The buzz in the community this week is, of course, Mountainfilm 2013 – this year highlighting the theme of climate solutions. We here at EcoAction Partners have been immersed in this topic since our inception in 2007 and are excited to interact and engage with Mountainfilm attendees and our community as we spur each other into further action.
Just a few weeks ago I spewed about 364 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere driving to Boulder to attend the 4th annual Slow Money Gathering. It’s a long drive – and it was hard to leave on one of the first spring-like days on the mesa, but it was well worth it.
Slow Money, based loosely on the ideas of the Slow Food Movement, is a concept developed by Woody Tasch. In Slow Food it is deemed necessary and right to slow ourselves down – to enjoy and savor the unique flavors of our local foodshed while celebrating our relationship with food and each other. The connections between the two groups are indeed strong as evidenced by the presence of Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini as keynote speaker for the gathering. Slow Money deems it necessary and right to slow our money down by taking our investments and removing them from the light speed transactions of Wall Street and bring them down to earth – truly down to earth.
Slow Money’s tag lines include, “Investing as if food, farm and fertility matter,” and “Fixing the economy from the ground up…starting with food.” Farms and fertility do matter – and food is a great place to start. Imagine if we were to shift a small, even tiny, percentage of the funds currently supporting huge energy companies showing record profits or giant conglomerate agribusinesses to a smaller, local level. The return on investment on Slow Money transactions are low in terms of actual money, but high in social returns.
These social returns run the gamut from decreasing CO2 emissions by incorporating electric delivery vehicles to carbon sequestration to building community. The businesses showcased by entrepreneurs looking to connect with investors and seeking the $50,000 award from Slow Money and Mama Chia at the gathering were diverse as well. Two projects involved training returning veterans to grow food. Several involved unique value-added products like sauerkraut and kimchi. A couple involved new technologies – apps for finding farm to table restaurants and calculating food miles of meals or developing better ways to connect farmers and consumers. The winner was a project in a food desert neighborhood in Denver (www.revisioninternational.org) designed to train residents to grow, eat, process, sell neighborhood grown food – and in the process rebuild community. They recognize that change has to come from within and developed ‘Promatoras’ community leaders who share the knowledge and skills they gain with the rest of their community.
Climate solutions cannot focus on just our food and energy sources, our recycling and transportation habits. Our investing habits need to be examined as well.
What if funds were available at low interest for people, young or otherwise, to develop the skills needed to start farming? What if the best farmers and ranchers could be paid for the ecosystem services of carbon sequestration that they provide through their own investment of time and skill in rebuilding soil fertility? What if we refused to put our funds, be they large or small, into investments and institutions that are “too big to fail?”
Slow Money Chapters are springing up all over the country. Maine’s Slow Money group (including its ‘No Small Potatoes’ investment club) has invested over $4 million in their local food economy in the last few years. North Carolina’s Slow Money group has been able to fund lots of small loans that are making a difference in their food economy. Biofuel to mead making, bakery to tempeh production and many more start-up businesses have received loans from the group.
Our challenge is develop climate change solutions that are effective and uplifting. Creating new community connections through making small loans, focused on food, farms and fertility is one small slice of the solutions.
In our region a fledgling investment club has been formed known as San Miguel Growing Concerns. If you are interested in finding out more about the local club – or how these clubs and other types of Slow Money investments can contribute to Climate Solutions – please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, 970/728-1340 or find me at this weekend’s Mountainfilm events.