How Sex, Politics, Money and Religion are Killing Planet Earth

Monday, September 28, 2009

Stuff - Part I

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21).”

The basic stuff from which all other stuff is made can be divided into two groups. Some stuff, like iron, gold and other minerals have been with the earth since she first swirled together from fragments of star dust save the odd meteorite that adds a bit from time to time. Materials like coal, natural gas and crude oil take such a long time to develop (hundreds of millions of years) that they are also considered a finite, non-renewable resource. When we use up non-renewable resources, we need to be aware that we have consumed something that cannot be replaced.

But nature also has some witchcraft up her sleeves. With a little bit of sunshine, water and nutrients from the earth, she makes plants grow and multiply through the alchemy of photosynthesis. Plants, animals and all living things multiply with the magic of reproduction. The moon makes the tides rise and fall. The wind blows, and the sun continues to shine. Forests are cut down, and with nothing but sunshine and rain, they will grow back. A field can grow cotton, corn, flax and vegetables, and when the crops are harvested and all used up; the same field will grow them again. A chicken will lay a new egg every day. Nature is creative and fecund. She wants to be fruitful and multiply. Wind, air, sunshine, moving water and all the living things of the earth are renewable resources will perpetuate themselves indefinitely if nurtured and cared for.

Back in the days when Homo sapiens was wandering in nomadic tribes across the face of the globe, material possessions were limited to the clothes on one’s back, small trinkets and totems carried for spiritual reverence and protection and a few useful tools that one could carry. Any things beyond these basic necessities would have been deemed absurd and burdensome.

Even as humankind settled into agricultural communities and villages, personal possessions were usually limited to the basic necessities, objects of art and worship and tools required for subsistence. The stuff our ancestors possessed and valued was made from the natural materials available. The reality of limited human possessions continued throughout the ages right up until approximately World War II when the manufacture and collection of stuff became an epidemic phenomenon.

If one puts a monkey in a cage, gives it a button to push for an addictive drug and leaves it to its own devices, eventually the monkey will push the button until it kills itself with a lethal dose. Humans are not much different. With a population now just in excess of 300 million, the United States contains a mere 5% of the world’s people, yet it is the largest consumer of energy and consumer goods on earth. As a nation, we are addicted to stuff. Like all addictions, we are suffering because of it, and without treatment, it’s going to kill us.

An addict uses substances for a quick high, a momentary sense of well-being that obliterates whatever emotional and/or psychic pain he or she may be feeling. The fix is temporary and acts like a catalyst on the original source of discontent causing it to spiral downward into the depths of gloom so that only larger and larger doses of the drug will suffice in alleviating the suffering, albeit only temporarily.

Some telltale signs of addiction include weight loss or gain, erratic behavior and degradation of familial and societal bonds. Our economy is deflated and bleeding to death through massive trade inequalities, personal debt and federal deficits (i.e. weight loss). We’ve spent hundreds of billions of dollars on a war (erratic behavior). The divide between the haves and have-nots grows wider every day, and in spite of being the wealthiest nation on earth, many of our people live in poverty. It is estimated that one in four teenage girls has tried methamphetamine pointing the finger at an alarming and growing trend. Divorce is at an all-time high. Families are disintegrating. Crime is rampant. Our country, which prides itself on family values, is in a social and familial crisis. The last symptom of addiction is, of course, denial.

A popular definition of economics is “the social science that studies the allocation of scarce resources to satisfy unlimited wants.” Advertising creates artificial ‘needs.’ When we watch the TV, we are bombarded with messages telling us that our problem is simply that we need to take the right pill, or go on the right diet plan or shop at Macy’s to be happy, and we are susceptible to the suggestions. In fact, we don’t actually need anything that is advertised on TV or in magazines or anywhere else. We do need clean air to breathe and water to drink, healthy food, shelter, energy and other living beings around us that offer companionship and whom we can nurture and be nurtured by. The iPods, Nintendo game consoles, designer footwear, makeup, prefabricated diet foods and pills to alleviate our social anxiety, we can really do without and ultimately do nothing to enhance our sense of well being or our quality of life. So why do we buy into the delusion that this stuff is going to make us happy when the real solution is right under our noses, or sitting next to us on the couch with their nose in a PSP?

In fact, the advertising actually feeds our feelings of desperation and inadequacy before they offer a miracle cure for what ails us. The reason we need Nutrisystem is because we are not as sexy as the cute blond mother of 5 who weighs 110 pounds thanks to Nutrisystem. Our aging skin that sags around the jowls is not as wrinkle free as the beautiful model who claims to be 50 but upon whose face a single age spot cannot be found. The people on TV are all well-adjusted, beautiful and happy, and we can be too if we would just buy what they have.

From stressed out parents to their neglected children, when we are devalued as individuals, an emptiness of spirit that ensues. Advertising seeks to fill in this void in our psyche by telling us that consumer goods can satisfy us, which leads to consumerism rather than addressing the basis for the problem in the first place. But the capitalist economic model has no other choice than to proliferate this vicious cycle of unfulfilled need because according to its very definition, economics allocates the resources to satisfy unlimited wants. If our wants match our needs, which are limited and few, the whole flawed model collapses. But we don’t need to literally and figuratively buy into the lie. Rather than plugging into video games, we can take our children for a walk, take them on a picnic or plan a family game night. We can go to the library and check out some good books and then sit by the fire and read them. We can go fishing, cook a family meal and sit down and eat together. None of the really satisfying activities in life have to cost anything. The time has come to match our wants and our real not manufactured needs. Then we will be truly happy.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Saving the World with Three Meals a Day - Part III

Grow it Yourself or Buy Local

Fresh Roasted Vegetables
Root vegetables of any kind, potatoes, cauliflower, peppers, squashes, whatever is growing in your backyard
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Directions: Peel and chop vegetables, coat with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast in a 350̊ F oven until golden brown stirring occasionally.

In December in Iowa, three feet of snow are on the ground, and no plant with any sense of self respect is going to be doing anything except sleeping for the winter, but the shelves of Kroger are full of tomatoes, cucumbers and even kiwis and mangos. While it’s great to be able to eat whatever we want whenever we want to, this was not Nature’s plan, and it certainly doesn’t do her any favors.

Take a quick glance at the items in any given shopping cart at the grocery store checkout. Even if the cart contains fresh produce, organically grown and other health foods, the cost to the environment to purchase these items at the grocery store is not environmentally benign. The apples are most likely grown in Washington or Oregon, harvested by a fossil-fuel consuming machine and then shipped in refrigerated trucks for at least hundreds of miles to reach their grocery shelf location, and that’s just during the U.S. apple growing season. The rest of the year, apples are shipped in from Chile or even New Zealand. Almost all of the lettuce, cucumber, avocado, celery and other salad fixens are now grown in California, also known as the ‘salad bowl’ state. By the time your fresh produce arrives on the supermarket shelf, it has consumed several times its own weight in energy and has traveled an average of 1,500 miles to reach your plate. Also, by the time the produce ends up in the supermarket display case, the term ‘fresh produce’ is a bit of an oxymoron.

How did people survive in the old days when global produce wasn’t available? The answer is they had to be industrious and plan ahead. Harvests of fruit and vegetables were preserved either through drying or canning and then consumed through the winter. Mixed salad greens with mango wasabi dressing were not a menu option in Iowa in the winter of 1840.

A few people alive in the United States continue to honor the tradition of eating a seasonal diet. On one end of this spectrum are the Mennonite communities scattered across the continent that maintain traditional lifestyles as a matter of religious practice. On the other hand, there are several contemporary people who choose this lifestyle as a matter of environmental consciousness.

Even if few of us, including myself, are disciplined enough to maintain the diet of the Amish, every little bit really does help. Every tomato grown on a patio, in addition to tasting much better than its grocery store cousin, saves the earth just a few more units of fossil fuel. Every egg purchased from a local farmer improves the life of a chicken and provides meaningful local employment for our farmer friends. Plant a small vegetable patch in your backyard or on your patio in pots with your children. The kids might even want to eat vegetables when they grow them themselves. This small act goes a long way towards making the world a better place.

Providing fresh, nutritious food for our children need not be a luxury for America’s affluent. As more and more Americans make their way into poverty and the economy continues to slide backwards into a ditch, growing food ourselves should be an obvious solution. It is a non-consumer option not promoted by our corporations or government because it can be done for free. While backyard and community gardening may not add anything to the bottom line of the Gross National Product, the benefits will include healthier children, lower healthcare costs, greater community integration, and the list goes on.

Growing one’s own food can be done for next to nothing and need not require herculean effort or acres of arable land. Every person with a balcony or a tiny patch of land can make a vegetable garden. Many communities also have vacant municipal lands that can and have been used to create community gardens. Excellent examples of the positive impacts of community gardens can be noted in San Francisco, the Bronx and many other urban areas.

During World War II, transportation systems were challenged and food shortages were rampant resulting in rationing of many staple foods. In order to answer the American public’s need for food, the U.S. government encouraged people to grow victory gardens as part of their patriotic duty. Urban dwellers rose to the occasion and converted city rooftops, vacant lots and backyards into productive vegetable gardens. Half of wartime food was produced by individuals growing their own food. We need to engage in the spirit of the victory garden again in this country and encourage our citizens to rise again to war against the malnutrition and obesity rampant in our culture. By growing our own food and helping others to do the same we can feed our hungry children and empower them to take their destiny into their own hands.

