Try Not to Be [Green] Starstruck!

*poses for the paparazzi*

Cheesy jokes aside, guess what?

I’ve been interviewed over at the Green Stars Project blog!

Oh, and I won one of the Ethical Consumer magazine subscription prizes that are available for doing Green Stars reviews!

I chose products for the reviews as a way to wean myself from as many single-use plastics as I can.

Check out the interview here: https://greenstarsproject.org/2022/08/09/ethical-consumer-contest-winner/.

Don’t be “green” with envy….come join me in the emerald spotlight! You can do your own reviews as part of the Green Stars Project…and be entered to win a subscription too!

I promise I won’t upstage you…much!

Let me know if you’re planning (or have done) your own reviews in the comments below (or, better yet, over at the Green Stars Project blog), and I’ll check them out!

Eco Tuesday: The Grey and the Green

We’re not only going green in this week’s “Eco Tuesday” interview, we’re going (werewolf) grey!

It should be quite the adventure!

(We all need an adventurous escape at this point, wouldn’t you all agree?)

With no further ado, please welcome traveler, poet, and writer, Marc Latham!

Biography

Marc Latham was a vegetarian in his late ‘70s teens before lapsing until his late ‘90s university years. He has now been veggie for over twenty years. In the ‘80s he followed Kerouac’s hobo traveling path while keeping a journal. Over the last twenty years he’s cut down on his carbon footprint, and in the last two taken up cold showers, inspired by Wim Hof.
An eco theme was central to his core writing decade of 2005/6 – 2015/6, with a wolf symbol and protagonist star
inspired by the WWF panda…
which he likes to think may have inspired Greta!?

Missing Link movie may be more likely, as that was a bigfoot searching for its roots from America’s north-west, as the Greenygrey werewolf had done a decade earlier; becoming the enlightened greenYgrey along the way!

The Interview

Willow Croft: In your trilogy of books, you write from the perspective of a vegetarian werewolf called greenYgrey. What’s their favourite veggie-filled foodstuff or recipe they tried on their journey?

Marc Latham: Being a werewolf on the road, the greenYgrey just ate what it could. This usually consisted of foods inspired by place names, traditional local food newly discovered, or foods I remembered and fed it from my travels. In Oz it remembers the berries of Beridale (with a McCandless/Krakauer’s Into the Wild warning) and buns from Bunbury’s buried bunneries with particular fondness.

In your current home state of Kansas it enjoyed smoked Red Hot Chili Peppers from the Red Hills and Smoky River, with musical inspiration. In Tartu, Estonia, it had a ravishing rhubarb tart, while in Moldova it discovered the national dish was mamaliga from a hospitable mama; who wasn’t in league with anyone.

Willow Croft: If you could travel through time where (or when, rather) would be your first stop, in terms of a more nature-orientated era?

Marc Latham: Growing up on Western movies  I liked the ‘Indians’ (later defined to Lakota Sioux and Crazy Horse in particular!) with their wild horses culture, and then learning about Native Americans I was impressed with them being at one with nature, and especially nomadically traveling the plains with the seasons. Recently I’ve liked learning about how ‘star people’ are part of Native American culture, so it would be great to meet them too! So their last great era in the early 19th century would probably be my first stop; if I was to be welcomed, and not cause harm through disease! The California ‘60s movement was partially inspired by them and their attitude to nature, so it would be good to spend time there also, ending with a trip to Woodstock!
Learning more about European tribal culture in university I found they had a similar respect for nature and animals, with totems and tree worship, so I guess most places were okay with nature before industrialisation. They were still cutting trees and clearing forests though; although nothing compared to today’s mass clearing.

The further back in time, the more nature (and danger, thinking of H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine!, Edgar Rice Burroughs’s The Land That Time Forgot or Michael Crichton’s Jurassic World) generally, although they’re finding many lost civilisations in the American jungles, so maybe in the future nature will reclaim everything?

Willow Croft: I enjoy your sunrise/sunset photos on your blog. Have you ever seen a green flash at sunset?

Marc Latham: Yes, funny you should ask that, as I have once. It was a year or two after first hearing about it through watching The Green Ray (Le Rayon Vert) French movie. It was set in Brittany, and when I visited there in 2013 I think I remembered it, but had forgotten about it on the evening I saw the green flash.

