I’ve been interviewed!

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet a local gal who is doing her own part to save the world. Aimee Fahey, local recruiter and blogger extraordinaire, has a series she does where she interviews those who enter her circle. Some she has known for some time. Some, she has recently met. All are given the same series of questions. All are inspiring. I am honored to be among these great green examples of how we make our paradigm shift into a more sustainable world.

Aimee – thanks for the opportunity to answer your thought-provoking questions!

As to my green pledge – here’s to another week of trying to get on the bus.

Check out all the interviews and mine here.

Equity in 2013

One good, tangible measure of sustainability is the triple bottom line. The idea that we find ways to and enact on measuring equity (people), environment (place), and economics (profit) in equilibrium. We take each, and if one is failing – if we don’t make enough money for example, then we consider that we haven’t achieved a sustainable mark over the time in which we are measuring these indicators.

So, how sustainable are we in 2013? We have surpassed predicted carbon emissions, indicating we are on a road for disaster in an ever-changing climate induced world. Our recession still has a strangle hold making it hard for families to get ahead. And, we have reports every day – it seems – about another company cutting corners in such a way that its workers suffer the most egregious abuses.

And, in the midst of that, while working in an organization undergoing its own transition and struggle with change – the obvious thought reveals itself in startling clarity – we don’t value people.

Sustainability argues that we must hold these things: people, place, profit in tandem. We must balance them equally lest the three-legged stool topple over for ever more. And, what I have realized for the better part of the last 7 years is that we value equity least of all in this triptych. We grasp onto the things we can measure easily. We can measure if we made our profit – or not. We can measure if we planted enough trees – or not. These are easy things in which to define success.

But, when it comes to people, the number of indicators to use grows exponentially. What do we measure? Do we measure wages? Do we measure healthcare? Do we measure access to healthcare? Do we measure … happiness? In a sense, I think it boils down to the latter. This ubiquitous, moving thing that is difficult for an economist to measure strictly against a black and white line… so instead of trying, as a society, we just don’t.

Then it rears its ugly head in contract negotiations, workplace equity, overall societal health. It impacts the never-ending challenge of balance between work and family life – because we chase the greasy buck instead of the success of the people earning the buck. It turns loyal people unloyal. It makes people seek autonomy elsewhere. It creates and fosters toxic work environments where blame is placed haphazardly, and instead of listening to the real problems – petulant children are blamed and then reinforced the excuse on why we don’t need to listen.

So, where are we in 2013? Where is our equity? I would say it is far away, despite recent Supreme Court rulings and in spite of recent Supreme Court rulings. I would say there is more of this conversation to have – where we need to collectively assess our values, envision work-life balance in harmony, and propel ourselves to a future we do want to pass onto our children.

 

To Have Hope

Temperature predictions from some climate mode...
Image via Wikipedia

Climate change is happening. We can attempt to deny it. We can go along with the conflict among politicians and in the newspapers. We can close our eyes to it. We can say “weather is weather” when we look at a balmy January day when it should be 20 below. Climate change — global warming — is happening. No matter what we say to console ourselves doesn’t change the trend that 98% of the scientific community accepts as fact. Our world is warming and places are already being affected. Recently, the Oregonian published a map put out by the USDA. The USDA is redrawing their garden zoning maps to more accurately reflect current temperatures. The caption lightly explains warming, but also attributes the change to better mapping software! So, I put a flippant comment on my Facebook page that got its own attention from my friends. One didn’t realize I was being sarcastic. Another responded with his own, appropriately, flippant remark. Finally, a family member expressed her own frustration with how we glaze over this very serious problem. As a follow-up, I posted a link to a three-year old Scientific American article that showcased ten places that in 2008 that were clearly affected by climate change. Some of the listed places include:

Darfur

Until the rains failed in Darfur, the region’s pastoralists lived amicably with the settled farmers. The nomadic herders grazed their camels on the rocky hillsides between the fertile plots and fed their animals on the leavings from the harvest….[More]