Seeds are very inexpensive to purchase ranging to a couple of dollars for a packet at most. Seeds can also be acquired in heirloom fruits and vegetables purchased at farmer’s markets. Heirloom seeds can be saved year after year from the harvest preserving valuable varieties of food plants and at no cost to the hobby farmer. Many local agricultural extension offices and 4-H clubs will donate seeds and plants or sell them for very reasonable prices with all proceeds going back into worthwhile community programs.

Once seeds have been procured, only sun, water and a bit of dirt are required to create healthy food. Many towns and municipalities collect, mulch and compost yard waste and tree trimmings and give the compost and/or mulch away to anybody willing to cart it off. For those in proximity to rural areas, most farmers will gladly give away nutrient-rich manure to anybody willing to come and collect it. In a backyard garden patch, a bit of manure and mulch may be all that is required to establish healthy soil.

Once the beds, pots, etc. are prepared, growing one’s own food is actually quite easy and requires nominal labor. In a well-mulched backyard garden patch, one can keep weeds under control, water and tend to other required maintenance in an hour or two on the weekend. This weekend labor also offers the benefits of getting some pleasurable exercise and fresh air. We have been duped into believing that home vegetable gardening is an arduous and labor intensive, unpleasant experience. It isn’t.

By succumbing to the allure of convenience food, Americans have slowly but surely sacrificed much more than they realize. Nutritionally and taste-wise, nothing compares to food grown fresh in one’s own backyard. When indoctrinated into gardening before exposure to video games, children, with an innate fascination for nature, can be some of the most avid of gardeners. A couple of weekend hours in the garden creates priceless quality family time and teaches our children to be self sufficient by growing their own food, invaluable skills and experiences that will last a lifetime.

Along with air and water, food is the most basic of human necessities. For much of human history, access to nutritious food was a free, nature-given right. By growing our own, we take the power of food away from big business and put it back into our own hands. Nothing is more empowering, and this basic freedom is equally accessible to rich and poor alike.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Saving the World with Three Meals a Day - Part II

A Tale of Turkey

Serves 12 to 14
1 fresh, cleaned heritage turkey
3 cups kosher or sea salt
Herbs de Provence
1 stick butter
½ cup dry white wine
Stuffing recipe of choice

Directions: 24 hours before cooking, mix salt and herbs de Provence together and coat the turkey inside and out. Place in the refrigerator for 24 hours to cure. Rinse the turkey inside and out to remove salt and herbs, stuff and truss. Melt the stick of butter, add wine and baste the bird with the butter/wine mixture. Cover the turkey with parchment paper or cheese cloth.

Place the bird in a preheated 450̊ F oven and reduce heat immediately to 300̊ F. Allow 20-25 minutes per pound cooking time. Baste regularly throughout cooking, and remove parchment/cheesecloth ½ hour before completion to allow for browning.

Last year our family raised heritage Bourbon red turkeys with a very special Thanksgiving in mind. We fenced in an acre of pasture and fattened up the birds for nine months on certified organic feed, grass, wildflowers and the occasional grasshopper. I have never before slaughtered an animal in my life, and as an animal lover, I was a quivering mass of indecision at the prospect of the task at hand. But, for some reason, the lure of natural and sustainable meat gave me the strength to undertake the project. After all, I surmised, although I often fantasize about giving it up completely, I am a meat eater. I rationalized that if I am to eat meat, I should be willing to do the bloody deed.

With the above in mind, I kept my emotional distance from the birds while at the same time providing them with the best life a turkey could hope for. Early in the spring, a dozen eggs arrived from the hatchery. We fired up the incubator and faithfully tended the eggs for 28 days. Out of the dozen eggs, five turkeys hatched. For the first several weeks the poults stayed in the house in a brooder as they feathered out. When the weather warmed up, we turned them out to pasture.

Our pasture borders a country road, and as the turkeys grew, the toms became territorial and would strut up and down along the fence line challenging every car that dared enter their turf. The turkeys also provided amusement for neighborhood kids who enjoyed getting the turkeys to display by taunting and gobbling at them. All the while, the beautiful birds grew at a shocking rate until the week before Thanksgiving when we found ourselves with four toms of almost 20 pounds each and a petit little hen.

The Monday before Thanksgiving, dispatch day arrived. Paul, our organic feed supplier agreed to come to our farm and instruct us on the finer art of culling. Three fine tom turkeys met their maker that morning with a swift stroke of a sharp knife to the jugular vein. The idea of the slaughter it turns out was far worse than the act itself. The turkeys had no idea of what was coming, and by the time they did, they were already gone.

In terms of morality, our situation was about as good as a meat meal can be. The birds had known a good life and received a humane execution. The reality of our Thanksgiving feast was not pretty. There was a shocking amount of blood. The nervous reaction to having their throats cut caused the birds to twitch around for a while after the deed was done. A bucket full of entrails required disposal. For some reason the heads and feet were the most difficult pieces of bird to deal with face to face. I didn’t sleep well that night. The reality of my complicity in the operation sat heavily upon my conscience. Just the day before, three magnificent creatures had been strutting around proudly puffing out their tails and chests and posing for passersby.

Last Thanksgiving, we had the most delicious turkey we had ever tasted, but our family was acutely aware of everything our meal had cost. In the ancient Hebrew tradition, the slaughter of an animal was considered to be a sacred act, and only priests were allowed to perform the task.  Biblical references to animal "sacrifice" are actually rituals conducted to sanctify the slaughter of animals for food.  In our modern era of fast food, we have lost connection with the taking of life the eating of meat necessitates.  I wonder if the staggering consumption of hamburgers and chicken nuggets would be so prevalent if happy eaters were in touch with the reality of their meat. Our experience with turkeys has certainly drastically reduced our family’s consumption of meat. Never again will we take for granted the creatures on our plates.

From last year’s brood, we kept one tom and the small hen to breed this year. Our breeding efforts were successful beyond our wildest dreams, and we have had to sell poults on Craigslist just to keep from being overrun with the fecund birds. As the fall season encroaches upon us again, my pulse begins to once again quicken as I emotionally prepare for the upcoming Thanksgiving. I will be anxious and perhaps even queasy when we sacrifice one of this year’s brood for our feast, but I will most definitely be very thankful for the splendid creature that gave its life for my sustenance.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Saving the World with Three Meals a Day

Grandma’s Bread

Makes three 5” x 9” loaves
1 tbsp. dry active yeast
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup melted butter
2 ¾ cups warm water
1 ½ tsp. salt
½ cup maple syrup, molasses or honey
8 cups whole wheat flour
Oil or butter for greasing

Directions: Mix the yeast with ¼ cup of warm water until dissolved. Add egg, butter, remaining water, salt and maple syrup, molasses or honey and stir until all are dissolved. Add the flour and mix. Prepare a work space by heavily flouring a surface for kneading. Dump the dough out onto the floured surface and slowly knead by folding the dough over and mashing it down in the center. If the dough gets sticky, add more flour as needed. After about 10 minutes, the consistency of the dough will become smoother. Shape the dough into a round ball. Add a small amount of oil or butter to a ceramic mixing bowl to coat the edges of the bowl and roll the dough in the bowl to coat with oil. Place a dish towel over the bowl and place in a warm place, away from drafts for an hour to rise.

Take the risen dough out of the bowl and place back on the kneading surface. Divide the dough into three and knead each portion separately for a few minutes, then shape and place into greased 5” x 9” loaf pans. Cover the pans with a towel and rise again for another hour, then bake in a preheated oven at 350̊ F for 45 minutes.

One of my favorite and earliest memories from childhood is of my grandmother, wrapped in a floury apron in an Indiana kitchen kneading yeasty bread. Her tiny four foot, eleven inch body belied the powerhouse that lived in her, and her strong arms pummeled the belligerent dough into submission. I was enthralled by the process of mixing, waiting, rising, kneading, waiting again, rising again and finally baking the loaves. There are few sensations that can compare to the smell of freshly baking bread, and eating it is even better. At my young age, the sensations of homemade bread felt like nurturance, comfort, anticipation and home. Today, the sensational olfactory delight is mingled with bittersweet nostalgia.

Grandma would make a dozen loaves at a time to feed her family of seven daughters and an army of grandchildren, cousins or whoever happened to be visiting at the time. With a full house, the delicious loaves lasted less than a week and she was back in the kitchen repeating the process. My grandmother was a reserved woman who had difficulty expressing her affections openly, but when we ate her bread, we tasted love.

Although her bread making may have started out of the economic necessity of feeding a large family during the Great Depression, she continued the ritual long after the need had passed. Grandma could have easily traipsed down to the grocery store and purchased a loaf of Sara Lee or Pepperidge Farm, but she didn’t. Her choice to bake bread enriched us all with something that cannot be translated into terms of dollars and cents or convenience. Her simple act of nurturance was priceless.

Although she may have never realized it, Grandma’s loving baking activities also served the earth. Absent plastic packaging, innumerable mysterious chemical additives and shipping from far flung factories, a homemade loaf of bread baked with simple ingredients locally obtained does little to harm the earth. Conversely, examination of the sordid ingredient list and history of a commercial loaf reveals a reality that damages both environmental and human health. Our daily bread can either nurture and feed us or make our bodies and our world sick.

As my grandmother aged, she lost her hearing and eventually her eyesight and then she could no longer bake bread. A couple of years before she passed away, she entrusted me with the precious gift of her bread recipe. The recipe is surprisingly simple given the deliciousness of the loaves that result. I now bake bread for my family. I am not as diligent as Grandma, and sometimes, when pressed for time or simply too tired, I pick up a freshly baked loaf from the local farmer’s market or even the grocery store. But when I can, I love to sink my fists into yeasty dough and engage in a family ritual passed down to me from my grandmother that nurtures my family and even helps to save the planet.