I was getting cold on the beach waiting for the sun to go down, to finish off my photo sequence, when I saw the green light flash as the sun finally went down, and thought that must be it! I didn’t get a photo as I’d just taken one of the last of the sun, and wasn’t expecting anything else. A photo from the sequence; of a seagull flying past on the beach; and the sunny Saint Malo panorama in the distance, became the cover shot for the blog (link below), so it was quite a special night. As was the first night of that holiday, when I bought a box of beers and drank them sat against a tree watching the sun go down on the edge of town, reliving my hobo travels on their 25th anniversary; which basically started in France.

Thanks for this interview, which has been the writing equivalent of a trip down memory lane.

~~~~

Want to continue the trek down memory lane with Marc Latham and the greenYgrey? Catch up with them via these internet pathways:

Smashwords – About Marc Latham, author of ‘Werewolf of Oz: Fantasy Travel by Google Maps’ and ‘242 Mirror Poems and Reflections’: Free to download in July, 2022.Amazon page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Marc-Latham/e/B004SP40J0/

Blog post about the green flash light night: Saint-Malo Beach Sunset Photos, Brittany, France | Travel 25 Years… and more (wordpress.com)

fmpoetry poetry hub: mistYmuse | Art, Poetry, Writing Winter Festival (wordpress.com)

Kansas episode of the Greenygrey in North America: GreenyGrey Rambles Around the World: Can suss in Kansas

Main greenYgrey website for a decade: greenygrey3 (wordpress.com)

Eco-Monday is now Eco-Tuesday, apparently . . .

Okay, so I forgot to post up the blog I had planned for yesterday.

Good thing it wasn’t actually an interview post!

I didn’t have anyone lined up, but I got so busy with life and the day job and, to be honest, sucking up every last dreg of the three-day weekend (I don’t celebrate the 4th, but it was nice having that extra day to get caught up on things) that I just forgot.

So, I’m still looking for people to interview for the Eco-Monday-now-Eco-Tuesday feature, so if you’re involved in environmental conservation, including wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, or even if you’re turning your once-turf lawn into a pollinator-friendly haven, reach out to me at croftwillow [at] yahoo [dot] com and we’ll set up a mini-interview!

Stay green!

Eco-Monday Premiere: Learn all about the Green Stars Project!

For my first-ever Eco-Warrior post, I’m going to interview the creator of one blogs I started following waaaaay back when I was newbie blogger.

I’ll start these Eco-Monday posts off with a bio about the Eco-Warrior I interview that week, then comes the interview, and I’ll wrap it up with links to find out more about the week’s interviewee!

I hope you’re excited as I am to learn more about these eco-minded individuals and discover new ways to get involved in environmental causes!

Biography

James is a research scientist who studied microbiology in Ireland, then did a PhD in molecular biology in Scotland and now lives in California. Having worked as a research scientist for a couple of decades, James now dedicates a lot of his time to projects related to ethical consumerism. As well as blogging, he’s currently working on a book project that provides guidance on how to address our most pressing social and environmental issues. Working title: The Consumer’s Guide to Modern Life. That title will probably change 😉

The Interview

Willow Croft: What amazing lightning strike of inspiration caused you to create the Green Stars Project (and your newer blog, Grocery Outlet Ethical Bargains)?

James: Well, my interest as a scientist was always to work on solutions to environmental problems, such as sustainable fuels. The idea of the Green Stars Project developed slowly, to be honest, but it started to take shape as a plot element in a novel I was writing! I tested it out in my spare time, not even blogging, just writing reviews of the stuff I bought, trying to figure out how useful the information would be to others. It turned out that other people did find it useful and I decided to keep going.

I guess you could say that clincher for me was I realized that there are many research scientists with my skills but not that many people with PhDs writing about ethical consumerism. One of the top skills that a doctorate gives you is how to research any topic and distill it down to the essential information – I mean a conclusion that you can have high confidence in. So, my decision was based on the idea that I can probably be more useful researching and writing about ethical consumerism than anything else. It was a gradual realization that this is my path.

