Lately, I’ve found myself basking in the warm glow of the potential for Community Wealth Building – a new approach to Community Economic Development that uses a decentralized, post-corporate asset-based approach to engage communities in developing their own self sufficiency via participatory processes. This is almost exactly the movement I have been envisioning, except its already happening, and is well under way with well developed concepts, models, and etcetera!  Now that I have discovered all of this, and have realized that its going on in my hometown of Cleveland Ohio, I have a better focus of where I want to become engaged in this and other movements… in connecting them to America’s folk and cultural narratives, to our history and to our values. These concepts can easily be applied to new trends in agriculture, in emerging decentralized deliberative planning processes, and can be enabled by novel technologies and concepts.

These are many concepts which are coming to a head – on one hand novel, ingenious, innovative, and in these times of increasing wealth disparity and resource uncertainty: essential, but also rooted, directly democratic and participatory, and which seek in some ways a return to more traditional economic systems while utilizing a new wave of appropriate, sustainable and commons based technologies, new concepts and approaches, and re-emerging ideas about the role of civil society and local governance in economic development and self sufficiency and community resilience.

I began this amazing journey after having a friend of mine – who has a masters in economics from the University of Missouri – began opening my mind with the amazing ideas of David Korten – the author of The Post Corporate World, The Great Turning, and what I recently just read Agenda for A New Economy – From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth.(the website contains in-depth summaries of the different sections). I actually originally introduced my friend to YES! Magazine, of which Korten is a board member of, as well as a member of BALLE.  Check out YES!’s latest issue for some eye-opening articles on the New Economy Agenda, much of which is successfully being put into practice right here in the US as we speak.

When I read this issue and learned that Community Wealth was extending co-operative, worker-owned businesses to my hometown – the Cleveland area – I immediately started jumping with joy in the middle of Powells Books in Portland.  These were ideas I had developed on my own, and was scheming only several months ago of extending to Cleveland via Dennis Kucinich.  I figured that co-operative, worker owned businesses, despite how appropriate they would be to Cleveland given the record of economic development and disenfranchisement over the past few decades, would be far too radical and would stir up too much trouble.  Little did I know this ground was being broken and all of these things are being put into practice in the very places I imagined.

Worker-owned cooperatives represent $450 Million in Annual Economic Activity in the US. That is huge, not to mention $840 Million from retail food cooperatives, and far more combined in agricultural, utility, telecom, health care, housing, retail and child care cooperatives as well.  Co-operatives are a rapidly growing economic model in the United States – accounting for millions of jobs and billions in economic productivity. They allow employees to develop real assetts – by providing a steady, living wage and extending services that enable safe mortgaging in housing, as well as providing for the greater good of the community through a balanced work complex, sustainable practices and resources, developing capacity for localisation and freeing up time for civic engagement, education, family time, community service and public participation.

What concepts, models, best practices, and other resources does Community Wealth offer?

(from the website):

Local Communities:

Government:

Place-Based Institutions:

There are a few things I would add in there: Revolving Loans, Microenterprise Development, Community Currencies, Community Software, Local Supply Chain Development, Community Cultural Resurgence etc.  For the most part, though, they have all the bases covered, and more.

As well, they are not throwing around just pie-in-the-sky ideas.  These folks have all had a wealth of Community Economic Development experience, and have carefully developed these models based on their exemplary applications stretching back many years.  They are developed with a keen understanding of the needs, assetts, capacities and possibilites of communities in mind – understanding the institutions, the people, the infrastructure, the economic conditions and civic capacities.

– – – – – –

So whats the use of all of this?  Why do we need a new economy?  I suggest, again, reading some of the articles in YES! magazine: ‘Why This Crisis May Be Our Best Chance; Let Wall Street go and rebuild a Main Street economy’ . Korten really spells it out, as do other authors in the issue, including the likes of Wendell Berry and Vandana Shiva.  Our current economic model has consistently failed us – boom and bust cycles are not inevitable, they are signs of a failed system, moreover, a system that has failed the vast amount of people.  What do you do with a failed system?  I know someone who could offer some good advice:

