A show of HANDS

An al­ter­na­tive cur­rency known as HANDS has been in use in Nel­son’s Golden Bay for 23 years.

Element - - Technology - by Re­becca Rei­der With thanks to: Hap­pyzine.co.nz

MWith ev­ery HANDS trans­ac­tion, I am build­ing my com­mu­nity.

y de­crepit old lap­top turned into lo­cally grown veg­eta­bles. And new hems on my favourite cor­duroy trousers. And a month’s sup­ply of fire­wood from a neigh­bour’s wood­lot. In­ter­est­ing alchemy. How do I know? By read­ing my ac­count state­ment on HANDS, Golden Bay’s al­ter­na­tive cur­rency net­work. Years ago, when I first heard about com­mu­nity cur­ren­cies, some­times known as LETS (Lo­cal Ex­change Trad­ing Sys­tems), I won­dered: “Well? How rev­o­lu­tion­ary is that? You can cre­ate your own lo­cal money sys­tem if you want to, but it’s still money, isn’t it?” Isn’t a HAND just a dol­lar in more colour­ful cloth­ing?

Well, it is and it isn’t. HANDS (How About a Non Dol­lar Sys­tem) is more than a con­ve­nient acro­nym; trad­ing in our lo­cal cur­rency feels more tan­gi­ble, more hu­man, than us­ing dol­lars. With ev­ery HANDS trans­ac­tion, I am build­ing my com­mu­nity. I no­tice the dif­fer­ence when I look at my bal­ance state­ments on­line. When I log onto my con­ven­tional bank ac­count, there’s a slight yet pal­pa­ble cringe, as my slow ru­ral broad­band ticks along and I wait for the ac­count bal­ances page to load. As I scan the screen, I feel the cul­tural anx­i­ety that for many of us creeps in around money. Where’s it all go­ing? When is my pay­cheque com­ing? How ex­pen­sive were the gro­ceries? When we par­tic­i­pate in the money sys­tem, whether we ap­pear to be win­ning or los­ing, we buy into a gi­ant global game in which some power bro­ker rig­ging the rules in New York City can have a dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect on re­turns to farms here in my own com­mu­nity, with­out any of us fully un­der­stand­ing what’s go­ing on.

When I log onto our HANDS web­site, in con­trast, my rich­ness is not about the num­ber hov­er­ing at the bot­tom line of my ac­count. In­stead my sense of abun­dance comes from be­ing con­nected to so many valu­able peo­ple. In the debit col­umn, I’ve used HANDS to pay for sauna ses­sions, visit lo­cal heal­ers, buy seedlings from fel­low gar­den­ers, get help mov­ing house and hire a neigh­bour to re­pair my fences. I’ve paid for it all by sell­ing things I don’t need (such as the afore­men­tioned lap­top), us­ing my writ­ing skills and sub­let­ting my home. The HANDS mem­ber di­rec­tory, in­dexed by both of­fer­ings and neigh­bour­hoods, tells me which of my neigh­bours has a trailer to help me move fur­ni­ture, or who might be grow­ing a sur­plus of or­ganic per­sim­mons. Mem­bers of­fer ev­ery­thing from farm equip­ment re­pair to com­puter help; child­care to “dread­lock main­te­nance” – skills that of­ten fall off the radar screen of our tra­di­tional eco­nomic sys­tem.

For some peo­ple here in Golden Bay, where high-dol­lar jobs aren’t easy to come by, HANDS are eas­ier to earn, so HANDS are more will­ingly spent. Or maybe “spent” is the wrong word – for when I put some beau­ti­fully dec­o­rated HANDS notes into some­one else’s palm, those HANDS don’t dis­ap­pear; that other per­son merely gains the po­ten­tial to ex­change the en­ergy else­where within our com­mu­nity. That’s all that money is, af­ter all: a way of ex­chang­ing en­ergy. I like know­ing that mine is cy­cling right here around me.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.