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Building a Restorative Economy: Buffett, Gates and The Story of Enough

“When is enough enough?”  Bernie Sanders asked during his filibuster against the Lame Duck tax bill in December.  During the speech, he referred to Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, two of the world’s richest three people.  (If you haven’t been paying attention, they’ve been pushed down to the number two and three spots by Carlos Slim Helu, the Mexican telecom tycoon who is now worth $53.5 billion.)

The reference to Gates and Buffett in a speech about Enough was a result of their project called the Giving Pledge, which encourages billionaires to give away more than half their wealth.  And while this may not seem immediately relevant to life in the hills of Hardwick or the dales of Dorset, it raises important questions about the meaning of Enough, about ways in which we might, as a society, secede from the cult of He Who Dies With The Most Toys Wins and, maybe, just maybe, about ways to put back into the soil—the soil of the restorative economy and the actual soil—what we take out. Read more

Planning Charitable Gifts to Your Favorite Food Organizations? Double Your Impact by Donating Dirty Stocks

Investor beware: The mutual funds in which you invest may support companies that are working against your sustainable food system values. ‘Tis the season to dump those stocks, in the form of year-end donations to causes you do support. This is a strategy I learned last December, and it helped one of my favorite nonprofits attract an unexpected $20,000 gift. Read more

RSF Social Finance Seeks “Patient” Investors For Sustainable Food

RSF Social Finance, a non-profit financial firm focused on using money as a force for good in the world, has announced the launch of a new Food & Agriculture Program-Related Investing (PRI) Fund. The idea is to encourage investors to support elements of the agricultural and food sectors that look beyond the bottom line to take the health of our environment and communities into account. Read more

America: Too Big to Flail?

If correctly identifying your problems is the first step to solving them, I’m afraid we’ll all be peeling tar balls off our heels before we get a handle on the BP blowout.

“Please stop calling it a leak!” Bill KcKibben pleaded at the Slow Money conference in Shelburne, Vermont last month. A leak, after all, suggests a kind of dribble. A spill sounds like something you might mop up with a towel.

“We’ve punched a hole in the bottom of the ocean,” McKibben added. “Is a knife wound a ‘blood leak?’”

We’re hitting some fundamental limits, he added, citing the ‘thousand year’ storms that seem to come every four or five years now, and the fact that we’re facing the hottest year on record, so far (and that was before the heat wave that hit the whole Eastern seaboard this past week).

Yes, we need to plug that hole in the ocean floor before the entire Gulf becomes one gigantic dead zone. But there’s an onshore contaminant threatening our future, too, and it’s called fast money. Read more

Funding The Food Movement

In recession-economy America, there’s no shortage of good ideas. Waves of creative and capable folks have been liberated from their desk jobs — by choice or by force — and are on the lookout for entrepreneurial ways to reconnect with the soil. Read more

Seeds of Strange: Beckistan invades Kunstlerland!

Are the teabaggers ready to stop throwing tomatoes and start growing tomatoes? Glenn Beck’s latest sponsor, The Survival Seed Bank, is banking on Tea Party paranoia to sell a product it calls the “Full Acre Crisis Garden.” As Stephen Colbert noted on Wednesday, “nothing moves product like the hot stink of fear.”

For $164, you get a vacuum-sealed tube of PVC pipe filled with enough seed “to feed friends and family forever,” because, “in an economic meltdown, non-hybrid seeds could become more valuable than even silver and gold!”

But hang on to your credit card! It turns out that the folks flogging the Full Acre Crisis Garden are nothing but horticultural hucksters, as Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas revealed on Tuesday. Read more

500 Words for Change in America

Folks across the country know something is wrong.  There’s just something about the system we’ve created over several decades that is inherently flawed. Some blame the government, others big banks, still others blame political parties, but all agree that there’s something that’s just not quite working the way it should.  People are losing homes, jobs, and health coverage at an alarming rate because of the societal turbulence in the enormous yet formless thing we call the economy.

Enter Change.org and their 10 Ideas for Change in AmericaRead more

Message to the Slow Money Alliance: Time to Take the Plunge

I am have been sitting in the Slow Money Alliance conference in Santa Fe for a day and half now. Many of the pioneers in the good food movement have shared their stories and insights related to the current paradigm of wealth creation and its impact on the planet and its ecological systems. The overarching message that I hear is that we must reframe our sense of return on investment. We can no longer afford to expect huge financial returns when that means degradation of soil, plants, animals, humans and communities. We must broaden the spectrum of expected returns to include regeneration of human and community health. Health must be part of wealth. Read more

Woody Tasch: Socialist? Terroir-ist? Celebratory Slowpoke?

A year ago, investor Woody Tasch’s book Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money might have seemed way out there. Slow money? Isn’t that like a slow race car or a slow rocket? An oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp? Suddenly, with Wall Street in shambles (the victim of too much too fast), Tasch’s vision for a more patient and holistic investment philosophy that values relationships (between people and other people, between people and the natural world) doesn’t seem so strange after all.

I sat down with Tasch and asked him to explain a bit more about his book. Read more