Second Vermont Republic

A citizen movement committed to restoring Vermont to an independent republic, free to pursue life, liberty and happiness unimpeded by the demands of an imperial, corrupt and disintegrating United States.

A Local Shade Of Green, by Amanda Cesario (BOOK REVIEW)

Although it is printed in blue ink, Local MoneyHow to Make it Happen in Your Community is an exploration of the ‘green’ agenda of reducing a community’s carbon emission through the method of creating local currencies. Dr. Peter North organizes an exciting and practical guide to unleashing the potential of a community’s ability to create local currencies in order to build more resilient economic futures. He draws us through the building blocks of how to build a local currency, why it’s important, and exemplifies multiple communities who have done this successfully worldwide.

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Money is a complex topic to me that is surrounded by a plethora of foreign financial jargon. This led me to expect difficulties in understanding Dr. North’s methodology, yet he was able to simplify and organize his ideas in a text-book like manor which made it easy to comprehend and visualize. The book starts of by defining “what is money” as well as introducing some basic economic language such as circulation, mutual credit, and backed currencies. Yet, just as the reader’s eyes may begin to glaze over, he snaps back your attention to the larger idea of the importance of localization:

“Your moral, ethical, political or ecological conception of what is ‘local’ might not be the same as an economically sensible conception, given that we can’t produce everything we need completely locally. Unless, of course, we plan to, or believe we will inevitably end up with, a much more simple way of life when the full impact of peak oil and the need to cut carbon emissions hits.” 

The importance of locality for our environment is being able to reduce the skyrocketing carbon emissions released through the global trade and transportation of goods. By supporting a smaller, and more locally sourced economy, the hope is that these emissions would be reduced. When locality is then combined with economics, it transfers the power and control to those who need it most: the people.

Past recessions and depressions including our own current economic crisis have forced communities to consider creating their own local currencies to reclaim the power that the bankers hold. North pulls out worldwide cases of what are called Local Exchange Trading Schemes (LETS) in order to explain how communities took back control of their economies. Argentinian barter systems, German regional currencies, time-banking, co-ops, and Ithaca’s ‘hour’ currency were among the many successful examples of local currencies that gave those communities resilient economic futures.

Similar economic movements today are stemming from these historical structures of which Dr. North introduced. For example, Vermont’s ‘New Economy’ movement is focusing on a people-driven approach to economic development toward better livelihoods on a local scale. One of the leading advocates of this movement, Montpelier mayoral candidate Gwen Hallsmith, supports the notion of a public bank system that is supported by the state enabling more low cost loan programs than commercial banks. She believes that in this way Vermont can democratize what they do with their public deposits, rather than private banks charging the public for what they already own.

Not only does local money give the power back to the community, but it also inspires an understanding of community that is often lost when the wealth is lost to corporate chain stores. Alternative currencies support local exchange which involves face-to-face interaction and trade. There is something much more pleasing and humanistic about buying fresh vegetables with cash from your neighbor’s farm stand than the cold credit card transaction of the supermarket. As a college student in Vermont, I am constantly surrounded by the privilege of fresh, available, and local food, which is supported by Vermont’s large local food movements. The mindfulness of knowing where your money is going, as well as where your products come from is important in sustaining not only economic security but in reducing carbon emissions as well. Transition Books previously published the book, Local Food: How to Make it Happen in Your Community which further explores the connection between food specifically and it’s importance of local trade.

As a soon-to-be college graduate, I am a member of what Forbes Magazine recently called “Generation Jobless”. According to the article, sixty percent of US college graduates will not find jobs within their area of study. In addition, the rising debts of student loans have only worsened in the past few years, making it even more difficult for graduates to start their careers. I fear for the future security of my money within such a large and powerful economic structure that has proven to easily collapse in an instant. The idea of local currencies is extremely appealing to rebuttal this fear, by enabling one to feel more in control of their own money.

Local Money is an exceptional tool book which unpacks the concepts of how to enable a community’s power and resiliency. It makes us aware the shift away from energy-intensive, globalized, corporate economics to a more humanistic, localized version where ‘doing’ money needs to adapt to fit this new structure.

For more revolutionary writing, visit Chelsea Green Publishing.

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This entry was posted on November 5, 2014 by in Arts.

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