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In this issue: The theme of this issue of “Seeds” is: How can we as individuals, groups, and communities help to create a more human- and nature-centered economic way of life? Many of us have realized for a long time that the present global economic structures and policies are in various ways neither benefiting the environment nor serving the common good of humanity. But we are not helpless in the face of the colossal problems entailed. We can create alternate structures, foment policy changes, and follow lifestyles that support the economic way of life we envision. The articles that follow the family biographical sketch offer many possibilities and ideas.
As for the newsletter team, we have a new member in Kristopher Fleming, who will help Tim Lietzke on the editorial side, especially in theme selection and soliciting articles. Mike West and Ran Smith continue their roles on the production and publication side.
We hope this issue will inspire readers to consider new ways of supporting a more human- and nature-centered economic way of life.
Table of Contents
- Introducing the Dorrington/Mollica family
- Let’s create a local, circular, doughnut economy in Monteverde! by Katy Van Dusen
- Verdes: A Social Currency to Increase Economic Resilience by Kelly Lange
- The Fifteen-Minute City by Wendy Rockwell
Introducing the Dorrington/Mollica family
Hello from the Dorrington/Mollica family!
We are happy to write a small portrait of our family for the Monteverde Friends Meeting newsletter. The Meeting has had a very important role in our lives over the last five years, and we know we are lucky to call this very special community our own.
In our home, you will find Ed Dorrington, Jennie Mollica, Alia Dorrington, our cat, Manzanita, ten chickens, and currently two tadpoles. Our extended family includes Jennie’s father in California and Ed’s sister and two brothers who live in various parts of the U.S. Before coming here, we lived in Oakland, California, where Jennie grew up and Alia was born. Our life was a big-city life, busy and full, though we knew how to escape to the redwood trees and the coast.
We are glad to also count in our family Richard Trostle, who is Jennie’s cousin once removed. It was Richard and his parents, John and Sue, who first invited us (just Ed and Jennie at that time) to visit Monteverde, which we did in 2008. When Alia was three years old, in 2014, we came again for a short visit. During that stay, we talked with Sue and John for hours about their story, including how they came to Monteverde and settled here. Also on that trip, in the Meeting house one Sunday, we heard the suggestion that Alia come to the Friends School for kindergarten, and we joked that it sounded like a good plan.
Over the next two years, we didn’t forget the idea. We were very fortunate that Alia was able to enter MFS in 2016 and had a wonderful year in Melody’s class. Ed and Jennie were able to work remotely, enough hours to get by but not too much to prevent us from enjoying being here and getting to know this place and people. We spent a lot of time in the forest and listening to the crickets at night. It was an easy decision to stay a second year. Alia was learning to read in Spanish and English at the same time, while Ed and Jennie took Spanish classes at the Institute. We started doing more volunteer projects, Jennie teaching English and Ed helping everywhere with technology issues. We felt a sense of community here like we had nowhere before.
The Meeting played a big part in that feeling of community. Before, we’d had no family practice of worship or spiritual gathering. Ed had decided early to leave his parents’ Catholic church, and in Jennie’s upbringing, the closest thing to a faith tradition was the gathering and sharing of art among her parents’ artist friends. But we never questioned wanting to be at Sunday Meeting, and also at Wednesday Meeting with everyone at the school. These became essential parts of our experience of being here: the silence, togetherness, sharing, listening, just being. John and Sue welcomed us to our first Meeting and talked about what it meant to them; very quickly it took on meaning for us and was among the things we were most sorry to leave (along with the insects) when we made the decision to move back to California.
We left here in 2018 when Alia told us she missed her grandfather and her old room and a sense of home. She was really drawn back to Oakland, and we had learned to trust her wisdom about all sorts of things. Practically speaking, the move was accomplished smoothly: we returned to the home we’d rented out in Oakland, and Ed and Jennie continued their remote work without much change. Alia experienced the bigger changes when she entered a large, public charter Montessori school. And there were other adaptations to living in the city again, spending lots of time on the freeway, traveling distances to see friends and family (who were very busy, so all visits were scheduled), shopping in big stores, and having to go out of our way more to find the trees and butterflies and crickets. We all missed Monteverde but found what could be appreciated where we were.
We took a short trip back here in January of that year, just to maintain friendships and enjoy some days with the forest. On that trip we decided to move to Monteverde. Alia told us to come back and settle down, and so once again, we followed her wisdom. Thank you, Alia!
