Saturday, December 27, 2008

Ordinary love and Proposition 8

You may have noticed that Rose, the journalist telling the story of the Village of Ordinary, lives and loves with her lifelong partner, Cheyenne.

Ordinary is an inclusive community. Because children are born to families who want them; because as the title of the book says, the people understand "It Takes a Village to raise a child; and because people are raised to fulfill their individual potential in a comforting setting of community and love; prejudice, fear and hatred simply do not exist. (For precedence, see Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh.)

Yet hate, fear and prejudice continue, sometimes for the color of our skin, sometimes for the faith we practice, sometimes for the people we love and who love us. So it is with astonished gratitude that I watched this video of a mainstream newscaster, Keith Olbermann of MSNBC, giving a bold, impassioned plea to the people of California who voted away, last month, the rights of gays and lesbians, under their constitution, to marry the loves of their lives.

Listen to Mr. Olbermann's comments regarding California's Proposition 8 and tell me what you think.

Now that is someone helping to make the vision of Ordinary real. Thank you, Mr. Olbermann.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

USDA trying to shut down family-owned organic milk farms?

Clover organic milk carton
Do you eat organic? If you do, very likely you've made a conscious choice to pay a little more for foods stamped "USDA Organic."

Cutaway--USDA Organic seal on milk cartonCongress has charged the US Department of Agriculture with assuring we get what we pay for when we see this seal. You may know that they don't always.

The last eight years have seen USDA interpretations that many feel belie the term organic. Get the lowdown on that, and keep informed on all things organic, through the Organic Consumers Association (OCA).

For now, there's a really important USDA proposed rule that could do a whole lot more harm than good where organic milk is concerned. This rule is about to go into effect unless enough of us convince the Feds to give us a little more time to read it and respond. Here's the skinny.

What: USDA proposed rule supposed to "clamp down on giant factory dairy farms ... that violate the spirit and letter of federal organic law by primarily confining their cattle to feedlots," according to organics watchdog The Cornucopia Institute.

Issue: The proposed rule might clamp down on giant factory farms, depending on how allowed exceptions are interpreted, but it is likely it will also close most family-owned operations as well, according to Cornucopia. Additionally, the USDA gave all of us only sixty days to read, review and comment on the proposed rule before making it final. Day sixty is December 23, just nine days from today.

Action Step: Buy us all more time to read and understand this 26-page document of fine-print government doublespeak--Sign the petition requesting 30 days additional review time.

Believe me, we need it. I tried to read the document this evening and got only so far as page seven before my eyes crossed. I'm still not sure what I was reading. On first glance, it seems the government is doing what it says it intends: closing loopholes so mega-farms can't call milk organic that comes from conventional cattle hackle-deep in their own muck and filth in feedlots. Where's the pasture? (Don't be fooled by the bucolic rolling hills on the milk carton.)

On second glance, try to wrap your eyes and brain around all the clauses, references to exceptions in section this and paragraph that of non-linked external documents, and you begin to think you need an attorney to tell you what they really mean by it all.

The OCA and Cornucopia think we all need time to look this thing over. Do a very Ordinary thing just now: read the petition and if you think it has merit, sign it.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Playing for change

We interrupt our regularly scheduled post to bring you this treat from Playing for Change: Peace through Music.

Music is a dominant feature in the Village of Ordinary, as important as food and friendship. Mark Johnson, Jonathon Walls and the people of Playing for Change believe music can help the people of the world make peace. They circle the globe, videotaping ordinary street musicians playing the same song, just as you see in the vid above.

That isn't all they do. Go to their website and learn more. Be amazed.

Everywhere I turn, people are building Ordinary, one idea, one video, one committed step at a time. Who do you know who is building a piece of Ordinary? Share the vision. Tell us about it.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Why are there no corporations in Ordinary?

Did you watch Annie Leonard's vid, The Story of Stuff? If you did, you understand why there are no corporations in the land of Ordinary.

Because the people of Ordinary and her world support themselves and each other fully on the land ...

Because they use only what they need and never more than the land can provide ...

Because each individual is encouraged to find and develop her/his unique talents and abilities and to share those with society ...

Because every individual contributes to the day-to-day upkeep of common buildings and spaces and to growing and gathering food ...

And because the people are indeed their brother's and sister's keepers ...

There is no place for greedy corporations in the land of Ordinary.

Oh, I know what you're thinking. Humankind has yet to evolve to live peacefully without coveting power, things and above-all currency. Yes? No. Remember the Ladakh! In my lifetime, before westerners so corrupted the Ladakhi society, her people lived just so. We humans can do it again.

On Sunday in Should you pay a little more for hormone-free milk?, I showed you a chapter from the three-hour documentary, The Corporation. Think of Leonard's vid as the outline and The Corporation as the full story.

For a motivating shot, watch the movie trailer right now.

I hope it will impel you to take time to watch the entire film. When you realize how deeply the multinational corporations manipulate us, despite our best efforts to resist, you may feel anger as I did, perhaps rage, but also an overwhelming sadness. As the film so poignantly shows again and again, the CEOs themselves do not want to live in the over-crowded, polluted, unhealthy world they are creating in their pursuit of short-term, rapid-gain profits.

On the other hand, there's the Wall Street guy who could think of only one thing on 9-11: "What is this doing to the price of gold?" He saw the tragedy and disaster of 9-11 as an opportunity to make money--a lot of money. Indeed, if news reports were correct, Osama Bin Laden himself planned to make a killing on Wall Street when United Airlines stock plummeted following the strikes.

Watch the film free in 23 segments on YouTube or purchase it from the or rent it on NetFlix iTunes.

I give gratitude for author Joel Bakan, who wrote the book of the same name, filmakers Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott and all the people who shared their vision, talent, time, skill and energy in bringing these messages to us. They show us where we went wrong, at least in part. We can change. On the way to building Ordinary, we've much to do.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Watch and be amazed: The Story of Stuff

In a comment on What if we stopped pouring our cash into the giant pool of money, blogger Carrie Wilson Link reminds us of the Story of Stuff video.

Here's a teaser. After you watch it, follow the link above to view the whole thing. It's twenty minutes and well worth your time.

In ecovillages like Ordinary, conspicuous, frequent consumption is extraordinary. Stewards of the land, villagers tend it carefully. They understand Nature's cycles and consider themselves a part of Nature and her patterns.

This is nothing new. Humankind lived in harmony with Nature for millenia. The question is: How do we return to a less extractive, less consumptive, more healing lifestyle? What would we have to give up? What would we gain? Imagine a world without malls, without endless ribbons of freeway traffic. Imagine a world so quiet you can hear crickets and peepers at night, so dark the stars pop from the velvet sky almost into your hand.

Imagine a world with no mega corporations, no corporate greed, a world where individuals' natural tendency to compassion for one another and care of the earth who feeds us is second nature. Imagine a world like Ordinary. Can you?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Should you pay a little more for hormone-free milk?

