It isn’t economically feasible to stop climate change

At this point most scientists and even a majority of business people and politicians admit that climate is changing rapidly. Yet when on a recent show of Democracy Now one of Trumps representatives to the climate conference was asked about belief in climate science he replied that he believed but it is not economical to do anything about it.

Now I read story in Scientific American today that all the glaciers are melting at a rate beyond which even the most pessimistic climate scientists predicted recently. Greenland is melting in an interesting beautiful yet horrifying way. Surface run off forms into rivers and melts and widens cracks in the ice. This lubricates between and under the ice helping to cause it to slip and move. When certain hard land features are overcome, glacial melt glacial flow is no longer slow (or as we used to say glacial). It happens quickly.

This is starting to happen in Antarctica as well. If all the ice were to melt in Antarctica it would raise see level 200 feet. Now if happens over the next hundred years the quibbling about the costs of changing our ways will seem so petty and ridiculous as we actually struggle to survive on a climatically destabilized and ravaged earth.

Writing can be theraputic

I feel I can get my thought clearer when I focus on writing an article about a topic important to me. Thank you Laura, Malia, Thomas, Chelsea, and other folks in Petrolia for looking at my story about Hana recently. It was a theraputic experience and I feel better and more how shall we say, loved?

Anyway other things I have been wanting to write about is our corrupt government attacking a democratically elected leader/ government in Venezuella. I am so upset about this. But more later.

Happy Indian Spring and lets hope its a good year!

Reflections on the loss of a sister

This morning in early January 2019, I go running along Lighthouse road, in Petrolia.  I ran to Doc Scheinman’s.  Not to his house specifically but to the willow forest by his house and to the river, the bend in the river that flows into bedrock, churning a deep pool.  Right now, in the morning light, the water runs choppy and turbid into the bedrock and then makes a turn to the right as it hurtles another 4 miles and becomes one with the ocean.  This is the spot where my sister Hana is thought to have ….left the realm of the living.  I look at the river, big and chocolatey after about an inch and a half of rain.  It’s a Humboldt winter storm type of day, blustery wet and somewhat electric.  The river looks substantial.  Its 100 feet wide in many places.  Plus, the wind.  The whoosh of the wind and an occasional squall of rain combining and whooshing through trees reminds us that nature is here, primal and alive.  It is a sound, an experience that is timeless for me.  I am reminded that nature existed and exists exclusive of us.

I run down Evergreen way to Lighthouse road and take a right.  I run east on Lighthouse for a half mile to the trail down to the river by Doc Sheinmans.  There is a steep wooden staircase down the bank and a path with a broad wooden board over water and then a few more willows and on to the sandy bank of the Mattole River.  The river runs chocolate with pieces of wood bobbing up and down in its muddy turbulent waters.  This may have been the last place my sister or what my sister became breathed her last breaths.  It’s a year, now, not to the day but close enough since Hana disappeared and then five weeks later showed up transformed into an animal carcass on the beach.   Her body, just a torso with parts of arms, legs gone, stringy hair, with white teeth.  Washed clean by the ocean.  She had become nature and returned to the nature that she so loved and revered.

I stand looking at the turbulent waters and say a silent prayer for her.  Was she drawn to enter these same turbulent waters?  Did they call to her?  Did she feel no way out from her dilemmas and confusion?

I am so sorry sister.  I am sorry I couldn’t help you more.  I am sorry I wasn’t nicer to you the last evening we spent together.

Why is what is is?  Why did she become what she became?  How did she get to be so angry and in my view so deluded about our community?  I would have never predicted this from knowing her as a child.  I would have thought she would be a Hollywood star, or in theatre with tons of friends and successful and famous.  She was stunning and outgoing.  She had friends, she had style.   

But what is is.  She was tortured these last years.  She became more and more an alien to the world.  Not the natural world, she was at home on the beach or by the river bar.  She loved the birds and would call to the ravens, “Caw, Caw, Caw.” 

