Thursday, January 29, 2009

GREEN: Hope. Leadership. Change.

Emily Jubenvill |


At the beginning of the American election race, it seemed that both John McCain and Barack Obama could bring desperately needed action to the climate change agenda. However, soon enough it was apparent that only one of them was true to his word.

“McCain re-entered the fold of the Republican orthodoxy, chanting ‘Drill, baby, drill’ along with the best of the fossil-fuel enthusiasts, while Obama built a compelling program around alternative-energy investment to create viable green jobs…” Bryan Walsh, Time magazine

Obama sent a powerful message: leadership, climate change, environmental justice and social justice. He brought hope to America and the world—a President in the White House that was not afraid to listen and implement our vision for a better world. A vision crafted at kitchen tables, not in corporate boardrooms.

My reaction to President Obama, as for many other Canadians, is intense and passionate. A thirst has been satiated; someone is listening. I don’t know about you, but I feel like my identification as a Canadian is perilously perched on the edge of humiliation. The direction of our country does not represent my values—particularly when it comes to climate change. Since when is Canada an irresponsible international citizen?

The Prime Minister and his sweater. He likes cats.
Obama's leadership on CO2 emissions
reductions speaks to Canadians more
than Harper’s sweaters.

Canada (i.e. Prime Minister Stephen Harper) did a great job of rolling over and playing fetch for the Bush administration. We’ve been trained to know that policy shifts in the States will be reflected at home. Once humiliated and outraged at how far our country was willing to follow America (insert shock of Bali here), now I hope we continue to follow their lead. If America can cut their greenhouse gas (GHG) emission to 1990 levels by 2020, and then cut them again by 80 percent by 2050, Canada can too. That means clean energy, green-collared jobs, new energy and transit infrastructure, and much more. President Obama brings strong leadership in a new direction; Canadians have rallied behind him, craving that leadership, charisma and vision. He speaks to us more than Harper’s sweaters.

As I am writing this, Obama is preparing for his first official visit to Canada as the President of the United States of America. There are many items on the agenda for his trip, one of which is particularly close to my heart: the tar sands. Oil from the tar sands emits about three times as many GHG emissions are “regular” oil, consumes enormous amounts of water, is responsible for an Ireland-sized bald spot in the Boreal forest and has so contaminated drinking water as to create a toxic soup for many First Nations communities.

If the tar sands do not wholly embody “dirty oil,” then I don't know what does. President Obama made a promise to end America’s addiction to dirty oil. Today, Canada is the largest exporter of petroleum to the United States.

”The tar sands issue is one of many ‘ground zero’ locations that Obama must navigate with courage if he is to deliver on his promise to lead the world to global warming solutions. Canada is betting its economic future on tar sands development. Tar sands are the key to the endless fossil future being envisaged by the oil juggernauts; and the lynchpin of the national energy security strategy put in place by Dick Cheney.

“It’s not anything [that] can be turned off entirely, but it can be limited; and unless Obama takes a stand to do so, the U.S. itself will fall like just another domino to the consequences of an insatiable addiction to oil: there will be no stopping tar sands development…” —David Sassoon,

What if Obama says “no” to tar sands oil? B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell and Harper are working on an escape plan—the pipelines of course! That’s right, pipe the tar sands oil and gas over the mountains and across B.C.—we can ship it to India and China if the USA won’t take it.

“The Enbridge project would carry more than a third of the tar sands’ current 1.4-million-barrel daily production. Producing those barrels would create 15 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year; burning that fuel would emit 60 million tonnes more…” —David Beers, The Globe & Mail

How is that a solution to climate change? Isn’t Campbell supposed to be some kind of environmental guru with his carbon tax and climate action plan? Actions speak louder then words. These pipelines mean that oil tanker traffic will be travelling down the precarious Inside Passage, through Hecate Strait and up Douglas Channel (where the Queen of the North sank), to Kitimat. When (not if) the inevitable oil spill(s) hit, at stake are pristine wilderness, critical habitat and cultural lands established long before our oil addiction began. Obama can say “yes” or “no” to the tar sands, but leaving it up to him will not solve our problems (and the tar sands are one of many).

