The Evolution of Money:

GEN ́s Role and the Proposed Ecovillage Exchange System

GEN could become the place to conceive a new paradigm of money. Jamie Brown (agent of Biomimicry in Switzerland), and Matthew Slater (an economy specialist), share about the background and proposal to create an exchange system of Ecovillages, and launch it at the July 2015 Ecovillage Summit at Findhorn, Scotland.

Background: Why GEN Feels Poor

Our money system is at the point of an evolutionary phase-change resembling the natural completion of a youthful growth period. Our global system of credit-money (or more truly “debt- money”), has developed over the last 300 years, as banks extended credit to any project promising expansion. This form of money originates as a debt that earns compound interest until it is paid off; at which point it disappears back into the virtual money system.

By its own logic, credit-money attaches to the real economy only where expectations of real growth can keep up with its exponential growth demand. This was possible for a time, and so the system expanded through real economic activities and accompanying advances in human technology to the point where it now encompasses most of the global economy. Partly as a result of this, the system has reached its mathematical limits in the real world.

No form of growth - let alone the exponential kind - lasts forever in Nature. Similarly, once real growth lags behind the compounding interest of the credit-money supply, the system’s logic de-couples it from the real economy in favour of moving into it into the virtual reality: the only realm where exponential growth can last forever. This is indicated now by a financial derivatives trade that has been valued as high as 20 times the GDP of the entire world!

Credit-money has been losing interest (literally), in the real economy, de-coupling from it and leaving behind a monetary vacuum. This is the big-picture, systemic explanation for why the global ecovillages community struggles to access financial resources. As the established system “loses touch” with reality (so to speak), the real world – by default – transitions to whatever will be the next money paradigm to follow. GEN is now in that process.

The Next Evolution of Money and GEN's Role

The financial system helped humanity become a global species. It remains a leading technology for coordinating activities and practical applications of purpose by the human collective. The current permutation of money has reached the natural end of its usefulness, however, because expansion is no longer an appropriate premise for the further evolution of our species.

The ongoing breakdown of the credit-money system, and the multifaceted chaos generated in the process, create both the space and the need for designing its replacement. This is an evolutionary “knothole” demanding the introduction of new innovations in financial architecture. It is also an epic opportunity to re-design money and with it, the shape of the economy.

So, what should the design framework be for the next evolution of money?

In a healthy society, economy follows ecology, and education precedes them both. The real economy begins with the natural world because we are all organisms. Humanity is a biological system, the latest organ on the planetary body of Life; and so the most credible definition of a sustainable economy is an extension of ecology; where human and natural system designs flow together seamlessly. How can we make our financial system a component organ of a single living whole that fits in seamlessly with Life’s design?

GEN is, in my opinion, a natural place to conceive this next paradigm of money. Natural systems are built 'from the bottom up', and only exist in the context of their relationships to the smaller systems within them, their peer systems in community, and the larger systems of which they are a part.

The financial system that can function as an organ in support of the planetary body will be rooted, therefore, in living communities that include both human society as well as a broader network of life. In the modern economy, this is what the ecovillages model.

Proposed Ecovillage Exchange System -  Matthew Slater

The discussion about whether, and how, to have a formal system for villages to exchange goods and services has been batted around for a long time. An inter-village discussion in Damanhur three years ago, yielded some insights. For example, it was realised that in practice most ecovillages have very little to exchange, and that they are too far apart to share food, yet there is a lot of knowledge exchange happening in the form of training. However no concrete action has yet been taken.

Recently however, the toxicity of global money/debt, and the damage it does to humans and ecosystems, is on more and more lips. At Green Phoenix this year, Jamie Brown explained how money systems could be designed to mimic biological systems. This talk provided the momentum to pick up the thread and now GEN International wants to push ahead and set up an accounting system:

- to facilitate more of the visits, trainings & internships already happening between villages,

- because once we realise that we have a mutual credit facility, we should find other uses for it,

- because other solidarity movements may be able to connect to ecovillages through credit,

- to enable stronger ties with the global south.

There will be a small design workshop at Damanhur this March with a view to a small launch at the GEN 2020 conference in Findhorn in July. Design questions that need to be answered are:

  • What should be the unit of value?
  • How would payments be made e.g. cash, web, phone etc?
  • Who would have the privilege of issuing credit / money, and how do we decide how much?


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