Economics of abundance
YankeePerm at aol.com
Thu Jan 8 12:40:06 EST 1998
In a message dated 1/8/98 7:40:05 AM, you wrote:
<<Hi Dan and all
Not too much experience yet with the economics of abundance but have been a
trustee for a local LETS system. It seemed to me to have the potential to
deliver, yet was stifled by notions that were brought to it from the
economics of scarcity (ie people were frightened to trade, were frightened
to deal in large amounts).
I often thought about breaking the LETS "rules" and providing all new
members with 1000000 units to start with, rather than a zero balance which
often turned into a negative balance with admin charges, or perhaps even a
system with no accounts at all. People just got what they wanted whenever
they wanted it... assuming that over a lifetime of participation in the
community it would all come out in the wash anyway.
The other trustees didn't like those ideas much, and I struggled just to
get them to stop worrying about debts of 300 units. LETS is a fun system
when dealing with jams and chutneys but I think has the potential to really
subvert the current economic system.
Would love to hear others views on the above "wild" ideas.
Cheers Rene van Raders>>
Yo Rene & Gang!
OK, here is a bit from my Kudzu Utilization Concept Paper, which is an applied
example of economics of abundance, in my utterly and obviously biased opinion.
I'm shooting myself in the foot here, as we offer this paper for sale as
Yankee Permaculture Paper #34, but it does fit and it is on this particular
hard drive, so I'm sending the first section anyway. I skipped the nitty-
gritty about kudzu as not germaine to the discussion..
THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED! Please do not pass it around without obtaining
P.O. Box 52
Sparr FL 32192-0052 USA
Email: Permacltur at aol.com
© Dan & Cynthia Hemenway, 1993-1997, Sparr, Florida. All rights reserved.
Fifth Draft 1/8/97
Kudzu Utilization Project Concept Paper
BY DAN HEMENWAY
A rampant vine commonly known as kudzu (Pueraria lobata ) infests large areas
of the southeast United States. Kudzu grows with amazing speed. In the
northern part of Georgia, where we formerly lived, the vine grows one foot
daily during the warm season. In areas where the climate is more favorable,
the rate of growth is about two feet daily. Kudzu vine has overrun farms
(which may have been worn-out anyway in many cases) and smothered all existing
vegetation, including trees. Likewise the vine has over-topped tracts of
forest and killed the trees with its shade. Efforts to "control" kudzu are
local and mostly either endless battles or ephemeral gains.
In much of the region where kudzu is rampant, considerable poverty,
unemployment and underemployment exist. Malnutrition is often a problem.
The Kudzu Utilization Project concept grows out of a design philosophy called
"permaculture." Permaculture emulates ecosystem design principles to design
provision of human needs and amenities: food, water, shelter, energy, income,
community, aesthetics, etc. By applying ecosystem design principles,
permaculture designs achieve the same efficiency and elegance that enables
mature ecosystems to thrive and make maximum use of available resources in the
face of often adverse and sometimes calamitous circumstances.
Permaculture also contains an ethical component--permaculture designers do
not prioritize between profit, people, and the Earth. As part of the Earth,
the well being of people is intimately involved with the health of the planet.
Because environmental destruction is virtually ubiquitous, permaculture
designs invariably include activities that restore natural systems. However
in permaculture design, the restoration is always an aspect of self-serving
human activity. Besides its design philosophy and ethics, permaculture has
accumulated a large tool box of basic strategies and particularly appropriate
The following are basic permaculture (ecosystem design) principles:
1) Restraint. Conservation. Do only what is necessary. Seek the maximum
benefit for minimum change. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
2) Stacking functions. Achieve multiple benefits from every action and
3) Repeating functions. Secure necessary resources (both regulatory and
material) in more than one fashion. Design for smooth shifts from one resource
to another as circumstances require. Design multiple pathways for every
4) Design on appropriate scale. Scale is inappropriate if a screw up will
cause a catastrophe. Murphy is everywhere. When mistakes can be regarded as
educational and even entertaining, scale is appropriate. However, scalle can
be so small as to be trivial or insufficient to persist in the face of
pressures from the larger context.
