Fear of Change

A couple of winters ago I was wandering around the local library – snow signals marathon reading at my house.   On a front display, I noticed The Transition Handbook by Rob Hopkins.   The subtitle, “From oil dependency to local resilience” intrigued me – 20 minutes later, there I am, in front of the Ben Franklin wood stove, educating myself.

Interestingly, the book is portioned into three sections – Head, Heart and Hands.

Head deals with the combined observations of both peak oil and climate change.   Looking at both of these, it becomes abundantly clear that just cutting carbon emissions is not enough.  Rebuilding local resilience is a must in order for us not to degrade ourselves back to Neanderthal status, once Oil is no more.

Heart deals with finding the personal and community tools, as well as the courage and confidence, to deal with what sometimes seems like overwhelming obstacles in the journey from ‘here’ to ‘there’.

And Hands places the flourishing touch on showing, by way of example, how towns in the UK have made their own transitions – a blueprint and honest appraisal of what worked and what didn’t.

As you guessed, my post today will focus on the Heart portion….

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Rob Hopkins reports that any successful transition from oil dependence to local resilience starts with a local town meeting that includes, as one of the initial activities, attendees sharing their thoughts regarding what the end of cheap oil really means to their daily lives.  In other words, an external dialogue about our deepest fears regarding the loss of our only known way of life.

“Change is the only constant” is most commonly attributed to Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher – we are all familiar with this quote.

Our heads and rational souls acknowledge this.

The beliefs and motivations driving our daily actions, are often, however, some 180 degrees the other way.  We strive to maintain what is known and comfortable.

In my own humble analysis, I believe the “fear of change” monster is kept well-fed by complex society.

When the amount and variety of information available as to how things really work is so staggering that one average lifespan is not enough to learn it all – it becomes oh-so-easy to feel inadequately informed about what is actually causing the problems and therefore, not very confident in coming forth with solutions.

Add to this internal disquiet caused by ‘not knowing’, unstable economic times, the responsibility and duty to provide for those who depend on you and the stress of wondering if you will have a job tomorrow, self-defense and coping mechanisms quickly come to the rescue.

Self-defense/coping can take many forms – but the most common seen in a society faced with serious issues is ‘”Delusion”,  “Distraction”, “Ostrich Syndrome” and last, but not least, “Scapegoating”.

Delusion

Definition: A false belief strongly held in spite of invalidating evidence

Currently, we have a lot of this going on.   In the face of changing climate, massive oil spills and scientific evidence that fossil fuels are being consumed waaaayyyy faster than they will ever be replenished, we (myself included) tend to continue in a lifestyle that is not even close to being fossil fuel free.

Delusion #1 “Somehow, someway, off-grid living and renewable energy will become affordable and obtainable for all soon – until then, it’s our civic duty to keep working (even if that means a 50 mile commute) , producing and consuming.”

As Americans, for the most part, we are slowly losing ground every day in sustaining what’s touted as the American Dream, but we are so sure, given our freedoms, ingenuity and inherent work ethic that we can turn it around. (which is delusion #2. Please see Ostrich Syndrome and Distraction for details)

I do not know of Anyone in my circle in a position to say, “Ya know what?   I’m going to force industry to get us to solar sooner by not buying gas today, tomorrow or even next week.  That will get ’em moving. Nope, I don’t even need to own a car”, without really facing some very uncomfortable adjustments.  Course, I’ve been known to hang out with the wrong group at times…

I’m not judging…Remember me saying I’m included in the “We” group?   If there were no fossil fuels (or energy generated by such)  available 20 minutes from now, I’d be screwed.   Not like, “right away” screwed, but “fire drill have to do something soon” screwed.  (Plus, you wouldn’t even be able to read this commentary I’ve spent loads of personal energy on…)

I have dehydrators to process all the frozen meat in my freezer (meat faithfully purchased directly from a somewhat local-to-me producer) but, oops, I don’t have a way to generate electricity to run the durn drying things.

I have a lot of canning jars and salt in my garage, along with vinegar – maybe just maybe, I can get all my food stores preserved via fermentation in time  – but I’m not betting on it.

I also know my family is going to have to be facing starvation before they’ll eat my fermenting projects.  Subtle accusations regarding ‘poisoning’ and doubts regarding ‘food safety’ have permeated my home since my endeavors started.

