Just Thinking – Pondered Observances
– Empty buildings and Homeless People
I grew up in Ames, Iowa. I don’t remember seeing or even hearing about homeless people. Ames is a small town that was kind of an island. No poverty to speak of, no crime, very low unemployment. I am not sure if that caused me to be naïve.
The first time I thought about homeless people was when I moved to San Antonio, Texas in 1989. I remember seeing people standing on major intersections with signs saying “will work for food”. I have heard that some of these people actually do this for a job. It is not my concern. My thoughts were that there are thousands of people in any single city the size of San Antonio that do not have adequate housing.
I lived in the northwest part of the city and there was a very large eight story building that, for all the years that I drove in and out of this part of the city, sat empty. Nothing, no activity, just a very large building that could have housed hundreds of people. Throughout that one city I saw, and would imagine, all of the empty buildings that could provide some type of shelter for homeless people.
I know we can come up with all kinds of reasons why this shouldn’t be done. The homeless people will damage the building, etc., etc. I suppose if you think along these lines you can surely come up with all kinds of reasons.
As for me, I just can’t rectify the fact that people need places to stay, and there are nice empty buildings sitting around, in some cases for years, not being used.
To me, it would be an opportunity for “landlords” to get some good karma, and in my experience they need it. Have you ever thought of the word “landlord”? In my experience they are some of the unhappiest, frustrated people I have ever known. I can understand why.
Another thing that I have thought about is the hungry. Have you ever tried to imagine how much food is thrown into the garbage every day from all of the restaurants and grocery stores across the world? It seems to me we shouldn’t throw food away when there are hungry people on the streets. Surely if we can figure out how to get a plastic bottle of Coca Cola or a bag of Frito Lay chips to every small shop in every country of the world, we can figure out a way to distribute locally this food being thrown in the garbage to the hungry people of the world. Or, maybe not . . . maybe I am just crazy.
Postal Service – Delivering Garbage to Your House & Economic “externalitites”
I had never really thought much about the postal service until sometime in 2006. I actually liked the postal service as a concept for a long time. It and the railroad is what made America become the country that it did. But somewhere along the line the postal service changed. Instead of delivering personal letters and other critical types of information, extending lines of services to all peoples, it became a broker of “junk mail”. I think there is even a stronger word that we might use, but that would be a digression.
I had thought about inefficiency though when I was working with a mail order catalog business in the mid-1990s. I was pretty astounded by the amount of waste in that industry, even though the project was for a very good cause, to increase revenues for Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. to protect more wildlife habitats and support small Texas artisans.
The major costs of printed mail order catalogs are design, but especially printing. Another major cost is postage. However, as it works, if you mail enough pieces (individual letters or publications) you can get “bulk rate” through the US postal service which is a significant drop in cost per piece of mail. But it was still a very expensive part of the business. Now, for me this is the evidence where our economic system fails. It is called “economy of scales”. The more pieces that are created, or mailed in this case, the cost per item goes down.
The eye opener for me was what I learned from experience in mail order business. In mail order the key word to success is “return rate”. “Return rate” means that people purchased something from the catalog. This means the number of people who make a purchase, which is represented by the percentage of responses to the catalogs you mail out. If you get 2% return rate you are doing a good business. TWO PERCENT! That meant that 98% of all of those beautiful catalogs that we produced went straight to the garbage can. Imagine the waste of energy in that process. That would be like cutting down 1000 trees and only using 20 of them. Think, in all of the world, all of the energy being expended in this process. Trees are cut down. Huge amounts of money are being spent to kill trees, and convert those trees to “slick” paper. Expensive design and printing is being done. Hundreds of hours of effort is expended for each catalog that is produced. Exorbitant amounts are being spent on postage to deliver to individual houses, but by far the majority of these people do not want it.
In looking from a very real perspective, the postal service delivers garbage to our house, and we have already paid for that because we pay “taxes” to subsidize the postal service. The time honored “Postman” is a garbage man, but he is delivering the garbage to our house.