165737

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
— Richard Buckminster Fuller
This same sentiment has been expressed by countless leaders in social justice and other movements – from Antonio Gramsci to Mahatma Ghandi.  To assume that mere surface-level changes, relying on a derivitive, debt based economy, overreliance on global trade, proprietary technology, resource depletion is foolish – no amount of patching this leaky tire can match a new path made on foot.
So what other ideas can be brought to the table to enable this new movement?  What thinkers can utilize these base level economic changes to lead to a major paradigm shift away from the status quo?  Lets see:
  • Mahatma Ghandi – Three Pillars of Swadeshi, Swaraj,
  • Myles Horton and the Traditional American Faith Based Social Justice Tradition
  • Transition Towns
  • Michael Albert – Participatory Economics
  • Commons Based Economics – Jonathan Rowe
  • Wealth Of Networks
  • The Environmental Justice Movement
  • Sustainable Agriculture Movement – Mad Farmers
  • Economic Justice Movement
  • Community Currency Movement
  • Bright Green/Dark Green/Light Green Movements
  • Community Food Systems, Community Supply Chains, Food Sovereignty
  • Community Supported Enterprise
The list could go on and on.  So many ideas to connect, interweave, so many concepts that could coalesce into even broader meta-concepts.  A movement of movements, broad based and robust running in from all directions, converging, diverging, building and breaking.  We can make these changes so common sense, so rooted in REAL american ideals and values (not the ones that the powers that be have tricked us into beleiving).
The economic, political and environmental situations we are faced with have been building.  Many have spoken of the dissapearance of civil society, the failure of industrial manufacturing and industrial agriculture, the widening income gaps and increasing scarcity.  As these problems have been mounting, so have the solutions: placed based, community economics, sustainable agriculture and production, intellectual commons, environmental and economic justice, climate activism  and grassroots social change etc.  The time has now come at a key time in our history for this kind of social change, but it cannot be alienating, it cannot be disclusive, it cannot be elitist, it cannot be over assumptive.  It must be carefully constructed from the grassroots, a movement as diverse as the people and places who are a part of it.  Im just a recent college graduate on the ground, watching these forces come together.  And I have a big ole goofy grin on my face.  This is what I was born for, what I was raised to be a part of, and represents a coalescence of multifacted philosophies and concepts I have been introduced to and have developed of my own volition.  For once, I feel that now is the best time I could ever be alive.


I am really really busy these days, so for now, I will just post things on here of extreme interest.  As soon as my busywork dies down I will begin etching out the foundation of a book I intend to write. Until then, here goes:


Miracles in the Mountains:
Medical Tourism in Rural Arkansas’ Ozark and Ouachita Mountains


Forthcoming in Reimagining and Sustaining Community in a Globalizing World
Edited by B. Duggan and S. Folmar, University of Georgia Press

Justin M. Nolan* and Mary Jo Schneider
Department of Anthropology
University of Arkansas
Fayetteville, AR 72701

Communities across Arkansas’ Ozark and Ouachita Mountains are witnessing a subtle invasion by “medical tourists,” visitors seeking new and effective remedies in their quests for better health. The recent resurgence of interest in complementary and alternative medicine is partly responsible for this trend. For patients unsatisfied with conventional medicine, the services provided by unorthodox practitioners in Arkansas’ mountain communities offer hope
and promise where conventional therapies have failed. The healing practices observed and discussed include traditional plant-based medicine, in addition to more esoteric approaches such as quartz crystal healing, touch therapy, iridology, massage therapy, and reflexology—all of which emphasize the importance of purity, energy, and balance in preventive health and healing.
Here we examine how medical tourism has preserved these techniques by incorporating them into mainstream health care services. Ultimately, the blend of unorthodox and conventional medicine in the Arkansas Highlands is evidence of globalizing forces at work, in addition to a renewed appreciation for the historic continuity and efficacy of traditional knowledge in the Upper South.

www.cast.uark.edu/ar_tourism/content/Miracles_Mountains.pdf

Posted by: Re.Rooting | 10 February, 2009

Getting Around To It

hey i would love to get around to posting on here, however i am quite busy. i will add my twitter to get something that is updated here. but boy, ive got big plans…

under construction

under construction!

