Some of you may know Robin McKann and his Windfall Forest. They bought 20 acres of beautiful forest off in Port Townsend, WA. An FSC-certified operation, they expressed their love of the forest with their harvesting methods. This wood has gone in to some beautiful projects, from art pieces to houses. But they didn't make enough money to pay the bills, even with a very flexible lender. One option available to them was to clearcut the forest. That would have let them pay off the mortgage.
There's something a little strange here. Say you have a a forest that you could clearcut for $200M revenue, or you could log sustainably for $1M/yr. You're financially better off with the clearcut. That's because you will receive more than $1M/yr on the interest on $100M.
This isn't about "greed" as much as it is about "making a living". We are all faced with similar choices every day. Even if we want to do beautiful things, our money system puts a lot of pressure on us to choose money over beauty. Is poverty the only way to live beautifully?
Another way of describing this is the "discounting of future cash flows" - that money you make in the future is worth less than money you make today. Thus, it is in your best interest to sell the future for today, which is exactly what we've been doing. We destroy forests, poison the air and the water, overfish the oceans, privatize the commons of human ingenuity, corrupt the genetic code of life itself, to make a profit. Not just an elite, greedy few, but nearly everyone involved in the adult activity of making a living. I am in awe of this powerful magic.
What if we wanted the opposite - for the future to be more beautiful than the present. Could you imagine a kind of money that would support restoration of salmon habitat, organic local farming, and strong communities?
I want to live in that world.