Now we are in our second year back here and look forward to years ahead. We appreciate the Friends School in even more ways than we could have before: the close connections with families and teachers and staff, lessons that introduce academics along with values we care about, the closeness of pre-kinder through high school grades (when we can all be together in person), the happy mixing of Spanish and English, the beautiful buildings and yard. We’ve missed Wednesday Meeting this year, and returning recently to Sundays in the Meeting house has been heart-warming. We’re immensely thankful for having lived through this pandemic year surrounded by such goodwill, mutual support, and abundant nature.
Let’s create a local, circular, doughnut economy in Monteverde!
by Katy Van Dusen
What can we do as individuals, groups, and communities to create a more human- and nature-centered economy?
Let’s be aware of how our economic practices affect people and the planet.
Let’s commit to shifting to a local economy, a circular economy and a doughnut economy.
Let’s celebrate, learn from and support members of our Meeting community who are already taking specific actions.
Let’s support, participate in and grow local, circular and doughnut economic initiatives here in the zone.
Consuming local products and services strengthens community resilience.
When we buy goods and services from outside the zone, financial resources are drained from the community. In contrast, when we patronize local businesses, those resources continue to circulate within the zone.
A more diverse local production would make us less dependent on tourism, coffee and dairy farming. When crises like tropical storm Nate or the pandemic hit, more of the products we need might still be available locally.
And what is a circular economy? What is a doughnut economy?
To understand what a circular economy is, it helps to understand what a linear economy is:
Most of the world operates as a linear economy. Linear economies generally ignore social and environmental costs and benefits.
In contrast, here is what a circular economy looks like:
A doughnut economy is a visual framework for an economy that aims to fulfill the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. It is an idea developed by Kate Raworth that goes even further than the idea of a circular economy. A doughnut economy seeks to find a balance that respects basic social needs and the limits of the planet. A doughnut economy stays in a regenerative zone with a just use of resources.
Here is what a Doughnut Economy looks like:
For a more in-depth explanation of a Doughnut Economy, I recommend Kate Raworth’s book Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist, website or Ted Talk.
Let’s celebrate, learn from and support members of our Meeting community who are already taking significant actions to create an economy in Monteverde that nurtures both people and the planet:
Food Production and Consumption:
The Stuckeys, Benito Guindon, Tim Sales and Murtha Derr, Aaron Hockman, and Greg Paradise do not use synthetic nitrogen fertilizers on their farms.
Larry Dosier, Harriet Joslin, Richard LaVal, Richard Trostle and Mel Baker all have organic gardens that have inspired many others in Monteverde to cultivate our own gardens.
Many meeting members enjoy Benito Guindon’s dairy products and depend on Ryan, Ran and Nicolette Smith for El Camino Gelato.
John Badminton and Pax Amiguetti provide many local and organic products at Whole Foods.
Tim Lietzke, Hazel Guindon, Pam Holschuh, Marie and Kris Fleming eat a vegan diet.
Transportation and energy use:
Tim Lietzke, Helena Guindon, Tim Curtis, Hazel Guindon, Kenna Manos, Bob Law and Susie Newswanger, Ed Dorrington and Jennie Mollica have chosen not to have a car and walk as their main mode of transport.
The Meeting, the Trostles, the LaVals and others are collaborating with the construction of sidewalks along their land so that people can walk safely or get around on a wheel chair.
Bruce Pack and Judy Witt, Meredith Reynolds, Nancy and Peter Stevick, and Frank and I drive electric automobiles.
Sarah Dowell and Mel Baker, Margaret Adelman, Wendy Rockwell and Jim Standley and Frank and I drive electric golf carts.
Ryan Smith, David King, Maggie Fatovic and Elias Newswanger travel around town on electric bicycles and Mike West and David Guindon ride their self-powered bikes.
Ran and Nicolette Smith have installed 240 V charging points at both of their pensions in Santa Elena and Samara and have bike racks at their pension in Santa Elena.
Ulises Salazar was enforcing parking lot etiquette in the meeting/school parking lot before the pandemic. This has reduced the need to expand the parking lot to accommodate more internal combustion engine traffic there.
Carol Evans, Wendy Rockwell and Jim Standley, and Barry and Lesley Laing cook with induction stoves rather than gas.
Sarah Stuckey, Joe and Jean Stuckey, Meredith Reynolds, Frank and I, and surely others have solar panels and/or solar hot water heaters. Bruce Pack has given lots of technical support for the school solar panels.
Murtha and Tim use a hydro-electric system.
Waste management and water conservation:
Sarah Dowell has worked hard with other folks on COMIRES to facilitate an increase in recycling in the zone.
