Re-localisation includes local currencies and local banking

It is not uncommon these days to see advertisements urging us to buy local because local shops have done it hard during the Covid-19 lockdowns. This sentiment used to be confined to the Greens and the new economics groups, but it is now widely accepted.

In 1996 economist Richard Douthwaite wrote in his book Short Circuit – Strengthening local economies for Security in an Unstable World, “The establishment of a local money system is fundamental to greater economic self-reliance.” He went on to describe the various local currencies possible, spending considerable time on the dramatically successful Austrian depression currency in Wørgl in 1932-33.  You see the Mayor of  Wørgl had read and digested the message of Silvio Gesell in his book Natural Money 1906. Gesell said that money should decay like ordinary goods and it was completely unnatural that those with money should find it increased. (of course those were the days of higher interest rates)

Another chapter of Douthwaite’s book was entitled “Banking on Ourselves” and argued that to strengthen a local economy we must have local banks. Douthwaite himself had been a development economist and knew how essential it was to have development finance for business.

Up to now it is only those on the fringe – for example the Schumacher Institute in US, the New Economics Foundation in UK and the Living Economies Educational Trust of New Zealand who have advocated for local currencies and local banking.

It was a surprise therefore when I listened to economist Steve Keen being interviewed by Phil Dobbie for his Patreon site. Steve Keen, an Australian economist who currently lives in Thailand, argued that the German system showed the importance of local banks. He said he was once being driven to a small town of 5000 people when they came across a factory building satellites. He said that sort of thing only becomes possible if the local bank manager knows and trusts the people involved. (He also argued that the bank should take shares in the business to share the risk). Keen said the big banks of Germany influence only about half the economy and the rest comes from banks called Sparkassen, local non-profit savings banks publicly owned. According to the OECD, the German public banking system had a 40% share of total banking assets in Germany.

Dobbie said that wealth in UK was concentrated in the London/South East where the GDP per capita was about twice that  of the poorer North East of England. Dobbie asked Steve Keen about relocalising, banking, taxation, democracy and even currencies and Keen rose to the occasion, describing the success of  the Wørgl currency in the 1939s.  They talked about the possible Scottish devolution. It is one thing to have a budget from the national government, but quite another to have your own currency, Treasurer and central bank.

“We don’t want to rely on gratuitous payments of a central government handing out case for political point scoring”, said Dobbie. Now that sounds familiar! That lesson is so clear in New Zealand after the spectacle of a $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund where the Minister, over three years has favoured Northland which, although poor, just happens to be where that Minister is contesting the election. It received $553 million whereas the West Coast got $140 million and the Wairarapa received $10 million.

Imagine instead if there were 16 regional banks, all supplying local money to their regions. Imagine if the regional government was able to run a deficit because it is an issuer of a currency. Can you? Wealth would be more evenly distributed in our country. But with banks and Government all being centralised we can’t help but have a concentration of political and financial power in the cities of Auckland and Wellington.

Maybe the unimaginable can become possible in these Covid days.

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New Zealand’s agricultural emissions are high

Nearly half of New Zealand’s emissions are from livestock. A shocking 46.1% for the year 2012 as calculated by the Ministry for the Environment. (MfE). A large proportion of this comes from beef and to a less extent sheep. The MfE paper tells us tells us that in 2012 we had 6.4 m dairy cattle, 3.8m beef cattle, 3.1 m sheep and 1 m deer. So a total of 14.3m ruminant livestock.

So I read their paper calculating our emissions, or more accurately skimmed through it, reading the less technical parts of it as it is hundreds of pages long. I was looking for indications of what Global Warming Potential they were using for methane. It was only when I was reading a book by Richard Oppenlander that I saw the statement that methane is 72 times as powerful as carbon dioxide over a 20 year period and checked this out with Prof James Renwick of Victoria University. Yes he said that is the figure that scientists are taking now.

I finally discovered on a Stats NZ site that we do calculate our methane contribution with a GWP of 25 and once again questioned the climate science professor. He answered,

“Yes a GWP of 25 sounds right as they’ll be using GWP100. That’s still the standard under .the UNFCCC so is how we are required to report emissions (as I understand things), even though the science has clearly moved on to the two baskets approach. ”

But then I asked him if I was right to say the percentage contributed by agriculture would rise if methane GWP was 72, and he said no it would fall. So I was wrong, the headline above is misleading now and I will change it.

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The chicken industry kills four chickens every second in New Zealand

The website of the Poultry Industry Association of NZ (PIANZ) says we kill 125 million birds a year. This tallies well with Stats NZ which gives 124 million,  – much the same. This works out at 238 chickens a minute or about four per second are killed day and night. And we would each eat 25 chickens a year.

But wait. PIANZ also states we each eat 20 chickens a year or 37.5 kg chicken. They are produced on 180 farms. That amounts to the meat on 750 drumsticks a year or about 2 a day.

So we presume the discrepancy is that some are exported or just that some are killed. It sounds like there are numerous deaths before they mature what with the forced feeding that makes  a third of them painfully lame in the last weeks. They double in weight so quickly that their legs can’t carry them.

The Poultry Industry is growing

Stats NZ also gives the figures for the growth of the poultry industry. There are figures for processed chicken meat for every quarter. Back in  the first quarter of 2011, we processed 21,427 chickens whereas the third quarter of 2019 we processed 30,950. It grew every quarter in that period. That is a 44% increase over those eight years.

