Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Service, interdependence, infrastructures, Serendipitous beneficiaries/ my papers and presentations for WEEC2013

Social constructs, service and interdependence, and serendipitous beneficiaries

Our lives and livelihoods are interwoven with the ecosystems of the planet we share. The security of our lives: of the foods which we produce and eat; the waters flowing across the globe—sourcing the flow of flora and fauna; the air we breathe, and lands we walk are daily burdened with the discards and pollutants of unsustainable choices and behaviors.

Everywhere, one sees life striving, driven by nature to survive. Of 25 million species, or more, living on this planet, all can be named, and interrelated, as Earthlings. One of these species, only one, is human—capable of remembering and recording history, capable of choice and change… and yet we stand at a cross-roads of our own creating. Can we, together, develop the good governance and sense of individual responsibility and empowerment to ensure the security of our own, and those myriad other lives, those millions of other species, and of those voiceless and underserved among our human brethren, who struggle for access to food, water, to light, and space for life? As depletion of resources becomes measurable, as extinction of species looms ever more inexorably, the social compacts which enable humans to co-exist, to hope for life without war, to strive for the knowledge and freedom which inspire creative solutions to economic, ethical/social, and environmental challenges, must be re-defined.

In an interconnected, interdependent world, the mismatching of needs, opportunities, competition and accountability is undermining the perceived value of education, of labor markets which cannot absorb the vast pools of skilled and unskilled labor, of social infrastructures which cannot maximize the multifaceted resources of human capital, strength and creativity. Inequality of access and value-of-outcome for individual and group efforts and achievements leads too often to poverty, to gender-, ability- or cultural/religious- based deprivation, to exclusion, crime, violence, larger conflicts, and war.

Social infrastructures, regardless of climate, location, or resources, depend upon the investment of participants, individually and as communities, to endure. Poor outcomes which commence with access-based discrimination, geographic exclusion-by-circumstance, or disparities in food, water, energy, or habitat security become progressively imbalanced, diminishing productivity and even viability across classes, and across earth-species and eco-systems. Clear expectations of recompense-for-effort are reinforced by media and crowd influences, yet equitable, durable opportunities for educational, economic, environmental, energy and ethical (“universal” freedoms and rights) security are ever increasingly threatened. At a time crucial to the development of human responsibility and investment in a sustainable, interdependent world, poverty of outcomes is impoverishing, endangering the future of our species, and perhaps of all species, on this planet.

The concept of serendipitous beneficiaries, of responsible development which considers the interconnectedness of humankind, of other earth species, of limited-finite resources, global-renewable resources, and potential for sustainability, is crucial to the “greening” of markets, services, human occupations, and inter-species survival today. The challenge to progress towards sustainability requires the creation of green corporations; green recreation and tourism; secure-and-renewable energy; improved land and waste management; improved security of food and water; elder-and-other inclusion opportunities; educational, vocational, and rehabilitation programs which can all be combined in integrated approaches to preserve resources and ensure better lives for all sharing this Earth.

Three simple projects, scalable locally, but adaptable globally, could combine to produce integrated opportunities to build infrastructure, responsibility and accountability, and to improve environmental, energy, educational, economic, and earth security. When people from all walks of life become stakeholders in infrastructure building and sustaining green-living projects, it becomes possible to preserve, and celebrate, those features of culture, heritage, and environment which are unique to one space or region, and those which are shared by all. It becomes possible to ameliorate those challenges to nature, and of nature, which affect some, or all; it becomes possible to redefine habits of excess to economies of need, care, and serendipitous beneficiaries.

For example, trails connecting destinations predate man’s history; today, networked, sustainable trails can still link real, and virtual, destinations—and can address the competing needs of a modernizing, interdependent world. Trails can be equipped with solar-valent, and piezoelectric, or other energy-harnessing technologies to capture and supply electrical power to local/national grid systems, and provide access, egress, and energy to communities world-wide. Xeriscaped borders, hanging gardens, and shade/sun food forestry along the trailways would diminish heat-bloom and soil erosion, and increase healthy ecosystems available to pollinator- and indigenous- species, and provide food for human loca-vore small-businesses. Precipitation-capture and grey-water recycling along the trails could increase water security. Appreciation of local environments, heritage, artistry and culture could be shared not only through proximity of amenities to the trails, but through various learning opportunities, and online games, which would enable races, learning of local facts and lore, and message exchange between trail-travelers in many, communication-linked/synced, locations.