Canadians see hope in what the new president has achieved in being elected, and what he is capable of achieving in office. Undoubtedly, Obama’s policy decisions will shape the future of North America’s economy and climate.

As young people, we can root and cheer for Obama all we want, but it is our apathy that in part has lead to where we are today. We need a leader of our own who inspires change and hope!

How can we use the energy and inspiration of Obama that is still fresh in our hearts and minds to take a stand in Canada? People that I’ve never seen interested in politics or picking sides, raised their voices and stood up for Obama—he has galvanized our county’s youth (something no Canadian politician in my memory has done). Now is the time for Canadians to demand a higher caliber of public servant—we need to earn an Obama of our own. We need to share our vision of a bright future—and demand it from our leaders.

Map of proposed Enbridge Pipeline, courtesy Dogwood InitiativeMap of proposed Enbridge Pipeline: Premier Campbell and Prime Minister Harper support infrastructure to pipe the tar sands oil and gas over the mountains and across B.C. so it can be shipped to India and China if the U.S. won’t take it. (Map courtesy of the Dogwood Initiative)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

7 Fixes from the Green Economy

Bold solutions from the green economy are the antidote to the broken economy—and can repair the damage and create a world that works for all.

Economy Everyone now understands that the economy is broken. What our members and readers have known for years— that the economy is not working for people and the planet—is now playing out on Wall Street and Main Street every day.

While many name the mortgage and credit-default-swap crises as culprits, they are only the most recent results of an economy with fatal design flaws. These design defects range from a dependence on growth, consumerism, and the structure of money to the short-term focus of today’s markets, and policy goals that are focused on growing Gross National Product. Yet, when GNP growth includes a whole set of “bads”—from sweatshop labor to manufacturing toxic chemicals—every dollar of GNP growth actually reduces wellbeing for people and the planet.

Taken together, these fatal flaws systematically create economic injustice, poverty, and environmental crises.

It doesn’t have to be that way. The green economy offers solutions that are the antidote to the current breakdown.

Green America members have been trailblazers for green economic solutions for years. We now have a teachable moment to be bold in stepping up with these solutions for long-term change toward sustainability—and helping people through tough times. Now these green economy solutions are more important than ever.

Simply put, we need to move from greed to green.

Here are seven green economy solutions to today’s economic mess.

1. Green Energy—Green Jobs
A crucial starting place to rejuvenate our economy is to focus on energy—for the sake of the economy and the environment. It is time to call in the superheroes of the green energy revolution—energy efficiency, solar and wind power, and plug-in hybrids—and put their synergies to work with rapid, largescale deployment. This is a powerful way to jumpstart the economy, energy independence, job creation (with jobs that can’t be outsourced), and the victory over the climate crisis. The five green-energy keys are rapid, large-scale deployment of:

• Energy efficiency—moving toward 50 percent savings in five years.

• Solar and wind—getting to an all-renewable electric grid.

• Plug-in electric hybrid vehicles (PHEVs)—getting to at least 20 percent of the US vehicle fleet in ten years.

• Smart grid—rebuilding our aging electric grid with a smart grid that makes it easy to scale up energy efficiency and renewables.

• New national and state electric utility regulation and building codes that make it easy to scale up with efficiency, renewables, and PHEVs.

This year, Green America is launching Project LEAP—our Low-carbon Energy Acceleration Plan—to show how to combine these superheroes for real economic prosperity, energy security, and 80–90 percent greenhouse gas reduction. We shared this with our allies on President Obama’s incoming team (along with our idea for the financing mechanism; see #2 below). But you don’t have to wait for Washington—use Green America resources to get started today:

• Guide to Efficiency First!
• Solar how-to articles, and interviews with the solar leaders of our Green Busienss Network™
Solar High Impact National Energy (SHINE) Plan. [PDF]
Utility Solar Assessment (USA) Study. [PDF]

2. Clean Energy Victory Bonds
How are we going to pay for this green energy revolution? Green America and our allies at Clean Edge propose Clean Energy Victory Bonds. Modeled after victory bonds in World War II, Americans would buy these bonds from the federal government to invest in large-scale deployment of green energy projects, with particular emphasis in low-income communities that are hardest hit by the broken economy. These would be long-term bonds, which would pay an annual interest rate, based in part on the energy and energy savings that the bonds generate. During WWII, Americans bought over $185 billion in bonds—that would be almost $2 trillion in today’s dollars.

