Halloween is such a sweet event, all those gorgeous little monsters requesting candy at our doors, a temporary reversal of normal, when it’s not okay to do that. There are limits to what is appropriate, according to politically correct administrators and some academics, who are running a campaign stating that cultures are not costumes. And, remember, too, that wearing a public safety uniform might not be the best idea, for those more grown-up costumers who might dupe unsuspecting door openers.
Let’s not be fooled. We know scientific method; let’s keep that in mind. There’s so much wishfulness guided by magical thinking that could lead us into another full-fledged witch hunt, as happened in the McCarthy era when many innocent people’s careers and freedoms were curtailed in the fear that communism would overtake us.
Face it, witch hunts work. There’s no longer a Communist party in the United States, and being a socialist is akin to being a communist. No one wants to be accused.
Here in Paradise we watch a lot of television news, one channel and another. We use social media a lot. Both affect us. In two widely discussed Twitter reports on Monday, our President asserted,
“There is a great anger in our Country caused in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent reporting of the news. The Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the people, must stop the open & obvious hostility & report the news accurately & fairly. That will do much to put out the flame…”
“CNN and others in the Fake News Business keep purposely and inaccurately reporting that I said the ‘Media is the Enemy of the People.’ Wrong! I said that the ‘Fake News (Media) is the Enemy of the People,’ a very big difference. When you give out false information – not good!”
I ask you, what’s the problem? The news is not as good as it could be; yet, we know there are bigger issues. We need to identify the source of the problem before we can act to resolve the situation; however, we may be in a predicament, where, at best, we can manage the outcome. We have a monetary predicament in the U.S., with insurmountable debt - $21.7 Trillion, rounded up, and increasing by millions a minute. Check out usdebtclock.org, one source of many. While we know this at some level, we hang on every report that jobs are increasing, unemployment is decreasing, budgets are balanced. We want to believe. We are considering bonds as a solution to problems. Count the number of Propositions for new bonds on your ballot. These, if passed, are sure to increase our State debt. At this point, we need to pay as we go, or not pay at all. There are services we cannot afford.
We voters try to be helpful, but when we are only guessing our actions will do good, we can cause more harm than good. There is a limit to debt, despite whatever height officials, or citizens, give our debt ceilings. The economy will crash at one point or another.
We’re stuck, and that’s when witch hunts begin. Leaders tell us what’s evil, and foot soldiers start attacking scapegoats. If you’re wondering what’s going on with the violence, stop the magical thinking and wise up. Our Democratic Republic is based on our confidence in common citizens to resolve issues.
Wishfulness, Magical Thinking, and Witch Hunts was published in the Paradise Post on October 31.
The poor will always be with us, and when the poor ask for help, those who are asked should help. Christians probably recognize this statement. Others may also. Flashback popular culture a few decades ago on radios across the country the lyrics, “Feed the babies, don’t have enough to eat. Clothe the children, with no shoes on their feet. House the people, livin’ on the street. Oh, oh, there’s a solution”. The lyrics to this song, Fly Like an Eagle, are etched in my brain. I can’t fly, but I want to walk the streets and trails of Paradise freely and safely. More importantly, I want all our children – everyone – to be free to roam, to feel and be safe outside.
The Steve Miller Band first performed the song in 1973. It was number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1977 and is on Steve Miller’s Greatest Hits album. It’s in my archive and streams in my mind often. Miller was right when he wrote, “Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future.” Find solutions now or we’ll have the same problems later.
Reality check 2018. Paradise Post “For the Record” column on Tuesday, Sept. 18… Transient Activity: 1:29 p.m. North Star Real Estate on Wagstaff Rd. Evidence of transient camp at location. Reporting party will clean up property, requests extra patrol for evening hours. Referred to Patrol…
“Transient Activity: 2:16 p.m. at Quail Run Professional on Clark Rd. Transient camps set up in woods behind professional offices. Reporting party requests extra patrol as available. Referred to Patrol.”
For the Record often contains reports of transient activities, suspicious circumstances, trespass, intoxicated subjects, theft, pedestrian checks, prowler calls, vandalism, narcotic violations, and more calls keeping police busy. Our new Police Chief may have some ideas on patrolling the Town for homeless camps. Not all the violations, of course, are attributable to those without a home, but the numbers of such people, with children, is growing.
