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March 22, 2012

Fresh Food

I attended an event tonight about the local food economy. The room was packed - standing room only and I recognized many people from all walks of life (the co-ops, dancing, friends, work, etc). The goal the event was to bring together community and leaders from many different sectors of the the local food economy.

After welcomes and introductions, the evening started out with LaDonna Redmond from IATP. An inspirational speaker, she painted a very important big picture around what exactly food justice is, why it is critical and pointing out that we have never had a fair, equitable, just food system in this country - ever.

That last statement stopped in my head and keeps echoing around in there. Ever! ever... ever... We have never had a fair, equitable, just food system in this country... ever.

Redmond pointed out that when we go back 20 years and you find the beginning of GMOs, go back 60 years and we were getting into pesticides and petro-chemicals after WWII, go back even farther and you start run into slave labor or share cropping which was still exploiting people and land - both of which we continue to do today to get our food to us. As a member of the co-operative food movement for the past 35 year (if I count all the equity my parents made me put into it when I was young) it really made me pause and reevaluate how we talk about the food movement and just how radical we are in our goals.

Later speakers all tied the picture of the growing food movement together, outlining its aches and pains in the cities. I learned that in Minneapolis it is still illegal (and has been since the 1960s) to grow food in the city to sell. Urban farmers talked about how difficult it is to find a place where they can process food they've grown into shelf stable (or at least more shelf-stable than fresh vegetables) products that add value. As painful as it was to hear of all the lacks and struggles that occur on a regular basis, all in all the night was incredible uplifting and inspirational. I left thinking this is truly a time of growth and expansion for enterprises that promote community well-being and general common-wealth.

August 17, 2009

Plastic Soup and Project Kaisei

I've written a few times about the massive explosion of plastic that has taken over our oceans - flowing from our rivers and boats to the place where the currents meet. They call this the North Pacific Garbage patch - it isn't a solid island but more of a plastic soup where debris can be found hundreds of meters below sea level and spread out hundreds of miles across.

Project Kaisei is out to study this soup and see what we can do about it:

Project Kaisei consists of a team of innovators, scientists, environmentalists, ocean lovers, sailors, and sports enthusiasts who have come together with a common purpose. To study the North Pacific Gyre and the marine debris that has collected in this oceanic region, to determine how to capture the debris and to study the possible retrieval and processing techniques that could be potentially employed to detoxify and recycle these materials into diesel fuel. This first research expedition, scheduled for the summer of 2009, will be critical to understanding the logistics that would be needed to launch future clean-up operations and testing existing technologies that have never been utilized under oceanic conditions.

While I am not a fan of "recycling" anything into fuel (seems about as plausible to me as burning trash for energy) I am excited about a team of people actually studying this stuff and thinking about how we can clean it up. They seem to have an awesome communications team with them, who combining with Google Earth can show you where they are and give you super cool very short videos about what they are finding and learning.

Now if only we can figure out how to prevent this "waste" in the first place...

October 31, 2008

Economic Games

The economy is in tail spin. That's what I read every day in the newspapers and when I consider all I've read in a week my head starts hurting.
One day the Dow is down and everyone is fretting - people aren't buying enough!
Then a few days later it makes a giant leap and everyone sighs relief and says - it will be alright! We are recovered now.
Then some time later it dives again.

Can I get some context on this?

Earlier I recall reading how in debt we are - so it seems reasonable that the economy would slow down as we all take a deep breath and try to pay for what we already have.

However, apparently this causes everyone to panic - because then we are making more widgets than people want - so people get fired because they aren't needed to make widgets anymore. And then the people who were making widgets can afford even less and so now not only are widgets sales down but also doo-dad sales as well. And thus begins the deflation spiral that I read about in the New York Times recently and that my friends and I have discussed for years.

But how did we get here?
By making more widgets than anyone could possibly need (or at least afford) in the first place (or more houses if we want to talk closer to home). I guess this is called an economic bubble.

So what is the remedy?

I agree that the government, which is The People collectively (whether we like it our not), should do something. I don't know how this bailout is going to work though. It seems that they keep lowering interest to encourage people to take out more loans to build more widgets so that the widget makers and afford to by widgets, doo-dads (and houses). The flaw I see in inherent in this "free-market system" is that we really don't need widgets or as I call it "plastic crap from China" (though it could just as easily be from Indonesia, Malaysia, or even the good ol' USA).

Working on the disposal end of things I can tell you that we all already have more than we need and it is coming out of people's ears, eyes, trucks, houses, and other less pleasant places.

I have heard this giant bailout be referred to as our generations' "New Deal". This is a load of crap. I am woefully ignorant of history, mostly gleaned through the tales of my grandparents but even I know that the New Deal resulted in the government spending our money creating infrastructure that would actually improve our society - not just give us more plastic crap that we'll throw out in six months but still be paying interest on.

My recommendation to my government is to take that 700 billion back from the banks and invest it in roads, rail, wind energy, solar technology, green houses for gardens in the city, advanced education programs for our youth and adults, and of course, infrastructure to allow every household in municipalities to have curbside recycling and composting collection in order to ensure that precious resources aren't wasted just because local officials are short sighted or ignorant.

July 15, 2008

capitalism

Growing up in a commune probably should have given me an odd view on our capitalist democracy. Indeed I've never been able to get my head around our economic structure. It always seemed like it was based on something shaky that I couldn't quite define.

However, thanks to David Loy and the financial crisis of the past year I think I've figured out how to define the bizarre premise of what makes our culture tick (money).

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