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Sustainability is a multi-dimensional affair. Owing to the intrinsic nature of life, characterized as the experience of one human being and as all organisms on the planet, everything is interconnected. So to seek to truly establish the sustainability of one aspect of life, whatever is meant by that word, is in effect to seek to establish the healthy continuity of all aspects, of all life.

Nature, unencumbered by human civilization, is perfect in maintaining fluid balance and almost by definition is inherently sustainable. With the forces of human nature now culminating in a confluence of crises as they confront the forces of nature’s nature, there are monumental changes in store for us, the homo sapiens, if we are to survive and thrive on this planet that can be our only home. The destruction of the forest mirrors the destructive force inside ourselves and the work remains on the to-do list: to heal, restore and sustain ourselves and the natural and human-made systems that support us.

My vision of sustainability is a world where all human beings have the authentic opportunity to live a fulfilling life, in which real needs are consistently met. The chief of these needs are safety, health, comfort, development and creativity, community with other people and the natural world, and freedom from scarcity and fear of it.

Achieving such a state of the world entails a thorough rebalancing of power and allocation of “resources” from the current status of their distribution, not only among countries and the socio-economic classes within them, but also, between human and non-human life.
The two core pillars of the transformation to such an all-around sustainable world are: expansion of consciousness and major reorganization of the economic system. These two aspects of our reality should and in fact, do, I believe, mutually influence each other.
Raising consciousness about how the world has arrived at its current set of gloomy circumstances is crucial for inspiring people to change themselves and the status quo they experience. If one begins to closely examine the various calamities in history and present day, it soon becomes clear that at their origin lies fear, in its various levels and facets. Being able to experience fear is necessary for survival, so it is natural and universal. To handle it properly, however, is a lesson yet to be fully learned and digested by humanity as a whole.

Healing the wounds created by actions borne out of fear is the important work of restoring our mental and emotional well-being, of reintegrating our individual selves and our communities, and of realizing emotional connection and solidarity with all people the globe over. Mastery over fear generates inner peace, and makes ample room for the clarity of mind needed to distinguish how much of what we truly need for a healthy, comfortable and productive life from the much larger amounts of what ever more we have been subconsciously convinced we need, by those who have been subjected to the same, in a seemingly infinite cycle of fear, destruction, scarcity and fear, dest…

Healing begins with total self-acceptance and takes different paths for different people and groups. One key aspect of healing is forging and solidifying an ecological identity, where one viscerally experiences a blending of self and all existence, and naturally commits to the permanent shift of this perspective. Learning to responsibly and effectively communicate with oneself and everyone in the life, and thereby truly resolve conflict is another important piece. Finally, valuing and striving for local community living is likewise an indispensable ingredient for healing and transformation of the life of people and the planet. All of these trends reinforce each other and combine to deeply convert people’s values, which readily leads to change in behavior.

As individuals and groups succeed at redirecting their basic motivations away from fear and towards love, compassion, justice and equality, and as communication among us becomes authentic and effective, major rearrangement of the rules of society is a logical development consistent with a highly aware populace. This rearrangement is pivotal in enabling almost mainstream environmental practices, such as recycling, green building and organic farming, to completely replace wasteful practices across all sectors of production and consumption in the world, and thus to make a truly significant impact with regard to sustainability.

This "reform" would need to effectively focus on restructuring banking and redesigning the corporate sector. The nation and world ought to implement radical policy changes to align incentives in the financial and business sectors to be attuned with sustainable, closed-loop production and consumption. Major world governments need to admit that central banking as it is done today is incompatible with sustainability, and take the difficult but essential steps to restore banking to be in service of the real economy, which is constrained by finite natural materials, and by societal goals of justice and equality.

As of now, in the United States, a for-profit private corporation, the Federal Reserve, controls the money supply to every sector of society, most egregiously, to the federal government. This corporation creates money from the loans it generates and “grows” the economy by charging interest. The capital to pay off this interest does not exist in a real way, but is generated by creating more loans. The result is that the entire system is mostly driven by debt, and thus the economy must grow, which requires more consumption of all kinds of resources, natural materials, human capital and time, in order to avoid a drastic collapse of the economic system. So even with sufficient social awareness and individual initiative to change how we live, we will not get far on the road to an ecologically and socially sustainable future without a major overhaul of the world banking system.

