Saturday, May 16, 2009

The New Prosperity

Dancing Hands
Originally uploaded by ojodorado

I'm noticing with the current economic slowdown that people are beginning to find wealth in each other. Barter and
local currencies are sprouting up all over the U.S.A., just as alternative economics flourished in Argentina during their 2002 economic crisis.

I visited one of these 'local networks' the other day in Fairfax (Marin County) California. The primary organizer,Matthew, explained that he viewed currency in three concentric layers, the first being our direct family and friends, with whom we can use trade, the second our community, with whom we can use a combination of trade and regular currency', and the third being the bigger world, where we operate with 'traditional' currency.

The Village Network in Fairfax operates as a membership, where people can post their needs and what they have to offer, and then earn credits according to how much they have given or received. A bulletin board in a small shop called Origin, one of the network's three public spaces, is filled with colored cards that people have posted, offering and asking for massages, business services, housing.

Here's another thriving barter experiment in Madison,Wisconsin.

Any community can start something like this. It is a way of shifting our
attention away from our 'lack' of money and/or jobs towards the real resources we have as individuals and as community.

The photo is of two hands meeting during a dance last summer at a Choctaw Pow-Wow in Mississippi.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Comforting Human Noise

Trumpet Player, Houston 2
Originally uploaded by ojodorado

Went to North Beach yesterday to meet some friends. It was a sunny day, and throngs of locals and tourists were enjoying the weather, walking the streets of North Beach, sitting in cafes, watching dogs cavort in Washington Square.

I love San Francisco, and I love North Beach. Sitting in Mario's, waiting for some friends, I became aware of how the sounds of human voices in the restaurant were merging and blending,like a river.

Interesting, I thought. When I've had too much of the city, I go to the country to visit the sound of the river. When I've had too much of the country I go to the city, to visit the river of human sound.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Moving Out of the Age of Stupid

Step Into The Light
Originally uploaded by ojodorado

Yesterday afternoon, there were people crying in the Kabuki theater where I had gone to see a film at the San Francisco Film Festival. One of them was a woman in her twenties who, later, spoke angrily to her friends out on the sidewalk: "No, I am NOT going to have a child. Why should I bring a child into this?"

"This", according to the film
The Age of Stupid and numerous reports by climatologists on global warming, is basically collective human suicide.

The film reports on the years leading up to this suicide from the fictional vantage point of a survivor in 2055. Sitting in a cavernous building where he has saved thousands of books and artwork as momentos of a lost human civilization, he plays documentary footage of pre-suicide years, focusing on the lives of six individuals.

These six people are our contemporaries--they are us: a man who works his entire life for the oil industry loses his home in Hurricane Katrina, a Nigerian woman decides to trade in black market diesel after her fishing business is devastated by oil exploitation, an Indian entrepreneur decides to fight poverty in his country by creating an airline while a British couple decide not to take an own airline flight on their vacation because it will increase their carbon footprint.

One of the most powerful moments in the film for me was the confrontation between a British wind power entrepreneur and the group of residents who didn't want the wind farm near them because it would 'spoil the view', even as each one of them spoke of how supportive they were of alternative energy sources and slowing ecological disaster.

In other words, many of us want to halt global warming, but only in a vague, pleasant, abstract way. When it comes to actually allowing wind farms to move in next door, or not taking that airplane trip to Paris, or not buying that plastic bottle of water when you are thirsty, it is far more difficult.

I include myself in this. Ironically, just before seeing the film I had been discussing with myself all the reasons why I should buy a car.
Now I think I'll hold off a little longer. Busses may take longer but I meet more interesting people on them than when I am driving alone.

The Age of Stupid is a powerful and effective film, ultimately not leaving us with a sense of despair but with some practical solutions for change.

Afterwards, the filmmaker was on hand to talk about how British politicians had approached her to watch the film as world governments prepare for the
/Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change which will attempt to develop a framework to move us out of the Age of Stupid and towards a more positive and sustainable future.