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Thursday, September 26, 2019

The Insanity of Consumerism

Somewhere along the way the American Dream became defined by owning more stuff than your neighbor. Is that the new truth? Do we need a bigger house and a better car to find happiness? Does it come about when we sacrifice our dreams for the pursuit of stuff?


People have individual lives and experiences, thoughts, feelings, ambitions and passions. Full reliance on marketing practices like ABC1 grouping and demographics etc are beyond antiquated, they are insulting. 

Any ‘glitches’ in trends or expectations referred to as ‘anomalies’ would only go to prove the theories’ own redundancy. Marketing companies and corporations who pedal this practice and terminology only go to show they have little understanding of human behavior, after all, we are not pre-programmed machines. 

However, it proves a second issue. Referring to the meaning of consumption and it’s a mismatched relationship with a real economy, iterating and encouraging consumption without regard is fueling an ecological disaster.

Advertising and marketing agencies are among the worst offenders. Pitching their services to prospective clients through their websites, they’ll insist on the importance of aiming and targeting consumers and of course, increasing one’s share of the market. So hypothetically, not only do we have metaphorical targets on our backs for the benefit of businesses, but we’re subtly termed as cattle too, herded from one commodity and trend to the next. To some agencies, people are mere walking and talking dollar signs. Discarded plastics floating in the ocean.

Today we live in a world whereby 2050, plastics in our ocean will outnumber fish. This statistic is frightening. The fact that we live on a beautiful, Eden-like paradise which we continue to exploit at an alarming rate is beggars belief. And for what? Cheap chocolate? A popular brand? More sex appeal? For the advances we have achieved technologically as a species, our behavior is still rather primitive.

So who’s to blame? To look for the guilty we have only to look into a mirror. Companies have a duty to be responsible and to treat the planet and its life with the utmost respect, and marketing agencies must exercise moral practices where they refer to people with diligence and not mere statistics. 

However, the entire global system as we know it is propped up by people’s consumer habits. We have a choice to live in a better, cleaner world, and that can be decided upon what we take to the till. From how we choose to spend money, companies could make or break, whether they are willing to change their ways and listen to people’s concerns.

What this proves is the power of a simple word, and how issues can arise if they’re poorly handled. Yes consumption has been an activity for centuries in its various ways, but over the last 200 years (especially the post-war boom in the 1940s/50s) pillaging the planet has not just become a daily routine, it’s big business. Thankfully sustainable development movements have become more mainstream, but more needs to be done.

The truth at the time of writing is that Planet Earth could survive without people, but people couldn’t survive without Planet Earth. The actions of people can have far-reaching consequences. If you want to play a part in tomorrow’s world, engage in research, get involved in debates, say what you know, and think of what you say.

It won't be long before our freshwater lakes, rivers and oceans will not be able to sustain life.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Why You Should Care That Fewer Kids Are Riding Bikes

Here in America, the number of kids who ride bikes has declinedby 19 percent since 2007, and 2018 holiday bikes sales were down 10 percent from 2017. Advocates and industry analysts offer all sorts of explanations as to why this is happening, from the pervasiveness of video games and screen-based entertainment, to the highly structured and programmed nature of childhood recreation in general. But the most obvious and fundamental reason fewer kids are riding bikes these days is sitting right in your driveway.

It’s your car.

For all the stranger danger! and just say no! warnings that we’ve subjected our kids to over the years, the number-one threat to their lives is cars. Only guns come close. Therefore, everything that makes it possible for you to drive everywhere also serves to ensure that their environment remains deadly. The roads are far too dangerous thanks to all the car traffic, and even the sidewalks are bisected by active driveways. Car dependence also means our retail districts are no longer to human scale, much less the scale of a child; whereas once upon a time a kid may have ridden down to the soda fountain for an egg cream or whatever they used to drink, today it’s a Cotton Candy Crème Frappuccino® Blended Crème dispensed from a Starbucks surrounded by a hundred parking spaces.

