its members to find and support a local organization.) The challenge is to do this in one or two places, and to demonstrate that the concept can work—that if you can get many of these actors in one room, and ask each of them to do one relatively small thing as part of a bigger picture, they will tend to do it. Later this year we’ll try to do this in New York and Buenos Aires (and in any other city that wants to jump in), and share what we learn as we go.
All of these ideas complement and reinforce one another, and all of them are based on the same four principles: a broad goal, some rules we can all agree on, impartial service, and as many opportunities as possible.
6. Getting started
So how do we do all this? How do we encourage more ideas to bubble up in neighborhoods, villages, and schools, and then connect all those people who might want to implement them? How do we make sure that if a retired doctor wants to volunteer for a year wherever she is needed most, a good place can be found for her? How do we make it easier for any company, large or small, to find and support a local organization? And how do we enable any organization launching a new project—for women or children, better crops or fewer landmines—to work directly with hundreds of community points in the countries it wants to serve?
To start, imagine that you woke up one morning and every telephone and computer on earth was unplugged from the wall. To make all these machines work again, and bring the whole network back to life, three or four billion people would have to plug their phones and computers back into the wall. But before this happens, think about that moment when everyone would be holding a plug in their hand, right before connecting again. At that point there would be no network at all, no one could communicate with anyone else, and yet the whole thing would be so close to coming together.
The situation we are in right now is very similar to that moment. We have in our hands everything we need to create a global network of people who want to build a better world, but to get there, we need to reach out, connect, and plug in. More specifically, here are some of the steps we can take to make this happen:
- Invite people and organizations all over the world to start building this network by signing up, reaching out to others, and shaping and following this story as it evolves.
- Meet face-to-face, wherever we are, to think and talk about how we can create more connections between people, ideas, and resources in our neighborhood, village, school, or workplace. (More details about these meetings below.)
- Create local outreach teams of people who want to help make these connections wherever they live, work, or study.
- Go beyond the web by using different methods (flyers, posters, radio programs) to reach people who may not have access to the Internet.
- Try a variety of ideas—from community points to school clubs to community summits—and learn as we go.
- Do all this in as many languages as we can.
As we take these steps, more ideas will come up, and many more things will become possible. But the goal won’t change: working together, we can help a build a better world—a world where more people can live free and dignified lives—by connecting people, organizations, and resources in every possible way.
Wherever you are, you can help make this happen, and together we can gradually change how all of us think about what’s possible in our lives and in our communities. In a world with competing visions, finite resources, and unintended consequences, there will always be limits to what we can do about our social and environmental problems. But these limits aren’t fixed. We can do more with a telephone and a computer than without them, and more in a country where people are free to speak and write, than in one where they are not. Today, with the resources and the accumulated experience at our disposal, we can push these limits farther than ever before. How far? Let’s find out.
7. What you can do right now
There are many ways you can get involved, but to start, these are the most important:
- Attend or host a start-up meeting in your neighborhood, school, or workplace, and let us know how it goes.
- Post a comment by logging in below. Once you log in, you can create a personal profile on Idealist, and sign up for email alerts with new opportunities that match your interests and location, or to hear about new start-up meetings as soon as they are posted here.
- Invite other people to take part in this initiative. Think of everyone you know who might be interested, email friends and colleagues, and post a message on any online forum or mailing list where this would be appropriate.
- Plan to make a difference in your community. Be sure to check out our Community Action Center for resources to help bring your ideas to the world.
And most importantly, keep in touch. We are not a big organization, but we will read every email you send us, and we will be updating the Idealist homepage every few hours with news, questions, ideas, and comments. We can’t predict where all this will go, but we can promise you that we will be as transparent as we can every step of the way. Thanks for reading this, and for taking this leap of faith with us. We look forward to working with you.
Finding Leland Lehman’s article, “Weathering the Economic Storm,” is yet another syncronicity to add to my list. Just the other day a friend and I had been wondering what happened to the alternative currencies that sprung up around the country in the mid 90’s. One begins to think of such things as the economy dives, suddenly all of ones so called “ideals” become much more realistic and sometimes essential. I am happy to see that I am not alone!
I had been formulating and inquiring within my self just what my motivations, goals and ideals are concerning my return to school and with life in general. When people find out that you have returned to school or when people in school discuss majors, careers and future goals, the discussion of money is sure to come up. Some students are interested in learning for learning sake or with community building and helping others, but the main motivation and push in higher education is to make lots of money. I can’t help but bring the money question back to wealth and what wealth actually is. Leland’s article and Trading Circle help to describe and provide examples of real local actions that can be taken to begin building true wealth now.
That said and the article read, I am sure that you can begin to see what I consider true wealth to be and what some of my motivations are for returning to school and for life in general. I hope to see you out in the community somewhere as we continue building the world that we want to see for ourselves and for the future generations, right here and right now.
Here is the last paragraph of Leland’s article,
The most promising strategy for
dealing with the current crisis is a return
to faith, regardless of denomination, a
return to community interdependence,
a return to barter and trading, a return
to community self-sufficiency and a
return to local, bioregional sovereignty.
But it may take an even greater crisis
before these time-honored
understandings return to their eternal
glory before the people’s blurred eyes.
Read the full article, “Weathering the Economic Storm” here . . . <http://thesun-news.com/Aug032008Issue.pdf>