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jesse tack
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Location: SE Michigan, Zone 5
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I am interested in the Corporate and Legal aspects of whole-systems design. We cannot have a whole-system, in today's world, without considering the legal protections and the personal protections that the legal entity 'Corporation' affords. Nor can we ignore the language of law.

IMHO, both of this institutions are ripe for transformation from within. I wonder what you all think of establishing hundreds and thousands of local permaculture corporations in America? Of course, these are based on the ethics of permaculture. 

A more specific question is this, are there any permaculture informed lawyers on this forum or otherwise?

Heres a thought; since corporations are immortal entities, can we legally tie land, old-growth trees, or whole ecological systems to the corporate entity, thereby protecting land indefinitely?

Im thinking generational legal protection of land, water, trees, etc until such times come where greed has been reigned in and people live in local natural systems again. 
 
Tyler Ludens
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There is already the legal form of the land trust to protect land "in perpetuity."


http://www.landtrustalliance.org/



If folks want to form corporations or land trusts, I say go for it. 

 
Paul Cereghino
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Mollison has some difficult to decipher discussion of trust structures, and references the Mondragon cooperatives (Basques in Spain), as one example of building community assets using layers of trusts... all in his Chapter 14 of the design manual... worth rereading again and again.

I think from a design perspective, the biggest challege in developing trusts is... well... trust.  The two things that any good design will need to work around is transience, and governance (defining the structure and sovereignty).  The fact that destructive economies are less and less able to show return on investment is likely a 'problem is solution' situation.


 
Tyler Ludens
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In the US, the biggest barrier to forming trusts and corporations is probably the $$$ that tends to have to go to lawyers. 
 
Jonathan Byron
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Not sure if a lawyer needs to have much background in permaculture ... wills, trusts, contracts, corporations, member owned cooperatives, covenants/creeds/restrictions,  etc ... all of these are flexible enough to accommodate permaculture goals.
 
                                
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In the US corporations and LLCs can be formed easily without a lawyer. Over the years I have formed half a dozen of them on my own and then sold or disbanded them. Most states now have online forms for forming these entities. There are many good books on the subject and I see no reason to pay a lawyer a lot of money for some paperwork. The LLC in particular is a good vehicle for sharing ownership and responsibility and affords the most liability protection available.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Is an LLC an appropriate form for protecting land "in perpetuity"?

 
Paul Cereghino
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The funny thing is that ultimately some group of PEOPLE need to protect something in perpetuity... so you need some kind of succession planning.  Typically a board of trustees with bylaws and checks and balances (perhaps a 3rd party holding an easement.  Then the trustees need the assets to protect the property right should someone obtain the title or lease to the land and not want to maintain the purpose. 

This brings you back to checks and balances in the governance of the land (a governance systems question) or hoping for family stability (the prayer of private stewardship).

Basically one game plan is to so divide the authority to destroy the land... a trust holds title, another trust owns development rights, and a third party has a stewardship lease... that no-one can pull it off.  A LLC could play a role in a land preservation system, but you would still need to solve the succession problem, as a LLC is tied to specific living people.
 
Tony Elswick
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ive been plugged into the idea of creating a permaculture based trust and being a managing trustee to hire permaculturalists to evaluate for profit closed loop start up businesses.  I would like to start a site that would allow people to join this trust for work related reasons, permaculture management and biological resource engineering, land use restrictions and legal frameworks around zoning requirements.  I would like to have a social network based on members to this trust and after a long period of developing properties on the trust with PR I could start a time-share program between estates for members of the trust and future holding member which will verify in their will that in the future they will devise such properties to the permaculture trust.

 
Tony Elswick
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great comment!!! this is what I am using to design the trust I will be forming when I graduate law school!! I am happy others have come to this conclusion!! A time-share program on a trust would be awesome too for educational purposes eventually... to live and work with all bio-regions on the trust... I think this is the first blog where like-minds in America are talking about trusts in the form of permaculture... this is the best day EVER!!!
 
jesse tack
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the trust idea is a great idea and the 'problem' of succession is indeed the problem.

its nice to see this discussion being had. 

my thinking in having permaculture versed lawyers is that that could help LLC's or S-Corp's whom are acting in the interests of the ecological health and stability of any given site work the language of the law into linking the corporate mandates, as written in the By-Laws, to the land. 

it is a well known fact that lawyers are the bridgekeepers of the law. we can use this to the advantage of individual trees that we want to become old-growth trees, perhaps that is what our corporation does... so now there is currently no legal structure or precedent, as far as my limited knowledge goes, that creates legal contracts through the corporate entity that protects said trees indefinitely.

