A Prayer for Election Day

+ A PRAYER FOR ELECTION DAY

Lord God of all creation,
You rule and judge all nations,
You scatter the arrogant of mind and heart,
You cast down rulers from their thrones and raise up the lowly.

Today we elect those who will serve in our government:
the voices that call us to go this way or that way are confusing,
the signs of these times that we must discern are tragic and unjust,
the culture of death that afflicts all people is powerful.

Open our eyes to see your Reign in history,
our hearts to share your love with all people,
our ears to hear the cry of the widow, the orphan, and the stranger among us.

Send your Holy Spirit upon the people of this land:
Teach us to make wise and prudent decisions.
Increase our faith and hope.
Help us to live the Gospel we profess.

May all who are elected this day:
do justice,
love goodness,
and walk humbly before You and all people.

We ask for these blessings,
confident in your providence through all time,
calling upon Mary our Mother
and all the saints who have served the cause of justice,
through your Son, Jesus Christ, Redeemer and Savior, Amen. +

Posted in Good and Frugal Government, Campaign News, Catholic, Oklahoma Living, Social Justice | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

My endorsements for the 2012 Election

I am running late on my endorsements for the 2012 election!  But never fear, here they are, for what they are worth.  I guarantee that they are worth at least what you are paying me for them.

President:  None of the above are acceptable.  It cannot be stated too strongly.  The incumbent candidate is a mass murderer whose hands drip with the blood of the innocent. The Republican challenger eagerly awaits his opportunity to murder his way across central Asia.  So at least here in Oklahoma, the candidates for prez are too evil for my conscience.  If you live elsewhere, I encourage you to vote for the Libertarian, the Green, or the Constitution party candidate for president, anybody but the big guys.  Oklahoma does not have free and fair elections. Our election system is rigged to exclude non-”major party” candidates. The crooks running this state did not get their present ability to loot the state by running free and fair elections and they certainly have no intention of starting anything so radical as a free and open election system in this state at this late date.

Congress:  It looks like each race has one or more independents, and all of them oppose our present foreign policy. I don’t know much about any of them except for Bob Murphy, whom I have known for years. So I’m endorsing Robert T. Murphy and encouraging votes for independent candidates wherever they may be found on the ballot.

STATE QUESTIONS

SQ 758: Reduce the property tax cap from 5% to 3%.

I strongly recommend a YES vote.

This reduces the amount the county can increase your property taxes in any given year from 5% to 3%.  The property tax is one of the most regressive taxes on the books. It is a particular problem for low income and elderly people. With the present system, a person’s property taxes double every 14 years. If this passes, it will take 24 years to double property taxes. This tax is particularly egregious because it is based on the government’s calculations as to the value of your property. These are imaginary values that may or may not have any actual relevance to a particular property. The property tax appeal system is rigged to favor the government.  I strongly recommend a YES vote on this proposal.

SQ 759: Ban Affirmative Action

I strongly recommend a NO vote.

This is more ideological campaigning by radicals in the state legislature who see Oklahoma as a petri dish for their pet crackpot theories.

SQ 762: Remove governor from parole process for non-violent crimes.

I strongly recommend a YES vote.

This is a no-brainer. Governors are always reluctant to parole anyone no matter how ready they may be because of the election problems paroles cause. As a result, our prison system is packed to the rafters and many of these people are non-violent offenders for minor drug offenses. This is a state where you can get locked up for a decade and more for an offense involving less than an ounce of marijuana.

SQ 764: Bonding authority for water projects.

I recommend a YES vote.

I guess this is OK.  But it’s only a guess.  It’s not as dangerous as some things the government proposes, and it might do some good. It might do ecological evil also, but I’ll go with a yes vote.

SQ 765. Eliminate the Oklahoma Human Services Commission

I recommend a NO vote.

I am suspicious of what is going on here so my recommendation is NO WAY.

SQ 766: Intangible property taxes

I recommend a NO vote.

I worry about this one and its possible impact on small business.  But then I look at whose is in favor of it — starting with Mary Queen of Lynch Mobs Fallin and  the State Chamber of Commerce. Neither the Governor nor the State Chamber is guilty of supporting actual small business. They are both political creatures of our economic aristocracy, and they never saw a rent-seeking idea that they didn’t think wasn’t the greatest thing since slice bread in a plastic bag.  So this one in my mind dies on the basis of GUILTY BY ASSOCIATION with evil .  It’s also GUILTY FOR RUNNING  EXTRA SLEAZY CAMPAIGN COMMERCIALS.

 

Posted in Good and Frugal Government, Campaign News, Oklahoma Living | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Time for another CASH MOB in support of Oklahoma farmers and producers!

In September, I put out a call for a cash mob in support of local farmers. As a result, the Oklahoma Food Coop had one of its best month’s this year and reports suggested the farmers markets did better too.

Supporting local food systems is not a once in a while thing.  If we want a more sustainable, just, and humane system of agriculture, then there must be a market for the products of sustainable, just, and humane farming operations. That means that people have to be willing to spend some money.

In September, I talked about two or three pounds of hamburger and a bar or two of soap, as a good monthly purchase that would total about $20. That would work well too in November. You may want to add sweet potatoes to the list, as we have some great tasting Oklahoma grown sweet potatoes available this month at both the Coop and the farmer’s markets that are still open. You can find them at some of the stores now selling Oklahoma products, like Urban Agrarian and the new Native Roots store in the Deep Deuce.

Don’t abandon our local farmers in this hour of their need! The drought has been pitiless. Livestock producers in particular have been hit with horrendous feed bills. Heritage breeds are in danger of the liquidation of herds. While we in the cities aren’t in a food crisis right now, who knows what the future may bring. If the national food distribution system breaks down, we’ll be dependent upon local farmers — but if we’ve let all the local producers go bankrupt, they won’t be there when we might really need them.  The time to build a local food system indeed is before a food crisis hits.

Everyone spends plenty of money in ways that do not care for the planet, do not care for people, and do not have a care for the future.  So in November — and every month thereafter — let’s all set a goal to always spend at least $20 to $30 in the local food economy. Make this a cash mob that cares for people, cares for the planet, and has a care for the future by ensuring that our local farmers make it through these tough times.

And it’s not as if I am asking you to buy something low quality. The food and non-food items produced here in Oklahoma are superior in taste and safety to the standard run of the mill supermarket fare.  Once or twice a year, I use money donated by members of the Oklahoma Food Coop to buy ground beef from Oklahoma farmers to give to the poor.  Every time I do this I am inundated with phone calls from people we delivered to — “Where did you get that ground beef? It was the best hamburger we’ve ever eaten?”

If you’re vegan or vegetarian, you have lots of options. Take my advice on the sweet potatoes. You certainly won’t regret it.

The holiday shopping season is upon us and one good way to put your money to work is to give local food and non-food items as gifts.  I often send friends and family out of state jars of Oklahoma jams and jellies, bags of pecans, and bars of Oklahoma-made artisan soaps.

November is  a great month to establish your local food buying habit. Buy through the Oklahoma Food Coop, visit your local farmers’ market, shop at Urban Agrarian or Native Roots.  Don’t take our local farmers for granted. Let’s stick with them through these hard times.   Y’all bon appetit, you hear!