The Gulf Coast

Climate scientists may still be debating to what extent climate change is going to translate into stronger and more frequent hurricanes, but insurance companies aren’t waiting for the final answer….[More]

Northern Europe

The warming of the globe has so far generally been good for the world’s wine. It has allowed the fruit to come off the vine richer and riper. A study led by Gregory Jones, a climatologist at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Ore., and the son of a winegrower, tracked the impact of rising temperatures between 1950 and 1999, using as a measure of quality the values by the auction house Sotheby’s, which rates wines on a 100-point scale….[More]

Great Barrier Reef

Not all the carbon dioxide we emit contributes to atmospheric warming. More than a third of what we have produced since the industrial revolution has been absorbed by the oceans, where it reacts with seawater to form carbonic acid….[More]

In recent years, no less than four Alaskan communities have been forced to relocate (Shishmaref, Kivalina, Shaktoolik and Newtok) due to climate change. Waters are rising. Temperatures are rising. Plants and animals are migrating, and now people are migrating too. These communities are the canaries in the coal mine. They are the ones screaming to the rest of the world, “LISTEN! Climate change is happening! It’s happening to us! Now!”

But now we’re not listening. Collectively. We are stuck in group think, not embracing our group wisdom. Collectively, what can we do? That was the question that was posed to me. So, here’s a short list.

  1. Don’t lose hope. But realize that people will only change when they want to. So, while not losing hope, stay the steady course.
  2. Lead by example. Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Then do it all over again, and better.
  3. Be mindful of your own consumption and aware of how this culture of things is perpetuating the problem.
  4. Realize hope in that 60% or so of Americans do recognize that there is a problem, so while the media isn’t up on what Americans really are thinking, there is a paradigm shift around us.
  5. Educate yourself, and then, educate others. Do it with compassion, and when they stop listening do it with your actions. Show people how the local organic food you create with is better than the tasteless, flavorless, nutritionless food found in the average grocer.

To have hope can be hard, but I think it’s imperative we stay the steady course. We can find solace in the Romanesque period in history where buildings became strong again when the world didn’t end in 1000 AD. We can find solace in realizing we have found lost technologies, like concrete, to make our world more solid. We can find solace in remembering that no matter how stubborn, we are one of the most adaptable creatures, and adapt we will. We can find solace in our relationships that we forge, foster, and create. Because, then, we know that we will have a network to turn to who supports our ideals of local, homegrown, homefunded communities.

To have hope, in my mind, is the only way to live. And, to have hope, is the only bottom line that will drive us when madness surrounds.

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A word about bleach

Bleach Bottle Image
Image via Wikipedia

I began this post on August 10, 2008, where I had recently posted a few items regarding cleaning: general house cleaning and whiter laundry. It seems that quite a few people are trying to find ways to make their whites whiter. As I look at the search terms, I noticed that often the search is ‘how do I make my whites whiter laundry’. The same old question that maybe has been plaguing our civilization for centuries continues to plague us now. How do we keep clothes looking good? For some people, tipping the balance into an eco-friendly home routine is pretty easy but for others hanging onto these old standbys like bleach is difficult to let go. Even in natural cleaning books, many suggest using bleach to kill germs and make whites whiter.

Remember a few things when considering bleach.

  • It is an acid, a very caustic acid and a poison.
  • It eats at clothing (and other things) a lot faster than alternatives like vinegar.
  • Vinegar we eat and is much safer for children and pets.

My original intention with this post was to summarize some scientific studies that displayed the horrors of bleach. Time, life, and lack of information in my searches made my original goal change. Now, I just want the post out of my draft folder! When this topic again interests me… hopefully it will be grand.

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Consensus Validation

We're Makin' Bread!
We're Makin' Bread! Image by Michelle Lasley via flickr.

Today, we had our consensus training with Tree Bressen. Rather, it was a consensus workshop. Dynamic, fun, interactive, and incredibly informative – this was our day. From 10am – 5pm, hosted by Daybreak Co-Housing, we participated in exercises, asked questions, and learned about the consensus process. And, above everything – today was empowering in the decision we made to be in this process.

