Thursday, July 15, 2010

Book to look for

Her "This Organic Life" was excellent -- bet this one is a gem

Like this book? Digg it!

ISBN: 9781603582926
Year Added to Catalog: 2010
Book Format: Paperback
Book Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing
Release Date: November 29, 2010
Web Product ID: 539

Michael Pollan calls her one of his food heroes. Barbara Kingsolver credits her with shaping the history and politics of food in the United States. And countless others who have vied for a food revolution, pushed organics, and reawakened Americans to growing their own food and eating locally consider her both teacher and muse.

Joan Gussow has influenced thousands through her books, This Organic Life and The Feeding Web, her lectures, and the simple fact that she lives what she preaches. Now in her eighties, she stops once more to pass along some wisdom—surprising, inspiring, and controversial—via the pen.

Gussow's memoir Growing, Older begins when she loses her husband of 40 years to cancer and, two weeks later, finds herself skipping down the street—much to her alarm. Why wasn't she grieving in all the normal ways? With humor and wit, she explains how she stopped worrying about why she was smiling and went on worrying, instead, and as she always has, about the possibility that the world around her was headed off a cliff. But hers is not a tale, or message, of gloom. Rather it is an affirmation of a life's work—and work in general.

Lacking a partner's assistance, Gussow continued the hard labor of growing her own year-round diet. She dealt single-handedly with a rising tidal river that regularly drowned her garden, with muskrat interlopers, broken appliances, bodily decay, and river trash—all the while bucking popular notions of how "an elderly widowed woman" ought to behave.

Scattered throughout are urgent suggestions about what growing older on a changing planet will call on all of us to do: learn self-reliance and self-restraint, yield graciously if not always happily to necessity, and—since there is no other choice—come to terms with the insistence of the natural world. Gussow delivers another literary gem—one that women curious about aging, gardeners curious about contending with increasingly intense weather, and environmentalists curious about the future will embrace.

Salem's budget gaps flow from a leadership gap

Pardon me while I rant, but there's a great example of "business as usual" that explains why City of Salem is cutting the services that people want (pools, libraries, parks) so that the city staff can continue doing things the way they've always been done:

The monthly mailed out water/sewer bill, which even gets sent to those of us who have signed up to have our bill paid with a credit card automatically each month.

This waste of paper -- a full sheet, plus envelope, plus 38 cents postage (this entirely superfluous mailing isn't even sent bulk rate -- it comes at the spendy presorted first class rate) must consume an extraordinary sum each year, merrily indicting Salem's city staff as blithely unconcerned with doing the right thing.

Worse, the folks behind this missive, which drives me bonkers when it arrives at LOVESalem HQ every month like clockwork, refuse to allow the people of Salem to turn this sow's ear into at least an imitation silk purse by letting the neighborhood associations ride along in the envelope for free.

In other words, even as Salem gives the neighborhoods a pittance for a communications budget, it refuses to let neighborhoods supply preprinted inserts for the envelope so that they could reach all the residents in their neighborhood association without having to do a separate mailing.

So what's the score?
Wasted energy and materials 1 vs. Common sense 0
Wasted utility money 1 vs. City credibility over budget concerns 0
Bureaucratic routine 1 vs. Better neighborhood communications 0

That looks like we lose this game every month, 3 to zip. I'm sure LOVESalem readers could come up with plenty of better ways to use money being squandered on sending useless water/sewer billing notices to people who have already said that they don't need or want them. But what's just as important to notice is how even the most ludicrous practice continues, mindlessly wasting dollars month after month after month, all because nobody in the City hierarchy demands better.

We have some really hard challenges coming up in the years to come. If we can't even take advantage of the "gimme's" -- fixing the really easy, stupid things -- then woe betide us down the road.

Guest Essay: War is Death

I Want YOU to Care About PTSDImage by Ilona Meagher via Flickr

From Mary Vorachek, M.D., of Salem:

War is Death

In a country so squeamish about death it is difficult to understand why so many people are able to put our destructive, expensive foreign wars on the back burner. When the life of a person you are responsible for ends, that life continues on in your memory until you die. I am a retired physician and I remember every one of my patients who died while under my care. I cannot imagine how I would feel if I had ever intentionally killed another human being. If my country sent me out to kill other people for their oil, control of their natural resources, revenge or world supremacy, I too might want to live under a bridge or commit suicide. Recent information has suggested that people who, from the safety of their computer stations, direct armed drones to kill people in foreign lands suffer worse post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms than those who kill on the battlefield.