Having a legal place to lay one’s head, keep one’s stuff, fix food, and hang out with family and friends is an amenity of life that folks with homes may take for granted, but most of us live a mere few paychecks away from homelessness. How long would you be able to stay in your home if you or your sponsor lost a job, ran out of unemployment, and for whatever reason cannot make ends meet?
The reasons for living in the streets vary widely – job loss, mental instability, drug dependence, belief in anarchy and unwillingness to work, insufficient social services, inability to deal with available social services, too expensive child care, too low wages to pay rent, and unavailability of affordable housing, to name a few.
How can we “house the people livin’ on the street” – and in the woods, in town and adjacent to town; how can we alleviate the problem now? The economy, improved as it may be, isn’t trickling funds and jobs down fast enough to keep the homeless population from growing.
We need manufacturing jobs in this town as well as service jobs. We know we need more businesses in this town that keep us shopping here and that attract outsiders to shop here. Taking steps, like organizing clustered septic systems or building a sewer system, would help to improve our local economy. I’m voting for candidates working on these issues.
Whether we’re talking about the town or families or individuals, life doesn’t hand out cards fairly; the deck is stacked. Some cities have more assets than others. Some families have more assets than others. Some individuals are, as the saying goes, “born on third base and think they got a triple.” Let’s recognize the privilege of being born on one of the bases, have some empathy, protect our local assets, and work on enacting policies in this town to help the homeless.
I’m not a socialist. I don’t want the government making too many laws or over taxing and over spending. It wouldn’t hurt for the Town to encourage and organize more truly low income housing from the private sector. The government terms homes without certain amenities like kitchens and bathrooms “substandard housing” and doesn’t allow it. Can we find a new name for a community of tiny homes that share facilities?
We could also encourage very small homes to be built that do have essential amenities. Clearly there is no incentive for builders, bankers, and realtors to support tiny homes; the shotgun homes and small homes in company towns of days past aren’t being built nowadays.
We can’t depend on a growing economy or raised minimum wages to house everyone. The raised minimum wage is causing more unemployment and more homelessness as employers cut the number of workers to pay for the increased wages.
Let’s get together – school board, town council, people who know about property owners’ associations, Sojourner’s House On the Ridge, and anyone interested in truly low income housing – and decrease the homelessness the Paradise way.
On Time and Solutions was published in the Paradise Post on October 3, 2018.
There were eight shore excursions in fourteen days. For two weeks in July my mom and I depended on a cruise ship for our well-being, and the captain and crew delivered. So much could have gone wrong, but it was a well-oiled machine. They fed us, kept us healthy and entertained, organized everything, and provided space for us to do nothing if we wished. I have confidence that plans were in place for any contingency, to keep all three thousand of us alive and as comfortable as possible. The camaraderie I felt among those sharing the ship seemed mutual.
The veil of civilization may be as thin on a ship as it is on land, but it felt a little thicker as we could plainly see we were far out at sea, pretty much on our own, and we all just wanted to have fun. We weren’t the only ship on the circuit, however. There was an even larger ship not far behind us, which we saw at the ports.
For me it was a relief to be out of the dry, smoky heat of the North Valley and out on the humid, warm Caribbean with just the sea all around and occasional islands in sight. During the shore excursions I got a sense of what it’s like to live on an island. St. Thomas didn’t get the media attention or recovery funds, I was told, that Puerto Rico received, but they were slowly recovering from last year’s hurricane. St. Maartin, not a U.S. territory, fared worse and may have been hit harder. There the devastation to the homes and hotels from Hurricane Irma has many people living in open ruins still. The beaches remain gorgeous, and the people living there are doing the best they can. They seem to appreciate the arrival of the cruise ships.
Back in Paradise for a week now, I find our ridge is like an island, or else we’re all cruising, all 27,000 of us in Paradise, plus those in the upper decks, Magalia and Stirling City.
With smoke all around, our sister ship Redding is besieged by fire, devastation, and loss of life. We know we could be next, but I have faith that the help showing up for Redding would be there for us too. There are plans, mechanisms in place to keep us alive and as comfortable as possible.
It is with that confidence that I continue to live in Paradise, knowing that the professionals – the firefighters, police, national guard, and others who safeguard us – stand ready to assist. I don’t know how many more fires California and the West in general can take; yet, firefighters are well-connected, helping people regionally, even around the world. I see so many organizations and individuals doing everything they can to help those in Redding that my faith in humanity has jumped up a couple notches this past week.
