Welcome to the October 31,2006 edition of the Satya Center newsletter. Warm greetings from your Editors, Curtis Lang and Jane Sherry.
The new Satya Center Garden is transforming our new home on Roxbury Road. What was a suburban style expansive lawn when we moved in is now flowering, with two new large raised, terraced row beds for the herb garden, three new flower beds, and a newly installed vegetablegarden. We have been planting lots of clover in the lawn, wherever there are brown spots or open areas of any kind, and I have been joking with Curtis that within a couple of years there won’t be any lawn left. Actually this is my intent!
We are successfully transforming our new rural home and that feels very good to us, as autumn winds blow wild, and temperatures roller coaster between sub-freezing and seventy degrees.
Yesterday, I finally started putting our many gardens to bed. The patch of mixed calendulas is still in full bloom in spite of the several hard freezes we've had and the 35 (F) degree temperatures at night. We've switched to wool socks and started enjoying the winter roots and squashes we're getting from the Roxbury Farm CSA in nearby Kinderhook as their season winds down as well.
The Satya Center Garden is becoming both a biodynamic garden and a neighborhood garden.We've gotten one spraying of Biodynamic Barrel Compost, Preparation 500 & 501 out onto all of the garden beds and around the perimeter of the property, including the newly installed beds for next year’s new vegetable garden.
We had sunrise biodynamic fun a few weeks back stirring and spraying the preparations up and down Roxbury road with our friends and neighbors -- Abigail (6 years old), Chris and Betsy. Chris is an Agriculture Ph.D. with an alchemist’s touch who is the head baker in the massive, biodynamic Hawthorne Valley Farm bakery in nearby Harlemville. Betsy is an experienced nutritionist and we are always learning new techniques and getting new garden insights from Chris and Betsy. If you would like to learn about the benefits of home-brewed, lactofermentedsauerkraut, read Betsy's Sauerkraut Recipe-- now is the time to make your yearly supply of kraut! Chris and Betsy are longtime biodynamic practitioners, with a biodynamic vegetable garden of their own. We are co-ordinating the planting of our new vegetable garden with theirs, and that way we can share complementary vegetables between households, so now gardening will be a true community activity for us.
Our formal flower garden was a great success this year, as was the herb garden even though they all got planted in mid July, much to our surprise. I call it formal because we had a great local plantsman, Bob Hyland from the Loomis Creek Nursery create the design for us. The most eye catching thing in the front had to be the giant green castor bean which towers over our roof & looks tropical with its umbrella sized leaves. This amazing creature was growing an inch a day during the summer season.
My style in the garden is a bit messy-laissez-faire. I tend to nurture misfits: volunteers and weedy favorites like dandelions, mullein, and nettles. We wanted one garden close to the house that had the wildness and beauty of our area as well as an artful design to make us all happy: residents, neighbors, devas and nature spirits. Of course, our little kitten Devi thinks it's the most fun place to play hide and seek in the giant purple salvia and to chase bugs, mice, neighborhood farm cats, and anything else that moves on land or in the air – except motorized vehicles and farm equipment, which she avoids like the plague. I'm working on training her to catch grasshoppers.We’ll see how that goes. She needs to learn the difference between the grasshoppers and the praying mantis! There’s a challenge for any would-be cat trainer, for sure.
Speaking of bugs, I am so pleased that in addition to the plentiful bugs which chew on our flowers and herbs, we are happy to see that many beneficial insects have made our gardens their home. We now have lots of lady bugs, praying mantis and honeybees, as well as a plethora of earthworms taking up residence in our gardens.
We put in two large terraced herb beds on the sloping hill to the side of the house, where we transplanted some of the herbs that had been fostering at Roxbury Farm since June 2005. We brought back peppermint, spearmint, thyme, lemon thyme, anise hyssop, st. john's wort and echinacea along with some of Roxbury's good energy and their soil mycorrizae! Thank you to Jean-Paul and Jody, our good friends at Roxbury Farm, which is a model for farmers across America.
I replanted hyssopus officianalis (a favorite for coughs, of the bees and for whitening my white laundry). We planted pathways of lemon thyme and lavender thyme, and beds with angelica, valerian, skullcap, echinacea angustifolia and purpurea, lemon grass, lemon verbena, more lemon thyme, bronze fennel, rose geranium, multi-colored yarrows and more.
As I mentioned, we also prepared a giant vegetable bed that will winter over after a final dressing of composted mulch and a homemade vibrational medicinal crystal elixir to bring in cosmic forces and nurture lifeforms inhabiting the soil.
The very last big thing we did to the yard was to give away the little solid wooden chickenshed-house down at the bottom of the hill. It wasn't practical for garden implements. Our neighbors took it away --which was an elaborate event in itself involving heavy equipment and substantial pre-planning -- so their kids would have a playhouse on the site where they’re building their new home.
