Don Sanderson: And, My Choice Is ….


From DON SANDERSON
Hopland

The Mendocino County supervisor campaign is hot, campaign literature (interviews, blogs, mailings, affairs, sample ballots, …) is beginning to flood upon us, and voters are excitedly choosing sides in that two hundred and more year old celebration of American representative democracy. The affair is becoming so entrancing that we have nearly forgotten the mistaken choices we made in the last election, and the time before, and the time before that, and onward into dim memories of just how disordered and decrepit the whole process is. Not that we ever had real choices, only us humans with all our many pratfalls. Oh, we are told the system is better than any other, so smile and cast your dice. Does it really matter who wins? Oh, yes, you say; we can’t let “them” win this time. Well, maybe, but ….

We hear rumblings that the world economy is failing, especially that of the U.S., especially that of California. But, as perhaps the most in-your-face example, Goldman-Sachs is reporting amazing profits playing with mortgage securities, the stock market, and the petroleum commodities market among others with that bailout money and government guarantees awarded them by our elected representatives; massive employee bonuses are being rewarded. So, we’re told by our representatives that, though it may not have touched Mendocino County yet, the economy is improving and you should thank them in the next election. Social Darwinist survival of the fittest or greediest, as so well promoted by Ayn Rand, is a, perhaps the, dominant force in this country, this culture, as epitomized by Goldman-Sachs and associates; I read that Rand’s still best-selling books have been found in surveys to be only somewhat less influential than the Bible. When will this bubble, which is being funded by Fed funny money, crash? Like the last, this is not all smoke and mirrors? What might you conclude this can this portend for us here in Mendocino County? I’d say, run for cover.

What has become standard behavior of investor-owned corporations is that the CEO and top officers are given authoritative blank checks as to how the businesses are run. Investors supposedly elect objective board members to represent their interests, but in fact CEOs most often dictate who will be board members. CEOs of other corporations and their confederates are usually selected and defer all operational decisions to the CEO. And, why not, since board members could hardly be expected to devote the time to understand complex company operations. Quite naturally, corporate officers’ primary objectives are their own security and wellbeing and Ayn Rand has told them this is how it should be. Again quite naturally since we all are masters at rationalization, that which would be considered grossly improper behavior in polite company, often arguably criminal, is easily justified as just good business.

While the U.S. president pretends many of the powers of a CEO, as the constitution was written the U.S. Congress has sole responsibility of determining policies. Congressional committees frequently delve deeply into operational issues and assert changes, though surely not as much as we would like. This originally became the model for state governments. In the days of my youth, running most rural counties was a simple affair, mostly a matter of road maintenance, and supervisors played both administrative and legislative roles. As the world has become more complex, so have county governments to the point supervisors have become overwhelmed by detail and often have selected effectively corporate forms of governance; operational oversight was increasingly left to the county CEO.

Whereas the U.S. Congress can grow staffing as necessary for performing its supervisory function, typically county supervisors have no staff and are at the mercy of what the CEO chooses to tell them. That some of the problems that typify corporate business behavior, especially the tendency of administrators to feather their own nests, should occur shouldn’t be surprising. Thus, the internal pressure for swelling salaries, particularly those of administrative officers, the number of employees, and authoritative controls and for government to ever grow, all of which has left the supervisors increasingly dysfunctional – much like that of other public agency boards (city, school, non-government, …) all over the county. Thus, in Mendocino’s case, AVA reports of supervisor meetings read something like a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta as Mark Scaramella so well captures. Why any of us would be want to step on that stage mystifies me? Some suspect that we men, at least, have such great needs for public recognition that we’re even willing to play court fools.

The failing economy is crowding down upon us and likely will be increasingly so in the near future. The Mendocino County budget in all its multifarious particulars of which no one seems to have a grasp is the county’s primary issue. Yet, very unsurprisingly, the current supervisors and candidates, with one or two exceptions, have almost entirely avoided addressing the traps hidden therein. In true corporate board style, they defer to the CEO. Thus, it appears that high administrative salaries and perks are not on the table – well, maybe some.