Oklahoma Food Cooperative http://www.oklahomafood.coop

List of Oklahoma Farmers Markets  http://okgrown.com/markets/

Urban Agrarian http://www.uaoklahoma.com/

Native Roots  http://nativerootsmarket.com/

 

Posted in Climate Instability, Economic Prosperity, Environmental Sustainability, food, garden, Local Food Systems, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Living, Peak Oil, Permaculture, Press Releases, Social Justice | Tagged , | Leave a comment

An Open Letter to Vice President Joe Biden

Dear Vice President Biden,

I recently wrote an open letter to Congressman Paul Ryan, where I commented on some contradictions I saw between his political positions and the teachings of the Catholic Church.  Since we have two Catholic candidates in this race, I am writing you for the same reason.  Congressman Ryan had the benefit of a bishop to vouch for his orthodoxy.  I am not aware of any such episcopal comment about you. But I have read that you carry a Rosary with you and that you pray the Rosary every day. We’ll talk about that in a bit, but in the meantime, let’s  start with some mood music.  Here from our brothers and sisters in the east is the Litany of Peace from the Orthodox Liturgy. It is a prayer for “everything and everyone”. I think we need it.

-

You and Congressman Ryan have much in common as Catholics in the public square.  You certainly have more in common than either of you would admit to. From your public records, it is evident that both of you formed your political positions in accordance with secular and temporal values.  Both of you appear to be just fine with the extreme politicization of the abortion issue. The Republicans use  it as a perpetual wedge issue to carve off voters from the traditional Democratic coalition, which is why they didn’t do anything particularly substantive on the issue during their great reign of power 2001-2009.  Your administration is using it as a political sledgehammer to excite your base, and are perfectly willing to damn the common good to death for that purpose.

Lost in all the the rhetoric seems to be the mothers and their children, born and unborn. That’s where the Catholic focus should be, in the light of the preferential option of the poor, which calls us, always and everywhere, to defend the poor and their children, to render justice to the afflicted and the needy, and to rescue them from the hand of the wicked.

Praised in political rhetoric on both parties during campaign seasons, after election day Democrats and Republicans alike rush to abandon low income mothers and their children, born and unborn,  to whatever grisly fate awaits them in their poverty. The bipartisan cruelty to low income single mothers who are pregnant and/or have  children is breathtaking in the scope of its utter hypocrisy. Judging you both by the outcomes of your bipartisan policies, both of you are fine with the choice of last resort for mothers with children and no economic prospects, which as you very well know is prostitution.

The more cynical and conspiracy theory-minded among us say that the need for an increasing supply of recruits for prostitution was one of the secret reasons for the 5 year limit on TANF benefits enacted in the great bipartisan welfare reform during the reign of the Tyrant-Emperor William Jefferson Clinton.  Prostitution wears women out fast. The pimps batter and control them with violence, drugs, and alcohol. Police arrest them and judges send them to prison where they are daily degraded and dehumanized and treated with systemic cruelty.  So society needs a constant supply of new recruits  to replace those thrown behind for the wolves to devour.

Although decried by all “responsible” politicians, everyone is very careful to never do anything that would actually reduce the number of prostitutes, nor to eliminate the economic incentives for low income women to become sex workers, because men — especially men in the aristocratic political and economic elites who wield power — demand access to commercial sex and will not countenance any effective deterrent. Doing something about  the items I enumerated in  my letter to Congressman Ryan would substantially reduce the economic incentive and necessity for prostitution  which of course is another reason why as long as our choices are between men like Romney and Ryan and you and Obama, nothing will change in that regard.

Thus it comes to pass that your Catholicism seems at most a political after-thought, all claims to Rosary recitations notwithstanding, as if a life of Sunday Mass but unjust weeks could somehow be pleasing in God’s eyes. That’s a quote from Oscar Romero of El Salvador. Another “great” Democratic president, Jimmy Carter, sent the guns and bullets to El Salvador that were used to assassinate him while he was celebrating Holy Mass, just another casualty in another one of our splendid little wars we like to fight.

In the letter to Congressman Ryan, I went on and on, at what really became a tedious level of detail, about the authoritative nature of the social teachings of the Church. They were promulgated in Councils, taught by popes in encyclicals, and published in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. They have their roots in the Bible. Martyrs and saints over the centuries witness to their truth.  They are not optional ideas that can be embraced if they are convenient and not obnoxious to any of your primary political constituencies. They are limitations established by God on the behavior of human governments and societies for the just protection of the common good of all.

Regarding your daily prayer of the Rosary. . . I have to wonder if the blood that drips from your hands stains the Rosary beads as you say the prayers?  Any mother can tell you that blood stains are difficult to remove. Thanks to the hemoglobin and sticky proteins, once blood dries, it sets a permanent stain.

I remember my grandfather telling me that the reason he wasn’t going to vote for the Democrats was that “Democrats always get us into wars.”  I was kind of startled by that, but you know, there’s something to what he said. He was sent to war in France in 1917, to aid the imperialist British and the imperialist French against the imperialist Germans. While some like to tell war stories, my grandfather was not one of them. I used to try to get him to tell about his experience, but the most he would ever say was, “It was pretty bad, Bobby Max, pretty bad.” My grandmother said that after he returned from war and they were married, one night he screamed in his sleep, jumped out of bed, and grabbing a rifle, he repeatedly fired it out of a window, screaming that the Germans were coming.  When she told me that, I understood why he never had a gun in the house. War does things to people.

But we can’t of course blame all this on the Democrats, since  all of our wars have ultimately been bipartisan affairs. The Republicans always egg on the Democrats when it comes to death and destruction, and the Democrats have certainly been willing to return the favor when the other party was in power.

In 2008, you and the President promised  us peace. You have given the world four more years of violence, terror, death, blood, and destruction.  The situation has deteriorated so much that our soldiers in Afghanistan are daily at risk of attack from our own “allies.”

If these are our allies, what do our enemies look like?

Does anyone ever think about the impact of all this violence on the ordinary people of Iraq and Afghanistan?  Do you, as a Roman Catholic, ever think about what it must be like, from a child’s perspective, to be blown to smithereens by a drone attack, as you pray Hail Mary, Full of Grace, the Lord is with Thee.  Blessed art Thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.

Does it happen quickly, in a subjective instant, so that they “hardly feel anything? Or does the time dilation effect occur, so that their death becomes a prolonged subjective agony and they feel every bit of pain as their body is destroyed by the power and fire of our armaments, the practical equivalent of roasting a child to death over a fire while hitting him or her with hammers?  Do you recoil from these plain descriptions of the consequences of your actions for the children of Afghanistan and Pakistan who live under our drone’s reign of terror from the skies?

The “Mother of God” title from our prayer — which originally in Greek was “Theotokos” — is a useful reminder that when Jesus said –

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. . . Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.

– he wasn’t just making idle chatter.

Or consider these further thoughts from the same occasion, the Sermon on the Mount –

You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But i tell you, love your enemies.

And when Jesus taught us to pray, he said. . .

Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Exactly how does drone warfare, which kills more civilians — including children — than it does our “enemies,” fulfill these words of Christ? Do we love our enemies when we kill them and their children and their neighbors? Is this doing the will of God on earth, as it is in heaven, when we effectively roast children over fires while beating them with hammers?

I think it is more likely that these actions of your administration are the will of the demons who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.

This is only the beginning of the sins against justice, charity, life, the poor, and the common good that we could list for the Obama-Biden administration.  Virtually all that I listed in the bill of particulars for Congressman Ryan applies to you and the president as well.

