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Solutions & sustainability - Nov 26

Buying Local Doesn't Hurt the Developing World

Frances Moore Lappé, YES! Magazine via Alternet
Critics of "go local" movements warn that buying local deprives people in developing countries of jobs that could lift them out of poverty. But the global economy isn't that simple.
There's only one thing worse for the poor in the Global South, we're told, than a job in a sweatshop: It's the alternative -- no job. That's basically what New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof argued recently. If true, then "buy local" campaigns in the North that cut imports could harm the planet's poorest people.

But before accepting this heart-rending story, let's ground ourselves in the real global economy.

Shedding corporate-media filters, we see that the poor are not languishing in their sad villages and grimy shantytowns just waiting to be saved by corporate giants from abroad. Many poor people are themselves creating the real job growth in much of the Global South. They are the small shopkeepers, street vendors, and home-based workers whose jobs make up what's called the "informal economy" not counted by authorities.

In Latin America, 85 percent of new jobs created during the 1990s were in this sector, not the corporate one.
(22 Nov 2006)

Museums as Post Peak Oil education tools?

Matt Mayer, Groovy Green
This past weekend we went to the the Mississippi River Museum in Dubuque, IA. This was a really great place and a nice resource, especially so close. It gave a great history of the Mississippi River and of course it helped me think of some great post-peak oil things that might be of some significance in the future.

I hadn’t realized what a major fishery the Mississippi River was until we visited this museum. The amount and different varieties of fish was just amazing. And some of the sizes were unbelievable. Given all the pollution currently in the river it may be a while before the fish populations recover, and they run the risk of overfishing in the years after protein sources become more scarce, but over time these populations should return as the population declines and that will obviously be good for this area.

...What’s amazing to me is all the ways that goods were transported before the discovery of oil. There were hybrid canoes that could carry goods. There were keelboats that used sails and river current to move downstream. And obviously there were steam engine paddleboats that used coal and wood to move up and down the river, albeit more slowly than today, but proving transportation of goods is possible in an oil free environment. We even saw a bicycle powered paddleboat that some college students used to travel the entire length of the river in 1999 while on summer break.

...I think the biggest thing that I came to realize from the trip was that it opened up my eyes to the potential bonanza museums hold for helping us rediscover our past so we can accomplish our goals in the future without oil being available. I’m sure there are plenty of museums around this country that are just like this one. They can get us back in touch with how things were done pre-oil. Hopefully these assets will help us make the changes we’ll need to in the future and react effectively to the changing times.
(22 Nov 2006)

The buildings of tomorrow

John Heilemann, CNN Money
Last spring, green-design guru William McDonough got a mysterious call from Steven Spielberg. Though Spielberg didn't explain why, he invited McDonough to visit him in Los Angeles. McDonough went - and learned that the Hollywood icon wanted to produce a documentary about McDonough's work.

"He'd just seen Al Gore's movie and felt it would be great to make a film about what people are doing about [global warming]," McDonough tells me. "The ending of Gore's film is tragic, because after showing the scale of the catastrophe, he says, 'There's some hope here,' but the hope is what? Buy hybrid? Change your lightbulbs? It's not enough!"

Certainly it's not enough for McDonough - the former dean of the University of Virginia School of Architecture and head of two pathbreaking design firms in Charlottesville, Va. - whose eco-friendly schemes are sweeping, radical, and "head-twisting," as McDonough puts it. Recyclable cars. Server farms powered by wind. Entire cities with factory roofs covered with vegetation.

Yet, far-out as all this sounds, McDonough's ideas are gaining currency in unexpected places, from corporate boardrooms to the Chinese government.
(20 Nov 2006)

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