Who cares that up until about 100 years ago, this was the way our ancestors prepared for winter in a culture that didn’t have Frigidaire…we now know it’s a miracle anyone survived long enough to reproduce without  pasteurization, antibacterial soap and modern preservatives…or so we’re told…

I have my year’s supply of wheat, again faithfully purchased direct from the farmer, but that doesn’t do me a lot of good, since my grain grinder works off electricity and even if I possessed a hand-cranked one, I probably don’t have the muscles or energy to grind out my daily bread.

I also am drinking my daily coffee while writing this… to my knowledge, coffee does not grow in Colorado…

My view of what the withdrawal process from TV and Xbox looks like probably echoes my family’s view of my quitting smoking experiments….

My household is not willingly ready to endure such commotion, at least not yet.

So along we drift, with our one car, energy saving lite-bulbs and Farmer’s Market produce, hoping total collapse waits for us to be prepared for it –  all the while quietly aware we probably won’t adjust to new ways until we absolutely have too.

This is known as Acknowledged Self-Delusion.

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The increase in “For Rent”, “For Sale” and “Bank Owned” signage in my area, coupled with seeing these same properties remain empty for months, tells me the mortgage and real estate industry, along with private property owners would rather let a house sit unoccupied for 3 – 6 months or more, rather than reduce their sales price or rent requirements.

History has deluded us into believing that both up and downturns are par for the course and if you have managed your affairs properly, you will survive the downturn and really make a killing when the upturn arrives.

I truly question the possibility of an ‘upturn’ being accomplished by elected officials and big business.   Most of my circle agrees – yet still, the debates rage on about how stimulus packages should really be spent, what’s needed to stem unemployment rates rising, etc….

Which leads me to the next evil ….

Distraction

Okay, if you’re a girl, ignore this next part.    I look like a girl, but somehow did not inherit the ‘need shoes and purse to match every outfit’ gene.  So my recent epiphany on what I choose to spend my money on is no big surprise.  I somehow was graced with defective genes that make it much easier for me to focus on food, local needed services and products as the bulk of my expenditures and give up the luxuries (more shoes and clothes than I can wear in a week, books than I can read in a lifetime or computer software and cars that depreciate by 3000% the moment I hand over my debit card.)

I’ve been Distracted into thinking that solely by amending what I purchase, from whom and in what quantities,  I can save the world.   But note, I live in an economic system that relies on unlimited growth and expansion in order to survive.   I’m not sure ‘no limits’ and ‘sustainable’ can simultaneously be linked with the word ‘lifestyle’ in my current plane of existence.

Already, news stories are touting the gloom and doom attached to Americans ‘saving more’ and ‘spending less’ – remember that Capitalism needs to realize 3% growth every year in order to be a viable system.   3% growth does not occur when people are not buying.

My brother calls weathering uncertain economic storms as ‘hunkering down’.   As a nation, it seems, we’re in ‘hunker down’ mode.    Cries of  ‘smaller government’ and ‘less spending’ and ‘save for the future’ lead many current grassroots movements.

The problem is, we have been Distracted from the fact that erasing the government debt will actually be the death blow to our system.   Remember that 3% growth thingee?   Well, monetizing government debt is one way to create new money (and expanding government counts as new growth and new jobs, no matter how violently it is opposed.)

I will also note that Public Works projects during the Great Depression did result in useful infrastructure creation and repairs.  (think dams and nationwide highway systems).   Our current Public Works project to create new jobs is called the US Census.   We spent a lot of money to count people.   So we know where to spend money we don’t have.

Interesting side note – the gain of 71,000 new jobs in July was quickly lost by the 143,000 temporary Census workers whose jobs ended.

I can think of a lot of other ways to spend the money flushed on the Census – but then, hey, remember, I’m a political non-sophisticate.  I’m too dumb to understand the finer nuances regarding government, finances and economy.   Right…..

So successfully have we been distracted from how our economic system really works, if our pleas for smaller government and no debt were actually answered, our whole way of life will collapse like the proverbial house of cards.

(If you think I’m crazy, then please take some time to read the following: How Money Is Created)

We are all aware of debt – ours, the government’s etc…  But realize that in the 70’s, when a ceiling was put on the Labor Market (hence, limiting earned income that could be spent and therefore, threatening the stability of Capitalism)  the source of our current woes WAS the solution.

