Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Elections 2008 Ballot Issue

Last weekend we filled out our ballots and it was very therapeutic. Here in Washington State everybody votes by mail. I like it compared to going to the polls and I don't think I have had problems before, but now I'm not so sure.

The picture to the left shows the directions for filling in the little bubbles next to your candidate choices on our ballots. Does it seem odd to you that the first and third incorrect ways to fill in the bubble looks like a reasonable way to mark the ballot? At least the first one?

I have to admit that in the past I very likely could have filled out the bubbles similar to the first incorrect example. Are the machines that read these ballots so insensitive that the bubble has to look like it is printed on your desktop printer? What if there is just the tiniest bit of white space there or the pen line is just ever so slightly on the line or just outside of it? Even if there are no other stray marks that could be misconstrued as two bubbles filled in.

It seems like an easy way to discount a person's vote to me! I know that it is every voter's responsibility to fill out their ballots correctly, but I wonder how many ballots will not be counted because of a very easy and silly mistake incorrectly marking the bubble?

It felt really good to finally cast my vote, but I do worry about our election system being rigged. My niece and a friend of ours didn't recieve their ballots in the mail. Was it a simple mistake or voter purging?

The whole issue with Acorn is a total red herring. The real problem is voter intimidation and disenfranchisement. I read that in one state, those who have lost their homes in the mortgage crisis won't be allowed to vote because they don't have an updated address. There are tens of thousands of people who have lost their homes, and they are disproportionately low to middle class folks who are probably going to vote for the Democrats.

I think everybody should be checking out Greg Palast's website with the 7 easy steps to steal back your vote. Greg is a best-selling author and real investigative reporter and has lots of good information and video clips on his website. There is also a free download of his "Steal Back Your Vote" comic book that Greg and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. put together.

If you are concerned about your ballot, call your county auditor's office and let them know your problem. Better yet, contact your Secretary of State who is responsible for your statewide elections.

Now Go Vote!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Connecting with the Natural World

Seeing the natural world through the lens of a camera exposes a different perspective of life and captures my attention in ways that life in the "mainstream" cannot. Spending time in nature, especially the forest helps me to connect with natural systems and teaches me lessons of sustainability, change, endurance, and tolerance. You become aware of how we are connected to the Earth and its cycles.

Photography allows me to be intimate with nature by becoming acutely aware of what is going on beneath my feet, off the beaten path, and in my own backyard - wherever I take my camera. Plants and trees become a focal point as subjects that change continually, shifting with the seasons and responding to a sometimes harsh existence.

The forest is a place where I find purpose and meaning in my life. Here I am free from labels and judgment - where wealth and status have no real meaning. Under the trees I feel small but safe- they are a steady shield against the elements. I can discover my true self and find peace. These trees and diverse fauna and flora beneath their branches are my teachers. The trees become landmarks in time. Each one is unique and has its own story and perspective - much like humans.

I feel passionately about protecting this world we live in, because protecting our natural world is a way to express respect for ourselves and other living beings on this planet. Following natural systems is the way of the future and connecting with nature helps me to understand and appreciate the cycles of life.

How do you connect with the natural world?


Friday, October 17, 2008

Realizing the importance of local farms providing local foods

I listened to a good interview on Democracy Now!, 10-17-08, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez interviewed Raj Patel (writer/activist) and Ben Burkett (National Family Farm Coalition) to talk about World Food Day and how our national trade policies affect farms. They also talked about the importance of small local farms to provide food for the local community. Sustainability in action.

I liked Raj's comment about how much more sustainable and environmentally friendly small family farms can be.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And what will that mean in terms of increasing numbers of people leaving the farms and moving to cities or to other countries?

RAJ PATEL: Well, there’s been a long trend in international policy, particularly authored by organizations like the World Bank, to turf farmers off their land. Small farmers, sustainable farmers are considered inefficient. And so, under the rubric of bringing efficiency to agriculture, they’ve been kicked off the land and have been ushered into urban areas, where, increasingly now, there’s going to be unemployment. Now, the tragedy is that small sustainable and independent family farms, as Ben can well attest, are much more efficient, they’re much more in harmony with the environment, and they’re able to actually provide work and healthy—healthy, organic, sustainable produce to a much larger population than these big megafarms.

I heard Haiti was devasted after the last hurricane, but a food crisis also. Holy shit, can that really happen here also? I'm very thankful for our local farms but they could not supply the entire county's food need alone.

AMY GOODMAN: Raj Patel, what has to happen now? And what can people in the United States and the government of the United States—what do you think it needs to do? Last year, we saw food riots around the world. Many people died. We saw riots in Nigeria and Haiti.

RAJ PATEL: Well, and those riots are still going on, even though the mainstream media won’t cover that. As recently as last month, there was another—a food riot or food rebellion in Haiti, for example.

Now, if you look at Haiti and see how—what it is that people are rioting over, people are rioting over grains of rice—I’m sorry, bags of rice that have the American flag on them and the words “gift of the people of the United States.” And that should point out, I think, that underlying these food riots is a sort of long-term problem with trade agreements and with this aggressive pushing of agriculture as a weapon of US trade policy, and foreign policy, as well.