Willow Croft: Can you share your favourite products/foodstuffs you’ve reviewed on your blog(s)?

James: I’m a big fan of Beyond Meat and I found their burgers especially comforting during lockdown. I’ve made them for omnivorous friends while camping and they really liked them. The key is really good ketchup, some crunchy Napa cabbage (or lettuce, but I think the cabbage is better), a slice of heirloom tomato and a soft bun, toasted! I also like the Beyond Sausage – I think it’s a nice example of a sustainable product in minimal packaging that tastes great.

One of the very top things that you can [do] to reduce your impact on the planet is to give up beef and other red meat. I’ll share an excerpt from my book proposal that I wrote just this week:

“Let’s say you eat 1 lb of beef per week – that’s 52 lbs (23.5 kg) per year. The carbon footprint (using the average value of 100 kg CO2 per kg of beef) would be 2.35 metric tonnes CO2 per year. If everyone on the planet ate 1 lb of beef per week, our collective carbon footprint, just for this beef, would be 18.8 billion tonnes of CO2. Current greenhouse gas emissions for the entire planet are around 59 billion tonnes of CO2 per year, so that 1 lb of beef would increase the planet’s entire emissions by almost one third! Beef consumption per capita in the US is actually a little over 1 lb per week – if the whole world followed suit, we would have little chance of keeping climate change or deforestation under manageable levels.”

The book isn’t all numbers, however – I’m taking the approach of convincing people that it’s in their self-interest to make their lives more sustainable. I think that many of us are feeling a bit lost or aimless and that fixing our lifestyle gives us a greater sense of purpose, and actual happiness! I’ll be on the lookout for a publisher soon 🙂

Willow Croft: If you could visit any eon/era/period on the Geologic Time Scale, which would it be and why?

James: Hmmm. I think I’d like to visit the late Paleolithic Era, rewinding to around 20,000 years ago. I find the Paleo Diet movement to be nonsense, scientifically. Even worse, it’s nonsense with an agenda: to get people to eat more meat. I’ve already written a few posts on the diet, including a rebuttal on the misinformation on legumes, so it would be nice to go back there and see how Paleolithic people really lived.

Where to find James in the Internet Time Scale

The Green Stars Project – my original blog, which deals with many social and environmental topics. The goal is to encourage readers to include an ethical rating (0-5 “Green Stars”) when they write reviews, online. I’m confident that this kind of grassroots movement is the most effective way to encourage corporate responsibility, and to educate ourselves on ethics. Please join in and you can win a subscription to Ethical Consumer!

Ethical Bargains – reviews of new food products, with Green Stars ratings for social and environmental impact. There’s an emphasis on keeping up with the plant-based food movement. It also encourages folk on a budget to make good purchasing decisions, as I’ve purchased the items on discount at the Grocery Outlet.

It’s a (compostable) wrap!

A big thank you to James and the Warrior work he’s done for the environment and in areas of social change.

Now it’s your turn! I’ve done some Green Star Reviews myself, so I encourage people to learn how to write your own!

Because, let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to cover the world in eco-friendly, sparkly, Green Stars? Right? RIGHT?!?!

Six Things Saturday: Mini-Interview with Miranda Lemon and Violet Plum

This week, we have Miranda Lemon and Violet Plum from over at Violet’s Vegan Comics (https://violetsvegancomics.com/)!

Willow Croft: This question’s a two-parter! What vegetable and/or vegan dish is your most favourite? And what vegetable and/or fruit makes you go “Yuk”?

Miranda Lemon: My favourite dish is vegan Yorkshire pudding with chips and beans, and the fruit that makes me go “yuk!” is avocado, because I think it is like eating margarine.

Violet Plum: Ooh, what to choose? I guess chocolate’s not a vegetable – although it does come from beans. Speaking of beans, I think one of my favourite meals is beans on toast, especially with peanut butter and yeast extract on the toast. I’ve loved it since childhood, never tired of it and it’s so easy to make. Sadly I don’t have it very often any more because bread is no longer my friend, but it is a rare treat. And the yucky vegetable which immediately springs to mind is celery. Yuck!

~~~

Willow Croft: If you could be any animal (or plant) which would you “bee”, and why?

Miranda: I would like to be a koala because I think it would be lovely to spend all my time in a tree, eating leaves and sleeping.