That’s a good thing, to depend on one another for support, especially as we realize there may be no place safer to go. We must ride out each storm, whatever kind, and help each other deal with the outcome.
Maybe it has to do with getting older, but I get the notion from a growing number of academic sources that an Armageddon will happen in my lifetime. There could be a post-civilization, even post-human era starting in just a few years. On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine global dystopia when I see how beautiful the world still is and how nice most people are to each other. We’re all voyagers, shipmates in a way, whether on land or at sea.
Cruisin' on Sea and Land was published in the Paradise Post on August 4, 2018.
It’s been so dry, surely the raindrops, heavy as they were, would pass quickly. Showers were predicted to be intermittent. We figured that the isolated thunderstorms wouldn’t stop the celebration. As darkness set in, we waited where the fireworks display would be awesome.
I was with my mom in Colorado Springs on the 4th of July, at her friend’s home just a bit above the city. Colorado Springs is second, I was told, only to some city in Florida in being the lightning capital in the nation, or maybe in the world. That evening rain was intermittent, with lightning which was strangely without much thunder.
The rain paused about 9:30 PM, good timing for the fireworks show. The four of us towel dried our deck chairs. As we settled into our spots on the porch awaiting the traditional highlight of the annual Independence Day celebration, the lightning bolt show continued over the city.
I said that the fireworks show might pale to the lightning display. There was horizontal lightning, vertical lightning, point lightning with bolts every direction like a flower, and bright spots illuminating huge clouds, all across the horizon for nearly an hour. When the hair on my arm raised from static electricity, I decided to get off the porch and join the ladies inside the sliding glass door.
Inside as we waited for “our fireworks”, we saw fireworks in the distance, at several city parks. We heard the booms of fireworks from the Broadmoor Hotel, and from the front of the house saw them through the trees. But the display where we were wasn’t happening on time. Mom’s friend called, and she was told that if there were no fireworks by 10:00 PM, they were cancelled. Ten o’clock passed, and the rain got heavier. We were grateful for every drop, but the timing was bad. I jumped streams of water getting to Mom’s car, and that was it. We went home. The thirsty city got some water, we enjoyed the company of friends, and we got a different kind of show than we came for.
I had expected to be thinking about America’s independence that evening, and my thoughts turned instead to whether fireworks are to lightning as human activity is to earth’s. It’s humbling to witness the power of nature outshine, and in our case cancel one of the biggest displays of human exuberance. Earth’s shows are bigger. Consider, for example, the energy bursting from volcanic eruptions versus from nuclear bombs or rocket launches. Earth’s power is humbling. About all we can do is try to adapt and survive.
Paradoxically humans are so great that we changed the climate. Civilization generates heat as humans burn fuels and emit massive quantities of greenhouse gasses. Our emissions are warming the oceans, contributing to more atmospheric water vapor, fueling more violent storms. The list of troubling changes caused by human activity is long. Even if civilization stopped now, voluntarily or by some crisis, global warming would not immediately improve due to global dimming. Without the daily generation of pollutants, the air would clear of particulates, and global warming would increase. Greenhouse gasses plus clear air produces a double whammy of heat. Again, all humans can do is to try to adapt and survive.
Despite our brilliance, our world is made of both fireworks and lightning. Nature rules.
Reflections on Fireworks vs. Lightning was published in the Paradise Post on July 7, 2018.
The more unpredictable the future, the more difficult it is to cope with change. Failure to adapt is a leading cause of collapse and extinction. Resilience – the ability to adapt – can also lead to failure if it creates short-term stability but long-term vulnerability. If resilience gets us from one crisis to the next, but we don’t transform our community we could still fail.
The Town of Paradise, like all modern municipalities, was essentially designed to operate in an environment of growth. Our annual budgets grew, as did our debts, and to justify raises and pensions, we imagined growth would fill the gaps. This logic prevailed because economic growth has been reliable. Inflation is so dependable that employees expect and generally have received regular raises.
The change that may be permanent is the end of growth. If we don’t adapt, the town could fail to manage its resources, could go bankrupt and then continue to fail such that the town government would cease to exist.
