Is this a salutary tale and how can it be fixed?

A Village on an Island

Imagine the scene – a tiny little village on a remote island. To the visitor it looks cosy and prosperous but that is deceiving the eye. For this village of 330 people sits on an island with a total population of 7,800. Yet, due to its remote location, the whole place has to be self-sustaining and therein lies the heart of a big problem that has been slowly brewing and is rapidly getting worse. It’s a bankrupt village.

Where It All Began

Many years ago the original settlers of the village were quick to adapt to the land and what it could produce. They rapidly expanded their activities and for a while all went well. However they always wanted some more – so they set about taking over (sometimes by force, sometimes by buying) the lands and assets of the rest of the island.

They could do this because a small handful of people in the village set up a bank. That controlled the money used across the island and dictated what amounts could be lent and to whom. Nobody was arguing (at least not out loud) and things continued. The island had good resources, land to grow crops and timber; mines and quarries for materials.

The Seams Are Running Out

Over time the mines had to go deeper and the seams were beginning to run out. Land for crops was getting in short supply and people began to mutter about the problem. But who could they turn to? The village had got into a dominant position by taking the production from the rest of the island. So it was decided to petition the island council and take stock.

The P&L Account

First of all the elders looked at the overall annual production from the island. Using their currency (the Q-Piece) that totalled Q₽ 5,000,000. Of that total the village only accounted for Q₽ 212,000.

Then they turned to the bank and enquired about the state of the finances. Overall the island was borrowing a further Q₽ 4 million a year beyond what it was producing. Yet nobody so far had asked to be repaid. On further investigation it appeared that of that amount, the village (with only 330 people) was actually borrowing Q₽ 1.6 million a year. The debts were mounting quite fast.

Some Difficult Questions

How, asked the elders, could a village of only 330 people be borrowing so much beyond what it was actually capable of producing every year? The answer was surprisingly simple – just 3 people from the village controlled the bank which owned or controlled 96% of the entire production across the island.

These individuals were happy to continue to finance their village – it was where they lived and had a good lifestyle.

Unfortunately food supply was coming under pressure – there was nowhere else to get it from. Besides the building materials for the nice houses in the village and the school and shops and other things were no longer easily obtainable. How was the island going to live within its means?

The First Answer

“Let’s go and find another island and use their land and resources” said one.

“We’ve looked and we can’t find anywhere we can reach” said another.

At this point the bankers started to ponder. How were they going to get back all the money they had lent? In effect the village was bankrupt. They didn’t dare ask their villagers to stump up the money – it would be political suicide. So what on earth should they do?

As an Elder What Would You Recommend?

This isn’t a trick question. Its answer affects us all in one way or another. So just what would YOU suggest?

Post your answers in the COMMENTS section below. I’ll publish a selection of the suggestions for everyone to consider.

The Moral of the Bankrupt Village

The population of earth is currently 7.8 billion people and yet the population of the USA (presently just over 330 million) is currently overdrawing on the earth’s assets to the tune of 16 billion tons every year beyond what the earth can sustainably produce. The rest of the planet currently account for another 24 billion tons of materials every year in excess of what scientists reckon is sustainable.

We passed the sustainable threshold several years ago at 50bn tons of material and are currently consuming 90bn per annum and that is accelerating.

How Do YOU Deal With the Seemingly Impossible?

Give us a call and pick our brains. We’ll help you understand the basics and how to build on those as part of a free consultation. It makes a massive difference in the quality of the solutions and there’s much more to Creative Problem Solving that we can share. If you’d like more information online, then you can also follow this link.

Rob Wherrett can be contacted at

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