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Flash to Fallow: Mother Nature’s 5 Financial Lessons

4 Oct

This post originally appeared on blogher’s ‘Diary of a Single Professional Woman’

Nature is rich – in resources – just like I want to be.

I often say ‘Everything I need to know about the economy and life I learned from Mother Nature’.   As fall sends nature’s flash into fallow (or dormancy), it’s the perfect time to learn from her (save, spend, grow) sustainability plan.   After all, she’s been around a long time – so what does she know that we don’t?  And more importantly what can we learn so we spring open along with the crocuses come April?   Here’s my simplistic, and metaphoric thoughts on ‘environmental economics’ to kick around along with the leaves.

seedling

Fall may feel like an end rather than a start – look out the window and nature looks like it is dying.  Ha!  Mother Nature is transitioning from her extroverted spring/summer flash to a well-deserved introverted fall/winter recovery time.  Her withdrawal of energy allows time to reflect, rejuvenate, and save for spring’s big bloom roll-out.

Shorter days likely darken our mood.  Especially as color leaves our external environment.   Green, in particular colors our thoughts – and the U.S. dollar or greenback, that universal currency.  Simply:

Lush, rich, life = Green

Green = Money

Green = Nature

Nature = Resources

Resources = Money

Money = Nature

Nature = Resources = Life

Yet, when it comes to linking the economy with the environment, it seems we are colorblind, too often living in the red.  I think we need to ask: which resources are needed for life?

For a brief period of time, I thought it was a ‘red handbag’.  As you’ve read,  it was a temporary want.  Sure, I love ‘stuff’ that makes my apartment home.  But honestly, I don’t need it – I just want it.   The only resources any of us really need for life are oxygen, water, and food.  Resources only nature can provide contrary to food package’ ingredient listings.

I say our challenge is working with Mother Nature for our needs while satisfying our human nature with our wants.

It’s asking:  What Would Mother Nature Do (WWMND) for economic success?   She’d say begin with her 5 steps:

1.  Balance:    Mother Nature has obviously spent plenty of time on a playground seesaw.  She understands the need to maintain balance even while going up and down.   She uses what she has – while saving a little for the future.    Mother Nature foregoes debt, once her bottom line turns from green to red, she catapults into endangerment/extinction.

Lesson:   We may become morally, emotionally, financially bankrupt overusing resources, causing our internal peace (balance) to become extinct.  Live under your means to keep your personal seesaw going.   Debt drives your energy, emotions, finances and goodwill into the red.  And remember: There is no plastic – no credit cards – found in nature.

Maintaining balance, like on a see-saw can seem like child's play.
Maintaining balance, like on a see-saw can seem like child’s play.

2.  Save:   Mother Nature saves everything including those piles of leaves in your yard.   This is not hoarding.  She reduces those dead leaves/blooms by recycling (decomposers de-clutter causing decaying leaves to smell like a frat house bathroom on a Sunday morning) and reusing (notice those leaves are gone by spring – broken up and back into the soil like using old clothes to make a quilt).  All this saving leads to new blooms – and a reminder that the future is no predictor of the past.

Lesson:  use what you have to grow your future – like with an IRA.    And don’t bother raking those leaves in your yard!

3.  Spew seeds:  Seeds are nature’s C.D.’s (certificates of deposit), little packets of possibility to ensure future growth.   They even sound similar!   Seeds, like C.D.’s only open at the right time, in the right place, and the right conditions – and they are supported by all those unused seeds and leaves that ‘die’.  There are even special seeds that open during a forest fire to ensure that tree species survival.  Kinda like emergency C.D.’s/funds.  

Lesson:  save for emergencies as well as the future – though the stock market provides better returns than C.D.’s.

Nobody would touch this funky burr-covered seed till it was already  open (like all CD's should be!)
Nobody would touch this funky burr-covered seed till it was already open (like all CD’s should be!)

4.  Diversification: The healthiest forest and gardens are filled with diverse trees that play host to lots of different bugs, and are called home by lots of birds.   Having only one species like Dutch Elm (on decorative paths) found one ‘sick’ tree caused them all to die.

Lesson:  Diversification of your holdings maintains balance and growth so even if your ‘Dutch Elm’-like stock tanks/dies, other stock species survive.

5.  Be sustainable:  Mother Nature thrives because everything she has is used and supports everything else, even though it may seem to be in conflict.

Lesson:  Invest in things that feed your future.  Material things that overwhelm you and end up in landfills throw you off-balance and leave nothing to decompose – unlike the leaves left in your yard that will decompose to nurture spewed seeds.  Experiential investments always leave you with seeds or kernels of thought and growth.

