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Culture Change print magazine issues: 20  19  18  17  16  15  14  13  12  11  10  9  8  index

Pedal Power solutions to petroleum dependence and polluting vehicles: Arcata Library Bikes, Pedal Power Produce, and more!

CAOE - Committee Against Oil Exploration - stop offshore oil drilling to protect sensitive habitats and cut petroleum dependence.

Culture Change through music! The Depavers eco-rock!

Take our Pledge for Climate Protection and learn about the Global Warming Crisis Council.

SEI hometown action!
Arcata city council's proclamation against war on Iraq and Kyoto Protocol proclamation.

Overpopulation has become a reality.  Overpopulation Resources and News Tidbits

Sail Transport Network

Fact Sheets
Press Releases

Long Distance


Tools for Sustainability

Editor's note: In response to the "Call for Action" issued by author Dale Allen Pfeiffer, Mike Morin presents a funding system for sustainable communities.  Pfeiffer asked,

"What measures can people of limited means undertake to ease their transition into a post-technological world?"
Synopsis: People can organize and invest in their neighborhoods and regions.

Restructuring Our Economic System(s)

By Mike Morin


In light of the coming shortages in oil (, and the destruction of our natural environment, ecosystems, and habitats, that are caused by the current paradigm of corporate conglomerate capitalism (, we are facing the dire need to restructure our socio-economic systems to a strategy of global relocalization (


So much has been written about our environmental predicament and strategies to avoid environmental and economic collapse that I can only present a cursory overview of the situation. I offer my apologies to all those who have done and/or are doing great work whom I have not included. In my adult lifetime (approximately thirty years), many people have been working to develop paradigms for community re-development and ecological evolution. A pioneering work was, of course, Small is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher. Other initiatives sprung up such as the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (, RAIN, and Eco-City Berkeley ( among others. The interest, formation, and participation in eco-villages and intentional communities has been growing ( . New urbanism has become a popular mantra among architects and planners ( .


Still, there is a missing piece to all this. If we are to reorganize our socio-economic systems to live in ecological, lower energy, more self-reliant and self-sufficient local and (bio)regional (i.e. global relocalization), we need a mechanism to change the way that resources are allocated to and within our communities.


According to Lewis Mumford the word eutopian means good place and outopian means no place. Long ago, so called eutopian socialists such as Fourier, Owen, and St. Simon, among others, formulated and wrote about cooperative community development structures. Such was the beginning of the notion of socialism in western culture. Many intentional communities developed as the result of their efforts. More enduring was the creation of cooperative or mutual business structures. These are often referred to as economic democracies where direction of the organization is set up in a one person, one vote scheme. Probably the most successful effort in recent years has been the worker cooperatives of the Mondragon Society in the Basque region of Spain ( . Since its humble beginnings in 1956, this society of workersí cooperatives has grown to a conglomerate cooperative corporation employing and owned by more than 30,000 workers.


Based on the study of the early cooperative communitarians, comparative economic systems, the Mondragon system and other modern cooperatives, and the assessment of our current situation, I have come up with somewhat of a new paradigm for the funding of cooperative community development organization.


The core group of the concept is the Neighborhood Improvement Fund. I can visualize neighbors forming eco-villages and coming together in larger neighborhood cooperatives. The neighborhood cooperatives would then form a union on the regional level and various regional organizations (Unions of Neighborhood Improvement Funds or UNIF) would form an alliance with the other regions in the world. The organization(s) would be based on the following principles:


-cooperation (economic democracy)
-community stewardship
-peace and tranquility
-production and access to essential goods and services
-primacy of the pedestrian/walkability/new urbanism
-economy and humanity of scale
-risk diversification
-life long education


Most discussion and work in the area of community development finance relates to lending and micro-enterprises. The trouble with such strategies is that small businesses have a very high failure rate because they cannot compete with capitalist conglomerates. They are at an acute disadvantage with respect to economy of scale and risk diversification (i.e. conglomerates who are making good profits in one division can afford to forego profits in another endeavor in order to survive a period of intense competition). The problem with the emphasis on lending is that highly leveraging a business is usually a bad strategy since lenders have the first claim on revenues/profits.


What I propose is the formation of equity unions and amalgamated/conglomerate cooperatives. My proposal is as follows:


As Einstein said, Imagination is more important than knowledge. I would like to think that the following plan has solid grounding in both. It is based on eutopian socialist models and represents a most ethical approach to economic restructuring. The prospects of radically rearranging how resources are allocated to and within communities may be slim yet may be the best hope for the human and non-human communities. Here it is:

Start in our (and all) neighborhoods, a Neighborhood Improvement Fund.

Each adult resident in the neighborhood would voluntarily invest (e.g. from $10 to $100 a year) in a mutual fund to be held in local credit unions. The purpose of the fund would be to create access to necessities (food, household goods, hardware, building supplies, office products, appropriate transportation and energy and conservation, health items and services, education services, etc.) at the local level (i.e. within walking distance of all residents). The mutual fund would make investments only in community and worker owned (hybrid) cooperatives. All decision making would be democratic with a one-person one-vote system, democratically elected Board, and a referendum system.

There would be an association or union of NIFs and we would encourage more wealthy neighborhoods to donate to poorer neighborhoods (perhaps through a 501(c)(3) vehicle). Through the Union of NIFs (UNIF), the NIFs would cooperate to achieve the benefits of economy of scale, (and) bulk buying.  Involvement in many business segments would create the competitive advantage of risk diversification.

Let's UNIFy!!!


Join Mike Morin's discussion group at



Articles of interest:
Measuring and controlling the actions of governments 

Anti-globalization protest grows, with tangible results. 
WTO protests page

Tax fossil-fuel energy easily
by Peter Salonius 

UK leader calls War on Terror "bogus"

Argentina bleeds toward healing by Raul Riutor

The oil industry has plans for you: blow-back by Jan Lundberg

It's not a war for oil? by Adam Khan

How to create a pedestrian mall by Michelle Wallar

The Cuban bike revolution

How GM destroyed the U.S. rail system excerpts from the film "Taken for a Ride".

"Iraqi oil not enough for US: Last days of America?"

Depaving the world by Richard Register

Roadkill: Driving animals to their graves by Mark Matthew Braunstein

The Hydrogen fuel cell technofix: Spencer Abraham's hydrogen dream.

Ancient Forest Protection in Northern California. Forest defenders climb trees to save them.

Daniel Quinn's thoughts on this website.

A case study in unsustainable development is the ongoing crisis in Palestine and Israel.

Renewable and alternative energy information.

Conserving energy at home (Calif. Title 24)

Culture Change/Sustainable Energy Institute mailing address: P.O. Box 3387 , Santa Cruz , California 95063 USA
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Culture Change (Trademarked) is published by Sustainable Energy Institute (formerly Fossil Fuels Policy Action), a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) California non-stock corporation. Contributions are tax-deductible.