Ecos- Life at home

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Happy Cities?!

Planning policies related to the economy and environment are easier to measure, but Hazel Borys asks, “how do we measure national happiness, well-being, and social capital as they relate to the way we plan our neighborhoods, towns and cities?”

"Wealth alone does not make for a happy and successful society," determined the Legatum Prosperity Index. “Happy citizens are produced as much by democracy, freedom, and entrepreneurial opportunity as they are by a growing economy.” This index is one of the few, including the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, to track social capital and health. But cities like Vancouver and Bogota have begun exploring “spiritual urbanism” and “what more [cities] can do to provide for physical, social, emotional, and spiritual needs.”

Vancouver’s Healing Cities initiative found, “[o]xytocin, the trust hormone, goes up with eye contact. We get a whole lot more of it while walking. Which is just the beginning of balm to the spirit fostered in walkable neighborhoods.” Former Mayor Enrique Peñalosa, the leader of Bogota’s urban happiness movement also argues for the importance of walkability to mental health: “There are a few things we can agree on about happiness. You need to fulfill your potential as a human being. You need to walk. You need to be with other people.” With the expansion of its bus, bike, and pedestrian networks, Bogota’s murder rates and traffic deaths have fallen.

There is currently no “Urban Happiness Index,” laments Borys, but Vancouver’s and Bogota’s experiments in linking urban design to happiness show that, as Peñalosa says, “designing a city can be a very powerful means to generate happiness.”

Filed under happiness urbanism spiritual planning

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Making Information Matter in a Noisy Age

"Building the #Knowosphere: How new ways to share and shape ideas can help build durable progress on a finite planet" I know I want to watch this but don’t have time right now, so posting it here for my future reference (and yours, followers!). 

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Humility is therefore the essence of ecological wisdom and the foundation of an ecological ethic. Not only are limited natural systems opposed to unlimited human appetites, but limits also oblige us to come to moral terms with the web of life- that is, to renounce hubris and to find a place within nature instead of above it. From this follows a duty to deal justly with the nonhuman world as well as our own posterity.
Williams Ophuls, Plato’s Revenge: Politics in the Age of Ecology

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Stop the War Offshore

EPIC just released an action alert urging concerned citizens to speak up for whales by commenting on the Navy’s Northwest Training Complex project that would include sonar testing off the Pacific Coast. They do a great job getting their membership riled up over the emotional, heart-wrenching image of dead whales strewn across our beaches. The reality of the project is somewhat more nuanced, though the danger to marine life is real. Below is a broader guide to submitting scoping comments. (Full disclosure: I researched and compiled this information as an intern with EPIC, but it is not endorsed by the EPIC staff.) 

1. Open the Northwest Training and Testing EIS online comment form in a new window. Choose the subject area from the drop down menu that corresponds with the bullet points below, and copy/paste your responses into the box. Add your comment, and proceed to the next issue. You are encouraged to voice concerns in your own words.

Issue #1, Process/Participation: While acknowledging the steps the Navy has taken to include the public, which include holding an “Open House” in Eureka on March 22 and extending the comment period to 60 days, there are serious problems with the Navy’s approach to the NEPA process. These procedural issues include:

  • The Open House does not qualify as a public meeting because the public was not allowed an opportunity to submit oral comments.

  • The public notices were not sent out 30 days in advance as required by NEPA.

  • The Navy used private contractors to represent them, thus violating the due diligence requirement of an agency to provide information to the public.

  • The scoping materials provided by the Navy do not provide enough detail on the types and whereabouts of weapons testing to allow for meaningful public comment at this time.

Issue #2, Sonar Testing/Underwater Blasts: Sonar has proven disruptive and even deadly to marine mammals like whales, seals and dolphins. The noise caused by sonar and explosive underwater blasts, on top of normal Navy operations, represent a huge impact to the healthy functioning of sensitive marine ecosystems.

The Navy claims that the impacts of using mid-frequency sonar will be mitigated by people looking for signs of whales from on-board the ship. Yet, by the Navy’s own estimates, the force of sonar blasts can be felt up to 300 miles from the source at levels 100 times more intense than those known to effect the behavior of large whales. This mitigation measure is not based on scientific standards and does not meet the established guidelines for effective mitigation.

The Navy makes no attempt to avoid, minimize, rectify, reduce, or compensate for the inevitable and irreversible damage to marine ecosystems its activities will incur. If the Navy goes ahead with testing explosive weapons and sweeping our oceans with sonar waves, there is serious concern that marine mammals will suffer physical harm and trauma.

Issue #3, Navy Activities/Proposed Action: The stated objective of the Navy Training and Testing Range Complex is to prepare the U.S. Navy to respond to military and humanitarian threats across the world. Ending world poverty by providing food and medical aid should be the centerpiece of a foreign policy for the 21st century; continuing down the path of militarism poses a grave threat to national security. Devising and testing weapons of war is NOT a legitimate goal for the US Navy to pursue beyond 2015. The range of alternatives should be much wider- only two alternatives were provided and they each included sonar testing. The Navy must pursue alternatives that do not include sonar and new weapons testing, otherwise their final decision will not be grounded in all reasonable alternatives.  