I think most people have an  idea of what consensus is, we learn about the concept when we learn about language. But, hearing it as a decision making tool didn’t happen for me until I started to learn more about coops. I started to learn more about coops when I wanted to learn more about food. There are a lot of things in life important to me, but the top three or four “passions” would be housing, food, and spirituality (no, friend, not religion).

Growing up, I happened to encounter a lot of people who wanted to tell me what to do and what was the best right way for me to live. True to my “know-it-all” nature (as dubbed by my sweet Sister), I found this contrary. If they are so smart, thought I, why do I feel differently about this decision? When I had the opportunity to Be the Boss at a  young age, telling others what to do never really felt right. They are capable, some much older than I, so why am I telling them what to do? It didn’t make sense, and I didn’t have the life experience or language skills to name the problem I was noticing.

Tom Atlee, however, has a name for it. He calls it “Co-Intelligence.” It figures that this vocabulary was gifted to me when I moved to the west coast. In fact, a fellow food clubber said the same thing tonight! (We both have family in the mid-west). This idea, this process, that we are all better together. But, more than that, when we let our ideas blend, when we have room for openness and change, we will participate in this thing called group wisdom. The whole is better than the sum of its parts.

A few times during our steering committee meetings, someone would ask after my post-giddiness, if it was some sort of “love fest.” No. It was just me, really enjoying this group wisdom. It’s such a joy to watch these changes. You come in with a stated problem or concern, maybe a few ideas of how it could look – then 13 (in our case women) people come together and say what about this and that and we can do it this other way. One of the participants in today’s training had a name for it: “both/and.” This idea that we don’t have to have one or the other, but we can do both and maybe more. In order to get there, though, you have to have an open heart. Open to change. Open to being changed.

I’m saddened I don’t have time to attend tomorrow’s workshop. Tree, however, will be doing a facilitator’s training in May. I’m very excited to be a part of that one.

 

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This Day in News

Wisconsin Population Density Map
Image via Wikipedia

Big Ag is fighting back with paid advertising, trying to put a shine on their tarnished image because of authors Kingsolver, Pollan, Schlosser, and movies like Food, Inc. Wisconsin reworded the bill against collective bargaining, tweaking out key financial components that warranted quorum so they could push their anti-union bill through. It has been rumored that Gov. Walker is in bed with coal, and this is his favor to them: remove unions from mineworkers, and like dominoes the rest will fall.

I was telling a colleague tonight that I won’t watch movies like Lord Save Us from Your Followers because of the negativity present. There is enough negativity in the news, it makes me want to cry.

Conversely, my food club made it in the news again. A local on-line publication did a survey of local buying clubs, and we received a succinct paragraph on what we do. What do we do? We organize buys to empower people to take control of their food choices. We stand together, a union in food, trying to ensure our families have safer food choices.

I had a chemistry teacher in high school who tried to argue that if a scientist broke down the molecular components of an organge and recreated it, by man not nature, it would be the same thing. I retold this story to a colleague, and she retorted, “What they’re going to make the sun?”

I guess Paul Krugman is right. I mean, more so than I thought before. We have a deepening moral divide, more than Tocqueville ever seemed to conceive. Big Business v. Unions. Franken Food v. Organic. Toxic v. All Natural.

Like many parents, I worry about the world we are gifting to our children. I don’t believe it’s fair to create problems on the hope they will have the technology to solve them. I believe it’s a wiser course of action to tread slowly, like the toroise, steadily heading towards a goal. I believe that goal should be guided by moral/ethical boundaries that basically state we do no intentional harm and we keep our hands to ourselves.

I question Google following its own advice, but I really do wish the world would just get on board with “Do no evil.”

I am not Oprah!