Violet: If I could also wish away all human activity, I would be a Canada goose because I’d love to be able to fly, and fly great distances. They are mostly herbivorous so I wouldn’t have to eat anything yucky and I could see the world from a great height. The limit of how high Canada geese can fly is not known but they have been documented at 9km above the Earth!!! Amazing! I’ve no desire to ride in an aeroplane but I would love to be able fly myself.

~~~

Willow Croft: There seems to be a movement building around the practice(s) of urban (or wild) foraging at present. What you do think about this movement from an environmental and/or personal perspective? Which is more sustainable—a “backyard” or urban garden, foraging, or a combination of both practices?

Miranda: I think foraging is a fantastic idea, I would love it if we could find all our food that way. I don’t have a back garden, so I think it would be most sustainable if people with gardens foraged in their gardens, and everyone else foraged everywhere else. But there needs to be a lot of replanting of forests so that there will be enough for everyone.

Violet: I love this idea! One of my stories, The English Family Anderson, is about a family who live on a bus and do just that. It’s wish fulfilment for me because I’ve always fantasized about being able to live like that. Being self-sufficient. If we could all live closer to nature, follow the seasons and understand where our food comes from – be responsible for growing it and gathering it ourselves – it would feed our souls. I think both things – wild foraging and home growing – would be completely sustainable. The forest garden is the most productive use of land, as well as returning natural habitats to wildlife. I think we should turn all the agricultural land into food forests for everyone to share.

~~~

Willow Croft: Imagine the world ten years from now if we as humans don’t break our consumption-driven, environmentally destructive habits. What would the world look like?

Miranda: I think it would be not very nice, so I hope humans will break their destructive habits.

Violet: Have you seen the movie Idiocracy (2006)? With Luke Wilson and Maya Rudolph. That is the world we are fast approaching.

~~~

Willow: How do you see the world changing over the next ten years in regards to conservation and environmental awareness as driven by the latest generation(s) of kids/young people?

Miranda: I believe that if we tell children the truth they will do the right things to save the environment and conserve nature. Everyone deserves to know the whole truth, and once they do, they will know that being vegan will save the world, and so they will all go vegan, and the world will be saved. Hurrah!

Violet: Education is key. If children were told the truth at school, about meat, fish, eggs and dairy being unnecessary and hazardous to health; about animal agriculture and fishing being environmentally devastating; and about animal farming being the cause of human starvation and diseases like Covid-19, then I think they would lead the charge for an end to animal farming and a new beginning for the natural world. But sadly the governments who write the national curriculum are controlled by big businesses who make vast riches from these destructive practices so lessons aren’t going to improve any time soon. Thankfully, though, the internet has enabled more enlightened people to get this information out there, and the mainstream media picks it up and runs with it sometimes. So I think there is hope that a new generation of eyes-wide-open individuals might, through the power of their consumer choices, move the world to demand ethical, zero waste, organic vegan products, and abandon those which aren’t.

~~~

Willow Croft: And, lastly, what sort of environmentally friendly art supplies do you all use?

