Vegetables In Your Backyard, Changing The Economy Through Gardening

When you prepare your dinner, do you ever go out to your garden to pick tomatoes and lettuce to make your salad or do you go to your fridge? Have you ever gone to your window sill to pluck out a few leaves of basil to mix into your pasta? Or have you tried planting anything in a pot of soil and then waiting for it to grow and be a part of your meal in the future? Well now is the best time to try.

Recently, there has been a movement of growing your food from small pots on your window seal to whole of your backyard. This movement has helped many communities change the lives of the people who live there.

Economic Empowerment Through Planting Herbs and Veggies

Organic vegetables have grown overly expensive in the recent years. Eating healthy has become more and more expensive. Cheap junk food such as burgers and fries has been the common go to food of people who are in hurry and don’t have a lot of money. But what if eating vegetables does not mean additional expenses but rather something that you don’t need to spend much money on?

Eating more vegetables can actually mean spending less money. Meat costs more. Red meat is also often linked to cancer. Cancer has now become a billion dollar industry that dharma companies make money from.

So how does growing veggies help change the economic structure of a society? Simple, vegetables help reduce expenses and promote good health.

Less expenses – Eating veggies that you have personally grown means you don’t need to run to the supermarket. You don’t have to plant everything that you eat since you may not have enough space but things such as herbs that normally cost a lot can be grown in small mason jars. This can save you a lot of money in the long run.

Empowering yourself instead of big corporations – A lot of the vegetables and fruits that we eat are grown by big corporations and companies. They make money by loitering the environment and not to mention other people. They abuse their workers in some cases. Some companies who do fair trade may still have monetary interests and may use harmful chemicals in growing their plants.

By growing your own veggies or herbs or fruits, you make a stand. You tell the companies that you can create a healthy meal from your own backyard.

Better health – Better health may change the face of economics for many countries. If the population ate more veggies, it would mean that more people get sick less. If this happens, more people can be more productive. The state may need to spend less money on hospitalization and medicines for those who got sick due to lifestyle and diet choices.

Common Benefits of Growing Plants

They say that being surrounded by plants help us live a better life. Many people believe that plants benefit us in many ways. Scientists and doctors have already proven that eating more greens can help ward of diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and certain cancers. Plants are necessary to have good quality air. But aside from health benefits and providing a relaxing space, growing plants can also boost your income and finances.

A plant based diet is also a way to show mercy and compassion towards other sentient beings such as animals. Humans have already used and abused animals and the results of such actions have already affected mankind in a negative way.

Health benefits – Growing plants and eating them can help us be healthier. Plants are high in fiber that can cleanse our bodies. Plants are also high in alkalizing agents that ward off acidity in the blood. An acid body is highly prone to cancer.

Plants can also help us ward of colds, fevers and flu. Aside from that eating certain plants can help us fight deadly diseases. Plants also increase our blood flood. Eating green leafy vegetables can also help ward off aging.

Anti-aging – Plants contain enzymes and nutrients that prevent our bodies from aging. Vitamin from citrus fruits help us fight respiratory diseases and also promote healthy and supple skin though collagen production. Beta carotene helps improve our eyesight. Tea has flavonoids that get rid of harmful free radicals.

Relaxing environment – Plants makes us feel relaxed. When we are surrounded by plants, we get higher levels of oxygen. We get clean air because plants are natural air purifiers. Bering surrounded by plants help people reduce stress.

Healthy = Happy

A healthy person is normally more vibrant than a person who is sick. A person who does not spend all his money on health damaging food is normally more cheerful that a person who is so broke from eating out all the time. If you plant vegetables or herbs, you can help yourself be healthier. You can change your body as well as your mind. Growing things can also make you feel better.

So why not try growing your own food? Try it, it’s good for you.

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A Wake Up Call to Millennials

The recent years brought about many leaps and bounds in technology and science. This also is the time where connectivity and the internet has boomed to it’s hilt. This means we can communicate with anyone. The internet allowed us show the world who we are through social media.

Millennials and Life

Millennials are those born from the years 1982-2002. They are the generation to first use the internet’s potential. They were the first to give social media a try. They are also those who experienced massive changed with technology, specially the older millennials

However younger millenials, born in the years 2002 and up were more accustomed to the fast track life. They never knew much about the slow internet connection of dial up. They did not really use analog cellphones. They were born in the time were the iPhone was already a hit and 24/7 connectivity is a must.

But how does this affect the millennials? Millennials tend to be good multi taskers, adept with technology, success oriented, sheltered, confident and to some extent narcissistic. Millenials are the children of the highly intellectual baby boomers. And being such, they have parents who devote time and effort on their kids while working hard at work.

Millenials seek equality above all. This is the time were political, religious and cultural barriers are broken down. To a point, it is good and liberating. But to an extent it may leave a millenial wanting a true identity.

Millenials are also raised by the notion that they can do and achieve anything. They have parents who have been schooled to push their children to be achievers. Social media is also an avenue to showcase one’s self.

Millenials and Social Media

The advent of social media has really changed the way people connect and communicate. Many experts have tagged the Generation Y or the Millennial as the Me, Me, Me Generation. They are called as such because there is now a big sense of narcissim among the millennials.

Through social media, millennials can now share their thoughts, feelings and experiences not just with words but with pictures and videos. This is good because it gives them a voice that can be heard all around the world. However it also creates a sense of wanting to show a perfect life to the world. The internet has become a stage where one poses to be happy and upbeat all the time.

Getting Likes and Comments on posts increases the amount of dopamine in one’s brain, hence making social media highly addictive. This causes the millennial to chain him/herself to a smartphone all day long. The smartphone is the first thing he looks at when he opens his eyes and the last thing he checks before he sleeps.

However this has greatly affected relationships. Many people know each other through different platforms of social media but lack an intimate knowledge about others to form lasting and deep relationships.

Millenials and The Sense of Entitlement

Millennials to have a high sense of entitlement because their parents raised them to believe that anything is possible and that they can achieve anything and everything. Failure is something most millennials cannot take. They work hard so they feel that they should always be rewarded. Which is not the case in their jobs. After they graduate from school and start working they find out that life is not fair. This breaks their hearts

Growing up in a world where everything is fast paced and everything seems shiny means that they need to have it. They buy lots of clothes to impress others and post on social media. They need to have their $4 coffee fix. More and more millenials demand instant rewards for the efforts they make

A sense of entitlement fills a lot of millenial hearts. They think that once they work hard, they should be rewarded. They tend to forget that working hard is part of their duty. And if rewards are not given, they feel distraught and broken.

Also the sense of entitlement puts pressure on them. They see others being able to juggle an 8-5 job, social life and having fun and so they feel they got to have it to. This causes them to forgo sleeping and rest. It also puts a strain on their finances and relationships.

A Wake Up Call

Being born in a fast paced competitive world may have shaped millennials much differently compared to generations that came before them. The millennial spirit is not all negative, there are many positive traits in them.

  • Wanting work-life balance is a commendable thing to aspire to, but remembering that this is difficult to achieve and that at some point SACRIFICES have to be made.
  • Social media has given voice to everyone, but spending too much time on it can be counter intuitive. Posing as a someone perfect will also cause sadness and depression. However throwing out all your garbage on Twitter or Facebook is still a big no-no. Seek out real life friends and spend time with them face to face. Make memories with or without posting them online. Your social media persona should never be different from who you truly are.
  • Forget about feeling entitled. The world owes you nothing. If you work hard, that is because it is your duty. Your reward for working hard is a sense of self fulfillment and not some sort of monetary bonus or promotion. The workplace is a rat race. Everybody is doing their best, you are not special. Do your best and help make your company a better place.
  • Save money and stop buying trifles you will forget about in a month. Build your nest egg. You don’t have to impress everyone. You need to care about your finances.

Being a millennial is a priveledge. You get to be born at the time of immense technological and scientific advancement. But you also get to be born at the time of high spending and too much self love. You have to be a good person no matter what. Learn discipline. Work hard and save money. Make an impact for mankind.

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The Essence of Meditation in Life

Our recent lives have become very stressful. We feel like we are about to explode at any moment. Many people sit in their desks with their minds flying away else where filled with stress and burned out feelings they have to bury in order to finish a work day.

Meditation is a powerful tool to relieve the stresses of daily life. It is a way to align both body and mind with the needs of the spirit. Through meditation, we can achieve mindfulness and being able to live in the moment. Meditation also helps you clear anxiety, grief, confusion, depression and stresses in our lives. On the other hand, meditation also helps you to stay grounded in times of blessings and enjoy all the goodness that life gives us.

What is Meditation?

Meditation is the act of seeking stillness in both mind and body. It is the ability to sit or lie down and clear the mind of thoughts that cause anxiety. The very core of meditation is awareness and serenity in one. Meditation is the way to find and realize that we have awareness, this awareness allows us to face life and be strong.

There are many different kinds of meditation. But all forms of meditation aims to find one thing: AWARENESS. When we find awareness, we become kinder to ourselves and to others. When we become aware, we also do not cling to much to life and to material things, for we know that everything is ephemeral and that we only have the current moment to live and enjoy.

Different Kinds of Meditation:

Meditation comes in different forms. Each form is aimed for a certain type of individuals. Unlike the usual notion that meditation is is just simply sitting there and doing nothing but clearing your head, meditations can differ in forms in order to serve the person using it well.

Lotus Pose Meditation – Lotus Pose meditation is one of the most common forms of meditation. As the name goes, it requires a person to seat down in the lotus pose. In this form of meditation, you normally sit in a comfortable, quiet place and clear your mind and you breathe.

Guided Meditations – Guided Meditations are becoming more and more common now. You normally do this by listening to a guided meditation which is already premade or it is done live by guru who leads you into finding peace.

Focusing on an Object – This form of meditation is normally for those who have a difficulty clearing their minds and are likely to have a wandering thoughts as they meditate. This is normally done by mentally focusing on a particular item or visually looking at it. You can also use mandalas in order to do this.

Art Therapy and Coloring Book Meditation – Similar to Focusing on an Object Meditation, Art Therapy or Coloring Book Meditations are normally for those who have very hyperactive minds. In this meditative form, you focus on creating art, this in turn pulls you away from the problems and thoughts that beleaguer your mind. Through art you can release your tensions and focus on creating something beautiful.

Music Meditation – Music Meditation helps those who want to create a charged surrounding. Music is known as healing for the mind. Depending on the type of music, listening to melodies can either fill you with energy or make you feel relaxed.

There are many other forms of meditation, but there is always a meditation to suit you.

Why Meditate?

The very essence of meditation is mindfulness, awareness and serenity. The busier you are, the more you need to meditate. Why? Because you need the time to clear your mind and be aware again on what is really important. Meditation is also like clearing trash from you brain and mind. It is like hitting the reset button and being able to breathe again and just knowing that whatever happens, happens and that you can survive.

You need to meditate. You need to focus your energy into just being and existing but also contributing to life and the universe.

Posted under News

Engaging a More Intimate Economy

Engaging a More Intimate Economy

By Crystal Arnold

In its highest expression and use, money is a tool of
connection, and its exchange generates relationship—
the invisible infrastructure of culture
.

The design of money and the concept of time are primary organizing principles of society. Individual understanding and collective agreements regarding these methods of coordination are the material of social order. Indeed, human energy is harnessed and directed through the circulation of money and the synchronization of time.

Swimming in this proverbial sea of money and time, many people are experiencing difficulty in becoming aware of the consequences of the “contaminated water,” even when saturated by the effects. The modern perception of time and money is that they are separate from the natural cycles. In this reductionistic view, the world is a machine, with time measured and divided by minutes and hours, dollars and cents. This arbitrary delineation of money and time reduces them to a commodity that we either do or don’t have. This predominant relationship with money and time reinforces and perpetuates a fundamental disconnection from our felt value. Consequently, much of society experiences fear and related emotions such as anxiety, shame, anger, and grief. The fear and secrecy surrounding money enables a culture of control. While a dominant few control the majority of global resources, and the monetary system is designed to continue this accumulation of wealth, could money be one of the many ways in which the value we claim within is reflected and attracted to us?  Can we tap into the psychic source of all of this?

I believe a radically different economy is currently emerging, one informed by indigenous cultures’ concepts of time and money, woven on the loom of a more intimate society. This transformation includes healing the suffering that has come from identifying with a painful separation, the mythical fall from Eden. Author Charles Eisenstein also believes a more beautiful world is possible, and he paints an eloquent portrait of civilization through a unique lens—the evolution of the sense of self—in his book The Ascent of Humanity: The Age of Separation, the Age of Reunion, and the Convergence of Crises That Is Birthing the Transition (the full text is available online at www.ascentofhumanity.com). Eisenstein’s work explores separation, “its origins, its evolution, its ideology, its effects, its consummation and resolution, and its cosmic purpose.” He provides many perspectives from which to view this profound evolution, including science, language, philosophy, and economics.

Eisenstein, a Yale graduate who has taught at Penn State, says “In a gift community, everyone is fully capable of giving and receiving. We orient toward ‘What can I give’ in any situation, even as we open to fully and fearlessly receive. Then, a miracle happens: something greater than any of us creates itself through our community, drawing on our gifts and gifting, and expanding us in return. We easily and naturally ‘live the give-away’ because that is who we have become.” Claire Eylins says “I’ve been working at California Psychics for some time now and many people ring to ask about the nature of a gift they have received.”

As a control tactic, both time and money in their modern invention are abstracted from nature, forging a wedge of separation. Native cultures, on the other hand, have lived in the circularity of both money and time. Across the globe these cultures lived in cyclical and nonlinear time, like moving in natural rhythms of 13 moon cycles for every rotation around the sun (after the introduction of the Gregorian calendar and the mechanical clock, society became radically altered).

Indigenous cultures also understood that true wealth comes from circulation—not accumulation. The natives of the Pacific Northwest lived a gift economy, as illustrated by their potlatch ceremony. The word “potlatch” means “to give away” or “a gift,” and the primary purpose of a potlatch is redistribution and reciprocity of wealth. Family status increases not by who has the most resources, but by who distributes the most resources. In their society, giving generously to the entire village was valued more than hoarding things for a discrete and separate self. Individuals acted in service to the greater whole, because that was their source of survival and identity. The potlatch ceremony was viewed as wasteful and unproductive by the European colonizers and was outlawed in 1885 in the United States and Canada.

In its highest expression and use, money is a tool of connection. Exchange generates relationship—the invisible infrastructure of culture. It is fascinating, then, that the current design of money has amplified humanity’s sense of separation. Clearly, the rules of the modern economic system were conceived by minds sourcing from this sense of, belief in, and experience of, separation. The pain of this separation can be felt in many ways, such as the gap between rich and poor, and the depletion of natural resources for financial gain. Feelings of shame, inadequacy, distrust and unworthiness enshroud our relationship with money in a veil of secrecy.

This apparent separation—from Source, the Earth, and each other—is evident in the story of scarcity, the myth that there is never enough. So often we hear that there’s just not enough time or money. So many feel they can’t afford to enjoy life, to savor the pleasures of this garden called Earth. Hung over from a credit binge, humanity stumbles out of a slumber to find the world on fire and the house foreclosed. An addiction to cheap energy and debt has systematically dismantled the essence of wealth as expressed in an intimate economy. Marketeers have manufactured the desire to consume by convincing people that they are not enough, something is missing in their life. A focus on this lack and future obligations distract people from becoming the creative power in the here and now.

Modern economic man is driven by efficiency and growth, with a neuroses resulting, in large part, from the compound interest charged on debt-based fiat currency. Today, all national currencies are fiat, which comes from the Latin term meaning “by decree.” The dollar’s usefulness results not from any intrinsic value or guarantee that it can be converted into gold, but from a government’s order (fiat) that it must be accepted as a means of payment. The relentless growth of compound interest on the debt that all national currency represents has serious consequences. Eisenstein writes, “Interest drives a relentless anxiety by demanding always more, propelling the endless conversion of all wealth into financial capital.”

A modern quest for efficiency overshadows the joy of creating beauty through craftsmanship. Yet in the Pacific island nation of Bali, art flourishes as a way of life. The exchange of a local currency based on time allows for the practical valuing of creative expressions. Their coin has been used for most of the last 1100 years. After the Dutch conquest in the 1900s, the Balinese had a dual currency system that included the national Dutch guilder. Their culture was intimately connected with their coin, especially as used in spiritual rituals. Exchange weaves elements of their culture together, contributing to sustained vitality.

In contrast, the commodification of nearly every aspect of life in this country, including time and relationships, results in a painful loneliness and a perceived lack of safety. Modern laws of property and ownership reinforce the misconception that money can buy security, but why then do so many people feel unsafe in a world of vast material wealth? Eisenstein writes, “Money, the great anonymyzing power, has even deeper roots in our sense of self. The long transition from gifts to money, from giving to keeping, is written into our very self-definition. Together, our self-definition and its monetary manifestation constitute a pattern that is rapidly propelling us toward social and environmental calamity.”

Modern economics has emphasized efficiency and specialization for greater growth as the goals of activity. But what are the consequences of this narrow focus? Eisenstein writes, “When all functions are standardized and narrowly defined, it does not matter too much who fills them. We can always pay someone else to do it … We suffer an omnipresent anxiety and insecurity borne of the fact that the world can get along just fine without us. We are easily replaced … The monetized life is a lonely life because it reduces people in our lives to anonymous occupiers of roles.”

In the face of great challenge, many humans are investing their incredible creativity and ingenuity into a new economy of life. Unemployment seems an anomaly when so much meaningful work needs to be done. Nearly 10% of the American workforce is now unemployed, and in some states underemployment, which measures people who would like to be working more hours or who are overqualified for their position, is as high as 15%. These numbers are expected to grow, as many older people can’t afford to be retired.

So, while at least 25% of this nation’s workforce is underutilized, there is an increasing need for quality health care, education, environmental restoration and housing. What’s missing? Oh … right … the money. The myth of scarcity has crippled our human capacity. Eisenstein compares this disconnection to being in an orchard with ripe apple trees, and yet you have a pile of apples in a basket that you are defending from others. Vast amounts of energy focus on defining ownership, and building legal and physical walls of separation to protect what is “mine.” This sense of separation creates an emphasis on “having.” In the English language, “have” is one of the most common verbs, with about 20 definitions in the dictionary. We “have” sex, financial security, time, a friend, or an experience. More than semantics, this sense of ownership is a fundamental construct. Notice all the ways you regularly use “have,” then see how you feel as you replace it with “share” or “give.” Indeed, one’s capacity to truly receive in a nourishing way is expressed in the ability to live generously. In this cycle, one is more intimately connected as a valuable part of a living, thriving field.

Currency expert Bernard Lietaer believes there is a need for a currency that is both “yin” and “yang,” operating simultaneously yet fulfilling different purposes. National currency is yang, it encourages competition, rewards “having” and “doing,” is based on logic and linear thought, and relies on a central authority. Gifting and complementary currencies are yin, based on mutual trust, and are used within a community to encourage cooperation. There are many creative examples of the gift economy that can be found through an Internet search. One model in the health field can be found at www.karmaclinic.org/.

When indigenous cultures lived in a gift economy they were intimately connected to the people and land on which they relied for material sustenance. This is in stark contrast to modern Western society, which creates a vast disparity between cost and price. Most tend to be concerned with price, while oblivious to cost. Prices have not reflected the cost of perpetual growth on the earth and the entire biotic community. Fear of scarcity has resulted in a myopic obsession with the bank account, with each person an island unto themselves.

A bold shift into honoring the sacred feminine may ignite a more intimate economy. The feminine way of fostering and giving, rather than prizing and taking, is rooted in trust, generosity and gratitude. Complementary currency systems, which are emerging around the world, encourage these qualities in their design. When individuals cultivate and share their unique gifts, the collective becomes stronger and healthier. From an authentic expression of vulnerability and passion individuals celebrate both their unity and their uniqueness. Human capacity is revealed in the exploration, awakening and expression of our lives. This is how we can begin to embrace an intimate economy.

Charles Eisenstein will be returning to Ashland, Oregon in October to share his insight on the gift economy and will co-facilitate “The Gift Community” at Buckhorn Springs

Crystal Arnold earned a BS in international economics from Southern Oregon University and is the creator of Money Metamorphosis. She offers workshops, telecourses and financial coaching for individuals and couples and is dedicated to creating a resilient local economy and a complementary currency. Contact http://moneymetamorphosis.us

Posted under News

Why I love Psychic Plants

Green Beings

Plant Mind, Planetary Mind

 

By Jesse Wolf Hardin

 

The secret to:

the understanding and protection of any element or aspect of Nature lies in

our subjective identification with it, and the degree to which we recognize

or “grant” it sentience: the ability to feel.

 

As a society:

we find it easier to attribute consciousness to humans alone, while even “Nature

lovers” usually grant sentience only to those “higher life forms”

that most obviously inspire, influence and animate our beings. We’re

generally more aware of the consciousness expressed through butterflies and

frogs than wild grapes or redwoods. Plants are nonetheless primary, essential

repositories for a life-sustaining vision, for a “greener” way of

being that’s needed now more than ever. The plant world helps us to recognize

the myriad patterns of inter-connectedness, instructs us in the ancient code

of reciprocity, and thus negates any unpleasant connotations currently being

laid on “codependancy.” It’s a way of being that teaches

rhythmic cellular wisdom embodied in the profundity of silence, in patience

and persistence. It can be read like Braille in the raised bark of alligator

juniper, absorbed slowly by subsisting on wild greens, enticed through unaided

dream or summoned at once by Mescalito’s psychic spell.

 

The power of:

archaic symbols is evident in their continuous use in distant and disparate

cultures, on different continents, at around the same time. These include

the sacred spiral, “skeletonized” animal art, the Earth  Mother,

the  pyramid, the four directions, and the dwelling place of aspiring

shamans: The Universal Tree of Life.  Stories of a great unifying tree

are told by a large number of primal societies, who generally situate it at

the “center of  the  world.” It’s an amalgam,

a composite of every vegetal form in existence. It can be accessed through

the branches in any available forest, since the roots of one intertwine

with the roots of every other, the roots of tall grasses  exchanging

hormonal and electrical signals with sunflowers and barrel cactus and florid

vine. Linking the tissues and processes of each are mycor-rhizal fungi

assisting the transmission of chemically encoded information from individual

to individual and  species to species. Together they make up a circum-global

mat of interconnected plant forms, creating a continuous field of vegetal

consciousness.

 

It is the plant’s:

desire to communicate with the animal world as well. Flowers in-struct insects

to spread their pollen with a display of inviting colors and enticing smells.

Fruit trees enlist the help of an expressive language of sugar and flavor,

but it  goes much further than that. Herbalists and wildcrafters have

long taught how to locate, identify or narrow down the likely medicinal

uses of a plant by reading its “signature.”  For example,

a curandera may recognize the antibiotic or diur-etic properties of an

unfamiliar herb through careful observation of its color, leaf configuration,

surface texture, and the specific environment in which it grows. When indigenous

healers are pressed as to how they know these things, a common reply is, “the

plant told me.” And indeed it did!

 

Granting sentience

to plants may seem like an implausible transition for us  minions of

civilization. Technologized society labels all of non-human Nature as

“resources,” only assigning value to those elements found useful

by its self-serving  researchers and  “managers.” To

morally justify the wholesale alteration, depletion and suffering of the natural

world, such a society must convince itself that the world cannot feel. And

likewise, any recognition of the sensitive life force in plants and other

life forms must surely lead to a more generous and compassionate way of touching,

effecting and impacting them. When one becomes conscious of the plants’

pain, every “harvest” is undertaken with the focus on gratitude

and prayer, every bite becomes communion. And every forest or meadow

endangered by greedy development becomes a personal call to respond.

 

As always, it

takes a while for linear science to catch up with those truths taken for granted

by thousands of years of primal humankind. From the references in quantum

physics to the “dance of the atoms” to Lovelock’s embrace of

a Gaia “Hypo-thesis,” research as formulative thinking is beginning

to recognize elemental shamanic realities.  In the late 1960’s and

early 1970’s we began to hear about unconventional scientific experiments

on plants that seemed to indicate they are something more than mute, unfeeling

still-lifes.

 

The polygraph

is a machine that records minute changes in galvanic epidermal response. By graphing

the variable electrical conductivity of a subject’s skin, the technician

can often detect a deliberate lie to a specific posed question. Experimenters

including Cleve Backster and Paul Sauvin inde-pendently attached increasingly

more sensitive polygraph electrodes directly to the leaves of various houseplants

in laboratory tests. Typically they sought sentient response by the administration

of pain. Surprisingly (?) the graph needles jumped whenever a burning

match was placed directly beneath any leaf of the tested plant. What’s

more, there were indications of a fear response before a match ever came

near them, while they showed no reaction if the experimenter merely pretended to

light one. It was as if they could sense his intentions through

a reading of his projected energy. They even reacted to the killing of

other, non related life forms in their presence, and at times seemed to demonstrate

a memory by continuing to show alarm any time the “killer”

researcher reentered the  room. Plants Sauvin raised from seed became

increasingly more sensitive to his moods and needs as their interspecies

intimacy developed.

 

The most dramatic response

he ever recorded coincided exactly with the times he had an orgasm with his

girlfriend, although whether out of learned jealousy or vicarious joy no one

could say.

 

Like animals,

plants transmit electrical signals from one part of themselves to another. Although

traveling up to fifty times slower, the signals move fast enough to close

the jaws of a Venus fly trap on any insect triggering it. They transmit

sig-nals and psychic texts that are cheap from one plant to another as well,

in surges passing from root-tip to root-tip,

perhaps through the air itself in electro-biological relays, and through

the inter-meshed fungi,  bacteria, and invertebrate transmitters making

up the literally living soil.

 

Trees react to

leaf damage at the onset of insect infestation by tripling the amount

of tannins and other unpalatable alkaloids in the vulnerable leaves. Whether

informed electrically or through the release of airborne exepheremones, trees

as yet unaffected prepare for the onslaught with their own preemptive alkaloid

production. New evidence of botanical sentience validates what early humankind

knew all along: Plants are inspirited. They are more like animals than

we realized, and hence more like us.

 

Plants are teachers,

but unlike the more “yang” animal spirits they do not chase

us down at birth, or actively push to make their influence known. Whereas

your animal totems come to you called or not, any totemic plant/human

connection requires that you go to them. They represent the metastable

“yin” aspects of composite Gaia—a transcontinental mantle of

green wisdom awaiting the deliberate quest, the quieting  mind, the surrender

to stillness and commitment to place necessary for us to truly  understand

and “grok” their flowering gnosis.

 

It’s far

easier for children, who up until a certain point remain limitless primal

beings, fully conscious of the spirit in things green and growing. Before

the arrogance of adulthood dulled my senses, I luxuriated in whatever

suburban foliage I could find. I would take great pains to avoid any

contact with the monotony of bone-jarring concrete, ever trying to leap

the flat driveways that separated each square of living lawn. In

military school, I took refuge in the concealing arms of a giant avocado tree when

it came time for organized sports or bizarre, pointless marching back and

forth across the walled-in lot. Respect came naturally for the way

that “weeds” punctuated and reinhabited the sterile, colored-gravel

yards of the too-busy. I was inspired by how quickly bushes trimmed and

formed into perfect squares or inglorious cartoon caricatures recaptured

their ragged, non-linear shapes. Later the budding delinquent in me fell

in love with the way leaves would lay claim to a freshly raked sidewalk, and cheered

transplanted terrorist palm trees as they bombed the shiny new cars of the rich

and famous with their weighty fronds. They seemed not only alive but

willful, in the no nonsense way one might expect from an immobile outlaw.

 

I love plants.

There’s simply no way to hide my developed bias. I love plants because

they bloom in the compost-heap of death. Because they get energy from light,

feed on my exhalation and breathe oxygen into my lungs.

 

I love “weeds” because

they’ve been labeled, and so have I. Because they’re irrepressible,

swallow all the herbicides any prissy golf course can throw at them and

still come up smiling.

 

I love trees

that live five hundred years, and plants that graciously return to the

soil they came from in but a single splendid season, in a summer of no regret!

 

I’m wild

about wildflowers because nobody planted them or paid for them, and they’d

be content to shine their colors with or without human audience. Wildflowers

know that flattery is often accompanied by swift moving shears, and I

love them for teaching me that.

 

I love plants

because of the ways babies and old people touch them, and the look they

bring to a lover’s eye. I love how each smells a little different

from the rest.

 

I love trees

for their cooling presence, for their gnarled roots exposed in washed-out

river banks, and the way they sometimes hold rocks suspended in the air like

an unpretentious offering to the Goddess of dirt.

 

I love bushes

for hiding me in their calm hollow centers when I want to be alone. It

makes me happy to pinch the bulbs of beached kelp, and lick the interior of honeysuckle

blossoms. I love the way briars spread their blackberry propaganda through

the entrails of sugar-buzzed birds. The seedy grin of the sunflower. The vulva-like

folds of the Datura’s blossom, essential ingredient in the witches flying

potion.

 

I love live plants

as much as I distrust artificial ones, because the real ones can

feel. It tickles me the way in which cholla cactus and stinging nettle

teach me where to step, and this pleases other life forms as well. I

love the prickly-pear for showing me how to protect a sweet core with

easily understood points.

 

I love dandelions

because they’re feral and tasty and proliferate in the glass-strewn lots

next to abandoned tenement houses. I thrill to see them poke their cheery

blossoms up through cracks in prim uptown sidewalks.

 

I love the way

oranges make my tongue tingle, and how I feel after a bowl of  fresh

sprouts.

 

I love ivy as

it gums the facade off presumptuous architecture, and insistent tropical flora

as it dances the samba up through the peeling asphalt of the Pan-American

highway. I love luminescent lichen because they eat and shit rocks, and

nobody’s that bad.

 

Most of all,

I love plants for being plants.

 

Nature has been

the only thematic model for humans through most of their existence. Our

relationship to plants has helped form the basis for collective physical and

spiritual reality. Vegetal nourishment/gnosis teaches symbiotic inter-action, cooperation

and non-hierarchical organization. A tree is so much more than decoration

for our yard, shade for our children, or lumber for our unlim-ited construction projects. When

you really love someone, you love them as they are. Their “use,”

their “purpose,” is in being themselves. Wondrous, strange,

sunshine-eating entities without whom we and most of the other life forms

of this planet would die.

 

With every species

of plant that goes extinct Gaia sacrifices a psychic sensory organ/organism,

an element of consciousness. With each passing she loses another link

in the associated patterns of information that serve as her memory. With

each, we too suffer impoverishment of spirit and diminishment of

“self.”

 

Once plant researchers

began to ack-nowledge plants as sentient, aware, even clairvoyant communicative,

it followed that they would soon be planting their sensors directly into the soil. Given

enough sensitivity, perhaps they could record the emotional responses

of  Gaia herself. Either way, the next step will be for us to forget the

polygraph completely, and together learn to feel more.

 

In our actions that follow will be found the real measure of our truths.

 

Jesse Wolf Hardin is an acclaimed teacher of Earth-centered psychic spirituality,

conference presenter and author of Kindred Spirits: Sacred Earth Wisdom.

 

Posted under News

Transition Towns

Six Transition Conversations that Matter
By Shaktari Belew

Have you ever tried thinking of your life in terms of design? It can get very amusing pretty quickly. Try thinking about both the overall design of your life, what you do every day and why (the Meta design), as well as the design of simple tasks, like brushing your teeth or buying groceries (micro designs). If you were writing a design manual explaining the efficacy and efficiency of aspects of your life in terms of best design practices, would many of your daily life practices be included?

For most of us, the answer would be “no,” because humans tend to flow with perceived life circumstances, reacting to whatever comes along in the moment. It’s one of our best traits, and it has kept us alive as a species even though we lack many of the most common protective features of other animals on Earth.

When it comes to designing clairvoyant products, cultural pat-terns of behavior, or simply highly efficient methods of accomplishing goals, we often take a narrow focus or a hit-or-miss strategy when a little more design awareness would yield so much more. As a result, we have designed a multitude of products that are literally killing us even as we use them. We are just now awakening to the crisis our “design” strategies (or lack thereof) have unleashed upon our entire planet.

Yet we are not a species easily undone by our own folly. Even as you read this article, millions are working to mitigate the combined complex challenges we’ve created by utilizing our best survival trait—adaptability. Why not use the same collective genius that created these problems to redesign our lifestyle choices such that they align with and even support the complex whole-system of life on Earth?

As we begin to ask basic questions from a broader scale, it becomes clear that if the decisions we make impact the entire planet, our design strategies must also serve the entire planet. That concern must encompass the entire life-cycle of our end products. In fact, the concept of an “end-product” becomes a fallacy of design the minute one focuses on a product as part of a stream of molecules moving through a process that does not end once it lands in the hands of a consumer.

Again, the concept of designing for a “consumer” or person whose actions utilize or devour the product in some way totally ignores the fact that anything “consumed” in nature simply alters its form as it completes the act of being consumed via a “waste stream.” Nothing ends; it merely alters and continues the journey. An apple eaten by a child doesn’t disappear, it simply transforms into energy and what humans call “waste product.” That “waste” serves many functions in nature, if it isn’t hijacked by humans who mistakenly call it “waste” and then do their best to ensure that this valuable product never serves its best function—fertilizing the earth.

So perhaps our core concepts themselves need to be reexamined, especially the concept of a “consumer.” Peter Block, author of Community – The Structure of Belonging, looks at the qualities that make a citizen. See if you agree with his psychic definition. He writes, “A Citizen is one who is willing to be accountable for and committed to the well-being of the whole … A Citizen is one who produces the future, someone who does not wait, beg, or dream for the future … The antithesis of being a Citizen is the choice to be a Consumer or Client. Consumers give away power. They believe their own needs can be satisfied by the actions of others and they allow others to define their needs … Citizenship is a state of being. It is a choice for activism and care.”

Wow. Block’s definition of a consumer nails the passive act of allowing others to define our needs, to determine what is important, and to dictate through marketing strategies our very perception of what is. He supports the re-engagement of community members into active participation in every aspect of our individual and collective life design.

In my work with Gaia University, I am privileged to coach our worldwide students as they test their theories through hands-on application of specific design methodologies in real-life projects. Each must be thoroughly documented, with feedback loops carefully evaluated. As a result, I have had the unique opportunity of witnessing and analyzing the design process of many projects, from efforts to turn a front yard into a Permaculture food forest in Idaho, through the design and implementation of a German eco-village design course for third world students from around the world, to the design of a school program to teach closed-system composting to school kids in Brazil.

The same is true of my work with the global Transition Town movement in which citizens come together in a grassroots movement to address the complex web of issues now facing our planet: peak oil, climate change, exponential population growth, and uncertain global and local financial systems, to name a few. Transition initiatives look these challenges in the eye, and then design whole-system solutions that lead to re-localized and more resilient systems; all the while tapping the collective genius of the local community by engaging their passionate joyful creativity instead of their fear.

Each Gaia University and Transition Town project has, in some form, involved what Peter Block has called “Six conversations that build accountability and commitment.” He has graciously allowed me to adapt his concept to my own work in education. Mr. Block sees these conversations at the heart of transformation, and I’ve found, through my work with Gaia U students and the psychic Transition movement (which is primarily a learning and experimenting effort) that these six conversations can greatly assist the design process we now face as we go about re-perceiving, un- and re-learning, and re-designing our cultural systems to support instead of harm the life systems of our planet.

Six Conversations That Make a Difference

These six conversations focus on people’s potential—specifically their perception of the possible both within themselves and about life in general. They focus on potential because that conversation instantly brings attention to their qualities and sense of well-being instead of focusing on the past or their perceived limitations. By having these conversations, we can assist the creation of a community that helps all who participate offer their best—their unbridled passion, creativity, and aliveness—in the context of their subject matter of choice. Doing so assists people in moving beyond their previously perceived limitations into a state in which they are constantly expanding their personal and collective sense of the possible.

The Invitation Conversation. Transition occurs through choice, not mandate. But first one must become aware that a choice exists. The Invitation is the call to mindfully explore life. It is a conversation that explores oneself and life in the context of answering the following questions:

• How can we experience a sense of freedom in any gathering or situation?

•What types of invitations allow people to grant themselves unlimited permission to participate and own the relationships, tasks, and processes that they choose?

• How can we design our choices so that they challenge all participants to stay involved?

The invitation must contain a hurdle or demand if accepted. Is there a challenge to engage? Certainly the Transition movement has identified several. We don’t want to simply “enroll” people to do tasks and feel good about doing things they may not want to do, we want them to “self-enroll” in order to experience their own freedom of choice, creativity, power, and commitment. The goal is not to step through a series of tasks so that we can check them off as accomplished, as in most educational settings. The goal is to engage each other as partners in our exploration of life’s richness and complexity. Without self-enrollment, participants in any educational venture perform for the benefit of others instead of for their own curiosity, joy, and satisfaction.

Our task is to explore through a broad range of experiences and topics, issue the invitation, and invest in those who choose to show up at each offering—trusting each person’s natural curiosity and passion to lead them on their exploratory journey. This is the heart of Gaia University, and the heart of the whole-systems approach championed by the Transition movement. Those who accept each call will bring the next circle of participants—through their own enthusiasm—into the psychic email readings conversation.

The Possibility Conversation. Possibility focuses on choosing and creating our own future. In the Transition movement, this means pro-actively experimenting, eval-uating, and integrating ideas.

• It is based on an understanding that living systems
always support aliveness and co-creation.

• The possibility conversation frees learners to innovate, challenge the status quo, and create their future as a declaration of what makes their individual and collective hearts sing. It is an invitation to be a stand for who you are willing to be.

•In a whole-systems approach to learning (and in act-ively living what is learned) this conversation offers the opportunity to perceive from multiple points-of-view and multiple depths of meaning, to expand our sense of the possible, to co-create based on the insights discovered through deep perception, and to apply all of these tools to re-perceive and create a deeper understanding of our prevailing cultures. It is an invitation to choose the world you want to experience, and then create it right now—within yourself—in this next moment.

Perception through our predominant perceptual filters allows only for reinforcement of the prevailing perceptual mindset and perceived limitations. True innovation and creativity comes from stepping beyond the comfort zone of beliefs and mental concepts into that still space of “not knowing” in which a greater field of possibilities dwells.

• Possibility is a break from the past and opens space for a future we have only dreamed of.

• Declaring a possibility wholeheartedly is the trans-formation, because it requires the willingness to take full responsibility for one’s thoughts and actions, fully aware that all choices are learning opportunities.

The task is to create a space in which the focus is on possibility—encouraging a full expression from each individual until their vision is spoken with full resonance and passion; while simultaneously creating the context in which each person’s voice is heard through an intention to listen and fully understand the other person’s vision. In the Transition movement, this space is often created through group experiences like Open Space Technology and World Café. What other innovative methodologies can you bring to this conversation?

The Ownership Conversation. Ownership focuses on responsibility. There are two aspects to the Ownership Conversation, and both must be understood as they are both valid.

The first Ownership Conversation is more traditional in nature. It begins with the question, “How have I contributed to creating the current reality?” Anytime we allow ourselves to dwell in confusion and blame, or wait for someone else to change, it is an indication that we are using too narrow a perceptual filter. Standing back and taking a broader point of view or deliberately choosing to perceive from a whole-systems standpoint in which the relationships between things are given primary focus, automatically allows us to answer this question more fully. This conversation explores the sense of ownership and empowerment that each person can experience by having con-versations that really matter—individually and collectively.

Innocence and indifference are indications that one hasn’t looked deeply enough yet to see the interconnectedness of one’s thoughts, beliefs, and actions—and their resulting manifestation in the world. For example, imagine that you have injured your thumb and you decide to take a pain medication. The medication clearly affects the entire body even though the injury is isolated to the thumb. When we take a stance of indifference or innocence, we are pretending that the medical response will affect only the area in which we have given our attention—the thumb. A more holistic focus instantly rewards you with an understanding of how the medication affects everything.

The response, “it doesn’t matter to me—whatever you want to do is fine,” can indicate a lack of understanding of the interconnectedness of all life. Once it is understood that—from a Systems standpoint—every choice affects everyone and has the potential of being equally significant, then full ownership becomes easier to embrace.

This ownership conversation is a critical cornerstone for the success of any community-based project. It asks each participant to determine what matters most—individually and collectively. At the same time, it places as much importance on the process as the goal, acknowledging that the process experienced in each moment of now determines the quality of the final goal achieved. The Ownership Conversation helps learners determine what factors assist them in creating ownership as a real and fundamental experience in the full cycle of human experience.

Learners of all ages create best that which they own. Ownership is the bedrock of accountability. It is the belief that I am cause. Co-creation, in part, is the acknowledgment that every choice and voice contributes. The task is to assist each person in a deep exploration of their experience of the freedom that accompanies true ownership.

The second Ownership Conversation centers on the concept that—at a different level of understanding—one cannot own anything, not even the molecules in one’s own body. Ultimately, everything in life recycles, from atoms to energy. The inhaled breath that fills your lungs is the exhaled breath of vegetation and other living beings. The molecules circulating through your lungs could have been part of a dinosaur millions of years ago. In that sense then, ownership of anything is an illusion.

The Dissent Conversation. Dissent is allowing people the space to say “no.” If we cannot say “no” then our “yes” has no meaning. Offering each other the right to say “no” empowers us—regardless of the response. It offers each person a chance to express doubts and reservations as a way of clarifying available choices, not only for others, but also for themselves. It focuses the conversation on perceived roles, needs, desires, and visions.

• Genuine commitment begins with doubt, and “no” is a symbolic expression of people finding their space and role in the co-creative strategy.

• When we fully understand what people don’t want, we can fully design what they do want.

• Refusal is the foundation for commitment. It means that the person is fully engaged and voting. Refusal says, “Listen to me … your argument has not offered me enough information or energy … there is still more that needs to be discussed.”

The task is to surface doubts and dissent within a context of acceptance and a willingness to fully understand. It is the questions—the doubts—that are most beneficial, for they point to other possibilities not yet considered. There is no need to have an answer to every question. In fact, as we move from object-oriented perception to whole-systems perception, we are all learners. None of us has the answers, but all of us have the opportunity to express ideas and to participate in the discussion.

The Commitment Conversation. Commitment is about people making promises to their peers—and themselves—about their contribution to the success of the whole. It is an acknowledgment of worth, and a declaration of creative intention. Commitment is centered in three questions:

1. What promise am I willing to make to myself? This is the core tarot commitment. It is a public stand for who you know your Self to be, your sense of self-worth, and the quality of the gifts you offer. When you commit to yourself, you are agreeing to come from your highest expression of Self—your Inner Being—and to honor that Inner Being in your daily choices. Commitment no longer contains a quality of if-yness, it steps beyond hope. It is seen as a known aspect of reality—something that is already true.

The next two questions are promises for the sake of a larger purpose:

2. What promise am I willing to make to this enterprise?

3. What is the price I am willing to pay for the success of the whole effort?

The task is to reject lip service and demand either authentic commitment or ask people to say no and pass. Any choice is valid and honored. We need the commitment of only those who are passionately aligned to co-create the future we choose.

The Gift Conversation. What are the gifts and assets we bring to each other? Because we get what we focus on, instead of focusing constantly on our perception of “what is,” we choose to use our perception of “what is” as a springboard of creativity. The question is not only “What isn’t working?” but also “What do we ultimately want?” Therefore we focus attention on the gifts we offer, and their exploration and development; instead of focusing on our perceived deficiencies or weaknesses. This is at the heart of the Transition Town movement and the joy stimulated by this approach is the primary factor in its rapid spread throughout the world.

•Instead of focusing on perceived “problems,” the conversation focuses more on searching for the mystery (the creative “what if”) that brings the highest sense of achievement and success to individuals and groups.

• When we confront people with their essential core—by being a stand for their magnificence and reflecting it back to them—we have the potential to make a difference and change lives for good.

• When held in this context, the unnatural separation be-tween school, family, work, and community disappears.

The task is twofold: to acknowledge the gifts of those who are hiding and bring them into the center; and to reflect each person’s magnificence back to them.

These six conversations by Peter Block help create a deeper understanding of why the Transition movement, Gaia University, and similar type programs like Community Weaving (a potent community asset mapping and sharing system) are sparking interest and ideas in diverse communities around the world. It’s not just that these ideas are wonderfully engaging unto themselves, they are also appearing at a time when humanity is ripe for this next step. The question is no longer if you will participate, because you already are. The question is how you choose to best contribute your spark of genius, gift from God, or inner wisdom (whatever term works best for you here), such that you experience and express your greatest joy.

I invite you to play with us. Please join us in exploring the delicious possibilities brought about by a whole-systems designed world. You can network with Transition Towns throughout the US at http://transitionus.org.

Shaktari Belew holds an MSc degree in Organizing Learning for EcoSocial Regeneration from Gaia University, where she offers her skills in Admissions and as a Process Advisor and Internal Reviewer. She is the author of the book Honoring All Life – A Practical Guide to Exploring a New Reality (2005). These conversations were adapted, with permission, from Peter Block’s Summary of the Six Conversations That Build Accountability and Commitment used as a basis for their customized training and consulting with organizations on account-ability. For more information about their organizational programs, contact Bill Brewer at 1-866-770-2227 or bbrewer@designedlearning. com; www.designedlearning.com/sixconver.htm. I cannot recommend Peter Block’s book, Community—the Structure of Belonging, enough. It is a must-read for those interested in the quality of community.

Posted under News

Creating Communities of Good Neighbors

Creating Communities of Good Neighbors

www.goodneighbors.net

A Whole Systems Approach to Community and Transition

By Shaktari Belew

The distinguished man slowly traversed the room with a methodical gait. Every eye fixed on his entrance, surprise washing over each face. He sat down quietly, as though ready to work—yet caught somehow in a spell of confusion. Why was he here?

Our inquiring gazes were met by a fumbling for words, though none could begin to express the grief and shock of the moment. His grandson had been gunned down the night before by a drive-by shooter. There was no explanation for such wanton violence—only shock and despair. Perhaps it was an attempt to find comfort and order in the chaos of the moment that prompted him to keep his commitment to attend the Community Weaving training where he felt he was a part of something that would make a real difference in his community.

His choice to be one among us touched us to the core. In one simultaneous motion we gathered around to share his pain. We held each other, comforting him as best we could with our compassion, tears, and words, christening the moment with the open-hearted understanding of a good neighbor in the midst of disbelief and tragedy.

Our work crystallized in that moment for me. It was for his grandson and all who have felt the lashing whip of community injustice, inequality, and deprivation that we met on that Chicago weekend. Our intention was to launch Community Weaving and its 10 pilot projects throughout the United States. Yet in that moment the fullness of the opportunity was unveiled. Would his grandson be alive today if the Good Neighbor Network was fully active in his community? Would the participants in this tragedy have chosen a different outcome? How could anyone know?

What separates those who perpetrate acts of bravado or desperation from those who choose a less violent response to life’s circumstances? What allows some to value life so little that the taking of it comes so easily? If it is true that our outer world reflects our inner world, how do we raise children to reflect the values to which we pay lip service, especially when our actions often contradict our words.

When asked, “Are you a good neighbor,” just about anyone would answer affirmatively. Those words conjure up visions of friendly faces, shared memories, and people you can rely on who can rely on you as well. We all know what it means to be a good neighbor, but how many of us actually experience that sense of reliable reciprocal assistance inherent in those words, especially in times of community stress, crisis, and transition?

Our societal love affair with the cult of the individual who “courageously goes it alone through thick and thin,” has increased the sense of isolation and loneliness for many, creating an illusion that no one cares. With no one to go to for help, except the understaffed and underpaid governmental assistance agencies, many feel desperate and lost with nowhere to turn.

How could Community Weaving make a difference? Its power is in its simplicity of design. Years earlier its founder, Cheryl Honey, noticed that when she needed assistance as a single mother of four, the governmental agencies treated her as if she was broken and needed fixing. Yet she was clear she simply needed assistance with some challenging circumstances. What was missing was that ability to connect to a real “community.” She longed for the welcoming assistance of a Good Neighbor—someone she could count on in her hour of need, but who could also count on her in a reciprocal manner. It was the reciprocity that made the difference between feeling empowered and feeling diminished. Cheryl realized that there were millions of people, just like her, who wanted to be connected to a community of good neighbors who would lend a helping hand in times of need instead of being thrown a shaming hand-out. Others with database skills were attracted to her vision and they developed a free internet based asset-mapping network to allow Good Neighbors from around the world to connect and co-create their future together. She calls it “Community Weaving” because it weaves the richness of community members together, empowering participants to offer their best to each other, all the while documenting the process—and thus honoring the gifts that are given and received.

My trip to Chicago offered me a first-hand experience of the disparity between cultural, racial, and economic communities—differences I admit I was rather sheltered from in my every day Ashland life. I met brilliant, dedicated community leaders who lived in some of the roughest neighborhoods in Chicago, dealing day to day with issues I only see on film. I was left with a lingering question: With somewhat equal training and education, in a situation in which we are all working to create communities that fully live up to the promise of community—the extended family-like caring we all long for—why do I live in a relative bubble of ease and comfort while many of those working on the same issues in Chicago live in the heart of danger, facing daily issues I can’t even imagine? (This isn’t an issue I had to travel to Chicago to experience—these separate and unequal worlds can be found in every geographical area.) My emerging rage was tempered by the humble realization that the issues involved were too complex for one simple answer, and I was left in a state of not-knowing—an excellent space in which learning and the spirit of open exploration and experimentation thrive.

I had the privilege of meeting some of the most passionate community leaders, common people like you and me, who have dedicated their lives to the whole-system improvement of their communities through a willingness to see through new eyes, new points-of-view, and creatively explore new solutions. Mary Moore is a perfect example. She is Vice President of the Third Gear Youth Leadership Organization (http://3rdgear.org/) which was founded in 2004 by her son, Linton Johnson III, who plays for the Chicago Bulls. 3rd Gear reinforces academic skills through hands on activities in which children can develop independence and life-skills. Leadership skills are also devloped through entrepreneurial year-round after school programs that complement the school day. 3rd Gear reaches over 5,000 children a year, emphasizing usable life skills, self-discipline, and creativity.

Busy as her life is, Mary found time to house, feed, and drive us throughout Chicago during our stay. Her dedication to community well-being made her one of the most passionate volunteers eager to bring Community Weaving to Chicago. She understands the power of creating a network of Good Neighbors, people who are willing to share their skills, experiences, and tangibles with each other. It is this kind of network of trust that can act as a reliable safety net when we are faced with challenges—whether everyday issues like the need to borrow a truck or larger issues like the need to connect with professional experts you can trust.

Mary understands that trust is the currency of the moment, and quality relationships drive the engine of change. Whole-Systems focus on the relationships between elements as much as the elements themselves. The significance of the shift from a focus on object-oriented ways of seeing the world to one in which the relationships between elements becomes paramount cannot be underestimated. It is the motivation behind many of the most leading-edge successful movements throughout the world, including Transition Towns and Community Weaving. Don’t believe me? Witness the meteoric growth of relational networks like FaceBook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.

So what’s this all got to do with Transition Towns and Community Weaving? As idealistic as we are in the Transition Town movement, my biggest lesson from Chicago was the realization that, for many people, we’ve put the cart before the horse. In conditions in which people are losing jobs at increasingly rapid rates, most people have no capacity to discuss the issues addressed by the Transition Town movement (peak oil, climate change, exponential population growth, and uncertain global finances), no matter how vital those discussions may be to our planetary survival. When immediate daily survival is at stake attention focuses on the basics. People are looking for ways to ensure their family’s survival and safety, and Community Weaving offers a first step towards accomplishing that goal with simple elegance.

Are you a Good Neighbor? Someone who is willing to share skills, experiences, and even some tangibles with friends, family, and neighbors with the understanding that this act of sharing empowers you as much as the person you are momentarily assisting; and the further understanding that your act of sharing will be reciprocated in the future, whether directly or indirectly through the network.

Do you want to live in a community of Good Neighbors? To know that whatever your needs, there is a network of people willing to assist you in finding the most empowering solution with the greatest ease.

When we walked along the waterfront in Chicago, asking people those questions, the response was overwhelmingly positive. Each person wanted to learn more and was eager to begin Community Weaving in their own locale. Luckily, it’s an easy process to initiate. Simply begin by registering as a Good Neighbor in the Good Neighbors Network (http://goodneighbors.net). You can even enter a unique group code that allows your group, whether geographical or relational, to be treated as a unique nested-community.

The whole-systems approach to community championed by the Transition Town movement is a natural match with Community Weaving, because they both support each other in multiple ways:

Community Weaving can become the first step in introducing communities to the concept of whole-systems—those that focus beyond the various elements of any system (in a forest the elements would be the trees, animals, understory, soil, etc.) to include an equal focus on the relationships between diverse elements (how the diversity of trees, animals, and plants affect the understory, the quality of soil, the humidity, moisture content, etc.). In a community setting, how would we design support systems, for example, if our focus was on relationships as much as on pure profit, statistics, and other conceptual metrics? If quality relationships were the highest priority, how would we design public assistance programs, health care systems, and emergency relief?

Both offer practical, real-life opportunities to experience whole-systems thinking.

Community Weaving offers a free and easily accessible network, mapping and weaving together community assets in a way that becomes highly advantageous for the Transition movement and local support agencies. In fact, Community Weaving turns the traditional top-down governmental assistance programs into a side-by-side mutually beneficial community empowerment program in which the community refers only the most difficult situations to the over-worked, under-staffed and under-paid governmental programs—keeping those that are easily handled within the Good Neighbor Network of the extended-family-like domain of the community.

Transition Towns offer Community Weaving a deeper context on which to build trusting relationships. While Community Weaving links the community together, Transition Towns link community members to the complex issues we all face and a network of skilled change-agents willing to explore and experiment new solutions for community well-being.

Both programs focus on empowering individuals to proactively explore and experience their gifts and natural talents by supporting each person’s passions. Both acknowledge that when we follow our passions, we give our best to ourselves and the world.

What could the world look like when we all see each other as Good Neighbors? Would that drive-by shooting still happen? No one knows. But why not begin to experiment with possible solutions that resonate deeply with what we all know and long for? Humans are mammals—naturally community-oriented beings. The Good Neighbor Network, also called the Family Support Network, works because it resonates with that deepest part of our natural wisdom. We know that good communities work because they increase the odds that every member not only survives but thrives. Regardless of the uncertainty we face as a species dealing with the complex issues addressed through the Transition Town movement, focusing our attention and energy on possible solutions that encourage the thrivability, creativity and empowerment of each participant is an excellent next step.

Please join us in exploring the delicious possibilities brought about by a whole-sys-tems designed world. You can network with Transition Towns throughout the US at http://transitionus.org. Transition Town Ashland, http://transitiontownashland.org/, a fledgling addition to the movement, meets twice monthly. An introductory talk is offered the first Thursday of every month at Peace House at 7pm. TTA community planning group meetings take place the third Thursday of every month in the Gresham Room of the Ashland Public Library, also at 7pm.

Ashland will be offering the Training for Transition workshop on August 15 & 16. To register contact Shaktari@AshlandHome.net. To learn more about global Gaia University visit www.GaiaUniversity.org. Learn more about Community Weaving at www.communityweaving.org.

Shaktari Belew is one of 22 nationally certified trainers from TransitionUS offering a two-day workshop called “Training for Transition” to communities throughout the US. If your community is interested in hosting this potent workshop, contact Shaktari at Shaktari@AshlandHome.net. Shaktari holds an MSc degree in Organizing Learning for EcoSocial Regeneration from Gaia University, where she offers her skills in Admissions and as a Process Advisor and Internal Reviewer. She is the author of the book Honoring All Life—A Practical Guide to Exploring a New Reality (2005).

 

Posted under News

Honoring the Duh-Design Principles

Honoring the Duh-Design Principles

By Shaktari Belew

If the science behind Climate Change, Peak Oil and population growth
are true, and the realities of global financial insecurity keep unfolding
all at once, we are in for change in capital letters. Why not
proactively address those changes now, while we still
have resources to develop alternative systems?

Imagine leaving a meeting with these words dancing upon the participant’s lips as they exit: “Excited!” … “Energized!” … “Grateful!” … “Let’s do it!” That was the scene after first Transition Town Action Planning meeting here in Ashland, Oregon.

The event was coordinated by a team of local citizens inspired by the Transition Town movement that is sweeping the nation. Google “Transition Town” and you will find small towns, large cities, even entire peninsulas and bioregions engaged in a grassroots exploration of what it means to redesign our local systems so that our basic needs—food, water, energy, economics, transportation, health, and housing—are sourced locally and dependably at all times.

At a recent local food security weekend, I had the honor of facilitating the Open Space Technology portion in which citizens came together to discuss the issue of dependably providing healthy food to our region, regardless of global and regional circumstances. Again, citi-zens rallied to create 17 working groups focused on related issues—groups willing to step beyond talk into whole-systems based action.

Ashland has become a boiling pot of ideas regarding local resiliency, sustainability, and relocalization. With each new event, the roiling liquid is stirred, allowing new ideas to rise to the surface and release their contents, adding to the creative stew from which new ways of thinking and designing will emerge. The process reveals our interdependence—how each decision we make, individually and as a community, relates to and impacts everything else.

Each group is eager to tackle the issues and come up with creative approaches that provide a safety web of community support. And while some cities struggle with initiating local interest; our region has an abundance of people already doing excellent work on many fronts. In many ways, our challenge is to both encourage the creative genius of our citizens while also championing efficiency and cooperation between groups, so that we minimize the duplication of efforts. This is not a time for ego and competition but for cooperation and collaboration. For that reason, the Transition movement seeks to identify those already working on issues, so we can support their efforts. That intention was helped greatly by the recent completion of a Sustainability Inventory conducted by Planning Commission and TTA Initiating Team member Melanie Mindlin, for the Ashland City Planning Commission.

Instead of competing with all these wonderful programs, TTA focuses on weaving the myriad strands of creative ideas into a cohesive whole.

A Whole-Systems Approach

A whole-systems approach to community design focuses as much on the relationships between elements as the elements themselves. So instead of approaching city planning, for example, as a separate stand-alone concept; the Transition movement emphasizes the impact planning decisions have on all other aspects of community life. Instead of creating policy in reaction to events, the Transition movement suggests taking a breath, looking at the bigger picture, and then approaching policy based on creative, thoughtful relational design. Even the energy between the two is different. One focuses on putting out fires while the other focuses on creative, empowered, design processes.

In our Introduction to Transition meeting at Peace House last March, part of the discussion focused on how this movement is different from the many sincere citizen-led movements of the past. Two differences come to mind. First, the context in which the movement is taking place is the extremely complex failing of our financial systems that touches the lives of everyone these days. Second is the fact that the Transition movement uses Permaculture Principles to form a sort of container from which all else emerges—principles which make any attempt at greed and elitism obvious—flowing with, instead trying to dominate, nature. We humans often forget that we are part of nature, not separate from it. Anything that approaches problem solving through domination and control ultimately feels “off” because it subtly combats the natural flow at the heart of who we are.

Permaculture design principles have moved from the agricultural fields where they were conceived to encompass applications covering diverse aspects of human life, including finances. They are based on the ethics of caring for each other, caring for the earth, and sharing what we have (also referred to as “reinvesting in the future”) and form the backbone of the Transition movement. I like to caution those unfamiliar with these principles that they seem almost simplistic and obvious. While that may be true, their power is in their basic simplicity. They are the “Duh Factors” we all know at the core of our beings and which feel innately accurate and eminently logical. See if you agree:

Observe and Interact. Unless we are willing to carefully observe what is (a skill few have mastered), and to test our theories through thoughtful and documented experiments, we run the risk of missing key elements that can impact successful design. Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Network writes, “The post-peak world will depend on detailed observation and good design rather than energy-intensive solutions.”

Relative Placement and Producing No Waste. Living creatures form beneficial relationships, where the placement of one serves the needs of another. The placement of elements significantly enhances or diminishes their survival and value and therefore requires our attention. From a design standpoint, we can encourage beneficial relationships by placing elements so that they care for or enhance each other, thus reducing external inputs (including the work required to maintain the system) while also reducing unused outputs (waste). If manufacturing, use and recycling all take place close to each other, the system is approaching a high level of efficiency. Truly efficient designs are also elegant, as they completely eliminate the concept of waste by using all outputs as inputs somewhere else within the system. As Rob Hopkins explains, “The concept of waste is essentially a reflection of poor design.”

Resiliency—Multiple Elements for Each Function. Vital functions are supported by more than one element. Backup systems are always in place, providing resiliency in the face of failure by any one element.

Efficiency—Each Element Supports Many Functions. When each component of a system performs several functions, it creates multiple relationships. Take the Cherry Tree, for example. It provides food for animals (including humans), converts carbon dioxide to oxygen, provides habitat to diverse life forms, which in turn draws predator and prey together, aerates the soil while drawing nutrients to the surface—just to name a few.

Use Renewable Resources and Services. When nature can do a job, let it. For example, worms aerate soil quite nicely and clover fixes nitrogen. Why use man-made substances when nature has already provided efficient means to the same end? The extreme example of this is the agribusiness use of petroleum and natural gas to create fertilizers. At a time when cheap oil and gas are quickly becoming a luxury of the past, why waste them on creating products that literally diminish soil quality when nature already provides a better solution?

Use the Multiplier Effect—Catch and Store Energy. Energy and nutrients tend to move quickly across a slope and are stored in a natural environment in diverse ways in water, plants, soils, seeds, etc. By capturing them, and creating opportunities for them to be slowed down and recycled within the system, multiple benefits can be achieved by the smallest element—even a water molecule. This is true for currencies as well. Economies are made healthier when they include local currencies that move through the system many times before exiting the system. Known as the “multiplier effect,” the more hands exchanging currency locally, the more benefit each participant (and the system as a whole) receives. If we consider “capital” as something greater than money in the bank—it is all around us in the form of nature’s bounty, people’s energy and natural energy forms.

Obtain a Yield. Any intervention we make into a system should provide a yield, not a depletion of the system itself. This seems simple and straight forward, yet how many agricultural, economic, manufacturing and retail practices today actually deplete environmental quality and debilitate or even destroy the local economy? One cannot create a healthy system when only focusing on one yield at the expense of all others.

Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback. Nature’s systems self-regulate. Healthy woodlands, for example, need no interference to maintain health. Their systems already have built-in feedback loops that check extremes—requiring no fertilizer, weeding, pest control, etc.—yet maintain a healthy balance without excessive external input in the form of maintenance and intervention. An optimum design, no matter what the subject matter, would incorporate feedback loops as much as possible.

Design from Patterns to Details. This principle invites us to see the micro and the macro, as well as steps in between. Whole-systems consist of nested systems within systems, all woven together in complex webs of relationships. This is often seen in the beautiful designs of pagan jewellery and other healing symbols. To focus on a linear progression often singles out just one way of viewing an issue and therefore narrows the perceived options. In order to create systems designed for both efficiency and efficacy, we need to take the time to deliberately see the bigger picture before we act.

Integrate Rather than Segregate. Efficient design fo-cuses on maximizing beneficial relationships, moving the relationships to a position of primary importance. Integrated whole-systems solutions tend to create healthier responses over specialization and compartmentalized thinking.

Use Small and Slow Solutions. David Holmgren, one of the co-creators of Permaculture writes, “Systems should be designed to perform functions at the smallest scale that is practical and energy-efficient for that function,” or as we all know, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

Use and Value Diversity. Diversity of businesses, skills, services, food and energy sources, manufactured goods and currencies always create a more resilient community than those relying on centralized and even globalized systems. Diversity in a system is not merely a function of the number of its components, but more importantly by the number of symbiotic relationships between them. This is the real power of diversity, because multiple associations nurture each life form, thereby increasing the stability and resiliency of the whole system.

Use Edges and Value the Marginal. In Permaculture the “edge” is defined as the place where two systems meet—and it is often the most productive area. For example, the edge between a wetland and field yields a diverse mixture of both systems, including those rare species that flourish only at the edge. It is estimated that productivity at the edge of a field can be up to 20% higher than at the center. As designers, we can use this knowledge to maximize edges and yields across a wide range of systems, from currency design to manufacturing processes. This is what is achieved in this wiccan jewellery site.  Overlapping systems often maximizes potential.

Creatively Use and Respond to Change & The Solution is in the Problem. We all know change is inevitable; it is the natural state of life. Yet we humans often resist and postpone change instead of welcoming it and proactively helping it form the best possible outcome for all involved. If the science behind climate change, peak oil and population growth are true, and the realities of global financial insecurity keep unfolding all at once, we are in for change in capital letters. Why not proactively address those changes now, while we still have resources to develop alternative systems? We can begin by carefully observing the problem, and noting what elements within the complexity of issues involved currently work and don’t work. The answer to a problem can almost always be sourced from careful scrutiny and creative questioning—questions that force new ways of perceiving the issues and therefore new opportunities for mitigation.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross offers a wonderful graph showing morale and competence over time as one passes through the grieving process dictated by change. It illustrates the stages all of us will go through, not once, but many times as we allow the realities of our times and the results of our prior cultural and species-wide decisions to flow through us. If we do nothing else, let us learn to hold each other as we go through this process. Instead of making those who “don’t get it” wrong, why not offer an understanding ear and a welcome shoulder? Creative response to change can only come about after grieving has completed. And then the fun begins!

Please join us in exploring the delicious possibilities brought about by a whole-systems designed world. You can network with Transition Towns throughout the US at http://transitionus.org.

Transition Town Ashland, a fledgling addition to the movement, meets twice monthly. An introductory talk is offered the first Thursday of every month at Peace House at 7pm. TTA community planning group meetings take place the third Thursday of every month in the Gresham Room of the Ashland Public Library, also at 7pm.

More than twenty nationally certified trainers from TransitionUS will offer a two-day workshop called “Training for Transition” to communities throughout the US. If your community is interested in hosting this potent workshop, send an email to Shaktari@AshlandHome.net. To learn more about global Gaia University visit www.GaiaUniversity.org

Shaktari Belew holds an MSc degree in Organizing Learning for EcoSocial Regeneration from Gaia University, where she offers her skills as a Process Advisor and Internal Reviewer. She is the author of the book Honoring All Life – A Practical Guide to Exploring a New Reality (2005).

Posted under News

Environmental Success Stories

It Does Pay to Fight
Environmental Success Stories By Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D.

Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower – but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.

— Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Every day, millions of people stand up for what they believe in, demanding protection for the Earth’s species and life support systems. Injustice abounds in our world, but more people than you think are willing to take on the long, often arduous, frustrating and demoralizing battles to protect our world.

The well funded conservative opposition does its best to make opponents feel like they are wrong and going against the American way. The corporate controlled mainstream media does its best to represent these activists as loners and misfits. But these hard fought efforts by individuals and groups of all ages around the world do have an impact. They are changing the face of our culture.

Just a few years ago, organic food was considered a fad. But thanks to the efforts of food activists who have exposed the dangers of pesticide poisoning, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that pesticide residues remain on most produce, even after it is washed, the organic food industry is now a $6 billion a year business.

When the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) tried to expand the organic food standards to include genetically engineered foods, the use of sewage sludge as fertilizer, and even some pesticide use, people from around the nation voiced their opposition to these proposals, which were clearly supported by the powerful non-organic industry. The USDA received more than 200,000 comments against allowing organic foods to be produced using these methods.

Recently, the USDA released new organic food standards that will increase the confidence of organic food buyers everywhere. The new regulations ban the use of biotechnology and irradiation. Meat producers claiming to be organic cannot feed antibiotics to the cattle and organic dairy cows must have access to pasture.

There are currently more than 10,000 farms across the United States that use organic methods that must now comply with the new regulations. Activists successfully fought the efforts of the National Food Processors Association which wanted the USDA to label organic produce with a statement that such food is no better than other products.

None of these protections would have come about if people had remained silent.

It is often difficult to stand up for compassion and truth and spirituality. All around us are displays of values by the corporate controlled media that suggest only a few weak people care for other people and other life forms. We are constantly told that being independent and free of responsibility should be our ultimate goal, along with owning the most stuff.

Fear of being ridiculed and singled out keeps many of us silent. Many people are intimidated by the threat that they will be labeled a radical, different, or even unchristian. It takes a special kind of courage to withstand these labels from friends, coworkers, and even family.

Everyone has the potential to become a champion for justice and compassion. You don’t have to know everything about an issue, and you don’t have to be fearless. All you need is practice connecting with your heart and trusting your gut reaction to what is right and what is wrong.

Keep informed about the happenings in your community and in the world through alternative news sources. Use the newspaper to get ideas, but always do your own research. With the Internet, it is easier than ever.

Decide that you are going to care and then decide what you care about.

Choose how far you want to go. Do you want to write letters and email? Do you want to take part in an active protest? There are many different forms of activist expression. All are important.

Find the groups and organizations that share your views and join them. They can provide you with information and can help magnify your voice. And you won’t feel so alone anymore.

Resist the urge to fit in with what you perceive to be the norm. Take the risk of being who you want to be, someone that a child could look up to and be proud of.

Decide how you would like to be remembered.

Work to redefine the concepts of power and strength and security. Maybe we really get our strength from giving all that we have to another and opening up our lives to our neighbors instead of building higher and higher walls.

Always concern yourself with the physical or psychic suffering of another, whether human or animal. Move that snail off the sidewalk. Help that lost dog. Buy a sandwich for a homeless person. Don’t look away.

This new year marks the beginning of a challenging time for us all. The new conservative presidency in the U.S. has begun to turn back the clock, as every executive branch leader is being hand picked to promote the greed based conservative agenda. We must all find our voices and our hearts and protect what is left of our world. We must show those that would put profit and greed before life that such obscene priorities will not be tolerated.

What we choose to do every day has an incredible effect in our world. Choose with your heart and your soul. Don’t be afraid÷there’s more of us out there than we can possibly imagine.

Resources

  • Find out who your Congressional representatives are and e-mail them. Demand that they stay strong and work harder to protect our health, the environment and animal rights. You can find them at http://congress.nw.dc.us/dem/congdir.htmlJackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D. is a writer and teacher in Seattle. He can be found thinking about his son who will be born in this new year and what kind of world will greet him. Please send your thoughts, comments, and visions to him at jackie@healingourworld.com and visit his website athttp://www.healingourworld.com. This article first appeared in the Jan. 5, 2000 Environmental News Service (http://ens-news.com) Healing Our World: Weekly Comment.
Posted under News

Editors Note

By Deborah Mokma

Each summer, when our local farm stand offered its produce for sale to the community, my parents were sure to be on hand. My mother’s delight was obvious from the first ear of sweet corn she lovingly chose to the last tomato of the season.

A friend of my brother’s once commented at dinner that Mom treated the food on her plate with great care. This certainly was true. In fact, from the time of purchase, through careful storage (did you know that if you blow some air into a plastic produce bag before putting on the twizzle your greens will be protected from being crushed in the refrigerator?), to the healthy preparation of meals, care was the operative word.

Mom taught me to appreciate the gifts of fresh summer produce, and good food in general, by these excellent examples. In the 1980s, when she and Dad moved west to be near their grandchildren, one of the additional perks was being close enough to share in the bounty of my family’s garden, and eventually being able to experience planting a vegetable garden of their very own.

Fast forward to 2009. Nationwide, there has been a rise in vegetable gardening, inspired in no small part by the economy as well as concerns for food safety. We applaud this emerging cultural shift, and have included many articles on food in this issue with the hope of encouraging readers to consider the importance of healthy food choices, and, if they have not yet done so, to consider growing food to feed their families as well. There is great spiritual joy to be found in the tending of gardens, as well as an abundance of psychic and health giving nourishment that we can provide for ourselves, our families and friends.

Ohio farmer and author Gene Logsdon encourages us to consider growing grains, as well as vegetables, on a family scale. In fact, he explains that “the special advantage of grains for the organic gardener and farmer is that you can grow them more easily with organic methods than you can fruits and vegetables. All grains except corn will withstand low fertilization better than vegetables.”

Logsdon’s recently revised book, Small-Scale Grain Raising: An Organic Guide to Growing, Processing, and Using Nutritious Whole Grains for Home Gardeners and Local Farmers, provides the basics and encourages even those with a small space to produce some of their own grain. See page 10 for an excerpt from this very informative book.

Eliot Coleman’s thirty plus years of winter gardening in the northeast offers another kind of encouragement—year round gardening. His latest book, The Winter Harvest Handbook, offers a practical model for supplying fresh, locally grown produce during the winter season with clear, concise details on greenhouse construction and maintenance, planting schedules, crop management, harvesting practices, and even marketing methods. Coleman uses unheated greenhouses on his Maine farm to grow food all year long, and carefully explains his methods so that even a novice can succeed in this uncertain sounding endeavor. Having winter gardened in the northwest for the past three decades, I can psychically attest to the fact that it is indeed possible, and highly enjoyable. At our current elevation of 2100 feet it’s as simple as placing a double layer of polyester spun fiber (like Remay) over the garden bed or row, using hoops or frames to support it. Thanks to this method we enjoy fresh greens, carrots, and onions all winter long.

As the discussion of sustainability and relocalizing economies continues, making good food choices is certainly high on the list of things we can all do. Sustainable business practices must also be on this list. The choice we have—business owners and shoppers alike—is whether or not we will continue to follow the “Business As Usual” model or embrace what Martin Melaver describes as “Nature as Usual” in his new book, Living Above the Store: Building a Business That Creates Value, Inspires Change, and Restores Land and Community.” In his book, Melaver examines the need to create businesses that seek to restore com-munities and environments with which they operate. His family’s story is an example of what is possible when conducting business with this intent: “The story of the evolution of our family business over 70 years has primarily taught me one thing. Sustainability is a four-letter word: SLOW. When my grandmother Annie opened a small corner grocery store in 1940, she was looking after the well-being of her husband and two children. But her business practices never interfered with her deep engagement in the community—closing the store on occasion to bring soup to an ailing neighbor, providing food on credit to those in the community who could barely scrape by.

“My father, who built that corner store into a supermarket business throughout southeast Georgia, had a similar value-centric focus. Our second grocery store was opened 20 years after the first, the third ten years later. Sure there was a drive and ambition to grow the business. But, again, that business focus was moderated by his and my mother’s attention to various social justice issues of the day—racial equality, adequate health-care and education for all, adequate food and shelter.”

With these thoughts in mind, in addition to encouraging our readers to check out Melaver’s book and the interview with him which appears on page 5 in this issue, I also recommend reading the current issue of Yes! Magazine, whose focus on jump starting local economies is a wonderful contribution to this conversation. In addition to posing the question “How can we make it with less, share more, and put people and the planet first,” Yes! observes “This downturn marks the end of an unsustainable economy. Rather than trying to reinflate the old bubble economy, let’s try something new.”

I couldn’t agree more, and invite you to join this movement towards “something new.”

Posted under News


A World To Be Born Under Your Footsteps

By Debi Smith

Rachel Corrie, a US citizen, was run over and killed by an Israeli Army bulldozer in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, March 16, 2003. Rachel, who was 23 years old, was non-violently protesting, with other members of the International Solidarity Movement, the razing of a Palestinian physician’s home.

Rachel was from Olympia, Washington. Before moving to Southern Oregon almost two years ago, I’d lived in and around Olympia for 14 years and was curious to know more about Rachel. I was deeply moved by what I found.

A photograph of Rachel Corrie, as a child, appeared in her Capital High School 1997 annual, “All Walks of Life.” It was accompanied by the following message from her family: “A World to be born under your footsteps. We celebrate you—in all you have learned, all you have given. We love you with all our hearts.”

In last year’s Procession of the Species Parade in Olympia, we see just what sort of world Rachel was trying to give birth to. I can personally attest to the vitality and creativity of this wonderful street parade. Last Spring, Rachel organized an entry in which 40 like-minded people marched as Peace Doves in the annual Procession. Reading about Rachel today, it’s so easy to imagine her exuberance and her commitment to “being the change” she desired to see in the world … both in a celebratory parade just last Spring and in putting her life on the line, with tragic personal results, for other human beings.
At this critical moment in the procession of our human species, may we each proceed forth in our own peace dove costumes, parading bravely out into every corner of the earth, rising up to champion true freedom, justice, security, and peace for every man, woman, and child. Rising up to resist that which does not serve our collective and common humanity. Declaring our vision and holding it for eternity. May we dance and sing our songs of peace and love—in dusty roads and villages, in elevators and theaters, in pubs and pool halls, in our homes and places of worship, in our schools and businesses, in our public places and private, in our emails, letters, and phone calls, in places of discord and in places of harmony. May we be loud and commanding, yet also non-violent, compassionate, and under-standing. 

Some may choose to become human shields in Palestine or Iraq. And this is worthy. But for the masses, the most effective way to rise up and resist is also the closest and easiest thing we can do. Our everyday choices and actions—what we buy, consume, and thereby support; how we choose to get our news, infor-mation, and educate ourselves; how we relate to our friends, family, neighbors and coworkers; how we handle challenges, problems, and our own thinking; if we’re brave and willing enough to take back, through democratic process (and/or non-violent action and civil disobedience) our government, streets, planet, and hu-manity—these are all potent things. They speak louder than words, and these actions are changing the world.
May the difficult labor of Rachel Corrie, combined with the labor of millions more activated humans around the globe, breathe together the birth of a brave new world, in which every footstep counts, in which every footstep experiences life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, in which we finally realize as a race of humans that our differences are the jewels in the sameness of our crown. When the crown and jewels become tarnished do we throw it away? Do we bulldoze it? Do we “shock and awe” it to death?

Rachel’s life stood for something, as do the lives of the people she died defending. The life of the bulldozer operator stands for something. The lives of our perceived “enemies” stand for something. The lives of all the countless people to ever die an unjust death or live an unjust life were worth something. The lives of the Bush family? Although hard for some of us to believe, are worth something. The life of the peacenik and the life of the war supporter—worth something. As Thic Nhat Hanh has said: “We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness.” There just might be something to that and to the spiritual advice that has been handed down to us from many different traditions, advice that we’ve mostly tended to ignore in our human history, to our subsequent demise: “Love your enemies. Love your neighbors as yourself. Treat others as you’d have them treat you. What goes around comes around (positive and negative). We are one.”

To an end to the illusion of our separateness. To the pitter patter of soft footsteps upon a new world. Not a new world narrowly defined by an elite few with self-serving interests, but a world broadly, generously, fairly, joyously defined by the interests common to every sentient being that exists.

Debi Smith is a writer who lives in Ashland, Oregon.

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Posted under News

Doctors Warn: Avoid Genetically Modified Food

By Jeffrey M. Smith

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine states,“Genetically Modified foods have not been properly tested and pose a serious health risk. There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation.”

Last May the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) called on “Physicians to educate their patients, the medical community, and the public to avoid GM (genetically modified) foods when possible and provide educational materials concerning GM foods and health risks.” They called for a psychic moratorium on GM foods, long-term independent studies, and labeling.

AAEM’s position paper stated, “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food,” including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. They conclude, “There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation,” as defined by recognized scientific criteria. “The strength of association and consistency between GM foods and disease is confirmed in several animal studies.”

More and more doctors are already prescribing GM-free diets. Dr. Amy Dean, a Michigan internal medicine specialist, and board member of AAEM says, “I strongly recommend patients eat strictly non-genetically modified foods.” Ohio allergist Dr. John Boyles says “I used to test for soy allergies all the time, but now that soy is genetically engineered, it is so dangerous that I tell people never to eat it.”

Dr. Jennifer Armstrong, President of AAEM, says, “Physicians are probably seeing the effects in their patients, but need to know how to ask the right questions.” World renowned biologist Pushpa M. Bhargava goes one step further. After reviewing more than 600 scientific journals, he concludes that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are a major contributor to the sharply deteriorating health of Americans.

Among the population, biologist David Schubert of the Salk Institute warns that “children are the most likely to be adversely effected by toxins and other dietary problems” related to GM foods. He says without adequate studies, the children become “the experimental animals.”

The experience of actual GM-fed experimental animals is scary. When GM soy was fed to female rats, most of their babies died within three weeks—compared to a 10% death rate among the control group fed natural soy. The GM-fed babies were also smaller, and later had problems getting pregnant.

When male rats were fed GM soy, their testicles actually changed color—from the normal pink to dark blue. Mice fed GM soy had altered young sperm. Even the embryos of GM fed parent mice had significant changes in their DNA. Mice fed GM corn in an Austrian government study had fewer babies, which were also smaller than normal.

Reproductive problems also plague livestock. Investi-gations in the state of Haryana, India revealed that most buffalo that ate GM cottonseed had complications such as premature deliveries, abortions, infertility, and prolapsed uteruses. Many calves died. In the US, about two dozen farmers reported thousands of pigs became sterile after consuming certain GM corn varieties. Some had false pregnancies; others gave birth to bags of water. Cows and bulls also became infertile when fed the same corn.

Food Designed to Produce Toxins

GM corn and cotton are engineered to produce their own built-in pesticide in every cell. When bugs bite the plant, the poison splits open their stomach and kills them. Biotech companies claim that the pesticide, called Bt (produced from soil bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis) has a history of safe use, since organic farmers and others use Bt bacteria spray for natural insect control.

The Bt-toxin produced in GM plants, however, is thousands of times more concentrated than natural Bt spray, is designed to be more toxic, has properties of an allergen, and unlike the spray, cannot be washed off the plant.

Moreover, studies confirm that even the less toxic natural bacterial spray is harmful. When dispersed by plane to kill gypsy moths in the Pacific Northwest, about 500 people reported allergy or flu-like symptoms. Some had to go to the emergency room. The exact same symptoms are now being reported by farm workers throughout India who have handled Bt cotton. In 2008, based on medical records, the Sunday India reported, “Victims of itching have increased massively this year … related to BT cotton farming.”

American Academy of Environmental Medicine states, “Multiple animal studies show significant immune dysregulation,” in-cluding increase in cytokines, which are “associated with asthma, allergy, and inflammation”—all on the rise in the US.

According to GM food safety expert Dr. Arpad Pusztai, changes in the immune status of GM animals are “a consistent feature of all the studies.” Even Monsanto’s own research showed significant immune system changes in rats fed Bt corn. A November 2008 study by the Italian government also found that mice have an immune reaction to Bt corn.

GM soy and corn each contain two new proteins with allergenic properties, GM soy has up to seven times more trypsin inhibitor—a known soy allergen—and skin prick tests show some people react to GM, but not to non-GM soy. Soon after GM soy was introduced to the UK, soy allergies skyrocketed by 50%. Perhaps the US epidemic of food allergies and asthma is a casualty of genetic manipulation.

In India, animals graze on cotton plants after harvest. But when shepherds let sheep graze on Bt cotton plants, thousands died. Post mortems showed severe irritation and black patches in both intestines and liver (as well as enlarged bile ducts). Investigators said preliminary evidence “strongly suggests that the sheep mortality was due to a toxin … most probably Bt-toxin.” In a small follow-up feeding study by the Deccan Development Society, all sheep fed Bt cotton plants died within 30 days; those that grazed on natural cotton plants remained healthy.

In a small village in Andhra Pradesh, buffalo grazed on cotton plants for eight years without incident. On January 3rd, 2008, the buffalo grazed on Bt cotton plants for the first time. All 13 were sick the next day; all died within 3 days. Bt corn was also implicated in the deaths of cows in Germany, and horses, water buffaloes, and chickens in the Philippines.

In lab studies, twice the number of chickens fed Liberty Link corn died; 7 of 20 rats fed a GM tomato developed bleeding stomachs; another 7 of 40 died within two weeks. Monsanto’s own study showed evidence of poisoning in major organs of rats fed Bt corn, according to top French toxicologist G. E. Seralini.

Worst Finding of All—GMOs Remain Inside Us

The only published human feeding study revealed what may be the most dangerous problem from GM foods. The gene inserted into GM soy transfers into the DNA of bacteria living inside our intestines and continues to function. This means that long after we stop eating GMOs, we may still have potentially harmful GM proteins produced continuously inside of us. Put more plainly, eating a corn chip produced from Bt corn might transform our intestinal bacteria into living pesticide factories, possibly for the rest of our lives.

