Uncategorized Archive

Recovery from the Economic Crisis Will Be Slow, Be Patient

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

I’m constantly amazed at Wall Street, which acts like an extremely skittish horse — panicking when it encounters the slightest scare – in response to every bit of bad news.

Television journalists and skeptics of the nation’s new economic recovery plan aren’t much better. They’re hammering away at the economic recovery plan, sowing seeds of doubt, which, lest we forget, was just passed a few days ago.

We all need to breathe deeply and remember that it took a long time for this economic crisis to unfold. It is going to take a long time to dig out of the hole we’ve dug for ourselves.

To be successful, however, we need to address the root causes, which are many and varied. It’s not something Americans are particularly good at. We like simple cause and effect. What are the causes of the economic crisis?

Although the sub-prime mortgage meltdown was the precipitating factor of the current economic downturn, there were many other economic factors that have, over the past decade, caused the financial erosion of the United States’ economy whose downfall has resulted in a global domino effect. The subprime meltdown just toppled an already severely weakened economy.

Violent weather, for example, has been hammering America for a long time, costing us untold billions that have sapped our financial strength. The price tag of hurricane Katrina alone could easily top $150 billion.

Violent tornadoes and floods have wiped out many communities, like Greensburg, KS. The southeastern United States has also been plagued by costly drought and wildfires.

Floods, hurricanes, tornados, and wildfires are all the likely result of global climate change, resulting from the massive release of greenhouse gases for many years, as well as the relentless deforestation of the planet.

They have cost us billions upon billions in insurance claims, lost property, lost lives, and rescue efforts, all of which have eroded our nation’s economic strength.

Unfortunately, many of America’s leaders, among them the former president, have steadfastly stood in the way of global efforts to combat climate change. Such efforts could have helped us financially, freeing up capital for new business ventures rather than rescue efforts.

And then there was 911, which sent our economy into a downward spiral. It was followed by a costly invasion and war in Iraq. The billions we spend every month have also helped to erode our nation’s financial underpinnings.

Although not all readers may agree, tax cuts, which primarily benefited the super wealthy, have also eroded the nation’s financial strength as well. Over the past 8 years we’ve watched our government go into deeper and deeper debt as it unbalanced a previously balanced budget. The previous administration and Congressional allies have systemically reduced revenues while increasing expenditures.

Lest we forget, you can’t mount a $10-billion-a-month war without revenue. It’s economic foolishness, and it erodes our nation’s financial strength.

And then, of course, we must not forget the high cost of oil and gasoline, which sent ripples through our economy. It too has been a part of the financial erosion that has contributed to America’s current economic crisis.

Once again, America’s “leaders” and America’s automakers have steadfastly refused to even discuss improvements in fuel mileage that could have helped to prevent that problem by driving down demand and fuel prices.

The economic loss caused by violent weather and wildfires caused by global climate change; our refusal to address this issue; 911 and the war in Iraq; imprudent tax cuts; the huge budget deficit; the wildly unbalanced budget; high oil prices and our refusal to adopt more fuel-efficient vehicles all lie at the roots of the financial crisis. The subprime mortgage crisis, merely just pushed this battered and weakened economy off its already eroded legs.

It will take time to reverse the effects of these policies. Be patient.

Making the Perfect Plaster

Monday, February 16th, 2009

Over the years, a number of individuals who've read my books on natural building (The Natural House) and natural plasters (The Natural Plaster Book) have contacted me for advice on their projects. A few have grumbled about the the arduous task of making flour paste to add to their earthen plasters. Flour paste makes an excellent binding agent and is one of several additives my co-author Cedar Guelberth and I recommend be added to earthen plasters to produce a superior wall finish. Flour paste helps plaster adhere to earthen and straw bale walls and creates an amazingly hard plaster.

That said, I agree with those who find the process of making flour paste to be arduous and time consuming. It is a real pain in the neck. In fact, I stopped using it several years ago because it takes so much time and energy.

I achieve the same results now by adding low-fat powdered milk to my earthen plasters — both base coats and finish plasters. It's much faster and requires a lot less effort.

Here's what I do: First, for large projects, I buy large boxes of powdered milk. I mix it at half the recommended concentration for drinking. I use this dilute milk for all the water I need to make a plaster.

I have found that this works marvelously. Just don't let the plaster sit around wet for more than a day or two, as the milk will spoil and start to smell. Mix what you need and apply the plaster within a day or two of mixing. This will save you a lot of time and frustration.  If you want to learn more about plastering, come join us at The Evergreen Institute in Missouri (www.evergreeninstitute.org). We're offering a course on natural plasters this summer (http://www.evergreeninstitute.org/intronaturalplaster.html).

Happy plastering!


Racial Transparency: The First African-American President and More

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

Immediately after Barack Obama's innaugaration, I tuned into Black Entertainment Televsion, thinking that it would be interesting to see what the African-American community had to say about the election of our first African-American president.

I was deeply moved by the impact this had on the African-American community. I deeply appreciate the symbolic and very real significance of this accomplishment, too.

After a while, I flipped to the conventional news coverage. It was, to say the least, remarkably different. There I listened to discussions of the Obama kids' clothes, the music, and the fumbled oath.

Of course, there were comments about the historic significance of electing an African-American, a community that has suffered deeply since their forced conscription to provide free labor for America's plantations and farms. Slavery was a shameful epoc in American history. The maltreatment of African-Americans that continues today is reprehensible as well.

As I listened to the news coverage, though, it struck me that I didn't vote for Barack Obama because he was African-American.

I wasn't voting for the symbolic or the very real significance of this opportunity, although it was important to me.

I voted for this dignified man with an unpresidential name because he was a bright, forward-thinking, articulate and diplomatic person who showed great promise as a leader.

Race didn't matter to me, even though race – racial justice, to be more exact — matters very deeply to me.

Others I've spoken to have expressed a similar sentiment. Race didn't matter to them, either, even though ending racial injustice is one of their top priorities.

We're proud to have an African-American president and truly grasp the significance of this election. The  fact that we didn't look at Obama as an African-American, but a promising leader, signifies the great progress we've made. We see a man or a woman for what they are.

To many who believe deeply in treating all Americans fairly, regardless of race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation, racial transparency is a good sign.

Efficiency is a Form of Renewable Energy Too

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

As America seeks ways to gain energy independence and combat global warming, we must be sure not to ignore the low-hanging fruit on the energy tree: energy conservation and energy efficiency.

As individuals, as businesses, and through our government, we must focus first and foremost on making our homes, businesses, and vehicles as efficient as possible.

While I'm 100% behind developing solar and wind and other forms of clean, reliable, and affordable renewable energy — and have written a number of books on the subject and live on renewables myself — conservation and efficiency are the cheapeast, fastest, and most reliable ways to produce more energy and combat pollution.

And, it's renewable, too.

Every step you and I take to conserve energy and use energy more efficiently pays dividends long into the future. It frees up energy that would have been wasted year after year after year. Energy efficiency measures we enact are the moral equivalent of a new oil well or natural gas deposit.

Don't wait for government to action. You can take steps now to build a more efficient and sustainable future. Start by driving smarter. Slow down. Drive the speed limit. Avoid jack rabbit starts…the list goes on.

These are small steps, but when combined with efforts of millions of others, they can have a huge impact and usher us further along the path of a sustainable future.