This is the third year a robin has built a nest over the utility meter next to my garage door. Twice windstorms blew a nest down from that very spot, the second time with eggs in it. But undaunted, Ms Robin has returned again this year — I have a hunch she’s the same robin — and we’ve managed to work out what seems to be a successful arrangement. Continue reading Me and Ms Robin
Jubilee – A way forward with deep historic roots
It’s the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we’re in the midst of a global pandemic, the global price of oil hit minus zero and headlines are declaring the end of the economy as we know it.
And, sorry, but I don’t want to go back to normal. I want to go forward, toward a better future for us humans, Earth and all the creatures that call this planet home. I want to continue to enjoy clearer skies, cleaner water, the quiet. But how, you may well ask?
Let’s adopt a successful practice that dates back to 1729 BC and declare a Jubilee Year. After 49 successful years, the 50th became the Jubilee Year, when complete freedom from all debt and servitude was proclaimed throughout the land. The ancient Babylonian King Hammurabi forgave all citizens debts owed to the government, high ranking officials and dignitaries. Boom. Gone. Not to be restarted for an entire year.
The idea that debt can grow faster than the ability to repay, until it unbalances a society, was well understood thousands of years ago. Ancient rulers weren’t motivated by charity; they were being pragmatic — trying to make sure that citizens could meet their own needs and contribute to public projects, rather than just laboring to pay creditors.
What’s more, the jubilee year worked, according to economist and historian Michael Hudson. “Societies that canceled the debts enjoyed stable growth for thousands of years.’’
Right now, steadily growing debts of one kind or another are weighing on economies all over the world.
Declaring a Jubilee year, wiping out every possible kind of debts — from mortgages to tuition and training, medical debt, payday loans and credit card debt — would provide an opportunity to re-set the entire economy, freeing everyone to reexamine and rethink their own priorities as the economy assumes some new, as yet unforeseeable form.
From prehistoric times, debts tended to mount up faster than the ability of most debtors to pay. That’s basic mathematics: Economic growth is arithmetic and it can’t keep up with debt growing at compound interest.
The idea of huge write-offs is no longer new. Elizabeth Warren advocated canceling most of the $1.6 trillion in U.S. student loans. Bernie Sanders wants to erase the nation’s $81 billion medical debt.
Debt forgiveness may be gaining ground on the other side. Remember when one of the Trump administration’s senior student-loan officials resigned, describing the American way of paying for higher education as “nuts,’’ he also called for wholesale student loan write-offs.
Meanwhile, struggling with a global pandemic, the current economy is whipsawing this way and that, rocking along like an unbalanced washing machine threatening to burn out its motor while unplugging itself. We need some way to re-balance the load.
The problem of debt backlog is an ancient one that began when interest-bearing loans were invented in agrarian Mesopotamia in the 3rd Millennium BC. Their remedy: the royal Clean Slate proclamation (a Jubilee Year of debt forgiveness). These proclamations liberated indebted bondservants (and their families) and restored land rights, so that people could continue living productively, pay taxes, and be available for military and community services.
The usual economic question, of course, has always been what happens if debts cannot be paid?
We’ve tried debt writedown in favor of debtors (to benefit large corporations), and allowing creditors to foreclose on personal debtors and mortgage-holders. Both paths lead to concentrating the economy’s assets away from the public sector and into the hands of the 0.001 percent.
Hudson has written that a Jubilee Year may be the only way to avoid an economic depression.
But, as Charles Eisenstein points out in Sacred Economics, we are already suffering from a kind of soul depression that comes from separating ourselves from each other and from the wonder that is our life on Earth.
Spend a few minutes with him and see if the idea of a Jubilee isn’t so far fetched after all:
Need more? I recommend another book from Eisenstein: The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible.
When to begin our Jubilee Year? My suggestion: the Autumn Equinox. Tuesday, September 22 this year. It’s before the elections; it’s a day defined by Earth’s relationship with the Sun — and the symmetry of equal night and day is both appealing and appropriate.
Is THIS the stupidest idea in the history of the world?
Lurking on the horizon is a techno-monster that, if unleashed as planned, will be far beyond anyone’s ability to mediate, control, or perhaps even survive: 5-G. This innocuous, tech-sounding name, pivot point for a T-Mobile-Sprint merger, is being touted with promises of job creation, lightning fast internet speeds and even ways to cure cancer.
For openers, the FCC has decreed that no one is allowed to oppose 5G on health grounds. . . which should instantly set off alarms.(See Don’t Open That Door.)
5G involves sending information by using the 24-gigahertz frequency band. Electromagnetic signals at this frequency can’t travel very far — so a 5-G system requires lots of antennas sending and receiving signals. To be effective, 5-G networks require a fine mesh network of constant radio signals, with antennas every few feet sending and receiving signals.