When I bake bread, I use whole wheat organic flour that is stone ground at an historic mill just a few miles from my home that grinds the wheat with a river powered water wheel. The butter comes from a local creamery. Honey is supplied by friendly neighborhood beekeepers, and the chickens in my own backyard supply me with ample eggs. My bread is a community effort that connects me with interesting people from all walks of life each doing their part to make the world a better place. Nothing I can buy at the store can even begin to compare. What we eat can make a huge difference in the world.

Now I am sharing this revered ritual with the hope that the simple act of baking bread will enrich the lives of all who undertake the task and all who are fortunate enough to enjoy the sensations of freshly baked bread slathered with a dab of butter. Enjoy and pass it on.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The United States of Delusion - Part II

A National Wake-up Call

Our days of delusion have finally caught up with us. Ever since the end of World War II, Americans have been told by their government and corporate government sponsors that the sole answer to economic, national and personal success is consumerism. During the war, the devastated Great Depression economy got a lift from war spending and war industries. At the end of the war, leaders and industry were challenged with providing employment for returning soldiers and creating new production vectors for factories previously occupied with producing bombs, munitions and chemical weapons. Luckily, the American public, worn out from years of economic and wartime depravation, were eager to comply with the new consumer mantra.

Buying stuff became a national obsession and was even touted by public officials as a patriotic duty to defend the United States from the evils of communism. The quest for private property in all its forms defined the new American culture. American consumerism propped up the post war economy and during the 1950’s and into the 1960’s, the strategy flourished. Ordinary citizens were buying homes with mortgages and cars with loans and sending their children to college, as dad went to work and mom stayed home and took care of everything else. As many politicians know, our image of ourselves as a people was formed during this time, and this era is hearkened to repeatedly in political appeals for a return to “family values” and other nostalgic remnants from those simpler times.

Our national and personal identities are defined by consumerism. We are judged by the house we live in, the clothes we wear, the car we drive and the job we do. Who among us does not aspire to be able to afford the finer things in life? We all want a nice home, a nice car and respectable profession and are told repeatedly by our culture that we will be a success when and only when we achieve this American dream.

The unfortunate reality for most Americans is that few of us in reality can actually afford the American dream. Our real wages have been stagnant for decades, while the cost of living continues to rise, particularly when it comes to housing and health care – two basic necessities of life. But up until recently and particularly since the deregulation of the banking industry starting under President Ronald Reagan, the market has had a solution for our problems. If we can’t afford something, we can borrow the money to pay for it. While in the 1950’s and 60’s one had to demonstrate the ability to actually pay before getting a mortgage or credit card, our new economy gives mortgages to people without any visible means of income and credit cards to indebted college students. People are free to buy everything they need to keep up the image of the American dream whether they can afford it or not.

For the past few decades, our economy was grateful for deregulation. As long as people were buying stuff, the economy appeared to continue to grow. GDP measures goods sold and does not subtract for personal debt, so the bottom line kept going up. With the recent housing market collapse and subsequent economic catastrophe in the United States, the cracks in the venire of our national image are beginning to show. Much of the economic growth of the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s was based on borrowed money that never really existed at all.

Conversely, the impacts of our consumerism are real. All of our imagined purchasing power has had a devastating environmental impact. As our outdated, unnecessary stuff rots in landfills, we must now pay off an environmental balance sheet along with our maxed out credit cards. Our once burgeoning oil fields lay depleted. Old growth forests that once ranged from sea to shining sea are all but obsolete. Birth control pill residues, pesticides and manure from factory feedlots clog our water supply. Our air is so contaminated with the byproducts of industry and electrical generation our children are literally gasping for air. If we do not act soon to curb our behavior, we may soon find ourselves literally extinguishing life on the planet as we know it by altering the climate so drastically that our beautiful, precious earth is no longer fit for life. Our white picket fences can no longer hide the ugly residue of our years of self indulgence.

When Adam Smith envisioned a world liberated from its poverty by the forces of man’s own selfish drives, the world was an unexplored, seemingly inexhaustible resource. The United States did not exist as a nation, and the Midwestern United States were still roamed by Native American Tribes. Smith underestimated the power of man’s unfettered self interest to consume everything in its path.

Living in a period of great human poverty, he also failed to see that the accumulation of wealth alone would not alleviate all of man’s miseries, but Smith’s ill-conceived theory has been absorbed into our culture. It is a cultural mandate to pursue the American dream of self interests, while other, more substantial values go neglected. As our relentless pursuit of material wealth and personal property leave us feeling dissatisfied, our society only offers us one choice, consume more. In the end, we find ourselves spent, empty and living in the cesspit of our own reckless excess.

We are now all suffering from the wakeup call that ends our mass delusion. It is a painful awakening, but presents an opportunity for us as a people to move beyond the shallow and meaningless identity of consumerism into a new culture that will undoubtedly be more circumspect and will hopefully bring hope to the future of our earth. It is time to change our national values of greed, gluttony, consumption and self gratification for the deeper values of compassion, community, reverence for earth and service. In doing so, we may surprise ourselves to discover the joyfulness of ordinary living that seems to have escaped our American culture for too long.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The United States of Delusion - Part I

The United States of Delusion

…That government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth (Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, November 19th, 1863)

On July 4th, 1776, 56 men changed the course of history with a stroke of their pens when they signed the Declaration of Independence. The men pledged “For support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” These were not just words on a page. Five of our brave founding fathers died while enduring torture for treason. Another nine died fighting in the Revolutionary War, and many of the remaining few were stripped of their homes and livelihoods by invading British troops only to die homeless and in poverty.

These men were political radicals fighting against their own government, but they were also lawyers, farmers and educated men of means. They had comfortable lives, wives and children, yet they risked it all for a cause they believed in. Rest assured, the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence did not accept as gospel truth the propaganda of the ruling British government. They recognized it for what it was - an attempt to wield power over and economically exploit the resources of the North American frontier and her people. Our forefathers educated themselves, recognized the need for change and had the courage to effect that change.

The United States of America is a great nation founded on unparalleled ideals, but we have strayed dangerously from our country’s founding principles. These principles are not etched in stone like a monument that cannot be toppled. They are ideals that we must constantly and diligently fight to maintain. Modern ammunition against the forces of propaganda and manipulation need not include bullets and mortars. Armed with education and information, our government established by those fearless founding fathers over 230 years ago cannot pull the wool over our eyes. It is time for contemporary Americans to step up to the responsibilities of their heritage.

Entitlement and Responsibility
The American Psychiatric Association defines excessive feelings of entitlement as pathology. Individuals who believe strongly that they deserve great material wealth, special treatment and other perks simply by virtue of their existence are considered mentally ill. Unfortunately, as Americans we are suffering from a massive delusion of entitlement. Henry Ford’s words almost a century ago guaranteeing a car in every garage and a chicken in every pot still resonate today as true for most Americans.

Why do we feel entitled to a particular way and quality of life simply because we have been blessed enough to receive it? Many fundamentalist evangelicals believe that America is the New Jerusalem and that we are God’s chosen people and therefore deserving of all the wealth He has bestowed upon us. But, as Hurricane Katrina showed us, there is another, dark side to our New Jerusalem. There are cracks in the glossy veneer of the American dream. Apparently, only some Americans are entitled, and the rest of our society is relegated to living a third world life in the most prosperous nation on earth.

Just what are we entitled to? Are we entitled to a fast food diet that involves tons of toxic chemicals and millions of hectares of deforested rainforest and prairie land to grow beef? Are we entitled to consume 26% of the world’s resources when we only have 5% of the world’s population? Are we entitled to create and consume vast quantities of plastic bags, bottles, cardboard boxes, etc. to use them once and then throw them away? Are we entitled to carelessly use up, contaminate and exploit natural resources without replenishing or reclaiming them? Are we entitled to deprive the other creatures of the earth of habitat, health and ultimately their very existence in order to fuel our careless consumption? For some reason, anybody who draws into question the American cultural feelings of entitlement is labeled as unpatriotic, communist or worse. Why can’t Americans collectively embrace values of responsibility instead of entitlement?

As Americans we are very fortunate that our government provides us with several services such as education, paved roads, highways, police and fire services, penal systems, etc. Each of these services has a monetary cost. In many cases, the price we allocate for such things as education and police directly correlates to the quality of the service we receive. There is no free lunch.

Most people would like to have their government provide them with other or better services. Our educational system is inadequate making it very difficult for our children to compete in the new globalized world. The price of a college education either puts a student into debt for the rest of his life or prevents him from getting a degree altogether. Our private healthcare system is obviously broken, and most people believe healthcare should be a right rather than a privilege. Our roads and bridges are crumbling and literally falling down due to neglect. Our prisons are getting bigger and bigger, housing more and more criminals, but our streets are more dangerous. New Orleans and Galveston are still devastated cities long after the hurricanes that ruined them have passed.

Yet, a popular political war cry is to reduce the size of government and cut taxes. Most of us would love to pay less money in taxes, but we do get what we pay for. We can’t have it both ways. The Bush era proved that simply cutting taxes won’t make our lives any better. In fact, the opposite has been true. There are few that would argue we are better off today than we were before the Bush tax cuts. By depriving the federal government of much needed revenues, the Bush Administration neglected infrastructure, underfunded education and sank millions of Americans into poverty.

