building a beautiful and bountiful world in collaboration with nature

Archive for February, 2012

A New Version of an Old Idea: Radiant Money

I’ve been neglectful of this blog over the past few weeks because I’ve been working on another project, following through on an idea that came to me on one of my dog walks at the beginning of February.  Like most everyone else on the planet, I spend a fair amount of time thinking about money or what I might like to do with more money.  My choice of career was at least partly made because of the dynamics of money in my life.

At 48 I am one of the missing generation of farmers, one of the reasons the average age of farmers in the United States has climbed to 65.  Though I got a BA in Ecological Agriculture and did several apprenticeships that taught me good farming skills, I could never quite make the leap to being a farmer because business and entrepreneurial-thinking is not natural to me and those are two absolutely essential skills if farming is going to support you.

I have often wondered what the world would be like if we had designed money differently, but over the past few years I’ve realized that it’s not really the money at all.  It’s about us, about how we perceive each other and ourselves.  Money is just a reflection of our beliefs about the nature of human beings.

The Radiant Money Project is the natural result of my epiphany that money was never  invented to facilitate trade.  That came about later.  The earliest money exchanges were all about appreciation.

If you’d like to read more about this, then please check out my new radiant money blog.  I’ve invented Notes of Appreciation and will be talking about my experiences as I hand them out and spread the word that the circulation of appreciation is a strong ingredient in the medicine we need.

And next week I’ll get back to gardens and farms and the magnificent nature of this fractal, holographic body-mind-world.

Agriculture: Still a Powerful Change Agent

Agriculture is a powerful force.  I am reminded of this as I continue to read the Ringing Cedars book series by Vladimir Megre.  I just finished book 5, Who Are We?  (I am reading these, though I do photoread them first.)  At this point the series has morphed into the story of the Russian people, their agriculture, and the tremendous potential in their agricultural choices now.

In the last part of book 4, Co-Creation, Anastasia expressed her vision for the Russian people to transform themselves and their society into a vital and vibrant agrarian civilization through the simple process of establishing “family domains”.  These domains are one hectare (about 2 1/2 acres) parcels designed to provide food and shelter and productive, creative work for each family as well as ecosystem services for Russia as a whole.  They use living, hedgerow fences, for example, on their perimeters; remain at least half in forest; and are gardened using the excess fertility produced by the forest.  Gathered together into eco-village communities, these family domains become the backbone, actually the entire skeleton, the foundation for the new Russia.

The crux of this vision lies in the domains being given to any willing citizen by the Russian government.  They will be given in perpetuity so long as there is an heir willing to continue working them and will be completely tax-free.  Neither the land, nor the products of these domains will be subject to any form of taxation, allowing money to flow to and remain with individuals and families.

This last part may sound impossible to anyone with economic training, but by the time the books address the questions that come up, the whole scheme begins to look not only possible, but desirable.  Higher taxes on tourism combined with more private funding of the community and public projects that people desire (“put your money where your mouth is” sort of thing) are just two of the ways that the Russian government can do this and still function.

This book was originally published in Russian in 2001.  They have sold like hotcakes there and the ideas in them have apparently been embraced whole-heartedly by millions of Russians.  According to a footnote in my English edition, on July 7, 2003 Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law the “Private Garden-plot Act”.  Russian citizens can now receive free of charge from the state plots of land in private, inheritable ownership.  The size of these plots varies by region, generally between 1 and 3 hectares.  Produce grown on these plots is not subject to taxation.  A second law strengthening the first was passed in June 2006.

Some basic data points regarding Russian agriculture are also discussed early in Book 5.  In 1997 Russian household gardens grew 90% of Russia’s potatoes, 77% of its berries and fruit, and 73% of its vegetables.  In 2004 these numbers were up to 93%, 80%, and 81% respectively.  Russian gardeners, working in their free time and using predominantly organic methods – and without benefit of heavy machinery, hired labor, or government subsidies – now outproduce the whole commercial agricultural sector of Russia with 51% of the country’s total ag output.  According to the book, the contribution of these gardeners to the Russian economy exceeds any one of the following industries: steel; electric power generation; chemical and pharmaceutical; forestry, timber, pulp and paper together; oil refining, natural gas, and coal together.

