As a Permaculture designer, I’m very interested in restoring natural systems to functioning capacity; I believe that we need these intact differential equations running across the landscape in order to survive ourselves. Portland Permaculture should also be concerned with community, as decisions about how to manage and develop landscape fall often to the voices that get involved in the conversation.
Nowhere has that been more apparent lately than in the last months of 2012, when Portland citizens gathered over 43,000 signatures to get the City Council’s behind-closed-doors decision to add toxic fluoride (an aluminum processing waste by-product) into the city’s drinking water on the ballot for a proper vote. The Council had met several times out of the public eye with lobbyists from the fluoride camp before announcing their decision to public outcry. The signatures gathered were more than double the requirement to allow a public vote.
The rapid success of the protest speaks volumes about what an empowered community can accomplish, and in a short time.
In May of 2012, I attended a talk entitled “Co-Creating Community Wealth : Seeding Sacred Economy,” led by a couple, Ferananda Ibarra and Jeff Clearwater, traveling about to stimulate a conversation on the topic. About fifty to sixty people crowded the million-dollar home’s upstairs sanctuary, spilling like dried grain over futons, floor cushions, carpets, yoga balls, and each other under skylights draped with sumptuous fabrics and hung with talismans of peace and abundance brought home from around the world. An intricately carved wooden screen worth several thousand dollars provided the focal point and stage area for the meeting, and a silver guilded caraf held water even though there was no sign of cups.
While people got settled to the hum of multiple conversations, I thought as I often have that as the Earth shifts to balance itself under the weight of unconscious human occupation and the effects such have on the planet’s natural processes and systems, one tool communities have is deciding to control their forms of exchange. The speakers took their places in front of the elaborately carved hardwood screen, and the room grew quiet. Economics, they explained, is simply a model for the exchange of goods and services. I remembered the YouTube videos I’d watched on the subject, and wondered again how the question would be answered: who said we all have to use the Federal Reserve’s model?
It seems easy to watch videos online these days. Especially as the weather turns dark and cold near Daylight Savings Time, the growing power of social media and its value to human relationships crosses my mind. I think it’s the world’s biggest example of the concept named by the 2000 film “Pay It Forward,” rewarding those who think of others ahead of their own gain. Certainly one gains by utilizing social media properly, but it has to be done the correct way, by giving more than you ask. Thus, the digital sharing frontier has a strong role to play in the development of a sacred economic system.
At transitional.org, Ferananda shares the following video to add the currency of reputation to the conversation begun in her and Jeff’s presentations:
I believe this kind of social capital is vital right now and will serve a broader range of the population as communities adapt new patterns of commerce in a transition towards self-reliant and sustainable relationship to the planet and its non-human beings, each other, and the Universe through which Earth spirals.
In addition to social media, gaming is a model to watch. Both forms of currency integrate reputation or behavior and treatment of peers as a defining or limiting factor to one’s ability to access greater and broader opportunity. What is exchanged? The chance to lead a group, host events, try out ideas, receive earnest feedback, and be celebrated among one’s peer group. It’s a sought-after commodity, and the world of gaming is gaining more respect from non-players who recognize the pioneers of this gradual shift away from a system that keeps the poor forever poor and grows the power of the already rich.
As the speakers closed, I landed back in the room from my private flight of thoughts. They asked for donations of “American dollars,” to help them spread the message of moneyless economies. I vowed to write down my thoughts and promote their work in this way as a form of support, and both sets of eager eyes lit up.
What are some forms of community exchange you have seen at work in your part of the world?