But also, I think we need to rein in the power of agribusiness over our leaders. I mean, John McCain, for example, was aggressively—is on record as saying that he very much wants US trade policy to be—to be in favor of American farmers, because the world is a market waiting for American products. Now—and even Obama, with his—you know, his sort of qualified support of the Peruvian Free Trade Agreement, is still nonetheless in support of these agreements.

Now, who benefits from that? Well, if you think about who exports, it’s not farmers like—it’s not farmers like Ben; it’s Archer Daniels Midland, it’s Cargill, it’s the big grain companies. We need to shift our food priorities away from sponsoring agribusiness and these billion-dollar subsidies to the megafarms and to agribusiness, and to move towards sustainable agriculture that small, independent family farms, both here and in developing countries, are well placed to take advantage of.

Here is a link to the full transcript: http://www.democracynow.org/2008/10/17/world_food_day_a_reminder_of

When you stop and think about it, we really have lost control of the most basic means for sustainability- local farm food production. Our security has been sold away to agribusiness in the interest of higher yields that produce inferior foods and have hidden environmental costs that we all end up paying.

Daniel Quinn talks about this in his book "My Ishmael" using the metaphor of people dancing and losing their ability to produce their own food and control their future through buying into a system where you rely 100% on everything being produced, shipped, and comodified so you have to work to buy things that you could previously produce yourself. Daniel Quinn's trilogy about Ishmael the gorilla are some of my favorite books. You should check out his web page for more info about his books and the community of people moved by them.

I'm looking forward to how we can expand our gardens next spring to transform more useless lawn into vegetable producing goodness.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Last days of summer

What do you think is going through my head right now?
I'm just a little fish in a big pond?
I'm floating in a sea of debt and uncertainty about our future?
I think I just felt something big swimming under me?
or... this is one of the last warm days of summer and I love to float quietly and soak in the sun... the water isn't too cold for early September.

This is a very powerful time of year when the seeds of our labors throughout the year are maturing and coming to harvest. Oct. 31st is the New Year for many people. This year is particularly ominous.

I'm thinking that maybe the whole economy needs to crash so we can start over. Hopefully with a President Obama instead of McCain. I worry that I may not be able to buy food and keep hold of our house. The answer is not going to be a big Wall Street bailout, but a strengthening of our communities from a local level. We need to work together to figure out how we can sustain ourselves if the value of our dollar drops like Zimbabwe and food is either unavailable or too expensive.

I feel lucky to have many local organic farms near us where I can find food for me and my family. But there aren't enough farms to feed everyone in the county. We have to preserve the remaining open space and encourage people to farm it where site conditions are appropriate for different types of agriculture. I am not proposing a corporate ag model but a community based model where food generated in a county or region is grown by the people in that region and the money and food stays within that region. Surpluses are exported to obtain goods not otherwise available. This is what our markets are supposed to be doing, but the scale of business is so far out of proportion that the consumer is insulated from most of the costs until everything comes crashing down- like now.

Energy is a big part of the problem. With the economy slowing down you would think our consuming, and thereby carbon emissions, would have declined. Check out this article on 2007 carbon emissions from The Guardian, UK or this piece from the NY Times. If we aren't consuming as much and if other countries are faced with similar economic collapse, at least one good side from all of this mess will hopefully be a reduction in emissions over the next year or longer.

We need solutions that involve people not corporations. Let's create an energy infrastructure based on solar and wind where everybody generates some of their own electricity and use energy efficient methods in the home to stretch every Watt. Check out The Apollo Alliance to find out about some great ideas for now, not just the future. If we had spent $850 billion to put solar panels on every house we would be much better off than sinking the money into a bunch of rich, greedy assholes that put us in this position in the first place.

Talk about trimming the government budget? How about ending all of our failed wars, Iraq, Afganistan, and the Drug War. We need a new approach and we are wasting lives and money on our current path. Did you know that over 800,000 people were arrested for marijuana in 2007? This country has to stop persecuting people and families under draconian drug laws that are just a boondoggle for the DEA and local law enforcement. Good people like Dr. Charlie Lynch or Eddy Lepp are helping people by providing medical marijuana legally, but get treated like criminals by a system that is broken and not protective of the people and our civil liberties. Then we end up having to pay the cost of incarcerating people who don't belong there... over 800,000 of them! We've got to stop this national insanity. You really should look into the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, both are excellent sources of fact and reason.

We need to live sustainably, treat our fellow human beings nobly, and respect each other so that we can break free from the dying political grip of the last century's politics and egos. Now is the time to tell our politically appointed leaders that they are responsible to us the people. We can be heard, and we outnumber them. Be active in your local community! I know I need to work on that more and everyone probably does to one extent or another. By helping each other, we can survive this crisis and move into a new paradigm for humanity.

Are you interested?


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Hello to the virtual world

Welcome to the ShellnStone blogspot. We are excited to start connecting with people who are interested in creating a sustainable life. We have all kinds of ideas for things to share and write about. Making connections with friends and family and sharing information, stories, and journeys is our way of enriching our lives.

We look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas.

Dustin and Michelle (ShellnStone)