American Presidential Politics

Last night I listened to parts of the Democratic National Convention – including the speeches of Al Gore and Barack Obama. I find Mr. Obama a good orator, and he and his wife appear understandable and sincere.

There is something about the whole Convention that troubles me (and I would guess that I will have the same trouble with the Republican National Convention). The Convention gives the Party a national stage (I watched on CNN so do not know how much the other networks carried). Here is an enormous opportunity to lay out your case before the American people.

They use their time, however, to have hundreds of speakers say the same thing!

Al Gore, who knows a great deal about the environment and energy, could lay out a Democratic vision, platform, and program…he does not (other than to repeat a series of dire statistics). Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island could lay out a vision, platform, and program on the military and international affairs…he does not.

I believe the American people want to know the ‘nuts and bolts’ of what would be proposed if Barack Obama was elected president….and they want to hear it from the horse’s mouth. Mr. Obama spent a few minutes on those issues, and, for me, it was the most compelling part of his speech. Given his wonderful ability to speak, he crafted a few skillful platform issues. It was great! I’ve got a sense of what he would attempt.

Now on to the Republican Convention.

Bioplanning

Ms. Beresford-Kroeger, 63, is a native of Ireland who has bachelor’s degrees in medical biochemistry and botany, and has worked as a Ph.D.-level researcher at the University of Ottawa school of medicine, where she published several papers on the chemistry of artificial blood. She calls herself a renegade scientist, however, because she tries to bring together aboriginal healing, Western medicine and botany to advocate an unusual role for trees.

She favors what she terms a bioplan, reforesting cities and rural areas with trees according to the medicinal, environmental, nutritional, pesticidal and herbicidal properties she claims for them, which she calls ecofunctions.

For the enitre article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/12/science/12prof.html?_r=1&ref=science&oref=slogin

An Interesting Discussion

Over the past couple of days I’ve had several discussions with Rhode Island USDA NRCS about their development of a Rapid Watershed Assessment (RWA). The RWA gives NRCS, farmers, and conservation organizations the ability to prioritize conservation actions, determine the best economies for those conservation actions, and adaptively manage conservation and farm systems.

Part of the discussion involved a desire by NRCS to integrate the many different conservation and environmental plans/databases/information systems….and the difficulty with realizing that goal. I think part of the problem with any of these cooperative visions for information and data is the unknown cost of such complex tasks. Most conservation organizations and governmental departments have few funds for this kind of complex development…and it is expensive.

One of the opportunities that arise from ecosystem service markets, and the financial assets they create, is the potential for cash to finance these assessment, valuation, and monitoring systems. Within a bit of forethought, we can develop planning and assessment tools that allow for valuation, monitoring, and brokering of ecosystem services.

Square Watermelons

Those creative Japanese! They’ve determined a method for growing square watermelons….I wonder what the European fruit and vegetable regulators would think of this puppy.

By the way, it costs $83.

BEE Japan

BEE Japan (Bicycle for Everyone’s Earth) is a bicycle group cycling for two months to raise awareness of ‘earth-friendly’ practices.

Here are the practices:

* Travelling the length of Japan exclusively by bicycle
* Eating low on the food chain (vegetarian)
* Choosing organic products whenever possible
* Choosing fair trade products whenever possible
* Supporting local economies by buying local produce
* Avoiding chain stores and convenience stores, and using no vending machines.
* Minimizing waste by choosing less packaged products, buying reusable, recycled and recyclable items, and using no waribashi or other disposable eating utensils.

The Amish

I’ve always respected many of the ethical and environmental practices of the Amish (and find it strange that their nutritional practices don’t seem to follow their other environmental ethic).

A recent Chicago Tribune article finds they are expanding:

The Amish are expanding their presence in states far beyond Pennsylvania Dutch country as they search for affordable farmland to accommodate a population that has nearly doubled in the past 16 years, a new study found.

States such as Missouri, Kentucky and Minnesota have seen increases of more than 130 percent in their Amish populations. The Amish now number an estimated 227,000 nationwide, up from 123,000 in 1992, according to Elizabethtown College researchers.

“When we think they might be dying out or merely surviving, they are actually thriving,” said professor Don Kraybill, who shared data from an upcoming book with The Associated Press.

The Amish are Christians who reject most modern conveniences. They began arriving in Pennsylvania around 1730. Amish couples typically have five or more children. With more than four out of every five deciding in young adulthood to remain in the church, their population has grown. More than half the population is younger than 21. A small portion of the increase is also due to conversions to the faith.

Happy Birthday Social Security

The Social Security system turns 73 this month. The Providence Journal carried an editorial this morning about Social Security. The editorial points out…in addition to the $10 trillion-plus shortfall…that the program creates no wealth. It merely pays current obligations with our withheld income.

Because it is a politically managed system, the government can change how much it withholds (it has increased payroll taxes 17 times since 1935), how it pays benefits, who benefits… As the editorial writer says, the only thing you can count on is that it is a massive drain on the earnings from your work.

The writer makes the very interesting observation that, in order to ensure a ‘retirement’ for everyone, we are depriving young workers of their ability -and freedom- to plan their own futures.

He believes Social Security is morally irredeemable.