Our first two meetings of the new decade have been telling. Saturday’s standing-room-only event at Patagonia and our first business meeting of the year at the Altona Grange at the end of January were important steps forward. This is an auspicious moment for an extra bit of reconnoitering.
At the Altona Grange, we approved two more 0% loans to local farmers for whom we have great respect and affection. We also did something else.
We affirmed the respect and affection we have for one another, as well as a particular kind of gumption in the face of the social and ecological challenges of the day. It takes a particular kind of gumption to go slow in the face of mounting crises and ever-accelerating change, to realize that what we face is not an either/or choice between fast and slow, but an imperative to preserve and restore balance.
You could sense the same respect, affection and gumption running through the crowd at Patagonia, which is notable given how many new friends were in the room.
The race against ecological and institutional dysfunction must go forward in fast and slow modes simultaneously.
Fast. Innovate technologically and financially at the macro level as if the lives of our children depend upon it. Carbon sequestration technologies. Carbon markets. Speculate on unicorns that have the potential to transform global processes of extraction, manufacturing and economic growth. Use competitive financial returns as a tool for redirecting institutional capital flows. This is the realm of venture capital and impact investing.
Slow. Create new flows of capital to build soil fertility and the resilience of local economies, communities and bioregions. Go beyond financial diversification, all the way to ecological, cultural and economic diversity. Local ecological and social returns first. Work in neighborly, place-based, peaceable ways, engaging and empowering individuals. This is the realm of slow money and nurture capital.
It’s possible, of course, that slow money efforts will not “scale out” sufficiently to have an impact at the systemic level. But it is also possible—as possible as the invention of a silver bullet carbon sequestration technology or a way to vacuum plastic micro-particles from snowmelt or a way to de-extinct the woolly mammoth—that grassroots initiatives such as SOIL will prove vital to prospects for a healthy future.
Political and economic certainties, matured over centuries, are being undermined by the half-life of hashtags. Attention and intention, honed over millennia by place and culture, are being sucked into the vortex of media and cyberspace. One of the greatest challenges of all is the challenge to keep our wits about us, to muster the gumption necessary to act directly and constructively, with requisite patience and urgency.
At the Altona Grange, I was struck by the profound sense of good will in that room. It was palpable. New members and “old,” large donors and small, farmers and CSA members were all on the same page, prompting Amanda Hartt and Brian Coppom to share thoughts about balancing heart and mind.
If we had asked, “Will all the heart-centered investors move to the right side of the room and all the mind-centered investors move to the left?”, no one would have moved. Because there were no sides.
This is radical. Radical not in the political sense, but in the root sense. (The etymological root of the word radical is root.) There is no Soil Party. There is no Anti-Soil Party. There are no sides. No one is against soil fertility. There is only an industrial mindset—a globally-oriented, market-dominated, export-dependent, commodity-driven, Buy Low/Sell High, “It’s The Economy, Stupid” worldview—that makes it difficult to stay focused on what is happening right under our feet, to the relationships upon which the health of community and bioregion depend.
Which makes working together to bring money back down to earth more important than ever.
Let’s recognize our progress to date as a good beginning. Let’s be aware that what we do here is serving as a model for other communities. And let’s affirm that, given the urgency of the current moment on so many fronts, we must go slow. . . quickly.
The 2020s will be the decade of Greta Thunberg.
Let’s also make it the decade of SOIL.