They did a beautiful job fixing up and repainting our little shed, andwe get to see it all the time around the corner, up on a hill, perched like a little landmark, looking as though it was there for fifty years.
Our reward for this gift was immediate and surprising. Behind the little shed we uncovered a beautiful, secluded little open area, hosting a magnificent triple trunk maple tree with beautiful big roots growing curled around a slate shelf on the hillside. Underneath one root is an entrance to what looks like a wonderful home for some creature or Nature Spirit.
This tree is our garden deva – our sacred portal to the Triple Fold Goddess, a true Guardian Spirit for the land. We have started making offerings at her feet to the property, the neighborhood, the ancestors, and also to the world.
We thought it fitting on the Eve of All Hallows Eve to honor all of our ancestors there, not just our own, but those of this place, and also those of the many dead, especially those killed in wars. So yesterdayevening at twilight, Curtis and I tied two ribbons onto trees at the feet of Our Lady Tree, one to honor ALL the dead killed in wars. One ribbon to honor our beautiful Mother Earth, her lakes & streams, her oceans & ice caps, her earth & atmosphere; with a prayer for safekeeping, for cleansing, for harmonious change in the way that we as human stewards, care for Her. Those ribbons will receive our prayers all winter long, and then again, come spring we can re-energize our intent to honor the dead & our living earth.
Now that the harvest is in and all of our herbs are dried and waiting to be mixed into my herb tea mixes, we can complete another yearly circle of garden life. We will harvest the last of the calendula flowers to be put up in apricot oil and the remainder of our herb and flower seeds today, All Hallows Eve. In so doing, we honor the continuum of life, the wheel of the yearly cycles, and our ancestors, many of whom were gardeners in order to survive, passing their knowledge and skills on to us. We will only grow heirloom and non hybrid plants in our garden so that that we may continue to gather seeds, selecting the strongest each season, so that they are truly seeds of this place, able to withstand the insect and climate stresses we are presented with on Roxbury Road, with its own little micro-climate.
All Hallows Eve and All Soul’s Day – A Day to Remember the Ancestors
Blessed Be This Samhain!
This is the season of Scorpionic holidays, celebrating the time of yearly transformation when the veil between the worlds thins and all things normally repressed or hidden from sight erupt into the everyday world. Scorpio traditionally rules the process of transformation, and the evolutionary processes of death and rebirth.
As we approach the American holiday of Halloween on Tuesday, October 31, Madison avenue's imps of marketing materialism are working overtime to spread the message of continuous consumption no matter what is going on in the world around us. Children will buy costumes and put on scary faces resembling ugly witches, ghosts and whatever television heroes are popular this year.
As children go door to door in our neighborhoods, in a harmless quest for sugary treats, the media and our government pursue a seemingly endless campaign spreading fear, paranoia and their agenda of mindless materialism. Parents will be warned away from homemade foods, in fear of razor blades and poison they may contain, and consumption of individually wrapped corporate white sugar and corn syrup candies will be encouraged instead of healthful treats. If you are lucky enough to gather in your community this weekend, and share healthy foods, then you are standing up for values which are not part of the status quo.
Halloween, known as Samhain in the Celtic and pagan traditions, is one of the high and holy cross quarter days marking the seasonal turning points in our earth's journey around the sun. Samhain is the point in the year between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice and is an excellent occasion to honor the young and the old. Samhain is the traditional Celtic New Year festival, a time of endings and beginnings. At this sacred time of transition, the most powerful, numinous twilight of the year marks the opening of a portal between the earthly and spiritual worlds.
Ancient Celtic people contacted deities and ancestors at this highly charged moment of enhanced clairvoyance, and out of this evolved the Anglo-Saxon Halloween tradition of ghosts, goblins, witches and other shape shifting beings.
According to Starhawk, in her ground breaking book "The Spiral Dance", medieval Celtic witch covens preserved the "knowledge of the subtle forces" inherited from earlier, pagan Goddess-worshiping cultures extending far back into pre-history. The covens "were called Wicca or Wicce, from the Anglo-Saxon root word meaning 'to bend or shape'. They were those who could shape the unseen to their will. Healers, teachers, poets and midwives, they were central figures in every community."
Pagan, earth-centered religions see the Divine manifest in Nature and all of Creation, believe in the concept of immanence (the Goddess/God within), believe in the spirit which resides in all things seen and unseen and in unending cycles of birth, growth, death and renewal.