Similarly, secondly, person-powered energy-grid contribution systems could be installed to amass and donate sustainable/renewable power from participants in airport, train and other transit zones, in play- and waiting- areas, and, especially, in sports stadiums, where fans in stands (and, eventually, fans in their own homes, with synced-in connectivity) can “vote with their feet” and pedal/power to express support for their teams, corporate groups, social or charitable organization, or brand-or-fan-based service or group. Not only would this “wellness play” improve health, but person-powered grid systems (and related learning tools, communication links, and games) can provide inclusion and ownership of individual, family, community, regional or national/international efforts to improve standards of living, and encourage fun, win-win engagements which are environmentally sustainable, and age, gender, ability, social, political, and culturally-inclusive.

Thirdly, every year, storms and floods devastate populations and ecosystems world-wide. If, each year, in frigid, frozen-precipitate zones, snow (and ice) could be collected (estimated to have fallen above calculated-average amounts) into impermeable, re-usable containers. These containers would be partially-submersible/float-able, inter-connectable, equipped with anchorage and GPS tracking/locator devices, and stored above the freeze-lines in mountain and perma-frost zones. Depleting melt-runoff would allow greater flexibility in handling rainy-season water flows, mitigating seasonal down-stream flooding to some extent. Further, when hurricanes or cyclones, or other massive storm systems which feed on warm-water and warm-air currents threaten strategic, economic, or heavily-populated areas, the frozen containers could be air-lifted to storm-path locations, dropped-linked-and-anchored offshore to chill waters enough to slow, stall, or divert a storm, lessening impact and huge tolls in life, environment, and economy. At the completion of the weather event, the containers could be brought to tertiary, drought-impacted location, and the (now-melted) water off-loaded for potable- or irrigation- systems use, and finally, returned to point-of-origin and stored for re-filling the next winter season.

Myriad other projects, including clean oceans, clean skies, resources and regions, exist at least in concept (or still wait to be conceived), which, blended with the goals of serendipitous beneficiaries as a measure and enhancement of social responsibility and sustainability, could add to the flexibility and responsiveness  of infrastructures, education, and the performance, transparency, and accountability of service, commercial, and industrial providers, and of each of us. In an interdependent humanity, on an interdependent planet of limited resources, a “green” approach which includes associated industries, services and ecosystems as serendipitous providers and beneficiaries of planned output can result in alleviation of “poor outcomes” for all strata of society, of species. Ensuring the distribution of adequate, renewable water, food, energy, and habitat, as well as inclusion and education/stewardship in our shared human/inter-species environment and pool of resources can, and must, result in a raised quality of sustainable, responsible lifestyles for humankind, and for our millions of fellow earth-species.

also see:



Internet-synced, sustainable Bike Trails and Motion-powered projects; my papers and presentations for WEEC2013

Internet-synced, sustainable, xeriscaped, solar-canopied-power-grid-contributing bike/walk/transit trails would provide training and employment opportunities to incarcerated, in-need, and skilled populations; on-line/in-the-field learning and vacation/tour opportunities to general/all populations; and begin connecting cities with fertile valley, forest, coastal, mountain, and desert communities in and across borders-- helping protect the environment, bolster economic, energy, and food/water security, increase understanding, appreciation, stewardship and enjoyment of our interdependent world.
The challenge to contribute to the creation of green corporations; green recreation and tourism; secure renewable energy; improved land and waste management; improved security of food and water; educational, vocational, and elder-inclusion opportunities; provision for mainstream, at-risk, and incarcerated/rehabilitated populations—these criteria all combined to produce the concept of an integrated opportunity to build infrastructure while improving environmental, educational, economic, energy, and earth security.

When combined with energy-harnessing technologies to capture and supply electrical power to local/national grid systems, people from all walks of life can become stakeholders in infrastructure building and sustaining green-living projects which improve the health and education of participants, enable low/no-cost entertainment and exercise options, produce renewable energy for use or donation to needy communities world-wide, encourage local-to-global connectivity, interaction and tolerance, and provide opportunities for inclusion of all who wish to participate, regardless of origin, as well as reduce pollution, slow the depletion of resources, and contribute to the health of our shared local and global environments.

Instead of enduring the flight of doctors, intellectual and corporate talent, creativity, and culture to cities or even other nations, globally-linked trails and communities can enable even “remote” local citizenry to offer highly trained specialists (in medicine, education, technologies, industry, arts, culinary arts, services, etc.) the access to dependable, high-quality resources, including energy, internet, peripheral services and supplies needed for excellent care and standards of living.