In order to change the status quo, we must exchange our feelings of entitlement for feelings of reverence and gratitude. We must become accountable for our actions and the goods we consume. Like spoiled children, we must learn how to clean up our messes, share our resources with the rest of humanity and other creatures of the earth and realize that in fact, the earth does not exist to serve us. It’s time to grow up.

On August 29th, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall along the gulf coast of Louisiana and Mississippi becoming the single worst natural disaster in American history. At least 1,836 lives were lost, thousands of homes and entire neighborhoods were destroyed and to this day, New Orleans remains a devastated city .

“I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees (George W. Bush on Good Morning America, September 1, 2005).”

The sad reality is that the disaster was anticipated by many people and for many years prior to the tragic events of August 29th. As a nation, we chose to ignore the warnings. Unfortunately, ignoring warning signs seems to be a national pastime. We are an obese, asthmatic, depressed and diabetic nation choking itself on its own excess and drowning in the waste, and all our consumption is certainly not making us happy. Our bodies and the earth are shouting at us. Why aren’t we listening? Do we need to wait until the waters come flooding over the tops of the levees again before we take action?
Our founding fathers risked everything to create our beloved nation. They would not approve of our collective feelings of entitlement and complacency towards the country they fought so hard to create.  It is time for a modern revolution.  Let us overthrow the delusions of entitlement and greed and instead embrace a collective responsibility to better the treasure we have inherited. 

1-  Summation of the Declaration of Independence.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Literacy, Belief and the Environment - Part II

Literacy and Religion

Pagan and polytheistic religion evolved over time as a response to man’s observations of nature. Rituals were ripe with symbolism, allegory, science, creativity and wonder and celebrated natural events such as the change of season, phases of the moon and the timeless cycles of birth, death and rebirth. Religion grew alongside man’s knowledge of his place in nature expanding in intricacy and depth with time. The human quest for knowledge and understanding was unimpeded by man’s religious beliefs. In fact, the very reverence for nature and her wonders prevalent in pagan cultures encouraged exploration and human curiosity.

In contrast, Yahweh’s doctrines according to contemporary fundamentalist interpretation demand strict, unquestioning adherence. The very act of inquiry is a betrayal of faith. The Bible, limited though it is by the scientific knowledge available at the time it was written, contains the only truth that fundamentalist Christians accept or think they need to know. Recent discoveries such as the law of relativity, theory of evolution, globular shape of the earth or climate change are never discussed in the bible and therefore, as far as fundamentalists are concerned, are irrelevant at best or untrue at worst. Rather than being an evolution of civilization and culture as monotheists suggest, the rise of the contemporary fundamentalist monotheistic faiths in Christianity, Judaism and Islam have succeeded in dumbing down and closing the minds of those who subscribe to their dictates. Sadly, as was typical of the eras in which they were written, ancient religious texts including the Koran and Old and New Testaments are ripe with beautiful symbolism, numerology and innuendo that are completely ignored by those who would seek to take the texts literally. In doing so, the deeper, richer meaning that does exist within the traditions is lost.

And the ripe minds of children are also being dumbed down. In an act that should be considered a form of child abuse and is certainly consistent with brainwashing conducted by cult leaders, fundamentalist parents often withhold accepted scientific knowledge from their children by indoctrinating them into the faith in madrassa like schools that instill in vulnerable children’s minds a fear of inquiry and science. Or they are homeschooled to protect them from the dangers of curiosity. By the time the children are old enough to make decisions for themselves, in most cases their minds have been deprived of real learning and are closed forever. Anything that differs from the biblical world view is conspiratorial, false or inspired by the devil himself.

Clouded in ignorance, with an ideology that confuses passion with truth, the mind is not able to make rational judgments and so relies instead on inflammatory emotional responses to important issues of the day. Hence, we live in a sorry society where a large percentage of people question the authenticity of the President’s birth certificate and his sincere desire for the betterment of our country in spite of all evidence to the contrary. We find ourselves living in a world where irrational, unscientific falsehoods are translated into “fact” based on faith. Anything that elicits a strong emotional reaction can be used to manipulate the uneducated into a foolish frenzy. The media picks up on the frenzy and fuels the fire.  How sad for our democracy.

Our newscasts and other media cater to the lowest, emotive denominator and now consist of catchy sound and video bites rather than real balanced discussions on the serious topics that overwhelm our world. But we are often only getting what we ask for. The innate quality of human beings to attempt to clarify, compartmentalize and simplify complexities into concise, manageable units may be at the heart of the movement of the world’s religions towards monotheism and contemporary society's movement towards brain numbness. Monotheistic religions are after all, a simplification and synopsis of their more complex pagan counterparts.  The simplification of faith and reason certainly contributes to the environmental woes that plague the earth today. Global warming is real, we are slowly but surely contaminating the earth to the point it may not sustain life, we are consuming resources at a rate that is not sustainable, and the President of the United States is a U.S. Citizen born in Hawaii. These are irrefutable acts.

Just as every beginning ecology student knows, diversity is the key to a healthy ecosystem. For thousands of years, a diversity of human cultures and beliefs scattered across the globe creating a veritable cultural web of competing thoughts and a wealth of cultural artifacts ranging from the hanging gardens of Babylon to the Mayan pyramids. Apart from one bleak period of time known metaphorically as ‘the Dark Ages,’ humanity has advanced itself dramatically from cave-dwelling nomadic wanderers into beings that travel beyond the outer reaches of our own atmosphere to walk upon the moon fueled by nothing more than our species’ innate curiosity and constant quest for answers to the unknown. As a species we are caught in a constant tug of war between a search for truth and a fear of venturing into the unknown.

For millennia, those afraid to venture from the darkness of the cave did not have a large impression on the rest of the globe. The small, fear-mongering sects that clung to their faith in hopes it would save them from the wrath of the unknown were largely ignored by the rest of humanity engaged as it was in joyful reverence and embrace of the earth and her bounty. Eventually, however, the fear-mongers seized power and began to inflict their closed-minded fare on the rest of humanity. As globalization unifies the planet, the buffer of alternative ideologies becomes as scarce as the endangered frogs lost in the Amazon rainforest.

Governments urge us towards conformity. ‘Either you’re with us or you’re against us.’ From the pulpit, fundamentalist preachers warn us against the threat of science and its underlying principles of constant inquiry. Education, inquiry and knowledge are the enemy of fundamentalism. It is not the fundamentalist male God that will save us now. We must use our nature-given intellects and save ourselves.

The ancient goddess of wisdom and enlightenment, Sophia inspired wisdom, open minds and knowledge flowing in a continuous stream of new ideas and creativity. When she attempted to share her wisdom with Yahweh’s child Eve, by inviting her to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, Sophia became the enemy of the patriarchal God who ruled over his subjects through fear and intimidation. For over 2,000 years, ignorance and blind faith have been His creed, and the results are telling. We can never dwell in Eden again, but we can create a better world in which people once again make decisions based on the fruits of wisdom, logic and knowledge towards the aim of shaping a better world for all the organisms that dwell here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Killing Mother - Part II

Meteorites, Sacred Shrines and the Fifth Age

Events beginning approximately 2,000 years ago began to dramatically alter the world’s religious landscape. At that time, a previously small religious sect gave birth to a messiah leading to an exponential growth in the monotheistic religions that dominate the world’s religious spectrum today. Judaism gave birth to Christianity and Islam with the later being the fastest growing religion on earth. Today 21% of the world’s inhabitants claim to be of Islamic faith.

In one of the more symbolic overthrows of the Earth Mother, in 630 C.E., Mohammed marched upon the peaceful Kabba shrine at Mecca with an army of 10,000 men proclaiming the holy site for Islam. What Mohammad’s legend often does not reveal is the dubious nature of his military attack. In spite of the discord amongst the many peoples of the Arabian Peninsula, those of all religious creeds, cultures and tribes had previously agreed to set aside their differences within a 20 mile radius of the sacred Kabba shrine making the holy place a violence-free zone.

The Kabba itself is a meteorite that ancient peoples of the region believed connected heaven and earth. Although as many as 360 gods were acknowledged at the holy site, the shrine itself was attributed to the worship of the sun goddess Al Lat. Upon seizing control through the first known violent act upon the sacred ground of Kabba, Mohammed replaced Al Lat with Allah (these names literally mean “Goddess” and “God,” respectively).

When Mohammed marched on Mecca, his 10,000 strong military invasion predictably met no resistance. While Islamic doctrine declares Mohammed’s success as proof the Islamic revolution was ordained by God. In reality, it was due to the faiths of those who had for centuries refused to tarnish the sacred soil of their holiest of places with the corrupt blood of warfare. Mohammed deliberately overtook those he knew would not fight back, placing great importance on military might and masculine physical strength. He subjected women to the same status and insignificance as those he vanquished. His justification for the suppression and control of women was “because God made one superior to the other (Sura 4:31).”

Until about 3,000 B.C.E., the predominant human settlements across Europe, Asia, Northern Africa and the Middle East were peaceful, earth goddess-worshipping farming communities. Their very lives depended upon an intimate knowledge of nature and her cycles. They bowed down to the earth each spring to plant seed, nurtured the crops through the summer and harvested in the fall all the while praying to and revering their goddess the earth for her gifts of life, death and rebirth.
When the Bronze Age conquerors swept through civilization, they brought with them new gods, a new culture and new objects of worship. Male gods revered for their powers of war replaced the nurturing goddess. Daily human tasks of tilling and nurturing the soil became secondary to the arts of domination and winner take all, and the earth herself was demoted from her position of worship to one of domination and exploitation.