As Starhawk writes so beautifully in an essay on BeliefNet, "Samhain--pronounced ‘sow-(rhymes with now)-in’ --more popularly known as Halloween, is the Witches' New Year, Wicca's most solemn and festive holiday. In my book ‘The Spiral Dance,’ I describe it as ‘the night when the veil is thin that divides the worlds...when the harvest is gathered and the fields lie fallow. The gates of life and death are opened and to the living is revealed the Mystery: that every ending is but a new beginning.’”
According to Z. Budapest, the custom of going trick or treating, collecting sweet cakes, comes from a British tradition of begging by the poor on Halloween. She says that giving poison or bad gifts to children on this night will bring bad luck. Z. Budapest also says Samhain is the time to honor our Grandparents. We bring good luck to the future by appeasing the spirits of the past, who provided us with the culture we enjoy today. Giving to the poor on this day, is a wonderful way to give gifts to the spirits in any culture.
We see this tradition in the ancient celebration of the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) on November 1 in Mexico, where families honor the children and the dead with the offering of sweet treats. This holiday can be traced back to many Mesoamerican traditions such as the Aztec month of Miccailhuitontli, which means ”Little Feast of The Dead”, a holiday also honoring both small children and the dead.
This is a good time to connect with inner guidance, to honor your ancestors and the children in your lives and communities and to open to the invisible world. If ever you thought perhaps there are fairies, devas, and nature spirits, now would be the time to welcome them into your life and your home, offering gifts and your love.
Now would be an excellent time to approach the tempestuous elementals with offerings of love and honor for the power of Nature in all of her forms. Ask the Divine Mother to show us our mistaken ways and help us to live in partnership with the earth. Ask Her to show us better ways to work in harmony with the elemental forces for all of our highest good, and not just for the benefit of the few. We will do so by offering a path of dried marigolds from our house to the feet of Our Sacred Tree, praying and conversing with the dead.
Many Christian holidays closely follow the pagan celebrations which marked seasonal changes, agricultural festivities and ancestor worship as well as appropriate times for visions and divination.
In the Christian tradition, November 1 marks All Saints Day, honoring those who martyred themselves for the faith. The night before was called "Holy Evening" or " All Hallows Even", or "Halloween".
On All Saints Day we commune with those who have gone beyond the veil, and who have bequeathed their visions, blessings and writings for their children and all who follow in their footsteps, over the centuries.
On November 2, All Souls Day, Christian tradition honored all the dead, and in some Catholic churches the names of each family's dead were placed on altars for one month of prayerful remembrances during Daily Mass. On that day, we also honor our ancestors and all the dead who have crossed the threshold.
I would suggest that we pause on this All Hallows, at the time of the waxing moon and take a moment to review our own role and complicity in the way things are. To truly search ourselves and recognize the places where we act out of our own greed, our own grasping for more, be it from fear or ignorance. For our own healing, and for the healing of the community, we need to recognize our own part in maintaining the status quo, for sustaining "business as usual". We need to understand what it means when we buy things we don't need, or waste things we already have. We need to understand how 65% of the world is impoverished and supports 35% of us who consume the majority of the world's resources.
Now is a good time to take stock of what is important in our lives, to make our voices heard. We must speak up if we want a different life, one where natural resources are not wasted, where the poorest of the poor are not made to suffer so that we in the so called wealthiest nations on the planet can buy our cars, clothes, extra cars, extra clothes, big macs, perfumes, mahogany knick knacks, and so much useless junk that ends up in landfills. How much waste America creates, how much of the world's resources do we steal?
We need to stand up and make our voices heard, and insist that our dollars stop going overseas to engage in more military misadventures. We must learn to spend our wealth wisely on research for alternative sources of energy, on ways to make our seaside cities safe from storms and storm surges, on ways to make food systems local, serving regional populations so that we spend less money on shipping and transporting foods. We must learn to change the nature of our cities so that vacant lots can be reclaimed for neighborhood gardens.
Let us teach children how to grow food locally, to work in partnership with nature. We need to define a new kind of city, one that will begin to live more lightly on the land. We need to take this time, in the dark of the year, to find within ourselves, the ways in which we can be working in partnership with our world, in our community and the very land on which we live. We need to ask Mother Earth on these holy days, as we send our children out for trick or treating, for forgiveness for our folly, to accept us as responsible stewards who want to work co-creating a peaceful future for our children, one which gives back more than it takes.
It is my sincerest wish that we will each light up the skies, in each home, in our own way with hope and new visions for the new year as we close out the old. It is my hope that on Festival Day, and in the days to come, we can look within, find the light inside of each of us and illuminate our place in this world, give thanks for the young and for the old, for the living and the dead, give thanks for the way in which our loved ones have helped to shape who we are, and within that lighted place, to honor our only home, the blue green planet, Mother Earth.
Wishing you all a peaceful and blessed time in the days ahead. With sincerest condolences for those lost this year, and wishes that their souls may be brought to the light, and that we may be granted wisdom, peace and inspiration in our celebration and honoring of all who have come before us.
