#UnscrewedNews

EconoMan's Ecocide Misnames "Development"

The Amazon rainforest has been called the “lungs” of the world. Its conversion into feedlots for cattle to feed the “first world” for profit isn’t good for any humans, or for all life on earth.

The Amazon rainforest has been called the “lungs” of the world. Its conversion into feedlots for cattle to feed the “first world” for profit isn’t good for any humans, or for all life on earth.

Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism just published an important piece by Juan Manuel Crespo, an Ecuadorian sociologist who coins an important new word, and asks an essential question: Who is responsible for the Amazon's ecocide?

Follow the money! We need to look closer at this misnamed thing called "development," which bags money for a few, but destroys whole species and ecosystems we all depend upon. Our present economic system is not really about numbers—it is ideology and lying language. But here’s good advice from Juan’s piece, too, linked above:

If you want to preserve the balance of life, look to indigenous people. Far from being “savages,” indigenous people have knowledge and wisdom to share, the reason even our protected wildlife sanctuaries are poorer in species than the lands where they still live.

 “The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommends revisiting the native peoples for learning how to preserve critical territories. According to a study conducted by the IPCC, the areas managed or co-managed by native peoples have much higher rates of presence of birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles than any other areas (including protected areas), which indicates that this greater biodiversity is being achieved by the practices and land uses of native cultures.

Native peoples may not exceed 5% of the world’s population, but they have preserved up to nearly 80% of the highest biodiversity areas on the planet. Ironically, they are the ones who “slow down development”. It is through the native peoples of the Amazon, and borrowing knowledge from them, that we will find the key to stopping ecocide and development.”

It’s more ideology and misused language again. We have thought ourselves superior, when we were only better armed and more violent. Unless your people came from Mars, it is far past time we “civilized” humans remember how to become indigenous natives of planet Earth. An economy waged as war, and that imagines “winning,” discounts losers, namely all inferiors like bugs, microbes, birds, fungus, diversity—and oh yes, all females, including Gaia.  

Read more about the Amazon’s importance here; and while you are at it, read Riane Eisler and Douglas P. Fry’s new book, Nurturing Our Humanity. You’ll find fascinating information about indigenous people and a wider knowledge of peaceable, life-sustaining ways if only we’d look there, instead of studying war.

 

Sister, Can You Spare $400?

t’s time to talk about women’s economics with attitude. It’s time to laugh at what is often absurd and call out what is dangerous. By focusing on voices not typically part of mainstream man-to-man economic discourse, our Ms. Magazine series   Women Unscrewing Screwnomics   will bring you news of hopeful and practical changes and celebrate an economy waged as life—not as war.

t’s time to talk about women’s economics with attitude. It’s time to laugh at what is often absurd and call out what is dangerous. By focusing on voices not typically part of mainstream man-to-man economic discourse, our Ms. Magazine series Women Unscrewing Screwnomics will bring you news of hopeful and practical changes and celebrate an economy waged as life—not as war.

In 2008, we found out just how exciting economics can be. Over 2.5 million U.S. jobs disappeared, and a third of U.S. real estate value flew out the window. It took a decade for the U.S. median household income to pass what it had been in 2008, now just over $60,000—yet, while prices go up and threaten to go higher with Washington’s trade war, 40 percent of Americans still don’t have $400 for emergencies.

Over the past 35 years, so-called “free market” changes in the rules of our money system and tax policies have moved dollars up to those already with a surplus. If you don’t have enough savings to pay for a college degree, a car to get you to your job or a house to live in, you must borrow. Businesses and governments borrow, too—and with interest reliably doubling debt, the upward movement of our system’s pyramid scheme hoists dollars to the un-needy. This is aided by Wall Street bro-bloviation, and sometimes corruption

Interest steadfastly doubles fortunes, too. That’s the reason that we now have a record number of billionaires—2,153 worldwide, controlling piles of money estimated at $8.7 trillion.

Is this growth good news? Not when you remember that the mirror image of this class’s paper capital, the reason for its growth, is the indebtedness of the rest of us.

It’s too bad that Forbes only publishes an annual catalog of the 400 biggest fortunes. A yearly list of the 4000 biggest debtors might enlighten us more. 