NLIHC - 1
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

So, why the heck would I have my own domain? I giggle every time I tell someone where to find this blog, or when I give out my email. I coined it my “vain” email. And, I assured my mother, for example, that this is really easy to find because it’s simply michellelasley.com. Sure, that brings you to a front page, and sure you have to click “enter” to enter – but it brings you here, and no matter the format this sub-domain blog.michellelasley.com takes, it will likely always be here in some form (or as long as I keep paying for it).

It started with the Green Guide. Sort of. Mostly it started with writing, and realizing that writing on the computer, since I love to type (in some ways is more efficient than writing in my journals, which go unused for months, and sometimes years at a time), it seemed a natural fit to create a blog. In 2000, when I purchased my first computer, when I just found out about blogs, I begin keeping word docs of my random thoughts. I even giggled at a New Yorker commentary that chided blogs and those that used them to communicate, giving way to more traditional means like the telephone and in person conversations (not unlike facebook today!).

In 2008, I had the opportunity to help write, edit, and publish the first of two “Green Guides.” When, I was a child, I knew the environment and stewardship were important to me and in my mid-twenties, I was able to define the teaching of sustainability as a life goal. So, when the green guide opportunity presented itself, I couldn’t say no.

My ideas of how it should look varied from the main author, so I thought I should branch off and make my own way. That became my first blog. I named it “mickysgreenguide” since “Michelle’s Green Guide” seemed too trite. Micky is the nickname my step-father gave me when he nicknamed my siblings too, in an effort to sew the seams of my blended family. I used Google’s version since I’m a Google Junkie: blogspot. Shortly after that, it seemed logical to just buy my own domain. So, I did.

That was the first domain purchase. mickysgreenguide.com. The primary author of the green guides suggested I have something … more professional, so the seed was planted to have my very own domain of my name. I looked for michellelasley.com – but it was taken! By a Realtor in Tennessee! So, I watched it. I even sent a note asking to be notified or to see if they’d sell it. I purchased michellelasley.net since the dot com was taken, and I wasn’t interested in a hyphenated compromise.

One day, I got an email. They were willing to sell. But, they wanted $700! Can you believe it? How’s that for a markup! I waited, and when the dot com became available at the normal annual domain price, I purchased it. So, now, instead of just one domain, I own three. A branding piece that makes me think of Oprah. A woman, who I believe has mastered self promotion, identity, and branding. But, I am not Oprah. I’m just a gal, who likes to write, share ideas, and teach people about stewardship.

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Living on Credit

Levi's Cleanup
Living on credit sometimes means we have messes to clean up. The mess Levi cleaned up here was the size of about 1/4 of one towel. Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

Budget, budget, budget – crisis. It seems, today, everywhere you look, everyone is suffering from a budget crisis. Business, non-profits, families, single people, countries. What I found most interesting about this concept, right now, is the emotional stress it causes when not dealt with.

If you have 6 eggs, and you know you aren’t going to get anymore for 2 weeks, and you need an egg a day to survive – you’d probably ration your eggs. Some people, though, would rather risk the eggs, eat them once a day, and not have any for 8 days. It’s Aesop’s fablesthe grasshopper and the ant. The ant stores away, day after day, while the grasshopper plays. Then, winter comes, and the grasshopper is surprised. He has no food. The ant has enough food because he’s been preparing all spring, summer and fall.

When we live on credit: credit cards, borrowed money from friends, and lines of credit from the bank – we are playing the part of the grasshopper. I’m observing here. My husband and I are guilty of living on credit. We recognize it’s a problem, and are trying to have those hard conversations to stop it – but they are hard conversations.

I find it interesting how we are unwilling to have those hard conversations. We know what will happen, but in my case, I’d rather not give up my newspaper, netflix, and mobile phone. So, we live on credit and risk another windfall. We can’t plan for the windfall. We have to plan for the somewhat secure income.

I say somewhat, because hopefully we all know how risky even those secure jobs are nowadays. Unions on the chopping block in Wisconsin, so much rage, so much apathy, all coming up against each other – crashing. Egypt, Libya, Tunisia – this global unrest from the micro to the macro – and in some way – it stems from living beyond our means.