Meditation Moment: Silence
"There is a thread from the heart to the lips
where the secret of life is woven.
Words tear the thread
but in silence
the secrets speak."
Top Satya Center Stories of the Week
This issue, Dr. Mae Wan-Ho, internationally renowned biophysicist and activist on behalf of sustainable agriculture, presents the first two parts of a multi-part series of articles about the environmental damage done to Earth’s oceans, oceanic wildlife, and the role oceans play in global warming.
In the introduction to this series, “Oceans in Distress” (http://www.satyacenter.com/oceans-in-distress), Dr. Ho presents an overview of the current dire situation. Pollution, destructive overfishing and increasing commercial exploitation are threatening the planet’s cradle of life. Learn how you can become an Ocean Defender in this article. Being informed is half the battle, and Dr. Ho offers links to websites that empower you to take action now!
In “Save our Seas Part 1: Oceans and Global Warming” (http://www.satyacenter.com/oceans-and-global-warming)
Dr. Ho explains how global warming disrupts the oceanic web of life, and could result in die-off of the phytoplankton that sustain all oceanic wildlife, releasing huge amounts of carbon and accelerating global warming even more.
In an ephemeral seven year career, French artist Yves Klein dissolved the formal art object, explored pure virtual space and created a public persona that anticipated the strategy of Andy Warhol. Our Parisian correspondent, techno-artist and philosopher Dr. Joseph Nechvatal offers a “Letter From Paris: Yves Klein at the Pompidou” (http://www.satyacenter.com/yves-klein-corps-couleur-immater), complete with remarkable pictures from the Yves Klein archive.
Top Spiritual Stories From Around the Web
Resting in the River
http://www.shambhalasun.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1979by Thich Nhat Hanh
My dear friends, suppose someone is holding a pebble and throws it in the air and the pebble begins to fall down into a river. After the pebble touches the surface of the water, it allows itself to sink slowly into the river.
It will reach the bed of the river without any effort. Once the pebble is at the bottom of the river, it continues to rest. It allows the water to pass by.
I think the pebble reaches the bed of the river by the shortest path because it allows itself to fall without making any effort. During our sitting meditation we can allow ourselves to rest like a pebble. We can allow ourselves to sink naturally without effort to the position of sitting, the position of resting.
Spirit of Maat
Environmental Healing and World Peace
by Claudia Sobrevila
This article addresses the question: "How can we create a peaceful society?" It was inspired by a Conference on Peace that I attended two weeks ago. The XIII International Conference of Educators for World Peace was convened by Lama Gangchen Tulku Rinpoche and by the International Association of Educators for World Peace.
. . . Every sane human being wishes for peace. But for many, a precondition of peace in the world is to create inner peace. Unfortunately, we have old and bad habits that keep us from this inner harmony.
We are driving in the city, caught up in a terrible traffic jam, late for an appointment, irritated, surrounded by equally overwrought drivers who are honking horns, driving aggressively, polluting the air around them — how can one talk of inner peace under such circumstances?
But what if we imagine just the opposite situation — strolling through the surf breaking on a pristine beach, walking in a park, watching a sunset, or listening to the birds and silent sounds of the forest? This alone can bring us back to harmony and a peaceful state of mind.
If our outer environment affects our inner environment, the opposite is also true, and this is something we can control. And because most of us live in the middle of chaotic and stressful environments, it is very important for us to renew our peaceful energy every day with mental exercises.
But mental exercise is not enough, as it does not translate to collective change. To create collective change, we need to create inner circles of peace: gatherings where people may experience inner peace and interact with one another in peaceful, kind, and generous ways.
These inner circles of peace are a different way of socializing, an old way of socializing. It is even more powerful if done in a natural setting surrounded by Nature. Joining in such a circumstance, even for a short period of time, we create, or recreate, the habits of peace that are a precondition for spreading peace to others we come in contact with.
Creating habits of peace is especially crucial for our children. It should be an actual experience of sitting quietly to contemplate a sunset or the waves in the ocean.
Five paths to walk, five paths to peace. These are simple steps, and they are not unique. There are many other ways. All possible forms of reaching peace should be tried.
But no matter how we approach creating peace, we must realize that the beginning of peace is in the awareness of where our inner violence lies, and what we do with it. There is no blame or shame. We must simply see our inner conflict simply as a sickness that needs healing, and seek solutions to the unexplainable violence that fills our hearts in small and large ways.
Also, we need to know that reaching peace means working a fundamental change in the selfishness that pervades society. Our school systems and families need to teach values of caring and nurturance to our children, both through educational experiences and by example.
