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Can We Harness Americans’ Retirement Savings to Create Local Sustainable Economies?

What would it take for you to pull your retirement savings out of Wall Street and invest it in things that enrich your local community? Could you invest your IRA or 401(k) in, say, a local farm, solar cooperative, worker cooperative, or housing cooperative?

These questions are so worthy of answers that 15 volunteers and staff of Sustainable Economies Law Center gathered last year for a day at the law library to imagine and design a cooperative that would enable everyday people to direct their retirement savings into local investments. We sought to understand the applicable financial and tax regulations and assess the possibility that ordinary people could come together and form the required custodial entities to enable self-directed IRAs for themselves and their communities. Our key takeaways were: 1) It would be challenging, but not impossible; and 2) There’s so much we can do in the meantime!

This year, we’re continuing our study. While this is a work-in-progress, here are some early conclusions:

  1. Self-directed IRAs have made a visible difference in my community. In 2012, I provided legal services to an organization called Wild & Radish when they acquired 10 acres of land. Now, that land has vegetables, fruit trees, goats, bees, and an ecovillage, and it has become the home base for one of the Bay Area’s most inspiring nonprofits, Planting Justice. It is also home to a heritage seed farm operated by Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture. To help make the substantial down payment, Wild & Radish and Planting Justice received five loans, totaling $90,000, from the self-directed IRAs of their fans and supporters. The lenders have been repaid on schedule with 3-4% interest. However, the return on investment is far greater, because, five years later, I can think of countless ways these groups have enriched the life of our community.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Crossroads on Global Infrastructure

Crossroads on Global Infrastructure

Massive Global Infrastructure Projects Could Prevent Achievement of a Sustainable Economy While Undermining Life Support Systems of the Earth

Plans by the world’s most powerful countries are well underway to spend trillions of dollars for new mega-infrastructure projects to rejuvenate the global economy. The hope of the G-20 nations, the World Bank, China, and other powerful actors is that the infusion of several trillion dollars for infrastructure will boost the growth of GDP by 2.1% over current trends by 2018 and rescue a “sluggish” global economy.

The new feature of this approach to infrastructure involves expanded use of public money (taxes, pension funds, and aid) to offset the risks involved in huge projects. The approach also relies heavily on public-private partnerships, where the issue of accountability and failed projects has been a serious concern.

Those seeking a sustainable, true-cost, steady state economy should be alarmed at the new approach to global infrastructure because trillions of dollars spent on mega-projects in the energy, transportation, agriculture, and water sectors could put a sustainable, true cost economy further out of reach. Reviews of completed projects in these sectors have raised questions about corruption, cost overruns, fiscal accountability, human rights abuse, and the alarming destruction of natural resources.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

The Role of Cities in Moving Toward a Sustainable Economy « Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy

The Role of Cities in Moving Toward a Sustainable Economy « Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.

I encounter many young adults who are discouraged by America’s failure to respond to big issues affecting the future of Planet Earth and human civilization. They do not see much opportunity to make major changes, especially at the governmental level. But empowering examples can illustrate how significant changes can be made in governance at many levels. Cities can and have provided some model changes, but we will never get to a sustainable, steady state, true-cost economy when major energy and land-use decisions continue to take us in the opposite direction.

Cities like Seattle, San Francisco, Portland (Oregon), and Chicago have led the way with enlightened environmental and economic policies. In Washington, DC, I served on Mayor Gray’s “green ribbon” panel to help fashion a comprehensive green plan for the nation’s capital.

This post focuses, however, on a lesser known city, Austin, Texas, that made big economic decisions that changed the dynamics in energy, transportation, land-use, and self-reliance.

The post is about what a hippy flower-child was able to do in Austin by getting elected to the city council. Max Nofziger left his family’s farm in northwest Ohio over 40 years ago and went to live in Austin. He was a hippy and initially made his living selling flowers on street corners, but managed to get elected to the city council and his persistence and rationality helped lead the way for some significant changes.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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