Small Scale Grain Raising: Revisiting a Classic


July 14, 2009 Ukiah Valley, Mendocino County, North California

Not many writers get a chance to revise a book that they wrote thirty years earlier. There’s an eeriness to it. I feel like Rip Van Winkle—like I fell asleep out in my corn patch and, when I woke up, things looked about like always, but it wasn’t even the same century anymore.

The satisfying part of this eerie feeling is that much of what I said on the subject of small-scale grain raising thirty years ago is more current now than it was then. The pancake patch has come of age. If that sounds like a brag, I’ll not apologize. To all those agribusiness experts who ridiculed my call to garden grains thirty years ago, I now draw myself up in pompous self-righteousness, stick out my tongue, and gloat as sickeningly as possible.

Seriously, though, I have little justification for gloating. Much of the credit goes to an editor and dear friend whom I worked under at Rodale Press, Jerry Goldstein. A book about garden grains was more his idea than mine. Although I was already doing most of the things I would write about in the book, I did not think very many other people were that crazy. I was raised up in the generation that decided farmers had to get big or get out, that local gristmills like the water-powered “Indian Mill” of my boyhood, had faded away into ancient history (it’s actually a museum now), and that local bakeries like Neumeisters’ in my hometown were gone for good. One of the fond memories of my youth was fishing below the dam at Indian Mill and being in town about four o’clock in the afternoon when the bread was coming out of Neumeisters’ ovens. That heavenly smell would float all over the village. Made me weak in the knees.

There’s only one: Authentically unique Ukiah

Redwood Valley
Ukiah Daily Journal 7/12/09

July 14, 2009 Ukiah Valley, Mendocino County, North California

In the summer of 2002 my family and I took a car trip from Massachusetts to California. I was curious to see how the many towns and cities we visited along the way might reflect the incredible beauty of the vast and varied landscapes we passed through, so I decided to search for those elements that make a place authentically unique. I wondered what features might distinguish one town from others. Were there interesting restaurants, architecture, stores, parks, historical places, vegetation, or anything special I wouldn’t see in other regions of the USA? How does a town represent its inhabitants and the land from which it grew?

My entertaining investigation became sadder and sadder and we visited more small cities and found nothing authentically unique. Most cities consisted of the same franchise businesses by the highways or interstates, and a depleted downtown. Sometimes the downtown included city and county offices, but all included many empty buildings.

One small city we stopped in was a rural county seat; I wondered if it would be similar to Ukiah. The downtown had many elegant old three-story buildings, with copper trim and sculptures, but it seemed to be a ghost town. In the late afternoon, no humans were in sight and our footsteps echoed in the canyon-like streets. I felt that the heart and guts had been ripped out of the city. There was activity in the chain stores and restaurants by the interstate exit, but the shopping center included nothing authentically unique.

The few exceptions were the places that had preserved a bit of history to attract tourists. It was interesting to learn a few tidbits of history across the US (especially the sod house in Kansas), but it didn’t seem that the attractions were interesting for local people.

Monster Mall Ukiah: Another Snake Oil Letter to the Editor


July 13, 2009 Ukiah Valley, Mendocino County, North California

Editor – Ukiah Daily Journal:

In her letter to the editor titled Still Shopping in Santa Rosa (UDJ Sunday, July 12) a writer asks “Why is Ukiah so afraid of allowing this town to grow?” and then proceeds to cheer the Masonite Monster Mall Big Box Stores. She states “If we don’t let a few of them in, then we will have to go to Santa Rosa to shop and spend our hard earned money, it won’t be spent in Ukiah.” This argument continues to be put forward in the paper even though it continues to be countered with facts. This is the old Big Lie tactic of repeating falsities over and over, hoping to win over those who are not paying close attention.

OK, I’ll counter it again. The City of Ukiah is not afraid of growing. It has set aside properly zoned land in the City for more retail stores. They recently purchased even more land for retail. That is where retail for Ukiah and the surrounding area belongs, with its appropriate requirements of environmental, design, and traffic impact reviews and requirements. The Masonite site should not be rezoned for retail because it is properly zoned for green industrial, better-paying jobs, which the Obama administration is intent on helping us create.

Just the facts, ma’am.
Image Credit: Evan Johnson
See also Big Box Mart cartoon

Book Reviews: The Delights of Rural Life

By Jane Ciabattari

June 13, 2009 Ukiah Valley, Mendocino County, North California

As Alice Waters hovers in the wings as a muse for the Obama era, inspiring the White House garden and healthy school lunches, the fantasy of a pastoral life far from derivatives and emissions and other excreta of our times abounds. Right on track are these two memoirs—journalist Jonah Raskin’s “Field Days: A Year of Farming, Eating, and Drinking Wine in California,” an account of organic farming in Sonoma County, and novelist Brad Kessler’s “Goat Song: A Seasonal Life, a Short History of Herding, and the Art of Making Cheese,” a chronicle of learning to raise goats and make cheese on a farm in Vermont.

Each provides vicarious and delicious adventures for those of us more likely to buy locally at farm stands or plant a garden patch than respond to the call of the land at full bore.

In the process of writing these memoirs, both Raskin and Kessler made drastic shifts in daily routine, and followed an imperative to digest a universe of new information, much of it nonverbal. Paramount for each was a personal quest—for healthier living, for connection to the land, for simplicity—or, possibly, simply for peace and quiet.

