Nov. 2015 Issue

(541) 617-9013      

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Just Say No and Thanks
By Cylvia Hayes
For the most part, I like the Holidays.  I like the shift in seasons and the focus on gathering with friends and family.  I like some of the campy movies, especially the old Burl Ives Claymation cartoons.  I even like giving, and certainly receiving, meaningful gifts!
For me, things slow down a bit during the holidays.  Business and busyness slows down and I make more time for friends and family.  I think this is because I don't much partake in the intense consumerism.  I definitely do not participate in "Black Friday."   I truly detest what that day represents and what it brings out in us. 
The term "Black Friday" has come to mean the day that retail stores have enough sales to put them "in the black", alluding to the practice of recording losses in red and profits in black.  I see a different meaning in the term.  I see it as a dark shadow on what could be a season of rest, reflection and connection with the things that really matter to us. 
"Black Friday" exemplifies the fundamental flaws in our current, consumption-crazed, economic model.  For people, it creates stress and debt.  So many of us spend our most precious non-renewable resource - our time - ravenously pushing through crowds, impatiently standing in lines, trying to ignore buyers' remorse, buying stuff for people to fill a void we can't quite name. 
Others of us have to work these jobs, spending long hours away from family and friends to keep the stores open and stocked.  My heart goes out to those who have to depend on "shoppers" to make ends meet.  Most of these retail jobs don't pay much and the workers sacrifice a lot just trying to feed their families during this time that's supposed to be about feasting and resting together.  Many years ago, I worked as a checker at a major department store during the holiday season.  It was not a joyous experience. 
For our planet, it creates waste, pollution and further degradation of our environment.   In the US, between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, household waste increases by more than 25 percent.  Additional food waste, shopping bags, packaging and wrapping papers, ribbons and bows add up to an additional one million tons per week of crap going into our landfills. 
For our health, our planet and our wellbeing it is time to just say no to the God of Consumerism and reclaim the deeper meaning of our holiday season.  One way to take a stand is to participate in Buy Nothing Day, which has been building momentum since the early 1990s and now has actions in 60 countries. 
Another important step is, as much as possible, for the shopping you do decide to do, keep it local.  Products made locally usually require far, far less fossil fuel to reach store shelves, which means they produce far less pollution.  This is especially true of locally produced food.  In addition to being gentler on the Earth, buying local creates jobs for people right in our communities and provides opportunities to build community as we get to personally know the farmers growing our food, the sewers making our clothes and the brewers crafting our beer. 
Finally, no matter where you decide to shop, be kind and patient, especially with the workers in the stores.  They aren't machines or a means to an end.  They're people, trying to feed their families and pay their bills. 
I'll close with a revised rendering of a well-known Christmas carol:
Slow down ye frantic shoppers for there's something we must say
If you would spare a moment all the stores would go away
Big business has been telling us what Christmas means today.
Now it's time we decided for ourselves, for ourselves
Yes it's time we decided for ourselves.
To some folks Christmas means a time for gathering with friends
And enemies might take it as a time to make amends
But TV says it's time for pricey gifts and selfish ends.
Now it's time we decided for ourselves, for ourselves
Yes it's time we decided for ourselves.
Some people feel that Christmas is when Jesus makes a call
For others it's a time to stress good will and peace to all
But advertisers tell us it means Santa's at the mall.
Now it's time we decided for ourselves, for ourselves
Yes it's time we decided for ourselves.

For other anti-consumerist holiday songs click here.  

