[Fwd: PCU article]

Lawrence F. London, Jr. lflondon at mindspring.com
Mon Sep 18 12:46:11 EDT 2000

On Mon, 18 Sep 2000 10:01:23 -0600, Scott Pittman
<pci at permaculture-inst.org> wrote:

Thought some of you might be interested in more Permaculture Credit
Union stuff. This is an article to appear in local paper.&nbsp; We are
in our fourth week of business and the response is great - thank you!
Scott Pittman

Permaculture Credit Union Opens August 15, 2000
A New Financial Institution Based Upon The Ethics of Earth-care

A new kind of environmentally responsive financial institution has
just been created and chartered. The Permaculture Credit Union is the
first new credit union to be created in New Mexico in thirty years and
is possibly the first credit union to be founded upon the Earth Care
principles of Permaculture ethics, namely, respect for natural
systems, respect for people, and no waste. In banking, this will mean
the reinvestment and recycling of surplus back into the community via
loans that encourage environmentally conscious practices.

Many people have heard of permaculture in relation to farming,
gardening or landscaping techniques. But the ethics of permaculture
can be applied to all systems that sustain themselves, including
growing a garden, building a house, operating a business, or managing
and investing financial resources. 

The mission and purpose of this new enterprise is to pool the
financial resources of people who subscribe to these ethical
principles and provide a financial vehicle that will allow these
resources to be put to work creating a sound, sustainable,
environmentally responsible future. The founders of this credit union
believe they have targeted a market that is severely underserved by
existing financial institutions, namely, those people who are
committed to a cleaner environment, healthy food and water,
sustainable energy use, and a more conscious lifestyle.  The
Permaculture Credit Union will create the opportunity for its members
to control the use of their money in the community and contribute to
the revitalization of local well being while promoting environmentally
sound, earth-friendly technologies and practices.

Open For Business!

For the past three years the Permaculture Institute and numerous
volunteers have been involved in establishing the Permaculture Credit
Union (PCU).  They recently received approval from the National Credit
Union Association (NCUA) for depositors insurance ($100,000 per
account), and from the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department
to begin operation of the Permaculture Credit Union. As of August
15th, the Permaculture Credit Union, based in Santa Fe, NM, has begun
accepting member deposits.

The PCU office is located on the second floor of the NM State
Employees Credit Union office on the perimeter of the Villa Linda Mall
complex at the corner of Cerrillos and Rodeo Road. It's not a fancy
office, just the basics. Don't expect the ostentatious d cor of a
fancy national mega-bank. What you will find are friendly and helpful
folks who are just getting started assisting members to open accounts
and take the first steps toward having some control over the way their
money is invested and used for the things they believe in. Since there
is only one paid employee, much of the work is done by the board
members, who are all volunteers, and you are likely to be helped by
the Chairman of the Board or the Acting CEO or one of the other
volunteers who are active in making this new enterprise a reality.  

But What Is Sustainable Finance?

Actually, it's really pretty simple. Sustainable systems and
communities are by their nature conservative, in the sense that they
wisely utilize the least amount for the greatest return. 

The resources most readily available are those which are local,
resources, those which reside within the community. Any community that
exports its resources to other regions, especially if those resources
are not truly  "surplus", will eventually find that it is no longer
sustainable. Similarly, capital which is imported into a community has
its own agenda - maximize short-term profit, no matter what the cost
to the local quality of life. This "short-term" perspective may
provide some immediate benefits, but it is provided at a cost that
takes the profit away from the local economy.

Although many people understand these principles as they apply to
natural systems - as the basics of ecology - they unintentionally
continue to export financial resources of local communities through
the ever-increasing centralization and consolidation of the national
banking system.  The result is that the surplus from local
productivity is being extracted by banking conglomerates and the
profit from these enterprises is being distributed to bank "investors"
rather than being reinvested in the local community and in local,
sustainable businesses and agriculture. This is similar to the
extractive depletion of natural resources in other non-ecological
business practices throughout the fabric of our society.

A Little History, A Lot of New Ideas, and A Generous Dash of Optimism

During their initial organizing activities in 1997-98, the
Permaculture Credit Union received over $3,000,000.00 in pledges of
deposits from more than 800 graduates of the Permaculture Design
Courses. Although these funds have yet to be actually deposited, the
organizers are confident that they have the membership base to create
and maintain a successful and dynamic financial institution. The
Permaculture Credit Union will contribute to the community at large
and provide an important precedent in the financial world, namely the
financial tools and capital dedicated to supporting environmentally
sound practices, technologies and businesses. 