On the next ballot, the Town will be asking for an extension of a modest sales tax increase already in effect, known as Measure C. The extension, if passed, would sunset after a decade. The Town might be, the logic goes, in a better position at that time to get by without the sales tax increase. Without the extension, the Town’s budget could be pinched so tightly that either another round of salary decreases would have to be negotiated, as was done in 2012, or there would be more layoffs and fewer Town services. The Town already downsized in recent years to a bare minimum of employees, including public safety personnel. The Town’s revenue streams have not kept up with expectations, necessities, and debts, namely the pension obligation bond. While the sales tax extension would be set to expire at the same time the pension obligation bond is scheduled to be paid off, there is no assurance that the Town would have sufficient funds then either.
Growth may not return, even while the cost of living may continue to increase. When employees’ cost of living goes up, and their incomes do not, it is frustrating and somehow un-American. The Town proposes Measure C be extended to “maintain Town services such as Police, Fire, Roads and Animal Control.” This means that if the extension of the one-half percent sales tax increase is not passed, such services cannot be maintained.
The key question here is this, “If voters pass the measure, will that make Paradise more, or less resilient?”
We would get short-term stability, but long-term vulnerability because while we hope that the economy will stabilize into its historical growth pattern, that’s just not likely. Obtaining gas will inevitably be costlier because producing petroleum is more expensive now that the high grades of crude in the world are depleting. Our economy, as it is, depends on cheap petroleum.
We’d be more resilient if we developed an economy that does not depend so much on cheap petroleum. That’s hard to imagine, but we don’t have to look that far back to see that our economy used to be local, not global. Of course, that was before refrigerators and cars, but even those products used to be American made, from American fuel, steel, parts, and labor. There was a time that bread in Butte County was local, from locally grown wheat; extraction, production, distribution, and consumption were local.
The Butte County Grand Jury recently reported that, “The town should be proactive in developing a long-term strategy to address future budget requirements.” We need to make fundamental changes to our budgets and to our economy. Passing the Measure C extension is not enough. Shopping locally is not the answer either, if we don’t use local resources to produce what we sell and consume. Relocalization is the way to be less vulnerable to crisis after crisis and to transform our community to cope with change. Let’s do whatever we can to encourage and support those among us who produce, or are thinking of locally manufacturing, products we can use.
I’ve drawn some ideas for this column from The Community Resilience Reader: Essential Resources for an Era of Upheaval, edited by Daniel Lerch. 2017. https://reader.resilience.org/
Too Much Resilience was published in the Paradise Post on June 6, 2018.
We mostly try not to think about it, but somewhere down deep we know we’re going to die someday. Death is a normal part of the life cycle. From a biological perspective, it’s the purpose of life to reproduce and carry on the species. There’s a conservation biologist who has been saying that the human species is headed for near term human extinction (NTHE), and he’s not alone in his prediction. What if these scientists are right, and climate change is a much bigger deal that we’ve been led to believe in the main-stream media? Our obsession in the news with near term politics blinds us to the bigger picture of where our global civilization is headed. If NTHE is a thing, then how much does it matter who is fired from the President’s cabinet and why? It’s all interesting, but relatively speaking, why do we focus on such trivia in the national news?
Ignorance is a possibility, given our tendency to focus on myopic news versus the big picture. Without great reporting in the mainstream we might not realize what the big reality is. Then there’s the opposition, delegitimizing science and journalism, generating misinformation about the climate realities.
Data shows the Arctic is melting rather fast. This explains quite a bit about changing weather patterns. Methane release accompanies this melt, and methane levels are up due to multiple sources outside the Arctic. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas.
Few predictions look past 2100 in terms of global warming, and those born after 2000 who might live that long will surely take note. For those in my generation, our grandchildren, or optimistically our great grandchildren may not survive. This is NTHE.
Opposition to the possibility, to the data, is more than scientific critique. Attacking the sources, delegitimizing institutions like NASA which provide data, and putting out misinformation such that the Arctic is somehow getting colder — all of this is part of our “media”.
Meditate on acceptance of NTHE for a moment. Of all the generations that have survived in the United States over our relatively brief yet turbulent history, could it be possible that climate change could be that big of a deal? Could agriculture fail to support us? Could heat consume us? Could any number of self-supporting feedback loops come to haunt us? Failure of the food chain. Water shortage. Disease. War. Yes, some of this has been the doom of previous states, but globally, is an apocalypse a possibility? We are interconnected and interdependent as never before in the time humans have inhabited the earth. So, yes.
