30 December 2006

The Seas are Rising

For the first time, an inhabited island has disappeared beneath rising seas.

Rising seas, caused by global warming, have for the first time washed an inhabited island off the face of the Earth. The obliteration of Lohachara island, in India's part of the Sundarbans where the Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers empty into the Bay of Bengal, marks the moment when one of the most apocalyptic predictions of environmentalists and climate scientists has started coming true.

Read the whole article by The Independent

28 December 2006

A community bank with its own currency

See here a video from Brazil, of a small community that created its own bank and currency:

13 December 2006

Sustainability Background Papers

(picture by sillygwailo)

I'd like to point you to a series of interesting papers, posted at the website of the Parliamentary Commissioner of the Environment. They are background papers on a series of issues. They are all important, yet I'd like to emphasise a few:

by Anew NZ
Significant work on progress indicators is taking place in New Zealand but the challenge is to achieve integration and comparability of the diverse indicator sets. Gross Domestic Product should no longer be used as a key indicator of society's well-being. Six action steps are recommended.

* Corporate sustainability reporting in New Zealand (0.3 MB pdf)
by Kerry Griffiths and Julia Lindesay
The emergence of triple bottom line (TBL) reporting in New Zealand, where stakeholder demands for information and transparency are not as strong as they are internationally.

* Lyttelton working towards sustainability: A case study of Project Port Lyttelton, a community group acting as catalyst (4.1 MB pdf)
by Margaret Jefferies and Wendy Everingham
Project Port Lyttelton is a grass roots community group that works to bring about a sustainable world locally. An exploration of aspects including communication, values, networking, and taking risks, and a review of several Lyttelton projects.

* Sustainability in New Zealand - Lifting the game (0.5 MB pdf)
by John Peet
Our economy's relationships with the natural environment, society and our institutional framework are not sustainable. To move forward we need a national strategy for sustainable development and policy tools including ecotaxes and tradeable permits.

by Robert Vale and Charles Eason
Sustainability seen in terms of self-reliant, resilient, and resource efficient housing, of which few New Zealand examples exist. Sustainable housing means new buildings and neighbourhoods with zero non-renewable energy consumption to suit a range of tastes and incomes.

Novye Atagi, 10 years on

In a few days there will be the 10th anniversary of the massacre of international Red Cross aid workers in the small chechen town of Novye Atagi. Six aid workers, 5 nurses and a construction engineer, were killed in the early morning hours of the 17 December 1996, in a premeditated attack on their sleeping quarters. The expatriates were workers in a small war-surgical hospital. This was the single worst incident that ICRC ever experienced in its entire history. The people who lost their lives were:

Fernanda Calado, an ICRC nurse of Spanish nationality
Ingeborg Foss, a nurse from the Norwegian Red Cross
Nancy Malloy, a medical administrator from the Canadian Red Cross
Gunnhild Myklebust, a nurse from the Norwegian Red Cross
Sheryl Thayer, a nurse from the New Zealand Red Cross
Hans Elkerbout, a construction technician from the Netherlands Red Cross.


- Statement by ICRC

- CRIMINAL CASE NO. 96620018, GlobalSecurity.org


On the 17th and 18th December commemorative events will be held at ICRC in Geneva, Switzerland. Also at this occassion, medals will be given to those who died working for ICRC recently:

Mrs. Jeannette Waddell Fournier (who died on 2.9.2006 in Senegal)
Mr. Salih Ibrahim Hassan (who died on 16.8.2006 in Soudan)
Mr. Samir Kadhum Jwad Al-Karady (who died on 13.1.2005 in Irak)

02 December 2006

More on Local Currencies

An earlier posting on complementary currencies and its importance in a local economy created some discussions. I'd like to comment further on that. This is also in response to two messages that went over the Living Economies mailing list. You can read them here and here.

Giving it some deeper thought, it is not the actually the circulation of money locally that is ultimately important, but the CREATION of money locally.

There are several different ways that money can be created. It depends if a particular currency is cash-based or if it is wealth-based. Mutual credit currencies like LETS are created as a debt – and there is nothing wrong with that. In LETS, the debt incurred by currency creation is a debt to a community of people. In the conventional money system, the debt is incurred to a (often international) bank. The process used by banks to create money is called fractional reserve banking. This process has an additional twist: the payment of interest. It is the involvement of interest in the money creation process which is at the core of the problem, which contributes to the constant redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich, the redistribution from the fringes to the centre and, I believe, it is also ultimately responsible for our environmentally destructive economics.

Therefore the best way to address those problems is to issue money locally, in a healthy way. Give the power to issue money to the people instead of businesses.

(picture: 10 slices of Burlington Bread, USA, issued interest free)

The second posting sounded to me a bit like neo-liberal propaganda. The writer shows little or no understanding of complementary currency and how it might be applied to local economics.

It is a common misconception that when we say 'interest-free', we mean that money shouldn't give any return when invested. We may debate if getting an income without work (that is what returns on investments are), especially when little or no risks are involved, is ethical or not. The writer himself wrote that “The core problem is the human desire to get more of something for less work on their part.”

However, the real issue around interest-free money is how this money is created. He writes that 'creating alternative currencies which do not permit interest are complicated' – the actual fact is that virtually all complementary currencies are created without interest.

Again, any discussion of this topic is only meaningful if the process of fractional reserve banking is understood. When licensed banks create money by loaning it to their customers with interest, then scarcity is created, together with all the resulting negative effects. It is key to understand that more than 98% of the money supply is created by loans incurring interest (Reserve Bank of New Zealand figures). If all that money is due to be paid back, plus interest – where does the additional money for the interest come from? Fractional reserve banking has an influence on the money supply. Here in NZ we have the additional twist to the story that any reserve ratio has been abolished in 1985; monetary policy is entirely conducted by the setting of interest rates.

When credit unions loan money to their members against interest, then no new money is created, and therefore the interest charged has no influence on the money supply as a whole. Neither does interest returned on investments influence the money supply. While it is possible to issue a complementary currency without interest, it would also be possible to invest it with interest returned on investments. However, where interest is involved, one always creates a redistribution mechanism that funnels money from the poor to the rich ...

That is why it is important to note that ancient religious prohibitions against usury (interest) applied to all kinds of interest taking. From that arose the principles of islamic banking for example, which prohibits interest taking, and promotes among other things the sharing of profit and loss and joint-venture.

01 December 2006

Breaking Ice

Climate change and its effects on our planet is still high on my mind. Yesterday and today I came across a number of articles dealing with the effects of climate change.

The first one was an article in The Press reporting on the findings of a New Zealand-led drilling team in Antarctica, who has recovered three million year of climate history. The conclude that the Ross Ice Shelf, a raft of ice the size of France, could collapse quickly, triggering a dramatic rise in sea levels. History indicates that if the ice shelf collapses, it will do so suddenly and quickly. That was also proven in 2002 when the Larsen Ice Shelf extremely quickly collapsed.

In January, British Antarctic Survey researchers predicted that its collapse would make sea levels rise by at least 5m, with other estimates predicting a rise of up to 17m.

At the same time, James Lovelock, who is famous for the Gaia hypothesis, depicting the planet as a living being, predicted that large parts of the planet will become uninhabitable. He estimates that only about one tenth of Earth's population will be able to survive. He estimates that the temperatures on Earth will rise up to 8C, and that our current efforts will be mostly meaningless. Warming will be driven by a feedback loop that we cannot influence anymore. (see http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/1129-05.htm)

Maybe a prospect too depressing to contemplate ...

(Photo by Yukon White Light)