Multidimensional Wealth: What is it and why is it important?

Ranulfo Paiva Sobrinho
Jun 30 · 5 min read
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Image: Photo taken at Finca Vivencias Campesinas in San Carlos, Costa Rica.

Is wealth what you perceive as important? Is it the absence of what you consider undesirable? Is it something (or a group of things) that generates and, sometimes, reinforces pleasant feelings to the point that you want to, if you consider appropriate, share with other people? May all of those define wealth? It is up to you.

Does all this seem too abstract? Perhaps an example will help clarify things.

A family decides to move from the city to the countryside. Why? For a variety of reasons. They want to produce their own food in a healthy way, without the use of fertilizers or pesticides. They want to merge art and agriculture in such a way that crops are planted according to geometries inspired by the circular mandalas. To this family, the merging of productive systems and art yields great satisfaction, to the point that they want to share it with other people.

They adopt agricultural practices that contribute to the biodiversity of plants, animals, and, especially, the soil. These practices prevent nutrient loss and improve water infiltration and groundwater recharge.

The family also seeks the satisfaction of reviving their ancestors’ cultural practices, which are reflected, among others, in the way they build their house, prepare their food, and relate to others. They want to connect to other people living in the countryside and who share similar experiences. They value connection with people whose purposes and objectives are aligned with theirs. They know that new experiences may emerge from these relationships.

They trade services and products using different means of exchange. Sometimes they use the official currency of the country, at times they barter without any money, and on some occasions, they use a complementary currency that only circulates within the network of people who accept, create, and administer it.

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The wealth of this family may be characterized by multiple dimensions. Each dimension represents an aspect of importance to members of the family. For example, the dimensions might be characterized, among others, by indicators representing the following aspects:

  • environmental,
  • sociocultural,
  • economic.
  1. diversity of insects, birds, mammals, and native plant species in their property;
  2. biological diversity in the agricultural soil, with organic matter and no compaction;
  3. soil conservation to avoid erosion, increase water infiltration, and recharge groundwater.
  1. quantity of food produced in the property and that is available for the family’s consumption through the following 6 months;
  2. quantity of food produced in the property that may be exchanged or sold either using the official currency of the country of a complementary currency;
  3. quantity of tourists visiting the property and paying either using the official currency or a combination of official and complementary currencies.
  1. the cultivation system in the shape of well defined and maintained mandalas;
  2. housing modeled after their ancestors’ housing;
  3. interactions with other families that practice cultural activities aligned with their values.
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Undoubtedly, we may use other indicators in addition to the ones mentioned above. The point is that the combination of these indicators reflects multidimensional wealth from the perspective of this family.

Just as a family may reflect its wealth multidimensionally, so too may a country, or an alliance of multiple countries.

Another family wants to move from the urban area to the countryside. They want to make a profit and decide to grow pineapples because it will generate them more money than the job they had in the city.

They deforest their property and prepare the soil following traditional agriculture recommendations. In doing so, they utilize chemical fertilizers as nutrients and pesticides to control pests. They plant the pineapples in rows. The family does whatever it takes to have the largest production of pineapple, even if this means contaminating the soil and the pineapples themselves. If everything goes well, at the end of a certain time period, the number of dollars the family possesses will have increased.

The wealth of this family may be characterized as the following: the quantity of dollars earned from agricultural production. This is an example of unidimensional wealth.

Which one of the two kinds of wealth is better? It depends on your own choice. You decide the basis upon which you define your wealth.

Just as the second family measures wealth using as an indicator the amount of money earned at the end of a time period, without considering the negative effects caused during the process of generating unidimensional wealth, so too several countries use this same indicator as default to measuring their wealth.

If you ask me what kind of wealth I adopt, I will give you the following answer: I adopt the concept of multidimensional wealth in my life and businesses. Thus wealth includes spiritual, physical, and intellectual health, environmental, social, and cultural aspects as well as diversity in kinds of money (official currency, complementary currency, and cryptocurrencies created with technologies such as blockchain).

In order to increase personal wealth, we must act and, therefore, we need to decide which action or actions to take. I believe that to make such decisions, we must consider the positive and negative impacts in all the different aspects that characterize multidimensional wealth. But, this is a topic for future conversations.

In the next posts, we will discuss the implications of using multidimensional versus unidimensional wealth to characterize the wealth of a business or a country. We will also look at possible ways of measuring multidimensional wealth.

Cambiatus is a platform where communities are creating multidimensional wealth by using open-source tools to create economic systems in their own terms and conditions based on what we call biocurrencies and regenerative DAOs.

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Thanks to Juliana Zanotto for her suggestions to this text and the translation from Portuguese.


Cambiatus Blog | New Organizations.

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