Report from the “Future of Money” seminar

Missed the seminar? Take a look at the flier.


Future of Money – Narara Ecovillage Sat 5/9/15

John Seed and John Shiel, Narara Ecovillage

Around 40 people attended the Future of Money seminar and workshop at Narara Ecovillage on Saturday 5/9/15. See Jonathan Dawson’s video here along with Tony Hester photos, and presentations from from Shann Turnbull, John Shiel and John Talbot.

John Shiel introduced the day with a quick summary of the financial turmoil around the world, and how capitalism does not recognise natural limits such as the reproductive rate of fish (he pointed out we are reaching tipping points like now eating more farmed fish than wildfish). He also mentioned Steady State Environmental Economist Herman Daly’s observation that you can’t increase the fish take by buying more fishing boats; it depends primarily on maintaining the sustainable natural fish cycles to replenish the stocks and this we are failing to do.

The first keynote talk was from Dr Shann Turnbull who described interesting ways to create future sustainable communities, including preventing public corporations from holding assets indefinitely, stopping windfall land gains created from public infrastructure money ending up in the pockets of developers, and a negative interest local currency tied to the value of local sunlight (kWh).

Jonathon Dawson got up at 3am in the UK to speak to us over Skype, projected onto a screen

Both keynote speakers emphasised the dysfunctions in the design of the current money system and the need to change with inspiring examples from around the world where communities had devised alternatives.

One example recounted by Jonathon Dawson was the fascinating story of the city Curitiba in Brazil, where the poor 90% of the people live in the mountainous favela slums, too steep for the city’s garbage trucks to get to, leading to rat problems, significant health issues including cholera. The local government in this poor part of the country didn’t have money so the city persuaded the slum-dwellers to carry rubbish down to the bottom of the hillsides where the garbage trucks can reach by paying them in tickets on the good public bus system which had spare capacity. These tickets are valuable as many people have to travel into the middle of the city to work. Meanwhile they set up systems to separate the waste into different streams like compost which goes to create community gardens. Jonathon described a whole ecosystem of mutually reinforcing enterprises generating abundance, good health, transport, many other activities with minimum need for money and posed the question: how do we link spare capacity with unmet needs in our societies?

John Shiel spoke about 3 local currencies:

  • PermaBucks used as to create Permaculture gardens during PermaBlitzes (a group of people building an edible garden in a single day), achieved when a member of Permaculture Hunter works for the club or on other people’s gardens for 6 days.
  • HANDS – How About No Dollar System – a strong local currency used at Golden Bay bioregion in NZ which kept the economy going during a recession that stopped education programs elsewhere in the country
  • Chiemgauer – a very strong German bioregional local currency that has a Velocity (the number of times that an amount is spent per year) about 3 times faster than the Euro. This achieves a very effective way to speed up money circulation (where there is a credit squeeze in the EU in general) by charging a regular fee each month that you hold the money (called demurrage, pronounced like “de-mirage”, or a negative interest currency), so that if you are holding Chiemgauers and Euros, you would spend the Chiemgauers first, since they lose value faster.

Deborah Bagot from Central Coast Local Energy Trading Scheme (LETS) explained how her own local currency worked.

Nicole Molyneux from Hunter LETS explained how her local currency operated

John Talbot spoke about Findhorn’s Ekopia Resource Exchange, a community benefit co-operative, and how it was used to finance millions of pounds of green investments.


The day ended with a two hour workshop where the seminar split into 4 different groups: Renters, Under 35’s, Retirees and Business. Then each group explored the likely impacts of another GFC on their constituency and solutions were explored and debated. Some great ideas came from the broad-ranging general discussion afterwards, especially with where the different groups could work to help each other eg. retirees might have a spare bedroom to rent out cheaply as rents are rising, and many decided to continue the conversation in the coming months

Good ideas inspired from the keynote talks that those present wished to pursue further included:

. Gradually gather a list of Central Coast community based assets and needs, including skills,

natural resources, unused/underutilised items, and present these on a Google map.

. Consider ways to for local businesses and suppliers to learn more about each other’s products and services. This would help to stop the “leaking” of money out of the local economy with importation, and begin to create more local jobs.

. Investigate land stewardship options which would result in much more affordable housing

John Seed presented a report about the seminar to Central Coast Permaculture on Tuesday 15th and CCP agreed that this conversation and action arising from the seminar could continue in the form of  a Permaculture Central Coast sub-group – as per  Ch 14 of the Permaculture Manual (Strategies of an Alternative Nation). This may be called “Bioregional Ethical Finance and Livelihood”.