In an era of ever-changing values, information, and politics, small communities all over the world are turning inwards for an answer to the domination of big businesses. If you think back to your childhood, there had to have been a few select businesses that you frequented with great delight. Was there an ice cream parlor? A toy store, bakery, or independent clothing boutique? There was life before name brands took over, and, for many of us, there were places that filled our childhood experiences with magic and uniqueness.
For me, it was Heintzelman’s Bookstore in Los Altos—a local gem that was jam-packed with quiet corners and natural sunlight—all of which called to me following Saturday’s Mommy & Me ballet class at the San Juan School of Dance. In an article written by Clyde Noel in a 1999 edition of the Town Crier, the author captured the value of Heintzelman’s in juxtaposition to looming chains in a few short words: “What the bookstore lacks in volume, it makes up for in specialty publications and personalized service. Heintzelman’s is a labor of love. Conrad and Susan work six days a week and are often seen through the storefront window as they re-shelve books on a Sunday morning.”
It’s been over 20+ years since Heintzelman’s was forced to close, and I can still smell its paperlicious aroma. Is there any way to preserve the small places and services that have enriched our lives from the very beginning? Many communities both nationally and internationally are considering this plight, and some have endeavored to alleviate it through the development of their own solution to “keeping in local”: creating their own community currency.
The Brixton Pound, BerkShares in Massachusetts, and the Calgary Dollar are all examples of populations enacting this new, community-specific economy. The Berkshares website describes the necessary installation of local currency and the message it sends as follows: “The people who choose to use the currency make a conscious commitment to buy local, and in doing so take a personal interest in the health and well-being of their community by laying the foundation for a truly vibrant, thriving economy.” So why aren’t local currencies popping up with more frequency? Some have cited a lack of information or the presence of misinformation; others have simplified the hesitation and its cause to the fact that the value of established currency like the dollar simply outweighs the value of local currency as a whole. Why place your trust and earnings into a currency that only serves to empower or support your local community?
It’s a valid question, but with over 180 communities enacting local currencies worldwide, there seems to be less of a concern for maintaining the value of global currencies and more of a concern for how we as individual communities will survive the ongoing financial downturn. And as one after another of small bookstores, cafés, or family businesses fall, the question remains: what can a community do to ensure the survival of its people, its values, and its place in the world?
Categories: New Trends