Mildly named “growing inequality,” these oversized lumps of billionaire numbers in the macroeconomic world affects Main Street, where most of us women work. The finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) sector, not real economic production, now accounts for 20 percent of the U.S. GDP, double what it was in 1947. Stock buybacks and mergers that eliminate jobs are today’s most common use of billionaire surplus. 

This ruthless bloating of the biggest is misnamed “economic efficiency”—an apt phrase only if your intentional goal is to melt permafrost and glaciers or develop Vermont’s Green Mountains into beachfront property.

But some capital is in Vermont women’s hands. Their numbers are smaller, but they are venturing into new territory with a wider purpose than fat cat profits. 

Women are new players in the realm of capital and money. Married women couldn’t inherit property, and were property themselves, until 1848, when suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton helped win necessary legal changes to women’s statuses. Her working-class sisters couldn’t keep her own paycheck until she won that right 158 years ago. If you think sending her money to dad or husband was nuts, until 1974—just 45 years ago—banks could refuse a woman opening a bank account without a male co-signer. Even then, women needed another law to get access to business loans

Yet women today make all the difference, says Change the Story—an alliance of the Vermont Women’s Fund, The Vermont Commission on Women, and Vermont Works for Women whose new Champions of Change campaign has already persuaded more than 140 Vermont businesses to sign on to the Vermont Equal Pay Compact pledging to improve women’s paychecks.

They also report that between 2007-2012, women started businesses at twice the rate of men’s startups. Dollar-wise their businesses are small, but even if just one in four of Vermont’s 20,786 women-owned businesses hired one additional worker, they’d create 5200 new jobs, good for the whole state’s economy. So what’s stopping them?

Small business expansion requires financing, made tighter since 2008’s crash; always it has been tightest for people of color and women. But recent studies reveal women-managed businesses make more money, so venture capital is newly seeking women out. On September 25 and 26, for instance, Vermont Innovations Commons (VIC) is hosting the third annual Vermont Investors Summit in Burlington, featuring keynote speaker Deborah Jackson, who, along with her co-founder, Andrea Turner Moffit, used her experience as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs and Citibank to create in 2015 what they call an “investors’ ecosystem.”

Their company, Plum Alley, funds women innovators and entrepreneurs “at the margins,” while also enabling women to invest in “forward-looking companies.” So far, they’ve backed startups in biotechnology, cancer immunotherapy, online marketplaces and software. Their host, Vermont Innovation Commons, calls itself a “launching pad for entrepreneurs and innovators, a nurturing partner for startup and growth firms” with a goal to create living-wage jobs and keep Vermont’s young innovators in the state. Bio-friendly terms are found on their website too, referring to Vermont’s “entrepreneurial DNA,” presumably of interest to investor ecosystems. Neither of these exists in biology, but we can hope this isn’t mere greenwashing, but a wiser way of thinking about the eco-logy in eco-nomy.  

“We’re always looking out for our companies’ best interests, aggregating capital…from angel investors and other capital funds,” Samantha Roach-Gerber, innovations director at Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies (VCET), told Ms. VCET seeks to connect Vermont’s entrepreneurs to a network of peers, coaches and capital, namely The Vermont Seed Capital Fund. It, too, uses biologic words—with seed’s living reproduction connecting the green of money to their “evergreen” fund, which means its profits are plowed back into it.

The fund’s $5.1 million in revolving venture money is relatively “tiny,” yet has funded 24 startups at $25,000-$250,000 and has leveraged more. VCET’s interest is in “high opportunity businesses,” which trend to the technological, but do include women. They also co-host winter events in Burlington called Female Founders that always sell out and spark networking. 

More grounded Vermont investments are in the hands of Janice St. Onge in Montpelier, through the Flexible Capital Fund. A certified Community Development Financial Institution, it provides risk capital for Vermont’s food system, forestry products, and renewable energy companies. So far, they’ve invested $4.4 million in 15 Vermont companies. What makes them different?  St. Onge says she’s proudest of Flex Fund’s “royalty financing,” which is based on a piece of the revenue stream, rather than a share of equity ownership. “We remain flexible with the cash flow needs of a business and… in a way that treats our borrowers as partners.”

