Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Everything happens at once!

A lot of things have been happening behind the scenes and we haven't been able to tell anyone about them.

How frustrating is that?! Well now it is all happening, and man is it happening. Wow!

To begin with due to the magic contributions of one Mr. Kym Flannery we now have a beautiful and carefully crafted new Boya plus the connections to the printers and paper suppliers to make the next Boya issue a true currency. See the design above.

This came just in time as we have been requested by Men of the Trees to work with this years Activate! tree plantings on August 6-7 in critical biodiversity habitat in the Wheatbelt so that they can issue Boya to volunteers based on the carbon sequestered by the trees.

But wait, that's not all!

We are now helping Coolbinia Primary to issue a Boya based on a 10 Tonne sustainability plan that is integrated with the school cirriculum. This will kick off in August and we are very excited with this one as it takes it back to our beginning inspiration, to empower our kids to feel like they can do something about climate change!

Part of the Ten Tonne plan is assisting a Ugandan school purchase much needed solar lanterns to replace dangerous and greenhouse gas generating kerosene lanterns. This part of the project is being facilitated by Solar Sister, an NGO working in Africa to increase student literacy and community resilience by helping distribute dependable and low running cost solar lanterns. Solar Sister are winners of a prestigious Clinton Global Initiative award for their hands on word in reducing poverty. What an amazing opportunity to collaborate with an organisation that is making a real difference in peoples lives!

And if that wasn't enough, Linda Blagg of Sunday Arvo Pictures in Fremantle have agreed to help us video document these early days and create an on-line video that will help us get the word out on this fantastic opportunity for our communities to roll up our sleeves to tackle climate change and for these stories to circulate in the world rather than being invisible.

To make this video we need to cover our costs, so we have used a service called Pozible to give you the opportunty to contribute to making it. You will be thanked with Boya from the Activate! tree planting, so if you wanted to earn some Boya but can't make it to the planting this is a way to contribute.

Click on the Boya below to enter the Pozible site:

Whew! If anything else was happening I'd need a holiday.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, May 22, 2011


We finally did it! Below is the press release for our Boya launch!

Most has been reprinted in April 2011 edition of Community Currency Magazine

30 January, 2011 Fremantle, Western Australia

Maia Maia ERCS, a local Western Australian group, has created a new way for local communities to make their efforts to reduce carbon pollution, which are normally invisible, into a tangible form of ‘community money’. The approach is similar to simple loyalty programmes such as frequent flyer points.

Frustrated with the lack of government leadership in regulating dangerous carbon pollution, Maia Maia ERCS, launched the boya, a local currency issued on the basis of positive actions to prevent climate change. The launch took place on 30 January at a workshop on Empowered Fundraising in Fremantle, WA. There are currently over 200 local currency systems in operation around Australia, but Maia Maia ERCS is the first such system to be based on emissions reductions.

Boya are created as ‘rewards’ for group activities that result in the reduction in CO2 pollution through reducing power bills, planting trees, installing solar panels or other activities. Once reductions are made, groups are able to apply to create their own boyas underwritten by their actions. Maia Maia ERCS uses global standards to calculate the amount of carbon taken out of the atmosphere as a result of that action for the currency issue.

Each boya note contains the logo of the group issuing it, the amount of carbon pollution reduced, the activity undertaken to reduce it and who sponsored them in helping to cover their costs. The first issue of the boya was by the Gaia Foundation of Western Australia and the International Permaculture Service (IPS) which is working with farmers in Ghana, Africa to develop sustainable agriculture methods and who planted the trees used to back their boya. The sponsor of the issue, whose logo also appears on the boya, was Edge 5, an environmental consultancy which helped set up IPS.

Sam Nelson, a co-founder of Maia Maia ERCS, believes the story of the group is the most powerful element of the boya. He explains, “As our stories continue to circulate with the boya they remind us that people are out there doing good things, something that is easy to overlook. I believe it is this sharing of stories that will have the most impact in changing our society, rather than any economic value we may put on carbon.”

The boya is named after rock trading tokens used by local Nyungar people, which is one of the oldest systems of money on the planet. The name was suggested by local Elder Neville Collard.

