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Community Articles from 2015

The Elephant in the Room: Capitalism and Sustainable Development

The Elephant in the Room: Capitalism and Sustainable Development
by Garry Leech
Posted October 19, 2015

we must cut our consumptionThe term “sustainable” has been used by so many people in so many different contexts that it has lost much of its meaning. It has become a buzzword in political, economic and development circles. But it is not the excessive use of the word that has ultimately rendered it largely meaningless but the fact that too many efforts to achieve sustainable development do not seriously attempt to actually achieve sustainable development.

It is too often suggested that we can simply incorporate more environmentally-friendly practices into our daily lives while only tinkering with our consumption habits in order to achieve sustainability. But this simply is not true. Each of us living in wealthy nations must massively, and I mean MASSIVELY, reduce our levels of material consumption if we are to achieve a sustainable ecological footprint. And this reality is the elephant that is too often ignored in discussions about sustainable development. More…

Feeding a New Economy: Local Food Systems in the South

Feeding a New Economy: Local Food Systems in the South
By Susanna Hegner
Posted October 12, 2015

The local foods movement has become much more than a short-lived dietary or environmental trend. Can it actually fuel the new Southern economy?

The term “locavore” has become ubiquitous since appearing in the American vernacular about ten years ago. It represents a rapidly growing movement of people choosing locally produced food rather than packaged goods that traveled hundreds of miles to market. Last year, the local-food economy was valued at nearly $12 billion. According to the Department of Agriculture, the number of farmers markets rose 76 percent from 2008 to 2014. Direct-to-consumer food sales increased threefold between 1992 and 2007, twice as fast as overall agricultural sales. More…

War is the Health of the State

War is the Health of the State
by Claudio Grass
Posted September 19, 2015

it is the state that exerts powerIn an essay titled “The State”, Randolph Bourne, an American writer, made a distinction between a country and a state that I find crucial. He described one’s country as “an inescapable group into which we are born”. In his view, a country is “a concept of peace, tolerance, of living and letting live. But the State is essentially a concept of power, of competition; it signifies a group in its aggressive aspects. And we have the misfortune of being born not only into a country but into a State, and as we grow up we learn to mingle the two feelings into a hopeless confusion”.

Most people don’t question what their government does, especially when it comes to foreign policy. This gives power-hungry politicians the opportunity to lie to the public, so that people willingly accept a war in a foreign country. A recent example is the Iraq war, where the public was led to believe that Saddam was hiding weapons of mass destruction and was an imminent threat to the United States. After the invasion, however, it turned out that Iraq had no WMDs and the threat was exaggerated to gain public support for the war. More…

Self-Governing Association in El Salvador Offers Local Solutions to Global Problems

Self-Governing Association in El Salvador Offers Local Solutions to Global Problems
By Jeff Haas
Posted September 14, 2015

model for solutionsWhile many fret over escalating violence, and others in Washington pay lip service to Central America’s dire social situation, local communities are doing something to address the root causes of poverty and violence, from the lack of educational and economic opportunities to environmental degradation. Indeed, local actors are taking the reins and are tackling climate change as they live it. There is a growing grassroots movement that is working toward finding solutions to the problem of rural development and environmental conservation and promoting democracy and youth leadership.

Communities in the global South have already organized movements and implemented practices to save their environment and confront the impact of climate change. One such movement, headed by a network of communities in coastal El Salvador, shows what can be done. More…

The High Cost of Private Prisons

The High Cost of Private Prisons
by Beryl Lipton
Posted September 11, 2015

for profit prisonsWe do know that millions of dollars have been poured into elections and lobbying to in order to make private operators an integral part of many state Departments of Correction and the immigrant detention machine. It’s difficult to quantify the effect that private interest can have on the systems for the public good, like criminal justice. But, in Louisiana, for example, where Winn shares the honor of being one of just two major state private prisons, dozens of locally-incentivized lock-ups have created so many mini-economies and a monstrous prison population – the highest per capita of any state in the country with the highest per capita in the world.

Which is why an eyebrow might be raised at the fact that a place like Correction Corp’s Winn Correctional averages about one grievance per prisoner a year. The majority of those, about 60 percent, are regarding issues of time computation, according to an LA DOC representative — implying it would be worse if they involved assaults or medical care. But concerns about time computation become more curious when there’s an incentive to keeping low maintenance prisoners for as long as possible. More…

Escape from New Orleans: As waters rose, a white suburb across the Mississippi closed a key bridge to fleeing residents

Escape from New Orleans: As waters rose, a white suburb across the Mississippi closed a key bridge to fleeing residents
By Gary Rivlin
Posted September 1, 2015

racism in AmericaHurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana at 6:10 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 29, 2005. Within hours, the catastrophic collapse of levees would cause water to pour into New Orleans. Within days, New Orleans would be 80 percent covered in water.

A group of around 300 were trapped by the rising water in the headquarters of the city’s Regional Transit Authority. Their numbers included around 100 RTA workers who had volunteered to remain in New Orleans — the bus drivers needed to transport people to the Superdome on the Sunday before Katrina struck the New Orleans area, and the staff they would need to resume transit service once the winds died. The remainder were family members and friends who had hunkered down in the “Canal Street barn,” a seemingly secure brick edifice in a part of town that never flooded. More…

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