Millions of people are looking for a way to help the country right now. During the townhall- style presidential debate, one person posed this question to the then-candidates: "What would you ask us to do?"

Green America’s answer: Invest in Clean Energy Victory Bonds so our country can start building the clean-energy infrastructure and get people to work in good, green jobs, right now.

Sign up for the Green America e-newsletter to help advance these and our other green energy policy measures all year long.

3. Reduce, Reuse, Rethink
Living lightly on the Earth, saving resources and money, reducing inequality, and sharing —jobs, property, ideas, and opportunities—are the principles crucial to restructuring our economy. This economic breakdown is, in part, due to living beyond our means—as a nation and, in too many cases, as individuals. With the enormous national and consumer debt weighing us down, we won’t be able to spend our way out of this economic problem. From planting gardens to conserving energy to swapping clothes to making gifts—these green economy basics will help us move to an economy that works for all.

As Dr. Juliet Schor, economist and author, puts it, “We’ve lost the ability to profitably ... grow our way out of recession. The usual kinds of consumer spending (cars, electronics, furniture, apparel, travel) degrade vital eco-systems and have an economic cost. Business-as-usual puts us deeper into an economic hole.”

Ultimately, we need an economy that’s not dependent on growth and consumerism. So it’s time to rethink living over-consumptive lifestyles, and turn to the principles of elegant simplicity—what Green Americans have known all along.

4. Go Green, Fair Trade, and Local
When we do buy, it is essential that those purchases shift from the conventional economy to the green and local economy—so that every dollar helps solve social and environmental problems, not create them. What we spend our money on—and refuse to buy—does matter. Expanding the green economy is fundamental to the transition to an economy that works for people and the planet. Moving dollars away from conventional agribusiness and toward supporting local workers and local, organic farmers creates more justice and sustainability.

Use the National Green Pages to make as many of your purchases as possible from the green economy. Turn to Green America all year long for ways to be intentional with your money—to help create a better economy with the choices you make every day.

5. Community Investing
All over the county, community investing banks, credit unions, and loan funds that serve hardhit communities are strong, while the biggest banks—from Washington Mutual to CitiGroup —required bailouts. The basic principles of community investing keep the community investing institutions strong: Lenders and borrowers know each other. Lenders invest in the success of their borrowers—with training and technical assistance along with loans. And the people who provide the capital to the lenders expect reasonable, not speculative, rates of return. If all banks followed these principles, the economy wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in today.

You can provide capital to community investing banks and credit unions—it’s as easy as opening a federally insured account. Check out the community investing section of our Web site to get started.

6. Shareowner Activism
When you own stock, you are a shareowner and have the right and responsibility to advise management to clean up its act. Had General Motors listened to its activist shareholders, it would have invested in the efficient and electric cars that would have prevented the need for a bailout from bankruptcy. Had CitiGroup listened to its activist shareowners, it would have steered clear of the faulty mortgage practices that brought it to its knees. Activist shareholders are key to reforming companies—from jumpstarting them on the energy revolution to addressing executive compensation to stopping the corruption created by corporate lobbying—for the transition to the new economy. Let’s up the ante.

7. Building Community
“Whatever the problem,” says Dr. Lynnaea Lumbard, psychologist and interfaith minister, “community is the answer.” Connected, resilient communities help people get through tough times—and celebrate during good times. Now is the time to get started. Get to know your neighbors. Do a neighborhood skills inventory—so people can help each other fix their roofs, repair their bikes, mend a torn coat—saving money and building community. Plan a community garden, a neighborhood garage sale, or clothing swap. Start a dinner or home improvement co-op. (Get more ideas and learn more here.)

