Autumn in America


Autumn in America

I woke up this morning in a new America.  One in which a misogynistic, Islamaphobic, anti-Semitic, ill informed, petulant,  no nothing candidate is now the President elect. My first thought as I read the news and the commentary was, “is this how Fascism comes to America?”

Then I looked out my kitchen window and the landscape hasn’t changed. It is still Fall in the mountains, our meadow in the rain has a muted beauty, and my companion of decades is next to me. My love for  and devotion to  my family and friends hasn’t changed.  My anxiety was still there this morning but so were the beginnings of resolve.  I am an old man who has spent his adult life in quixotic endeavors with mostly positive outcomes.  Now I must find a path forward that protects my grandchildren who will be growing up in a world of unknown menace.

A dystopian future that just yesterday seemed quaintly remote – giving us time to begin to build a locally based economy and support system is a clock that has just been reset.

A new economy, new inclusion, a different kind of franchise, cooperative food systems, local currency, local power, cooperative enterprises, renewed and stronger networks of like minded people,  have become urgent endeavors.   Despite what will be strong resistance by a significant portion of our population that will look at these ideas unsympathetically, we cannot be deterred.

The five stages of grief, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are supposedly a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with what has been lost. I am still in denial bordering on anger.  Bargaining seems useless, depression is not an option, and I cannot accept this outcome without raging against it. I thought I was done with my life’s work, and was at the stage where I should be passing on my knowledge and experience to a new generation, but instead I must  be prepared to participate in the revolution that will be needed to create and implement an alternative to what I fear is our future.


Reinvigorating Mid-Atlantic Waterways – Traditional and Artisanal Fishing

long island sound oystering

Third in a Series: Preserving the Past to Serve the Future

Scooped by Global Aqua Link

For centuries before and after the European colonization of the Mid-Atlantic region of North America, fishing and shell fishing, using traditional methods fed the people of our Bio-region.  There are still remnants of that hook and line, passive fishing gear, clamming and oystering, pound nets, dory and net surf fishing, and small trawler fisheries throughout the region, however those fisheries have been diminished as a result of pollution and over fishing. 

As the regional waterways become cleaner, mainly as a result of the Federal and State laws and regulations like the Clean Water Act , the Resource Conservation Recovery Act, and “Super Fund” or CERCLA (enforced in part by Waterkeepers and other organizations cso'slike the Natural Resources Defense Council), sewage discharges, contaminated sediments, and “combined sewer overflows” are being addressed, starting to make our local waterways “fishable” again. It is imperative as we transition to a “post carbon” future that those discharges be reduced and eliminated, so that the fisheries will begin to recover and these traditional and artisanal fisheries will once again be a resource for feeding the Bioregion.

Factory Fishing

Unfortunately unsustainable “factory” fishing,” like factory farming is the norm rather than factory fishingthe exception.  The global fishing fleet is 2-3 times larger than what the oceans can sustainably support. In other words, people are taking far more fish out of the ocean than can be replaced by those remaining. As a result:


  • 53% of the world’s fisheries are fully exploited, and 32% are overexploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion1
  • Most of the top ten marine fisheries, accounting for about 30% of all capture fisheries production, are fully exploited or overexploited1
  • Several important commercial fish populations have declined to the point where their survival is threatened
  • Unless the current situation improves, stocks of all species currently fished for food are predicted to collapse by 2048.

In the US, fishing is being consolidated under corporate control…..companies such as American SeafoodsTrident Seafoods, and True World Foods (owned by the Unification Church) have transformed fishing into a “global extraction industry.  They have made fishing “not about a way of life,” or about feeding people and providing economic sustenance for local coastal fishing communities, but rather about “making a good rate of return on their global investment capital.  However not all the news is bad.

 Tools for a Post Carbon Regional and Durable Fishery

Standing on the banks of the Passaic River with Robert Kennedy Jr. on a blustery fall day in the late 1990’s, we talked about how pollution has robbed families of a valuable right – to enjoy a day of fishing and eating their catch from the waterway nearest their home.  The same could be said about traditional commercial fishing on the Hudson and other water bodies in the Mid-Atlantic Bioregion where the present generation of fishing families cannot fish where – and – how the generations that preceded them could.  Retaining “know how” over the gap of time it will take for the water to be clean enough and the fish plentiful enough to revitalize this traditional knowledge base will be the work of Transition. 

”Today, traditional knowledge is in danger and its disappearance would not only cause the loss of people’s capability to keep and pass on the artistic and natural heritage, but also of an extraordinary source of knowledge and cultural diversity from which the appropriate innovation solutions can be derived today and in the future.”