but if that is what our corporation does, is manage, conserving and preserving old-growth trees, as well as other forms of agroforestry, and we are legally bound to our corporate by-laws, then it stands to reason that we need lawyers to navigate the legal language that can link an ecological element, to the corporation, which is immortal.


so are they're any lawyers out there on this forum? lend us your thoughts...


 
osker brown
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Location: Southern Appalachia
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Where do land trusts fit into this conversation?  From what I can tell, a conservation easement should outline and ensure the protection of some aspects of a piece of land, but how useful is that?  The initial impression I have of my local Conservation Land Trusts is that they are trying to segregate wild spaces from human activity, whereas my goal is to integrate those.  Are they going to take issue with thinning out a forest and planting hybrid chestnuts?  Could the easement be written to accommodate that sort of thing?  I guess I need to start a conversation with them.

Thanks for this topic

peace



 
Tyler Ludens
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A land trust can be formed which protects land for a particular kind of activity, such as agriculture.

A famous example is Fairview Gardens which is protected under the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County.

"The conservation easement was designed to protect the land in perpetuity. Unlike most "open space" easements, ours is based on active use, requiring that the land must always remain a working organic farm and that the education work must continue under the nonprofit organization, officially named the Center for Urban Agriculture. "

http://www.fairviewgardens.org/who_land.html
 
Tony Elswick
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if you want to start a trust, start a charitable trust with you as the acting trustee.  The trustee has the power of the revoking or changing a trust, and a charitable trust can be for profit. The settlor creates the trust, the trustee manages the trust.

Trustees can delegate power to an "Agent"... in other words... as a Trustee I can give power over certain equities in the trust to an entreprenuer in locale A to develop sustainable practices, but I retain the managing authority over the scheme of the trust.

Irrevocable trusts are extremely flexible and you'll find that a charitable trust will get you more land, avoid probate, and reduce costs to governments and creditors alike.

Trustee’s power to adjust – 738.104
• Trustee can adjust b/w principal and income if managing as prudent investor
• Must consider:
o Nature of trust
o Intent of grantor
o Identity and circumstances of Bs
o Need to liquidity, production of income and appreciation of capital
o Nature of the assets in trust
o Net amount
o Economic conditions
o tax


Requirements for Valid Trust – 736.0403
• 1. Intent
o required – intent to have one person hold property for benefit of another
o words “trust” and “trustee” not required, nor is language showing grant
 A) Precatory language – language showing mere wish (as opposed to commanding trust relationship) doesn’t create trust.
 B) attempt to great gift doesn’t create trust (difference b/w two: no enforceable duties created by gift

• 2. Beneficiaries
o Must be designated specifically enough so that trustee can at least know who is not included. “my  friends” not specific enough. “my family” might be
 Animals are valid

• 3. No writing required
o exceptions – land, testamentary trust – must comply with statute of frauds
o oral trusts (736.0407) – OK if established by clear and convincing evidence
 
Tony Elswick
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what is the problem with succession?
 
jesse tack
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Location: SE Michigan, Zone 5
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the problem of succession is what happens when i die, or my direct successors die and the trust or corporate entity that protected, conserved and remediated the land/old-growth trees has now moved through a few generations?

i keep thinking of a corporation that, as mandated through their by-laws, assumes stewardship over old-growth trees. these trees might live to be 1000 years old, so what is the legal mechanism that prevents the trees from being destroyed, manipulated, or undermined for that length of time?

i do not know enough about trusts to say one way or the other...perhaps this is the mechanism.

 
Tony Elswick
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the best legal mechanism I can see has to be private, not bureaucratic, so I think the best way is through a charitable trust that has for profit management programs set up by the trustees agents... this is all there is to it... the problem is just accruing property and people
 
Paul Cereghino
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@PCRep. What are the specific advantages of the cheritable trust compared to the other trust models?  If you model is purely private with you as sovereign, wouldn't that reduce the interest of others in 'accruing' to you their property and sovereignty?

Depends what you mean by 'bureaucratic' which is not necessarily the antithesis of 'private' -- plenty of private entities have division of roles in complex organizations.  It comes with scale.  "Public" is also a matter of scale... a farmers cooperative is edging towards a "public" organization.  I am of the opinion that we must govern ourselves in groups no matter the label.

It might be useful to apply PC design principles.  Each function should be served by multiple elements, each element serves multiple functions.  PC is a system of functional design, form follows function, design from pattern to detail.  What is the essential pattern we are trying to achieve?