Since Bush has now been swept into the dustbin of history, he will soon be forgotten, but the depravity of his administration will be long remembered by each of the families that suffered deaths and mutilations of their loved ones. The families in this country who lost their sons and daughters to the Iraq War can remember them with pain and pride. My cousin, Donnie, died in the D-day landings when I was only four years old, and through my mother's love for her nephew I will always feel sad for him but very proud of his sacrifice against a reviled aggressor. The families who suffered in our unnecessary war on Iraq from the loss of children, parents and grandparents will never forget the harm we inflicted upon them, their families and their country. Parents and extended families feel responsible for the lives of their loved ones and their memories live on until each member of the extended family dies. Perhaps after many years, the young people of Iraq and Afghanistan who suffered from the deaths of their parents and siblings may put aside ideas of revenge, but in the meantime we will remain at risk for as long as their pain is translated into revenge. Are we now the reviled aggressor?

Citizens must necessarily distance themselves from the abuses of government in order to continue to function in a civilized society. The abuses of power by our national leaders have caused disaffection among many of the citizenry and contributed to an anesthesia of feelings toward our fellow humans. Duplicity and corruption of politicians, corporations and the financial system have taken a terrible toll on soldiers, citizens of principal and the powerless.

More insidiously, the lack of compassion for others is perpetuated by main stream media's lack of coverage of the atrocities committed in our name or with weapons America gives or sells to other countries for the sport of killing their “enemies”. Corruption, profiteering, poor leadership and the lack of remorse for mistakes, have propelled many in our nation to ignore the suffering of others. It is fortunate, therefore, that there are also many people who have been inspired to organize and work for a better world, and I suspect that there is a large and growing undercurrent of discontent among the people of the United States against the status quo of our federal leadership. Now that Americans are experiencing greater fears of joblessness and homelessness, the movement for justice and compassion for others may become even more resonant among the majority of decent American citizens.

During the Bush years America's moral compass appeared to point only toward profit and ideology. Never mind that cluster bombs kill innocent children and that most civilized nations have banned them—they are profitable for America's war machine. Never mind that white phosphorous causes people to experience horrible disfigurement when it does not kill them outright—it is an American weapon that an be sold or given to other “friendly” countries. Never mind that robotic weapons and those who control them cause collateral damage (dead foreign civilians) even when they do not mistake their targets—the American war machine provides jobs. And what depraved minds constructed the name DIME for a weapon that can rip off an arm or leg without leaving any trace of metal fragments? Conversely, who can forget the pictures of jubilation among the JPL scientist when America landed two unmanned space probes on Mars. Do the manufacturers and the workers who make guns, bombs, tanks and robotic weapons celebrate when innocent civilians are killed by their weapons for profit? Weapons of war are designed and produced to efficiently kill other humans living on our planet. In modern warfare, civilian deaths are estimated to make up to 85 to 90% of of the total number of casualties. The number of estimated civilian deaths in World War I was 50% out of approximately sixteen millions total deaths. Are destructive wars America's answer to climate change?

When people we love and care for die, it diminishes us, the people who are left behind, the ones who have known, loved and cared for them. When a patient dies there is the inevitable conversation with yourself of the “what ifs” and “if onlys”. It is not surprising that soldiers commit suicide and live under bridges when they return from wars. It is not surprising that soldiers are so damaged they cannot fight for PTSD treatment and must depend on their families and people of conscience to help them receive treatment necessary to alleviate their pain. How can the soldier who looks into the face of a child before he pulls the trigger or the soldiers who launches a rocket into the midst of a family forget the people they have killed? How does the operator of an armed robot cope with the controversy of innocent civilian deaths—the denial, investigation and final acknowledgment? Must we continue this madness in Afghanistan and Pakistan?

It appears to me that President Obama's stand on the world platform of war is just a step stool and he is stepping in the wrong direction.

Mary A Vorachek, M.D.
Salem, Oregon

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