In short, here’s the overview:

“Yes, in order to make new business ventures profitable and investment in such desirable, then we must limit what is spent on labor, in order to maximize profits.   Oops…if the laborers aren’t earning, they can’t purchase the newly created products and services.   How do we solve this?  Oh, give ’em credit cards.  Problem solved…. “

Again, if you do not believe me, take a gander at this perspective of Capitalism.

I’m reminded of Loretta Spark’s observation: “Every Problem used to be a Solution”

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Ostrich Syndrome

In a nation  raised on the tenets of individual freedom,  hard work coupled with perseverance equals success and anyone can make it if they are determined, actions I label as “Ostrich Syndrome” coping,  are touted as our greatest strengths and saving grace by others.

So many in my circle put their nose to the grindstone and persevere in working harder, working smarter or working more – secure in the fact that hard work and ingenuity will win the day.

Not so.

When you are not in a position to independently set the value of your own labor (value of the US Dollar) or possessions –  when the fruits of your labor must pass through numerous hands before making their way back to you (taxation, debt interest and regulatory fees), when your local supply and demand formula can be ruthlessly exploited by the non-local, (tax breaks for big business and business travel), then you can work yourself into the ground,  producing the best product for the best true price and still go under.

Being a ‘good worker’ is laudable, but if the system you labor within is a complex and cleverly disguised version of serfdom, your dreams of being rewarded for hard-work will never be realized.  Short term illusion, yes.  Long term reality, not possible.

So instead of depending on working longer and harder, spend some of your time getting real clear on exactly what system you labor under.   See how much control and empowerment you have within that system.  And then decide if it’s worth putting your back into…

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Scapegoating

Definition – The act of singling out an individual or group for unmerited treatment or blame.

This will be a short section – really, a historical list is all I have to say about it (I’m just hitting quick-to-type highlights, this is by no means all inclusive):

  • Salem witch trials
  • Nazi Regime
  • Most modern political campaigns
  • The start of most wars

When folks are scared on a deep level, it becomes very easy to point fingers (and believe) where the root of all their troubles lies.

Scapegoating wastes a lot of time that could be spent on figuring out solutions, but it continues to be a favorite activity of those who wish to gain converts to their way of thinking.

I’m less interested in who is to blame and more interested in how do we fix it?   Trust me, in your quest to identify “how-to-correct” actions, you will discover any and all contributing factors to the problem, your own actions included.

As Forest Gump said, “And that’s about all I have to say about that.”

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I’m not denouncing us as blind idiots or sheeple.   I am certain though, we are all, to some extent, easily led by grand misinformation campaigns, which flourish in a complex system.

My new mantra is, “It’s only as complex as I buy into.”

Simplicity is focusing on what’s needed for daily survival,  how to fulfill those needs via your own local backyard and then taking steps towards working within that system or creating that system if needs be.

Remember, there are plenty of folks around you who wish to do the same.   Some just aren’t sure where to start.  Others are fearful of what drastic change will mean to their daily life.

Lunch at the Farmer’s Market while discussing what’s really important to you and how deep your fear and insecurities run, with your neighbors is a beginning….

Identifying where you and yours do have power and what you’re willing to support via your energy is the next.

One step at a time, We The People can persevere.

As I once told a discouraged process improvement team; “Change is coming down the pike.   Let’s get our two cents in now and direct how that change occurs.”

Census Update III

I thought Census Update II was the end of the matter – but news came to me today I couldn’t resist sharing. (Note some minor details have been changed or omitted to protect the privacy of the innocent and prevent the identification of the lazy, misled or deluded – I do try to be fair while touting my perspective.  Sorry, government, agencies,  no sense in trying to rename you, because everyone knows who is in charge of the Census and any allusions would be a waste of time…)

Your tax dollars (and mine) paid for the following census drama at my friend’s house:

  • A mailed postcard announcing  her census will be coming soon.
  • Hand delivery of census to her doorstep by temporary census employee. (which was filled out and mailed in.)
  • A follow-up visit by census personnel, because apparently hers wasn’t received either. (That makes 2 lost from households located approximately 4 miles from each other.  On the flip side, I know people who received 2 and others who received none.) Since she wasn’t at home at the time,  a card was left, requesting a phone call from my friend between the hours of 9 and 3 on Thursday or Friday. (Which, she could not do, because Hey!  she’s one of the lucky ones who still has a job and is at work for her employer at that time.)