But she was being left behind by the modern competitive world.  This world we live in that is become artificial, polluted, competitive, disjointed, greedy and dark.  It is this world my sister raged against, and the injustice of it.  Against the callous coldness of it.  She raged, with her tortured demons, she raged that she, who was in her mind smarter and more self riteous, was being cast aside, an aging empty angry vessel, not needed by our community.  You or I might feel the same sometimes?

Dear sister.  I honor your fierceness, your pride, your desire for justice for yourself and for all the creatures of nature that are hurt or pushed aside by the cruel world of modern society and capitalism.  I honor your tender heart.  I honor your fear and confusion.  I honor your unwillingness to compromise what you believed.  I am sorry these last years were so hard for you.  I grieve for you and for our family that was once a somewhat cohesive thing.

How to be in a crazy world?  That was a question my sister grappled with both in that she didn’t think much of what was going on in the world was right or made sense, but that also she was sometimes exhibiting breaks with reality, and I believe she was coming to see this and it troubled and saddened her greatly.  She would try to talk her problems away through fierceness of will.  It didn’t work. She was quite a talker though and some of her ideas were quite beautiful.

These ideas included having a community solar program to power different neighborhoods in Petrolia.  We should be energy self-reliant she believed. She was concerned about climate change and wanted the government to have training centers and school training centers where people would learn how to convert their cars to non-polluting, electric vehicles.  The government would help set them up and then people would go and working with mechanics, just change their vehicles over to clean running electric vehicles.

She wanted to do a healing circle where elders would bring people who had been harmed or cast aside back into the circle of community and be given a voice to air their grievances and pain.  She so wanted healing but couldn’t seem to get it.

One idea she loved was to create a writer’s retreat center at the cabin here.  Sensitive well-off writers would come and have a retreat and rent one of the back rooms.  Of-course they would need their own entrance and basic kitchen and bathroom facilities and that would be expensive.  So, this never went anywhere.  Lack of money, ie. general poverty was a big issue in Hana’s last years. 

I would say a combination of her unwillingness to do most things she found unpleasant, and her mental dis-function as well as having negative experiences when she did find work, led her to having very little work these last several years.  This in turn left her in a cut off, impoverished and depleted state.

She lived day to day and could not plan beyond today.  But as I said, she had ideas.  Lots of ideas, but they were theoretical.  She did journal and list-make but the translating into action part was not easy for her.

More of her ideas include wanting to create a bird sanctuary and maybe an office where people would work to help birds and their habitat.  She wouldn’t let us get a cat or dog partly because they would chase off the birds and squirrels.  So, we didn’t get the dog or cat.

Hana was trying to reconnect with her Armenian heritage.  She would listen to old recordings on a cassette tape of some language course.  Sometimes she would blast it, “Pari lauys, Parev.    K’ez garodtser em.  Gertam.  Gertam. “.  She was reaching for her roots.  She also loved to remember our childhoods and idealized our young years. 

She so connected with those who have been trod upon, the Native American, the black and latino peoples, women.  She identified with the “me too” movement and often talked in a non specific way about being a victim of trauma and abuse.  She claimed to have ptsd. 

Hana would talk with great venom and hatred of a short encounter or love affair that she had with a neighbor named E which ended badly.  This person is not in Petrolia any more.  Hana made many claims, some contradictory about what had happened with E, his friends and Hana.  Hana was angry about being deceived into a sexual encounter and that E had not properly shown her love and respect.  She felt there was a conspiracy amongst E and his friends to get her to have sex with him and then somehow turn this against her.  She at times though not usually using the word rape, often equated what happened to a non-consensusal sexual encounter.  She wanted ‘justice’, a word that in these last months, she was obsessed with.

Not all of this is pleasant, but it is some of the memories I have of Hana for the last years of her life.

