On Sunday afternoon at St. Mark’s Church in New York, nonprofits, government organizations, local businesses and active individuals all gathered to address the environmental and economic issues that are affecting New York City, and by extension, the world at large. Titled “Evolver Town Hall”, the volunteer organized event featured workshops, panel discussions, music, art and food, and aimed not only at exposing current issues but giving people the ideas, information, connections, and contacts they need for getting involved within their community.
No Impact Man
The Keynote speaker of the day was Colin Beaven, aka The No Impact Man. In 2006 Colin Beaven launched a year-long project in which he, his wife Michelle and their then two-year-old daughter Isabella, experimented with living with as little environmental impact as possible. Colin Beaven began the project because he grew tired of complaining about public policy and feeling disempowered in the face of government. When the United States went to war with Iraq, Colin Beaven, instead of criticizing events in public protest, decided to see how much change he can affect by focusing on himself and his own family:
“And so, at first,” writes Beaven in his blog, “when the politicians said that they were executing the Iraq War to protect the American way of life—my way of life—I was offended and angry. But then I realized how many resources I use in my life, including oil. I used so much that a war might actually be necessary to protect that way of life, to make sure there was enough to supply my endless consumption. If I expect to be allowed to use so many of the world’s resources, aren’t I partly to blame if my government fights to secure those resources?”
The result became a year-long adventure in minimizing waste, going off the power grid and eating locally. The many trials and errors of his project were documented daily on his blog, No Impact Man, and provided a narrative vehicle for engaging the public on issues of food system sustainability, water scarcity, climate change and energy and material resource depletion.
Evolver Town Hall panels
The series of panels hosted at the Evolver Town Hall included talks on “Taking Back the Commons”, “Collective Consciousness” and “Real Food and Water”, among many others. The organizations that were present include: Sierra Club NYC, Regenerative Culture, Vertical Farms, Rooftop Food, Eco Eatery, Just Food, Trust for Public Land and Green Edge Collaborative, among many others. Some of the prominent writers that were present include Daniel Pinchbeck, who is also the co-founder of Evolver, and Douglas Rushkoff.
Media theorist and writer Douglas Rushkoff presented on the panel concerning “Complementary Currency”. Douglas Rushkoff has recently completed a book tilted “Life, Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and What You Can Do To Take It Back” which traces the origins of corporations back to the Renaissance and the founding of chartered monopolies. In his work Rushkoff argues that our current way of life evolved through a series of steps by which the corporation has infiltrated all aspect of our daily lives. In his talk, Rushkoff, along with representatives of Time Interchange of NY and the Woodstock Time Bank, attempted to present alternative ways to create and share wealth.
Complementary currency is a term referring to currency that complements the National currency. It is often used locally, by a community, on the value of real resources, or often it is time based, where the unit of account is the hour; such that if I do something for you, I have a credit of an hour and can use that credit with someone else, creating a community currency based on sharing time, skill and resources.
“Time dollars are helping in a lot of communities where conventional money is scarce (…) It’s working, it doesn’t cost anything to the taxpayer, it doesn’t create a huge bureaucracy, and it encourages the solution of the local problems by and with the very people who know most about them.”
What is money? Most textbooks, Leitaer says, only define what money does:
“I define money, or currency, as an agreement within a community to use something as a medium of exchange. It’s therefore not a thing, it’s only an agreement – like a marriage, like a political party, like a business deal. And most of the time, it’s done unconsciously. Nobody’s polled about whether you want to use dollars. We’re living in this money world like fish in water, taking it completely for granted.”
The ideas presented in the panel is that money is one of the highest leverage points for change in society. Complementary currency can be just one suggestion for challenging our relationship to money, and therefore also our interactions with those that we exchange with.
To find out more about the Evolver Town Hall, and various ways to get involved see here.