The Movimiento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (Movement of Landless Rural Workers)  is a movement of landless workers who have been reclaiming land grabbed by multinational corporations (many of them US corporations) in Brazil, especially in the Cerrado where millions of farming families have been displaced by agroindustrial monoculturalists since the 60s.  Since the late 70’s, the group has grown to include over 1.5 million Brasilieros and has been nonviolently reclaiming mismanaged agricultural land and corporate regional headquarters (through provisions in the constitution) and remediating the soil and practicing sustainable agriculture, and setting up pedagogical schools and social healthcare programs as per government provisions and support to these services (on their own terms!).  It has been extremely successful and over the past few years has spread into urban areas promoting sustainable urban infrastructure models in the vast squatter (now much more liveable) camps in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janiero (imagine, entire neighborhoods and high rises of autonomus sustainability!  learn portuguese and do some tech transfer/ participatory development work if you are interested!).

Their history is one of overwhelming support all the way from the global community to even government ministers, however the ministers and power players who put corporate interests first have promoted military and paramilitary violence, leading to less than two dozen worker deaths in confrontations over the decades.

As you can tell, appropriate technology transfer development programs would be appreciated!

As you can tell, appropriate technology transfer development programs are in demand, as financial and language barriers exist! Contact Friends of the MST for more info!

Now, in one of their most established regions of Rio Grande Do Sul, the ‘Public’ Ministry has voted to begin dissolving the MST in the area and has begun both illegally and violently expelling them from their rightful and established campesinos, despite the provisions in the constitution that allow the brazillian people to reclaim mismanaged land for the commons.  This is at an especially pertinent time as the struggle for food, water and energy security has become a primary tug-of-war between both the citizens and the global corporatist forces of the world, and these struggles are at the center of our capacity for sustainability and resilience as a global community who seeks justice and livability.

Mum and Child at 5th National MST Congress

Mum and Child at 5th National MST Congress

As the Brazillian Gov’t (along with other governments) prepares to catalyze the foreign privatization of as much of the rest of the land leftover from land grabs as possible to feed and fuel the worlds elite (including ourselves!), we must resist this system of agroindustrial and corporatist hegemony by organising as a global community in support of such grassroots movements as the MST who seek, pursue and actualize justice, liveability and sustainability for the peoples of the world.

I call upon the progressive, marxist, anarchist, liberation theologist and bioregionalist communities of the world to let our voices be heard in solidarity with the landless workers of Brasil.  Follow this link :  http://www.mstbrazil.org/?q=node/578 and let the ‘Public’ Ministry of Rio Grande Do Sul know (write your own email if you have time!) that no amount of cheap industrial commodity corn, soy, cane or beef exports, grown and raised on the backs of the land and people (sometimes enslaved), can replace the lives and lifeways that will be displaced or dissapeared by this malicious political, legal and military decision.  Spread the word!

Sustentabilidade! Solidariedade! Liberdade! Vive a luta!
(Sustainability, Solidarity, Liberty!  Live the struggle!)

With Love,

Richard Schulte

P.S. (Also, if people are interested in pursuing nonviolent direct action, look into the financial/corporate institutions involved in this land grab (ADM, Cargill, Bunge, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, IMF, World Bank, Monstanto, Syngenta, etc.) or brazilian consulates/embassies in your area!)

mas informacoes:

http://www.mstbrazil.org

http://www.mst.org.br < por os faladores do portugues

http://www.mstbrazil.org/?q=links < tons of links and resources (in english!)

information on recent corporatist land grabbing surge:

http://www.grain.org

Posted by: Re.Rooting | 8 October, 2008

The Rise of Emergent Systems

Now is a better time than ever to harness the power of alternative, emergent economic and social institutions to maintain a healthy economy.  Society needs to reorganize itself around better principles, and look out for the real bottom line – quality of life.

There are several instutitons that, with the proper reorganizations, could help us rather than exploiting us.  Changing the way these work can change the way we live.  I will now outline some of the largest costs we as humans have day to day:

Food – localized systems not based on currency but real value, thus based on the ebb, flow flux of ecosystems rather than economic systems (the former is far more reliable)

Energy – distributed grid networks and renewed necessary infrastructure, reduction of overconsumption yet guaranteed systems.  .12/watt kinda stuff.

Land/Living – turning to things like cohousing, land trusts, community trusts and returning to the village model can ensure all of the above as well as reduced housing costs and a valuable level of interdependence and social and economic support networks.

Health – Organic, localized food systems, reduced usage of toxic materials, and reduced usage of dangerous vehicles are all recognized factors that public health officials ensure will reduce the costs of health in our country.  Preventative and supplementary medicine are very important as well, recognizing what needs to be treated where and how.  Not saying that village healers and gen practitioners can solve all the problems, but they can drastically reduce the amount of intensive treatment necessary.

