03 July 2007

The Future of LETS

You know, I really admire all of you who made Green Dollars happen here in New Zealand! That was a good job and a lot of work. It was also a learning curve for all of us and the still existing exchanges are certainly more mature for it. Just look at what kind of stuff they are still discussing in South Africa, three years after the introduction of CES there.

However, I also realise that there is a whole generation of practitioners who is now retiring. This leaves us at a critical junction. When LETS was adapted to New Zealand the last time, there was a clear economic imperative and a lot of people in need of a complementary means of exchange. Today the situation is completely different. What is it that is at the forefront of our concerns nowadays? Social issues, though present, are somewhat in the background. To me it looks like environmental issues like peak oil and climate change are fast grabbing the centre stage of our concerns.

Those new issues will require changes to our behaviours which go far beyond what was inflicted on New Zealanders in the 1980s and 90s. If we want to go beyond the rearranging of the deck-chairs of the Titanic, a comprehensive shift of thinking is necessary. There are many who write up post-peak oil scenarios. The Natural Step has developed a science based tool for sustainable development. Yet hardly anyone notices the need to also change such fundamental economic mechanisms like the money system.

And, sadly, those who are already using a complementary money system that could actually be part of a package of solutions to deal with peak-oil and climate change, are not aware of the jewel right in their hands. This is mostly because our way of thinking still makes us blind for the values we need to espouse in order to successfully confront those new challenges.

LETS doesn't work for people who want to become rich. This is simply because 'rich' and 'poor' are irrelevant concepts when it gets to LETS trading. It is a question of 'inclusion'. Either one is included in the community or one is excluded. We need to drop some of our cherished judgements. We need to stop fearing those who might 'take too much' and not return enough. In LETS we are not moving pieces of a commodity around (as in the conventional money system), on the contrary - we are nurturing relationships. Because, at the end of the day, its only the relationships that really matter.

I feel that we might be best off looking for members who are in tune with those different kinds of values I've just listed above. For those people LETS will work. At the same time, we need to undertake an effort and explain and familiarise those who work for environmental conservation and sustainability. We need to convince them that conserving nature only works if we use economic tools that are in tune with and mimic nature itself. LETS certainly does that.

To me, LETS is not just an alternative, or a hobby. LETS is potentially a tool that, if understood correctly, and developed properly, will definitely be able to supplant the conventional money system. Every successful exchange takes us a step closer. This leads to another strongly needed change of mind: understand that 'Small is beautiful' and 'think big' are not contradictions, but actually a much needed complement for success!

Well, we are looking for a new generation of leaders to step forward. I hope they have a vision and the maturity of insight to see and undertake what is necessary!