Part of the Coney Island boardwalk by the NY Aquarium
Part of the Coney Island boardwalk by the NY Aquarium

 Mother Nature’s 5 lessons keep you blooming in all seasons:

  • This holiday season, stay green and out of the red by matching  spending with your values (http://communicationessentials.wordpress.com/values-activity/) and keep you growing.
  • Make every day is your special Valentine’s Day by making black the new red.  Love yourself by loving your finances and living under your means to live fully in the future.

And really, just one more thing to think about:  We may say money is the root of all evil, and we should add, resources are the cause for conflicts personally and globally...

Meanwhile, what steps will you take to support your spring blooms?

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Oh Brave New World: Are we there yet?

31 Jul

When I’m brave, I notice old things in new ways.  Even when I barely remember ‘it’, my second viewing can feel as fresh – or even better.

Before your imagination runs rampant with romanticized ‘do-overs’, I’m talking about rereading ‘A Brave New World’, Aldous Huxley’s 1932 shocking and ground-breaking novel.  It’s initial review: ‘nothing can make it come alive.”

Or, oops, have we brought to life this fictionalized world?

Revisiting anything after 40 years or so (YIKES) is like entering a brand new world.  A reminder of how experience and age adds perspective.  I’m reminded why ‘do-overs’ can be wonderful.  The reason we should all literally be physical tourists to our past.

But here’s what I wonder:  does Huxley’s world  need to be relived, or it our own?

Here are my 7 perspectives on our bridged worlds:

1.  Conformity:  Their brave new world was big on conformity.  Our thoughts are freely shared – with the hope of FB likes – and the affirmation that others agree.

2.  Consumption:  Their economy survived because people consumed new stuff.  Post 2008 crash and awareness most people had no savings, we’re now told to go out and spend money to build the economy.  Throw away stuff anyone?  Products that don’t last and have to be replaced?  New styles that must be purchased to update your look every season?  Check, check, check.

3.  Never alone:  Their society shunned being alone.  Our society doesn’t have to be alone, or not virtually.  Most of us are never thumbs away from texting – or more like tweeting and FaceBook-ing our thoughts, whereabouts, and eating habits.

4.  Feeling good:  Their drug of choice, soma, made bad thoughts disappear without negative side effects.  Our society may not match that, though we do have eating, shopping, and drugs and alcohol to make us feel better even momentarily – though, unfortunately all with negative side effects.  O.k., we need to

work on this one.

5.  Class differentiation:  Their classes were separated and defined by ‘pre-natal’ nurturing (or rather test-tube), educational conditioning, and by dress.  Our society is still challenged with school inequality based on zip code, higher drop out rates and lower literacy in ‘inner cities’.  We are reminded about the importance of pre-natal care and faced with young children’s learning difficulties based on lead poisoning, fetal alcohol treatment, and poor nutrition.  And differentiation by dress:  before I knew there was a name for them, I could identify them on the ‘F’ train:  hipsters.

6.  Dislike of the natural world:  Their entertainment focused on the beautiful and clean.  Our entertainment still takes us into the natural world, though even National Parks are feeling the strain of consumerism with wildlife lying victim as roadkill.  Perhaps we can handle the dirt though because of our ubiquitous anti-bacterial sprays and hand lotions, which thankfully kill off the very bacteria which our bodies are equipped to keep in check and keep us healthy.

 There’s clearly a divide between the ‘natural’  – outdoor – world – and humankind’s ‘unnatural’ one.  Hmmm….  What does that say about our place within ‘livingkind’?

photo-117

His first choice: the remains of a Dorito’s bag in Prospect Park

7.  Love of beauty:  Their world thrived on eternal youth and beauty:  a lack of wrinkles, fat, and ugliness.   Suddenly I’m sold on traveling to this brave new world.  Then I glanced through a fashion magazine while watching T.V.  Oh, wait, we are getting there.   Check, check, check to the aforementioned.

There’s no excuse for aging or ugliness in our world (though I’ll come up with a reason soon):  anti-wrinkle/aging creams are easily found at all price points in every drug/department store.  Botox is like soma.  (I think I use parenthesis often because I see them every time I look in the mirror.)   Fat is bad: Diet advice, pills, powders and food are as plentiful as those anti-aging potions.  Spanx and slimming undergarments come in all sizes for both sexes.  Even size 2 actresses wear layers of Spanx.    If you don’t get the picture yet, just turn on your computer to watch T.V. or a movie, then look around you.  Last reminder for our distaste of the unattractive:  we’re shown pictures of stars aging poorly (i.e. look like ‘regular’ 55 y.o.’s) or look imperfect without make-up or a done hair do.

