buylocalTHE MULTIPLIER EFFECT—no, not the latest Hollywood holiday fluff-fest replete with soulless characters, derivative plot points and vapid action, but a sensible way of reckoning the recyclic power of buying local to energize communities—yes, the classic “what goes around comes around.” As BALLE cofounder Michael Shuman writes in The Small-Mart Revolution: How Local Businesses Are Beating the Global Competition, “The future of small business, the future of community vitality and the future of humanity depend on a fundamentally new approach to our local economies. The challenge is to find ways to nurture competitive local alternatives to Wal-Mart that can revitalize our local economies and communities.”

And with the holiday season upon us, what better time to—if you haven’t already— shop and buy local, and keep your cash, and attendant goodwill, recirculating in your community. So rev up that actions-speak-louder-than-words multiplier effect, it’s small-mart time! And I promise no descents into the vagaries of zero-sums and game theory, trade deficits, WTO WTF?!, China, India or, for that matter, droll laissez-faire Milton Friedmanesque spouts. Read More »

America at Risk coverThere is a crack in everything / that’s how the light gets in.’ —Leonard Cohen, ‘Anthem’

PROPHETIC WORDS OR AN AGE-OLD OBSERVATION of the way change, by necessity, is initiated, that is, breakdown serves as accelerant? In America at Risk: The Crisis of Hope, Trust, and Caring by Purdue sociologists Robert Perrucci and Carolyn Perrucci (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009), systemic cracks are painfully dissected—with true and actionable enlightenment, hopefully, to follow. The Perruccis’ thesis:

“We believe that the decline of hope, trust, and caring is the unanticipated consequence of the major transformation over the last thirty years in the kind of goods and services produced in America, in the technology that is used in production, and in the people who are involved in the production process. We call the composite of these changes the new economy.”

Their take on our current collective cachexia, all part and parcel of the “new economy,” makes for compelling reading, and the slender book (including index and notes it’s a mere 160 pages) offers up an array of solutions that deserves further exploration, certainly before we move from Cohen’s “Anthem” to Gibbons’ Decline and Fall … (for instance, from Gibbons: “If all the barbarian conquerors had been annihilated in the same hour, their total destruction would not have restored the empire of the West: and if Rome still survived, she survived the loss of freedom, of virtue, and of honor”—just plug in “terrorists” in place of “barbarian conquerers” and “America” in place of “Rome,” and wait for the cookie to crumble). Read More »

10greenmythsLET’S JUMP RIGHT IN—there’s no time to waste when you’re myth-busting in a tumultuous age of run-amuck uncertainty.

#1 You should never, ever, ever use the word “green” in your name, tag line, PR or marketing materials.
There is nothing wrong with using the word “green”—if you mean it. Sure, it’s particularly ubiquitous these days and already attached to a multitude of businesses, products, ideas, publications, groups, etc., but it still connotes a space and position and way of thinking that resonates with the public. Co-op America changed its name to Green America, and it’s working out just fine for them. If you attend a Green Festival, you kind of know what to expect—and attendance, and spirits, are high. Don’t make your usage bandwagonesque, tenuous, forced or misleading (let’s call this “fuzzy quasi-green”), resulting in reverse marketing that’ll bite you deservedly in the butt, whether you’re wearing green jeans or not. Read More »

Green JobsTHE BLUE GREEN ALLIANCE IS AN ORGANIZATION WHOSE TIME HAS COME. With unemployment hitting a 26-year high of 10.2 percent (up from 9.8 in September) and Christina Romer, chairwoman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors, proclaiming, “Having the unemployment rate reach double digits is a stark reminder of how much work remains to be done,” it is indeed time to get to work in novel ways that can bust us out of the torpor and downright moribund climate which surround us, and are dragging so many of us down.

Traditional methodologies and paradigms, and let’s throw in the $787 billion spending package, have thus far not done the trick—far, far from it (okay, the spending package has helped but it is not close to enough). Organizations like the Blue Green Alliance (BGA), on the other hand, are shuffling the deck and dealing new cards, even as they continue to establish credibility and put in place dependable means to get things done—”mission accomplished!” is not something they’ll probably shout anytime soon, but again they’re building that house with a canard-spouting chorus of naysayers over their shoulders, and these things take time—and there’s no time to lose.

Let’s take a closer look at this national partnership of labor unions and environmental organizations (not the odd bedfellows they at first seem) dedicated to expanding the number and quality of jobs in the green economy. Remember, in the words of Cicero, “Freedom is participation in power.” And freedom, as defined, should include the ability to find and maintain a livable wage in a healthy environment. Read More »

last_winter_movie_posterHAPPY HALLOWEEN! Can the threat of cataclysmic climate change due to global warming serve as compelling enough plot line to drive an independent horror film? In the case of Larry Fessenden’s Last Winter, the answer is an unequivocal YIKES!—I mean, YES! The disturbing-yet-entertaining film (the cinema of terror’s ideal mix)—originally released in 2007 and available on video from IFC Films—unfolds not at a haunted house but at a big-oil company camp in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), there thanks to a “historic vote” by Congress that opens up drilling. It doesn’t take long before strange goings are observed around camp, the permafrost begins to melt (and the worry, Is deadly hydrogen sulfide gas being released?) and the two “greenies” hired by big-oil North Industries to do an impact study know they are fighting a losing battle. “People just don’t want to deal with it,” green-cause journalist/scientist James Hoffman says in the film. “It’s tiring.” Not much later: “Something is being unleashed from the softening permafrost”—”This is the last winter. Total collapse. Hope dies.”

