My thoughts on Permaculture Economics

Permaculture Economics: How to truly create a just and sustainable economy


The twenty first century is a century of global convergence. Never before has humanity had the power to spread ideas and modes of being as quickly as today, never before has there been a greater need to examine what has come before so that we might build today what is coming….

The horrendous problems and also staying power of exploitative capitalism are well known. Today we are faced with a social crisis, a credit crisis, a labor crisis, a housing crisis, a extreme food shortage, an environmental mega-crisis, and of course the energy crisis; the fact is that capitalism is a system designed to create and exploit crisis. This year 100 million people are likely to face possible starvation due to food shortages and hurtful policies. Instead of endlessly playing with in one economic game, occasionally bending the rules, sometimes even breaking them a bit, today we have the option of creating a wiser, more just, dynamic, and dare I say, more colorful game. A new economic system that fully incorporates the principals of living systems instead of ruthlessly denying them is on the verge of creation. This is the basis behind permaculture economics. It is imperative now that innovative alternatives aren’t seen as optional bandages for a wounded world, but are once and for all embraced as lasting solutions.

It is not enough to just value living systems if our everyday actions are contrary, destructive, and apart from the foundations on which those systems are built. One point of importance we must all collectively realize is that money generated by exploitative means is a entirely different form of money than money that is generated by just and sustainable means, and should in all ways be recognized as such. This point is not easily discerned especially since everything gets mixed up in circulation; just like with so many destructive products the biggest lie is one of omission. Triple bottom line accounting is one solution that has started to gain ground at taking into account these so called social and environmental “externalities”. But, how can we make an entire economy that recognizes these distinctions and can incorporate the proven principals of living systems, and who is already working to do so?

Perhaps one of the most exciting experiments in alternative economies is the local currency movement which guarantees more accountability with in a local economy because the people that use the currency have control over it. Unfortunately, this experiment is also in danger of always remaining as a experiment, albeit a successful one, do to the fact that it can never transcend the local scale. Whether we like it or not trade and commerce at the global level is here to stay simply because demand for global goods and services will not decrease until population does, and also because it is nearly impossible for any system no matter how sustainable to get all of the inputs from the local region including steel, lumber, plastics, and whatever other little necessary evils infiltrate our lives. Localism has a very prominent place with in sustainability but it can not be a panacea with which to fix all our current global woes. So what options are we left with?

Imagine if we could build an alternative global currency that guarantees that it’s money is generated in a social and environmentally sustainable way and will never be recirculated into a exploitative system. A currency like this would necessitate a dynamic structure that would have functions to limit destructive speculation and promote horizontal growth. It will also limit the ability of larger economies to extort smaller ones on issues of trade and commerce. Everything in economics begins with incentives so what is the incentive system that could lead us toward such a transformation and ideally how would this united vision look and work?

Fortunately for us all it already is working. Currently, social micro lenders, green lenders, and permaculture credit unions, are providing the ground work for this incentive system by giving lower interest rates for socially and environmentally responsible projects. In essence, they are creating social and environmentally responsible capital. Community Land Trust are providing healthy living environments at affordable prices without the destructive and volatile swings of speculation. Others are doing important work by linking up green consumers and producers with online technology such as “green mapping”, green consumer rebate cards, and online barter systems, all of which are becoming increasingly popular.

Here is the most favorable scenario: first, green mappers using open source online technology target potential entities who would be interested in participating in this alternative currency. All participants will be measured by a social environmental index each year (many of these indexes already exist and have proven successful). Theoretically, at the top of this index would be entities such as green cooperatives, while as, non profits might be more in the middle since they may be green though not necessarily socially democratic, and at the bottom would be single proprietor green business or traditional businesses that are environmentally sound with employee stock ownership plans. Participants would be allowed to exchange their national currency or even local currency in for this alternative one, but would initially be prohibited from exchanging back (note, the value of this currency would be pegged to the average of all currency markets hence reducing volatility). Making this currency as digital as possible would cut down on prohibitive printing costs and increase its general liquidity. Having lower interest rates on loans made in this alternative currency based on an entities social environmental index rating provides a strong incentive for businesses to have the most progressive business structure possible. Once proven successful this incentive would then draw other entities into the alternative economy thus growing the transactions and trades of social environmentally friendly alternative goods and services. Seemingly ironic, this kind of economic activity will help substantially support multiple domestic economies with out the negative effects that we’ve seen from neo-liberal globalization thus far. It is possible to develop lending rules that would allow growth to primarily be horizontal in nature and create more diversity while at the same time minimizing monopolization and speculation. This type of horizontal and diverse growth with be more beneficial for all and create more stable economies. It is my conviction that the future as my generation will determine it will have a global economics system in which all social environmental cost will be accounted for.

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3 thoughts on “My thoughts on Permaculture Economics

  1. Here’s something that is about 4 years old…but I haven’t found a better model. Just ask yourself “Who’s your farmer?”…”Who’s your banker?”…”Where’s your money?”. I don’t agree with all of what Fitts says…though 98% of this is dead on. The only way to move forward is to close them down with your own actions.

    Here’s the “Coming Clean” outline: http://solari.com/archive/coming_clean/

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    • Wonderful,

      Thanks for the link Solari is a financial consulting firm with a permaculture bent. Catherin Austin Fitts is the same woman who help start the first financial permaculture convergence see this previous p.r.p. post.

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  2. Pingback: Financial Permaculture « Punk Rock Permaculture

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