She thought the neighbors on all sides were talking about her, plotting against her and sending mental daggers at her.  She would not take it.  She had to fight it and she did.  She would yell and rage at the perceived mental daggers.  “Predator.”, she would yell.  “I know what you are doing and I am not going to take it”.  Or one time she heard a laugh next door and she knew they were laughing at her.  She went close to the fence and laughed back at them, a cruel maniacal laugh and then shouted that they had better stop their laughs or she would call the sheriff.

One neighbor, across the creek, had cut most of their trees on their property to grow marijuana in the outlaw fashion that had become common here in Humboldt County.  One day this neighbor fired up a big throaty chainsaw and began cutting another tree in the creek zone.  Hana was incensed by this and grabbed a pot and a spatula and began banging it and calling “la la la la la” in a raucous voice.  I went and stood by her though I couldn’t get myself to join in her raucous song.  To my knowledge this neighbor has never cut another tree in the creek zone.

She was so strong in some ways that it took all I could muster to not be overwhelmed by her anger and vituperation when she raged.  She wanted the world to apologize to her and then wrap her in a warm and loving embrace and gently bring into her rightful place in community and society.  She reached out to our community in those last days, traveling to Honeydew and to various peoples and places in Petrolia she had long known here.  She went to the beach, her place of solace.  She met, walked with and spoke with a non local hiker and appeared in good spirits and full of ideas of Budhist simplicity. She went and visited people.  She talked of art with Tommy Clark and of her dreams of living as an artist in Seattle.  She talked at length with David and a little with Jane Simpson mostly of fears of death and being pursued and persecuted.  She visited Richard Gilespe.  She went to John Vargo’s, our oldest or longest family friend in the valley, but he was not home.  She stopped in on Richard Sheinman and talked of her fears and conspiratorial views.  And she talked about her thought of jumping in the river.

Then on January 25th at night, she went to the river.  The river was as it is today big, rough and chocolatey but more so.  And whether she took her own life or somehow had an accident, something caused her to enter the river on a dark and somewhat stormy night and there she died. 

One thing I do know about my sister.  Last year was a year of loss and great heart crushing disappointment for Hana.  She lost access to the best human friend she had here in the valley, Dan B.  She lost her best animal friend in the valley, a yellow dog named Yava who wandered off at the beach one day and ended up dying somehow.  Her erratic behavior was being tolerated less and it was causing people to avoid her.  She had great sadness in her heart for all that was, what could have been and now was not.  I feel it too somewhat.

Also, my parents left the valley and this was psychologically very destabiling for Hana.  They left and she could not.  I arrived in the valley on a more permenant basis, moving into the studio next to Hana about the time the folks were moving away. Her and I were ok together but she often didn’t like or trust me either.

Many of you have seen the Netflix show “Murder Mountain”.  In the first episode Humboldt is cast as a place where lost or tormented souls go to hide out.  A place where an outlaw culture around the cultivation of marijuana is present.  A place where people disappear and a place where people are murdered and often never found and or the perpetrator is not brought to justice.  This first episode has a segment several minutes long where Hana’s disappearance is covered.  There is a scene at the Petrolia fire department where a briefing is being conducted by sheriffs (I believe it was Kerry Ireland) and the fire chiefs, Drew Barber and Travis Howe about the missing individual and the ensuing search.  Then a scene of a search with a dog for a body.  No body is found in the episode, as it was not found in reality, for about a month.

I was not at that first sheriff/fire department briefing.  I was at a second one that happened the following weekend.  I heard however that Travis and Drew told the Netflix film crew to leave and so they did, but not after getting some footage and talking with some people.

What I wanted to say about this is that I have now seen this first episode as well as the second of “Murder Mountain” and I am very glad this story is being told.  However, the story is only tangentially related to the disappearance of Hana Hammer.

The story that “Murder Mountain” (what a horrible name) attempts to tell, somewhat sensationalistically, is the story of the back-to-the-landers that came to Humboldt in the 60’s and 70’s wanting to escape modern society and all its evils.  That these back to the landers worked together, came together to build houses, farms, communities in a somewhat utopian way (for some) and that they somewhat by accident found that growing a patch of marijuana could allow them to raise kids and build their houses without having to participate in the rat race they were mostly running away from. 