I don’t mean this to be as cynical as it sounds.  Really, I don’t.  I also don’t think it’s us following art.

Rather, I think it is us following our human nature.   Seeking natural selection to be our best, while still discovering what that best may be.

If we are ‘there’ – or where-ever we are – where do we go next?  Are we brave enough to decide?

WWMND? (What would Mother Nature do?): A fictional conversation begins

5 Jun

What’s real?

As the new normal emerges as packaged austerity and annual 100-year storms,  I’ll let you decide once you’ve ‘listened’ to these somewhat fictional conversations I’ve been writing between somewhat fictional characters: Mother Nature, Humankind, Greenback, and Credit Card.

Here it is:

“Meet me for coffee.”  Mother Nature’s  invitational text sent in frustration was born from

frustration and sadness.  She’d heard too many rumbles of despair, drowned out by the constant drone of cell phone chatter, overwhelmed by music seeping out of ear plugs.

Overheard messages:  “They did it to me; fool me once, shame on them, fool me twice, super-sized shame on them”.

“I didn’t know.  How could I have known? “

“What do you mean my job isn’t there anymore?”

“It’s not MY fault.  They made me do it:  it was the advertising, the celebrities, the catalogues, my friends, my parent”s.

“They knew I’d lose the bet:  you just can’t eat one – or buy just one”.

“Don’t tell us what do – but if you don’t – it will be your fault”.

“It’s their fault.  They came in, gave us jobs, then, spilled their oil.  Lost our jobs.  Ruined our environment.  We want our jobs back.”

And most of all she heard:  “Bamboozled.  We’ve been bamboozled”.

Meanwhile, Mother Nature listens and shakes her head again.  She has watched exploding globalization, make America’s number one export the American Dream.. She’s watched so much melt away.  Literally:   icecaps, savings, and even happiness have seemed to POOF!  evaporate into thin, or rather carbon-dioxide heavy air.

Staring at her text to meet for coffee, she looks for blame.  But where to start?  Is it Greenback’s fault for the greed he ignites in Humankind?  Or is Humankind’s irresponsible and insatiable hunger for Mother Nature’s rich resources to blame?

These bullies are culprits – and potential saviors.  Much as Mother Nature hates the idea, she knows she has to practice friendship with her enemies, or she will be the planet’s sole inhabitant.

Not that this would necessarily be a bad thing.  After all, she doesn’t need Humankind or anyone else to survive.  Yet, she is an optimist and collaborator.

And meeting for coffee doesn’t sound so bad.  In fact, it sounds pretty good.  And she wants to meet these ‘characters’.

So off she goes to the local java joint.

sustainable mug - party talk for environmentalists

Later….

At the cafe:  Greenback joins Mother Nature in ordering lattes.  Credit Card arrives in time to swipe.

Sipping, Mother Nature shakes her head as she looks around:  “Ha!  People say they’re green as they drown in their mounds of organic clothes, fair trade coffee and ‘save the planet’ coffee mugs.”

“I know what you mean.  I may be called Greenback;, but I’m seeing red these days on too many bottom lines.  I feel like I’m having an existential crisis.  Do I exist or have I been passed over for a shiny piece of plastic?”  Holding his head in his hands, Greenback glances at Credit Card who is snickering  while chomping on a scone.

Has she found an ally so quickly?  Mother Nature looks sympathetically and says, “Yup, now you’re as screwed as I’ve been for decades.”

“But he has me to help.  Together we are invincible thanks to Humankind,” Credit Card adds pointing to Greenback.  “Where IS Humankind?”

Hopes of camaraderie fade, as Mother Nature’s mood changes as quickly as the weather:  “Sure you’re invincible – at MY expense.  Sure your value has multiplied since you’ve devoured all I have to offer, from the depths of my oceans to the tops of my mountains.  Wake up:  you grow, but I’m dying.”

“Humph!”  Greenback chortles, patting Mother Nature condescendingly on the back.  “Quit whining Mommy Dearest.  I’m never down for long.  My comeback is inevitable.  What’s YOUR problem?”

“Actually, it’s YOU.”-

Stay tuned for Humankind’s entrance.  In the meantime:

What do you think a successful relationship between Mother Nature, Humankind, Credit Card, and, Greenback would look like ?

Who is to blame for the mess our world is in?

What do you think will happen when Humankind shows up?

Do you think it’s possible for Mother Nature to form a win-win relationship with Humankind, Credit Card, and Greenback?  Why or why not?

Happy Earth Day 2013: Go get hugged!

21 Apr

‘They’ say we need 8 hugs a day to be at our best.

