Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How Much is Enough?

In March 2010 I sold my house and moved into a downtown apartment.  One of the reasons for moving was to downsize my footprint.  I wrote about this in a 2-part blog post (Downsizing Part I and Downsizing Part II).  At the time of the move, I got rid of at least 50% of my possessions and felt some relief from the burden of having too much stuff.

Fast forward to October 2011.  I've now been in my apartment for 18 months and I've probably only touched/used 50 percent of what I moved from my house to my apartment.  Fully 1/2 of everything I moved sits in cabinets, a storage locker, closets, and drawers untouched from the day I moved.  Yet, I am still challenged to get rid of it.  What is this attraction to our stuff?

As you know, the sustainability mantra is reduce, reuse, and recycle.  These actions are listed in decreasing orders of environmental impact because never buying and using something is far better for the environment than buying it and reusing it, or buying it and recycling it at the end of its life.

As I'm writing this I'm thinking about the events at Occupy Wall Street.  I understand the need for change and yet the question is in what direction?  If we have full employment and a global consumer society we'll destroy the biological systems that make life possible.  The "system" is driving all of us to work, work, work and consume, consume, consume yet that isn't leading to the world we both want and need.

The good news about downsizing 18 months ago and the ongoing realization that I still have way too much stuff is that I'm not buying anything.

I already have enough - And less stuff is actually more fulfilling after you've got the basics covered.

Now we just need to figure out how to have a successful economy that isn't based on unsustainable and unsatisfying criteria.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Main Street Businesses should join with Occupy Wall Street

I've been down at the events at Occupy Portland every day for at least a few hours since the events started here in Portland on October 6th.  There truly is a wide variety of people involved.  While we need many more voices engaged, one thing clearly missing up to this point is the voice of Main Street businesses and the people who actually create jobs, make payrolls, and contribute to our communities in so many ways.  The movement is anti-Wall Street, not anti-business.

When I attend the events, I see the need for far more people to be involved in the discussions than are currently present.  While those of us with businesses probably find it hard to get down to the occupation and be involved, it is imperative that we get involved in what I believe is likely to be the biggest social change movement in my lifetime.

Business as usual cannot continue.  Business as usual cannot continue.

I wrote that twice to emphasize a point.  People are pissed off and in the streets because we have an economic system that is NOT meeting the legitimate needs and aspirations of a free people while simultaneously destroying the biological systems that life depends on.

Here are some sobering facts:
  • 1 in 4 US children in poverty
  • A corrupt political system controlled by money
  • 20%+ unemployment or underemployment
  • Multiple wars for resources and control
  • 50 million Americans without health insurance
  • The largest prison population in the world
  • A security state second to none
  • Wealth disparity that rivals third world nations
  • The daily destruction of biological necessities like clean air, water, land, diversity, and a stable atmosphere

We have an economic system that works amazingly well for the 1%, and pretty darn good for another 10-15% while leaving vast amounts of people in desperate poverty or surviving pay check to pay check.  We can do better.

Our system isn't broken, it's actually working wonderfully well according to it's design.

In order to make the necessary system changes, we need lots of people involved.  That's how we all can help birth a new society.

I did a blog post more than two years ago about systems I think you'll find interesting.  You can read it here.

The sign I'll be carrying at the next rally will say "It's the System Stupid"  I hope you'll join me at an occupation near you.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Occupy Portland

Yesterday, I attended the Occupy Portland march with approximately 10,000 others.  We completely filled Pioneer Courthouse square and spilled onto the adjacent streets.  Due to work, I was only able to participate for an hour.

I returned to the occupation around 8pm in the evening to join in solidarity with this movement to change the system.  The vibe was incredible and everyone was friendly and hopeful.  The demands are for systemic change.

Around 10pm a woman came by and asked if anyone wanted to teach a class.  I volunteered to teach a class on economics starting at 10:15pm.  At the appointed time, we formed a circle on the lawn and about 20 people joined me for an economics discussion.  The group eventually grew to well over 50 people.

Without resources, I discussed some of the following:
  • The SYSTEM
  • Circulation of money
  • The FED and the creation of money
  • A giving economy
  • Happiness index and other metrics
  • Labor, capital, and managerial classes
  • The scale of the system
  • Alternatives, Alternatives, Alternative as a few different ideas.
  • The Paradigm of the current system
It was a rich and rewarding experience to share my business and economics expertise.  I ended up staying until 1am when I walked home and slept in my warm bed.

Rather than go directly to work, I returned this morning at 7:30am and ended up working as a spokesperson/information sharer as well as doing call in reports for KBOO community radio.  I also did a number of TV and radio interviews as well.

When I arrived, the General Assembly (GA) was taking place and there were approximately 500+ people in attendance.  I counted more than 60 tents though many had already been packed away.  The police had given us until 9am to clear the park as the Portland Marathon had rented out the space for their weekend event.

Behind the scenes were furious negotiations with the police, Portland Marathon, the Mayor's office, and representatives of Occupy Portland.  OP moved from two parks and consolidated into one and I believe Portland Marathon made the decision to share the park with us rather than have us removed.  That decision allowed the peaceful demonstration to stay in place so we could relax and move forward rather than worrying about the logistics of moving.

Around 9:40am, I again led an economics discussion and gathered probably 50+ people for the discussion.

At 11am I had to return to work.  I will back tonight.

We have an opportunity to change the system but we need more people to get involved.  Democracy is not a spectator sport.  The current system wants all of you to just go back to work so the 1% can get even richer while we destroy the planet through an unjust economic system.

Will you join me in changing it?

If so, you have to get out into the streets.  There is something vastly different about speaking face to face in human size groups that cannot be replicated through mass media.  Unless you have attended an event, you have no idea what is going on.  It would be like trying to taste a meal by listening to the food.
I know the Arab uprising occured and I saw it on TV but the only way to know what was really going on was to be a part of it.  This is our Arab uprising.  We need a new system and we need it now.  We need ALL people of goodwill out to help us create it.

The current economic system in the US produces:
  • 20% + unemployment/underemployment
  • 1 in 4 children in poverty
  • Multiple wars for resources and control
  • A security state 2nd to none
  • The largest prison population on the planet
  • Ecological destruction
  • 50 million without health insurance
  • Wealth disparity that rivals third world nations.
We can and must do better.  I hope you'll join me TODAY in helping nurture this unbelievable moment.

If not now, when?  If not you, who?