GLOVER ESSAYS: community
control of food, fuel, housing, health care,
planning, education, finance.
The economy should be fun
by Paul Glover * Grid Magazine, June 2009
Philadelphia's greenest dreams can come true, with enough money. Parks and yards can overflow with fresh healthy food; our neighborhoods can become as beautiful as our kids' smiles; each of us can be proudly employed rebuilding our city; every home can be secure.
Suddenly, millions of fresh dollars are coming to town. Federal and state programs are pouring cash into solar and wind power, urban farms and weatherization. But we'll need far more money than this to fix everything that's broken here: unemployment, health care, mortgages, schools, crime, gas & electric bills, food prices, student loans, water pollution, streets. Government doesn't have sufficient dollars.
Hundreds of generous local foundations can't pay the bill. And Wall Street has been busy losing money. Moreover, most dollars are still tied to technologies and institutions that damage the earth and keep us dependent.
So who's got the money to make Philadelphia's economy green and enjoyable? We Philadelphians. We're the ones who care most about our lives and communities. We're going to create money, and make it do what we need. Here's how:
Philadelphia already has an impressive variety of financial players rebuilding damaged neighborhood economies from the ground up: credit unions, community development corporations, green banks, churches, green businesses. The best of these are laying the foundations of sustainable local wealth: energy efficiencies, local food and fuel, water conservation, alternatives to the automobile, nonprofit housing, local manufacture and trade. Thousands of grassroots jobs are being invented by citizens dedicated to ecology and social justice. We're building an economy that connects people, rather than controls them.
Even so, bolder financial institutions are needed to allow the public direct authority over money, trade, investment, interest rates and land use. Let's consider some examples of new local programs slated to begin.
* Philadelphia Regional & Independent Stock Exchange (PRAISE) brings together capital of all kinds for local eco-development. The rich profit by empowering, rather than dominating, the poor. The Securities & Ecologies Commission (SEC) counts local economic progress by specific local measures of environmental and social justice.
* Philadelphia Fund for Ecological Living (PhilaFEL) lowers basic living costs by pumping tax-deductible donations for green tools into lowest-income districts. This creates jobs owned and controlled by neighbors. It encourages equitable development: strengthening rather than displacing long-time residents.
illustration by Kirsten Harper
* When you need money, print it. Several types of community currency will put millions of dollars worth of local paper cash and other credits into our greening sector. Microloans (up to $20,000) can be made interest-free. Who backs this money? You are the bank, you are the treasury, and you are the treasure.
* Co-operative plans, whose members pool small amounts of money, reduce expenses for housing, childcare, electricity and dinner. A health co-op will cover an increasing range of everyday emergencies for small annual membership payments, ultimately enabling members to hire their own doctors and start their own free clinics.
* The Philadelphia Insulation Factory (PIF) exemplifies import replacement: manufacturing goods here from local recycled materials, while hiring citizens with the least formal education.
The aforementioned programs need to be coordinated by a non-governmental nonprofit WPA. Let's call it the Green Labor Administration (GLAD). More information about these programs is at greenjobsphilly.org
Philadelphia's green economy will value us as neighbors and citizens, rather than as consumers. We'll revive the American Dream-- to earn enough money from one job to raise a child, to feed and clothe ourselves well, and travel. We'll have work that's creative and interesting. We'll have something greater than jobs and money. We'll work enthusiastically, by putting love at the center of commerce.
Paul Glover teaches Metropolitan Ecology at Temple University, and publishes Green Jobs Philly News. A member of Philadelphia's Green Finance Task Force, he is the founder of programs like Ithaca HOURS local currency, Health Democracy, Citizen Planners and the Philadelphia Orchard Project. paulglover.org