The perpetual growth crusade needs to be addressed at the level of the corporation as well. It seems that this aspect of sustainability is gaining wider acceptance faster than the discussions about banking have been. To ensure that business and corporate operations are compatible with sustainability, it is necessary to greatly diminish the power of the corporation in society through taking away its legal status of personhood, and to rewrite corporate charters mandating “triple bottom-line” modus operandi. Currently, corporations are legally bound only to grow profits, and so the incentive for irresponsibility to the environment and communities is natural, because government and society are not enforcing proper accounting and methods for accountability for the “externalities” of pollution and social disruption. Extracting the growth imperative from the strategic goals of companies would enable these otherwise productive organizations to become instruments of society, by meeting its needs for basic goods and services, and by investing in all the social goods that are constantly under-funded due to the structural inequality and governments’ debt to corporations.

Lastly, on the physical day to day level, sustainability would look like the following. There would be severe reduction in consumption, substantial escalation in renewable energy and energy efficient practices completely supplanting the use of fossil-fuels, and application of whole-system design principles to lives, lifestyles and exchange systems, in all the various regions of the world, not only in permaculture practicing gardens.

To crudely summarize a complex, non-linear, and dynamic process, sustainability requires personal healing and transformation, connectedness to all of life, and community and local living. These are all part of the self-feeding loop that also includes restructuring the banking system, radically overhauling capitalism as we know it, and uprooting and rebuilding our infrastructures in a systematic way. Accomplishing these goals would position us well to avoid the catastrophe of runaway global climate change and breakdown of ecological and social systems that nourish us in the variety of ways that we need.

Understanding sustainability and the relevant intricate issues touched on in this essay is so obviously fundamental to the work of everyone, and of course, of managers and entrepreneurs today and will only become increasingly so going forward, that discussing why almost has no merit. To embark on any new initiative, start a business, propose policy change, or to carry on existing endeavors without integrating concerns and solutions regarding sustainability is irresponsible and will result in failure, if it is defined as it ought to be, in broad terms. The failure is to neglect caretaking our people, our land, all of the creatures that share it with us, and the coming generations. The world situation is quite dire and human civilization is close to preventable collapse. If we, as total human family, wish to enjoy life, no party can afford to ignore the imperatives of transitioning to sustainability.
Thu, December 11, 2008 - 8:42 PM permalink - 0 comments

S & M

(smoke & mirrors)

i wonder if
the universe can
ever figure out who
seduced whom, and if
and which, one of us decisively
sabotaged the delicate delicious dance
Sun, June 1, 2008 - 6:21 PM permalink - 0 comments
the belly pumps pure lust
when i sense you near me
my eyes yearn to rest forever
on your beautiful face
your brown eyes pools full of
mystery to me, mocking
almost in their obviousness
of never willing to be revealed

your touch is better than the
fantasy of it which is what the
fantasy was, your caresses
would enslave me to them forever
i let you in, and you teased as
seems so natural for the two of us now
Fri, May 9, 2008 - 6:23 PM permalink - 2 comments
I want to eat the sunrise with my eyes
Undulate my body among the ocean waves
Soar along the owl’s hunting path
Run the hills next to the gazelles
And burrow in the soil with the worms

~ december 26, 2007
Tue, May 6, 2008 - 8:26 PM permalink - 3 comments
Since this writing started out weeks ago in the ideas compartment of my mind, has been marinating in the same, and transforming into various ‘final’ results, i am now curious to see to how the spill onto the verbalized landscape will look.

As these days, i am driving part-time for a paycheck, delivering all kinds of fun all over creation, there is, of course, lots of solo time for thinking and visioning, and i’d like to share some bits. Spending time on the highways has me seeing, let’s say, the northbound side of 93, 95, the pike, route 2, sectioned off for both directions for travel on bikes, rollerblades, and skateboards, and some renewable energy powered moving gadgets we haven’t seen yet, and the southbound side peppered with community gardens and their markets, solar and wind tech space, art walls, local community-owned and operated enterprises and civic groups, all housed in leed buildings.