In Ordinary, villagers eat dairy products from cows, goats, chickens and other poultry, which they carefully raise and tend. Villagers use skills passed through thousands of years of animal husbandry to assure a safe milk, egg and meat supply.

When it comes to protecting the food supply in our world, though, corporate expediency and profits may cloud executive vision a hair. Should we be concerned? Take a look at this segment of the film The Corporation and decide for yourself.

Producers Jane Akre and Steve Wilson thought Americans should know the truth about the hormones, called rBST, that dairy farmers feed cows to increase milk production. They say they had evidence that the hormone manufacturers suppressed, but Fox News wouldn't let them tell their story. Once again, corporate expediency and profit, this time in the form of mega advertising dollars, appear to have temporarily blinded executives.

Short take: The hormones cause terrible suffering in dairy cows, including udder and teat infections that secrete bacteria-filled pus. Milking machines can't tell the difference between clean milk and pus-infected milk. Sure, our milk is pasteurized, but bacteria levels following pasteurization are higher in milk from hormone-fed cows. We drink that milk. Our children drink it. While Europe and much of the western world has banned the use of hormones in beef and dairy cattle for years, our own US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves their use.

Are Americans at risk? Harvard researcher Ganmaa Davaasambuu thinks chances are good that we are. The Sprecher Institute for Comparative Cancer Research at Cornell University, on the other hand, says little or no evidence has been found to support the hypothesis. Of course, that's partly because almost no one has studied the issue. What we don't know can't hurt us. Can it?

Whatever science decides, our household will continue to pay a little more for hormone-free milk. We consider the extra pennies it takes to protect dairy animals from unwarranted suffering a worthy tithe. Who knows? We just might save ourselves a nasty bout with cancer in our later years.

What do you think?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What if we stopped pouring our cash into the giant pool of money?

What if we stopped buying all that stuff? Do we really need it? Does it improve our quality of lives so very much? Take a journey with me for just a moment.

Imagine that you are ninety-five years old. You're sitting at your dining room table, having a cup of tea and a biscuit. What matters to you right now? Look around you. What's in this room with you? Who is in this room with you?

Are you surrounded by beautiful things? Do you enjoy dusting them? Do you enjoy looking at them, touching them, feeling them? How did you acquire them? How costly were they? What did you give up to get them?

Are you surrounded by people you love who love you? Are they speaking to you as if you are intelligent and have something to contribute? Your body isn't what it used to be: Are the people with you conscious of your needs and loving in assuring they're met?

Can you see trees, perhaps a mountain or the ocean from your window? Can you see a river or a lake or pond? Is there a nourishing garden for body and soul nearby? Do you still love the scent of a tomato picked from the vine?

When you look back on your life, what do you remember that gladdens your heart? What do you tell your great-grandchildren, perhaps your great-great-grandchildren, you are glad you did? How many of those moments are big ones and how many are what many might consider small?

What do you wish you had done with your time and your money twenty years ago, when you were seventy-five? Forty years ago at fifty-five? What choices do you wish you had made when you were younger? How much time do you wish you had spent at Target, WalMart, and the mall? How much money you spent in those places do you wish you had spent differently? How do you wish you had used those dollars?

Ask everyone in the room to leave. Turn and speak to your younger self, the self sitting in the chair reading this right now. Tell yourself what you wish you done differently with your life, the daily choices you wish you had made, the things you wish you had done with your money.

Start doing them right now.

Then come back here and tell me what you saw, what you felt, what you want to change about the way you use money.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Consumers have all the power--What if we started to use it consciously?

In The Giant Pool of Money, we begin to understand just how much money is available in the world. Did you notice how powerful we, as consumers, are? The world economy depends on us. It depends on us to buy things. It especially depends on us to buy things on credit.

First, we buy things that are worth less than we pay for them, so the folks who make them can turn a profit. That's not so bad, right? We all want a little extra cash in our pockets. Profit is good. So we've been taught.

The big deal, though, is that when we use our credit cards to buy stuff--be it computers and high-def, wide-screen TVs or socks and school supplies--we pay interest. Say in August you plunked down six hundred Visa dollars for clothes and calculators to outfit the kids. Did you calculate the interest you'll pay for those purchases? How much did each of the items cost once you add the cost of the credit to their purchase price? Maybe you made it up by carefully shopping for bargains. Or maybe because you found the bargains, you were able to buy an extra pair of jeans or the trendy backpack your son wanted.

Whatever the case, your purchases contributed outright to the giant pool of money. The interest you pay on your credit cards will continue to contribute to that giant pool. Oh, and since shopping is exhausting, did you stop at the food court while you were at the mall and buy snacks and drinks for the girls and their friends? Don't get me wrong. I understand low blood sugar and shopping don't mix. So do the fat cats. That's why there's so much high fructose corn syrup in the drinks you bought, and very likely in a good portion of the food as well. Those guys know that a sugar rush and the resulting crash can lead to impulse buys.

That gleam in their eye, if we could see into their board rooms and private clubs, is in the shape of dollar signs. They're counting on us to spend, spend, spend and charge, charge, charge. They're counting on us to keep filling their giant pool of money, drip by drip, dollar by dollar.

What if we didn't?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The giant pool of money--think there's not enough for you and me and everyone else?

In this time of global economic melt-down, think about this: Take all the dollars spent everywhere in the world in one year. That's every dollar spent on the planet by every city, county, state, country, war machine, church, mega-corporation, small business, family, and yes, homeless drug addict. All those dollars, every dollar spent everywhere on the planet every single year do not begin to add up to the number high-roller investors the world over pump into sure-thing cash cows.

What the world's rich guys have left over to invest, after they buy their yachts, their fancy homes in three countries, their fast cars and luxury sedans, their five-thousand dollar suits and their $10,000-a-night resort hotel rooms amounts to seventy trillion dollars.

Think the 700 billion dollar bailout is scary? That's almost three-quarters of one trillion dollars.

The fat cats have seventy trillion dollars to play with. Remember, that's more than all of us--every person, organization, corporation, government body on the planet--spend every year, from bread to bombs.

They call this investment cash the giant pool of money.

So where did they get this giant pool of money? According to reporters on a recent This American Life episode titled The Giant Pool of Money, a lot of it came from you and me. When we bought gas for our cars, televisions made in China, clothing made in Indonesia, furniture made in Sri Lanka, pizza, McBurgers and the Colonel's chicken buckets, we threw our dollars, hand over fist, into the giant pool of money.

It's not all bad. While we filled the deep, deep pool in which the fat cats play, we also enriched offshore companies, often third-world countries. We were, quite literally, sharing our wealth and giving a hand up to people in countries who want all the glittery, glossy houses, cars, entertainment centers, I-pods and I-phones we have.

Because we are willing to pay, always, more than an object is worth, thus making a profit for the seller, we feed the wealth of those who figure out what we'll buy and get it to us while we're still eager to grab it.