Like all things, the domination of Yahweh’s culture is not absolute. Although in the minority, the doctrines of Buddhist and Hindu faiths and closely related faiths such as Jainism have maintained a reverence for nature and all life for thousands of years. Although now corrupted by western influences, the historical cultures of India, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan and other regions can provide a road map as to how to proceed into the future in laying the groundwork for a harmonious relationship with the earth based on the traditions of these cultures from the past. By looking backward, we can move forward.

According to the Mayan calendar, the current age, known as the ‘fourth age,’ began around 5,000 years ago, more precisely on August 13th, 3114 B.C.E. and is scheduled to end on 12/21/12 ushering in a new age, albeit with some predicted dire circumstances. Interestingly, the Maya assigned sexual orientation to each of their ages. The current fourth age we are in has been designated as male. Not coincidentally, the previous third age was female. The end of the third, female age exactly coincided with the beginning of the decline of goddess worship. Fortunately, for those of us who may be lucky enough to see the fifth age, it is anticipated to be a golden age of balance between male and female. Time will tell.

Monday, September 14, 2009

We Are What We Eat - Part III

The Price of Convenience

There are many ways in America today to prepare a meal. For most, a meal results after a trip to a local chain grocery store where staples or prepared, frozen meals are purchased and then cooked at home into what passes for dinner. Some view dinner or another meal as a quick trip through the drive thru at the neighborhood McDonalds. For very few Americans, a meal results after a trip to the local farmer’s market or their own backyard garden patch to see what nature has provided on that particular day. Of the above three groups, it is a safe bet that the later is the preferable method to procure food for both individual and environmental health. In fact, the last methodology is still the favored form of food preparation for much of the world and was the one incorporated by most Americans until World War II heralded in the industrial food era.

The modern food industry has certainly made food convenient. In our hurried, hard-working, productive society, food preparation time is a luxury many believe they cannot afford, but convenience does come at a price. The basic laws of physics dictate there is no proverbial free lunch, and the energy Americans personally save in food preparation must be spent somewhere else in the system to make convenience foods possible. Every step of modern convenience has an energetic, nutritional and environmental cost, and that cost is usually paid with fossil fuels and public health.

According to Michael Pollan, our food system consumes more fossil fuels than any other sector of the economy with the exception of automobiles, a whopping 19 percent. When combined with the way food is grown, cattle is raised, etc., our eating habits are contributing as much as 37% to the total greenhouse gasses produced in the United States. The energy input of putting the crop in the ground is only the tip of the iceberg. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are made from fossil fuels. We burn even more fossil fuels transporting food from one side of the world to the other, and then, in order to make foods even more convenient, more energy is expended to manufacture and assemble the final packaged product that appears in our neighborhood grocer’s freezer case. Our new mechanized food industry is so energetically costly that it would surprise most people to know that for every calorie of food created, ten calories of fossil fuel are consumed. In 1940, 2.3 calories of food were created for every single calorie of fossil fuel burned. Our food supply is now so intimately tied with our energy supply, we may find ourselves simultaneously experiencing a food crisis alongside the predicted energy crisis if something doesn’t occur soon to change the way we grow, distribute and prepare food.

In her book Stolen Harvest, Vandana Shiva notes that for every 100 energetic outputs of traditional organic farming, 5 inputs were necessary; therefore, five yields 100, which is a net profit of 95. In industrial agriculture 300 inputs in terms of fossil fuels and other resources yields the same 100 outputs. In this case, there is a net loss of 200 outputs for each 100 yielded. This formula will quickly bankrupt the world if the foolishness of the bad math of modern industrialized agriculture is not soon reversed .

Proponents of modern agricultural techniques proclaim that only through the use of modern technologies such as generous applications of chemical herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers and use of genetically modified crops (GMOs), will we be able to meet the needs of the world’s growing population for food. However, scientific realities on the ground do not bear this out. In fact, in study after study, it has been found that organic and traditional agriculture is comparable with and often exceeds productivity of conventional (i.e. chemical) agriculture, particularly when integrated systems such as permaculture, crop rotations, use of leguminous cover crops and regular applications of manure from livestock are incorporated.

When one factors in all of the other variables that go into modern ‘conventional’ agriculture, it is an extremely inefficient way to grow food for the world. Most of the calculations for productivity only measure the outputs of a given crop; however, this form of measurement is flawed. It would be the same as running a business and only looking at the gross profits and ignoring all of the costs of production and operation. From a purely financial standpoint, we know that modern agriculture in the United States is inefficient. The industrialization of agriculture has led to the financial ruin of the traditional American small farm, and the modern industry is heavily subsidized by the taxpayer. Without ongoing subsidy, the industry as it exists today would perish.

Regardless of the inefficiency of the economics of modern agriculture, the entire system is flawed in terms of productivity. Organic farming has relatively few inputs, i.e. seed, water, manure, labor to put the crop in the field and sunshine. Before industrialization, each of these inputs was ‘free’ to the farmer. He traded seed with his neighbors and saved some stock from each year’s harvest for the following year. Manure was provided by the livestock he raised along with his crops. His livestock also pulled a plow and provided some of the labor, with additional labor being provided by the farmer’s family and community. Water and sunshine were provided by nature.

The modern farmer must buy his seed every year from one of the agro industrial giants, usually Monsanto, as most modern hybrid crops do not breed true from seed, so the farmer must buy new seed each year. Furthermore, even if saving seed were a viable occupation, it is now illegal to do so. Monsanto and friends in the agro industry have legal control of the seed supply in the form of patents. Even if the farmer could save his seed and replant it, he is sued for doing so, often to the point of financial ruin.

If grown according to the manufacturer’s instructions, which includes liberal dosing of the site prior to planting with Roundup (an herbicide also manufactured by Monsanto), pesticides and applications of fertilizers, the technologically-advanced hybrid or GMO crop will grow and produce well; however, if the farmer wants to grow his hybrid crop the old fashioned way (i.e. with sun, manure and water) it will most likely fail. It seems the new ‘superior’ crops need a lot of extra help in the form of Monsanto chemicals in order to produce their promised yields. The chemicals necessary to bring the crop in are not cheap. Many a farmer has gone bankrupt after mortgaging his farm to pay up front for seed and chemicals only to have his crop fail due to a hail storm or drought.

Just as our bodies are comprised of the building blocks from the food we eat, a plant’s biomass is derived from the nutrients it harvests from the soil. Rather than nitrogen, carbon, phosphorus and sulfur from organic natural sources such as rain and recycled biomass, our plants are now literally growing on crude oil.

Growing one’s own food or buying locally produced food at a farmer’s market will not only make one healthier, it will significantly improve the health of our communities and the planet. Spending a beautiful day outside in the fresh air at a market or in one’s backyard can potentially reduce our national consumption of fossil fuels by almost 20% and connect us with our communities and our food. Given the options, why would anybody want to spend their time breathing in exhaust fumes at a drive through?

Michael Polan, Farmer in Chief, from the New York Times Magazine, October 12, 2008.
Shiva, V. Stolen Harvest

Zundel and Kilcher, Issues Paper: Organic Agriculture and Food Availability. Research Institute for Organic Agriculture.

Friday, September 11, 2009

We Are What We Eat - Part II

Factory Food is Immoral

American consumers are so detached from their food these days they have little if any awareness of the atrocities committed by the modern food industry. From the indentured livelihoods of farm workers to the inhumane treatment of animals on factory feedlots, our food’s history is sordid.

The mainstream magazine Gourmet in March, 2009 published an article by Barry Estabrook entitled Politics of the Plate: the Price of Tomatoes, which details the prevalence of rampant human slavery on American soil in the tomato industry in Florida*. This account is not some ranting by a left wing fanatic. It is a concise reporting of events in the tomato fields and surrounding areas of Immokalee, Florida where the average annual income is $8,500 and one out of three families lives below the poverty line.

The fact that the people who are gainfully employed harvesting our food are sweating day after day in the hot Florida sun to bring us fresh tomatoes in January and are not earning enough money to feed their own families is appalling enough, but a larger reality is far worse. Douglas Mallow, the chief assistant to the U.S. Attorney General in Fort Meyers calls the tomato fields of South Florida “ground zero for modern slavery*."

Desperate illegal immigrants from Latin America make their way across the border every year with the aim of earning a few dollars to send home to their families. Once they arrive in America, they become trapped in a vicious economic cycle paying extortionate rents for tenements with sub-human living conditions and becoming indebted to their landlords/overseers. In the worst case scenarios, they are prevented from escape and beaten into working seven days a week - all this to provide tasteless tomatoes for bourgeoisie Americans in the wintertime. Reggie Brown, the executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, abhors the human rights abuses that take place in Florida’s growing fields, but he also notes that Florida tomatoes picked by the hands of modern slaves is “not an assumption. It is a fact*.”

The treatment of factory food animals is even more abhorrent than that of indentured workers in terms of collective suffering. It is now common knowledge that cattle, chickens and pigs are raised in crowded conditions wallowing in their own manure and forced to fatten up on grain diets that are wholly unnatural to each individual species. Cattle are roaming, grazing animals, happy chickens need to walk around and scratch at earth for bugs, and pigs are some of the most intelligent creatures on earth. Putting these animals in confinement where they cannot even turn around is beyond cruel. Anybody who treated a pet in such a fashion would be arrested for cruelty to animals, but for some reason, our laws and society turn a blind eye to the suffering of animals destined to be food.

