What we need to form Florida's green economy

Globalization was sold as a way to achieve this utopian vision of a consumerist society constantly purchasing things on a rotary linear system that sucks resources from vast distances and transports them for fractions of what they truly cost. We have subsidized our present by utilizing credit from our future to pull that demand forward to the now. It is a grave error that we have thought no further past the next quarter or year for profits not just in our economy but our ecology as well. We modeled our society on a growing exponential path that had to hit limits. These limits were spoken of at great length at the Club of Rome, a global think tank that met in the late 1960s. The Limits to Growth (released in 1972) spoke at great length about this subject and was written by the Club of Rome. There are limits to our economic desires. There are limits to how much we can damage the ecology. Ecology is the study of home, while economy is the management of home. We need an economy that's based on our ecological principles.

The turn of the century was seen as a great turning moment for mankind. Will we fight over the last remaining resources as we reach the peak production of oil and thus limit our resource base use? Hope doesn't need to fade, though. This economy would heal our planet, conserve resources, localize itself to build resilience, and base itself upon biological principles to increase life. Food, water, air are all produced and cycled through nature. To deny nature and turn her inside out would be not only a crime on humanity but ultimately suicide. We must become a sane society once more and recognize difficult times are ahead if we continue on the path we are on. This should be a coming together moment time for humanity. When resources are scarce we revert to our tribal nature that has within it the seeds of compassion and cooperation that are the bright spots of humanity. The light will shine through the darkness.

The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community by David Korten speaks about this philosophy. David Korten also works on the Earth Charter initiative to educate others about the global sustainable code of ethics. Others such as Thom Hartman agree in his book, Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight. These books both identify community as the key to a new society. This society will have a new economy based on local banking and less on large corporate banking. The retail will be more local selling locally produced products. Farmers' markets and crafts will have more meaning as the vast global chain stores die under their burgeoning maintenance costs. Localizing the economy further will be local currencies: this will allow money to flow only within the local community that accepts that currency. This is already done legally in such states as Vermont and in the Berkshire region with Berkshares. Think of this as a resource to flow and recycle within the community to reach peak performance instead of being leaked out to franchises and global corporations.

[image-1]The Transition network is working on a local food network. Could we feed the over 3 million living within the Tampa Bay area with the farms we have within 100  miles along with community gardens/CSAs/ Co-op gardens that are scattered around as well? The old orange groves scattered around Florida were abandoned in the '90s due to globalization and pests. We could rescue these orchards revitalize them with new trees of differing species to create food forests all over Florida. These forests could provide fresh fruit year round if done right for our local area using permaculture techniques. All the abandoned plazas and commercial real estate that is beginning to foreclose could be reestablished as growing zones to grow food both naturally and hydroponically. A revitalization of our economy could be awoken if we just began to choose who we buy our food from. By supporting local agriculture you would put money into their pockets to expand and develop to put people back to work. The revolution of our economy won't be televised, it will be voted for by your purchases on an everyday basis.

Nearly 50% of the water use in Florida is for lawns. Imagine all the people we could put to work tearing out sod and planting native plants alongside edibles that can feed our community. We could lower our carbon output because water uses energy to be pumped from far away. By conserving water we are in effect conserving electricity as well. Multiply all the converted lawns that don't have to be lawn mowed and you get a culmination effect of lowering our local gasoline usage as well, the lost jobs replaced by yard maintenance and pruning which can be composted and vermicultured with whole new industries opening up.

[image-2]We will need to retrofit our local communities to move away from car dependency. Retrofit an old abandoned retail chain store into an apartment plaza with walkable shops and a co-op garden on the roof. Create living spaces that provide for the people both power, food, and stored rain water that can be cleaned to provide water. A unit that could do this would make living inexpensive. Big electric, water, and food bills could be diminished allowing people to work less and spend more time with families. A living wage could be earned at local stores that sell items made from people who, in their spare time, make certain products/crafts. We Americans must relearn how to be fruitful and productive.

The current economy is being run by economists that bow before their prophetic John Maynard Keyenes. He was a British economist that worked to mobilize Britain's economy during WW2. He also focused on the Great Depression saying that putting vast amounts of capital into new projects could get our economy out of the depression and back into growth. Mr. Keyenes was one of those economists that lead our society to value and idealize perpetual exponential growth on this little finite planet we all live on. His most brilliant act by far was investing in a German immigrant that was being interned during WW2 to help Britain with it's mobilization effort. E. F. Schumacher was his name, a brilliant economist that left Nazi Germany because of his compassion for human life and vile distaste of the sadistic Nazi.

E. F. Shumacher talks about having a local economy that benefits one another through compassion. We must realize that dependency on corporations rather than community is destroying this nation. Both on a physical side but on the spiritual side as well. We are losing a battle, our culture is making us nihilistic and un-supportive of one another. What if we cooperated more? Instead of us all owning our own cars and material possessions, we shared. We brought back a barter system for both work and objects, helping neighbors during these tough times accomplish things that are much needed. Being kind to another is the golden rule for much of humanity. We must form our economy to follow that rule as well. A strong caring community gives way to the next important priority: education.

Education will have to be a key priority in a post-carbon Florida. Biotechnology, biofuels, solar panel manufacturing and installation, renovation and design, all these different industries will need a new skilled workforce. Urban agriculture using permaculture may one day be a course taught through a semester at colleges. Design students can utilize permaculture principles for growing food or designing a home, to even designing a full system that produces biofuels from small local farms. Plants such as jatropha and hemp can provide vast quantities of feedstock for biofuels. Knowledge and cultivation of future technologies will be more based upon biological principles rather than mechanized technology. Plants will be the future technology. Imagine if one day we develop nanotechnology proficient enough to plant a seed and a home pops out of the ground over several months. Self replicating biologically designed technologies will be the future of humanity - a symbiosis of our technology and our biology.