  • You persist in the constitutional fiction that the United States government has the authority to decide who is a person and who is not a person and thus who is subject to protection of the law and who is outside of the law and thus may be dealt with at will, casually, for no reason, or for unjust reasons.
  • Following the trend set during the previous Administration, you have enacted one radical expansion of executive power after another, to the point now where the president can order the extra-judicial killing of any American citizen, anywhere in the world, for any reason or none, by the will of the President and his “Star Chamber” advisers whoever they may be.
  • You intervened in Libya without a Declaration of War by Congress, which violates the Constitution.

The Bible says –

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil, who change darkness into light, and light into darkness, who change bitter into sweet, and sweet into bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own sight, and prudent in their own esteem! To those who acquit the guilty for bribes, and deprive the just man of his rights! Woe to those who enact unjust statutes and who write oppressive decrees, depriving the needy of judgment and robbing my people’s poor of their rights, making widows their plunder, and orphans their prey!

It is a tragedy of epic proportions that at this critical time in history, our leaders are as blind as the Romanofs in 1917 and the French aristocracy in 1789.

So then, you kings, you rulers the world over, listen to what I say, and learn from it.  You govern many lands and are proud that so many people are under your rule, but this authority has been given to you by the Lord Most High. He will examine what you have done and what you plan to do. You rule on behalf of God and his kingdom, and if you do not govern justly, if you do not uphold the law, if you do not live according to God’s will, you will suffer sudden and terrible punishment. Judgment is especially severe on those in power.

The crisis of leadership is very nearly universal. In religion, academia, and economics, as well as politics,  our leaders have abandoned the common good in favor of their secular and temporal interests. The Catholic Bishops are not exempt from this indictment, as I have demonstrated elsewhere.

Common people may be mercifully forgiven for their wrongs, but those in power will face a severe judgment. The Lord of all is not afraid of anyone, no matter how great they are. He himself made everyone, great and common alike, and he provided for all equally, but he will judge the conduct of rulers more strictly.

So it comes to pass the we rapidly approach the ash heap of history. When we get there, you can congratulate yourself on your own responsibility for our national fate.

Bob Waldrop

Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House in Oklahoma City

A PDF of this document, suitable for printing and then mailing to the Vice President, your local bishop, and your local Democratic party officials, is available here.

Posted in Catholic, Social Justice, War and Peace | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

An Open Letter to Congressman Paul Ryan.

Dear Congressman Ryan,

Much has been made of your devotion — or your confusion — about the social teachings of the Catholic Church in the present campaign for president.

Your bishop has vouched for your social teaching credentials, but my observation is that many Catholics form their social opinions in accordance with their political opinions and I think this is generally true of most of our bishops too. It’s not a unique problem for conservatives. Liberals do the same thing, as we have seen in the present campaign.  Conservatives and liberals are well practiced at ignoring the aspects of Catholic social teachings that are inconvenient for their political beliefs.

So while no doubt Bishop Morlino can quote chapter and verse of the social teaching magisterium, when it comes time to apply them, I wonder how much of his judgement is Catholic, and how much comes from more worldly sources.  The viewpoint called for by the social justice teachings of the Catholic Church, which is neither optional nor a matter of prudential judgment,   is the preferential option for the poor.  That’s not something that strikes me as a major aspect of your political thought.

Bishops and other Catholics defending the Republican conservative political platform say that some things in Catholic teaching are required and some are “prudential.”  That statement by itself is so incomplete as to qualify at most as a half truth. While the application of some Church teachings may be subject to prudential judgement, the nature of the authority of the Church’s social teachings is not a matter of prudential judgment. The social teachings were taught by Popes in encyclicals, promulgated by the Second Vatican Council, and published in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. They derive from apostolic origins and the Bible. The lives of saints and martyrs witness their truth and their continued relevance. The Church’s social teachings are clearly and without any ambiguity infallible and authentic teachings  of  Church’s magisterium throughout history.  It  is our common Catholic duty to assent to these teachings — without exception — and to practice them. Indeed, it is the particular competence — and duty — of the laity to put the Church’s social teachings into practice.

All prudential judgements about the social teachings are not created equal.

Some may be evil at work.  For those of us who believe the teachings of the Catholic Church, and attempt to live them in our lives, this emphasis on  “prudential judgements” sounds suspiciously like a “Get out of social justice” fig leaf being handed out by bishops  to their favored candidates who may be naked before the world when it comes to social justice for the poor. The unstated implication — wink wink, nod nod — which is the particularly popular AmChurch heresy of the moment, is that these social teachings are somehow optional.

You should study  the encyclicals of John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI,  the Catechism, and the documents of the Second Vatican Council. You will not find anything anywhere in these documents that gives these United States  an exemption from our duty of obedience to any of the infallible social teachings of the Catholic Church.

The general arguments around Catholic social teaching are usually pitched in the form of “we need major social programs” versus “we need to cut the budget so we can cut taxes and this will create more prosperity which will lead to less need for social programs.”

To listen to some people talk, these are the only choices, but that is, as they say, a “damnable lie of the devil.”

I am responsible for ensuring food deliveries to about 500 households in Oklahoma City every month and have done this since 1999.  These are people who don’t have transportation so they can’t get to other food banks. Over the years, I have come to know many of these people as my friends. I am a Catholic Worker, which means I am a personalist, which means I believe in taking personal responsibility for helping the poor.

I am not particularly a big fan of government social programs. Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, founders of the Catholic Worker movement, were opposed to the initiation of the Social Security system. They knew that it had its roots in Bismarck’s Prussia, and its purpose was to destroy bonds of family and kinship, to break up transgenerational extended families, and thus make  more obedient worker-soldiers available for the greater glory of the Prussian state.

Dorothy and Peter’s solution to all of the problems of poverty were the preferential option for the poor, solidarity and participation.

The preferential option for the poor doesn’t mean that God and the Church love some people more than others because of their economic status, but rather is a statement that if people are poor, they need special protection from the depredations of those who aren’t poor.  The fact that the rich oppress the poor cannot be doubted. The evidence of history on that subject is overwhelming and the United States, all propaganda to the contrary, is not an exception to this.

Solidarity is a matter of seeing the poor as if they were actually blood kin to us and act towards them accordingly.  The Catechism says, at §1939:

…”The principle of solidarity, also articulated in terms of ‘friendship”’ or ‘social charity,’ is a direct demand of human & Christian brotherhood. ‘An error, today abundantly widespread, is disregard for the law of human solidarity & charity, dictated & imposed both by our common origin & by the equality in rational nature of all men, whatever nation they belong to. This law is sealed by the sacrifice of redemption offered by Jesus Christ on the altar of the Cross to his heavenly Father, on behalf of sinful humanity.’ (Pope Pius XII)”

Participation is the teaching that people have a right and a duty to participate in their own life, in their own rescue if need be.  Government commits grave  evil when it prevents people from participating in their own life.