Raskin, author of “The Radical Jack London” and “American Scream: Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ and the Making of the Beat Generation,” sketches Northern California’s organic farming lineage quickly, beginning with Jack and Charmian London, who settled in Sonoma’s legendary Valley of the Moon in 1906 and grew much of their own food. He includes Warren Weber of Marin County’s Star Route Farm, and makes it clear that Sonoma County’s farms have supplied Alice Waters’ restaurant kitchen for decades and impressed Carlo Petrini, founder of the Slow Food movement

Keep reading at TruthDig

Prince Charles: Just 96 months to save the world

By Robert Verkaik
The Independent

July 13, 2009 Ukiah Valley, Mendocino County, North California

The price of capitalism and consumerism is just too high, he tells industrialists

Capitalism and consumerism have brought the world to the brink of economic and environmental collapse, the Prince of Wales has warned in a grandstand speech which set out his concerns for the future of the planet.

The heir to the throne told an audience of industrialists and environmentalists at St James’s Palace last night that he had calculated that we have just 96 months left to save the world.

And in a searing indictment on capitalist society, Charles said we can no longer afford consumerism and that the “age of convenience” was over.

The Prince, who has spoken passionately about the environment before, said that if the world failed to heed his warnings then we all faced the “nightmare that for so many of us now looms on the horizon”.

Charles’s speech was described as his first attempt to present a coherent philosophy in which he placed the threat to the environment in the context of a failing economic system.

The Prince, who is advised by the leading environmentalists Jonathon Porritt and Tony Juniper, said that even the economist Adam Smith, father of modern capitalism, had been aware of the short-comings of unfettered materialism.

Keep reading at The Independent

Some Choice Words for the ‘Select Few’

by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship
Common Dreams

July 11, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

If you want to know what really matters in Washington, don’t go to Capitol Hill for one of those hearings, or pay attention to those staged White House “town meetings.” They’re just for show. What really happens — the serious business of Washington — happens in the shadows, out of sight, off the record. Only occasionally — and usually only because someone high up stumbles — do we get a glimpse of just how pervasive the corruption has become.

Case in point: Katharine Weymouth, the publisher of The Washington Post — one of the most powerful people in DC — invited top officials from the White House, the Cabinet and Congress to her home for an intimate, off-the-record dinner to discuss health care reform with some of her reporters and editors covering the story.

But CEO’s and lobbyists from the health care industry were invited, too, provided they forked over $25,000 a head — or up to a quarter of a million if they want to sponsor a whole series of these cozy get-togethers. And what is the inducement offered? Nothing less, the invitation read, than “an exclusive opportunity to participate in the health-care reform debate among the select few who will get it done.”

The invitation reminds the CEO’s and lobbyists that they will be buying access to “those powerful few in business and policy making who are forwarding, legislating and reporting on the issues…

“Spirited? Yes. Confrontational? No.” The invitation promises this private, intimate and off-the-record dinner is an extension “of The Washington Post brand of journalistic inquiry into the issues, a unique opportunity for stakeholders to hear and be heard.”

Let that sink in. In this case, the “stakeholders” in health care reform do not include the rabble… Keep reading at Common Dreams

Dollars with Good Sense: DIY Cash

From Yes! Magazine
by Judith Schwartz

July 10, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

Local currencies value time, build community, and keep business moving even when credit dries up.

Total dependence on one currency is like total dependence on one crop, or, for that matter, a single energy source: there’s always the risk that crop failure or a cutoff in supply will topple the whole system. This is the scenario we’re seeing now—credit has dried up and unemployment is soaring. In small pockets throughout the world, in rural areas and inner cities, and spots as far-flung as Bavaria and Thailand to Massachusetts and Michigan, people are responding by launching their own currencies. Such monetary renegades are not simply thumbing their noses at the dollar (or the yen, or the euro, or the baht…) They are making a carefully considered choice to promote the well-being of their communities.

“From the beginning we had two objectives—to promote the region and promote local charities,” says Christian Gelleri. In 2003, Gelleri and a group of his students at a Waldorf School developed the Chiemgauer currency in the Lake Chiemsee region of Bavaria, Germany. Since then, some 3 million Chiemgauer notes (equivalent in value to the euro) have been placed in circulation. The currency, accepted by 600 businesses in the region, typically is spent and spent again 18 times a year, three times more than the Euro. This means that the currency is encouraging trade and cooperation in the region, which keeps the shops and restaurants

Busted: 9 Economy Myths

From Yes! Magazine

July 10, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

Reinflate the old economy? Get Real!


Stephanie McMillan for YES! Magazine The measure of a healthy economy is a growing GDP.
Stephanie McMillan for YES! Magazine A healthy economy meets real needs within ecological limits.
Stephanie McMillan for YES! Magazine All you need is money.
Stephanie McMillan for YES! Magazine You can’t eat money. What we need is healthy families, communities, and ecosystems.
Stephanie McMillan for YES! Magazine Booms and busts are inevitable in a modern economy.
Stephanie McMillan for YES! Magazine The boom/bust cycle is a result of letting banks create money.

Ukiah Farmer’s Market Saturday 7/11/09

Yoshiki Sakane, owner of Oco Time in Ukiah, and his new solar car


July 8, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

Friends of the Market

Greetings!  Another action-packed market this weekend.

