Food in the City

Here is something that may interest those of us who eat food and are concerned about the future of food in cities:

food_basket

Visualize a number of small gardens scattered throughout the city, glorious with bountiful fruit and vegetables, tended by the people who live next door and down the street.

Picture community orchards, trees heavy with fruit, offering a hands-on learning experience for local residents to discover how to care for fruit trees, and a source of fruit for shared canning and baking.

hanging_fruit

Imagine that these places are linked to a neighborhood center with a teaching kitchen – where neighbors show each other how to prepare healthful, tasty, nutritious meals from the fruits and vegetables they have grown themselves; to cook and can, to freeze and dry, and to store the bounty of their gardens, vineyards and orchards.

Neighbors gather in the meeting room of the center to share food and talk, to re-knit the fabric of the community: a restoration of the mixing of cultural traditions and experiences which is the foundation of this region’s greatness, by re-introducing young and old, native-born and recent arrival, hearty and frail, expert and novice in common endeavor and mutual benefit.

wild_oats_kitchen

The kitchen also serves local residents as an “incubator space” – a place where they can start their own commercial food businesses, helped by mentors with business experience who work with them to create local enterprises like catering or turning their family’s favorite recipe into a commercially viable product.

Now, imagine that all of this exists at no cost to the taxpayers of the city or county or state, all held for the use of the neighborhood residents, generation after generation, not subject to economic fortune or political whim.

This is something everyone can be part of. Take back control of your food and your community. The more we come together, the better it will be, because the best place to begin to re-knit your neighborhood is in your neighborhood: you have the people, the interest, the knowledge, the skill, and the time.

Welcome to “Food in the City”, a program of Oregon Sustainable Agriculture Land Trust (OSALT), a statewide charitable organization dedicated to keeping rural and urban agricultural lands in agricultural use, making them available for future generations of growers, and conducting research and education focused on the sustainable production and distribution of agricultural bounty: food, fiber, building materials, medicinals, nursery stock, etc.

You can find out more about OSALT programs on the web at www.osalt.org

You can contact OSALT at info@osalt.org

What do you think?

Justice or Murder?

Imagine if you will:
There is a predator in the city. He stalks young women. He rapes and then kills them. The police investigate and believe that they know who he is. He goes to trial. A jury (a dozen people from the city who have the good of their neighbors at heart, and the support of a large majority of those residents) determines that the person must be eliminated for the protection of the people. They find him guilty. The state executes him.

We call this justice.

Now imagine this:
There is a predator in the neighborhood. He stalks young women. He rapes and then kills them. The residents know who he is. The neighborhood watch committee (a dozen people from the neighborhood who have the good of their neighbors at heart, and the support of a large majority of those residents) determine that the person must be eliminated for the protection of the people. They catch him. They kill him.

We call this premeditated murder. (And vigilantism.)

Prosecutors, prosecution witnesses, judges and juries in cases where the death penalty is imposed are premeditated murderers in fact, if not in law.

That may be acceptable. It depends on what we, as a society, choose to accept.
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What is the problem for which capitol punishment is the solution?

If our goal is to be certain that the killer never kills again, either execution or life without parole will accomplish that. (Although, of course, a convicted killer may kill another prisoner if they are not isolated form others in prison, so perhaps that would be necessary.)

As is often mentioned in discussions of the death penalty, the problem with execution is that we make mistakes and convict innocent people, and then execute them. Life without parole does make it possible to partially correct erroneous convictions by releasing those later found to be innocent. The question of compensation for these victims is another discussion.

Given this reasoning, it seems clear that life without parole is preferable to execution.

If our goal is to exact revenge for their crime, then let’s admit that and have a public discussion about the best way to exact revenge. There is substantial evidence that life imprisonment may be more vengeful than death, but that would be part of the discussion.

If our goal is deterrence, it appears that the preponderance of evidence indicates that the death penalty is not a significant deterrent. We should discuss how much deterrence is sufficient to outweigh the certainty of wrongful convictions.

It is true that dead people do not commit crimes again. So, where do we draw the line? Do we reserve the death penalty for premeditated murder? Any murder? Any wrongful death? Rape? Assault? Owning a dangerous dog? Threatening the President?