Still, what supervisor or candidate has the time, inclination, or expertise to dig through county financial accounts, especially since they take such arcane forms? I offer, as have others, that these skills are available among county citizens and likely on a volunteer basis. It seems to me that this is the first step for regaining citizen control of county government – after this was written, I read of the ad-hoc committee’s recommendation regarding retiree health benefits, its approval by the board, and resulting great gnashing of teeth. In fact, in the following, I propose that, in answer to the intertwined economic, social, and environmental issues pressing down upon us, we need a radical rethinking of county government structure. It is to this end I address the remainder of the essay.

We usually think of accounting as something arcane business administrators, accountants and bookkeepers do. Balancing personal budgets appears to be beyond most of us. So, we fall back on credit cards at horrendous interest rates that mystify us and get many of us in financial difficulties. As we’ve noted recently with the housing crisis and failures of mortgage, auto, and financial corporations, each with expensive accountant staffs, even skilled MBAs and economists can get over their heads if only because it is exceedingly difficult to predict what may occur that will impose unusually heavy burdens. Still, if we are wise, we attempt to get as much information as we have access to out on the table and explore possible eventualities. What are present and more or less likely future expenses? What are present and more or less likely future incomes? How probable is it that expenses will exceed incomes? If so, what are the recourses? I can guess you are saying how boring, you don’t have a head for figures nor do you have the time, and besides you have faith that everything will turn out alright. I contend this is exactly the situation in which the supervisors and candidates find themselves. They trust the CEO will tell them, but foot dragging in those quarters has gone on for months, arguably years.

I contend the central issues are much larger than money. There is a massive pile of evidence that we humans are trashing this Earth arguably to death primarily as a consequence of fossil fuel usage. We ordinary Americans are primarily to blame and now we’re importing this sick culture to the world. Three books have been published lately detailing the problem from the global warming standpoint: “Science As A Contact Sport: Inside the Battle to Save Earth’s Climate” by Stephan H. Schneider, “Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity” by James Hansen, and “Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming” by Richard Littlemore. The first two authors are among leading Earth scientists. Those who disagree have not been found to have published a single article in mainstream scientific journals. Rather, they are promoting their ideas in right-wing blogs and publications aimed at convincing the general public. Many are funded by those energy corporations that are likely to be restrained should world governments agree that global warming is occurring and we are to blame. These corporations don’t want anyone to contain their and our extravagances – $50 billion profits in one quarter! Recent surveys are finding the deniers are winning: in one, only 25 percent of Americans reportedly believe that there is scientific consensus that global warming is occurring, while 52 percent believe there is substantial disagreement; in a second, only 57 percent agree global warming is occurring; of these, 47 percent believe it is the result of planetary trends, while only 35 percent (i.e. 20 percent of the total) conclude that human activity is the cause. An average of four oil-and-gas company lobbyists are trolling each U.S. congressman. So, our representatives in Congress and the executive sit on their hands. What, you are asking, does this have to do with Mendocino County government?

A number of years ago, those involved in environmental planning introduced the idea of environmental accounting, that is to quantify and estimate the environmental costs and benefits of projects. Two examples may elucidate the approach.

Solar power is a big deal. A friend recently informed me that although he had considered the costs, he concluded that the only way he could escape PG&E’s clutches was to solarize. From a personal point of view, he may or may not have been wise. It has been written that it may take him 20 years to begin to save money over what he would have spent had he not installed the panels. Of course, at or before this time, the panels are expected to die, so he would then have to start the investment process all over. But, there are larger issues. An article in one of the leading scientific journals recently reported that the manufacture of solar cells is incredibly environmentally dirty and more energy is required than the panels will ever deliver. That is, from the Earth climate view, solar panels have negative worth. If we add lithium batteries to the mix, difficulties with this approach may become larger. Should the county then promote solar power? Essentially all “green” energy sources present the same difficulties; with a few exceptions like animal and human labor, each ultimately relies on fossil fuels.

