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GSR Newsletter Issue No. 3 - May 2013

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GSR Newsletter Issue No. 3 - May 2013

  1. 1. GSR's Newsletter is a collection of news, reflections, innovations and ideas that our team has found important enough to write down and share with you. We hope you'll be as excited as we are with all the latest developments around the world and what it means for us all. GSR Newsletter Issue No.3 May 2013 Working Towards a Global Transition: A Personal Journey Guest Author, Christopher Danch At the Starting Line I am the Chief Legal Officer for Green Self Reliance, Inc. I came to this position not as an attorney, but as Director of Development of a company, Eco Ranchos, Inc., which was formed to promote the large-scale development of complex agricultural systems, which we refer to as agroforestry. We wanted to change agriculture from the prevailing destructive, unsustainable industrial mode to one that is resilient and restorative. It has taken me many years to come to this point. Almost twenty years ago, I had a full- time practice, which while very varied, focused for much of the time on civil litigation and business law. For a period of time, about five years, the bulk of my work was representing real estate developers, particularly of that blight upon the landscape known the suburban subdivision. As an aside, during that time I used to muse that all the large subdivision projects were named for the very thing they destroyed. Deer Ridge Estates made damn sure that no deer remained in the area and Oak Mountain Estates effectively eradicated the healthy oak-montane ecosystem that had stood and weathered many a millennia. During the first fifteen or so years of my practice, I made good money, dutifully put my children through private school, had, metaphorically speaking, the white picket fence home, and did “charitable” work in my spare time in the discharge of my civic duties. I was, in the eyes of Western society, successful and comfortably conforming, masquerading as the American Dream. However, as I will further describe in future articles, uneasiness began to creep in and my life began to change. I always had a serious lay interest in science, which in my early adult years naturally migrated to the emerging field of environmental science. What began in those early years as a simply progression of my intellectual curiosity became an all-consuming journey toward a greater understanding of the whole. And while that understanding will never be complete, I believe I have arrived at a place where I can put what understanding I have into action. The model created
  2. 2. by Green Self Reliance, which I joined in 2009, is the best vehicle I have seen to manifest this intention. On the dark side, I have sacrificed any notion of financial security, strained my family tremendously, financially, emotionally and philosophically, particularly my wonderful wife, and have had, as the philosopher says, many dark nights of the soul. I am both excited by the possibilities, and thoroughly daunted and humbled by the challenges we collectively face. My chaotic work life these past eighteen years, have been, to say the least, a magical mystery tour. As I sit here typing this, I can’t get the Talking Heads’ song, “Once in a Lifetime” out of my head, and David Brynes’ disturbing refrain, “How did I get here?” So, I hope you will join me in future articles in this series as I recount the many blurred and sometime plodding, sometimes freefalling, steps along this journey. Maybe some of you will see parallels to your own experience and transformation. Maybe some of you will be inspired to start the journey. Fundamentally, it is no small matter to know that you are not alone. The dominant cultural story, and its authors, agents, promoters, passive participants and prognosticators, are very good at marginalizing and isolating those with a different, even if compelling, story. This attempt is very new to me. Until now, I would never have presumed that what I have experienced and learned along this path would be of any interest or help to anyone. Maybe I was correct in this view. But, it is, I suppose, just the next necessary step of this journey. What is Good Health Care? There has been a lot of chatter recently amongst several media outlets about how several Sub-Saharan countries are going to fail the 2015 UN Millennium Development benchmark goal for expanded health care in rural areas. This problem entails not only getting vaccines and medical supplies out there in the countryside, but also education about preventative measures such as sanitation and balanced nourishment. GSR believes that if the UNDP adopted three key GSR methods, they would succeed on achieving more impact. These methods are: 1. Develop close local partnerships and get an understanding of local conditions (both about the people and resources) 2. Establish health care programs in the context of an overall development program (what is the use of expensive medical care delivery systems if the village people must ingest contaminated food and water, or if they are all malnourished?) 3. Focus on sanitation and nutrition before allocating millions of dollars to expensive medical treatment facilities and programs (simple sawdust toilets and biodigesters cost next to nothing) Establishing a close local partnership is essential for gaining the cooperation of local communities. GSR has demonstrated that local leaders actively enforced strict sanitation standards once they discussed problems they were facing with GSR team members. By dumping all human waste into bio-digesters, the highly dangerous pathogens are broken down in the high heat inside the biodigester, methane gas for cooking is generated, and after 21 days in the biodigester, the remaining organic matter can be safely used as fertilizer. Getting local people to build sawdust toilets, biodigesters and refrain from defecating in the fields or near water sources cost next to nothing but reduce as much as 90% of the diseases. Add to this proper nutrition and almost 95% of disease is eradicated.
