Assignment 10 – The Final Countdown Begins…

Your reaction to the required video:

I had the pleasure of being able to see Jared Diamond present this topic in a different light during a keynote-speaking event on campus.  Having watched the video allowed me to connect some of the dots of his theories from that talk and see how his conclusions help to understand the shaping of the new world.  It is essentially geography that has allowed for the ability to produce a surplus of nutritious food and ultimately the development and spread of the new world.  The idea is so simplistic, yet so logical.  If you are spending all of your time gathering or producing your most basic needs, you aren’t doing much else to contribute to the advancement of your society.  And as is most evident in today’s world, the more productive you are, the more powerful you can become.  This is how the Europeans explored, conquered, and built the rest of the world.

Without knowing too much about the people from New Guinea, it can be reasonably assumed from the video that the tribes living there are living sustainably.  They have managed to develop processes that although not considered ideal to most societies, still support their diet and way of life, one that is not net destructive.  Conversely, the spur of food surplus production that occurred in Eurasia and ultimately spread throughout the world fits snugly in to our degenerative model whereby exploitation of resources lead to mass production and mass consumption, coupled by the ultimate greed of settlers and concentration of wealth by the Spanish conquistadors.  Although these same advents of technology used by the Spaniards have led to numerous beneficial feats, their initial purpose cannot be ignored.


Your reaction to the optional reading or videos:

The Occupation Nation documentary was my very first completely re-mixed mash-up documentary.  It definitely reminded me of the RIP documentary but instead the entire video was a collaboration of other videos…very cool.  My understanding of the issues in the beginning was a bit lacking, which peeked my interest in this video.  Watching the documentary was an interesting way to get a perspective on the occupy movements happening throughout the country and ultimately the world. 

They began with posturing the idea of our system being run as despotism versus democracy.  I didn’t know what despotism was at first so I had to look it up.  Despotism, according to Webster, is a system of government where the ruler has unlimited power, as opposed to democracy, whereby the people choose the leaders by voting.  At first glance you could say that this is a preposterous notion for our nation, but taking away the veil and looking a little deeper, we may begin to see a small semblance of what despotism looks like in our system.  The people of the occupy movement are essentially saying that the 1% of the country, the very rich, are the despots, and everyone else is the 99%, living at the will of their decisions.

This is where our system of “democratic capitalism” has gotten us.  The 1% are essentially the big corporations that have so much lobbying power over our elected officials and governments.  They can, and do, ultimately dictate the financial decisions we make in our lives by affecting our means of consumption and funneling capital.  A problematic system like this of the rich getting richer and poor getting poorer prevails.  But through these movements and the mainstream media, there is no doubt that this problem has been brought to national and global attention; I just worry that its ultimate focus is ineffective.  The call for action is being focused towards the politicians that are affected by the 1% in the first place, if not part of it themselves.  Why are we asking those who fall guilty to the problems to try and fix them?  I was hoping that more solutions would come out of such a great force and movement, but in the end, it seems as though police force prevailed.

Assignment 9 – Insert Creative Title Here

Your reaction to the required reading:

The required reading is an interesting piece that juxtaposes a group of people’s views and dialogue of what modern society has done to the environment and what traits could possibly bring it back.  It took me about a page or so to “figure out” what was going on, but overall, the approach was more engaging, I think. 

Kate (or shall I call her Jane Jacobs?) begins by throwing out the notion that many, if not all, species throughout nature only really kill, plunder, and forage for what they need at the immediate time.  This is a callout to our human society and behavior whereby we do the opposite by exploiting land and resources for an excess of goods that we may not need in the immediate or near future.  These other species don’t build up such a nest egg of resource because they know that, like themselves, a species or microsystem needs its components to sustain and reproduce.  If they were to expunge all, or even just one main component, their means of consuming will not last long, and therefore, nor will they.