There are currently four businesses signed up to accept the boya for various discount offers and a similar number of communities on the waiting list to issue their own boya. Some are offering a dollar discount per boya whereas some, like the Organic Collective, an organic fruit and veg retailer in Fremantle, is offering a 10% discount for 10 boya.

Trading the boya can be likened to the use of frequent flyer points or other loyalty programs. A boya can be redeemed at participating businesses or traded among individuals but can then also be used by businesses to trade with other vendors. The boya is issued in the form of a note so that it can be carried around in people’s wallets and handbags and shared. Through this boya enrich the community with a sense of pride that we all are playing our part in protecting our common future.

Maia Maia ERCS has been co-founded and developed by a diverse group of individuals namely; Sam Nelson, Elaine Lewis, Michael Starling, Bryce Martin, Nick Mortimer, Drew Phillips, Natasha Alphonse, and Kristina Newton. This group contains specialists in environmental accounting, climate change education, strategic business planning, peak oil and energy economics, community development ,home and business energy efficiency, and permaculture.

The committee is currently working to complete their business plan and are interested in speaking to volunteers and professionals who would like to get involved with the program.

For more information or to register as a business or community visit www.maiamaia.org or contact Sam Nelson at MaiaMaiaProject@gmail.com

Sunday, February 6, 2011

What’s the Big Idea? Emissions reduction currency, climate change, and us

“The way the Chinese express the concept of crisis. They use two symbols, the first of which ­ by itself ­means ‘danger’. The second, in isolation, means ‘opportunity’.“

Al Gore had come to visit our remote corner of Western Australia in 2007, and his talk started with this promising line. We are all familiar with dramatic scenes of the dangers of climate change: shrinking ice caps and calving ice, the human suffering from floods and droughts and storms, swelling seas engulfing our cities and the upward lines on graphs catapulting us back into the Jurassic. Those scenarios were the ‘danger’. I was desperate to hear the plus side. What could be the ‘opportunity’ of global warming? What exciting vision of the future might this global challenge of catastrophic proportions provide?

I was disappointed. As the talk wound down to an anticlimax, the ‘opportunity’ turned out to be a graph showing a mix of dry policy shifts mostly involving power utilities, some rather mundane technologies, swapping out light bulbs, politics as a ‘renewable resource’, and the chance to meet ‘the moral challenge of our generation’. Don’t get me wrong. I am a long-time fan of Al Gore’s and continue to be, but I couldn’t get away from the sinking feeling that the disintegrating glaciers, etc. had much more ability to command the imagination than the solutions did.

Psychologists have found that most people can only envision one future at a time and whether that future is positive or negative, will generally act in a way that will make that future become a reality. This type of self-fulfilling prophecy arising in society as a whole is known as the Synergistic Accumulative Effect. Given the options presented that night by Vice President Gore, it was clear that the dangerous vision of the future was more compelling that the alternatives.

For many years I’ve worked as an environmental accountant for large resources companies. My motivation to get into this line of work was the old maxim, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” While there have been some important wins with this approach over the years, it had been a source of frustration for me that the pace of change is not what I felt the world needs to meet the climate crisis. From this feeling grew a sense that I wanted to do something tangible in my own community and I began to discuss options with the sustainability group at my kids’ school. Perhaps I could put my professional skills to work with some kind of community carbon crediting scheme?

“Instead of carbon credits, why don’t you back a community currency with your emissions reductions?” This suggestion came from my friend John Croft, Director of the Gaia Foundation in Western Australia - a network that facilitates sustainability projects worldwide, the first being the 1992 Earth Summit. The idea intrigued me. In the same way our money used to be backed by gold, and continues to be backed by greed, was it possible to have money backed by measurable reductions in greenhouse gases and good will in our community? This approach was also more practical. From my professional experience with emissions trading I was sure that the charged politics and sluggish bureaucracy surrounding carbon credits were going to be difficult for our local Montessori school to manage. At least with this approach we could make up the rules to suit ourselves as long as we used the globally established and easy to use accounting procedures, that I was well familiar with, to determine our schools reductions.
"The real wealth of life aboard our planet is a forwardly-operative, metabolic and intellectually regenerative system." The Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, 1969.