Are there more Earth friendly approaches? In fact, there are. A local natural gas-fired generator constructed to highest environmental standards would be far preferable. But, you say, PG&E is already doing so. The problem is that PG&E’s electricity is distributed over long lines with the significant loss of energy over every mile traveled. So, a local plant distributing locally would utilize significantly less natural gas and impact the environment much less. Local control would also mitigate expensive corporate overhead. Possibilities don’t end here: in Denmark, garbage is burnt in environmentally benign plants with a net increase in heat energy that is used for generating electricity; the remaining waste heat is used to warm buildings, including greenhouses, and for other purposes; mineral wastes are captured and recycled. Such a project may be too big for Mendocino County, but very likely not if adjoining counties cooperate. Please note again that such a generator would utilize natural gas much more efficiently and cleaner than would the manufacture of most so-called green energy equipment. Incidentally, the U.S. Departments of Energy and Defense recently reported that peak oil production is an immediate prospect and oil availability may be expected to go into decline, i.e. gasoline prices will increase surely amplified by the manipulations of Goldman-Sachs and others further impacting the economy; natural gas supplies, on the other hand, are expected to be sufficient for a much longer term. Still, soon we’re going to be required by circumstances to get off the fossil fuel addiction.

A second example: Health, natural, and organic foods are increasingly the rage of those who can afford them. The first two designations, “health” and “natural”, as far as I can tell, in this context are marketing terms that have no clear scientifically valid credibility and some of these items decidedly fail the test. Certified organic foods purportedly have fewer adulterants than others, though with imports that is difficult to guarantee. Almost all such foods are distributed by a single massive private corporation with emphasis on sales and profits uppermost. As with solar, even though these foods may be good choices for you personally, they can be very costly to the environment, especially in regard to global warming.

Many the original ingredients are raised on heavily mechanized factory farms. Before arriving at the store, they are typically processed and packaged in large factories and pass through extensive distribution networks. All of this requires energy, primarily ultimately resulting from the burning of fossil fuels with some nuclear and dams thrown in. The packaging alone may be expensive in these ways and energy costs resulting from the processing of package waste must also be added to the accounts – do you realize how environmentally and energetically expensive it is to manufacture metal cans, even when the metal is recycled? To compound these difficulties, many of these products require energetically-expensive refrigeration. By even roughly comparing the environmental accounts for these foods with those raised locally and sold fresh direct from the farm and you will unquestionably see the problem. Whether or not these products are organic matters only a bit in these accounts – a small plus is that the environmental costs of petrochemicals and natural gas-derived and climate-damaging nitrogen fertilizers may be excluded.

Another aspect of the health food market fascinates me: the endless plastic bottles of vitamins, minerals, and other supplements. If the foods on the store shelves are so healthy, why does one need these products? I’ve traced several lines of my ancestors back over 300 hundred years. They were typically farmers with a blacksmith and carpenter thrown in. None were wealthy. Typically, they lived into their seventies, eighties, and sometime nineties largely consuming the foods they themselves raised. If we consume the local foods available to us, do we need to waste fossil fuel energy to manufacture and distribute these supplements?

If I were to stop, this would seem be enough to damn many of those food products that line groceries’ shelves. But, we could also estimate social accounts. Much of the ingredients of these foods and their packaging are produced by the labor of farm workers who are little more than slaves, trapped because they are illegal. Unskilled factory labor is hardly better. We are all enthused by fair trade coffees and chocolates, but never consider that fair trade practices might be expected for products originating within the United States. Did you know that Ivory Coast is one of the largest chocolate producing country in the world, the source for much of the mainstream chocolates tempting us, and that the price is kept competitive by using child slaves as harvesters.

