Pi Attitude Zone: Ethics & Altruism

Exotic Currencies In Brazil [2]

Community banks are changing the way Brazilian society works.

Launching local microfinance initiatives and exotic new currencies can contribute to community well-being and human happiness.  Such ideas can also play a role in bringing local habitats back from the brink of environmental catastrophe.

The first community bank in Brazil, Banco Palmas, was launched fifteen years ago in Fortaleza, a city in Brazil’s impoverished north-east. Since then a set of principles has been adopted for the proliferating sector:

-       Self-management

-       Democratization of economic relations

-       Co-operation instead of forced competition

-       Valuing diversity - human beings are more important than profits

-       Valuing local knowledge, constant learning and training

-       Social justice and emancipation

-       Protection of the environment

That last goal, the environmental one, became increasingly important in people’s thinking as the movement spread.  Community banks in towns like Vila Velha are now taking on Brazil’s awful rubbish problem.  The so called Green Life Bank (Banco Verde Vida) has issued its own “green currency” or “moeda verde”, and is using it to buy up old tin cans, plastic bottles and used cooking oil, all suitable for recycling into furniture, soap and so on.  Local people collect and bring in their wheelbarrows full of these waste materials, and in return get green bills for spending on low-priced food and household products.  The green money is also accepted in many local shops. 

The bank’s manager, Joao Manoel Ribeiro dos Santos, formerly a bricklayer, explains the turnaround:  “We had to do something before rubbish completely destroyed our local environment.  We have a river, the Aribiri, where people used to fish.  You could even see the fish from the bridge, and kids swimming around. Plastic rubbish put an end to all that”.

Now the river is on its way to recovery, and local people are proud of what they have achieved.

But environmentalism alone would not have produced the result.  The catalyst for change was the “happy money” that meant cheap food and household supplies, and justified people helping with the clean-up effort.

Zone: Ethics & Altruism Country: Latin America Product – Financial