Posts Tagged ‘agriculture’

Feeding the Birds and the People

June 8, 2018

While staying on Kauai, Hawaii, I have been observing a cardinal every morning. This beautiflul red bird has lighted upon the deckrail, shortly after each sunrise each day. His visits demonstrate a boldness on his part to venture into areas of human domain. But that boldness is tempered with a shyness by which he promptly flys away as soon as I make any movement in his direction.

Comparing these bird encounters with similar episodes at our home in the Carolina Blue Ridge, I surmise a personality trait that seems to be characteristic of the cardinal breed. It’s probably my imagination that the  colorful creature has some comprehension of his special status among the kingdom of the birds. He seems to understand  (or so it seems to me) that this human is fascinated by his flashy appearance; he also knows that his bright profile is, in some settings, a liability, because the bright red makes it easier for nearby predators to catch sight of him and perhaps eat him.

However, Mr. Cardinal’s skittishness did not interfere this morning with my continuing attempts to capture a pic of him. I was pleased this morning to find that the different physical arrangement here in Hawaii have made it possible for me to snap the pic.

FeedCardnl

My Christian perspective on life in this world prompts me to accompany this amazing  (to me) photo with a scriptural reference. Here’s the first one I thought of, in the words of Jesus:

“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”

In this case, I, human, am representing the heavenly Father in dropping those cereal crumbs onto the deckrail for our scarlet friend.

Meanwhile, feeling satisfied that I have managed to capture, here in Hawaii, that flighty image of the bright cardinal which I could never manage to obtain back home, I’ll cast another crumb of interest in here for you to nibble on.

Before Mr. Cardinal visited this morning, I was continuing my read of Edward Joesting’s excellent book on Kauai, Kauai: The Separate Kingdom.   

https://www.amazon.com/Kauai-Separate-Edward-Joesting-III/dp/0824811623/

In chapter 7, Mr. Joesting reports on the beginnings of commercial agriculture on the island of Kauai. The earliest enterprises were initiated by a trio of American business partners who were working with Hawaiian leaders with assistance from Christian missionaries who had arrived in the 1820’s.

Long about 1835, some Americans leased a large tract of land from Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III) Kaikioewa, the governor of Kauai.

What fascinates me about this development in Hawaiian history is the changes in motivation that Hawaiian working people found themselves adopting in response to the new capitalistic farms.

On page 131 of his book, Edward Joesting wrote:

“In agreement with the philosophy of the missionaries, the lease stipulated that native laborers be encouraged to work on the land. For this right the company would pay to the king and the governor twenty-five cents per month for each man. And it was further stated that each worker would be paid a satisfactory wage and be exempted from all taxation. This taxation had taken the form of labor performed for the chiefs and such other contributions as the chiefs wished to impose.”

As agriculture and business later developed in Kauai during the next twenty years or so, what this arrangement amounted to, economically and sociologically, was this:

Whatever ancient cultural motivations that had traditionally compelled Hawaiian working folk to labor for their tribe and their chiefs—these motivations were being supplanted by new incentives, directly related to 19th-century agricultural scales and practices, and modern, capitalistic business.

On page 132, Edward Joesing wrote:

“The idea of Hawaiians working for an employer who paid them wages, which could be disposed of as the earner saw fit, suddenly introduced a concept of independence that was not easily understood by the commoners and was feared by the chiefs. Adding to the independence of the commoners was the fact that the commoners no longer had to pay taxes to the chiefs. It was more than the average islander could comprehend. There was nothing in their history, no precedent, no legend, that could be used to bridge the gap. . .

On occasion the workers went through the motions of caring for the fields, accomplishing practically nothing. The plantation manager was beside himself (mad). He did not know the Hawaiians still could not comprehend the fact that their wages and the things they bought with them would be their own posessions and coud not appropriated at will by the chiefs.”

My rationale for combining these two different encounters—one with a fresh understanding of historical changes in 1830’s Kauai, and the other with a visiting cardinal this morning—my reasoning may not be entirely clear to you; it’s not even so clear to me, except it has something to do with this quote from a gospel:

“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”

FieldHawaii

King of Soul

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Oh, Give Them

June 13, 2016

Oh give them some land to work with

and some water to make stuff grow.

Give them some tools to turn the earth over

and push all that dirt around,

productively.

Teach them to Plow it and disc it and

tend it and harvest it

and ship the Fruits of it out so folks can

Eat.

And give them some Water; we need

water.

Oh yeah let ’em eat drink and be merry.

Yeah, let ’em do all that

in this our promised land.

Let ’em slice it and dice it and

multiply, divide it.

PlotTown

Let ’em add this that and the other

and subtract what they think they don’t need,

let ’em Seed and Feed.

PlotSqr

Let the wise lead,

and hope they’ve chosen wisely.

Let the simple be fulfilled,

and not by their leaders be killed.

At the Wonder of it all, let us be thrilled.