So if you're thinking, during this time of economic crisis, while you watch your IRA and 401K plans melt away, while politicians tell you there's no way there will be Medicare or Social Security for the Boomers like they provided for their parents and grandparents, while you pay more and more for gasoline, car insurance, health insurance (if you're lucky enough to have it), and yes, milk, bread and shoes for the baby--if you're thinking there simply isn't enough to go around, think again.

The world has plenty of wealth. There is enough for everyone. Our task, should we choose to accept it, is to learn how to share. Greed has no place in Ordinary.

My thanks to blogger Hayden of Lyric Flight, whose comment on Talking up the green economy, suggested this topic.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Take a stand

Stand on the street corner with a sign that says WAR
Stand on the corner with a sign that says PEACE
Take a stand

Wear a pin on your lapel that says WAR
Wear a pin that says PEACE
Show your heart's desire

When your colleague stabs you in the back, raise your fist and say
This is war!
Hold out your hand, look her in the eye and say, Peace
Act like you mean it

When a driver zooms into the parking spot you've been waiting for
Hold up an ugly sign in red and black and orange that says, WAR
Hold up a happy sign in cheerful blues and teals and yellows that says Peace
Feel the difference

When your child lies down on the playground kicking and screaming that she doesn't want to go and you're worn to a frazzle
Raise your fist to the heavens and say, War!
Sit down and scoop your child into your arms and rock her until she feels peace
Be the world you want your child to know when she grows up

Sit down after work with a beer and the remote and watch three hours of war, violence and murder-as-entertainment
Read a book to your child, take a walk in the cool evening air, share a candlelight dinner with your sweetheart, get out your art supplies and doodle, trim the dead leaves from your plants, paint the bathroom, write three thank you notes, call your best friend, knit a sweater, drink a hot cup of cocoa, go to bed early
Make peace

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Talking up green jobs

With the stock market tanking and bank after bank failing, lots of people are peeing-their-pants scared right now. The haves are trying to figure out how to get richer with the bailout and, failing that, how to recover their losses. The have-nots are trying to figure out how to pay the rent and the heating bills this winter, keep the lights on and the kids in shoes that fit.

Most of us between are wondering how to protect ourselves. If the haves have stolen our retirement funds, and if it's true there aren't enough workers to provide social security for the baby boomers, now that the government has borrowed against our SS funds for the next three hundred years or so, will we spend our declining years begging for handouts on the streets?

How bad will it get before it gets better? More importantly, what can possibly make it better?

Part of the answer lies in green collar jobs.

Green Jobs Now posters

Green for All sorts the talking points for green collar jobs this way.

  • Green collar jobs rebuild a strong middle class
  • Green collar jobs provide pathways out of poverty
  • Green collar jobs require some new skills (and some new thinking about old skills
  • Green collar jobs tend to be local jobs
  • Green collar jobs save Planet Earth

Now that's an Ordinary solution. For more depth on each of these points, go to Green for All now.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What did you do on Green Jobs Now Awareness Day?

national business coalition in San Francisco calls for green jobs now
All over the US last Saturday, everyday folks hosted and participated in hundreds of Green Jobs Now events.

Image courtesy Green Jobs Now

Events ranged from Guy Marsden's in Woolich, ME, where he showed two people how to make thermal window inserts; to the Green Jobs for All rally in Minneapolis, where more than one hundred job-hungry people showed up to take action and talk with elected officials; to a forum in New Orleans, where congressional candidates were grilled on their commitment to green jobs and environmental recovery.

As of this writing, organizers of 250 of the nearly 700 events have reported on their success.

"Together we proved that America's #1 resource is people, not oil," says Green Jobs Now.

You can be part of the green jobs revolution. Begin by signing the Green Jobs Now petition (text below) and learn about next action steps.

Green Jobs Now petition text

Were you part of a Green Jobs Now event Saturday? Tell us all about it in a comment below.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I'm ready for the green economy--Are you?

Today is Green Jobs Now day. All over the country, people are showing up at city halls and on public streets to show their civic and national leaders they're ready to roll up their sleeves and go to work building a safer, greener economy.
Americans are ready to build the new economy. It's time to invest in saving the planet and the people. It's time for green jobs now!

Van Jones and his Green Jobs Revolution team say that millions of people are skilled and available to help:
  • Weatherize thousands of buildings
  • Install millions of solar panels on public and private buildings
  • Develop local and sustainable food options in their own communities
  • Engineer and wire public transit systems and smart electricity grids

There's so much more. Join the Green Jobs Revolution. Find an action near you today and do your part.

US map of 9/27/08 green jobs now events

Winning and losing an election--An uncharacteristic rant

Did you watch the presidential debate last night? Were you as disappointed as I was? McCain was well-rehearsed and well-prepared with his few soundbite talking points, hammering them home again and again. Ya gotta hand it to the republicans. They know how to use TV.

Obama, apparently winging it, and with no apparent understanding that viewers read body language and facial expressions, let show how much McCain got under his skin. Was he expecting a rational, substantive debate? The dems need serious schooling in TV 101, and I don't understand why, after all these years, they still don't get it.

And what's with all the "I think ..., uh, er," and "I believe, uh, er"? Viewers are trained to be impatient. Every word that doesn't count, every er and uh, uh, uh diverts viewer interest, especially the viewers Obama most needs to capture--so-called independents and undecideds. Worse, they make Obama appear uncertain, indecisive and weak.

The dems need some quick lessons in on-camera presentation if they're to save any chance of taking an election that was theirs to lose from the get-go. It's one thing the Clintons knew, understood and used well. Obama and Biden should be analyzing Reagan, Clinton, and yes, McCain videos and learn how to use TV to win an election.

That's the getting and keeping our attention rant. What about substance? Neither man showed a hint of leadership regarding last week's long-coming Wall Street meltdown and the astonishing bailout plan. Neither so much as mentioned the global crisis that threatens human life on the planet. If it weren't so frustrating, if the stakes weren't so high, the debate would have been a yawn.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The women of PeaceXPeace

My heart is ever gladdened by the stamina and courage of women. If you need inspiration or just a lift today, take a look at the women of PeaceXPeace.

You might start with 79-year-old Bettye Johnson, who published her first (award-winning) book at 72. With Secrets of the Magdalene Scrolls, she goes further than The Da Vinci Code and histories of the Knights Templar, weaving an intriguing and fascinating tale of the life of the Magdalene and her family. Her sequel, Mary Magdalene, Her Legacy, is equally compelling.

Then there's Gaza Strip photojournalist Eman Mohammed. Documenting war, Mohammed goes where women of her country and faith are not supposed to go. Her camera tells the stories she cannot speak.

And there's midwife Robin Lim. Upon learning that post-childbirth hemorrhage was the leading cause of death in Bali, Lim founded Yayasan Bumi Sehat, a pre-natal and birthing clinic. Her lifesaving clinics (there are now two, with two more planned) are needed more than ever: Indonesia recently halted its national health insurance program.