The Time is Now
It looks like we have a huge opportunity on our hands—a global economic breakdown that is teaching us that we are all interdependent. There’s no “there” to escape to, so we all might as well figure out how to live together —and transition our economy to one that protects vulnerable people and our vulnerable planet. Stay tuned to Real Green all year long. We look forward to working with you on turning today’s problems into opportunities for a more just, sustainable, and joyful world.

Alisa Gravitz

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Money and the Crisis of Civilization

Charles Eisenstein

Suppose you give me a million dollars with the instructions, "Invest this profitably, and I'll pay you well." I'm a sharp dresser -- why not? So I go out onto the street and hand out stacks of bills to random passers-by. Ten thousand dollars each. In return, each scribbles out an IOU for $20,000, payable in five years. I come back to you and say, "Look at these IOUs! I have generated a 20% annual return on your investment." You are very pleased, and pay me an enormous commission.

Now I've got a big stack of IOUs, so I use these "assets" as collateral to borrow even more money, which I lend out to even more people, or sell them to others like myself who do the same. I also buy insurance to cover me in case the borrowers default -- and I pay for it with those self-same IOUs! Round and round it goes, each new loan becoming somebody's asset on which to borrow yet more money. We all rake in huge commissions and bonuses, as the total face value of all the assets we've created from that initial million dollars is now fifty times that.

Then one day, the first batch of IOUs comes due. But guess what? The person who scribbled his name on the IOU can't pay me back right now. In fact, lots of the borrowers can't. I try to hush this embarrassing fact up as long as possible, but pretty soon you get suspicious. You want your million dollars back -- in cash. I try to sell the IOUs and their derivatives that I hold, but everyone else is suspicious too, and no one buys them. The insurance company tries to cover my losses, but it can only do so by selling the IOUs I gave it!

So finally, the government steps in and buys the IOUs, bails out the insurance company and everyone else holding the IOUs and the derivatives stacked on them. Their total value is way more than a million dollars now. I and my fellow entrepreneurs retire with our lucre. Everyone else pays for it.

This is the first level of what has happened in the financial industry over the past decade. It is a huge transfer of wealth to the financial elite, to be funded by US taxpayers, foreign corporations and governments, and ultimately the foreign workers who subsidize US debt indirectly via the lower purchasing power of their wages. However, to see the current crisis as merely the result of a big con is to miss its true significance.

I think we all sense that we are nearing the end of an era. On the most superficial level, it is the era of unregulated casino-style financial manipulation that is ending. But the current efforts of the political elites to fix the crisis at this level will only reveal its deeper dimensions. In fact, the crisis goes "all the way to the bottom." It arises from the very nature of money and property in the world today, and it will persist and continue to intensify until money itself is transformed. A process centuries in the making is in its final stages of unfoldment.

Money as we know it today has crisis and collapse built into its basic design. That is because money seeks interest, bears interest, and indeed is born of interest. To see how this works, let's go back to some finance basics. Money is created when somebody takes out a loan from a bank (or more recently, a disguised loan from some other kind of institution). A debt is a promise to pay money in the future in order to buy something today; in other words, borrowing money is a form of delayed trading. I receive something now (bought with the money I borrowed) and agree to give something in the future (a good or service which I will sell for the money to pay back the debt). A bank or any other lender will ordinarily only agree to lend you money if there is a reasonable expectation you will pay it back; in other words, if there is a reasonable expectation you will produce goods or services of equivalent value. This "reasonable expectation" can be guaranteed in the form of collateral, or it can be encoded in one's credit rating.

Any time you use money, you are essentially guaranteeing "I have performed a service or provided a good of equivalent value to the one I am buying." If the money is borrowed money, you are saying that you will provide an equivalent good/service in the future.

Now enter interest. What motivates a bank to lend anyone money in the first place? It is interest. Interest drives the creation of money today. Any time money is created through debt, a need to create even more money in the future is also created. The amount of money must grow over time, which means that the volume of goods and services must grow over time as well.