Here's my list:

* The lure of degrading extraction is supressed in favor of building biological capital
* People with strong and beneficial relationship to the land live on the land.
* The legal structure protects the people living on the land from undue taxation
* The structure allows the public to value the land and compensate the stewards for provision of ecosystem goods and services (hydrology, carbon sequestration, etc..)
* The structure leverages the acquisition of more land over time.
* The structure maintains a highly functioning scale of self-government over the land.
* The structure is more efficient at achieving these goals than a private venture by whole system design. 

These goals might be different among different people in this conversation.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Paul Cereghino wrote:
  If your model is purely private with you as sovereign, wouldn't that reduce the interest of others in 'accruing' to you their property and sovereignty?


Paul W. seems to be doing pretty well (in theory) attracting people to his dictatorship.    Maybe PermaRep has that same model in mind? 
 
Paul Cereghino
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If I am evicted from the kingdom of Paul W. my personal assets don't substantially change.  It is very flexible and mutually beneficial with very low committment--that low committment is why virtual community is so easy and Permaculture more difficult.  The a majority of my assets are tied into land ownership.  I would not, for example, deed my land to Paul upon request.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Tony Elswick
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there is no reason to just give people your land... so If I am an acting trustee I can use for profit schemes to grow the trust and delegate duties to manage subsections of the trusts to benefeciaries who want to become agents of the trust... these duties can be for profit.  

I am not trying to become a central economic planner using a trust... actually just the opposite, because all the money to grow a trust has to go back into the trust by law.

If I can start up a side business sustainably growing morels in Washington and I decide to, when I die, give such property to the trust... I then can get money from the trust to start the business... I then am an acting agent to the trust.

all the money I make is in trust, and the profits can stay local, in the trust, in the business program accompanied with the trust... the only difference between a trust and a bank is the portion of income that goes back into growing the trust will stay in the trust and not be loaned out as debt... so in other words, there is a way to turn a trust into a bank.. but a sustainable one that does not feast on insolvency.


one need incentives to give their equities to a trust, so if the trust allows for profit start ups to use trust funds by beneficiaries to make money for themselves, then they are more likely to make an agreement with the trustee to will to the trust a certain portion of their estate as consideration for the initial trust capital.

with enough PR this trust could be advertised on permies and offered to anyone who wants to bring a business model to the managers of the trust... which could be a separate social network.
 
Tony Elswick
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If I were the managing trustee I could not become a wealthy dictator over the benefeciaries... actually I have the following duties:

duty of loyalty- must be administered solely through interests of beneficiaries.
duty of prudence- objective standard when evaluating;
duty of impartiality- must balance benefeciaries who seek high yields now with beneficiaries with remainderpersons who want appreciation in values (THIS ONE IS KEY)
duty not to commingle- with trustee property
duty to inform and account- must keep all provisions transparent at all times.

a person who violates this fiduciary duty faces exclusion from trust, denied compensation from trust, and personal liability from benefeciaries.

 
Tony Elswick
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is it forces all parties to be cost-efficient... otherwise it would be a bank just loaning out god knows what for whatever malinvestment that proceeds from infinite credit...


this is a way to apply wholistic economics outside the commercial structure and still allow for market incentives to take effect.

honestly, this will work.. I wish I was a lawyer already so I could write this bad boy up and work on it... why cant somebody just be rich and do this already
 
jesse tack
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In general wealth and people with wealth need to begin funding permaculture and whole-systems design's on a much larger scale. Nader's recent book "Only the Super Rich Can Save Us" kind of gets to that point but minus the permaculture.

Its easy to imagine a 1 million dollar a year budget for remediation, food production, or agroforestry works in, say Michigan. The work that could get done on that budget could be immense, and thats 1 million bucks, not exactly a lot in this world.

I see no reason that private wealth should not subsidize remedition works the same way that public monies subsidize tech ventures, military R&, etc.

The money and the need are both there.

 
Tony Elswick
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I originally thought being a lawyer and a permaculturist would be ironic, but then I realized they're the same thing... manifest destiny anybody? bear with me...

a permaculturist engineers microsystems of design to sustain their property. Once a local ISSUE is spotted in that microsystem it is time to go into the wild zone of the property to observe RULES of nature to bring back home and ANALYZE ...the rules in a way to bring about the most equitable local CONCLUSION.

a lawyer engineers local jurisdictions of design to sustain the judicial economy. Once a local ISSUE is spotted a lawyer will look at the RULE of the majority of states and bring the rule back home and ANALYZE it in a way that fits the local jurisdiction and CONCLUDE with the most equitable local decision.

all the capital letters represent IRACing which is how one learns legal writing in law school.

so what permaculturist are to the ecosystem lawyers are to the judicial economy system, I feel like I am walking a tight rope between two paradigms... I think when the time comes to fall I will lean to the side of permaculture.

thanks for reading...T
 
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