For now, it’s been quite exciting to finally get to know the financial district and inner Boston intimately, for it used to be a confusing maze of switchback directions of circular streets. Now, i have the lit up map visualization in my head. Plus, delivering around and through the various suburbs has ushered in the knowledge of the geography of the land and the various communities of people, so that i’m feeling grounded in my chosen bioregion, and that’s real progress in my world.

This gig does not come with a giant meaningful purpose, i do not think, but i am surprised at how much appreciation is granted nonetheless, as the difference made in someone’s day can be huge. Sometimes people express surprise at seeing me show up to pick up their stuff. Usually it’s the women who are baffled, but i suspect they’re simply more comfortable expressing it. Yes, i’m a ‘girl’, and yes, i can carry the 30 lbs of treasure you ordered to be delivered. I’ve even heard one woman say ‘great job, you park like a man’. I’ll give you a moment to ponder all the issues with that statement. And it’s gratifying to see a lot of people in suits and ties stop to read my politics on the bumper and sides. Maybe i’m planting some seeds.

Another interesting aspect is to discover the various corporations, financial institutions, law firms, non-profits, public agencies, courts, and private organizations and their interrelationships. Names of groups i’ve never heard of have a huge steak in the running of the city, and beyond, and it occurs to me that somehow this knowledge will be useful down the road. At the very least, if the world as we know it collapses, there will be lots of housing available in choice spots near the ocean, as well as tons of surface area for solar panels and hanging and rooftop gardens.

Back to the now, however, it is sad to see what passes for security in the financial buildings. The safety measures are a complete fraud of safety: the way dozens of daily deliveries are monitored only makes it easier to figure out who the crazy bomber was in time for the evening network newscast, not to prevent the bombing or shooting rampage from happening in the first place. The employees and bankers only receive a veneer illusion of increased security, and so, besides empathizing with the deadening nature of their jobs in general, i feel bad that they’re trapped in even the basic sense of physical safety. So while high schools a few miles away have metal detectors, rather than more mentors and programs, the banks do not.

This past summer, i drove all around this vast country on a fantastic road trip seven years in the making, and so it is comical to look at this gig as an advancement, as it is in an excruciatingly narrow and basically zero sense, to now get paid to do what i have done for fun and fulfillment. Of course, the super glaring irony is that as a so-called environmentalist, i ‘shouldn’t’ be driving a fossil fuel dinosaur for any reason at all, free or paid. But up until recently, i had been driving so much that sometimes, it seems like i am not moving at all, that i inhabit the fish bowl that the fish cannot perceive. Fortunately i do become aware of this experience fairly fast, and concentrate deliberately, to counteract the fishbowl tendency.

The State of Massachusetts in fact regards driving as a privilege (not a necessity, did you say?) and deems the driver totally responsible for any bureaucratic mishaps. How else would an excise tax bill from 3 years ago from a little, lovely, centrally located town i never ‘officially’ relocated to, grow to nearly triple its original amount by now? Because the bill went to the address in that little town and never did i set eyes on it, but according to the law on the books and in strict enforcement, i am supposed to keep track of the fact that this bill hadn’t come and i hadn’t paid it, and any accrued and capitalized interest and late penalty fines are my punishment for my negligent lack of organization. Hmm. If it weren’t for my license expiring in the next few weeks, this bill would keep growing until the license expiration date, when the state does take trouble to notify me, at the address where i in fact do receive my mail, that this issue hasn’t been resolved.

Which brings me to the next chapter in this soliloquy. Driving, besides being incredibly lethal, much more than we would care to acknowledge at the everyday, life-flowing-along-normal-lines scale, is also incredibly draining on the finances. i made a fun exercise of my meticulous gene, to make a list of all the expenses involved in owning and driving a car, along with some commentary:

The already mentioned excise tax (state embezzlement, and cause for loud expletives when unexpectedly high): usually, $50 for my Camry, plus another $127.00 now, due to my irresponsible behavior

Gas: $57 to fill up right now, as oil companies make record profits through operation modes destructive of ecology and communities

Insurance: $80 a month, because of a super minor accident 4 years ago, i am basically paying the bill for it in higher premiums, so auto insurance companies never really lose money on accidents