It is curious that if we were to act according to wise energy usage as described in these examples, we would not only minimize our affects on the environment but increase the qualities of our lives. Why aren’t we doing so? An answer to this question mystifies me, though I’ve thought about it much in the past few years. It may be we are so overwhelmed with making it through each day and feel we must rely on others who we think are in the know. We are also continually bombarded by promotional, e.g. campaign, materials which we have no means of certainly evaluating. So, we depend upon those who have designated themselves to be our community leaders to guide us. Alas, as Count Leo Tolstoy described, these leaders are much like a small boat sailing in front of a massive ocean liner; it may have the illusion it is leading until the liner pours on the steam.

Mendocino County’s poverty level is quite high and growing. Economic and environmental events are increasingly impacting us and anger at government responses, actually unresponsiveness, is becoming widespread on both the left and right. In may well be that the government sailboat will be sunk by these bow waves. Truly, I’m not very concerned about what happens on the country and state levels, since there is little influence I can have there. I just don’t want to be sucked down when they sink. On the other hand, as the examples illustrate, a local community may be able to better withstand the near future if wise stewardship is followed, for instance if access to land and training in gardening and scratch cooking become widely available and promoted. Who among our supervisors or candidates gives promise to be more than a cipher in such efforts? I see no evidence that any of our self-designated community leaders will be daring enough to explore publicly what must be done, to attempt to energize the community as a cooperative whole. Indeed, who of us has the ability to do so?

Allow me to give you an example that is a metaphor for my concerns, in fact deep ones, that this community will not, can not, be successful. A short while ago, the Ukiah Co-op had two million dollars in savings. I proposed that some portion of that be used to promote local food sources and to expand Mendocino College’s Ag Department into a training facility for future truck gardeners and farmers – on the land the college has since covered with solar panels and on which Sonoma State buildings are being constructed. At the behest of the CEO, the Co-op board voted eight to one to reserve the money for store expansion primarily, it turned out, to increase shelving for groceries, i.e. processed and packaged products delivered by that major distributor, while decreasing shelving for fresh fruits and vegetables. The only argument that I heard in support is that “this is what our customers want”. I so hope that is not true, but fear it is. I had thought Co-op members were more perceptive, though for long years I wasn’t. Alas, it certainly appears that the public at large isn’t. Thus, it seems a major educational effort is needed, but will it be forthcoming and how so?

At present, a sizable fraction of Mendocino County budget is tied up in administrative salaries and associated perks, which far exceed those that are otherwise available in the county. With the shrinking sales of wine and marijuana, local governments (city, county, school, local state and federal agencies, …) are rapidly becoming the only significant county industry; they are certainly paying the highest employee salaries and benefits. If county government is to play a major role in preparing the community for the coming storms while dealing with the present ones effectively, the supervisors must get control of and redirect county resources. How this might occur I believe would heavily involve the public, which is to say that the supervisors primarily play roles as directors of the efforts rather than sole decision makers. Can you imagine this happening? It is fascinating that politicians greatly fear surrendering control to the public, yet do so readily to CEOs and other government (and corporate) administrators. On the other hand, ad-hoc committees can take a lot of the heat off of the supervisors as seen with retiree health care.

So, can we expect anything from county supervisors now or in the future but continuing comedies with the pretense of governing? I don’t feel I’m being unkind in asking this; all the candidates give evidence of being fine people who will attempt to do their best, but the job requires far more than most of us have the will or abilities to offer. The human world has become an incredibly complex place, likely far beyond what we can conceive, as many astute observers have noted. Not that it wasn’t always so, but we could afford to ignore it. Now, we can not. Indeed, as Howard Zinn observed in great detail, representative democracy has always been a tacked together affair with true leadership for the general good being exceedingly rare; arguably only Lincoln and the two Roosevelts occasionally demonstrating such among the presidents. I think of MLK Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and the Dalai Lama as exemplarily leaders in the original meaning of the label, but of course none probably ever considered running for office. We assuredly need such leaders now as never before to lead us out of the morass in which we’re becoming stuck.

