Twelve April Log
12 April 2004
Jeff has included me on this ongoing discussion and I will be adding comments to his message below. Please add your own comments where you are inspired to contribute.
Subject:open source issues to discuss towards the development of official OVF policy
Date: Sat, 10 Apr 2004 13:01:04 -0700
From: Jeff Buderer email@example.com
I get the impression that you are somewhere in the bay area as T is. If this is the case I would be up to meeting you in person.
Just a note one of the people I am working with Michael Gosney of the Green Century Institute (http://www.greencenturyinstitute.org) has a monthly Salon in SF. You can check out the schedule for the meetings on the website. Last month it was on finance.
April 20 Tuesday - Global Inter-Community Networking
May 20 Thursday - Festival Culture and Intentional Communities
One group that has been doing interesting work in relation to developing innovative financial structures that empower local communities is the Solari Network (www.solari.com). Roeland van Krieken Chief Financial Officer of Fillmore Solari, LLC, spoke at the Salon about his experiences at Intel and Hewlett-Packard and the three technology start-ups he was involved with. To see about the others who spoke: http://www.greencenturyinstitute.org/salon5.htm
The birth of Solari is an interesting story worth mentioning. Katherine Austin Fitts, the founder of Solari was very successful on Wall Street. She also was a Republican that served under both Bush I and Clinton in as an Undersecretary in HUD. At HUD, she came to realize that there was an aspect to globalization that was insidious and it had to do with a process of exporting capital out of local communities through corporations like Wal-Mart as well as government institutions like HUD who were supposed to helping not hurting. She began to become very vocal about corruption in HUD. From her eyes what was happening there was verysimilar to the plundering of local communities by occupying armies, except that it operated under the cloak of capitalism with compliant media and government institutions looking the other way. The Nobel Prize winning economist Joe Stiglitz also says similar things about globalization on the whole.
- I see globalization as a program of large corporate groups to make everyone into a dependent consumer and reduce our individual and collective self reliance. We are denied the knowledge of how to be producers and thus power is concentrated. Distributed production of energy, food and water is the remedy. This is a practical solution. - Rick
Many of the players in this destructive game of monopoly are not conscious of their complicity in the pillaging of local communities all over the world. Many name brand corporations--as well as an army of professional operatives in Hollywood, Washington and Wall Street--occupy key and highly coveted niches in this symbiotic ecology of exploitation. The present economy relies on rapidly dismantling community institutions and replacing them with monolithic, repetitive corporate systems--commercial culture--to fuel economic growth. One of the reasons for the relatively consistent level of growth over the last few years has been due to the methodical and highly competent professionalism of those who manage this system.
Notables like Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, Rupert Murdoch and Alan Greenspan have been pivotal in designing or more precisely, evolving this highly corporatized system. This has allowed for greater manageability and exploitation of the consumer class in affluent nations, the working class in developing nations and the environment in all nations by a group of super rich that make up a tiny portion of the world's population. Such a system is not conscious of the notion that there is any such thing as a limit to growth, partially because the people that really control this economy are too obsessed with power to see the writing on the wall. Those who design the most efficient systems maximizing the extraction of energy and resources from local communities are rewarded with increasing power and influence in society, while those fighting for the rights of the vast majority of the world's population and the environment are marginalized along with the people that they represent. This net loss to communities and ecosystems all over the world--the commons--is seen as a net gain in GDP--even though it mostly ends up in the bank accounts of the superrich--the people that need it least.
As a result of her whistle-blowing, Fitts has been embroiled in a series of legal fiascos that have left her emotionally scarred and financially ruined. This is one problem I see is the idea of confronting the system head on. How many times have we heard this story but with a slightly different setting? In fact each of us probably has a story to tell about how we have been victimized and scarred by the system we live under. Yet we can learn from these experiences by figuring out how to not repeat them. We must build our communities virtually (such as with this group) and also then literally and concretely (by actually building and then moving into sustainable communities), instead of focusing so much on the community wrecking machine that sustains the American dream today. We need to focus on the solution not the problem. The solution is not more centralized government regulations but a process of grassroots unification of likeminded socially conscious communities around the world. I am working with Michael Gosney and others to form the Green Community Network (http://www.greencenturyinstitute.org/gcn.htm). We want to give people the resources they need to empower themselves. Working together with Solari, the Green Century Institute, oneVillage Foundation and others we aim to create a global network that effectively makes use of technology to promote and make concrete the vision of a socially just and sustainable society.