With growth as an imperative, it’s inevitable that we will meet a bleak future. The sooner we accept the idea that we have really screwed up our future, the more likely that we can act to try to prolong our collective lives. Or does it work that way? Individuals with a terminal diagnosis tend to act to prolong their lives, but not always. Some want to live fully now, and others want to live as many days as possible no matter the quality of life. It’s unprecedented in human history to have a global civilization so interdependent as we are today, and how much longer can we go on “growing our economies”? There is an end, and might we devise an endgame?
What if we accepted, by-and-large that it is all over, our global civilization and human life on the planet? What would you do the same or different if NTHE were true? What would you do?
Living with a Terminal Diagnosis was published in the Paradise Post on May 1, 2018.
Trade wars are no laughing matter, even if over fruits and nuts. We hope the escalation of tariffs between China and the United States will calm down before anyone is seriously affected. In the meantime, I wonder just how interdependent China and the US have become. Manufacturing has spread to southeast Asia; however, much of what we purchase on a regular basis is made in China.
California farmers are speculating what the higher tariffs set by China on imported foods will have on our local economy. There’s a trickle-down effect when farmers’ profits decline. In a hungry world the markets will surely sort out where food will be sold for the best prices; however, trade agreements and breaches to those agreements undercut a free market and fair trade.
As each nation looks out for its own interests and makes or breaks trade agreements via the World Trade Organization, those in business must adjust. In 2016 the Obama administration challenged China over subsidies that caused unfair trade, hurting American rice, wheat and corn farmers, and opened market access by eliminating “unwarranted trade barriers with trading partners”, in the language of the Office of the United States Trade Representative. Politicized trade is a lot of trouble.
According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, China imported half a billion dollars’ worth of pistachios and another half a billion dollars’ worth of almonds in 2016-2017. The next most valuable crops on the California tariff list are wine, oranges, grapes, and walnuts which together are worth $458,500,000 – that’s another half a billion.
The fifteen percent tariff increase imposed by China on fruits and nuts will hit home. In Butte County, the top five million-dollar crops are walnuts, almonds, rice, prunes, and cattle. Walnuts, almonds, and rice grown in Butte County are worth half a billion dollars. We’re in the agricultural trade dispute.
I feel happy, nevertheless, to live in the land of fruits and nuts, irrigated by the rich watershed of the northern Sierra Nevada. Let’s keep the situation at the level of trade war, not actual war. We’re more fragile than we may imagine.
When it comes to goods manufactured in China, what if – because of trade wars – we could no longer buy them cheap? Would we all panic if prices at our favorite discount stores soared? Stock up if you foresee need for anything currently made in China.
We’re feeling the high cost of low prices in America. Homelessness, joblessness, under-employment, etcetera from manufacturing lost to overseas production hurts all of us. Our psyche, our budget deficits, our debts are linked to trade policies.
Eventually, as we return to manufacturing more at home in the US, we may thank China for increasing tariffs and be happy for their success. Interdependence is great, to an extent. Adjustments in the trade structure are overdue. If that means trade war, then so be it. When facing a strong nation-state demanding respect, sometimes it’s best to laugh anyway.
Laughing at Adversity was published in the Paradise Post on April 4, 2018.
You may have heard about the little two-bedroom suburban home in Sunnyvale that sold for $2 million last week, half a million dollars over the asking price. It was listed for two days. There’s a small supply and big demand for homes in the Bay Area. Rents are also crazy high there, and not everyone gets a big enough paycheck, or paychecks as many work more than one job to stay afloat.
Housing here is likewise in high demand and low supply, so the price is up, especially for rentals. Many of us know people living here who work in the Bay Area. Growth has returned to Butte County after a long recession. We see it in Chico and feel it in Paradise. Traffic is up, and the Skyway has become more like a highway.
Isn’t it great? We’ve always been told that growth leads to prosperity, so we welcome growth, if grudgingly. Many of us moved here to not be in the city, to not wake up to traffic reports.
