After several years of observations, with a little funding from the Rhode Island Rivers Council I began a video project to record wildlife in Providence’s North Burial Ground, with an emphasis on the tadpoles in a little drainage swale near the maintenance building. The Misadventures of an Urban Naturalist tells some of that story. There is also a larger and permanent pond in the burial ground, and it may be the best wildlife watching place in all of Providence The Bullfrogs of the larger pond were always of interest, but in some ways I used them as a back up, something else to focus on in case the drainage swale went dry and produced no tadpoles. As I noted above, the larger pond has an abundance of wildlife, 3 types of heron, ducks, geese, cormorants, kingfishers, and swifts, as well as songbirds in profusion, muskrats, occasional otters, a growing population (from 6 to 14 over the last few years) of painted turtles, several varieties of fish, and bullfrogs.
What is your vision for a new approach to economic development in Rhode Island?
Originally written as a letter to the editor December 18, 2013 Greg Gerritt
On December 18, 2013 in a remarkable juxtaposition the Providence Journal had an article “Analysts say income gap impedes growth”, an op-ed by by Steven Frias “Warnings of RI Stagnation go way back”, and an op-ed by John J. Colby “Wage regulation okay for the well to do”. Mr Frias repeats the tired old cliches about the business climate saying that the only way to move the RI economy forward is to cut taxes on the rich and remove regulations that protect the public health and the environment. The problem with Mr Frias’s argument is that there is absolutely no correlation between a good business climate and a healthy economy, and that if Rhode Island obeyed the business climate shysters what we would end up doing is increasing inequality further, which even economists and the pope are starting to realize harms the economy, as well as destroying democracy.
Mr Colby points out just how inequality has harmed our economy, the poor are unable to be the consumers our consumerist economy seems to demand. But considering the state of the Earth, and the likelihood that changes in the climate due to overconsumption are likely to overwhelm the effects of any boost the 1% will get from adopting the greed is good model, a model based on consumerism is unlikely to help our communities. Even the World Bank knows that ecological healing and economic justice are likely to produce better economic results than anything else in marginalized communities. Time for Rhode Island to learn that too.
This is actually the new normal. We are unlikely to ever see economic growth large enough to create lots of jobs as technology will destroy jobs faster than it creates them. American workers are going to see a reduction in per capita income as our national economy shrinks.
The real challenge is not to keep it growing, that is an ecological and social dead end, but to shrink it in a way that grows our Gross National Happiness. The way to do that is ecological healing, shrinking inequality, and focusing on community food security and climate resilience.
Read an article on Endangered Species Act success. Here is what I wrote in response:
Wish the Republicans could remember when they were a party of conservation and how much it benefits communities. The Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, The ESA, are some of the most important legislation Congress has ever passed, but every day they are under threat of repeal despite near unanimous support for them from the American public.
The 17th Annual Buy Nothing Day Winter Coat Exchange
Friday November 29, 2013
If you have a coat to give, please drop it off. If you need a coat, please pick one up.
Some see Buy Nothing Day as an escape from the marketing mind games and the frantic consumer binge that has come to characterize the holiday season. Others use it to expose the environmental and ethical consequences of over-consumption. In Rhode Island as part of International Buy Nothing Day, we hold a winter coat exchange in various locations around the state, where people who can donate coats, do so, and people who need coats pick them up.. Volunteers are needed to help with this life-affirming event.
Locations in Rhode Island
Providence State House Lawn brick patio across from the mall
Collection and give away November 29 9 AM to 1 PM
Rain location Gloria Dei Lutheran Church 15 Hayes Street Providence
Contacts Greg Gerritt: 331-0529; email@example.com;
Phil Edmonds: 461-3683; firstname.lastname@example.org
Pawtucket – 175 Main St Blackstone Valley Visitors Center
Coats accepted at the visitors center and many other locations in Pawtucket all through November during business hours.
Collection at November Winters Farmers Markets Wednesday evening and Saturday morning at Hope Artiste Village
Coats given away Friday Nov. 29 10AM -2PM
Contact Arthur Pitt ; email@example.com 401-369-1918 http://www.neighborhoodlink.com/NAP-_Neighborhood_Alliance_of_Pawtucket/home
East Providence Bridgepoint 850 Waterman Ave
Coats collected and given away Friday November 29 9 AM to 1 PM
Coats collected throughout November at various locations in East Providence and Seekonk including the Newman YMCA.
Contact David or Lisa Spencer 401-965-9099 Dspencer@atlanticpaper.com
Newport – St Paul’s Church 12 West Marlborough St.
Coats collected and given away 10 AM to Noon
Contact Reverend Becky Baumann firstname.lastname@example.org Coats also available at other church events
Wakefield –St. Francis Church, 114 High Street,
Coats Collected and given away 10AM to noon
Contact Tom Abbott 401-364-0778
East Greenwich St. Luke’s Church, 99 Pierce Street, East Greenwich
Drop Off and Exchange 10 am – 2 pm In downstairs cafeteria.
Greater Providence YMCA’s sites
All sites collecting coats throughout November Most sites distributing Coats on November 29 9 AM to 1 PM
East Side/Mount Hope
Drop off coats throughout November Not a distribution site
Contact Christy Clausen 401-521-0155 email@example.com
West Bay Family YMCA Branch
Collection and distribution site
Contact Kaitlyn Rooney 401-295-6501 firstname.lastname@example.org
Collection and distribution site
Contact Mike Norklun 401-943-0444 email@example.com
Collection and distribution site
Kent County YMCA
Collection and distribution site
Contact Patricia Driscoll 401-828-0130 firstname.lastname@example.org
South County YMCA
Collection and distribution site
Contact Melissa Bousquet 401-783-3900 email@example.com
Newman YMCA (Seekonk, MA)
Collection site only
Contact Paula Roy 508-336-7103 firstname.lastname@example.org
The mainstream media has universally condemned the protest at Brown this week, but they are grossly wrong in their understanding of what happened.
First: Free speech is for the people, not the government. The job of the government is to protect the right of the people to free speech. The government already has too many ways to get its message out, overt and covert. The government seems to lie freely, cover up its crimes daily≤ and try to squeeze all of the space away from whistle blowers and truth tellers. The government owns the microphones, the media seems to acquiesce, but the people must rise up strongly and fiercely and nonviolently to prevent the government from overstepping its bounds.
In this context think again about what happened at Brown. a behind the scenes donor wants to hear from a conservative proponent of violence against the people, the students hear about this, though not necessarily about the back door game being played in choosing him. The students petition the administration saying this is a really bad choice, the administration blows them off,. Then at the event the administration just sort of bumbles about. The speaker leaves with his tail between his legs and all across the world people opposed to the police state cheer.
Lets also put what was done in context in terms of the type of protest it was. If the students had marched on police department headquarters in NYC protesting the policy of stop and frisk, the NYPD would have beaten them with sticks, handcuffed them, denied them medical care. They have done this to protesters regularly for YEARS. The NYPD and its leadership have acted unconstitutionally for years.
Kelly then decides it is okay to come to Providence and spread the message that the ruling class thinks it is just fine to harass the poor and the people who do not look white enough. In other words he is a messenger of class war for the ruling class.
He comes to town, the protesters occupy the space. Is occupying that space any different from sitting in at a congressional office? Would the commentators have written so harshly of sitting in at a congressional office over something so egregious as blatant violations of the constitution? How about occupying the administration building at Brown when it does something egregious? Especially under the conditions that real progress on issues of justice at Brown usually happen only after the students do something bold and outrageous.
Thinking of what happened to Kelly as a protest is the wrong framing. It is an act of resistance. It is the same as the protesters going to Tahir square in Cairo to protest Mubarak and Morsi. You think if Mubarak had come to Tahir square the people would not have screamed at him and tried to shout him down? Under this context Kelly received mild treatment and the only thing that made this one different was the ruling class was caught by surprise, fumbled about, and have now started moaning about the evil protesters.
