The second inspiring book I would like to comment here is Money and Sustainability : The Missing Link, written by Bernard Lietaer, Sally Goerner and Stefan Brunnhuber. This is a report published by the European Chapter of the Club of Rome.
The key message of the book is that there is a very high cost that our societies are paying in chosing to maintain a single state currency system based on bank debt creation. Lietaer, one of the most renowed world expert on money, argues that our currency system is too rigid to adress our world’s pressing challenges. Despite the historical role it played in the creation of modern economies, our money system has also produced several dysfunctions, such as the encouragement of short termism, the concentration of wealth or the depreciation of social capital.
Lietaer and his co-authors pledge for complementary currencies that would bring a diversity consistent with the resilience needs of our societies. The possibility for such currencies to focus on solving some specific issues (education, sustainable energy,…) give them also the appeal of a fantastic opportunity to finance social or environmental needs that our financial or pension systems can no longer afford to address. The authors give nine examples of existing or potential currencies that could be amplified or created.
Beyond currency as such, this book also widens our understanding of what an economy means – or what a balanced economy can mean. There is no point in criticizing bankers or the banking system, if it goes without offering relevant alternatives. Nevertheless, what is required from our politicians is to provide sufficient space for experimentation. As the report notes, J.-M. Ayrault, when Mayor of Nantes, was involved in a local project of complementary currency. Now that he serves as the Prime Minister of France, will he be able to overcome the pressure of the banking lobby in order to scale up existing – and too small to become mainstream – initiatives ?
As with permaculture (see my last post), what we see in this book is the importance of the edge – intermediary spaces that allow alternative species or radical innovation to evolve. These edges, like complementary currencies, are vital, since marginal initiatives (species) can become mainstream after the Big Shift (as John Seely Brown calls it) of our civilization.
I have been lucky enough to meet Bernard Lietaer on a trip we made together to Finland in 2009. He is – I believe – one of the prophets of this time and a great wise man. You can hear his presentation at the Club of Rome here, but there are many others online that are worth watching :