Education

Posted by: Re.Rooting | 23 June, 2008

Simultaneous, Co-locative Pluralistic Systems

Imagine what a plurality of systems available on local and regional levels could offer a society in terms of representation and resilience… A selection of systems available, offering real alternatives to misrepresentative and exploitative power structures to the point that they eventually become obsolete. It is necessary for a society to be resilient and adaptive to the circumstances of failed centralized systems.  It is necessary to have available a wide range of available options that can allow a society to not “put all its eggs in one basket”, so to speak, and instead distribute the impact of economic and political instability over a breadth of choices in which any citizen can actively participate and find their needs met.

For example, when pluralized monetary systems are more readily available (as the monolithic one most commonly available, globalized capitalism via the IMF and Federal Reserve, seems to be pretty unsustainable and misrepresentative), local and regionalized monetary systems will be able to establish a kind of hybrid hegemony over these ones that are stretched out and render over-centralized, convoluted and exploitative economic systems obsolete. This is not anything that hasn’t been done on a large scale before, except this time around, the options will be more participatory, sustainable and pluralistic, and there will be more of an understanding of the inherent flux, the ebbs and flows of markets and their viability.
In times of resource scarcity, instability of markets and systems will undoubtedly become huge factors in determining the future viability, sustainability and livability of communities. Recognizing that systems will always be in flux and that different situations call for different approaches is necessary for adaptation. Pluralistic economies and political systems will allow us to evolve more robust and resilient systems, as we practice multiple ones side by side in an effort to reveal which has more viability in given situations. As well, one system or approach will not always be the best in any given situation, moreover, there will most often be several effective approaches.


Not only is it the systems but the approaches that are taken within these systems and the solutions that are offered to problems that are important. Thus, in systems that are more locally representative and participatorially managed, solutions and approaches will be more regionally oriented and will be dynamic and scalable to the needs of the communities they serve.
Thus the relative success or failure of any given system can be distributed over a network of systems where their plural nature will allow the participants more flexibility and adaptive experimentation to make more readily available new economic paradigms not yet functionally realized. Creativity, Ingenuity and the need for social evolution will all play into our economic and political schema more fully, as new approaches will offer many new possibilities especially when they are conceived “in the field”, so to speak, as opposed to being cooked up in some intellectual laboratory, they would be tested and evolve in practice.

What would be the goals? To provide more flexible, less volatile and more resilient approaches for communities to subsist and live decent lives in the world. Reduction of volatility is important, as it is the driving factor behind resource scarcity, misrepresentation, economic hardship and exploitation. It is largely a product of a globalized market where corporate and banking interests, regardless of the impact of what they are doing, run rampant and destabilize, weaken and deflate or inflate entire economies with the sheer force of their will and way. For example, the ability to turn food into a commodity has destabilized the food market to an extent that vast amounts of vital resources may be made purposely unavailable or even be destroyed to prevent price fluctuations or for the interests of the food brokers, not the end-users whose livelihood and sustenance are at stake.
So, by giving the participants a wide range of options in which to support themselves economically, there is a better chance that people will feel better represented, that they will feel better compensated for and actualized by their labours, that they will see better value in participating in whatever systems that they choose, and that they are given a more robust set of options to distribute the impact of probable failures and to distribute what is available by whatever means are best suited to the purpose.
This would also reduce the level of influence and power one could have over others.  If, as is the case now, a certain system becomes overrun by the power and influence of a small body of actors, to the undeniable detriment of the participants, it would be easier to render anything as such obsolete. By the very nature of pluralistic, co-locative systems, there is no main entity to control, no primary means to take the reigns of and thus no capacity for full hegemony. As well, smaller systems are obviously more manageable, and thus the checks and balances that ideally go into managing these systems are more easily applied, and any behavior indicative of malintent could be dealt with by the participants themselves, rather than depending on a convoluted, beauracratic system that you can only hope will look out for the public interest, or on extremely powerful market actors to act ethically and justly.

