Sunday Mornings @ The Travel Bug
A Sunday morning gathering of progressing thinkers who explore, through presentations, issues that influence our daily lives and the lives of future generations. We hope these gatherings, through understanding and knowledge of the world around us, will ignite change for the common good and provide a sense of community.
"Irrigation ditches are the lifelines of agriculture and daily life in rural New Mexico. This award-winning account of the author's experience as a mayordomo, or ditch boss, is the first record of the life of an acequia by a community participant.
" ...a timeless, near-classic... This is the sort of book you will read, shelve, and take down to read parts or all of again. And again."
"Crawford writes with clarity and true pitch about the climate, the wildlife, and the social complexities of northern New Mexico village life... As a contribution to naturalist literature the book is equally rich... Mayordomo is sure to become a classic regional study... Crawford's sensitive pen captures the conflicts and continuities with poignancy."
"Stanley Crawford has... turned the history of an acequia into a startling and lovely celebration of life... Crawford's artistry draws the reader... into the lives of those simple and strong people... [His] narrative technique effectively leads the reader through the past's mundane tasks of yearly digging and scraping ditches... Mayordomo illustrates the joy of "living life deliberately" without modern conveniences--it reveals to the reader the strength and hardihood found only in those who live close to the land and depend on the environment for survival. It is a testament to the human spirit... "
"Stanley Crawford has turned the history of an acequia into a startling and lovely celebration of life. Crawford's artistry draws the reader into the lives of those simple and strong people. His narrative technique effectively leads the reader through the past's mundane tasks of yearly digging and scraping ditches. Mayordomo illustrates the joy of "living life deliberately" without modern conveniences--it reveals to the reader the strength and hardihood found only in those who live close to the land and depend on the environment for survival. It is a testament to the human spirit" --
"A timeless, near-classic. This is the sort of book you will read, shelve, and take down to read parts or all of again. And again."
"Mayordomo is informative non-fiction writing at its best... Moreover, it has been perceived as a fine piece of living archeology ... [Crawford] applied his skill as a writer of smooth and sensitive prose."
"Mayordomo is informative non-fiction writing at its best. Moreover, it has been perceived as a fine piece of living archeology Crawford applied his skill as a writer of smooth and sensitive prose."
Stanley Crawford lives in Dixon, New Mexico.
John de Graaf is the Executive Director of Take Back Your Time and co-director of The Happiness Initiative, has produced more than fifteen national PBS documentary specials and is the co-author of Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic. He has taught at Evergreen State College and serves on the boards of of Earth Island Institute and Sustainable Seattle. (www.timeday.org)
The Happiness Initiative: what are your measures of success?
Gross Domestic Product has been used as a measure of our country’s economic success since it was implemented in 1991 to gauge the market value of all final goods and services, replacing GNP instituted in 1934. But GDP has never been a viable measure of people’s quality of life, of whether they are healthy or happy or living in a community with clean water or fresh air. In fact, GDP includes such “successful” economic measures as environmental pollution, divorce, debt and crime, while ignoring the “irrelevancies” of nature, community, good health or sustainability.
Writer/Professor John deGraaf of the Happiness Initiative and Laura Musikanski, Director of Sustainable Seattle want to change that. They want to teach Santa Fe about an alternative to this outmoded measure that has so far defined our country. The Happiness Initiative instead counts our happiness, health and life satisfaction as measures of real success. Inspired by a model first implemented in Bhutan, deGraaf and Musikanski have crafted the measures of a person’s well being based on ten criteria, including our own psychological well being; our social connection and our access to nature or to arts and culture. The Initiative measures our physical health and whether we have democratic governance, and yes, it also measures our material well-being.
Sustainable Seattle provides a downloadable blueprint on their website, including everything needed to implement the Happiness Initiative in your own community (www.sustainableseattle.org/sahi). These measures aren’t about financial gain; they are about measuring what really matters, and particularly in a time of capitalist crumble, looking at the values that most coincide with our own well-being.
In his forthcoming book, What’s the Economy for Anyway, deGraaf, quotes Thomas Pynchon (Gravity’s Rainbow) that “If you can get them asking the wrong questions, you don’t have to worry about the answers.”
DeGraaf and Musikanski are here to tell us that the questions are important and it’s up to us to start asking. Already the measure is gaining momentum. According to deGraaf, Seattle’s city council president has asked for a panel presentation on the Initiative at the National League of Cities national conference in Washington DC next March. But let’s help the idea gain even more traction. It’s up to all of us to take this idea home to our communities, talk to our civic leaders and start generating conversations about what really matters in our lives. Because maybe, just maybe, we are far richer than we ever thought possible.