For starters, I expect two all-new vendors. Amanda Lilikoi will be trying to tempt you with her plant starts and early veggies.  Also, Harbor Lights from Lake Co will be trying their luck at the market with some hot food items.  Their menu plan includes Native American fry bread (with various toppings), fruit cups, clam chowder and fried cinnamon roll surprise.  Now there’s something a bit different.  Lorena Caldrea will also be returning to the market for the 1st time this season with her Talmage-grown produce. After two weeks off both John Ford Ranch and Mendocino Organics will be back with beef and chicken, respectively.

At Saturday’s farmers’ market we have, as usual, lots going on.  For starters, just a bit after 10 am we will have the second in this season’s series of Ukiah Natural Foods Co-op sponsored cooking demonstrations.  Come and meet Julia Kendrick Conway of Assaggiare Mendocino, which supports real food for real people.  Plus, Diamond Edge Sharpening will be on hand at the market. Bring your knives, scissors and tools (but no saws, please),

At about 10:30 we will have the next installment of A Child, A Dog and A Good Book,

FDR’s Economic Bill of Rights


July 9, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

Excerpt from January 11, 1944 message to Congress on the State of the Union

It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.

This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.

People Power Pushed the New Deal

by Sarah Anderson
Yes Magazine

July 9, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

Roosevelt didn’t come up with all those progressive programs on his own.

During the Great Depression, my grandfather ran a butter creamery in rural Minnesota. Growing up, I heard how a group of farmers stormed in one day and threatened to burn the place down if he didn’t stop production. I had no idea who those farmers were or why they had done that—it was just a colorful story.

Now I know that they were with the Farmers’ Holiday Association, a protest movement that flourished in the Midwest in 1932 and 1933. They were best known for organizing “penny auctions,” where hundreds of farmers would show up at a foreclosure sale, intimidate potential bidders, buy the farm themselves for a pittance, and return it to the original owner (see photo above where farmers crowd around the auctioneer at a foreclosure sale in Nebraska.)

The action in my grandfather’s creamery was part of a withholding strike. By choking off delivery and processing of food, the Farmers’ Holiday Association aimed to boost pressure for legislation to ensure that farmers would make a reasonable profit for their goods. Prices were so low that farmers were dumping milk and burning corn for fuel or leaving it in the field.

Book Review of Telex From Cuba

From New York Times
Author is daughter of locals Peter and Pinky Kushner
Now Available in Paperback

July 8, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

In the early 1950s, a doll called Scribbles shook up the toy industry. Her face had no features of its own but could be sketched on with a special marker, washed clean and drawn on again. Creepy as this may sound, she’s a handy metaphor for creating a self in an uncertain environment like the one in Rachel Kushner’s multilayered and absorbing first novel, “Telex From Cuba.” Here a little American girl plays with her Scribbles the way Madame Defarge knits, while the international drifters around her settle in to bury pasts that include murder, adultery and neurotic meltdown. Meanwhile, Cuba itself is being remade; President Prio is replaced by the Americans’ favorite, Batista, and the Castro brothers gather revolutionaries in the hills of Oriente Province.

For the last half-century, Cuba has been America’s cultural Other, a nearby example of what capitalists dread most (Communism! revolution! beards!). But before that, it was America’s outpost. Most of Kushner’s story takes place in the sweltering canebrakes and comfortable homes

The Local Multiplier Effect

Take Action! Boycott the Shameless Seven – Organic Outlaws Labeling Factory Farm Milk as ‘USDA Organic’

From Organic Consumers Association

July 7, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

While USDA bureaucrats drag their feet on closing key loopholes in national organic organic standards, retailers, wholesalers and major “organic” brands are continuing to sell milk and dairy products labeled as “USDA Organic, even though most or all of their milk is coming from factory farm feedlots where the animals have been brought in from conventional farms and are kept in intensive confinement, with little or no access to pasture.

The Organic Consumers Association is expanding its boycott of Horizon and Aurora organic dairy products to include five national “private label” organic milk brands supplied by Aurora, as well as two leading organic soy products, Silk and White Wave, owned by Horizon’s parent company, Dean Foods. Its time to turn up the heat on the “Shameless Seven.

While thousands of organic consumers and a number of natural food stores and cooperatives have joined the boycott, major national large grocery retailers have ignored the boycott.

Aurora Organic supplies milk for several private label organic milk brands,

Ron Lippert: The Monster Mall’s Worst Nightmare

Mendocino County

July 7, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

In its campaign to make the idea of a mega mall on the old Masonite site attractive to county voters, DDR (Developers Diversified Realty) didn’t count on Ron Lippert. Turning up at a focus group, Wednesday, July 1, in Ukiah at the Hampton Inn, Lippert and 11 other gentlemen were paid $50 each to let Nichols Research, Inc., a Fresno-based research outfit, pick their brains and shape their opinions.

In a phone conversation with Lippert, he told me how it unfolded. For starters, 9 participants initially favored DDR’s plan for the mega mall, 2 were neutral, and 1 (Lippert) was opposed.

The process began with the participants registering their awareness of local institutions and personalities by using a hand held device akin to a game boy toy. The results are revealing. A third did not recognize the names of the members of the Board of Supervisors.

