Financial Permaculture: Exploring Alternative Economics

What are some ways that our financial flows can be more regenerative? And is permaculture anti-capitalist?

A note from your humble guide, Heather Jo Flores:

Now is a great time to remind everyone that permaculture has THREE ethics. But up to this point in our course we have mostly focused on only one: the Earth Care ethic. For the next several weeks, we’ll be going deeper into the other two ethics, People Care and Future Care/Fair Share/Equity/Parity, (or however you define it for yourself.) As we shift into the social parts of our design process, some of the conversations will be more difficult to have. Some of them will hurt. Some will make you say AHA! And others will make you feel shame, sorrow, confusion.

Try to just be patient with all of these emotions. Remember that your emotions are a compass, and that you can use them to determine where you need to fix problems in your design. 

That being said, this week’s class isn’t so much about teaching you skills or telling you there’s a certain way to do things that’s better for the planet, but rather about challenging assumptions that most of us seem to  make in the day to day, and asking if we can, collectively, come up with alternatives.

When it comes to economic systems, the truth of the matter is we really don’t know what an alternative could look like because most of us haven’t had the chance to practice much but capitalism on a large scale. 

Even alternative systems, such as most of what we will share today, still focus on the notion of capital, of getting something, and it’s possible that this fundamental tendency in humans, the need to GET and to OWN, will be the very thing we need to shift if we are to find a way to be a sustainable species on this planet.

Also, FYI: this week’s class will explore a lot of different ideas around money, economics, and related ideas, and we’ll spend some time trying to imagine a reality we may never see…but that doesn’t mean we don’t recognize the very real truth that sometimes you just need some actual CASH for your permaculture project. As such, we’ll devote a whole class to how to raise funds for your projects, a bit later in the course.​

Ready to begin?

Alternative Economics 101

For context, please go and read these two articles, so we can continue the conversation together:

And study the chart here, as it will be referred to throughout today’s class:


Community Currencies

In this video, Lucie Bardos, who teaches the “Re-imagining Economics” module in the PWGPDC, demonstrates how different types of currency can flow through a community. Think about how all of the different types of capital are present in your community, then look at how their associated currencies move around.

Do they cycle OUT of your community quickly, or do they circle around and around?

Think about the natural sources of those currencies. Are they being regenerated…or no?

WPDC: Community Currencies (Part 1)
WPDC: Community Currencies (Part 2)

Is permaculture anti-capitalist, by definition?

Probably. Here’s why:

Permaculture, Capitalism, and You

Designing a Better Way

Many more of the PWG faculty members have also dedicated their lives to innovating and testing alternative systems.

Here are three articles for your exploration. ​ (This is a great time to remind you, dear student, that we would love to publish your writing as well!)

man hands transplanting plant.


  • What would YOUR “sustainable economy” look like, if you were Queen of the world?
  • Would you choose a variation on capitalism, or would you veer towards an anti-capitalist approach?
  • How and why?

Vision it, write it up, draw a diagram, make a video…share and communicate your ideas and be open to feedback.​

Next, envision and create the small-scale economic system for your own site. Add it to your maps as a layer.

  • What are the natural resources, currencies, and accrued caches of capital?
  • How will you pay it forward?​
  • How will you embody all three ethics here?

Relevant Links and Resources​

As usual, we’re not saying we agree with everything here, just that it’s all worth reading. You should always consider the links in our classes to be a curated collection to cultivate critical thought and stimulate conversation in our group, not a list of endorsements for you to blindly copy and consume. This particular list is mostly focused on reputable writing about the connections between permaculture and capitalism.

Put your critical thinking cap on:

capitalism doesn't work infographic
Eco-nomics: A Permaculture Design Perspective 生態經濟:樸門設計觀點 | Tammy Turner 唐敏 | TEDxTunghaiU

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