A cautionary tale of too little water and too much water – a reprise from 2015

The following was written almost eight years ago, but holds even more concern today with fresh water crises in the US west and around the world and our ever heightening sea levels, placing major coastal cities like Miami at risk.

We have two major environmental concerns that are impacting us now and will continue to do so, unless we plan and execute a more dramatic strategy. One gets too little air time, while the other gets talked about, but is under constant attack by hired public relations people who are highlighted in the documentary ‘Merchants of Doubt” and the most recent airing of “Vice” on HBO. First, we have a growing fresh water shortage problem that is predicted to get worse in drought stricken and other areas. Second, we have an increasing intrusion of salt water in low-lying coastal areas that will also get far worse than predicted, likely displacing 300 million people by century’s end.

Fresh water is one of our two most dear resources on the planet, with the other being the air we breathe. Managing a predicted water shortage may be one of the most crucial tasks in front of us, yet we do not give sufficient news coverage to this looming problem. I would encourage you to read one of the best history books I have ever read by Steven Solomon called “Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power and Civilization.”  The book does more than look backwards as it highlights a major concern going forward and uses the term “water is the new oil.” A link is provided below to an article on the book.

Any investment that requires the substantial use of water needs to factor that use in its Return on Investment calculations. I am against fracking for several reasons, but my greatest fear is the significant use of water that we cannot let trickle back into our water supply. When this issue is scoffed at by industry people, it should be noted that in the past couple of years frackers and farmers have been fighting over water in California, Kansas and Oklahoma. It should be noted in some areas of Texas, which is heavily drought prone, about 20% of an area’s water supply goes to fracking.

I use the fracking case as an example. We must be mindful of coal ash supplies near water sources, which is where they almost always are placed. We must be mindful of developers and how run off can occur from houses built on various lakes. We must be mindful of where we have placed dams and where we may have straightened out rivers, which can be harmful. And, we must re-emphasize conservation of water through the use of waterless water heaters, planting more endemic plants to an area, less water sprinkling, gray water plumbing for toilets, and what Orange County has done with sewage water which is treated and filtered many times over and reused as drinking water (yes, it is drinkable).

The other major concern relates to the impact of climate change on coastal locations, especially those below or at sea level. Climate change has many impacts, one of which is to make drought prone areas worse, but the rising sea levels is getting more attention. And, after watching what is happening in Antarctica and Greenland on the documentary “Vice,” the scientists who measure the impact on melting ice masses say it is too late to save Antarctica from severely melting with what we have done thus far.

The “Merchants of Doubt” who are the hired guns of the fossil fuel industry note that Antarctica is growing in ice mass. Yet, this is clearly refuted by the scientists doing the annual measuring noting the PR folks are purposefully confusing sea ice with land ice. The “sea ice” is thawing and refreezing to the tune of a meter thick, while the “land ice” which is kilometers thick is melting away and that is the major problem. The scientists equate it to ice thawing in a glass and refreezing (sea ice) versus adding more melted ice to the glass (land ice) which is causing the glass to run over. I make this distinction as the “Merchants of Doubt” are very good at what they do and are well paid by the industry to cause this doubt. Just remember the overflowing glass as a metaphor for what is actually happening versus the false message put forth by deniers.

The sad truth is people and some leaders believe this messaging and it is actually harming our planet and its inhabitants by delaying what needs to be done. The country of Bangladesh is being consumed by the encroaching waters in a very noticeable way. Impoverished people who farm and fish are required to move to overcrowded cities. The country of Denmark developed a long-range plan that had to survive different parties in power, so it had the buy-in of everyone. Ecuador is fighting a never-ending battle against the relentless sea. The City of Miami’s county (Dade County) has joined with three adjacent counties to invest $200 million into plans to stave off the encroaching sea water which is coming up through the storm drains in the streets more frequently. Below is a link to an article on the renewed efforts.