The most important thing to realise about pluralistic, co-locative systems is that they are here, concurrent with our daily lives, but are slowly disappearing as the powers-that-be have seen it fit to further hegemonize our available set of options.  For example, people very often sell things to eachother without vendors licenses or business licenses, such as on craigslist or among friends.  These represent valid transactions of property, but are, in no means, a direct product of our capitalist systems.  No retailer is involved in my buying a file cabinet from my friend mike, unless you consider the original retailer he purchased it from.  This would be an act that is against the goals and principles of our current capitalist system, as it contradicts the values of wastefulness and perceived obsolesence that are such driving market factors.  Freecycle is an even greater example of a system that exists side by side with retail enterprise, or putting things out on curbs or having garage sales.  These are all valid ways of transferring and distributing property, and with a LETS system or community currency,  along with more localized, collective produsage, they would become more robust and strong alternatives to the current overriding economic sphere.

Another example of a system that exists pluralistically next to another more commonly recognized would be common law, versus statuatory law.  Common law exists as a situational practice that is settled between the parties involved, with minimal involvement from hierarchical institutions.  They are dictated not by governmental laws passed but by jury decisions made in courts and by contractural agreements made between parties, which is provisioned in the U.S. Constitution, 1:10, as a legally binding entity whose freedom to contract is not inhibited by any state or federal institutions or by any branch of government, and instead is based on the fundamental rights of the parties involved. The most commonly understood instance would be common law marriage, though there are many other forms you might not be aware of, such as common law trusts (private trusts, pure trusts, public trusts, land trusts, etc. etc.), many contractural obligations you make (including your right to add ARR on any contract you sign, as this protects your rights in the instance that you rescind any in contract that you were not aware of at the time of signing), etc.  I will write more about common law in another post.  This is an excellent example of an entire institution that exists side-by-side with another, where they do not necessarily contradict eachother but where people can choose freely between either one in different situations.  The uses of common law and other alternative legal institutions will become more prevalent as centralized systems become less and less efficient in managing vastly distributed populations like the U.S.

Lastly, an example that many of us have probably enjoyed are farmers markets.  These offer a more direct relationship between the producer and the consumer of the food, on more levels than just economic.  This offers an opportunity for the farmer to eliminate the meddling of the agro-industrial complex and the dilution of the value of their efforts.  Increasingly, as the international food system dwindles in viability, many people will be turning to their local farmer’s markets as a robust alternative to food grown thousands of miles away.  Even restaurants are beginning to turn more to local food sources as the food crisis deepens without abatement.

Complex Adaptive Systems Science offers a wonderful approach to managing such a multiplicity of systems.  If you are interested in these kind of topics, this is a field  of study that you should look into, along with resilience management.

It is also important to realise that, though I have mostly focused on economic systems, this kind of doctrine has far wider implications.  Not only has this been applied to the concept of energy alternatives, where a wealth of alternatives and a diversity of resources will contribute to sustainability and to resilience, but there has been talk about applying this to other things such as political systems and other types of systems.  Though it already exists on certain levels, I am advocating that it be further developed and more foundational alternatives be called up and cultivated to provide a more robust set of complete alternatives to current modalities.

There are a wide range of viable economic systems, outlooks and factors available, many of which are or have been in practice:

  • Participatory Economics
  • Biogeregionalism
  • Mutual Aid
  • Traditional Economies
  • Open Money/ Free Banking
  • Cooperatives
  • Reciprocity
  • Eco-Socialism
  • Free Market
  • Mutualism
  • Syndicalism/ Worker’s self management
  • Geoism
  • Community Supported Systems
  • theories of value
  • peer2peer
  • Collectivism


Emergent Networks as Distributed Reputation System
David Hales

Local/Community Currency:

Posted by: Re.Rooting | 18 June, 2008

Sustainability and Justice is for Everyone!

Lately, I’ve been struggling with not only making the case for localization and sustainability, but ensuring that the case is made accessible to everyone (in the U.S. in this case). It is in humanity’s best interest to ensure that we all safely transcend the convoluted, inefficient and misrepresentative systems and doctrines we currently ascribe to. More and more, however, I realize that a lot of it involves returning to our core values as a country and building a foundation out of dignity, trust and respect for one another. This is something we can all work towards, with the revolution of the mind and open access to knowledge and the resources to attain these goals. Many people who ascribe to the political center, such as moderate liberals, and those further along on the right of the spectrum find themselves trapped in a web of miseducation about the issues of the need for and real models of sustainability and justice and how these can be achieved. In order to reach the point where the need for sustainability and justice is common consensus, there are some steps we can take in educating the public about these issues and showing them the wealth of possibilities for how it can be attained. Here is an outline of some angles I have devised for making a common, baseline argument and drawing out important points in ways that are sensible and realistic.

