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David Livingston
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Location: Anjou ,France
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Hi Elizabeth and Eric

Do you think that the present finantial system is sustainable and what should we be doing to promote alternatives ?
For instance do we need a new definition of growth ?
Should people accept a new standard of living based on being comfortable rather than how long it is since they had a new car?.
Is being wealthy more a state of mind ?
Should we all also be consumers who act ethically not just go for the cheapest thing as they say here in France we should be consomactors ?


David

Anjou , France

( and a real socialist )

 
Eric Toensmeier
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Hi David, I'd say the economic system is clearly not sustainable but aspects of the financial system certainly are much more so - that's really Elizabeth's department. There appears to be no way out of the climate crisis without a substantial decrease in unnecessary consumption by residents of the wealthy countries. And while you can't shop your way to the revolution, being thoughtful about what we buy when we have the resource to do so can clearly make a big difference. Eric
 
Elizabeth Ü
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Location: Bolinas, CA
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Ah... this is a juicy one!

First of all, a few thoughts on language:

--Confession: I have no idea what a "consomactor" is. Phew, glad we got that out of the way... perhaps it means something along the lines of "voting with your dollars?" I have long bemoaned the term "consumer" because that title fails to recognize all the other things that one does beyond just eat (if we're talking about a food system) or buy (if we're talking about the economy in more general terms). If I'm ever at a conference or reading an article and someone refers to me as a "consumer," I tend to bristle... I prefer to think of myself as an engaged citizen, with a range of responsibilities and roles far beyond my capacity to consume.

--The word "sustainable" means any number of things, depending on who is saying the word, so I like to be specific there, too. In the more traditional business world, "sustainable" usually just means that the thing in question will keep on going... as in the business will still be there, you will continue to earn great returns on your investments, etc. I suspect you mean something more comprehensive, that includes attention not only to business bottom lines but also the ecosystem and communities within which these ventures operate?

--And my oh my... let's dig into SHOULD a bit. I prefer not to attempt to answer what anyone "should" do, because to assume that I know the answer would be to assume that I know far more than I believe I, or anyone really, ever can know, and how anyone will answer for themselves will depend on a great number of factors. In response to "what SHOULD I (or anyone) do?" questions, I will tend to respond with more questions: What is the outcome you are most interested in achieving? What is your unique realm of influence? What is it that you feel called to do about the situation? What are you passionate about, and love doing? In just the same way that we're gonna need a biodiversity of food species to get us through whatever climate weirdness is coming (and in many ways, already here!), we're going to need a biodiversity of roles and activities to get us where we want to go, and I don't make any assumptions about where that might be for anyone.

Now, some actual answers to a couple of your questions, at least: (and I love what Eric wrote: Yes! Needing -- and buying -- less is a very important piece of the puzzle, and connected to your question here about wealth!)

From my perspective, the present financial system is a wonderful mix of approaches that range all over the spectrum of, on one side, some really entrenched models that don't necessarily fit with some of the more interesting and innovative ways to solving social and environmental problems, and that often serve to perpetuate some rather frightening (to me) ecological and social trends... and on the other side of the spectrum, it includes some really innovative and exciting models that have been designed by people who are trying to democratize both the ability to invest in small, values-based ventures AND raise money for them.

My particular approach to helping people who want to invest OR raise money for their ecologically- and socially-restorative projects has been to illuminate the full range of existing options so that people can make informed decisions about how they want to engage... IN THE CURRENT SYSTEM, with the various options available, depending upon how the various fundraising tools match with their unique values and situations.

Often, in the case of some of the more traditional, entrenched financing structures, I end up helping people understand potential pitfalls so that they can use these tools to their advantage, rather than ending up going down a slippery slope with potentially adverse results... based on their goals. In the case of the newfangled options, my work often involves revealing that these techniques exist at all, and then helping determine a good match.

So that's mostly where I'm coming from. Many other people are also involved in creating the new investing / fundraising models, or changing the laws around what's possible, or increasing financial literacy and providing business training so that people are better able to access the full range of financial opportunities, or creating new types of business entity structures that can take a wider range of stakeholders into account...