The rising sea levels will impact every low-lying area on the planet and is already consuming islands like the Cartaret Islands, whose ambassadors had to go to larger islands to ask if they could move there. It is also making the impact of hurricanes worse and will continue to do so. Climate scientists note hurricanes hitting shore with higher sea levels is like dunking a basketball off a raised court. The damage is more severe. Hurricane Sandy is a precursor to what will happen more often. This is where the cost of repair comes into play which totaled in the hundreds of billions, just with Sandy.

But, don’t take my word for it, read for yourself. I am not a scientist, but I can read. 97% of scientists note that man-influenced climate change is a happening and is a major concern. Out of 14,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers on climate change, only three were contrarian. Mercer Investment Consulting surveyed the largest pension scheme sponsors on the planet and these sponsors estimate the cost of climate change impact will be in the tens of trillions of dollars. Marsh, the largest risk management firm in the world, is speaking routinely with clients about managing risk of coastal assets. Georgia State University, one of the most well known risk management and actuarial schools in the US, has a curriculum around planning for climate change. Wall Street is factoring in the cost of climate change risk in their pricing. You also have the conclusions of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA, the UN International Panel of Climate Change, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science on man-influenced climate change. And, it goes on.

These two water issues are critical to our future. We are past time on acting and we need to plan and execute accordingly. We do not need well paid BS artists using science out of context to further prevent action from happening. We are at a point where we must question politicians on what we should do about these issues. And, if they say climate change or global warming is hoax, do us all a favor and do not vote for them. If they do not recognize water shortage as the major problem it is has become, do not vote for them. If they say it is a jobs issue more so than an environmental issue, note that the one of the fastest growing industries for jobs is the solar energy industry, which is averaging annual double-digit growth with 174,000 US jobs at year-end. The wind energy industry is growing as well and could also grow at the same clip with even more investment. And, the sun shines and wind blows in every state, some more so than others, so the energy impact and job creation can be spread around.

If anything, please understand the importance of these two issues. Question everything, especially politicians, leaders and so-called news sources. We do not have time to wait on leaders to catch-up. We need to make them catch-up. If they don’t or are not willing, get leaders who will look at real data and listen to unbiased science and help us do something about our problems. Our failure to act has made this even more crucial.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steven-solomon/water-is-the-new-oil_b_380803.html

http://www.law360.com/articles/613588/miami-dade-officials-accelerate-response-to-sea-level-rise

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Tell me why?

The chorus to the popular Beatles’ song “Tell me why?” goes:

“Tell me why you cried
And why you lied to me
Tell me why you cried
And why you lied to me”

I have been a broken record on the need to ask more “why” questions of politicians. In so doing, maybe their “undergarments of untruths” might begin to show from beneath their outer appearances. And, if they evade answering, ask it again. Politicians do not want their lying to be discovered. Plus, some lie so much, they don’t know where the truth stops and the lies begin.

Here are few questions to help bare those undergarments of untruths.

  • Why did the new Republican majority in the US House vote to defund a recent request to increase funding to the IRS on the very same day (per CNN) that “Allen Weisselberg, former President Donald Trump’s long-time chief financial officer, was sentenced by a New York judge to five months in jail for his role in a decade-long tax fraud scheme after testifying as the state’s witness against the Trump Organization.” No one likes the IRS, but they perform a needed function and this request was to make improvements and restore funding that the previous president took away. I believe his name is Trump, and his organization will be sentenced later in the week.
  • Why do Republicans only care about the deficit when a Democrat is in the White House? And, why is that same former president making hay over the debt and deficit when he did absolutely nothing about it for four years. In fact, he made it about $2 trillion worse with his tax cut that mainly benefitted the wealthy and corporations per the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Republicans touted this tax cut would pay for itself, but that line of thinking has been horse excrement for a very long time and still is. Democrats could be much better at addressing the debt and deficit, but they are better at it than Republicans.
  • Why do people follow so-called leaders who have the most shallow of egos? Whether their name is Kim Jung-Un, Jair Bolsonaro, Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump et al, why do these supposed strong acting men act like babies when they don’t get their way? Jung-Un’s bio reads like a Greek God’s citing all of his Olympian conquests and successes. It may even say his excrement has no odor. Neither Bolsonaro and Trump can tolerate losing which shows abysmal failure of fortitude. And, Putin has screwed up royally with his Ukraine invasion and continues to add gasoline to the fire rather admit such.
  • Why are books being banned when people can easily download them from online sources? (Note: This question is courtesy of our friend Scottie’s blog). There is an old line if you want to get more people to read or watch something, ban it. My favorite banning story was I believe espoused by Senator Ted Cruz. Cruz wanted to ban “Fahrenheit 451” which is a book about banning and burning books, with the title indicative of the temperature at which a book would burn. Ironically, Cruz once did a fillibuster by reading “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss on the floor of the Senate. This fossil fuel proponent was reading a book about protecting the environment.
  • Why does anyone follow some of the inane and mean-spirited acting people who are now in the halls of legislature, including the US Congress? Gerrymandering has created safe districts where people who should not be in these positions can find themselves elected, as so few people vote in primaries. These folks are rather overt in their comments and actions and it should cause a lot of head scratching. I want civil discourse with folks using actual facts when they are doing our business. So, we should ask these folks to explain themselves when they denigrate opponents and untruthfully opine. Direct questions like do you really believe that or you just saying it would help?

