E. F. Schumacher Society re: community currencies


Richard Moore

Date: Sun, 24 Jun 2007 20:33:02 -0400
Subject: One-Tenth the Energy; Ten Times the Conversations
From: "E. F. Schumacher Society" <•••@••.•••>

On Tuesday Yahoo.com headlined a Reuters News Service article about BerkShares, 
creating a stream of media and internet discussion on local currencies in 
general and BerkShares in particular.  You can read and view some of the 
international coverage at www.berkshares.org.

By July one million BerkShares will have been issued through local banks to 
Berkshire residents wishing to show their support of regional businesses. To 
celebrate, BerkShares Inc. is holding a Bash on July 15th featuring 
award-winning author, Bill McKibben.

In his new book, "Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable 
Future," Bill McKibben writes that "there is a more hopeful version of the 
future: a shift to economies that are more local in scale.  Local economies 
would demand fewer resources and cause less ecological disruption; they would be
better able to weather coming shocks; they would allow us to find a better 
balance between the individual and the community, and hence find extra 

McKibben is an adept reporter who has traveled extensively looking for hopeful 
examples of community-based models having a positive effect on the health and 
well being of the residents and the surrounding environment. What he has found 
are "renewed local [economies that exist] as a series of points: a farmer's 
market here, a mercantile cooperative there, a radio station over there."  These
are old ideas, but not a yearning for the past. As McKibben writes, "what's 
nostalgic and sentimental is to insist that we keep doing what we're doing now 
simply because it is familiar." A shift to local economies is more than changing
purchasing habits and helps more than just the local community. Vibrant local 
economies engage us in relationships with our neighbors and have the ability, 
when established, to "reduce the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide 
[and] shift the trajectory of human satisfaction."

So how do we begin reforming relationships with neighbors and supporting each 
other in the process of providing necessary goods?  McKibben suggests that "[i]f
you really wanted to make a local economy soar, the most important part might be
to create a local currency."  With a local scrip in your pocket, choices are 
limited to those businesses with a commitment to your community.  Your dollars, 
or BerkShares in our case, will not be directly funneled to a corporate 
headquarters.  Instead it might go to purchasing goods from a local vendor, 
paying the salary of a local employee, or buying dinner for the shopkeeper.  
With a local currency your money is assured of circulating through the 
community, adding value with each transaction.  McKibben gives us this quote 
from Brian Halweil, "Šin West Africa, for example, each $1 of new income for a 
farmer yields an average income increase to other local workers in the local 
economy, ranging $1.96 in Niger to $2.88 in Burkina Faso.  No equivalent local 
increases occur when people spend money on imported foods."

Beyond the benefits of recirculating, a local currency changes the form of 
transactions.  Local currency draws people away from internet and mall shopping 
and brings them back to Main Street.  Shopping locally results in numerous 
personal interactions. These small, informal connections transform consumers 
into active parts of the economic system.  They are responsible for the larger 
workings of a local economy.  McKibben, using farmer's markets as an example of 
local economy, writes, "the market begins to build a different reality, one that
uses less oil and is therefore less vulnerable to the end of cheap energy.  But,
more important, the new reality responds to all the parts of who we are, 
including the parts that crave connection. One tenth the energy; ten times the 
conversations--that's an equation worth contemplating."

Every transaction we make in BerkShares celebrates a connection: between the 
customer and the merchant, between the merchant and the supplier, between the 
supplier and the producer. In the spirit of celebration BerkShares will be 
throwing a bash to recognize the individuals, banks, organizations, and 
businesses working to make BerkShares a success.

Bill McKibben is the keynote speaker for this event.  Joining him will be four 
area bands: Terry a la Berry & Friends, Quintessential, Cabuca Jazz, and The 
BTUs.  The time is Sunday, July 15, 2007, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., on the front 
lawn of the Searles Castle, home of the John Dewey Academy, Main Street, Great 
Barrington, Masssachusetts. Sponsored by Berkshire Grown, The Orion Society, and
WBCR 97.7 FM.  For more information visit http://www.berkshares.org.


Michael Gordon, Susan Witt, Chris Lindstrom, and Kristen Fix
E. F. Schumacher Society Staff
140 Jug End Road
Great Barrington, MA 01230
(413) 528-1737

Board of Directors: Jessica Brackman, Starling Childs, Merrian Fuller,

Hildegarde Hannum, Eric Harris-Braun, Constance Packard, Joseph Stanislaw,

Ganson Taggart, Nancy Jack Todd, and Charles Turner.

Board of Founders: Ian Baldwin, David Ehrenfeld, Satish Kumar,
John McClaughry, and Kirkpatrick Sale.

Advisory Board: Tanya Berry, Thomas Berry, Wendell Berry, Lisa Byers, Olivia

Dreier, Hazel Henderson, Wes Jackson, Amory Lovins, John McKnight, David

Orr, Michael Shuman, Cathrine Sneed, Lewis Solomon, John Todd, Greg Watson,

and Arthur Zajonc.

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