And if we are truly serious about reaching peace we have to start back at the beginning. Nature is that beginning. Nature is the power of sharing, generosity, respect, love, and peace. Nature is free. It is there for all of us, if we will but walk the paths she has laid out for us. Nature has lived harmoniously on Planet Earth from the beginning of time.
Fighting the Cancer, Healing the Soul
by Pamela O'Malley Chang
The Charlotte Maxwell Complementary Clinic treats cancer's side effects with "an outpouring of love."
The Charlotte Maxwell Complementary Clinic is "a place of loving kindness that opens your heart, feeds your body, heals your soul. It's a place where everyone sustains and uplifts each other, [creating] a pocket of good energy that each woman takes as she leaves and spreads around. That's the philosophy of volunteer Casey Fisher who has worked at CMCC off and on since its inception.
Social worker Charlotte Maxwell, for whom the clinic is named, died of ovarian cancer in 1988 — but not before passing on her fierce belief that low-income women should have access to the acupuncture and herbal therapies that eased her final months. In 1989, six women pooled $4,000 to found what would eventually become the Charlotte Maxwell Complementary Clinic. The clinic opened in Oakland, California, in 1991, offering free acupuncture, herbs, massage, and other treatments one afternoon per week to about a dozen women with cancer. Now, 15 years later, the clinic is open two and a half days per week in Oakland and one day per week in San Francisco and, with a handful of staff and some 150 volunteers, helps 300 clients cope with the physical, spiritual, and social side effects of cancer.
New Additions to the SatyaCenterCrystalGallery
Jane and I have been posting an amazing array of new, rare and potent crystals for healing and meditation over the last week or two, thanks to some new connections with folks who export crystals directly from Brazil and India.
More of these new beauties have found their way onto our site.
We’ve got new jewelry: Reiki charged quartz, amethyst, citrine, rubellite, moldavite, tourmaline, phenacite, danburite, aquamarine, ruby lavender andametrine pendants, Wonderbeads, ear rings -- and much more. There’s a tremendous selection of new Vogel-cut pendants: Flower of Life, Radiant Heart, AngelicStar, Star of David, and more. Click any product thumbnail to see a large photo and a description of their metaphysical and mineralogical properties.Visit the CrystalGallery
(http://www.satyacenter.com/store/crystal/jewelry). And check out our Jewelry Bargain Section for the best values online.
Read the free online handbook:
"Using Quartz Crystals in Digital Technology, Healing and Meditation"
Breaking News Headlines 24/7 at Satya Center
Read breaking news stories updated 24/7 from Pacific News Service (http://www.satyacenter.com/news). Tune in to Satya Center’s 24/7 environmental news headlines and listen to environmental news radio from Environmental News Network at ENN EarthNews (http://www.satyacenter.com/news/environment).
Top News Stories From Around the Web
Common Dreams NewsCenter
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Why War Fails
by Howard Zinn
I suggest there is something important to be learned from the recent experience of the United States and Israel in the Middle East: that massive military attacks are not only morally reprehensible but useless in achieving the stated aims of those who carry them out.
In the three years of the Iraq War, which began with shock-and-awe bombardment and goes on with day-to-day violence and chaos, the United States has failed utterly in its claimed objective of bringing democracy and stability to Iraq. American soldiers and civilians, fearful of going into the neighborhoods of Baghdad, are huddled inside the Green Zone, where the largest embassy in the world is being built, covering 104 acres and closed off from the world outside its walls.
I remember John Hersey's novel “The War Lover”, in which a macho American pilot, who loves to drop bombs on people, and also to boast about his sexual conquests, turns out to be impotent. George Bush, strutting in his flight jacket on an aircraft carrier, and announcing victory in Iraq, has turned out to be an embodiment of the Hersey character, his words equally boastful, his military machine equally impotent.
The Israeli invasion and bombing of Lebanon has not brought security to Israel. Indeed, it has increased the number of its enemies, whether in Hezbollah or Hamas, or among Arabs who belong to neither of those groups.
New Left Review 41, September-October 2006
FEAR AND MONEY IN DUBAI
On the rim of the war zone, a new Mecca of conspicuous consumption and economic crime, under the iron rule of Sheikh al-Maktoum. Skyscrapers half a mile high, artificial archipelagoes, fantasy theme parks—and the indentured Asian labour force that sustains them.
‘As your jet starts its descent, you are glued to your window. The scene below is astonishing: a 24-square-mile archipelago of coral-coloured islands in the shape of an almost-finished puzzle of the world. In the shallow green waters between continents, the sunken shapes of the Pyramids of Giza and the Roman Colosseum are clearly visible. In the distance, three other large island groups are configured as palms within crescents and planted with high-rise resorts, amusement parks and a thousand mansions built on stilts over the water. The ‘Palms’ are connected by causeways to a Miami-like beachfront crammed with mega-hotels, apartment skyscrapers and yachting marinas.