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. As the next generation appeared and the “green rush” arrived to Humboldt, a dramatic shift occurred. The story follows how this beautiful, idealistic early culture got hit hard by military style helicopters that raided marijuana gardens and then finally had a golden period where mostly people were left alone to grow as they pleased. Then after Medical legalization slowly a culture of greed, criminality, and disregard for environmental and community norms arose. 

This early culture has largely been overwhelmed by the greedy profit motive of industrial size marijuana farming from within and without and that though not extinguished, much of this early living in harmony with nature and your neighbor, is no more.   Finally, that this culture and it’s criminal element has meant that some of the workers have ended up missing and ultimately dead. Thankfully with legalization and regulation, many of the worst operators are being busted and regulated out of existence. Unfortunately, many if not most of the old-style small farmers are also being regulated out of existence.

Hana’s story is juxtaposed to other missing people’s stories in Humboldt County around the outlaw marijuana world.  If one watches this first “Murder Mountain” episode and they didn’t know Hana, they might be confused into thinking she was another out of town kid who got involved in a dangerous sketchy marijuana scene and disappeared. This is not correct.  However, the fact that she lived in Petrolia, one and a half hours from a major town, and in a community where a lot of illegal marijuana was grown, did in some ways contribute in her death. 

There is a culture of distrust of law enforcement in Humboldt and when Hana’s behavior was inappropriate or sometimes bordering on not law conforming, people would not call the sheriff.  Instead they called our parents and asked them to control and reprimand their wayward child.  Well, Hana was 45 years old and a very headstrong women, so this did not work.  An intervention by law enforcement could have changed her patterns and required some mental health treatment.  I know that our parents actually wanted this to happen, but it never did.

Also, although Hana had a desire to get some medical attention for some physical complaints she had, she had no money and did not trust the medical community.  She also had a car that wasn’t in good shape and so she kept putting off getting medical check-ups. 

Finally, I will say hesitantly, because I live here and both love and detest things about Humboldt, the feeling in Humboldt (for those who were not making bank from mary jane) from say 2013 to 2017 was progressively more aggressive, secretive and generally negative and Hana felt this acutely.  After medical marijuana (prop 215) was voted in in 1996, there was a period where people could grow marijuana with minimal chance of being busted.  Every year this increased.  Very few people were being busted.  There was much uncertainty in the law.  I believe this to some extent hamstrung law enforcement for a time, and that growers saw little restraint to “blowing it up”, meaning grow grow grow.  This was the “Green Rush”.  Some people made millions of dollars.  Lots of shady shit happened and some people disappeared.  What this did to the local communities was complicated.  Lots more cash money was floating around.  Local radio stations flourished.  There were lots of great festivals.  People supported community centers and the arts.  People had money and bought cars, trucks, food, houses, trips, things they needed, things they wanted.

But in this, there was also shiestyness and some criminality.  Out of town trucks, cargo vans and shiny cars drove into the valley making wholesale deals.  Some people got ripped off.  Some of those people who got ripped off, attempted to take justice into their own hands (though truthfully little violence occurred actually in Petrolia).  It was as the show “Murder Mountain” talks about, a feeling of wild west outlaw culture mixed with of stacks of cash money.  The feeling in these small sleepy towns was definitely not so quiet and sleepy anymore.  There were lots of big trucks on our small rural windy roads.  Roads got tore up, big patches of forest felled, plastic green-houses got thrown up everywhere.  Everywhere.  The community feeling was frayed.  Land prices skyrocketed as out of towners and locals sought to cash in.  It was a troubling anxiety creating time for sensitive earth loving people.  I felt it.  Hana felt it. Hana raged against the feeling of it.  Sometimes she referred to Petrolia as a cult.  I was never exactly sure what she meant by this, but I do think it had something to do with the changes that were going on in this community.