Maybe we should change the lyrics to “Tell me why you MAKE me cry and why you lie to me?”


And in the end

The final lyrics on the final album produced by The Beatles go something like this:

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

The lyrics end a compilation of songs at the conclusion of “Abbey Road,” an album which I have long felt rivaled the more critically acclaimed “Sgt. Pepper.” It should be noted the “Let it be” album was released after “Abbey Road,” but it was already in the can, so to speak being recorded earlier over much acrimony.

In a book by reporter and Beatles’ fan Ken McNab using this title “And in the end,” he chronicles “the last days of The Beatles,” which is the book’s subtitle. If you like The Beatles, this is a tough book to read, but an excellent and entertaining one as well. If you are not a fan of the Fab Four, it remains a good book to show how people who become at odds with each other can still work together and collaboratively toward a common goal.

The key takeaway from McNab’s book is, first and foremost, it was time for The Beatles to go their separate ways. Yes, things precipitated this inevitable conclusion, but they had been together, three for more than ten years, but at least eight years as group in the limelight or beginning stages of such fame. The acrimony was already in evidence, but it was not just between the two principal song writing leads of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. It was not just a divorce between the two, as a key third member was feeling unloved needing to spread his wings.

George Harrison was beginning to reveal a great talent for song writing building off his earlier craftmanship. Yet, he had a difficult time getting heard by the others and was the first to announce he was quitting, but stuck around after his first outburst. It is ironic two of the best selling songs from “Abbey Road” are arguably written by George, “Something” and “Here comes the sun.” Yet, he had several more he had recorded as full demos that were passed on by The Beatles and he used in his first solo album, “All things must pass.”

What became clear from my reading are these themes. The Beatles are hugely creative as individuals and as a group. They would hone songs written largely by another offering key input. Yet, when the song writer had a strong sense of how a song should go, the other three would back off and become just excellent studio musicians and get it done. This kind of give and take was marvelous to behold by others who were in the studio with them.

But, the other key backdrop is as good as they were musically, they were equally as poor as business managers. A lot of the acrimony came from some poor business decisions and contracts where they were taken advantage of. And, even more acrimony came from the decisions to create Apple Records who spawned talents like James Taylor, Badfinger, etc. They had way too many sycophants and hangers on who just wanted to be at a party paid for by The Beatles. Apple was hemorrhaging money.

Yet, the final straws get more attention than the above, but were important nonetheless. Lennon began a relationship and eventual marriage to Yoko Ono and invited her to seemingly every meeting and recording session of The Beatles. It became a source of irritation to say the least (I used to think the Ono issue was overstated, but that was not the case). McCartney married Linda Eastman one of the heirs to the Eastman Kodak legacy and was pushing the other three to hire his future brother-in-law to run Apple and sort out the financial mess. The other three would not have it suggesting they hire a brow-beating music industry executive, so it began a three on one negotiation on most financial matters. So, trust in McCartney from a business standpoint waned.