Buckminster Fuller was a gadfly American intellectual in the post-World War II era who is best known for inventing the geodesic dome. He was also one of the first planetary systems thinkers who would fearlessly cross any disciplinary boundary he happened upon, inventing new words to describe novel combinations of ideas. Fuller was also the first to suggest the type of currency system that my friends and I had decided to set up and had invented a whole new economics with which to back it. True wealth on a finite planet, he posited, had to use human ingenuity to capture renewable energy from the sun and tides in a way that did not compromise the natural life support systems of a “spaceship” Earth.

Could prevention of human induced global warming and associated environmental degradation be an opportunity for developing a whole new vision of what wealth is? This question followed from the idea of backing money with greenhouse gas reductions. What kind of wealth would that be? My friends and I came up with the following:

* It would be tangible wealth with a physical basis and universally accepted procedures for accounting for it;
* It would be democratically accessible wealth that anyone reducing consumption, putting up solar panels, composting waste, or planting trees could create without needing to visit a bank;
* It would be wealth with a universal economic basis, since no one will avoid the consequences of a rapidly heating and increasingly crowded planet; and
* It would be wealth that builds good-will since the atmosphere connects us all and preventing global warming is an act of kindness towards every living being on the planet;

Changing our economy to be more life-friendly and democratic would certainly be an historic opportunity arising from the crisis of Global Warming, one that could fire the imagination and impact people in an immediate way. It was an exciting time as these implications began to sink in. I wrote letters to Nobel Peace Prize winners on our blog and waited for the world to come marching to our door. Predictably, that hasn’t happened...yet.

Garry Davis, soul-sick from the experience of dropping bombs from his B-52 on the citizens of Europe, decided to announce himself a ‘Citizen of the World’ and renounce his ties to the national governments that had been the source of so much suffering. He self-declared a world government, travelled the world on his homemade world passport, and decided to put Buckminster Fuller’s idea of a solar energy-backed currency into circulation.

"We went out and finally printed our own money ‘kilowatt dollars’ and took them down to the [1992] Earth Summit and started to distribute them - it was very hot down there and we were accosted by the Brazillians who said, "Americans were rich and they were poor" - and the sun was broiling down and everybody was sweating and I said, ‘Look at that sun out there and that sun is pouring billions of 'kilowatt dollars' on your land every second’ and then I started distributing the 'kilowatt dollars'. I said I'm giving a 'kilowatt dollar' to every person ... and people just wanted them, they grabbed them, they said, ‘Oh world money - this is it.’ “

Our group, which we named Maia Maia after the local indigenous Nyungar people’s word for ‘home’, was having more trouble than Garry Davis did in inspiring enthusiasm, at least at our school. People just didn’t seem to get it, so we decided to take the idea ‘bush’ in order to flesh out the idea and think of better ways to ‘sell’ the concept. We dragged our families on a camping retreat to brainstorm our ideas. Our kids had a great time mucking about in water holes and designing their own ‘boyas’, the name for our currency taken from the Aboriginal name for rock trading tokens that may be the world’s oldest form of money. The kids seemed to accept the idea of a new way of making money, setting up trades between themselves for services rendered, but we adults were still struggling with the whole idea.

Our group was divided. One side was excited about the idea of creating a monetary reward that would motivate the community to reduce emissions. The other side felt that putting a monetary value on boyas was demeaning as they believed that boyas already had an innate value as a tangible symbol of “doing the right thing”. To them this ‘value’ was worth more than the economic value that might result from trading them. Interestingly this split occurred along gender lines.

To resolve these differences we decided to change the focus of our currency system towards extending good-will and educating the community, rather than it being an economic tool. The implications of this discussion were exciting to me as it seemed that a community currency based on emissions reduction could have an innate value even before it is traded. This would help us because we could encourage our school to issue boyas without having a system for trading them already set up.

The Rev. Hidehito Okochi of the Jōdo Shinshū Jukou-in Temple in the suburb of Edogawa, Tokyo believes that the Pure Land of Buddhism is not a destination in the hereafter, but can manifest on Earth in the present by working to make our ‘impure world’ into a Pure Land. Over the years he has involved his followers in a range of forward-thinking initiatives, including establishing the Edogawatt, the world’s first active community-based emissions reduction currency system.

