Growth Is the Problem…


From CHRIS HEDGES
Truthdig

[“Growth” is over and it’s not coming back, and that goes also for so-called “smart growth.” (See The Myth of Smart Growth.) Dumb growth can be felt locally with:  the Ukiah City Council approval of an outside corporation “creatively destroying” (as one council member described it) a locally-owned downtown business, Incognito, that has been a downtown anchor store here for over 19 years; the foregone conclusion that many more locally-owned small businesses will be destroyed when Costco is also approved to open here; and the rumors of developers pushing to expand our town into the western hills.

The cult of endless growth has kept us from seeing clearly the choices in front of us. Freeing ourselves from this unsustainable path opens up a great world of possibilities for us to actually have more enjoyable, more fulfilling lives.

Transition Ukiah Valley will be showing Growthbusters on Tuesday, September 18th at The Saturday Afternoon Clubhouse 6:30 pm. Come early, 6pm, to find out about Transition Ukiah Valley and the Transition Town Movement. -DS]

The ceaseless expansion of economic exploitation, the engine of global capitalism, has come to an end. The futile and myopic effort to resurrect this expansion—a fallacy embraced by most economists—means that we respond to illusion rather than reality. We invest our efforts into bringing back what is gone forever. This strange twilight moment, in which our experts and systems managers squander resources in attempting to re-create an expanding economic system that is moribund, will inevitably lead to systems collapse. The steady depletion of natural resources, especially fossil fuels, along with the accelerated pace of climate change, will combine with crippling levels of personal and national debt to thrust us into a global depression that will dwarf any in the history of capitalism. And very few of us are prepared.

“Our solution is our problem,” Richard Heinberg, the author of “The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality,” told me when I reached him by phone in California. “Its name is growth. But growth has become uneconomic.

William Edelen: Proud to be a Humanist…


From WILLIAM EDELEN
The Contrary Minister

H. L Mencken, the renowned syndicated columnist for the Baltimore Sun, once wrote that he had no need ever to attend a circus. Why? Because he lived in a society that was a circus, with clowns everywhere. Mark Twain made similar observations. I always remember Mencken’s words when I read the rantings and ravings of those aiming their tirades at some mirage they call “secular humanism.”

I saw a wonderful cartoon recently. The picture is of a man and his wife dressed in puritan “do good” clothing. She is holding a book called The Book Hit List. He reading a newspaper. The man says “Holy Guacamole! Here’s a story about a school system that doesn’t pervert children’s minds with philosophy, literature, social studies, the arts, history and the rest of that secular humanism bunk.” The woman responds, “Hallelujua! Where is it?” The man answers: “Syria.”

How individual members of the fanatical right define “secular humanism” depends on where they are on a scale of 1 to 10 of brain constipation. An example. In a pamphlet entitled Is Humanism Molesting Your Child? a Texas parents group described “secular humanism” in these words: “a belief in the distribution of wealth, control of the environment, control of energy and its limitations, the removal of the free enterprise system, working for disarmament, the creation of world government.”

For some, attacking “secular humanism” means taking great literature out of our schools. It is called “book burning”… which they did in Nazi Germany. It means not exposing our young people to what a small group of parents have described as “obscene.” By their own standards and definitions, they will have to ban the bible from home and school libraries, for the bible is full of every obscenity known to the human race… rape, gang rape, sodomy, adultery, genocide, incest… and all in lurid detail.

Putting Food By: Time to Take Inventory…


From SHARON ASTYK
Casaubon’s Book

End of summer is a really good time to sit down and look at your preparations and your food storage and take inventory. What have you put by? What do you still need more of? What did you use over the last year? What did you have too much of? Whither from here? September is National Emergency Preparedness month, so now is the time to think – am I ready for the next crisis (do you even have to ask whether there will be one?)

If you’ve been working on this, but you don’t feel you are ready, here are some questions to ask yourself, and some possible remedies if things aren’t where you want them to be yet.