The shutting off of Commissioner Kelly’s microphone was an act of resistance that should be viewed for the resistance to government policy that it is and should be cheered.
This week the news was how great the startup culture in Rhode Island is. We have the infrastructure to help new businesses get off the ground, and there is lots of success. This is contrasted with the continual drumbeat about how bad the business climate is and how hard it is to grow businesses in RI. Which is it guys????
Maybe a simplistic question, but one that goes to the heart of the misinformation about the RI economy that the media and the wealthy persist in stating. The biggest misinformation is what a business climate is. The exact definition is how much a state, community, or national government is willing to kowtow to the rich and allow them to run roughshod over the health and safety of the community and how little the rich have to pay in taxes to maintain the health and prosperity of the community.
Business climates are one of the tools the rich have used to beat all of us around the head by telling us that we shall have nirvana if only taxes on the rich are low enough and there are no onerous regulations on business. There are a couple of things wrong with this model, one of which is that we are constantly told how important the place of Rhode Island is to our competitive advantage. People love our beaches, farms, rivers, and old cities, but the only way to make money is to redevelop real estate, and for that we need to undo wetland regulations.
Another of our contradictions is that we see on a daily basis is that the rent is too damn high, but falling real estate prices are anathema to our future. Which is it guys?? Do we want more homeless folks, more people who can not afford a place to live? Or is rewarding speculation and too big to fail banks by creating more bubbles in real estate?
Which is going to do more for our economy, affordable housing for everyone or speculative bubbles for the banks to profit from? The rent is still too damn high and ought to come down a lot seems much more important for our future.
The list goes on and on, but I will offer one more example and call it a day. Current policy in RI favors the rich. Incomes for the rich are skyrocketing while the rest of us fall further behind (see the rent is too damn high). Nearly all of the growth in income has gone to less than 10% of the population. But in the consumer society we live in rising inequality slows the economy as most folks do not have more money to spend. The more unequal an economy gets, the less well it works. So why does policy in RI flow in that direction?
Is Rhode Island ready to openly talk of its contradictions?
The flaw in this essay is that it assumes that economic growth is possible and desirable, when the reality is that the economy is already shrinking in western industrial economies due to ecological collapse, and that efforts to restart growth in the west are unlikely to succeed. We are seeing wages around the world move towards the mean, which means 90% of the folks in the west will be poorer. It still allows for growth in those places that are desperately poor, mostly because the only way any of this works is if the west gives up the right to steal the resources of the poor countries. As currently constituted, the global economy is rigged to help 1% maintain their wealth and power, which they do mostly with weapons and the ever growing police state.
Beyond ecological collapse in the ever more desperate thrashing for growth, the rigged economy generates ever greater inequality. The result of inequality is a deteriorating economy, which defeats much of the purpose of those who tout the greater power of the wealthy and their greater influence on policy. It is supposed to be able to at least create the illusion of growth during the bubbles, but even the bubbles look pretty strange when the only thing they are founded on is weird mortgages.
Tax the rich, feed the poor, heal the ecosystems. Put ecological healing and economic justice together, understand how the economy has to shrink in order to keep the planet livable, remember that community can substitute for a great deal of money, and that economic democracy is as important these days for community prosperity as political democracy.
Greg’s 60th Birthday Conference Speakers
4. Valerie M Moghadam Development and Patriarchy : The Middle East and North Africa in Economic and Demographic Transition World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations University Working Paper 99 July 1992
4A India’s Economy A Five-Star Problem The Economist Aug30 2013 by P. F. Mumbai http://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2013/08/indias-economy?fsrc=nlw%7Cnewe%7C9-2-2013%7C6543650%7C35389285%7C
Development Policy Staff, The World Bank, Washington, DC 20433, USA Received December 1978 (from Journal of Development Economics 6 (1979) 299-341 © North-Holland Publishing Company)
Posted: 02/12/2013 2:11 pm EST
16. James D Ramsey and Terence M. O’Sullivan There’s a Pattern Here: The Case to Integrate Environmental Security into Homeland Security Strategy
17. Robert J Gordon Is US Economic Growth Over? Faltering Innovation Confronts Six Headwinds NBER Working Paper No. 18315 Issued in August 2012 http://www.nber.org/papers/w18315
18. Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett The Spirit Level Bloomsbury Press New York 2010
19. Immanuel Wallerstein The Modern World-System: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century. New York: Academic Press, 1976,
20. United States’ 2nd-Quarter Growth Is Revised Up to 2.5%, From 1.7% New York Times
Published: August 29, 2013 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/30/business/economy/second-quarter-gdp-revised-sharply-higher.html?_r=0
21. Top One Percent Captured 121 Percent Of All Income Gains During Recovery’s First Years: Study Bonnie Kavoussi The Huffington Post
Posted: 02/12/2013 2:11 pm EST
Economic Policy Institute August 21, 2013
I have been reading a McKinney Global report on 5 areas of opportunity for the US economy. It reads just like every other report on economic development potential I have read for the last 20 years and misses the boat just as much. it is the business climate argument writ large. Reduce regulation seems to be the obsession, all the while minimizing the risk of environmental catastrophe and downplaying all the risks. Fracking is one of the stalking horses that McKinney just loves and climate change while mentioned, is just plain out of the calculations. Another dumb report
Published on ecoRI news http://www.ecori.org/green-groups/2013/8/15/misadventures-of-an-urban-naturalist.html
Greg Gerritt • If Central Banks are the determiner of economic conditions, which all of the above, and much of what we read elsewhere, seems to suggest, can someone tell me why so many insist that it is a capitalist entrepreneur driven system other than as a tool to steal more from the workers? If we talked about our economies as mixed, as an interplay of the public and private, we would have much more fruitful discussions, and we could get true sustainability on the table rather than lip service.
Now that I know more about what kind of frogs, toads, and tadpoles I am looking at I went back to Moshassuckcritters and updated all of the titles and writeups that needed to be corrected. Moshassuckcritters is available at http://www.youtube.com/user/Moshassuckcritters?view_as=public Thanks to all who helped in the quest. I still have lots of footage to edit and post, so expect more videos over the course of the summer. greg
Comments I made on The Economist website http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2013/07/economist-explains-2
I am thinking that maybe the double digit growth machine has run out of steam permanently. No country has been able to maintain the upward trajectory for long, and it appears that each new round ends up with the outcome of less income per capita than the previous round of countries climbing the economic ladder. One of the causes is ecological collapse, especially the destruction of forests. The harder it is to get wood, the harder it is to build cities. The heat is on China to reduce wood imports, and the flooding China is already experiencing, along with the droughts, remind everyone how little of its own forest China has left to protect its watersheds and climate. The smog in Singapore also reminds us.
A second cause is rising inequality, The Koch brothers and their minions tell us economies should only deliver for the 1%, but clearly that is not working too well.
I have always found that when there are fewer truly productive places to invest as modern economies grind down you get asset bubbles. These are not aberrations, they are the only way the 1% can get fast enough returns to slake their greed.
China has as many greedy people as the US, and when combined with the need to create employment to stave off civic unrest they make mistakes that bring the economy into stall faster. They grab more instead of more widely distributing income and building resilience to climate change.
We are looking at the financialization of everything, but it is no way to run an economy. Look for a long term trends towards steady state economies with all countries trending toward the global mean in income.
The Bullfrog and Gray Tree Frog tadpoles have turned to frogs. In the larger pond there are no more jumping tadpoles, now there are hundreds of frogs lining the shores. I collected a bit of video evidence today. It is right on schedule.
Today I found no Gray Tree Frog Tadpoles in the drainage swale/little pond. Yesterday I found only a very few. I did find one last frog and have some nice footage of it. I am in holiday mode and do not feel like editing footage this afternoon, but will put up some preliminary footage in the next few days, and with the changes, it is time to start putting together the developmental sequence of the two frogs. I have only some decent footage, but have learned much about both the frogs and the video process, so while I am looking forward to putting together the developmental sequence videos, I am really looking forward to doing this again next year much better than I did this year.