At PeaceXPeace, stories abound from around the globe--of women helping women, building their communities, building businesses while protecting their natural environment and yes, making peace. What's more, they encourage each and every one of us to add our own story.

Be inspired. You can start with nothing and make something extraordinary. In women's lives, making something useful from nothing is more ordinary than not.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What if they closed prisons to open child care centers and schools?

To illustrate its opposition to California Proposition 6, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland runs this image, which made me wonder ...

What if they closed prisons and used the money to open child care centers and schools? What if teachers and day care workers were paid as much as prison guards?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What the heck is National Food Desert Awareness Month about?

There are no grocery stores in the food desert. When you're driving or walking past fast-food walk-up after fast-food drive-in hawking greasy burgers, chicken, fries and high fructose corn syrup (hfcs) colas, and there's not a grocery store or produce bin in sight, you know you're in a food desert. People who live in food deserts tend to die younger, and they die of diet-related illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease, according to researcher Mari Gallagher.

In Brother, can you spare an apple?, Gallagher says "If an apple is further away than a burger, then the chances of choosing fresh food more often than fast food is a mirage,"

Image courtesy; Photographer: Ian Britton

So in the interest of getting more healthy produce, particularly organically grown produce, into the hands and mouths of people at high risk for developing diet-related diseases, Gallagher, Growing Home, Inc., Goodness Greeness and the National Center for Public Research kicked off National Food Desert Awareness Month in Chicago earlier this month.

Why the Chicago launchpad? Because half a million people on Chicago's south side live in a food desert, and they're hungry for things that crunch.

Perhaps in all the rhetoric about cutting our taxes, bailing out Wall Street, and keeping America secure during this election season, the candidates should add "and a grocery store in every neighborhood." Or, dreaming wildly here, "and a pesticide-free garden in every neighborhood!"

Wouldn't that be Ordinary?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Growing home with green jobs

For sixteen years, Chicago's Growing Home has been teaching homeless people to grow their own pesticide-free food. People living on the fringe grow new lives for themselves while working with the soil. They gain self-confidence and hope while they nurture tender seedlings into mature, fruit-bearing plants. Their health improves when they eat the wholesome foods they've grown, and they gain life and job skills when they sell their premium organic produce to high-end restaurants and at Chicago's premier farmer's market.

Recently, the program set up a local farmer's market on Chicago's south side, making delicious locally-grown produce available to people, many of whom are themselves one minimum-wage paycheck from homelessness, who live in the food desert.

We need a green economy that honors the earth ... but not a green economy only for the eco-chic. ... The people who are struggling for bus fare--they have a place too.

Growing Home is part of the Green Jobs Revolution. Learn more about it from the people whose lives are changing because of it:

The good stuff that you put into the earth, you get right back out the earth in a better way.
Participant, Growing Home, Inc.

How perfectly Ordinary is that? What are you growing in your garden today?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Can green jobs help save the economy as well as the planet?

Next Saturday is
Green Jobs Now
National Day of Action

More than 800,000 workers lost their jobs in the last four months, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Situation Summary. More than half of those, 417,000 breadwinners, lost their jobs just last month.

Both presidential candidates support green jobs as a way to stimulate the economy, help workers and solve some of our energy problems. Green Jobs Now and the organizations that support it aren't waiting until January 20 for those jobs to appear. They're taking action now.

So can you. Watch this video, then jump to Green Jobs Now and check out what's happening in your neck of the woods. Better still, sign up to host an event or take an action yourself. The key is to let our civic and national leaders know we're all looking for green jobs now.

How exciting is it, to know that so many ordinary people, in so many ordinary places, are looking for jobs that give back more than a paycheck--jobs that help us all build a more Ordinary kind of future?

I'd love to hear what you're doing to promote green jobs this week. If you can do nothing else, share this post with people you know.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

What America needs is more losers

Maybe what America needs is more losers. Al Gore told the story of global climate change in a way that everyone gets. Gore has been researching and talking about the environment since his college days. It was always his driving issue. Free from the tyranny of political aspirations, Gore focused on his core passions and, Phoenix-like, rose from what some saw as annihilation to a Nobel Peace Prize, an Oscar, and a position of leadership that far surpasses the wimpy Washington puppet show.

Now John Edwards is gaining ground focusing on his personal passion: putting an end to poverty. What's more, he says we can be halfway there in ten years. That's right. Edwards has a plan for reducing poverty in this country by half in ten years and eliminating it completely in just three decades.

Like Gore on global warming, Edwards sees poverty not only as an American problem, but a worldwide problem, and that when we solve the problem of poverty in America, we are solving the problem worldwide, because it's going to take all of us, all over the world, to succeed.

Like Gore, he says we have to create a grassroots movement to make it work. Here and abroad.

Like Gore, Edwards challenges America to rise and to demand action from our leaders.

And like Gore, Edwards describes the joy of living in this time when we can do something the world has never done before: eliminate poverty worldwide.

That's something even Jesus, who said "The poor you have always with you," didn't think we could do.

Half in Ten. That's the name of John Edward's campaign to reduce poverty by fifty percent in ten years, with the goal to end it completely in this country within thirty years.

John Edwards at Momentum Conference on public tv's NOWPublic TV's NOW caught up with John Edwards in San Francisco at the Momentum Conference last spring where David Brancaccio interviewed Edwards on his Half in Ten campaign. Take a look.

Last week, Wall Street barons got 700-billion dollar bailouts from the federal government--enough to finance a war. While people all over the country, suckered by empty promises, lose their homes and jobs, the barons endure no threat of losing their multi-million-dollar mansions. Think your taxes won't go up to protect the lifestyles of the very rich?

But don't despair. With people like Edwards championing the poorest of us, who have no friends in Washington, there's hope. It takes true leadership to conceive and execute a plan to end poverty once and for all. John Edwards, and lots of people like you and me are standing up and accepting the challenge. They can't do it alone. It will take a whole lot of us on the ground working for change, but it is possible to end poverty in this, the third most populous country in the world, in thirty years.

To learn how you can help achieve what even Jesus thought no one could do, go to the website linked above, or visit From Poverty to Prosperity: A National Strategy to Cut Poverty in Half.

We live in exciting times, folks, and they are becoming more and more ordinary.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Fossil fuels are a gift

If ever you wanted to understand the debate on climate change and why it's important to pay attention and begin doing our part, Roel Hammerschlag of the Institute for Lifecycle Environmental Assessment spits it out nicely in a short speech he gives on behalf of Portland's Green House Network. You can read the speech here. Hammerschlag kindly includes his charts, bar graphs and source notes, so you can see what he's talking about, and so you don't have to take his word for it.

Prefer a more graphic approach? This geeky guy entertains while bringing the global climate change question to a screeching halt. Check it out.

That's far from Ordinary.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Small joys

Commenting on my use of the phrase "small joys" in R&R, reader and fellow blogger Hayden says, "No offense meant, since I do it too - but I wonder why we call these 'small' joys, when intrinsically they offer the most profound soul-ease?"

