This puppy doesn’t think it’s possible to have too many vegetables. Photo: snugglepup via Flickr
In these times of economic crisis, rising poverty, and diet-related health problems, you'd think local governments would have bigger priorities than counting the number of squash and broccoli plants on people's lawns. Unfortunately that's not the case for Georgia resident Steve Miller, a landscaper by profession and organic farmer by heart, who's been caught tomato-red-handed growing a downright offensive number of vegetable plants on his property outside of Atlanta. (The exact number of criminal plants unknown.)
Dubbed "Cabbage-Gate" by friends and neighbors of Miller, officials in Dekalb County, Georgia, are suing him for $5,000 in fines for not having his land properly zoned to grow such an apparently ridiculous number of vegetables -- even after he stopped growing them and got rezoned.
If the county is suing this long-time hobby farmer for growing too many vegetables, how many are "acceptable" anyway? Twenty? Eleven? As many as you want as long as that doesn't include cabbage?
Just when I thought life could not get more silly - this!
This weekend I will be talking more about our disconnect with food and the natural world.
My context - Jane Jacobs said that Dark Ages arrive when people forget. When they forget because of a cultural bias how to do important things.
Such as today - how to raise a child - what an education is - how to grow and cook food. All of these things are of course connected in one meta thing that we have forgotten - that we are part of nature and how nature herself works.
We have disconnected from nature and so we have got completely lost.
This weekend I will offer up a few stories of how others are finding their way home - stories that any of us can emulate. For the way home is available - we can remember.
America has always been a nation of immigrants. Throughout our history, there have been times where immigration has been perceived as a national threat to our way of life—we live today in one of those times.
The purpose of Homeland initiative is to help people define how we as a country and a community should best deal with immigration. We will explore the complexity of immigration issues faced by our society. The goals of Homeland:
Create a safe place for America to talk about one of the most sensitive issues facing our country in the 21st century
Connect people to the issues, resources and each other
Give people a voice to confront the question, “are we as a country still a beacon to immigrants?”
The issues faced in Missouri are a microcosm of the larger national debate raging on immigration. We’re exploring the issues that make up the complicated national narrative of immigration through a collaborative process that will live in a multi-platform environment designed to engage participation and action:
Local and statewide facilitated conversations with community members
Guided citizen media creation
Purpose-driven, original digital media creationa national, prime-time, four-hour television series
A robust online space for people to participate and connect to issues and to each other.
The bulk of our engagement will occur in 2010 with broadcast series delivery in mid-2011.
There is no savior coming on a white horse with all of the answers to our nation’s immigration woes. Immigration remains a dominantly divisive issue in America and the issues faced in Missouri are a microcosm of the larger national debate on immigration. Confusion, fear, and uncertainty have reduced the issue of immigration to meaningless and repetitive sound bites hindering our ability to engage with the issues and find thoughtful positions and actions in keeping with our national identity and beliefs.
Why immigration? By 2050, the Census Bureau predicts, the United States will have a new minority: whites. Already, non-Hispanic whites are the minority in California, Texas, New Mexico and Hawaii, and about one in 10 U.S. counties. Missouri currently has no county like that — but that’s likely to change in the next decade and the results of the 2010 Census may paint a different picture of who makes up American communities.
The Homeland initiative is really about the community and that’s where this idea started. It started with dialogue with people across our community—attending countless meetings where people were looking for answers on the future of our region. What we heard countless times was that in order for our region to prosper and thrive, we need population growth and in order to achieve population growth—we must embrace immigration.
The term immigration is innocuous enough—or so we thought. What we we’re learning from talking to lots of people in our community is this: When you talk about immigration, most people are really talking about illegal immigration. “Legal immigration—that’s fine. People who come here illegally—that’s not okay,” is what we’ve heard countless times as we’ve talked with over one thousand people across our community.
What we’ve learned is—it’s complicated. Immigration is a complex web of chicken and egg issues and we alone don’t have the answers. Most media paint a dichotomy of solutions—it’s black or white, this or that, one side or the other. There is no in between—you must choose a side or you don’t fit. All the important issues faced by communities across the country are complicated. But what if we connected lots of people with each other? What if people in our community found a way to reduce the complexity around the issues of immigration? What if they had more and better information to help them decide what’s right for them and for where they live? What if you didn’t have to choose a side? Could this work on immigration help communities take on other complicated issues—issues that are stuck because of polarization? This is what public media can do better than anyone and this is why we’re taking on this work.
Here is a summary of what KETC - my client - is trying to do. I speak for myself here.
The challenges that America and most of the world face are complex and dangerous. If we cannot find a path, they have the power to weaken or even destroy us. But the way that the media works today that feeds into our political system makes it impossible to act responsibly.
