Thursday, May 10, 2007

Let's Create Guest Worker Vacations!

Concerning immigration and the labor shortage:

It has been my experience that anytime a problem is converted to an asset, then everyone concerned wins. An example of this is the bio-diesel industry. A waste product is turned into a desirable commodity and everyone benefits. Maybe it is time to change the way we think about Migrant Workers and farm labor.

Basically, farms have a labor shortage and wage issues. Cities around the country and especially Seattle have a gold mine in bored, middle income, people looking for diversion and exercise outside their usual life. These two issues could be brought into one program that allows city people to do farm labor while calling it a vacation.

I estimate that about 4 million people per year drive from Seattle to the cities of Ocean Shores, Westport and Long View to spend $1000 for a weekend. Given the right options many of these vacationers could be diverted into the farm work force.

I read with interest an article on the impending labor shortages in the food production industries due to crack-downs on illegal immigration. I will not address immigration directly in this message, but I want to put forward an idea that could help farms find a new kind of "Guest Worker".

In the 70's and 80's my parents spent the summers picking fruits and vegetables in Eastern Washington. During that time we lived in a tiny travel trailer and parked at the various farms as we picked our way through the harvest season. As a child, I hated the summers we spent in the dusty, dirty camps, often we were the only gringos working in the area. Compared to the families that lived in the "bunkhouses", our little trailer was a mansion. My friends in Western Washington thought my family was insane to spend the summer working this way, but they all loved the truckload of fruit and vegetables my family brought back with them to split between the neighbors. The last 2 weeks of the summer were spent in a home canning frenzy that would provide food all winter long.

Looking back at the time with more wisdom and a bit of nostalgia I realize that the summers we spent as Migrant Workers offered something that is very hard to come by these days: A job with specific goals and the satisfaction of a job well done.

The average American works a job that typically means repetition and vague goals spread over a large group of workers. There is very little chance to start a project and see it through to a successful end. This 9-5 type of career leads to job and financial security, but doesn't fulfill the basic need to create and grow.

Other industries are taking advantage of this basic unrest by offering working vacations and volunteer vacations, the basic idea being: anyone can enjoy hard work for a week or so and then return to their "real" jobs mentally and physically rested.

I would like to point out a typical website that features working vacations:

NOTE: These working vacations cost $599 per person and up for 2 days!

Raising wages is not the only way to attract more workers. I believe that farms could attract workers by taking the focus off the wages being offered and concentrating on the other benefits of being a "Guest Worker" for a week or two each year.

I would love to get feedback on this idea and I would love to brainstorm with anyone who is capable to actually making this possible.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Real Changes You Can Make to Lower CO2 Emissions.

Forget fluorescent bulbs, forget lowering your heat settings. These two things are listed as the "easiest ways to lower your carbon footprint", but really these are a drop in the bucket compared to making lifestyle changes.

Change your lifestyle to make a real difference:

1) Move your household to within walking distance of your work. Make sure there is a decent school, grocery store, and transit access also within walking distance. Save the car for long trips or get rid of it entirely.

2) Get rid of lawns, lawnmowers and ornamental landscaping and replace with food crops. An area of garden space 8 feet square can produce all the vegetables needed for a family of 4. Food gardens are tended by hand rather than mowed, saving tons of CO2 emissions per year. If your home doesn't have a lawn, you can still make use of balconies, parking spaces, and roof tops by using the raised bed method of food production. If you are replacing a large lawn then replant with fruit trees, asparagus and other space hogging produce.

3) Support local farmers and learn to do without foods that must travel great distances to reach the market. Pineapples, mangoes, bananas, and oranges are examples of carbon expensive foods. Choose locally grown produce instead, such as apples, kiwi and cherries.

4) Buy fewer electronic toys and shut electronics off by unplugging them or using a power strip rather than leaving them in "Stand-by mode".

5) Reuse materials first and then recycle what is left. Refuse to buy items that are over packaged. Use cloth shopping bags. Take plastic bags back to the store where you got them, many stores will be happy to re-use them. Re-use plastic food boxes rather than buying tupperware. Refill juice bottles with homemade iced tea.

6) Stop buying bottled water. Get a good filter system and re-use the bottles you have.

7) Put up a clothes line and use it as often as possible. Use gray-water to water your garden. Use less detergents and soaps.

8) Donate usable items to charity and shop in charity stores first for items you need.

9) Take care of items so that they will last longer.

10) AFTER you have mastered the first 9 items on this list, then you can worry about fluorescent lighting and turning your heat down 1 degree.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Fruit and vegetables no longer eligible for Vegan label.

Fully 80% of all fruits and vegetables appearing in American grocery stores and markets are pollinated by CAPTIVE BEES. The philosophy of Veganism prohibits the ingestion or use of ANY product that is made from animal (including insects) flesh or is the result of animals being held captive in order to gather products at their expense.

Captive bees are subjected to same types of unethical treatment that is common for all livestock including feedlot situations(hives are moved from orchard to orchard), robbery of their biological food(royal jelly and honey), and substitution of lower quality foods(sugar water and high fructose corn syrup). Recently, more than 25% of the bee hives in the United States have died due to an unidentified problem that has been labeled Colony Collapse Disorder. The disorder only seems to affect captive bees.

Of course all meat products are Non-vegan. Products such as honey, milk and eggs are also considered non-vegan, and now in light of the widespread use of CAPTIVE BEES in all facets of fruit, vegetable and soy bean production, those products are no longer truly Vegan. If a Vegan can't eat honey, then that person should also reject the other products made possible by the captive bee's efforts.

The TRUE Vegan's diet should now consist of ONLY grains and rice(which do not use bee pollination) and water. No other fruit or vegetables qualify unless the grower is certified to be using wild bees exclusively in crop pollination.

Cats, Dogs, and the Vegan Movement.

I have seen a lot of information on Vegan diets for cats and dogs and I think that whole idea is just WRONG! Vegan's shouldn't keep "pets" at all. Holding a dog or cat hostage is no different than holding a chicken or cow hostage. Why not keep chickens for "pets" and then you can justify eating eggs as a by-product of having pet chickens around.

If you think your cat or dog is better off as a pet, you are wrong. In their natural idea of a life, they would have as many babies as possible and eat everything that they could catch. You probably get your pets fixed and feed them "Science Diet" least until it was recalled. This is not what nature intended for cats or dogs so it doesn't jive with the Vegan philosophy.

Using the arguement that dogs and cats are "domesticated" is no excuse for keeping them as pets. Sheep are so domesticated that they cannot survive in the wild in most parts of the world. To right that wrong, each of us should keep one as a pet to insure that it is well looked after. If each Vegan did that, then it would be ok to use the wool, since shearing is a requirement for a sheep's health and well being.

Picking and choosing which animals to use and which animals to abuse is part of the over all pattern of denying animal rights. Using 10,000 years of domestication as an excuse to continue the pattern doesn't make it right. Veganism is a choice to stop using and abusing all living creatures, whether the animal is a cow or a cat. Keeping either one as a pet denies that animal a natural and self-directed life.

Keeping a cat or dog and forcing them to exist on corn, rice and vegetables is just plain wrong. Part of being a good keeper is being prepared to feed that animal the food that is most natural and healthful. If you can't do that, then don't have pets. Or, if you must have pets, then pick pets that are naturally vegetarian.

No Vegan can justify owning another creature, period.