PGI Picks #16: Money, Money, Money

A series highlighting our team’s book, film, and podcast recommendations in the post growth and sustainability realms.

By Oliver Lovell

97% Owned (documentary) by Michael Oswald

Today in a lecture my professor was explaining energy flows. Energy into a system=energy out of the system + energy change within the system. He was trying to think of a conserved quantity (like energy) that he could use as an analogy to help explain the system. He chose money. Luckily, I had watched a film a few days prior that had elucidated the fact that money is a perpetually and unsustainably growing quantity! I quickly emailed him through a link to 97% owned.

97% owned is an exploration of the question “Where does money come from?”. Surely when we make a deposit in a bank, the bank then uses that deposit to lend out to those who want to borrow from the bank. Right? Wrong! This film explains fractional reserve banking, fiat money and many other financial tools, techniques and products. It drives to the heart of our financial system and argues that “money is at the root of our current social and economic crisis”.

The film comes in four parts. 1. How is money created, 2. Growth and inflation, 3. International Aspects, and 4. National currency reform. It’s a journey that takes the viewer right through from a structured critique of how money is created by banks and why we should care, to the suggestions of the films various creators and interviewees as to how we could re-structure our money system in a thriving post growth world. View full film online.The money issue is one that is fundamental to come to grips with in order to transition our global economy past the growth paradigm and 97% Owned presents it in a structured, digestible and entertaining way. This is essential viewing for anyone keen to play a part in the post growth transition or just anyone who wants to learn more about how the global monetary system affects them. — Ollie

The Money-Less Man — Mark Boyle

Mark Boyle’s fascinating reflection on his journey living without money for a year is well worth the read. Full of practical tips (like how to make a rocket stove)- and refreshing observations, like his acknowledged need to explore his own self-centredness near the end of the experiment, I was left inspired; even considering the shortfalls of my own ‘sustainability’ journey.

Mark’s experience reminded me just how much liberation can come from re-localising trade and re-invigorating the gift economy, as well as the multitude of strategies at our disposal to secure nutritious food and functional relationships with the natural world.

Boyle’s work provides a highly enjoyable and readable insight into futures an increasing number are embracing, whilst maintaining an encouraging, rather than preachy, tone throughout. — Donnie

The Third Chimpanzee — Jared Diamond

Are we in a mass exctinction? Why have Eurasians come to dominate other cultures? Why are females more careful about their sexual selection than males? And how does a 1.6% gene difference between humans and chimpanzees lead to such different outcomes?

These are some of the questions that Jared Diamond sets out to answer in his book The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal (previously titled The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee)

Split into five sections, this work begins with The Chimpanzee’s Closest Relatives (section 1)moves onto Sexual Selection (sections 2 & 3), then World Conquest (section 4), and rounds up with Environmental Impact and Extinction (sec 3).

Jared’s style was a bit hard for me to chew through at first. Information dense to say the least, and at 360 pages it initially felt a lot like a textbook. But I persevered and as time went on I got drawn further and further into Diamond’s style of narrative. His reasoning is unique in style and well explained. He often presents arguments in the “you may think x, but I think y because…” way that means that many of my questions were answered right there within the pages.

By the end of the book I felt like my appetite had only been whetted for the insights that a bio/evolutionary/anthropological approach to understanding humanity can bring. Needless to say, this morning I began reading Collapse, Diamond’s further exploration of section 5.

Richard Dawkins also thinks highly of Diamond’s writing and in his book The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing (page 110) Dawkins claims that Diamond brings “A generous measure of what can only be called deep wisdom to every topic he investigates” — I enthusiastically agree!

Fundamentally, The Third Chimpanzee gave me a much better picture of where we came from, where we are and (I think) where we’re going. If you have a hunger for a fresh new (still feels new after 20 years in the print!) approach to reflecting upon humanity, I highly recommend this work. — Ollie

Originally published in October 2012. To Find out more about the Post Growth Institute, visit our website.

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