Thy Neighbors Cash

In the August 5, 2007 New York Times Book review of Robert H. Frank’s new book FALLING BEHIND: How Rising Inequality Harms the Middle Class, reviewer Daniel Gross notes:

Knowing that Steve Schwarzman of the Blackstone Group made almost $400 million last year, or that he spent $3 million last February on his 60th-birthday party, doesn’t simply make the typical American green with envy, and hence unhappy. Rather, Frank argues, the problem is that extreme consumption — at which Schwarzman excels — helps shape norms for the whole society, not just his fellow plutocrats.

This theme, which is also the focus of much of Deep Economy by Bill McKibben, is wrapped in a sobering view of just how concentrated wealth is becoming. What sounds fascinating about Gross’ book is how this effects our dreams and aspirations, and causes us to plummet ever faster toward an unsustainable future. Gross’s review continues:

In an economy where the wealthy set the norms for consumption and people at every rung strain to maintain the consumption of those just above them, that spells trouble. In today’s arms race, the top 1 percent are armed to the teeth and everybody else is scavenging for ammunition. Between 1980 and 2001, Frank notes, the median size of new homes in the United States rose from 1,600 to 2,100 square feet, “despite the fact that the median family’s real income had changed little in the intervening years.” The end result? Frank methodically presents data showing that the typical American now works more, saves less, commutes longer and borrows more to maintain what he or she views as an appropriate standard of living.Because the gains have been so lopsided — the richest 1 percent have seen their share of national income rise from 8.2 percent in 1980 to 17.4 percent in 2005.

The Culture of Cancer

Last night the CBS Evening News ran a piece on Kris Carr, director of the documentary Crazy Sexy Cancer and author of an accompanying book on cancer tips. Kris was diagnosed with a rare form of incurable cancer and since then has been defying the odds by not only surviving but flourishing. Hers is a genuine profile in true courage, and she’s a real inspiration on every level.

But I couldn’t help thinking that CBS missed the real story here, which is why is it that we now have what amounts to a cancer culture? Even forgetting for a moment the weird commercials for chemotherapy relief drugs on network TV or the whole oncology industry itself, we’re awash in survivors’ stories, how-to-beat-it books, motivational cancer speakers, and more. We’ve accepted freaky cancer rates and increasing incidences of once rare forms as normal and spun the whole idea off as a new market in which cancer is just business as usual.

The real question is: What’s causing all this cancer? Why have we come to have a cancer culture in the first place? What is it that’s making so many of us so sick? Why has cancer touched so many lives that it’s able to spawn its own industry and a constant flood of news stories, it’s own markets and its own communities? When are journalists going to start asking about the cause instead of simply interviewing the tragic results?

Making Good Things Bloom

Here’s the first guest post of the week, this one from Inspired Protagonist Christina Frutiger of Gig Harbor, Washington…

Everyone loves a bouquet but the flower industry is a very toxic one, to say the least. They are mostly grown in third world countries like Ecuador with little or no regulations in regards to the tons and tons of chemicals used, creating many health problems for their workers and then shipped thousands of miles… you get the picture.

I love flowers and am an avid organic gardener, so I decided to…one…get rid of my lawn and turn it into a flower garden and…two…offer my beautiful organic bouquets for sale to local friends, restaurants and businesses in my area. I use no pesticides, insecticides, or chemical fertilizers, so you could also eat them, if you wanted to! You can see my bouquets in Gig Harbor, Washington where I live.

Can’t Get No Satisfaction

Sometimes a guest post arrives which needs nothing extra added from anyone here. This is one, and here it is…

Okay, here goes. My name is Judy Johnson and I am an ordinary-type person of no particular importance to anything or anyone outside of my own circle of family and friends. I do all in my power to do the things necessary to save our planet for the generations to come and to lengthen my life and its enjoyment, but doing that is so much more expensive than the alternative and I am a senior on a fixed income. My frustration is as follows.

Why do all the things that are healthy and planet-saving always cost so much more than the highly processed things that have all the nutrients and etc. removed? It doesn’t make sense at all. For instance, I buy organic, pasteurized milk in glass bottles. There is a $1.75 deposit charged on the bottle that is only paid once it you bring it back each time you buy milk. That’s a good thing that reminds people not to waste. However, the milk itself should cost less to produce because the process is less. Cows are milked by humans, not machines. No cost savings there as people must be paid and the cost for the electricity to operate the machines that had to be purchased is perhaps comparable. However, the cows teats do not become infected by human handling, so the vet bills are much less. The cows are milked only twice a day instead of four or more times. It costs less to feed cows organically; grass and grains vs. all that artificial stuff. Cows live longer. There’s no cost for cartons that can never be re-used. There’s no cost for homogenizing or the people to do it. That is only some of the less costs for such milk. There are other benefits the organic dairy farmer would reap. The manure from his/her cows would be better for fertilizing. The cows would have healthy offspring, producing more milk-cows and beef for those who are carnivores. All these are reasons why that milk should cost less, not more than non-healthy milk, fertilizer and beef, yet when I go to the grocers I find any-old-brand-of-milk costs $1.89 for a half gallon and my organic milk costs $4.89 for a half gallon. It is the same for any organic food or product.

The next thing is vehicles. There is a man who invented an engine that runs on water and has passed all the vehicle requirements. Is that vehicle ever going to be released to the public and if it is, is it going to be priced at six figures like the battery powered vehicles that go normal speeds and normal distances?

So there is my frustration. Can you tell me why organic and other healthy, planet-saving products cost more and is someone going to do something to rectify it soon?

Thanks for listening. Got any answers?