The art of design is like the art of life, both fueled by inspiration and consciousness. Applying a love mantra to one’s design, results in the manifestation of revolutionary ideas. Kahlil Gibran eloquently articulated my favorite quote, “Work is love made visible,” which sums up the notion that when we follow our hearts, our work becomes an expression of love.
In today’s interconnected world, and in the spirit of Jonathan Swift’s “Vision is the art of seeing things invisible,” design must be approached from a holistic vantage, appreciating its myriad of influences and its ability to affect positive change in the world. The foundation of creative vision is infused with a collaborative force, fueled by love, and ultimately translated into co-creation.
Like the evolution of art, and the embodiment of love energy — crossing all boundaries, nations, languages, ages, races and religions, so too does our planet and global community exemplify the brilliance of design on every level. From the Fibonacci sequence ubiquitous in nature, to the perfect symmetry and symbiosis of all living creatures in our universal ecosystem, to the rebirth of organic methodologies as the heart of agriculture, we can take note of our environment’s vibrational influence.
As humanity is again re-learning to live in harmony with our natural environment and each other, the dawn of an ECOrenaissance is being born. This lifestyle movement represents the intersection of reinvention, a reconnection to our true nature, and social innovation — a shift in old paradigms, with every thought, idea and action having a reason for being. Like life itself.
In my world of fashion, sustainable design is the DNA. Fibers, fabrics, dyes and finishes are carefully and mindfully selected, incorporating the principles of people, planet, prosperity, passion and purpose. Just as universal love serves as the soul of our physical and spiritual beings–the common thread of our existence — understanding how to minimize negative human and environmental impacts to create balance and unity, while reflecting on how to protect and build, or renew and restore, is the fundamental tapestry of ECOfashion.
Thinking systemically, a successful harvest begins with the healthy cultivation of seeds. And with authenticity, transparency and intention at the root of ethical design, a more awakened fashion movement can transform an industry that has historically neglected to look beyond the curtain.
It’s time we find the love and beauty at our collective source to adDRESS change and design a new reality. Somewhere along the path to fast fashion — and faster, busier lives — we’ve lost our way. Per Lao Tzu, “The journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step,” and it is up to us now to drive love, life and fashion forward in the right direction. It’s a new day, where we can be conscious without compromise; we can look good, feel good, and do good in the world — embracing the ultimate fashion statement: “love is the new black.”
Marci Zaroff coined the term “ECOfashion” and is an internationally recognized ECOlifestyle entrepreneur, educator, innovator and expert. She is founder of both Under the Canopy and Metawear, executive producer of “THREAD Documentary” and “Driving Fashion Forward, and co-founder of BeyondBrands, The Institute for Integrative Nutrition and I AM Enlightened Creations. Marci has received countless recognitions including Fashion Group International’s “Rising Star Award”, the Natural Product Industry’s “Socially Responsible Business Award” and New York Moves “Power Women Award”. www.marcizaroff.com
“You can’t solve a problem with the same kind of thinking that gave rise to the problem” — Albert Einstein
There is something new on the horizon — a new kind of thinking. One that could solve the problem — the entire complex conglomeration of challenges that makes our world unsustainable, intolerant, and prone to violence. This is not thinking out of the blue: It is thinking that has been around for thousands of years. What is new is that it’s rediscovered — of all things, at the cutting edge of the sciences. It is “Akasha think.”
In this column with my Akashic “A-team” I will review for you the principal dimensions of Akasha think — the rediscovered revolutionary concept of life and universe, and freedom, wholeness, and wellbeing. New answers to questions we have all been asking since the beginnings of time.
Adam and Eve, Socrates and Plato, Constantine and the Crusaders, Henry VIII and Pope Clement VII, Hitler and Churchill, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King and Gandhi, yes even now Obama and Romney are giving us answers. Every answer has been given thinking that it is right. Yet with each delivery, the great divides are inexorably forged — in color, creed, genders and territories. How many answers were really right? Right now, as our precious world cries out because of the collateral damage of all our answers, how many of our answers, your answers, about the economy, education, energy, your health and life, can you be sure are right?
Try Akasha think. Here you get different answers. Find out what they can do for you — and through you, for the world.
Are you ready? Here is a question that can get you started:
What Is Akasha Consciousness — For You?