So let us count the ways that the governments of these United States — federal, state, and local — oppress the poor by making it illegal for them to participate in their own lives:

  • In most areas it’s illegal to sell along public right of ways (sidewalks, roads, rest stops on the highways and toll roads, etc.)  Where legal, such high prices are charged for licenses and bizarre requirements are enacted as to make street vending for all practical intents and purposes illegal.
  • It’s illegal to practice small scale itinerant trades without “proper licenses” which often have expensive prerequisites so that they function as barriers to market entry rather than protections for the public. These are trades like hair braiding, hair cutting, carpentry, plumbing, etc. The proliferation of coercive credentialing in general raises political barriers to finding and doing work and lowers compensation.
  • It’s often illegal for poor people to practice trades out of their houses.
  • Laws limit the number of garage sales people can have at their homes and restrict the ability to open a small sales or hospitality operation in a home.
  • Laws forbid people from making non-hazardous foods (like jams, pickles, and baked goods) at home and selling them to the public.
  • Poor people who own cars can’t drive people around and charge for the service. It would likely be illegal to use a van to establish a jitney service (a type of transit, common elsewhere, where a van or small bus drives a route but deviates around the route to pick up fares dispatched from a central location).  Transportation has serious political barriers to market entry.
  • It’s generally illegal to teach people how to apply makeup without government licenses which require expensive training.
  • It is generally illegal to grow vegetables in your back yard and then sell them in your front yard.
  • The government’s “war on people who use drugs” breeds crime in low income areas and makes crime pay much better than honest work and entrepreneurial activity.
  • The common political practice of rewarding friends and punishes enemies (known as “rent-seeking”) reduces economic opportunities for all, keeps people out of the market, and is a non-market process driving the centralization of wealth.

Now let’s consider how government makes the lives of poor people more hard and miserable and prevents people from helping them.

  • In many areas it is effectively  illegal to be homeless. This is accomplished with laws forbidding loitering, sleeping in public, etc.
  • Begging is often illegal.
  • Zoning laws prevent people from adding small apartments (garage, attic, basement, back-yard) that would increase the amount of rental housing and thus moderate rental prices.
  • In most areas it would be illegal to put a trailer house in your back yard and allow a poor person to live in it rent free or for a moderate rental.
  • In most areas it is practically impossible to establish a boarding house, which was always a traditional place for poor people to live.
  • Economic redevelopment programs, using eminent domain, have attacked poor neighborhoods across the country, destroying millions of units of low income housing. This non-market, politicized process has driven up the price of housing, especially at the low end. It has taken property from the poor, cheated them by paying cheap,  non-market, court-dictated and politicized prices for the property, and then given that property at low prices to persons with privileged access to politicians.
  • It’s illegal for people to build their own houses. Code requirements increase the cost of housing and are more related to political pressure from construction contractors than to actual safety issues.
  • It’s illegal for poor people to live in many neighborhoods. This is achieved by mandating minimum lot sizes, distances between houses, square feet minimums, and by forbidding any manufactured housing or trailer houses.
  • It’s illegal to provide some kinds of useful housing to poor people.
  • It’s illegal to not have electricity in your house. It’s illegal to not buy water from your city utility. The state can seize your children if you don’t have electricity.
  • It’s illegal in most areas for more than 4 unrelated people to live together.
  • Government credentialing in health care drives up its cost. In particular, the practice of indenturing nurse practitioners to doctors raises the price of health care and reduces access for low income people.  Government indenturing of denturists (skilled health care craftspeople who make dentures) to dentists means much high prices for dentures without a corresponding increase in quality. Dentists apparently prefer that poor people present a “snaggle toothed” appearance, which is a problem for getting a job, since they have manipulated the system to give themselves this non-science-based economic advantage.
  • You can’t raise chickens or other small animals in most cities unless you have a large (one acre or larger) lot. This is inhibits economic activity and prevents people from supporting themselves by their own labor.
  • Police commonly allow crime that would not be tolerated in upper income neighborhoods to proliferate in low income areas.
  • Our education system is oriented towards college. Secondary school systems everywhere marginalize and provide poor services to non-college-bound students.
  • Taxes and fees extracted from low income, working class, and middle class areas subsidize upscale development. This constantly drains older neighborhoods of revenue important for maintaining infrastructure and providing services.
  • Laws  that mandate minimum apartment sizes drive up the cost of low income housing and restrict its supply.

The negative cumulative impacts of these prohibitions and persecutions is to –

  • Make people dependent upon government social services,
  • Make the lives of poor people more miserable, risky, and unhealthy,
  • Suppress the price of lower-income labor,
  • Keep unemployment high,
  • Reduce entrepreneurial activity and thus ensure a continued supply of cheap workers,
  • Increase the number of abortions due to economic distress and psychological despair.

As is often the case, violations of social justice promote violations of life and social injustice is a known driver of abortion.

These issues are not only a problem for poor people, but also for the working and middle classes.

Since economic persecution is a reality in these United States,  we have to have programs like food stamps, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and housing assistance. If we didn’t have them, probably 10% of the population would be dead of starvation and exposure within the first year. Sure, some would endeavor to help, as they do now. But there’s never enough private charity to go around.   CHARITY CANNOT DO THE WORK OF JUSTICE.  As long as our system of economic injustice prevails, people will be driven into poverty much faster and kept there longer than private and religious charities are able to cope with.

There are not enough private and religious charitable resources  to go around as things stand right now. Help doesn’t get to everyone. We live in a culture of death, and without the government’s social safety net, as problematic as it is, mass death would be the result.

So I hope you can see my problem with the claims about your alleged knowledge of and obedience to Catholic social teaching.  I don’t hear anything about these poverty and justice realities  from you.

Notice that in talking about these issues, I have not once called for any new big government program that would spend a large pile of money.  I am saying that if we want to help the poor, then among other things that need to be done, the government should stop actively persecuting the poor.

The huge amount of drug business in low income areas indicates that there is an entrepreneurial streak a hundred miles wide among poor people. Ironically, it is easier and more profitable for poor people to go  into the recreational drug business, than it would be  for (e.g.) three young people to set up a hot dog stand at a rest stop on a freeway. That would certainly result in a major police and food regulatory bureaucracy response the first day they open for business. These hot dog entrepreneurs would be safer selling crack cocaine on the streets of a low income neighborhood than they would be selling hot dogs at a turnpike rest stop.  That’s a pretty sad commentary on the morality of our present system of laws, but it isn’t something that you or any other Republican politicians, who supposedly are devoted to the free market, have much to say about.

Red state Oklahoma is ruled by Republicans. We have a Republican governor and both houses of the legislature are controlled by the Republican Party. Could we perhaps have a little economic freedom for our state? Maybe open all of the rest stops on our freeways and toll roads and the public right of ways on our highways to small scale enterprise and street vending? Let the food trucks set up, bring in the peddlers. Open a free market flea market from one end of I-35 to the other and do the same with I-40. It would give people coming through the state another way to spend their money besides the Indian casinos and people who live here another way to earn an honest income by inventing their own micro-jobs that could perhaps grow into full time entrepreneurial self-employment.

Did anyone think about this  at the state legislature? Of course not. When Republican politicians talk about the free market, BY THEIR ACTIONS THEY PROVE THAT THEY DON’T REALLY MEAN AN ACTUAL FAIR AND FREE MARKET.

They want rigged, politicized markets that reward their friends and punish their enemies.

They want all of the restrictions and subsidies that benefit their campaign contributors to stay in place.

They want the laws that oppress the poor and grind their faces into the dust to do their job to suppress wages, increase rents, promote political and economic dependency, and discourage personal and family and communal responsibility.