So, what happened to Hana?  It’s complicated.  I don’t fully know.  But her mental health was not good these last several years.  She felt isolated.  She felt under siege.  She wanted to defend nature and she wanted to defend, what she felt like, were attacks on herself. 

She was also very impoverished.  She couldn’t figure out how to make a living.  She didn’t know how to fix her many problems.  She was in a funk.  She was very sad and lonely.  And she felt like she didn’t have enough support. With that, though not complete I will stop.

Anyway.  It is one year since her passing, more or less, I hope she is in a better place.

Greta Thunberg shows us how we must approach Climate Change

We must act, we must live as if the climate matters.

I heard this young women today on Democracy Now! This is coming from Poland at this years climate talks. The following is what she said.  I am impressed with her clarity, her committment to do right by the climate, and her bravery to take this stand.  Read for you self:

GRETA THUNBERG: For 25 years, countless of people have stood in front of the United Nations climate conferences asking our nations’ leaders to stop the emissions. But clearly this has not worked, since the emissions just continue to rise. So I will not ask them anything. Instead, I will ask the people around the world to realize that our political leaders have failed us, because we are facing an existential threat and there is no time to continue down this road of madness.

So, when school started in August this year, I sat myself down on the ground outside the Swedish parliament. I school-striked for the climate. Some people say that I should be in school instead. Some people say that I should study to become a climate scientist so that I can “solve” the climate crisis. But the climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions. And why should I be studying for a future that soon may be no more, when no one is doing anything to save that future? And what is the point of learning facts when the most important facts clearly means nothing to our society?

Today we use 100 million barrels of oil every single day. There are no politics to change that. There are no rules to keep that oil in the ground. So we can no longer save the world by playing by the rules, because the rules have to be changed. So we have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future. They have ignored us in the past, and they will ignore us again. We have come here to let them know that change is coming, whether they like it or not. The people will rise to the challenge. And since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago. Thank you.

Rich countries like Sweden need to start reducing emissions by at least 15 percent every year to stay below a 2-degree warming target. You would think the media and every one of our leaders would be talking about nothing else, but they never even mention it. Nor does hardly anyone ever mention that we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction, with up to 200 species going extinct every single day. Furthermore does no one ever speak about the aspect of equity, clearly stated in the Paris Agreement, which is absolutely necessary to make it work on a global scale. That means that rich countries like mine need to get down to zero emissions within six to 12 years, with today’s emission speed. Because how can we expect countries like India, Colombia or Nigeria to care about the climate crisis if we, who already have everything, don’t care even a second about our actual commitments to the Paris Agreement?

No one reads my blog

No one reads my blog. No one reads my blog.  Why write it?

I might write it for me….Well mightent I?

Maybe I can market my blog.  Maybe I need to read other peoples blogs

and then make comments and start up conversations.

My toes itch.  Off subject but pertenent to me…..

Why it this program triple spacing when I hit return???

Maybe my blog should be bold and shocking……About what? Politics.

Or maybe it should be bold and shocking about … my personal life and shortcomings.

Or maybe it should be bold and shocking about … how great I am…….: )

But, no one reads my blog….

Big Pig Usurps local control

I spent the summer in Fairfield Iowa. It is a nice midwest small town of 10,000 with the usual shops, John Deere ag equipment dealer, Walmart, corporate grocery store (HyVee) but also some artsy coffee houses and parks and a nice town square. There is an Art Walk the first Saturday of the month when loads of folk come out. There are small farmers and a thriving farmers market community. However Big Ag continues does what it will until????

While I was there the issue of confined animal feeding operations got shoved in our faces. While there were a lot of large confined pig operations in Iowa there were reletively few in the part of Iowa I have come to call a second home to myself. A map that was brought to a meeting on the subject showed a blizzard of colored shapes (indicating Confined pig operations of differing size) in North-west Iowa and many others spread out but less in our part of the state.

