DVD Review: COMING HOME Inspires a Local Economy as if People Mattered

Coming HomeAfter more than seven hundred hours of filming and editing, largely underwritten both by himself and those organizations supporting his visionary film-making endeavor, Chris Bedford has offered an inspiring documentary, Coming Home: E.F. Schumacher and the Reinvention of the Local Economy, where people are, once again, people, not reduced to “consumers” or “tax payers” (recently on the hook for billions of dollars of bailout money).

As an award-winning film maker for such films as What will we eat? and The Organic Opportunity, Bedford has honed his craft to capture both the pivotal work of the late E.F. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful and subsequent endeavors of the E.F. Schumacher Society and the creation of a local economy in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

While viewing the film Coming Home, officially released at the MOSES Organic Farming Conference in La Crosse, Wisconsin, I realized that this was no ordinary 37 minute documentary. It could very well be the start of a revolutionary way to view the local economy, starting with sustainable agricultural systems and the organic foods these farms provided to community residents and ending with BerkShares, a local currency. According to Coming Home, about 2 million BerkShares are now in circulation throughout Berkshire County. As of February 11, 2009, 100 BerkShares equal 95 U.S. dollars.

From provocative interviews, timely quotes and excerpts from E.F. Schumacher or from those in the community, Coming Home weaves a story of hope, empowerment and some practical ingenuity at just the right time when We the People are searching for solutions, turning not to Congress, but to our communities, and to Main Street, not Wall Street. Carefully selected footage and fine editing work makes for an engaging review, even for the most skeptical of viewers who may not see the power in communities that have their own farmers, radio station, interdependent retail district and currency.

Coming Home clearly demonstrates how one community has successfully reclaimed our ability to take care of our neighbors, our public spaces, our air, water and land, and ourselves. From the founding of our nation’s first Community Supported Agricultural farm by Robyn Van En to economic re-development based on Community Land Trusts and the local BerkShares currency, this DVD should be seen a miraculous seed for dispersion and economic revitalization as far and wide as possible.

“Despair and anger at our current situation won’t save us from Peak Oil and the collapse of the global industrial system,” says Bedford.Β  He recognizes that the present economic models are not working, demanding that we create new, more sustainable, ones that will eventually make our present global “free trade” economic model obsolete.Β  “We need positive examples, new ideas, and heroes to emulate. The E.F. Schumacher Society’s work provides all these and more. That’s why made this film.”

It’s the local currency that most excited me, given the dismal state of the global economy and U.S. dollar on which my wealth is largely based. According to the E.F. Schumacher Society:

“Widely used in the United States in the early 1900s, local currencies are a legal, but underutilized tool for citizens to support local economies. Local currencies function on a regional scale the same way that national currencies have functioned on a national scaleβ€”building the regional economy by creating a protective β€œmembrane” that is defined by the currency itself. Local businesses that accept the currency are distinguished from chain stores that do not, building greater affinity between citizens of the region and their local merchants. Individuals choosing to use the currency make a conscious commitment to buy locally first, taking personal responsibility for the health and wellbeing of their community, laying the foundation of a truly vibrant, thriving local economy.”

Bailing out multinational banking corporations, if successful, will just put us back on track for more growth on the Titanic “free market global economy” where the rich keep getting richer while the planet gets destroyed. BerkShares, on the other hand, and the local banks that provide them within the local community, offer the ability for local communities to completely reinvent how commerce is done and reclaim control over how we earn and spend our money.

As a stunning reminder of our fancy global financial system and it’s overly complex gyrations, let’s put this in perspective. According to Business Week, the U.S. dollar was worth about 43 percent less in February, 2008 than it was in 2002 based on the U.S. Dollar Index that compares the U.S. Dollar against a group of six major currencies.

It’s no wonder more and more Americans are feeling less well off.

  1. Melonie K.

    As a military spouse currently living overseas, I can tell you the BerkShares rate on 11 February was better than our Yen to Dollar rate on the bases. That says something about the local vs world economy as well! We’ve been running in the mid-80s to mid-90s since 2009 began, which affects the local economy pretty strongly. When the exchange rate is high, military are more likely to shop off base and support local economies. When it is low, people hunker down and stay on base when possible. That, in turn, has an effect on the smaller businesses that rely on service members “exploring” off base. Interesting stuff. Thanks for the tip on the movie…. sounds great!

  2. Ben

    Yeah, you say legal now, until the Feds show up and confiscate the bank reserves. I like the idea, and hope it works, but can’t help but mention the Liberty Dollar incident last year. The Executive Branch will interpret/bend the law whatever way they can to justify a similar raid. And our legal system will continue to drag its feet.

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