Hit the lights, pop the corn and buckle up: it’s time for some first-rate eco-horror, indeed! Read More »

stepbystep2WITHOUT TRYING TO SOUND ALL HELLFIRE AND BRIMSTONE OR DEEP-FRIED SOUTHERN GOTHIC, I’ve got to share the garish headline spiel I ran across on the back of an early-60s paperback I’m currently engrossed in: “step by step … deed by deed … they fashioned their own destruction.” It bejewels a musty, well-worn copy of Flannery O’Connor’s The Violent Bear It Away, but I was thinking—for Green Dynamind and with the International Day of Climate Action taking place tomorrow—that it’s an appropriate tag for where we’re heading if we keep on our current path of irresponsible and oblivious mega-consumption. And then the new issue of Scientific American arrived in the post, with its upbeat cover story, “A Plan for a Sustainable Future: How to get all energy from wind, water and solar power by 2030,” (more on this in a bit), and I thought, along with all the coordinated noise many will make across the globe tomorrow, maybe we can turn our spiel into “step by step … deed by deed … they fashioned their own salvation.” Now wouldn’t that be something to get excited about?! Read More »

cover_bringing_it1“I LIVE IN A PART OF THE COUNTRY that at one time a good farmer could take some pleasure in looking at,” Wendell Berry intones in the opening essay of his new collection, Bringing It to the Table: On Farming and Food (Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2009); a little farther down the page he continues, “Now the country is not well farmed, and driving through it has become a depressing experience.” This somber tone-setting essay, “Nature as Measure,” was written 20 years ago. Poet-essayist-novelist Berry—now in his mid-70s and who has farmed a hillside in his native Henry County, Kentucky, for more than 40 years—has had plenty to rail against when it comes to Big Ag, the politics of indifference and our alienating post-industrial age; but he also has had plenty to celebrate in clear-eyed observations of humankind interacting with nature, the value of true hard work (diametrically opposed to the digitally and plutocratically enabled “work” of accumulating phantom wealth) and the rewarding simplicity of sharing, of family, of community.

An out-of-touch cranky neo-luddite screeching for a return to prelapsarian times? Hardly. Berry’s vision is that of a hardy-yet-hoary realist, tinged by both optimism and pessimism (ah, the foibles of humanity!), attempting to show us a path out of our befoulment, a steaming, festering swamp we teeter face-first ever closer toward. And Berry’s prose? Gracefully worn and weathered to a burnished beauty, like a glacier-cast erratic, transfigurative in its straightforward simplicity. Read More »

Blog Action DaySPECIAL POST ALERT: In accordance with Blog Action Day, I’m posting a free-verse poem, “1,000,” focusing on climate change (be sure to read Mark Hertsgaard’s triple-espresso-blast wake-up call on the subject, which features some startling numbers of its own!). I’ll be back tomorrow with the regularly scheduled Green Dynamind post; this time a review of Wendell Berry’s superb new collection of essays, Bringing It to the Table: On Farming and Food.

Copenhagen’s coming up—let’s make some noise for real climate change now! (You can also read my take on the recent UN and G-20 talks that dealt with climate change.)

Addendum: Blog Action Day has posted a recap. Read More »

GerdingDOING THE RIGHT THING IS THE SMART THING. I think this was the number-one high-level takeaway from the GoGreen09 “Cultivating Sustainable Business” conference, which took place at the LEED-Platinum-certified Gerding Theater in Portland on Wednesday. To many this may appear a no-brainer: of course, like the good ol’ golden rule, good actions (not just intentions) should produce positive results (in some capacity), which is both right and smart. But in today’s climate of rampant fear-mongering and economic turmoil-cum-uncertainty, what once appeared obvious may, more often than not, no longer be the case. Going green is going to cost me more money—I can’t do that right now and adequately feed my family, take that well-earned vacation, purchase those new ski boots, etc.; or in the case of business … purchase that new employee health plan I’ve promised my peeps all year as we’ve collectively weathered the storm, solarize that roof, add a fleet of hybrids, etc. Ouch!

Panelist after panelist at sold-out* GoGreen09 shared success story after success story of how going green or carrying out a sustainability best practice or innovation was not only the right and necessary thing to do but the smart thing to do, resulting in some kind of bottom-line victory, in many cases of the preferred triple-bottom-line variety, where people, planet and profit all high five as victors. Were we hit over the head with the folly of fossil fuels and the continuing Cassandra complex of carbon-emissions levels? Fortunately, not so much. After all, we were attendees at a green event and should get that part at least. Read on for more impressions from the day. GoGreen09, indeed! Read More »

TPdropWATCHING THE COLBERT REPORT WEDNESDAY EVENING, I got a chuckle—like a maddening ride-it-out charley horse (it hurts-it’s funny-it hurts-it’s funny)—witnessing Stephen Colbert’s “ThreatDown” faux putdown of environmentalists “attacking” manufacturers of triple-ply and extra-soft toilet tissue. It was both ludicrous and enlightening, with both Greenpeace and Seventh Generation 100% Recycled Bathroom Tissue (see image to left) on the receiving end of Colbert’s mock ire (Richard Dawkins, promoting his new book The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, was the evening’s guest, so you can imagine how he fared!).

Okay, I thought, here’s wiseacre Colbert poking fun at the banality of eco-friendly TP, which is at one end of the eco scale, let’s call it “eco geek,” where people are making informed everyday (small) decisions and changes that don’t hog the look how green I am! spotlight; actually you wouldn’t even be aware these decisions and changes were being made unless perusing their shopping lists or standing behind them in the checkout line. What an antipodal contrast to the more A-list-marketed world of next-gen hybrids, platinum LEED certification and designer bamboo blouses—what I’d like to call “eco chic,” definitely the other end of the eco scale. Both good for the world? Yes. Both needing a mainstream beyond-the-converted push? Again, yes, but with the often below-the-radar eco-geek products and services much more so. Read More »