‘As the plane slowly banks toward the desert mainland, you gasp at the even more improbable vision ahead. Out of a chrome forest of skyscrapers soars a new Tower of Babel. It is an impossible half-mile high: taller than the Empire State Building stacked on top of itself. You are still rubbing your eyes with wonderment as the plane lands and you are welcomed into an airport shopping emporium where seductive goods entice: Gucci bags, Cartier watches and one-kilogram bars of solid gold. The hotel driver is waiting for you in a Rolls Royce Silver Seraph. Friends had recommended the Armani Inn in the 170-storey tower, or the 7-star hotel with an atrium so huge that the Statue of Liberty would fit inside it, and service so exclusive that the rooms come with personal butlers; but instead you have opted to fulfill a childhood fantasy. You always have wanted to play Captain Nemo in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
‘Your jellyfish-shaped hotel, the Hydropolis, is, in fact, exactly 66 feet below the surface of the sea. Each of its 220 luxury suites has clear plexiglass walls that provide spectacular views of passing mermaids and of the famed ‘underwater fireworks’: a hallucinatory exhibition of ‘water bubbles, swirled sand and carefully deployed lighting’. Any initial anxiety about the safety of your sea-bottom resort is dispelled by the smiling concierge. The structure has a multi-level fail-safe security system which includes protection against terrorist submarines as well as missiles and aircraft.”
Scientific American, October 16, 2006
THE SOCIAL WELFARE STATE, BEYOND IDEOLOGY
Are higher taxes and strong social "safety nets" antagonistic to a prosperous market economy? The evidence is now in.
In 1944, economist Friedrich von Hayek argued that high taxes create the "road to serfdom." But now an abundance of scientific evidence reveals that Von Hayek was wrong. In strong and vibrant democracies, a generous social-welfare state is not a road to serfdom but rather to high levels of satisfaction, fairness, economic equality, and international competitiveness.
. . . The low-tax, high-income countries are mostly English-speaking ones that share a direct historical lineage with 19th-century Britain and its theories of economic laissez-faire. These countries include Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S. The high-tax, high-income states are the Nordic social democracies, notably Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, which have been governed by left-of-center social democratic parties for much or all of the post-World War II era. They combine a healthy respect for market forces with a strong commitment to antipoverty programs. Budgetary outlays for social purposes average around 27 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in the Nordic countries and just 17 percent of GDP in the English-speaking countries.
On average, the Nordic countries outperform the Anglo-Saxon ones on most measures of economic performance. Poverty rates are much lower there, and national income per working-age population is on average higher. Unemployment rates are roughly the same in both groups, just slightly higher in the Nordic countries. The budget situation is stronger in the Nordic group, with larger surpluses as a share of GDP.
The Nordic countries maintain their dynamism despite high taxation in several ways. Most important, they spend lavishly on research and development and higher education. All of them, but especially Sweden and Finland, have taken to the sweeping revolution in information and communications technology and leveraged it to gain global competitiveness. Sweden now spends nearly 4 percent of GDP on R&D, the highest ratio in the world today. On average, the Nordic nations spend 3 percent of GDP on R&D, compared with around 2 percent in the English-speaking nations.
The Nordic states have also worked to keep social expenditures compatible with an open, competitive, market-based economic system. Tax rates on capital are relatively low. Labor market policies pay low-skilled and otherwise difficult-to-employ individuals to work in the service sector, in key quality-of-life areas such as child care, health, and support for the elderly and disabled.
The results for the households at the bottom of the income distribution are astoundingly good, especially in contrast to the mean-spirited neglect that now passes for American social policy.
Published on 26 Oct 2006 by The Archdruid Report / Energy Bulletin. Archived on 26 Oct 2006.
Politics: imperial sunset
by John Michael Greer
. . . Empires are unfashionable these days, which is why those who support the American empire generally start by claiming that it doesn’t exist . . . like it or not, America rules the dominant world empire today – and that will likely become a source of tremendous misfortune for Americans in decades to come.
Partly this comes from the nature of imperial systems, because the pursuit of empire is as self-destructive an addiction as anything you’ll find on the mean streets of today’s inner cities. The systematic economic imbalances imposed on client states by empires, while hugely profitable for the empire’s political class, wreck the economy of the imperial state by flooding its markets with cheap imported goods and its financial system with tribute. Those outside the political class become what A.J. Toynbee, in his A Study of History, calls an internal proletariat, alienated from an imperial system that yields them few benefits and many burdens, while the external proletariat – the people of the client states, whose labor supports the imperial economy but who gain little or nothing in return – respond to their exploitation with a rising spiral of violence that moves from crime through terrorism to open warfare.