Driverless cars, for instance, would require constantly updated information in every dimension, essentially swimming in a sea of radio signals to operate safely. Which means that every living thing would also be enveloped in the sea of signals. We already know bees and birds are especially affected. Children, too.
9 June 2012:
The Board of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine approved the following statement on Wi-Fi in schools.
Adverse health effects, such as learning disabilities, altered immune responses, headaches, etc. from wireless radio frequency fields do exist and are well documented in the scientific literature. Safer technology, such as using hard-wiring, must be seriously considered in schools for the safety of those susceptible individuals who may be affected by this phenomenon.
The Board of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine opposes the installation of wireless “smart meters” in homes and schools based on a scientific assessment of the current medical literature (references available on request). Chronic exposure to wireless radio frequency radiation is a preventable environmental hazard that is sufficiently well documented to warrant immediate preventative public health action.
Meanwhile, outspoken critic Dr. Martin Paul, Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Basic Medical Sciences at Washington State University, citing numerous documented risks to human health, calls the 5G rollout “the stupidest idea in the history of the world.”
Up, Up and Away
Just last week, Amazon filed an application with the American authorities to launch a constellation of 3,200 satellites to “beam high-speed broadband to areas deprived of good internet services.” Elon Musk’s SpaceX plans to launch 12,000 broadband satellites for Starlink, its project to provide web access around the globe. He launched the first 60 satellites in May.
Another problem: These satellites transmit in frequencies that muddy how weather satellites report information about moisture — key to every aspect of weather forecasting. In March, when the FCC began auctioning off its 24-gigahertz frequency band to wireless carriers, scientists at NOAA, NASA, and the American Meteorological Society objected. So did Senators Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), who wrote to FCC chair Ajit Pai requesting that the commission stop companies from using the 24-GHz band until a solution is found and to delay more auctions, according to Wired.
The gazillionaires, including the Koch brothers, are pushing hard for 5G, with what seems to be the full support of the FCC. It’s unclear which other groups or agencies may also oversee satellite launches.
So what can we ordinary citizens do to protect ourselves and our communities in this wild west, winner-take-all mess? We can ask our local officials to say no to installing these antennas in our neighborhoods. We can contact our representatives in congress. We can learn as much as possible, share what we learn with others — then hope and pray that sanity will prevail.
Dear Governor Inslee,
As a staunch environmentalist as well as a science writer, I applaud your focusing on climate change in your presidential campaign, prompting other candidates to address this vital issue as well. But now, as others are also jumping on the bandwagon and clamoring for some sort of single-issue debate, could be a great time to take a bolder stance by focusing on one issue that “puts a face” on climate change. A symbolic yet very real issue. One that challenges the status quo and offers chances to create new alliances. One that demonstrates the complexities of addressing climate change:
Call for an all out, multifaceted “Hail Mary” effort to save the orcas, to demonstrate the kind of interconnected efforts needed to help heal our planet.
Start with a contest that offers a significant prize for the greenest, most innovative way to silence every form of commercial waterway traffic, so that whales and dolphins can hunt. The results could be cargo ships powered by wind and sun. Creating days or zones of silence. Perhaps a newly designed ferry system for Washington and beyond. Surely some Seattle billionaire would be glad to fund such a worthy effort?
This provides s a way to show that we can take control of our technology, rather than allowing it to lead us down the path to extinction.
Next, face up to plastic pollution to make the oceans safe for marine life. Washington should join California in banning single use plastic bags. Taxing other single-use plastics would both discourage their use and generate funds for further ocean recovery efforts.
Our coastal neighbors California and Oregon already have deposit bottle laws — a proven and profitable way to significantly reduce litter. It’s time to fearlessly shame the beverage industry and call for the other 40 states to return to deposit bottles.
Then demand that the Navy halts its sonar training and testing in the waters of Washington and beyond. Just the impact of sound from its “preferred plan” could deafen, harm or destroy thousands of whales, orcas and other sea creatures. Dumping tons of spent military ordinance as part of their exercises adds a long-lasting chemical assault on the oceans that feed us and myriad other life forms while burning tons of fuel pollutes the air. The Navy’s recent two-volume report spent thousands of pages to trying to minimize and rationalize the impacts of their plans, while ignoring the growing body of scientific evidence.
Strengthen this demand by reaching out to Oregon, California and Alaska, asking governors Brown, Newsom, and Dunlevy to join in protecting our shared waters, helping our threatened whales and starving orcas. Include British Columbia, or all of Canada as well, making this an international pact for the future of the oceans.
