What is this SEEDS thing, then?
I am going to defer here to my colleague, Ronnie Potel, interviewed earlier this month in Bali. What follows is a paraphrase of his words, around 50 mins into the interview:
“We’ve got ten years to solve our global challenges, or we’re going to go the way of the dinosaurs. We have the will. We have the capital. We have the technology. So what is the problem? Our governance and economic systems. They have served us so well, for so many years, but are no longer fit for purpose. So we just need to build a new system. We can build it, make an app, and put it on a phone. We can build a whole new governance system, a new economic system, a new civilisation, a whole new way of thinking, driving us and incentivising us to regenerate our planet.”
My way of describing it would be to echo Ronnie’s words, and add: it’s a new currency that encourages and rewards the behaviours, by individuals, by organisations and by businesses, that will help restore the biodiversity and overall health of our planet, while also helping humans to thrive, by rebuilding a sense of community, and by paying people to pursue their passion if it contributes to the greater good.
And if you haven’t come across “regenerative” before, it just means one step beyond “sustainability”. “Sustainability” carries the implication of adjusting our human patterns of consumption so we can continue to consume indefinitely into the future, which is a very human-centric perspective. “Regenerative” refers to the behaviours that actually restore and repair the damage we have already done to our ecosystem, allowing (the other parts of) nature to thrive at the same time that humans thrive.
(NOTE: SEEDS stands for Sowing Ecological, Equitable and Decentralised Societies, and refers to the overall economy of SEEDS. Seeds (uppercase S, then lowercase) is the name of the currency, like dollars, pounds or euros. The symbol is the letter S with an equals sign sloping upwards, denoting equality and progress.)
How does SEEDS support the regeneration of our planet?
Various ways. First, there is neither debt nor interest in the SEEDS system. Interest-bearing debt is what has driven the pursuit of infinite growth on a finite planet, which in turn leads to the exploitation of people and the natural world as the have-nots scramble to pay interest to the haves.
Second, the current system spends huge sums of money on subsidising fossil fuels, the military, and bailing out banks and other failing companies. Yet many people would prefer to see that money spent on creating green jobs and the restoration of natural habitats. In SEEDS, there is no government (or lobbyists) deciding where money should go – everybody gets to vote, with the power of their vote depending on how much they have contributed to SEEDS – not financial contribution, I should emphasise, but contribution of commitment to the SEEDS community and its regenerative values.
Third, SEEDS recognises the importance of producing food in regenerative ways, rather than the degenerative intensive farming methods employed by Big Agriculture, involving artificial fertilisers and pesticides that kill wildlife and degrade the topsoil. So SEEDS provides grants, interest-free loans, and subsidies to small-scale producers of local, organic food, that embrace permaculture principles. Customers are rewarded for transactions with these producers, helping them gain a competitive edge over the industrially-farmed foods that would otherwise have a price advantage. (See this article for more detail.)
Fourth, it’s not just food producers that can benefit. Local co-operatives and networks can also apply for grants from SEEDS, for initiatives that balance conservation, regeneration, economic and social goals to achieve the desired future, such as tree planting, restorative land projects, regenerative food production and education. (See this article for more detail.)
And fifth and finally for now, any business can theoretically become a SEEDS ally, even BP or Exxon. But every organisation gets a Contribution Score based on how much it contributes to the SEEDS community and economy, but above all, how much it contributes to the biosphere. The first two figures (community and economy contributions) are multiplied by the last figure (biosphere contribution) to determine an organisation’s overall reward for participating in SEEDS. So if it has a zero biosphere contribution, any number multiplied by zero equals zero, so it gets no benefit for its participation. This is not to punish the organisation, but to give it motivation to raise its game and improve its contribution to restoring our planet’s health.
How does SEEDS reduce inequality?
As well as organisations, individuals also get Contribution Scores. Although of course it’s nice to receive acknowledgement that you’re an honourable and contributing member of a community, virtue doesn’t have to be its own reward in the SEEDS economy. You actually get paid for being a good citizen. This is how it works:
SEEDS has a process for keeping the price of Seeds stable at around 1 Seed = 1 USD in terms of purchasing power (after the go-live date later this year or early 2022), which involves releasing a wave of new Seeds into the economy on a periodic basis. This is called a Harvest, and the new Seeds are distributed according to your Contribution Score. So if you’ve been a good SEEDS Citizen and been actively engaged in the community, you get a nice little windfall of Seeds.
In our mainstream economy, “to they that have, shall be given”. Wealth attracts more wealth for various reasons, such as the rich being able to indulge in riskier investments that carry higher rewards, hire better accountants meaning lower taxes, and purchase high-return assets like property. So the rich get richer, while the rest of us don’t. In SEEDS, the Harvest windfall is allocated on a percentile basis, rather than based on absolute amounts.