The construction industry will have to be re-skilled to learn how to install solar hot water heaters and photovoltaics. Whole new sections of the economy will open up if financing could be found to help people renovate to become more energy efficient. Van Jones wrote about this in his "The Green Collar Economy". He spoke of how badly creative finances destroyed our capacity to manufacture and destroyed our housing market. What if good creative financing could allow us to pool our resources and help one another afford solar hot water heaters or solar photovoltaics? We must see that we are in this together. Stuck by high mortgages and low income to formulate ways to cooperate and achieve savings by lowering the costs of living for one another. Investment pools where people can invest those savings they don't trust in the stock market. Bonds can be placed that pay back dividends and are safe investments. Local green business plans overlooked by investors and picked out to see which would be a good fit for the local community.

Where does the government play within all this? The governments function will have to dramatically alter. Property taxes and sales taxes alone won't be able to sustain the system. By helping build strong communities local government can reduce a huge chunk of it's expenditures. Creating community in areas that are high in violence will have to be a dual partnership with local churches/non-profits, but the net effect is the lowering of crime. Our state is 3rd in the nation for prisoner populations. We have over 100,000 prisoners this year alone and yet over 150,000 drug arrests each year. We are bursting at the seams with prisoners that have misdemeanors for smoking a plant that grows naturally. Decriminalization of marijuana could provide a tax that could help bolster education and reduce our expenditures. Not to mention that hemp is an imperative plant that has multiple sustainable uses. We could create a local economy putting people to work creating clothing, paper, rope, and hundreds of products from hemp.

The big issue will be with partnering with the community. Using churches or non-profits governments can interact with the community towards sustainable projects. Education can be done cheaply through these agents. Classes will need to be taught on how to conserve or reduce your electricity usage. Doing simple things such as providing compost bins for its residents have upward effects. By reducing the amount of biological waste upstream at the source local governments can reduce the costs of opening up more landfills or garbage and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions as well. The compost bins could help as Florida soil is often sandy and poor, and vermiculture businesses could open up to replenish the waste into a resource for local gardners.

Local democracy is a term that should be spoken about. With the invention of the internet and its circulation into most adult Americans' lives, we can effectively have a tool to have forums for our local government issues. Why don't the local government generate social media so that they can keep a open link between them and their constituency? In order for the government to evolve they need to become more wired and networked into the local community they represent. Governments have a priority to gear their local communities towards building resilience towards higher gas prices as well as educate the community on how to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Climate change tells us we should move away from hydrocarbons and peak oil informs us that we will be forced to. The transition point is upon us now, it will take decades to move past our destructive paths and towards full healing of the planet. The carbon dioxide released today will last thousands of years unless major reforestation projects are undertaken by humanity. I'm of Christian faith but have hidden questions, I don't fully believe we left the Garden of Eden - I look at the beauty and complexity of nature and see it for what it is, God's Gift for us to live in or destroy. If we could only get away from paving over paradise and realize that it's already here around us we can move past these dark days and towards a brighter future. This requires the end of our domination over each other and nature, and a move towards partnering within our own species and planet. Only then can we truly say that our species won't face extinction. For divided we fall, but together there is nothing mankind's imagination cannot fathom and create. It's our destiny to one day reach for the stars. We can't start that journey until we can start living on this planet right first.

So key goals for Florida?

-Retrofit homes/businesses to be walkable and use less energy/water

-Produce food locally

-Create a regional currency backed by local businesses and community

-Setup forms of creative financing so people can afford renovations

-Local investors' clubs - organize sustainable businesses cooperatively

-Water conservation efforts with edible/native landscaping

-Cooperate within community instead of purchasing big items

-Invest in our future with education geared towards green jobs

-Decriminalize marijuana

-Local governmental partnerships towards sustainability

-Social network local goverments for open forums and discussions.

-Set up a strong code of ethics for governments, organizations, corporations and individuals based upon The Earth Charter with a social contract to adhere to these ethics.

The following is a presentation by Geoff Mulgan, "Post-crash, investing in a better world"


Eric Stewart

Last October, an economy that had been running its course for the past three decades was laid to rest. Our country has been on a nearly 30-year credit bubble where we have binged on cheap credit to buy up homes at ever increasing values. This 30-year ascent made us think it could be forever. But this bubble was based upon unsustainable principles and ecological destruction. We destroyed as much land as we could to produce quickly and consume as much food, building supplies, minerals as we could get from the land as fast as possible. We utilize an extremely dense energy source - fossil fuels - to live lifestyles that are historically similar to those that kings lived before. In order to accomplish all this, we have put ourselves in debt for decades to come. We have borrowed from the future to live in the present for far too long.

Here in Florida the Ponzi scheme of real estate flipping ended as well. As my carpenter friend remarked: "We worked ourselves out of a job." The University of Florida released a demographic report showing that 58,000 people left the state of Florida this year, ending our over 60-year growth pattern. This is a turnaround for a state that based its economic model on perpetual growth. An economy strictly based upon tourism and building is falling apart. We are already witnessing the vast decline in states resources and even our own Governor is leaving for Washington D.C. But I'm here, and I'm a native of Florida and I'm not leaving my state any time soon. I've been researching a green economy for the past year and a half and I believe it's the way to move forward for this state and our country. It's based upon ethics, entrepreneurship and decentralization - a return to a local living economy.

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