I expect that I will also write up my observations and put them together on this blog and on the Friends of the Moshassuck website.
Video is less than 6 minutes long. Lots of interesting stuff. Splashed by a hunting kingfisher. I am pretty sure in the 10 second section where george and i talk that those are bullfrog tadpoles from the drainage swale, not tree frogs. Rest of the time in the swale tadpoles are tree frogs. In the other pond all tadpoles seen ar yearling bullfrog tadploes likely to transform and become frogs in the enxt few weeks. Last year overlapped the tree frogs. Today was the first time I could really see the legs on the tree frog tadpoles.. I thought maybe yesterday, but on 1 or 2 treefrog tadpoles in the video there are unequivocable legs. Development goes on several more weeks as there are multiple nights of mating spread over several weeks and each night’s babies are a few days younger and behind in development. Note the different sizes that swim together, something more noticeable in previous days postings. Behavior of the tree frogs has also changed. For several days in the middle of the day they were all out swimming. Now they are staying in the vegetation more and moving much less. Becomes harder to find places where you can see any at all even though the numbers have not dropped off dramatically. Their swarming in the mid day sun seems so counter intuitive to a mammal, but now they are adopting more cryptic behavior. I am starting to see a study next year on when the change comes in the behavior, and could base it on some criteria of how many cross a line in x time based. Not sure I can be that regular. But it would be great training for a budding scientist. Anyone know a teenager in need of an outdoor study project? greg
Each year for the past several i have spent more and more time observing tadpoles in the North Burial Ground in Providence RI. This year I jumped in with both feet when Friends of the Moshassuck received a small grant from the RI Rivers Council to make the tadpole video I have been pondering for the last few years. All of the videos that have been taken and processed are available at http://www.youtube.com/user/Moshassuckcritters?view_as=public and more raw footage and processed footage will be added as it accumulates.
In past years I visited frequently but this year I am a bit more diligent during the day about getting over there so I can film for a few minutes. What has also happened is that I have made a more concerted effort to be out later so that the pond can be observed when it gets dark, the time that frogs mate.
There are two kinds of tadpoles in the Burial Ground, or maybe more properly there are two kinds of frogs in the Burial Ground, Bullfrogs and Gray Tree frogs. There may be others but we have no hard evidence of that.
The Bullfrogs reside in the larger pond below the esker. I can not begin to describe how lively a place that pond is. Several kinds of fish, bullfrogs, at least two kinds of turtles, muskrat, an assortment of large predatory water birds, ducks, geese, and an occasional otter.
At the large pond I have started recording birds, muskrat, Bullfrogs and turtles and posting some of it. I hope this winter to create a video collage of the wildlife at the pond.
The small pond in the burial ground is a drainage swale near the maintenance building that fills up in the rain and then slowly dries out. It often has water for months at a time, but goes dry after several weeks of no rain. Last year it was dry in the late winter, and filled up beginning with rains on April 25. This year it went dry on April 25, filled temporarily with some rains about May 10, went dry again May 20, and then filled back up on May 25. The rains of early June have it way over its banks. The Moshassuck runs right near the little pond, but it runs under I-95 and is underground for about 1/4 mile so it is hard to tell how much above river level the pond is, but the rise and fall of the pond is strictly based on the runoff it gets and how fast it evaporates.
Last year (2012) the first tadpoles were visible on May 12, which mating had to precede it by at least a few days. This year we spent time observing mating on May 10 and 11th, but the the pond went dry for several days so that mating may not have been fruitful. We observed mating on several evenings and have some great audio beginning may 25 when the pond filled up again, and the4 first tadpoles of the season were observed and filmed on May 31.
Having focused on the tadpoles the last few years, I get a renewed sense of wonder watching them each spring as they populate the shorelines by the thousands. What I was totally unprepared for, having not really been out at night the last few years, was the mating rituals at the pond. Here is a small snippet recorded on June 8, 2013 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIzDAbIsjF8 The recording can not do it justice. When 20 or 30 frogs are calling, from the ponds, from the trees all around the pond, it is not only a sonic experience, it is a visceral one. It may be the most addicting thing I know. i get out there and just want to record and listen all evening. And vibrate. And each time I go back and find them still there I am even more amazed. I have a little bit of video on moshassuckcritters that in the fading light has some pictures of tadpoles while the soundtrack is the calling of the adults preparing for that night’s mating. Here is the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4OEmfwqjXM
Turned out to be a different kind of meeting, so I do not need these, but feel well prepared, and think I need to turn these into the next essay to use in inviting folks to the October 12 conference, just a few more things to line up. greg
Notes for Sustainable communities hearing 5/23/13
We all agree the RI economy could be better. The issue I have with these reports is what it would take to achieve prosperity. It is my strong belief, backed up by observations from around the world, that the approach offered to the people of RI by Fourth Economy Consulting is the wrong one, and that the approach they offered does not work and should be replaced by a bottom up approach that begins with ecological healing and economic justice. I will present a few critiques of these reports and just a hint of where we might go knowing that this is just the beginning of this process. I am glad to participate in all appropriate ways throughout the process.
I have been reading reports like this for 20 years. They say the same thing all the time using different buzz words for a different day or place, but the concepts have not changed. If this stuff worked, it would have been done years ago.
A variety of issues to talk about in both reports I will start with Business climate since y’all did.
Business climate Refer them to Good Jobs First Report Grading Places What do Business Climate Rankings really tell us.
Analysis from Good Jobs first
BEACON HILL Institute
The most serious problem with BHI’s indices is that they mix causal and outcome variables indiscriminately. They claim that their index measures the “policies and conditions” in a state that make it more likely to compete successfully for economic growth, and their validity test is how well it predicts increases in per capita income. Yet a number of BHI’s variables are in fact measures of the outcomes or components of economic growth, not the causes of it, such as the share of adults in the labor force, budget surpluses, initial public offerings, exports, and firm births.
Similarly, a number of the variables are simply correlates of high income: the percent of households with cell phones or high-speed broadband, bank deposits per capita, and the prevalence of high-paid workers (scientists and engineers, high- tech workers). Not surprisingly, where people earn more money, they have more money in the bank.
The inclusion of variables that measure outcomes, or results of high or low income rather than causes, “…is profoundly circular logic and is equivalent to saying ‘we measure things that indicate how well off you are, therefore if you increase these things you will be better off.
THE TAX Foundation
The Tax Foundation here remains true
to the overriding principle governing the SBTCI: lower taxes are better no matter what. The Unemployment Insurance Tax Index rewards states for lower UI tax rates regardless of the condition of the state’s UI trust fund. States with trust funds teetering towards insolvency would be rewarded with a higher ranking for pushing the fund over the brink by imprudently lowering taxes. Such a move would, of course, necessitate higher tax rates in the future, but no matter. Fiscal responsibility does not really enter into this sub index
KEY concept Business climates measure effects and call them causes, which makes them extremely biased. AND
There is NO correlation between rankings in Business climate and the health of the economy. NONE
From the Mississippi Development Authority
According to an independent study by a major American manufacturer, Mississippi’s business climate ranked number one among 23 states in which it has manufacturing operations. Factors weighed included taxes, unemployment compensation, workers’ compensation, labor, transportation, energy, health care, job growth and quality of life. Mississippi’s diverse manufacturing sector produces ships, furniture, automobiles and parts, food, defense weapons, computer chips and electronics.
Mississippi is highest in teen pregnancies, infant mortality, lowest in per capita income
Why is this the model we seek?
More on business climate: Taxes make very little difference to start ups with no profits or low profits, so they are not an obstacle to start tying businesses, and despite everything y’all say, you admit that RI ranks high in business start ups, so what are the obstacles? Only in your mind.
How efficient the bureaucracy is about licensing may be an issue, but it would be a hell of a lot easier if businesses always held themselves to the highest standards of ecological and community participation.