To counter the twin threats of internal dissidence and external insurgency, the imperial state must divert ever larger fractions of its resources to its military and security forces. Economic decline, popular disaffection, and growing pressures on the borders hollow out the imperial state into a brittle shell of soldiers, spies, and bureaucrats surrounding a society in freefall. When the shell finally cracks – as it always does, sooner or later – nothing is left inside to resist change, and the result is implosion.
It’s possible to halt this process, but only by deliberately stepping back from empire. Britain’s response to its own imperial sunset is instructive; instead of clinging to its empire and being dragged down by it, Britain allied with the rising power of the United States, allowed its colonial holdings to slip away, and managed to keep its economic and political system more or less intact. Compare that to Spain, which had the largest empire on Earth in the 16th and 17th centuries. By the 19th century it was one of the poorest countries in Europe, two centuries behind the times economically, racked by civil wars and foreign invasions, and completely incapable of influencing the European politics of the age. The main factor in this precipitous decline was the long-term impact of empire. It’s no accident that Spain’s national recovery only really began after its last overseas colonies were seized by the United States in the Spanish-American war.
In this light, the last quarter century of American policy has been suicidally counterproductive in its attempt to maintain the glory days of empire.
Home prices plunge by most in 35 years
By MARTIN CRUTSINGER, AP, 10/26/06
The median price of a new home plunged in September by the largest amount in more than 35 years, even as the pace of sales rebounded for a second month.
The Commerce Department reported that the median price for a new home sold in September was $217,100, a drop of 9.7 percent from September 2005. It was the lowest median price for a new home since September 2004 and the sharpest year-over-year decline since December 1970. The weakness in new home prices was even sharper than a 2.5 percent fall in the price of existing homes last month, which had been the biggest drop on record.
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
After the Housing Bubble Bursts
By Dean Baker
Tuesday 24 October 2006
Every new release of data on the housing market provides more evidence that the housing bubble is finally bursting. Compared with year-ago levels, nationwide housing starts are down 18 percent, sales of existing homes are down 13 percent, and new homes sales are down 17 percent. Inventories of both unsold new and existing homes are at record levels. Prices have already begun to fall in many parts of the country, and seem certain to fall much further before the market stabilizes.
The housing downturn will almost certainly lead to a recession, and most likely a severe recession. Housing construction and sales directly account for more than 6 percent of GDP. In the recessions in the mid 70s and early 80s, housing fell off by close to 50 percent. However, the impact of a downturn in housing is likely to be more severe this time around. House prices had not gotten so out of line with fundamentals in these earlier periods, nor had housing wealth fed so directly into consumption.
SPIEGEL ONLINE - October 25, 2006, 03:21 PM
PLAYING WITH FIRE
America and the Dollar Illusion
By Gabor Steingart
The dollar is still the world's reserve currency, even though it hasn't deserved this status for a long time. The devaluation of the dollar can't be stopped -- it can only be deferred. The result could be a world economic crisis.
. . . Last century, the United States already suffered from one deep economic crisis that gradually spread to the rest of the world. The Great Depression lasted 10 years and brought mass unemployment and starvation to the United States. The country's economic power sank by one-third. The crisis virus wrought havoc all over the West. Six million people were unemployed in Germany when the economic fever was at its peak.
Today's investors face a difficult choice, one they're not to be envied for. They can see the relative weakness of the US economy and they're registering the tectonic shifts in the world economy. They know that a great statistical effort is being made to prolong the American dream. For some time now, government statistics have announced sensational productivity leaps for the US economy -- productivity leaps that, strange as it may seem, haven't led to any rise in wages for years. This is in fact genuinely bizarre: Either capitalists are reaping the fruits of increased productivity all by themselves -- which would be a political scandal even in capitalism's heartland -- or the productivity leaps exist only on paper. There is much to suggest that the second hypothesis is correct.
Half the world is impressed by the low levels of unemployment in the United States. The other half knows that these statistics aren't official, but the result of a voluntary telephone survey. Many of those who declare themselves employed are assistants and day workers. Working just one hour a week is enough for one to be classified as "employed." Given that it's considered antisocial to declare yourself unemployed, the US statistics may well say more about American society's dominant norms than about its actual condition.
The US economy's high growth rates aren't to be completely trusted either. They are the result of high public and private debt. In no way do they express an increased output of domestically produced goods and services that the United States has achieved by its own strength. They say more about the successful sales ventures of Asians and Europeans. New loans taken by the US government were responsible for fully one-third of US economic growth in 2001. In 2003 they were responsible for a quarter. The United States is an economic giant on steroids -- doped so its decline in performance doesn't become too apparent.
