SNS Press: Seeking New Solutions

May, 2010
Vol. 9, Number 5


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A hopeful approach for the future of international relations.

Redirect teen rebellion towards idealism and self improvement.

Read excerpts from unpublished book: Science, Religion and the Search for God —Bridging the Gap.

Poems of society, the human condition, and spiritual discovery.

Our student activities and curriculum materials instill an environmental, cultural, and global perspective, and integrate various academic disciplines.

Featured Articles about Responsibility, the Future and Consciousness:

Hope for the Future
Series on Leadership
Series on Global Consciousness
World Peace in Less Than a Month?
Can Idealism Solve Problems?
Conflict, Harmony and Integrity
Human Programming and Conflict
Non-violent Political Change
Living Without an Enemy
Protecting Children: Words and Deeds





This Month's Article

Decentralizing Food and Energy

At our town’s Earth Day celebration this year the major supermarket chains had large displays of their organic products and “green” household cleaners and paper goods. Apparently, sustainable and organic products have finally made it into the mainstream of human awareness. The consumer can now have some new options to choose from, with refreshing looking packages and rustic names, alongside the habitual brands that are most likely produced in the same factories. [1]

This new marketing venue for “green” products does not override the fact that the first real link in the food and energy security chain is the individual. It is basically a question of dependence versus independence. Ever since the slogan “Think Globally, Act Locally” was popularized in the early 1970’s as a call to environmental activism, many still do not fully understand what “act locally” entails. With good conscience many individuals dutifully recycle or buy organic produce, but do they fully understand how energy intensive and far-reaching geographically they are stretching their dependence on sources outside their community? In their feel-good acts of responsible consumerism they are still largely bound by a wasteful, fossil fuel dependent lifestyle.

Even with all the best intentions, it is very difficult not to perpetuate the iron grip that fossil fuels have on our way of life (wine and cheese anyone?). Nevertheless, the epicenter for the urgent emergence of the new economy lies in the choices the individual and the community make. Urban dwellings, suburban houses, apartment complexes, condos, trailer parks, rural homesteads and institutions make up the web of residential communities that can become natural units of food and energy production and distribution. While scarce examples exist, even some prison officials recognize the fact that prisons are residential communities with potential for some economic, food and energy production (with collateral rehabilitation and job training as side effects).

In a previous article, “Energy Independence — Investing in the Sun” (June 2008), I mentioned that “Only ten percent of Nevada’s great basin desert would be enough to produce in one-day sufficient solar energy to meet the electricity needs of the US for one year!” While an appealing fact at the time, it does not fit the current logic of producing energy where it is consumed, at each residence or place of business. Besides the fact that much more productive surface area would be involved by decentralizing the locale of production, the energy would be produced at the point of use, eliminating the wasteful and precarious need to move it a long distance to the consumer.

Decentralization of food production would have a similar effect of energizing communities and creating greater food security and independence. Although all of one’s food needs would be difficult to meet individually or in many communities, still, any effort to supplement imported foods with local foods would have a salutatory impact. Besides reducing the carbon footprint of many staple foods, freshness of food and awareness of community resources would be increased.

It is difficult to appreciate the work that goes into the things we use in our daily life when they are mass-produced in factories far away. Similarly, we often do not comprehend the extensive use of energy resources that go into the production and transportation of those items that we so casually pluck from the store shelves. We become so far removed from the work that makes our consumer goods that we fail to fully grasp our own role and responsibility in the production– consumption – pollution chain.

The awareness and satisfaction that result from participation in a community of producers is diminished when our material life becomes void of the respect people once held for the craft of the artisan, or the labor of the grower. Food is something so basic, that even on a minimal level it may represent an opportunity to directly benefit from our labor if we grow and eat some ourselves. If we create a surplus, we can share or trade. It puts us back into a real economic and social relationship that is acutely missing from the imaginary one of credit cards, money and paying strangers to provide for us. These are the factors that are drawing more people and communities to develop and support farmers markets.