There is a profusion of proposed social, economic, and technical remedies for our situation, but only a few give hints as to the underlying problem. I briefly summarize conclusions some of most perceptive, in my opinion, have given us: After about two and half million years of human prehistory and a couple of hundred thousand years of our version’s successful presence, we find ourselves in the last moment in a cul-de-sac and didn’t notice the “no outlet” sign. It seems we entered our destiny when intensive grain agriculture began ten millennia ago in the Middle East. In very short order after discovering a new highly productive wheat mutation, some humans found themselves with an excess of food far beyond their needs and the opportunity to accumulate and secure wealth and power over others. Since there was so much to eat, reasons for controlling population growth evaporated. And, so it began. Prior to this in hunter-gatherer times, personal wealth consisted of skills in interacting with wild nature and in maintaining tribal cohesion. Suddenly, it became every person for themselves; wild nature became wasteland to be tamed, owned, and cultivated; and other “lesser” humans became things to be manipulated. Traditional tribal cohesion fragmented into survival of the fittest. This authoritarian disease quickly spread across the Earth, with only those areas where grain didn’t thrive initially escaping. And, so, we now find ourselves paying for our ancestors’ prolificacy.

As remote viewer Joseph McMoneagle predicted (my twists), Goldman-Sachs and friends may survive in buried cities in the far north breathing air from which methane has been filtered while almost everyone else perishes; the latter of which may be the best option. Do I scare you. I hope so. McMoneagle notes that this is only a probable future; for instance, it can be changed if commonly-accepted world beliefs and expectations are altered. As I’ve described elsewhere in some detail, I conclude we have one hope: the formation of resilient, self-sustaining, and environmentally and socially responsible communities; if they are to be successful, it appears they must be bootstrapped independently of government oversight and be based on cooperative principles much as were those of ancient hunter-gatherer societies. I sometimes feel, however, this will only happen if we have no other alternatives, that the world economy and governments at all levels fail and soon before our environmental options dry up. Need I say that a huge population collapse is in the offing in any case. Those who can’t feed themselves will be the first over the cliff. Should we fear this? I think not. It may be that after this occurs, those few who remain may revivify the human species in radically more aware Earth-friendly directions.

I like to end essays on positive notes. As an austerity, I seldom read anything anymore in the current media, because it has become depressingly repetitious with angry frosting and no solutions in sight that most have the courage to propose – the AVA and some of the Ukiah.blog blogs and emails are exceptions. Indeed, I’m often filled with joy interacting with the wondrous natural world within and surrounding my garden and haven’t time to waste on material that doesn’t have a positive cast. I seldom go to town except to pick up our wonderful Boonville milk, purchase livestock feed, occasionally attend the Farmers’ market and splurge at the Renaissance Market, pick up other odds and ends, and once in a while stop in and visit Dave; all of which give me a charge, but seldom enough to leave the “farm” without being required to do so. What the birds, chickens, dogs, cats, frogs, stream, the many plants luxuriating in the rain, and wandering breezes have to say is gossip sufficient for me. We insist our wonderful daughter, grandchildren, and great grandchildren visit here rather than that we to go to the city. Been there, done that. Here is beauty, here is love, here is my heart of hearts Marlene, dare I say here is truth sunk deeply in the soil and bedrock and towering into the sky? We are inescapably children of this culture, but we’ve reduced our “needs” to the point that if everyone did so to such an extent, I don’t think the world would be in crisis mode yet, that the environment would have a positive balance sheet. The world outside will surely invade, but I shall address this when it happens and not until. I immerse myself in this glorious moment, this splendid wild world. If I can leave some tracks for others to follow into a brighter future, I shall die happy.

May you join me in celebrating our opportunities to experience this Earth, to dance with our fellow beings, if only for a short while. May we enjoy this human comedy of fools, laugh at our pretensions, and let creativity flood forth.he had considered the costs, he concluded that the only way he could escape PG&E’s clutches was to solarize. From a personal point of view, he may or may not have been wise. It has been written that it may take him 20 years to begin to save money over what he would have spent had he not installed the panels. Of course, at or before this time, the panels are expected to die, so he would then have to start the investment process all over. But, there are larger issues. An article in one of the leading scientific journals recently reported that the manufacture of solar cells is incredibly environmentally dirty and more energy is required than the panels will ever deliver. That is, from the Earth climate view, solar panels have negative worth. If we add lithium batteries to the mix, difficulties with this approach may become larger. Should the county then promote solar power? Essentially all “green” energy sources present the same difficulties; with a few exceptions like animal and human labor, each ultimately relies on fossil fuels.