1. Do I have staple foods that I can rely on as the basis of my meals? A staple is a nutritious starch that contains some protein as well, and that can meet most of your needs. It could be a grain – many Americans rely on bread for our staple starch. But it can also be oatmeal, corn (if you are primarily relying on corn, it must be corn that is nixtamalized, so that you won’t get a major nutritional deficiency – you only have to worry about this if you are mostly eating corn, not if you eat an occasional meal of tortillas – so if you are storing whole corn, know how to process it, and if you are buying cornmeal, buy masa, not plain corn meal), barley, quinoa – or root crops. You can also rely primarily on potatoes, sweet potatoes, rutabagas, turnips and other roots, or a combination of those.

You can order bulk grains online or through a coop or whole foods. This time of year, you can often get a 50lb sack of potatoes or sweet potatoes quite cheaply. Ethnic markets often have good deals on grains as well. Don’t forget popcorn and pasta.

Here are a couple of posts about staple foods:
http://sharonastyk.com/2008/07/17/the-storage-life-of-grains-major-and-minor/

http://sharonastyk.com/2008/03/11/living-the-staple-diet/

Todd Walton: Cheating Heart


From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

“It’s like deja-vu all over again.” Yogi Berra

My recent essay Cheating elicited several responses from readers wishing to share more examples of cheaters in high places, cheating as an integral part of our economic and political and interweb reality, and tales of people who don’t cheat being routinely victimized by individuals and corporations who do cheat. So the word cheating was on my mind when I remembered…

Long ago in Santa Cruz, circa 1973, I fronted a jazzy folk rock group called Kokomo, and for the better part of a year we were the Friday and Saturday night band at the popular tavern Positively Front Street, a stone’s throw from the municipal pier. One of my favorite things about that gig was emerging from the smoky confines of the pub in the wee hours of morning and filling my beleaguered lungs with cool briny air as sea lions arfed to each other in the near distance and the somnolent fog horn lowed with reassuring regularity—little waves lapping the white sands of the Boardwalk beach.

In the beginning of our entrenchment at Positively Front Street we— sometimes a duo, sometimes a trio, rarely a quartet—played only my original songs, and to this day I am amazed that the owner of that commodious tavern allowed us such artistic freedom, especially on Friday and Saturday nights when the place was packed. On the other hand, he only paid us twenty dollars for four long artistically free sets (us being the entire band), plus complimentary fish and chips and burgers and beer and whatever tips we could entice from the tipsy crowd. Thus if we wanted to make more than five bucks a set it behooved us to play requests, and to that end we learned to play a handful of standards, two of which were Hank Williams songs, far and away the most requested tunes in that blessed watering hole patronized by many men and a much smaller number of brave women.

Transition: ‘Something in your heart knows that this is what life is supposed to be about’…


From ROB HOPKINS
Transition Culture

[Follow up of previous Ukiah Blog posts on Charles Eisenstein, author of Sacred Economics here and here… -DS]

About 4 weeks ago, I had the honour of interviewing Charles Eisenstein, author of ‘Sacred Economics’ while he was in the UK visiting Schumacher College to teach a course there for a week.  I had to admit before we began the interview that I have yet to read his book, in spite of the number of people I know who have insisted that I really ought to.  I decided to see this as an opportunity though, given that most people who will be reading this won’t have read it either, thereby sharing my starting point of near-complete ignorance.  I think it kind of works.  He was charming and thoughtful, and you can either hear the podcast of the interview [embedded in original post], or read the transcript…

For people who are unfamiliar with your work on sacred economics, what is it? How would you describe it to people? What’s the main thrust of it?

The book is about how to make money as sacred as everything else in the universe. Some people think, well, everything’s sacred, and it should be, but if there’s one thing that isn’t today it’s money, and we experience that in our daily lives just making personal decisions. Like for me at least, my impulse is for generosity or to follow my passion, or to do something right even though it takes much longer.  Money seems to block these impulses and to reward the things I really don’t want to do, the things that are really hurting the planet, that might be convenient, or the things that my rational mind calculates will be better for my self-interest.