What are we trying to achieve here?

What is the most effective way to do it?

I would suggest that, in our real world of imperfect people, the death penalty has deterred few, if any, murders, and been the instrument of a multitude of murders of innocent people by the state, in our name.

I would like to see an end to murder in my name.

What do you think? Let us know.

Personal Economics – The Month/Money Problem

Do you have month at the end of the money or money at the end of the month?

At a personal level, and that’s where we all must start, management of our own resources is the foundation of success or failure.

We all have a number of resources at our disposal, starting with time, the most egalitarian of resources – we all get 24 hours a day. Add to that knowledge, understanding and skill. Throw in energy, tools, materials, transportation, relationships to others, focus, and concern. We all have the ability (and responsibility) to manage these to build our lives. And we do.

Some of us do it very well. Some of us do it very poorly. Most of us manage to get through the day OK, most of the time. But few of us are very happy about how it goes. Particularly when it comes to money.

We are discontent.

A lot of that discontent is manufactured. Literally billions of dollars are spent every year to encourage this discontent. Virtually all advertising urges this discontent, in order to get us to buy products, to relieve the discontent.

Of course, the products do not satisfy. The discontent remains because it is created by encouraging an imaginary reality where everything is satisfied (or can be) by owning some product or experiencing some activity.

We are carefully taught that life sucks.

But, of course, life doesn’t suck for most of us most of the time. Actually, most of us are well fed, housed, clothed and entertained. Most of us have affable companions, and meaningful occupation.*

And a feeling of discontent.

That discontent is often focused on money – more specifically, lack of money. We want more, we owe too much, we would (insert your choice here) if only we had the money, and so on.

But, as Benjamin Franklin said, “Whatever you earn, spend less.” It leads to a wonderful sense of freedom, and can also provide the basis for a level of contentment most of us haven’t known since we were children.

Imagine not having any bills to pay except for what you bought this month. No car payment. No house payment. No credit card bills. Only utilities, and at that only the basics – phone, gas, electricity.

Sound like a life of deprivation to you? Think about it. How much of your income every month is spent on interest and carrying charges? $50? $100? $500? $1,000? If you have a mortgage, most of the payment is interest.

Interest is money you are spending for impatience. Interest is the price you pay for living beyond your means – for your unwillingness to wait until you can afford what you want to buy. Interest – and anxiety, fear and insecurity, are the real costs of living on borrowed money. That is the trap most of us find ourselves in. And we are not happy about it.

The solution is easy. Stop borrowing money. Stop buying anything you don’t need until you have no debt.

Step one is to get rid of your credit cards. Which leads to step two – live each month on the money you get paid for the work you did last month. Eliminate all expenses that are unnecessary – cell service that includes services other than voice, cable TV, going to movies (get DVDs from the library), expensive coffees, expensive vacations, etc. A careful review of what you actually spend money on will reveal an astounding number of things from which you really don’t derive any lasting satisfaction.

Use every penny you don’t need for expenses to pay off your car loan and your mortgage as soon as you can. This includes using your present savings and investments to pay down loan balances – your savings is better used right now to pay off debt and you are paying more in interest on your debt than you are earning on your investments.

When you are out of debt get serious about saving money. Set aside enough money to pay all your expenses for 6 months if you lose your income.

Then, you know what? You will be free of debt, and free of the anxiety, fear and insecurity that go with debt. You might even feel free to quit your job and find a job doing something that is more satisfying. You will certainly have a better idea of what is most meaningful and satisfying in your life.

I guarantee you it won’t be the cable TV that you find so essential now, because you will find that there are myriad things available that you enjoy, and that cost little or no money. You won’t need to “escape” from the reality of your days because you will have re-learned how to enjoy yourself.

And you will have money at the end of the month instead of month at the end of the money.

What do you think? Let us know.

*Meaningful occupation does not necessarily mean a job that is worthwhile and fulfilling. “occupation” is what occupies your time. It is different for each of us. Meaningful occupation can be the work we do, or simply hanging around with people we like, or reading or writing, or sports, or… Meaningful occupation is whatever we do with our time that is satisfying and worthwhile.