Miranda and Violet: Most of our art materials (pencils, watercolours, pastels and ink) have been found in secondhand/charity shops so we are re-using other people’s waste. But when we do need to buy anything new we usually get it from artdiscount.co.uk who have labelled qualifying products as vegan and have done a very helpful blog post (https://artdiscount.co.uk/blogs/artdiscount/vegan-vegetarian-and-eco-art-supplies) which explains what’s good and what’s bad for the discerning artist. There’s another helpful post, here: https://vegomm.com/vegan-art-craft-supplies/. And of course we only buy recycled sketch paper.

~~~

Visit Miranda Lemon and Violet Plum at https://violetsvegancomics.com/ where they have a wonderful selection of things for kids of all ages.

“Five Things Friday” Interview with Author Jnana Hodson!

It’s another “Five Things Friday” interview! This time I sat down to chat (well, if “chatting” involved exchanging emails) with author, journalist, and poet (and Quaker!) Jnana Hodson.

Willow Croft: Based on your blog(s) and author profile(s), you have both past and present ties to the “hippie” counter-culture, and the Quaker religion. How would you determine the place and/or the need for a like counter-culture and/or spirituality in today’s world? What societal trends would you identify that point to a need for such social, metaphysical, and character-based “sea change” in light of the recent/current events?

Jnana Hodson: Freeing ourselves mentally from advertising-driven consumerism would be a huge start. Just how much is enough for you to be happy and healthy? Or secure? Sometimes less really is more. Our unease is really a disease that sits atop fear.

The environmental crisis, especially, has been compounded by widespread denial. For one thing, it’s technically “climatic instability” rather than “global warming,” something the Texas deep-freeze demonstrates while exposing the real costs of high-level greed and hypocrisy. Closer to home, many of those monster pickup trucks we see are macho insecurity, no? A Prius or Tesla or bicycle becomes a defiant corrective act, as does an electric lawnmower rather than a conventional gas-powered cutter. Small steps can add up.

As my friend Steve Curwood contends, environmental actions are ethical, much more than economic. They can be lifestyle, too, as in choosing to live in a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood or raise an organic garden.

Racism, another big issue, has its roots in a desire to get ahead – quite simply, ahead of everyone else. You see it in the compulsion to move in a better neighborhood– one with better schools. Or on to a better job, better clothes, a better car, whatever. And for many of us, racism includes an unacknowledged assumption of Northern European superiority. It’s even embodied in the myth of the self-made man, to the exclusion of all who contributed to his rise. Or should we call it his attempted escape? Racism undermines the shared commonwealth – meaningful community – we need.

Fear also underpins the growing and costly militarization of America. It’s accompanied by soaring gun ownership, which becomes a matter of faith for many who have no intention of hunting, along with rising domestic violence.

You mention my Quaker practice, which I came to as a young adult, not knowing it had been the faith of my Hodson ancestors from the beginning of the movement in 1600s’ Britain. The Society of Friends, as it’s more formally known, avoids dogma and creed and instead emphasizes personal experience of what we sometimes call the Inward Light of the Divine. For Friends, this applies to every facet of everyday life and is embodied in simplicity, equality, peace, non-violence, and a community of kindred spirits. Not that we don’t have our shortcomings, but it does come down to an alternative Christianity of a radical sort.

One thing that it’s taught me is that individually, we’re pretty powerless. But put us together, and it’s like those bundles of bamboo, as the illustration goes. Nothing, apparently, can break them.

Willow Croft: I always try to include a food-based question, so how has old food pathways (via recipes and traditional/borrowed culinary practices) influenced your own eating habits? Do you uphold specific culinary traditions or has it evolved based on your current geographical location (e.g. your moves from the yoga ashram to the Pacific Northwest to coastal New England)?

Jnana Hodson: Oh, what a delicious question! I’ll warn you, though, I’m married to one of the world’s great cooks and she’s greatly expanded my awareness.

[There’s been quite a] revolution that’s occurred in American taste. When I turned vegetarian back in 1970, broccoli was exotic, and nobody could understand the concept of giving up meat. When I was growing up in the ’50s, most of my food came out of cans – even spaghetti! Chinese? It was chop-suey. I even remember my first pizza. As my dad would say, it was EYE-talian. I was maybe six or seven, and the aroma of oregano was exotic – I still recall that, all these years after raising our own herbs.

So vegetarianism opened me to new flavors, especially once I moved to the yoga ashram and lentils and dried beans were added to the mix. There I soon developed a knack for making bread each week. One Monday, I produced about 120 loaves, with a lot of kneading provided by my fellow yogis. Oh, yes, we were lacto-vegetarian and raised our own eggs. There’s a vast difference between those and what you find in the supermarket.

Region has definitely impacted my eating habits. Living in the Pacific Northwest introduced me to Dungeness crab and salmon as well as wild asparagus, which grew along the irrigation canals. I glutted out every May, knowing there would be no more fresh spears for another year.