Money is on the side of those things and not on the side of the beautiful things that I want to do. On a social level, too, I look into almost any problem, any terrible thing, like the prison industrial complex or the war on drugs or deforestation and climate change and I say ‘why is that happening?’

New Junk Science Study Dismisses Nutritional Value of Organic Foods…


From ALLIANCE FOR NATURAL HEALTH

 You’d think Stanford would be above such sloppy research. You’d be wrong.

Stanford University researchers conducted a meta-analysis (a selection and summary) of seventeen studies in humans and 230 field studies of nutrient and contaminant levels in unprocessed foods (e.g., fruits, vegetables, grains, milk, eggs, chicken, pork, and meat).

The study [1], published yesterday in The Annals of Internal Medicine, concluded that “the published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods. Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”

The media, of course, pounced on the first part of the conclusion and reported it with their usual ferocity, but in many instances completely ignored the second part. In fact, their headlines would lead you to believe there is no benefit to organic foods at all: “Stanford Scientists Cast Doubts on Advantages of Organic Meat and Produce” (New York Times [2]); “Organic Food is Not Healthier than Conventional Produce” (Huffington Post [3]); “Study Questions How Much Better Organic Food Is” (Houston Chronicle [4]); “Organic, Conventional Foods Similar in Nutrition, Safety, Study Finds” (Washington Post [5]). Even Stanford’s own press release [6] says, “Little Evidence of Health Benefits of Organic Food, Stanford Study Finds.”

What the study actually said was that they didn’t find “significant” or “robust” differences in nutritional content between organic and conventional foods, though they found that organic food had 30% less pesticide residue. Even though the pesticide levels fall within

Farming without water…


From BRIE MAZUREK
The New Farm

This week, as the nation grapples with the worst drought in decades, the USDA added more than 218 counties to its list of natural disaster areas, bringing the total to 1,584—more than half of all US counties. Farmers in the Midwest and Great Plains have been the hardest hit, but the drought is a growing reality for farmers across the country, including California. While the Secretary of Agriculture won’t comment on the drought’s link to climate change, it’s at the forefront of everyone’s mind, and as global warming unfolds, knowledge of dryland agriculture will become increasingly valuable.


David Little of Little Organic Farm has had to adapt to water scarcity in Marin and Sonoma Counties, where most farmers and ranchers rely on their own reservoirs, wells, and springs, making them particularly vulnerable in years with light rainfall. Through a technique known as dry farming, Little’s potatoes and squash receive no irrigation, getting all of their water from the soil.

Mediterranean grape and olive growers have dry-farmed for thousands of years. The practice was common on the California coast from the 1800s through the early 20th century, but it became a lost art during the mid-century. Today, it is experiencing a modest resurgence along the coast, where temperate, foggy summers

Weeds That Like A Sip of Roundup Now and Then


From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

First the glorious days of advanced farming brought us corn stalks that eat tractor tires. Now there’s a weed that likes to drink weed killers, especially Roundup. Recently Palmer amaranth “completely overran” most of the soybean test plots at Bayer CropScience’s test plots in Illinois, in the words of DTN/Progressive Farmer editor, Pam Smith, despite having an arsenal of herbicides thrown at it. She describes some of the plots as “forests of pigweed.” I shouldn’t joke about this because it really is a serious problem, but I just can’t help it. At least 20 years ago, in New Farm magazine, a Rodale publication I was working for at the time, we reported weeds becoming immune to herbicides and the herbicide industry hee-hawed us for being organic nitwits. So pardon me while I hee-haw right back.