A celebration of earth's bounty: 'Spice and Tease' at NYC's Chelsea Market

A celebration of earth’s bounty: ‘Spice and Tease’ at NYC’s Chelsea Market

‘They’ say each person needs 56 trees’ oxygen to offset her personal production of carbon dioxide.

How many hugs then do trees need – or deserve – for taking care of us each and every day?

Before you read further:  go hug.  Hug a person and/or a tree.

Not aware of Earth Day?  It’s probably because it’s not a Hallmark holiday.  That’s a good thing –  (wasted) paper would exhaust the very resources to celebrate:  trees and water.

But the downside:  it’s not well celebrated – and our survival depends on it.  Literally.

Wikipedia  ‘facts’:  Earth Day (the first in 1970) and  International Mother Earth Day (by the United Nations in 2009) is observed annually on April 22  in support for environmental protection.   Around the planet, people are listening to music, learning about eco-friendly technology, recycling electronics, clothes, bottles and cans, and participating in cleanups.

I’ve done beach clean-ups, including in the Hurricane Sandy devastated Rockaway’s.  One long-time Rockaway resident observed:  ‘lots of people come here to clean up on one day.  Then, nothing.  Nobody comes to clean when the beaches get crowded – and dirtier.’

It’s true of course.

We put a lot of momentum into one day, and then go about our business.

That one day is our consolation, and a commemorative prize.

Aveda's annual water campaign provides awareness and clean drinking water!

Aveda’s annual water campaign provides awareness and clean drinking water!

But I wonder: why do the beaches need to be ‘picked up’ so often?   We’ve picked up cigarette butts, toys, bottles, cans, socks, towels, styrofoam cups, those big plastic cups, straws, and suntan lotion bottles. In April or May. Long before beach season begins.

People must believe it’s okay to bury their garbage along with their heads or feet in the sand….  Or that small stuff, like thousands of cigarette butts won’t make a difference because they are small.

Btw, cigarette butts don’t degrade.

Saturday, I volunteered with Riverkeeper, at NYC’s Hudson River Greenway.  The bright sunny day masked the freezing wind, keeping people moving along the beautiful green space that parallels the High Line and the Hudson River.  This event brought several environmental groups together to share information.

Solar One:  those little black squares are solar panels and the little colored things are spinning around

Solar One: those little black squares are solar panels and the little colored things are spinning around

(Interestingly, I was told, environmental groups compete for attention and funding, often not communicating and sharing thoughts and action.)

These groups do amazing things - not many people because it was FREEZING! Panelists including:  Riverkeeper, Waterkeeper, Grow NYC and Hudson River Greenway

These groups do amazing things – not many people because it was FREEZING! Panelists including: Riverkeeper, Waterkeeper, Grow NYC and Hudson River Greenway

The passing public collected ‘swag‘:  reusable bags from Magnolia Bakery, Aveeno face cream, and pamphlets.  People love free stuff.

Swag (bags from Magnolia Bakery) roadkill?

Swag (bags from Magnolia Bakery) roadkill?

I asked one event participant why Earth Day wasn’t a widely celebrated ‘event’.

‘Exhaustion from being over publicized’

Is this really what we want to hear?jbblogfloprotacohvac.com

Is this really what we want to hear?jbblogfloprotacohvac.com

I wonder if it’s become like the boy calling ‘wolf’:  the environmentalist calling ‘global warming, global devastation’ one time too many.

first-earth-day-1970_1366004188 earthday2013funphotos.com

And we deal best with catastrophes when they strike –  all of us trying to stay afloat between devastating events from super storms to job loss.  Exhausting!

It’s almost understandable that clean air, water, healthy food, the diverse ecosystems that provides these things are exhausting to think about. Much less do anything about it.  I’ve often seen bottles in cans in Whole Foods garbage cans when a recycling bin is steps aways (and yes, I take them out and settle them in their proper receptacle!)

But here’s the most interesting thing:  Earth Day and Holocaust Remembrance Day are days apart.  

Coincidence?  

Maybe.  But these two days are joined in a tight hug.

This WWII poster says it all!

This WWII poster says it all!

Last year I wrote about the Bielski Partisans (movie: Defiance) WWII survival in the forests.

Wars, hate crimes, genocides ultimately are over resources.  Natural resources that come from the Earth.

People are killed over land, water, diamonds. Food.  Not to mention Nike’s.

So my thoughts on this beautiful Earth Day are:  Stand-up!

Hug a tree.  Hug a person.

Fight Genocide – fight for a healthy planet.

You can prevent war- reduce your consumption of ‘stuff’, turn off the water, drive less, recycle.

less is more earth day

Let’s focus on quality – not quantity.  Let’s care enough about ourselves and future generations to leave them a real inheritance.