What is Akasha consciousness for you, a dream — or a nightmare? Or could it be your own deep consciousness — “re-cognized” for what it really is? Your answer could make a difference — a difference to you and to the world. See how you resonate with the 16 ideas that hallmark this consciousness.
1. I am part of the world. The world is not outside of me, and I am not outside of the world. The world is in me, and I am in the world.
2. I am part of nature, and nature is part of me. I am what I am in my communication and communion with all living things. I am an irreducible and coherent whole with the web of life on the planet.
3. I am part of society, and society is part of me. I am what I am in my communication and communion with my fellow humans. I am an irreducible and coherent whole with the community of humans on the planet.
4. I am more than a skin-and-bone material organism: my body, and its cells and organs are manifestations of what is truly me: a self-sustaining, self-evolving dynamic system arising, persisting and evolving in interaction with everything around me.
5. I am one of the highest, most evolved manifestations of the drive toward coherence and wholeness in the universe. All systems drive toward coherence and wholeness in interaction with all other systems, and my essence is this cosmic drive. It is the same essence, the same spirit that is inherent in all the things that arise and evolve in nature, whether on this planet or elsewhere in the infinite reaches of space and time.
6. There are no absolute boundaries and divisions in this world, only transition points where one set of relations yields prevalence to another. In me, in this self-maintaining and self-evolving coherence- and wholeness-oriented system, the relations that integrate the cells and organs of my body are prevalent. Beyond my body other relations gain prevalence: those that drive toward coherence and wholeness in society and in nature.
7. The separate identity I attach to other humans and other things is but a convenient convention that facilitates my interaction with them. My family and my community are just as much “me” as the organs of my body. My body and mind, my family and my community, are interacting and interpenetrating, variously prevalent elements in the network of relations that encompasses all things in nature and the human world.
8. The whole gamut of concepts and ideas that separates my identity, or the identity of any person or community, from the identity of other persons and communities are manifestations of this convenient but arbitrary convention. There are only gradients distinguishing individuals from each other and from their environment and no real divisions and boundaries. There are no “others” in the world: We are all living systems and we are all part of each other.
9. Attempting to maintain the system I know as “me” through ruthless competition with the system I know as “you” is a grave mistake: It could damage the integrity of the embracing whole that frames both your life and mine. I cannot preserve my own life and wholeness by damaging that whole, even if damaging a part of it seems to bring me short-term advantage. When I harm you, or anyone else around me, I harm myself.
10. Collaboration, not competition, is the royal road to the wholeness that hallmarks healthy systems in the world. Collaboration calls for empathy and solidarity, and ultimately for love. I do not and cannot love myself if I do not love you and others around me: We are part of the same whole and so are part of each other.
11. The idea of “self-defense,” even of “national defense,” needs to be rethought. Patriotism if it aims to eliminate adversaries by force, and heroism even in the well-meaning execution of that aim, are mistaken aspirations. A patriot and a hero who brandishes a sword or a gun is an enemy also to himself. Every weapon intended to hurt or kill is a danger to all. Comprehension, conciliation and forgiveness are not signs of weakness; they are signs of courage.
12. “The good” for me and for every person in the world is not the possession and accumulation of personal wealth. Wealth, in money or in any material resource, is but a means for maintaining myself in my environment. As exclusively mine, it commandeers part of the resources that all things need to share if they are to live and to thrive. Exclusive wealth is a threat to all people in the human community. And because I am a part of this community, in the final count it is a threat also to me, and to all who hold it.
13. Beyond the sacred whole we recognize as the world in its totality, only life and its development have what philosophers call intrinsic value; all other things have merely instrumental value: value insofar as they add to or enhance intrinsic value. Material things in the world, and the energies and substances they harbor or generate, have value only if and insofar they contribute to life and wellbeing in the web of life on this Earth.
14. The true measure of my accomplishment and excellence is my readiness to give. Not the amount of what I give is the measure of my accomplishment and excellence, but the relation between what I give, and what my family and I need to live and to thrive.