  3. 3. Small scale anti malarial businesses flourish because local entrepreneurs make a living by producing anti-fly and anti mosquito products such as cow dung incense cones (burning these cones is a natural mosquito and fly repellant). This is drastically cheaper and highly effective way to reallocate the UNDP resources on more preventative measures. They would see within a short span of time dramatic improvements in rural communities. GSR feels that a vocational education program on health is a vital part of training for rural smallholder farmers. This is because good health does not only mean a long life, it means more opportunity to work on the field and increase the overall quality of living. In GSR village projects, health care will not only include the introduction of inexpensive sewage systems other preventative measures, but an overall waste management system that is environmentally conscious and works in tandem with conservation as well. If we separate health from other concerns, such as economical and education development, there is a risk that a mismatch of resources will occur as seemingly differing goals will clash for the allocation of capital. GSR’s approach to health care is therefore both preventative and holistic to our overall goals of rural development. Africa’s Rising Green Economy South Africa is determined to become a leader on the African continent via rapid development of their economy. One strategy that the government has taken is a commitment of funds to the development of their “Green Energy Economy”. In addition to top environmental ranking amongst the G- 20 members as of 2013, South Africa hopes to attract a lot for business to the country and provide its people with sustainable energy for future development. This phenomenon has not been only limited to South Africa as other African nations such as Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda (to name a few) are staking their lot with the emerging green economy. GSR ponders why there has been such a sudden spike of interest in green energy amongst developing nations, especially since most green technologies are still quite expensive and have not yet gained enough economic impact in most of the developed nations. The answer isn’t clear about the why, but the results are promising. First, this development amounts to the birth of an entirely new sector of the African economy. This new green energy sector is capable of generating new jobs in many of the other existing sectors. Second, the African nations can finally lay claim to be on the cutting edge of innovation and technology after trailing behind developed nations for so many decades. Third, there is more foreign interest and investment in the African nations that actively promulgate the Green Energy Economy. Fourth, it simply makes more economic and environmental sense to adapt a green economy at an earlier stage of industrialization, thus avoiding unnecessary pollution and waste of resources. The major advantage that GSR sees in developing a green economy in Africa is that green energy sources are generally the most easy to decentralize. This gives rural communities an edge over major urban centers. Previously, the only real avenues of energy generation were hydroelectric plants, coal burning plants, and other fossil fuels that on top of their negative environmental impact, were also highly capital intensive, and required centralized systems. This meant that no power was available for small scale industries in the remote villages. With the
  4. 4. development of green energy, it is possible to fuel steady growth in rural areas. GSR hopes that the “Green Energy Economy” can make its way out from the cities and into the countryside where most of the continent’s population still reside in rural communities. Agriculture is still a very important sector of the African economy and any green energy program that accounts this factor will be best suited to boost the prosperity of the respective economies. Mobile Phones and Rural Banking A recent phenomenon in rural development has introduced programs that take advantage of the latest in mobile phone technology to make banking services available to previously off-of- the-grid rural communities. This is extremely helpful to remote rural communities where cell phone use is becoming commonplace. Farmers can get paid for their crops by direct deposits and access these funds through their cell phone. Small rural businesses can ease their cash flow problems in the same manner. Smallholder farmers gain more insights about weather and price trends for various crops. Low cost farmer information services, which have sprung up all over India, will soon be commonplace throughout Africa. GSR has begun discussions about possible collaboration in GSR projects in Africa with SmartMoney, an organization on a mission to provide rural African poor with a new way to handle money that so that it is not as easily stolen, lost, or otherwise displaced from the hands of those who need it the most. This frees rural farmers from constraints that normally withheld them from getting the most value for their production. This new wave has proved to be so dynamic that many African state governments around the globe are treating mobiles as a form of rural development. The mobile phenomenon doesn’t just stop with rural farmers. In order to power these devices in remote areas, specialized new green energy sources such as low capital intensive wind and solar power plants are being constructed everyday to support this mobile wave. GSR feels greatly inspired by this innovative adaptation of old technology and we could see unfold the rise of an entire green economic sector in Africa based on the rural mobile revolution. Follow on Twitter Friend on Facebook Connect on LinkedIn Copyright © 2013 Green Self Reliance, Inc., All rights reserved. Visit our website: http://greenselfreliance.com/ Our emailing address is: |david@greenselfreliance.com|

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