With all of this happening, they did largely complete an album called “Let it be” that the band just did not love. “Get back,” arguably the best song from the album, was played live on film on the rooftop of the Abbey Road studios, but it showed the acrimony as much as their talent. This is a key reason it was not released until after “Abbey Road.”

On Abbey Road,” they brought in producer George Martin, who was heavily involved on earlier work but left, to help them with “Abbey Road.” Even though the band had issues, they focused like they used to on making excellent music working long days to do so. Ironically, the last song they recorded was “I want you (she’s so heavy)” which was a tribute to Yoko Ono. Maybe that is fitting. And, one sidebar is the compilation of songs that concludes with this title include Ringo Starr’s only drum solo, which he was urged to do as he hated drum solos. What I also did not know, he had just received some new tom-tom drums as he called them for his kit and they made a prolific sound throughout the album.

The book also chronicles some of the solo activities that were started in earnest during this period. Lennon and Ono began their peace awareness and had their famous “bed in for peace” and recorded “Give peace a chance” from a hotel room with a large crowd in tow. Lennon was actually the first one to formally quit The Beatles, but was asked to keep it hush hush until a new contract was signed on revenue sharing. McCartney was the first to announce to the public he was leaving and gets too much blame, as he was the third one to say he was leaving. Starr was depressed from all the fighting and eventual split up, so he worked with Martin to produce an album of old songs his parents used to play for him.

This was a group divorce that had been in the works for a while. The fact they could still produce musical magic is a credit to them. As Lennon said with three song writers, he did not want to work months on album where only two of his songs were included. So, they needed to go their separate ways. And, it is not ironic that all four produced some great work individually after the split-up.

Don’t point a finger when you can lend a hand

“Don’t point a finger when you can lend a hand.” Sounds profoundly simple doesn’t it? Yet, why is it such a underutilized approach? One of our friend’s father was good with his hands, but also had a big heart. Before he passed away, it was not uncommon for him and a group of handymen from his church to visit sites of hurricanes and help people repair and rebuild.

Even though you may not be a handy person yourself, volunteering to help means a great deal to the community, but also yourself. Probably the most exhausted I have ever been is when a work group from my company helped build a Habitat for Humanity house. I was so tired, this right-handed person was hammering up the insulation with his left hand at the end of the day. But, I also felt very rewarded in doing something good.

Yet, you do not need to have carpentry tools in your hands to help others. Use your skills, experiences and contacts to help others. Help people with their resumes, prepare for interviews or presentations, or dress to impress with your donated clothes. Or, better yet, help them with contacts to companies that could help them network or get hired. As someone who has helped homeless families, a key stumbling block is these families have exhausted their networks or their circle of friends and family are in a similar situation

One of the key skill sets the licensed social workers (at the agency I volunteered with) taught their clients is how to budget. What is a need versus a want? And, sometimes they did this with tough, but empathetic love. I recall the story of one woman laying her head down on her dining room table to cry as the bills piled up. The social worker said I know it is tough, but we must go through them and figure out what and how much we can pay and who we need to call for more time.

A minister named Bob Lupton who lives with his family among the folks he helps wrote a great book called “Toxic Charity.” We were so impressed by the book, we invited him to speak to volunteer groups here. His main message is don’t do for someone what they can do for themselves. True charity should be reserved for emergency. We should help people climb a ladder, but they need to climb it. Those Habit for Humanity recipients had to first put in sweat equity on other houses before they could work on their own house.

One of the things Lupton said is also telling. In your churches, business groups and organizations, sits an abundance of skill sets. Encourage these folks to offer those skills to help others. Maybe they could help someone start a business, maybe they could help teach or nurture a talent like baking, cooking, carpentry, or computer skills or maybe they could help look after children while the parents go to some night classes to get a GED or achieve a community college degree.

The key is there is little use to point a finger to blame people for their situation. Maybe they did make some bad decisions that greased the skids for their problem. Maybe they trusted the wrong guy and he was abusive or stole from her. Maybe they were not strong enough to say no to bad things. Maybe they had to forego car repairs and it broke down. Maybe they lost one of two jobs. Maybe they were too passionate in the moment and did not insist on using birth control.