I hear the protests — “this isn’t what we want” — but in politics, you get what you vote for. This is what our Republican (and Democratic) politicians have consistently voted for over the past fifty years. It seems at best disingenuous to disclaim responsibility for these consequences.  And not all of these consequences are unintended. Most of them are deliberate  attacks on the poor and are working exactly as they are designed to work. If you don’t believe this, go to your City Council and propose amendments that would allow manufactured housing and trailer houses anywhere in the city. Follow this with a demand to allow micro-apartments (granny, attic, basement, backyard) in any neighborhood and to eliminate minimum house and lot sizes. The howls of outrage and screams of protest will come quickly and your council will dismiss you as a fool (at best) or maybe (at worst) a dangerous agitator.  It’s much the same reaction that prevailed 50 years ago, when it was proposed that people of African descent be allowed to live anywhere they choose.

So if it’s true that you want to help the poor in accordance with the infallible and authentic social teachings of the Catholic Church, then why don’t you come to the assistance of the poor  — not by proposing big new government programs, but by demanding that the government stop persecuting the poor? Why not harness the entrepreneurial aspirations of low income people so they can create their own jobs?

Until you defend the economic rights of poor people, by your words and deeds, you proclaim to the world that you are  just another Cafeteria Catholic, willing to grind the face of the poor into the dust for political advantage.

The Bible says –  “Sow not in furrows of injustice lest you reap a seven fold harvest.”

That seven-fold harvest is falling upon us even as we speak. Things are going from bad to worse, and while your campaign is trying to make it appear as if it is “all the fault of those danged Democrats,” a more likely explanation is that we are reaping the bitter fruits of the seeds of economic and social injustice and exploitation that we have sown for so many years.

It’s a slow moving catastrophe, but the end result for our nation — the ash heap of history — is not in doubt.

Bob Waldrop

Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House in Oklahoma City

www.justpeace.org

PS.  A subsequent open letter will be published that is directed at VP Biden. I am writing the VP candidates, because you are both Catholic and thus we share a common faith that has implications for how you should govern as politicians.

+++++++++++++++++++++

For a PDF version of this Open Letter, suitable for mailing to Congressman Ryan, your bishop, pastor, and your local Republican party offices, go to http://www.justpeace.org/ryanletter.pdf .

Posted in Good and Frugal Government, Campaign News, Catholic, Economic Prosperity, Financial Crisis, Oklahoma Living, Social Justice | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Could we get a cash mob together in September for local Oklahoma producers?

This has been a very hard summer for Oklahoma’s local food producers and its non-food producers. Let’s make the situation a little better with a cash mob for local production!

As you may know, a cash mob is a group of people who decide to get together and spend twenty dollars at a local enterprise, as a way of showing their love and support.

So could we maybe have a cash mob for Oklahoma producers — the farmers and ranchers and non-food product producers this month?  This is not directed at the people who are already regularly supporting their neighborhood economy  by buying from local farmers and non-food producers at farmers markets, farm stands, and the Oklahoma Food Cooperative.

I want to reach out to the many people who don’t buy from farmers every month and ask them –  could you spend $20 in September?

You could go to one of our farmers’ markets or you could order something from the Oklahoma Food Cooperative.  Two pounds of really great tasting ground beef and a few bars of some artisanal  soap would be about twenty bucks and if a few thousand people decided to do that, it would make a real difference.

If you are new to local foods, and eat meat, ground meats are the best place to start.  There’s quite a bit of it available and there is a serious difference in quality between ground meats from local producers and the mystery ground meats you get in the big box stores.  Scientific studies have found that supermarket ground meat may have DNA from as many as 100 different animals from several different states. Many supermarket chains add the infamous pink slime to their ground meat. By law, up to 15% of the ground meat can actually be pink slime and the store doesn’t have to say a thing about the adulteration of the beef to the customer.

Local artisan soaps are also great value. Yes, they cost more per bar, but the bars way outlast the cheap soaps sold in stores.

So how about it, folks, can we get some love for local producers this month?

The Oklahoma Food Coop in particular has a lot of members who don’t order regularly. The Oklahoma Food Cooperative has been losing money for two years, and a lot of that challenge has been climate related. The drought has impacted local production and that impacts our sales.  We are an important retail market for more than 100 local Oklahoma producers of food and non-food items.  Other, more commercial stores, may brag about their local commitment, but when you go and look at their shelves, you’ll see products from maybe at most a half dozen producers, and nothing much at all in the meat department.

Meanwhile. . . as close as your local web browser. . . The Oklahoma Food Cooperative has an incredible selection of food and non-food items from more than 100 different local producers,  as do our local farmers’ markets.

If we want a more sustainable, just, and humane system of agriculture, then there must be a market for the products of a more sustainable, just, and humane system of agriculture.  That means that people have to be willing to reach into their pockets and pay for the products of a more sustainable, just, and humane system of agriculture production.

Good intentions matter for nothing if not backed with action.  Good intentions will not stop global warming, change our system of agriculture, or preserve rural communities. Indeed, the road to ecological collapse is paved with good intentions.

No, the local production shopping system isn’t as convenient as a big box store.

No, the prices aren’t as cheap as a big box store. Here’s three reasons why the prices aren’t as cheap –

  • Local producers don’t torture their animals by cramming them into small spaces and feeding them unnatural diets and treating them roughly.
  • Local producers don’t adulterate their foods with cheap fillers like pink slime  and industrial chemicals.
  • Local producers don’t externalize their costs onto their neighbors with their smelly sewage lagoons and pollute their ecosystems with noxious odors emanating from concentrated animal feeding operations..

So yes, the price is not dirt cheap. Local farmers can’t externalize costs like the big guys.  But the problem with those externalized costs, which show up as cheap groceries in big box stores, is that the costs never go away. Eventually they will be paid, with interest, and we won’t like it at all when those bills are presented.

Supporting local agriculture production and artisanal non-food products is one of the most important actions any of us can do to grow a more sustainable Oklahoma and make a better future for ourselves and all we love.

If you aren’t in the habit of buying from our growing local producer community, September is the month for you to join the cash mob and put your twenty bucks down on the table in support of local groceries, local artisanal body care products, and other local non-food production.

Visit the Oklahoma Food Cooperative!

Find an Oklahoma Farmers’ Market!

Posted in Climate Instability, Economic Prosperity, food, Local Food Systems, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Living, Peak Oil, Permaculture | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Notes on Dr. John Ikerd’s talk on sustainable economics at Oklahoma State University

University of Missouri professor-emeritus in economics Dr. John Ikerd spoke at OSU this afternoon with a good group there to here him, including some of the leaders in the state’s sustainable agriculture movement, including Dr. Jim Horne of the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Rita Scott of the Oklahoma Farm and Food Alliance, Jane Talkington of OSU (who is working on an exciting new project to build an ecovillage on 100 acres of OSU property next to the main campus), Harlan Hentges, the “organic lawyer”, also Nancy Osborn, long-time Oklahoma Food Coop member and co-owner of Cordero Farms. The University of Missouri at Columbia is something of a hotbed for the academic study and research of sustainable agriculture.  Besides Dr. Ikerd in the Economics Department, the school’s School of Rural Sociology was greatly influenced by its long-time chair (now retired) Dr. Bill Heffernen, known as a “populist pragmatist” who with his wife became founders of what became known as the Missouri School which has focused on structural arrangements and power relationships in agriculture and its associated economics, and students such as Dr. Mary Hendrickson who now are faculty at the school.

The rest of this blog entry consists of notes I took during his presentation, which was titled:

Essentials of Economic Sustainability: Implications for Farm Management

Sustainability:  Meeting the needs of the present without diminishing opportunities for the future.

Now is a time of great transition. The next 50 years will see greater changes here at home and throughout the world than we saw in the past 50 years.

The future our young people experience will be very different from our present now.