She called the number on Monday,  and said she was happy to ‘comply with the request for information’ but was working during the hours listed.  Could the interview be done now?

And here’s the response:

“Oh, I’ve been moved to work another district – I’ll pass on the information to my supervisor, but probably, by now, you can just never mind.”

Now, it’s important to my friend to be counted – she takes her civic duty seriously.  Even 0ver-zealous, personal door-to-door delivery, collection and confirmation has not prevented piss-poor mail delivery, Census Headquarters mail room sorting snafu’s,  mismanaged data entry (or retrieval) or some combination of the aforementioned – which all results in her household not being counted this go-around.

This grieves her.   (For those of you who don’t follow my blog, this friend is Ms. Capricorn-Bookkeeper.  Translation: All i’s and t’s are consistently dotted, crossed and completed in a responsible and cost-effective manner.    Our recent census  endeavor has violated many of her firm beliefs on how to properly get a project done.)

(I will add that overall, I’ve always been pleased with our Postal Service – however, counting my census, this incident and a letter that never made it’s destination in May, I’ve had close experience with ‘lost mail’ 3 times in the past months.   Strange, but true.)

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The preceding production brought to you by folks who want you to believe they can:

  • Design, Implement and Maintain a system to track all domestic animals and quickly isolate and destroy those who are diseased. (NAIS)
  • Design , Implement and Maintain a nationwide medical history database AND health care program.

Sorry, but you can’t even successfully or efficiently oversee a counting program.   Think I’ll wait for something better.

NAIS, Codex Alimentarius, Bill S510 and Other Bedtime Stories to Guarantee Nightmares

Are food protection acts really for our safety? Can they be properly implemented? And who, by the way, will pay for these programs?

Thanks to my good friends on Facebook, I was alerted that the ugly head of the government is once again poking its’ large and obnoxious nose into places it doesn’t belong.   Yes, I realize this is a inflammatory statement, hence, my writing here, instead of posting this as a comment at the www.opencongress.org website.  (which, if you’d like, you can visit and look at the hoopla going on over various bills.)

So, let’s take a look at each of these and try to make sense of them.

NAIS – The National Animal Identification System.   In brief, this idea is supposedly born of the desire to quickly identify and destroy animals that pose a threat to both food supply and our existence. (mad cow disease, avian bird flu, anyone?)

What is not so clear is how anyone thinks any of this will really work.   Number 1, the folks that want to implement this currently employ thousands to audit tax returns and apparently have not been successful in creating a database or secure electronic means of verifying taxes or conducting a paperless census (which, by the way, we filled out, returned and apparently was ‘lost’ as a census person showed up at my house saying they didn’t get ours.   On the flip side, my mom got 2 censuses to fill out and a friend never received any….)

Now, if these folks have not centralized, streamlined and made efficient the operations they have been in charge of for decades, how in the world are we to believe they can implement this kind of system and let us know about diseased food within 20 years of our consumption of it?

Number 2 – current figures show that given the ‘requirements’ of the system, most of the costs will fall on the small farmers and ranchers – courtesy of Wikipedia is the following:

“The costs of becoming NAIS compliant for a U.S. beef producer were found to be a minimum of $2.08 a head for large producers and as much as $17.56 a head for smaller operations, with an estimated average cost to cow/calf producers of $6.26 per animal, according to research by Christopher Raphael Crosby of Kansan State University’s Department of Agricultural Economics published in 2008.”

Does anyone hear “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer”?

Number 3 – Historically, outbreaks of disease occur in close population, improperly nourished animals.   Farmer John who has 15 head of cattle and 160 acres of pasture does not face the same challenges as Mr. Beef, who has crammed 5,000 cows into a feedlot the size of a Wal-mart parking lot, where calves play on hills of cow patties and drink milk produced from the ingestion of soybean and corn meal (when cows have evolved to do just fine, thank you very much, on grass.)

Plus, Farmer John really depends on his herd for his food, to feed his family and perhaps a neighbor or two and to bring in some extra cash to pay the ever-increasing cost of living expenses.  So he has a HUGE investment in making sure his herd is healthy and well-nourished.  The loss of even one cow can make or break him.

Mr. Beef can depend on tax breaks, an adjustment of market prices, government bailouts, etc, if he somehow manages to lose his herd to disease.   So who do you think takes better care of their herd?

