She’s doing it through permaculture - an ecological design system based on ethics and design principles for sustainability. We sat down with Brandy to learn more.
Tell us about O.U.R. Ecovillage on Vancouver Island.
We’re 13 years into developing a 25-acre sustainable living demonstration site and education centre. The mission here is to create a community commons, much differently than a lot of places that are personally owned or where ownership is a large focus. What we’re creating is a place for everybody and anybody, a place for all those who do good work to come together and to create a possibility of something very unique in a new way.
What is financial sustainability?And what does human and social sustainability look like?
We have countries around the world that are well equipped with people who can [finance] any ecovillage and then we have a lot of folks who are interested in living and working in them, but who couldn’t even get start up funding. How do we create equity and equality all at the same time? In fact, the question might be: How do we redefine value?
What has happened at O.U.R. Ecovillage?
About three years ago, our local credit union that holds the mortgage here said, “You’re going to have to think of something else.” The market value of this place is astronomical, not that we’d ever sell it, but those are the qualities of how you go to apply for a mortgage typically and yet in the world and reality of finance, we don’t fit. No matter how many awards we get, we paint ourselves further and further outside the opportunity of mainstream financing. So let’s permaculturalize all of that. Let’s find another way to stack functions, to bring things together, to close the loop on things, and have money have a different value.
So maybe you have income streams that do that. If you can have social enterprises and things that are based on social and environmental impact, then you’ve got an ethical way for income streams to happen.
The next obvious conversation is: How do we not do it with the bank? How do we do it with ourselves? For the last year, we’ve been working on something called the Ethical Investment Mortgage. We’re actually incorporating a syndicated mortgage package. We’ll pilot it here like we do everything else and give it away to anybody else who wants it, but it basically creates a tool where community can invest in community. And this is talking about real money.
So it’s things like taking your Registered Retirement Savings Plan and getting it out of streams where, you know, you can’t go have lunch at your mutual funds investment place, but you could if you invested in your local community. You could maybe even have some impact and become part of it, not just visit, but actually participate. And, you could get paid an even better interest rate – recently anyway – and you could be investing in something that’s backed by land.
These are all tools and ways that we don’t have to pattern ourselves like mainstream, conventional constructs of how our societies have been working. Let’s face it: they’re not working. It is up to us to start to redefine patterns and find different ways of being together in a permaculture world.