REAL Traditional American values:
Inguenity
Pragmatism
Self Sufficiency
Family and Community Responsibility

also
Instead of eco-friendly, ‘ecologically sensible’. Its common sense, duh!
Also, all of what we are proposing is not necessarily so much radical as it is sensible!

REAL Knowledge:

-knowledge for empowerment, that is useful and applicable and grounded
-knowledge that is available, not tied up in bureaucratic institutions, causing redundant research and inefficient research and design development processes
-respect for elders, the worldly and wise who understand ecosystems, and the political and economic systems embedded in them for what they are in actuality, and for those who have achieved and spread Swadeshi

REAL Political and Economic Dignity:
-Participatory, self governed organisations based on truth and serving real human needs, not the needs of the privileged few
-Abundance of available means to self reliance (nothing more sad and embarassing than losing your job at <> and being forced to sit-on-ass while your family scrambles for money)
^ relates to localizing economies. money should be able to stay in a community, not quickly climb the corporate ladder and end up in offshore accounts. your local global walmart provides goods 99% produced in other countries, pays employees pitiable wages that do go back into the community, what little there is, and then the profit goes who knows where. How do union guys feel about that?

REAL Farms, Real Food:
-small farms where you know where your food is coming from and you know whats in it, and building sustenance oriented economic relationships on trust and providing real, sustainable interdependance. Not only is the farmer benefited by eliminating a mountain of middlemen, but also the food “consumer” who is able to trade goods, services, or local currency for good food that comes from the local bioregion or ecosystem is benefiting. talk about a mutualistic relationship!
-Also, the food has intrinsic value in its utility, its nutrition, its flavour and the difficulty in growing, instead of being tossed around like a ragdoll on futures markets as if people didnt need it to survive.

REAL Technology
Technology that can provide a heritage, where precious resources of knowledge, ingenuity and physical natural resources and energy are not wasted on crappy products that are designed for discard. This is not just a bad trick, its injustice. We have the capacity to design technology to last for as long as possible, to be easily maintained and repaired and to provide material utility that can be handed down through generations and passed between friends and relatives as producive drives change (i.e. i’ve been making circuit boards for 6 years now, maybe i’ll go into building earthbuildings.) My friend andy talks about how his grandpa still uses tractors from the late 60s/early 70s. The ’71 model has never had a rebuild. It will last for an extremely long time. Jim told me about how his buddy just got rid of a tractor because it wouldnt make fiscal sense to repair it, and now hes buying one thats $300,000 and most likely won’t last long. We can do so much better than that. (of course, you guys are working on this and the food issue)

Recognizing that its not just the left that is effected by bad policy, but everyone. Not only have we been suckered into being dependent on vast, confabulatory and inefficient systems, but many have also been convinced that this still equates with being independent. Farmers, soldiers (why does the military have to provide some of the only jobs available in small towns?), small business owners, truckers, the list goes on and on. The problem here is that many of the oppressed do not realize that they are oppressed, or blame it on all the wrong things, leading them down a self destructive path to unsustainability and reliance on unviable systems.

My great grandpa, a farmer who today would be considered to be using organic methods in his orchards and melon patches, would be disgusted with the status quo and would be proud that his progeny is doing something about it. I intend to be proud of my progeny for doing the same. And we have a responsibility to them, whether you have kids or not, to give them real options and viable solutions to deal with. Lets not be the generation that gave up, that surrendered to the volatility of negative human impact when it could have been harnessed it for the betterment of all.

Don’t be a fool. Sustainability isn’t a dream, its a tool. (for resilience)

Posted by: Re.Rooting | 16 May, 2008

Johnny Appleseed Coalition

Johnny AppleseedAn initiative to propogate wild food plants all across the country. In order to improve sustainability and the perceived value of wild land for its stakeholders, it would be an idea to send out teams of volunteers along with natural resource specialists to help propogate wild, native plants in:

  • national, state and city parks
  • rural, suburban and urban areas.
  • institutional grounds
  • reservations, hunting grounds, etc.