Published on Wednesday, October 25, 2006 by the Guardian/UK
When It Comes to Global Warming, Market Rule Poses a Mortal Danger:
Gentle regulation will simply not suffice for a problem this big. Governments must act - swiftly and substantially
by Jonathan Freedland
Whose job is it to stop climate change? For a while, it's seemed like it's up to us, as individuals, to change our personal behaviour. Witness the BBC news item this week, exposing Britons' slobby habit of leaving electronic appliances on stand-by, in contrast with the conscientious, energy-efficient Germans. David Cameron's wind turbine on the roof, even his cycling, have fed the notion that greenism is now all about personal conduct.
But we should be careful: climate change is too big a problem to be solved simply by virtuous individuals hopping on a bus instead of taking the car, or disconnecting the tumble dryer, valuable though those moves are. This is one responsibility that can't be saddled solely on activists and consumers. This is a job for government.
E: The Environmental Magazine
The Scoop On Dirt
Why We Should all Worship the Ground We Walk On
by Tamsyn Jones
It’s one of nature’s most perfect contradictions: a substance that is ubiquitous but unseen; humble but essential; surprisingly strong but profoundly fragile. It nurtures life and death; undergirds cities, forests and oceans; and feeds all terrestrial life on Earth. It is a substance few people understand and most take for granted. Yet, it is arguably one of Earth’s most critical natural resources—and humans, quite literally, owe to it their very existence.
From the food we eat to the clothes we wear to the air we breathe, humanity depends upon the dirt beneath our feet. Gardeners understand this intuitively; to them, the saying “cherish the soil” is gospel. But for the better part of society, dirt barely gets a sideways glance. To most, it’s just part of the background, something so obvious it’s ignored.
Even among the environmentally minded, soil sags well below the radar of important causes. But the relationship between soil quality and other aspects of environmental health is intricately entwined. What’s more, it’s a relationship that encompasses a vast swath of territory, from agricultural practices to global climate change, and from the well being of oceans to that of people.
The New York Times
The Vegetable-Industrial Complex
By MICHAEL POLLAN
Published: October 15, 2006
Soon after the news broke last month that nearly 200 Americans in 26 states had been sickened by eating packaged spinach contaminated with E. coli, I received a rather coldblooded e-mail message from a friend in the food business. “I have instructed my broker to purchase a million shares of RadSafe,” he wrote, explaining that RadSafe is a leading manufacturer of food-irradiation technology. It turned out my friend was joking, but even so, his reasoning was impeccable. If bagged salad greens are vulnerable to bacterial contamination on such a scale, industry and government would very soon come looking for a technological fix; any day now, calls to irradiate the entire food supply will be on a great many official lips.
That’s exactly what happened a few years ago when we learned that E. coli from cattle feces was winding up in American hamburgers. Rather than clean up the kill floor and the feedlot diet, some meat processors simply started nuking the meat — sterilizing the manure, in other words, rather than removing it from our food.
Why? Because it’s easier to find a technological fix than to address the root cause of such a problem. This has always been the genius of industrial capitalism — to take its failings and turn them into exciting new business opportunities.
How Long Can the World Feed Itself?
Sat, 2006-10-14 22:09
By Gwynne Dyer
We are still living off the proceeds of the Green Revolution, but that hit diminishing returns twenty years ago. Now we live in a finely balanced situation where world food supply just about meets demand, with no reserve to cover further population growth. But the population will grow anyway, and the world's existing grain supply for human consumption is being eroded by three different factors: meat, heat and biofuels.
For the sixth time in the past seven years, the human race will grow less food than it eats this year. We closed the gap by eating into food stocks accumulated in better times, but there is no doubt that the situation is getting serious. The world's food stocks have shrunk by half since 1999, from a reserve big enough to feed the entire world for 116 days then to a predicted low of only 57 days by the end of this year.
That is well below the official safety level, and there is no sign that the downward trend is going to reverse. If it doesn't, then at some point not too far down the road we reach the point of absolute food shortages, and rationing by price kicks in. In other words, grain prices soar, and the poorest start to starve.
What are permablitzes all about? How did they begin?
A permablitz is basically a permaculture-inspired backyard makeover where people come together to share knowledge and skills about organic food production in urban gardens while building community and having fun.
The basic idea is that by converting their lawns into organic food producing gardens, people will be able to back away from a dependence on industrial agriculture and the shipping of food back and forth across the world. At the same time, it makes organic eating accessible to more than just the upper-middle class.
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Photo Credits: Photograph of the baby bunnies kindly provided by Holly A. Ingram of South Bend, Indiana. All other photographs by Jane Sherry. The photo of the girls underneath the still small green castor bean is of Abigail (mentioned above) & her friend Anastasia from NYC, who spent 2 weeks up here in farm country with Abigail & her parents as part of the Fresh Air Fund Program.