         The saving grace, or underlying message in this is that perhaps we have some inborn traits that allow us to resist habitat destruction.  Kate’s counterpart, Hiram, throws down a few traits to support.  My favorite one is that we all have a capacity for aesthetic appreciation.  I enjoy being able to hike up a mountain and see the wide expanse of a valley or take in all of the colors of a forest in spring.  Is that enough to want to protect the land?  For me, perhaps, but for others focused on profits and resources contained within, this is not considered, nor do I feel that those who make the decision ever go out to see the aesthetics from which they seek to destroy and profit from.  Maybe they ought to get out more…

The other component with which I’m inclined to favor is that there is a fear of retribution.  What was once a spiritually based or belief-based fear has transformed in to a primarily scientific one.  It is more about looking at the evidence and looking at the trends of our environmental degradation.  I really liked a portion were it mentioned that the Earth is more resilient than us, and that it does not care about our cries, pleadings, and promises.  It will eventually heed its course, which may ultimately bring our race and civilization to and end, but it will keep going.  This is the real call for action.  Just like the Honey Badger, Mother Nature don’t care it, it just takes what it wants.  One day it may (or will) be us.


Your reaction to the documentary film excerpt from The Take, shown in class:

After watching the documentary, The Take, I had to Google “Argentina” to see what the result of the election eventually came to be.  My trusty source, Wikipedia, notes that the country did eventually rise from its economic crisis after the election of Kirchner. It was somewhat unbelievable that the country would even support allowing Menem to run for office again after his plan and administration was the reason for the economic downfall.

I would hesitate to argue that the occupy movements were the ultimate reason for change as politics is usually much more complex.  However, the acts of the factories and worker-run businesses showed the country that the system was broken, but that there was hope.  The support from the community was encouraging and is a great symbol of empowerment for the workers and everyone else.  A worker-run model is definitely a regenerative system, which can be spread across many fields, as shown in the video.  But would such a productive system ever emerge without owners to fight against? 

Often times, a reform committee in a top-down sort of fashion imposes these systems of economic recovery.  Members of the community may just be following orders blindly without a well-defined purpose.  But in Argentina, they did not have these blind orders from the outside; they had in fact found a purpose to stand for.  The cooperatives that were formed were all bottom-up solutions to people frustrated with the lack of jobs and disregard of the company owners to their livelihoods.  Debts were owed to the workers, yet all of the money went back to the bosses and politicians with the same interests. 

I really liked the fact that the worker-run companies were giving back more to the community and helping each other out.  There were great examples in the video of providing goods cheaper, where workers were not forced in hard conditions for the purpose of maximizing profit.  One of the worker-run factories even looked towards another to do some “import-replacing” of mechanical parts, as we read about for the previous assignment.  Argentina seems like a fine example of what possibilities may arise for becoming productive without a capitalistic top-down approach.  Put the power back in to the hands of the many and out of the wallets of the few.

Plucking Dinner!

On Sunday, November 24, my girlfriend and I decided to try out the poultry workshop.  In all honesty, I wanted to do this because it’s duck hunting season and I needed some initial practice, but the experience is quite unreal.  We didn’t realize at first what all goes in to preparing a chicken or turkey that you can just pull off the shelf in the store.  There are lots of steps to fully dress the birds, and some that require careful handling and precision.  It’s such a wonder about how this is done on a massive scale.  For me, I knew I could handle at least one, but wasn’t sure what my overall feeling would be at the end of the day.  My girlfriend on the other hand was getting her “jollies” up the whole time when it came to cutting out the insides…she’s a pre-vet student.  We ended up doing both a chicken and a turkey by the day’s end and had some good interactions and conversations with others through the process.  One main thing we noticed about these chickens was that they weren’t that big compared to a store bought, but then again the store bought chickens were likely raised to be obese and delicious at the same time.  Great experience, I would recommend it to everyone who eats meat.

Here are some pics…some may be considered graphic…

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageIMG_6078...the final product, Honey and Jalapeno glazed chicken.

Assignment 8 – Democracy Now! Response

Reaction to any of the optional Democracy Now! broadcasts from the Warsaw Climate Summit:

It was very interesting to watch the episode for the COP19 summit in Warsaw, Poland on DemocracyNow!’s broadcast.  I was hoping that this final episode or day of coverage (Friday, November 22, 2013) would be able to shed some light on the overall conference. What I learned was kind of astonishing and disappointing.