AAA membership: $50 a year ~ this i am grateful for, as these people are on the ball when it comes to consumer advocacy about everything driving related, and of course, it’s a relief and stress-saver, when you’re stranded for any reason, such as landing in the red sands of rural Arizona, just shy of a tree and a moving truck, or when one of your tires decides to split off the wheel, so that you’re driving on metal at highway speed, in upstate NY

State Inspection: $30 a year ~ this is quite useful, i’m sure, although i wish there would be a draconian imposition on the rights of the individual when it comes to loud exhaust pipes. Sorry, i am sensitive to noise as well as obnoxious, ego-pumped driving

Parking Tickets: $40-100 per ticket ~ these totally ruin the day/week/month, as when i get them as a courier, it means i am working for free, and polluting!! without compensation = there’s too much wrong with this picture, i am in the job market, not to worry.

Tolls: $25 on EZ pass on a rolling basis ~ these require a cost/benefit analysis – driving on other roads that are slower and out of the way, vs. saving money on the toll BUT vs. finishing a delivery faster, becoming available for the next, and thus, recouping the cost of the toll, and then some ~ this is the microcosm of what i’ll call time-tetris game i play in couriering and beyond.

Oil Changes: $25 or thereabouts every 3 months/3000 miles, at my favorite mechanic’s, Sparky’s in Brighton (awesome place, i highly recommend) ~ i could do these myself to save a portion of this amount, as a lover of cars from my different time showed me, and having fixed the car i drove in New Zealand on my own, i do like messing around with all the grease. But, (drum roll, please, as here comes an avalanche of bullshit), i don’t have the tools and don’t know where to dispose of the used oil.

Registration: $41 every 2 years ~ no comment

License renewal: $40 every five years + any unpaid tickets + three year old excise tax bill(s) (okay, am moving now, i promise)

Car wash: “free” in the form of acid rain fall

Repairs: free - $1200 ~ unavoidable, worth it in the overall sense? Does all this expenditure buy me the freedom that i relish of fast and easy mobility or just the illusion of it as i am imprisoned by the expense instead?

And of course, who can neglect...

Parking: Varies and varies ~ i can park in my official neighborhood for free, pay .25 per 15 minutes in concentrated areas when i’m lucky to find a metered spot, park downtown when i’m couriering at a loading dock when there is one, or have a panic attack, when there is not, and get a ticket instead. Boston meter maids are voracious! and on top of their game ~ it’s a brutal world out there.

Which brings me to a bit wider lens of transportation.

Biking in Boston: our lovely city has been rated the most dangerous for bike couriers, as measured by frequency and severity of injuries incurred on the job (egh, legalese ~ not poetic), hence i pause at this minor career change. one detail on my mind at the moment about biking is that whereas driving in the car without the seat belt leaves me feeling naked in the too vulnerable and exposed way, riding without the equivalent in the biking world, the helmet, in the warmer months, does same in the fantastic free and unencumbered way ~ and i indulge in all these luxuries nonetheless. Hence, as the first real warm day in boston a few weeks ago witnessed steam coming out of my eyelashes when i was mounting brookline’s beacon hill, and the helmet had to go mid way.

This past weekend, i willingly grounded my car at Sparky’s and did all my plans on the bike, pushing through the fears of criss-crossing the city all weekend to do everything i wanted to do, of biking late at night, and when potentially tired. The liberation i felt instead was, well, bloody liberating, so now, i am operating on the mode of pretending not to have a car when i’m not earning money driving it. It’s fantastic. And, today, i inquired into switching to bike and walk couriering as i’m feeling disgusted by all the driving, and all the excuses for not biking fall away. Plus, there’s further freedom in biking in that there are no bicycle traffic jams, and it is not a regulated activity, so no need for bicyclist insurance and license, and i can go wherever physically possible.