Most of us in the meeting community make compost. Many take advantage of the growing municipal composting system led by Justin Welch. Carol Evans, Noelia Solano and Daniel Vargas all have active Takakura compost systems, if you want to learn from them. If you would like help getting our own compost system going, CORCLIMA has a manual with 16 options. Ask me!
Lucky Guindon, Wendy and Jim, Meredith and the school have composting toilets. Ulises has been maintaining the school dry composting toilet system. Steve Abbott, Gabriela McAdam and Anibal Torres continue to improve composting toilet designs that work well here. CORCLIMA has a manual on how to build one. Ask me!
Anibal Torres and Gabriela McAdam are helping people conserve and manage water wisely by installing “artificial wetlands” to treat greywater as well as raingardens and other water capture systems.
Martha Campbell, Ricardo Guindon, José Luis Vargas and others work tirelessly to conserve into perpetuity the water resources and biodiversity on Bosque Eterno SA land by serving on that board of directors.
Dev Joslin, Deb Hamilton, the Monteverde Institute team and many others work hard to plant trees and restore habitat in the zone. Farther afield, Clara Rowe is leading Restor and Francis Joyce is getting a PhD in habitat restoration.
Bob Law, Richard LaVal, Wolf Guindon, Joe Stuckey and others founded the Monteverde Conservation League. Now many of us are members and carry on conserving the largest private reserve in the country. Noelia Solano and Emily Hollenbeck both serve on the board of directors
Nat Scrimshaw is stimulating rural tourism and conservation in Bellbird Biological Corridor with the Sendero Pacífico.
Education and libraries:
Marisela López, Jenny Rowe, Melody Guindon, Risë Hunter, Jackie LaVal, Sue Gabrielson, Pam Holschuh, Daniel Tyx, Laura Nikstad and many other educators are preparing the younger generation to take care of each other and the planet.
For decades Jean Stuckey, Sarah Stuckey, Sarah Dowell, Murtha Derr and the rest of the Library Committee has been making it possible to read without buying new books and leading the cachivache helping us circulate resources to new owners rather than having stuff go unused or sending it to the landfill.
Wendy Rockwell, Jannelle Wilkins and others on the committee leading the public library in Santa Elena have also created a space for sharing books with the broader community – powered by solar energy.
Ellen Cooney gives her time and expertise to ensure that students from families with fewer resources can attend the Monteverde Friends School.
Tim Curtis, Jannelle Wilkins and others mobilize resources that directly support sustainability and a more fair distribution through the Monteverde Community Fund.
Hazel Guindon has inspired us with her art to build and live in buildings that do not kill birds.
Sarah Dowell has had public water color exhibitions with thought-provoking questions about the climate crisis.
These are surely more examples that I should have included and may not know about. Many thanks to all of you, those mentioned here and not, for what you are doing to make a more just and regenerative economic system.
New circular and doughnut economic initiatives here that you may want to get involved in:
When the pandemic hit last year, several local organizations united to create the Comisión de Enlace (or Liaison Commission) to respond to the crisis. One of the four sub-commissions was the Circular Economy Commission which Jannelle Wilkins coordinates. Below are some of the specific initiatives that came out of that commission – and in general.
Circulate resources within the zone without depending on traditional money.
Verdes is Monteverde’s new social currency which allows one to trade one’s skills with other locals. You can also earn Verdes through sustainable actions, volunteering or paying for them with colones. Here is a video with more information. Use this link to sign up.
La Tilichera is a new bartering center located next to the Banco de Costa Rica. It is run by Monteverde Friends School mothers who are working in exchange for part of their tuition. It is a great way to keep items circulating in the community rather than being stashed in someone’s closet or drawer. You can trade items, pay with Verdes, receive Verdes or just make a donation if you are clearing stuff out. Donations are needed! It is open from 10 am to 6 pm Monday through Saturday. La Tili hopes to start upcycling (creatively reusing) other used stuff soon. Talk to Shannon Smith or myself if you want to get involved.
Buy locally: You can help our local economy stay resilient by buying local sustainable products.
Hecho en Monteverde is a consortium of 33 local businesses that are focused on creative and regenerative practices, conservation and sustainability with a seal that proves their quality and orgin in Monteverde. For more information contact Daniel Vargas, Noé Vargas or Jenny Peña.
Econexiones is a new locally run business through which you can buy products from this region and elsewhere in Costa Rica. You can find their list of products here every Monday. Order by Tuesday at 5 pm for products from outside the zone and by Wednesday at 5 pm for products from the zone. On Thursday, either pick up your order or have it delivered to your home.
Building Community: Resilience depends on strong communities where we support each another.
