Friday, February 27, 2009

The Long Now


A friend of mine from BGI (of course) passed along some info on an organization seeking to change our perception of time through the creation of a 10,000 year clock; The Long Now.

What a cool idea.

I am just as guilty of the short-term imperative as anyone else out there. Heck, throughout my corporate life it's bee all about "just ship it", especially if it's the end of the month (I think that's management-by-objective v. management-by-means, but that's a different post). I have a hard time planning my meals for a week (from a guy that's trying to think and act locally when it comes to food & business) never-mind thinking about laying something fallow next growing season.

Seriously (well, the next post will be more serious...trust me), we are in the thrall of corporations, let's just be honest about it. It's illustrated vividly in what's happening now with manufacturing & finance globally. OK, OK, it's a systems issue...absolutely, we buy the stuff they sell, whether it's non-existent "assets" or cars (note the date on the "cars" article), or soft drinks, Pop-tarts, or beer (my local favorite, Harpoon IPA)...where was I going with this? Oh Yeah!

If we are in thrall of corporations, and their time frame in quarterly, how might we start thinking in 1000 year increments?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Litter: Blooming

I'm not sure what drew me out to my old walk around the park this morning. The Sunday routine usually involves watching Sunday Morning on CBS...there are usually some good stories (it's funny that the target demographic for the show must be 55+ as most of the ads are for medications to "ask your doctor" about...I'm 36). Maybe it was the fact that, despite my rational New England upbringing telling me that spring will not be here until sometime in April, most of the snow is gone and I swear there were spots of green appearing and more vibrant bird song. Ah...delusion...love it.

There was something else that drew me out, along with a large clear plastic bag left over from the purchase of a small pot of kitchen herbs at Russell's Garden Center yesterday; it's trash picking season! Yep, that in-between time of the year when snow melts away to reveal the detritus of our passing and the lushness of spring and summer has yet to hide it. The bottles and cans hidden by the lush greenery of the summer, then the oranges & browns of the fall, and finally the pristine whiteness of the winter snow start "blooming" as the snows recede. What joy! The first sign of spring is the trash we've decided to leave behind.

I'm not sure why I feel the responsibility to hike around and pick up some of this stuff. Maybe I'm seeking some karmic reparations for the bottles & cans that I tossed into the woods as an under-aged drinker in high school. Maybe I'm looking for an immediate boost to my own self-image, kind of like an environmental Stewart Smalley ("I'm a good person for picking up trash!) , or perhaps I'm thinking that the other folks around the park will see some random guy picking up trash and feel motivated to do a little themselves. The more likely observation may be that I'm some vagrant looking for some extra money (how's that for a dim view?). More than likely it was reading the articles in the latest issue of Orion Magazine, about walking around Mt. Tam in CA, the economic & environmental impact of factory farmed shrimp, and the "right" of children to spend time in Nature.

Maybe I just want to leave things better than I found them.

There was the usual mixture of beer bottles, beer cans, plastic water bottles, Dunkin' Donuts iced coffee cups (with their insulating Styrofoam covers attached!), and a few juice bottles. I found a bottle of Budweiser near the remains of what must have been thirty or so lottery tickets, clustered at the base of a tree near a rip in the fence between the MBTA's commuter rail line and the neighboring land. It made me wonder if someone had a routine that involved the regular purchase of lottery tickets and their subsequent ditching in the same spot if they were losers. Elsewhere, I stooped to pick up a Poland Spring (Eco-friendly bottle with 30% less plastic - that means it's OK to leave it in the ground!) and noticed a small burn hole in the bottom and a piece of tin foil over the mouth with tiny holes (made it look like a pepper shaker). I think that was a pipe of some sort. Nice.

The path crosses the tracks and then hugs the side of a small hill abutting a nondescript brick apartment building. I always find plastic water bottles, glass beer bottles and other such items here. Is it the people living in the apartments that "accidentally" allow some of their trash to fall from the parking lot down to the trail or is it the people using the trail? Either way, there are always new things to pick up.

The trash collects where the people travel, either along the paths in the woods or along the roads or in the common areas. The pool area was remarkably clean...that's because it's been closed for many months and no one is using it. Give it a while and the trash will bloom there, easily visible as concrete and pavement rule that area.

Most of the time, I gently fume as I go about picking up other people's garbage, cursing our lack of responsibility and nonchalance. This time, my mind was quiet in that regard, perhaps realizing that I am part of the society that defines how we treat the places we live and share.