Iowa is an ag state. While I have known this generally, it seems to mean more than that there is a lot of farming in Iowa. It also seems to mean that farming (which seems to include raising pigs in confined concrete houses)rights are superior to rural country living folk rights. Iowa is very friendly to big ag. which can be unfriendly to the neighbors of big ag.

Rural water is provided to farms cheaply. Much of this is pulled from aquafirs which are being depleted. Rural ag land is cheep like $2 to $3000 per acre or less with large parcels, and the laws are very lax and favorable to big agriculture. There are regularly ads for GMO seed, Ag chemicals and Ag equipment.

So this summer I got word that a pig enclosure was being constructed not more that one half mile from the rural community of SoFair that I am a part of. There was a tense meeting on site where the owner, Mike Keller, explained that he felt forced to do this as he was struggling financially. The company that he is working with is called Tri-Oak and basically has a compelling sales pitch to farmers that lays out a plan or blueprint to build and operate CAFO’s (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) that will make the farmer good money after initial investments are paid. Excuse that I don’t have the details.

What I got from this experience is that many of the smaller farm land owners are feeling financial pinches and are open to corporate pitches to raise pigs or other corporate ag products like GMO corn or soy. In this case Mr. Keller seemed almost sheepish in his facing the community which was about 90 percent opposed to the operation. He had been given a detailed plan on how to build the plant, get the piglets delivered, feed and raise the animals deal with the waste, deal with sickness issues (biohazard in ag parlance) and finally a market to sell the animals. It is all through a network of large ag business corporations which seem to be congregating in rural states with cheap land and very lax regulations.

We learned that the corporation owns the animals, requires the farmer to raise the animals using certain feed and follow the companies blue print. This guarantees the companies behind the farmers with steady business and profits and shields them from lawsuit as the farmer would first be held liable for water pollution and other violations.

The only thing the farmer really owns in the deal is the land and the pig waste that is gathered in large lagoons and then sprayed raw onto the land to fertilize the GMO corn and soy. This particular farm did not need to be approved by the county or state because it was smaller than the permitting size. This facility was going to have 1250 pigs being raised at a time. Pigs are grown to hundreds of pounds with the largest reaching over 400 pounds. There is obviously a lot of pig waste.

I also learned the the city of Fairfield was just finishing a large upgrade to the waste water treatment plant that was costing about 15 million dollars for the town of 10,000 residents. However this farm and others that are coming into the Jefferson County Iowa do not need to put the pig waste through a waste water treatment plant. If they were it would surely raise the cost of raising pigs but instead they just spray it on the land, raw.

Sometimes a big storm washes the waste lagoons away and into local streams, wells, lakes and rivers such as occured recently when hurricane Michael hit the Carolinas.

While I was in Fairfield, there was a town meeting about another larger pig operation that was being planned in the area to the north of town. This one was going to be a 7500 operation which is probably more waste than the whole town of Fairfield produces.

Several hundred people came out to this meeting, again the vast majority against it. County supervisors did not show up for this community meeting. They had convened a smaller meeting several weeks previous and had heard citizen concerns but said in essence they had no power to stop these developments other than filling out the Master Matrix forms for larger operations. I just read the document for the Master Matrix.

My reading of this “Master Matrix” document shows them to be a fig leaf for rubber stamping these CAFO operations. There are with modest requirements and limits on siting near housing, business and schools. The applicant only has to get a 50% mark to be approved. That was a failing grade last I checked but not for corporations.

The larger operation to the North of Fairfield is owned by Bill Huber partnering with a corporation called Agri-Way. Citizens have been challenging this CAFO. A group called JFAN is the spearpoint for the challenges but the county supervisors, all Republican are not willing to challenge the Huber CAFO project. Here is a link to the JFAN newsletter discussing the issue and the very sad news that the supervisors approved the project despite very real compelling environmental concerns that this project will pollute lake Darling and the lake Darling watershed which is a state park and lake.

This is particularly sad because of a long and expensive project to clean up lake Darling by working with local farmers to conserve the soil better and use more sustainable practices.