Some people reading the above passages will react by assuming the facts stated above are exaggerated or false. Part of our mass delusion is our national ability to either ignore facts that are unpleasant or pretend they are untrue. When we knowingly eat food that is tainted by the stink of slavery or animal cruelty, we are complicit in the crimes regardless of our ability to deny and ignore the reality of our food’s origins.

We have the power to put an end to the Florida tomato slave trade simply by not eating tomatoes out of season, or by buying locally-grown hothouse tomatoes, usually sold as cluster tomatoes on the vine. Florida growers will either become humane and fair or they will be out of business. We can end the cruel treatment of food animals simply by making educated choices when purchasing meat products and by buying only free range, pasture fed, organic beef, poultry and pork. Visiting the farm that produces your meat is even better. Most Americans are so disconnected from the fact that their meat was once a living creature, it would be good for all of us to reconnect with this reality and become truly conscious consumers thankful for the life sacrificed in order to provide us with a meal. If everyone participated in the procurement of their meat the old fashioned way, many more would probably convert to vegetarianism. At the very least, humane treatment of livestock would certainly become more prevalent.

Denials and ignorance of the immorality of our food only serve to perpetuate food crimes. We are all responsible whether we admit it or not, and nourishing our bodies with food propagated on human and animal suffering is not nourishment at all.

*Quotations and excerpts from:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

We Are What We Eat - Part I

“Today, when we produce more food than ever before, more than one in ten people on Earth are hungry. The hunger of 800 million happens at the same time as another historical first; that they are outnumbered by the one billion people on this planet who are overweight (Raj Patel).”

It is no coincidence that the bounty of the harvest in early mythologies is frequently tied with creation itself. Demeter, the Greek goddess of the harvest bestowed upon humankind the ability to cultivate life, a skill once reserved for the gods and goddesses, through the sowing and propagation of seeds. Demeter is also the goddess of nurturance, for without nurturance, the land becomes barren and will not bring forth life.

During the trials and tribulations of her legacy, Demeter was raped by Poseidon, and her daughter Persephone was abducted by the god of the underworld, Hades. She experienced pain, grief and loss as well as great joys and successes connecting Demeter empathetically with the suffering and joy of humanity. During her period of pain and loss, the earth was barren and would not bring forth food, when her daughter was returned the earth once again became bountiful. Demeter’s story reveals itself each year as Persephone is forced to return to the underworld every winter and Demeter once again grieves the loss of her daughter.

The myth of Demeter is literally as old as civilization itself and various adaptations of her mythology appear within the artifacts of nearly all early cultures. Her sister goddesses are the Roman goddess Ceres, the Egyptian goddess Hathor, the Native American Spider Woman and the Japanese goddess Ukemochi to name a few. Each of these cultures across the globe placed an emphasis on the reverence and nurturance of the earth coupled with extreme gratitude for the bounty provided by the goddesses of the harvest.

For most of human history, people were intimately connected to their food supply. Most nurtured a personal patch of land producing fruit and vegetables for subsistence and raised a small collection of livestock for meat, eggs and dairy. Others lived in communities where the food they purchased was produced by their neighbors. Taking care of the land and one’s neighbors was paramount to survival. The relationship to the earth with regards to food production was reciprocal. Farmers cared for the earth and in exchange, the earth provided sustenance.

Today, the vast majority of people living in industrialized countries, and particularly within the United States have no idea where their food comes from. Small children are shocked to learn that vegetables grow in dirt or that their Happy Meal was once a cow or chicken. Rather than being produced by our neighbors, the average meal travels 1,500 miles before it arrives on our plate.

Our current methodologies of industrial agriculture place emphasis on production. Applications of artificial fertilizer, mechanized tilling and harvesting, monoculture crops and regular herbicide and pesticide use all promise greater crop yields as the ultimate aim. The concept of nurturance of the land does not exist within the modern industrial agricultural paradigm. Like Poseidon raping Demeter to satisfy his own lust, the industrialized food system views the land as a resource to be exploited for financial gain. The land’s subsequent loss of biodiversity and fertility are temporarily remedied with more applications of chemicals designed to force more production from the dying earth, but this strategy has met with disastrous results. Waterways are choking on excessive nutrient loads from fertilizer and manure runoff, topsoil is being lost at alarming rates and water tables are depleting faster than nature can restore them. Simple mathematics dictates that we will not be able to continue along this course indefinitely. It seems we have lost something precious when it comes to the growing of food.

A History of Food
Thousands of years ago in an area of the Middle East known as the ‘Fertile Crescent,’ mankind placed a seed into the earth and nurtured it into food beginning the great course of civilization. The simple act of growing crops gave stability to human society. No longer reliant on migrating herds of animals, man was able to metaphorically put down roots. Villages established, people developed rudimentary writing to keep track of harvests. The advent of agriculture and subsequent food surpluses also relieved humans from the day to day necessity of procuring food and thus freed up time to ponder nature, beauty and the questions of the origins of life itself. Thus, the act of growing food for ourselves becomes inextricably linked to civilization itself.

Once upon a time, the vast majority of the human population in America and across the globe was empowered with the knowledge and ability to feed ourselves. We ate well and ate food that we created with our own labor. Livestock such as cows, donkeys, horses, chickens and goats provided labor and food and increased soil fertility for crops with their manure. Fossil fuels expended in production of crops equaled zero. Monetary costs to the farmer were also $0. Toxic chemicals in food were non existent. Individuals nurtured their land, saved seeds and traded with their neighbors, resulting in thousands of varieties of crops each suited to the unique site conditions in every region. Food was healthy, free, provided by nature and nurtured from healthy, living soils by the sweat of our brows.

A perfect storm of events in human history in the early and mid 20th century changed the way we eat as a nation and across the globe. The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl in the 1930’s saw the beginnings of migrations of people from rural communities affected by drought to California and urban areas searching for work. World War II increased the exodus, as patriotic Americans, both male and female, rushed to urban areas to work for the cause in munitions factories. The end of the war found returning soldiers without work, defunct factories and a new urban population that needed to be put to work and fed.

The great wars changed the world forever in many ways. The wars to end all wars were a wake up call that the earth and her people no longer lived in isolation. The community of nations is intricately connected, and we will all live together or perish together. With technological advancements including nuclear arms that developed during the World War II era, warfare became a threat to life itself on the planet.

The technology developed during the World Wars changed the planet in other ways. Warfare entered the commercial realm as corporations were engaged to develop munitions, chemicals, tanks planes and other tools of warfare. When the wars were over, corporations needed a new market to sell their products to.

Chemical manufacturers of nerve gas discovered their products worked as well on insects as they did on humans. Defoliants could be used to kill weeds on the farm. The same technology used to create explosives could be used to manufacture fertilizer. Nerve gas was bottled and became pesticide. The developers of Agent Orange revamped their product into Roundup, and bomb factories switched to manufacturing fertilizer.

In this way, the chemicals of destruction worked their way into our food chain, and the age of industrial agriculture was born. The new technologies promised increased production and freedom from toil. Soils could be mechanically tilled with tractors rather than laboriously turned by oxen or mules. There was no longer a need for collecting, composting and spreading manure. Chemical fertilizers could easily be mechanically applied with more fossil fuel consuming equipment. The need for livestock on the farm became obsolete. In fact, the presence of animals on the farm impeded production. Land areas once needed for grazing of animals and growing of feed and hay could be converted into more cropland. After thousands of years of cycling life-giving nutrients back into the soil to nurture crops, livestock were removed from the farm and placed instead onto feedlots to simplify their own industrial production.

Rather than pulling weeds by had, a quick spray of herbicide would tackle the problem. If insect infestations were a problem, another quick spray of pesticide would kill any pest downwind of the toxic stream. Farming would no longer be a difficult, labor-intensive task, as it entered the industrial age. The American survivors of the Great Depression, remembering the difficult years of starvation and depravation embraced these new technologies of bounty and ease.

Industrial agriculture also benefitted from the new urban demographic. People in urban areas were not able to grow their own food or raise livestock. Massive quantities of food to feed large cities needed to be transported in from other areas to feed the urban masses. As cities grew larger, so did the farms that fed them.

Unfortunately, the promise of industrial agriculture has turned out to be misguided. While production certainly has increased, much more has been lost. Soils that have taken thousands of years to develop have blown away on the wind. Groundwater resources that have existed for millions of years are now threatened with annihilation. The thousands of heirloom crops developed over millennia by cultures across the globe are becoming extinct at an alarming rate. The chemicals of warfare, death and destruction are spreading their infection across the earth, and the food that is supposed to nourish us is making us sick. Traditional agriculture served the world’s populations for thousands of years. In order to stop killing the planet and ourselves, it is time to embrace its wisdom once again.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Killing Mother - Part I

2,700 B.C.E.

A change is moving across the landscape of Mesopotamia and much of Eurasia. While the worshippers of the Great Mother go about their daily communal lives, nomadic tribes from other lands discover that by smelting an ore of copper and tin, they can create a strong, durable metal. The new metal can be fashioned into weapons of destruction and the discovery ushers in the Bronze Age. On the Eurasian steppes, the nomads learn to domesticate wild horses. Mounted on horseback and armed with sophisticated weapons, the nomads migrate into Mesopotamia from the northwest. The peace-loving, earth-worshipping villagers are no match for the warring newcomers. And like her people, the earth goddess, who peacefully reined over the timeless cycles of birth, life, death and rebirth, is supplanted. Like the nomads themselves, the interlopers’ gods are men, who exemplify the male qualities of power, domination and subjugation of the weak.