Stand up by donating time, money, and energy.  Talk about and share these organizations:

Riverkeeper

Grow NYC

Waterkeeper

JNF (starting planting trees in Israel in 1901!)

Sierra Club

US Holocaust Museum

A Meaningful World (anti-Genocide)

Post-Sandy: Doha meets the Biggest (CO2) Loser

28 Nov

A whimsical, wishful thought about human nature and change!

 What could You do with 42 Billion Dollars?

It would be like winning the biggest lottery ever!  You’d never have to worry about a thing.  Why you could live anywhere you wanted safely and securely.  Even if it was on the edge of a cliff – fiscal or otherwise.  You could build the safest support around to stay safely perched.

Unless of course Sandy-esque storms strike and sweep you into the void below.

Of course you could afford to build a new house – anywhere.   On a beach, or, on your own island in the South Pacific.

Unless that island drowns by rising sea levels – or a Sandy-esque surge.

Living on the edge – fiscally or environmentally it’s dangerous!

Climate change will change our sense of security.

I have to mention Sandy since only a month ago NYC was hit by the costliest storm to hit this island.  It will cost NYC $42 Billion to rebuild – well, actually it will cost FEMA that amount.

Global warming is REALLY expensive!

And like the song goes:  if climate change can make it here (NYC) , it can make it anywhere.”

Well, close enough.  Post-Sandy, there was real acknowledgement – by politicians and skeptics alike – of the real and present danger of global warming courtesy of rising carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

So a month after this devastating storm, acknowledged to be ‘The New Normal’, global climate talks are being held in Doha Qatar.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/11/28/understanding-the-doha-climate-talks-in-three-charts/  click here for the Washington Post’s sum of the talks past and present.

Global leaders are discussing policies and actions to halt, reverse, and take action about our warming planet and its deleterious effects.

It’s been 15 years since the Kyoto Protocol and the first climate talks.  Talk is just hot air.  Hot air adds to global warming.  And there has been lots of talk over the years.

Industrialization and ‘the good life’ has led to increased carbon dioxide emissions leading to to increased temperatures causing increased melting of the ice caps, and, rising sea levels.

And all of that leads to severe weather patterns like our blistering hot summer and catastrophic hurricanes.

Insult to injury:  melting ice caps are releasing methane (aka as carbon-dioxide), increasing temperatures even more and accelerating the above process.

I somehow assumed this years climate talks would be front page news considering the extreme weather of this past year including draughts and heat, and Sandy.

I somehow assumed people would really care this year.  But assumptions are as dangerous as not believing in climate change.

China is gearing up for action in 2030; the U.S. is poised for 2015.

This means potential for 3 more Sandy-esque storms to hit the Northeast – and we know New Yorker’s won’t stand for that.  I mean, would YOU?

Three more years of sinking islands and drowning polar bears.  Three more years

for carbon-dioxide levels to rise even further.

I continue to wonder why people don’t care and why these climate talks are buried beneath worries of the fiscal cliff.

I think I have the solution to get people interested and involved and to take action:

We need a REALITY SHOW! 

Imagine:  THE BIGGEST carbon-emission LOSER.

People LOVE that show and for good reason.

This would be a chance for all of us to lighten our load since the whole planet is CO2 pudgy.  No, let’s be honest:  CO2 OBESE.

And it’s dangerous and ugly.  People can’t breathe, can’t move.

This revolution needs a better sign! Help me out here!

So here’s how The Biggest carbon-emission Loser would work:

Each week on a televised broadcast:  Nations, represented by Presidents, Ministers, Kings, or Princes would weigh the carbon-dioxide output of their citizens and their actions.

Imagine Obama competing with Angela Merkel’s EU (for starters).

During the intervening weeks, citizens would take action in their countries to reduce CO2 to help their nations win.  Well lose first to win big!

Each and every one of us would have to:

  1. Consume less stuff, energy, gas
  2. Exercise responsible use of water and electricity
  3. Work out ways to support responsible manufacturing and safe energy production

We can do this – we can win! 

And for those of us in the U.S. we can whup some EU butt by putting our good ‘ole Yankee ingenuity to good use.

So what will you do to reduce our CO2 emissions?

Will you get  your community together to reduce and reuse?

Carpool?

Rethink holiday gifts or at least skip the wrapping paper? Re-gift?

Turn off the water?

Let’s start a revolution.

I say let’s take action and participate in the Biggest loser: carbon emission version! Pic: http://savemyblueplanet.blogspot.com/p/photos-showint-effects-of-global.html

We can all be reality TV stars!  Let’s get this on screens around the world!

Share your thoughts!