Community Supported Fisheries, Helping Fishermen Fish Smarter, Not Harder:

There are places where traditional fishing is still practiced, and fishermen have the knowledge to pass on.  From Maine to the Carolinas, fishermen and the communities in which they live are starting to “take back” the management of their fisheries.  Commercial fishermen long thought of as “ocean rapers” and “bottom scrapers” are at the heart of a “community based fisheries management and science movement,  and community supported fisheries.

With the constant changes in the life of fishermen, one place where they can begin to takecommunity supported fisheries back some control is their relationship with those who eat their catch, the price they get paid for their day’s work and the food systems into which their catch enters.

It makes no sense any more to pay fishermen a price that doesn’t cover their real cost of operation while the consumers are paying much more than they should for packaged, frozen or days-old seafood trucked hundreds or thousands of miles when it was caught steps away from our homes.

In addition to getting fishermen a better price for their catch, Community Supported Fisheries allow fishermen to have a conversation with seafood consumers about the entire food-supply-chain process of what swims in the ocean to what lands on our plates.

“By creating transparency around our seafood production processes, CSFs help define the importance of local food sources by emphasizing sustainable fishery practices; encouraging environmental sensitivity among fishermen; ensuring higher quality processing standards; providing a direct-to-consumer, low-carbon foot-print; and ultimately, a competitively-priced, higher quality seafood experience for the consumer.”

 Community-Based Fisheries Management

 community based fisheries management

Who knows better how to manage the fisheries of the commons?  Should it be some agency from far away or the fishermen, their communities, and the scientists working with them to develop a sustainable fishery?

Mounting pressure on marine fisheries, in the Mid-Atlantic and worldwide, calls for concerted action by coastal communities and local fishermen that have for generations played a vital stewardship role. “The goal of community-based fisheries management, is to act on current market- and policy-driven opportunities to establish a community-based, self-supporting model for achieving healthy fisheries and fishing economies.”

Community and Regional Fishing Associations (CFAs and RFAs), as provided through the 2007 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, (MSA, section 303A) present opportunities for reasserting the role of fishing communities in the pursuit of economic, social and environmental success through the implementation of catch share programs that foster resource and community sustainability. CFAs/RFAs can effectively act as Trusts, holding limited access privileges (catch shares) to anchor access to fish in a community, and could lease catch quota or other access privileges to individual fishermen.

Participant Organizations in the Mid-Atlantic and New England include but are not limited to the following:

The Goals of each of these organizations is:

  1. To deliver programs and services that local fishermen need now to succeed and adapt to changing fisheries.
  2. To educate and support the next generation of fishermen, managers and scientists using new tools and approaches.
  3. To establish a pilot program fisheries are co-managed on an ecosystem    basis by a collaboration of federal and state government, scientists and local fishermen.
  4. To contribute to local, national and global learning for sustainable fisheries. Continue reading

To Small to Fail

Too Big to Fail versus Too Small to Fail

Buy Locally, Hire Locally, Invest Locally

Buy local  poster

 I first heard the term “Too Small to Fail” as the title of a CD by satirists Mikhail Horowitz and Gilles Malkine  I then did a little more research and found a book by Louis Hernandez,abc_ann_mm_hernandez_110223_mn Too Small to Fail, about community banking.

I have been thinking and writing about how local food, local energy, local businesses, community/public banking, local currencies, and resilient communities are strategically positioned to be “too small to fail” as opposed to bloated Wall Street financial Institutions, “sunset industries,” and corporate farming that have been, and probably will continue to be bailed out because they are “Too Big to Fail.”  The term “too big to fail” may have been first used by  Congressman Stewart McKinney in a Congressional hearing, discussing the FDIC’s intervention with Continental Illinois in 1984.

“Nearly a century ago, Justice Louis Brandeis railed against what he called the “curse of bigness.” He warned that banks, railroads and steel companies had grown so huge that they were lording it over the nation’s economic and political life.   “Size, we are told, is not a crime,” Brandeis wrote. “But size may, at least, become noxious by reason of the means through which it is attained or the uses to which it is put.”

too big to failFederal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke also defined the term in 2010:

A too-big-to-fail firm is one whose size, complexity, interconnectedness, and critical functions are such that, should the firm go unexpectedly into liquidation, the rest of the financial system and the economy would face severe adverse consequences.” He continued that: “Governments provide support to too-big-to-fail firms in a crisis not out of favoritism or particular concern for the management, owners, or creditors of the firm, but because they recognize that the consequences for the broader economy of allowing a disorderly failure greatly outweigh the costs of avoiding the failure in some way. Common means of avoiding failure include facilitating a merger, providing credit, or injecting government capital, all of which protect at least some creditors who otherwise would have suffered losses…If the crisis has a single lesson, it is that the too-big-to-fail problem must be solved.” 