Monster Mall Letter to the Editors


July 6, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California


In his diatribe against our Ukiah City Councilors who dared vote 5-0 opposing the Masonite Monster Mall, the letter writer (UDJ July 6) asks “why there is this vehement opposition” and “how arrogant is it for an elected body to pass a resolution opposing something that was (sic) passed by popular vote?”

Well, sir, it is the arrogance of democracy and the law. Elected officials are voted by the populace to represent and lead their community. And the reason there is vehement opposition is because the initiative process, bought and paid for by a huge outside corporation, bypasses the legal zoning rights and environmental reviews required by local zoning ordinances democratically set up by our community of citizens to protect ourselves.

You go on to suggest that they should come up with a “plan to patrol” the project, rather than oppose it. Having just chastised our officials for wanting to enforce local laws, one wonders what silly, powerless patrols you would suggest?

Janie attends the Fourth of July Parade in Mendocino and brings back photos

Mendocino County

July 6, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

Sitting at the intersection of Lansing and Lake Streets in Mendocino, Bill, dogs Heidi and Jerry, and I watched the Fourth of July parade in Mendocino.  Here are some of the photos…

Art Activist

Banana Slug For Peace

There’s No Such Thing as Local vs. Organic Food

By Timothy J. LaSalle
Rodale Institute
Via Organic Consumers Association

July 6, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

Let’s clear up one issue: There is no such thing as local vs. organic. When it comes to consumer choice, we should be buying local and organic, though for mostly different reasons.

Why We Should Buy Local
Local is really important as a deep investment into your local economy and developing a relationship with the person who produces your food. Not only do local businesses generate more local income, jobs, and tax receipts, but they also tend to utilize advertizing, banks, and services in the local community. In fact, a dollar spent at a local business turns over seven times in that community; while the same dollar spent at a box store or chain only turns over 2.5 times.

Buying locally builds a healthy community on many levels. (For case studies on the economic, social, and environmental impacts of buying local visit the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies). Not only can you support the economic health of your community and offer security to your hardworking neighbors, but you can eliminate the uncertainties of agribusiness by talking to your farmer and seeing first-hand how your food is produced.

It is also helpful in being able to purchase food that is often fresher. What’s more is buying local can create local food security, which may become more and more important in the near future. We at Rodale Institute couldn’t be more enthusiastic about local.

Considering the Carbon Footprint of Food
In this conversation, food carbon footprint often arises. However, the most carbon intensive portion of food production and consumption, outside of driving to the store and putting the food in your refrigerator, is the farming methods. The amount of carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere varies widely with regard to the manner in which the food is grown. Because the manufacture of chemical fertilizers and other conventional farming inputs are reliant upon vast amounts of fossil fuel, the food you eat (local or not) can account for huge levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) releases. According to a recent New York Times article about Tropicana orange juice, fertilizers alone contribute to nearly 60% of the CO2 emitted in production. Conventional chemical-based agriculture is a net emitter of CO2 and by some estimates contributes between 9 – 20% of our total greenhouse gases in the U.S.

On the other hand, non-chemical organic farming will pull carbon dioxide right out of the atmosphere and hold it in the soil for decades. As a matter of fact, research at Rodale Institute that has now been replicated at several land grant universities, shows that over 3.5 tons of CO2 can be sequestered on well-managed organic soils using compost and no chemical inputs. Synthetic fertilizers and many pesticides used in conventional farming inhibit the biological factors that build soil carbon, which adds to the long-term destruction of soils.

Why We Should Buy Organic
If we converted all tillable acres globally to organic practices, we could sequester up to 40% of all the world’s carbon emissions. This is the single largest strategy for mitigating carbon dioxide. There is nothing more significant to help us in our crisis with climate. In the U.S. alone,

Goldman Sachs owns our government and we’re the suckers

From Rolling Stone Magazine

Matt Taibbi on how Goldman Sachs has engineered every major market manipulation since the Great Depression

[…] What you need to know is the big picture: If America is circling the drain, Goldman Sachs has found a way to be that drain — an extremely unfortunate loophole in the system of Western democratic capitalism, which never foresaw that in a society governed passively by free markets and free elections, organized greed always defeats disorganized democracy.

They achieve this using the same playbook over and over again. The formula is relatively simple: Goldman positions itself in the middle of a speculative bubble, selling investments they know are crap. Then they hoover up vast sums from the middle and lower floors of society with the aid of a crippled and corrupt state that allows it to rewrite the rules in exchange for the relative pennies the bank throws at political patronage. Finally, when it all goes bust, leaving millions of ordinary citizens broke and starving, they begin the entire process over again, riding in to rescue us all by lending us back our own money at interest, selling themselves as men above greed, just a bunch of really smart guys keeping the wheels greased. They’ve been pulling this same stunt over and over since the 1920s — and now they’re preparing to do it again, creating what may be the biggest and most audacious bubble yet…

Goldman’s role in the sweeping global disaster that was the housing bubble is not hard to trace. Here again, the basic trick was a decline in underwriting standards, although in this case the standards weren’t in IPOs but in mortgages. By now almost everyone knows that for decades mortgage dealers insisted that home buyers be able to produce a down payment of 10 percent or more, show a steady income and good credit rating, and possess a real first and last name. Then, at the dawn of the new millennium, they suddenly threw all that shit out the window and started writing mortgages on the backs of napkins to cocktail waitresses and ex-cons carrying five bucks and a Snickers bar.