Around then I came upon the Confucian ideal of no food out of season or place, which essentially points to freshness. The secret of great cooking across traditions, by the way, is the matter of respecting the ingredients, and that’s where freshness is crucial, as is knowing the difference between butter and margarine or the oils we apply. As my wife repeats, fat carries flavor. Just make sure it’s not rancid.

Regional influences include picking our own fruit in local orchards and obtaining unpasteurized apple cider, in season, as well as local cheeses. At one point, I lived near several large Amish communities in Ohio, where Swiss cheese was produced. In New Hampshire, a small country store a town away produces its own delightful cheddars and is well worth a visit. For several summers, we subscribed to a local sustainable fisheries delivery. Each week, we’d pick up a pound of what the local fishermen were harvesting rather than the common commercial varieties. Monkfish, anyone?

Gardening has had a huge impact, from asparagus to strawberries and buttery lettuces and early peas on to the range of real tomatoes – not those things you buy at the grocery. One year, we had fourteen varieties, each one distinctive. From the beginning of August till the first hard frost, I pretty much live on mayo-and-tomato sandwiches. Forget the bacon.

Joining in our Quaker Meeting’s once-a-month participation in Dover’s soup kitchen has also been eye-opening. Nobody serves soup these days, and for our turn, we do a chicken, mashed potatoes, and coleslaw dinner, which seems to be very popular. Cooking for sixty or seventy is quite different than a home dinner, but we try. We’ll be happy when we’re back to table service rather than the Covid-induced takeout.

With the kids now gone, my wife and I are downsizing and moving on to a place where scallops and blueberries are major harvests. She’s already planning the garden, as well as autumn trips northward to Aroostook County for fresh potatoes, with skins that simply melt away in your mouth.

Willow Croft: As a former journalist, how do you feel about the state of journalism today, what with the digital news trends, the howls of “fake news” heard ‘round the world, and the role social media plays in the process of journalistic integrity (or lack thereof)?

Jnana Hodson: Former? Please make that “retired.” I might not be on the payroll these days, but it’s still in my blood – and my dreams, too, usually with frustrations of trying to make deadline or fit everything on a page or adjust to a new computer system. Besides, much of my blogging can be seen as small-scale journalism.

Widespread anonymity and the lack of face-to-face accountability in social media have so far eluded the legal redress of libel and slander laws. Often, avoiding basic civility, too. Reputations can be destroyed overnight, without penalties to the perpetrators. That has to change, and likely will with some big court cases.

On the other hand, the video on smartphones has lifted the cover on police brutality and other injustices. So we do have a mixed bag.

Journalism has been in a tailspin for some time, even before the Internet whammy. We’ve had a declining level of literacy – folks simply reading – on one side. In the newsroom we used to grumble about the “bean counters” who kept expecting more output at lower cost from fewer resources. One thing for certain – the watchdog function has been seriously wounded – with consequences that will prove costly to the public at all levels. Good reporting is hard work, and sharp editing is essential. It’s a fulltime job, not an amateur role, and often needs some strong backup when those in power seek retribution. 

For the right entrepreneur, there’s potential to create a revolutionary digital news vehicle, if enough subscribers can be convinced to pay what they now do for printed paper. It could be a hybrid of written and spoken, with no reliance on advertising. I have some thoughts, by the way, on how it might differ from the generic newspaper we too often encounter today. It could certainly give rise to some fresh ways of covering a community.

Willow Croft: As a poet myself, I am always intrigued about the sources of inspiration other poets draw upon to create their poetic works. With your own poetry, is the past and personal memories more of an influence, or is your current life experience(s) more of a muse?

Jnana Hodson: Very much the now, even when that has me looking back. It’s been a discipline for exploring what’s before me, often from quirky or playful perspectives, before I let go and move on.

The clearing of my mind through meditation has been a strong factor, allowing intuition to bubble up. Sometimes I’ll scribble a short note to myself during the silence of Quaker worship, something I’ll develop and explore later. Similar things happen while showering, walking, or even driving.

Much of my work was done as a reaction to the constraints of daily journalism – often on the fly, like graffiti I revised and distilled later.

Sometimes they stayed short, like a headline. Maybe I wasn’t getting as far away from the newspaper as I thought. Other times, though, they were thrown into a blender – there’s good reason I’ve been called a Mixmaster Supreme. 

What evolves is often something like a dream, which has one foot in the past and the other in the present, not that they’re always obvious.

Willow Croft: Some of your blog topics touch on economics. What sort of economic model, or revolution, is needed to help transform the dual worlds of employment and community (social structure)?

Jnana Hodson: The poets Donald Hall, Gary Snyder, and Wendell Berry are important influences here.