Let us carve the earth and marvel at it all–

what we’ve done and what

we’ve made.

SouthBay

But hey, please don’t let it go to our heads.

Instead, help us

Try to keep it in perspective with

some eyes on the big picture,

eyes on the prize

not obsessing with the size

of all this stuff.

Give us some Air to breath

and help us put on some wings and fly

AirLand

Oh yeah

but help them limit our negative effects; let them

temper their intrusions, boost our inclusion.

We need to regulate it and yet we need

to deregulate it help us

figure all that part out that

delicate balance

sensitive valence.

We gotta prioritize it  and sensibly control it.

Let ’em have a firm hand, a steady hand,

but, yeah, a gentle hand.

Let them take care in what they do with the earth

and the air.

Let them share;

and yes, be fair.

Yeah, let us be fair to one another,

and make sure there’s enough to go around

for everybody. I’m not making this up.

Let them prosper and proceed

with their plans

but let them pray

today.

Yea, Let us pray.

Hey God. . .

Glass half-Full

Incentives for Development instead of Dependency

December 13, 2015

I’ve been working for the last six years as a maintenance man in an apartment complex that houses 92 households.

You know as well as I do that it is not easy to get up and go to a job five days out of every week that goes by, and to do this week after week, month after month, year after year.

Now for an old guy like me, age 64, while approaching that precipice called “retirement” and considering how/when such an arrangement may take shape, it has been difficult lately.

I’ve been struggling with a few issues, both public and private, pertaining to this job that has occupied 40 hours of my time every week for the last six years.

The apartment complex in which I maintain all this stuff–toilets, faucets, sinks, drains, light fixtures, electrical outlets, water heaters, doors, windows, cabinets, floors, stairways, interiors, exteriors, dumpsters, trash, smoke-filled rooms. . .this apartment community is a public housing arrangement in which rents are subsidized, according to need and income, through funds that have been provided through taxpayer money.

I confess that one problem I have had lately comes from wondering why I have to do all this work, when many tenants don’t seem to have much to occupy their time. I mean, everybody has a TV and that’s okay.

I don’t really want to elude my responsibilities as an employed person. But I do believe that if there is, among the hundred+ residents here, a good person who is willing to take on some responsibility to do some necessary work. . .that person should be allowed to contribute some of their time and effort toward making the community facilities cleaner and more operative.

But I cannot expect this type of help from tenants.

I am, you know, the employee, while they are the tenants. I am the worker; they are the recipients of my services.

And I have, during previous periods of my life, benefited from some college-level training in education. Accordingly, I would like to take opportunities now and then to teach others, especially children, to do for themselves instead of me the Maintenance guy doing all of it.

A year or two ago, a good thing happened in this complex where I work. A helpful tenant who lives here took it upon himself to help me in cleaning one of our two laundry rooms. I was pleased to have his participation, especially since I have a steady stream of vacancies to deal with–vacancies that require painting, cleaning and repairs. There should be more people in the world who are like this good citizen who has volunteered to help make the community in which he lives, in which I work, a better place.

Nevertheless, I was informed that it was not his place to do so. Because he is, after all, the tenant, while I am the employee.

In other instances during my six years, tenants have been compelled to uproot plants–decorative and vegetable– that they had planted in the mulched sterile areas around the buildings. Because it was against the rules. Management is supposed to do all that, and make those decisions, etc. And this place is subsidized by the USDA. The A stands for Agriculture. Fed-approved agriculture of course, not tenant-planted agriculture.

I told a friend of mine recently that if I had a million bucks I’d buy the whole dam place and then let the tenants have their own community garden instead of these useless ornamental shrubs and mulch, and I’d turn my maintenance job over to a tenant committee where they could divvy out the work as it arises, and be compensated accordingly with rent credit or benefits or cash.

Well, my struggle with these issues was punctuated this Sunday morning with some other inputs about this type of situation.

I was listening in on Listening In, which is an online audio program that is provided weekly by World Magazine, of which I am a subscriber.

  http://www.worldmag.com/player.php?podcast/7467

In this recorded discussion, I heard host Warren Smith interviewing guest Jennifer Marshall, who represents the Institute for Family, Community and Opportunity of the Heritage Foundation. They were conducting a fresh discussion about a tired old topic, welfare reform.

Jennifer was explaining the outcome of a recent forum at Heritage, the purpose of which was to help people escape poverty.

She mentioned that the major welfare reform of 1996 had been successful in reducing welfare loads and reducing child poverty. But only one program was dealt with. She further stated what needs to happen is reform of–not just cash welfare program– but food stamps, public housing and other programs. And then she made this statement:

“The incentives right now are structured toward dependence; let’s get them structured toward moving people back to independence, back to flourishing in their communities.”

And I thought, she may have a good point there. But I don’t know what I could do about it.

Life goes on.

In other news, its a beautiful, sunny day here in the Blue Ridge.