As the story goes, we brought the city with us. Since I moved here in 1989 Chico has more than doubled in population. The graph of growth from 1880 to present is a typical exponential curve, where doubling times shorten. The graph was steepest from 1990 to 2000, but the growth continues. While the population in Paradise and Magalia is fairly flat since about 1990, in Butte Creek Canyon and Butte Valley – both sides of Paradise treasured for its natural beauty – pockets of subdivisions have been popping up, and individual homes along the rivers and ridges continue to be built. It’s lovely, having views of each other’s homes.
But the fish count is down despite the valiant effort of Friends of Butte Creek where the last best run of wild, naturally spawned Spring Run Chinook salmon remains in California. There are constant threats to the survival of salmon runs, despite also being protected by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and other agencies. All this development and population growth is not easy on the fish.
Without fish, it’s hard to fish successfully. Who wants to live in a world where fish must be stocked from some fish farm and fish are bought and trucked in, so families can pretend that the fake lake has fish – like the rivers used to – on kid’s fishing day? Sad ☹
But we can’t go back. We must keep growing because growth means prosperity, or so we’ve been told over and over again. “Grow or die” is a business mantra, albeit one in question. There’s no scientific basis for the maxim; one can run a business and stay the same size. Many businesses go broke trying to expand. It’s a good business plan to have “flat growth”.
Our language about growth shows our beliefs. In economics “negative growth” is the way to describe something that shrinks. “Flat growth” means staying the same size. Growth is the way forward we believe, and with seemingly unlimited land, water, fertile soil, and cheap energy, it was once true.
Now we have conservation policies and create zoning overlays, so we can preserve and stretch our dwindling and increasingly expensive resources – so we can fish, swim, or hike and drive around pretending that we’re a world away from the Bay Area pressures.
But water is an issue, and growth does not create water prosperity. Water is our economy in Butte County, being at least as foundational to agriculture as land. Water is life, and I must say I am thankful for last week’s cool storm.
Prosperity Versus Growth was published in the Paradise Post on March 7, 2018.
Because there’s little snow in the mountains, this snowboarder is angry about the weather
this season, and especially the nice weather in January and so far in February. The issue is larger than that problem of the privileged not being able to play in the snow as they’d like. I’m not alone in being concerned about water supply and the accompanying issue of food production in the North State. Probably into the future almonds will not grow in the valley; they need a certain number of cool days. In the near future apples may not grow well on the Ridge due to changing climate.
That the weather is warmer than average is in the news. There’s record heat being reported where we live, year after year. The heat is not more than expected by climate scientists following various climate models. If you’re so inclined try using the interactive tool to explore California’s Climate Change Research at http://cal-adapt.org/ and see what’s expected for your zip code. The data for predictions is amazingly refined. The models all predict the same trends for our part of the world: more heat, less snowpack, less precipitation, and more extremes in the weather patterns.
What’s less well understood is what effects the melting Arctic will have. Uncertainties remain in the models, but it’s fair to say that there’s nowhere that will be unaffected by melting polar ice caps. We can try to remain blissfully ignorant or highly informed. We can become, more or less, concerned or angry. We can resolve to remain positive, the American way; or like the British maintain a stiff upper lip and live the motto, “keep calm and carry on”. We can focus on surviving another day, another week, another year, another decade, as we do. What can we do anyway?
It’s risky buying a ski pass. I may not do that again, given the projections for shorter winters and less precipitation. I just hoped for one more fairly normal year, and I still am “thinking snow”. I want to support the ski industry and the people who depend on it. We could yet get a couple blizzards in the mountains and not need to declare another drought.
Hope is not enough. I’m in the market for a cistern to catch what rain that falls so I can use it when the rain stops to offset the probable increase in water prices. I want more certainty that I’ll have the water to continue my gardening efforts.
What can the community do to adapt? Our fire safe council needs support. They are doing good work. There is much being done and much more to do to become more fire resistant. The Town and County can facilitate more programs toward fire safety.
Asking ourselves what we can do as individuals and as a community is one to keep posing. It is now law that municipalities must respond to climate change - stay tuned for more information.
In addressing the question, “What can we do to adapt?” I’m hopeful that we can make ourselves more comfortable going into a too warm, too dry future.
Warmer than Expected was printed in the Paradise Post on Feb. 7, 2018.
How can we know the way if we don’t know where we are going? As I write on this first back-to-business day of 2018 I’m thinking about how what we do, our work, affects our lives.