15. Every healthy person has pleasure in giving: It is a higher pleasure than having. I am healthy and whole when I value giving over having. A community that values giving over having is a community of healthy people, oriented toward thriving through empathy, solidarity, and love among its members. Sharing enhances the community of life, while possessing and accumulating creates demarcation, invites competition, and fuels envy. The share-society is the norm for all the communities of life on the planet; the have-society is typical only of modern-day humanity, and it is an aberration.
16. I recognize the aberration of modern-day humanity from the universal norm of coherence in the world, acknowledge my role in having perpetrated it, and pledge my commitment to restoring wholeness and coherence by becoming whole myself: whole in my thinking and acting — in my consciousness.
If you had an “aha experience” while reading even just one of these ideas, you have the foundations of Akashic consciousness. And if you had this experience all the way through, you already possess this crucial consciousness.
How did you resonate with what you have read? Tell us — and we shall do our best to respond.
Charlie Stuart Gay, Györgyi Szabo, Kingsley Dennis, Alexander Laszlo, and Ibolya Kapta
Ervin Laszlo is the author of 89 books published in 24 languages, including his bestselling Science and the Akashic Field. His latest book is The Akasha Paradigm, just released on the Internet: http://www.akashaparadigm.com/
By the year 2050, nearly 80% of the earth’s population will reside in urban centers. Applying the most conservative estimates to current demographic trends, the human population will increase by about 3 billion people during the interim. An estimated 109 hectares of new land (about 20% more land than is represented by the country of Brazil) will be needed to grow enough food to feed them, if traditional farming practices continue as they are practiced today. At present, throughout the world, over 80% of the land that is suitable for raising crops is in use (sources: FAO and NASA). Historically, some 15% of that has been laid waste by poor management practices. What can be done to avoid this impending disaster?
A Potential Solution: Farm Vertically
The concept of indoor farming is not new, since hothouse production of tomatoes, a wide variety of herbs, and other produce has been in vogue for some time. What is new is the urgent need to scale up this technology to accommodate another 3 billion people. An entirely new approach to indoor farming must be invented, employing cutting edge technologies. The Vertical Farm must be efficient (cheap to construct and safe to operate). Vertical farms, many stories high, will be situated in the heart of the world’s urban centers. If successfully implemented, they offer the promise of urban renewal, sustainable production of a safe and varied food supply (year-round crop production), and the eventual repair of ecosystems that have been sacrificed for horizontal farming.
It took humans 10,000 years to learn how to grow most of the crops we now take for granted. Along the way, we despoiled most of the land we worked, often turning verdant, natural ecozones into semi-arid deserts. Within that same time frame, we evolved into an urban species, in which 60% of the human population now lives vertically in cities. This means that, for the majority, we humans are protected against the elements, yet we subject our food-bearing plants to the rigors of the great outdoors and can do no more than hope for a good weather year. However, more often than not now, due to a rapidly changing climate regime, that is not what follows. Massive floods, protracted droughts, class 4-5 hurricanes, and severe monsoons take their toll each year, destroying millions of tons of valuable crops. Don’t our harvestable plants deserve the same level of comfort and protection that we now enjoy? The time is at hand for us to learn how to safely grow our food inside environmentally controlled multistory buildings within urban centers. If we do not, then in just another 50 years, the next 3 billion people will surely go hungry, and the world will become a much more unpleasant place in which to live.
Advantages of Vertical Farming
Year-round crop production; 1 indoor acre is equivalent to 4-6 outdoor acres or more, depending upon the crop (e.g., strawberries: 1 indoor acre = 30 outdoor acres)
No weather-related crop failures due to droughts, floods, pests
All VF food is grown organically: no herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers
VF virtually eliminates agricultural runoff by recycling black water
VF returns farmland to nature, restoring ecosystem functions and services
VF greatly reduces the incidence of many infectious diseases that are acquired at the agricultural interface
VF converts black and gray water into potable water by collecting the water of
VF adds energy back to the grid via methane generation from composting non-edible
parts of plants and animals
VF dramatically reduces fossil fuel use (no tractors, plows, shipping.)
VF converts abandoned urban properties into food production centers
VF creates sustainable environments for urban centers
VF creates new employment opportunities
We cannot go to the moon, Mars, or beyond without first learning to farm indoors on
VF may prove to be useful for integrating into refugee camps
VF offers the promise of measurable economic improvement for tropical and subtropical
LDCs. If this should prove to be the case, then VF may be a catalyst in helping to reduce or even reverse the population growth of LDCs as they adopt urban agriculture as a strategy for sustainable food production.