Initially, the nomads are not substantial enough in number to overwhelm the existing society, so they infiltrate from within. By marrying women in positions of power, they insinuate themselves gradually into society usurping power from the matriarchs and their goddess. The process of removing the earth from her place of reverence has begun.

In the first know written story The Epic of Gilgamesh, the king serves at the pleasure of the great Goddess Ishtar as her royal consort. But Gilgamesh, the chosen consort, refuses to fulfill his matrimonial obligations. In an act of defiance, Gilgamesh slaughters Ishtar’s sacred and beloved bull throwing its testicles and penis in her face and storming off to seek his own immortality.

Gilgamesh manages to save his own skin by fleeing, as the king or consort of the goddess is traditionally ritually sacrificed each autumn to commemorate the death of the earth as it enters into winter. In lieu of Gilgamesh, a sacrifice is still needed, so Enkidu, a half-wild youth, takes the place of the runaway king. In doing so, he absolves Gilgamesh of his responsibility and sin. Enkidu is the first known person in myth to die as an offering for the sins of another.

Mesopotamia, 1,200 B.C.E.
There was once a great goddess Tiamat. She was the supreme mother of all and her body was comprised of the saltwater of the great seas. Sometimes she formed herself into a great serpent and other times she took the form of a dragon. Her husband Apsu was the fresh water and together they created their son Mummu, who was the mist. The world was chaos and they ruled over it.

Over time, they created lesser gods, who come to resent the authority of the divine trinity. The lesser gods conspired and through a great trickery managed to kill Apsu and Mummu. The goddess was enraged and unleashed her wrath upon all the lesser gods. With her new husband Kingu, She ploted to destroy them.

But the lesser gods rally together and appoint a powerful leader Marduk. An epic battle between Tiamat and Marduk ensues in which Marduk emerges the victor. Marduk tears the body of Tiamat in half. From one half, he fashions the earth and from the other, he creates the heavens.

As Tiamat and Ishtar met their demise at the hands of their wrathful male counterparts, so did the women of the earth get relegated to a lesser class. The female values of wisdom, nurturance, compassion, intuition and fertility, once worshiped as the very essence of the divine, were demoted to insignificance cowering in the face of power, strength and brutality. Like the women who worshiped her, earth became nothing more than chattel, a resource to be exploited and used by the men and their gods who now ruled over her.

As the third millennium B.C.E. dawned, the lands stretching from modern Turkey to Egypt and the British isles once inhabited by a peaceful people who nurtured and worshipped the Earth, became lands of turmoil and war. Those with strength took what they could from those who could not protect themselves. Wherever the warring tribes took over, their gods took over too. In Egypt, a small group of twelve tribes that worshipped a jealous and wrathful god of war began to spread into the lands inhabited by the worshippers of the Great Mother.

You must demolish completely all the places where the nations whom you are about to dispossess served their gods, on the mountain heights, on the hills, and under every leafy tree. Break down their altars, smash their pillars, burn their sacred poles with fire, and hew down the idols of their gods, and blot out their name from their places (Deuteronomy 12:2-3).

Sanctioned by their God, the followers of Yahweh rape and pillage everything that stands in the way of their acquisition of new territory and the spreading of the doctrine of their God.

Jerusalem 30 C.E.
A man who preaches equality for all and unconditional love of one’s friends and enemies alike is barbarically crucified. After his death, the legend of Jesus is passed by word of mouth throughout the land and across much of the Eurasian continent. Stories are written about him. The legend grows, and as it grows it changes to suit the purposes of those who would seek to attain power. The pacifist of the early gospels is turned into a war monger by the time Revelation is written. In the name of a great man who exemplified tolerance and justice for all humans including women and slaves, some of Jesus’ contemporary followers seek to persecute those with alternative beliefs, lifestyles, genders and sexual preferences. Sadly, the enlightened message spread by a true prophet 2,000 years ago became distorted beyond recognition, and His father’s legacy of intolerance and destruction continues.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Notes on the Economy – Part IV

Why is "Socialism" Such a Dirty Word?

This week the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the national unemployment rate rose to 9.7% in August, 2009. To the 14.9 million Americans who now find themselves without work, unemployment is more than just a number. Many hard working Americans live from paycheck to paycheck just trying to make ends meet. Without the meager, short-term unemployment benefits the U.S. offers, many of the unemployed would find themselves immediately living on the street. In most states, benefits last for 26 weeks, and during the current economic crisis, the federal government has offered an extension of 13 weeks. A lucky few are able to find other employment before the benefits dry up, but for many, the few months of benefits simply postpone the inevitable descent into homelessness and destitution.

For the lucky among us who count ourselves as employed, the jobless figures are a mental abstraction. Empathetically connecting to the horrific reality of the future that almost 10 percent of us now face is simply not something we, as Americans tend to do. Ronald Reagan, idolized by the vast majority of Americans, summed up our national sentiments when he described “welfare queens” driving around Chicago’s (black) South Side in “welfare Cadillacs.” Since that time, providing financial assistance to the poor with our national tax dollars has been anathema.

“Those who mock the poor insult their Maker (Proverbs 17:5).”

As a culture, Americans are not compassionate towards the poor. We blame them for their own misfortune. While many would protest this sentiment, our actions speak volumes louder than our words. Politicians know the issue of increased taxes is a hot bed, and few are bold enough to admit they would like to increase them. We want decent education, paved roads and bridges that don’t fall down, but somehow we expect the federal government to be able to miraculously pay for the social infrastructure without any money. Few of us are willing to fork out some of our own tax dollars for the greater good. Instead, we chose to look out for number one. When times get tough, the tough get going. We do everything we can to protect our own interests because in this country, it is every man for himself.

Imagine we lived in a country where we felt safe and protected. If we got sick, our social infrastructure would take care of us. If we lost our job, we would be provided for. If our children did well in school, they would go to college regardless of our financial status. No matter what life handed us, our society would take care of us. If we knew our society provided us with a safety net, perhaps we wouldn’t feel so stingy about sharing our wealth with our community.

“If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor (Matthew 19:21).”

For most of the industrialized world, the social infrastructure we can only imagine (above) is an accepted fact of life. In England, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Canada and the list goes on, people go about their daily business without the fear of losing everything they have worked for to life’s unpredictable mishaps. Instead of creating an entitled welfare class in the image of Ronald Reagan’s welfare queens, countries with substantial social infrastructures enjoy low unemployment rates. While the European Union is also suffering from the recent economic recession, reports Europe’s current unemployment rate as 9.5%, 0.2% lower than that of the United States. Meanwhile, Canada enjoys more than a full percentage point lower unemployment at 8.6% (Statistics Canada at

In addition to higher employment rates, Europeans and Canadians enjoy a higher quality of life. In 2006, the United Nations developed the Human Development Index based on factors such as life expectancy, literacy and standards of living. Based on 2008 results, the United States ranks 15th in the world behind 12 European countries, Japan, Australia and Canada (for further information, please see The countries that outrank us are invariably “socialist” states that provide universal healthcare, government sponsored higher education for deserving students, living wage guarantees and ongoing welfare for underprivileged and unemployed people. The people in these countries do for the most part pay higher taxes, but they are getting what they pay for. Clearly hoarding our money for ourselves rather than making regular donations to the greater good in the form of taxes is not working for us.

What would we as a society be willing to pay for the peace of mind that comes with living in a community of people that look after one another? It is a sad testament to our culture that Americans have assessed the equation and have almost unanimously decided that hoarding their wealth for themselves and saving a few tax dollars is preferable to creating a better society for all.

What would it look like if we took all the money we now spend on killing people in foreign lands and providing tax breaks for corporations and the financial elite and invested it instead in our schools, our health and our society? It would look like socialism, and it would be a good thing.

Monday, September 7, 2009

References and Recommended Reading

Some followers have requested a reference and reading list.  The list will be periodically updated.

Brende, E. (2004). Better Off. Flipping the Switch on Technology. New York: Harper Collins.

Callicott, J., B. (1994). Earth’s Insights – A Multicultural Survey of Ecological Ethics from the Mediterranean Basin to the Australian Outback. Berkley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Daly, H.E. (2007). Ecological Economics and Sustainable Development – Selected Essays of Herman Daly. Cheltnham, U.K. and Northampton, MA, USA: Edward Elgar.

Dawkins, R. (2006). The God Delusion. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

Eisler, R. (1987). The Chalice and the Blade. San Francisco: Harper.

Faillace, L. (2006). Mad Sheep. The True Story Behind the USDA’s War on a Family Farm. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green.

Gaer, J. (1929). How the Great Religions Began. New York: Signet.

Gore, A. (2006). An Inconvenient Truth. New York: Rodale.

Griffin, Susan (1978). Woman and Nature – The Roaring Inside Her. New York: Harper and Collins.

Harpur, T. (2004). The Pagan Christ. New York: Walker and Company.

Harris, S. (2006). Letter to a Christian Nation. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Joseph, L. E. (2007). Apocalypse 2012. A Scientific Investigation into Civilization’s End. New York: Morgan Road Books.

McKibben, B. (2007). Deep Economy. The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

Meeks, W.A. et. al. and Society of Biblical Literature, editors (1989). The Harper Collins Study Bible – New Revised Standard Version. San Francisco:  Harper Collins.