In the group I helped, 1/3 of the homeless working families we helped were homeless due to domestic violence. These families lost half their income, their home and were beaten by an abusive person. The level of PTSD in these families is as high or higher than that of a combat veteran. Not knowing where your next meal will come from or seeing your mother battered and embarrassed is a hard pill to swallow.

We all make bad decisions. We all find ourselves in circumstances where we wonder how it got to this point. But, many of us have better support groups that will help us through. I am reminded of the line from the Madonna song “Papa don’t preach, I’m in trouble,” where the daughter asks for help and gets it after she screwed up.

So, don’t point a finger when you can lend a hand. We have all needed one from time to time. Happy holidays all.

Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman by Miriam Horn – a much needed reprise on working collaboratively to address environmental issues and still make a living

The overarching theme of the book “Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman” by Miriam Horn is to accomplish lasting, impactful solutions (in this case with climate change and environmental concerns) we need to work with folks in the middle. In essence, the folks in the extremes are too strident and reluctant to compromise.

A good example comes from the Montana rancher as he combats climate change and environmental degradation caused by fracking for natural gas. He works with folks who will address the environmental issues, but permit him and his family to make a living ranching. He notes the fracking companies paint a picture that is far rosier than it is, while some extreme environmentalists want everything to stop and do nothing with the land. At personal risk, he built a coalition of ranchers, environmentalists and government officials who were willing to follow his lead to preserve the environment while permitting the ranchers to do their thing.

The Kansas farmer speaks to working in concert with the land and learning and sharing best practices with other area farmers and the agro-economics people at nearby Kansas State University. Farmers want to maximize a sustainable yield on their crops, but climate change and water concerns increase the challenges to do so. He emphasizes growing what grows naturally in the area. There is a reason wheat and alfalfa are cash crops in Kansas. He notes the farm to table concept is not necessarily ideal – it would be a waste of water and land to try to grow everything everywhere. As for climate change, they work with legislators to protect the water resources, but have to stop short of using that term with their representatives. They gain collaboration by speaking to what is happening, not identifying its lead cause.

The book focuses on five professions in total, although only three are listed in the title. The other two are Shrimper and River Captain. Skipping over the fisherman and shrimper, who are each impacted by the environmental waste and degradation worsened by climate change, let me finish up with the River Captain.

The Louisiana based river man moves frieight up and down the Mississippi River. He understands the importance of experienced teams who know the river going both ways, with high, low or medium water levels. He has seen the significant dissipation of the wetlands in the Bayou which are causing huge problems to many. Engineers tried to outsmart the river and failed. In fairly dramatic fashion, the Gulf of Mexico is absorbing land due to rising sea levels and fewer buffers, So, they are working with scientists, businesses, and even the petroleum industry to slowly rebuild the Bayou.

Note, there are pros and cons to each set of solutions, so getting to the best answer requires honest input on the costs and risks to people, environment and livelihoods. And, some of the answers are counterintuitive. For example, not sending barges down the Mississippi means more truck traffic which pollutes the environment, degrades the roads and heightens risk for other drivers. With more electric trucks, this would lessen the risk, so that is a factor in risk/ benefit trade-offs. The farmer’s comment about farm to table also deserves scrutiny as farm to table also helps to lessen these trucking risks and costs. Yet, on a large scale, the point about growing stuff that is more natural to an area is profound and will lessen the impact on water resources which are dear.

It should be noted working in collaboration is how business and government work best. Yet, collaboration is hard work. For those who block the consideration of solutions, they need to be sidelined. In our toxic tribal political environment, we must remember each side does not own all the good ideas and both sides own some bad ones. Let’s follow the lead of these folks who get their hands dirty, understand what is happening and work together.

Four pieces of advice from rock and roll hall of famers

I have written two earlier posts about the latest Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. One current that seems to run through these talented people are that folks helped them along the way. There were four quotes that resonated with me from the various acceptance speeches by guitarist Neil Giraldo, singer Pat Benatar, and producer Jimmy Iovine.

We all can learn from these paraphrased quotes, so please pass them along.