Remember the comment about leaving places you visit better than how you found them? Perhaps I've stumbled across a core value that I'll need to integrate into any new business I start.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Interesting Customs Story


The following is from a friend of mine, someone with an incredibly positive outlook on life and someone I am honored to know. JT gave me permission to post her e-mail update her as it relates a story that is comedic, ridiculous, and a bit frightening. Of course, her ability to make lemonade out of lemons (w/o sugar!) is the key takeaway. Also, I share her pain as I experienced a similar incongruity on one of my sales trips to Canada...I still await my duty refund!

My Italian colleague, Paola and I were planning our launch of the Fall/Winter Campagnolo Sportswear and we always meet somewhere in the USA to begin our visits. This year, we were meeting in Denver, Colorado. We had a fun and interesting trip---mostly out East, with
fashion Shows and Trunk shows. A different way of presenting the collection to not only the retailers, but also the consumers. We were excited.

I landed in Denver about 40 minutes before Paola and so I went to get the rental car and then headed back to the airport to meet her at the International customs meeting place. I saw her plane had landed (at least I thought it was her plane) and so I expected her in about 30
minutes. After an hour, I was a little worried. "Where R U?" I texted to her phone. Nothing. Europeans are as good at texting as my nephews and so when I got no reply, I was surprised.

Was I at the right airport? Did I have the right time? I had no idea. 2 hours later and nothing. I don't have a fancy cell phone that has email, weather reports and does the housecleaning and so I was just left waiting. Her plane wasn't even on the arrival screen anymore. Finally my phone rings.

"Ciao Joni, I am cutting the collection and should be out in 30 minutes". I thought perhaps there might be an Italian word "cutting" that I didn't understand and was just happy to know she was fine. When she finally arrived at the greeting place, She told me the story.

She had checked the customs form that she was bringing in samples. Honest. We've done this many times before. She had her proforma invoice and all the back-up paperwork. But the TSA rep stopped her on her way out the exit, searched her bags and told her she had 2 choices: She could leave the collection there or she could cut it. Each piece. Probably $30K retail's worth of high-end clothing. We needed the collection or it would have been a pointless trip. So now we were stuck with a ruined clothing. Long sleeves, were now 1 long/1 half sleeve. Tights were now knickers, gloves had a pinkie missing, jerseys were cut up the back. Ruined.

When she asked the TSA agent if she could call me to let me know that she was here and OK, he told her that "in this situation, only I am asking questions. You are answering them. I am checking your bags for fruit. If you have an apple in your bag it will be a $100 fine..."

Luckily we both have a sense of humor and we introduced the collection as a new Italian trend of missing pinkie's on the gloves and half knicker/half tights and half long sleeve/half 3/4 length jerseys. For the fashion shows I had pre-shipped the new spring/summer and so we were safe there. We are laughing about it now...but it was a nightmare at the time. But I wanted ya'll to know that we are safe from any high-end Italian bike wear. Rest assured!

Off to California for the next couple a weeks with Mike. I have an "un-cut" collection with me. Hope they don't stop me at the Truckee entrance into California!

Friday, February 20, 2009

"Cheap" is It...and Other Musings


OK, it's "thrifty" to you blue bloods and wordsmiths out there.

I read this article today, and it got me thinking (which is always a dangerous thing); I need to be cheaper...

I have been acting like Homo Economicus, when the economy tanks, I pay more attention to where my money goes. For all my rhetoric re: local business, local food, locavorianism, reuse, closing the loop, biking, investing in alignment with values, etc., I am not performing very well. (I've been doing better on the biking front) So, if budgets are moral documents (again a shout out to Bill Grace) what is my budget telling me? What can living cheaply do for the morality of my expenditures?

And...I am switching gears here...some new ideas popped in that need venting...

I read GreenSkeptic's post today, and it continued the trend of getting out of the mental model that we are dependent for our happiness and success on this intangible thing called the "market". I've slowly been moving in the direction he's proposing; heck, I'm thinking back to the times when I was in college and the economy was in the doldrums (OK, the early 90's got nuthin' on what we're seeing now). I completely ignored what was going on outside the walls of WPI. I was happier and optimistic. I'm not advocating putting heads in the sand, yet, at the same time, becoming a deer-in-the-headlights of the failing economy is not going to solve anything.

Maybe it's time to turn off the mainstream news sources and think about what we might create, what we might reinvent.

