A small village, quite aptly named Haven, may be the model for retirement in the future. Bartering talents, skills, produce and goods is how this community thrives. They barter one-on-one but they also ‘sell’ excess produce or general usage services such as water purification on a points system, called the ECO, which is fast becoming the eco-village currency.
Without the financial resources to retire in a cash-based society and facing a world-wide crisis of near-empty pension fund coffers, the community in Haven has opted for an alternative system – one of community support and bartering – a sophisticated supply and demand system for everything from food and clothes to healthcare and information technology.
Haven is not about withdrawing from modern society. In fact, it is very much tapped into the communications and technology of today. Margaret, a 60 year old Haven resident says, “I want to live with purpose and dignity. I am healthy and active and do not want to go into a retirement home, yet one has to deal with the reality of a world that does not value old age and where retirement resources have been depleted with disastrous consequences for us”.
Haven is not just for the able-bodied and sound of mind, it takes equal care of all its citizens. This may be one of its most inspiring features, the warmth, humanity and quality of life of the people in this community. Haven is one of the first but the trend is fast catching on as many similar communities emerge around the world.
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ANALYSIS >> SYNTHESIS: How this scenario came to be
The literature is full of worrying stories about ageing population trends, declining birth rates and economic downturns with the consequent losses in jobs. Urbanisation trends are on the increase and by 2030 urban population numbers are likely to constitute 60 percent of the total population. This increase in urbanisation will put extreme pressure on resources, both natural and man-made. Space and housing will be in short supply and essentially unaffordable. Unless you are young (ish), highly skilled and marketable, economically you will be a second-rate citizen, and viewed as a socio-economic burden on the system. But for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Man has an innate capacity for adapting, even to the most adverse conditions.
2004: New Currencies to barter with
In small pockets all over the world there is a backlash to our monetised economy. People, where they can, strive to ‘retire’ from the conventional money system. Whilst not a 100% possible, many spend much of their daily lives in this alternative system. In South Africa, 700 people in the last year have joined the Community Exchange System, an internet-based economy where people trade favours and skills called ‘talents’.
In the USA, 30 cities and towns issue local currency, including Madison, Wisconsin, Santa Barbara, California and Brooklyn, New York. The Internal Revenue Service has no objection to local currencies, as long as they’re pegged to the value of U.S. dollars. These local currencies came about to allow individuals to sidestep the debt system inherent in today’s economy and to ensure that currency remains within the community. Together with bartering networks and local exchange trading systems, communities apply these methods to simplify life, to gain free time, to create a more tangible connection between their work efforts and spending needs, to become more self- or community-reliant, and to reduce environmental impact.
2007: New Definition of Wealth
NEF (New Economic Forum) is actively working with governments, public and private sectors globally to review the principles of the current capitalist system. Economic growth for growth’s sake is being held up to scrutiny. The key factor that should be driving economic growth is equitable distribution of wealth. GDP as a measure is being re-evaluated. Alternative measures including MDP (Measure of Domestic Progress that factors in social and environmental cost of growth) and SWB (Subjective well-being to measure social progress) are being incorporated.
The meaning of ‘wealth’ is being questioned. More and more people in the developed world are expressing ‘wealth’ in terms of our children, our environments, our cultures, our languages, our unity, our sharing and so on. Money is slowly being put in its place again – as a servant and not the master of the global economy.
2010: Security-Village Upswing
As cities and metro’s become increasingly hostile environments, grimy, overcrowded, crime-riddled and unable to fulfil even some of the fundamental human needs, people begin to move out of these urban centres into the more rural fringes. Whilst still maintaining a lifeline with the urban centres, people have created their own communities of self-sufficiency. Enclosed in these boomed and walled settings are pre-selected and community-defined shops, hospitals, schools, and other service providers. These are invited in if they serve the community’s purpose. There is no such thing as developer-driven progress and development in these communities. Open and green spaces are pre-planned and maintained on the principles of QOL (Quality of Life). Many have started their own water-purification plants – council water is just not what it used to be. Some of the coastal communities are looking at the viability of desalination based on readily available technology which now makes this possible on a smaller scale.
2015: Urbanisation Syndrome
3.9 billion people now live in cities and over 40% live in cities of more than one million people. Cities, accommodating just over half of the world’s people, account for 80 percent of carbon emissions, 75 percent of wood use and 60 percent of freshwater use. Of the 3.9 billion people in cities, 375 million people live in the ‘megacities’, of which there are 23. The largest cities are Tokyo (26.4 million), Mumbai (26.1 million), Lagos (23.2 million), Dhaka (21.1 million), and São Paulo (20.4 million).
The ‘tipping point’ has been reached and Governments worldwide are meeting to try and come up with solutions.
2020: Eco-Villages – The new shape of Pluralism
Leave it to the man in the street to find the solutions. Institutions have always tended to loose touch with their fundamental ingredient, i.e. people. Eco-villages are dotted all over the countryside, and because of their ever-increasing numbers, are becoming more connected to one another. They function as separate and self-sufficient entities outside of the urban centres. Their dependence on governments, municipalities and corporate industry is minimal, in some instances non-existent. Their most central issue is the monitoring of government and corporate use of environmental resources and social governance.
These communities take care of their own and have created a separate economy, one based on bartering combined with the ECO, a new currency based on equitable distribution of enhanced prosperity. The ECO came about as a means for inter-village trading.
And they have open arms. Anybody is welcome, but never think it is a free ride. Initial help is given, but there is a time when help must be returned. We are after all a species functioning on reciprocal altruism.