The maths gets a bit complicated (see the SEEDS Constitution linked at the end of this article if you really want to dive in deep), but as an example, if the wealthiest person in SEEDS has “planted” 100,000,000 Seeds (“planting” is like putting Seeds in a long term deposit account), then she will be positioned at 99 on the percentile ranking for Planted Seeds. If the second most planted person has only planted 100,000 Seeds, he will still be positioned at 99 (assuming at least 200 people) for planted Seeds as he is the second most committed.
The long and short of it is that, over time, inequality decreases in SEEDS, as opposed to inequality increasing in our mainstream economy.
How does SEEDS support communities?
SEEDS recognises the crucial importance of community to the physical and mental wellbeing of people. So organisations that support community-building efforts can also apply for grants and interest-free loans. This is especially encouraged at the level of “bioregional” communities, with bioregions being areas defined by natural features, such as rivers, watersheds, and mountain ranges. These geographically (rather than politically) defined areas are given incentives to restore their natural resources, such as clean water and healthy topsoil, while also bringing their inhabitants closer together in a shared sense of purpose.
How does SEEDS support creatives, healers, and other people pursuing their passion?
The idea of a Universal Basic Income has been floating around for a while, and is being piloted in various parts of the world. The SEEDS perspective on it is a little different. UBI is a handout, a flat rate social security grant that is designed to cover the cost of a fairly frugal lifestyle. The recipients don’t have to do anything to receive it, other than be a citizen of a place where UBI is offered.
SEEDS has the concept of a Universal Earned Income, for people who contribute to creating a better world by serving the environment and/or their fellow humans in ways that are usually not rewarded, or are rewarded poorly, by our mainstream economy, such as habitat restoration, clean-ups, alternative healing, or art. By offering their skills, time and energy to the SEEDS community, creative and contributing souls can not only earn Seeds, but also accumulate high scores for reputation and contribution, earning them a larger share of the Harvest payouts.
This all sounds like serious stuff, so why is SEEDS sometimes referred to as a game?
In a sense, all money is a game. It’s a human invention, a shared fiction. Money means nothing to a cat, dog, horse, or oak tree. It’s just a huge and very complex game of Monopoly, a game that we all take very seriously – many of us see money as a matter of life and death – literally. But it really is a game, which currently has big winners and struggling losers – so it’s time we changed the rules of the game to be more fair, both to humans and to nature.
Why are you, Roz, so excited about it?
I don’t believe we can solve our current crises of environmental destruction and inequality from inside the current system, which is the same system that created those same crises. It has taken me many years of environmental activism and obsessing over why and how change happens (the subject of my recent doctoral dissertation) to arrive at this conclusion. I absolutely believe we need economic reform.
Also, I suppose that when we humans get excited about an idea, we want to check out the other people who are excited about that idea. Do we feel a sense of belonging and kinship with them? Do we feel at home in this tribe? And I’ve been very impressed with the people who are participating in the creation of SEEDS – they are a wonderful, thoughtful, friendly bunch with a powerful vision for the more beautiful world that is most definitely possible.
I say a lot more about my journey into SEEDS in my blog post a couple of weeks ago: Sowing the SEEDS of Love.
Why should I care?
If you’re the kind of person who cares passionately about the future, especially sustainability, democracy and equality, and feels that our old systems and structures are past their use-by date, then you’d probably want to get involved with SEEDS.
How can I get involved?
There are many different levels of involvement, so you can choose whatever works for you.
You can show your support for the new economic paradigm by signing up to SEEDS. You start out as a Visitor, and as you engage more in the SEEDS economy, you graduate to Resident and then Citizen. (I’ll be honest, it’s not as easy as it could be to sign up. At the time of writing, this link will help a great deal. But I hear a new version of the SEEDS Passport app is coming out very soon, which will make it significantly easier. I will keep you posted.) By buying and planting Seeds, you are supporting organisations that are restoring our ecosystems.
As a company, movement, cause or organisation, you can sign the pledge of support for SEEDS.
If you want to get more evangelical about the regenerative renaissance, you can apply to be an Ambassador for SEEDS.
And if, like me, you really want to make a commitment, you can apply for a role in the decentralised organisations that create and develop the SEEDS infrastructure,and spread the good SEEDS news around the world.
I’ll be sharing more about my journey with SEEDS as time goes on. Coming up soon, I’ll write about cryptocurrencies, and why SEEDS is different from Bitcoin, Ethereum, or any of the other cryptos you might have heard of. Don’t worry – I’ll keep it non-technical, largely because I am still learning, so I couldn’t make it technical if I tried!
I realise this is a lot to take in. If I’m leaving you confused, PLEASE email me with your questions, and I will do my best to interpret. Your questions will really help me to home in on the parts that are getting lost in translations, so thank you in advance for asking!
Article on SEEDS: Regeneration and Beyond
SEEDS Constitution (a tough read, in all honesty – for enthusiastic, detail-oriented folks only!)
Or if video is more your thing, check out the SEEDS YouTube channel.
And if you didn’t follow the link last week, I urge you again to watch Daniel Schmachtenberger’s succinct analysis of the urgent imperative to reassess what we value economically – see How Not To Go Extinct.