Monday, September 22, 2008


I saw an excellent documentary yesterday, titled "FLOW" (FLOW stands for "For Love Of Water). I thought to myself, man, I must be getting old if I'm voluntarily going to watch a whole movie just about water. But I'm really glad I did!

It was a compelling look at water systems around the world, and a call for action. I thought I would walk away feeling badly for all the people who live in third world countries without access to safe, clean drinking water. And I did. But I also received the rude awakening that our own water systems here in the US are not as safe or as clean (or as stable) as we'd maybe like to believe they are. As if to underscore this point, the AP ran this article today about rocket fuel in public water supplies.

The threat that is posed to people around the world if we don't reign in the power of some of the large global corporations is made clear. Coca Cola's actions in Plachimada, India is an issue that I've addressed previously. What I didn't know is that the Nestle Corporation has threatened and abused local water supplies right here in the United States (namely Michigan).

This is a wonderful film that I would encourage everybody to see if they have the chance. As alarming as the world water situation is, I didn't leave feeling despair. I left feeling that we haven't yet passed the point of no return. There is still time for us to fix what we've broken - and doing that will require, to paraphrase one of the interviewees from the film, for all of us to decide what we value, and to begin acting accordingly.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Posts are due today for the second APLS blog carnival on the topic of affluence! Make your submissions to aplscarnival [at] gmail [dot] com.

The response last time was amazing; I can't wait to see what everybody comes up with this month!

Also, don't forget to check out the APLS blog to see if a regional group has formed for your area yet - it's a great way to connect with other APLS living near you. If a group hasn't formed, you can always start one! Just send us a note and we'd be happy to get you started.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

give me a break...

I'm not one who normally watches a lot of television, especially during the day. Every now and then, though, a good dose of Judge Judy can restore for us the illusion that we are far more normal than the rest of the population. So yesterday, I caved.

What horrified me most was not the woman who was fighting with her deceased fiance's mother over the property purchased with the income from his drug dealing business prior to his death, but an advertisement I saw during a commercial break.

The ad featured a bunch of kids playing in a park, with two moms standing by a picnic table. One of them starts pouring cups of some sort of red juice drink from a gallon jug. The other mom questions why she doesn't seem to care what she lets her kids consume, including high fructose corn syrup.

The mom pouring the crap responds by indicating that corn syrup is all natural, (made from corn!), comparable in calories to sugar, and fine in moderation. The other mom stutters and looks stupid before finally saying, "hey, that's a great blouse you're wearing."

I hate to break it to all of us, but this is America, and moderation is not something we're particularly good at.

Apparently the fact that a food is comparable to sugar is the new standard. The fact that it is devoid of other nutritional value is not relevant.

What bothers me about this commercial is that there are people out there who will see it and use it as an excuse to continue making poor dietary choices for themselves and their children. I guess that's kind of the point, though.

Did anyone else catch this commercial?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

we should be scared

I've been thinking a lot these days about the connection between our ability to gather together to build community and our ability to create a better world. There is absolutely a link between our ability to freely exercise our rights as guaranteed under the constitution (freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly) and our ability to make a lasting change in the way we protect (or refuse to protect) our planet.

I'm beginning to doubt whether substantive changes will ever take place after some of the news out of Minnesota this week. We keep hearing about the gradual erosion of our civil liberties, but most people don't actually seem all that concerned. Why?

A journalist named Amy Goodman was arrested with two of the producers of her news show while they were recording protest events at the RNC, despite wearing their press identification and verbally identifying themselves as press. Do your own homework, but if you think this is wrong, consider contacting the District Attorney or other public officials and demand that they drop the charges against these journalists.

There were many other abuses of power and authority in St. Paul last week - this is an excellent editorial that looks at some of the arrests and the reasons behind them.

I'm disgusted and appalled. I don't even have the stomach to write more.