Networked bicycle/human-powered-transit (roller blades, pedal carts, pedestrian and wind/para-powered) trails would provide multi-tiered opportunities for responsible entrepreneurship, recreation, learning, energy, environment and grey-water/waste management/soil rebuilding among local populations.

Utilizing solar/valent-power canopy (evolving with technology), trails would have photo/motion-sensitive lighting for night treks; connectivity, GPS/SMS-sync capabilities; sync-links to:
  • ·         Local amenities/products/services
  • ·         Traditional arts/culture/education
  • ·         Traditional healing/indigenous plants/medicinal plants, minerals, resources and services
  • ·         Site/climate-specific trekking and survival information
  • ·         Elder and contemporary knowledge speakers/programs
  • ·          Inter-trail races, local-knowledge/history/game programs
  • ·         Inter-school/sister-city, green-education/green-globe projects
  • ·         Linked off-trail, green-key, safe and sustainable tourism activities

Trail-project solar/valent energy-systems could connect with the local/national power grid, enhancing energy access/energy security nation-wide. Wheeled transit vehicles (bicycles, strollers, pedestrian-roll-sticks, rollerblades, etc.) could “link in” by picking up a rechargeable battery/loadable-devices at start of transit on trails, and delivery of the charged battery/loaded-device at departure points (hooked into the larger power grid system) along the trail.

[Note: Similar opportunities for installing and utilizing motion-powered energy systems, utilizing small chargeable batteries on wheeled systems or in-shoe devices, utilized while in waiting areas (airports/transit, medical well-visitor waiting zones, social-services waiting zones, etc), in schools, malls, training centers, hotel exercise zones, in appropriate prison facilities/rehabilitation programs, on mass-transit vehicles (long-route bus, train and subway commuter-transport) and in airplanes and on ships, are also possible. 
Person-powered grid-contribution systems could also be installed to amass and donate sustainable and renewable power from participants in corporate settings, fast-food play (and innovative “adult play”) zones, and, especially, in sports stadiums-- where fans in stadiums (and eventually, those in their homes, with sync-in connectivity) can “vote with their feet” and pedal/power to express support for their teams, donate power, play online team games (if franchises agree), enhance group dynamics, charitable and social inclusivity, and provide ownership of individual, family, community, brand-or-fan-based, regional or national/international efforts to improve standards of living, improve health, and encourage fun, win-win engagements which are environmentally sustainable, and age, gender, ability, social, political, and culturally-inclusive.]

In addition to utilizing solar-canopies and valent-energy collectors (which can also be channeled to “sweep” dust from the solar panels), these trails could incorporate hanging, tiered, and ground-level/border xeriscaped gardens which could provide food and water security for humans, pollinating bees, butterflies, birds, and related flora and fauna living within the improved environmental stability of the trail zones. Trail-zone grey-water and hydro-management programs could also be utilized, to increase water security.

Individuals/groups from trail-adjacent communities would be hired/responsible for the maintainance of local-to-global access/connectivity programs and projects, receiving multi-skill training/vocational/avocational opportunities, including:
  • ·         engineering/design/construction and maintenance
  • ·         agro-ecology/xeriscaping
  • ·         connectivity/communications
  • ·         renewable energy/power-grid establishment/use/maintenance
  • ·         food/water/energy security programs
  • ·         waste/sanitation
  • ·         arts/recreation
  • ·         indigenous-heritage-knowledge/wealth/resource preservation
  • ·         resilient adaptation; youth-elder programs; community representation/planning
  • ·         eco-tourism
  • ·         service-sector planning/management/marketing
  • ·         rest/refreshment/lodging
  • ·         massage/hammam/indigenous-therapies
  • ·         guides, security, translation
  • ·         bike/equipment maintenance, mapping
  • ·         web-page/data-sync design/maintenance

Networked-trails-projects can re-integrate impoverished, migrant, under-served, at-risk, and prison-community citizens-- enabling education, skills, and potential/available employment in all the sectors intersecting with trail use/operations.  At-risk/incarcerated adults and youth joining supervised trail-programs can acquire specific skills/knowledge/training, on-the-job-experience, verifiable performance records, and employment on the trail-systems they help build and/or maintain.