On top of all that, our cars are only getting bigger and more powerful, and there are more of them on our roads every year. According to Federal Highway Administration data, as of 2017 there were about 272 million registered vehicles in the United States, up from 260 million in 2014. Furthermore, these vehicles are increasingly SUVs and pickup trucks with jacked-up chassis and higher horsepower, which means they’re more likely to kill. Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that between 2014 and 2018 the number of kids who ride bikes regularly fell by one million—hardly surprising when you consider that the roads are ruled by motor vehicles so large that a child on a bicycle barely clears the front bumper. 


All of this is fairly obvious to anybody who walks or rides a bike. Nevertheless, researchers continue to try to make sense of child ridership data like confused diners attempting to sort their refuse at Whole Foods. For example, a poll by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan, found that “parents of kids who do not ride bikes cited lack of interest (51 percent), not knowing how to ride (40 percent) and having no safe place nearby to ride (22 percent) as the main reasons for not riding.”

You can chuck these numbers into the same bin and be done with them. The “lack of interest” is no doubt on the part of the parents, who don’t ride bikes for exactly the same reason their children don’t. (Too many cars, see above.) The “not knowing how to ride” is because these car-addled parents aren’t teaching them, and the reason they lack safe places to ride is because there aren’t any. In 2019 there is absolutely no place left in America that is safe from cars—not even your local pizzeria.

So why does any of this matter? After all, times change, and if kids would rather drive around in electric Jeeps then what’s wrong with that? Well, nothing really, apart from the fact that you’re totally depriving them of any chance of attaining true and lasting happiness. The bicycle is freedom, and research shows that free kids are happy kids. Furthermore, some of the freest and happiest kids on the planet just happen to live in parts of the world where they’re able to ride bicycles. (Dutch kids are among the happiest in the world, and it ain’t because of the weather.) Most importantly, a cycling child has a better chance of sustaining that happiness into adulthood, since cycling is the happiest form of transportation. Car commuting, on the other hand, makes people miserable, unhealthy and violent.

Or, if you prefer to look at it more pragmatically, the United States is urbanizing along with the rest of the world. This means your childen will most likely be seeking their fortunes in cities, where cars are a liability and planners are shifting to bike lanes and bike share programs. Would you leave your kids alone at the pool if they couldn’t swim? No you wouldn’t. So why send them to the city car-dependent and unable to get around by bike?

In light of our children’s health and happiness, and the environment, and 40,000 traffic deaths a year, and a thousand other reasons, we should be weaning ourselves off cars as quickly as possible and equipping our kids for a two-wheeled future. Cities such as New York clearly recognize the demand for more bicycle infrastructure, which is why they’ve been adding it, albeit slowly. What they haven’t been doing is creating bike infrastructure safe enough for people of all ages to use it, which should be the real standard. (New York’s “protected” bike lanes often don’t offer true protection even for adults, just like your “organic” food may not really organic.)

And what no city in America has done yet is to officially prioritize children’s lives over driver convenience by redesigning streets to that end and enacting policy to match, which is what they did in Amsterdam in the 1970s. Until that happens we’ll never break the deadly cycle that compels us to shuttle our children around in what are basically armored personnel carriers—until they’re old enough to take to the streets on bikes by themselves, at which point we treat them like criminals.

In the meantime, you really owe it to your kids to get them riding. It may take a little effort, but it’s far from impossible. And if you don’t they could resent you for it later.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Seventh Fire

If fossil fuels pipelines like the Dakota Access, Keystone, and Line 3 are about “energy security,” how about we put our money where our mouth is? 

The Dakota Access Pipeline is a $3.9 billion clusterfuck; Enbridge’s Line 3 project is an even worse hemorrhage at $7 billion. That money could buy you a pipeline for a Canadian corporation to get some filthy tar sands oil to market and bake the planet– or you could erect 580 two-megawatt wind turbines, install 716,000 five-kilowatt systems on that many homes, and retrofit another 283,000 homes for efficiency. That’s energy security.


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

I’m Done Mowing My Lawn

Americans are devoted to their lawns, planting enough sod to cover the state of Florida, making turf grass the largest irrigated crop in the country. To keep the grass green, some of us pump our landscapes full of pesticides, chemicals that potentially harm our children, pets, and waterways. We use 7 billion gallons of water a day on our yards, wasting half of it to run off, over-watering and evaporation.