If the volume of money grows faster than the volume of goods and services, the result is inflation. If it grows more slowly -- for example through a slowdown in lending -- the result is bankruptcies, recession, or deflation. The government can increase or decrease the supply of money in several ways. First, it can create money by borrowing it from the central bank, or in America, from the Federal Reserve. This money ends up as bank deposits, which in turn give banks more margin reserves on which to extend loans. You see, a bank's capacity to create money is limited by margin reserve requirements. Typically, a bank must hold cash (or central bank deposits) equal to about 10% of its total customer deposits. The other 90%, it can loan out, thus creating new money. This money ends up back in a bank as deposits, allowing another 81% of it (90% of 90%) to be lent out again. In this way, each dollar of initial deposits ends up as $9 of new money. Government spending of money borrowed from the central bank acts a seed for new money creation. (Of course, this depends on banks' willingness to lend! In a credit freeze such as happened this week, banks hoard excess reserves and the repeated injections of government money have little effect.)

Another way to increase the money supply is to lower margin reserve requirements. In practice this is rarely done, at least directly. However, in the last decade, various kinds of non-bank lending have skirted the margin reserve requirement, through the alphabet soup of financial instruments you've been hearing about in the news. The result is that each dollar of original equity has been leveraged not to nine times it original value, as in traditional banking, but to 70 times or even more. This has allowed returns on investment far beyond the 5% or so available from traditional banking, along with "compensation" packages beyond the dreams of avarice.

Each new dollar that is created comes with a new dollar of debt -- more than a dollar of debt, because of interest. The debt is eventually redeemed either with goods and services, or with more borrowed money, which in turn can be redeemed with yet more borrowed money... but eventually it will be used to buy goods and services. The interest has to come from somewhere. Borrowing more money to make the interest payments on an existing loan merely postpones the day of reckoning by deferring the need to create new goods and services.

The whole system of interest-bearing money works fine as long as the volume of goods and services exchanged for money keeps growing. The crisis we are seeing today is in part because new money has been created much faster than goods and services have, and much faster than has been historically sustainable. There are only two ways out of such a situation: inflation and bankruptcies. Each involve the destruction of money. The current convulsions of the financial and political elites basically come down to a futile attempt to prevent both. Their first concern is to prevent the evaporation of money through massive bankruptcies, because it is, after all, their money.

There is a much deeper crisis at work as well, a crisis in the creation of goods and services that underlies money to begin with, and it is this crisis that gave birth to the real estate bubble everyone blames for the current situation. To understand it, let's get clear on what constitutes a "good" or a "service." In economics, these terms refer to something that is exchanged for money. If I babysit your children for free, economists don't count it as a service. It cannot be used to pay a financial debt: I cannot go to the supermarket and say, "I watched my neighbor's kids this morning, so please give me food." But if I open a day care center and charge you money, I have created a "service." GDP rises and, according to economists, society has become wealthier.

The same is true if I cut down a forest and sell the timber. While it is still standing and inaccessible, it is not a good. It only becomes "good" when I build a logging road, hire labor, cut it down, and transport it to a buyer. I convert a forest to timber, a commodity, and GDP goes up. Similarly, if I create a new song and share it for free, GDP does not go up and society is not considered wealthier, but if I copyright it and sell it, it becomes a good. Or I can find a traditional society that uses herbs and shamanic techniques for healing, destroy their culture and make them dependent on pharmaceutical medicine which they must purchase, evict them from their land so they cannot be subsistence farmers and must buy food, clear the land and hire them on a banana plantation -- and I have made the world richer. I have brought various functions, relationships, and natural resources into the realm of money. In The Ascent of Humanity I describe this process in depth: the conversion of social capital, natural capital, cultural capital, and spiritual capital into money.

Essentially, for the economy to continue growing and for the (interest-based) money system to remain viable, more and more of nature and human relationship must be monetized. For example, thirty years ago most meals were prepared at home; today some two-thirds are prepared outside, in restaurants or supermarket delis. A once unpaid function, cooking, has become a "service". And we are the richer for it. Right?