Concept 2 following on your beginning.
Conditions have changed
The age of economic growth is gone. Conditions for growth do not exist and efforts to bring it back do more harm than good such as austerity, roll backs of environmental standards, low taxes and the national insecurity state. the global race to the climate nightmare is predicated in old models. But there is no there there.
conditions for rapid growth: Lots of immigrants from rural to urban willing to work for low wages. Forests that can be stolen. World is already half urban, US 80%, No new forests to exploit, or easy oil or easy iron or coal, just stuff that is harder to get, more expensive, and more polluting.
We have already run out of growth for most of the people in the west, the economies are already shrinking, if not for everyone, then for nearly everyone. What we call growth is mostly bad news for communities.
And funny money financial manipulations. Exactly what crashed the economy when they ran out of productive investments on this overcrowded trashed planet. Play real estate games. Steal for their masters.
These more and more desperate efforts like Representative Melo’s ridiculous proposal to place DEM regulators under the Commerce Secretary so that there will be incentive to weaken regulation are exactly backwards for what RI needs,. We need more ecosystem healing. I call such efforts thrashing around for growth in which the rich skate and the poor get crushed or poisoned.
We need both economic justice and democracy. Listen to the world bank for a bit describing forest communities which are essentially equivalent to our EJ communities.
The World Bank report on forest lending
WB 1.4 page 2 ”Poor forest governance stems from the fact that forests often have a combination of capturable wealth but poor, isolated, and powerless residents. Powerful interest groups can seize this wealth, depriving poor people of access to forest resources, and sometimes contributing to corruption and poor governance … this contributes also to environmental damage.
WB 2.82 page 57 Across the World Bank forest-related projects in the Sahel, the failure to explicitly address asymmetrical power relationships between decentralized bodies and forestry agents is likely to reduce the ability of local groups to actually exercise decision-making power in forest management.
When that happens communities suffer.
This is exactly what our low income and environmental justice communities face. If the work on equity does not specifically address asymmetrical power in economic decision making it unlikely to help reduce or eliminate poverty. You talk about economic equity, but it does not happen without political will to make sure the benefits of economic development stay with the people in the community and that they NOT be displaced or gentrified out.
Full Cost accounting: too much of your program seems to ignore the externalization of costs. Public cost, private profit.
We pay for the development nightmares like building malls in the flood plain. Or bulldozing beaches for luxury homes.
So I think you need a rethink of what sustainable development in communities looks like under the new conditions of the world.
Just few quick examples, focusing on some of the RI favorites for development this year. And the paradoxes involved.
Meds And Eds
this is one I talked about at an SBA conference a few years ago and was reminded of yesterday when I ran into someone who had attended at the state house where we are fighting building schools on toxic vapor sites (more economic development?)
Question how do you reconcile growing the medical industrial complex with keeping the cost of health care in check?
Would we not be better served by practicing prevention and community health rather than spending gazillions on high tech medicine that does not improve the length of life. Biggest increases in life span are sewers and vaccinations for kids, not heart transplants or genetic research. What are the benefits versus the costs looking like?
Eds, How does the cost of college skyrocketing significantly faster than the cost of living work for us? Fewer can afford to go, or more come out massively in debt. Is this just another way to trap folks in the debt cycle. And since there are no jobs , why? 42% of recent grads have jobs that do not require a degree. Law schools are saying do not come, there are no lawyer jobs.
Green Economy: Numbers on farms are wrong, and the focus on strictly energy for the Green economy shows a lack of understanding of what is going on in RI.
Housing: RI rents are high, too high for workers to afford 50% of income or so. But everyone in authority is always saying house prices going up is a good thing.
Economies that run on debt are guaranteed ecological collapse.
Gray Tree Frogs calling at night
Turtles at the NMG on a sunny morning
On Saturday night may 11 Michael Bradlee and I went to the NBG to see if the Tree Frogs were mating. The drainage swale had filled up this week with the rains for the first time in a month. Friday night we heard nothing, but as soon as we got there on the 11th, about 8:10 PM, the sounds were unmistakeable. I got about 11 minutes of audio (too dark for the visuals to show anything) and I have listened to it. At the pond it was nearly hypnotic, but on tape does not have the same power.
But all in all a good sign for the project as it means we should have tadpoles soon. I will check again on rainy nights to see if there is any other mating. it seems like there were about 10 frogs just from locations around the pond, but really hard to tell. In the dim light you could see occasionally frogs swimming, or at least the ripples in the water from frogs swimming, but none of it showed up on the video.
After I left the small pond I went to the larger pond and recorded a few bullfrog calls.
May 10, went to NBG about 7:30 AM. The tadpole drainage swale filled yesterday in the rains. Not completely, but pretty well. Remains to be seen if the Gray Tree Frogs will use it this year. it is much later than last year’s breeding already as there were tadpoles swimming by this time in 2012.
At the big pond I got my first film of a large bullfrog. I would like to see how that looks on a larger screen. I also got lots of turtle video and counted the colony. 13, Which is the most I have seen on any day this year. I also tried to film a swallow flying around, that ought to be ridiculously out of focus and off target but it was just wave the camera in the general direction of a fast moving target and hope that you caught something occasionally.
My goal for the next week is to put today’s video, especially the turtles, into one two minute video and get it posted. Means I have to learn how to edit and post. time for a new skill.
The Prosperity For RI project is heating up, and this week I found articles on the ridiculousness of the business climate game, more folks writing about the end of growth and sustainable prosperity, and some work on true cost accounting and externalities. I have some serious reading to do over the next few weeks.
The lower Moshassuck has had some interesting wildlife this week. The Rough winged swallows are swooping, I have seen several (maybe the same one multiple times) schools of some sort of bottom feeding fish, and for the first time ever I saw a Jellyfish in the Moshassuck on thursday May 2. It was in the stretch of river just north of the Citizens Bank Building.
At the North Burial Ground the turtles are out, saw a Great Blue Heron (got some video) and was told of a coyote sighting. The drainage pond that normally hosts Gray Tree Frogs is completely dry, so I have no idea if there will be a breeding season. Just waiting for rain.
Just a quick update on various wildlife sightings in the Moshassuck watershed this spring. 9 turtles at the large pond in the north Burial Ground. Turtles also seen at Galego Court pond.
Bull frogs seen at large pond in NBG, but no bullfrog tadpoles yet.
Merganser and Black Crowned Night Heron in the river along Canal St, Rough winged swallows just to the north on both sides of Smith St.
One school of fairly large bottom feeders (probably carp) next to Citizens Bank.
The Moshassuck wildlife video project will focus on Gray Tree Frogs but they have not appeared yet. Have taken video footage of painted turtles, a bit of muskrat footage, and some footage of geese and ducks. No bullfrog footage yet either.
Ecological healing, Ecological Economics, Economic Justice: Creating Prosperity for the 99% in Rhode Island
Margaret Flowers, co-director of Its Our Economy, is a Maryland pediatrician. After graduation from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 1990 and completion of pediatric residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Flowers worked first as a hospitalist and then in private practice. She left practice in 2007 to advocate full-time for a single payer health care system at both the state and national levels.
WB 1.4 page 2 “Poor forest governance stems from the fact that forests often have a combination of capturable wealth but poor, isolated, and powerless residents. Powerful interest groups can seize this wealth, depriving poor people of access to forest resources, and sometimes contributing to corruption and poor governance at the national level. Because it is more profitable to mine the forest than to manage it sustainably, this contributes also to environmental damage.
GG Outside interests are good at stealing forests from their inhabitants. They have been doing this since the beginning of cities as one can not grow cities without a ready supply of wood, wood that normally is in the hands of the people who already live in the forest. The routine is to kill, displace, or enslave the forest people and cut down the forest. Now it is done in the name of economic growth instead of Manifest Destiny, or some other appeal to nationalism, but the result is the same. Forest dwellers die or are displaced and the corrupt elite gets richer.
