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12 August 2010
No, you haven’t missed anything; this IS the first newsletter I’ve sent out since April. Old Lazy Dog would happily spend all his time reading novels, watching movies, playing computer games, drinking beer with friends, wandering around, visiting family, and lazing around on beaches. I do a bit of that, but that’s not what life is all about or what the times require. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.
The Great Unraveling
No one likes to talk about, much less hear about, things that they consider “bad” or unpleasant. Gloom-and- doomer is a term that is often applied to someone who tries to give warning about some impending challenge. I say challenge instead of disaster because disaster is a judgmental term and the quality of our experience depends a lot on how we view it and our willingness to let go and accept what life brings us. Granted, some things are hard to bear and there are many things that I hope I never have to experience, but… Well, you get the picture.
What I’m leading up to with all that is the financial and economic “weather report.” I think I’ve gained some understanding of these things over the years, and I consider myself fairly well informed about the changing circumstances which leads me to conclude that we are now in the early stages of what I’m calling The Great Unraveling. When I wrote my first book, Money and Debt: a Solution to the Global Crisis, twenty years ago, I reported that our modern monetary system creates money on the basis of debt to which an interest/usury burden is attached, and that the compound growth of debt would eventually exceed the capacity of the real economy to bear it.
If you want to get a more detailed picture of this you can watch one of the many presentations I’ve given about it during the past few years. You’ll find several on my blog, Beyondmoney.net. The most recent presentations which I gave last month are not yet available, but there are several from last year. You might start with the one I did in Seattle last November (The direct link is http://vimeo.com/7490027).
I would also suggest that you pay attention to other sources whose knowledge and insights I respect. Among these are Ilargi and Stoneleigh of The Automatic Earth, http://theautomaticearth.blogspot.com/. Stoneleigh (a.k.a. Nicole M. Foss) gave a presentation in the UK in June which Aaron Wissner has made available at http://localfuture.org/stoneleigh.htm. I strongly recommend that everyone take the time to listen to it. I think the picture Stoneleigh paints is quite accurate and her short-range predictions are almost certainly correct. If there is one thing I might take issue with, it is what might be expected to happen over the longer term. There are numerous factors that are converging to reshape our world. What has so far been lacking is a process by which the various perspectives can be adequately combined to discover likely scenarios and formulate effective responses.
One thing seems certain to me; civilization is at a point of historical singularity. While there are similarities with past situations (like the Great Depression), it would be a mistake to think that things will play out as they did before. I’ve been talking lately about the emergence of The Butterfly Economy, and if the metaphor is anywhere near the mark, it seems worthwhile to study the way the metamorphic process works in nature. In my view, the old Caterpillar Economy is finished, done, kaput. It is disintegrating beneath our feet. The basic question now is “how do we channel the resources of the disintegrating caterpillar economy in ways that will support the emergence of the new Butterfly Economy.” I gave a talk on this subject just two weeks ago in Portland. No, I don’t have all the answers, and my talk just barely scratched the surface, but I am pretty confident about the direction we need to take.
The bottom line for me at this point is the urgent necessity for action to restore resilience to our communities by learning to share, cooperate, and organize as never before. We need to spend locally, save locally, and invest locally. We need to apply our dollar resources to projects that:
Along these lines, alternative financial consultant, Susan Boskey asked me a few weeks ago to write something about investing for her newsletter. The short article I wrote titled, Investing in Uncertain Times, expresses my ideas about our current situation, and my advice about how to better use our resources in this time of transition. I’ve posted it on my blog at http://beyondmoney.net/2010/08/03/investing-in-uncertain-times/.
And, of course, we need to reduce our dependence upon banks and conventional money by organizing private exchange systems that can be networked together to provide an interest-free and inflation-free means of payment, while making credit reliably available to local productive enterprises.