Nelson, Melissa, K., editor (2008). Original Instructions – Indigenous Teachings for a Sustainable Future. Rochester, VT: Bear and Company.

Patel, Raj (2007).  Stuffed and Starved.  Brooklyn, NY: Melville House Publishing.

Pollan, Michael (1997). A Place of My Own – The Education of an Amateur Builder. New York: Random House.

Pollan, Michael (2006). The Omnivore’s Dilemma – A Natural History of Four Meals. New York: The Penguin Press.

Schapiro, M. (2007). Exposed. The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What’s at Stake for American Power. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green.

Scharff, Virginia, J., editor (2003). Seeing Nature Through Gender. University Press of Kansas.

Schlosser, E. (2001). Fast Food Nation. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

Shiva, V. (2000). Stolen Harvest. The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply. Cambridge, MA: South End Press.

Stone, M. (1976). When God was a Woman. Orlando: Harcourt Brace and Company.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

In the Beginning - Part III

Babylon, 3,200 B.C.E.

An, the god of the sky and Nanna, the god of the moon give birth to a great daughter Inanna. She was the Queen of Heaven and Earth and the most powerful of all the gods and goddesses. She was endowed by Enki, the god of wisdom and water, with fourteen me or blessings of power. The blessings included but were not limited to truth, the art of lovemaking, descent into the underworld and ascent from it and the art of fellatio.

Inanna with her new powers decides that she will descend into the underworld. Unfortunately, once she arrives, she is sentenced to death by her sister Ereshkigal in an apparent act of the ultimate sibling rivalry. The devastating effect of Inanna’s untimely death is all of nature dies and the cycle of rebirth ceases. Fortunately, the wise god Enki brokers an arrangement whereby Inanna’s life can be saved if another is sacrificed. Inanna’s male consort, Dumuzi fulfills this function and is whisked away to the underworld. To commemorate this tale, life on earth passes each winter into the sleep of the underworld and is reborn every spring.

Babylonian rituals also depicted natural cycles. The high priestess of the temple of Inanna would every year take a young male consort. After serving as her king for a year, he would be ritually sacrificed only to be reborn or resurrected again the following spring in the form of a new young male consort. Interestingly, these rituals took place at the first full moon following the spring equinox. Today Christians celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus on the first Sunday following the full moon which follows the spring equinox.

In Anatolia and Rome, the Great Earth Mother also known as Mistress of the Animals Cybele gives birth to a son Attis. In an ecstatic frenzy, Attis castrates himself and dies. Cybele mourns his death and on the third day, he is resurrected bringing with him the promise of salvation and new life.

There are many other creation myths most of which date up to about 3,000 years ago in which the creator is a Great Mother, who gives birth to all the creatures of the earth. She is earth herself. In fact, in no known myths from the same era is there any suggestion that the world was created by a male deity acting alone without a divine feminine counterpart. Such a concept would have defied logic and the laws of nature.

Last Rewriting of the Hebrew Bible, 400 B.C.E.

The Old Testament says in the beginning a divine male creator made the earth and all of the species it supports in a period of six days. Humans were created on the 6th day and were created ‘man and woman’ in God’s image. On the seventh day He rested.

Biblical theologians have used a number of analytical devices to interpret the Old Testament and largely agree based on a biblical day being the equivalent to a normal 24 hour day, the universe, earth and every living thing upon the earth were created approximately 6,000 years ago ± 2,000 years according to biblical scripture.

Fossil, historical and archaeological evidence suggest a slightly different model with the earth being approximately 4.5 billion years old. 6,000 years ago, approximately 4,000 C.E., by most estimates, there were around 4-5 million humans living on planet earth (perhaps it was one of these people that Cain betrothed to populate the earth, since Adam and Eve did not have any daughters according to the Old Testament). At the same time, the cradle of human civilization, as it is known today, was located in the area currently marked out by the countries of modern day Greece, Turkey, Iran, India, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Israel and other countries of the Middle East. The rest of the world including the Americas was also populated by humans.

The British Isles were inhabited by tribes of Celtic persons. Unfortunately, these people did not have a written language at the time, so they left us no myths of their pagan spiritual beliefs; however, archaeological evidence offers some keys into their worship of nature and religious practices.

The Americas were heavily colonized by peoples with diverse cultural traditions. It is theorized the Americans were originally of Asian ancestry and made their way across the Bering Straight during the Great Ice Ages migrating inland to fill up the continents of North and South America. Over millennia, these people developed myriad cultures including the diverse tribes of North America and the Mayan, Incan and aboriginal cultures of South America.

In Asia, societies developed throughout China, Japan and Korea. In Korea, agriculture in the form of rice cultivation began. Aboriginal peoples established themselves in Australia, New Zealand and the islands of Polynesia and New Guinea.

The world at that time was a very different place. The great forests of the Indian subcontinent, North America and Amazonia supported towering old growth trees.

Toxic manmade chemicals did not exist. Pollution of land air and water was limited to what the earth herself produced, and it was easily eliminated by natural processes. Human garbage consisted of waste materials not consumed during a meal or those eliminated afterwards. It was all recycled naturally back into the ecosystem.

In many ways, the world at that time was an idealistic place. Apart from nature and all of her unspoiled bounty, the human species had just begun to move away from hunter gatherer societies to form agriculturally-based civilizations. The same time period which the Bible cites as the beginning of creation is actually the dawn of civilization.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Notes on the Economy - Part III

Who owns the earth?

Is the earth’s bounty is a common resource to be shared by all her inhabitants, human, animal and vegetable? In the beginning, resources were plentiful, free and equally available to all. If one was hungry, he/she hunted, gathered or cultivated. For shelter, a few trees or a buffalo’s hide made a fine dwelling. Air, water, sunshine, food, shelter, energy for heat and cooking and even healthcare were provided by nature free of charge. The services nature provided were abundant and rained equally upon all living things. And so it was for most of history. Things have certainly changed. While hominids and other animals have always competed with one another for the best territories, the distribution of earth’s resources has reached an unprecedented state of inequality. Now, a few humans are holding all the cards to the detriment of the earth and all the rest of the souls that call her home.

According to the World Institute for Development Economic Research of the United Nations University*, at the end of 2006, 2% of the adults on planet earth control over half of the global wealth. Shockingly, the unfortunate 50% of people at the bottom of the economic food chain can claim less than 1% of the global bounty for themselves. In the year 2000, the total wealth of all individuals on the globe was estimated as $125 trillion, which amounts to $26,000 per person if the wealth were equitably spread. Unfortunately, the bounty is not spread evenly and more than half the people on earth live on around $2,000 or even less.

The neoclassical economist’s argument for the perpetually growing global free market has always rationalized that economic growth will trickle its wealth down from the wealthy to the poor and raise the standards of living for all. As the economic divide between rich and poor widens, it is sad that political leaders continue to spout the mistruths of the obviously flawed neoclassical economic model.

Ronald Reagan was the father of trickle down economics (or piss on economics, as I see it). Reagan spouted the neoclassical wisdom of tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation of industry and unimpeded trade. Bush Jr. was Reagan’s protégé and took the trickle down policy even further. During the Bush and Reagan years, the rich certainly got richer, but everybody else including the middle class got relatively poorer. Since Reagan’s inauguration the incomes of the top .01% of Americans has increased sevenfold while the rest of us have experienced a slight decrease in real wages when adjusted for inflation. For those who are surprised by these figures, why? If our tax and trade policies favor the rich, they will get richer. If we deregulate international trade, jobs will go overseas where labor is cheap, good jobs will be lost and regular working people will be worse off. What is surprising is that the financial elite were able to convince the voting public to go along with a theory that has always defied basic logic.

How can we balance the equation towards fairness once again? Ecological economist, Herman E. Daly** suggests going back to the basic premise that nature, her services and her resources are communal property that is becoming increasingly scarce. It is in everyone’s interest to ensure that nature’s resources continue to provide for all living things. Using scarce resources beyond a rate at which they can be replenished is bad for everyone. Furthermore, since the resources and services belong to everyone, everyone should be compensated for their consumption. When manufacturers take natural resources, they should compensate the public in the form of resource taxes that are proportionate to the value of the resource. Having to pay a realistic price for the services that nature provides will ensure responsible use. The proceeds collected can be used for a variety of public services including environmental stewardship or even healthcare.

When Adam Smith first proposed a free market of unfettered growth, the seas were full of fish, the great old growth forests of North America were untouched and the earth’s crust was filled with fossil fuels. As economic growth expanded exponentially, it consumed the earth’s resources in its wake and created the world we have today of depleted fisheries stocks, deforestation and the plethora of environmental woes that plague the planet. The economic practices of the past 300 years are the cause. We cannot persist in the same fashion and expect a different outcome. Our economic policies must modernize to match the world as it is today, not as it was 300 years ago.

Current economic gospel promotes the maximization of both production and consumption, as it is the sale of goods that is calculated as GDP – the current ultimate measure of economic fitness. When resources are consumed and thrown away and more resources are then consumed and thrown away, the GDP increases. In an ecological economy, both consumption and production would be minimized in favor of maintenance. In this fashion, valuable resources would not be exploited simply for their sale and then to be thrown away.

We need to replace our quantity mentality with a quality mentality. As a society, our constant consumption of goods has not improved our quality of life. We are overweight, stressed out and overworked – all symptoms of our culture of excess.

To be continued…

*For more information visit

** For more information about ecological economics see Daly, Herman E., 2007. Ecological Economics and Sustainable Development – Selected Essays of Herman Daly. Edward Elgar Publishers.