Ramp Hollow: The Ordeal of Appalachia

What makes for a healthy rural community? Is there even room for such a thought in this world where it sometimes seems that any truly rural community is by definition under-developed, deficient, abandoned, lacking in dynamism, behind the curve, back-ward, almost horrifying to the sensibilities of the global capitalist elite. Its inhabitants are the subject of barely concealed scorn, or perhaps ambiguously romanticized as throwbacks to a kinder, gentler, less complex time. Either way they are not seen as full citizens and actors in the present political and economic moment, and often rural communities are seen as white savior projects – they must be saved from their truculence by some kind of development or program.

Or, if a rural area is fully integrated into the global economy, this has occurred, all too often, at the cost of its habitability. Giant fields or greenhouses tended by immigrant workers or, increasingly, robotic machinery. No one lives there. Not even the managers of workers or machinery, who commute from a nearby city perhaps. Different kinds of dystopia. Continue reading “Ramp Hollow: The Ordeal of Appalachia”

Resilience Hub

Hi everybody! I’ve been silent for a while. I’m not sure exactly why. Part of it is that I’ve been absorbed in a few projects, one of which has been standing up a resilience hub in my little town.

What is a resilience hub? It’s a kind of commons or community space: a place for people to get some help and to give some help to others. We are open three afternoons a week. We provide a free meal for whoever wants one, as long as supplies last, as well as a food bag of locally grown produce once a week. We provide access to laptops, internet, and printers, both 2-D and 3-D. We are starting a community garden. We hold classes in 3-D printing, gardening,  saving/investing and calligraphy.  We help people to access resources on the internet.

The hub is funded by Vibrant Hawai’i, a local non-profit, and our local Buddhist temple was kind enough to let us use their hall to house the hub. All of it came together, somehow, in confusion, haste, optimism, and utter chaos in September as part of the response to Covid19. We struggled for the first few months. It’s hard to start an organization from scratch, even with the best intentions and a source of funding. Luckily I had terrific co-conspirators – most of them people that I had never met before but who made a perfect team. Slowly we’ve picked up support and engagement from the community. People come by and donate produce, groceries, funds, and their time almost every day. It’s becoming a bit of a hangout for teens and for old folks, and a place for bit of help for the folks struggling on the margins.

Quite Possibly the Nicest Person on the Internet

This Thanksgiving weekend I am thankful for Julian Hoffman, who manages to be – on Twitter @JulianHoffman – a good, kind, humble person.  That is a difficult thing to do in a medium that rewards controversy, snark, and self-aggrandizement.  Julian Hoffman shows it does not have to be that way: that you can be supportive of other writers and Twitter users, that you can post fascinating, subtle photos and video of the natural world, that you can showcase the work of those who are standing up for and nurturing the non-human world and their local communities.   With a following in the thousands, he is successful by any rational, non-toxic definition of success as well, and his internet persona is a welcome tonic to the generally low internet standard of behavior. Continue reading “Quite Possibly the Nicest Person on the Internet”

A Renaissance is coming – David Wayne Fitzsimmons

We the People have voted, we have made our choices clear, and the path forward is constrained by all the built in checks and balances, and what appears to be a foot dragging fetish. The following is a piece from David Wayne Fitzsimmons, normally a political cartoonist published regularly in the Arizona Daily Star. It was forwarded to me from FB.

While this piece was published before Election Day a new administration will not be inaugurated for another two months so none of the concepts presented have been acted upon. However this exhortation offers food for thought, most especially the idea that democracy is not something that we have or can be given but is something that we do, with voting a small part of it. That said I cannot agree with all the language herein, in particular the parts implying American exceptionalism. Much damage has been done, both by a malignant demagogue and an apparently apathetic public. As well the wildfire virus is currently out of control. We have a long road ahead to regain our place as a partner among equals, much less to regain leadership. This essay asks some necessary though painful questions.

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“Will a virus kill our economy? Will our dollar lose its value? Will a civil war follow Tuesday? Will we tear each other apart? Or will we pull together, as we always have, to collectively rebuild our nation?

It is up to you, dear citizen.

I believe an American Renaissance is coming.

After the Black Death the survivors looked to the past for inspiration, beyond the recent Dark Ages, to classical Greece and Rome, which led to a flowering of enlightenment, the arts and sciences.

Out of the rubble an American Renaissance will emerge. And there will be a rubble of historic scale.

What is the future you want, citizen? A continuation of the Dark Ages or Renaissance?

A new President will have no choice but to call for the most radical sweeping legislation in the history of our Republic, a vast Marshall Plan for the rebuilding of our nation.

Are you in, dear citizen?

Will we cobble together a European-style blend of socialism and capitalism with healthcare a right, public service honorable, and sacrifice understood?

Will we reform our politics, creating a responsive accountable high tech transparent political system?

Will we have the will to strip money from our corrupt political system?

Your call, citizen.

Will we put country first and embrace the collective action our enormous challenges call for?

What say you, citizen?

Will we reward evidence-based policy makers and shun the donor-based policy makers that serve the narrow and forsake the Common Good?

