Saturday, June 24, 2017

#167 Rethinking security

Dear all,

We're recently back from a wonderful ten days in northern New Mexico, where I'd been invited to deliver the keynote address at an annual gathering of Quakers from the southwest.  It was the perfect combination of visiting friends in Santa Fe, working my butt off to finish preparing and give an hour-long talk on money, integrity and community, getting great support from Chuck, being successful(!), meetings tons of wonderful people, and having plenty of relaxed time to take in the beauty of our surroundings and learn about local history and culture.  What a gift!
So now my task is to take in the reality of being somebody who can do that kind of thing.  It fits with an idea I've been pondering recently, that holding back from the influence I am capable of having implies waste--and I'm a person who really hates waste.  And I'm left with the wish that we all might take opportunities to stretch.

Love on this beautiful summer evening,

Rethinking security

A few years ago, I had the opportunity through work to meet a lovely family who run an early childhood program in a poor part of the city west of where I live.  I liked them a lot and was glad they were interested in having some of the tomato seedlings I had brought to the meeting to share.  We talked a little about the garden they were hoping to start and later that month, I dropped some kale and collard seedlings off at their center.

I stayed in touch and arranged to have them host one of our early childhood meetings the following spring.  We had another long conversation about gardening, and they showed us the little raised beds they had built in a big empty lot down the street.  Seeing that expanse of empty space, I spent time over the next several weeks separating perennials in our community garden, and starting a little ad hoc nursery of flowers, vegetable starts and fruit bushes to share.

Then on a Saturday morning in May, I worked together for three hours with them, hauling dirt, arranging and planting vegetable beds in the sunny back, and putting all the flowers in a couple of beds out front where they could be enjoyed by passersby.

I came home with new friends.  He shared a jar of his famous homemade barbeque sauce with me, and I’m looking forward to going back and giving him a jar of my currant juice and a recipe for currant sorbet.  I’d love to see if we can get some hardy perennials to take hold in the vast rocky middle of that lot.  Mostly I’m looking forward to being friends together.

As I meditate on this experience that has given me so much pleasure, it occurs to me that it can also be seen as an investment in my long-term security.  In a neighborhood that was easy to think of as other, I now feel a deep point of connection.  My world is safer, my extended family had been extended and enriched—and I now have a source for fine barbeque sauce!

This is not money in the bank in the traditional sense, and by itself it won’t support me in my old age.  But there’s a way in which it may be equally valuable or more so.  It may make as much sense to put time into building these human assets as it is to working extra hours to save up money for an individual future.  These connections are a critical part of the picture as we struggle to find our way in this “now and not yet” world.


In my mailbox this morning—

A young woman at Standing Rock,
fellow paddler from last summer,
looking for places to donate medical supplies,

A young man from Spain
confirming his summer time with us
his plan to rest, connect with himself,
visit people he loves,

A dear friend from Poland
sharing news of her two small children
and spring, and marriage, and work.

A young man from Uganda
wondering if the video he made
in memory of a mutual friend has arrived,

A local new mother
sorry we can’t get together this afternoon
hoping for another time.

I am awash in riches.

Imagine:  A new economy is possible!
Farm to school

In New Mexico, a program that started out to support land and water rights for indigenous people now has the following integrated elements:
training for young farmers, to help keep their community's original land and water rights intact and provide work
creation of cooperatives to allow a group of farmers to develop more stable markets
state legislation to give school districts monetary incentives to buy local produce for school lunches
coordination of 24 cooperatives all over the state to take advantage of different climates and growing seasons.
As a result, over half of the school children in the state are getting local organic produce in their lunches, and a network of mostly indigenous farmers are securing a new livelihood off the land.

Some things that have made me hopeful recently:

A ruling by a judge in Argentina that a chimpanzee named Cecilia had legal rights and must be released from a zoo.

A grassroots process in Santa Fe that is moving steadily toward creating a public city bank, and all the other efforts toward public banking around the country.

Maryland’s ban on hydraulic fracturing, the second in recent months, as New York recently filed the final paperwork to ban fracking.

Small towns in Utah and New Mexico that are electing town/county officials who are pursuing inclusive, environment-friendly and progressive agendas.
(no links--just conversations!)

Toward a Right Relationship with Finance 
Check out this new book that I co-authored on Debt, Interest, Growth and Security.

The growth economy is failing to provide equitable well-being for humanity and a life-sustaining future for Earth.  However our institutional endowments and individual retirement are dependent on that same growth economy.  This book:
    • offers background on our current economic system--how it is based on unearned income on the one hand and debt on the other, with a built-in momentum toward economy inequality and ecological overshoot;
    • frames the conversation within the context of our deepest values and beliefs;
    • suggests plausible and historically grounded alternatives to the current system, particularly with regard to financing retirement; and
    • invites everyone to imagine new forms of durable economic and social security, and to help create the relationships and institutions that will make them a reality.
With many people now counting as never before on the performance of Wall Street for retirement security, how can this system be challenged with integrity and effectiveness?  Can we break with our dependence on financial speculation and build up new structures of security in a transformed, life-centered economy?

To order the book, or read it on line, go to and scroll down.

More resources

Resource from my friend Daniel Hunter, Building a Movement to End the New Jim Crow; An Organizing Guide.

Recent posts on other web/blog sites:

In, Pamela Haines locates her family's homey DIY celebrations on a class spectrum of different connections to upward mobility.


Muscle Building for Peace and Justice; a Non-Violent Workout Routine for the 21st Century--an integration of much of my experience and thinking over the years: (or just google the title), a website that I've contributed to often (check the archives), a home for all the parenting writing I've done over the past 20 years.  NOTE THE NEW URL. START: a way to study and work together with others to create a better world.

For earlier columns, go to  I'm currently posting at