I’m excited to report that we’ve been given an hour on the main stage at Extinction Rebellion in the Mall on Thursday afternoon from 2pm. When I say ‘we’, it will be me and Oliver Sylvester-Bradley of the Open Co-op – we’ll speak for 10 minutes each, then take questions for 40 minutes. We’ll be talking about an ‘economic rebellion’ – practical steps that people can take to help build a new kind of economy that doesn’t damage nature and doesn’t concentrate wealth.
I’ve worked in the environment field for 25 years. When you understand the scientific evidence for the damage being done to nature, it’s scary. We’re losing species at a much higher rate than nature can replenish them. At the same time, temperatures are rising, soil is eroding, toxic chemicals and plastics are being released into the environment etc.
Currently, there’s nothing in place to prevent runaway climate change, and in fact, we may have already passed the point at which it’s possible to do anything to prevent it. Think about what that might mean for a second – that the average surface temperature of the earth will continue to rise, irrespective of what we try to do to stop it. It will mean that the UK climate will become Mediterranean. Meanwhile, the area around the Mediterranean itself will become desert, and the centre of the Sahara will become too hot for anything but thermophilic bacteria. But this process will not stop there. The Mediterranean band will continue to move slowly north (and in the Southern Hemisphere, south), until it reaches the poles, bringing desert in its wake. The food-producing zone will continue to shrink as population increases.
It’s not certain that we can prevent this scenario from unfolding, and the now-famous ‘Deep Adaptation’ paper suggests that grief and acceptance should be part of a portfolio of responses to whatever the future holds.
The Extinction Rebellion movement has been the most effective force yet in bringing this kind of understanding to the mainstream. So much so that I’m now being contacted by people telling me that maybe I was right in raising these kinds of concerns years ago.
It’s the human economy that is the root cause of ecological damage, and specifically its perpetual growth imperative. I’m hoping that this too will soon become more obvious to the general public, who will then be able to see through the bias of those who say that economic growth has been decoupled from carbon emissions in the UK, when emissions from aircraft, shipping and Asian factories in which most of our consumer goods are made are not taken into consideration.
I’ve written about the futility and damaging nature of the quest for perpetual growth many times, and so this time, I’d like to focus on one particularly harmful aspect of the way the global economy works – and that’s the symbiotic relationship between states and banks. It’s a relationship that I don’t think many people are aware of.
What banks get from this relationship is a) monopoly control of the supply of anything you can pay your taxes with; and b) a license to create it from nothing, as debt, mainly mortgages – and to charge interest on it. For more information on this very real magic money tree, see the video below, and this, from the Bank of England.
In return, the banks agree to buy government bonds to fund the state’s war machine. The winner of this global game gets to put their military bases all over the world, and to have their money used as the global reserve currency. This is the US at the moment of course, and I guess at some point it will be China, but that’s probably a long way off yet. And when/if that happens, it will be the same shitty game, with different people at the top.
Nothing fundamental is going to change in the economy, and we will be unable therefore to stop the slide towards extinction, unless we can destroy this cosy relationship, by building a new money system. And of course, petitioning the state to do this is not going to work, any more than petitioning the banks. We have to do it ourselves. See this article for more information on the problematic nature of the modern banking system.
Building decentralised and non-extractive institutions is the only way, imho. This way, we can develop an economy that doesn’t have to grow perpetually and doesn’t concentrate wealth (and therefore power – which is toxic for democracy). And as mentioned, this will mean fundamentally changing the money system. Crypto does nothing to prevent wealth concentration, and local currencies require fiat to purchase them in the first place. So what then? I believe the answer is mutual credit. Lowimpact.org and the Open Co-op have come together to build the Open Credit Network, a mutual credit network for the UK, which will be based on local networks, and will itself be nested inside a world network – a global ‘Credit Commons‘. See the video below for an introduction to the concept.
This is what we’ve done so far:
- We’ve built the website, directory and trading engine, added an FAQ page, recruited 120 businesses and carried out some initial trades;
- formed a co-operative and ensured that all software will be free & open source;
- organised public events and assembled an excellent advisory group;
- recruited potential conveners for local networks. We’re talking to people in Coventry, Brighton, Tewkesbury, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Totnes (naturally), Stoke-on-Trent, Liverpool, Leeds and Hull;
- hosted sessions with conveners to co-design local networks;
- produced introductory and instructional videos;
- completed the Finance Innovation Lab Fellowship Programme;
- visited Sardex, a mutual credit scheme on the island of Sardinia, currently turning over around 50 million euros in trade annually.
See the timeline at the end of this article for more details.
The next stage is to grow rapidly. We’ll be looking to attract early adopters, and small business owners who see the benefit of being in a directory and having mutual credit at hand to help with cash flow, and as insurance in case anything happens to crash the economy so that people have very little access to money. Something like…… er, no, can’t think of anything right now.
If this makes sense to you…..
If you’re a business owner, or work for a small business, register for the directory. It’s a way of promoting your business and finding more customers; you can trade in conventional money or in mutual credit – it’s up to you.
Whether you have a small business or not, tell everyone and anyone you can.
Contact us if you think you might like to help convene a local network in your town.
Come along to see us on Thursday afternoon.