Vermonter Janice St. Onge, back far right, is only one of the “financial activists” who met in New York with her cohort in 2019, sponsored by the  RSF Integrated Capital Fellowship program , but she and the Flexible Capital Fund are changing investment to include women and our Mother Earth. (Edith Macy)

Vermonter Janice St. Onge, back far right, is only one of the “financial activists” who met in New York with her cohort in 2019, sponsored by the RSF Integrated Capital Fellowship program, but she and the Flexible Capital Fund are changing investment to include women and our Mother Earth. (Edith Macy)

Seeking “regenerative, not extractive businesses,” the fund values social and environmental responsibility, livable wages, and diversity in ownership, governance, and management. “The fund’s own governance is diverse,” St. Onge adds. “Four of our board of managers and two of our three-member investment committee are women.” They recently added to their portfolio MammaSez, a woman-owned plant-based meal delivery company, investing $150,000.

St. Onge is also part of a new initiative, the Vermont Women’s Investors Network, which aims to close the gender gap in funding for local businesses with positive environmental and social impact. On October 1, in Stowe, Vermont, they and the Northern New England Women’s Investors Network will host Integrated Capital—an event featuring Joel Solomon, author of The Clean Money Revolution, and Deb Nelson of RSF Social Finance, a cohort that dares call themselves “financial activists.” They even speak of poverty, rumored to be of some relevance to women. 

She's Disrupting Money's Masculinity

Sallie Krawcheck says money isn’t just transactional, it’s about relationships.

Replacing Privilege with Shared Prosperity

It’s time to talk about women’s economics with attitude. It’s time to laugh at what is often absurd and call out what is dangerous. By focusing on voices not typically part of mainstream man-to-man economic discourse,   Women Unscrewing Screwnomics   at Ms. Magazine online will bring you news of hopeful and practical changes and celebrate an economy waged as life—not as war.

It’s time to talk about women’s economics with attitude. It’s time to laugh at what is often absurd and call out what is dangerous. By focusing on voices not typically part of mainstream man-to-man economic discourse, Women Unscrewing Screwnomics at Ms. Magazine online will bring you news of hopeful and practical changes and celebrate an economy waged as life—not as war.

“I never lacked for anything,” Jamila Medley says of her childhood in Brooklyn in the eighties and nineties, “but it was called ‘the killing fields.’” She’s referring to her deteriorating community at the height of the crack-cocaine epidemic. “Anything structurally and systemically wrong,” she explains, “was sent to East New York.” 

Medley’s grandfather owned a property management company. Her mom was a property manager. When she was old enough, she got to work with both of them in the summers. “That’s when I learned about Section 8 processes and its paperwork,” she remembers. “It showed me grandmothers taking care of two or three grandkids with an annual income of $5000, my first introduction to poverty at that scale.” Her mom didn’t just collect rent or manage repairs: “She was a social worker.” 

Later, as a single mom and college student, Medley encountered the Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) program—President Clinton’s notorious effort at welfare “reform” that added yet another set of punishing government hoops to jump through to receive aid. “My view of poverty expanded,” Medley says simply. She was working with her sociology professor at Connecticut College to research women on welfare and went on to do work for a community foundation.

“There were people with resources,” she learned, “who wanted to help.” This discovery and her own desire to be of service led her to work in the nonprofit world—aiding the homeless, those in recovery or ill from cancer—while earning an MS in Organizational Dynamics at the University of Pennsylvania.

But a later position at Mariposa Food Co-op in West Philadelphia exposed her to a different model. No longer helping people, she’s now empowering them to create a thriving co-operative economy. 

Philadelphia Area Co-operative Alliance (PACA) is building community trust and business savvy.

Philadelphia Area Co-operative Alliance (PACA) is building community trust and business savvy.

While at Mariposa, Medley served for several years on the board of the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance (PACA), creating educational tools and training, before becoming its Executive Director In 2017. By then, PACA included over 20 local co-ops—including not only the most familiar type, consumer-owned food co-ops, but also a credit union, a childcare co-op, a bookkeeping business, a solar installation business, a media company, a natural cosmetics firm and a group of co-operative urban farms. Soil Generation described themselves as “a project to address displacement politics and the right to grow, thrive, and feed ourselves in Black and Brown communities of Philadelphia.” 

