by Woody Tasch
First, let’s admire this fist:
The Economist put this on its cover earlier this year to celebrate the Arab Spring.
Let’s use it, today, for the Occupy Wall Street movement.
People raising their fists, peacefully, against “greed is good,” against wildly inequitable distribution of wealth, against fortunes made on derivatives and bail outs and what Warren Buffett called “financial weapons of mass destruction.” Fists raised against fast money–you know, the stuff of 1,000 pt. drops in the Dow in 20 minutes and Goldman Sachs bonuses “trimmed to $16 billion.”
People raising their fists not against tyrants and political oppression, but against distant bankers and invisible investments, going who knows where on the planet and doing who knows what to who knows who in the ever-accelerating pursuit of maximum financial speed—more, bigger, faster, and unlimited gains for them with their hands on the levers.
I see your fists and raise you a tent. A tent?
Not just any tent. This tent:
In this tent on a farm field in Vermont last year, 600 of us from more than 30 states and several foreign countries gathered and committed $4 million to 12 small food entrepreneurs from around the country who are creating jobs, getting toxics out of the food chain, restoring soil fertility, preserving ground water, keeping carbon in the soil and out of the atmosphere, fighting diabetes and otherwise striking at some of the root problems—literally and metaphorically—or our economy and our culture. Showing the way towards life after fast food and fast money.
This is the tent of Slow Money.
In it, we are beginning to put some of our money to work as far from Wall Street as far can be… that is, near where we live, in things that we understand, things that bring tangible, immediate benefits to our communities.
We are starting with small food enterprises, which bring fertility to the soil of the economy: small organic farms, grain mills, creameries, local slaughterhouses, seed companies, compost companies, restaurants that source locally, butchers and bakers and, sure, a bee’s-wax candle maker or two, food hubs, community kitchens, community markets, school gardens, niche organic brands, makers of sustainable agricultural inputs, and more.
Could this be the beginning of a new kind of investing, something as powerful, in its own right, as protest? As powerful as conscientious objecting? Can we call it conscientious investing?
We invite some of you to take a break, let your arms down and give your fists a rest for a moment, and join us.
Our goal: one million Americans investing 1% of their money in local food systems, within a decade. We think this is the path towards an economy that is healthier, fairer, more balanced, more sustainable.
We are still small, but sprouting. 20,000 people have signed the Slow Money Principles. 2,400 have joined the Slow Money Alliance, a national network and emerging group of eleven local chapters that are facilitating the flow of millions of dollars into scores of small food enterprises around the country. The 2011 national gathering held in San Francisco this Autumn took another step towards this goal of one million Americans investing 1% in local food systems. We featured 30 new entrepreneurs, all currently seeking capital.
Can we design new systems appropriate to the realities of investing in the 21st century? By starting with direct relationships we bypass the intermediation that is taken to an extreme in modern finance. Each individual’s action to take 1% of their money and invest it in these entrepreneurs is paving the path towards a new economy, one based less on extraction and consumption and more on preservation and restoration.
While we use the 99%er side of our brain to protest against the bad 1%, let’s also use the Slow Money side of our brain, and our heart, to roll our sleeves up and begin investing a good 1%.
And maybe, just maybe, we’ll find our way to life after fast money.
Woody Tasch is Chairman of Slow Money, a national 501(c)(3) organization formed to catalyze investment in local food systems. Tasch is author of Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms and Fertility Mattered. To get involved, start by signing the Slow Money Principles at: http://slowmoney.org/principles