Purchasers of Green Power Certificates from solar panels put up by the community, sold as part of a fundraiser for the Temple, are given 30 Edogawatt bills per certificate. Reads the Temple website, "These are currently being used among people ... as a certificate of debt or obligation in exchange for baby-sitting, carrying loads, translating and other small jobs. They have provided an incentive for creation of a mutual aid society within the community and we would like to make them a tool for deepening interpersonal relationships and trust."

Another year had passed. We had received a boost of confidence from having Maia Maia showcased alongside another similar currency, the Kiwah, on Danish television during the Copenhagen Climate Change conference. But on the home-front we were still encountering resistance to our idea.

We had not foreseen the obstacles that would arise from the strong emotions attached to both climate change and the idea of money. Harking back to our campsite talks, a major objection was the concern around teaching children to be motivated by something as impure as “money” instead of preventing climate change simply because it was the correct thing to do. Our money idea was actually a disincentive for some people wanting to reduce emissions! With some reluctance we decided to try another community other than our school to launch our currency. It was a revelation to me that negative feelings about money had proven so strong. Perhaps that Buddhist philosophy of changing the impure into the pure is one reason the Edogawatt was successfully introduced.

We decided to be creative in looking for another place to get started.


“Don't bother trying to teach people a new way to think, give them a tool the use of which will result in a new way of thinking”, Buckminster Fuller.

Solar Sister is an heroic organisation that helps provide solar lamps to African families. Their motivation arises from the need to educate women, long seen as a solution for poverty in developing nations. In more patriarchal societies, boys are allowed to study during precious free-time daylight hours while girls are committed to daily chores. Kerosene for night-time study is prohibitive for most families and so the girls face great challenges in developing literacy. Solar Sister literally provides light where there is none, through the provision of solar-powered lanterns. Their hope is that girls will then be able to participate in their education on a more equal basis. For their innovative approach Solar Sister were awarded a 2010 Clinton Global Initiative Award.

After reading about the organisation I ‘tweeted’ about them on the Maia Maia Twitter page and was delighted when Katherine Lucey, Solar Sister CEO, contacted me about using our currency system as a way to raise money for small-scale projects like hers. She presented a study showing that on average each lamp saved 550 litres of kerosene in its lifetime, which I calculated to be 13 boyas a year. Could we set up a sister school arrangement where an Australian school would raise money for solar lamps for a Ugandan school and the students from Uganda could return a gift of emissions reduction currency? If money issued by a Ugandan community could be spent in Australia that would demonstrate the exciting possibility that our local currency was also a world currency.

Neuroeconomics is the study of changes in the brain that occur during economic transactions. The results from these studies have shown that ordinary economic transactions based on money produce stress and anxiety whereas reciprocal gift giving releases endorphins and is correlated with happiness. When gift giving is one sided, as in the case of much charity, this effect does not occur. Could our currency be a tool for encouraging good feelings as we work together to solve the related threats of climate change and poverty?

This is where we are right now. We have found another school that seems excited by the prospect of entering into a Solar Sister school arrangement and introducing the boya on that basis. We are more open now to the opportunities that might come from unexpected quarters. If those opportunities result in connecting people on this small planet and widening our shared sense of humanity then our efforts have been well spent.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Due to requests I have uploaded this conceptual draft of the elements of our currency.

On one side will be information identifying the currency as belonging to the Maia Maia scheme with bar code to make it work with exisiting coupon systems for businesses such as retailers. This side assures users that the actions to reduce greenhouse gas are being properly accounted for, and that notes in the Maia Maia scheme

On the other side is information regarding the issuing community (school, church, community group, local government, etc... that is actively reducing the greenhouse gases through conservation, efficiency, alternative energy, vegetation planting, or soil amendment). These reductions are the basis of value for the currency.
Opportunities to use these currencies for fund raising, promotions, and support for development projects in the developing world, are currently being investigated. Please feel free to contact us with your ideas at MaiaMaiaProject@gmail.com

Our intention is to further develop this design to better resemble Australian currency as research has shown that alternative currencies that resemble (in a general way) the national currency are more likely to be taken up in the local community. A design competition has been posted to here.