VF could reduce the incidence of armed conflict over natural resources, such as water
and land for agriculture
I don’t mean to sound seditious here, but I have a rebellious plan to combat the ills that many corporations are perpetrating in the name of fighting grime and germs. My main gripe is about the environmental pollutants from cleaning and personal care products that we wash down our drains and into our water systems, resulting in situations like the chemical triclosan (a pesticide added to many products as an antibacterial agent) being found in dolphins.
So the simple plan is to encourage everyone to use baking soda in any of these 51 applications. Besides showing kindness to aquatic life, we can also protect ourselves from the array of toxins in household cleaning products. Conventional cleansers can expose us to multiple chemicals linked to asthma, cancer, and other documented health problems.
Baking soda also makes a perfect stand-in for many personal care products, which are adding their own twist to the toxic tangle of pollutants and personal health (mainly in the form of synthetic fragrance (and it’s almost all synthetic), sodium laurel sulfate, and parabens).
So exactly how does baking soda fit into my scheme to make the world a better place? Baking soda, aka sodium bicarbonate, helps regulate pH—keeping a substance neither too acidic nor too alkaline. When baking soda comes in contact with either an acidic or an alkaline substance, it’s natural effect is to neutralize that pH. Beyond that, baking soda has the ability to retard further changes in the pH balance, known as buffering. This dual capability of neutralizing and buffering allows baking soda to do things such as neutralize acidic odors (like in the refrigerator) as well as maintain neutral pH (like in your laundry water, which helps boost your detergent’s power). It’s a simple reaction, but one that has far-reaching effects for a number of cleaning and deodorizing tasks. And so without further ado, I’ll remove my scientist cap, put on my rebellious housekeeper’s cap, and get this folk-wisdom revolution rolling…
1. Make Toothpaste
A paste made from baking soda and a 3 percent hydrogen peroxide solution can be used as an alternative to commercial non-fluoride toothpastes. (Or here’s a formula for a minty version.) You can also just dip your toothbrush with toothpaste into baking soda for an extra boost.
2. Freshen Your Mouth
Put one teaspoon in half a glass of water, swish, spit and rinse. Odors are neutralized, not just covered up.
3. Soak Oral Appliance
Soak oral appliances, like retainers, mouthpieces, and dentures, in a solution of 2 teaspoons baking soda dissolved in a glass or small bowl of warm water. The baking soda loosens food particles and neutralizes odors to keep appliances fresh. You can also brush appliances clean using baking soda.
4. Use as a Facial Scrub and Body Exfoliant
Give yourself an invigorating facial and body scrub. Make a paste of 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water. Rub in a gentle circular motion to exfoliate the skin. Rinse clean. This is gentle enough for daily use. (For a stronger exfoliant, try one of these great 5 Homemade Sugar Scrubs.)
Pat baking soda onto your underarms to neutralize body odor.
6. Use as an Antacid
Baking soda is a safe and effective antacid to relieve heartburn, sour stomach and/or acid indigestion. Refer to baking soda package for instructions.
7. Treat Insect Bites & Itchy Skin
For insect bites, make a paste out of baking soda and water, and apply as a salve onto affected skin. To ease the itch, shake some baking soda into your hand and rub it into damp skin after bath or shower. For specific tips on bee stings, see Bee Stings: Prevention and Treatment.
8. Make a Hand Cleanser and Softener
Skip harsh soaps and gently scrub away ground-in dirt and neutralize odors on hands with a paste of 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water, or 3 parts baking soda to gentle liquid hand soap. Then rinse clean. You can try this honey and cornmeal scrub for hands too.
9. Help Your Hair
Vinegar is amazing for your hair, but baking soda has its place in the shower too. Sprinkle a small amount of baking soda into your palm along with your favorite shampoo. Shampoo as usual and rinse thoroughly–baking soda helps remove the residue that styling products leave behind so your hair is cleaner and more manageable.
10. Clean Brushes and Combs
For lustrous hair with more shine, keep brushes and combs clean. Remove natural oil build-up and hair product residue by soaking combs and brushes in a solution of 1 teaspoon of baking soda in a small basin of warm water. Rinse and allow to dry.