Palmer amaranth is one of about 60 recognized kinds of pigweed or amaranth (we call it redroot in my neck of the woods). The Palmer type is native to the arid southwest but finds other climates just fine, especially in drought years. First it marched across the southern states and now is invading the Midwest. I have a great hunch that other pigweeds like the kind that plagues my garden will also become glyphosate-resistant if they haven’t already. Ironically, the weedkiller industry is now advocating crop rotation along with their herbicides as the way to control weeds, which of course is what wise farming understood long before Roundup came around.

What makes this situation almost amusing is that Palmer amaranth is at least 8000 years old and makes nutritious food for humans. Amaranth was a staple in the Aztec diet as well as Mississippian Indian cultures of the mound-building era. To this day, the seeds or grains of this “weed” are popped and mixed with honey to make a popular snack in Mexico called alegria. Grain amaranth is still found in seed catalogs (Seeds of Change, for one). Back in the 1970s and 80s, the Rodale Institute, under the aegis of Bob Rodale, began seriously to experiment with pigweed

What the Economic Crisis really means and what we can do about it…


From THE AUTOMATIC EARTH

We were told that the global financial crisis of 2008 happened because irresponsible borrowers couldn’t afford to pay back their loans. This is true, but it was also part of a much deeper problem. The issue is that our economic system is based on the need for continuous, perpetual growth. It’s highly likely that we’re already in the beginnings of something much worse than a depression, even if bankers and governments won’t admit it yet.

Fortunately, we don’t need to hear it from them. We can tell that something is going on, we have the internet and we can share information amongst ourselves. And thankfully, if we try hard enough, we could just end up with something much much better than what we have now. I’m no expert, however I am someone who’s done several years of reading on these topics and I really want everyone else to know what’s going on, and understand the risks and the opportunities. It’s only fair.

So let’s look at how our banking system really works. It’s commonly believed that banks lend out money that they already have from invested savings. That would’ve encouraged a fairly stable system of banking. Instead, we have what’s called a fractional reserve banking system. This means that banks can loan out almost all the money that gets deposited with them. For example, when you put $100 in one bank, they lend $90 of it to someone else, who then puts that $90 in their bank.

Now there’s $190 where there used to be $100. That $90 lent out will also be deposited and $81 lent again. In this way, money ends up being multiplied between ten and a hundred times. Sounds crazy right? Less than 1% of the money in the economy is actual notes and coins, the rest are just numbers on computers, created as debt. This system rapidly increases the amount of money in the economy, which fuels economic growth, allowing most of us the ability to pay back our debts with interest. But only so long as the economy keeps on growing.

In the digital era, you own nothing…


From DAN GILMORE
TheGuardian UK

Whether or not the Bruce Willis story is true, it evokes one of the main dilemmas of the digital age: ownership is disappearing…

Bruce Willis, the movie star, may or may not be amazed that he’s not allowed to bequeath his Apple iTunes music collection to his children. A Daily Mail story alleging this has apparently been disowned by the actor’s wife.

Whether the story is true or not, it nonetheless highlights one of the largely unspoken – and outrageous – realities of the digital age: ownership is disappearing.

Publishers of books, music and movies have always wanted a world in which consumers of these media must pay again and again for the privilege. And as content moves into digital formats, the entertainment is moving within legal if not technical reach of that goal.

The Mail’s story quotes a lawyer making a key point:

Lots of people will be surprised on learning all those tracks and books they have bought over the years don’t actually belong to them. It’s only natural you would want to pass them on to a loved one.

Natural, maybe, but a violation of the onerous terms and conditions that Apple, Amazon and the other “sellers” of digital content impose on their customers. Despite promotional language – in giant letters – with the words “buy” and “purchase”, you are only buying a license to use the material yourself, and legally that’s all. So, who inherits your library, under today’s system? Nobody, and that’s just wrong.