Of course this is helped along the way by what they would call  “improvements in efficiency” as they now slaughter chickens between 34 and 42 days. This means you can raise nearly nine a year by replacing them.

So it seems chicken is becoming more and more popular. With fish, it is stealing the meat market away from red meat.

Most chicken is sold fresh with only about an eleventh of them sold frozen. Our main exporter is Tegel who in 2018 exported $89.6 million while making a total of $615m profits that year.

New Zealand has about 140 meat chicken farmers and 170 commercial egg farmers.  The four largest companies are TegelInghamsBrinks and Turks

Climate effects of Chicken

But what about their contribution to climate change? Because poultry have lower greenhouse gas emissions due to their lower enteric methane production rates than ruminant livestock species, many consider poultry to have an environmental advantage compared to many other animal protein sources.

Poore puts the greenhouse gas production per serving at about a sixth of that of beef, but it is still six times a big as a serving of beans. But I guess the problem is not per serving. It is the total. Six servings of chicken produce the same weight of GHGs as one of beef.

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Welcome

Hi! I am Deirdre Kent and I live in a retirement village in Waikanae, an hour north of Wellington in New Zealand. For the last 20 years I have been thinking and writing and acting on the topic of New Economics. This site has a lot of blogs about New Economics, including a lot about my last book. However, more recently my passion has been on advocating for Whole Food Plant Based Eating. So here you will find new material on that topic.

Because I am older, I started eating this way for health reasons, although others adopt it for environmental reasons and of course animal welfare reasons. I want to stay alive and I also am glad that eating this way is one of my small contributions to reducing emissions.

I will be blogging here and giving you links to material from the various authorities on this topic.

So enjoy!

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Time to halt privatisation of high country

Although about a fifth of the South Island high country is owned by Government and leased out to runholders, this is changing. Since 1992 the Government has allowed the privatisation of leasehold land. Called “tenure review” it involves an unusual deal and the government loses. The runholders because of their input into the farm claim the improvements belong to them. They end up getting part of the farm for a song. No I am wrong – they sometimes make money on the deal by a strange mechanism. And then they flip it on, making millions in the process. The less valuable land is kept for conservation. There is something strange about the land valuation process.

So why on earth does the public purse lose? To retire the pastoral rights, the Crown paid runholders $36 million (or $656/hectare). That is ridiculous. It is all explained by Dr Brower in April 2107 here and the Environment Court at that stage made a case for stopping freeholding of land in the McKenzie Basin.

The picture above from Stuff shows this week’s protest by Greenpeace about a farm near Twizel where the farmer wants to run 15,000 cows. Many local farmers and even Fonterra joined Greenpeace in opposing this dairy conversion.

All the figures and stories are given in her post and she ends by saying “The best, easiest, and cheapest thing New Zealand could do for the land and water of the South Island is to stop high country tenure review. Better late than never.”

As Charlie Mitchell from Stuff points out, the best land stays in pastoral use and the deal is skewed towards the wrong side. “You might assume that ownership rights to valuable land would be worth more than occupation rights to less valuable land. But the Crown believes the opposite, so it has purposely lost money through these deals.”

More recently we saw the headline “Flipped. From zero to $17.5 million.” This involved a lakeside property on Lake Hawea. Previously under tenure review the farmer had been paid $2.2 million by the crown and had paid nothing in return. Then he onsold it for $17.5million. Flipped from zero to $17.5 million by Charlie Mitchell. An earlier article is one on McKenzie country

Of course after privatisation the owner can subdivide so by April 2017 what used to be about 120 leaseholds is nearly 4000 parcels of freehold land.

The Minister of Lands Hon Eugenie Sage has her work cut out to change this situation.

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Interview on the Big Shift

Half hour interview with Karl Fitzgerald of Prosper Australia on the Big Shift. https://www.mixcloud.com/RenegadeEconomists/

I was surprised when I played it today how animated I sounded. Now I need to finish promoting this book and get on with writing the next one, probably entitled Emergency with a subtitle about the need to have a climate currency and how it could be applied.

The notes are on Karl’s site

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Book selling well and I have my first meeting arranged

Helen told me she only has 7 copies left out of 42 so that means there have been quite a few sales.

I also have a date for a meeting with Otaki Transition Towns at the end of June so that is great. I would love to arrange others and fit them in with my local work on climate change issues in waste management. I need to keep in touch with local environmental, governmental and economic issues. We also have a timebank meeting at my place on Wednesday night. I can see how it can fit in as a perfect way for the council to save money.

Phil also did an interview with me in Lyttelton about the book and I hope we can get it up on the website under Resources.

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Trapped in Wellington due to fog

So great plans to get to Lyttelton early didn’t work out because of the fog at the airport, in fact fog all over Wellington, most unusual. Lots of people going to the Expo are similarly trapped, some going tomorrow and some the day after. Here is the programme. I don’t get there till Friday now.

That gives me an extra day to practise my talk and work on this website.

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Off to the Living Economies Expo

This next weekend I will be presenting at the Lyttelton Living Economies Expo. I have a 35 min powerpoint to illustrate and summarise my book.

I am taking down books where there will be a special Expo price. From then on the book will be sold by Helen Dew.  It will  available from the Living Economies website shop.livingeconomies.nz

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