We are increasingly reading about the major concerns for the Eurozone and the escalating debt crisis.
At the same time in the US President Obama is warning that the US could for the first time in its history default on its debt payments ($14.3/£8.89 trillion on August 2 2011). Economists warn that this could plunge the US back into deep recession, having a knock on effect that would affect many of us around the world.
There is no doubt peak oil and the rising cost of food and fuel and destruction of our natural environment affect us all. The poorest are also the most vulnerable.
But permaculture can help you prepare...
Sustainable economic 'growth' is impossible
To grow means 'to increase naturally in size by the addition of material through assimilation or accretion'. When something grows it gets bigger, therefore using up more natural resources. As we all know, there is only so many natural resources we can use before we exhaust them. The industrial growth economy must eventually grind to a halt and the likelihood of a technological fix that is capable of solving our problems is all smoke and mirrors. This does not mean, however, that we cannot develop other forms of capital involving people, community, natural resources, ideas, design, inventions... As permaculture states, yields are restricted by the limits of our imagination. It is time to start getting creative and to change the way we think.
What you can do at home: Design a financial system that looks like an ecosystem
Social capital: exchange your skills and time for someone else's. Rather than being in monetary debt, you 'owe' favors to another person.
Get involved with Transition Towns: this is an organised network where you can swap goods and services for local currency
Re-use, re-cycle and scavenge: Head down to the dump and revive something old rather than letting it go to landfill and spending money on a new commodity for material capital. Get involved with a free-cycle event.
Use financial capital consciously and responsibly: if you spend your money in the wrong places, this can lead to the oppression of other human beings, used wisely, it can be a powerful tool for liberation.
Recognise your wealth in living capital: these are the animals, plants, water and soil of your land that you look after. This, rather than money is the true basis for life on our planet. Permaculture encourages us to share the abundance of living capital rather than the intangible 'wealth' of financial capital.
Reinterpret the way you consider yourself to be successful: science and research can focus on obtaining intellectual capital or 'truth' but this is motivated by the desire for financial or social capital. But the correct type of intellectual capital can be the most useful in terms of creating resilient and thriving communities.
Join an organisation like Permablitz: Organize a project in your community. Hands on experience (i.e. experiential capital) is just as important as social and intellectual capital.
Recognise the importance of spiritual capital: While this can mean, in the form of equity the gathering of positive experience and understanding, it also describes a form of 'debt'. This 'spiritual debt' represents responsibility towards the magnificent beauty and complexity of existence.
Permaculture design teaches you to gain maximum output from each type of capital. If businesses, governments and organizations understand the eight forms of capital, this will lead to the decreased consumption of non-essential goods and services that fuel our infinite-growth-based financial system.
Article: Part of this article originally appeared in 'Eight Forms of Capital: Valuing More Than Money' in Permaculture issue 68.
Book: GAIAN ECONOMICS - Living Well within Planetary Limits. This contains contributions from some of today's most eminent theorists and most effective activists representing an overview of cutting edge thinking and practice in the evolution of an economy that serves the needs of people and planet.