Saturday, August 27, 2011

Children, our future

I came across this quote this morning.
"What can educators do to foster real intelligence?  ...We can attempt to teach the things that one might imagine Earth would teach us:  silence, humility, holiness, connectedness, courtesy, beauty, celebration, giving, restoration, obligation, and wildness."  David W. Orr

This is a beautiful concept.  Not altogether different from what Christ was teaching.  I don't expect a consciousness awakening that has everyone thinking this way but those of us who are trying need to do the best with the understanding we have.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Corporate Subsidy Revisited

As if on cue, this story was in the news today;

"It's kind of sad that even though I'm working that I need to have government assistance. I have asked them to please put me on full-time so I can have benefits," said the 32-year-old.

"This becomes an implicit subsidy for low-wage jobs and in terms of incentives for higher wage job creation that really is not a good thing,

"It's a good thing that the government helps, but if employers paid enough and gave enough hours, then we wouldn't need to be on food stamps

The above quotes are from the referenced article.  Now go back and read the blog entry titled "Government Subsidized Corporate Profit".  They don't need to cut the assistance program, they need to make the corporations pay a living wage so the employees are no longer eligible for public assistance.

Are we healthy?

Good Morning,
"Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."  World Health Organization, 1948

"Although physical health is important to well-being, humans also need mental health, which starts with the absence of mental illness, but also includes such concepts as freedom from fear of personal harm, freedom from fear about not meeting basic needs (food, water, shelter, safety), and so on.  In addition, we are social creatures and require a sense of community; stimulating, trusting, and regular interactions with others, plus a sense of usefulness, satisfaction, and security in what we do and how we live our lives as members of groups.  Without all three kinds of well-being--physical, mental, and social--we are not healthy."  Cindy Parker and Brian Swartz, Human Health And Well-Being In An Era Of Energy Scarcity And Climate Change

The above quoted article is in The Post Carbon Reader.  I am struck once again by the notion that regardless of what happens socially, economically, or environmentally in the world in the coming years or decades, we don't have this kind of health in our lives.  American culture has moved further away from strong community support and from any sense of confidence about our ability to meet our needs in the future.  From a position of intentional community, we can gain a more complete version of health in our lives and face our future from a position of personal and group strength rather than constant uncertainty.  I would include spiritual along with physical, mental, and social health and I believe community tends toward a stronger more stable spiritual condition.

To those of you who are following this, I appreciate your interest.  You can help me know what folks are interested in hearing and what direction to go with a little feedback.  It also lets me know that someone is out there.  So let's start a little community interaction here on the blog.  I would sure be interested in hearing from you.  Also, if you think what we're talking about here is worth the time, share it to others.
Thanks, Joe

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Government subsidized corporate profit

There are some areas where big corporate profit is subsidized that we rarely give any attention.

For example, Walmart pays most of its employees below the poverty level.  As a corporation they make a huge profit but this profit is clearly subsidized by every penny of public assistance received by their employees.  Any company showing a profit should be required to raise their employees pay until no public money enters the loop.  It's not a big stretch to realize that there is little difference from using cheap labor overseas where the companies can pay less by not meeting environmental and social responsibilities to making a profit in the United States by paying a low wage and having the slack picked up by public funds (public funds we really can't afford I might add).

Another area of public subsidy is waste removal.  A corporation can manufacture products and packaging and export the environmental costs of those materials on the front end to the community (often foreign) where they originate or on the back end to the municipality or county where they come out of use.  Regardless of where the money comes from to process the waste, we know it doesn't come from the corporation.  The taxpayer ultimately subsidizes the corporation by absorbing the cost of the responsibility for irresponsible manufacturing and packaging practices.  If we were to tax or charge manufacturers according to the amount of waste they produce in a given time period I bet it wouldn't take long for them to change their practices.  The packaging, product durability, and manufacturing processes should all be part of a feedback loop that rewards companies who do well and punishes companies that don't.  There is even a term for this but we don't press it here in America.  "This is being done through an internationally recognized policy called "extended producer responsibility" (EPR)..... EPR establishes a legal chain of producer custody extending through the entire product life cycle."    Bill Sheehan and Helen Spiegelman, "Climate Change, Peak Oil, and The End of Waste"

It will require local initiative to bring the pressure for change in these areas.  The further you get from local the closer you get to levels of governance bought and sold by corporate sponsors.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Why Localization is Important

"We have yet to come to grips with our own vulnerability in this global supply system.  We in rich countries have almost lost the ability to supply our own needs through local manufacturing and agriculture-or even to extend the life of products through reuse, repair, and repurposing.  We rely on others, and on a system lubricated by cheap oil, to meet our needs as well as our wants.  In the post peak oil period, inevitable interruptions in the flow of the goods we rely on every day will be profoundly destabilizing." Bill Sheehan, Hellen Speiegelman, Executive Director and President of the Product Policy Institute. "Climate Change, Peak Oil, and The End of Waste"

There are so many aspects of our daily life for which we rely on goods and services that we have no control over and no ability to provide for ourselves.  We can pretend it will always be this way or we can decide now while we still have the resources available to learn to meet some of our own local needs.  I am not suggesting you build an ark and do everything yourself.  We are a social animal and we are both mentally and physically healthier when we function as part of a community group.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

What should we be doing now?

"We don't need and need not bother wanting to be 'independent.'  Instead, we need the kinds of knowledge and skills that allow us to be valuable and contributing participants in honorable interdependence in both good times and bad."  Carol Deppe, The Resilient Gardener; Food Production and Self Reliance in Uncertain Times.

While we may not be able to get specific as to the timing and exact nature of the change that's coming, we can be reasonably certain that change is on the horizon and that food insecurity will be a part of it.  I would encourage you to approach this in two ways.  Start playing in the garden even if "the garden" is a few pots or containers on your windowsill or the flower bed outside your apartment.  Put away at least some food so that you have time to think if something happens faster than you thought it would.
As far as storing food goes, rice, beans and salt are what you need to be alive and after that you can fill in the blanks.  Also, you start rationing as soon as you begin using stored food reserves.  The whole point is the be here to have the option of deciding what comes next and that only requires about 1000 calories a day.  Rice has about 1600 calories per pound and beans have about 750 calories per pound depending on the type.  This means that 2 pounds of beans and 1 pound of rice is good for 1 person for 3 days.  Figure out how many people you want to feed and for how long and you do the math.  Each person you want to feed needs about 5 pounds of salt per year to remain healthy.  This is the cheapest and easiest of your needs to  provide.  If stored salt goes solid on you, you can grind or crush it.  The sodium is all you need and that hasn't changed by going solid.  It is easy to get variety with spices.  I encourage you to wander the aisles of the best international grocery you can find.  I'm not talking about "World Market" where the rich folk shop.  I'm talking about where the local Asian and Indian population shop.  You will find a variety of beans, rice, grains, spices, and all manner of other cool stuff.