And what caused the huge spike in oil prices? Take a wild guess. Obviously Goldman had help — there were other players in the physical-commodities market — but the root cause had almost everything to do with the behavior of a few powerful actors determined to turn the once-solid market into a speculative casino. Goldman did it by persuading pension funds and other large institutional investors to invest in oil futures — agreeing to buy oil at a certain price on a fixed date. The push transformed oil from a physical commodity, rigidly subject to supply and demand, into something to bet on, like a stock. Between 2003 and 2008, the amount of speculative money in commodities grew from $13 billion to $317 billion, an increase of 2,300 percent. By 2008, a barrel of oil was traded 27 times, on average, before it was actually delivered and consumed…

Fast-forward to today. It’s early June in Washington, D.C. Barack Obama, a popular young politician whose leading private campaign donor was an investment bank called Goldman Sachs — its employees paid some $981,000 to his campaign — sits in the White House. Having seamlessly navigated the political minefield of the bailout era, Goldman is once again back to its old business, scouting out loopholes in a new government-created market with the aid of a new set of alumni occupying key government jobs…

How Wal-Mart Screws Its Employees and Why They Need The Employee Free Choice Act

From In These Times

July 4, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

Since liberal Democrats and their labor supporters introduced the Employee Free Choice Act into Congress earlier this year, opposition to the legislation has reached a fever pitch.

The main line of attack from corporations and business trade associations zeroes in on EFCA’s “card check” provision, which would give union advocates the option of avoiding a contentious and often employer-dominated National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election. The provision would allow a majority of workers in any given workplace to enroll in a union via a simple card-signing.

A typical corporate response to the bill–which remains in committee in both the House and the Senate–came from Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest company. The proposed labor law would “effectively eliminate freedom of choice and the right to a secret-ballot election,” Wal-Mart spokeswoman Daphne Moore said in March, a few days after the bill was introduced. “We believe every associate or employee should have the right to make a private and informed decision regarding union representation.”

So Wal-Mart champions worker freedom. To get a sense of that company’s Orwellian definition of the concept it is useful to revisit the scene of a union organizing effort at Wal-Mart’s Kingman, Ariz. discount store. One might well look at dozens of other failed organizing attempts at Wal-Mart, but this campaign in the late summer of 2000 was exceptionally well-documented. The account that follows is based not only on NLRB reports and opinions, but on an authoritative Human Rights Watch report and internal company documents that were put in the public domain after litigation before the labor board and the federal courts.

Summers are hot in Arizona, and the young men who work in Wal-Mart’s Tire and Lube Express (TLE) department get their hands dirty, have few prospects for promotion and are well aware that similar blue collar jobs in garages and car dealerships pay a lot more. Such was the case in Kingman where an otherwise humane manager, under corporate pressure to keep labor and maintenance costs down, refused to spend the $200 needed to repair an air-cooling system essential in the 110 degree heat. So the TLE workers got in touch with the United Food and Commercial Workers, which on August 28, 2000, filed a petition with the nearby Phoenix office of the NLRB to represent as many as 18 automotive service technicians.

The reaction from Wal-Mart managers, both at the Kingman store and at corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., was virtually instantaneous. Within 24 hours a Bentonville-based “labor team” had flown into Kingman, where they joined a growing cadre of district and regional managers from Arizona and Nevada. In all more than 20 outside executives flooded the store. Wal-Mart replaced the Tire and Lube department manager with a high-level personnel executive, untutored in changing oil or tires but well-versed in the corporation’s union avoidance program. Loss prevention–the company’s shoplifting police–got busy as well, training a new set of cameras on work areas in the tire and lube shop. “I had so many bosses around me, I couldn’t believe it,” rememberes Larry Adams, a union supporter who worked in the TLE at that time. “They weren’t there to help me. They were there to bug me. It was very intimidating.”

Ukiah! Invest Locally: Put Your Money Where Your Life Is

by Michael Shuman
Yes Magazine

July 4, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

Americans want to invest locally: here’s how.

The Obama Administration believes that the best way to repair our financial system after the Great Crash of 2008 is to improve the performance and oversight of global banks and investment firms. A growing number of Americans, however, would prefer to pull their retirement savings out of these high financial fliers altogether. They would rather invest in their communities.

The problem is, they can’t. Outdated federal securities laws have left Main Street dangerously dependent on Wall Street, and overhauling these regulations turns out to be a hidden key to economic revitalization. There are two reasons Americans increasingly wish to invest in locally owned businesses. First, they understand that these businesses are the real pillars of a prosperous, sustainable economy. A growing body of evidence suggests that every dollar spent at a locally owned business generates two to four times more economic benefit—measured in income, wealth, jobs, and tax revenue—than a dollar spent at a globally owned business. That’s because locally owned businesses spend more of their money locally and thereby pump up the so-called economic multiplier. Other studies suggest that local businesses are critical for tourism, walkable communities, entrepreneurship, social equality, civil society, charitable giving, revitalized downtowns, and even political participation.