  • No one does this alone. They get help from many sources to get here.
  • Each of us have had mentors in our lives. Pay it forward by mentoring someone and teaching and supporting them.
  • If you are down and sitting in your room, pick up an instrument and learn to play. It will lead you down new paths.
  • If you want to learn how to write great lyrics, read books. Lots of them.

These each sound so simple, yet are so profound and pertinent. The people who think they accomplished everything on their own are not being very truthful with themselves. Yet, the final two pieces of advice are telling as well. There is an interesting psychology article on “Stinking thinking.” A key way to address being alone with stinking thoughts is change the paradigm – pick up an instrument or pick up a book. Learn.

Not to be outdone, a few years ago I wrote about another quote from an acceptance speech by Jon Bon Jovi. He had the name of his guitar instructor carved into his guitar. Why? When Bon Jovi was not practicing between lessons, the instructor fired his pupil. He told the future star, “Stop wasting my ‘effing’ time. If you won’t practice, then you won’t ever get any better.” That struck a chord with Bon Jovi and he told the audience to never waste any one’s time.

Lessons abound. Ask for and get help. Help others in return. Learn new things. Don’t waste people’s time.

What a real hero looks like (an encore performance)

Two years ago I wrote about the latest act of heroism from Dolly Parton. Last night, we watched a host of popular, rock and country singers honor her as one of the latest inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. From Pink to Brandi Carlisle to Sheryl Crow to Zac Brown to Pat Benatar, we saw a loving and admiring tribute to this talented woman. She also played a new rock and roll song she wrote for the occasion, “Rocking til the cows come home.” It was pretty good. Yet, she might be remembered more for her humanity.

I have written before about this hero primarily for her book gifting program for young kids, which is now an international program called “Imagination Library” (see second link below). Her name is Dolly Parton. I heard she could write songs and sing, as well. Yet, Parton just received some new acclaim for helping fight COVID-19.

In an article in The Hill by Judy Kurtz (see first link below) called “Dolly Parton among donors behind Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine,” her efforts are revealed. Here are a few paragraphs from the article.

“Dolly Parton can add another achievement to her résumé: helping to fund research for Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine.

The ‘9 to 5’ singer was one of several donors listed Monday as part of the announcement that Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine candidate was 94.5 percent effective in an interim analysis. The ‘Dolly Parton COVID-19 Research Fund’ was named as a supporter in the footnotes of a New England Journal of Medicine report.

Parton, 74, announced back in April that she was giving $1 million to researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center toward finding a vaccine to fight against COVID-19.

In an April Instagram post announcing her contribution, the Grammy Award winner said she was donating in honor of her longtime friend, Dr. Naji Abumrad, a researcher at Vanderbilt who informed her ‘that they were making some exciting advancements towards research of the coronavirus for a cure.'”

Parton will be remembered many years from now for her Imagination Library where 147 million books have been provided to young children. Currently, there are 1.7 million children signed up for the program. Yet, seeing her do things like the vaccine funding adds to her legacy.

Seeing her interviewed on multiple occasions, the depth of her kindness, integrity, and approachability is heart warming. Her ability to laugh at herself (both the stage personality and at home one) reveals a very smart woman that disarms people. She does not need to solicit attention for her good deeds, it just spreads.

Well done, Ms. Parton. You are a credit to the human race. Thank you for your music and big heart.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/dolly-parton-among-donors-behind-moderna-s-coronavirus-vaccine/ar-BB1b6aIj?ocid=msedgdhp

https://imaginationlibrary.com/

We need religious leaders not cult leaders

One of my pet peeves is witnessing bigotry from the pulpit. To me, it is one of the more egregious abuses of power, as we look to our ministers to be among our better angels. One thing I have sadly learned over my worship, volunteer and business life is just because one is portrayed as pious, does not mean they are without fault.

To be frank, we need our ministers, rabbis, priests, imams, and other faith leaders to be religious leaders not cult leaders. We need our religious leaders to inspire us, counsel us, and guide us to be on and remain on a good path forward. We do not leaders to tell us who to hate, who to distrust, or who is less deserving of grace, using religious text as a weapon.

