My guest for this episode is Bill Sommers, president of the Permaculture Credit Union in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Though I’d heard about the Permaculture Credit Union before, I didn’t get around to looking into it further until Wes Roe, one of the board members of PCU, contacted me with the suggestion of talking to Bill. In setting up the interview, I spoke with Bill at length, and felt his background offered a unique perspective to discuss banking and financial permaculture; he’s been involved in finance and business for over 30 years including holding a Master of Business Administration degree from Loyola College. Here is a banker who also practices permaculture. This interview adds another model to those presented by Eric Toensmeier and Lisa Fernandes on applying permaculture more broadly, particularly to business.
We begin with Bill’s background in the world of banking and finance, and how he came to permaculture. From there we move to the Permaculture Credit Union: how the organization began, the process involved to get started, and the ethos that allows people to join the credit union and also bind them together philosophically. Throughout it all, Bill speaks with clarity and frankness as I seek details on understanding the causes of the financial crisis/melt down/great recession over the last few years, and how the Permaculture Credit Union performed in comparison to the big banks. We throw some numbers around and touch on esoteric ideas behind what makes a particular financial institution secure or insecure. We close out talking about how community focused banks can make a difference to the people that live within there, even if the bank is located hundreds, or thousands, of miles away. In the information age physical location may matter less and less, but the we should ally with those who agree that the best place to start building a better world is at home, in our neighborhood, and our nearest town or city.