Are there more Earth friendly approaches? In fact, there are. A local natural gas-fired generator constructed to highest environmental standards would be far preferable. But, you say, PG&E is already doing so. The problem is that PG&E’s electricity is distributed over long lines with the significant loss of energy over every mile traveled. So, a local plant distributing locally would utilize significantly less natural gas and impact the environment much less. Local control would also mitigate expensive corporate overhead. Possibilities don’t end here: in Denmark, garbage is burnt in environmentally benign plants with a net increase in heat energy that is used for generating electricity; the remaining waste heat is used to warm buildings, including greenhouses, and for other purposes; mineral wastes are captured and recycled. Such a project may be too big for Mendocino County, but very likely not if adjoining counties cooperate. Please note again that such a generator would utilize natural gas much more efficiently and cleaner than would the manufacture of most so-called green energy equipment. Incidentally, the U.S. Departments of Energy and Defense recently reported that peak oil production is an immediate prospect and oil availability may be expected to go into decline, i.e. gasoline prices will increase surely amplified by the manipulations of Goldman-Sachs and others further impacting the economy; natural gas supplies, on the other hand, are expected to be sufficient for a much longer term. Still, soon we’re going to be required by circumstances to get off the fossil fuel addiction.

A second example: Health, natural, and organic foods are increasingly the rage of those who can afford them. The first two designations, “health” and “natural”, as far as I can tell, in this context are marketing terms that have no clear scientifically valid credibility and some of these items decidedly fail the test. Certified organic foods purportedly have fewer adulterants than others, though with imports that is difficult to guarantee. Almost all such foods are distributed by a single massive private corporation with emphasis on sales and profits uppermost. As with solar, even though these foods may be good choices for you personally, they can be very costly to the environment, especially in regard to global warming.

Many the original ingredients are raised on heavily mechanized factory farms. Before arriving at the store, they are typically processed and packaged in large factories and pass through extensive distribution networks. All of this requires energy, primarily ultimately resulting from the burning of fossil fuels with some nuclear and dams thrown in. The packaging alone may be expensive in these ways and energy costs resulting from the processing of package waste must also be added to the accounts – do you realize how environmentally and energetically expensive it is to manufacture metal cans, even when the metal is recycled? To compound these difficulties, many of these products require energetically-expensive refrigeration. By even roughly comparing the environmental accounts for these foods with those raised locally and sold fresh direct from the farm and you will unquestionably see the problem. Whether or not these products are organic matters only a bit in these accounts – a small plus is that the environmental costs of petrochemicals and natural gas-derived and climate-damaging nitrogen fertilizers may be excluded.

Another aspect of the health food market fascinates me: the endless plastic bottles of vitamins, minerals, and other supplements. If the foods on the store shelves are so healthy, why does one need these products? I’ve traced several lines of my ancestors back over 300 hundred years. They were typically farmers with a blacksmith and carpenter thrown in. None were wealthy. Typically, they lived into their seventies, eighties, and sometime nineties largely consuming the foods they themselves raised. If we consume the local foods available to us, do we need to waste fossil fuel energy to manufacture and distribute these supplements?

If I were to stop, this would seem be enough to damn many of those food products that line groceries’ shelves. But, we could also estimate social accounts. Much of the ingredients of these foods and their packaging are produced by the labor of farm workers who are little more than slaves, trapped because they are illegal. Unskilled factory labor is hardly better. We are all enthused by fair trade coffees and chocolates, but never consider that fair trade practices might be expected for products originating within the United States. Did you know that Ivory Coast is one of the largest chocolate producing country in the world, the source for much of the mainstream chocolates tempting us, and that the price is kept competitive by using child slaves as harvesters.