Our current media system reduces everything to a binary shouting match - I'm right and you are not only wrong but evil! The result ever great polarization and gridlock. The result, we watch "Political Theatre" as millions face a future with no jobs - while the clock ticks on Peak Oil - while our education system and our infrastructure crumbles.
The impressive civic discourse and can do aspect of American life that de Tocqueville so admired has been replaced by arguments about dogma similar to the early Christian debates about how many angels could stand on the head of a pin.
As Markets do indeed shift to being Conversations - Politics and Media have become Gladiator Shows.
My wonderful client - KETC - has been on 4 year journey of discovery to find out if a local public TV station could find out how to bring back that great American tradition - the "Safe Town Hall" where citizens could be heard and get connected to solve the problems that faced them. Where the intention is to find a way of working with each other to do what is best for our community.
Are you tired of all the bullshit? Do you long for a place where good people can commit to each other to help make where they live a better place?
If you do then please have a look at what we are doing - we are at the baby steps now - and need your advice and support.
For what we are doing is so old that we have all but forgotten how to do this - but we have the wonder that is the web on our side. We are just a bunch of regular folk who are struggling up the Missouri River as Lewis and Clark did. We have an aim as you can see that is clear - we know some things but like all voyages of discovery - we cannot know that is around the next river bend or over the next range of mountains.
Like Lewis and Clark - we need the advice and the help of the natives along the way - for without this they and we could never complete the journey.
By helping us - you help yourselves and your children. For if we can find a way to create the environment for a discourse in a topic that is as messy as immigration, then we can do this for all the issues that currently confound us.
The real new media 2.0 are not the tools. The new politics 2.0 is not your senator on Facebook. America 2.0 is a nation that has got its mojo back - a nation of people from many places that can get together and work out how to get through the great challenges that confront us in the 21st century
Billed as a legacy gift to the city, its cost and that of many others are revealed for the first time as Canadians get a close look as to how the hosting tab for the back-to-back G8/G20 summits climbed to $1-billion.
That green wall inside the Direct Energy Centre? $246,000. Other odds and sods on the list include a $26,661 tab for electronic mosquito traps, $31,390 on flag polls and $14,049 for glow sticks.
Don't ever accept as an answer from a politician that "We don't have the money!" As we can see from this - there is always the money - the real issue is one of choice.
I am finding that my test of a politician and a government is made on not what they did but on what they chose - where is their focus and does it line up with what I think is right.
So what do you think about choices that favour - more security - more prisons - looser gun control - looser regulation - more support for corporations and for the established energy and food system? Ask how this helps Canada. Ask who benefits. Ask who loses. Ask does this get at the complex forces that are working on our stability and future as a country?
(The determination to be “fair” to all sides on all stories can at times go to such absurd lengths that Allan Little, one of our best reporters with hard experience of covering Sarajevo in the mid-90s and much more, speaks of the analogy of two men at a bar, one saying that two plus two equals four, and the other that two plus two equals six. The BBC solution to this disagreement? Put them both on the Today Programme, and the answer clearly lies somewhere in the middle.)
My former colleagues at the BBC, including Richard Black and others whom I know as good men and women all, remain trapped like most Western-style journalists in the old paradigm of news as event, not process, always needing to be shiny, new and different.
As a correspondent, and later at every nine o’clock morning editorial meeting at the World Service on every weekday through the 1990s, I and my colleagues would grapple with this – how to tell a complex story in just a few lines, with enough of a news peg to interest our listeners. And listeners, viewers and readers have short attention spans – they’ll tune out if they sense it’s just the same old stuff.
So, in order to sell and appeal, whether public service or commercial, journalism needs events. We need clear causes, agents and forces to be visibly responsible. We need (not that we put it like this) a narrative of baddies and goodies. Where the climate is concerned, things are slow-moving, complex, and what’s more, we ourselves are the baddies. That’s not something listeners and viewers want or wanted to be told.
HT Jay Rosen - Isn't this the heart of the matter? Are not most of the tough issues that confront us complex and slow moving and they involve not "them" but "US"!
I think that the media has failed us all and has a major responsibility for the mess that we are in. We are stalled on energy, food, security, immigration, education and the economy. Why? Because our media uses a process that ensures that we are stalled.
Do I know a better way? I know a better direction which is why I am working with KETC on Immigration - one of the issues where only emotion and externalization rules and where the press pour gas on the fears of the people and so feed a political system that is only theatre.
Here is part of a comment on the item about fees at UPEI: "i am spending 5000 dollars just to take 10 courses, i spent close to 500 dollars on books this semester and will have to get more next semester. thats not even including living expenses, rent is ridiculous"
The pips are squeaking - my warning is "Please think about what it may mean to leave with a BA and a big loan."
If you leave any university today with a student loan over $20,000 what have you done to yourself?
Remember you cannot use bankruptcy to get out of this loan.