On to the next – Codex Alimentarius – Proponents will tell you it’s an international effort to ensure the safety of food for all – as well as to keep me from accidently killing myself from taking too much Vitamin C.

Again, these efforts are brought to you by folks who can’t even balance their own budgets and settle disputes among themselves in a peaceful manner.  Do you really think they know how much Vitamin C I can handle and furthermore, if I were receiving nutritious food, would I even need a supplement?   If they are so invested in “Nutritious, Safe Food to further the health and well-being of the populace” then why did they ignore the published findings of biochemist Dr. Mary Enig in the 70’s, who warned of the dangers of trans-fats and hydrogenated fats to the human body?  Um, no, took about 40 years before they figured that one out (if they even have yet……………)

I also find it interesting that many countries within the World Effort of this measure are ARDENTLY opposed to GMO foods and have been very insistent on pushing for foods containing those types of ingredients to be Labeled.   Those who have a vested interest in controlling both seed and food supplies, by getting ‘patents’ on their genetically modified seeds and plants have kept up the pressure and keep taking a run at getting that ‘pesky little nuisance’ of required labeling for GMO foods buried under the rug.

All in all, I cannot see the reasoning for extending all this effort on the Codex other than for countries who take their food and health seriously to put up a ‘fence’ to keep those exports out from countries that do not.  (meaning, US)

So with the history of these two long-running dramas, I now come to the most recent – Senate Bill S510.

Innocuously titled, “FDA Food Safety Modernization Act”, it lists high-sounding ideals and includes some of the following:

  • food facility re-inspection (um…I worked as a waitress for 12 years, I can tell you, restaurants get inspected every year……)
  • food recalls (aren’t they already allowed to do that?)
  • a voluntary qualified importer program (have these people never heard of eating locally?)

So those violently opposed to this bill read it and see how easily seed and food control could be placed in the hands of those who have no business telling us what we can grow or eat, share with our neighbors or sell at the local farmer’s market.   And I agree with them to a point; while the bill does not specifically state any of these intents, the large generalized points of it are open to all kinds of interpretations.

History tells me the interpreters will translate it for the benefit of themselves, their agency budget and their large campaign contributors (corporations) before they will for my health and well being.

Again, if you look to history, deaths and illness related to the consumption of contaminated, diseased foods, has been linked to large corporate mono-culture farms, not the small local producers.  Why?  Well, because the small local producer not only feeds you, but their own family.  They don’t have the time or the energy (or the insanity) to grow one garden with ‘good stuff’ for their family and another with ‘questionable stuff’ to sell at the local market.

In addition, if I get ‘bad food’ at the local farmer’s market, I know exactly who to go to with my accusations.   When large farms put out questionable produce, it has also traveled through one or more broker warehouses, a packaging plant or two, the transportation gamut….on and on and its’ so easy to pass the buck on who exactly is to blame.

I’m also curious as to why Homeland Security is one of the committees listed on the bill’s information page.  What, are they afraid terrorists are going to send us toxic bananas?   Newsflash, if everyone ate organic and locally, this fear would be laughable.  And I can tell you, any terrorist shows up at our local farmers market with evil intent on his mind, I can guarantee there are enough ‘rednecks’ around here that are just waiting for an opportunity to show the world what real Homeland Security looks like.

I also wonder just where they are going to get the money to implement all this when they are already crying about ‘deficits’ and ‘budget cuts’.   To my mind, this has less to do with feeding the nation safely and more to do with feeding the oversized monster we call our government, as well as nudging out any competition to the large centralized food companies.

Implementation, testing and compliance enforcement take money – some of that money will come from those who want to ‘buy into the market’ (meaning smaller operations won’t be able to afford to be in the market) – but most of the money will come from you and me, the consumer.   What?  You don’t think so?  Just who do you think is paying for the Tobacco Company Settlements?   It isn’t the companies or the government, its’ the consumers.  But I’ll leave that debate for another time.

The legislations listed above can only make sense in a climate of fear.   They can only pass when we blindly believe the government is really trying to protect us.  When we believe that death is more heinous than liberty. (Oh where is Patrick Henry when you need him?)

Quit looking to the government to save you from harm.   Know those who grow your food.   Have a relationship.  Trust me, they are much more invested in your health and well being than the FDA is.  Because without you, they don’t have a livelihood.  The FDA and government don’t either, but they have forgotten.

Remind them.