The Bank of Nature

Hawk flying over a natural setting suggests zooming out for a birds eye view of systems where banks are a component.
A birds eye view to see banks and flow

Thought leader Ian Edwards asks, can nature be a bank? I love his ideas and follow his threads. If you’re equally interested in more about his thoughts you can see his origin post on the Bank of Nature here. (If you’re interested in exploring the idea as a collaborative question others answered, you can see the thread here.)

The Bank of Nature Ian raises for this question, is a simple analogy. As happens with the best of analogies, it is both descriptive (and appropriate). It is also provocative the more you consider it!

Bank: Origins and Definitions

To orient myself with this idea, I like to the origins of a word.

If you look to any google etymology, you find the word ‘bank’ is a descriptive term. The term is applicable in various flow systems (water, money). You’ll also find the origins come from the word ‘bench’ with a reference to the money changers’ exchange tables.

The shores built up along our water ways look like the ‘benches’ used money changers. We see this again with the mounds of financial capital we accrue. This visual representation references this idea of a bench and the origin of bank.

bank | Origin and meaning of bank by Online Etymology Dictionary (

Zooming out to the larger system of which the bank is component seems helpful for my understanding.

The larger holistic system can be seen to embrace both flow and control. (As in the river banks suggest water flow, the banker representative controls the flow of money using financial rules). The bank, then, is one entry point to control money in a larger system.

In flow systems, money and water pools and then releases. The release can be slow and gentle or massive and powerful.

In other values-driven communities where I take part, the question rests, not on the structure (banks as structures/components), but on the ultimate intention of the flow. We think beyond the immediate structure and see it as a nodal point to control or regulate flow. The narrative serves as context.

Flow understood as a system element (element as in ‘It’s pouring rain, I’m about to brave the elements.’) gives context to the structural banking component. Nature is both contextual element and the naming context for a larger holistic system.

It Comes Down to Intention

If I continue this way of thinking and use the current banking system as a guide, I further wonder about intention. Is the intention for our Bank of Nature to generate single bottom line profit, or holistic systems regeneration? Is the character of the capital stream purely financial? Or does the Bank of Nature carry other forms of capital in it’s regulation of flow? Can we go further? Can we also identify natural capital, social capital, intellectual capital, components of the carrying economy, etc. in the flotsam and jetsam of capital flow? Is it more than cash?

If the goal is regeneration, might we also ask about our intention? Is our intention to regenerate communities or environment or some combination? For communities, we might fund projects and programs to develop the skills for democratic and inclusive leadership, participatory budgeting, etc.? If we focus on the environment, might we consider funding and creating livelihoods for regenerating water tables, or soil, or forests?

If we identify nature as a bank structured to pool money without noticing banked energy and its release, what becomes of dynamic healthy flow? Is nature container only, or should we frame more deeply and learn from an indigenous way of thinking to see nature as living, responsive, brother and sister?

Keep the Exploration Going!

Writing, I realize all the ways a bank sits in our current financial systems. A Bank of Nature might also become a place to store value, hold understanding to conduct responsible flow and become a partner in developing responsive financial tools for stewardship (i.e, Royalty Notes and Revenue Shares). It might also become a responsive and well-respected stakeholder able to negotiate for this and future generations.

I think there is a lot of value to continuing to explore this analogy. I look forward to following this thread and continuing to explore these ideas.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *