Global Warming ‘Costing Taxpayers Billions.’ Here’s How to Fix It.

 "The federal government has no problem subsidizing, to the tune of  $20 billion/year   —GMO monoculture crops that degrade the soil and play a  significant role  in making global warming worse." (Photo: commondreams.org)

"The federal government has no problem subsidizing, to the tune of $20 billion/year  —GMO monoculture crops that degrade the soil and play a significant role in making global warming worse." (Photo: commondreams.org)

"The soil solution."

Originally posted on CommonDreams.org

Written by Ronnie Cummins

Another report sounding the alarm about climate change. Another missed opportunity to talk about the most promising solution: regenerative agriculture.

The New York Times yesterday cited a new report by the notoriously conservative Government Accountability Office (GAO), which said “climate change is costing taxpayers billions.

CNN also reported  on the GAO study, which calls on Trump to “craft appropriate responses.”

The CNN coverage noted several initiatives to combat climate change undertaken under the Obama administration, including the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which sought to lower carbon emissions on a state-by-state basis, and the Paris climate agreement, which saw almost every country agree to voluntary limits on future carbon emissions.

The current climate-denying Trump administration wants to scrap those, and other climate initiatives, in favor of prioritizing corporate profits.

But that’s not why I’m writing today. I’m writing because once again, a major report on the costs—financial, social, environmental, political—of doing nothing to slow runaway global warming focuses exclusively on reducing carbon emissions. As usual, this new report fails to mention that even if we achieved zero emissions tomorrow, we’re still in big trouble—unless we draw down and sequester the billions of tons of carbon already in the atmosphere.

And once again, a major report on global warming fails to acknowledge that we have the tools readily at our disposal to draw down that carbon, and we know how to use them. They are regenerative agriculture and land-use practices outlined in a recent Stanford Woods Institute report, which says:

If you want to do something about global warming, look under your feet. Managed well, soil’s ability to trap carbon dioxide is potentially much greater than previously estimated, according to Stanford researchers who claim the resource could “significantly” offset increasing global emissions. They call for a reversal of federal cutbacks to related research programs to learn more about this valuable resource.

The federal government has no problem subsidizing, to the tune of $20 billion/year  —GMO monoculture crops that degrade the soil and play a significant role in making global warming worse.

But Congress has no problem cutting back research on how to improve soil health as a means of combatting global warming?

Fortunately, other governments are incorporating “the soil solution” into their policies and plans to combat global warming. The most significant is France’s “Four for 1000: Soils for Food Security and Climate” Initiative launched by the French government at the Paris Climate Summit in December 2015.

In the U.S., some states are taking steps of their own to enact regenerative agriculture policies, notably California, Vermont and Massachusetts.

If your state isn’t on the list, maybe it’s time you start building a Regeneration Movement in your own community?

It’s time to stop ignoring our best hope of cooling the planet. If federal lawmakers won’t help, we need to make sure our local and state officials get on board.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Community Solutions Featured on The Atlantic's Website

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Community Solutions and its founder, Arthur Morgan, feature prominently in this recently published article on TheAtlantic.com

What America Is Losing as Its Small Towns Struggle

To erode small-town culture is to erode the culture of the nation.

Written by Brian Alexander

Seventy-five years ago, The Atlantic published an essay by a man named Arthur Morgan. The essay, “The Community—The Seed Bed of Society,” appeared in the February 1942 issue, and was later expanded into a book called The Small Community: Foundation of Democratic Life. Both the essay and the book were arguments on behalf of communities, especially small towns, which Morgan believed had been abandoned by modernity to become “an orphan in an unfriendly world … despised, neglected, exploited, and robbed.”

The social good of such places, Morgan insisted, was being “dissolved, diluted, and submerged by modern technology, commercialism, mass production, propaganda, and centralized government.” While many big-city residents might not worry about the fate of small towns, Morgan believed they should because the “controlling factors of civilization are not art, business, science, government. These are its fruits. The roots of civilization are elemental traits—good will, neighborliness, fair play, courage, tolerance, open-minded inquiry, patience.” These traits are best transmitted from one generation to the next in small communities, he argued, from where they are then spread throughout entire societies. To erode small-town culture was to erode the culture of the nation.

At a time when many small towns are in crisis—facing economic decline, drug addiction, despair—when economists and pundits recommend giving up on small towns, telling their populations to abandon their homes to find economic opportunity elsewhere, Morgan’s 75-year-old plea remains a trenchant warning. Some modern-day sociologists and historians, while not buying everything Morgan said and wrote about small towns, agree with his main point: Such places are vital threads in America’s fabric.

Read more...

Economics of Happiness Conference: One Week Until Early Bird Registration Ends

Let the countdown begin! Don’t miss the Arthur Morgan Institute for Community Solutions’ annual conference, The Economics of Happiness, on Friday, October 20, and Saturday, October 21, 2017, at Antioch University Midwest, in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Early Bird registration ($200 for Community Solutions members, $250 for non-members) ends on October 6, one week from today! Tickets are also available for individual sessions and keynote talks.  

This year’s conference offers a host of opportunities to redefine what is possible and explore the creation of vibrant local economies that focus on meeting real human needs through our ties to community and nature. It will feature internationally recognized speakers, including Charles Eisenstein, Helena Norberg-Hodge, Michael Shuman, and Anthony Flaccavento, with presentations and workshops on a range of topics :

●        Globalization v. localization

●        Mutual aid networks and cooperatives

●        Revitalizing rural communities

●        Creating self reliant communities

●        Building local food systems

●        Local and social impact investing, community banking, and local currencies

●        Screening and discussion of the film trailer for Jim Merkel’s film Saving Walden’s World

●        Tours of Agraria, Community Solutions’ recently purchased 128-acre farm, which is being developed as a center for research and education on regenerative agriculture

●        Pre and post conference workshops on tree identification and a tree survey of Agraria; installing mini-split heat pumps; and slow money and land conservation

Please join us for this insightful, inspirational and transformational gathering! For more information and to register, click here

A More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible: A Book Review

Written by Community Solutions fellow Carolyn Baker

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For nearly a year before the publication of my book Collapsing Consciously: Transformative Truths For Turbulent Times, I was aware that it was going to be part of Andrew Harvey’s Sacred Activism Series to be published by North Atlantic Books. I was also aware that Charles Eisenstein’s book The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible would be included in the series, being published at approximately the same time as my book.  As a colleague and friend of Andrew Harvey, I was more than excited about the series, having followed his passion for the concept of Sacred Activism since the publication of his first book addressing the topic in 2009.

For decades I had realized the necessity of integrating activism and the sacred, but no one had yet articulated the deeper meaning of both concepts or demonstrated why one cannot flourish without the other. As a huge fan of Eisenstein’s work and Andrew’s mission, I was thrilled to be included in the book series, and the burgeoning of that enthusiasm compels me these many months after publication to review The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible. And at the same time, I must note a few discrepancies in my perspective as I journey alongside Charles and his phenomenal body of work with which I deeply resonate.

Not only do I resonate with Charles’s frame of reference, but like him, I have frequently been accused of being naïve and idealistic. Some responses to A More Beautiful World have reverberated with this indictment which is likely to be leveled at any body of writing that invites us to “feel good.” After all, the title is charged with three volatile words: Beautiful, hearts, possible. These are likely to draw cynical critiques like a magnet draws iron filings. However, I personally do not believe that feel-good writing is entirely suspect—as long as the author is capable of taking a cold, hard look at the inescapable realities of our predicament, and of course, from my perspective, Charles is adept in doing just that. Moreover, he repeatedly empathizes with how challenged both we and he are in embracing a new paradigm as a result of the old story embedded in our psyches, products that we are of industrial civilization. As I read his incisive commentary on our predicament, naïve is not a word that leaps to mind, yet all of us, including myself, navigate a dying planet with myriad blind spots only because we are fallible humans.

Hospitality toward divergent opinions is a skill that must be cultivated in a binary culture that insists on “this” or “that,” “right” or “wrong” as a result of the legacy of Cartesian dualism. Perhaps the most onerous challenge for any of us is consciously forging a perspective sufficiently humble so that we can utter what in this culture are possibly the most difficult words: “I don’t know with certainty, and I could be wrong.”

I note this because A More Beautiful World posits in a number of places that if we can’t imagine a more beautiful world, it is due to our wounding. On the one hand, this may be valid, yet conversely, the plethora of research that is now coming to the fore on mass extinction and catastrophic climate change reinforces the possibility that in addition to our wounding, we may be reaping the terminal consequences of having created the ugliest of worlds which will result in the extermination of most of life on earth. Certainly, our wounding as inhabitants of industrial civilization has created human beings that have a great deal of difficulty imagining a more beautiful world and many of whom hold all things visionary with contempt. This is the reality of our inner world, but the external one we have participated in shaping may imminently silence forever our banter about “wounding.” I do not say this lightly, but rather as a student of the wonder and wounding of the human psyche for my entire adult life. We stand on exceedingly precarious ground, I believe, when we essentially declare that if others resist our perspective, it is due to their wounding.

Correspondingly, A More Beautiful World asserts that we are at a transition between stories. On the one hand, this may be so, yet I must also wonder if we are only at the end of a particular age. The anthropocene in which we may now abide may or may not ultimately include humans. I certainly do not believe that all life on earth will become extinct, but rather that most human life will within the next century. I can only wonder how any surviving humans might respond to the notion of A More Beautiful World That Our Hearts Know Is Possible. Will the horror they have endured make them terminally cynical, or will they long for and imagine a new story?

Eisenstein writes: “Many speak of ‘hospicing a dying civilization.’ This book argues that their despair arises from the same source as the crises themselves, and that as we transition to a new Story of the World, things become possible that had seemed miraculous before.” (257) Again, we are told that this kind of perception results from our wounding. But more debatable is the implication that despair serves no useful purpose when in fact, one could argue that despair serves us exquisitely in a number of ways. I have never met anyone who is awake to the collapse of industrial civilization and the collapse of ecosystems who has not experienced some form of despair over long or short periods of time. Despair is often a lightning rod that quickly transports us out of the old and into the new. Moreover, despair is an antidote to hubris and the illusion that business as usual can continue. Thoroughly metabolizing the trite statement “You can’t have infinite growth on a finite planet without consequences” is an utterance filled with despair—and yet, it is inexorably true, and the level of despair it evokes is a necessary midwife of our awakened rebirthing.

It appears that Charles is polarizing an attitude of emotionally and spiritually admitting oneself to hospice willingly, with creating a more beautiful world that our hearts know is possible. On the one hand, these perspectives may be inimical, but on yet another level, they are absolutely congruous. I can do everything in my power to create a more beautiful world even as I accept that I am probably in the process of exiting this planet. In fact, that may be the supreme purpose of adopting a hospice perspective. In summary, despair may lead to acceptance of the full extent of our predicament which may inspire us to become radically compassionate, creative, connected Interbeings. Those indeed are the ingredients necessary for creating a more beautiful world.

In order for this to happen, we must, as Charles asserts, “get to the bottom of the ecological crisis” which catapults us to the fundamental issues of our existence.

“And what, exactly, is at the bottom?” he asks….“At the bottom of our civilization lies a story, a mythology…a matrix of narratives, agreements, and symbolic systems that comprises the answers our culture offers to life’s most basic questions:

  • Who am I?
  • Who do things happen?
  • What is the purpose of life?
  • What is human nature?
  • What is sacred?
  • Who are we as a people?
  • Where did we come from and where are we going?” (4)

From my perspective, whether we are in hospice or merely transitioning to a new story or both, these questions constitute our overarching assignment in the time we have left, and they form the crux of my work in the wake of our predicament. The pivotal task, I believe is an invitation offered on Page 66: “Imagine yourself on your deathbed, looking back on your life. What moments seem the most precious? What choices will you be the most grateful for?” This is hard-core hospice work.

Throughout the book we are asked to consider, as we are in all of Eisenstein’s work, that we are not separate from the natural world, not separate from each other, not separate from other species, not separate from anything or anyone in the universe, but rather that we are part of “Interbeing,” to which he devotes an entire chapter. He specifically names the characteristics of Interbeing in this chapter and summarizes the fundamental precept which is: “…that we are inseparable from the universe, and our being partakes in the being of everyone and everything else. Why should we believe this? Let’s start with the obvious: This Interbeing is something we can feel. Why does it hurt when we hear of another person coming to harm? Why, when we read of mass die-offs of the coral reefs and see their bleached skeletons, do we feel like we’ve sustained a blow?…The reason it hurts is it is literally happening to ourselves.” (16-17)

As with the bullet points enumerating what is at the bottom of the ecological crisis, Charles continues to illumine the spiritual nature of our predicament:

Cut off from nature, cut off from community, financially insecure, alienated from our own bodies, immersed in scarcity, trapped in a tiny, separate self that hungers constantly for its lost beingness, we can do no other than perpetuate the behavior and systems that cause climate change. Our response to the problem must touch on this fundamental level that we might call spirituality. (46-47)

Thus, according to Charles, the primary technology of Interbeing, in my opinion whether in hospice or elsewhere, is service—service to something greater than oneself.

This is what we must emulate if we are to cocreate the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible. It is also a way to transcend the separate self, since to bow into service is to merge with something greater, something whose power to precipitate change extends beyond our understanding of causality. (218)

In addition to metabolizing Interbeing and expressing it through service, we are also invited to pay very close attention to what hurts us. In other words, to work consciously with the emotions—a cornerstone of my work for several decades. At the beginning of a chapter entitled “Attention,” we find a quote by Dan Emmons: “What most needs attention is the part of us that we seek to avoid feeling. When we have tended to that, we are changed, and the world changes with us.”

We cannot pretend to prepare for societal and ecological collapse while ignoring the emotions that surface as we do so. In fact, according to Eisenstein:

Just as attention, by itself, has a power to heal beyond any remedial action one might take, so also does telling the truth about what is happening on Earth have a power to alter the course of events. Again, it is not that no action will result. It is that when we digest the information, who we are changes, and therefore what we do. (150)

As I have argued throughout the course of my work regarding the need for joy, pleasure, creativity, humor, and the celebration of beauty, Charles describes the more beautiful world his heart knows is possible which is a far cry from the permissible forms of “happiness” this culture offers by way of consuming, escaping, and mindlessly ignoring the death of our planet.

The more beautiful world my heart knows is possible is a world with a lot more pleasure: a lot more touch, a lot more lovemaking, a lot more hugging, a lot more deep gazing into each other’s eyes, a lot more fresh-ground tortillas and just-harvested tomatoes still warm from the sun, a lot more singing, a lot more dancing, a lot more timelessness, a lot more beauty in the built environment, a lot more pristine views, a lot more water fresh from the spring. (154)

As you read this, pay attention to what you feel in your body. Nice, right? And so it is and should be. Personally, I love it, and at every point on this journey of collapse, transition, Great Turning, or hospice living—whatever we may prefer to name it, I discover the urgency of holding in my heart and my body two things that feel at times almost impossible to contain there, namely the more beautiful world my heart knows is possible and a planet that is barely on life-support.

Nowhere in the book does Eisenstein mention the human shadow—a part of us that is unconscious and the opposite of all that we claim to value as decent, compassionate, caring, and just. He argues consistently for the inherent goodness of humans and vigorously against anything resembling inherent evil. For me, this is a precarious position which underestimates the complexity of the human psyche and sets the stage for enormous sabotage of a more beautiful world. Perhaps Charles would argue that my insistence on including the shadow in any vision of what is possible is a result of my own wounding. And so it may be, but in fact, Carl Jung declared that 80% of the shadow is pure gold. That is to say that if one is willing to own it and work consciously with it, the shadow has the power to transform as well as destroy because the shadow is a strategic energetic apparatus in the human psyche which has the capacity to both destroy and sustain as the poet Czeslaw Milosz asserted: “What has no shadow has no strength to live.”

Declaring that humans are inherently good or inherently evil confines us to an untenable polarity—a polarity mirrored on the one hand by purveyors of New Age thinking and a “Bright-Sided” world as Barbara Ehrenreich names it, or on the other hand, the world of fundamentalist Christianity marinated in “original sin.” As with most polarities, wholeheartedly embracing either side is astonishingly effortless. No tension, no conflict, no problem. But what remains is yet another binary story. Much more agonizingly difficult is holding the maddening tension of the opposites: the possibility of realizing a more beautiful world that our hearts know is possible alongside the possibility that we are inhabiting the last hours of life on Earth. No one I know is able to hold that tension consistently without alternating from one side to the other. We incessantly waver: The optimist succumbs to the doldrums while the pessimist insists that despair and cynicism have eliminated from them any vision of possibility. Ah yes, but they are still breathing air, and as long as they do so, somevision lives in the psyche and body.

The complexity of the human psyche must be honored, and the shadow must be made conscious. I believe this is an essential part of the change that Charles asserts must happen when he states that “something has to happen in us in order to initiate us into our full power as changemakers.” In other words, changemakers can’t make radical and lasting change unless they are changed themselves, and for me, this involves tending the shadow.

Perhaps you are asking how I could defend Eisenstein’s vision of a more beautiful world when I invite humans to embrace a hospice perspective. Isn’t such a vision a waste of time and energy for beings on the brink of extinction? In fact, I would argue that it is precisely because our condition is terminal that we must imagine a more beautiful world that our hearts know is possible. We take this vision with us into hospice, not because there is any guarantee or even possibility that it will come to fruition, but we embrace it because it will instruct and fortify us as we navigate our demise. On the one hand, we do everything humanly possible to manifest the vision, acting as if we have all the time in the world, and on the other hand, we savor every new day as sacred because it may be our very last. The vision, you see, is for the world, yes, but it is also for each of us. It may be an integral aspect of the dying process, and one must ask oneself: How do I want to die? What image(s) do I wish to hold in consciousness as I breathe my last breath?

A More Beautiful World That Our Hearts Know Is Possible offers the most urgent question we must ask in this moment—whether it is a hospice moment or a visionary moment. That question is: Who am I? When we deeply, heartfully, mindfully devote our lives to answering that question, it will be easier to hold both hospice and heaven in the same body. In fact, it will be impossible not to.

What's Different About the New Economy?

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While there is no one definition for the “new economy”, most folks working in this field would probably agree on a few basic elements that distinguish this economic approach from the current dominant economic model.  I’ve attempted to summarize those below.

Six Elements of Emerging New Economies, Contrasted with the Dominant Economy

1) New economies are more just, work better for people.

The dominant economy has used tax, trade and patent policy to greatly favor huge corporations and the very wealthy over small businesses and working people, leading to extreme levels of wealth concentration at the top alongside stagnant wages for working and middle class people, and growing poverty.  The very wealthy pay lower taxes on much of their income than do teachers and truck drivers; giant corporations pay an effective tax rate that is 6 – 8% less than what small businesses pay.  Trade policy grants corporations the right to sue nations, states and communities over health and environmental protections. You can’t make this stuff up.

In the new economy, small businesses and family farms create more jobs per dollar of sales; by purchasing from other local businesses, they create ‘economic multipliers’ that add much more value to the local economy than do chains and big boxes.  New corporate forms, such as the Benefit Corporation, which commits a business to positive social and environmental outcomes as well as financial profit, are also emerging in the new economy, with over 1000 nationwide.  Some localities have begun to use Community Benefit Agreements to hold big corporations legally accountable for the promises they make.  These and many other creative measures ensure that economies work for people, not the other way around.

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Project Seeks to Put End to "Food Desert"

Economics of Happiness Conference speaker Lela Klein was interviewed in last Sunday's Dayton Daily News...

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Q: What is the Gem City Market project all about?

Klein: The Gem City Market will be a vibrant worker- and community-owned full-service grocery store on lower Salem Avenue, just across the river from downtown Dayton. The incubation of the market has been a community-driven effort aimed at addressing the needs of Daytonians who live in what the United States Department of Agriculture considers a food desert. The Market will be a vital community asset that provides much-needed access healthy and fresh food. It will also include on-site health and nutrition classes and programming to encourage healthy choices and teach cooking techniques.

Q: What is GDUCI?

Klein: The Greater Dayton Union Co-op Initiative is a non-profit organization committed to incubating worker owned businesses that bring good jobs to Dayton. GDUCI incubates worker-owned startups, and provides technical support to existing businesses converting into cooperatives. GDUCI builds financing and management models and business plans to launch cooperatives with the highest chance of success, and we build ownership culture within our co-ops through training and leadership development.

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Screening: Economics of Happiness, We the People 2.0

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Community Solutions is co-organizing our fall conference, The Economics of Happiness, with Local Futures and Helena-Norberg Hodge. In anticipation of this exciting gathering of international, national, and local people experienced at creating regenerative and resilient local economies, the Little Art Theatre in Yellow Springs will be showing two documentaries on Monday, October 2, starting at 7 pm—The Economics of Happiness, from Local Futures, and We the People 2.0 about creating community rights. Both Helena Norberg-Hodge, from Local Futures, and Tish O’Dell, from CELDF (the subject of We the People 2.0) will hold workshops and discussions during the conference.

The Economics of Happiness:

An award-winning documentary film, The Economics of Happiness, which spells out the social, spiritual, and ecological costs of today’s global economy.  Importantly, the film also highlights the many benefits of a shift towards the local and showcases some of the steps people are already taking worldwide.

We the People 2.0:

We the People is a visual essay about the loss of democracy in the United States.  The film utilizes both original footage as well as found footage to describe a profound change in thinking at the grassroots level. The story unfolds through the eyes of rural people who have faced decades of toxic dumping, drilling and mining in their communities.  We learn with them that the reason why, in spite of all their efforts, they “get what they don’t want, again and again,” is because they are, by law, truly powerless in spite of propaganda that says they live in the “best democracy in the world.”   These people come to understand that the reason they can’t stop the destruction is that the US has become an oligarchy, run by the corporate few who ignore the rights and will of the people.  These people are frontally challenging our corporate state; thereby saving nature and themselves. Thomas Linzey, a nonprofit attorney’s inspiring words shows how, we, the people, can turn this around and lay claim to our democracy. This movement is building as you read this, not just in this country but around the world; our film shows how and where it all began.

Click here to register for the Economics of Happiness Conference!

Globalization's Blowback

Originally posted on localfutures.org, co-sponsor of our upcoming Economics of Happiness Conference

Written by Alex Jensen

A recent study of air pollution in the western United States made a startling finding: despite a 50 percent drop over the past 25 years in US emissions of smog-producing chemicals like nitrogen oxides (NOx), smog actually increased during that period in the rural US West – even in such ‘pristine’ environments as Yellowstone National Park. Most of this increase was traced to “the influx of pollution from Asian countries, including China, North and South Korea, Japan, India, and other South Asian countries.”[1] That’s because over the same period that NOx emissions declined in the US, they tripled in Asia as a whole.[2] In media reports of the study, China and India are described as the “worst offenders” of this fugitive “Asian pollution”.[3]

Left only with these findings, a reasonable conclusion would be that the US has become more environmentally enlightened in recent decades, while Asia – particularly ‘developing’ Asia – is a veritable eco-reprobate, sacrificing not only its own but global airsheds to choking pollution. The new, anti-environmental EPA director, Scott Pruitt, recently expressed this view in explaining why the US should exit the Paris Climate Accord: “[China and India] are polluting far more than we are.”[4]

What’s missing?

A similar study of global air pollution drift in 2014, focusing on China and the US, made comparable findings, but included an important factor missing from the more recent study: production for export. Among other things, the scholars of the older study asked how much of the Chinese air pollution drifting to the Western US was occasioned specifically in the production of exports for world markets (including the top destination for Chinese manufactures, the US.)

The answer? In 2006, up to 24% of sulfate concentrations over the western United States were generated in the Chinese production of goods for export to the US.[5] Applying these findings to the more recent study, it’s likely that a significant percentage of the Asian nitrogen oxides now choking the US West were also emitted in the production of goods destined for the US.

Read more...

Hate to Love, and a few updates

Charles Eisenstein has been keeping in touch ahead of his coming speaking engagements, including our Economics of Happiness Conference! Here is an email he sent out to friends with some updates:

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"Hey everyone,

I want to tell you about a conversation I recorded with Joanna Harcourt-Smith for my podcast. You may have already heard it since we put it up a week ago. She has an incredible life story that has brought her deep wisdom through great pain. She is one of the most joyful people I know.  

Aside from that, my energy has been absorbed in the final push to finish the first draft of my book before I head off to Orcas Island in a few days to speak at the Imagine Festival. (Consider coming if you live in the Pacific Northwest. It's a small festival with a wonderful loving vibe.)

I wish I could tell you the title of the book, but it keeps changing. When people ask what it is about, I hesitate to tell them "climate change" even though that is the central topic, because then people think they know what it will say. But it is totally off the spectrum. Here is a tiny excerpt:

"What you will see as I deconstruct the conventional spectrum of opinion on climate change is that the dynamics of the debate obscure something more important than which side is right. As with many polarizing issues, it is the hidden assumptions, shared by both sides and questioned by neither, that are most significant and most potent in taking us into new territory."

I suspect that it will be disturbing or possibly infuriating to people on the conventional spectrum, whether they are skeptics, mainstream climate activists, or catastrophists (is that even a word?) Also it is a step back into engaging more in current issues and policies, as in Sacred Economics, whereas The More Beautiful World our Hearts Know is Possible was more personal, psychological, or spiritual. So I feel a little apologetic toward those who found such nourishment in the latter book and want more. Still, the new book has some of that too. As you know, the personal and the political, the social and the ecological, the spiritual and the material are inseparable.

Several months of editing and rewriting remain, and then it goes through the publishing pipeline. If all goes smoothly it will come out next May. Thanks to everyone who has supported me on Patreon and through other gifts to write this book -- nearly two years now. I'm really looking forward to finishing it so I can reengage with other issues. Lord knows there is a lot to engage with these days! That statement above regarding polarizing issues applies to most political questions, and I'm going to invoke it quite often in coming years."

--- Charles

If you want to read more from Charles, start at his website: charleseisenstein.net

In media res: Houston, Harvey and the catastrophe of climate change

Originally posted on resourceinsights.blogspot.com

Written by Community Solutions fellow Kurt Cobb

In media res" is Latin for "in the middle of things." Frequently, it refers to the literary device of plunging readers into some central action of a story (often an epic) and then filling in the details and background later.

The residents of Houston must have felt that they were plunged into the middle of some epic story as Hurricane Harvey dumped up to 50 inches of rain on them and flooded much of the city. Early estimates suggest that this hurricane could end up being the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history.

Hurricane Harvey is almost certainly an epic story unfolding before our eyes. That means the significance of events and outcomes surrounding the hurricane will only be filled in later--creating analysis, folklore and perhaps even a cultural output on par with that which followed Hurricane Katrina (think: the television series "Tremé").

There will be stories about the failure or success of the emergency response effort. There will be denunciations of those officials who recommended staying put and recriminations of those doing the denouncing. There will be riveting accounts of suffering and also of heroic rescues and exceptional kindness. And, there will be stories of lawlessness and cruelty.

Harvey will almost certainly be styled as a tragedy. The storm is undoubtedly a colossal misfortune, and we should have compassion for those affected. But from a literary standpoint, it is not a tragedy at all. A genuine tragedy requires that the main players be unaware of how their own flawed character is leading them to self-destruction. A genuine tragedy depicts an ineluctable course of events. Nothing and no one could have prevented them. Greek tragedians relied on Ananke, the goddess of fate, to drive the action of their plays.

But humans do know that their actions are leading to climate change--which many climate scientists foretold would result in increasingly destructive storms. Denial of such a link is not the same as ignorance. Denial means the message has been received and recorded, just not accepted.

It is, of course, an irony that the city most associated with the oil and natural gas industry should be struck so fiercely by a climate-change enhanced hurricane. But this should NOT be read as some kind of divine retribution either in the literary or the religious sense. The discovery and use of fossil fuels has long been hailed as the basis for modern prosperity and advances in human well-being the world over. Those involved in such discoveries and the refining and distribution of the output have until relatively recently often been cast as heroes in history, in literature and in film.

More energy--to those who have access to its benefits--has meant longer, healthier lives and rapid development of wondrous technologies which rely on abundant energy supplies for their deployment and operation. The modern technical civilization in which we live relies on continuous high-grade energy inputs in order to function. Without those inputs our society would quickly collapse. If we rail against those who have extracted and refined those fuels for us, we are only railing against ourselves for using them. (On the other hand, if we rail against those who have systematically lied about the climate effects of burning fossil fuels to the public and policymakers, that is another matter.)

It is true that the ravages of climate change have to date fallen disproportionately on those least responsible and least capable of protecting themselves such as island nations now being inundated by rising sea levels and the poor in drought-stricken areas of the world. What Hurricane Harvey is showing us is that climate change will spare no one.

The sadness and destruction inflicted on residents of the Gulf Coast will flicker on television and computer screens for weeks to come. Their misfortune is truly our misfortune--even if we are only capable of feeling it in the price and availability of gasoline.

But we should not mistake misfortune for tragedy--which many of our leaders will almost surely want us to do. They will want to paint Hurricane Harvey as a tragedy. They will use that word again and again, wittingly or unwittingly making Harvey out to be an unforeseen and unforeseeable event for which we humans have no culpability (or at most only a little and therefore hardly worth mentioning).

That takes them and us off the hook for neglecting the causes behind the great misfortune which this storm has become. And, it would encourage us and them to do little to try to mitigate future misfortunes as the catastrophe of climate change descends upon us.

Community Solutions buys half of Arnovitz farm

By Audrey Hackett

Agriculture and conservation were the winners at the auction of the 267-acre Arnovitz farm Thursday night, following weeks of speculation about the potential for development along the western edge of Yellow Springs. All nine parcels were sold, to a total of seven buyers, for a combined amount of over $1.6 million.

Nearly half the auctioned land went to Community Solutions. The local nonprofit purchased two of the nine parcels, Tracts 6 and 8, totaling about 128 acres, for $655,000.

“It feels miraculous,” Executive Director Susan Jennings said minutes after auctioneer Ron Denney banged his gavel and brought the auction to a close.

Community Solutions plans to establish a center for regenerative farming on the property, as well as put about 80 acres into conservation in collaboration with Tecumseh Land Trust and other groups, according to Jennings earlier this week. At the auction, Jennings said the nonprofit also hopes to relocate its offices to the existing home on Tract 6.

The single largest auctioned parcel, 124-acre Tract 8, is a conservation priority for Tecumseh Land Trust, or TLT, and the Village of Yellow Springs. The land contains two tributaries of Jacoby Creek, plus woodlands around the creek, and is part of the long-envisioned Jacoby greenbelt. Village Council voted unanimously on March 6 to commit up to $200,000 in Village greenspace funds toward the purchase of a conservation easement, clarifying with a second unanimous vote this past Monday its intent to focus those funds specifically on the creek’s preservation. Jennings said earlier this week that Community Solutions shares TLT and the Village’s commitment to protecting the creek.

The next largest parcel, 84-acre Tract 9, was purchased by Miami Township resident Julie Jones for $400,000. Jones declined to comment on Thursday about her plans for the land, which is currently being farmed.

The Village is in discussions with both Community Solutions and Jones regarding establishing a conservation easement on each property, according to Village Manager Patti Bates at the auction. “If their values match with village values, we’ll go from there,” she said.

Krista Magaw, executive director of TLT, said she believed Tracts 8 and 9, together representing over three-quarters of the auctioned land, would continue to be farmed.

Springfield attorney Greg Lind purchased Tracts 1 and 2, totaling about 26 acres, for $216,000 with conservation in mind. Lind said Thursday that he is working with TLT to conserve 23 of the acres, including protecting wetlands on the property. The remaining three acres will be a homesite, he said.

And local contractor Jimmy Kingsolver purchased 13-acre Tract 3 for $142,000. He currently lives in a home on the property and intends to continue living there, he said Thursday. Kingsolver bid repeatedly on a combination of three properties throughout the evening, winning just the one.

The auction at the Hilton Garden Inn in Beavercreek drew lively interest, with more than 80 people attending, including around 20 residents of Yellow Springs. Forty-nine attendees registered as bidders.

Bidding over the two-and-a-half-hour auction was initially brisk, then slowed down to a contest between a handful of bidders. Particularly hard-fought was Tract 6, which changed hands between Community Solutions and Kingsolver around a dozen times before the local nonprofit made the winning bid.

TLT’s Magaw said she was pleased with outcome. “I’m happy. We had a good mix of bidders,” she said. And she expressed confidence that TLT would be able to purchase easements on “most or all” of the parcels before the closing date of Friday, April 28.

“There’s still work to be done,” she said.

Soil Health Profile

Originally posted on USDA website

Written by conference speaker David Brandt

Ohio soil health pioneer forges new frontier in farming

While David and Kendra Brandt like what they see from the soil health system they’re using on their central Ohio farm, everything they do still has to pass muster through the combine’s yield monitor.

They’ve used no-till on their corn, wheat, and soybean operation since 1971, but when David saw a drop in corn yields in 1978, he added hairy vetch and winter peas to the system to get more nitrogen.

“We were using commercial nitrogen then, and I wasn’t really thinking about the health of the soil,” Brandt says. “We saw some improvement in water infiltration at the time, but we didn’t reduce nitrogen inputs until we learned our soils were changing and we didn’t really need it,” he says.

Reducing Crop Inputs

“Cutting back on commercial inputs has been a tough one for me, because we’ve always been taught we need so many pounds of nitrogen, phosphorus and potash to grow a decent corn crop,” Brandt says. “We’re learning now with cover crops that we don’t need to buy those additional nutrients because we can bring them up from deeper in the soil. They just weren’t available to the crop before.”

“In fact, we’ve learned in the last two years that we can go to using almost no purchased commercial fertilizer or herbicide and still produce a great crop of corn and beans.”

“Our nitrogen use in fields without cover crops is 170 pounds an acre. Where we have cover crops and longtime no-till, we’re down to about 20 pounds an acre. That’s more than $100 an acre per year nitrogen savings, and we’re not sacrificing any yield.”

The nitrogen comes from cover plants like hairy vetch, Austrian winter peas, cow peas, and sun hemp. They pick out nitrogen from the atmosphere and translocate it into nodules on the roots, Brandt says.

“Some of those nodules will be as big as your thumb. Soil bacteria break them down, and the nitrogen is released slowly in an organic form that the corn plants can use,” he says.

Every cover crop grown on the farm has at least two species. Brandt is moving toward multiple species in the blend, because some—like hairy vetch, late-planted winter peas, cereal rye, barley and wheat––will stay green and keep growing through the winter.

“If we can keep something green in the ground with multiple species, we can build soil faster. So we like multiple blends better than two species,” he says.

“It will take 6-7 years to change or improve a soil with just no-till, but that time can be shortened to 4-5 years or as few as three years if you also use the right blend of cover crops.”

Covers bring up nutrients

Brandt is trying 8- and even 14-way blends of covers. “I’d like to learn more about which covers can bring up trace elements,” Brandt says. “We’ve seen buckwheat bring up phosphorus and zinc, for instance, and sunflowers bring zinc up too.”

Yet, he won’t put in a cover if it won’t pay for itself. “You shouldn’t spend any more for seed on a cover crop than what you can gain in reduced fertilizer costs or increased yields. That’s always been our philosophy,” he says.

Generally for Brandt, cover crops cost from $20 an acre to $35 an acre.

Suppressing pests naturally

The soil health payoff can come in other reduced inputs, too. “We’ve had less weed and pest pressure as we’ve gone along. We see more host insects that will prey on the insects we don’t like to see in the fields,” Brandt says. “We’ve found radishes give off a sulfur smell, for instance, that fumigates the soil and reduces cyst nematodes and slugs in the soil. We’re proud to say we’ve quit using insecticides on the farm.”

Their cover crops suppress winter annuals and broadleaf weeds, and Brandt has cut herbicide use in half.

“We have less sudden death syndrome and less white mold in our beans and less northern corn leaf blight in our corn, too,” he says.

More Microbes a Key

Brandt says he didn’t realize microbes were so important to farming a few years ago. “But I’ve read about how vital they are, and now I see as they increase, we see more good things happening in our soil—more nutrients being released, more water infiltrating into the soil. The more microbial activity we have, the better off we are,” he says.

“I’m really intrigued with the amount of water infiltration we’re seeing with our cover crops. As we go to cover crops with deeper roots, and bigger root masses, we’re seeing rainfall dissipate through the soil better. We don’t have water pockets in our tight clay soils any more.”

Cover crops also moderate soil temperatures. “On hot summer days, with air temperatures over a hundred degrees, our neighbors had soil temperatures of 118 degrees and ours was 86 degrees. Our corn really looked great at those times,” Brandt says.

Sharing the knowledge

Brandt has had to learn about soil health by trial and error on his farm. But he wants others to have an easier road. “I’m trying to pass on what we’ve learned here. I don’t want everyone to reinvent the wheel. I want people to see our failures and our successes,” he says.

“So many farmers have learned to sit on the tractor seat and let an agronomist make their decisions. I like to have farmers come and feel the soil here, dig in it, smell it, and see for themselves how healthy soil should look and feel. That’s when they get excited.”

That includes his banker. “It was hard to get him to understand what we are doing here until we got him out here. Now the quality of our soils and our reduced inputs show up on our balance sheets,” Brandt adds.

“And our landlords are tickled. We can show them how we’ve added organic matter to their soils and made their land more productive, and at the same time kept increasing their crop yields.” 

In Memory of William Beale

Our friend, mentor, and benefactor William Beale died on Sunday, July 24th, 2016.  It was a great privilege to know William, and to be uplifted by his passionate commitment,  his indefatigable creativity, and his intelligent humor. William was the first recipient of the Arthur Morgan Award, and a frequent contributor to our website under the name wimbi. You can read his last blog post, Poppy’s Dream, as well as other posts including, Fracked to Death, The (Bigger) Garden of EdenWE GOT PLENTY OF NOTHIN', ROI: Love of Money, The Future Speaks, Plenty of Oil, So What's the Story Here?, and Wimbi's Wedges. William Beale also appeared in videos for the Community Solutions Climate Solutions Video channel, speaking about electric cars and his work.   We’ll be including a tribute to William in our October conference, and would be glad to share our members’ memories with his family. 

ATHENS - William Taylor Beale, 88, died peacefully at home Sunday 24 July 2016 attended by his immediate surviving family – wife Carol and children Faith, Dan and John – and loving friends.  A lifelong inventor and philosophizer, it was William’s driving ambition to leave the world a better place on the basis of sound engineering and innovative thought.  Although he claimed never to have achieved the full extent of his intentions, his inventions were essential components of products on Earth and in Space, his company and its spinouts employed hundreds, and his philanthropic funding enabled local, regional and global extension and continuation of his visions.

Born to Katherine and David Beale on 17 April 1928 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the third of five siblings and the eldest of the three brothers. Self-described as a youth who was a “loner, a dreamer, and an inventor of unusually warlike things,” William segued from homemade artisan-well-diving equipment and road-asphalt bombs to early employment as a Naval radar technician during the final year of World War II.  He discovered in this engagement “the bloody waste of war games,” an assessment that carried through his educational career.  After achieving an MS from Caltech, including engaging in the study of intercontinental ballistic missiles, he “resolved, deep in his muddled soul, never to use this knowledge for its original intended purpose.”  He adhered absolutely to these principles, including strong activism and support of disengagement in military conflict during the Vietnam War; and later in rejection of a potential weapons development contract that would have succored his struggling small business, but ran against his deepest convictions regarding the essential role of rational and peaceful engagement between nations.

While achieving his second MS from MIT in Boston in 1958, William met and married Harvard graduate Carol Brand Beale, with whom he moved to Athens, Ohio in 1961 as a faculty member in Ohio University’s engineering department.  With family support, the couple purchased an old farmhouse on 300 acres of rolling, rural Appalachian woodland.  William aided Carol’s tireless maintenance and development of gardens and multiple livestock while himself maintaining the underlying technology, including the well and roof-water systems, the many generations of VW bugs, rabbits and buses, the 200-year-old barn and other outbuildings, and continually remodeling and improving the 100-year-old farmhouse.  The couple dedicated themselves to a carbon-free existence, and for the final decade of his life William continued to maintain and improve their woodstove-fired, hot-water-circulation system as well as their all-solar electrical system (which powered, in addition to the homestead, their proudly-so-labeled ‘Runs on the Sun’ electric Leaf vehicle).

William was an early member and literal builder of Athens Unitarian Fellowship, which for decades served, and continues to serve, as a welcoming location for lectures, plays, thoughts, and communal sharing by generations of families like his own.  

William’s 1964 invention of the free-piston Stirling engine was the impetus for founding Sunpower, Inc., a company dedicated to the before-its-time principle that engineering innovation in renewable-energy-derived power is a world-saving opportunity.  In perennial search of financial support for Sunpower’s rich intellectual property and multiple technical innovations, William traveled frequently to Europe, Asia and the Indian subcontinent, gaining and incorporating lessons- learned from international experts and experience.  In his Athens home office, Sunpower attracted global expertise to a strong young technical team and expanded its influence, over three and a half decades of continuing R&D, into cooling and cryocooling as well as continued engine development, prior to the family’s sale of the business in 2012.  

The business exit enabled William’s distribution of philanthropic dollars to local groups engaged in carbon footprint reduction business and research and outreach; to regional non-profits dedicated to community development and environmental conservation; and to multiple individual technology start-ups.

William always delighted in the education and encouragement of the next generation.  He included among his many mentorships a Saturday Science Seminar for local youth, several of whom went on to join the current generation of young technology startup entrepreneurs.  Many of William’s mentees cite his marked influence on their own sense of innate curiosity about the mathematical, physical and mechanical principles at work in the world around them.  Many also remember William’s perennial ‘kid test:’ the Prisoner’s Dilemma, in which participants are given the opportunity to collaborate and ensure continued success for all, or to compete and destroy one another.  William’s instructional game was, for many mentees and young relatives, a formative moment in their own perception of the role of cooperation and conflict resolution as favored tools in a fraught social fabric.  

William’s ‘Fables for our Time,’ published in local newspapers and online with Community Solutions of Yellow Springs, Ohio, perennially reinforced his messages that straightforward engineering and high-minded conservation are the basic underlying principles of a visionary life well-led.  William was a voracious reader and participant in vigorous ongoing conversations with friends, family, associates and passersby on these and related topics.  His favorite publication, re-read during his last days, was E.O. Wilson’s “Half Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life,” a book incorporating many of William’s most passionate beliefs about the duties incumbent upon humans, as the greatest Earthly change factor, to preserve and protect the globe under their dominion. His most recent essays are accessible at http://www.visioningthefuture.org.

William is survived by his wife and three children and their spouses and partners, six grandchildren, two siblings Inez Harrell and David Beale and a broad local, regional and global network of family, friends and followers.  A public memorial service will be hosted by the Athens Friends Meeting in September. Contributions in William’s memory would be welcomed by organizations working on Carbon reduction goals such as Community Solutions of Yellow Springs, Ohio at http://www.communitysolution.org/ ,  Union of Concerned Scientists at www.uscusa.org,  and Rural Action of Athens, Ohio at http://ruralaction.org/ .

GMO Industry: The dumbest guys in the room

Written by Community Solutions fellow Kurt Cobb

Originally posted on resourceinsights.blogspot.com

I am now convinced the GMO industry has managed to hire the worst public relations strategists in human history. By supporting a deeply flawed GMO labeling bill in the U.S. Congress--some would say intentionally deeply flawed--the industry is about to open a Pandora's Box of PR nightmares for years to come.

First, a little background. GMO, of course, means genetically modified organism which more properly refers to genetically engineered crops and animals. GMO industry leader Monsanto and its competitors such as Bayer, Dupont, Dow Chemical and Sygenta have all been fighting a fierce battle in the United States against labeling foodstuffs derived from genetically engineered crops. After defeating statewide labeling referendums in California, Oregon and Washington, they failed to stop the implementation of Vermont's GMO labeling law which went into effect July 1.

In desperation the companies have been trying to get the U.S. Congress to pass a nationwide labeling law--one that is considerably less stringent and also riddled with loopholes--that would pre-empt Vermont's law. Just last week the Senate approved its version of the labeling law. If the House and Senate can work out their differences, we may see such a law signed by President Obama before too long.

The industry's main complaint has been that labeling GMOs would unfairly stigmatize them in the minds of consumers. Some 64 countries already require such labeling. What concerns the industry is that increased consumer awareness could create a movement that would lead to a ban on the cultivation of GMO crops, a ban already implemented by 19 countries in Europe.

Opponents of the GMO labeling law currently moving through the U.S. Congress believe it is so poorly drafted that almost no commonly consumed genetically modified foods will actually be covered. In addition, food derived from newer gene-editing techniques as opposed to transgene processes--the ones that transfer genes from one species to another--may be excluded as well. The fact that agricultural trade groups are praising the labeling bill--after fighting labeling for years--tells you something about how effective they believe the law will be at informing consumers, namely, not very.

The Senate bill allows food manufacturers to use a symbol, a statement or a so-called QR code that shoppers would have to scan using a cellphone to obtain information on genetically engineered ingredients. Small companies could simply list a phone number or website address.

If you were selling GMO-derived foods, which would you use? Probably the options that provide the least information and which make it most difficult for consumers to access that information. This assumes that anything in your product actually turns out to be covered by the law which looks like it will exclude great swaths of foodstuffs containing genetically engineered ingredients.

Given what we know now, the final bill is likely to be vague and riddled with exceptions and confusing directives. The GMO-friendly U.S. Department of Agriculture will then be tasked with writing the actual labeling regulations.

We are thus assured of months and perhaps years of wrangling over the labeling rules, every step of which will be given wide and probably negative coverage by the anti-GMO activist community. The pending federal labeling law is more likely to assist opponents in sowing mistrust of major food companies than alleviate it. When the rules go into effect, if they are every bit as lax as the law seems to promise, the activists will make a sport out of spotting and telling on companies that are cheating or that are cleverly thwarting the purposes of the law.

The anti-GMO groups will likely put out lists of the worst labeling violators and lists of their products containing GMOs. And, of course, there will be lists based on those enigmatic QR codes. Perhaps those codes will become the equivalent of the skull and crossbones feared by one GMO executive.

The whole shopping experience will be treated like an reverse Easter egg hunt. Can you spot the GMO foods? Can you identify the alleged cheaters on the grocery store shelves and punish them by refusing to buy their products?

Perhaps some enterprising activist, one not afraid of incarceration, will surreptitiously slap GMO cheater labels on various products on the store shelves that are not labeled properly. Any subsequent arrest will then lead to more coverage as some in the public cheer the civil disobedience while others simply shrug their shoulders.

Acquiescence to the Vermont law or acceptance of a federal law with Vermont's straightforward labeling rules would have saved the GMO industry from what will almost surely be a years-long PR debacle if the labeling law before Congress passes.

There will doubtless be many more creative ways than I've listed for GMO opponents to tweak the industry and keep the issue of honest labeling alive and before the public. If only the industry had accepted Vermont's labeling law as the de facto standard for the country, the industry would have in one stroke taken the issue away from its opponents!

But the industry's business and public relations strategists are the same ones who made a colossal marketing error--while believing they had achieved a regulatory coup--when they steamrolled the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) into ruling that GMOs are "substantially equivalent" to their non-GMO counterparts and therefore require no testing. The FDA did this despite their own scientists' concerns that these novel life forms might have unanticipated effects on the environment and on humans who consume them. Some of those scientists thought extensive testing similar to what a new drug must go through was advisable to rule out such risks.

The reason this strategy has turned out to be a colossal marketing error is that as the attacks on GMOs have mounted during the intervening couple of decades, the industry finds itself unable to pivot and point to any advantages that GMO foods have for consumers over non-GMO foods. This is because the industry has been saying for more than 20 years that GMOs have no advantages for consumers. After all, GMO foods are said to be "substantially equivalent." That means that the industry cannot give consumers any reasons to prefer GMO foods over their non-GMO counterparts. Any claims of superiority over conventional foods made now will ring hollow and bring down an avalanche of public derision from GMO opponents.

(The industry may cite supposed advantages for farmers and for the environment. But those advantages are sharply and publicly disputed by anti-GMO activists and have nothing to do with taste, nutrition or appearance which are what matters to consumers. While the GMO industry tells us that GMO crops with enhanced nutrition are coming, I can find only one that has been brought to market under a cloud of concerns. So far genetic engineering has focused on creating plants the produce insecticides internally--not a pleasant thought for those eating them--and which are immune to herbicides made by, you guessed it, the companies producing the GMO seeds.)

These same industry strategists have directed a campaign of fear aimed at farmers to prevent supposed intellectual property theft through the use of saved GMO seeds. Even those into whose fields GMO seeds have been swept by wind have been sued. Since farmers growing in areas where other farmers grow genetically engineered crops may be subject to windblown "thefts," they have an incentive to grow GMO crops on their land and pay the royalties to avoid being sued for such "theft." Essentially, it's, "Buy from us or we'll sue you--and we're a lot richer than you are."

Aggressive tactics including smear campaigns have also been used against critics who question the safety and social utility of GMOs and associated farm chemicals. (Click here, here and here.) Mostly, those campaigns have backfired by creating extensive media coverage of the smear campaigns themselves.

These aggressive tactics have made the company most associated with the GMO industry, Monsanto, one of the most hated corporations in America.

All of this would make for an enviable record for anti-GMO activists, and yet it comes from business and public relations strategists in the industry itself. In most industries, a record like this would lead to a rash of sackings.

Instead, the bunglers have managed to bungle into yet another long-term public relations disaster of their own making. They seem not to have learned anything from their repeated failures.

All this should be pleasing to GMO opponents who must be thinking these continuing debacles couldn't be happening to nicer people.

It's Time for a Land Reform Movement: An Interview with Cooperative Property Specialist Cassandra Ferrera

Originally posted on occupy.com

Written by Matt Stanard

(Leading up to the Charting a New Course Conference Community Solutions will be featuring the writing of speakers at the conference.)

Cassandra Ferrera is Chief Community Officer at Green Key Real Estate, a sustainability-oriented real estate company in Northern California’s Bay Area. The company is clearly in the real estate business, selling everything from villas to tracts of land, all pretty attractive. If you just briefly glance at Green Key’s web site and property listings, you might just see the company as another hip and green business enterprise. But if you look more closely, you notice Green Key also helps buyers transition into cooperative and semi-cooperative communities.

As you might surmise from her job title, Ferrera facilitates these transitions. In helping people find cooperative and sustainable housing arrangements through land trusts and other collectives, she leads people away from traditional property-owning capitalism into very different models of living. Ferrera and Green Key help people find homes in ecovillages, properties utilizing permaculture and natural systems, and similar communal arrangements.

In a community land trust, a nonprofit organization owns the land and leases it to home and building owners. The ownership and management model is shaped to constitute common ownership of the land – shared space with both private and community buildings, often utilizing communally-owned vehicles and other shared resources. Members may build their own houses or rent living space. Some may run small businesses in accordance with the rules of the trust, which can be fashioned to limit income inequality. Because the community may limit profitability on home sales and business practices, members’ business or home sale decisions aren't motivated primarily by money.

Why support land trusts, cooperatives and ecovillages? These arrangements can save amazing amounts of money, allowing people to live on far fewer resources at a far less cost than “mainstream” society. Communities can choose to live in conditions of near-absolute ecological sustainability, using the same scaling and organizational efficiency that makes these communities so inexpensive. It is no exaggeration to say that in building and facilitating entry into these communities, Cassandra and others like her are building the model communities of a sustainable and cooperative future. If you’re guessing I had a fascinating conversation with her, you’re correct.

Matt Stannard: Most people think of real estate as something individually owned or owned with family, just very closely knit private ownership. Your work points to something different. Can you talk about that?

Cassandra Ferrara: Real estate has certainly evolved to reflect our societal notions of “private property ownership.” Common practice of real estate and home finance is designed with this cultural assumption deeply embedded in the design of how we transact parcels of the Earth. However, we know that water, air, animals and all of the living world do not obey private property lines. Our parcels of the Earth are connected in an un-divisible whole.

MS: How does your practice in real estate transactions reflect this knowledge?

CF: The kind of real estate we practice acknowledges that there is a fundamental re-establishment of this interconnection of the health of our watersheds, our foodsheds and our human communities. More than ever before, it seems that people are ready to band together to collectively steward the Earth. We have huge indoctrinated systems to hack, heal and transform.

We call it cooperative real estate because it points to the fact that we are cooperating amongst ourselves as humans, and with the non-human world that is the ecosystem that we are embedded in. On a practical level, this means we work a lot with groups of people desiring to live together in a deeply committed relationship to their place. This drive toward collective stewardship is taking many different forms.

MS: What specific regulations and laws, or categories or types of regulation and law, stand in the way of your “perfect world” in terms of sustainable, community ownership?

CF: Unfortunately, sustainability and collective stewardship are not as “legal” as they will eventually be. We are going to need to work on our zoning laws to allow for greater, clustered housing density to provide for affordable, modest homes for people who are committed to living in a more sustainable lifestyle.

MS: If you could change a few laws or regulations, what would they be?

CF: If I could, I would change zoning laws to allow for different development capacities for land that was held in a protected community land trust context. It’s important in rural lands to protect that higher housing density from getting in the hands of subdivision developers. So, maybe new zoning for land held in trust is a good solution.

In certain areas, there are laws about how many non-related people can live together. That seems archaic and just plain weird. So we need to update that to reflect the current complexity that many family systems are evolving into. People need to be able to legally find and live with their found family.

MS: What about financing? What needs to change about money?

CF: On a financial level, we need lending institutions to be willing to work with groups of people sharing “ownership” of un-dividable land. Banks generally can’t wrap their heads around the group “buyer.” And that is growing niche in today’s world.

MS: Any other changes?

CF:Composting toilets. We need to legalize alternative and healthier systems for dealing with human waste so that we stop contaminating clean water and provide more economic and ecological, small scale solutions. We need to stop pooping in drinking water; it’s just too precious and it’s unnecessary. This will go a long way to helping with higher density in rural lands if we don’t have to do standard septic systems. It will change our understanding of what the true carrying capacity of our land is.

If I could wave a magic wand, schools would also be educating everyone in a more permacultural way of design with, and as members of, the ecosystems so we could actually establish better feedback loops for how we settle land together.

MS: There’s a predatory attribute to capitalism, where it tends to “consume” or overwhelm cooperativism. Is your intent to disrupt and challenge this? How do you seek to subvert the system?

CF: Well, I do love to disrupt this system by being a truth-seeking, honest and transparent person who works collaboratively in an otherwise competitive and defensive system. So, just clearing a field within real estate in which we say, we work with people who are working together to steward the earth, is in and of itself subversive. Other real estate agents don’t know what to do with those clients, but they are my inspiration.

On a systems level, I am most excited about community land trusts as a way to move land out of the speculative real estate market and into the public trust. This solves so many problems when it comes to establishing permanent affordability for homes that can be cooperatively managed by the people who live there. So we also get more self-governance.

Through the community land trust [movement], we can establish an ethos at the local level of how we hold those lands in trust and re-learn how to care for the land and each other in a way that is not just about “me and mine.” This is positively disruptive on lots of levels. From the personal to the systemic, I sense great promise in it. It is so important that we provide a counterbalance to the continuous land grab that provokes a seemingly endless housing crisis. It’s time for a land reform movement.

What's Right with the Youth Today?

Written by Community Solutions Miller Fellow Scott Montgomery

I have been disheartened lately because of the messages I have been hearing about my generation. As a Millennial, I have been bombarded with messages describing us as cry-bullies, narcissists, lacking grit, and  having a poor work ethic. Millennials are thought of as the unfortunate result of participation trophies and the self-esteem movement. I find myself internalizing these criticisms and wondering if we are all doomed. As Millennials have reached adulthood, this narrative describing them as a self-obsessed, social-media generation has persisted. This ignores the fact that Millennials created the revolution that is social media and have rewritten the rules of marketing, politics, community organizing and countless institutions. In fact, Millennials have disrupted the majority of the institutions they have come into contact with. As Joel Stein wrote in Time magazine:

 "They are the most threatening and exciting generation since the baby boomers brought about social revolution, not because they’re trying to take over the Establishment but because they’re growing up without one.”

 While the fight to stop climate change has begun already, Millennials and Generation Z will lead the charge, and if people judged these generations by media representations, they could expect some awesome selfies of the apocalypse.

However, on a trip to Hayward Middle School in Springfield, OH, I was blown away by the capabilities of the youth I encountered who turned these stereotypes upside-down. Through the Energy Navigators Program, Community Solutions assists Springfield Promise Neighborhood in administering an after school program at HMS. On this afternoon I had been invited to film a Yellow Springs High School student presenting a working prototype of a Stirling Engine he had built. A Stirling Engine is a motor with a piston pushed by air pressure. He walked me through how a solar concentrator could be attached to make the engine carbon free. The design process was indeed complicated and his first effort did not succeed. The second iteration worked beautifully.

 Stirling Engine

Stirling Engine

As the engine whirred, this bright young engineer elaborated on how he perfected his design by watching YouTube videos. The confluence of technology and young inquisitive minds has the potential to be the recipe for reversing climate change. The icing on this proverbial cake was the ease in which this young man communicated what he had created to his middle school audience. In turn, these middle school students were a captive audience and asked insightful questions. 

After listening to the demonstration of the Stirling engine, the middle schoolers moved on to building rocket stoves, a super-efficient heating source for cooking. After this, they showed off a compost pile they had built and explained the composting process. These youth were not only interested in the project, but they were actively creating a more sustainable environment around them. With a solid educational foundation and room to be creative, these students are thriving. As they reach adulthood, Millennials and Generation Z will create a new culture, one that could mitigate climate change.

 Rocket Stove

Rocket Stove

Rather than observe and wonder what's wrong with kids these days, we might  ask a different question: What's right with these kids? Different questions lead to different answers. Millennials are sometimes disparagingly referred to as Generation Why. While intended to be a dig, I take pride in this designation. As a group Millennials are asking Why? and when they find the answers inadequate, they take responsibility for finding solutions.

See a clip of the Stirling Engine in action!

We need Regenerative Farming Not Geoengineering

Originally posted on charleseisenstein.org

Written by Charles Eisentstein

Geoengineering has been back in the news recently after the US National Research Council endorsed a proposal to envelop the planet in a layer of sulphate aerosols to reduce solar radiation and cool the atmosphere.

The proposal has been widely criticised for possible unintended consequences, such as ozone depletion, ocean acidification and reduced rainfall in the tropics. Perhaps even more troubling, geoengineering is a technological fix that leaves the economic and industrial system causing climate change untouched.

The mindset behind geoengineering stands in sharp contrast to an emerging ecological, systems approach taking shape in the form of regenerative agriculture. More than a mere alternative strategy, regenerative agriculture represents a fundamental shift in our culture’s relationship to nature.

Regenerative agriculture comprises an array of techniques that rebuild soil and, in the process, sequester carbon. Typically, it uses cover crops and perennials so that bare soil is never exposed, and grazes animals in ways that mimic animals in nature. It also offers ecological benefits far beyond carbon storage: it stops soil erosion, remineralises soil, protects the purity of groundwater and reduces damaging pesticide and fertiliser runoff.

But these methods are slow, expensive and impractical in feeding a growing population, right?

Wrong. While comprehensive statistics are hard to come by, yields from regenerative methods often exceed conventional yields (see here and here for scientific research, and here and here for anecdotal examples). Likewise, since these methods build soil, crowd out weeds and retain moisture, fertiliser and herbicide inputs can be reduced or eliminated entirely, resulting in higher profits for farmers. No-till methods can sequester as much as a ton of carbon per acre annually (2.5 tons/hectare). In the US alone, that could amount to nearly a quarter of current emissions.

Estimates of the total potential impact vary. Rattan Lal of Ohio State University argues that desertified and otherwise degraded soils could sequester up to 3bn tons of carbon per year (equal to 11bn tons of CO2, or nearly one third of current emissions). Other experts foresee even greater potential. According to research at the Rodale Institute, if instituted universally, organic regenerative techniques practiced on cultivated land could offset over 40% of global emissions, while practicing them on pasture land could offset 71%.

That adds up to land-based CO2 reduction of over 100% of current emissions – and that doesn’t even include reforestation and afforestation, which could offset another 10-15%, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Of course, none of this is license to perpetuate a fossil fuel infrastructure, since there is an eventual limit to the amount of carbon that soil and biomass can store.

Read More on the Guardian's Website

December 2015 Update

December 2015 update

We are having a moving experience.

After 75 years in offices at 114 East Whiteman Street, Yellow Springs, Ohio, Community Solutions is moving to the campus of Antioch College where we will have more space and be even more conveniently located for our team of Antioch student staffers.

Community Solutions contact information will remain the same, but we anticipate some interruption of office phone and internet services in the last weeks of December.

PO Box 243, Yellow Springs, Ohio 45387

Phone: 937-767-2161

Email: office@communitysolution.org

Save the date, March 3. SW Ohio friends will be invited to an open house, 4-6 pm. If you are familiar with Yellow Springs you may recognize the location, in the west addition to the Fels Sontag Building, on the second floor above the Children’s Montessori Cooperative, across South College Street from WYSO public radio offices and studios.

Did you note the dates for our 2016 Community Solutions conference, October 21-23, 2016? Lance Hetzler is leading the conference planning.

New film, The 100 Year Plan, under way. Community Solutions Fellow Jim Merkel is traveling to Cuba and Susan Jennings will travel to Vietnam and China for the next few weeks, documenting how communities in those countries maintain a low carbon foot print with high literacy, low birth rate and long life expectancy.

Have you viewed our latest climate action videos? Eric Johnson coordinates our media work and is lead producer of our Climate Solutions Video Channel.

Our latest podcast is in production, featuring Peter Bane, founder of the journal Permaculture Design. Peter describes how restoring carbon and water cycles will counter climate change.

Partnership with the Yellow Springs Resilience Network Continues. A series of six monthly local resilience themes has been planned. November was local foods month. January will feature action toward zero waste; February, building energy conservation; March, local economy; April, renewable energy; May, transportation. This effort is funded by a grant from the YS Community Foundation.

Waste Land movie showing January 17, 1:00-2:30 at The Little Art Theatre in Yellow Springs. This free viewing is sponsored by Zero Waste Yellow Springs and Community Solutions with many thanks to The Little Art. For more details go to www.communitysolution.org.