Now, Willis can easily ensure that his MP3s will be usable by his children. All he has to do is move the files onto

Life Is Sacred…


From CHRIS HEDGES
Truthdig

I retreat in the summer to the mountains and coasts of Maine and New Hampshire to sever myself from the intrusion of the industrial world. It is in the woods and along the rugged Atlantic coastline, the surf thundering into the jagged rocks, that I am reminded of our insignificance before the universe and the brevity of human life. The stars, thousands visible in the night canopy above me, mock human pretensions of grandeur. They whisper the biblical reminder that we are dust and to dust we shall return. Love now, they tell us urgently, protect what is sacred, while there is still time. But now I go there also to mourn. I mourn for our future, for the fading majesty of the natural world, for the folly of the human species. The planet is dying. And we will die with it.

The giddy, money-drenched, choreographed carnival in Tampa and the one coming up in Charlotte divert us from the real world—the one steadily collapsing around us. The glitz and propaganda, the ridiculous obsessions imparted by our electronic hallucinations, and the spectacles that pass for political participation mask the deadly ecological assault by the corporate state. The worse it gets, the more we retreat into self-delusion. We convince ourselves that global warming does not exist. Or we concede that it exists but insist that we can adapt. Both responses satisfy our mania for eternal optimism and our reckless pursuit of personal comfort. In America, when reality is distasteful we ignore it. But reality will soon descend like the Furies to shatter our complacency and finally our lives. We, as a species, may be doomed. And this is a bitter, bitter fact for a father to digest.

My family and I hike along the desolate coastline of an island in Maine that is accessible only by boat. We stop in the afternoons on remote inlets and look out across the Atlantic Ocean or toward the shoreline and the faint outline of the Camden hills. My youngest son throws pebbles into the surf. My daughter toddles over the rounded beach stones holding her mother’s hand. The gray and white seagulls chatter loudly overhead.

Let’s replace our fixation on growth with a steady-state economy focusing on lower consumption, leisure and ecological health…


From CHARLES EISENSTEIN
TheGuardian UK

We can’t grow ourselves out of debt, no matter what the Federal Reserve does…

[Upcoming film from Transition Ukiah Valley: GrowthBusters… -DS]

Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke’s pledge at Jackson Hole last Friday to “promote a stronger economic recovery” through “additional policy accommodation” has drawn criticism from economists, liberal and conservative, who question whether the Fed has the wherewithal to stimulate economic growth. What we actually need is more spending, say the liberals. No, less spending, say the conservatives. But underneath these disagreements lies an unexamined agreement, a common assumption that no mainstream economist or policy-maker ever questions: that the purpose of economic policy is to stimulate growth.

So ubiquitous is the equation of growth with prosperity that few people ever pause to consider it. What does economic growth actually mean? It means more consumption – and consumption of a specific kind: more consumption of goods and services that are exchanged for money. That means that if people stop caring for their own children and instead pay for childcare, the economy grows. The same if people stop cooking for themselves and purchase restaurant takeaways instead.

Economists say this is a good thing. After all, you wouldn’t pay for childcare or takeaway food if it weren’t of benefit to you, right? So, the more things people are paying for, the more benefits are being had. Besides, it is more efficient for one daycare centre to handle 30 children than for each family to do it themselves.

William Edelen: Christian Mysticism


From WILLIAM EDELEN
Towards the Mystery

Trying to read biblical material factually and literally is the ultimate in biblical illiteracy. The bible is saturated with mysticism and mythological continuity, or diffusion. The Hebrew scholar Rabbi Barnett Joseph, in a lecture on Aspects of Jewish Mysticism made the statement that “the bible is the world’s greatest classic of mysticism.”

Moses, the prophets, Jesus, Paul the author of John, ALL were mystics. The Psalmist of the Old Testament declared “You are gods… all of you.” (The Hebrew word here for “gods” is “Elohim,” which literally translates God.)

Space, of course, precludes documenting the thousands of passages from the Old Testament that are pure mysticism, but for those of you wanting to pursue this subject, I suggest you read the great work by Gershom Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism. The two major schools of Jewish mysticism

Labor’s Day…