Everyone has power over their own destiny, but no one can control reality. The most powerful work to corral us to a purpose, usually “growing the economy” and increasing our production for profit. We share in that success, to a point. We admire achievement.
We sense. We hear the anxious and the confident. We see economic distress and economic success. What is the world now truly like, and what will happen this year? We consume information through our many digital windows. Surely someone will show us the way, and yet there is a powerful force somewhere in each of us that knows the way to having a regular place at the table of happiness.
It's being suggested that if our glass is half full, we need only use a smaller one to be happy. As the economy grows by increasing productivity, using a smaller vessel each year leads to the glass becoming the size of a thimble. That’s not going to work.
For 2018 I predict that those who grow gardens, ground cover, and flowers will have fresh produce, covered soil, and flowers. Those who raise chickens, will likely have eggs. If we install more solar panels, we will harvest more energy from the sun. If we replace old wood stoves with cleaner burning stoves, clean our chimneys, and burn the fire hot, then we will have fewer particulates in the air we breathe. What work we do this year will determine our well-being in 2019, to a point. It’s cause and effect. Our future is not magic, it’s the application of the solid theory, the conclusion from human analysis using scientific method, formal and informal, that what we do each day sets our course for our future.
We experience a cyclone of information from the time we wake and start looking at our screens to the time we sleep. There we dream. One’s mind tries to make sense of it all by recombining the experiences and ideas of one’s life. Then we wake up to our screens and our conscious lives.
Watchful economic predictions conflict. Mainstream business news outlets are reporting that 2017 was more solid than expected. Their projection for 2018 is for 2-3% growth of the US economy. Digital currencies, notably Bitcoin are figuring into their estimations. Compared to what I see on the streets and in other reporting, their analyses and predictions sound glib. I like to hear good economic news, and I’m looking for verification.
During the holidays as I stood with a visiting friend of the family outside a restaurant after dinner, a healthy looking young man pushed his shopping cart along the sidewalk past us. He tried not to make eye contact; he was looking for valuable cans and bottles that others tossed away. My companion asked me if it’s okay if she gives him some money. I’d been reading about what to do for the homeless in a local paper. I follow the hypothesis that it is better to give to organizations than to individuals, but she can do what she likes. She called him over and gave him some cash. He looked scared and a bit cold. He needed a place to sleep for the night, and he was nowhere near a homeless shelter. Maybe there is no room for a healthy young man. What happened to him? Where are his parents? I wanted to find out, but we were on our way home.
I wonder if that young man also experiences the world through a smart phone. It’s possible with the pay-as-you-go cell phone services available and the free or nearly free phones offered with the service.
There are an increasing number of people on the streets and in the woods, living on the fringes, marginally wild, in need of being corralled into a space safer for everyone. We’re all corralled, domesticated, in large part.
In my little residential space, I look in what’s left of my garden, my economic safety net in need of development. In the darkest part of the year the tomato vines not only have green and slowly ripening fruit, but they are also flowering. Everyone with a garden around here in my real and virtual world tell me that this is weird. Growing tomatoes outside in winter is nice, but it’s strange. A warming planet apparently means we can glean more tomatoes this year.
It’s still cold. Some homeless are better and more careful than others in generating their own heat. There are several well documented incidents in California in 2017 of catastrophic failure to contain a campfire, such as what caused the Ponderosa Fire in August. Last week the young man accused pleaded no contest to causing the fire as he let his campfire smolder during his month-long stay in the woods. In this relatively-so-far dry year, the clear and present danger of a campfire getting out of control is reason enough to moderate the homeless camps in and around Paradise and Magalia.
In short follow various news sources. Some produce reports to inspire confidence, and others produce reports for their own reasons. Like a puzzle we can find the accurate pieces of information and put together a true picture. Scroll right, left, up and down on your screens, and look around often. Direct your life, and if you’re a leader, one of the powerful, remember that the work that you do, or fail to do in 2018 matters to our well-being in 2019.
Life with many windows was published in the Paradise Post on January 3, 2018.
Robin Huffman has lived in Paradise since 1989, after a nomadic life in a military family. In addition to teaching and writing, she enjoys traveling, gardening, and outside activities. Huffman served on the Town Council, worked as an advocate for the environment, teaches cultural anthropology, and is a member of the Paradise Post editorial board.