 In Andrew Ross Sorkin’s book, Too Big to Fail, the Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System and Themselves, he wrote that in a “Too Big to Fail”  scenario, assertions have been made that certain financial institutions are so large and so interconnected that their failure would be disastrous to the economy, and they therefore must be supported by government when they face difficulty. The book Too_Big_to_Fail_filmwas adapted in 2011 for the  television movie Too Big to Fail. The financial meltdown and
the global economic crisis resulting from the sub-prime mortgage debacle began to change the public’s perception of previously trusted financial institutions. 

 Some economists such as Paul Krugman have asserted that economies of scale in banks and in other businesses are worth preserving, so long as they are well regulated.  Other economists, financial experts, bankers (like Former Citigroup Chairman & CEO Sanford I. Weill), finance industry groups, and banks themselves have called for breaking up large banks into smaller institutions and assert  that a companies that benefit from these “too big to fail” policies will deliberately take risky, unsound positions, without being responsible for the losses.

Louis Hernandez, Jr., said in his book, Too Small to Fail:

  “….. using historical examples, points out that the rate of change impacting the financial services industry is accelerating. The industry has been slow to respond to change, and the focus on the recent crisis has uncovered fundamental problems that financial institutions have been avoiding…”

Too Small to Fail:

 Resilient communities are at the core of a Too Small to Fail future. If we don’t plan for more robust communities, and implement solutions for undeniable problems, a catastrophic crash seems inevitable. However crisis can equal opportunity as we saw during the Great Depression and during World War II. But unless sensible plans to manage disaster are formulated and put forward now, the opportunity afforded by crisis could be hijacked by a more organized well-financed minority with an authoritarian agenda.

“Our economic system has failed in every dimension: financial, environmental, and social. Moreover the current financial collapse provides an incontestable demonstration that it is unable to self-correct.… The need is not to repair Wall Street but to replace it with institutions devoted to serving the financial needs of ordinary people in ways that are fair, honest, and consistent with the reality of our human dependence on Earth’s biosphere.” David Korten,Agenda for a New Economy Continue reading

The New Economy and Alternative Currencies

Transition NYC Bioregion

The New Economy and Local and Complementary Currencies

Transition US, Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub UNPLUGGED published, Local Currencies and the New York Metropolitan Bioregion 


 The New Economy is an emerging system of values, practices, institutions, policies and laws that support an economy designed to maximize current wellbeing and social justice without sacrificing the natural world or the resources available to future generations. Greetings from the New Economy 

Those advocating a transition to a New Economy support an evolution where the priority is to sustain people and the planet; where social justice and cohesion are prized; and peace, communities, democracy and nature all flourish.

The New Economy is one in which real wealth – something that has intrinsic value – forms the basis for enterprises that provide for their employees, the community in which they are located, as well as making a profit for the owners.  Local currencies are one tool by which communities can support a main street economy, assure that money stays in the community, and that local food and goods with intrinsic value are made and sold locally.  

 BerkShares, an Example of a Local Currency:

In an article by Bill Mckibben in Yes magazine in October of 2010 he describes how BerksharesBerkShares work, “You walk into any branch of the five banks that offer the notes and hand the teller $95 in U.S. dollars. She hands you 100 BerkShares. You spend them at the deli, the bar, or the bookstore. The bar owner then takes her BerkShares from the till and spends them at the deli, the bookstore, or, if she has to pay for something that nobody local is producing, she takes her BerkShares back to the bank and reconverts them into dollars.”

BerskShares was originally a project of the E F Schumacher Society (Schumacher Center for a New Economics).  BerkShares are a local currency for the Berkshire region of Massachusetts.   BerkShares are a tool that enables merchants and consumers to planSchumacher for an alternative economic future.  Plans include ATM’s, checking accounts, electronic transfers, and a  loan program to make possible the creation of new, local businesses manufacturing more locally produced goods.