Former president Jimmy Carter is arguably one of the best ex-presidents we have ever had. His good works and good deeds around the world have helped eradicate exposure to a parasite in some third world countries, have helped shape peace agreements, and have bolstered Habitat for Humanity as he has been an ambassador for his country and the disenfranchised. He has also written around thirty books and taught Sunday school on a routine basis.

He is the kind of religious leader that we need. He often cites the context of the Christian bible rather pulling excerpts to demonize people with. He notes, taken out of context, almost any religious text can be used to put people down. In his words, that misses the point. He would look to those words in red in the Christian bible that say something like he who is without sin shall cast the first stone.

There is a reason some churches are seeing fall off in membership. Some of it is a self-fulfilling mission – when you teach a message of exclusion, people feel excluded and stay away. Even those who feel included may stay away as they don’t like the exclusive messaging. Religion is at its finest when it includes, but it is at its worst when it excludes.

A religious leader can make that kind of difference.

We do well when we all do well – a repeat performance

I wrote the following piece eight years ago and it still resonates today, although in some places we have done some of what is suggested. Our friend Erika reminded me yesterday that Eleanor Roosevelt had her own place in history along with her presidential relatives. FDR saw his wife and cousin as one of his trusted advisors, always willing to tell him the unvarnished truth.

Beginning tonight, Ken Burns’ documentary series called “The Roosevelts” will be aired on PBS. The series highlights the impact President Teddy Roosevelt, President Franklin Roosevelt and Teddy’s niece and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt had on America and the world. While all three were “to the manor born,” they each took up the cause for the marginalized and disenfranchised people in America, even while Teddy was a Republican and FDR was a Democrat. But, Eleanor could hold her own and her influence and ambassadorship to those in need spoke volumes as she is noted as our greatest First Lady.

On CBS Good Morning, Burns was talking about the forthcoming documentary and he quoted a line which embodied their mantra – “we do well, when we all do well.” This line is so very pertinent and is one which I believe to my core. It also shows that the time of greatest growth in our country occurred when more of us did well and were out buying goods and services, moving into our homes (not necessarily estates), and living a heretofore idealized version of the American dream.  It also reveals why our recovery has not benefitted everyone equally, with the top 10% of our country doing quite nicely, but everyone else treading water or sinking below. Since we are not “all doing well” fewer goods and services are bought, so our recovery is not quite as strong.

It should be noted that both Roosevelt presidents are known for eco-energy measures and protecting our environment. Teddy is known as our greatest “water” president, by buying up land for national parks and watersheds and overseeing the construction of the Panama Canal, which is a heavy contributor to US naval power and sea trade prominence. FDR constructed more dams on his watch as part of the New Deal which helped provide jobs and infrastructure. FDR’s infrastructure investments were carried forward by Republican President Dwight Eisenhower which helped contribute to the aforementioned period above.

It is for these reasons we need to move forward down a path of doing more of what made America great. Investing in ourselves, our infrastructure and our future. This is the key premise in Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum’s book “That Used to be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World it Invented and How it Can Come Back.” This book highlights the co-investment in America’s infrastructure between private and public funds to maintain, restore, rebuild, and build anew our infrastructure to support business development and job creation. But, as history has shown us, we need to do more to help those who seem to get lost in the future growth or never get the same opportunities. Our history has also shown us the “haves” will take advantage of the “have-nots” to move ahead.

So, clearly we need to invest in ourselves and our future. Even while we cut expenses elsewhere, we need to invest in our infrastructure and development. But, we need to do some or all of the following, as well:

– Raise the minimum wage. Going to $15 an hour is a pipe dream, but following the recommendation to phase up from $7.25 to $10.10 is doable and has bipartisan support. It will create more spending and lessen pressure on public assistance programs.

– Invest more in education, not less and make sure after school programs are robust to attract kids and keep them engaged. Also, we need to improve access to pre-K reading programs which have shown to be impactful. But, most of all listen to teachers and not politicians. For example, teachers have noted the ideal class size is between 18 and 24 students. More voices can be heard and break out groups are easier with those sizes.