Local food can become a currency of an independent and more vibrant economy, and the stimulus for increased interaction and support of residents. We are indeed beginning to see the effects of sustainable food and energy production increase the social and political involvement of people in their local economies in some communities. When communities pull together around self-sufficiency and trade we see causes for new identity, respect and celebration.

The burgeoning use of the terms “green” and “sustainable,” recalls a time of self-reliance and living closer to our natural roots. This may indicate some programmed genetic or psychological response to the collective danger in which we now find ourselves. It may cause us to try to follow our adaptive instincts towards some semblance of community and self-sufficiency. Suddenly a great wave of desire to “act locally” is cresting and so many are scrambling to find the high ground of what that actually means. One would think it would be easy to water the seedlings of the new activism and the new economy to foster new awareness and institutions, but it is hard to channel such a profound energy in constricted pipes of rusty habits. 

The needed movement to decentralize and take control of our lives can be guided by responsive individuals who have a vision of the future. However, it will really happen only as individuals, neighborhoods, and finally communities become transformed. Decentralization of at least some part of the resources that sustain us will happen on a very personal level as individuals make new choices on how they consume the necessities for life. It will be a step-by-step evolution that tests the patience of those who see the need for a revolution. It will change the landscape one house and one garden at a time.

© 2010 Richard V. Sidy

[1] Resources:

Charts by Dr. Philip H. Howard
Assistant Professor, Michigan State University:

• Organic Processing Industry
• Organic Distribution & Retail
• The Food System
• Seed Industry

The Organic Octopus? Phil Howard's "Organic Industry Structure"chart (Rodale Institute)

Buying Organic: See which of the country's largest food producers are behind your favorite organic foods

Who Owns Organic? (The Cornucopia Institute)

The Hungry Planet: What the World Eats (pdf file)

>Return to top

Read Related Articles on SNS Press

"Fast Food is really Slow Food"— A New Look at the Food Chain

Sense of Place, Sense of Self, Sense of Humanity

Energy Independence

Culture Shock: The Good Life and Survival

Sustainable Development is Nature's Way

The Imaginary Economy — Part I

The Imaginary Economy — Part II


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Archives 2002:
Vol. 1, Numbers 1-12

Read past articles including:
Hope for the Future
Six Part Series on Science and Religion
First Three Parts of the Series on Leadership
Archives 2003:
Vol. 2, Numbers 1-12

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Series on Leadership continued
Avoiding Dictatorship in a Free Society

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World Peace in Less Than a Month?
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Vol. 3, Numbers 1-12

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Is "Liberal" a Dirty Word?
Can Idealism Solve Problems?
Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All

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Standing up for Humanity
Unity in Diversity
Thought and Imagination
Imagination and Healing
Lessons of Katrina
Intelligent Design or Evolution

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Vol. 5, Numbers 1-12

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Human Programming and Conflict
Non-Violent Political Change
Sustainable Development
Legalizing Torture
Living Without an Enemy
"Fast Food" is really "Slow Food"
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State of Fear
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Culture Shock
Personal Ecology
Exploring the Mind - Parts 1 and 2
How Much Pain Can We Stand?
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Vol. 7, Numbers 1-12

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Beyond Ideology
The Imaginary Economy
Tribalism and the 2008 Election
Guilt, Shame and U.S. Justice
Have We Been Willing Slaves?
Are We Ready for the Future?
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Vol. 8, Numbers 1-12

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The Good New Days
The Time is Right
The New Anarchy
The Art of Living
Are Women Becoming More Unhappy?
From Cowboys to Cowed
Who are the Real Game Changers?
Archives 2010:
Vol. 9, Numbers 1-12

Read past articles including:
The Music of Place
Earthquakes and Other Awakenings
The Sense of Place
Why do People Serve?
Ecological Literacy
Organization or Organism?
Are we afraid of our Better Angels?
Choosing our Battles

Meeting the Need
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