Benefits of Local Currencies:

  • Local currencies tend to circulate much more rapidly than national currencies. The same amount of currency is employed more times and results in far greater overall economic activity.
  • Local currencies enable the community to utilize its existing productive resources that has a catalytic effect on the rest of the local economy.
  • Since local currencies are only accepted within the community, their usage encourages the purchase of locally-produced and locally-available goods and services. Every dollar spent at a locally owned business generates two to four times more economic benefit than a dollar spent at a globally owned business.  
  • Growing evidence suggests that every dollar spent at a locally owned business generates two to four times more economic benefit – measured in income, wealth, jobs, and tax revenue – than a dollar spent at a globally owned business. 

 The Outlook for the New York Metropolitan Bioregion:

 Wall Street and Main Street are names given to two economies with significantly different priorities and values that are often in competition. Wall Street is in the business of making Michael-Douglas-Wall-Stre-006money to make money. Any involvement in the production of real goods and services is an incidental byproduct. Once a company, even one that started by making a useful product, begins to sell shares through exchanges or to private equity investors it becomes an agent of Wall Street. As a former executive of Odwalla told David Korten, “So long as we were privately owned by the founders, we were in the business of producing and marketing healthful fruit juice products. Once we went public, everything changed. From that event forward, we were in the business of making money.”

Creating this kind of entrepreneurship with “Main Street values” is much more difficult today. There is no easy way to start a new local business that creates real wealth and something with intrinsic value, in part because it is difficult for individuals to put money intoMain_Street,_Salinas worthy small businesses in need of capital. Our financial markets have evolved to serve big business even though small enterprises create three out of every four jobs and generate half of GDP. If you add in other “place based” nonprofits, co-ops, and the public sector, it is nearly 58 percent of all economic activity. Why then are we not investing some 58 percent of our retirement funds in Main Street enterprises?

The New York Metropolitan bioregion needs new mechanisms, like local currencies to boost investment in local, place-based businesses.   There is no easy way to start a new local business that creates real wealth and something with intrinsic value, in part because it is difficult for individuals to put capital into worthy small businesses. Our financial markets have evolved to serve big business even though small enterprises create three out of every four jobs and generate half of GDP.  The result is that we who invest do so in Fortune 500 companies we distrust, and under-invest in the local businesses we know are essential for local vitality.

Amy  Cortese, author of Locavesting, asks: If Americans have about $30 trillion invested, “imagine if half of that, $15 trillion, was invested in local communities rather than multinational conglomerates that are outsourcing jobs and not investing domestically. I think we’d be living in a far different world. (Even) One percent of $26 trillion is $260 billion Locavestinggoing to the Main Street economy and that’s a lot.….. (T)here is a very compelling case to be made for local investments as an asset class in a diversified portfolio.”

We urgently need to replace the current system with one that reasserts the right to a safe, healthy, productive environment for all; where “environment” is considered in its totality, inclusive of ecological, physical (natural and built); social, political, aesthetic, economic environments; and environmental justice. A community in which poverty and inequity are considered acceptable will always be prone to environmental and economic crises. 

In Thriving in the Age of Collapse,” Dymitry Orlov describes the predicament and options of typical Americans:  A middle-aged couple with grown children are in for some bad five stages of collapse Orlovnews; The first piece of bad news is that their retirement is going to be cancelled;  Living out their “golden years” in a suburban house and continuing to drive will be impossible because of gas rationing and shortages. Their house will become too expensive to heat;  Electricity will be cut off, then food may have to be provided by a some community-based service, and at some point when they can no longer stay in their home they may be evacuated to some hastily organized compound….

 “Just when you are thinking Orlov is heartless in describing the futures of most of us hapless Americans, he switches to a brighter mode. (That middle aged couple) might very well rise to the occasion of the crisis, putting their career skills as a teachers to work in their community by creating a school, growing food, (or) negotiating a rainwater-capture system for their neighborhood…..  Orlov’s faith in human resilience is variable, but present.” Andrae Collier, Grist Magazine, May 2010.

In a world of sprawling multinational conglomerates and complex securities disconnected from place and reality, there is something very simple and transparent about investing local currencies in a local company that you can see and touch and understand. As investing guru Peter Lynch has counseled, “It makes sense to invest in what you know.” 

So we have choices to make as a community and a bio-region.  Do we hope for “divine or alien” intervention, or do we start making our communities more resilient, invest in local businesses, and start local public banks and community based currencies?

There will be life after the age of “limitless growth,” and it will be a better life if our Bioregion’s priority is our people and the integrity of the biosphere, rather than high stockhudson-river-estuary prices, corporate profits, and the reckless wasting of irreplaceable natural resources. It will be a challenging but exhilarating journey to develop and implement pragmatic positive change for the New York City  Bioregion – to hospice the end of one era and midwife the beginning of another. 