The 2008 recession continues. It is a blessing in disguise, since it wakes people up. It has also significantly reduced confidence in the prevailing system and increased our understanding of unsustainability.   It has made obvious a salient fact our politicians like to deny:  our present economy does not meet the needs of everybody.

All economic value comes from nature via society.  There are no other possible sources of wealth. Nature is the sole source. In nature, there is no waste. Everything is food for something.

The economy creates nothing without nature.  It facilitates productive work but creates nothing that does not have its origin in nature.

One reason our economy is in such trouble, is because we are degrading the productivity of nature by destruction, pollution, etc. As we degrade nature, we degrade the capacity of our money economy.

Most classical economists say that “we only need to get the prices right” for everything to work.  This has never happened in history.

The ecological worldview consists of three concentric circles (he had these drawn on a powerpoint slide):  the outer ring, encompassing the other two, is nature. The middle ring is society. The inner ring, the donut hole, is the economy.

This is the hierarchy of sustainability. Nature encompasses everything including society and the economy. We are not separate from nature. Society contains within it the economy.  Classical economists would relabel these so that the outer ring was economics.

It is a hierarchy because purpose is defined at the higher level.  Thus, nature gives purpose to society which gives purpose to the economy.

Some things have no economic value but are absolutely essential for sustainability.

To fix our broken economy, we need to work on our principles.

Ecological Principles — holism (something is greater than the sum of its parts), diversity, interdependence.

Social Principles — trust, kindness, courage

Economic Principles — scarcity, efficiency, sovereignity (freedom to choose, absence of coercion)

It takes moral courage to live sustainably.  We can violate these principles but there are always consequences that cannot be evaded or escaped.

Economic values:  these are individual, instrumental (always expecting something in return), and impersonal

Social values: these are interpersonal, instrumental, and personal.

Ethical values: these are communal, non-instrumental, impersonal.

(Bob note: you’ll have to read his book, The Essentials of Economic Sustainability, for the economic, social, and ethical values to make sense since he was talking so fast I barely got the points written down and he was on to the next. lol)

Economic sustainability requires non-economic investments to ensure economic sustainability.  Our problem is that our present economics is inherently short term. No economic investment that pays off after you are dead makes sense to our present system of economics.  If you make an investment that will pay off for your children, you are adding a non-economic value — your love for your children — to the economic equation.  Thus our need for non-economic investments to ensure economic sustainability that lasts for generations.

The Hierarchy of Intentionality governs what we can do as individuals and when we act as governments.  It consists of ethical, social, and individual values.

The essential characteristics of economic sustainability:

Characteristics of economics — resourceful, regenerative, resilient

Essential function of markets: establish value, ration, reward, allocate

Essential functions of governments in economics are to ensure autonomy and equity — economic, social, and intergenerational.

The hierarchy of economic sustainability is the hierarchy of human happiness.

There has been no increase overall in human well being in the developed countries since the 1950s. Once basic needs are met, it is the quality of relationships that are critical to happiness.  People must have some sense of meaning and purpose.

SUSTAINABLE FARM MANAGEMENT

Sustainable farm management asks how farmers should relate to nature and each other.

Farms and farmers have purpose beyond making income or wealth.  Farmers accept responsibility for the well-being of society and the future of humanity.

Sustainable farming respects the basic principles and laws of nature.

Characteristics:

  • Managed as wholes,
  • Value diversity,
  • Interdependent relationships
  • Mutual benefits
  • Trusting relationships
  • Caring relationships
  • Moral courage to be trusting and kind,
  • Produce economic value
  • Uses resources wisely and efficiently,
  • Free to make choices (sovereign)

Managing Farms for Sustainability

Farmers must respect the purpose, principles, and priorities of nature and align their actions with the hierarchies of sustainability and intentionality.

Sustainable farming is a way of life, not just a business.  It involves, ethics, society, as well as economics.

Sustainable agriculture must provide the basis for a sustainable human society.

Managing for sustainability is a better way to farm and live and leads to happiness.

We are biological beings as dependent upon nature as our hunter gatherer ancestors.

Life is too precious to live without hope. While I know things look grim, there have never been so many people who know the way we are going is wrong.  Some estimate that 1/3 of the population is actively engaged in some kind of sustainability activity. We know we need values. Adam Smith could not imagine economics without social and ethical values

Dr. Ikerd says he is an “ordained economist,” which is a bit of a play on words.  All economists have certain assumptions on which they base their theories.   Modern classical economics is based on assumptions like “wants are insatiable,” and “creative people can find a solution to anything, we can always find a resource to substitute for a resource that is exhausted. Human creativity is capable of solving all problems.”

Economists present these as facts, but they are not facts like “the earth orbits around the sun” is a fact. Moreover, these rosy assumptions of economists are contradicted by the Laws of Thermodynamics, which are physical laws that constrain all human activity.  The laws can be summarized as — you can’t win, you can’t break even, you can’t get out of the game. The 2nd law in particular is problematic for economists.  Every time you do something useful, you lose some of it, every time, without any exception whatsoever.

US ethanol policy is insane.  Why, during a drought, are we burning up 40% of our scarce corn crop as corn ethanol?

Question from the floor (from a farmer): How can a farmer transition to this kind of agriculture.

Answer: The first thing that has to happen is that the farmer has to change his head and unlearn the lies he or she has been taught.  Farmers must learn how to farm using solar energy.  While corn ethanol makes no sense for cars, FARM BASED ETHANOL makes major sense, as does pyrolisis of waste materials (wood chips, crop residues, etc) to make fuel and growing oil crops to make biodiesel  (Bob note:  see  http://www.energyconservationinfo.org/compendium.htm#2.2%20Biogas.)  Farmers and the food production system are using 10 calories of fossil fuels to make 1 calorie of food. Farmers should forage-feed their animals.  As far as marketing is concerned, if sustainable farmers try to deal with the conventional ag marketing system, they will be perpetually at a disadvantage. The sustainable farmer must create a new food chain, like CSAs and customer-producer ownder cooperatives.  What motivates ecological farming? Stewardship.

Government is a reflection of the people.

There are more hungry people in the US now than there were in 1960s. And those who have enough to eat, aren’t very healthy. So how is it that we brag about our food system as if we were doing somethig right?

Afterwards, in a conversation with Jim Horne of the Kerr Center, he told me about a project they funded to test growing sunflowers for on-farm biodiesel.  See

Homegrown Horsepower: Thad Doye’s Sunflower Biodiesel

http://www.kerrcenter.com/nwsltr/2006/summer/summer2006.pdf scroll to page 4

Crushing Seeds and Crunching Numbers: Sunflower Biodiesel

http://www.kerrcenter.com/nwsltr/2007/fall07/fall07.pdf

Posted in Economic Prosperity, Environmental Sustainability, Financial Crisis, food, Local Food Systems, Permaculture | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Bob ignores the convention and concentrates on important stuff, like hypermiling and container gardening.

I am ignoring the conventions this year and concentrating on useful stuff like hypermiling and container gardening.

I am making some progress on my hypermiling abilities. My 1993 Geo Metro was getting about 35 miles per gallon, but recently I’ve been able to tease 39.5 out of it. I think that mostly comes from two things –

(1) I’m staying out of lines for drive-up windows. When I go to the credit union, I park and go inside. Same thing if I stop at one of the locally owned fast food places for a burger or a sandwich (yee-haw TIM’S at NW 50 and McArthur, also the Banh mi Bahle at the Milk Bottle Building on Classen, Someplace Else Deli, and Neptune Sandwches on Classen).

