Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Trying to make a difference

This is the true joy in life, the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake.
~ George Bernard Shaw, 1856-1950 ~

Life, as we've come to think of it, goes on — despite the threat of climate change, energy crisis and economic decline. These will impact everyone in one way or another, whatever one believes. Much of my time has been spent trying to address these challenges at the local level as this is where i feel i can make a difference. I have continued to preach the Transition gospel to all who will listen. Consequently, i have given presentations in Maryland at Frederick, Towson, Greenbelt, Bethesda and Takoma Park, many of which now have budding Transition initiatives.

In the same vein, our group is working to encourage local farming and food production in the District. We have a demonstration garden where we conduct workshops and we field volunteers to help with community gardens. This becomes increasingly critical as USDA data has shown that one in seven US households have difficulty putting food on the table while 40% of food in the US goes to waste. As droughts continue and energy costs increase, cheap, imported food will become more difficult to sustain. If this is true of the US, countries like Jamaica which depend on imports for much of its food supply need to take note.

Additionally, a diet high in animal fat, processed carbohydrates and refined sugar has been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. More people need to eat more fresh fruits, vegetables and plant-based foods. If you have not yet reduced your meat consumption, begin now.

Above ground: The surface of the site was designed as a park by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., the leading landscape architect of his time. Tower-like structures are bins for storing clean sand for filtering the water in underground cells. The vines covering them were a part of Olmsted's design.

Another project which i've adopted is McMillan Park, the 25-acre site of DC's former water filtration plant. Underground there are 20 acres of catacomb-like cells which commercial developer plans call for demolishing to erect housing and shopping facilities. As an environmental designer and wearing my Ecolocity hat, i have proposed a Low Impact Development (LID) approach whereby the green space is conserved and given to urban farming and the cells are restored and repurposed for light industrial, agro-processing and retail use.

This could include a glassworks, utilising the tons of sand on the site to make bottles for filtered water from re-commissioned cells, possibly wine from grapes grown on the surface, beer and honey. Cows grazed above could also provide milk for cheese-making below. Mushroom growing is another possibility in the naturally cool, dark caverns. An existing underground stream could be exposed and developed as an urban beach, completing the creation of a destination that would bring delight and pride to the area's residents and countless tourists to replenish the depleted District coffers.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hand to mouth

Whether you and I and a few others will renew the world some day remains to be seen. But within ourselves we must renew it each day.
~ Hermann Hesse ~

Both my books, Wisdom for the Soul: Five Millennia of Prescriptions for Spiritual Healing and Wisdom for the Soul of Black Folk are still available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. These books are my bread and butter so if you haven't bought yet please do so and support a struggling self-publisher. You can also order directly, especially if you want them signed.

I've not expended further time or dwindling resources on developing other publications i had planned; the economic downturn is not the best time to expand production of something with as low a turnover as books. So those have been deferred indefinitely. I've been otherwise occupied with maintaining my patois website, Langwij Jumieka and other domains.

In October, after years of sending out resum├ęs and applications, i was fortunate to land a part-time job as editor/designer for a monthly newsletter put out by the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, which is the lowest level of local government in the District of Columbia. It helps pay the rent though it doesn't cover it entirely. My immediate boss is Commissioner Michael Yates, originally from Jamaica. Another Caribbean connection brought me another part-time position working with a Maryland heritage tourism non-profit, but that was short-lived due to internal constraints.

So i subsist hand-to-mouth, living on the edge, good thing my needs are few and my lifestyle simple. In a more ideal economic dispensation not wholly defined by monetarism, i'd be more than adequately compensated for the non-paid work i do. Never satisfied with things as they are, i've begun to explore Edgar Cahn's Time Banking and Co-Production, systems of mutual credit that are based on equitable exchange of service. That will probably be my next big thing.

I haven't had much time for anything else. I try to keep up my yoga and zazen routine and get some reading done on the train or while resting between sets at the gym. I've finally gotten around to reading Ken Wilber and am completely sold on his integral vision. It has given me a firmer and more defined framework for much that i already intuited and that i've tried to represent with SoulVentures and I-sight. I keep my counseling skills honed by the occasional consultation and by reading Wisdom Cards at Takoma Park Metaphysical Chapel once a month. After 29 years, i'm inspired to paint again. I've already bought brushes and acrylics, a new medium for me having worked almost exclusively in gouache.

These are exciting times and we have so many tools at our disposal. We are now more intelligent and more prepared than anyone who has gone before to take the next evolutionary step.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Local currency

One of Transition's key mechanisms is to set up a local currency to unify the community, encourage self-reliance and resilience. To this effect i started the Greater Washington Exchange to issue Potomacs. Here Dr Rogate Mshana, economist with the World Council of Churches, purchases the first Potomac at the Forum on Faith, Economy & Ecology, Washington DC, May 3 2009 where i was invited to make a presentation on Transition.

Local currencies are perfectly legal in the US and have usually emerged at times of economic uncertainty. Because earnings cannot leak away from the community and must be spent locally, studies have shown that one unit can circulate up to five times more than the equivalent dollar.

Potomac bill. Other denominations are 5, 10 and 20, accepted at five businesses as of this writing.