It is curious that if we were to act according to wise energy usage as described in these examples, we would not only minimize our affects on the environment but increase the qualities of our lives. Why aren’t we doing so? An answer to this question mystifies me, though I’ve thought about it much in the past few years. It may be we are so overwhelmed with making it through each day and feel we must rely on others who we think are in the know. We are also continually bombarded by promotional, e.g. campaign, materials which we have no means of certainly evaluating. So, we depend upon those who have designated themselves to be our community leaders to guide us. Alas, as Count Leo Tolstoy described, these leaders are much like a small boat sailing in front of a massive ocean liner; it may have the illusion it is leading until the liner pours on the steam.

Mendocino County’s poverty level is quite high and growing. Economic and environmental events are increasingly impacting us and anger at government responses, actually unresponsiveness, is becoming widespread on both the left and right. In may well be that the government sailboat will be sunk by these bow waves. Truly, I’m not very concerned about what happens on the country and state levels, since there is little influence I can have there. I just don’t want to be sucked down when they sink. On the other hand, as the examples illustrate, a local community may be able to better withstand the near future if wise stewardship is followed, for instance if access to land and training in gardening and scratch cooking become widely available and promoted. Who among our supervisors or candidates gives promise to be more than a cipher in such efforts? I see no evidence that any of our self-designated community leaders will be daring enough to explore publicly what must be done, to attempt to energize the community as a cooperative whole. Indeed, who of us has the ability to do so?

Allow me to give you an example that is a metaphor for my concerns, in fact deep ones, that this community will not, can not, be successful. A short while ago, the Ukiah Co-op had two million dollars in savings. I proposed that some portion of that be used to promote local food sources and to expand Mendocino College’s Ag Department into a training facility for future truck gardeners and farmers – on the land the college has since covered with solar panels and on which Sonoma State buildings are being constructed. At the behest of the CEO, the Co-op board voted eight to one to reserve the money for store expansion primarily, it turned out, to increase shelving for groceries, i.e. processed and packaged products delivered by that major distributor, while decreasing shelving for fresh fruits and vegetables. The only argument that I heard in support is that “this is what our customers want”. I so hope that is not true, but fear it is. I had thought Co-op members were more perceptive, though for long years I wasn’t. Alas, it certainly appears that the public at large isn’t. Thus, it seems a major educational effort is needed, but will it be forthcoming and how so?

At present, a sizeable fraction of Mendocino County budget is tied up in administrative salaries and associated perks, which far exceed those that are otherwise available in the county. With the shrinking sales of wine and marijuana, local governments (city, county, school, local state and federal agencies, …) are rapidly becoming the only significant county industry; they are certainly paying the highest employee salaries and benefits. If county government is to play a major role in preparing the community for the coming storms while dealing with the present ones effectively, the supervisors must get control of and redirect county resources. How this might occur I believe would heavily involve the public, which is to say that the supervisors primarily play roles as directors of the efforts rather than sole decision makers. Can you imagine this happening? It is fascinating that politicians greatly fear surrendering control to the public, yet do so readily to CEOs and other government (and corporate) administrators. On the other hand, ad-hoc committees can take a lot of the heat off of the supervisors as seen with retiree health care.

So, can we expect anything from county supervisors now or in the future but continuing comedies with the pretense of governing? I don’t feel I’m being unkind in asking this; all the candidates give evidence of being fine people who will attempt to do their best, but the job requires far more than most of us have the will or abilities to offer. The human world has become an incredibly complex place, likely far beyond what we can conceive, as many astute observers have noted. Not that it wasn’t always so, but we could afford to ignore it. Now, we can not. Indeed, as Howard Zinn observed in great detail, representative democracy has always been a tacked together affair with true leadership for the general good being exceedingly rare; arguably only Lincoln and the two Roosevelts occasionally demonstrating such among the presidents. I think of MLK Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and the Dalai Lama as exemplarily leaders in the original meaning of the label, but of course none probably ever considered running for office. We assuredly need such leaders now as never before to lead us out of the morass in which we’re becoming stuck.