Associate benefits of constructing and utilizing internet linked trails would include possibilities for regional/national/international racing (single location and multi-location or global/synced-start racing events); tourism; continual field-learning cauldrons for those using the trails and for residents; cradle-to-cradle sustainable development collaborations; daily-use transit/portage routes (excluding heavy-vehicle/fuel-burning transport)—networked-trails could enhance connectivity, access, and recognition of the intra-connected, fragile balance between the eco-climates, agro-urban-economies, and food/water/energy-security  and social-inclusion/responsibility issues faced by each nation, region, community, and individual world-wide.

In Morocco, as everywhere, there are microcosms of environment, culture, economy-- and multiple issues directly impacting the survival, stability and sustainability of the kingdom’s citizens. Partnership approaches to community-based projects can improve resilience, celebrate existing heritage/knowledge, encourage more secure food/water/energy/transit practices— and inspire positive transformation within the communities and among all who participate, though tourism, project-participation, and economic involvement.

Although adaptable to any climate/topography, site-specific trail projects in Morocco can decrease erosion, diminish heat-bloom, desertification and vulnerability to drought while increasing available arable land-use, and enhancing access to (without increasing deterioration in) fragile and at-risk eco-environments. Local, migrant, tourist and other populations can utilize the trails as main arteries of connectivity and access, lessening the pollution footprints of erosion, slow/non-biodegradable waste and obsolescence.

The 7th World-Environment-Education Congress, WEEC2013, was hosted in Marrakech, Morocco. Trails, even one prototype, perhaps in Morocco’s southlands, would begin connecting cities with fertile valley, forest, coastal, mountain, and desert communities in Morocco and across borders-- helping protect the environment, bolster economic, energy, and food/water security, increase understanding, appreciation and responsible stewardship and enjoyment of our interdependent world.

Cleaning hypoxic ocean/inland-water zones, clean fuels and arable lands; my papers and presentations for WEEC2013

Micro-screen harvesters and other devices can be used to scoop ocean-hypoxic zone nitrogen-phosphate rich algae into holding tanks, and introduce the nutrient rich matter to the Sahara/other desert zones. Soil building processes—including adding fungii to introduce microbes in soil, composting and balancing with peat, clays and minerals (precipitated from bio-fuel production projects which may also be sourced from hypoxic water-zone bio-population-explosions) can utilize the solids and grey-water byproducts of organic-harvest processing. Introduce low-water-consumption xeriscaped plants, and augment with bio-diverse plantings (including succulents-- ice plant, harvesting fruit to prevent invasion of species; dragon fruit and cactus pear, etc); then vegetable, flowering, fruit and other trees—can decrease heat bloom, desiccation, desertification; and can increase pollinator-support, food and water security.