Yes, there’s the popular notion that “You can’t say no to the Navy,” but given the nation’s growing dissatisfaction with our country’s ever-expanding military budget, what better time (and on what better grounds) to challenge this hegemony?
“Defending our country” by destroying the oceans’ ability to sustain life defies all logic.
Of course orcas need chinook salmon to survive, which means using every possible means to increase and restore salmon runs, such as: cleaning up urban storm runoff before it reaches the oceans; removing culverts from every stream where salmon once thrived. Forge respectful working alliances with native tribes to access their wisdom. Take down Washington’s Snake River dams and similar nearby dams and eliminate disease-spreading, water-polluting commercial fish pens — another opportunity to forge international cooperation. (Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) has introduced the”Keep Fin Fish Free Act,” to place a moratorium on commercial permits for industrial fish farms in federally controlled ocean waters).
Advocate linking with NOAA, Hawaii and other coastal states, as well as concerned nonprofits, to share drone footage and other data to monitor every aspect of orca and whale health.
People around the world were moved when Tahlequa, grief-stricken by the death of her newborn calf, carried its body aloft, on her head, for some 17 days, swimming more than a thousand miles. Her unheard-of action, seemed to be crying ”See what you’ve done!” to every community along her journey.
We’re gradually waking up to the frightening reality of we have done, recognizing that our actions unwittingly brought death and destruction to Earth, its climate, the oceans, the orca, and all other living beings.
By highlighting the plight of the orca, and advocating crucial steps to help them survive, you will be providing a vivid lesson on the impacts of climate change, one that reaches well beyond graphs, economic projections and the data-heavy underpinnings of climate science while providing a path forward to a healthier world.
I hope you’ll consider this opportunity. Thanks for listening.
Don’t Open That Door!
We humans have not been the greatest at figuring out what’s harmful or unhealthy. Remember the Romans drinking from lead-laced vessels? Continue reading Don’t Open That Door!
Dear Jeff Bezos,
A New York Times story about lavish custom jets with swiveling leather lounge chairs caught my eye. A sumptuous London showroom recently opened by a private jet broker epitomized sophisticated up-selling. A full-page chart of the top business jets –from $67.4 million to $90 million, give or take — plus a teaser listing of moguls who “count an airplane among their considerable assets” ended the piece.
Which got me to thinking that, if the uber -rich need special guidance in choosing a custom jet, perhaps they could also use advice on other, more unique and enduring ways to invest.
And since you now hit the $100 billion mark, Mr. Bezos, I’m offering some suggestions for you and your fellow gazillionares eager to make a unique and enduring name for themselves in today’s hyper competitive world.
Consider redefining success:
Instead of the old style money-as-measure, look to how uniquely one can benefit huge populations.
Andrew Carnegie’s creative approach
Part of the last band of plutocrats, Carnegie built public libraries for more than two thousand communities across the country — some 70 percent in small towns where his name was far from a household word – until the libraries appeared. Cost: around $1.3 billion (adjusted for inflation). His lasting cultural legacy also included gifting New York City with Carnegie Hall, now a legendary world-class music venue, and launching what became Carnegie Mellon University.
Ted Turner Tried
Back in 1997, Ted Turner famously goaded fellow multi-billionaire Bill Gates to put some of his money to good use. Turner was giving $1 billion to the United Nations for programs aiding refugees and children, clearing land mines and fighting disease.
Turner’s donation, among the largest single donations ever, merely represented the interest he would have earned from $3 billion in holdings. ”I’m no poorer than I was 9 months ago, and the world is much better off,” Turner said. ”All I’m giving away with this billion dollars is my nine months’ work.”
”There’s a lot of people who are awash in money they don’t know what to do with,” said Turner, calling on other wealthy Americans to follow his lead. ”It doesn’t do you any good if you don’t know what to do with it. I have learned the more good that I did, the more money comes in. You have to learn to give. You’re not born as a giver. You’re born selfish.”
Bill Gates paid attention; by 2007, Bill and his wife Melinda ranked as America’s second most generous philanthropists.
Warren opted to go “hands free”
Warren Buffett, who has pledged to give away 99% of his wealth to philanthropic causes, currently leads the list. A philanthropist who prefers to entrust his wealth to those he believes will spend it wisely, Buffett briefly made history by donating $37 billion — the largest charitable donation by an individual – to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Buffet distributes much of the rest to the foundations of his children.
One Opportunity for Daring
Philanthropists have supported a university here and a research hospital there, named for major donors. But you, Mr. Bezos, are uniquely placed to break serious new ground. With one simple charitable act, you could completely change the face of the world’s economy and solidify a unique place as a progressive benefactor.