Will you have a good chance of getting a good job soon that will enable you to pay this off? Remember that if you do, the clock starts to tick and you have to service the loan. So the moment you start work, you will be poor as the loan payments come before everything.
On PEI what are the chances of getting a well paying job on graduation? I taught for 5 years and taught many of the best students - I cannot think of one that has such a job and that is many years ago. Most are now approaching 30!
Where are the jobs that will pay a graduate - who has in reality NO skills - the kind of money that will make loan service easy? When you took the loan did you ever think about this or did you accept that with your BA a good well paying job would be easy to get? Do you know what youth unemployment is today? Do you have any idea of what you intent to do?
With such a loan how will you really afford to buy a car or a home? What if you owe $35,000! What will that do to your life?
In reality, your BA means very little today. That is why so many then go on to grad school and dig an even deeper hole of debt and still emerge with no skills and no direction.
Your BA is not a ticket to a job. Your loan is an anchor not a sail.
If you want work and want to earn a decent living - then get some real skills and get them from a master who also has a network.
If you wish to broaden your mind keep your costs down at school. Above all live at home. Your living costs will equal your direct costs. Look at an online alternative too.
What happens when you try to pay attention to more than 150 people? Paterson says, “People become strangers to one another.” Cliques form; loyalties divide; in the military, hierarchies and rules have to be established to keep the unit together.
What happens when you try to pay attention to too many people online? One extreme possibility is Facebook Addiction Disorder. Therapist and Huffington Post blogger Lisa Haisha says people are using Facebook to escape from reality, all the while telling themselves that they are keeping in touch with people. What’s really happening, Haisha writes, is “less human interaction, less touch, less accountability, and less human connection.” If you’re spending much more than an hour a day on Facebook, you may be using it to fill a void in your life, to escape depression or loneliness. The problem is, “the more time you spend on Facebook, the more depressed and lonely you become, and you have to spend even more time online to eliminate those negative feelings. Eventually it’s a vicious cycle that seems to have no way out.”
One teacher tells the story of a former student who had serious socialization problems and spent more time in the nurse’s office than in class. She had nearly 1,000 friends on Facebook, and she constantly updated her status so that if she didn’t show up in school or didn’t update for a while, she got messages asking where she was. These messages made her feel like she had an active, healthy social life, but it only existed in the virtual world.
This post asks a neat question - if you try and interact with more friends than you are designed to cope with - you might end up with no one!
The research is clear - we cannot have empathy with more than about 150 people. We can of course have a much larger circle - but we cannot groom enough to hold more than 150 reasonably close.
Our inner circle is actually about 8 - you best mates and girl friends are in this group. Better we work on this close group. If we pay attention there we get what we want. If this seems a bit limited let's look at how the math of connection works.
If your 8 very close friends each had 4 good friends - who had 4 good friends out to 4 then you would have trusted access to 4,096 people. If you had 13 friends (the next grouping of intimacy you would have access to 28,561 people. If you had 34 - the most practical grouping and the size of early human tribes - you would have access to 1,336,336 and with 144 friends - the most that you can manage you would have access to 429, 981, 696 people. Enough I am sure to meet any need!
These numbers are on the Fibonacci sequence and make up part of the building blocks of how humans naturally gather in intimate groupings.
All the fuss about having thousands of friends is a waste of time. Best we focus on the inner groups of up to 34. If we hold our inner group together we have a very powerful network.
For all of this takes work - to keep the trust and the real friendship demands our attention. Monkeys and Apes physically Groom. Humans have to keep chatting and interacting.
Actually Facebook is a help but it is only one way - nothing beats face to face - but interacting on FB can go a long way when face to face is not available.
Since the 'factory' work we did is now being mechanized, outsourced or eliminated, it's hard to pay extra for it. And since buyers have so many choices (and much more perfect information about pricing and availability) it's hard to charge extra.
Thus, middle class jobs that existed because companies had no choice are now gone.
Protectionism isn't going to fix this problem. Neither is stimulus of old factories or yelling in frustration and anger. No, the only useful response is to view this as an opportunity. To poorly paraphrase Clay Shirky, every revolution destroys the last thing before it turns a profit on a new thing.
The networked revolution is creating huge profits, significant opportunities and a lot of change. What it's not doing is providing millions of brain-dead, corner office, follow-the-manual middle class jobs. And it's not going to.
So what then does school as it is prepare people for - a world that is dying and will be dead by the time most in grade 6 graduate.
Too late and too hard to change the schools - I think that each of us as parents need to start to talk with each other about what practically we are going to do to help our kids and in my case my grand children.
Steven Johnson is clear here - real learning and real innovation is eventually the product of collisions of ideas - many of which are half formed and long incubated. The more connected you are - the better.
Steven Johnson also makes the point about having the ideal physical environment. It was the coffee house and the salon in the age of enlightenment that offered the ferment that produced the core set of ideas that created the modern world.