Saturday, April 22, 2017

Earth Day Thoughts

I once thought the climate issue - "global warming" as I often heard it called - was just a political football. I am not a scientist and I don't understand all of it. 

However, I do understand that if we don't care for our land, it won't keep caring for us and our children.

I do understand that if we pollute our drinking water badly enough, people will die. If we pollute our rivers and our air, people will die or be sick. If we erode the soil or put poisons under and into it, that affects our lives and even our food supply.

And I understand that these things are happening, and have been happening for a long time, in different degrees and different places, here and in other countries.

But I also know that sometimes things get better! I understand that smog is not what it used to be, back when I often couldn't see my beloved sky when I lived in Los Angeles. I understand that air quality is at least somewhat better in many places, and some of the reasons are that factories were more regulated and cars were switched to unleaded fuels. Solutions based thinking can be valuable.

I've begun to think that the so-called "climate issue" is not just about climate but that it's a whole lump sum. The important thing is sustaining life and preserving resources, just like when I was a child and we re-used and repaired. And just like when we went camping or stayed in a motel, my parents taught me by word and example to try to "leave it better than we found it".

My science education hasn't improved much over the years, but my life experience and logic whisper to me that the term "global warming" may at times be a misunderstood term, especially by those who, like me, are not experts in science. 
It doesn't really matter precisely what someone believes or understands about the climate. What does matter, though, is that we can all breathe and drink and eat, not just the rich, but all of us. 

Although concerns over this, mixed with politics, may at times lead to over-regulating the wrong entities, such as burdening individuals or small business, this does not take away from a very real need to regulate the extent to which companies can use and abuse resources. It does not take away from the need to minimize damage and to leave our resources a little better whenever possible, rather than a lot worse tomorrow for the sake of profits today. In some cases, those tomorrows may even be catching up with us.

I believe that both on a voluntary personal level (through education and awareness), and on the level of working toward the just regulation and restraint of large companies, especially mega-corporations, that we need to all work for that seemingly old-fashioned, real-life value, to try to leave things better than we found them…for the vulnerable among us…and for ourselves…and for our children. 


Thursday, April 06, 2017

Some ideas to promote a sustainable economy

As I begin a new job, working with young children, it seems like funny timing for me to be writing about opportunities for youth and adults, and the economy. But then again, I want the young children I work with to be able to move forward into productive lives, so I guess it's fitting, after all. 

I started mulling these ideas over after a discussion I had with someone about population. I have always believed that we don't have too many people. We have too many practices born of greed on the part of some, desperation on the part of some, and etc.

I have lived on the West Coast, in the Midwest, and on the East Coast. I have lived rural suburban and urban suburban, and I've spent time with relatives and others who lived rural. I have lived throughout the second half of the 1900's, as well as into the 2000's. I've observed many changes over the years. 

Some of the following ideas come from how some things were when I was a child. A few come from how things were not, for example, although I had a school library, and although I grew up comfortably middle class, I did not have ready access to a full library.  

I thought of a few of the other ideas here after watching people, and reading books and articles over the years, about housing and shopping options, and business. 

Although I speak in commands ("make" or "provide"), these are, of course, just one woman's ideas. 

Rural and rural suburban

Make zoning regulations as friendly as possible for people to be able to raise food-producing animals, such as goats or chickens, if they would like. 

Encourage people, or provide appropriate zoning if necessary, to be able to rent a pasture for the use of a neighbor's cow as my grandfather did or to rent an unused garage to a neighbor, as my other grandmother did. Foster the freedom to be able to trade and make small community business proposals among one another. 

Basically, let rural people do what rural people do best.  

Suburban

Provide incentives or encouragement for more companies to build smaller homes such as many people had in the mid-20th century instead of the only options, in some areas, being huge, expensive homes. 

Build the homes structurally sound and comfortable but without expensive luxuries, so that more people can afford to buy them, and to buy them without committing such high payments that if they experience financial losses, they will lose their homes, and also so that utilities and maintenance will cost less. Offer some with less expensive choices, for example, being able to choose a carport rather than a garage is just one possibility I can think of.

Offer some that are multi-level to get more space on a smaller property, but also some that are only one-level, especially for the sake of retirees and families with a disability.  

Provide some garden space and some play space. If there is an association, require it to allow hanging laundry to dry outdoors.

Urban

Let companies or non-profits obtain old business buildings that are not in use. They can then tear the building down if necessary or, if structurally sound, gut whatever isn't sound. They would be required to make it safe from lead, make sure the water pipes are safe, eliminate pests, replace wiring, and whatever is needed. 

Rebuild part of it into a grocery store, and such things as an independent library or used book store, a used clothing store, and a health clinic such as they have at some drug stores.

Rebuild the rest into apartment homes. 

If possible, provide some space for a little gardening and at least a little space for children to play outdoors. Provide space for hanging clothing to dry outdoors, even if it is some kind of racks that can be extended and retracted from the windows. 