"Profound soul-ease." Les mots just, and I am keenly grateful for your thoughts, Hayden. I thought hard about characterizing such moments as small joys, and for reasons you suggest:
It seems to me that the celebrated joys (all of the big expensive things) offer much less comfort, less solace than those of calm, relation to nature's other creatures, the natural world that we have (in large) repudiated except as a fantasy resort.
Big-ticket events and celebrations come with an expectation of big payoffs in the joy department. Weddings, island vacations, winning the lottery, tickets to the Superbowl--we plan and anticipate for months. Our anxiety for creating the perfect experience, and the subsequent exhaustion sometimes overwhelms any joy we may accrue by the time the big day arrives.

For me, the truly big joys, the ones that make my heart swell to bursting, tend to be things like the birth of a child; driving down Highway 1 and coming upon a pod of whales feeding, diving, breaching for an hour while we watched from the best possible vantage point; raising my voice in harmony in a friend's living room with two dozen amateur musicians who sing and play for the love of it.

Those are the big joys. At the end of the day, my face aches from smiling and I sleep long and hard and well.

But oh, how I love the small joys: my granddaughter's head falling onto my shoulder, nestled just so against my neck, as she gives in to sleep; looking up from my computer, where I've spent too many hours, to find the moon, full on in the living room window, its magical glow spread across the darkened floor; riding the escalator into the subway to the strains of Mozart performed live by a chamber quartet.

Such are the manna that sustain and nourish us. These are the moments I try to capture on the rare occasions I post to Village of Ordinary. What joys nurture you? Share a few of them here, won't you?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

We can solve it

Finally, a leader steps forward with a plan to solve global warming, halt the energy crisis, lower our energy costs, and clear the air for generations to come.
The real solutions to the climate crisis are the very same measures that are needed to renew our economy and escape the trap of ever-rising energy prices.

Moreover, they are also the very same solutions that we need to guarantee our national security without having to go to war with the Persian Gulf.
Finally, someone with clout and respect is standing up and outlining a plan of action for solving the problem.
What if we could use fuels that aren't expensive, don't cause pollution, and are abundantly available right here at home?

Today I challenge our nation to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within ten years.
Finally, someone notices that the emperor has no clothes and is not afraid to say so.
We're borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet. Every bit of that has to change.
It's not surprising that the leader calling us to action is Al Gore. If you care about the future of human beings on our planet, I think you'll cheer out loud as I did when you watch this excerpt from Vice President Gore's July 17 speech.

It's up to us. You. Me. We can do it. Pay attention. Go to We Can Solve It and take five minutes to take a few baby steps toward solving the problem. Bookmark it and go back for five more steps and five more.

It will take all of us. Together, we can do it within ten years. Join me. Join the millions of individuals who have signed on to help solve the climate crisis and improve the quality of life for human beings the world over for generations to come.

That's definitely Ordinary.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


After weeks of 12-hour workdays and too much activity on all fronts, with the exception of researching and writing, alas, my sweetie and I are enjoying three days of much needed R&R at Pismo Beach with these guys. Small joys. Happy days.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Dancing with the daffodils

It was a bit of a rough morning. I wasn't living up to my peaceful aspirations. The entire office was on edge. It got so bad that after awhile we exaggerated our angst, joking and laughing and bursting into snippets of song. The bosses stayed buried in their cubicles, waiting for the storm to pass, I suppose. One of my coworkers, as irritable and feisty as any of us, complained of feeling alone with her mountain of work.

"I'm wandering lonely as a cloud," she said. Someone took up the next phrase, "That floats on high o'er vales and hills." I added, "When all at once I saw a crowd, a host of golden daffodils." And just like that, people returned to their desks, the very air seemed to change. Keyboards clacked and voices relaxed, responding to calls, one after another.

My heart slowed its hard, fast beating to a more comfortable, softer pace. My breath lengthened and sunk deeper, wider into my lungs. My shoulders relaxed. For just a second, I heard my mama's voice, her beautiful alto voice, quietly full of passion and glory so that we saw the blowsy wind amidst the daffodils, felt the coolish breeze.

When I was a little girl, my mama would quote the entire poem, probably does yet today. I give it to you here, complete, a respite perhaps in your hectic day.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
by William Wordsworth, 1802

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Dancing bears

One of the joys of living in this time is the sheer volume of people who are doing something about the bad stuff in their neck of the woods. In Saving the dancing bears of India, Squidooer Frankster tells us about two warm-hearted souls who have rescued more than half of India's painfully imprisoned dancing bears, and are well on the way to rescuing all of them. They are Geeta Seshamani and Kartick Styanarayan, cofounders of Wildlife S.O.S.

I give thanks for the energy, commitment and love that keeps Geeta and Kartick going. I give gratitude for their compassion for the bears, and for their strength and courage. I give thanks too for the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), which works with the Kalandars to stop the practice of raising and enslaving the bears.

A nomadic people who have earned their livelihood for centuries exhibiting the dancing bears, the Kalandars were understandably reluctant to give up their primary income source. Through negotiation, education, and training, the WTI helps the Kalandars improve their quality of life while learning new skills and developing new income streams.

That's progress toward a much more Ordinary world, don't you think?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Making lemonade

Inevitably, no matter how much we love and and cherish one another, a little bitterness comes between us at times.

Bitter is good. It wakes up the taste buds, gets the saliva going. Just the thought of digging into the peel of a bright yellow lemon sets your mouth watering, doesn't it? Squeeze, add sugar, fresh, clean water, and you've got yourself one of the most delicious beverages known to humankind.

If a little bitterness has come into your life today, dilute it, sweeten it, and enjoy. For me, Ilana Yahav's sand fantasy is just the sugar I needed after two very difficult days. Perhaps it will help to sweeten your cup as well. One thing is certain, you'll feel better after watching.

To all creatures everywhere suffering from some sleight, imagined or real, from a misunderstanding or ongoing difficulty you just can't seem to work through, I send love. May you feel as loved as a newborn babe, cradled for the first time in its mama's arms. May you feel as safe and warm. May you never doubt that love surrounds you, persistently and as and freely as the air you breathe.

Blessed be.

Monday, June 30, 2008

What is the ecological cost of air travel and is it worth it?

Part of my family lives nearby. Another part of my family lives in another state, and the rest are scattered all over tarnation. I fly periodically to visit family. One year, I flew almost once a month. I knew that air travel was a heavy contributor to greenhouse gases, but I had a new grandchild four hundred miles away and aging parents six hundred miles the other direction. I chose to spend time with them, and that meant flying.

Because I need to visit my distant relatives regularly, and since it is unlikely I will have big blocks of time to travel by car, bus or train, it is likely I will continue to fly. To help me make decisions about how best to compensate for heavy carbon-emitting activities, I use tools like the carbon footprint calculator to assess my personal contributions to global warming. This page has good tips for reducing my footprint as well, including offsetting my air travel by avoiding cars and taking buses and trains at home, which I have been doing for several years.