Switching gears a bit (again), one of the articles GreenSkeptic (thank you!) referred to was, Ruined financiers committing desperate acts. I read it with a combination of rage & pity. For the people that felt their life was worth living in the context of being financially wealthy; I feel pity. For those that amscrayed, that bailed on their responsibility, that bilked people and thought they were too smart to get caught; enraged am I. Here's a thought...imagine if we punished financial fraud as strongly as felonies. I read that the former AIG CEO received four years in prison. Big friggin' deal! It seems to me that punishing people that destroy or hamstring people's lives in the same way that we punish "common criminals" would deter these crimes in the first place. Ah, but then we'd be hindering capitalism and "economic growth", right? Bah!

The graphic now has more meaning...we have the soil to plant the seeds of a new real economy...what will it be like? Will it be simple and reflect what we truly value? Will it respect all forms of capital (I think of social & environmental as the roots, and financial growing from them)? Will it lead us down the same path again?

I went a little off the rails on this one, and each paragraph could be a missive on its own. I feel better for putting it out there. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Market Research (Call to Action!)


This text is cross-posted from the Green City Growers blog, with some minor edits.

So, for those of you in the Boston area (or elsewhere for that matter) that are interested in what Green City Growers is doing and would like to assist in their business development efforts, do we have the job for you! Seriously, some crazy & creative sustainable MBA students at the Bainbridge Graduate Institute in Seattle, WA (as I have babbled about before, i am one of those students) are working on an entrepreneurship project in tandem with Green City Growers. We've put together a short survey on people's food buying habits, perceptions about food, and even some info on yard-care. So, click here to take the survey, take a few minutes (5-10 to be exact) to let us know what you think. I am certain your insight will be very helpful as they ramp the business up heading into the spring of 2009. Oh, and at the end of the survey, you have the chance to stay connected as well as enter to win some tasty treats from Dancing Deer Bakery from Boston, MA

In case you missed it, here's the link to the survey.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Organic Food Delivery


I decided to "take the morning off" and attend a SBNBoston "field trip" at Boston Organics last Friday morning. Boston Organics is a 6 year old company delivering organic produce (and other items) to ~2300 customers in the metro Boston area. It's great to see that there is such a demand for organic and local produce. The challenge is that there just is not that much local production going on any more. The owner, Jeff Barry, commented that they extend the tern "local" to encompass the east coast, extending down to Florida. They have the responsibility to supply their customers with what they are asking for, and since the items are not available "here", they go where they can get them. It made me think that the defunct and decrepit greenhouses ignored by the state here in Waltham might be a solution; imagine in Boston Organics could help underwrite the rehabilitation of the green houses, they have a built in demand from their existing customers for the fall and winter. Of course, the Waltham Community Farm that uses the land where the greenhouses live have already sold out their shares; maybe they'd prefer to have the greenhouses gone so they could grow more veggies?

As an aside, I had an interesting conversation about the way people use twitter, Facebook, Second Life, LinkedIn, etc. Seems some use Facebook for friends and Linkedin for professional, though others combine the two pretty closely. One woman, a bit older than my assumption about second life, said she uses it for business purposes...how cool. I'm not sure if any of us knew what twitter was all about.

Considering the topic of "food", this article from the Wall Street Journal was interesting to me

These paragraphs stuck out to me...
"When times get tough, restaurants are one of the first places where people economize. In its quarterly surveys, research firm WSL Strategic Retail of New York has found that more people are preparing food at home, eating at lower-priced restaurants when they do eat out and picking less pricey items from the menu."

"Other consumers are opting for home cooking. In Bellevue, Neb., stock broker Kevin Vaughan and his wife cook chicken to make broth from scratch instead of buying it in cans, and use all of the resulting meat for multiple dishes."
Maybe there will be more looking locally for food?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Urban "Arking"


I dragged my wife to a Newton Green Decade Coalition event over the weekend on the topic of creating more independent homes within the milieu of suburban Boston.

The event was held at the private home of David and Elva Del Porto's in Newton, MA. They have a greenhouse patched to the south side of the house providing space heat, (some) food production, (some)air purification and (some)wastewater treatment. From thew description of the event, the name "Urban Ark" was coined when Green Decade founder Louise Bruyn, noticed the Del Portos' poster of the old New Alchemy Institute, featuring their "Ark" greenhouse, and christened the Del Portos' home the "Urban Ark" (I took this from the Green Decade Coalition's website).
David Del Porto (bio) describes the key points of the "Urban Ark:"