Promotion would be very easy, considering that the Johnny Appleseed legend is a well known and established part of american folklore. As well, it would be mimicking what america’s indigenous peoples have done for thousands of years, wherein they selected for wild food varieties and were able to propogate “wild food parks”, where careful and controlled burns allowed them to select for fruit and nut trees, and to create open grassland to encourage deer, elk, bison, etc.
Heres a list of wild, native plants off the top of my head:

  • wild rice
  • wild oats
  • wild onions
  • wild garlic
  • crabapples
  • peach trees
  • flax
  • certain kinds of tubers, rhizomes, etc.
  • wild lettuce
  • acorn, hickory, walnut, etc.
  • blackberries, blueberries, elderberries, manyberries!!
  • watercress

Of course the johnny appleseed coalition would not be encouraging people to do controlled burns. But by simply propogating wild food in an ecosystem, it would encourage more positive activity and could allow vast areas to return to their original state rather than being stagnant. Humans are animals too and, when we treat it carefully, we can be blessings to ecosystems.wild oats, native to many areas of the U.S.

Another thing to discourage, then, would be any sort of tractors or machine propagation or such that might disturb the fragile ecosystems where this would be taking place. As well, natural resource managers and conservation biologists would be indispensable for this kind of task. Zooarceologists and ecoarcheologists would also be helpful in discerning what wild food plants were native to what areas under what ecological conditions. Special care would be taken to encourage that no invasive varieties would be introduced, but at the same time, that no resources would be wasted on something that would be quickly selected out ecologically.

The group could formulate a database of wild, native food plants and with GIS systems pinpoint what regions would be suitable for what plants, and with the help of scientists figure out the best ways to propogate them in an area (example: planting flax seeds on the top of a hill in the common direction of wind so that a grassy area would be abundant with flax in only a few years as the seeds spread).

The importance of this is in promoting resource abundance, as we face the dangers of resource scarcity and all the problems of living by unsustainable lifeways. It would promote biodiversity in an area as these resources would be able to compete with invasive, inedible species, and they would self propogate and be able to survive off of natural rain and soil without the input that gardening or farming requires. Such a program would encourage us to be positively involved with the ecosystems we live in and to promote a more sustainable environment for us and for our progeny. People could supplement what was grown in their garden, with local CSAs or by local farmers with wild gathered food. Not only would this promote healthy environments and healthy people, but it would provide an opportunity for families and friends to go out and enjoy the fruits of wildlife conservation and give more depth and nuance to our nations protected lands. It would also provide a learning experience so that people could understand the importance of promoting biodiversity and robust ecosystems as the world is increasingly faced with the pains of corporate monoculture and land resource mismanagement.

Air Potato - Native to Florida

It would call back to times past when this was much more common, say back in the 30’s when the economically downtrodden would go out and gather berries or nuts or watercress or hunt wild animals to get some food on their stomachs. My mother tells me of times her older relatives would go about and gather wild ginseng to sell on the market. And, in other times when things were still well, people would go about and gather wild food just to enjoy the fruits of our nation’s greatest treasure: its land and ecosystems. I grew up in a house that sat on land near lake eerie where a vineyard once had been, and we had wild grapes growing on our back fence. Many times we would go out and gather them and make jam or just pick a few and eat them for the pleasure. They weren’t your supermarket grapes, they were plush and moist and they oozed. They were sweet and delicious. And we didn’t have to do anything to keep them going, they were always there, as long as we left them.

Upon returning to that house, among many changes residents since have made, the grapes have been torn down from the fence. Why, I do not understand (they left the wooden jungle gym at least), even if you didnt see the value in eating them, they were beautiful regardless. They also chopped down the huge old oak tree, the biggest and oldest on the street, one where we used to play around and that provided so much shade and so many memories and an abundance of acorns for the local squirrels. Now they have erosion problems, and whats likely, cooling problems. One would hope that humanity will begin to learn from the mistakes it has been making in the past few decades in managing its natural resources, as knowledge dissemination through the generations happens less and less. Hopefully things like the Johnny Appleseed Coaltion, if realised, would be a means of disseminating this invaluable ethnobotanical knowledge through the generations as more and more people begin to depend more and more on supermarkets and heavily processed foods that travel halfway around the world. Hopefully the systems are in place to change this. And if not, grassroots isn’t too hard to get going, once you get the seeds in the ground.

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