Still, when you consider that most climate scientists believe we are very near the irreversible "tipping point" in global warming, air travel may be a dangerous luxury. For the past two years, conscious of the cost in CO2 emissions, I have flown less, but I miss my peeps.

People in the world of Ordinary like to visit distant relatives and friends as well. How should they get there? Are high speed trains the answer? If you nail a track across the landscape for thousands of miles this way and that, what is the cost to habitat? Can you lay the track in such a way as to account for animal needs to traverse the countryside in search of food and water, or perhaps simply to patrol their territory?

In the world of Ordinary, perhaps far less than our world today--where we crowd out wild animals to the point of extinction--trains might be a good solution. More to come on that.

Weigh in on this one, will you please?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Work as pleasure--What is your true Work?

I'm feeling frustrated and discouraged. I have so much research and writing to do--work I crave and love. My body aches when I'm not doing it. Yet some weeks there is so little time even to check e-mail and respond, let alone return to the work of Ordinary. Last week, at my paying job, I worked 47 hours in four days. The fifth day I got to spend with our precious new grandchild and her mama--a joyful respite.

Yesterday was my monthly Saturday to work on the whales website. Five or six years ago I made a pledge in sacred space to build a web site about whales for kids. At that time, I had basic HTML down and felt confident in my ability to build a site, but the web was changing. Websites were becoming more dynamic, with lots of interactive features, and the old, static ways of putting up information simply couldn't compete in this vibrant, new virtual world. I knew I would have to learn how to build a glitzier, bigger website than I had ever dreamed.

For most of those years, I gave at least one Saturday a month to the project, a woefully inadequate amount of time. I don't retain information like I used to, and I found myself constantly training and retraining. No sooner would I learn one way of building a site, than it was obsolete. Soon, I was hopelessly behind. The web evolved a language of its own, and I wasn't learning it.

A few months ago, I found Lorenzi Davide's Dynamic HTML Editor. It claimed to build CSS, PHP, and W3C compliant web sites all in a WYSIWYG editor. Glory be, that's exactly what it does.

For the first time in five years, I feel confident I can finish and maintain the whales website myself. I am ecstatic.

It's going to take a lot of time to finish the writing and and to find enough images in the public domain, maybe five more years if I can only give it a Saturday a month, and I need to hire an attorney to assure I'm getting the legal stuff right, which means finding the money somewhere. The exciting thing today, though, is that the design is down, the basic pages are established, and it's looking fantastic.

In the first paragraph of this post, I confessed to feelings of frustration and discouragement. That's because of the time and energy factors. At sixty, I may not have many years left to research and clarify the vision of Ordinary, to continue to write the story of Rose, Cheyenne, Ruby and their friends in the Village and beyond. Then, working the long hours I do, how will I finish the web site? Once it's up and running, how will I find the time to respond to questions and do the site maintenance? A web site is never really done, you know. It changes constantly, and I've planned a lot of change for this one--keeping it fresh so children and teens who care about whales and want to do something to help them will return again and again.

So I feel discouraged, gearing up for another week at the office. I love my job. My contribution is fun for me and critical to the success of the company, but the truth is I'd rather focus all my energy on these creative projects--Ordinary, the whales website, my Squidoo lenses--so many in the planning and drafting stages!--and another website with a totally different theme, but just as important to building a world more like the Village of Ordinary than this one.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if every person on earth could spend our time doing what we most loved, that our contributions were rightly rewarded, and that we all felt cared for and supported in our work?

I hope you are finding ways to live your dreams and to do work that gives you pleasure and feels like your Work, not simply work-for-paycheck. I welcome your comments and hope you'll take the time to share your thoughts here.

May you all be blessed.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

How Ordinary is flying?

In Journey, Rose, Cheyenne and three friends fly to a wedding far to the north. Their plane is a small jet, with limited passenger seats. Though it's not mentioned in the post, the idea is that villagers rarely fly. When they do, they take a light jet.

Last year, Treehugger posted an article about the DayJet, a concept similar to mine in Journey. Nifty, but it doesn't solve the problem of air travel's excessive contribution to global warming. (I encourage you to take the time to read the discussion in the comments section of the post.)

According to Gristmill, flying is responsible for almost ten percent of the greenhouse gases warming the globe today. So far, no one has found a way to keep us all flying and reduce that statistic.

For now, we can stay home, travel by rail, car or ship, or buy carbon offsets when we fly. None of these is a good solution in our gotta-get-there-now world.

How do you address this problem? Help me find a workable, and quite Ordinary, solution.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Aquaduct--The tricycle that purifies water

It is no accident that Anne Roiphe titled her book Water from the Well: Women of the Bible, nor is it surprising that Duke University Professor of Religion Carole Meyers illustrates her website, Making Biblical Women Visible with an ancient water jug. It has always been women who fetch the water. According to water expert James Workman in Fetching Water, 200 million women spend a good portion of their day every day searching ever farther from home for the water they need to sustain life.

So it is with a great deal of hope that I anticipate the move from prototype to full-scale production of the Aquaduct--a tricyle that purifies water while you pedal. If you took the time to read Workman's Fetching Water story about 39 year old Kgaugelo Morale's struggle to fetch and carry water for her household every single day, you'll understand why this tricycle is so promising as one possible solution for improving quality of life for women and their families all over the world.

For more on the prototype and the problems its designers must solve to make it affordable and useful to women in developing countries, visit their blog, The Aquaduct.

Many have said that the next world war will be fought over water, not oil. As the world's freshwater resources dwindle, technology such as the aquaduct will be more important for all of us--whether we live in developed or developing countries.

May we treasure our water supplies, rather than waste, and may the need for an Aquaduct become less and less ordinary all over the world.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Clocking the human-powered car at 80 mph

Take a look.

"This one goes out to everybody in the whole wide world who burns their cars. Any-kind of gas." Based upon automotive technology with a patented bi-directional power interface and BodySteerTM chassis the FM-4 prototype HumanCarĂ‚® has rocked Seattle, Ashland, Portland and canyon roads at our private test facilities at speeds upwards of 60 mph. It is a supercar. No bike parts are used. Let us know when you are ready to alter your perception.
YouTube vlogger thehumancar

Now that will keep the weight off.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Share a bicycle

In Xianne, Rose, Cheyenne and Ruby, accustomed to day-long hikes, walked twelve miles to neighboring Central Village, but they might have enjoyed a bike trek just as much. Bicycles are the perfect vehicle for a rural, village-centered population.

Imagine a phalanx of well-maintained bicycles available in key locations for any villager to pick up and ride away. Sound far-fetched? From Amsterdam to Austin, cities around the globe are doing just that. Take a look at the Big Apple's fledgling bicycle-share program.

From community isolation problems, to obesity, to air pollution, to war, there are so many problems this country has that can be solved if people would just get out of their cars and ride bikes more.