Solar heating: "While the greenhouse only has a 500 sq. ft. foot print, it is two stories high! It has approximately 750 net square feet of glazing and heats the thermal mass on the inside of the house by a thermo-siphon loop. As the greenhouse gains heat, the volume of air in the space becomes lighter and increases in volume. It pours through the open windows on the second floor displacing the cooler and denser air inside the house, which falls back into the greenhouse through first floor vents and windows only to be reheated and cycled again and again until the sun goes down. We feel that one good sunny day will heat the house for three cloudy days (the average of cloudy days in Boston before the sun reappears). We estimate that on average our $8,000 investment has paid for itself many times over as the solar energy provides 80-90% of the space heating requirement of our approximately 5,000 sq. ft. home during an average winter."
Green House Living: "I like to say that we have increased our Quality of Life while lowering our Cost of Living during the past 23 years and expect to receive this bounty for years to come. This is especially important to the elderly who are on a fixed income."
Energy & Water Conservation: "We have replaced most of the incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents, saving 50% of the lighting bill. Water conserving fixture and appliances also save more than 50% of our water and sewer bill. When our five children were residing with us we grew a significant amount of organic food both in the greenhouse and outside and learned a great deal about the benefits of pesticide-free system ecology as it applies to the house operation."
My take on the event was that there was a bit too much lecture (I was into it, but anyone not "converted" would probably fall asleep, like my wife wanted to!) and not enough focus on the way he built it. Also, for the sake of making this common, it's gotta be aesthetically pleasing and complimentary for the rest of the house and neighborhood. I do not own a home, nor do I have a deeply set relationship with my immediate environs, BUT I am convinced that most people are not interested in being outliers (the local green freaks or the more than 3 standard deviations away from the mean).

I like the idea of passive solar heating and cooling, it makes so much sense. The diversion of some grey water for the feeding of vegetation is a great idea too, aesthetically pleasing and environmentally sensitive. What other possibilities exist?

So, how might we make urban homesteading more popular?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Stimulating a New Economy

Since I started investigating the financial crisis last fall in cooperation with a classmate at BGI, I have become more and more enamoured with the idea of recreating local economies. The more I hear the rhetoric coming from our institutional leaders, the more I fear for a future ruled by an ever-shrinking economic elite; it seems to me that we are being sold a repair package for the business-as-usual model that is clearly on its way out. I can't help but believe that financial systems that allow (encourage) massive movements of capital in short periods of time are detrimental to sustainable development. Is that the elephant in the room when it comes to sustainability, capital mobility?

I have not read Mr. Korten's book (yet - see below), nor have I received my Ph.D. in economics, yet I cannot help but believe that the collective knowledge about building human-scaled economies is already here; we're too busy being dependent upon institutions to make the rules and fix the problems to recognize it (image form ronmilon.com).

How might I contribute to the creation of the independent economic future?

from CSR Wire newsletter:
"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them," Albert Einstein famously said, as if specifically referring to current solutions being floated for reversing the economic meltdown. For example, President Obama proposed a $500,000 cap on executive pay at banks receiving TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) money. Great! Except that executives can fly Lear jets through the loopholes, according to compensation expert Graef Crystal in a Bloomberg commentary.

And the Congressional Oversight Panel (COP), the federally-appointed watchdogs of TARP spending, noted in its latest report that the US Treasury is getting 66 cents worth of toxic assets for every taxpayer dollar it spends to bailout failing banks. "Treasury got less than it spent," said Elizabeth Warren, COP Chair. In other words, we're throwing taxpayer cash at bad money, like pouring water into a leaking bucket.

And the Senate approved President Obama's $838 billion stimulus package. Yes, we need economic defibrillation. But just as energy guru Amory Lovins characterized revitalizing nukes as "trying to defibrillate a corpse" (indeed, the stimulus includes an additional $50 billion in loan guarantees for nuclear power), so too is the stimulus plan propping up failed economic models (such as nuclear power) while under-funding new-economy models (the stimulus includes $13 billion in extended tax credits for wind, solar, and other renewables).

Back to Einstein: can we solve our current economic woes by patching holes in the bucket? No, according to David Korten, author of The Great Turning, who likens our current strategies to "treating cancer with Band Aids." In his new book, Agenda for a New Economy, Korten exposes that the emperor wore no clothes - that the Wall Street economy created "phantom wealth" through economic bubbles, debt pyramids, and predatory lending that we are now seeing disappear before our very eyes.