11. Make a Bath Soak
Add 1/2 cup of baking soda to your bath to neutralize acids on the skin and help wash away oil and perspiration, it also makes your skin feel very soft. Epsom salts are pretty miraculous for the bath too, read about the health benefits of epsom salt baths.
12. Soothe Your Feet
Dissolve 3 tablespoons of baking soda in a tub of warm water and soak feet. Gently scrub. You can also make a spa soak for your feet.
13. Make a Surface Soft Scrub
For safe, effective cleaning of bathroom tubs, tile and sinks–even fiberglass and glossy tiles–sprinkle baking soda lightly on a clean damp sponge and scrub as usual. Rinse thoroughly and wipe dry. For extra cleaning power, make a paste with baking soda, course salt and liquid dish soap—let it sit then scour off.
14. Handwash Dishes and Pots & Pans
Add 2 heaping tablespoons baking soda (along with your regular dish detergent) to the dish water to help cut grease and foods left on dishes, pots and pans. For cooked-on foods, let them soak in the baking soda and detergent with water first, then use dry baking soda on a clean damp sponge or cloth as a scratchless scouring powder. Using a dishwasher? Try these energy saving tips.
15. Freshen Sponges
Soak stale-smelling sponges in a strong baking soda solution to get rid of the mess (4 tablespoons of baking soda dissolved in 1 quart of warm water). For more thorough disinfecting, use the microwave.
16. Clean the Microwave
Baking soda on a clean damp sponge cleans gently inside and outside the microwave and never leaves a harsh chemical smell. Rinse well with water.
Remove coffee and tea stains and eliminate bitter off-tastes by washing mugs and coffee makers in a solution of 1/4 cup baking soda in 1 quart of warm water. For stubborn stains, try soaking overnight in the baking soda solution and detergent or scrubbing with baking soda on a clean damp sponge.
19. Clean the Oven
Sprinkle baking soda onto the bottom of the oven. Spray with water to dampen the baking soda. Let sit overnight. In the morning, scrub, scoop the baking soda and grime out with a sponge, or vacuum, and rinse.
20. Clean Floors
Remove dirt and grime (without unwanted scratch marks) from no wax and tile floors using 1/2 cup baking soda in a bucket of warm water–mop and rinse clean for a sparkling floor. For scuff marks, use baking soda on a clean damp sponge, then rinse. Read Natural Floor Cleaning for more tips on avoiding toxic floor cleaners.
21. Clean Furniture
You can make a homemade lemon furniture polish, or you can clean and remove marks (even crayon) from walls and painted furniture by applying baking soda to a damp sponge and rubbing lightly. Wipe off with a clean, dry cloth.
22. Clean Shower Curtains
Clean and deodorize your vinyl shower curtain by sprinkling baking soda directly on a clean damp sponge or brush. Scrub the shower curtain and rinse clean. Hang it up to dry.
23. Boost Your Liquid Laundry Detergent
Give your laundry a boost by adding ½ cup of baking soda to your laundry to make liquid detergent work harder. A better balance of pH in the wash gets clothes cleaner, fresher, and brighter.
24. Gently Clean Baby Clothes
Baby skin requires the most gentle of cleansers, which are increasingly available, but odor and stain fighters are often harsh. For tough stains add 1/2 cup of baking soda to your liquid laundry detergent, or a 1/2 cup in the rinse cycle for deodorization.
Use a baking soda solution (4 tablespoons Baking soda in 1 quart warm water) to clean and deodorize smelly sports equipment. Sprinkle baking soda into golf bags and gym bags to deodorize, clean golf irons (without scratching them!) with a baking soda paste (3 parts Baking sodato 1 part water) and a brush. Rinse thoroughly.
27. Remove Oil and Grease Stains
Use Baking soda to clean up light-duty oil and grease spills on your garage floor or in your driveway. Sprinkle baking soda on the spot and scrub with a wet brush.
28. Clean Batteries
Baking soda can be used to neutralize battery acid corrosion on cars, mowers, etc. because its a mild alkali. Be sure to disconnect the battery terminals before cleaning. Make a paste of 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water, apply with a damp cloth to scrub corrosion from the battery terminal. After cleaning and re-connecting the terminals, wipe them with petroleum jelly to prevent future corrosion. Please be careful when working around a battery–they contain a strong acid.