Corporate interests continue to infringe upon the commons and on less powerful private interests with more and more dire consequences. What can we do about it?

Global trade means plastic in the Oceans and death of trees

Its no secret that all those dodads that people get from Walmart are cheep. They are also usually packaged in such a way that they can withstand being put in boxes, crates, shipping containers, being scanned and moved half way around the world. Then they are unpacked sorted transported, wearhoused and put on our local Walmart’s shelves. Then we subsequently buy this do dad and to get to it we need to take off the hard plastic and the little baggies of soft plastic to get to our cheep asian prize.

Lets say we buy a flat screen tv. It will be packaged in styrofoam and the little clips and screws will come in plastic bags. The warranty and the instructions come in a plastic bag. Do we throw this in the garbage? Do we burn it? Do we return it to Walmart. It is always a conundrum to me.

Then we got the death of trees. When we ship things from Asia sometimes we get insects that ride along. They might be adventurous bugs looking for a new exciting home with new and exciting food and maybe less competition. So sometimes they are not successful in their hitching a ride. They might not survive, they might not find hospitable environs with tasty food. But sometimes they do. Take the Emerald Ash Borer, known to be from Asia. It likes ash trees. In Asia it seems to be a minor pest but hitching a ride with some cargo from China perhaps it arrived in America.

It found a new a vast land with almost no natural predators. We have ash trees which they love. And they went to town. Eating and going through their life stages and boring and laying eggs. The new larvae are born under the bark and eat and form galeries until they are big enough to survive. They then bore out of the tree and fly to find a new ash tree. They much on the leaves but it is the boring that does the ash trees in.

The emerald ash borer has killed uppers of 50 million ash trees mostly in the mid and upper mid western states of Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, Indiana.

What is the cost of global trade? Should we be concerned about the trade deficit?
I think the cost of glabal trade is climate change, plastic in the oceans and the death of trees.

We need a new American Dream

I grew up middle class in America. I think my parents mostly did a good job. They weren’t that materialistic. They raised five kids in a blended family. They worked hard. We had vacations. We had braces and piano lessons. We had a pony. I had a Nintendo. I played soccer.
They were children of immigrants and in being so, they were truly American. They worked for and achieved what is termed the American Dream. It isn’t cookie cutter. Their brand was creative and noble in some ways.
The lessons we got were that if you worked hard you can get what they got, i.e. a college education, a job in the professions that you would primarily keep for your adult working life, house, a family, several cars, vacations, respect in the community, service to the community. Very middle-class values. Not terrible but not terribly imaginative either. This is what they wanted for us, expected of us.
It worked for them. They learned from a much more challenged generation who aspired to a life of material safety and comfort. America was growing. Property values were appreciating. Of the generation I am speaking, parents of my parents, three out of four of my grandparents were immigrants and all came through challenging if not harrowing experiences to be here in America and to build a family and life here.
Now because of growth and or appreciation of property values in cities and coastal regions, a house may be out of the reach of young families. If you are able to borrow the money it may take 30 years to pay for it. Life seems too uncertain these days to commit to a 30-year loan. People seem to move around more. People don’t have careers the way they used to. People often have gigs or short-term jobs.
What about the environmental impact of every family owning so much stuff. What are we missing by working so much to pay for it? Is it healthy to structure society around the family rather than the village or the extended family?
I guess I am writing this because I have come to question it all. Yet the new vision is still forming and is a bit hazy. Also, society has not created a lot of space for alternative visions. A family can live in a house. A family can live in an apartment. A family can buy. A family can rent.
You either own it or rent it. If you own it, you don’t fully own it till you pay it off. The bank can take it if you miss three or more payments. If you rent, you don’t own it and you can’t make big plans with the rented property.
We have a capitalistic system. Have you noticed that every holiday is just another excuse to have a sale? There is Labor-day sales, Fourth of July sale, black Friday sales, Easter sales, Memorial day sale?,Presidents day sales, on and on and of course the biggest sales of all is Christmas. What is this all about? It seems that buying and selling is really what America is about. Is that the basis for our culture? How very empty, vapid and ultimately destructive. Is this part of the cause of so much mental illness in this country?
What about community and civic participation? These are the most important things according to Ralph Nader the great thinker and writer on American values. Civic participation is what we need more of. Going to city council meetings. Getting a park built where young mothers can take their kids to play and meet other kids and mothers. How about building community gardens? I know these things all exist, but the focus is on the nuclear family in a single-family home with all their own stuff, paid for with 20 to 30 years of indentured servitude to corporate rule. And with these demands on parents, is there really time for civic participation?
I think what is missing is community ownership, shared ownership. Tiny house communities are popping up here and there. Is this part of the answer I am looking for? I guess I feel that the family unit is not the correct unit for society to structure around. It may be for some. Not all of us fit into that model however. The 60’s idea of dropping out of society and forming a commune makes sense to me. These communes usually didn’t last unfortunately. I don’t quite know why. I am thinking and writing. I haven’t manifested community ownership in my life.