Northwest Tour, July 23 – August 4
The Portland presentation I alluded to above was part of a tour of the Northwest. When I was invited a few months ago to go to southern Oregon to meet with local exchange advocates, we agreed that late July would be a possible timeframe. I put the word out to my network and it developed into a two week tour with the following itinerary:
1. A public lecture in Medford on The End of Money and the Future of Civilization,
2. A workshop in Ashland to assist the southern Oregon group in advancing to the next stages of their project,
3. A public lecture in Eugene similar to the one I gave in Medford,
4. A public lecture in Portland titled, The Butterfly Economy: How communities are building a new world from the bottom up. In Portland I also consulted with the Xchange Stewards group, which I have been advising since last year. The Butterfly Economy lecture covered a broader scope than the others and included advice on how people might allocate their spare cash to promote local energy and food security in ways that can also provide a hedge against inflation.
5. A Cashless Exchange Colloquium in Seattle that brought together individuals and groups that are either operating or planning exchange systems in Oregon, Washington, or BC.
BALLE conference and Eastern Tour
Toward the end of May I travelled east for about three weeks to visit family and to participate in the annual BALLE (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies) conference which was this year held in Charleston, SC. I was on a panel with Derek Huntington of Sonoma GoLocal and Jenny Kassan of the Katevich Law Group in Berkeley. Jenny has created a dialog group called Cutting Edge Capital Raising. It is billed as the place to talk about capital raising for small community businesses. It is open to all who wish to participate and you can sign up at http://cuttingedgecap.ning.com/.
Localized small-scale Production of Ethanol Fuel
An unexpected outcome of the BALLE experience was a meeting with Christapher Cogswell who is an associate of David Blume in a startup company, Blume Distillation, LLC, that will manufacture small-scale ethanol production units. I had, up until then, not regarded ethanol to be a viable alternative to gasoline as a motor fuel but after Christapher explained the many advantages of small-scale localized production, I came to realize that communities might gain a great deal from producing their own ethanol for fuel.
Subsequent correspondence led to David Blume’s visiting Tucson and his presentation at the downtown library on July 19. David is the author of the book, Alcohol Can Be a Gas!, a massive book that provides a wealth of information on all aspects of ethanol fuel production and use. The localized approach has the potential to solve virtually all the problems associated with our addiction to petroleum. That’s a bold statement, but David is able to back it up with hard facts and an amazing knowledge of permaculture, history and the politics of technology.
Dave’s talk was inspiring and informative. (Be sure to view his videos at http://www.permaculture.com/).
At that event a number of people expressed interest in pursuing the possibilities of ethanol fuel for enhancing local energy security, so now there is on ongoing discussion about it. I’m enthusiastic about a local ethanol production project because it fits in with my ideas about community economic development and resilience. We need to invest our local resources in local value creation, not in competing with other communities to attract outside interests that are more interested in exploiting rather than improving our community.
Viewed in a broader context, a local ethanol production facility might be created by a local investment cooperative or LLC that would aggregate small amounts of savings and investment capital to establish enterprises that produce food, electricity, affordable housing, and other necessities. Besides his encyclopedic knowledge of the technical aspects of alcohol fuel, Blume has lots of knowledge on how to properly organize an LLC to produce it.
I’m honored to have been invited to participate in the International Commons Conference, which is being jointly organized by the Heinrich Boell Foundation (http://www.boell.de/foundation/about-us.html) and the Commons Strategies Group, to be held in Berlin on November 1 and 2. According to the Foundation website
The Heinrich Böll Foundation is part of the Green political movement that has developed worldwide as a response to the traditional politics of socialism, liberalism, and conservatism. Our main tenets are ecology and sustainability, democracy and human rights, self-determination and justice. We Are a Green Think Tank and an International Policy Network.
This will be my first visit to the Continent since 2005 and I am pleased to be returning in connection with such a worthy effort.
Let us be thankful to be living in these exciting times.
Thomas H. Greco, Jr.
PO Box 42663, Tucson, AZ 85733, USA
Blog-Beyond Money: http://beyondmoney.net
Blog-Tom’s News and Views: https://tomazgreco.wordpress.com
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