29. Clean Cars
Use baking soda to clean your car lights, chrome, windows, tires, vinyl seats and floor mats without worrying about unwanted scratch marks. Use a baking soda solution of 1/4 cup baking soda in 1 quart of warm water. Apply with a sponge or soft cloth to remove road grime, tree sap, bugs, and tar. For stubborn stains use baking soda sprinkled on a damp sponge or soft brush. Here’s how Sustainable Dave washes his car.
Sprinkle baking soda on the bottom of your trashcan to keep stinky trash smells at bay.
33. Deodorize Recyclables
Sprinkle baking soda on top as you add to the container. Also, clean your recyclable container periodically by sprinkling baking soda on a damp sponge. Wipe clean and rinse. Learn about how to recycle everything.
34. Deodorize Drains
To deodorize your sink and tub drains, and keep lingering odors from resurfacing, pour 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain while running warm tap water–it will neutralize both acid and basic odors for a fresh drain. (This a good way to dispose of baking soda that is being retired from your refrigerator.) Do you know what you’re not supposed to put down your drains?
35. Deodorize and Clean Dishwashers
Use Baking soda to deodorize before you run the dishwasher and then as a gentle cleanser in the wash cycle.
36. Deodorize Garbage Disposals
To deodorize your disposal, and keep lingering odors from resurfacing, pour baking soda down the drain while running warm tap water. Baking Soda will neutralize both acid and basic odors for a fresh drain.
37. Deodorize Lunch Boxes
Between uses, place a spill-proof box of baking soda in everyone’s lunch box to absorb lingering odors. Read bout safe lunch boxes here.
38. Remove Odor From Carpets
Liberally sprinkle baking soda on the carpet. Let set overnight, or as long as possible (the longer it sets the better it works). Sweep up the larger amounts of baking soda, and vacuum up the rest. (Note that your vacuum cleaner bag will get full and heavy.)
39. Remove Odor From Vacuum Cleaners
By using the method above for carpets, you will also deodorize your vacuum cleaner.
Odors settle into car upholstery and carpet, so each time you step in and sit down, they are released into the air all over again. Eliminate these odors by sprinkling baking soda directly on fabric car seats and carpets. Wait 15 minutes (or longer for strong odors) and vacuum up the baking soda.
42. Deodorize the Cat Box
Cover the bottom of the pan with baking soda, then fill as usual with litter. To freshen between changes, sprinkle baking soda on top of the litter after a thorough cleaning. You can also use green tea for this purpose!
43. Deodorize Pet Bedding
Eliminate odors from your pets bedding by sprinkling liberally with baking soda, wait 15 minutes (or longer for stronger odors), then vacuum up.
44. Deodorize Sneakers
Keep odors from spreading in smelly sneakers by shaking baking soda into them when not in use. Shake out before wearing. When they’re no longer wearable, make sure to donate your old sneakers.
Gym clothes of other odoriferous clothing can be neutralized with a ½ cup of baking soda in the rinse cycle.
47. Freshen Stuffed Animals
Keep favorite cuddly toys fresh with a dry shower of baking soda. Sprinkle baking soda on and let it sit for 15 minutes before brushing off.
48. Camping Cure-all
Baking soda is a must-have for your next camping trip. Its a dish washer, pot scrubber, hand cleanser, deodorant, toothpaste,f ire extinguisher and many other uses.
49. Extinguish Fires
Baking soda can help in the initial handling of minor grease or electrical kitchen fires, because when baking soda is heated, it gives off carbon dioxide, which helps to smother the flames. For small cooking fires (frying pans, broilers, ovens, grills), turn off the gas or electricity if you can safely do so. Stand back and throw handfuls of baking soda at the base of the flame to help put out the fire–and call the Fire Department just to be safe. (And, you should have a fire entinguisher on hand anyway, here’s why.
50. Septic Care
Regular use of baking soda in your drains can help keep your septic system flowing freely. 1 cup of baking soda per week will help maintain a favorable pH in your septic tank.
