Friday, December 11, 2009

A Prescription for Life

Rosemary Gladstar writes in her book Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health, "There is no great secret to good health. Despite the bombardment of advertisement from the health and beauty industries that offers an instant pill or cure-all for the woes and illnesses of life, good health is, in truth, the practice of living healthfully everyday (Gladstar 5)". While this is true for some, those in a position to escape the bombardment, many others are landlocked and confused stuck in the labyrinth without a guide; many are children. Many must make due with what they can muster in this unnatural order of survival of the wealthiest. And today, survival doesn't depend on cultures of strength for many low income people. In some cases, the custom of ignorance of health is what chains them to their position of exploitation. Innocent and naive, the children must hear the elders when they speak about healthy lifestyles. We, the people concerned with future generations, must provide a new, culturally competent, recipe for vibrant health.

My philosophy of organizing and leadership has changed somewhat over the years I have been involved in community building. From unerring principles to critical compromises, what has become most important to me as a leader is the participation of the membership. If the membership is proactive and passionate then the leadership has done the work of facilitating democracy in action. Through dialogue, action, and reflection, the membership is simultaneously unified and critical, and capable of reinforcing the strengths of their community. A difficult balance to reach considering all the forces at work, finding local leadership, establishing democratic dialogue, and incorporating activities that push for the progress of the organization, once the balance is struck and cared for health becomes a wonderful byproduct.

As nutrition educators, we must acknowledge the school as a strong community; a great asset. With students, teachers, faculty, and parents all intimately involved, the foundation for strong cultures of health are in place. The demand then becomes the implementation of appropriate curriculum/activities to educate the young and old alike to the possibilities of good nutrition as a means to strengthen minds, bodies, and communities. Seeing the potentials and positive results of empowering nutrition education, a cycle of critical communities begins.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Financial Accountability Experiment

IN light of the recent global economic meltdown, I would like to propose a few new arrangements for corporate agents and the communities which they are a part. I realize that not all corporations played a negative part in the process of devastating our apparent fragile market, but every business (large and small) can only benefit from local attention. These mechanisms must serve to prevent the devastations we have seen since the financial crisis in the future, and promote a more stable and prosperous market for future generations.

1. Citizen's social commission: A report accounting for the social impacts of corporate community members. Through a devised community impact calculus, citizen groups can determine the responsibility and influences corporations have to communities.

2. Citizen's social audit: A committee of citizen's dedicated to overseeing the operations of Randomly selected businesses in the area. This mechanism will serve to ensure positive social and legal practices on the part of businesses. Serving to spread accountability, businesses will be held to certain parameters or face popular criticism and boycotts.

3. Community Capital: A measure to determine social, political, and economic assets held by the community. Through such an appraisal, the community can better offer benefits to members thereby attracting consistent membership and power; determining which members have resources (not only monetary), coordinators can piece together all sorts of teams within the community tasked with achieving some aim. For instance, recognizing that one community member is the media correspondent for a local media outlet and another member is a communications Teaching Assistant at a local college, coordinators can arrange for an informal dialogue around the intersection of media theory and practice and it's affects on community. [Such arrangements can take innumerable forms.]

These proposed arrangements would serve to promote social responsibility and local investment in local-economies. Without diverting too much of the attention of business managers from their work, each citizen can make certain they are familiar with the intentions and implements of their local businesses. In fact, the implementation of this philosophy of democratic participation should not only fall on the citizens but directly should be the task of the Federal Reserve as part of their work is to regulate the financial industry. Much as Dean Baker wrote in the Guardian recently, "The Fed has a large arsenal with which to attack a housing bubble, but the first weapon is simply talk. If Greenspan and Bernanke had used their platform at the Fed to educate Congress, the financial industry, and the public at large about the existence of the housing bubble and the risks it posed, this likely would have been sufficient to pop it." I am suggesting a thorough education of the public in the face of a failure of leadership.

Outfitted with easy-to-use accounting tools, such as social responsibility templates, these groups of citizens will be capable of changing the process of market growth and stability forever.

Furthermore, as I am proposing so much additional work for citizens, let's not forget about those originally tasked with protecting the common good: government. I believe city governments should be tasked with logging popular stories of how this financial crisis affected their populations. It should be made clear through whatever means the city can muster that we will never forget the mistakes of wall street and the "regulators" who were supposed to protect us against these forces of greed and neglect.

Now, what I have not yet addressed is an aspect of politics that monied interests heavily rely upon to have their agenda pursued by policymakers and that is access. THE PEOPLE MUST HAVE ACCESS. Without an avenue to communicate and lobby for our interests, our interests will always be ignored in favor for the interests of those with access.