As a reporter, this year struck me as one where the do-it-your-selfers have taken their destinies in their own hands. This short list may not be a top 10 or 12 but does highlight some unique local trends of Utahns who are taking things into their own hands—from creating their own societies and doomsday prep to funding businesses and economies of their own creations.
David Brooks’ “Invest Local” Platform
In 2012, President Barack Obama signed the Jumpstart Our Businesses’ or JOBS Act that among other things opened the doors for average folks to make investments in small businesses and receive dividends on those investments. Like a Kickstarter for the would-be mom-and-pop entrepreneur, the act allows hubs to oversee small-time investors to fund local startups (previous law required accredited investors to earn $250,000 annually).
David Brooks, a young, social entrepreneur, talked about his invest local vision with City Weekly in “Crowdfunding SLC,” as a means of giving small business dreams the means outside of the traditionally stingy and perhaps elitist finance markets. Brooks also wants to take the crowdfunding idea a step further by signing up crowdfunded businesses to help support local community-outreach groups and programs like those in use at the Midvale Boys and Girls Clubs, using his umbrella organization Revolution United.
“If you have a passion and you can turn that into a business and show that to the people and provide a plan—it will come to fruition,” Brooks says.
Peaceful Uprising's “Community Audits”
Occupy SLC may have gotten evicted from Pioneer Park in 2011, but the loose anarchist collective left its mark on the local activist scene especially with Peaceful Uprising. Peace Up got its start after bogus gas-lease bidder Tim DeChristopher was arrested for fraudulent bidding of gas parcels in southern Utah, but Peace Up has now taken a page from the Occupy book and adapted a new model of do-it-yourself community building and radical change that sidesteps working with the system and goes right to the people.
Occupy was widely derided by critics for lacking purpose when all along its mission was more about a radically inclusive democratic process than any set, specific goal. To sit in on an Occupy meeting was to watch a group of people talk and talk ad nauseum -- but also to the point of near 100 percent consensus. This near-pure Democracy, coupled with no formal leadership, allows the group to move toward goals that a super-duper majority of participants can agree upon.
Now, Peaceful Uprising has applied that model to its own activist community by allowing members to drive its community-audits initiative that every quarter highlights a group doing positive, hopeful things for the community, like the Salt Lake Dream Team advocating for compassionate immigration reform. The audit also focuses on a quarterly issue of injustice to help fight against, like tar sands development in the state. Like the Occupy model, the audits provide communities an opportunity to pursue their dreams and improve society directly, as opposed to writing angry letters to their elected officials and then crossing their fingers.
“What Occupy has done is help communities learn participatory democracy. ... To learn to be with one another,” says Peaceful Uprising member Henia Belalia.
Gold Bullion International’s Custom Gold Bank
Ever since the economy shit the bed in 2007, the stability of gold has only increased. But it wasn’t until 2012 that Savneet Singh created Gold Bullion International, a company that uses vaults across the world—including Salt Lake City—to store customers’ gold assets. Beyond that, the company has “democratized” gold buying by creating a transparent gold exchange market that allows average consumers to buy small quantities of gold from reputable dealers and store them in their own account. Customers’ gold is not a part of the company’s books so consumers always have access to their gold in secure vaults insured by Lloyd's of London.
At the time City Weekly reported on Singh's company, GBI had even launched a new program allowing publicly traded companies to offer investors dividends in gold bars and coins. Gold is valued for its stability and Singh has created a pioneering business that will allow average people to profit from that security and do so completely outside of traditional banks and financial institutions.
“We decided that if we could create a way for people to buy physical assets as easy as buying stock or bonds, we would have a great business,” Singh says. “Why buy paper if you can buy the physical asset?”
Transition Salt Lake’s Practical and Progressive Doomsday Prep
While Utah is no stranger to groups and individuals stocking their bunkers in anticipation of the end of the world, one group is ready for the end of civilization and has already gotten over it. Transition Salt Lake, a local chapter of an international movement, works to “re-skill” people on their grandparents' lost knowledge of self reliance. Instead of focusing so much on the “how” of the end of the world, the local groups offer free monthly classes on skills ranging from gardening, bicycle maintenance and canning to building solar ovens, so no matter the calamity, people will be prepared for a smooth post-apocalyptic transition.
It’s also a welcome refuge for the progressive who worries about the end, since while the group doesn’t fixate on what the catastrophe will look like, their biggest concern is peak oil and the sputtering collapse of a fossil-fuel-driven economy.
But they are also not isolationist in their doomsday prep, focusing on building community with all people. So, if your biggest end-days worry involves zombies riding zombie bears to your doorstep, fear not -- all are welcome to learn and re-skill and share their survivalist knowledge with this cheery and upbeat group of preppers.