There is a profusion of proposed social, economic, and technical remedies for our situation, but only a few give hints as to the underlying problem. I briefly summarize conclusions some of most perceptive, in my opinion, have given us: After about two and half million years of human prehistory and a couple of hundred thousand years of our version’s successful presence, we find ourselves in the last moment in a cul-de-sac and didn’t notice the “no outlet” sign.  It seems we entered our destiny when intensive grain agriculture began ten millennia ago in the Middle East. In very short order after discovering a new highly productive wheat mutation, some humans found themselves with an excess of food far beyond their needs and the opportunity to accumulate and secure wealth and power over others. Since there was so much to eat, reasons for controlling population growth evaporated. And, so it began. Prior to this in hunter-gatherer times, personal wealth consisted of skills in interacting with wild nature and in maintaining tribal cohesion. Suddenly, it became every person for themselves; wild nature became wasteland to be tamed, owned, and cultivated; and other “lesser” humans became things to be manipulated. Traditional tribal cohesion fragmented into survival of the fittest. This authoritarian disease quickly spread across the Earth, with only those areas where grain didn’t thrive initially escaping. And, so, we now find ourselves paying for our ancestors’ prolificacy.

As remote viewer Joseph McMoneagle predicted (my twists), Goldman-Sachs and friends may survive in buried cities in the far north breathing air from which methane has been filtered while almost everyone else perishes; the latter of which may be the best option. Do I scare you. I hope so. McMoneagle notes that this is only a probable future; for instance, it can be changed if commonly-accepted world beliefs and expectations are altered. As I’ve described elsewhere in some detail, I conclude we have one hope: the formation of resilient, self-sustaining, and environmentally and socially responsible communities; if they are to be successful, it appears they must be bootstrapped independently of government oversight and be based on cooperative principles much as were those of ancient hunter-gatherer societies. I sometimes feel, however, this will only happen if we have no other alternatives, that the world economy and governments at all levels fail and soon before our environmental options dry up. Need I say that a huge population collapse is in the offing in any case. Those who can’t feed themselves will be the first over the cliff. Should we fear this? I think not. It may be that after this occurs, those few who remain may revivify the human species in radically more aware Earth-friendly directions.

I like to end essays on positive notes. As an austerity, I seldom read anything anymore in the current media, because it has become depressingly repetitious with angry frosting and no solutions in sight that most have the courage to propose – the AVA and some of the Ukiah.blog blogs and emails are exceptions. Indeed, I’m often filled with joy interacting with the wondrous natural world within and surrounding my garden and haven’t time to waste on material that doesn’t have a positive cast. I seldom go to town except to pick up our wonderful Boonville milk, purchase livestock feed, occasionally attend the Farmers’ market and splurge at the Renaissance Market, pick up other odds and ends, and once in a while stop in and visit Dave; all of which give me a charge, but seldom enough to leave the “farm” without being required to do so. What the birds, chickens, dogs, cats, frogs, stream, the many plants luxuriating in the rain, and wandering breezes have to say is gossip sufficient for me. We insist our wonderful daughter, grandchildren, and great grandchildren visit here rather than that we to go to the city. Been there, done that. Here is beauty, here is love, here is my heart of hearts Marlene, dare I say here is truth sunk deeply in the soil and bedrock and towering into the sky? We are inescapably children of this culture, but we’ve reduced our “needs” to the point that if everyone did so to such an extent, I don’t think the world would be in crisis mode yet, that the environment would have a positive balance sheet. The world outside will surely invade, but I shall address this when it happens and not until. I immerse myself in this glorious moment, this splendid wild world. If I can leave some tracks for others to follow into a brighter future, I shall die happy.

May you join me in celebrating our opportunities to experience this Earth, to dance with our fellow beings, if only for a short while. May we enjoy this human comedy of fools, laugh at our pretensions, and let creativity flood forth.
~~

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