Second, many Americans no longer believe Wall Street’s assertions that a global, publicly traded corporation is the safest place to invest their savings. According to data in Statistical Abstract, sole proprietorships (the legal structures chosen by most first-stage small businesses) are nearly three times more profitable than C-corporations (the structures of choice for global businesses). Moreover, a bunch of global trends, like rising energy prices and the falling dollar, are making local businesses increasingly competitive. Meanwhile, Americans are shifting their spending from goods to services, a trend that promises to expand the local business sector, since most services depend on direct, personal, and, ultimately, local relationships.

Locally owned businesses currently generate half of the private economy, in terms of output and jobs. Add in other place-based institutions—nonprofits, co-ops, and the public secto—and we’re talking about 58 percent of all economic activity. So in a well-functioning financial system, we’d invest roughly 58 percent of our retirement funds in place-based enterprises. Yet local businesses receive none of our pension savings. Nor do they receive any investment capital from mutual, venture, or hedge funds. The result is that all of us, even stalwart advocates of community development, overinvest in the Fortune 500 companies we distrust and underinvest in the local businesses we know are essential for local vitality. This situation represents a colossal market failure.

The good news is that much of the problem could be solved by modernizing securities laws. Today these laws place huge restrictions on the investment choices of small, “unaccredited”investors—a category in Securities and Exchange Commission vernacular that includes all but the richest 2 percent of Americans. The regulations prohibit the average American from investing in any small business, unless the business is willing to spend $50,000 to $100,000 on lawyers to prepare private placement memoranda or public offerings—thick documents

Rural Matters

Redwood Valley

July 2, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

From the Intuit – IFTF Future of Small Business Project/Third Installment: The New Artisan Economy:

The next ten years will see a re-emergence of artisans as an economic force. Like their medieval predecessors in pre-Industrial Europe and Asia, these next-generation artisans will ply their trade outside the walls of big business, making a living with their craftsmanship and knowledge. But there will also be marked differences.  In many cases, brain will blend with brawns as software and technology replace hard iron and hard labor. Yet in many respects, the result will be the same as it was centuries ago; artisans will craft not only their goods, but shape the economy with an effect reaching far beyond their neighborhoods, even their nations.

Historically, artisans – valued for both their craftsmanship and knowledge – succeeded with skilled hands and savvy mercantilism. Not only did they assemble finished products, they also knew how to put together suppliers, other craftsmen, and ultimately customers. Long before “outsourcing” became popularized, they would turn to others to support parts of their labors. A carriage maker, for example, might purchase wheels from a wheelwright who, in turn, might receive iron rims from a blacksmith.  Much of this outsourced work was done in homes or small, shared shops…………

The new generation of artisans will be amplified versions of their medieval counterparts. They’ll be equipped with advanced technology, able to access global local business partners and customers, and will be capable of competing in any industry. Their firms will be agile, flexible, and will often partner with larger firms to accomplish their business goals. Most will be knowledge artisans, relying on human capital to solve complex problems and develop new ideas, products, services, and business models. These artisans will attract and retain highly skilled and creative talent by offering freedom and flexibility and, in many cases, highly competitive compensation.

Editorial/Connecting the Dots Comment:

Mendocino County is home to many artisans. Some of them already operate as described in the above projection… others will do so, as they spot new opportunities to ‘partner’ with suppliers, investors, new markets… West Company has worked with artisans in Mendocino County from Covelo to Laytonville to Hopland to Ukiah to Boonville to Point Arena to Mendocino to Fort Bragg since 1989, and can concur, that this is one of Mendocino County’s economic engines… it is one that embraces heritage and culture, eco and geo-tourism, and includes a range of small businesses and nonprofits that create individual and family income and jobs for crafters, fine artists, gallery owners, retail shops, wholesalers, exporters, performing artists.

From CAMEO, the California Association for MicroEnterprise Opportunity:  July is declared by the California State Legislature as MicroEnterprise Month in California… let’s celebrate and be customers of our locally owned micro and small businesses that operate in industries that include the arts; diversified health care; organic agriculture, food and beverages; building and systems construction and maintenance – those identified as the North Coast’s Targets of Opportunity for business growth and job opportunity as some of Mendocino County’s best opportunities for good paying jobs.

Book Review: Future Scenarios — How Communities Can Adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change — David Holmgren

By Mark Archambault
Special Guest Contributor to The Localizer
Via Energy Bulletin

David Holmgren, one of the originators of the permaculture concept, has recently written what I believe is one of the best books on the societal implications of peak oil and climate change to be published over the last several years. His book “Future Scenarios, How Communities Can Adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change” (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2008), is a concise, well-written exploration of a range of possible futures facing humanity given certain assumptions about the interplay between the key variables of peak oil and climate change over the next few decades.

One of the most thought provoking and I believe useful observations he makes in the book is the distinction between energy descent and collapse, which I will relate shortly after exploring his main scenarios.

The author considers energy–and more importantly whether future energy supplies will likely increase, remain stable, or decrease–to be the most important variable in assessing potential futures. In the book, he first considers four meta-level energy-driven scenarios for the long-term future, these being ‘techno-explosion’, ‘techno-stability’, ‘energy descent’ and ‘collapse’.