(2) I coast as much as possible. That’s mostly a matter of noticing when I am heading downhil and shifting into neutral for the downslope. My work is at a higher elevation than my residence, so not much coasting on the outbound trip, but quite a bit on the home-ward bound trip.

Container Gardening and Grey water Tipes
I went to visit a friend of mine who has a container garden and was amazed at how big and lush his plants are. It’s been a long hot summer. I asked him about his secret for success. He said,

“Well, my tub is stopped up. Everything else (sink and toilet) and is working just fine, but not the tub. And I am really tight on money this summer and don’t want to hire a plumber. So I remembered one of your bits of advice, and put a large tote in the tub and we take our shower in the tote. The tote catches the water. We take short showers so the water is only about as deep my feet when I finish, so the tote isn’t too heavy to move. The water gets poured on the containers.”

He says they don’t pour it on the foliage, but on the mulch (each of his containers is mulched deeply with hay).

He “composts in place” in the pots. That is, he brings the food scraps out and instead of putting them in a compost pile, tucks them under the mulch in his container plants. He says the containers were loaded with worms. He didn’t put the worms in, they found them “all on their own”. His household exclusively uses locally made artisan soaps that include goats milk as an ingredient.

Folks, this is the kind of voting that really counts. It’s called voting with your body.  The unpleasant truth is that we have the politics we have because we are the people we are.  In other words, we get violence, greed, and gluttony from your government because we the American people are a people of violence, greed, gluttony. There are individual exceptions, but if you doubt this, just check out your local 500 channels of cable television entertainment and what do you find? Gluttony, greed, and violence.

We will have better politics when We the People are a better people.

That’s where I’m putting my effort.  Trust in worms and bees, compost and its teas!

 

Posted in Good and Frugal Government, Climate Instability, food, garden, Local Food Systems, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Living, Permaculture | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Fall Tree Planting Season Is upon Us

This little note is to remind everyone in Oklahoma (actually, the entire Northern Hemisphere) that the fall tree planting season is upon us.

In Oklahoma, fall is the best time to plant trees.  And one nice thing about the growth and development of our local food system is that these days there is a plentiful supply of fruit and nut trees available for fall planting.  Twelve years ago, when I started planting trees, nurseries did not stock fruit and nut trees in the fall (at least, no nurseries I was aware of at the time).  But fortunately, for the fall 2012 tree planting season, several local nurseries have lots of stock available.  I recently emailed the nurseries listed in the Oklahoma City Yellow Pages and got responses from these nurseries stating that they had fruit and nut trees in stock and ready for fall planting:

For all locations, feel free to call ahead and discuss what’s available and the prices.

Dig the hole as deep as the root ball of the tree you’ve bought, but no deeper.  You can use a spading fork to break the soil up in the bottom of the hole if it is tightly compacted ground.  Make the hole twice as wide as the root ball.  Learn more about planting trees in Oklahoma at the Keep Oklahoma Beautiful website — http://tinyurl.com/8psbujg .

Why plant fruit and nut trees?

  • By growing your own you get the best tasting fruit. Once a fruit is picked, it is as ripe as it will get.  Most commercial supermarket fruit is picked early, before full ripeness and it ripens in a warehouse or on a truck headed your way. But it doesn’t get any sweeter than it was when it was plucked off the tree.
  • You control the production practices.  Apples, peaches, pears, plums, nectarines, as well as strawberries, grapes, and blueberries, are in the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Twenty” fruits and vegetables, meaning that the ordinary commercial production sold in supermarkets have high levels of pesticide and herbicide residues.  Apples are #1 on the list, and peaches are #4.
  • In Oklahoma, trees planted on the south and west sides of your home, so that as they grow your house is shaded, can cut your AC bill between 10% and 50%.
  • Trees are beautiful and add value to your home.
  • Trees in urban areas help moderate the urban heat island effect which may be increasing the risk of severe weather in and around large cities.
  • Trees in rural areas can help promote rainfall.

Fruit and nut trees support a sustainable local food system.  Do your part today to care for people, care for the planet, and have a care for the future by planting fruit and nut trees!  Think of those wonderful treats to come — apple butter, peach cobbler, plum jelly!

Posted in Climate Instability, Environmental Sustainability, food, garden, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Living, Permaculture | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Ten principles of household and community food security.

We need to increase the quality of our food lives so that our food is safe, nutritious, and tasty.  Permaculture design can provide a description of the way forward into a more sustainable way of living that cares for people, cares for the planet, and has a care for the future.

These ten principles are a basic design for developing household and community food security. You can enter the process at any one of the ten principles and customize them based on your own personal situation.

1.  Prepare meals from basic ingredients.

Somewhere along the line, one meal at a time, people became convinced that a low quality high priced frozen manufactured food-like substance from a big box national superstore was a better deal than a low cost, nutritious, and better tasting home cooked meal.

We think we are too busy to cook. It’s Too Much Work. Our days are full of activities. We go, we come, we do this, we do that, and we do the other.

We learned to devalue the domestic arts. Advertising conditions us to think that cooking is hard work and a useless way to spend our time. Only unimportant people actually cook, we are told by those who want to sell us their low quality high price frozen manufactured food-like substances, artificially flavored and fortified with “9 essential vitamins.”

So it comes to pass that many people just don’t know how to cook.

But as far as permaculture is concerned . . .  Preparing meals from basic ingredients is the entry level of household and community food security. Fortunately, this is a fun and rewarding activity with practically instant gratification. Preparing meals from basic ingredients takes much less time than we suppose. As with any other skill, there is a learning curve, but with practice comes efficiency in the kitchen.

2. Eat with the season.

One unsustainable aspect of our food system is our demand for out-of-season fresh vegetables and fruits.  We want lettuce salads in the snows of January, and fresh grapes, even though this takes food from the mouths of hungry children in third world countries. This demand drives the dispossession of traditional subsistence farmers in poor countries and sends them into the slums of the cities.

Permaculture design suggests temperance in our choice of foods. Eating out of season drives unsustainability. That’s why we eat with the season. No green salads in the snows of January – unless of course they are grown in your locality with season extension methods that don’t involve heating greenhouses with vast amounts of fossil fuels. (Or you are in the southern hemisphere where January is the summer.) Microgreens grown inside your sunny windows would be fine. But greens imported from far across the continents and seas? Just say “no way” to that kind of environmental devastation and injustice against the poor.

When you eat out, don’t order and don’t pay for out-of-season produce. Get the soup, not the salad, for an appetizer during the winter.  Use your economic choices to help the restaurant business become more sustainable.

3.   Don’t eat meat or poultry from concentrated animal feeding operations. Eat meats from free ranging, humanely-managed flocks and herds or go vegetarian.

Yes, free-range meats cost more but you can finesse that by simply eating less meat. If you are more traditional, go with a “meatless Friday.” If you are more modern, try a “meatless Monday.” Conventional livestock production, which confines cattle in small pens in feedlots while feeding them an unnatural diet of grain and corn is one of the primary drivers of the emissions that produce global climate instability. Research indicates that a pound of hamburger bought at a supermarket owned by a national chain might have bits and pieces of as many as 100 different animals in it.