We are developing this as an open source methodology and posting this methodology on the P2P Foundation wiki.

Monday, July 19, 2010

ERCS: Feet on the Ground or Heads in the Sky?

Another in my series of open letters to Nobel Peace Prize winners regarding Emissions Reduction Currency Systems, this time to Dr. Joseph Stiglitz, a preminent and compassionate economist for our age who may be the first person to win both the Nobel Prize in Economics and the Nobel Peace Prize.

Dear Professor Stiglitz,

It was a pleasure attending your talk tonight here at Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia. I have long been a fan since reading Globalisation and Its Discontents where you awakened me to the frightening impact of self-serving economic ideologies being perpetuated by the global financial sector. Your talk tonight extended these insights through a sober post mortem of the global financial crisis, but all the while maintained your hallmark sensitivity to the real and pressing economic demands of our time such as poverty relief and climate change.

In your introduction I was surprised to learn that in addition to being awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics that, as a lead author for the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), you are also a joint recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. As it turns out, for our blog I have been writing a series of open letters to Nobel Peace Prize laureates regarding efforts by our NGO to establish an community issued Emissions Reduction Currency which uses the universal greenhouse gas accounting standards and framework drafted by the IPCC to create localised economic and social capital based on practical actions to prevent global warming. I am doing this to frame our vision in a universal context. Possessing an illustrious background in both economics and climate change you were an obvious choice to become a recipient of one of these letters.

What is an Emissions Reduction Currency? In essence it is a tool in the form of a local currency whereby a community can reward itself directly for day to day actions its members undertake, individually or collectively, to prevent global warming. Local currencies are a formalisation of barter which are variously used to increase social cohesion, to reduce the cost of working capital and to promote small businesses, and historically, particularly during the Great Depression, to temporarily increase liquidity for exchanges and transactions during times when credit is hard to come by. There are currently several thousand local currencies in circulation worldwide, with Australia for some reason having the largest number documented despite our relatively small population. The limitation of local currencies is that they depend on social capital and trust that exists in a community and this prevents them from operating at a large scale, particularly in modern times where people are highly mobile and social institutions are in decline.

In 1969 Buckminster Fuller, in his classic Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, proposed the creation of a world currency based on kilowatt hours of alternative energy produced. His thinking was that such a currency would promote sustainable energy resources and technology in a democratically accessible fashion, and would also ground economic transactions within an environmentally sustainable context. More recently, governments such as the EU have been attempting to create a similar currency based on the commodification of greenhouse gas emission through emissions trading systems. In part to facilitate this, the IPCC and other global institutions have created a universal accounting structure for documenting reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Our group, the Maia Maia Emissions Reduction Currency Scheme, and other small scale initiatives worldwide have been attempting to bring these two ideas together to create local currencies that are based on alternative energy usage and greenhouse gas reductions and sequestration. In our scheme, local organisations such as schools, churches, local government or civil society groups who are engaged in efforts to prevent global warming can issue a local currency based on the quantification of greenhouse gases reduced. The hope is that this currency will serve to make these reductions tangible, will further promote those efforts and ultimately will create an economic return from them. As this currency is used as a coupon in trade for goods and services (in combination with ordinary fiat currency) it communicates an ethos of environmental awareness which will hopefully influence purchasing decisions by consumers.

Conceptually, emission reduction currencies will not be limited by the social capital available in the issuing group as the basis of the currency connects goodwill fostered locally with the goodwill generated globally through our collective actions to protect humanities common future and the ecosystems in which we are embedded. In effect we are trying to invent a global local currency that can be freely convertible everywhere.

I am curious what an eminent economist such as yourself might think about our little experiment. Could this be a viable tool for easing the global economic malaise through generating new resources for local economies that have been abandoned by the banks and global economic institutions. Do you think this is a realistic idea? Can ordinary people create their own economic values for greenhouse gas reductions without waiting for a world-wide political consensus. Can this approach avoid market speculation that has plagued government sponsored emissions trading systems? What do you think? Are we crazy or can this idea actually make a positive contribution?