Move low or no income people into the building, giving them jobs in the stores and as maintenance people for the building, training them for those jobs if training is needed. Move some of these resident employees into management positions as soon as that is appropriate.

Offer to move people off the streets, and also out of abandoned and condemned housing, into some of the new, inexpensive multi-family dwellings . Help them to move their belongings.

Then demolish the condemned housing and rebuild those as was done with the old businesses, hence making more of the same type of urban villages.

An essential component here is the hiring of local people, and not only hiring them, but training them, and providing for their continuing education to improve or move up in the job, and for some of them to take their places as managers.

Access to shopping

In order to assure better access to food stores in any area, urban or rural, pass regulations to keep "megastores" from building huge infrastructures, then shutting them down and refusing to sell the building because they do not want to help their competition, as sometimes happens now. 

Require them to sell the property or to use it in a way that benefits the community, for example, they could donate the space to a non-profit or use it for a farmers market. 

If they do not wish to actively use the infrastructure for the community, they should be allowed to take their building down but at their own expense and within an appropriate time frame, and be required to sell the property, either with or without the infrastructure they had built - which ever they decide. Going forward, they would be able to consider these needs pro-actively before they decide to build a store or to close a store.

Education

In addition to the current college offerings, also provide more low cost occupational schools which teach occupations that do not require a college degree.

Include courses to help students ascertain where they can best use their skills, contribute to the community, and make a living, as well as learning job search skills. Make at least one such career preparation class available to each student in the high school curriculum.

Also offer classes either in high schools or in occupational schools, or perhaps in libraries to help youth learn enrichment skills that may not become their occupation but may help them spend less or live a fuller life. Some examples of possible offerings might include simple carpentry, home painting, how to maintain and care for one's car, menu planning, cooking, budgeting, sewing, gardening, and so forth.

Encourage satellite libraries so that more people have access to library materials. These could be as simple as an obsolete drive-thru photo development booth or a former snow cone stand, or perhaps a small dedicated space in a store or in a government building. 

Library patrons could request books online or by phone, and have them sent to their satellite branch where they would also return them. This should not take the place of full libraries which offer so much opportunity for education and enrichment, but rather to provide materials for those who otherwise would not have ready or frequent access to a library.








Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Thank you to all the women

Thank you to all the women I know who have been physically or sexually abused as children or teens or young adults, and have kept on going anyway. I understand only too well. And I care.

Thank you to all the women who have been fired unjustly from a job or have been mistreated on a job, and have kept on going anyway…who have done what they needed to do, gotten the next job, kept caring and giving to their families.

Thank you to all the women who have been violently abused by a husband or boyfriend or father or brother, and who have overcome to get away or who are struggling even now to figure out a way to do so. I respect you.


The other day one of my sons and I were out on an errand and I told him I needed to make another stop. I wanted to take a few clothes to Ruth's Closet. While I looked at purses for a moment, my son read that their mission is for women and children who need to get out of abusive situations. Back in the car he told me, and he said it lifted him up to know that people are helping. Thank you to those women who volunteer their time to help.


Thank you to women who have been left to care for their children alone, or whose husbands have mistreated them, left them, threatened them, or taken them to court unjustly to fight for custody after being the one who left. Thank you to those women who keep on getting up each morning to do what they need to do.

Thank you also to all the women who get up each morning to take their children to day care and then go on to work. Another son of mine, going to college, once observed to me that women and very young children would get on the city bus in the morning, the woman dressed up, the child with a little backpack; and she would get off to take the child to day care before going to work. Thank you to those women who work so hard just to keep a roof over their child's head.

Thank you to the women who sell me my groceries, who hold their heads up high after trudging through the snow or burning heat to get from home to the bus and then from the bus stop to the plaza where the store is. I see you. I see you serving every day, and I even see some of you smiling at everyone to give them joy. Thank you for brightening my day. Thank you for serving me. Without you, I wouldn't eat. Thank you.

Thank you to the women who stay home with their children, sometimes struggling to have enough, and sometimes struggling with loneliness for adult companionship. I see you too. I've been you at times.

Thank you to all whom I have not mentioned here. I know there are many other situations and life challenges.

Thank you to all the women who have touched my life in any way. I honor you, and may you be blessed.


Sunday, March 05, 2017

Because Amelia Smiled - A Book Review

Because Amelia Smiled, by David Ezra Stein, is a lovely picture book for all ages, yes, adults included. 

This picture book gently exposes children to different cultures while also bringing home the beauty of the ripple effect, that Amelia's smile indirectly affects so many people in so many places in so many different ways.

Although Amelia was running down the street holding hands with her parents, the theme of the book made me think of a disabled person who, in the eyes of the world, might not seem able to give very much, but who, in reality, brings beauty and joy to the world with a smile. Or, on the other side of that coin, I know a few adults who are not physically disabled but sometimes cannot muster a smile, yet who give a kind word or help someone in need in whatever ways they can. And so it goes with each person's contributions. 

The positive contributions of one individual to our world are greater than we can measure or know, and I think this book beautifully reinforces this concept.