‘Techno-explosion’ can be thought of as the science fiction future of continual growth made possible by energy breakthroughs such as nuclear fusion and free energy from the vacuum of space. Humanity is able to transcend the limits to growth on a finite planet through continual technological innovation and space colonization. The amount of energy available to mankind increases steadily over time, with no end in sight to available energy and the economic and population growth this makes possible. Though this scenario may have looked like the potential future when Arthur C. Clarke wrote the classic “2001, A Space Odyssey”, most policy makers now seem willing to concede that the odds of it coming to pass are vanishing more rapidly than the dwindling oil reserves of Mexico’s Canterell field.

In ‘Techno-stability’ he envisions “a seamless conversion from material growth based on depleting fossil energy to a steady-state in consumption of resources and population, if not economic activity.” This seems to be the scenario envisioned by politicians and corporations promoting the conversion to a ‘green economy’, yet who do not realize or acknowledge that no combination of renewable energy resources will enable industrial society to run as it has been running on fossil fuels, as repeatedly emphasized by James H. Kunstler.

In Techno-stability the amount of energy available to humanity may fall a bit during the transition, but will stabilize thereafter allowing for a newer, greener business as usual economy. Later in the book, however, he acknowledges the “small problem of reforming the monetary system away from dependence on perpetual growth without inducing financial collapse”. Or, as Michael Ruppert puts it, “until you change the way money works, you change nothing”.

Holmgren echoes the opinion of such researchers as Robert Hirsh in stating that a smooth transition away from an economy based on fossil fuels to one based on renewable energy is unlikely this late in the game without severe economic and geo-political crises. Hirsh, in a recent study prepared for the US Department of Energy, found that industrial societies will require at least a decade

The coming great cook-out? Part 4 of 4

Mendocino County

July 2, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

George Was Right!

On June 22, Sonja Sharp reported on Mother Jones that the far northern Siberian town Oymyakon was undergoing an unprecedented heat wave. The previous day temperatures were recorded at just under 32 C, or nearly 90 degrees F (32.6 C is the highest ever recorded temperature), with weekend temperatures in the high 80s. This past winter, temperatures twice dropped to -60.2 C, or nearly -86 F, marking one of the coldest winters the village of once-nomadic reindeer herders has suffered in nearly a century.

At the moment, we appear to be experiencing a duel between a cool sun and a warming atmosphere. The sun has been warming, with short respites, for millions of years, as astrophysicists assure us it will continue to do. So, I know how I’m betting.

I often wonder why I’m bothering to write these, especially given the doubts I have that we humans can get our heads out of pails filled with meaningless distractions. Oh, my, Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett died, as headlines informed us. I’m sure this caused distress for some. How many others died as they did? Do you know of any who haven’t or won’t? How many will die if we cook the Earth? How many will die if we exhaust the Earth’s productive soils and fresh water, as we are doing, and food production collapses.

Let’s not talk about such depressing things, it is too distressing. Let’s leave it to the experts to save us, those engineers who created all those wonderful electronic devices that we must have. Let’s go shopping, which is always fun.

Funny thing, I’m unafraid to look these concerns and the pending failure of the capitalist economy in the face, and I’m still the happiest I’ve ever been as I live in the moment. It is a astoundingly beautiful world, perpetually wondrous, perpetually changing. I don’t mean here the world of the big box stores, fast food outlets, and filling stations, indistinguishable wherever found in the country and increasingly the world. I’m speaking of, for example, a tree in my backyard.

Every leaf on that tree is unique as even a simple examination will discover; it never existed previously and shall never again. No two trees, no two blades of grass, no two sparrows are identical, even to themselves moment to moment. Everywhere in the natural world, I see such uniqueness, such amazing beauty and complexity, trillions of cells working cooperatively. Who could be bored, if they are aware? I am in such awe and so thankful of having had the opportunity to have such experiences.

My overwhelming concern is that we may destroy these gifts. In fact, all over the Earth we are doing so – in order to construct, duplicate, more cars, more televisions, more computers, more fashionable clothing, and more “educated” children who can plug into the corporate workplace. All of these soon become old and new better products are ever coming that we must have. I find this so sad, as I hope you do.

What Employment Opportunities Arise from Embracing Transition?

From Transition Culture

July 1, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

As part of the Totnes EDAP, we are creating this table (below), by way of illustrating the wealth of new employment possibilities that could be created in a community that seriously embraces the potential of Transition. There will of course be hundreds of things we have neglected to include. In the light of the continued ’sharp contraction’ of the UK economy, we are arguing that the only way the area can revive its fortunes will be via. the Transition approach…