As far as redefining growth... I'd ask first why we care about growth at all before attempting to redefine it... the obsession with exponential growth forever (whether we're talking about economic growth, farm output, or even spiritual growth) sounds a lot like cancer to me... though I like where I think you're going with that question, say more? I suspect it's connected to your question about wealth. Such great questions, and so exciting to start busting up some assumptions...

Regarding what we "should" buy or support with our dollars, it feels important to say that if we are in a position to make choices to spend more in order to shop according to our values -- whatever they might be -- then we are in a privileged position. And because of our current economic state, many people are not in a position to make such choices. I usually choose to shop according to my values, and sometimes I choose to let that "job" slide a bit because I'm focusing my efforts on other priorities. There are so many ways to be part of the solution!

.......I have probably revealed quite plainly that I'm not exactly a revolutionary. I think of myself more as a guide to options that exist, now, for people who want to get something done (start a farm, a small business, an art project, etc) that will, by their estimation, make the world a better place.

Thanks for letting me dig into some of your questions!

Elizabeth
 
David Livingston
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Ah Elizabeth
I did think of asking could you lend me 100€ but felt that would be too easy .
A consomactor is a french portmanto word . Thats a word made up by joining two other words together as Eric summised its spending and investing ethically . Basically what I was trying to ask in an indirect way was do you agree with me that people both spend and invest ethically and by this I think of as locally , sustainably and by this I mean organically in order to promote change . Do you see yourself as part of this possible change?

David
 
Elizabeth Ü
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Hi David,

people absolutely can -- and many do! -- spend and/or invest ethically / sustainably / according to their values / locally / organically / insert-the-buzzword-of-the-day-here ...as a way to promote change. So it sounds like we're in agreement there

FYI for people who are interested: the latest term/lingo/buzzword that relates to INVESTING with an attempt to create some positive change is "impact investing" so if you want to Google that up you'll find all sorts of organizations and resources...

As far as whether or not I see myself as part of this movement, I've been rolling my sleeves up in this realm (primarily as it relates to raising money and investing, not necessarily spending... though you can't buy products that don't exist for lack of funding to create them, so it's all connected, ha!) for the last decade through my work with the following organizations, all of which people interested in these topics might want to check out:
--Slow Money is perhaps the most relevant to the Permies.com audience, and to you personally, given the Slow Money work that's happening in France:
Inspired by Woody Tasch's book Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing As If Food, Farms and Fertility Mattered, published in 2009, the Slow Money Alliance is bringing people together around a new conversation about money that is too fast, about finance that is disconnected from people and place, about how we can begin fixing our economy from the ground up... starting with food.

Through Slow Money national gatherings, regional events and local activities, more than $35 million has been invested in over 300 small food enterprises around the United States since mid-2010. Nineteen local Slow Money chapters and 10 investment clubs have formed. Slow Money events have attracted thousands of people from 36 states and 9 countries. Over 34,000 people have signed the Slow Money Principles. The first international Slow Money investment—a $20,000 loan to a solar dairy in Switzerland—has been made. Slow Money France is in the early stages of organizing, and inquiries about chapter formation have been received from Canada, Australia and Japan.


And:
--Investors' Circle is the oldest, largest and most successful early-stage impact investing network. Together with hundreds of angels, venture capitalists, foundations and family offices, we have propelled $172 million plus $4 billion in follow on investment into 271 enterprises dedicated to improving the environment, education, health and community.
--The Business Alliance for Local Living Econonies (BALLE): By connecting leaders, spreading solutions, and attracting investment toward local economies, BALLE advances the Localist Movement to create real prosperity for all.
--RSF Social Finance (formerly the Rudolf Steiner Foundation) exists for the purpose "to transform the way the world works with money." Pretty inspiring! Here are their values:
Spirit… The primary role of money is to serve the highest intentions of the human spirit.
Trust… People are best served by financial transactions that are direct, transparent, and personal, based on long-term relationships.
Interdependence… Economic success will be defined by social and ecological impact, not by financial results alone.
Community… Networks and associations will be increasingly important in the circulation of money.
Innovation… A deeply entrepreneurial culture is required to generate breakthrough ideas at the intersection of social change and finance.
Equality… All those seeking to align their values with their money will have access to opportunities for investing, lending, and giving.


 
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