In my city we do not face an exactly analogous situation, rarely are their weapons involved, but what environmental justice communities in the US deal with comes from exactly the same impulses. Communities are run over, to their detriment ecologically, socially, financially. They are run over for exactly the same reasons communities in the forest are run over, and the remedy of allowing the communities control over their assets instead of assets being controlled by outside forces is exactly what helps communities become more prosperous. Whether you learn this coming at it from the forest or coming from brownfield communities you end up in the same place. Democracy, especially in the development process, is a critical factor if our work is to lead to ecological healing and to prosperity in low income communities..
GG The World Bank, and everyone else seem to always underestimate how valuable the forest (or the equivalent ecosystems in non forested places) is to the people who live there, and are finally coming to the realization that wholesale stripping of forests provides little of value to communities or governments, while making a fortune for the corrupt few. I hope they put their money where their mouth is.
WB Box 2.7 page 49 In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the World Bank supported a well-received and often cited piece of economic sector work, Forests in Post-Conflict DRC: Analysis of a Priority Agenda (2007), which demonstrated that domestic uses of the forest for fuel wood, bush meat, other forest foods, and medicines rank higher than timber in annual economic value. The total market value of both fuel wood production and bush meat was estimated to be over $2 billion, while the economic value of watershed protection was considered to be on the order of $100 million to $1 billion. In comparison, the total market value of both formal and informal timber was estimated at only $160 million. Even if timber production were to increase in the future, the report argues, it was likely to remain modest compared to the value other forest goods and services. Concluding that there was —an opportunity for developing new forest uses and financing systems beyond the usual models of timber production, parks, agriculture and small-scale harvesting by communities and local enterprises, the report argued for a turn toward multipurpose land use planning in place of the industrial timber concessions that dominated in the past.
GG Yup. It is crazy to trade $3 billion dollars a year of value to the many for $160 million a year pocketed by the few.
WB Box 4.2 page 90 Global Partnership for Forest Landscape with support from PROFOR.
The main finding was an exciting one: About 2 billion hectares of degraded and lost forest lands are suitable for restoration. Of those, about 1.5 billion hectares would be best-suited for mosaic restoration, in which forests and trees are combined with other land uses, including agroforestry, smallholder agriculture, and settlements. These are also the landscapes with a high potential impact on poverty reduction.
This message resonated particularly strongly with the Bank because of its own successful experience on the Loess Plateau in China, one of the largest integrated landscape restoration projects in the world, where terracing, natural tree regeneration, tree planting and managed grazing have resulted in increased yields, incomes and food security, as well as improved resilience, carbon sequestration and erosion control. Today this shift in management attitudes toward forests and agriculture is very palpable inthe Bank and has contributed to steer discussion on climate change toward more cross-sectoral, landscape based approaches (minding the + in REDD+, supporting climate-smart agriculture, etc).
—The fates of forests and agriculture are bound together…Forests cannot be sustained if people are hungry or the governance of natural resources is inadequate. This was widely quoted in blogs and media stories, and echoed in what other participants said in their presentations and speeches. There is a growing consensus among agencies, researchers, donors and policy makers that forest issues cannot be dealt with in isolation and that tackling deforestation is best done within an integrated landscape approach that builds on the huge opportunities for —triple wins∥ (income and food security, adaptation and mitigation).
GG You can not end poverty without healing ecosystems, you can not heal ecosystems without ending poverty, and you will not do either until we shut down the military industrial complex that is at the heart of the inequality on the planet and uses violence to remove the original inhabitants from the forests of the world. That we need an integrated approach to communities, ecosystems, economies, and that we need to use the appropriate scale for all of the work we do, should be old hat, but it is very difficult for the people in decision making roles to do that. A recent RI conference on the economy was filled with wealthy developers who were quite adamant that communities and rules to protect communities are obstacles to development, when the truth is that communities do not want to be looted.
WB 4.24 Page 93 In addition to the credits, an area has been transformed from a degraded landscape to a lush forested one, bringing a number of benefits such as reduced erosion, increased biodiversity and improvements in income for the communities involved in the project. The project has adapted techniques demonstrated in West Africa to promote natural regeneration of woodlands and has restored more than 2,700 hectares of degraded land. The regeneration project has reportedly resulted in increased production of honey, fruit, and fodder and has provided alternative livelihoods for a number of project beneficiaries
GG Ecological healing must be part of every development plan on the planet if we intend to eradicate poverty.
WB 4.30 page 94 A recent evaluation of the program (Blomley 2012) found that, while highly relevant, the program‘s effectiveness at the country level varied greatly between countries, especially in the extent to which the results of the participatory consultation processes were able to influence policy and catalyze legal reforms. Its main success at the country level was in —engaging new—and in many cases marginalized—voices within forest dialogue processes.∥ At the global level, the program succeeded in, among other things, identifying and defining a new concept—Investing in Locally Controlled Forests (ILCF)—which is increasingly being adopted by the Bank and the FAO. However, efficiency was undermined by a heavy administrative and financial burden under the Development Grant Facility and complex systems at the country level—in particular in terms of funding and reporting.
GG Investing in Locally Controlled Forests is the only forest projects the WB should be involved with.
WB 4.35 page 96 Similarly, it is to be expected that there will continue to be some level of friction between the Bank and some client country governments in using some of the approaches and knowledge products developed through the partnerships given their strong advocacy nature, for example, regarding equity, indigenous and local community rights, and actions to combat corruption and illegality.
GG More business as usual.
GG The WB acknowledges that the corrupt elites ruling most of the world are going to resist, but ecological healing, community control, and ending poverty are inextricably linked and must be practiced on a large scale as well as village by village if we are to keep Earth a safe place to live.
WB 5.8 page 101 Expand support for participatory forest management with help to level the playing field for community based forest enterprises by working with clients to improve regulations and procedures and integrate small scale informal forestry activities.
I question the assumption that there will be economic growth and rising wages. We are already into ecological collapse and the path to prosperity is ecological healing and economic justice. If incomes around the global equalize, as they must in a just world, and if we reduce consumption to keep the worst of climate change from happening and restore the forests, we can use less and enjoy community more.
As for healthcare, it is the biggest cause of bankruptcy in the US, and only through single payer can we stop the crazy idea that we should use the medical industrial complex as an engine of economic growth. All that does is make health care unaffordable. Good sewers and no more toxic chemicals in our food and water will provide for greater community health than the most high tech system money can buy.
The original impetus for this meeting came about when during the 2010 campaign I was at several events you were at and I thought that it would be good to have a conversation with you about my work on prosperity and the ecology /economy interface. It took this long for the follow up. It is clear the last 50 years have not been the best for the RI economy using traditional measures. But it is also clear that the approach to economic development that has been used the last 50 years is tied to a system that is failing the people of Rhode Island and has been relatively unresponsive to changes in the conditions on planet Earth. Economic planning is based on the assumption of fast continuous growth forever. It is my contention that growth is essentially dead in the industrial world, the conditions required for rapid growth do not exist, and that efforts to create rapid economic growth are likely to lead for a further deterioration of the conditions in our communities. Our communities would be better served by a smart shrinkage of the economy. It should be noted that nearly all of the low unemployment states are seeing booming employment from industries that contribute to more rapid climate change and the polluting of waters.
In regard to investments for state pension funds, one of your primary responsibilities, there are several points. There is a growing separation between the things one would do to get higher returns on investments and what is good for the community. A stock market valuation growing much more rapidly than the employment, and 121% of all the income gain in 2011 going to 1% of the population are merely exclamation points in this long term trend. Investing in off shoring, investing in businesses cutting corners, investing in the destruction of ecosystems may bring the returns needed to meet investment targets (though those targets have not been met for at least 5 years) but they are not helping Rhode Islanders except for a relatively small group of retirees. The expected returns are unrealistic except by investing in the most destructive economic practices, such as fracking, and make the overall economic situation in RI worse, Of special note for environmentalists is that returns on investment faster than the ecosystem can operate always lead to destruction of forests, soils, and fisheries. The forest in New England grows about 3% a year and cutting it faster than that (which a higher rate of return to investors seems to demand) depletes the forest, harms the water, increases flooding, destroys fisheries. Economists do not normally make that connection, but they should,
Investing directly in ecological healing in Rhode Island creates more jobs in Rhode Island with widespread benefits to communities and the economy, and even a lower rate of return on these investments than Wall St offers would provide more of a boost to Rhode Island than a higher rate of return from Wall St. it is a bit of a different approach to prudent man investing, but in the long run more prudent.
