I had an epiphany recently. Music is a language. You probably already know that. I had heard people say it but never really got it. Music is a language but it is not like a spoken or written language. Spoken words, words signed with hands, convey information. Music is a language that doesn't transmit information but it can transmit a feeling or sensation in a way that words leave lacking.
This is still kinda surreal for me, but I am now on the Board of Directors for the non-profit Ecology Action. Ecology Action runs Circle Acres, a 10 acre restored forest off of Montopolis in East Austin. The site of Circle Acres for decades was a quarry, then an official and illegal dump. A group of volunteers took it upon themselves to clean it up and do ecological restoration. What was literally a dump is now a beautiful urban forest and savannah. I kinda love that old concrete pipes still lay in the shadows of giant healthy trees. The remains of East Side Drive are dumped on a hill in the park. This was the road that was torn up to build I-35 and reinforce Jim Crow segregation in Austin. Arrowheads and bison bones are still found occasionally. The history and future of Austin are written in the trails of Circle Acres. I would love to give anyone a (socially distant) tour of the forest.
Ecological restoration is one of my most passionate interests, and I truly believe it should be the primary task of humanity for the next century. We owe it to the planet and future generations to put back as much nature as we can. Grasses, flowers, and trees are the infrastructure of the future. On moral principle we need to rebuild habitat for wildlife. For our own survival we need to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and clean our water and air. Nature isn’t something that only exists in large remote parks, seeing trees and hearing birds is a human right, not a luxury. Nature exists for its own right. If a place can be wild it should be.
Circle Acres is the biggest ecological restoration project I’ve been involved in and I am excited and humbled to join it. I hope my skills and network can help build on their success and build community interest in Circle Acres. It will be fun to help Eric Paulus, the manager of the forest, with his various restoration and trails projects.
If you have been in Austin awhile you might remember Ecology Action when they were running the recycling center downtown. All non-profits hope to fulfill their mission and not be needed anymore, and the City of Austin now has a robust recycling program. The non-profit shifted their efforts and resources to help the self organized volunteers at Circle Acres. The non-profit owns the land and manages it, and coordinates with the neighborhoods and city parkland that surrounds it. When I first got to Austin I was blown away by the recycling center downtown, I had never lived somewhere with a program like that. It is beyond my wildest imagination to now be a part of that group to help continue their mission.
If a dump can turn into a forest we have hope, anything is within our ability.
this used to be a garbage dump
Eric discussing native plant restoration plans
The joke is now Ecology Action recycles the land
In 2019 my company, Money Positive, converted from being a single person LLC to a Cooperative owned by its member-workers. This likely made us the first cooperatively run financial planning company. We could not have done it without the support and guidance from ACBA, its members, and surrounding co-op community. Joining the board is a small show of our appreciation to give back and help other co-ops. Our unique experience converting to a co-op can hopefully inspire other businesses to go that path and give ownership to their workers and/or clients. Contact me if you are interested in learning more for your own organization or start-up. If you are in Texas you need five members to start a cooperative.
ACBA provides guidance about cooperation formation and governance. Shares resources, including funding opportunities, and advocates to the City of Austin on behalf of the cooperative economy.
Any organization, like clubs, charities, and businesses can run cooperatively and follow the cooperative principals. Or a business can formally incorporate in their state as a cooperative. Incorporation as a co-op is a for-profit business structure, they are not charities. They are like any other business. They emphasize that the people who participate directly in the business are key stakeholders, which is something other business structures can sometimes forget.
It can be harder to start a cooperative because there is not as much infrastructure for this type of business compared to LLCs and C Corps. But, once established a cooperative business is often just as successful and more resilient. Everyone can appreciate that considering the uncertainty here in 2020. Somewhat ironically co-ops can be more conservative than other corporations. Focusing on organic growth and being very mindful of the use of debt and leverage.
Cooperatives are able to take outside investors. Those investors though don't get an equity stake in the business, they don't get a board seat. Rather they buy preferred stock which often includes a dividend or the opportunity for reinvestment. I personally believe this will be a growing market as investors look for stability in their portfolios.
