Consilience Productions
Essays

A Consumption Manifesto - There's no need to swap pleasure for guilt. With thoughtfulness and commitment, consumption can be a force for good. Too long have we consumers been a blushing bride overwhelmed by business suitors. It's time for the bride to assert herself! We've got the dowry; we have the purchasing power. We can require our suitors to comply with our vision of environmental stewardship—or we can close the door behind them on their way out. Through buying what we need, produced the way we want, we can create the world we'd like to live in.

A Consumption Glossary - Eco-labeling, Extended Producer Responsibility, Fair Trade are all terms new to the 21st century world of capitalism in which we live. Read on for other important issues in our world of sustainable living.

Don't Blame Wal-Mart - Robert Reich, former secretary of labor from 1993-97, talks about the "Faustian bargain" we make when we shop at Wal-Mart: low prices because of low wages.

Do-Gooders With Spreadsheets - "The key with social entrepreneurs is their pragmatic approach," said Pamela Hartigan of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, which is affiliated with the World Economic Forum. "The'’re not out there with protest banners; they're actually developing concrete solutions."

The Green Revolution - This essay by Rona Fried, president of SustainableBusiness.com, articulates quite clearly where we are headed this century as an interconnected world society, when we need to preserve our resources for successive generations while still providing for the current one.

The Deficit - In this article, we see that the Bush Administration has now limited the window of its 2005 budget plan to five years, down from the usual 10 year predictions. Why? "By laying out a 5-year plan rather than a 10-year one, as Mr. Bush did until deficits began to soar, the administration has pushed many of the biggest fiscal challenges outside its budgetary 'window.'"

The Deficit - and George W. Bush's use of the surplus, circa early 2001 - Read this excerpt from Bush's first speech he gave to a joint session of Congress on February 27, 2001. There is no fiscal discipline anymore in the White House (was there ever?), since they've used up the surplus with tax cuts and massive increases in defense spending. In this speech, you'll see that they talked about putting money away for emergencies, too.

Don't Like Taxes? Consider the Alternative - Nobody likes paying taxes, that's for sure. But if we were to look at the act of writing that fat check in patriotic terms and a necessary evil for all the great things we get back, perhaps our attitude would change.

Giving Meaning to Taxes - We all need to be telling a new and meaningful story about tax day that celebrates the concrete opportunity it offers “we the people.” The money we pay in taxes supports all of the things we accomplish together that we cannot manage alone. Every day our lives are affected by the thousands of ways in which we band together to secure our safety, security and quality of life. The vast majority of these united efforts we finance and manage through tax-supported public systems at the local, state and national levels. In a country where the public interest is often seen as the mere aggregation of individual interests, the idea of a common good still is an important concept, but one that we rarely lift up.

How Can We Help the World's Poor? - In this provocative essay by New York Time's columnist, Nicholas Kristoff, he details the two camps that are trying to eliminate poverty world-wide. "The number of bleeding hearts has soared exponentially over the last decade. Celebrities embraced Africa, while conservatives went from showing disdain for humanitarian aid ("money down a rat hole") to displaying leadership in the fight against AIDS and malaria. Compassion became contagious and then it became consensus." Read on...

The Myth of Painful Choices - The nation doesn't actually face difficult economic choices, argues economist Robert Frank. Many problems will be expensive to solve, yet we can solve them without requiring painful sacrifices from anyone.

How to End the Great Recession - Says Robert Reich: "Policies that generate more widely shared prosperity lead to stronger and more sustainable economic growth -- and that's good for everyone. The rich are better off with a smaller percentage of a fast-growing economy than a larger share of an economy that's barely moving. That's the Labor Day lesson we learned decades ago; until we remember it again, we'll be stuck in the Great Recession."

Out of Chaos Rises Opportunity - When extreme volatility strikes at the financial market, investors are left to gasp for air. In these turbulent times, it is essential to remember what's important. This essay, written by a Certified Financial Planner, helps us focus on the big picture.

Overstating of Assets Is Seen To Cost U.S. Billions - This article reviewing a recent paper from TaxAnalysts.com points out how current tax law encourages cheating by allowing individuals and entities to overstate the purchase price of an asset, thereby reducing the tax liability once its sold. The problem is that the IRS has no effective means of determining the price paid for the asset. Workers have their wages reported to the IRS, banks tell the IRS how much people paid in tax-deductible mortgage interest, and Congress requires parents to give a Social Security number for each child claimed as a dependent. The working poor are sometimes required to do much more, like producing report cards from schools and affidavits from landlords, to qualify for the Earned Income Tax credit. Yet there's no verification process for capital gains. The authors of this paper conservatively put the cost of these wealthy tax cheaters at $250 billion over ten years.

Social Security - George Bush is intent on making 2005 the year of the Big Social Security Debate, aka - The Year Social Security was Dismantled. For a social program that has alleviated a large portion of poverty of the elderly, it's curious that conservatives are still intent on slowly killing this program. This article, which appeared in the NY Times Magazine on January 16th, 2005, is the best summation of the history of this program and where it is headed over the next 75 years. Essential reading in this "Year of the Great Social Security Debate."

Technology Provides an Alternative to Love - "Let me toss out the idea that, as our markets discover and respond to what consumers most want, our technology has become extremely adept at creating products that correspond to our fantasy ideal of an erotic relationship, in which the beloved object asks for nothing and gives everything, instantly, and makes us feel all powerful, and doesn’t throw terrible scenes when it’s replaced by an even sexier object and is consigned to a drawer."

The Truth About the Drug Companies - If the drug companies had a truly innovative drug - a cure for cancer, for instance - you wouldn't have to market it much, so says Marcia Angell, the author of this provocative essay (which appears in her new book, The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It.

The Volunteer Vacation - Many people are choosing "volunteer vacations" in the United States or abroad. During these trips, they may work on many kinds of projects - from clearing trails in the Sierra National Forest in California to teaching English to hospital staff in Xian, China. In most cases, the volunteers must pay their own expenses, and sometimes even make a donation to the organization, but these trips are often tax-deductible, lowering the true cost. This essay outlines many of the opportunities to take a vacation of a lifetime.

What to Do - Nobel Prize-winning economist, Paul Krugman, on what needs to be done to fix our broken economic system at the the end of 2008: "What the world needs right now is a rescue operation. The global credit system is in a state of paralysis, and a global slump is building momentum as I write this. Reform of the weaknesses that made this crisis possible is essential, but it can wait a little while. First, we need to deal with the clear and present danger. To do this, policymakers around the world need to do two things: get credit flowing again and prop up spending."

You can buy Green Power - Right Now!
If you're interested in supporting this nascent industry, this essay, by the energy officer of SUNY Buffalo, details how easy it is to choose alternative energy - wind, solar, biomass (energy from trees and plants), geothermal, and low-impact hydro - over traditional energy (the #1 cause of air pollution in this country, by the way). Note: although the article is specific to New York State, Green Energy is being offered all across the United States right now. Check it out!

Why We Must Ration Health Care
Putting a price on a life is a nearly impossible task. And yet we are faced with this dilemma every day in this country because of limited resources. Esteemed writer and bioethicists, Peter Singer, confronts this fact in this elucidating essay that appeared in the NY Times Magazine in July 2009. Among the questions he asks are: "Saving the life of one teenager is equivalent to saving the lives of _____ 85 year olds?" Or this one: "____ years of non-disabled life is worth ______ years of disabled life. "

The Cleveland Model
Something important is happening in Cleveland: a new model of large-scale worker- and community-benefiting enterprises is beginning to build serious momentum in one of the cities most dramatically impacted by the nation's decaying economy.

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