The Cerro Plano Community Garden is transforming the bull ring in Cerro Plano into a space for more than 30 families to grow food and a green community gathering place. If you know a Cerro Plano resident who would like to participate or if you would like to help in some way, please contact Paula Vargas at 8371-5467.
Planting Sustainability is a program of the Monteverde Institute providing temporary work on sustainability projects to local unemployed people.
The Food Bank continues to receive donations. Food items can be taken to La Tilichera. Cash can be donated to the Community Fund.
Two public art projects are beautifying our spaces, lifting spirits, nurturing community and inspiring action: Resilienza has been providing new chalk art on the Monteverde Centro chalk board every week since the pandemic started. Monteverde Resiliente, (a joint project between CORCLIMA and Costa Rica en la Pared) is painting murals and mosaics in Santa Elena and Cerro Plano.
Active Mobility: Stay healthy and reduce emissions and traffic congestion by walking or biking – or supporting others that do.
Bicionarios Monteverde is a movement to support safe biking as a form of transportation. If you are driving, please leave at least 1.5 meters between you and cyclists and encourage others to do so by putting a bumper sticker on your car or sponsoring the installation of a sign. Contact me for details.
To continue to install sidewalks that are safe and accessible to all, help is needed! For the recent sidewalk installations, the municipality and CORCLIMA have been doing most the work. Soon we will run out of cement. Please talk with me or Anibal Torres if you would like to help buy more cement.
How can we diversify the economy, creating businesses that nurture a local, circular, doughnut economy?
The pandemic made it clear how dependent our economy is on tourism – 85% of the population was under-employed or un-employed at the beginning of the pandemic.
What ideas do you have for new businesses that don’t depend on tourism? Some ideas for products that I would love to see made here:
- cloth diaper/diaper wraps
- permeable slabs for sidewalks made from recycled materials
- ready-made composting systems, especially Takakura or tumbler systems
- ready-to-install composting toilet systems
- little roofs to protect exterior 240V outlets to supply the Ruta Eléctrica.
Do you know anyone interested or do you want to help make new businesses happen?
If you would like to get more involved in climate action in the zone, check out the CORCLIMA website and get in touch with me (email@example.com).
Thank you, each of you, for whatever you are doing to make our economy one that nurtures people and the planet!
Verdes: A Social Currency to Increase Economic Resilience
by Kelly Lange
The Monteverde region is no stranger to natural disasters, but the global pandemic brought new challenges to the area not seen before, primarily in the form of unemployment and economic insecurity. With unemployment reaching as high as 80%, food and economic insecurity arrived in the area, and the much-needed tourists stopped coming with the closure of airports around the world and lockdowns in many countries.
After Tropical Storm Nate left its mark on the area the need to diversify the economy was identified as a top priority, and although some progress had been made, the stark reality of our over-reliance on tourism was never more apparent than in 2020. However the incredible organization and interest in community participation here in Monteverde helped form Enlace – a consortium of groups and organizations in the area – who began to mobilize and distribute food baskets quickly, while also addressing other issues, not the least of which was the initiative toward a more Circular Economy for the Monteverde region.
As a part of the efforts toward a Circular Economy, various types of Alternative Economies have been explored and some of them implemented, including the Verdes – an online, digital currency based on blockchain technology. The Verdes are Monteverde´s very own local currency – created here, in circulation here, and designed to provide resilience to the existing economy, regardless of what is happening outside of the region.
Now if you are asking ¨What is a digital currency? And why do we need one here when we already have colones?¨, you are not alone! But first, let´s explore the idea of local currencies.
A local currency is nothing more than an agreement among neighbors within a community that X has value. From the Mayans using cacao beans for trade, to coffee plantations here in Costa Rica using tokens with the name of the family who owned the farm on them for buying goods in the local pulperia, local currencies are about as old as organized civilizations themselves. They are a way for people to place value on items so that they can be more easily traded among many people. The Verdes work in this same way.
If you think of it as barter or trade, then instead of it just being between two people trading empanadas for elotes, for example, anyone has the ability to sell their product or service for an amount that seems fair, and then can use the Verdes earned to trade for any other product or service available in the Verdes Community. By having a separate form of payment available in addition to colones, each member expands their own resilience through the ability to save more colones and use the Verdes to purchase needed items such as food and clothing.
The Verdes themselves have a 1:1 value to colones, thereby making it easy to set a price and make a trade, although they cannot be converted into colones. Furthermore, their circulation is restricted to the Monteverde region, ensuring that the economy continues to move even when the tourists are not here.