Another major engine of economic growth over the last three decades, child care, has also made us richer. We are now relieved of the burden of caring for our own children. We pay experts instead, who can do it much more efficiently.

In ancient times entertainment was also a free, participatory function. Everyone played an instrument, sang, participated in drama. Even 75 years ago in America, every small town had its own marching band and baseball team. Now we pay for those services. The economy has grown. Hooray.

The crisis we are facing today arises from the fact that there is almost no more social, cultural, natural, and spiritual capital left to convert into money. Centuries, millennia of near-continuous money creation has left us so destitute that we have nothing left to sell. Our forests are damaged beyond repair, our soil depleted and washed into the sea, our fisheries fished out, the rejuvenating capacity of the earth to recycle our waste saturated. Our cultural treasury of songs and stories, images and icons, has been looted and copyrighted. Any clever phrase you can think of is already a trademarked slogan. Our very human relationships and abilities have been taken away from us and sold back, so that we are now dependent on strangers, and therefore on money, for things few humans ever paid for until recently: food, shelter, clothing, entertainment, child care, cooking. Life itself has become a consumer item. Today we sell away the last vestiges of our divine bequeathment: our health, the biosphere and genome, even our own minds. This is the process that is culminating in our age. It is almost complete, especially in America and the "developed" world. In the developing world there still remain people who live substantially in gift cultures, where natural and social wealth is not yet the subject of property. Globalization is the process of stripping away these assets, to feed the money machine's insatiable, existential need to grow. Yet this stripmining of other lands is running up against its limits too, both because there is almost nothing left to take, and because of growing pockets of effective resistance.

The result is that the supply of money -- and the corresponding volume of debt -- has for several decades outstripped the production of goods and services that it promises. It is deeply related to the classic problem of oversupply in capitalist economics. The Marxian crisis of capital can be deferred into the future as long as new, high-profit industries and markets can be developed to compensate for the vicious circle of falling profits, falling wages, depressed consumption, and overproduction in mature industries. The continuation of capitalism as we know it depends on an infinite supply of these new industries, which essentially must convert infinite new realms of social, natural, cultural, and spiritual capital into money. The problem is, these resources are finite, and the closer they come to exhaustion, the more painful their extraction becomes. Therefore, contemporaneous with the financial crisis we have an ecological crisis and a health crisis. They are intimately interlinked. We cannot convert much more of the earth into money, or much more of our health into money, before the basis of life itself is threatened.

Faced with the exhaustion of the non-monetized commonwealth that it consumes, financial capital has tried to delay the inevitable by cannibalizing itself. The dot-com bubble of the late 90s showed that the productive economy could not longer keep up with the growth of money. Lots of excess money was running around frantically, searching for a place where the promise of deferred goods and services could be redeemed. So, to postpone the inevitable crash, the Fed slashed interest rates and loosened monetary policy to allow old debts to be repaid with new debts (rather than real goods and services). The new financial goods and services that arose were phony, artifacts of deceptive accounting on a vast, systemic scale.

Obviously, the practice of borrowing new money to pay the principal and interest of old debts cannot last very long, but that is what the economy as a whole has done for ten years now. Unfortunately, simply stopping this practice isn't going to solve the underlying problem. A collapse is coming, unavoidably. The government's bailout plan will at best postpone it for a year or two (who knows, maybe until 2012!), long enough for the big players to move their money to a safe haven. They will discover, though, that there is no safe haven. As the US dollar loses its safe-haven status (which will happen all the more certainly when the government takes over Wall Street's bad debts), you can expect capital to chase various commodities in an inflationary surge before a deflationary depression takes hold. If a credit freeze overpowers the government's inflationary measures, depression will come all the sooner.