‘What’s the Economy For, Anyway?’ by John de Graaf and David K. Batker
With the recent emergence of the Occupy Wall Street movement and the burgeoning indebtedness of individuals and local and national governments, a belief that our economic system is fundamentally broken is spreading. Many financial thinkers, most recently Michael Lewis in “Boomerang,’’ are looking beyond the technical aspects of our malaise to explore something deeper: the bankrupt condition of our economic ideas and collapse of our moral sensibilities. In “What’s the Economy For, Anyway?’’ John de Graaf and David K. Batker suggest that our economic goals are wrong, that we need to restructure our economy away from growth-at-all-costs and unequal distribution of income to “a holistic approach . . . that provides the greatest good for the greatest number over the longest run.’’ Government, they assert, can play a useful role in making our lives better.
De Graaf, who has written extensively on overwork and overconsumption in America, and Batker, an economist who runs Earth Economics, a nonprofit that promotes ecology and sustainable economic development, have thought hard about economics and sustainability for decades. The heart of their witty and provocative argument is that we have allowed ourselves to become cogs in the machinery of our own national economy instead of masters of a system designed to ensure a better work-life balance, health, and fair wages for all.
They begin by arguing that a major stumbling block to achieving success involves the way we gauge progress, the principal means being our major economic indicators, especially gross domestic product, or GDP, the total value of goods and services we produce in a year. We have become slaves to the GDP and believe that any increase equates to a rise in our standard of living or happiness.
The problem is twofold. First, GDP does not always measure exactly what we think it does. They point out, for example, that a disaster such as the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico damaged the environment and local economies and communities but actually boosted GDP because of the massive cost of the cleanup. More importantly, GDP does not gauge things that are central to promoting quality of life, including sustainability, social connection, and the environment. The basic contradiction the authors explore is why our levels of GDP have grown while research suggests our rates of overall happiness have simultaneously plummeted.
We’re digging ourselves into a deeper hole economically and spiritually, they say, with our backbreaking levels of debt, long working hours, and time-strapped, stressed-out lifestyles.
The authors dive into specific aspects of our dysfunction, including our broken health care system. We spend almost half of the world’s total budget on health care, even though we are 5 percent of the world’s population. Meanwhile, millions of our citizens have absolutely no coverage, and we have an average national life expectancy that ranks 49th in the world: “We pay the most and get the worst results’’ in health care, the authors conclude. The reason for that, they say, is that we do not pay enough attention to preventative care for all and that our economy does not encourage lifestyles that promote reductions in stress and better health. Graaf and Batker note that the last three decades have been dominated by deregulation, lower taxes on the wealthy, radically unequal income distribution, and the gradual transfer of obligations like health care and retirement financing away from governments and companies and onto the backs of everyday people: “The result is a few big winners, but a multitude of losers.’’
They argue passionately for something different, an economy that better measures the “real cost’’ of things in terms of the environment and their toll on the overburdened lives of average Americans. They also show how other nations have found a better way. “How about we work less, enjoy more,’’ they ask, “consume less, pollute less, destroy less, owe less, live better, longer, and more meaningfully?’’ The authors offer dozens of examples and practical solutions to help us choose another way forward. Taking a step back has never seemed more timely than now.
Chuck Leddy, a freelance writer in Dorchester, can be reached at email@example.com.
In A Great Aridness, William deBuys paints a compelling picture of what the Southwest might look like when the heat turns up and the water runs out. This semi-arid land, vulnerable to water shortages, rising temperatures, wildfires, and a host of other environmental challenges, is poised to bear the heaviest consequences of global environmental change in the United States. Examining interrelated factors such as vanishing wildlife, forest die backs, and the over-allocation of the already stressed Colorado River - upon which nearly 30 million people depend--the author narrates the landscape's history - and future. He tells the inspiring stories of the climatologists and others who are helping untangle the complex, interlocking causes and effects of global warming. And while the fate of this region may seem at first blush to be of merely local interest, what happens in the Southwest, deBuys suggests, will provide a glimpse of what other mid-latitude arid lands worldwide - the Mediterranean Basin, southern Africa, and the Middle East - will experience in the coming years.
Written with an elegance that recalls the prose of John McPhee and Wallace Stegner, A Great Aridness offers an unflinching look at the dramatic effects of climate change occurring right now in our own backyard.