Employment Opportunities for a Post-Peak Oil Totnes and District
Employment Sector Industry Type Opportunities for Economic Development
Food Production/Land Use Organic Farming Farm workers, research and innovation, value adding and processing, retail, Community Supported Agriculture initiatives
Textile Production Farming, processing, manufacturing
Organic Food Production Training, freshwater aquaculture, organic gourmet mushroom production for food and medicines, intensive market gardening
Forestry Timber for construction and a variety of uses, sawdust for mushroom cultivation, charcoal, wood gasification, coppice products, saps, tannin, bark mulch, education, training, food crops, fibre
Urban Agriculture Co-ordination, land access provision, edible landscaping consultancy, online tools for linking growers and consumers, large potential for commercial production, plant nurseries and propagation
Gleaning Apple harvesting and pressing, hedgerow drinks and other products, education
Agroforestry systems Design consultancy, planting and ongoing management, selling of wide range of produce, long term enhanced timber value, courses, publications, research
Schools Edible landscaping, teaching, Education for Sustainable Development, food growing training, apprenticeships, bespoke Transition training programmes
Manufacturing and Processing Recycling Salvaging building materials, processing and reclaiming materials (bricks, timber etc), making insulation from waste paper, glass bottles into insulation
Sustainable Industry Renewable energy technologies manufacturing and installing, technology systems,
Repair Extending the life of machinery, building for durability
Fabric Processing of locally produced fabric, hemp, flax etc, making a range of clothing for retail, and repairs
Scavenging Materials reuse, refurbishing, resale to low-income families
Services Healthcare Holistic healthcare, research into effective herbal medicines, local herb growing and processing, training for doctors, apothecaries, nutritional advice
Energy Home insulation advice, energy monitoring, energy efficient devices, investment co-ordinators, sale of energy to grid or decentralised energy systems, producing wood chip/pellets for boilers, Energy Resilience Analyses for businesses
Compost Management Collecting, Managing, Training, Distribution, Education, potential links to urban food production
Information Technology Creation of effective software systems for energy management, carbon footprinting and much more
Hospice services / bereavement Hospice services, supporting families who keep relatives at home, green burials
Financial Investment Credit Unions, local currencies, mechanisms whereby people can invest with confidence into their community, Green Bonds, crowd funding
Government Councils Opportunity to organise efforts throughout region, and parishes
Researchers Opportunity to gather information from the many projects and enterprises underway.
Education and Design Educators Wide range of opportunities for supporting ‘The Great Reskilling’, developing Distance Learning programmes, training for professionals
Sustainable Designers Landscape architects specialising in edible landscaping, zero carbon buildings
The Arts Art projects documenting the Transition, installations, exhibitions, public art workshops, local recording studios, storytelling
Transition Consulting Working with businesses on energy audits, resilience plans, a range of future-proofing strategies
Personal / Group Support Counselling Personal ‘Transition Counselling’, group support, community processes
Citizens Advice Debt advice, housing advice, financial management skills, debt scheduling
Outplacement/Redundancy Support Support, retraining, ongoing support and training
Media Print media Local newspapers, small print run books on different aspects of the Transition
Internet Online retailing systems for local markets
Film media Online TV channels documenting inspiring examples of Transition in Action
Construction Reskilling Retraining builders to use local materials and green building techniques, improving awareness around energy efficiency in building, setting up local construction companies
Materials Creating local natural building materials, clay plasters, timber, lime, straw, hemp etc. Growing, processing, distribution, retail etc. Locally made wallpaper.
Architects Specialists in passiv haus building, local materials, retrofit advice
Transportation Low energy vehicle fleets Marketing, maintaining, renting, chauffeuring
Bicycles Selling, servicing, maintenance training, rental
Rickshaws Importing, servicing, taxi service, weddings etc.
Biodiesel Sourcing, processing, selling, training and advice
Biomethane/Electric vehicles Fleet management, sales, leasing, car clubs

This chart is based on and expanded from Chen, Y., Deines, M., Fleischmann,H., Reed, S. & Swick, I. (2007) Transforming Urban Environments for a Post-Peak Oil Future: a vision plan for the city of San Buenaventura. City of San Buenaventura.
See also Transition Ukiah

Dave Pollard: 12 Things You Can Do To Make The World A Better Place

From Dave Pollard
How To Save The World Blog

July 1, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

[Nested within a longer post, Four World Changing Questions (well worth the read), this is an update on a Pollard classic. -DS]

Knowing and Learning:

1. Understand What’s Happening: Before you can engage others and act purposefully and effectively you need to understand how the world really works (not what they tell you in school or in the media about how it works). The world is complex, and understanding and embracing complexity is a challenge to our culture’s predilection for oversimplification and dichotomy.

2. Imagine What’s Possible: Next, you need to be able to imagine a better world, one that is not addicted to growth and consumption. If you can’t imagine it, you will never be able to decide how to achieve it.

3. Be Pragmatic and Realistic: There are many things you can do, and many wonderful-sounding but unenforced, unenforceable and/or ineffective regulations and actions, so you need to learn what actions actually work. This takes a lot of time and energy, and to do it you need to stop doing some other things you are doing that are distracting you from learning these important truths.

4. Know Yourself: Then, to assess what you can do about all this, you need to know yourself, which means giving yourself the time and space to discover who you really are, what your true gifts, passions and purpose are, and therefore what you’re meant to do.

5. Build Personal Capacity: And finally, once you’ve learned all this, you need to discover and acquire the additional capacities you need to be effective at bringing about change in the world. This doesn’t entail changing yourself to be what you’re not, but just learning some new skills and abilities that will equip you to accomplish more with less effort.

Most of us never have the opportunity to do any of this, so we end up doing ill-informed, half-hearted, non-time-consuming, and largely ineffective things. We complain, we sign a few petitions, we feel guilty, but none of that gets us anywhere. We say we’re doing our best given the other commitments on our time, resources and energies, but are we? Until we have done these five knowing and learning steps, we can’t possibly know.

Teaching and Sharing:

6. Converse and Tell Stories: Once we have learned these things, we can start to engage others. Conversation, discussion, talking, explaining, showing — these aren’t ‘doing’ actions, but they are essential. Until we engage others in meaningful dialogue, our efforts are atomized, fragmented, isolated.