Have a nice day, and a satisfyingly productive week.

Glass half-Full

River runs through US

October 25, 2015

Sun fire heat radiation flings slings planets orbits

Earth magma rock stone rubble gravel sand silicon chip

Sky air cloud mist snow sleet rain drops

Water current stream brook creek spring gurgle trickle drips

Drips trickle gurgle spring creek brook stream River

River

RiverAir

Life breath move hear see smell feel think do

Eat drink sleep pee shit sleep wake walk work

Work hunt gather slaughter harvest winnow store

Store winnow harvest slaughter gather hunt work

Work buy sell prosper town street city ride sail travel drive fly

Fly

RivrUrbn

It all happens, by n’ by.

Glass Chimera

Blogenomics and The Economist

January 1, 2012

What’s amusing is that The Economist employs a lyrical framework from John Lennon’s Revolution song, to contextualize their current analysis of blogo-economics. While the late Mr. Lennon fancied himself a working-class hero, the clever writers at The Economist fancy themselves as pop-culture revisionists, capable of synthesizing Liverpoodlian sardonics with marginal economics.

http://www.economist.com/noe/21542174

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Imb4tYOk8GE

The Economist, that notable London rag conceived in the fervor of British mercantilism 170 years ago, has scored quite a smashing insight with its treatment of Marginal Revolutionaries, on page 51 of the current print edition, the last of 2011. While minting out differences between the the three currently relevent blogecons–Neochartalists, Market monetarists and Austrians–this magazine has also managed to expose its own most fundamental blind-spot.

After a page or two of expostulating on the nuanced difference between the two Keynesian perspectives–the Neochartalists and the Market monetarists, the Economist’s exploratory prose finally hovers about the Austrian school. Those frugal, post-von Mises thinkers, harboring such “pre-Freudian inhibitions” as they do, argue that central banks distort the business cycle with “malinvestment.”  The long and short of it is that such overblown, centralized malinvestment distortion diverts precious capital– which should be opportunized for “long-gestation investment projects”– to “more immediate gratifications”, or short-term stuff. Such as, I presume, the meandering shopping notions of a fickle consumer public.

But what really got my goat–cluelessly intuitive Austrian neophyte that I am–is this statement, which occurred at the conclusion of The Economist’s Austrian exposition on page 54 or the article:

“But this malinvestment cannot explain why 21.8 Americans remain unemployed or underemployed five years after the housing boom peaked.”

To which I was, like, lol, and like, duh!: Outsourcing!

What’s America going to do? What’s America going to do now that developing nations are producing, at a third the cost, all those durables that we were cranking out so prodigiously a hundred years ago?

The grand ole days of American industrifest destiny are gone forever!  Gone, for the most part, are the washing machine assembly lines. Flownaway are the Maytags and the Whirlpools! Where are the great teeming steam-belching factories of days gone by? Cranking out microwaves and cars and blenders and suspenders and goodness-knows-what-all? Gone to BRICs, almost every one. When will they ever learn? Your unabashedly globalist predisposition doth bare naked your naivete, Mr. Economist.

Back in the day, we used to dig gargantuan tonnages of raw stuff out of the ground and expend vast amounts of capital, labor, energy, and toil and sweat to produce copious goods that were shipped off to Sears and Wards and then Kmart and what not, so that the huddling masses yearning to be free of discomfort and liberated from their meager immigrant existence could graduate to becoming middle class Americans with picket fences double garages dogs in the yard microwaves not to mention tvs and radios and then vcrs,  personal computers, xboxes, pet rocks and laptops.

But now? What do we yankess make from nothing now? Carbon emissions? Ha!

Nowadays, about the only thing that Americans produce from raw resources is food: grains and meat, vegetables. The only true wealth that we generate comes from our vast breadbasket of food production, farming and ranching. The third world hath undercut us with their burgeoning new economies, and left us first-worldians in the dust!

Think about that. Its time for us couch potatoes to get back to the earth. Maybe the woodstockian children of God walking along the road (as Joni called them) were on to something: Gotta get back to the land and set my soul (my economy) free. We are stardust, baby! because you see, as Ringo once explained in a car commercial: “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile.”

Now there’s your Revolution, Mr. Lenin! or excuse me, Mr. Lennon. And there, Mr. Economist, is your fourth estate of the emerging blogosphere econs: the fundamentalist school of economics. To whit: People have to eat. And although they may “consume” manufactured  goods and services, they do not eat most of them. We cannot digest iPads, nor iPods, nor drycleaners nor hairstylists, nor federal reserve notes, no matter how easily our banks and bigboxes have quanitatively acquired them.

Oh ye media-lobotomized Americans! Food is where its at. Do your due diligence now; prepare to invest in it. Dig into the back .40. Get your hands soily. There’s the “real” growth potential with which those NGDP (nominal gross domestic product)-touting market monetarist free-spenders will someday eat their theoretical words.

Glass half-Full