The solution? Shift from a Wall Street economy that creates illusory wealth to a Main Street economy that creates real value, says Korten. He proposes "an economic blueprint for the 21st Century" (according to Business Alliance for Local Living Economies Chair Judy Wicks) that prioritizes people and planet over profits, while still tapping the entrepreneurial energy of Main Street business.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Reflections on Another BGI Weekend


I am mentally drained, yet feel the ideas from this weekend's classes at BGI sloshing around my cranium begging for someplace to go. Well, I guess that means they'll be jettisoned into the interweb to be idly consumed by those that just happen to stumble upon this little blog.

What did we cover this weekend? Well, we spent more time in entrepreneurship class updating each other on the progress of our projects and where we expected to need help. From my perspective, we are weak in the financial model because we have not defined the market well enough to start making reasonable assumptions to drive the process. We're working with Green City Growers in Boston, a business that just started back in June 0f 2008. They come to your home to build and maintain raised bed vegetable gardens. They also do the same with schools, providing curriculum material and teaching services. It's an interesting idea, something I first learned about in Seattle when someone told me about the Seattle Urban Farm Company. I remember thinking "what a great idea! Let's start growing food right where we live...like it used to be." So we're working on the model, imagining a brand that represents a movement from dependence to independence, starting with elements of the food people eat. What will it shape up to be? How will we anticipate the operational challenges involved with maintaining gardens spread around the metro-Boston area? Will it make sense to scale? How might we maintain integrity in local community relationships?

Jim Poss, founder of BigBelly Solar (formerly Seahorse Power) came to visit us and talk about the real-world challenges he faced starting the company, including product problems, selling what you don't have, understanding financing, the power of negotiating (saying "no"), and the value of perseverance. He's on BGI's faculty now, teaching the other 1/2 of our cohort in the Pine weekend. It was a pleasure to have him visit and share his experiences. It always helpful for me to learn about examples of what's happened to people...not in the abstract.

We went on to Sustainable Operations...and dove right into the contradictions that go with running any kind of an operation. The main focus of our studies is the Toyota Production System, the premier example of pull/customer driven manufacturing in the world today. We've been forging through Jeffrey Liker's "The Toyota Way" and adding on selected readings, including one this week entitled "Lean Management and True Sustainability" from Lean Manufacturing. This was the one that put us on the track of attacking and discussing the contradictions inherent in the term "sustainable operations". Are there any operational systems in companies that are environmentally & socially sustainable now? No. Will lean manufacturing or following the Toyota Production System make a company sustainable? No. Will it make it "less bad"? Maybe. So, what are we to do? The conclusion that we came to as we hammered it out was that moving from a push to a pull manufacturing process was a step in the progression from linear and environmentally harmful systems to regenerative and closed-loop systems; in other words, people/companies may not be ready to make the quantum jump from what we have now to (phase 1.x) to regeneration (phase 3.x). Lean manufacturing (phase 2.x) may be the bridge to phase 3.x...we shall see.

We also spent some great class time on the concept of "Black Box" Accounting (see the photo above). What we're talking about is keeping the "tyranny of management by numbers" out of the manufacturing or value creation process. The abstraction of accounting if banned form the manufacturing floor at Toyota; they count what goes into the plant and what comes out, but are not concerned with what happens inside. It is driven by the Toyota principles of standardized work, kanban, andon cord, and pull to name a few. It was interesting to sit with the apparent contradictions between what we were learning about business planning (five year projections based on educated assumptions) in e'ship and here in operations. Ah the uncertainties...

For those of you thinking of something else form the term Black Box...here ya go.

We ended the weekend with some heavy discussion in Organizational Systems focusing on the metaphors of organizations as political systems and psychic prisons. Sound heavy? It was...and amazingly powerful tools to have when thinking about organizational behavior. I was honored to lead a portion of the day's class with a "lecture" on power and the forms power takes in organizations. Our fine instructor Russ provided the materials and I took the reigns of this intelligent, passionate, & engaged group to help guide me through the material and answer some of my own questions. The five forms of power as defined by French & Raven that we talked about are:
  • Coercive power - The power to force someone to do something against their will. Other forms of power can also be used in coercive ways, such as when a reward or expertise is withheld or referent power is used to threaten social exclusion.
  • Reward power - Reward power is thus the ability to give other people what they want, and hence ask them to do things for you in exchange. Rewards can also be used to punish, such as when they are withheld. The promise is essentially the same: do this and you will get that.
  • Legitimate power - Legitimate power is that which is invested in a role. Kings, policemen and managers all have legitimate power. The legitimacy may come from a higher power, often one with coercive power (army as branch of the gov’t, police force for a town). Legitimate power can often thus be the acceptable face of raw power.
  • Referent power - This is the power from another person liking you or wanting to be like you. It is the power of charisma and fame and is wielded by all celebrities (by definition) as well as more local social leaders.
  • Expert power - When I have knowledge and skill that someone else requires, then I have expert power. This is a very common form of power and is the basis for a very large proportion of human collaboration, including most companies where the principle of specialization allows large and complex enterprises to be undertaken.
The most interesting thing to remember is that the power emanates from one being influenced.