What's The Economy For Anyway?
By Cylvia Hayes

The news is saturated with coverage and commentary about the economy.   Is it recovering?  Is it growing?  Where's it heading?  But, rarely, rarely does anyone ask the most important question - what's the economy for anyway?  What is it supposed to do for us?
In a very important and readable book titled exactly that, What's the Economy For Anyway? , my colleagues John de Graaf and David Batker do an excellent job leading readers through some truly important questions.
Is the current economic system making most of us more secure?  Just consider that t he   top 3 percent of uber-wealthy Americans now hold over double the wealth of America's poorest 90 percent of families.   Middle class household wealth has been mostly stagnant for thirty years , comparable today to early 1990 levels. 
Is the current system making us healthier?  Well, Americans spend significantly more per capita on health care than any other industrialized country but our overall levels of health are only very slightly better than people living in high poverty Cuba.  The US spends over $9,000 per person each year on health care.  Cuba spends around $500.  And yet Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate and a slightly longer life expectancy than the United States. 
Is the current system setting our kids up for opportunity and wellbeing?  The current form of global capitalism requires continuous growth in consumption of natural resources.  As a result we are currently using up clean air, clean water, soil, fish and wild animals about 50% faster than the Earth can replenish itself .  It's going to be hard to be prosperous and well on a depleted, unhealthy planet.
These questions aren't just about future conditions.  Ask yourself, "Is the current economy making you happy?"  This may seem a trivial question but it's pretty fundamental to our human existence.  Time and again Americans report working too much, struggling with debt, and lacking enough time for leisure and family.  Time and again, we report being highly stressed by and dissatisfied with the daily grind. 
And yet, we are bombarded with the message that for the good of the economy we need to buy, buy, buy, spend, spend, spend.  In this scenario is the economy working for you or are you just working for the economy?
Poll and focus group results show that most Americans believe the economy is something "out there" beyond our control.  The tendency is to think of it as a machine that churns forward under its own power.  But actually, it's more like a garden.  Humans planted its seeds and we prune and shape it all the time.  We do this through policies like subsidies, the tax code, regulations or lack thereof and many other mechanisms.  These various prunings dramatically shape how the economy functions and which products and investments are available to us. 
I find this incredibly empowering. 
The economy is not a self-created machine.  It is a set of human made systems, policies and decisions.  Since we created it and constantly shape it, we have it within our power to recreate and reshape it.
The very good news is, even though you won't hear much about it in mainstream media, a whole lot of people, organizations and businesses are working to do just that.  There is in fact a growing global New Economy Movement
Two weeks ago 3EStrategies participated in annual New Economy Week by co-hosting a screening of Naomi Klein's new movie,   This Changes Everything.   The film highlights how issues like global climate change and poverty are leading to burgeoning efforts to design a healthier, saner economic system. 
We're at a point where we need to fundamentally evolve our economy, to adapt it to the current environmental and demographic conditions.   Though we may at times forget it, such bold innovation and reinvention is in our American cultural DNA.  We did it when we harnessed the power of oil in 1859.  We did it during the Industrial Revolution when we created mass production.  We did it after the Great Depression when we built the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge.   And we did it when we tapped the creativity of the space race to develop myriad new products and companies.  It is time to do it again, to lean into creating an economy that will  simultaneously increase prosperity for our people and restore the environment. This is the greatest challenge and opportunity of our lifetime.  
What's the economy for anyway?  It should be to serve us, give us opportunities to improve our health, our wealth and our wellbeing.  It should function in a way that restores, rather than destroys, our planet.  After all, the root of both words -- economy and ecology -- comes from the greek "oikos" which means "home". 
Actions you can take:
  • Don't just accept the status quo.  Ask the deeper questions. 
  • Read What's the Economy For Anyway?  
  • Watch This Changes Everything
  • Check out the New Economy Coalition and  Yes! magazine. 
  • Whenever possible support companies that are providing environmentally sound products, paying their employees well and treating them with dignity. 
  • Get creative.  Find a way to make a living doing the work that society needs to have done.  
  Finally, BELIEVE.  The economy is not a machine.  It is not a force of Nature or an act of God.  It is a human-made construct. We invented it and we can reinvent it.  We can make the transition to a healthier, kinder economy that heals our earth and our hearts.

Renewables Set to Overtake Coal

Renewable energy is set to overtake coal as the largest producer of electricity worldwide by the early 2030s, according to the IEA's latest World Energy Outlook. Renewables accounted for almost half of new power generation capacity in 2014.

Climate Investment Surges, Nearing $400 Billion in 2014

Investment in low carbon and climate resilient projects rose 18 percent worldwide in 2014, up to a record $391 billion, a new report  shows. Of the total spending, approximately $148 billion was public finance, with private contributions making up the rest. Much of the money went to renewable energy projects like utility-scale solar parks and wind farms, and 17 percent of public finance went towards adaptation projects in Africa, Latin America, East Asia and the Caribbean.

Cylvia Hayes (541) 617-9013
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