A front lawn is a great place to grow a vegetable garden. 

And those gas-powered mowers, edgers, and leaf blowers spew millions of tons of pollutants into the air, fine particulate matter that we inhale as we work to keep our lawns looking pretty. All that hard work does little to attract the bees, butterflies, and birds that prefer a different kind of habitat. “You might as well have AstroTurf when it comes to the value of lawns to birds and butterflies,” said David Mizejewski, a naturalist at the National Wildlife Federation. 

Saturday, April 13, 2019

It's Called Thinking

George Carlin. He would have a field day with what's going on politically and the media frenzy surrounding it today.

Separating factual news statements from opinions
If you get your news and political persuasion from TV news you are clearly misinformed. It takes no effort to fall into a recliner, grab a beer, the remote and let the corporate pundits play with your brain for a couple hours every day. 

Nothing is easier than feeding off the opinions of others rather than taking the time to do a little research and come up with your own. The media cranks know this and through AI and other forms of tracking, they know the intelligence level and habits of their audience and keep feeding them bullshit. 

Their only interest is their bottom line. And their bottom line is huge. Advertising is the biggest business in the world. So to keep you riveted and the bucks rolling in, their content has to be blockbuster type stuff. Accurate? Not so much. Truthful? Doesn't matter.

"Six Corporations or 15 billionaires own America's news media companies and control 90% of the media in America. By contrast in 1983, 90% of the American media was owned by 50 companies. But the fact that a few companies own everything demonstrates "the illusion of choice.” They control what you watch and conversely how you think."

Today, algorithms know what we do, what we think and how we feel—possibly even better than our friends and family or even ourselves. Often the recommendations we are offered fit so well that the resulting decisions feel as if they were our own, even though they are actually not our decisions. In fact, we are being remotely controlled ever more successfully in this manner. The more is known about us, the less likely our choices are to be free and not predetermined by others, and their opinions.

Horror stories, aka news, is what sells Cokes, Big Macs, Twinkies and a truckload of other shit we can live without. Human suffering, chaos, corruption, natural disasters, and trainwrecks are what sells -- always has. And the biggest trainwreck -- ever -- is Donald Trump and his presidency.

The news media has fallen all over themselves covering this disaster. Nobody has received more free advertising than him. The media throws out a bone, he tweets and the whole world goes off the rails. You either worship him (unbelievable) or hate him and it has divided the country if not the entire world.

However, it’s not Trump nor his antics. It’s the media that has created this shit storm.
 They provide him a platform like no other public figure ever, without being required to disclose sources behind the misinformation efforts. And it doesn’t matter if it’s FOX, CNN, ABC, CBS or NBC. They're all in it together. Trump is there for the ride, taking the presidency with him. And that office will never be the same, at least in our lifetime. It’s a money scam to end all scams at the expense of Democracy.

So what if I'm an asshole. I'm president.

The last election cost roughly $6 billion with the lion’s share going to the major media outlets -- 
and that's peanuts compared to what's generated every day because of this fiascoThey want and need Trump. They know we tune in to watch his next trainwreck and the media is wringing their sweaty little hands. Their only job is to keep feeding his followers and making sure the other side is listening. 

The only downside and what the media fears the most is that they will do such a good job that some, even Trump followers, might actually get fed up, click off the TV, and start thinking for themselves, do their own research and actually form THEIR OWN OPINION. That alone could make America great again.

But hang on a new Shit Show is about to start. It will be worse than the last.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Kroger Says Goodbye to Plastic Shopping Bags

Last year, Kroger pledged to phase out single-use plastic bags from all 2700 of its grocery stores, across 35 states, by 2025.

That phase-out began in Seattle-based QFC stores this month, and will continue in Kroger, Ralph’s, Harris Teeter, Food 4 Less and Pick n’ Save (all owned by Kroger Co.) in months to come.

Of the 100 billion plastic bags thrown away every year in the United States, 6 billion come from Kroger stores.

