New Book Highlights Local Investing Opportunities in Vermont

To achieve genuine sustainability, we need to rebuild thriving local and regional economies. As much as possible and practical, we need to relearn how to provide a healthy share of our basic necessities, starting with food, without so fully depending on the global corporate economy.

There are many reasons, detailed in books, online publications and conference presentations by numerous observers and activists, why long-term resilience requires at least partial disengagement from the massive, complex global system. Among these are economic and political turbulence, the finite future of fossil fuel supplies, dislocations caused by climate change, and widespread social and ecological damage that the corporate system dismisses as “externalities.”

In addition to all this, relocalization is about democracy. Many communities have largely lost control over their land, water and other resources, and play no part in distantly made decisions (such as trade agreements) that affect the lives of their citizens and millions of others. It is said that we can vote with our dollars, but a centralized economy siphons those dollars into the distant pockets of “the 1%” who make the high level decisions.

In recent years, a “new economy” movement that addresses these issues has been spreading around the country. And we happen to live in a place, Vermont, that is especially receptive to ideas for reclaiming a local, democratic economy. A new book, Vermont Dollars, Vermont Sense, provides an informative summary of these pioneering approaches and invites all of us to find ways to join in.

The book’s authors are Gwendolyn Hallsmith, a visionary town planner and writer who founded Global Community Initiatives and Vermonters for a New Economy, and Michael Shuman, an economist, attorney and entrepreneur who has written eight books in this field and helped design numerous initiatives. The book is co-published by several organizations including Post Carbon Institute, a national think tank at the forefront of new economy innovation.

Vermont Dollars, Vermont Sense describes nearly thirty investment ideas that individuals, businesses, or finance professionals can use to promote local self-reliance and keep financial resources recirculating within our communities and region. It offers various case studies of successful businesses and community endeavors, from food coops and credit unions to loan funds and several food producing enterprises.

Hallsmith and Shuman explain why current regulations and allocation of capital strongly favor large business. Many perceive investing in small or local businesses as riskier, but the authors show how new approaches make local investing easier and safer, as well as more meaningful and satisfying. They argue that “‘local’ is all about building a community economy made up of humane relationships.”

Businesses rooted in these relationships tend to be loyal to their communities; they don’t usually outsource jobs. The authors explain that since 2008, “all jobs in the country grew at a paltry rate of 0.8 percent. Locally owned businesses increased jobs during this period by 1.2 percent. Nonlocal businesses actually reduced their jobs by 4.3 percent.”

The book is available free online at  Printed copies are for sale at
Sustainable Woodstock is planning to bring Gwen Hallsmith here for a talk during New Economy Week (Oct. 12- 16), and copies of her book will be available then. In the meantime, take a look at it online and think about how you can make “Vermont sense” using your own dollars.

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