As Marijuana tanks Community Resurges

I live in a small rural community in Northern California. I have a view of a pot farm out my back window. This one grew here as it did all over Humboldt County and many other rural communities in the last ten years, like mushrooms after a warm spring rain, overnight. As pot farms proliferated community standards were wiped away. The back-to-the-landers that arrived here in the 70’s and started homesteading here, got into growing a patch of weed in amongst their vegetables, found a profitable cash crop that supplemented often meager incomes.

In the 80’s and 90’s government raids with helicopter, in this part of the world called CAMP, kept a lid on things by busting and threatening to bust the more ostentatious grows. However, CAMP (campaign against marijuana production, I think) seemed to cease in the 90’s and less people were busted. With prices sky high and the risk of being busted very low people streamed into Humboldt and bought up ranches and rural properties. Greed prevailed. For many enough was never enough. Grows became bigger and bigger, community values seemed to go out the window. The environmenthal and community values, that the back to the landers so strongly held dear seemed to be unimportant to this next generation of home grown and carpetbagger pot growers.

People were making money, having good times and mostly not getting busted. Areas that didn’t have the infrastructure became major industrial pot grows. Big trucks, big fences, and huge greenhouses or plastic farms as I see them, sprung up. People brought in truckload after truckload of bagged soil, every year. It has been a disposable economy. Money was good and long term planning lacking. Trees were knocked down, tractors pushed dirt around for grow flats. For me it has been painful. The economy has benefited in many ways. People had money, but the community and ecology have suffered.

With the wave of state legalizeations from Colorado to Washington, Oregon and now as of 2018, California, pot is being grown in a lot of places, not just Humboldt County. We seem to have reached a saturation point. There is just too much of this magic plant out there. With legalization means regulation and taxation and this combined with lower prices due to saturation of the market means that the profit margins are now very thin.

However every negative seems to have a silver lining. The downturn in the pot economy is painful to Humboldt in many ways. Last year, the once great Reggae on the River festival that seemed to grow and prosper along with the pot economy was a bust and the Mateel organization lost a whopping $700,000 dollars as attendance and concession fees were way off. Also the land boom seems to have cooled dramatically and many pot farms are going out of business. This is painful to those going through it no doubt, but I have noticed a resurgence of community values that is heartening.

I am hearing anecdotal stories about people growing lettuce and other kitchen table crops in their greenhouses. People are taking time to go to farmers markets and do more community activities. People are diversifying their farms. Many more land parcels are available for purchase and though prices have yet to come down much, the signs are out there that they will, which may allow regular folks and families, not supercharged with gangster pot money, to buy land and keep the community vibrant.

It is a time of change and challenge in Humboldt County but to me and many other folks who have been through the boom, things couldn’t go on as they had. It was just too much impact on the community and ecology. Now we start the slow road back to community values and environmental healing. Hopefully we are a little wiser, though possibly a bit poorer.