by Paul Glover
Ithaca is already a rich city ‹ there's enough money in Ithaca today to
enable EVERYONE to work a few hours creatively daily and then to relax
with family and friends and enjoy top quality healthy food prepared by
some of the finest cooks on earth, to enjoy clean low-cost warm
housing, clean and safe transport, high quality handcrafted clothes and
household goods, to enjoy creating and playing together, growing up and
growing old in a supportive community where everyone is valuable, all
in the midst of one of the most beautiful landscapes on earth.
And to do this while replenishing rather than depleting
the integrity of the planet.
Our abundant wealth has not yet been translated into
community well-being because local money and economic development have
been traditionally controlled by people whose purposes are profit
gained with scant regard for damage done to their fellow citizens or to
I'm referring not ONLY to the dull and distant elites
which control commercial banking, venture capital, real estate, major
local corporations, or to government and its notorious bureaucracies.
I'm referring to we general public as well, who have followed bad
leadership in order to indulge an American Way of Life which has itself
become anti-American by destroying the natural resources upon which all
Rather than apply our city's great wealth to making life
healthier and easier, local money is instead poured down the drain,
lost as food bills to agribusiness, lost as purchases from chain
stores, lost as energy payments to NYSEG, lost as transport
payments to auto manufacturers, oil companies
and auto insurance companies, lost as rent payments to absentee
landlords, lost as local tourist dollars to hotel chains, lost as
medical payments to drug companies and insurance companies, lost by
destruction of agricultural land for suburbanization, lost in pumping
clean water across town for flushing wastes, lost as tax payments to
state and federal agencies which do more harm than good, and discarded
Our wealth can instead be redirected, through personal
and community decisions. On a personal level, each of us can to
- insulate businesses and homes to reduce fuel waste,
install superefficient windows and
windowbox heat grabbers.
- Join the Finger Lakes Land Trust, and
attach conservation easements to your property where applicable.
- Buy groceries from GreenStar and the Farmer's
Market, from local restaurants, delis, and buy home cooking
from people on the http://www.ithacahours.org HOUR Town list.
- Join the Ithaca Health Fund, to gradually
redirect back to Ithaca the $50 million of local money which yearly is
paid to insurers.
- Ride bicycles and buses, and
participate in demanding bike lanes in the City Ithaca Bicycle Action
Group Listserv: send message: subscribe IBAG-L your
- Shopping is voting. Shop with
local craftspersons and retailers, and look at the labels when buying
- Trade with Ithaca
HOURS, which stimulate development of local talent and
connections, while providing business loans without charging interest.
- Support the Tompkins Cortland Labor Coalition and United Workers of Ithaca, which
seek to balance interests of workers and owners.
- Donate to community organizations and street
- Rely on independent news sources.
- Reduce your taxable income and live
- Install a compost toilet.
- Boycott goods produced by
corporations, such as McDonald's,
which damage the environment and/or exploit
- Attend city and county government meetings, to
monitor what is done with public money by private interests.
As a community, we can demand public policy which moves
toward local ownership of housing stock, fuel production and
distribution, and thus magnifies grassroots development possibilities.
We can do such things by enacting public policy which:
- facilitates purchase of housing stock by occupants,
- helps fund commercial and residential energy
- which establishes business incubators and retail
showcase for prototypes and product lines of locally-manufactured goods
such as shoes, clothes, soaps, pastas and other foods, cargo bicycles
and other practical tools,
- which changes City tax collection to raise rents on
vacant Commons properties while lowering taxes on housing and
commercial properties which have been insulated, while providing local
tax credits for solar, wind and agricultural development,
- which changes City building code to encourage
compost toilets and solar greenhouses,
- which re-installs fixed
rail trolley routes linking Cornell and the Commons, looping
around GreenStar to retain student dollars locally,
- which deliberately slows automotive traffic while
making bicycle and pedestrian travel safer, and transit use easier,
- which collect a local option penny-per-gallon
tax at the pump for transit, trollies and bike
which decentralizes and de-bureaucratizes public education, both
to teach creative ecological citizenship, to reduce student commuting,
and to reduce the school tax burden,
- which expands local
ownership of Cornell, to spread expertise in these directions.
- This is a quick introduction to grassroots
ecological economics. It contrasts with top-down conventional
business planning, and opens an arena of infinite possibilities.
Here's Where Wealth Comes From
Regions make themselves rich and powerful primarily
their wealth, to magnify it. That means retaining talents, skills, and
money of local people in the community as much as possible, connecting
the community to take care of itself to the maximum extent practical.
Here are some of the ways this is done:
- Barter Posts are storefronts which enable public to
trade without cash.
- Business Incubators are buildings
containing equipment shared by small new businesses, to reduce start-up
- Buy-Local Campaigns promote social
and economic benefits of shopping for locally-produced goods, at
- Co-Housing provides shared
community spaces for child care, gardens, cooking, recreation, to make
life friendlier and easier.
- Community Development Corporations
are citizen groups with power of government, to initiate
programs for business, housing, transit, etc.
- Community Development Credit Unions,
Federal Credit Union are member-owned banks that invest most
money back to the neighborhoods from where deposits came.
- Community Foundations make grants
to local groups.
- Community Insulation Initiatives install
energy-efficient equipment in homes.
- Community Reinvestment Agencies
are local groups which make sure local banks invest locally, without
- Eco-Indicators are relied on to
measure whether the local economy is improving for all, or merely
enriching an elite.
Parks exemplify manufacturing of basic useful goods with recycled
materials and zero pollution.
- Farmer's Markets enable farmers
and craftspeople to sell directly to local people.
- Farmland Retention groups advocate
public policy that promotes and protects local farming.
- Flexible Manufacturing Networks
combine the skills and tools of several local manufacturers to enable
them jointly to get a manufacturing contract.
- Food and Fuel Co-ops
coordinate bulk buying of food, fuels, solar equipment, windmills and
insulation by neighbors, to reduce unit costs and gain policy leverage.
- Health Funds are
locally-controlled nonprofit health financing co-ops.
- Housing Co-ops remove housing from
the speculative market, enabling occupants to resell their units with
specified limits to profit.
- Import Replacement Programs
connect regional businesses and individuals to supply each other,
rather than depending on imports.
Retention Initiatives are carrot-and-stick programs seeking
to keep industry from closing or moving away.
- Land Trusts purchase local land to
protect it, usually from suburbanization. They buy housing to remove it
from the profit system.
- Local Pension Funds are
locally-originated and controlled, much of whose capital is dedicated
to local investment.
- Local Currencies
are local paper money which adds to local money supply, raises minimum
wage, promotes job creation, friendly trade, local business.
- Local Tax Credits reduce local fees on organic
farms, solar and
wind energy, realizing that tax reductions will be returned via high
sales tax revenues.
- Materials Re-use Centers
disassemble and stockpile components of discards, for resale and
re-manufacturing. New buildings are constucted
ecologically, using non-rainforest woods.
- Microlending makes small loans at low interest, in
order to help new small businesses form.
- Military-to-Domestic Conversions
retrofit vacated military bases or weapons factories for non-military
jobs and production.
- Revolving Loan Funds make money
available at zero- or low-interest for
specified purposes when prior loans are repaid.
- Smart Growth is land use planning
restrains sprawl and relies on regional business rather than chains.
Government invents new rules to facilitate this
shift. Corporations are evaluated for their commitment to the
environment and fair pay.
- Socially Responsible Investing is
the practice of selecting stocks and bonds according to their
environmental and/or social effects.
- Worker Ownership Networks support
conversion of business ownership to employees.