As a final bit of trivia, the term Emissions Reduction Currency was coined for us by a Professor at Murdoch University. I've used this term to categorise similar schemes being developed internationally and to publish my research in that most scholarly of publications, Wikipedia. Myself being a businessman and not an academic this was the best I could do on short notice. I've included a hyperlink to this information at the bottom of this letter in the off chance that you might know anyone in the Establishment that might be interested.

In any case, I hope this letter has been of interest to you. Thank you for your amazing efforts at keeping faith with reality in a field such as economic policy where feet so rarely touch the ground.

Best wishes,
Sam Nelson

Co-founder The Maia Maia Emissions Reduction Currency System


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Growing Green 'Money' in the Green Belt

In keeping with my project to write to Nobel Peace Prize winners, below is a letter to Wangari Maathai, founder of the Greenbelt movement in Kenya that is simultaneously protecting and regenerating life nuturing forests while promoting the dignity and self determination of rural African women. I am using this project to frame the opportunity of Emissions Reduction Currency Systems in the most ambitious terms. For more down to Earth presentation and explanation see our website .

Dear Professor Maathai,

I have just finished your inspiring autobiography, Unbowed, and was many times brought to tears at the numerous great challenges you and your colleagues in the Greenbelt Movement have faced and surmounted. Your story is full of wonderful lessons in humility and determination that I will carry with me from now on in life. Thank you.

Besides thanking you, I would also like to share an idea that I feel may be of use to the Green Belt Movement in extending the role of tree planting as a cornerstone of the rural economy in Kenya. Our group in Western Australia, Maia Maia, has been developing a concept known as an Emissions Reduction Currency System (ERCS) in which a local currency system is backed by a reduction of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Local currency systems are common in the world and are usually implemented to increase a sense of community, to keep money circulating within the local economy, and to make up for a lack of cash during economic downturns. They are typically based on hours of labour or a fixed exchange rate with the national currency. However, since they depend on local social capital their scope tends to be limited and they have historically played a minor role in the overall economy.

However, when the value of local currencies is based on activities that reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere we believe something very powerful can happen. This is because such activities have amazing and unprecedented qualities:

1. They universally benefit all other living beings on the planet without discrimination;
2. They are democratically accessible – anyone can plant a tree or conserve energy, many can share in developing alternative energy sources;
3. They have a real economic value since climate change will have a huge predicted negative impact on both global and local economies;
4. They are measurable in a standardised way. The United Nations and other bodies have developed generic formulas to estimate greenhouse gas emissions or sequestration of carbon dioxide by trees based on data that is easy to collect (in most cases). I believe your ‘foresters without diplomas’ already capture some of this data.

These qualities allow the value of a local currency to have an value outside of the immediate community in which it is traded. As more and more of these systems come into being this value should increase in an organic manner over time. More information on how we envision an ERCS could be implemented can be found on our website www.maiamaia.org, although I imagine many details would be different in rural Kenya than in suburban Australia.

In Unbowed I was struck by the role the introduction of a cash economy played in cementing colonial control of the economy during your father’s generation. At that time money was based on the gold standard and the British controlled the supply of gold since only a large Empire could afford a reliable supply - the mining of gold being the most energy intensive of all the metals. Similar dynamics exist in the global financial system which continues to disadvantage developing nations such as those in sub-Saharan Africa. Could a gradual introduction of a new kind of money create a future where restoring the forests of Africa as the ‘Lungs of the Earth’ becomes a dominant source of sustainable wealth for the people who live there?

In my backyard, one the first things I did upon emigrating to Australia from Alaska, and moving into a new home with my wife Nadia, was to plant the back of our quarter acre with many Native trees. Thirteen years later these shade the house and are home to many singing birds. Whenever I am unsure whether I have made any concrete impact on the world I often take solace in those trees and the peace they emanate. On finishing Unbowed I have made a vow to plant more trees.

If you or any of your colleagues in the Green Belt Movement would like to follow up regarding emissions reduction currency systems, or if there is any other way you feel we may be able to assist in your inspiring mission, we would be honoured to discuss this with you.

