Investing in our community

SUBHEAD: Keep it local - investing in an economy based on preservation and restoration.
By Andrea Brower on 24 May 2009 in The Garden Island image above: Detail of illustration from cover of book "Inquiries into the nature of Slow Money" by Woody Tasch. From The global environmental crises that we face today are not primarily a problem of technology — they are systematic issues that stem largely from our financial system. Additionally, the focus on rapid maximization of efficiencies and profits has contributed to a global economic meltdown. The time is upon us to reconsider how to invest for the rebuilding of communities, personal well-being, protection of the environment and sustainable food production. Many are realizing that investing globally in intangible securities leads to a plethora of economic, environmental and social problems. What if, instead, we invested half of Kaua‘i’s assets in Kaua‘i? What if you could invest in a locally owned store that supplied produce grown by the farmer down the street and locally made goods? Given the extreme vulnerability and reoccurring boom-bust cycles in the current financial system, more and more people would rather invest their money in something stable, even if the return is smaller and slower. The Slow Money Movement calls for the creation of new capital markets — markets that channel the flow of investment to small enterprises to bring about sustainable growth in local economies. As stated in their Principles, “We must give investors the tools they need to invest in slow, small and local. We must support entrepreneurs who see business as a tool for improving the health of land, household, community and bioregion.” Investing financially in our own community is an opportunity to also support and build community. If you have assets invested in your friendly farmer, then it is only logical that you will buy your tomatoes and lettuce from her rather than South America. Currently, only 0.1 percent of U.S. foundation grants and venture capital flows to sustainable agriculture. If it is prudent to invest tens of billions of dollars each year into a few companies, than surely it must be prudent to invest a few billion dollars in sustainable localized agricultural enterprises that are the foundation of a resilient economy. One successful model for local investment comes from SHARE, Self-Help Association for a Regional Economy, a community-based nonprofit that offers a simple way for citizens to create a sustainable local economy by supporting businesses that provide products or services needed in the region. The following explanation comes from E. F. Schumacher Society: SHARE makes micro-credit loans available at manageable interest rates to businesses that are often considered “high risk” by traditional lenders — usually because of their credit ratings or the unique nature of their business ideas. Local SHARE members make interest-earning deposits in a local bank, which are used to collateralize loans for local businesses with a positive community impact. SHARE depositors live in the same community as the business owners they support — bringing a human face back to lending decisions. The community of depositors assumes the risk and decides who should receive collateral support based on environmental and social criteria, and the bank is hired on a fee-for-service basis to make the transaction. There has been a 100 percent rate of repayment. Investing locally is an opportunity to restore our local food system, to reconnect investors with the places in which they live, to build a sustainable and resilient economy, and to “promote the transition from an economy based on extraction and consumption to an economy based on preservation and restoration” (Slow Money Alliance). An open community meeting to discuss the possibilities for creating local investment and currency systems will be from 4 to 5:30 p.m., June 20, at the Mo‘ikeha Room near the DMV in Lihu‘e. • Andrea Brower is the project manager for Malama Kaua‘i, an organization committed to the ‘aina, culture and community of the island. She can be reached via see also: Island Breath: Kauai Currency 5/17/09

No comments :

Post a Comment