The goals of the Birdshot Global Initiative are to raise awareness that community currency is a powerful tool for building resilient and sustainable societies, and to develop a network to support the implementation of community currency systems to prepare for and respond to crises.
Plain old poverty remains the leading cause of human suffering. Regional and global crises, such as flooding and pandemics, multiply that suffering.
Local currency systems are an innovative solution, keeping individuals and communities healthy by creating self-reliant local marketplaces.
Nations cannot afford to indefinitely set aside the resources necessary to respond to the economic fallout from major disasters, so that we often hear that "all bets are off" in worst-case scenarios. The underlying reason for this is that control of the world's resources is dominated by a just-in-time global economy, so that the collateral damage from a major crisis can include severe disruptions of supply chains and a cascading collapse of the global marketplace, with immediate and long-term consequences for the global production and delivery of essential resources. Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, predicts that this worst-case outcome is also the likely outcome of an avian influenza pandemic, and, indeed, every responsible government authority is recommending - as a solution to this economic consequence - that all individuals prepare now by storing significant quantities of food. Of course, relatively few can afford to do this, and so most individuals choose to cope by ignoring the risk.
Now, lets consider community currency's proven economic solution:
Just as the primary threat from a pandemic can be addressed with vaccine, so we also need an economic vaccine for the collateral economic damage from global crisis. Specifically, we need local redundancy should the global marketplace be crippled, or, in other words, we need independent local marketplaces to ensure delivery of essential commodities such as food and water. Local currency systems are the best way to produce such local marketplaces. Infusions of national currency can't do this because national currency flows out and doesn't come back when the global marketplace breaks down, but local currency stays local, recirculating indefinitely. During the Great Depression, for example, communities with local currency systems enjoyed prosperity while neighboring communities faced starvation, because local cash powers production and trade, building local marketplaces.
So, if local money systems are such a good idea, then why don't we already see them happening everywhere? The reason local money systems are not ubiquitous is that national currency can be spent both locally and non-locally, and so national currency is generally preferred. Consequently, local money systems that prosper during national and global economic crises usually wither as prosperity and national currency return. But the world has changed since the Great Depression. Our near total dependence on the just-in-time global marketplace now requires that we have local money systems beginning to build local marketplaces immediately upon the onset of crisis, and preferably operating ahead of time, proactively. This requires models with an appeal that competes with national currency.
The global marketplace is a great blessing, bringing global advances to every open market and efficiently delivering resources during times of local and regional disaster; and the just-in-time strategy is efficient and competitive, and so is here to stay. We need the global marketplace, but by also recreating the local marketplaces that the global economy has displaced, we can accomplish a resiliency that the world has never before enjoyed. New strategies have emerged for creating strong local money systems that do not wither in good times, but instead make good times even better by working complementarily with national currencies. The synergy of these redundant marketplaces can generate sustainable prosperity because healthy local marketplaces permit communities to protect their human and other natural resources - not only from disaster but also from the destructive exploitation of an otherwise unchallenged global marketplace. Our basic "Emergency Local Currency" model is one of the simplest approaches, and many others are described at the links provided at our Birdshot website. One or more of these models are right for your community.
Our strategy is to educate planners about the demonstrated power of local currency systems and to support their efforts to add local currency to the emergency toolbox. The UN sponsored International Disaster Reduction Conference (IDRC) is looking for solutions for the 21st century - structural solutions that create resilient societies - and this is why they invited Birdshot to present this strategy to top emergency planners from around the globe at their gathering in Davos, Switzerland, at the end of August, 2006. There, the metasystem approach - redundancy of vital systems - emerged as the single most powerful answer to pandemic. Local currencies can create marketplace metasystems.
Many people have contributed to the advancement of this understanding and the progress of this initiative. Your help is also invited. Together, we can create a brilliant future.