Probably the first U.S. bike-share program was Portland's Yellow Bike, launched in the early Nineties. From that low-tech trust-and-ride to the high-tech Washington, D.C. program launched in April this year and modeled after the Paris Velib (means bicycle freedom), cities seeking answers to congestion, pollution and high energy costs are jumping on the two-wheeled bandwagon and heading out. To learn more, Google "yellow bike." On YouTube, search on "bicycle sharing."

In the wholistic world of Ordinary, the sound of the bicycle bell is likely to become as common as birdsong. Ching-ching!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

$5 a gallon? Driving less? Share a car, beat the pump

With Zipcar, you always have a car around the corner.

Ever thought about giving up your car completely? Like most families, ours once had a vehicle in the driveway for every driver in the household. Twelve or thirteen years ago, our children and their vehicles long departed, my partner and I realized that one of our cars sat unused for days, sometimes weeks at a time. We decided to give it away. We never missed it.

A few years later, we moved to the city and deliberately chose a neighborhood with excellent public transportation, sold our only remaining vehicle and subscribed to City CarShare. Getting downtown by bus or train takes 15 to 20 minutes with no hassles, no driving around for parking, and no parking garage fees. When we need a car, we reserve one online, walk the few blocks to our local CarShare pod, get in and drive away.

The cars are clean, fueled and well-maintained. Our only responsibility is to return them on time with at least half a tank of gas and as clean as we find them. City CarShare takes care of the insurance, oil changes, tire pressure checks, and pays for all of the gas we use. We pay a low monthly fee, mileage and a set rate for each hour we use a vehicle.

Last weekend we checked out a Prius hybrid overnight and visited our daughter and her family seventy miles away. The weekend before, we checked out a larger vehicle with a fold-down back seat and brought home an eight-foot ficus. Our plans this weekend don't require a personal vehicle. In fact, we may not need a car again for weeks or months.

Interested in finding a car-share service near you? CarSharing Net has a list. Some orgs are non-profit, like City CarShare. Others, like ZipCar are entrepreneurial and for profit. If you don't find a car share in your city, start one, like David Brook did in Portland, Oregon.

Sharing resources is one way we can work together to build Ordinary. What are folks doing in your town?

Next: Bicycle sharing abroad and here at home

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Putt-putt--Sustainable vehicles in the world of Ordinary

In Where I'm going--Short term I listed, in no particular order, some of the foundation issues I've been researching for Village of Ordinary. The second of those is a three-parter: How much do the people of Ordinary rely on vehicles, what kind of vehicles do they use, and how do they power them? One thing for sure: any vehicles in the world of Ordinary must be sustainable.

I'd like some help with this one. Please join the discussion. It's a big subject and one I haven't had much time to research. So far we have seen villagers utilize a truck, a small car and an airplane.

Broad-picture questions to answer:
  1. What types of vehicles do people in the world of Ordinary employ? (e.g., planes, trains, ships, trucks, cars, motorcycles)
  2. How are the vehicles fueled?
  3. Are all vehicles fueled in the same manner?
  4. For what purposes do villagers use vehicles?
  5. What other forms of transportation do they use?
Vehicle musts:
  1. Sustainable, local fuel sources
  2. Non-polluting
  3. Long operating life (no more planned obsolescence!)
  4. Shared
What questions/musts am I missing? You are invited and encouraged to share your thoughts.

Tomorrow: City Car-Share and ZipCar, two options for urbanites who need a car occasionally.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Matt and Jessica Flannery--Changing lives one loan at a time

Mrs. Regina Odije is a 56-year-old woman with six children. She trades in food items. She lives in an urban area of Benin City in Edo State of Nigeria.

Jessica Flannery phoned home. A bride working in Africa, half a world from her husband in San Francisco, Jessica couldn't wait to tell Matt what she had learned about the way tiny loans from the Village Enterprise Fund, were changing lives. Loans of as little as $100 helped villagers start and build businesses. They were growing oranges, making baskets, forging recycled metal into farm tools. They drew on centuries of tradition, promoting ancient customs and crafts, while providing a better standard of living for themselves, their families and quite often their communities.

Matt joined Jessica for the last two weeks of her work in Africa, and soon found he was as passionate as she to find a way to match micro-lenders to entrepreneurs. Together they built Kiva, an online community of people like you and me who loan money directly to small business owners in developing countries. Read their story.
(Images courtesy Kiva.)

Learn how you can help someone turn a profit and put food on the table with a $25 loan. You pick the entrepreneur. You decide how much of their loan request you want to fund. Don't worry. Plenty of other people are filling in the gaps--at least two people loaned their tax stimulus checks to Kiva. Take a few minutes to learn how the system works, how Kiva helps you assess the risks and due diligence, and some fun facts.

Then come back and tell us all what you think about this project, helping people help themselves to a more Ordinary lifestyle.

Note: This is the third and last in our series responding to Anonymous' request for examples of people in her hometown of San Francisco who are making the world a little bit more Ordinary.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Mimi Silbert and the bottom two percent

One of the most hope-inspiring organizations is the Delancey Street Foundation. It is run by Mimi Silbert, President and CEO, who is the second person featured in our three-part series of Ordinary San Francisco people. (Recall that at last post, we were looking at the first of three people in response to a comment by Anonymous, who asked for examples of individuals making a difference in her home town.)

To get a feel for the work--and miracles--of Delancey Street, watch this video. You'll be as amazed and inspired as I am.

If you have more time, watch this longer Discovery Channel video and get an in-depth look at Mimi Silbert's lifework, but more importantly, understand what her work means to the people whom she and Delancey Street serve. Learn how they do more than turn their lives around. Learn how they gain an understanding of what they've cost society. Learn especially, how they choose to give back.

There's not much more ordinary than that.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Thank you Michelle for E = Excellence Award and passing it along

Wow. While I was away on vacation, Michelle of Crow's Feet, a recent find that quickly became a favorite and part of my blogroll, posted an "E is for Excellent" award for Realizing Ordinary. Thank you, Michelle!

The best part of the award, is that it earns me the right pass it along to some of the blogs I enjoy. These are favorites because they get right down to the nitty gritty of the writer's daily life and/or make cogent commentary about the environment, politics and our world. They're well-written. They show us all how to face the crud with the good and to do it with grace. Quite often they include a bit of humor. Enjoy.

  1. Outside the Windows
  2. Verbena-19
  3. Full Soul Ahead
  4. Nature Mom's blog--a guide to natural family life
  5. Wondering
  6. Emotions, by an Iraqi mother
  7. Path to freedom: Little Homestead in the City
  8. Time goes by
  9. ulti hkpodi
  10. Dharma Vision

Memorial Day Prayer 2008

May all who cherish the memory and life of someone gone be blessed with memories more joyous than sad. May all who have lost heart, limbs or lives fighting other men's wars be healed. May their families be comforted. May all who have killed be forgiven. May all our hearts be filled with an insatiable lust for peace at home, abroad and on any battlefield anywhere. Be we ruler or serf, may our craving for peace be so deep we pursue it relentlessly, eschewing violence, responding only with compassion, until peace on Earth is no longer a promise or a dream, but true and lasting.