And so i arrive at the ancient mode of transport, walking, and the walkers hold a spectrum of attitudes. Here are its extreme points: there are some walkers who flaunt their power in the eyes of the law in front of the drivers, and walk across and in the middle of a city highway as if taking a leisurely stroll on the beach, and are incensed when the driver drives up to them to swerve to make her point, rather than beep indignantly and/or politely run them over. Then there are others who, when the said driver now happens to be on the bike and stops short of a pedestrian because of rusty maneuvering around roadside construction, say, “this is why bikes shouldn’t be on sidewalks”, and the said driver now on bike is bowled over by this rather impressively measured response to almost being crashed into by over a hundred pounds of flesh and metal.

So the point is that given our over-scheduled, run-around, no-time-taken-to-sit-on–stoop-and-drink mate-with-friends-and-strangers-and-stop-to-smell-the-olive-trees lives in this northeastern urban culture, everyone is in each other’s way. There are two hierarchies at work simultaneously: the drivers pose the greatest physical danger to bikers and pedestrians, and hence face most liability, emotional and legal, and so, have the least power to move whenever and wherever.

And i’d say naturally, we get annoyed, sometimes heated even, when the people who happen to be walking or biking while we happen to be driving disregard the rules set up to keep them safe and are not conscious in the moment that it’s a lot easier most of the time to control the movement of your body and bike than it is the movement of the car. As a biker, it’s nice to have the choice of sidewalk or road, in theory. However, on the road, you’re likely to get killed because of cell-phone talking and general ADD, and the disappearing act of bike lanes in the city, while on the sidewalk, while dodging the cigarette smokers, trees, and extremely aged people in variously designed strollers can be fun, constantly hitting the breaks for dozens of obstacles, and sometimes scaring people without meaning to is not always. As a walker, the world is your oyster when it comes to stress-free movement, barring unusual occurrences like zooming bikers and heated drivers, but for it is such slow movement that there is not time left to smell those olive trees, in theory. Unless you just take the time.

The combination of the non-self-absorbed elements written here so far, and by that i mean concern for environment, natural and political, are but the slight breeze from a butterfly’s wings, flying from a grass strand to a flower petal, compared to the virulent hurricane of global climate change and the perpetuating violence of systemic economic and social inequality. The disparities, on the ground, are glaring, and the pace of change from how things work now to how they need to for achieving a just and sustainable world is agonizingly slow. But at least it IS, as opposed to not existing at all. I choose optimism. So my father, who is still not sure where the environment is located exactly, now recycles, composts and turns out the lights in the rooms he’s not using.

At my other paying activity right now, at the Tellus Institute, i am working with an energy expert who is testifying in a utility planning case in Colorado to substitute natural gas and coal fueled power plants with wind and solar power generation facilities. So while i burn the fossil fuels at one job, i am learning the nitty gritty details of generating and distributing the power and energy from the fossil fuels at the other job. Ying yang? Yes, and I’d like to think on the whole, that this is an earth-positive scenario, but i think that would be wishful thinking. This planning court case is the first in the country where the supporting evidence to be used for his recommendation is explicitly about greenhouse gas emissions and their impact on the climate. Three years ago, the last time this case went before the state’s Public Utility Commission which regulates the utility companies, the climate situation was not dire enough to consider it in its plans that span 40 years into the future. As a species, we apparently like to skate to the edge, for ourselves and for the rest of community of life, to see if we fall off, or can stop in time? Well, i can personally relate to that certainly, but my continuing to live along my edges won’t be so neatly analogized to the zoomed out scale of the planet, the people and the ecosystems. But on Monday, i was editing the expert’s testimony and he agreed to put in much stronger language about the destructiveness of coal especially.

Back to the local scene and the final note: and speaking of trees: last week, hundreds of tree seedlings, amazing! were being set up for planting along American Legion Highway in Hyde Park and into Dorchester. A beautiful sight to behold indeed.

The march towards the vision continues. What else is there to do?

~ Peace and Wilderness ~

"Spirit grant me the serenity to accept the things i cannot change, the courage to change the things i can, and the wisdom to know the difference" ~ reinhold niebuhr, (modified)

"have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and ... try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. and the point is to live everything. live the questions now. perhaps, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer" ~ rainer maria rilke

Wed, April 23, 2008 - 12:05 AM permalink - 3 comments
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about me
aka Nina

an explorer in spirit always, seeking and finding beauty and freedom everywhere

nomad, thinker, walker, runner, dreamer, writer, photographer, earth lover
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