My overall feeling that I get is that this conference has not been very productive, nor was the last one in Copenhagen.  There had been mounting frustration over the lack of action on the part of the leadership countries. This lead to a full-scale walkout and people not happy because those responsible for climate change don’t want to take or make commitments.  What is the point of walking out?  I feel as though more people should be walking in, to hold the representatives accountable.   It’s no surprise that there is lacking press coverage of this event because there are no apparent results to report on.  My overall feeling is that these conventions have become playgrounds for politicians to spit propaganda and false promises.  This is truly disappointing and embarrassing.

Some overall themes from the guests and anchor with Democracy Now! point to lack of trust amongst developing and developed nations to keep promises or provide support.  For example, it was mentioned that Japan once said before that they would cut their emissions by 25%, but is now saying that they will just increase their emissions by 3%.  This is not an example of progress or the promises that were made in the name of affecting climate change.  This is instead characteristic of McDonough’s concept of “Less Bad”.  Leading countries are taking steps back from earlier commitments. This is a complete failure in design, one that is apparently being openly corrupted by those nations who are looked on to be the leaders.

It was mentioned that the highly polluting countries have begun to come to the conferences with allies amongst each other promoting solutions of carbon trading.  How is carbon trading a solution to climate change?  It is a mere veil of the real problem, and a financial “solution” to the politicians.

The consequences of climate change are now apparent in Africa and the questions of whether or not these consequences garnered compensation was brought up.  The rest of the world tends to see disaster relief in Africa and other “developing” countries as charity, but there is more to it than that.  Provinces and societies are affected by climate change by which they have no means of impacting themselves.  Natural disasters are no longer remaining natural.  These impacts are truly consequences, but larger pollutant countries are not willing to view it this way.

Video Link:

Assignment 8 – Response to Required Reading

Response to the Required Reading:

Chapter 2, “Back to Reality” from Jane Jacobs’ book Cities and the Wealth of Nations was no easy read.  There seems to be this overarching view by economists, past and present, that the nation-state itself is the most important thing for understanding the structures of economies.  Jacobs maintains that this view is essentially misleading, broad, and ineffective.  She validates her point by the fact that our diminishing economies are only ever evaluated by the “back to the drawing board” strategy, which can be summarized in part by the familiar Albert Einstein quote, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” 

Perhaps our view of the big picture is better summarized in looking at the smaller parts.  If you look deeper in to national economies, it can be seen that most nations are a collective of very different economies, operating the rich and poor regions throughout.  The focus here is really at the city level.  She presents an example of the Bardou province in France, which has gone through the cycle of a once flourishing economy, withered away by opportunity elsewhere, dormant, and then emergent and now productive.  She calls this a passive economy that does not create change, but just reacts to change and forces around it.  Here presents the idea that the city economy and the nation economy are two different organisms and that the implementation of an overarching policy is not effective when all of the individual factors are unique and affected by one another. 

A productive and sustainable way of harnessing these interrelations between city economies is to focus on “import-replacing”.  This “import-replacing”, as coined by Jacobs, is a characteristic “city process” by which these unique city economies develop and sustain, but this requires versatility and diversity, which may come about by taking the means of production in to the collective communal hands.  Although economists may not be completely oblivious to this idea, this thinking in terms of national economies considers only foreign imports as perhaps those that need replacing, without looking further in to domestic imports between cities.

Much of this was hard to grasp and required re-reading most of it, but I was able to get a glimpse of the regenerative and degenerative cycle playing out in this idea.  A city or community forms and requires the means to sustain life. This disturbance brings forth the act of production whereby the solution becomes to replace previously imported goods, fostering a community’s sustainability and lessened dependence.  As the main production takes off, resources are required to supplement this production, and instead of once-again importing, the community is able to improvise or create the supplements to the initial means of production, called adaptations.  These adaptations foster a greater amount of diversity in production, physical capital, and human capital.  This process is the “explosive episode” between the periods of stagnation, where the adaptations become slowly assimilated and new needs arise.

Assignment 7

Reaction to the Required Video:

The video, Rip! A Remix Manifesto, argues that copyright was originally used to encourage artists to create without losing the financial benefit of their work.  I believe that this is likely still true today, with the exception that the artist does not really see as much financial benefit from their work as does their record label or overreaching corporation.  These corporations are the ones fighting against the public and children for this infringement, trying to make an example for the rest of us.  The line that has been crossed us rather sickening and conveys an oppressive feeling about doing anything creative anymore.  But my question is, shouldn’t someone then own all of the individual music notes?  Should we all be paying someone every time something comes out of our mouth?