Economic justice, a more equal economy, is inextricably linked to prosperity and ecological health. Where the people have the right to stop inappropriate development or prevent their poisoning the health and conversely direct what kind of development is appropriate in the community, the prosperity of the community improves. When communities have no say, when the economy skews toward the rich, when communities are uprooted for private gain and at public cost, communities become less prosperous. The result of the skewing of the economy is always faster resource depletion, lower incomes, lower public health, shorter lives and less democracy. The best examples of doing it right are starting to emerge in the tropics, where according to the World Bank, when communities retain control of their forest the health of the forest is maintained while the lowest income people in the community eat better and have higher incomes than similar communities that lose control of the forest to outside logging interests.
Full cost accounting is the idea of counting all relevant information, not just the flows of money in determining what is going on economically. Too often we count resource depletion and other damage to our communities as a growth in the economy. Is repairing hurricane damage really something to be added to the economy, or should it be subtracted from he planetary budget as it furthers resource depletion to have to rebuild stuff that probably was in the wrong place all together, and incurs great societal liabilities if rebuilt .
I am happy to follow up further and provide references. And I invite you to a conference on October 12 2013 Entitled “Ecological Healing, Ecological Economics, Economic Justice: Creating Prosperity for the 99% in Rhode Island”
Greg Gerritt Prosperity For RI.com
With the changed conditions on planet Earth, climate change, depletion of resources, collapsing ecosystems, as well as an economy that no longer creates middle class jobs due to advances in technology, and runs entirely on excessive consumption with borrowed money, a report like the one the Fourth Economy Consulting team produced is in the long line of reports that postulates this or that hot economic cluster with some hot technology that moves people out of the job market is the thing RI should chase.
We might want to remember that in the US all of the economic growth is funny money financial speculation money that only goes to the 1%. The rest of us are already getting poorer, and will continue to do so as the global economy flattens out and sputters as the trees run out. Therefore we need much more of our economy in areas sheltered from the global economy and capable of producing more jobs meeting local needs for productive work that heals ecosystems. Any plan that does not include agriculture as a growing force in RI is not worth the paper it is printed on, and shows the complete poverty of the economic model the 1% continue to insist is the only possible future.
Writing on a rainy late winter morning. The days are getting longer, it is light at 6 AM. This rain will take much of what is left of the snow. I have been very focused on events and meetings and not done much writing recently. But I have been pondering what to say to Gina Raimondo at the meeting in 10 days. I know i can not give her the full force of my assault on Wall St, so I have to be very clear, concise, and laid back that day.
I had a piece of it walking last night, see if I can reconstruct it. if not today, tomorrow. I have to convey the relationship between the end of growth except for the funny money growth of the 1%, using the statistic from 2011 that the 1% received 121% of the rise in income that year while the rest of us, the 99% on average received 0.4% LESS income. So an investment strategy that focuses on growth like the stock market saw in 2012, about 6% then becomes the target for pension fund investments, investments that make money for the pension fund while at the same time harming the average Rhode Islander and contributing to excessive consumption on planet earth. That a better strategy might be investing directly in the state in adaptation to climate change such as decentralized power, much more local agriculture. Maybe in farmland to get new farmers into business.
I think I am going to have just about that much time. I need to make swift concise points. No more than 5, 3 is better but not enough to make a circle. Can I include the end of growth? The end of growth for who? Are we headed for the next bubble? How wasteful are those? Who benefits from bubbles are the rich. The end of more jobs with this phony growth unless we practice more economic justice and equity. Can i convey the spirit level stuff about how clear the evidence is that economic inequality is bad for an economy, and really works less well as we approach a steady state and begin the shrinkage. Can we shrink smart, can we accept interest and return rates at ecological speed. 2%
Can we start to account for ecology and community in our measures, using full cost accounting in our investment policies. Could we do more good here with smaller returns? Improve the situation of our citizenry, improve gross state happiness with a more level economy? Using ecological healing as a way forward?
Not going to get to all of that. maybe this week i write one of these a day. See how well I can hone the elevator pitch.
I live right off one of the oldest roads in North America. North Main St was originally the foot path used by the people of the Narragansett nation traveling between the confluence of the rivers in what became downtown Providence and the settlement at the falls at Pawtucket. The reason N Main has been used by people walking the approximately 4 miles from Providence to Pawtucket for so long is that it takes you out of the Moshassuck valley at a relatively easy place to climb up to the terrace, keeps you out of the swamps and the up and down terrain of what became the North Burial Ground, and then crosses the divide in to the Blackstone watershed at the easiest place to walk over the ridge. Considering how long people have been walking this trail it is rather ironic and sad that when it snows the route along N Main and at its southern end Canal St is not passable to pedestrians. The road is plowed, the traffic moves, but long stretches of it are either unshoveled or have their connectivity blocked by mounds of snow at the corners or next to driveways.
For pedestrians throughout Providence and surrounding urban communities the connectivity is broken in the snow due to the accommodations to the cars that are one of the key components in the global weirding bringing us these crazy storms, It appears the neighborhoods are accessible, with more shoveled sidewalks, more corner cut throughs, and less crowded streets, but the connections between the neighborhoods, and the areas between the neighborhoods and downtown, especially some of bridges over the Interstate which seem to be orphans, are rather weak. It happens that the overpass on Broad St was shoveled, but then, and I found this in many places today, when the plows came back to widen the streets, it pushed snow back onto the shoveled out sidewalks.
Being the obligatory walker I know routes that expose me to less traffic, I avoid most of N Main St, traveling up on the hill rather than the old road I can get to downtown in one piece. But if we are to be a walkable city, we are going to have to strike a new balance between opening the way for cars, and keeping the old trail accessible to people on foot.
When food scrap is buried in a landfill anaerobic bacteria, bacteria that live in places with very little oxygen, break down the food scrap. In situations where oxygen is abundant a very different set of bacteria break down the food scrap. When food scrap is digested by bacteria without oxygen the emissions include large quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. In addition a variety of sulfur compounds are created in the decay process, These stink, and are responsible for some, but not all, of the odor issues at the Central Landfill. RI Resource Recovery Corporation currently uses a methane recovery system in the landfill, selling the methane to an electric power plant, but the overall efficiency of methane capture is estimated at 50%. An alternative to burying the food scrap and recovering the methane is the building of large scale anaerobic digesters to create and capture methane. These systems are much more efficient than burying and recapturing, dramatically reduce methane emissions and allow the residue to be used for fertilizer or feedstock for aerobic composting.
Mr Sachs still seems to believe in the growth fairy. Developing world economies are going to grow for a while longer, but in the west, fast growth is over, and there is no real growth, just more funny money in the hands of the 1%.
Our crisis is not just ecological. It is also one of inequality. Evidence is very clear, inequality torpedoes economies as well as ecological collapse. We are in a crisis that only more democracy can heal. We can use less and share more only if the power of the 1% is checked by the community. We can not have industries blackmail a community with the old song and dance you shall have jobs if we can poison you. Communities must always have the right to say no to inappropriate development and yes to community investment.
Human beings already use way too much of the earth’s productivity to keep ecosystems healthy, we are living off the capital, not the yearly productivity of the earth. When the primary forests are completely gone, when the rural people have all been displaced, growth will be gone for everyone, not just those in the west where growth has already disappeared.