Will rule by the obscenely rich end? Will you ask them to nourish the profoundly wounded Republic in which they flourished? Will Americans, in a protracted Depression, drive a tax collector’s spigot into the neck of every freeloading million, billion and zillionaire to lift up our nation, as all of us are asked to do?

Tell us what you think on Tuesday, citizen.

Will our nation put the vast jobless multitudes to work, leaning into restoring and building the next America, while an army of Americans will test and track this pandemic into containment?

It is up to you, dear exhausted citizen.

This can be the American Century, if you wish it so, citizen.

With innovation, science and tech know-how the United States of America will lead the way in combating climate change, bringing our people unparalleled prosperity.

Only if you wish it so.

Will we rebuild our nation’s bridges, roads, universities, and ports?

Will we upgrade public education and our entire digital infrastructure with the newest and best state of the art know-how that made us the envied and admired standard for the globe?

It is up to you, citizen.

From sea to rising sea we must combat climate change with the zeal and commitment of the America that liberated the world from Fascism in the second World War. We must build wind farms, solar farms, electric charging stationswith the patriotic zealwith which the Greatest Generation churned out the men, arms, bombers, and tanks that conquered an existential threat to our lives.

Our youth that vote on Tuesday will inherit this fight. They have no choice. They will be our next Greatest Generation.

Do you stand with them, citizen?

America surrendered to the threat of an invading virus because we chose to be led by a cabal of ignominious know-nothings who have poisoned truth with their malignant anti-science, anti-reason, and anti-education ethos.

Is that your America, citizen?

On Tuesday, it is up to you to deliver reactionary politics to history’s freezer.

Will America, reborn, seek truth, justice, and reconciliation?

Entirely up to you this Tuesday.

Will America, reborn, tear the cancer of racism from our hearts and finally embrace our diversity, and lift up our brothers and sisters?

Ball’s in your court.

Will America, reborn, fund public education at levels appropriate for a People willing to pay the price to make America a first rate world power, a light for the World? Will we reignite Liberty’s torch on election day? Will we choose the American Renaissance?

It is up to you, citizen.

Election Aftermath

The United States made the right choice after, to paraphrase  Churchill, exhausting all other options.  It would have been nice if we hadn’t gone down the Trump path but perhaps it was necessary to learn some lessons the hard way.  Hopefully he will soon be a distant figure in the rear view window, but before we pull away it would be wise to learn what we can from Trumpism. So here’s my post-election blog.   Continue reading “Election Aftermath”

Healing the Hearts and Minds of America

The Vatican has announced Pope Francis’s new encyclical, Fratelli tutti – dedicated to “fraternity” and “social friendship”.

“We live in a time marked by war, poverty, migration, climate change, economic crises, and pandemic.  Recognizing a brother or sister in everyone we meet…reminds us that no one can ever emerge from the present hardships alone, one against the other, the global North against the global South, the rich against the poor or any other excluding differentiation.” 

These words resonated with me as our nation faces the outcome of one of the most difficult and consequential presidential elections in our history.  Continue reading “Healing the Hearts and Minds of America”

On the Eve of an Apocalyptic Election

Having already voted by mail in our tiny, over-whelmingly blue state, we wait, with bated breath and knotted stomachs, for the results. 

The results of Tuesday’s elections for the US president will have far-reaching impacts – around the globe and on our individual lives.  The results of the Bush v. Gore election, for instance, led to wars which called my daughter’s father, a helicopter mechanic for the Army National Guard, away to long deployments on military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, and contributed, I think, to his early death. On a larger scale, the results of that millennial election meant that the US did not exercise its potential for global leadership towards lowering greenhouse gas emissions and reducing pollution, as might have happened under Gore.  It is my daughter’s generation that will feel the impact of that election acutely.  Continue reading “On the Eve of an Apocalyptic Election”

Climate hell is here. We cannot afford to ignore it.

As I read a recent headline in The Atlantic “The US is on the Path to Destruction” I realized once again that climate change is truly an existential threat.

Climate change is killing Americans and destroying the country’s physical infrastructure. The federal government spends roughly $700 billion a year on the military.  It spends perhaps $15 billion a year trying to understand and stop climate change.   I thought about those numbers a lot last week, as I tried to stop my toddler from playing in ash, tried to calm down my dogs as they paced and panted in mid-morning dusk light, tried to figure out whether my air purifier was actually protecting my lungs, tried to understand why the sky was pumpkin-colored, and tried not to think about the carcinogen risk of breathing in wildfire smoke, week after week.  The government has committed to defending us and our allies against foreign enemies.  Yet when it comes to the single biggest existential threat we collectively face—the one that threatens to make much of the planet uninhabitable, starve millions, and incite violent conflicts around the world—it has chosen to do near-nothing.  Worse than that, the federal government continues to subsidize and promote fossil fuels, and with them the destruction of our planetary home.  Climate hell is here.  We cannot stand it.  And we cannot afford it either. Continue reading “Climate hell is here. We cannot afford to ignore it.”