As previously mentioned, the Verdes are a digital currency and operates on a web application created by a Costa Rican owned company called Cambiatus. Once you are registered, you are rewarded with 3000 Verdes to get started and can start browsing through the store immediately. To earn more Verdes, in addition to selling your own locally produced products and services in the online Store, you can also take a number of community-minded actions such as Volunteer work with any organization in the community, or by taking environmentally sustainable actions such as walking to work, having a home composting system, using an electric vehicle, or installing an induction cooktop, among many other examples. Very soon we also want to reward those who attend workshops and classes offered throughout the community.
The Verdes Community launched in mid-January, and within three (3) weeks we already had over 1000 people registered on the platform. As of the publication of this newsletter, we have nearly 1500 people registered – more than 20% of the population! On Saturday, March 6, we held our first official Día de Los Verdes in RioChante, and virtually all of the products available were sold (for 100% Verdes), and sold quickly! All of the participants were excited about the opportunity and were asking when we would be having another — we hope to have our next Día de Los Verdes on Saturday, March 20, from 10am – 1pm.
For the moment, the Verdes are only available through the web application, although we are very aware and are working on ways in which to include everyone in the region in the Verdes Community by providing opportunities to trade in Verdes to those less technologically inclined.
You can find out more information and find a link to join the Verdes Community by visiting our website (still under construction, but updated often!) at www.verdes.earth and by viewing some informational videos on the ¨Verdes en Monteverde¨ YouTube channel, or accessing it via this link: https://youtu.be/qRphrJpdrwE.
For additional questions, you may also write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Fifteen-Minute City
by Wendy Rockwell
As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for it’s natural produce.Adam Smith, 1776
What can we do as individuals, groups, and communities to create a more human and nature-centered economic way of life?
The present economic structure is built by and for a few which enables them to syphon off the natural resource wealth. Presently the rich are rich not by their own efforts but by harvesting what they have not sown.
A political system that allows individuals to pocket community produced land values will be plagued by land speculation which leads to the inevitable ill distribution of wealth, inflation, unemployment, bust and boom economic cycles, much of the population in poverty with needs unmet, and a wealthy minority that imposes dictatorial powers to further their economic power and privilege.
When folks cannot afford to live close to their work, they must daily commute long distances. This is a time consumer, reducing the quality of life, but it is also a primary contributor to our changing climate. For this there is a solution: better use of the land.
Land is a gift to all. Therefore our relation to land is both economic and ethical. Land is not to be plundered, but to be used for the common good. People that feel a connection to the earth will also take care of it. All generations should have the same opportunity to enjoy the natural wealth.
If our cities or towns were structured so that most of our needs could be met within fifteen minutes of our homes, this need for transportation would be practically eliminated.
We could adopt a system of social development that captures land values that would pay for necessary services, that include breathable air, drinkable water, commonly-owned land, healthcare, security, transit, power, communications, financial services, education, recreation for the advantage of everyone.
We cannot all have a tennis court, a swimming pool, etc. of our own but we can have this and much more if we share. We need to return to the commons where the community provides for public spaces so our individual requirements of space can be comfortably reduced.
The value of the land is produced by the community. If there is no population and no infrastructure to support that population then the land will have no value. The land value is produced by the community, and therefore belongs to the community. If this value is recovered by the community for investments back into the community, it eliminates the need to impose tax burdens on production.
Connectedness, appreciation and usefulness are the threads that weave a community together. These must be supported by an economic structure that promotes them. They cannot thrive if the economic structure promotes continual growth, favoring corporations and profits over people, subsidizing pollution and environmental destruction.
Appreciation for the small things in life is what makes us happy not continued consumerism. What I have discovered as I age is that my possessions seem more and more a burden, not a joy.
Our work, our contribution to the community is of vital importance, we must feel useful to others. People should be valued for what they contribute to the greater good, not for what they possess.
I have always thought that our need to accumulate possessions was based on our fear of poverty. A society that can and will take care of its own would greatly reduce this fear enabling people to be happier with less, freeing them to participate in activities that bring happiness like sharing and serving others.
There is much that a community can do on its own, Monteverde is an example of a community that has reinforced the concepts of consensual decision-making processes, conservation and appreciation of the environment, and a high commitment to quality education.
But the changes that are needed at the moment require participation of not only a broader segment of the zone but also involvement with the political structure.
How do we move from where we are to where we want to be? Are we willing to take on the responsibilities of democracy, not only voting every two years but actually taking time to know what decisions our local government is making? Are we willing to understand the budget of our local government and participate in its construction?
Are we too invested in the present system to want to make fundamental changes?