– Clamp down on pay-day lending who prey upon who Jesus called the “least of these.” Pay day lenders also prey upon our military families. Please know that pay-day lenders are a form of usury and they are one step above leg breakers. They also fund a lot of politicians who are blinded by the money to recognize what they do to poor people.

– Limit for-profit colleges who also prey upon people using government funding. People may find of interest the graduation rates from for-profit colleges are abysmal and they spend more money on marketing than teaching. And, when one area of funding was tightened up, they moved over to follow the pay-day lenders lead and are preying upon veterans and military people who have financial benefits since coming home.

– Educate people on what state lotteries are. They are a regressive tax taking a disproportionate share from people in poverty. Too many people throw money they need away on something extremely unlikely to happen. Ten lottery tickets per week may increase your chances by tenfold, but it is still a 10 out of 10 million probability, which is a likelihood of .000001

– Invest even more in our community college systems who are more geared toward career retraining and development. The former Clemson University president partnered with area community colleges as they knew how to reach out to industry better to help train the new work force. The President deserves credit for some of this, but we need more.

– Finally, per the lead in and the Roosevelt’s legacy, invest in our infrastructure and assets. Asset Based Community Development should be enhanced  and incented.

The Roosevelts’ legacy is significant on America. We are better as a country because of them. I look forward to seeing the series. Please join me as it may spur some more ideas. Some or all of the above would make us better and give us each more opportunity. We do well, when we all do well.

Dutch rewilding river project

‘This is what a river should look like’: Dutch rewilding project turns back the clock 500 years by Phoebe Weston of The Guardian reveals an interesting co-investment in making rivers run wild again. The reasons – man-influenced and worsened flooding and chemical run-off from farms are harmful to all concerned.

Here are few salient paragraphs, but I encourage you to read the article below.

“Frans Schepers, managing director of Rewilding Europe, who was leading the largest river-restoration project in Europe, believes radical river restoration projects should be taken more seriously. ‘People are not used to looking at green infrastructure in the way they look at other “hard” infrastructure like roads, railways and waterways. But this [type of project] is also for the common good,’ he says...

Crisis point in the Netherlands arrived decades ago after a series of destructive floods in the 80s and 90s. Dead pigs were found stuck in trees as livestock that couldn’t be moved away fast enough drowned in high waters. Thriving fishing communities had died out and rivers had become a threat to people. Momentum to radically overhaul them started building. The planning phase for the Border Meuse began in 1990, with work starting in 2007 and due to finish in 2027.

‘Rivers should be biodiversity hotspots but all over the world they are being damaged by human activity and slurry and pesticides runoff from farms. A key part of Border Meuse has been separating nature and agriculture by buying out farms along two river catchments and returning them to a natural state. Some farmers opposed being moved, but most were struggling to farm because of the flooding and were generously compensated. Farmers have moved away from hundreds of kilometres of Dutch rivers where flood protection and ecological restoration are priorities,’ says Schepers.

The €550m project is being paid for mainly by companies wanting to extract sand and gravel from the riverbed, which has helped widen the river and lower riverbanks and so expand the floodplain. Because of the involvement of industry, Border Meuse was the only large river restoration project that wasn’t withdrawn during the 2008 financial crash. Today, it attracts two million visitors a year, bringing in about €1bn of revenue to the Meuse region.

Here in the US, past efforts to straighten rivers have been destructive to the environment, especially around the Mississippi River basin and we have been losing land at a rapid rate. The solution was to help nature get back to what it was and stop trying to influence it so much. In Steven Solomon’s book “Water” he notes the Egyptians tried to control the Nile for centuries, but nature would bite them in the fanny to show who was boss with extra silt deposits that ruined crops and the water.

Solomon’s book is even more relevant today with our global and US water crisis, which has been made even worse by climate change. Competing interests in river and other waters have led to more evaporation and pose grave concerns to people via hydration and food irrigation. If we do not address these now (and we are already late), the livelihoods of many people will be altered.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/sep/20/dutch-rewilding-project-turns-back-the-clock-500-years-aoe