5) Focus design activity at edges, interfaces. Energy flows across a
gradient. Amplify edges to increase energy flow. Restrict edge to minimize
energy transfer. Introduce edge species or other elements to regulate and
harness edge transactions.
6) Encourage functional diversity. Functional diversity differs from raw
diversity. A great many design elements may contribute instability or may
simply fail to function as a dynamic system (be dead). Carefully matched and
well-designed elements however, that form many useful connections among them,
need not be numerous. It is the number of useful connections among elements
that defines functional diversity. A system with highly integrated functional
diversity becomes alive and spontaneously develops additional functional
connections. It becomes increasingly stable and efficient and begins to look
7) Reciprocity. Everything works both ways. All gains have costs and many
problems present opportunities. Awareness of reciprocity permits design to
account for it.
8) The Law of Gifts. Every element in the universe receives input from
other elements and transforms that input according to its own nature. In
functional systems, the transformation includes delivery of the changed input
to the right place at the right time, to benefit other elements in the system.
The competent designer must be acutely aware of the transformational nature of
elements--how they affect what they encounter--and the needs of elements--to
design patterns where the waste or disturbance created by one element is
resource or benefit to others.
These principles apply in all spheres of design:biological, physical, and
social (including economic).
Economic arrangements are of vital concern in permaculture. Much of
contemporary economic activity is based on the economics of scarcity. In this
economic values system, players seek to control resources so that they are
unavailable, or scarce, to others who may need or desire them. This resource
advantage results in control, to various extents, over those who want the
resources that have been made scarce. Such conditions result in scarcity
psychology. Insecurity that there will not be enough to go around feeds a
desire to control as much valued resource as possible and thus exert economic
control over others who wish to use the resource or to have access to it.
This drives the scramble to accumulate resources far beyond one's need.
Astonishingly, economics of scarcity have led to the ownership of nearly
everything on the planet and the assumption that it is natural for people to
In the economics of scarcity, generally the scarcer something becomes, the
more economic value it accrues. Abundant resources have little value. Their
usefulness may be ignored, as in the case of kudzu, or
the resource may be wantonly utilized, as is being done with forests. In the
case of forests, wholesale destruction for short term gain makes residual
forests scarce, therefore of greater economic value. The continued existence
of forests is not a concern to investors, who take their profit principally in
money that can be invested elsewhere when forests run out.
Money provides as a symbol of economic power and those who can command the
most money (by controlling a large share of vital or highly desired resources)
reinvest that money to control a still larger share. This cancerous
consumption, manipulation, and control of the environmental context in which
we live causes most of the environmental crises we confront today.
Capitalism, socialism and communism are but variants of this control game.
Bouncing from one system label to another will not address underlying problems
of scarcity economics. The economics of scarcity is self-fulfilling.
Permaculture provides a context wherein the economics of abundance can
prosper. Fortunately, the economics of abundance can begin to function within
existing systems, although legal structures may make this more or less likely
in various countries. The economics of abundance rests on the belief that a
great deal of resource is available if one is willing to accept what the
universe offers in a particular place and time. The economics of abundance
also embodies ethical strategies for the genuine scarcity that does exist in
certain cases from time to time. Then, our responsibility is to protect scarce
resources from any exploitation and to try to nourish their recovery. The
scarce resource becomes sacred in a highly specific way, placing limits on its
Obviously, in most societies, mixtures of the economic philosophies of
scarcity and abundance co-exist, often even in the same persons. Where belief
in abundance is the main view, abundance tends to manifest. Scarcity
economics produce scarcity. Absolute scarcity can exist under either
situation. When that happens, human conflict is unavoidable and we may
consume one another until the pressure on the environment is eliminated.
SNIP Here we go into application of this info in practical ways to sop up the
abundant benefits that rampant kudzu presents.
For Mother Earth, Dan Hemenway, Yankee Permaculture Publications (since 1982),
Elfin Permaculture workshops, lectures, Permaculture Design Courses,
consulting and permaculture designs (since 1981), and now correspondence
courses via email. One is now underway. Next Live program: Paraguay,
8/10-22/98. Internships available. Copyright, 1997, Dan & Cynthia Hemenway,
P.O. Box 52, Sparr FL 32192 USA YankeePerm at aol.com
We don't have time to rush.
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