But that is just the beginning. Then we have to pay garbage men to haul the garbage away. The garbage is taken to a “landfill” which then we have to pay another company, or municipality, to figure out how to keep this mountain of garbage from polluting our soils and water systems. If we don’t, the natural environmental, and human health costs are incredible. And it isn’t working. And I can show you a picture of how well these “landfills” control “toxic seepages”. That’s another funny concept to think about the word “landfill”. Sounds kind of nice right? But what is actually happening is that we are creating mountains of garbage, or just dumping them into the ocean.
In our economic system, as it is developed under Adam Smith’s model, is that most of these things are called “externalities”. These are “costs” or “impacts” that fall out of the realm of responsibilities of the companies that are making the “profit”. The “externalities” of impacts to our environment, that we pay through having to clean up this pollution, or otherwise “health costs”, is incredible. In this case example, I have not mentioned many other factors such as those connected to the fuel costs, and impacts, associated to delivering the garbage to our house, and then taking it away. I won’t even follow the trail of costs and impacts of using fossil fuels. That becomes a whole other stream of similar effects as what was described above. And these effects are also not necessary because other options to petroleum exist. Very few people take the time to investigate that many alternative technologies for energy and transportation exist, but have been suppressed by oil interests. How this happens and has been accomplished is a whole other story.
So what is the solution? Well to start we need to have a way to look at the situation from a different perspective. One of my favorites is called “systems thinking” which was conceived back in the 1920s by scientists looking at natural systems. Using “systems thinking”, or even common sense, one would have to question these processes that have become a part of mainstream society. Why do we allow this kind of waste to continue? If we look at nature, which is where systems thinking was derived from, we never see a system where only 2% of the energy expended is used. There is an organization called Zero Emissions Research Institute (ZERI) which looks at developing systems that more closely match the efficiency of natural systems, which are perfectly efficient. As we know, natural systems do not waste anything.
So now you ask, ok Andy, how do we address this? Well, I could figure something out if given enough time, and I have a few ideas, although not all of them for sure. One possibility, just stop using this system, or this economic model that sustains “economies of scale” and “externalities”. In any case, I know I could come up with something that would perform much better than 2%. Today I am not writing to propose the solutions although I am sure there is someone out there who has proposed a model that will work much better, for example ZERI. However, we must look at this system and go back to the source of the skewed nature of the model, and I am convinced it is connected to our existing economic system. I think we could quickly alleviate, or eliminate, many of these incredibly wasteful systems, that usually serve a few corporate interests in the end, by placing into the cycle the additional costs which are pawned off as “externalitites”. If we included all of the additional costs that are incurred in this “system” of bulk mail, the costs would eliminate it as a viable option.
We must, in my view, also look at the foundation principles of corporations. Who and what are they? How do they conduct their business? What is their legal basis for existence? In reality, it is a paper reality”. It is not “really”, real. But they have convinced us, and have us totally buffaloed into believing the “systems” that they have created. And they are abundant, and they require an immense amount of energy to try to operate within. But they have no souls. They are not living beings. And, there is no one within them that takes “personal” responsibility for the impacts and actions, even though they probably should. Information is starting to come forward about the true nature of this incredibly elaborate “shell game” that has totally taken the creative and immensely powerful collective human consciousness into a realm of existence that is absolutely unsustainable, except maybe for a select few. In many respects I have recently realized it is like a really elaborate “Monopoly” game, intermixed with “Risk”. Do you like the game? Do you want to step outside of it? Well, the first thing you need to do is see that it is a game, and that in this game you have diminishing freedoms.