Hall sees work as an embodiment of passion or a meaningful engagement, even when it doesn’t reward you monetarily. Writing a poem is work, as we know. In contrast, a job is something you do to pay the bills, and chores are unpaid things you have to do as a matter of life.

Gary Snyder has what he calls the Real Work. He also titled an early collection Earth House Hold, noting the Greek meaning of “economy.” Shall we start with its environmental awareness?

And Berry looks closely at family life as well as agriculture and community.

As Hall says, we’re really blessed when our work and our jobs come together as one. Unfortunately, what I’m seeing is a widespread denigration of the work aspect of our daily employment, and many of the higher paid positions are way out of line with their greater value to society.

Public policy has put labor and its compensation under attack for the past fifty years. All of the productivity gains have gone into the pocket of the top five percent of the population – much of that going to the one percent. People who still have jobs have been working longer and harder for less than before. And the reality is that most of those touted “entry-level positions” are dead-end jobs with no upward mobility. I’m really miffed when the employers demand “reliable transportation” while offering minimum wage. It’s an unhealthy situation, leaving many people desperate. Wonder why Megabucks are so popular? Or illicit drugs?

Raising the minimum wage is a good step but hardly enough. Quite simply, drastic corrective income redistribution is necessary. Not that we’ve really been able to talk about that. Wages in general can’t go up as long as we’re competing with Third World labor – and that extends to those call centers overseas. Yet just think of the inhibiting, negative emotional whammy the label “socialist” invokes.

Meanwhile, high-tech is eliminating many employment fields – think of travel agents, local stockbrokers, professional photography and developers, or print shops, all already gone, along with the local video stores. I’m wondering how long most local retailers can hold out once we’re free of Covid.

When I look at young graduates entering the job market, I’m grateful I’ve made it to retirement. I have no idea what I’d do in their place or how they’re ever going to afford a place of their own.

Surprisingly, some right-wing economists are reluctantly coming around to admitting the necessity of a guaranteed minimum income for everyone. I would see that as including universal health care – as others have noted, pegging medical insurance to one’s employer greatly discourages entrepreneurs from stepping out on their own unless their spouse has independent coverage – and that becomes a damper on economic growth. The redistribution should also include higher education. Graduates today are saddled with impossible debt for skills their potential employers expect scot-free. And that’s before we get to non-competitor clauses.

I’m still believe in E.F. Schumacher’s “small is beautiful,” which was actually happening until cargo-container shipping from China, abetted by “free trade” deals in Washington, wracked the American economy. Bernie Sanders, drawing on labor union economists, nailed that one.

Respecting all honest work is important. Covid showed us how essential trash collectors and nursing home staff are in the big picture. As a cub reporter, I learned that secretaries and janitors often know far more about an operation than the suit in the corner office does. That hasn’t changed. I’ve long come to see a good carpenter or plumber as an artist. ‘Nuff said?

One big shift I’ll encourage turns away from accumulating more possessions – most of us have too much stuff anyway – and toward services and activities instead. That is, quality of life over quantity. Individually donating to local causes and volunteering run along those lines. In short, we can use our time and our money to enhance the place we and our neighbors inhabit.

I’m anticipating that when the Covid restrictions are lifted, we’ll burst out into renewed social connections. It feels like ages since I’ve been to a poetry reading, a contra dance, or a pub sing. How ’bout you?

If you’re keen to hear more from Jnana Hodgson, please follow his Jnana’s Red Barn blog at https://jnanahodson.net/ or check out his book(s) on Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Jnana-Hodson/e/B088BWJ35Y) or on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6916110.Jnana_Hodson).

Green Stars Review: Milagro Herbs

Company: Milagro Herbs: Organic Herbs & Skin Care

Address: 1500 5th St. #6
Santa Fe, NM 87505

Contact: 505-820-6321

Open from 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday

Website: https://www.milagroherbs.com/

3/5 Green Stars based on:
* They use some organic ingredients, and some wild-harvested.
* However, they weren’t very forthcoming with information (either online or in person) about habitats that they harvest from. 
* This struck me as odd, since part of the goal of Milagro Herbs is supposed to be education. 
* Wild-harvested could be positive or negative, depending on the harvesting locations and methods. 

* Containers are a mix of plastic or glass.

* Would be nice if they accepted containers back to be refilled. 

For more information on Green Stars ratings see this post.

About the Company, and My Experience: I visited the store location on a couple of earlier occasions. The front part of the store is stocked with a wide variety of lotions, shampoos, and even soaps and other bath and body products. There’s a wall dedicated to local honeys in different flavours. If that weren’t enough, they have a huge selection of herbal/nutritional supplements, tinctures, flower essences, and, of course, their new CBD line of products. They have herbs and teas in bulk in a rear room. The storefront is also the location of the Milagro School of Herbal Medicine, through which they host individual classes, as well as a comprehensive program that concludes with a “Certificate in the Foundations of Herbalism”, according to their website: https://www.milagroherbs.com/school.html.