The present crisis is actually the final stage of what began in the 1930s. Successive solutions to the fundamental problem of keeping pace with money that expands with the rate of interest have been applied, and exhausted. The first effective solution was war, a state which has been permanent since 1940. Nuclear weapons and a shift in human consciousness have limited the solution of endless military escalation. Other solutions -- globalization, technology-enabled development of new goods and services to replace human functions never before commoditized, and technology-enabled plunder of natural resources once off limits, and finally financial auto-cannibalism -- have similarly run their course. Unless there are realms of wealth I have not considered, and new depths of poverty, misery, and alienation to which we might plunge, the inevitable cannot be delayed much longer.

In the face of the impending crisis, people often ask what they can do to protect themselves. "Buy gold? Stockpile canned goods? Build a fortified compound in a remote area? What should I do?" I would like to suggest a different kind of question: "What is the most beautiful thing I can do?" You see, the gathering crisis presents a tremendous opportunity. Deflation, the destruction of money, is only a categorical evil if the creation of money is a categorical good. However, you can see from the examples I have given that the creation of money has in many ways impoverished us all. Conversely, the destruction of money has the potential to enrich us. It offers the opportunity to reclaim parts of the lost commonwealth from the realm of money and property.

We actually see this happening every time there is an economic recession. People can no longer pay for various goods and services, and so have to rely on friends and neighbors instead. Where there is no money to facilitate transactions, gift economies reemerge and new kinds of money are created. Ordinarily, though, people and institutions fight tooth and nail to prevent that from happening. The habitual first response to economic crisis is to make and keep more money -- to accelerate the conversion of anything you can into money. On a systemic level, the debt surge is generating enormous pressure to extend the commodification of the commonwealth. We can see this happening with the calls to drill for oil in Alaska, commence deep-sea drilling, and so on. The time is here, though, for the reverse process to begin in earnest -- to remove things from the realm of goods and services, and return them to the realm of gifts, reciprocity, self-sufficiency, and community sharing. Note well: this is going to happen anyway in the wake of a currency collapse, as people lose their jobs or become too poor to buy things. People will help each other and real communities will reemerge.

In the meantime, anything we do to protect some natural or social resource from conversion into money will both hasten the collapse and mitigate its severity. Any forest you save from development, any road you stop, any cooperative playgroup you establish; anyone you teach to heal themselves, or to build their own house, cook their own food, make their own clothes; any wealth you create or add to the public domain; anything you render off-limits to the world-devouring machine, will help shorten the Machine's lifespan. Think of it this way: if you already do not depend on money for some portion of life's necessities and pleasures, then the collapse of money will pose much less of a harsh transition for you. The same applies to the social level. Any network or community or social institution that is not a vehicle for the conversion of life into money will sustain and enrich life after money.

In previous essays I have described alternative money systems, based on mutual credit and demurrage, that do not drive the conversion of all that is good, true, and beautiful into money. These enact a fundamentally different human identity, a fundamentally different sense of self, from what dominates today. No more will it be true that more for me is less for you. On a personal level, the deepest possible revolution we can enact is a revolution in our sense of self, in our identity. The discrete and separate self of Descartes and Adam Smith has run its course and is becoming obsolete. We are realizing our own inseparateness, from each other and from the totality of all life. Interest denies this union, for it seeks growth of the separate self and the expense of something external, something other. Probably everyone reading this essay agrees with the principles of interconnectedness, whether from a Buddhistic or an ecological perspective. The time has come to live it. It is time to enter the spirit of the gift, which embodies the felt understanding of non-separation. It is becoming abundantly obvious that less for you (in all its dimensions) is also less for me. The ideology of perpetual gain has brought us to a state of poverty so destitute that we are gasping for air. That ideology, and the civilization built upon it, is what is collapsing today.

Individually and collectively, anything we do to resist or postpone the collapse will only make it worse. So stop resisting the revolution in human beingness. If you want to survive the multiple crises unfolding today, do not seek to survive them. That is the mindset of separation; that is resistance, a clinging to a dying past. Instead, allow your perspective to shift toward reunion, and think in terms of what you can give. What can you contribute to a more beautiful world? That is your only responsibility and your only security. The gifts you need to survive and enjoy will come to you easily, because what you do to the world, you do to yourself.