Skill, knowledge, compassion and one ordinary woman

She'll never win a Nobel prize, be highlighted in a feature article or lauded on Oprah. There's no video to show you what she does. There's no website that explains it. I can't tell you her name. I can't tell you details about her work because I can't know them. No one outside her offices and the individuals involved can. What I can tell you is that she's at the office most days by 6:00 or 6:30. Quite often, she stays hours late, and she puts in at least one eight or nine hour Saturday a month. Hardly a day goes by that she doesn't walk, unprotected, into neighborhoods where drive-by shootings and other violence are the norm. Her life is threatened repeatedly.

She's a social worker in San Francisco, and she's charged with protecting children whose parents are unable or unwilling to assure their children's safety themselves. Sometimes she must protect children from parents who harm them. And sometimes, when years of providing services, care and support to parents proves futile, and the parents continue to put a child at grave risk, she must testify in a hearing that results in terminating the parent's rights. Her heart breaks every time.

Long before it comes to that, she uses every tool at her disposal, both personal and system-provided, to help the parent turn her or his life around and regain custody of their child. She has plenty of tools. Together, she and the parents succeed far more than they fail.

What's her secret? She is the most successful communicator I know. I speak only from personal experience, and that is considerable, in both public and private discourse. She has a way of honoring each individual. In the most tense situations where multiple parties are involved, I have seen her respond in such a way that each person feels she is on his or her side. No matter how strongly she may disagree with another's point of view, she never fails to show respect first to the individual, but also for their feelings and beliefs.

She is a born teacher. Patient and keen, she asks as many questions as she answers. More importantly, she listens to the answers. Always, she helps people begin from where they are. She understands setbacks, and she understands next steps. Especially, she understands individual triumph. She's there with a congratulatory gift in hand when a mom graduates from rehab, when an at-risk teenager graduates high school. Sometimes she's the only person there.

She's not the only social worker putting her life on the line every day to help children in danger, and she's not the only one with that combination of skill, knowledge and compassion, but Anonymous asked a few days ago who in San Francisco is helping to build an Ordinary world, and she leapt to mind. If you're lucky enough to know her, your life is rich beyond measure. She is the main reason I know the Village of Ordinary is possible today, right now.

Who in your life is an Ordinary hero? Tell us about that person in the comments section below.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Edible balcony

This is the last in our series on permaculture gardening. In this vid, feralkevin nibbles freshly picked tea leaves, campanula and nasturtium he grows in pots in his tiny balcony garden. He includes this disclaimer with his video, and I add it in its entirety.

DISCLAIMER: This posting does not claim to be an instructional guide to eating wild plants. Never eat a plant unless you're completely sure of its edibility, and do not use this posting or other feralkevin postings to identify plants.

So what do you think of his fertilizer source?

Coming up next: In comments on Would you trade your daughter for a cow, Anonymous asks for examples of ordinary people creating an Ordinary world in her/his hometown, San Francisco. There are plenty. I'll introduce you to three of them beginning tomorrow.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Tiny Urban Farm in the City

So you live in the city and you can't consider permaculture as an option? Take a look at how one family turned its yard into an organic urban farm. Mind you, unlike many of us in the city, they have a yard, 1/10 of an acre in fact.

They're supplying freshly harvested vegetables and fruits to gourmet restaurants. Fresh, according to the chef in this vid, means picked less than two hours ago. That's ripe, and ripe is tasty.

For more on the Dervaes family and their urban homestead, visit their fascinating website.

Tomorrow, we'll look at one fellow who gardens on his tiny city balcony.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Suburban Renewal - One backyard at a time

Earlier this week we learned from Bill Mollison of the Permaculture Research Institute that permaculture is a design system which incorporates Nature's principles to support human life without degrading habitat and ecosystems for all other life forms.

In this vid by Peak Moment TV: Community responses for a changing energy future, host Janaia Donaldson visits Jan Spencer in his Eugene, Oregon, permaculture home and garden.

What did you think of Spencer's use of urbanite? We're seeing this term more and more for concrete, steel and wood mined from urban lots, buildings and highways as the old is torn out and replaced. Keep this in mind when we get to the discussion, way down the road, about whether the world of Ordinary has always existed as we find it now, or whether villagers learned from a past much like our present. If their society evolved from one something like ours, what did they do with the cities and highways? Where did all those buildings and the stuff inside them go?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The unforgiven

In I defeat my enemy when I make him my friend, this month's issue of Ode Magazine includes a piece titled "The Unforgiven." The story is true. The cast of characters includes Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Leslie Belinda of the Tutu Foundation, Donna Hicks of Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University, and two men identified as Ronnie and Malcom.

Ronnie is a member of the Irish Republic Army (IRA) who spent 25 years in prison for shooting Malcom, a British police officer who prevented Ronnie and his cohorts from setting off a bomb in England and nearly lost his life doing it.

What were these two men doing sitting across each other at a table in a house near Belfast, and why were the Archbishop, Leslie and Donna with them? This meeting was set up and filmed by the British Broadcast Corporation (BBC) as part of its attempt to foster understanding and healing between factions of the centuries-old conflict in Ireland. The hope is to end the conflict once and for all.

When you read how Ronnie and Malcom were able to move from extreme discomfort to a standing handshake across the table, and later lunch together in a pub, you'll understand just how possible it is to attain peace and live in harmony. An Ordinary world is within our grasp.

Here again is the link to the article. Read it. You'll be glad you did. "The Unforgiven" is the third story in the set, and the first two are equally compelling.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

We're in the garden of Eden

The only job we have left on earth that can express our humanity, is to return other species to their place, and take our place, which is a small place in the total system.
Bill Mollison

In parts 5 and 6 of In danger of falling food, Bill Mollison takes us from a rain forest to an African desert plateau nearly completely denuded of vegetation, then to Crystal Waters Permaculture Village, and finally to a 67 year old garden he calls the garden of Eden.

Note: This is a continuation of the hour-long film In grave danger of falling food by 220 Productions. The segments stop and start mid-sentence. See May 19 and 20 posts for parts 1 and 2, 3 and 4, respectively.

[Permaculture] has to be the mainstream agriculture of any future society.
Bill Mollison

People say to me, will permaculture work? I say, will plants grow?
Bill Mollison
I give gratitude to 220 Productions for making this film available on YouTube and to Bill Mollison and the others of the Permaculture Research Institute for teaching us all how to recognize our place in the natural system. I give gratitude as well for their showing us how to build a world much like the Village of Ordinary.

Next: We'll take a break from the world as garden and I'll introduce you to two amazing men who sat across the table from one another, made eye contact, and shook hands. One of them spent 25 years in jail for shooting to kill the other. He nearly succeeded.