But wait – there’s more, and it’s even worse.  Many stores and national fast-food restaurants add “pink slime” to their meats, which is technically known as “lean finely textured beef.”  It is produced from low-grade meat trimmings (which can include cartilage, connective tissue, and sinew) that are mechanically separated and then treated with ammonia as a disinfectant. By law, as much as 15% of a ground beef product may be made of “pink slime” and the manufacturer is exempt from listing the pink slime on the product ingredient list. About 70% of ground beef sold in national chain supermarkets contains pink slime. There’s a reason supermarket ground beef is cheap and it’s not because they are buying quality ingredients.

When you buy supermarket meats, you pay for a substandard food and production practices that many people consider cruel and inhumane. It is better to buy beef from producers who use more humane animal management practices and do not adulterate their meats with weird ingredients like pink slime. Know your farmer and where you food comes from.

If there was a truth in labeling law, supermarket chicken would be labeled – “Contents: one small tortured bird.”  Chickens are confined in such small spaces that producers routinely burn off their beaks because their lives are so miserable they peck each other and themselves to death.  Modern major product line processing of chickens includes soaking the carcasses in a chlorine bath that as the day moves along is progressively more contaminated with stray chicken guts and feces.

If you can’t find free range meats from trustworthy producers, my best advice is “go vegetarian.”

4.  Grow some food.

Many of us in urban areas live in apartments and don’t have access to any land.  Even so we have some food production possibilities.

  • Grow vegetables and herbs in pots on balconies, fire escapes, patios, and in sunny windows. Just because you can’t grow a lot doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t grow a little. If you’ve ever plucked a tomato from the vine and immediately eaten it, you know why this is such a good idea.
  • Participate in a community garden.
  • Garden small bits of land. A 3′ x 3′ square patch of ground can grow more food than you think possible.
  • If you have small land, such as a house on a typical 1/8th acre urban plot, you can grow lots of food. Look at what these people did with their very small front yard:  http://www.resilientcommunities.com/a-resilient-home-transformation-youve-got-to-see/
  • Encourage your local government, schools, churches, and businesses to plant edible landscaping in parks and along streets.  Perennial food production plants are great additions for urban and rural spaces. They increase the value of property, and provide high quality locally produced food.

5.   Buy some food from your local area, preferably directly from its producers.

In the modern world, our cities’ foodsheds are literally the world. This makes our cities’ food supply chains long and complicated.  This is a problem. The longer and more complicated the supply chain, the more brittle and unsustainable and the less resilient the food system. Encouraging food production in the immediate “neighborhood” of cities (a 100- to 150 mile radius, depending on the size of the city) is of critical importance for community food security.

It’s not impossible.  The large cities of the 19th century were almost entirely fed from the immediate foodshed around those cities.

The way to make this happen is to buy food from local farmers.

If we want a more sustainable, just, local, humane, and resilient food system, then there must be a market for the products of sustainable, just, local, humane, and resilient agricultural systems.

This means that people have to be willing to put their money down on the barrel-head and buy what local farms produce. As people make more and more of these kinds of purchasing decisions, the local market grows and that causes local production to grow. It is folly to expect a growth in local agriculture absent a cash market for that production.

It is not necessary to start buying 100% local foods immediately.  Most of us don’t have that kind of access to locally produced foods.  What is necessary is to start buying “some” of your food from local production. This jump starts the production/buying cycle.  It is also important to be a missionary about this and encourage your friends, family, co-workers, and the general public to buy some local food.

Most areas will benefit from additional methods of buying from local producers.  Typical structures that facilitate local production are farmers’ markets, roadside stands,  Community Supported Agriculture programs, and food cooperatives. There may be municipal regulations that complicate or hinder the development of local agriculture marketplaces and those most be addressed by local governments.

One very effective model is the local food cooperative, which is a food cooperative that distributes locally produced food and nonfood items. These kinds of cooperatives typically do not have stores but instead operate via an online ordering system coupled with a volunteer, or mostly volunteer, delivery system.  You can read a case study done by the Northwest Cooperative Development organization about Idaho’s Bounty, one of the nation’s local food cooperatives, which is available online at http://www.nwcdc.coop/Resources/IBCCaseStudy.pdf .

6. Keep some of your household savings in the form of food. 

In today’s uncertain economy, people need resources that they can depend upon if they lose their job or have to take a cut in pay. Besides money in the bank, food storage is an excellent hedge against household hard times.  Food storage is also important for resilience since there are many things that could happen without warning overnight that could stop the steady workings of our food processing and distribution systems. In such a catastrophic event, grocery stores and local warehouses would empty quickly. Food storage is much more important than most people think.

7.  Shop wisely and frugally at the supermarket.   

Supermarket shopping will remain a reality for many of us for years going forward. Local food systems, even with all of the growth of the past decade, remain insufficiently developed to feed cities. Those of us living in dormitories on campus still shop for food on occasion. So wise shopping is an important survival skill for all of us.

Think about your food dollars as votes.  Every time you spend a food dollar, you vote for something – good, bad, or indifferent. Make as many “good, better, and best” decisions as you can in the supermarket while avoiding as many bad choices as possible.

Supermarket permaculture tactics include –

★    Support local and regionally owned supermarket stores and chains and food cooperatives instead of national chains.

★    Support local and regional brands instead of national brands.

★    Support organic products (but don’t buy organic vegetables out of season!).

★    Buy low on the food chain – that is, purchase more basic ingredients and fewer prepared products.

8.  Preserve and process food at home or in cooperation with neighbors.

You can make your own ketchup at home for less money than you can buy a name brand ketchup at the store. It will taste better and be more healthy. The time to buy produce for the year is during the summer, when production is high and prices are at their best. Preserve some of the summer bounty for eating later in the winter. Freeze it, can it, dry it, eat it later. Very tasty.

Many of us will find it helpful to do processing and preserving in groups. Many hands do in fact make for lighter work. Organizations can support community capacities by stocking community kitchens (such as churches and schools) with food preservation and processing equipment. With a physical infrastructure in place, skills can be taught and groups organized to approach this job as a team.

9.   Never eat at a national chain or franchised restaurant or fast food location.  Choose locally-owned when eating out.

Always think of your food dollars as votes and always “vote local” when you eat out. National chains and franchises siphon dollars out of local economies and feed parasitic corporate aristocracies that don’t contribute to the local economy.  It is as important to apply this principle when you eat restaurant or fast food meals or when you buy take-out as it is when you buy ingredients to prepare home-cooked meals.

10.    Support public and private initiatives that promote organic gardening and farming, free-range and pastured flocks and herds, urban agriculture, local food systems, and community capacities for food security. Leave no one behind for the wolves to devour.

We are all in this together.  There are many obstacles to local and community food security. Government rules and regulations can increase the work, expense, and confusion of locally producing and locally distributing foods (and nonfood necessary items too, like soap and clothing).  The prevailing systems subsidize long and complicated supply chains by causing unnecessary problems for local producers and distributors. That way of doing things is an artifact of cheap energy and cheap money and those are going away bye bye forever.

So anything we can do to streamline the system, eliminate unnecessary market barriers, and prevent rent-seekers from over-regulating and cartelizing the local food marketplaces moves us onwards toward household and community food security.

Particular attention must be paid to increasing community food security capacities in low income areas and food deserts. Where markets are failing, community food security groups must step up and offer technical support and material assistance for development of alternative food structures such as urban market gardening initiatives,  community canning and food-preservation kitchens, and organization of food cooperatives.

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The Ten Principles of Household and Community Food Security by Bob Waldrop is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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