Many of the tools already exist within our networks, we just need to better link together and organize to make this happen. One aspect of this on a practical level involves the creation of websites and other media to promote collaboration and information gathering in relation to sustainable design and development. Another is doing the inner work I talked about earlier. Then there is the nuts and bolts of sustainability that so many of us love and are passionate about. Finally, there is the innovative financial strategies that can weave this vision together on a practical level. The Solari people seem to have the right idea and they are developing the financial instruments, and there are many other groups doing similar things all over the world. Frank Dixon is involved with a fund management company called Innovest (www.innovest.com). He is not the kind of person that you would think as being interested in this kind of stuff, much less passionate and articulate about it. Yet many of the financial people are getting the message about sustainability and some are actually quite brilliant and elegant in how they talk about it. I compared the speech he gave to Paul Hawken, with one major difference: he spoke to us for free, while Hawken charges around ten grand an engagement. What he is doing is raising the bar on socially conscious investing. His standards are stringent and forward thinking and potentially revolutionary in terms of realigning the fundamentals of the economic system that we now live under towards a more sustainable foundation. What we need to do is convince these kind of people that the sustainable communities movement represents an important market for the products produced by these corporations.
We are not looking for charity, but seed money to develop sustainable businesses around sustainable communities. This money will expand markets for socially conscious corporations through the development of sustainable communities that use their products. Potentially these communities would reinvest a portion of their profits back into the socially conscious mutual funds that Frank is developing the standards for. Reinhold Ziegler of Synergy CA (www.synergyii.com) also spoke at the Salon. He has been working on how all this would work on the local level--another practical piece to the global sustainability puzzle. He refers to this sustainable model of finance as financial permaculture and this seems to operate along the lines of what Paul Hawken calls an Ecology of Commerce (also title of one of his books). We can see this as a positive form of money laundering. We are converting the dirty money associated with socially exploitative and environmentally destructive patterns of behavior and recycling it into more clean investments that empower people on the local level. That is what Solari and the Organization I am working for oneVillage Foundation (http://www.onevillagefoundation.org) are about.
What I propose on a practical level is a system by which socially conscious corporations get rated by points. Companies would get points for doing things to reduce environmental harm, promote environmental awareness and restore degraded systems, etc. If they got enough points they could be included in the cleanest greenest funds (which is ideally where those of us who are most concerned about sustainability want to put our money not those that include Coca Cola as a socially conscious company). They also would get points for investing in groups promoting and developing sustainable communities as an alternative to sprawl and over-consumption.
We need to set up a system by which a portion of profits from socially conscious corporations are redirected towards the development of a new American dream model that is practical but also based on the idealism that has brought us to this group and many others like this around the world. The idea that our ideals and practices have to be distant from each other is a myth perpetuated by those who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.
Date: Tue, 06 Apr 2004 21:52:18 -0400 From: Emydes@aol.com
Okay, Jeff, I'm following you, and fully agree. But just what, specifically, are our tools to...
- : transition ourselves with practical alternative/sustainable economic technologies and models toward a new age of living and loving the earth and the people and creatures on it. How are we doing that? -- on a significant scale?
The internal work is essential, without question, but how do we apply it to our external world? -- fast enough to make a difference? What methods can we adopt immediately. How does the average person live sustainably, tomorrow? -- not next year or the year after that or if and when we're able to relocate to the nearest group of people of like mind. How do we live sustainably, today? What's the first external step?
I'm asking. I'm open to suggestions.
T and I come to conflict over the lack of practical suggestions, on his part, and an intolerance for it, on mine. I'm searching for workable solutions. We can't expect to love the world to rights while we're polluting it. Can we?