We ended the weekend with a group discussion of the Nike Women's Fitness case study followed by another classmate leading us through the concepts associated with looking at organizations as psychic prisons . This was some heavy stuff, digging into some psychology (Freud and Jung), suppressed urges resident in the unconscious that come out in strange ways as well as the origins of personal behavior in the archetypes we are familiar with (the shadow lurks in the background in this construct as well). It was interesting to note the negativity associated with this metaphor; clearly a prison connotes detention against one's will. Yet, in these cases, we are complicit in the creation of the prison as it is our beliefs that create it. What kind of psychic constructs have you created around "work"? One of the most powerful comments I heard in this part of our discussion was "If we work in an organization in which we do not bring our true selves, who do we bring?". Would you like to dig into psychic prisons some more (who wouldn't?), check out psychicprison.blogspot.com

John Thackara joined us for a portion of the class, sharing some of his work on sustainable food infrastructure in India and the need for dry toilets in developing countries (and in the industrialized world) given the amount of water used for flushing toilets (I believe he said something like 20%). I was most interested to hear him mention the work he is involved with to create new ways to measure the economy...maybe getting to something like what Herman Daly wrote about here.

I look forward to the continuation of my studies and the endless challenge of integrating this new knowledge in my work and life.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

More Food and Carbon Dioxide


Heard this yesterday and had an additional "a ha!" moment

Mark Bittman: Conscious Eating
Food writer and home cooking guide Mark Bittman is a hero in many American kitchens. His “How to Cook Everything” has put a lot of meals on a lot of family tables.
Now, Bittman is taking up a bigger cause than dinner: The way Americans eat, he says, is killing themselves and the planet. Too much meat. Too much junk food. Too big a footprint.
Just a little change, he says — vegan ‘til 6pm, ‘til dinner — could save our waistlines, our health, and the planet.
On top of my reading of Michael Pollan's books last summer and fall and a friend's posting of this wonderful from Scientific American via Grist,
  • Pound for pound, beef production generates greenhouse gases that contribute more than 13 times as much to global warming as do the gases emitted from producing chicken. For potatoes, the multiplier is 57.
  • Beef consumption is rising rapidly, both as population increases and as people eat more meat.
  • Producing the annual beef diet of the average American emits as much greenhouse gas as a car driven more than 1,800 miles.
These factoids, besides making me want to throw my hands up and say "the hell with it!", reinforce something that has been gnawing at me for a while, probably since I started digging into the roots of the financial crisis last fall; dependence.

We're dependent upon systems and institutions that are starting to show serious cracks:.
  • Factory farming; dependent upon petroleum for fertilizer, mechanization, & delivery
  • Healthcare; dependent upon petroleum for energy, drug manufacturing, R&D, etc.
  • Shelter; dependent upon petroleum for heat, electricity, cooking, etc.
  • Vocations; dependent upon petroleum for commuting, powering the buildings
  • Jobs; dependent upon the energy fueled economy to provide them
How might we change this dependency? What are the tool for addressing our "need" for services that add no value to society and the environment? Is it here (Transition Towns)? Maybe here (The Power of Community)? How 'bout here (SmallMart) or here (BALLE)?

Where do you think it is?

Sunday, February 01, 2009

2009 - In With a Big Question Mark

What are we going to see this year?

Happy times! I overheard a young member (maybe 10 years old) of a family of four explaining to a sibling the climate benefit of reducing their auto travel by carpooling (at Panera no less!) good tidings...

I forgot about this little snippet of good news, I started this post quite a few weeks ago. I remember feeling optimistic after hearing this passionate explanation by so young a member of our community.

A few weeks on and I read from Reuters "Oil price slump a challenge to Obama energy agenda"; our myopia is on the way back with a vengeance as the need to spur the economy in the "good old fashioned way" may outweigh the need to spur green investments .

Government capital is flowing in new ways, designed to prop up a faltering engine. Will the faltering slow the train's journey off the cliff, or have we just moved the cliff further away, or, will we employ our ingenuity and spirit for change to new, cleaner, and socially just ways of doing business?