In support of this enthusiasm, the founding board points out that: 
-There are private individuals who would seek loans for ecologically
friendly, solar electric, hybrid, fuel-efficient cars if banks would
only lend for such expenditures. 
-There are homebuyers who would seek mortgage financing for non-toxic,
innovative, environmentally sustainable houses if only lenders were
willing to support these emerging trends. 
-There are green builders, organic growers, innovative entrepreneurs
in solar and wind energy who are undercapitalized and need loans in
order to grow, prosper, and promote these ideas and enterprises. 

Generally traditional financial institutions are unwilling to lend
money to projects and enterprises that fall outside the normal, "
business-as-usual" parameters of their current loan portfolios. These
institutions are partially responsible for the slow pace of innovation
and broad scale acceptance of "Green Building", permaculture, and
ecologically sound farming practices. The Permaculture Credit Union
hopes to be able to meet this untapped demand in the very near future.

The Permaculture Credit Union intends to address this problem by
making loan monies available in these areas. By creating an
ethically-based credit union, the PCU hopes to be able to reward
sustainable behavior by offering better interest rates for loans for
energy efficient houses, sustainable farming practices, or supportive
loan programs for those who lack credit ratings.  Delivering financial
services consistent with the sustainable practices of the permaculture
community members is the prime reason The Permaculture Credit Union is
being formed.

Beyond providing financial services at fair rates, this cooperative
venture will give members the satisfaction of knowing that their money
is being used by others with whom they share a common bond and in
activities and projects that are consistent with and supportive of the
ethics of permaculture.

What's So Different About a Credit Union? The Members Control It!

-A credit union is a cooperative financial enterprise organized by a
group of people who wish to pool their financial resources so as to
promote a common mission and benefit common financial interests.  
-A credit union is a non-profit entity that is owned and controlled by
its members. 
-Income above that which is allocated for operating expenses, (the
"profit"), is paid back to members through dividends and/or better
interest rates on their savings accounts. 
-Members participate in the governance of the credit union by electing
the board of directors from the membership on the basis of one person,
one vote. Thus, this board equally represents all members of the group
when making decisions regarding the investment and lending of the
credit union's assets, regardless of the amount of money an individual
has on deposit in the credit union. 

Lending Philosophy

The founding board members believe that the third Permaculture Ethic:
"Reinvest surplus toward care of earth and care of people", is most
effectively carried out at the regional/local level.  In support of
this belief, they will be recommending two principles to the Credit
Union membership.

1.  "Local Money Stays Local".
 One concept for carrying this out is locally constituted credit
committees. Working within the overall guidelines of the credit union,
local committees would identify and administer local loans.  Their
total available loan pool would be proportional to the deposits
generated from their area. This is important since the membership of
the PCU is drawn from all around the nation.

2.   "Loans (and investments) should support the vitality and
viability of the earth, the community, its members, and the regional
This principle would encourage local small business and consumer
investments that build human capital, create non-depleting economic
opportunities, encourage cooperative self-help and personal dignity,
and nourish the productive capacity of natural systems.

Although the process of organizing this entity has been long and
tedious, the group that has organized the PCU is confident that the
effort will be successful and that it will demonstrate that people who
are willing to organize their finances around shared ethical
principles and objectives can profoundly influence the shape of our
environmental future. They believe that the structure and philosophy
of the PCU, linking the environment with practical economic solutions,
addressing root causes, and serving as a replicable model of the
connection that can be made between ethics, agriculture, ecology, and
the economy, is the true basis for sustainable development.

How Can People Join?

Membership in this credit union is for those persons who have
completed a Permaculture Institute-recognized permaculture design
course, are members of an affiliated regional permaculture institute,
and/or who subscribe to the ethics of permaculture .

For current information on becoming a member contact:
The Permaculture Credit Union
4250 Cerrillos Road
Santa Fe, NM 87505
or go to www.pcuonline.org

Lawrence F. London, Jr. Venaura Farm ICQ#27930345
lflondon at mindspring.com    london at metalab.unc.edu
http://www.ibiblio.org/ecolandtech    Ecolandtech
http://www.ibiblio.org/permaculture  Permaculture
http://www.ibiblio.org/intergarden/orgfarm AGINFO

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