Co-ops are sometimes portrayed in media as idealistic and crunchy-granola-headed. But Jamila and her cohorts had noticed a more painful reality in their area. Philly’s food co-ops were all white-owned and many were too expensive and exclusive for many people to feel welcomed as members. Most often black and brown people were not at the table for important collective decisions. 

“All our co-ops are independent, and all have versions of food justice,” says Medley, “so PACA started our conversation by considering that one in five people in Philly are food insecure. Several of our food co-ops are in gentrifying neighborhoods, displacing black folks or poor whites. All of this is political, but also more nuanced than that,” she says, describing the difficulty of talking about race and class privilege with dynamics particular to different locations. “The important thing is to acknowledge that this displacement and poverty is happening. Let’s not ignore it. We have to interact with it—and to bridge that.”

What exactly is a co-operative? It’s a business with democratic decision-making and equal but united investment. Unlike Costcoreal co-ops are owned by their customers and/or their employees, and actively engage with their local community. PACA’s website provides a surprising history of Philadelphia co-op beginnings dating back to Benjamin Franklin; a mutual insurance company started in 1752 still operates. In 1787, The Free African Society was founded in Philly, the second mutual-aid society in the US, and a precursor of formal cooperatives. 

England’s 1844 Rochdale Co-op Grocery typically gets credited as first, but African Americans were ahead of the curve. W.E.B. Dubois wrote in 1900 that free Negroes were so often in “precarious economic condition” they’d created hundreds of mutual-aid societies for all kinds of shared economics.  Learn more in economist Jessica Gordon Nembhard’s history, Collective Courage. 

Jamila Medley told Ms. that PACA, also aligned with a larger national group, New Economy Coalition, is one of only two or three co-op alliances in the country with paid staff.  Their co-op business developers are creating a promising environment for bridging racial disparities in economic terms. Ideally Philly’s co-op alliance conversations will spark other co-ops. How best to start? 

“It’s important for folks who have race and class privilege to find the people who are already doing the work,” she says. “Then support their leadership. Listen and trust their decisions about who and what to fund.” Stay tuned; Jamila and PACA and a growing population pursue a united prosperity based on co-operative values.

It turns out these are also American values in need of a good dusting off—namely, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, honesty, and social responsibility. E Pluribus, Unum!

 

Don't Confuse Confidence with Competence

Don't Confuse Confidence with Competence

Confidence is a BELIEF in your competence. Competence is a skill set. Appearences can be deceiving and disappointing….Here’s a book to help set us straight!

A Peace Economy Could Save You and Our Mother Earth

Treat yourself to a Green St. Patrick’s Day! Here’s ecofeminist Vandana Shiva in conversation with Amy Goodman about her two latest books, Who Really Feeds the World, and Oneness vs. the One Percent.. What she reveals is eye-opening and scary, the threats to survival very real. When Himalayan snow no longer feeds the rivers of Asia, what will its life, its people, do? But she also inspires with proven and doable fixes for our broken natural cycles, organic carbon sequestering a green new vision we can fuel with a Green New Deal.

Beautiful Vandana Shiva has led global efforts to save life-giving seeds now threatened by GMO patents that endanger life by forgetting what corporate-owned scientists don’t know. They patent seeds with BT, a poison that A.) doesn’t work and even backfires, creating superbugs and superweeds, and B.) .enriches the 1 percent. No one knows what joining genes with toxins will do to all life that feeds on it.

Shiva fought for India’s law that says to corporations: hey, you cannot patent life. She calls the 1 percent “rent collectors” on our new digital communication, digital currency, global finances, and our means for staying alive.. They turn our intelligence into “intellectual property,” and AI. She names Bezos and Gates “life-lords,” similar to the 19th century’s landlords, who got rich without working, and whose hubris imagined their ruthlessness natural. They were only “the fittest,” a dangerous misreading of Darwin if ever there was one.

They’ve turned the global economy into “a company store,” the same way landlords controlled what renters and share-croppers earned from their labors, and what share-croppers must pay for their needs at the company-owned store. No such regular robbery could happen without the threat of violence always present. But Shiva helps us remember Ghandi, non-violence, and democracy: we are many, and they are so few.