“We listen very closely to our customers and our communities, and we agree with their growing concerns,” Mike Donnelly, Kroger’s executive vice president, and COO, said in a press release.

Kroger customers will be able to buy reusable bags for $1 to $2 each. Paper bags will still be available for free for now, but the company says its goal is to eventually transition fully to reusable bags.

A few quick facts from the Center for Biological Diversity:
  • Americans use 12 million barrels of oil a year to make single-use plastic shopping bags.
  • The average American family takes home almost 1,500 plastic shopping bags a year.
  • Only 1 percent are returned for recycling.
  • 100,000 marine animals are killed by plastic bags annually.
  • Plastic bags are used for an average of 12 minutes.
  • It takes at least 500 years for a plastic bag to degrade in a landfill.
  • It never fully biodegrades but breaks down into tiny micro-plastics that pollute our seafood and soil.
Forbes Magazine photo: Snopes reports of a dead whale with a large amount of debris in its stomach are real. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Cycling And Walking Could Solve America's Public-Health Crisis

A tub-thumper of a report from the League of American Bicyclists lays it on the line: more cycling – and walking – would radically improve health in America, as well as reduce traffic congestion.

However, the 409-page Benchmarking Report shows with stats and graphics the increasing number of bicyclists and pedestrians being killed annually on America’s roads. The report claims a lack of leadership by federal and state leaders on road safety has failed to make improvements in bicyclist and pedestrian safety.

“The way we’re investing in infrastructure isn’t working,” said League policy director Ken McLeod, lead author of the report.

“There is a crisis in traffic safety and we have the tools to reduce the number of bicyclists and pedestrians killed on our roads every year.”

McLeod added: “We need leaders at the national and state levels to take action: adopt Complete Streets policies, draft and implement bike and pedestrian master plans, and build protected infrastructure.”

“While the state and safety of bicycling and walking may seem dire, it’s not all bad news. The data shows there are places like Oregon, Minneapolis, and Washington, DC, where officials are working with advocates on the ground to create communities that are more welcoming for bicyclists and pedestrians. Local bike advocates are working to meet their communities’ needs and make biking better.”

Produced with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, retiree organization AARP, and Toole Design Group, the 2018 Benchmarking Report shows the urgency to encourage healthy living options. 75-150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week can lead to health benefits and may help prevent obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and asthma, says the report.

Mississippi is highlighted in the report as the deadliest state for bicyclists yet the Magnolia State also has the lowest percent of commuters biking to work in 2016 at just 0.1% of the population.

Conversely, cities where the rate of cycling to work is highest – such as Portland, Oregon – have the lowest rate of bicyclist fatalities.

Oregon has the nation’s lowest rate of bicyclist fatalities per bike commuter (1.7 deaths per 10,000 bicycle commuters), with a 30.9% decrease in the number of bicyclist fatalities (from an average of 11 deaths per year from 2007-11 to 7.6 deaths per year from 2012-2016) and a 46.5% increase in the number of bicycle commuters (from 29,156 in 2007 to 42,725 in 2016).

The League claims that this suggests that “bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities are not inevitable when people bike and walk more but may be reduced through proactive policy, infrastructure, education, and other community investments in bicycling and walking.”

READ FULL REPORT HERE >>  Forbes February 8, 2019

I dare you to watch this video

Over the past 12 years of publishing Alternatives Magazine I've read and featured a lot of articles about carnages, disasters and WTF moments. BUT I've never seen anything like this.

I recently subscribed to a newsletter called "Veganuary." Yes, it's about being a vegetarian. I've been a meat eater most of my life but thought I would check out vegetarianism, given the horror stories I've been reading about our meat processing and factory farmed food. 

However, I never expected to see what I saw on this video. If you watch it and last through the first 5 minutes without having some abnormal body trauma you would have lasted longer than I did. 

It's a 2-hour documentary (I plan to watch it in small doses). It's not for the faint of heart. It's called Dominion

The Basics of Life

  By Willard “Woody” Michels Guest Blogger A couple years ago a man named Gabriel Sherman wrote a book, “The Loudest Voice in the Room.” Th...