Developing a Food Security Plan for the New York City Bioregion


Is it Possible for the NYC Metropolitan Area Feed Itself From Its Foodshed?


This map is from the Food Systems Network NYC website 

We are living in an age of unprecedented violent change, where three highly disruptive crises – global economic instability, climate change, and peak everything are converging Container_ship_Hanjin_Taipeiinsidiously to shred the fabric of society. The coming shocks: international financial collapse, epic flood and drought, energy and natural resource shortages, and extreme price spikes are likely to be catastrophic if we do not prepare. The New York City Bioregion is especially vulnerable to these disruptive changes. With one of the world’s greatest ice-free harbors on earth, New York City was built on global commerce. But today, the far-flung network of international trade that once pumped vibrant economic life into our communities threatens to collapse as imported natural resources along with the fossil fuels needed to transport them become increasingly scarce and expensive.

The inevitable decreasing availability of cheap fossil fuel will eventually make the transportation of food over long distances economically unfeasible, and the phrase “local Vietnam Fish Processingfood” will acquire an urgent, vital meaning beyond the current limited lifestyle implications. Local food will become less about maintaining eco-correctness and more about whether we’re going to have enough to eat. Urban/suburban agriculture is one solution, as is a food security plan that includes low carbon transportation and a new relationship between city dwellers and the farmers in the food shed.  

 Of course, the critical and immediate question is – what, exactly should we do: How should the New York City Bioregion respond productively to the end of cheap oil and the failure of our “growth at any cost” culture? How can we act proactively to rising sea levels, and less abundant, more costly natural resources including oil and food? Also, how do we finance the dramatic enhancements that must be made to the natural and human landscape for our Bioregion to survive and prosper? Finally, how can you and I, and other private citizens, join together to hospice the decline of the current system, and midwife the vital transformation into A Bright Green Future for the New York City Bioregion?

 The seminal question about food security for the NYC Bioregion — How can the New York City metropolitan area community develop a food security plan to feed itself from farmshudson-river-estuary within 100 miles of the Battery? — is discussed in the “Take Action” page of this website and more specifically by Slow Money an organization  ”advocating investing 50% of our money within 50 miles of our home, specifically in organic and sustainable local food, farms, and processing.”

 A local or regional “foodshed” could be defined in a variety of ways. A simple 100-mile radius, for example, is often used in “eat local” campaigns. Workable, sustainable foodshed mappings tend to take into account time and ease of travel, density of population, where and how natural water sources travel, and the innate productivity of land.”

Molly Watson defines a foodshed as  “everything between where a food is produced and where a food is consumed. It includes the land it grows on, the routes it travels, the markets it goes through, and the tables it ends up gracing.  First used in the early 20th century to describe the global flow of food, “foodshed” has recently been resurrected to discuss local food systems and efforts to create more sustainable ways of producing and consuming food.

Economist Michael Shuman has investigated the potential economic impacts of food localization. Recent research conducted by Shuman in Colorado, New Mexico, and Northeastern Ohio suggests that investment in local “food-sheds” can substantially increase both demand for, and supply of local food creating thousands of new jobs, generating hundreds of new businesses, and producing millions of dollars in revenues to support the local economy.

Shuman’s 2010 Cleveland study  found that 25 percent food localization by the year 2020 would result in more than 27,000 new jobs. It would also generate $4.2 billion in economic activity, $868 million in added wages, and $126 million in state and local tax revenues – each year.

In a study for Transition Colorado Shuman found similar economic benefits. He local eating bookdetermined that a 25 percent local food shift in Boulder County (including the City of Boulder) would create 1,680 jobs with wages of $82 million, new economic activity of $137 million, and $12 million in Taxes. 

Using Shuman’s findings to inform the next steps of our own Food Localization movement, we could create a detailed strategic and economic plan for food localization in our own Bioregion now. Continue reading

Transition New York City Bioregion, Preparing our Island Metropolis and its Bioregion for a Bright Green Future

Transition New York City Bioregion
Preparing Our Island Metropolis and its Bioregion for A Bright Green Future


As Hurricane Sandy clearly showed, we are living in an age of unprecedented violent change. It is an era in which three highly disruptive crises – global economic instability, climate change, and peak everything – are converging insidiously to shred the fabric of society.

The coming shocks: international financial collapse, epic flood and drought, energy and natural resource shortages, and extreme price spikes are likely to be catastrophic if we do not prepare. The New York City Bioregion – an area covering parts of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania – is especially vulnerable to these disruptive changes. Continue reading