If we look at a community as a financial ecosystem with financial sustainability as one of our goals in achieving overall sustainability, one of the questions we should ask as we reduce waste is “who gets the benefit of that waste reduction?”

In classic market language, if we improve efficiency, whose expenses go down or time is saved or risk is reduced and whose equity increases as a result? In every community, we have financial capital – whether investment dollars or philanthropic dollars – leaving the community for investment elsewhere or for investment in large enterprises that use it to come and buy up our communities.

Who and what will attract that capital back locally and do so in a manner that ensures the successful safety and performance on those dollars? And if it comes back to be invested locally, who gets what as a result? The more we can make our waste reduction attractive to existing local capital, the easier it will be to sequence progressively more waste reduction. The more we can make our local purchases interested in supporting the enterprises funded with our local capital, the easier it will be to generate the performance we need to affirm our local capital and to retain and attract the human capital that could make this all go.

So one measure of the success of a community-wide permaculture development should be an improvement in local investment performance as a result of progressive shifts in a portion of locally controlled and managed capital out of investment in large corporations (such as the financial stocks where they have been losing a great deal of money) back into the local investment system.

Creating this positive loop of attracting local investment capital and eventually regional investment capital is critical to the overall development. The usual alternative is to use government funding and some foundation and philanthropic grant making. These sources depend on borrowing (or capital gains which may be sourced from companies dependent on government contracts, purchases and subsidies which are dependent on borrowing) which is dependent on military force to sustain. Such funding brings those energetics and central controls to bear on a local development.

Sustainability calls for financial sustainability that is not dependent on centrally engineered funds but rather generates from tangible, value-added flows grounded in peaceful, free economies.