Sometimes, I think it stems from arrogance and lack of understanding. Like, when I try to piece together why the whole Northern American continent was basically clear cut in the 19th century. While studying sustainability at Portland State University, I took a sophomoric class in the university studies program. Our professor introduced this concept of short-sighted-ness with a story about shephards living on a hill. They all wanted to add just one more sheep to their flock – each. But, what happens when all 100 shepards add one sheep each? You have 100 more sheep! The hill can only hold so many, and if the shepards add another sheep to theri flock every year – at some point you’ll reach the carrying capacity of the hill.

The idea is that if you plan for the future, you will make wiser decisions for the group. Individually, or for families, the idea is that if you plan for your future you won’t be destitute and will be able to navigate tragedy with a stronger plan, or safety net. If government can help us out, I think that’s great. I also think, in a society as rich as ours, it should be a moral obligation. But, ultimately, we really need to say the buck stops here, and we need to plan for ourselves. So, it’s building within and building without. we need to make our own houses strong, strengthen our communities (that meas you have to get to know your neighbors), and have honest dialogues. Honest dialogues that recognize living on credit, while a luxury, isn’t the best course of action.

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I am an Urban Homesteader

Heated & whisked
Making HOMEmade chocolate syrup in my (urban) home(stead). Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

I know what to do.

I know where the resources are.

I’ve written, somewhat extensively on the subject.

Today: I am an Urban Homesteader.

In 2008, I self-published my first of two books with Dr. Deborah Tolman. With her knowledge and know-how, my writing, editing, graphic design, and web skills – and with support from several other friends and colleagues, we self-published the Tolman Guide to Going Green. We published one for Portland, Oregon, where we both lived in 2008 and one for Asheville, North Carolina, where Deb has sustainable connections.

We took a systems approach to sustainability. How do you encompass natural processes at home? How do you make going green accessible in a way that the apartment dweller with the smallest income can still be green?

Also, in 2008, it was discussed by Kelly & Eric at Root Simple.

Shannon Hayes takes a feminist approach in Radical Homemaking.

It’s cliched and made fun of in Portlandia.

Cities, towns, neighborhoods all over the world are participating in Urban Homesteading.

What does this cheesy cliche even mean?

It means, take your home and make it green by thinking in full cycles, like homesteaders used to do.

Would you throw away that tin can if it would make a great Christmas Tree Ornament? No? Well, you just saved something from the landfill. Go green! You are an urban homesteader!

Would you mow over that grass or would you bag it and take it to the curb? What, your time is limited, and you don’t want to spend the extra money for the bag attachment (or you don’t have a bag attachment because you’re using a Reel Mower)? Well – congratulations! You have just participated in grass-cycling! You are an urban homesteader!

You (attempt) to grow your own greens all around your small urban plot or your apartment? You are really keeping it local! Go green! Congratulations you are an urban homesteader!

What, you make your own laundry soap because it costs less than a penny per load and your family must be frugal with those limited dollars coming in? Congratulations! You are an urban homesteader!

I suppose our cultural ideas of Intellectual Property say it’s okay to trademark words. But, I think it’s a terrible idea. Trademarking ideas in this day and age of collective consciousness is simply another way to make a game out of doing good. Sure, a part of me agrees that rules can force us into creativity and better answers to our world’s problems, but sometimes it’s just gone too far. Trying to trademark a name for something that was already published as a book? Can this even be done? Wouldn’t the copyright law on the book trump the trademarking of the concept? And, how close are we to Big Brother when we try to enforce this collective consciousness? Seriously? In this economy? Don’t we have better things to do?

So, today, sponsored by Take Back Urban Homesteading and Crunchy Chicken, is a day of Action. It’s a day to Take Back Urban Homesteading. Write about what makes you an Urban Homesteader in the hopes we’ll jam the blogosphere with our collective consciousness.

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