There should be a more distinct line between taking a piece of music and blatantly stealing or calling it as your own and re-purposing or “re-mixing” something as something new.  This is the difference between piracy and re-mixing.  If anything, I think music should be what we are spending more time and creativity on because of its powerful nature to inspire, encourage, and guide people.  But again, it all seems as though it’s the corporation coming down on the industry to make gains, unnecessary and inflated ones, that go back to the suits and not even the artists themselves.

Now that we have made it to the “century of intellectual property” we are really hindering ourselves by dealing with the “social paperwork” of trying to protect everything we do or say, only for the false promise of being able to get our payoff in the end.  This is preposterous, but is driven by those in the highest level of political power.  And without it, as they said, we have become an entire generation of criminals.  So where does it stop? How can we begin to collaborate once again? If we can trust in the good will of the people, we could even put money back in the artist’s hands to continue what they are doing.  The music label used to be the thing to get your music out to the public, but the Internet has become the musician’s farmer’s market, allowing people to go direct to the source and pay a fair price. Radiohead’s gesture was the daring leap of faith to this principle, and it seemed to have paid off.  Perhaps that can encourage others to follow suit.


Reaction to the Optional Reading:

The optional reading portion, from The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge, was rather fascinating in how it laid out the golden road to initiating effective change within an organization.  I feel that one of the strong points throughout was the importance of building a team with the right members and really honing in on the strengths and true purpose of the team.  The overall big picture though was about communication!  This was evident in the start of chapter 10 through the end of chapter 11.  Communicating effectively means that you aren’t losing opportunities to engage in meaningful dialogue about important issues.  But you also don’t want to get stuck between being an advocate or an opposer.  Falling in to the extreme categories means that you have lost the ability to connect with multiple points of view and perspectives.  Being in the middle allows someone to ask or encourage “genuine questions” that lead to collective brainstorming and ultimately, beneficial solutions.

The sort of step-by-step guidelines provided for gathering, interpreting, and refining the “change group” intrigued me.  I began to think if I fit the role of the animateur and could gather such a group, but then again, I am not quite sure yet what I would be trying to change in my new organization.  It may take some time to pick out the things I feel may be worth fighting for and they may or may not be related to sustainability, but I think these guidelines and principles reign true and effective for other aspects needing some change. At the end of Chapter 11, the author states, “success is measured by how well you communicate with the full community and what choices you make together.”  This excerpt reminded about Annie Leonard’s talk regarding implementing change and how you had to get past all of the jargon to get your idea and your purpose across.  Communicating from the heart and in a way that makes sense to others is the most effective way of implementing change together.  This just seems like a good example of bringing the concept full circle.

Annie Leonard Lecture Recap!

I have to say it was quite captivating watching Annie Leonard speak on Thursday night.  The pre-lecture started with the screening of her 20-minute video, “The Story of Stuff” which we are all familiar with from class.  She then came out and talked not about the video, but what she has learned since the video and how we can all contribute a little more.  The overall goal it seemed was to inspire change, to build those characteristics in all of us to pursue positive change and change in the name of saving the planet.  She offered some great leadership and communication advice to allow us to get our point across more effectively, because otherwise you aren’t inspiring anyone, just isolating them.  Talk without the jargon and talk from the heart, she says.  She elaborated on why we aren’t making more change right now, even though millions of people know about the problems and millions of people care about those problems.  Non-informational barriers to change, as she calls it, have to do with the structure of things and how it is preventing us from making change.  If we are essentially able to make things that foster change more convenient, we could have a bigger impact.  We can’t take an efficient high-speed rail across the country as a means of travel because it DOESN’T EXIST.  She mentioned that there is confusion among society between consumption and consumerism, which is essentially the difference between our needs and our wants.  We forget how to make change because all of our solutions tend to start with “I” instead of “we”.  Her personality was really infectious and the excitement that came out of her mouth was truly inspiring.  There are many more videos online that she and her group have come out with to foster change, as well as some well-developed programs to get involved in.