Warm regards,

Sam Nelson

Co-founder of The Maia Maia Project

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Social Currency?

This is an open letter to Grameen Bank and Dr. Muhammad Yunus inspired by reading his visionary book 'Creating a World Without Poverty' Having previously written a letter to another Nobel Peace Prize winner, His Holiness the Dalai Lama (see earlier post) I felt less inhibited writing this one.

Dear Dr. Yunas and the Grameen Board,

I am writing to you to share a very powerful idea our group in Australia has stumbled upon that may be of some use to the Grameen mission of helping those in poverty to liberate themselves from it.

The idea is that greenhouse gas emissions reductions and abatement have some unprecedented and amazing properties (they are measurable, have a universally recognised value, are democratically accessible, and are an indicator of good will) that make them an excellent medium to back a community run 'social currency'.

Many local currencies are in existence around the world most of which are a formalisation of a barter economy. These currencies are backed by local community social capital and historically proliferate during economic downturns when the official money supply is constricted. They tend to operate on a limited scale as the value of their currencies is dependent on relationships within tight knit communities.

The opportunity in basing a local currency on emissions reductions is that such currencies become controvertible to one another on the basis of universally shared interests and thus have a real economic value that is potentially more substantial than the national currency.

We are further proposing that the inherent value of greenhouse gas reductions can only become converted to a local currency when they are ‘donated’ to socially useful ‘projects’ and earned by project participants.

Such a social currency can be exchanged for goods and services between individuals, for discounts from social businesses, or indeed from any businesses. More details on how this might be structured are found on our website: www.maiamaia.org .

Implementing such a social currency may prove useful to Grameen Bank borrowers and stakeholders in the following ways:

1. A social currency can help to pay for underfunded and vital services for impoverished communities such as education, health care, social services, water and waste treatment, etc...

2. A social currency circulating in a community will create economic efficiencies from division of labor and services that will optimise the value of national currency in that community.

3. Social currency discounts granted by social businesses such as Grameen Danone are an easy way to introduce differential pricing structures that target benefits from the businesses to the population most needing assistance.

4. The additional financial resources and efficiencies added to a community through introduction of the social currency will make it easier for microcredit lenders to pay back their loans in national currency.

5. 'Donation' of social currency collected by social business back to local community projects creates an additional avenue for social businesses to advertise their services to their target customers in a way that also directly supports those customers.

6. Social currency tends to remain in local communities rather than being pulled out of the local economy and is not subject to international currency value fluctuations.

7. Introducing an emissions reduction social currency creates a market wherein educated children of borrowers can learn environmental accounting skills to liberate the economic value of Clean Development Mechanism projects (while simultaneously creating additional incentives for those projects). This is a huge and expanding secondary services market and skills are exportable throughout Asia and to the rest of the world.

Grameen Bank is ideally constituted to introduce an emissions reduction backed social currency.

1. It has credibility and contacts with all three groups needed for a social currency to be successful - communities, families, and businesses.

2. It has the administrative structure already in place. Local Grameen branches can provide both micro-credit and social currency management services.

3. It has a large number of branches with a history of creative problem solving within which good ideas can thrive and others that aren't practical can be quietly dropped.

4. It has an immediate and local source of emission abatement in Grameen Shakti's alternative energy provision services. Grameen Shakti also has the technical capabilities to provide emissions accounting services for other local sources of emissions abatement or reduction.

5. It has the international credibility to attract 'donations' of emissions reductions from auditable corporate sources such as from Corporate Sustainability Reporting (CSR) and regulatory reporting by Danone and its subsidiaries.

Demonstrating a powerful new approach to countering greenhouse gas emissions could be a wonderful source of pride for Bangladeshis whose country is one of the most vulnerable to climate change.

It is likely that an emissions reduction ‘social currency’ could be more successfully implemented in a poor country like Bangladesh where necessity can be the mother of invention, rather than in a more economically comfortable country such as Australia. Our hope is that in some years time we can be inspired by and learn from your efforts.

Please contact us if you would like to discuss this idea further or any other way in which we as a group can assist you in making poverty history.

All the best.