I ponder all the time whether there is a physical solution, or if changes in human consciousness about our place in the universe must come first. All I do know is that we must not do smart growth, but smart shrinkage in my neighborhood if we want to end hunger.
This morning I was listening to the radio and heard a commentary on the RI economy by Scott Mackay. Mackay was spouting the usual propaganda offered to us by the ruling class. We have to cut taxes and get folks working again. Excuse me, but we have heard this before and it still does not work.
The conventional wisdom, the dominant paradigm,, the only ideas acceptable in the public square or in the commercial media are that if we could only make the world safer for the 1% we could have good times (fast economic growth) in Rhode Island and that the biggest problem that RI has is that it does not kow tow to the 1% enough because the unions will not let the corparados screw the workers. Scott, I expect better of you, some real analysis and some real inquiry into the causes of our economic situation.
We need to ask a few new questions and have a different discussion this year. Since we are already talking about the 1% and the 99%, we could talk about how the 99% have done under the corporate reign that began with Reagan in the 1980’s versus how the 1% has done. There is NOTHING in the actions of workers since that time that in any way compares to the harm done to the American economy that the 1% has caused simply through rigging the system so that they get all the new wealth and everyone else gets poorer. That is prosperity?
Would you at least ask the question about the role increasing inequality plays in messing up economies? More and more authors are pointing out how inequality in the economy drives the growth out. Have you read any of that material? They make a pretty convincing case that only when there is actual community participation in decisions on the economy can you achieve a sustainable prosperity in the age of climate change.
Have you tried to apply this new understanding of the role of inequality in gumming up an economy to the standard wisdom being spouted in Rhode Island for the umpteeth time? Have you asked how any of the proposals from the chamber of commerce, the various foundations and commissions, from the RIEDC or legislature will decrease inequality? Or is it because no one wants to know the real answer, the one that says all of the ruling class ideas on how to fix the economy are based on a planet that no longer exists, in which true democracy is just an obstacle to prosperity. Which Congress have you been watching for just how crazed the 1% and their lap dogs are?
Some more basic truths need to be applied to the conventional wisdom in RI. The conventional wisdom says decrease regulations (I talked of taxes indirectly in the previous paragraphs and will not repeat that case here). but this morning, very close in time to your commentary there was a discussion of just how bad the air pollution in China is right now. It is a true killer smog. Just like places in the US got 50 years ago that caused us to try to get out of the stone age of regulations in which the rich could do anything and won every court case. We made great progress, with cleaner technologies almost always providing for more efficient industrial processes and better profits, but to this day the loonies on the right demand less regulation and more right to pollute, destroy wetlands, over fish, and destroy the climate. That gives us a country like China in which a small elite make the rules, they apply them selectively, and while the resistance to the rich grows every larger, the growth that the leaders crave gets eaten up fixing the problems the over development is causing. China may be eating up to 50% of its growth dealing with the damage each year. Is your goal to return RI to that condition in pursuit of growth?
The road to prosperity does not pass through lower corporate taxes and deregulation, as much as I, like everyone in Rhode Island knows of rules and laws that just plain are hard to navigate and make life a bit crazy for innovators. The road to prosperity begins with understanding that economic growth is essentially over in the west. It is more than likely that wages in the west will start to settle down towards the global mean while incomes in the poorest parts of the world continue to rise, a bit. We now have jobless recoveries in between bubbles. Workers are obsolete, even college educated young people can not find jobs and are likely to be only loosely attached to the conventional job market for many years to come.
If we have jobless, bubble growth, is it actually growth? But this is the only thing offered to us by the conventional wisdom. So let us start to try to figure out how to create jobs even as the economy shrinks. Two related places to start, ecological healing and food security. Which are completely integrated into the work to slow and adapt to climate change.
in other words building community resilience, growing more food, using less energy, recycling everything, is not to be the fringe or frill on the economy, it is the main course. If Rhode Island wants prosperous communities, the only smart thing is to begin the process of ecological healing, restoring forests, soils, fisheries, watersheds, and clean transportation infrastructure.
The conventional wisdom will not get us there. The conventional wisdom calls for austerity, deregulation, lower taxes on the rich. Can someone tell me how that slows climate change and helps us adapt? Can someone tell me how that does not lead to ever faster destruction of the ecosystems that feed us? Can someone tell me how it reduces inequality in the community and allows communities to protect themselves from corporate greed and power?
Scott, I am waiting for a better analysis, one that actually asks the important questions rather than parroting the received wisdom. .
Greg Gerritt 1/1/13
Had a very interesting morning, reading about the next economy and walking in the woods along the Seekonk.
The reading was a mixed bag. Some articles in the book “The Coming Transformation” edited by Kellart and Speth, an editorial in the Projo based on its long series of articles on the economy (continuing its prescription that will not fly), and my weekly dose of ecoRI news, with reports on the Green economy and smart growth.
The trip to the river was excellent. The mix of sun and clouds as the sun rose in the east, an eagle and a set of coyote tracks going along the same trail I was using. In the three days since the snow the lone coyote track was the only thing on that trail. It occurred to me that it might be nice for someone else to see the coyote trail so I tried not to step on it, but it was difficult. The trail, which I know quite well, is relatively broad, but it only has one good track for traveling the side hill. The coyote was in that one track, so if I wanted to avoid the footprints, I had to walk off the real track, and it was clearly noticeable, I was just a bit off balance the whole time.
The eagle needs comment only because this year you see one nearly every day along the Seekonk, whereas when I moved to town 16 years ago I did not see any in this spot for several years. Over the last 15 years they have become more and more common along the Seekonk, with at least 3 seen regularly this winter.
Getting back to following the trail, the coyote and I both followed a trail that was shaped by the contours of the hill (as modified by the trail maker). The economic trail the Projo offers us ignores the contours of the land, offering us a vision of what the 1% would have us do to enrich them. The environment, poverty, people, irrelevant. We shall replace the people of RI with some mythological ready for business automatons that shall lets us pollute and steal to our hearts content. They never explain how this benefits anyone other than the 1%. They have been saying the same thing for at least 50 years, low taxes, bust unions and all will be right with the world. If it worked so good, everyone would have been there years ago. There is no vast left wing conspiracy in the US with enough power to undermine the capitalists if they had anything of value to offer. The Projo needs to understand that only economies with economic equality as a goal and practice can go forward successfully in the 21st Century. As long as we try to enrich the rich, the RI economy is going to stay dormant.
Strike two for the Projo, and for all of the other commentators I read, is the continued expectation of economic growth. If all the growth is pumped up funny money based on treating workers like dirt, financial shenanigans like looting pension funds and tax breaks for the rich, and the destruction of the global forest, can it really be called growth if more and more Rhode Islanders struggle to make ends meet? And the planetary systems are more and more damaged and less and less productive. 93% of the growth in income in the US over the last 5 years has gone to 1% of the population. Do the math, If the second through the 10th percentiles did just a little better over that time, the other 90% actually lost income. The economy being offered by the Projo, and the smart growth advocates is guaranteed to fail the community and the planet. The fiscal cliff is just the latest farce in this tragedy. There has to be a better way, and there is.
My goal for 2013 is to make sure that in Rhode Island the economic alternative to the global capitalist order that is eating the planet and poisoning the poor gets noticed and becomes more integrated into how we think about the economy and what we do to improve it. Towards that end there will a conference on October 12 2013 Ecological Healing, Ecological Economics, Economic Justice: Creating prosperity for the 99% in Rhode Island. You should all put that in your calendar and make plans to attend.
As I get older I am becoming more familiar with the rhythms of the Solar System, the Earth around the sun, the moon around the earth and sun, and the other visible planets. I am no expert, but have learned to find the plane of the ecliptic and more readily find planets. I have learned to tell time by moon as well as the sun.