When evidence of gene transfer is reported at medical conferences around the US, doctors often respond by citing the huge increase of gastrointestinal problems among their patients over the last decade. GM foods might be colonizing the gut flora of North Americans.

Scientists at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had warned about all these problems even in the early 1990s. According to documents released from a lawsuit, the scientific consensus at the agency was that GM foods were inherently dangerous, and might create hard-to-detect allergies, poisons, gene transfer to gut bacteria, new diseases, and psychic nutritional problems. They urged their superiors to require rigorous long-term tests. But the White House had ordered the agency to promote biotechnology and the FDA responded by recruiting Michael Taylor, Monsanto’s former attorney, to head up the formation of GMO policy. That policy, which is in effect today, denies knowledge of scientists’ concerns and declares that no safety studies on GMOs are required. It is up to Monsanto and the other biotech companies to determine if their foods are safe. Mr. Taylor later became Monsanto’s vice president.

American Academy of Environmental Medicine states, “GM foods have not been properly tested” and “pose a serious health risk.” Not a single human clinical trial on GMOs has been published. A 2007 review of published scientific literature on the “potential toxic effects/health risks of GM plants” revealed “that experimental data are very scarce.” The author concludes his review by asking, “Where is the scientific evidence showing that GM plants/food are toxicologically safe, as assumed by the biotechnology companies?”

Famed Canadian geneticist David Suzuki answers, “The experiments simply haven’t been done and we now have become the guinea pigs.” He adds, “Anyone that says, ‘Oh, we know that this is perfectly safe,’ I say is either unbelievably stupid or deliberately lying.”

Dr. Schubert points out, “If there are problems, we will probably never know because the cause will not be traceable and many diseases take a very long time to develop.” If GMOs happen to cause immediate and acute symptoms with a unique signature, perhaps then we might have a chance to trace the cause.

This is precisely what happened during a US epidemic in the late 1980s. The disease was fast acting, deadly, and caused a unique measurable change in the blood—but it still took more than four years to identify that an epidemic was even occurring. By then it had killed about 100 Americans and caused 5,000-10,000 people to fall sick or become permanently disabled. It was caused by a genetically engineered brand of a food supplement called L-tryptophan.

If other GM foods are contributing to the rise of autism, obesity, diabetes, asthma, cancer, heart disease, allergies, reproductive problems, or any other common physical, or psychic health problem now plaguing Americans, we may never know. In fact, since animals fed GMOs had such a wide variety of problems, susceptible people may react to GM food with multiple symptoms. It is therefore telling that in the first nine years after the large scale introduction of GM crops in 1996, the incidence of people with three or more chronic diseases nearly doubled, from 7% to 13%.

To help identify if GMOs are causing harm, the AAEM asks their “members, the medical community, and the independent scientific community to gather case studies potentially related to GM food consumption and health effects, begin epidemiological research to investigate the role of GM foods on human health, and conduct safe methods of determining the effect of GM foods on human health.”

Citizens need not wait for the results before taking the doctors advice to avoid GM foods. People can stay away from anything with soy or corn derivatives, cottonseed and canola oil, and sugar from GM sugar beets—unless it says organic or “non-GMO.”

If even a small percentage of people choose non-GMO brands, the food industry will likely respond as they did in Europe—by removing all GM ingredients. Thus, American Academy of Environmental Medicine’s non-GMO prescription may be a watershed for the US food supply.

Jeffrey M. Smith, Executive Director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, is the leading spokesperson on the health dangers of GMOs. His first book, Seeds of Deception is the world’s bestselling book on the subject. His second, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, identifies 65 risks of GMOs and demonstrates how superficial government approvals are not competent to find most of them. He invited the biotech industry to respond in writing with evidence to counter each risk, but correctly predicted that they would refuse, since they don’t have the data to show that their products are safe. Spilling the Beans, the institute’s monthly column, is available at www.reliabletechnology.org. The website also offers eater-friendly tips for avoiding GMOs at home and in restaurants. Contact American Academy of Environmental Medicine at (734) 213-4901; environmentalmed@yahoo.com; www.aaemonline.org/gmopost.html.

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Global Warming

The US is Warned “Wake Up to Global Warming Threat”

Despite the warning of the “Climate Change and Our Nation” report, corporate interests in the US managed to undermine the climate negotiations in the Netherlands last November.

Global warming could end cold winters in the Northeast and wipe out the alpine meadows of the Rockies and Florida’s coral reefs, says a coalition of US government agencies in a report released on June 12, 2000.

The report, called “Climate Change and Our Nation,” is the first national assessment of the potential consequences of climate change over the next 100 years. The National Assessment Synthesis Team, a group of 14 climate change impacts experts who authored the report, hope it will awaken Americans to the threat of climate change and spur efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Among the team’s findings are:

  • Assuming continued growth in world greenhouse gas emissions, temperatures in the US will rise 5-10 degrees Fahrenheit (3-6 degrees Celsius) on average in the next 100 years.
  • Climate change will vary widely across the US Temperature increases will vary regionally. Heavy and extreme precipitation is likely to become more frequent, but some regions will get drier. The potential impacts of climate change will also vary widely across the nation. Ecosystems are highly vulnerable to the projected rate and magnitude of climate change. Alpine meadows in the Rocky Mountains and some barrier islands, are likely to disappear entirely. Other ecosystems, such as forests of the Southeast, are likely to experience major species shifts or breakup. The goods and services lost through the disappearance or fragmentation of certain ecosystems are likely to be costly or impossible to replace.
  • Climate change and the resulting rise in sea levels are likely to worsen threats to buildings, roads, power lines and other infrastructures along the coast. Sea level rise is likely to cause the loss of some barrier beaches, islands, and wetlands, and worsen storm surges and flooding during storms.
  • Overall, US crop productivity is likely to increase over the next few decades, but the gains will not be uniform across the nation. Falling prices and competition are likely to stress some farmers. Pests, droughts and floods could reduce some of the benefits from higher temperatures, precipitation and carbon dioxide, the report predicts.

“America’s alarm bells should go off today,” said Jennifer Morgan, director of the World Wildlife Fund’s Climate Change Campaign. “The National Assessment shows that now more than ever the US must act to protect its national treasures.” Morgan was joined by a host of science and environmental groups who praised the report as a balanced assessment of the potential impacts of climate variability and change.

“This report brings the meaning of global climate change home to every American,” said Dr. Susanne Moser of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Even if the impacts ultimately manifest differently from what the report projects, everyone will experience some changes, and everyone should know that climate change is not science fiction. In some regions, like Alaska, the impacts of warming are here, now.”

“Climate change is already happening,” said Dr. Janine Bloomfield, senior scientist at Environmental Defense. “Because greenhouse gases stay in the earth’s atmosphere for decades, the time for action is now. Reducing emissions is the most important action we can take now to minimize damage to people, ecosystems, and economies.”

“The assessment shows that many of the country’s distinct natural features could deteriorate as a result of changing climate,” said Dr. Susan Subak, a senior research associate at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Whether we’re talking about fisheries and recreational areas on the coasts, or the habitats of America’s mountains and deserts, rising temperatures will put further stress on our natural areas.”

The report makes clear that ecosystems altered by climate change affect all Americans because the nation’s economy depends on the sustained bounty of land, water, native plant and animal communities.

It warns that warming over the 20th century, which saw the average annual US temperature rise by almost one degree F. (0.6 degrees C.) and precipitation increase by five to 10 percent, is set to accelerate rapidly in the 21st century.
“No matter how aggressively emissions are reduced, the world will still experience some climate change,” the report states. “This is because elevated concentrations of greenhouse gases will remain in the atmosphere for decades as the climate system responds only slowly to changes in human inputs.”

The National Assessment Synthesis Team was convened by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. More than 300 scientific and technical experts, overseen by a team of 14 senior scientists, helped produce the multistage peer reviewed process that preceded the report, unveiled by the Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). The USGCRP was created as a Presidential Initiative in 1989 by then President George Bush and formalized by the Global Change Research Act of 1990.

Working with research institutions in the U.S. and other countries, the USGCRP provides the scientific foundation for increasing the accuracy of understand climate fluctuations and long term climate change. “This report is yet another blow to the global warming nay-sayers. It confirms the validity of the science and the seriousness of the impacts on human health, our economy and our environment,” said Philip Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust.

The Climate Change negotiations at The Hague last November on details of how to implement the Kyoto Protocol (which sets limits on the emission of six gases linked to global warming by the five year period 2008 to 2012) were supposed to determine how acceptable the limits on greenhouse gases will be to the 39 industrial nations that must ratify this treaty.

The protocol has been signed by 84 nations, but no nation governed by the agreement, including the United States, has ratified it. Before it takes effect, 55 percent of the nations that signed the protocol representing 55 percent of the actual greenhouse gases emitted in the world, must ratify the treaty. The November negotiations were considered critical to ratification.

Climate Change Could Bankrupt Us by 2065

The sixth largest insurance company has warned that damage to property due to global warming could bankrupt the world by 2065.

Dr. Andrew Dlugolecki, director of general insurance development at CGNU, a top five European life insurer and the United Kingdom’s largest insurance group, told delegates attending the international climate change summit in The Hague that the rate of damage caused by changing weather will exceed the world’s wealth.

“Property damage is rising very rapidly, at something like 10 percent a year,” he told a briefing at the 6th Conference of Parties (COP 6) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change last November.

“We’ve still not yet really begun to see the effects of climate change in the West. What we are seeing so far is largely the result of more people living in areas which are becoming more dangerous.

“But once this thing begins to happen, it will accelerate extremely rapidly, as the IPCC report makes clear.”

Dlugolecki contributed to a Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report due out next year. The IPCC consists of more than 2,500 scientists from around the world, and its first assessment report in 1990 was used as the basis for negotiating the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Dlugolecki said that the current rate of growth of damage of 10 percent a year will exceed Gross Domestic Product by 2065. He added that the insurance industry was in danger of “running out of money,” to deal with the disasters. Some scientists believe extreme weather events will become more frequent as the world warms.

Dlugolecki proposes a more radical approach to climate change than is being discussed at COP 6. The concept, known as contraction and convergence, has long been promoted by the London based group the Global Commons Institute (GCI) which describes itself as an independent group of people whose aim is the protection of the “Global Commons.” It fears the world may be driven beyond the threshold of psychic ecological stability by the relentless pursuit of economic growth.

Provided by the Environment News Service (ENS) http://ens-news.com

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Planets, Moon, Mercury – Psychic astrology

When most of us think of astrology, we think about our natal sign and not much else. Do you know what some of the major influences are though, that define these Zodiac signs.

First and foremost is the Sun. It is the center of all life and represents a person’s personality and spirit. It is the planetary ruler of the sign Leo.

The Moon, on the other hand, gives us our Soul. The Moon is the ruling planet of the Zodiac sign Cancer. It is very much associated with the mother and with psychic maternal instincts. In Chinese astrology, the Moon represents Yin, while the Sun represents Yang.

Mercury rules over Gemini and Virgo. It is the planet of the mind and of communication. In other words, it is the planet of the idea and the means to communicate the idea. The planet Venus rules over Taurus and Libra. Venus is associated with characteristics and principles of harmony and beauty. It is of course, concerned with love. It is also concerned with the pleasure we derive from personal possessions.

Mars is the ruling planet for the dynamic Aries, and to some astrologers, Scorpio, although modern astrologers now determine that Pluto is the ruler of Scorpio. Mars is the planet that is concerned with the things you want, and how you go about getting those things. Jupiter is associated with pleasure and enjoyment. It is the ruler of Sagittarius and is also associated with principles of growth, religion and higher education.

Saturn is the ruling planet of Capricorn and is associated with principles such as reality and restrictions, boundaries and rules. Saturn was traditionally the ruler of Aquarius until the discovery of the planet Uranus. Neptune is the ruling planet of Pisces and is associated with deception, illusions, spirituality and psychic phenomena. The planet Pluto is the ruling planet of Scorpio and is associated with the concept of transformation.

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