By my early twenties, I had identified the passions that have since been the constant drivers in my life: social justice, community building, and care for the environment. Money wasn't on the list, but when I chanced upon a book about local economies, the penny dropped. If we fix our money system, we'll be fixing a whole host of interconnected socioecological problems at the systems level.
I was so excited by the book I read that I immediately applied for an internship with its publisher, the not-for-profit Institute of Local Self-Reliance. This was back in the days of snail mail, and by the time I had received a polite "not at this time" letter, my life had moved on. Almost two decades later, however, I returned to the promise of local currencies and to the "buy local" and cooperative behaviour changes that local currencies work to promote. It took me a long time (and a lot of help) to get a currency going in my community, and--almost three years after the currency's launch--it's still just a mini-initiative. Our team is continuing with the project in the hope of consciousness raising, a baby step on a longer journey to social change.
It's a journey I think is worth taking. Even though the currency doesn't yet seem like a big deal, I've personally discovered a lot of unexpected surprises by following the path of my personal "holy grail": new friends, meaningful work, a heightened awareness of free resources and wealth straight from the earth, greater fidelity to my personal values, freedom from debt through cooperation, community, more nutritious food .... In short, in a mysterious and nonlinear sort of way, the wandering path I started down is giving me what I want for everyone.
Anyway, I've written an article about some of the motivations behind our local community currency initiative. That article is now available online through its publisher, Organic NZ. Follow the link for a discussion about the problem with bank economy and about how community currencies work to develop an alternative economic system.
NB: At the moment of my posting, there's a problem with the font in the Organic NZ article, so that exponents appear as straight numbers. I've asked for a change, but until that happens, take a note of this line: "There are sixty-four squares on a chessboard, or (20 + 21 + 22 + 23 + … + 263), equal to (264 – 1)." That should read as powers of two, or (1 + 2 + 4 + 8 + ... + 2 to the 63rd power), equal to (2 to the 64th power minus 1). Tricky html!
Anyone want bread?
Baked bread, home-made bread paddle, and photograph by Phil Stevens; local community map in banner and thumbnail by Rain Stevens, originally drawn for our local business directory.
Visit LEAP, the Society for the Local Economy of Ashhurst and Pohangina Inc., for more information about our LOAVES local currency and other buy local initiatives. New volunteers are most welcome (and I personally need the support!) -- get in touch with me if you want to join the team.