How agriculture is practiced ripples through a culture and society, shaping the people, the social institutions, and the land itself.  Big ag has helped shape big banks, big corporations, and big government in this country – and vice versa.  I am encouraged to hear that the Russian people are working on taking a different path.

Russia is a very different culture, but I wonder if there are parts of this vision that would be helpful in the quest for health and happiness here in the United States?  Can we develop more appreciation for the potential power in the growing-abilities of small-scale and homestead-scale gardeners, especially when multiplied by millions.  Michael Ableman’s proposal that fruit and veggie growing needs to be carried on a lot more shoulders here in North America falls in line with Anastasia’s vision of a path to a healthy and bright future.  Could the land-linking systems springing up around the country in response to an aging farmer population be expanded to include those wishing to produce on a smaller scale?  Could they become a means to magnify the power of the small?  Can we write a new business plan for our local, state, and/or national governments that would show them the enhanced potential for resilience, democracy, and overall well-being in adopting tax-free policies for this scale of agriculture?

That seems far off right now, but with enough inspired minds, it is not out of reach.

In one of the early books in this series, Anastasia emphasizes the importance of people touching the Earth with their hands.  In the same way that a horse can feel the presence of one fly on its coat or we can feel one mosquito land on our skin, the Earth is also sensitive and can feel how we handle her.  The energies of love and appreciation and joy that pour in through our hands is significant to the Earth’s health and well-being.

In a world acknowledged to be quantum and entangled at all scales, we can no longer dismiss such an idea as ludicrous.  We do hold the power of regeneration in our hearts and minds and hands.  Let’s use it!

Clarity in No Time

My stack of seed catalogs was piling up and getting in the way.  Normally, like many gardeners, I enjoy taking time to cozy up to these catalogs with a mug of hot tea on a cold, rainy morning or evening.  This year has been different.  Winter has only dropped in briefly, and I’m more inclined to want to be outdoors enjoying this Southern California-style “winter” weather than staying indoors, so I wasn’t getting to the seed catalogs and orders.

Then photoreading entered my repertoire of skills.  Photoreading is a “whole mind system”.  It’s a system that celebrates the fact that we are much more that a brain attached to a body, more than a rational, linear, analytical mind that also happens to have emotions.  It’s a totally useful and practical tool for getting through your reading in the time you have available, while at the same time building greater neural connectivity as well as greater connection between the conscious and not-so-conscious mind.  This translates as side effects of enhanced memory and intuition.

I’m still very new to this system, but the seed catalog miracle tells me I’ve only begun to tap the potential.  My average time with a seed catalog is roughly one hour spent perusing, imagining, deliberating, and finally deciding what seeds I want.  Several evenings ago I took the catalog on top of the stack – my favorite one – and photoread it.  This means I got myself quite relaxed yet alert (“entered the state”), diffused my eyes to take in the open pages at once with my peripheral vision expanded, and flipped through the catalog turning a page every second or two.

Let me assure you – nothing gets read with the conscious mind at that speed.

The recommended “incubation” time is 20 minutes, but I decided I’d just take 5 minutes right away and flip through the catalog for a peek at what attracted my attention.  Ten minutes later I had my entire seed order marked out with a certainty and decisiveness that startled me.  In looking at each page, I felt completely clear on what would be useful and what would be redundant or inappropriate for my circumstances.

My experience with the rest of the seed catalogs was similar, and it’s clear to me that the skills taught in photoreading extend way beyond the realm of words and reading.  I’m looking forward to playing with some of these skills and techniques and ideas in the garden itself.

***For those who are interested in pursuing this on their own:  Photoreading was developed by Paul Scheele of Learning Strategies Corporation in Minneapolis.  I purchased the Basic Self-Study course and have used it for 3 weeks now.  There is also a deluxe version.  Weekend seminars are offered.  Alas, I’m not getting any kickbacks for this.