Below are the seven principals that cooperatives follow. It would be a better world if all organizations observed this
In June 2019 I stopped using Amazon (the company) and have not had a delivery from them in over a year. I canceled my Prime membership. It has not been hard. People have gotten so used to frictionless Amazon purchases that even people who don't like Amazon won't stop using them. Amazon does not have ethical leadership and I can't support them. I buy things locally, if I buy something online I usually see if the maker sells it directly. Etsy has been a great place to buy stuff, I appreciate that they buy carbon offsets for their shipping. You can stop using Amazon and it really won't hurt your lifestyle.
There are many examples to cite about why to stop using them, from the way they treat their workers, their impact on the environment, their impact on local retail, and so on. Bezos really lost me when he shared about his ambitions for space travel that he would do with his financial “winnings” “we can have a trillion humans in the solar system, which means we’d have a thousand Mozarts and a thousand Einsteins. This would be an incredible civilization.” He and I share a mutual love for Star Trek but I he forgot about the post-scarcity humanist vision and just focused on the sci-fi. I want us to be in space and exploring the universe. We don't need to go to space to have a thousands Mozarts. How many brilliant people are working in his warehouses and they never got to explore their talent because they grew up disadvantaged? How many would be investing in their own lives and talents if they were not ruining their health trying to keep up with quotas and were paid a livable wage?
It's a day late, happy Juneteenth. Growing up in Texas I have been familiar with Juneteenth and am glad to see it getting recognized nationwide. It's an important day to celebrate and to reflect on. As a kid it was shocking to learn that even after the emancipation proclamation that enslavement was still happening. And that it happened in my home state. I hope it becomes a federal holiday and that we continue to learn the truths of our history and actively work to correct the ongoing injustices.
I'm writing this as a reminder for myself and for anyone else in the same situation. During quarantine and going 100% working from home I am drinking too much coffee! I am drinking it out of habit, out of boredom, out of exhaustion, and to just have a prop in my hand for videochats. I am certain it is adding greatly to my anxiety and muscle tension. I need to stop drinking so much and I need to find something else to fill the gap of flavor and habit.
I really dislike advertising. I find it offensive. If someone wants something they can research and find it. Putting ads everywhere to inspire people to buy things seems so wildly inefficient. Google, one of the biggest companies on the planet is based on providing a service and tricking people into seeing ads. How wildly inefficient that seems. All that wealth flowing through advertisers should be staying with the business creating value or in the pockets of people. I wonder how much of global warming can be attributed to the energy that goes into advertising. How much light pollution blocking out the stars is from lighting up billboards. How much human effort has been poured into ads that could have been used elsewhere.
My meager efforts to live a post-capitalist post-advertising life include:
* using adblockers and a Pi Hole to stop ads from reaching me
* a VPN to limit how much of my information is being fed to advertising algorithms
* using services like write.as and proton mail that i pay for instead of google and social media
* not using Amazon and buying things physically from local shops
* buying durable goods used whenever i can
* shopping locally and with coops and B Corps
* not buying advertising for my business
This is super nerdy but I try to live like I am in the federation from star trek tng. not for the sci-fi parts, but rather the humanist philosophy. Living like I am post scarcity and post-capital. I am in reality living in Austin TX in the 21st century and have a twitter account and consume a lot of diet soda. Bu I am trying to give my energy to expanding my own experience and knowledge and helping others. I try to get out my telescope and look at the moon often. I try to garden and make sure there are flowers for bees and nesting material for birds. And Try to limit my youtube time to slightly less than being constantly on.
All fall and into spring I have been working to add more wild space to my yard. This space on my sideyard is the last spot I had the materials for before shelter in place started. I smother the lawn and weeds with cardboard, and then add layer of mulch. All free materials. I don't use Amazon but people give me their cardboard and the mulch is free from the city. Its made from yard waste. It seems poetic to build native meadows out of the refuse of modern life.
This is very much an experiment. I'll share updates as the plants grow.