51. Fruit and Vegetable Scrub
Baking soda is the food safe way to clean dirt and residue off fresh fruit and vegetables. Just sprinkle a little on a clean damp sponge, scrub and rinse. Here’s another way to clean your vegetables as well.
OK, so there are my 51 suggestions (with a little help from the Arm & Hammond baking soda site, thank you). Do you have any tips or tricks that I missed? Please share in the comments.
About the Author
Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Radical Innovation, Relocalization and Sustainability
Brian O’Leary, February 2011
One of the most vexing and urgent question of our time is, how can we achieve sustainabiity? That was the question twenty-seven of us souls mulled over for a week during the Phoenix Gathering here at Montesueños in June 2008 and re-localization was surely a central theme throughout the meeting and afterwards. But would re-localization in and of itself be enough to solve the sustainability problem? I don’t think so. Surely innovation must also play a part in creating the new world.
The technology piece is more elusive to many of us because of a collective lack of awareness of transcendent possibilities that also threaten the status quo, especially the “free” energy technologies that have shown proofs-of-concept but have been violently suppressed ever since the time of Nikola Tesla. But many of us are skeptical of even its possibility because we don’t have it now and we don’t understand the complex process of research and development of bold new technologies, which in this case has not at all been supported. I’m certain we could have it through further development if we so choose, in spite of all the scientific naysaying. My essay The Turquoise Revolution posted on my website addresses the nagging question of why most scientists, environmentalists and progressives deny the possibility of a future with breakthrough clean energy and water technologies.
This is quite analogous to the development of aviation. The Wrights had been flying for about two years, with thousands witnessing this, yet the journalist covering the first flights was fired and Scientific American wrote an editorial saying aviation was a fraud. Well, on the energy question, the Wrights have been flying many times and while we can’t project exactly which specific technology(ies) will be the one(s) we’ll adopt, we are learning the principles that will make it work after further development. The results can be elegant by imposing the requirement of sustainability throughout the process–unlike the development of nuclear power.
I completely agree that 1950s sci-fi style technology, i.e., monorails, etc, will not do the trick. But newer, more sustainable technologies could be researched. When combined with re-localized governance and monetary systems, radical innovation will be necessary for us to have a prayer of achieving a truly sustainable future. Unfortunately, the earlier Zeitgeist films did not represent these possibilities (I haven’t seen the latest one), and restricts the visionary part of the film to the work of Jacques Fresco of the Venus Project, which is a very limited vision (e.g., monorails) of what we can actually create.
The caveat in doing the research and introducing the technologies is IF they can be responsibly implemented. This goes back to the question of social/economic/political responsibility at all levels of action, from local to regional to global. In other words, from my perspective, having seen experimental devices actually work in many laboratories in many countries but where these researchers have been stymied, I can vouch with high confidence that the technology piece can be established and a truly sustainable future can be designed, the hard parts being to undo the suppression and to implement the new projects ethically.
To achieve our shared desire for sustainability, I believe we’re going to need to have protected R&D centers worldwide, or “innovation sanctuaries” (an idea we introduced in one of our breakout groups during the Phoenix Gathering) and a very careful management for the implementation. I’m talking principally about breakthrough clean energy, water purification/restructuring, and some of the excellent ideas now coming out in restoration ecology and other nature-friendly ideas (e.g., Gunter Pauli’s The Blue Economy). The state-of-the-art of sustainable innovation needs to be much better understood by all of us so we can make intelligent choices rather than flying blind as we are now, where by default, the important decisions are being made at the corporate/government level with no regard to sustainability. But technology can serve us well if we’re wise about how it should be applied; we needn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
So I see re-localization as a promising social innovation, with a cross-cut of sustainable R&D carefully introduced into a distributed culture. Our imperiled planetary environment is a physical situation that calls out for physical solutions that only deeper awareness, knowledge and wisdom can solve.
If you have pledged to participate in Buy Nothing Day next Friday, November 25 but don’t think you can go for the Buy Nothing Christmas then I have another pledge for you to take: participate in Small Business Saturday. When you head out to do your holiday shopping next Saturday, November 26 avoid the big box national chain stores and shop at your local small business instead.
Although this is only the second year for the event, it is already quite popular among the Facebook crowd. The official Small Business Saturday Facebook page has more than 2.2 million Likes. People don’t just like the site, they are also discussing it. At this time more than 260,000 people are actively talking about the day.
