Fair Green Money

Feasta’s Money group is heavily influenced by the thinking of the late Richard Douthwaite (economist and co-founder of Feasta) particularly as developed in his book The Ecology of Money. It believes that the fact that conventional money is issued as a debt means that economies have to grow continually if the financial system is to remain viable. This continual growth is clearly unsustainable and so the group, in collaboration with partners in Ireland and abroad, has been exploring ways in which money can be put into circulation without anyone needing to borrow it first.

A second, but equally important, focus of the group stems from our belief that borrowing to buy a house or to finance a business will prove disastrous for both parties if incomes shrink as energy supplies contract as a result of resource limits – such as difficulty in accessing high-quality oil – and the intermittent (and relatively inefficient) nature of renewable energy. We have therefore been exploring new ways of providing finance. Some of our ideas can be found in the book Fleeing Vesuvius, and in a series of articles by Graham Barnes on the Feasta blog (which are listed below).

In 2021, our ‘Banking on the Community’ webinar, organised in collaboration with the Cork Environmental Forum, focussed on public and community banking. We are planning a second collaborative event in 2023 which will have a more top-down focus, exploring the changes in overall dynamics that are needed in order to green the financial system and make it more just and stable.

In April 2019 we made a submission to the Irish Department of Finance on the potential for community banking to build resilience in local economies and help in the transition to a growth-neutral economy.

With regard to reform of the existing financial system, Feasta supports Sensible Money‘s communications on sovereign money (SM are Ireland’s sister organisation to the UK’s Positive Money group, and like them belong to IMMR, the International Movement for Monetary Reform). You can watch videos and read summaries of the presentations of a conference that Feasta and Sensible Money organised in Dublin in 2013, called the Money Mess, here.

Feasta’s Caroline Whyte attended the IMMR’s conference ‘The Future of Money’ in Frankfurt in November 2018, and published a report on it here.

Feasta also formally supports Claiming our Future’s work pushing for the introduction of a Financial Transaction Tax (the so-called Robin Hood tax) in Ireland, and participated in strategy meetings. Graham Barnes wrote a blog piece supporting the case for FTT for its positive effect on financials stability and rebalancing the economy.

Current interests also include the development of innovative capital financing options for renewable energy projects with the goal of avoiding the burden of compound interest and redirecting the 45% saved into more productive first use; and the visualisation of data to add impactful insight to the flow of money in a specific sub-economy.

On the alternative finance track, Feasta worked in 2016 and 2017 with NUI Galway and Cultivate on the Irish Research Council supported project the Cloughpenny. This project had dual aims – of creating a prototype blockchain-based currency for the 15 inter-trading communities in the Cloughjordan ecovillage and organising a one-day conference in the ecovillage on Blockchain and Sustainable Communities. This involved research into both emerging blockchain ‘middleware’ aimed at making the somewhat arcane underlying platforms of Bitcoin and Ethereum usable to communities, and in the articulation of community needs for innovative Intentional Currencies.

A prototype based on an Ethereum-fork was delivered in June 2017 and acted as a focus for a number of subsequent meetings at the ecovillage to discuss the terms of use and governance of the project. A co-ordinator for the project based at the ecovillage was identified and a work programme agreed pending allocation of funding.

The project was also presented to UCD’s Coding Value team, and initiated a number of important international conversations with leading innovators in the Mutual Credit space, including Sardex in Sardinia.The group has also contributed to a number of other events including the 2016 Liverpool conference of the Guild of Independent Currencies, the Dublin conference on Banking and Monetary Reform and the panel discussion on sustainability at the Irish Film Institute after the showing of Demain in November 2016.

The group continues to field calls regularly from local activists seeking to explore the potential for local currencies to aid local economic development, and assists wherever possible in the scoping, research and detailing of such explorations, seeking to moderate early-stage energy with hard-won experience without dampening enthusiasm. We also host a lively Facebook discussion group with 95 members from around the world.

The Lot of the Currency Designer

This paper was prepared by Graham Barnes for the International Social Transformation Conference in Split, Croatia, He argues that "once we realise that currency - nay, money in general - can be designed to fulfill or support specific objectives, it sets us free. Free from the constraints of the broken pseudo-science that is mainstream economics; free to recognise that not all transactions are of equal importance; and potentially free to redesign ourselves away from our existing pervasive elite monetary hegemony and reclaim the monetary commons."

The Future of Money: Review

Published by Green Books, The Future of Money by James Robertson restates much of his thinking around monetary reform and brings it bang up to date in the context of the Euro crisis. It focuses a great deal on the arguments for governments reclaiming their right to issue money from the banks, and the enormous potential benefits to society of so doing. Highly recommended.

Currency Resilience and Transition

I attended the recent Transition Networks one day conversation in London on 'Peak Money and Economic Resilience'. Prompted by the event, I have contributed some thoughts on the fundamental objectives of a local exchange currency - increasing both the proportion of trade that is locally-based, and overall liquidity - and on how these might best be achieved.

The Challenge of Re-localisation

Feasta's particular approach to sustainability economics is to focus attention on the inadequacies of underlying systems. The development of local economies suffers from two particular adverse systemic effects - the in-built transfer of wealth from those that need money to those that already have money via the servicing of debt; and the transfer of wealth from the locality to the centre as globalisation progressively centralises economies. Local currency developers need to develop strategies that mitigate these two effects or they will remain limited in size and influence.