Consider giving $100,000 to each and every one of your employees. Including contract workers. Around the world. They’d feel like lottery winners and would be free to pour virtually all that money back into the economy however they chose: Buying a house or paying off a mortgage, student loan or medical bills. Purchasing new cars, furniture or appliances. Taking a vacation or who knows what else. This influx of cash into virtually every sector of the economy could have as much impact as the GI bill . . . and provide an action to be examined, studied and talked about for decades.
Tackle a thorny social issue
Not health; Bill and Melinda already staked that one out.
How about homelessness?
Here in the U.S, the number of people without a safe, regular place to sleep has grown for the first time in seven years, says HUD. Which means that on any given night last year, some 554,000 people — roughly the entire population of Seattle — were homeless. Twelve percent are veterans, both men and women. Statistically, one child in every classroom in the nation is “unsheltered” — a bureaucratic term that describes the thousands living on the streets, under freeways, in doorways and fields, parks and abandoned buildings across the country.
Then there’s the Opioid Epidemic. Updating some key component of our outmoded infrastructure. Or consider ridding the entire world of unexploded land mines — a cause Princess Diana was tragically prevented from finishing.
We’re surrounded by problems crying out for courage, money and creative thinking. Just imagine being hailed as the hero who triumphed over these beasts. Isn’t that more exciting than simply sitting on fat balances in Swiss banks or offshore accounts?
Philanthropy takes work, vision and savvy.
No one wants to simply throw money at a problem. You can start small:
Consider picking up the tab when a city you love needs a new hospital, community center or college campus. They’re already busily assessing needs and developing plans while wondering where the dollars may come from.
Or, something larger, like restoring areas ravaged by mountain top coal removal. Or creating whole new state or national parks. Nature provided the original blueprints.
Challenge Musk and develop new fixes?
Who’s going to be the first to equip the world’s fleets of cargo carriers with wind and solar, reducing shipping costs as well as noise and air pollution?
Who’s going to import high-speed train technology to connect cities like New York and Chicago?
Who has the savvy and chutzpah to create a public-interest television network modeled on the BBC?
Who will adapt dirigibles to move goods or install solar panels above highways?
Who’s willing to fund a state- or nation-wide Universal Basic Income experiment?
Not just the U.S., but the entire world is crying out for innovative thinking and creative approaches in countless fields; some haven’t even been invented yet.
Ready to man up for a big test?
What will it take for you, and the other guys with the big bucks —sadly and unsurprisingly, they’re mostly guys — to think beyond their portfolios and risk becoming philanthropic heroes?
You can only fly one private jet at a time, but there are many ways to invest in the world and make changes that last for lifetimes.
Thanks for listening.
The Golden Rule
Six different faiths around the world have a version of The Golden Rule. This sweet art print reminder has been displayed on my refrigerator so long Continue reading The Golden Rule
After the Salmon Spill
I hope our county commissioners have the courage to simply say “Request Denied” at the September hearing about allowing net pens in the waters off Ediz Hook. Maybe even say “No Way” and cancel the whole deal, after this week’s disastrous accidental release of more than 300,000 Atlantic salmon near the San Juan Islands.
There’s something to be said about not wasting everyone’s time.
Why is Washington the only west coast state that allows net pens in its waters? California, Oregon and Alaska already said NO.
Apparently some political shenanigans, maneuvering and arm-twisting years ago allowed these disease-spreading aquatic feedlots off our shores. But that was then.
Some advocated for net pens because of the half-dozen or so jobs they’d provide. No point in discussing how many such jobs are being turned over to robots.
There’s no place for the bungling, ill-trained and/or incompetent in any positions where they can damage an ecosystem.
There’s no room for error where most salmon runs are at historic lows and our iconic orcas, which depend on salmon, are struggling and dying.
You can’t take back a spill – whether it’s alien penned salmon, oil from a tanker, or oil, gas or bitumen from a pipeline.
There’s no room for error as we’re still struggling to undo mistakes from the past –removing culverts, restoring the flows, meanders and snags of our rivers and streams.
To err is human, but to forgive — not to mention lessen — the damage, may well require divine intervention.
Seeking solutions? Meet UBI
Seattle’s median annual income is now $80,000, working middle class folks have been priced out of housing and the number of homeless people is skyrocketing. Communities everywhere are wrestling with similar social problems and officials are stumped Continue reading Seeking solutions? Meet UBI
When Men Don Dresses
I’ve long been amused that, when things get serious, men put on dresses. Just think about judges in the courtroom, academics at graduation, monks, most clergy – and of course
the Pope and his colorful retinue. It’s as if men need to dress like women, put on the robes of the Goddess, to feel Her sacred power, to move and act with real authority. Assuming the loving, generous and generative aspects of the feminine requires dressing for the part.
In traditions Continue reading When Men Don Dresses