If you want to know why you should shop local when you might be able to find a better deal at your local big box store then let me share with you a statement that New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg made in advance of last year’s inaugural Small Business Saturday.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and the glue that holds communities together, and we’ve always sought new ways to support them – something that became even more important when the national economic downturn began.” Source: American Express
Here it is a full year later and the economy is still struggling. The nation’s small business owners are the key to the recovery and the more that we can do to help boost our local economies, the better the national economy becomes.
If you’re not moved by the spirit of the day, perhaps a small financial incentive will convince you to shop local next Saturday. American Express cardmembers can register to receive a one-time $25 statement credit if they use their American Express card and spend at least $25 at a small business on November 26. Of course this offer comes with several terms and conditions that must be met so make sure you read the fine print first.
American Express doesn’t have the shop local movement cornered with its Small Business Saturday. Portland, Oregon has set up a program of its own: Little Box PDX. If you live in the Portland area simply visit one of the locally owned shops listed on the website. Take your receipt from that store to another store on the list and receive a 10 percent discount.
What are your plans for next week? Are you going to participate in Buy Nothing Day, hang out at local shops for Small Business Saturday or go for the gusto and pledge to have a Buy Nothing Christmas?
It appears that retail giant Wal-Mart is ready to take another step on its sustainability journey. Sourceswithin the food industry are reporting that Wal-Mart is planning to begin collecting data from its fruit and vegetable vendors in order to assess the sustainability of their operations.
This is a continuation of Wal-Mart’s initiative rolled out last fall in which they pledged to support farmers and their communities by selling $1 billion worth of food from one million small and medium farmers who will be trained in sustainability practices. This move will effectively double the amount of locally grown food they sell in the US, while increasing revenue to smaller farmers by 10-15%.
They also pledged to produce more food with fewer resources and less waste by investing over $1 billion in their food supply chain over the next five years and reducing food waste in their stores.
Furthermore they pledged to seek more sustainable sources for foods such as palm oil for all of their private branded products and beef from sources that do not contribute to rainforest deforestation.
The metrics announcement stems from the 2011 Sustainable Food Lab Leadership Summit which met in late June. Wal-Mart is working with and seeking input from the Sustainability Consortium which is jointly administered by the University of Arkansas and Arizona State University. A substantial portion of the metrics they will use were developed by the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops (SISC), which was also mentioned as part of last fall’s announcement when the company pledged to “accelerate the agricultural focus of the Sustainability Index, beginning with a Sustainable Produce Assessment for top producers in its Global Food Sourcing network in 2011.”
SISC is a multi-stakeholder initiative to develop a system for measuring sustainability performance throughout the specialty crop supply chain which includes fruits, vegetables, nuts and horticulture. In addition to retail food buyers such as Wal-Mart and Wegmans, other stakeholders include growers and their representative associations, large food producers such as Heinz and Del Monte, packers, shippers, distributors, government agencies, academics and NGO’s including Defenders of Wildlife and the World Wildlife Fund. More than 400 representatives of these groups have joined the effort since its inception.
SISC’s core operating principles include:
Avoiding duplication of efforts
Realizing that we will achieve more through a collaborative effort that includes all supply chain stakeholders
Creating metrics that are performance-based, non-prescriptive, allowing individual operators to innovate
Over on the Atlantic site, the food politics writer Jane Black has a thoughtful post on farmers market sticker shock in brownstone Brooklyn.
Confronted at her neigborhood market by the spectacle of $8/dozen eggs—which had sold out, no less—Black frets that “that the ‘good-food-costs-more’ argument is being taken to an extreme that puts at risk the goal of a mass food-reform movement, which is to make good food available to the greatest number of people possible.”
Black goes on to do a bit of analysis on the $8/dozen farmer’s production model and reckons that he probably isn’t just sticking it to Brooklyn yuppies: “It turns out that’s what it costs him to produce his eggs,” because he uses a labor-intensive pasture-based system and feeds his birds organic corn, which is much more expensive than conventional.
So we have a genuine quandary here: A farmer who’s just scraping by while doing the right thing by his land and his birds, charging a price that makes the whole concept of alternative food systems seem hopelessly elitist.