With the exception of their bulk herbs and teas, the products’ packaging seems to be evenly split between plastic and glass. In Santa Fe County, all plastic (regardless of number) and all glass, can be recycled at collection stations. Still, I’ve attempted to return the rinsed bottles from the products I have purchased from Milagro Herbs, and they will not accept them for refill.

The staffer that assisted me generally deferred to Dr. Enos in regards to the products, but she did help me pick out a suitable skin lotion for use in this painfully dry climate.

Despite the company’s business title stating that they carry organic herbs and skin care, their products are a mix of “organic and wild harvested plants collected by Dr. Enos and his staff” as quoted directly from the About statement on the company’s website.

During my most recent visit, I had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Tomas Enos in person about his products and his collection/harvesting practices. 

It was difficult to get information from Dr. Tomas Enos regarding the sustainability of his company’s collection practices and the herbs he imports from other countries, and from places like “rainforests and marine ecosystems” that the website refers to, and which does not identify a specific location within the source countries mentioned. He, unfortunately, was not very forthcoming during our conversation. Which was my loss when it came time to write this blog post, as his website bio states that he has “25 years in the herb business” in addition to his PhD.

I did learn from Dr. Enos, at least, that the main ingredient in my shampoo, conditioner (white plastic bottles), and the “Abundant Hair Oil” (brown glass bottle with a plastic top) grows everywhere in New Mexico.

Dr. Enos informed me that the New Mexican globemallow in the products (which have become my hair product staple in surviving this dry desert climate) was collected directly from his land.

I do not have any other information on how sustainable and environmentally/ecosystem friendly the company’s collection practices are.

I was also unable to get information on the labor practices he uses to collect the plants he uses for his products. His website mentions that the plants are collected by him and his staff, so I can only assume it involves fair pay to his staff, especially since it’s the law that Santa Fe pays its workers a living wage. No mention on whether he relies on local labour in these international locations.

Mourning a Celebrity Childhood Friend…

 

 

Snooty the manatee has died while in captivity at the South Florida Museum.

I used to go see Snooty as a kid. I always felt sad that he was all alone in his tank at the museum. I used to daydream that I would sneak in afterhours and somehow manage to set him free. It seemed like a stark place to live, and the sounds were disorientating even to my human ears.

As an adult (90s/early 2000s), trying to be more active in animal rights causes, I had mixed feelings about visiting the museum. I had fond memories of the South Florida Museum, but I found it hard to go see Snooty in his lonely little tank.

Around 2012/2013 or so, someone I knew could get me into the museum for free, so I went. I was amazed to see that Snooty was still at the museum. But, this time, he had company. There were two other manatees (they were being rehabilitated, I believe) in the tank with him, so I felt a little better that he wasn’t all by himself.

Then I saw a post on someone’s Facebook page announcing that he had died. I figured old age, not being too knowledgeable on how long manatees lived in captivity.

But then I read the article(s). I’ll let you choose to read them for yourself, just in case you are as sensitive to animals as I am, and maybe have to steel yourself before hearing the news. Or want to avoid it altogether.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/07/24/snooty-the-manatee-dies-in-heartbreaking-accident-days-after-his-69th-birthday/?utm_term=.7abad7a7d5ee

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/07/23/538900625/snooty-the-manatee-dies-and-a-florida-community-mourns

http://www.bradenton.com/news/local/article163774463.html

I have been in mourning for gentle Snooty over the past week  few days that have felt like a week.

And been thinking a lot.

About the fact that there is less and less room for animals, plants, trees, insects, fish, or any of the other non-human lifeforms that are on this planet as well. Because we humans are taking up so much room. And that, by the time there is no more room for humans on a planet that will become uninhabitable sooner or later, there probably won’t be any non-human lifeforms left.

I read something about micro-living via the National Trust for Historic Preservation. But is it enough? Is anything enough to stop humanity’s destructive drive to fully dominate the planet?

I don’t know. I’m still trying to do everything I can to be more environmentally respectful, as futile as it feels.

I know that I miss Snooty, one of my few (make-believe?) childhood friends. If there is such a thing as reincarnation, I hope he gets to live in a better world, surrounded by freedom and clean ocean water and other manatee friends and family. And I wish the same thing for animals and plants and trees and insects that have to live on the planet with us humans. May better karma be with you in your next life.