Friday, September 5, 2008


APLS stands for “Affluent People Living Sustainably.” The part of this acronym that consistently makes people cringe and consider opting out is the “A” for Affluent. Some may confess that they haven’t reached a totally sustainable lifestyle yet, and are still working towards it (which is true for almost all of us, by the way!) but nearly everyone protests at the use of the word affluent. “I’m not affluent” is very often the immediate reaction. gives the following definition of the word: “having an abundance of wealth, property, or other material goods; prosperous; rich.” Within the context of one’s town, state, or even country, many of us could rightly claim that, relatively speaking, we are not affluent. As APLS, however, we recognize that a global perspective is crucial to healing the problems faced by our world today, like climate change. Taken from a global perspective then, there are very few people living in the industrialized world who are not affluent. Assume for a moment that you make $6 an hour. This is certainly not enough money to be considered affluent by US standards. But when looked at from the global point of view, that income still would place you in the top 12.88% of the world’s wealthiest people. Check out the globalrichlist and play around with the numbers. It’s scary and interesting at the same time. Let’s skip past the “wealth and property” section of the definition of affluence for a moment, and focus on the other aspects, which include having an abundance of other material goods. Most of us in this country, regardless of how small our incomes, have enough money to own more than one pair of pants, and more than one shirt. If we were honest about it, most of us probably own more shirts than we can readily list. We therefore have an abundance of clothing. Most of us also own many other material goods. For example, I don’t eat my dinner on the floor, because I have a table to sit at, and chairs to sit in. I eat baked items when I want to because I have an oven to cook my food in. I am entertained at the push of a button because I have a television. None of these items are markers of affluence in North American society, where I live, but they certainly would be in many parts of the world. Any travel to parts of the globe that are still industrializing quickly reveals that there are many, many, many, people today living without a change of clothes, even while the ones they are wearing are dirty and torn. Countless people live in shacks and huts that are too small to contain a kitchen table or chairs. Even if they somehow made space for an oven, electricity is not reliable and fuel is too expensive to run such luxury appliances. Even as communities, we are wealthy. We have no shortage of hospitals, schools, roads, police, fire departments, safe drinking water, and on and on. It seems hard, then, when we really consider our fortune compared to the rest of the world, to claim we are not affluent. Even those of us who are voluntarily leading simpler lives are still affluent in the global context. Yet there does seem to be some resistance still to this word. Is it a collective guilt? Does the idea of our being affluent somehow run counter to the ideals we thought we adhered to and lived by? Are we worried that assuming this label puts us in the company of people like Imelda Marcos and Kenneth Lay? If that’s the concern, it seems a bit unfounded. We don’t live in a black and white world. There are a million shades of color. Just because we aren’t Bill Gates doesn’t mean we aren’t wealthy. If we have a change of clothes, or a car, television, refrigerator, oven, dishwasher, dvd player, or computer, we are affluent compared to most of the world. To deny that in some ways takes away from the experience of the person who truly does live in poverty. Living on very little money in an industrialized country is not really comparable to being poor in Sub-Saharan Africa, or southeast Asia, or many other places around the world. As APLS, what we must come to terms with is not whether or not we are affluent, but how to deal with our affluence. And that is the power of this community. With affluence comes choice – the choice to live sustainably or not. Looked at another way, if you are choosing to live sustainably, you are privileged in a way that many in the world are not. We are the privileged few in this world who can afford to live unsustainably. Yet we are choosing not to. Rather than deny our privilege, we must accept the responsibility to live our lives in the most sustainable manner possible, and to encourage others to do so as well, in whatever way is comfortable for each of us. What most of us are finding is that we are even more affluent than we thought after making the choice to live as sustainably as we can. Because the realization that we all keep coming to is that more money doesn't make us feel any wealthier, for the most part. A more sustainable lifestyle, however, frees us from the burdens of material things and allows us to spend more time having experiences and being with people rather taking care of things and acquiring new things. More sustainable means more living - and that makes us feel privileged beyond belief.