There are some very encouraging events happening in certain circles where people are starting to wake up. Recently I saw a news item where a number of communities are finding “loopholes” in the legal system which are allowing them to deny corporations “personhood”. Denying the companies to dispose of toxic wastes or to purchase the communities water rights. However, I feel that these methods might be a temporary solution because the legal system is one of the primary elements of this imaginary “game space”. It all falls under England’s model of government called the “Commonwealth”. And if we stay in the game, and just manipulate the rules of the game, we are still stuck in their game. Wouldn’t we prefer to create a new game? Or better yet, stop playing games and start just living life? I don’t know, but it seems a good question to answer.
In any case, my purpose here is not to suggest that I know how to “fix” everything. I just bring this to people’s attention. So, I want to ask, have you ever thought about something like what I mentioned in this little essay? If not, isn’t it surprising? What should we do? – ignore it? Or, maybe we should do something?
How many of these processes are going on as we go about our day to day business? If we observe what we are doing as collective groups is like we are pretending, as we have blinders over our eyes, that everything is just fine. Just as long as we don’t see or think about what is going on, we aren’t affected in any way. But is this the case? We just go about our daily lives, busy, busy, busy, taking care of our own families and everything is just fine? Well, for me, this is not the case. Ever since an experience in 1979 I have seen that we really are all one family. Thus the quote “we are all in this together”. As one species on this world, being genetically, and ancestorally tied, we are really one big family. And everyone knows that we should take care of family, right? We just need to expand the definition of our family. I have come to understand that it is our responsibility to do our best for the benefit of all. Great people have shown us this by their demonstrations (e.g. Jesus, Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Mother Theresa, Norman Borlaug, etc.). But it is also written into the texts of the great religions and teachings. I could provide a number of great quotes, but won’t now. You can find many in the Bhagavad Gita.
In the world it is like we are warring over little pieces of “turf”. Creating imaginary boundaries that we fight over is really ridiculous considering that there is really the possibility to venturing out to the cosmic neighborhood. Religion, science and some select interests have severely limited our understanding of the possibilities of venturing out to the stars, not to mention what we believe and know what life is about. These possibilities have been entertained and presented as “science fiction”, as if our imaginations will not get satisfied. But this is not the case. Imagination is the catalyst for realizing those things dreamed about. Why would we be able to see and contemplate this grand universe but not be able to venture out into it? This would be similar to getting a house and knowing that you had a dozen rooms, but could only stand in the entry vestibule.
However, it is quite apparent to any thinking person, that if we can’t get our act together on this little world, then the likelihood of venturing out to the stars as a greater humanity is severely limited. And by the way I do believe that there are certain interests connected to certain governments or corporate interests that have access to travel in space much more than what most of us know about.
Hiding our heads in the sand like the proverbial ostrich is not acceptable. Do we have brains bigger than the ostrich? We are responsible for what is happening in the collective human experience. Really. We cannot just pretend and it will all fix itself. The interests that have gotten us into this situation are actively working to maintain things the way they are, and the results is a continued degradation of the human and natural condition. Each day more and more “systems” are put in place to limit our freedoms, to travel, to go about our business without being watched. Do you have any idea how many cameras are watching us? (there was one in the charter bus I drove in 2008, taking images both inside and outside the bus, funded by the Office of Homeland Security). Why? Do you know what happened in East Germany after WWII? Did any of you read the book 1984 by George Orwell which was written in the 1950s? That was someone’s imagination.
Which do you prefer, a world where people are all fed, there is peace, abundance and “true” freedom? Or one which continues along the lines of where we are headed – that is as you open your eyes to see what has been happening? Is this going to change by magic, or will it require some effort on our part? And, this is not about another “war” or “battle” against these “powers that were” (very important word choice). As long as we see there is a battle ground, we will maintain that enemy, with our own consciousness, thoughts and emotions. This idea is contained in the quote from Carl Jung “what you resist, persists”. Again, will these situations magically be rectified? Not likely. As long as we continue with our “eyes wide closed” the situation will continue along the same path. We have to open our eyes, and then determine a new path based upon what our imaginations have introduced to us. Then take the actions to begin to introduce new modes, systems and methods to create that new “reality”.