The last few years I have been frequently checking on both day length and the amount of daily change in day length. One of the more interesting ways to ponder this is to note that every spot on earth gets exactly the same number of hours that the sun is above the horizon over the course of the year. Every place on earth averages a 12 hour day, if you measured from sunrise to sunset and added them all up over the year. At the North and South Poles there is 6 months of day and 6 months of night. At the equator every day is 12 hours from sunrise to sunset. It then follows that at 45 degrees north and south the longest day would be 16 hours and the shortest 8, give or take a few seconds as the world is not a perfect sphere.
Providence is at approximately 41 degrees North and has a shortest day length of 9 hours and 8 minutes and a longest day length of 14 hours and 52 minutes. At the solstices day length changes by less then a second, 3 seconds the day before and after, 5 seconds the day before or after that, rising to 2 minutes and 48 seconds at the equinox and the days surrounding it. For comparison I looked at the change in day length in Barrow Alaska in northern Alaska, and at the equinox day length was changing by 6 minutes and 47 seconds each day.
Makes sense as if day length is going to go from 1 hour to 23 hours in the same amount of time as day length in Providence goes from 9 hours to 15 the change each day is going to be much larger at the equinoxes than it is here, remembering that at the solstices everybody has a length change of zero.
One great thing about this is you only have to learn the numbers once. They never change. Next year, 15 years from now, 15000 years ago, day length at the winter solstice in Providence or what was the land upon which Providence was later planted was and will continue to be 9 hours and 8 minutes. There are things that can change our relationship to the sun, but other than putting a motor on the planet and rocketing it to another part of the solar system, none of them can be changed by people.
I wish the same could be said about the climate. But clearly what we people have done is set the world on fire. It is not going to be pretty, but there is much we can do to ameliorate the situation if we decide to. I hope that learning about the sun, the planets, the moon, the tides, and closer to home the living world, will help us think more clearly about climate and what would be good courses of action. I hope learning to look at the world, to observe, to measure, to analyze, but also to dream and imagine based on what we see will help us be more prepared for the coming storm.
Today the day length in Providence is 9 hours and 8 minutes, but tomorrow it will be 9 hours and 9 minutes, and it will be more than 20 seconds longer than the day before. Summer is coming.
I am preparing to give a short briefing to the staff of a public official. Here is what i intend to talk about and to leave behind for sharing with their boss.
2 major topics the economy and solid waste/compost
The framing of the economy in the debate about how to create prosperity in our communities is one of the biggest obstacles to prosperity in RI. As long as the debate is about how best to kowtow to the 1%, the 1% will make out like bandits, while the rest of us, and the public infrastructure and our democracy, wither on the vine.
The evidence is becoming quite noticeable that economies that are more unequal work very poorly and inefficiently. Everything we do to kow tow to the 1%, tax breaks, subsidies, tax policies, trade policies, military adventurism, hurts our communities. Low taxes for the rich serves no good public purpose.
We have to think very carefully about the conditions for growth in modern economies. Rhode Island does not meet any of those characteristics. efforts to create faster growth therefore backfire, creating more inequality and slowing growth. There is no room here to explain, but I would be happy to either by directing you to other writings or specifically setting up a time to talk about that.
Rhode Island will only get to a more equal economy if we practice economic democracy. Communities have a right to determine what is not appropriate for our communities. We give this option to towns about casinos, but not really much else. We end up getting poisoned and with less prosperity.
38 Studios was a failure to practice democracy. Compare and contrast to the stakeholder process on the Quonset container port. The entire leadership of the state was on board screaming this is nirvana. The public hearings demonstrated exactly how not true that was, and we made it obvious that the 2 con men had conned everyone except the public. Based on conversations I had with some prominent RI business people and thinkers, public hearings would have exposed how bad a deal 38 Studios was.
In addition to the requirement of economic justice, prosperity in RI will not come about without ecological healing. Not just in one area, but in many including climate, oceans, fisheries, biodiversity, soils, agriculture, and forests and retreating from the coastline. Dismantling environmental protections or making it easier for businesses to do the wrong thing harms the economy, not helps it. Claiming environmental regulations hurt business is old hat, and totally not true.
Solid Waste and Compost
RI should seek to become a zero waste state. This will enable us to capture much more value out of the resources we already use. And create more jobs while reducing our carbon footprint. If you are creating commissions to look at trash issues, a comprehensive approach is going to give us much more value for our efforts.
A big part of zero waste is compost. We have to get the food scrap out of the waste stream so it can be used to grow more food. Climate change and other factors are going to create a much less food secure RI unless we grow a lot more food here. And that does not happen without compost from food scrap.
RI needs to raise tip fees. As long as it is dirt cheap to throw stuff in the dump, our communities will demand to do just that. We can not raise tip fees without a comprehensive approach that creates clear community benefits.
Today on the news I heard that RI state pension funds had a return on investment of 1.5% in the last fiscal year. Grew right along with the growth of the economy for the 1%. Rest of us fell further behind. But what the pension fund really fell behind on was its expected growth, the growth that allows the fund to make payments to retirees. The official expectation for the pension fund is growth of 7.5% each year. This is recent as previously the rate of return expected had been close to 8%. In either case the actual return was only 1/5 of the expected return. Adding to a long string of years in which growth targets were missed by a wide margin.
In a place without an out of control ruling class seeking new ways to loot the populace, the state would tax the wealthy to make up the difference in the pension funds because there is a clear understanding that equalizing the wealth strengthens the economy.
But even that will not really solve the problem that the pension funds are going to get smaller and smaller returns over time. Not due to mismanagement, but because the economy is going to get smaller. The stringing out of the recovery after the bubble burst being only the latest and most abundant clue that we have essentially reached the end of economic growth in the west, especially any growth that actually flows into the hands of the 99%. There are many levers that can be pushed to create more economic growth, but the one thing economic growth is unable to survive is ecological collapse. The loss of soils, clean water, forests, fisheries, and biodiversity, combined with the fires, droughts, floods, and heat waves of climate change is eating up all the actual growth and many people are ending up poorer even if a few in the cities are getting richer.
This is why over the last 15 years the west has either been in the midst of some bubble or in recession. We have gone from HI Tech and internet, to Housing and strange financial instruments as the bubble we obsess over, but the results are the same. A small class makes out, everyone else falls behind, and the Earth becomes a less hospitable place with diminished life.
Rhode Island’s pension fund is hurting even with the current “fix” and the economic shenanigans used to grow the economy faster are a disaster (remember 38 Studios). Rhode Island needs a new course, based on ecological healing and economic justice if it is going to have prosperity.
The President and the Congress suffer from an extremely virulent form of Potomac Fever. It seems to strike many who go to Washington to hold power. Unfortunately Potomac Fever is a disease that only kills those who do not have it. The uninfected it kills by the millions, while the biggest bubble on earth insulates the Washington elite from dying of the Potomac Fever they rain down on the rest of us.
Rhode island voters normally approve bond issues for infrastructure, schools, and protecting the environment (broadly defined). 2012 was no exception. The legislature had to be dragged kicking and screaming to put the bond issues on the ballot, the people approved them overwhelmingly.
There are many reasons for the people being ahead of the legislature on this. The primary reason is that most of us never have our ears twisted by millionaires promising re-election if they just cut services more and lower taxes. Out here where most of us live it becomes more obvious daily that good public services, good schools and well thought out transportation systems for example as well as robust emergency systems, make a huge difference in the health and prosperity of the community, and we have seen little evidence that privatizing all services will save us money or improve service. All it will do is undercut the middle class. We have also figured out that the health of the ecosystem and the natural and agricultural areas around us makes a huge difference in our lives, and the prosperity of our communities.
So the people voted quite strongly for better infrastructure and a healthier environment, for investing in the future. Hopefully the legislature has learned a bit, and figures out the next budget crunch needs to be balanced on the backs of the wealthy not on the rest of us.
Further buttressing the argument is the recent work noting that economies with less economic inequality work better. Demand and supply are more predictable, and much less money is hoarded. Money stays circulating in the community longer as well.
Come to the conference on October 12 2013 Ecological Healing, Environmental Justice, and Prosperity for RI communities. Registration will open soon.