Filed under environment whales sonar navy military scoping

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In History Lies Truth

In the election of 1896, with the Populist movement enticed into the Democratic party, Bryan, the Democratic candidate, was defeated by William McKinley, for whom the corporations and the press mobilized, in the first massive use of money in an election campaign. Even the hint of Populism in the Democratic party, it seemed, could not be tolerated, and the big guns of the Establishment pulled out all their ammunition, to make sure.

It was a time, as election times have often been in the United States, to consolidate the system after years of protest and rebellion. The black was being kept under control in the South. The Indian was being driven off the western plains for good; on a cold winter da in 1890, U.S. army soldiers attacked Indians camped at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, and killed three hundred men, women, and children. It was the climax to four hundred years of violence that began with Columbus, establishing that this continent belonged to white men. But only to certain white men, because it was clear by 1896 that the state stood ready to crush labor strikes, by the law if possible, by force if necessary. And where a threatening mass movement developed, the two-party system stood ready to send out one of its columns to surround that movement and drain it of vitality.

And always, as a way of drowning class resentment in a flood of slogans for national unity, there was patriotism. McKinley had said, in a rare rhetorical connection between money and flag:

this year is going to be a year of patriotism and devotion to country I am glad to know that the people in every part of the country mean to be devoted to one flag, the glorious Stars and Stripes; that the people of this country mean to maintain the financial honor of the country as sacredly as they maintain the honor of the flag.

The supreme act of patriotism was war. Two years after McKinley became President, the United States declared war on Spain.

-Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States, 295. 

Filed under history united states patriot populism politics

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Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein

The real barrier isn’t so much that people don’t understand third parties or don’t understand the technical barriers. I think the real stumbling block is fear. There has been an incredible fear campaign, certainly over the past 10 years and more, that if we stand up and actually vote our values — we can’t actually vote for ourselves, vote our ideals and our solutions that are right there and ready to be implemented. We’ve been hammered with this fear campaign, but I think it’s worth a fresh look.

I’m finding it so exciting to have this discussion with people now because people are incredibly frustrated now and are incredibly distraught, feeling like they just worked themselves to the bone in the last presidential election and what did we get for it? We continue to have the expanding wars, the meltdown of the climate, the continuing, ongoing bailouts for Wall Street. We had the attack on Iraq and the launching of the Afghanistan war under Bush, but in the Obama administration we’ve had the surge and he doubled the size of the Bush force in Afghanistan. You had Obama withdrawing from Iraq on George Bush’s withdrawal date because he couldn’t negotiate immunity for our forces, or the Iraq war would have been longer. One of his first acts was initiating greater bombing into Pakistan and then into Yemen and Somalia.

We’ve been told that we had to be quiet and sort of hold our noses and vote our fear or terrible things would happen. What we find 10 years later is that political silence has not been an effective strategy. The politics of fear has delivered everything that we were afraid of. I think there’s a whole new openness, considering new solutions and acknowledging that the politics of fear leads to more fear. We need to answer that fear with the politics of courage. Look back over history, because while independent parties have been small, they have served a critical role in driving a progressive agenda into the dialogue.

In the words of Frederick Douglass, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. Never has, never will.” To my mind that’s exactly what independent politics does. It brings that demand into the political arena, because without that demand we continue this landslide to the right without any kind of a backstop. I think people are really beginning to see that it’s not only ok to vote third party, but in fact it may very well be the only hope.

Filed under politics progressive green economy election activism

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The Happiness Quotient

The HQ is found in establishing a balance between what we have and what we want.

The less we need, the richer we can be.

Contentment is true wealth.

Success will not be found through the gratification of desire, but in the end of desire- which is contentment.

Wealthy is he who enjoys what he has. 

-Lama Surya Das

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Lynn Margulis and her son Dorion Sagan proclaimed in their book ‘What is Life?’ that life ‘is matter gone wild, capable of choosing its own direction.” It is one of those simple, obvious, and yet deeply profound observations that turn a long-established worldview on its head.

Life is matter with the capacity to choose, and among the species known to humans, our capacity for choice exceeds that of all others. Free will does not mean we are free to do anything we want. The realities of an interdependent world bind our actions. Every choice we make is shaped by our context and in turn revises that context. Yet the range of the choices available to us is substantial.

From the perspective of conventional wisdom, and individual human life begins in a mother’s womb some nine months prior to physical birth and ends at the time of physical death. From a deeper evolutionary perspective, however, we are each expressions of an unbroken flow of the choices made by living organisms since intelligent life energy first began to express itself on planet Earth some 4,000 million years ago.

We can only speculate as to what happens to the individual soul after physical death. WE do know, however, that each life is immortal in its contribution, no matter how modest, to shaping life’s continued unfolding into the infinite future. EAch flower we pick, each seed we plant, each thought we communicate, sends its ripples forward in time through the unfolding fabric of Creation, leaving its mark- positive or negative, large or small- on the biosphere and the collective human consciousness that the Catholic priest and mystic Pierre Teilhard de Chardin called the noosphere.

Herein lies the great responsibility of our gift of choice. The choices we make determine whether the mark we leave enhances or diminishes the human contribution to Creation’s great quest to actualize its possibilities. We matter. Our choices make a difference.

David Korten, The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community, 270-271. 

Filed under life meaning philosophy earth religion flow