Dead Zones (hypoxia) are large regions of water so low in oxygen that they cannot support most aquatic life. Algae blooms on the surface of waters block the sun’s rays from reaching underwater plants, and even grow on sea weeds and aquatic plants growing near enough to the surface, further reducing the amount of sunlight they receive. Without sunlight, water plants (sea weeds, kelps, large grasses) cannot grow, and provide critical food, habitat, and even oxygen to oceanic and inland waters.
Leftover algae that are not consumed by fish (and that is another problem, since small fish fry, polyps and other small species which consume algae are consumed by the myriad jellyfish which thrive in low-oxygen, algae-rich waters) fall to the bottom of the water-system, where they are decomposed by bacteria which leaves little or no dissolved oxygen for the shellfish and other bottom-dwelling species in the aquatic environment. Burning fossil fuels continues to pump carbon into the atmosphere, further lowering oceanic/aquatic pH, also ideal conditions for incubating algae blooms, jellyfish, and the
Overfishing and the “throw-away” bycatch  further threatens the well-being of our oceans and waterways, by depleting needed populations of algae- and jellyfish- eaters, and by adding to the decomposition of aquatic life on ocean and deep-water floors. Whales, dolphins, loggerhead and leatherback marine turtles are caught, and die, each year, in commercial fishing gear, while trawling ocean floors kills the kelps, sea grasses, and shellfish which could help keep the world’s waters clean and oxygenated. With 90% of the ocean’s large fish in decline, jellyfish do not have as many predators as they used to. Meahwhile, Pelagia Noctiluca (“Mauve Stingers” plague the Mediterranean seas by the millions; Nomura’s Jelly Fish (echizen kurage in Japanese), which can grow to over 600 pounds, and other species of jellyfish are thriving in the dying waters of the world.
However, we are not without solutions to diminish, and correct, the poisoning and suffocation of our oceans and waterways. Instead of overfishing depleted fish populations, trawlers can be contracted to scoop up surface algae before they die and fall to the waters’ bottom layers, and to remove the huge infestations of jellyfish which currently clog water-zones, and eat much of the fish eggs and small fry that, if left undisturbed, could better repopulate healthy oceans and waters. Catching, and utilizing jellyfish as food, fuel, or compost is a far better solution than chopping them up in the water, since this only causes the butchered jellyfish to release hundreds, even thousands of polyps, which can mature into additional jellyfish needing to be cleaned up.
While some algae and jellyfish can be processed and eaten (various cultures have dined on healthy species for centuries), or (especially if largely dead/decomposing, therefore inedible masses of algae and jellyfish are collected) treated and processed into methane, compost, and recycled grey-water products in anerobic extractors and micro-digester systems, algae and jellyfish can also be utilized as raw materials for building nutrient-rich soils in sand-based or depleted topsoil systems. Whether processed for direct, super-saturated aquatic application to non-arable soil bases (especially efficient in warm/hot zones where decomposition processes are rapid), or utilized in methane-production (“renewable” fuel, which can be further “cleaned and greened” by solar-heated evaporation processes), the compostable materials from jellyfish and algae population explosions can rebuild terrestrial ecosystems, with the addition of fungi and beneficial microbes, processing worms and other digesters, nitrogen-fixing legumes and other plants, and xeriscaped agriculture.
And waterway and oceanic cleanup can similarly progress, by instituting submerged-rope-farming of kelps (e.g. the red kelp Gracilaria) and other filtration-efficient, bio-remediation water grasses and sea weeds (which remove inorganic nutrients from waters, produce oxygen, and provide food and habitat), and the submerged-rope-and-net farming of clams, mussels, and other bivalves filter organically-bound particles, e-coli, and other microbes which would otherwise contribute to the nutrient-rich, acidified, warm waters which lead to algae blooms, algae death/water-floor decomposition, and the spread of hypoxic waterzones and massive populations of jellyfish.
Since sea weeds and shell fish can provide solid nutritional value to human consumers, industries which invest in such bio-remediation measures can reap profits along with their ocean- and water- cleaning harvests. Methane fuel-producers, grey-water extractors, and compost-processors, similarly, can earn living wages while utilizing the algae and jellyfish infestations which are clogging our waterways, to produce clean energy, reusable water, and arable lands to support terrestrial eco- and agri-systems. Whether small/artisanal-sized operations, or scalable to regional, or global water-cleanup efforts supported by industry, NGO, and government investors in a program of serendipitous benefit to oceans, lands, and the humans running the industries and cleanup efforts, bio-extaction of raw materials, and bio-remediation through kelp, water-grasses, and shell-fish farming can improve the chances of sustainable life for many, if not most, of the globe’s millions of species of Earthlings on our shared, interdependent planet.

Games for ecolo-evolution; my papers and presentations for WEEC2013

Human cultures are evolving “universal” concepts of human rights and resilient response to shared challenges. Essential life-priorities must move beyond human centered sustainability and social justice to inclusive/ecocentric ethics, valuing diversity of ecosystems and species-cultures, aware of limited/renewable resources, and of the relative position of human kind within the ecosystems of interdependent Earth.

Multiple Language, interactive online and low/no-tech (board and role-play) learning games and real-world challenges can teach children/adults/communities about sustainability, interdependence, innovation/solution-design, and crisis management (e.g. health, weather, earthquakes, hypoxic ocean zones, food security, water security, etc) in fun and challenging games/forums. A board game version I could demonstrate is “dogs, cats, rats, cockroaches (or relevant regional insects: mosquitos, fleas, spiders, etc), which balances interdependent habitats, waste management and chaos/pest-infestations.

Environmental interaction/habitat games like my “Dogs, Cats, Rats and Cockroaches” help players of all ages explore concepts including:
 (how many times do you rescue the same creatures? Do you maintain the spaces in a sustainable manner, or just dump as many animals as possible, to “own” the ephemeral “value” of head-count?),
shared value (does your play provide healthy shelter and adoption opportunities for the animals; does your play enable interdependent work? is your use of available resources sustainable, or access/power driven? etc),
value differentiation, risk assessment and management, and  future-strategic play in a sustainable-or-win-at-all-costs strategy (many short-term gains with animals repeatedly returning to endangered/feral status, rather than slow, steady progress which improves conditions and expectations for majority of “stakeholders,” etc) and
knowledge-building (the online game should be able to increase the “stakes” of the shared responsibilities/value, enable expansion financial responsibility for older players…)
could be developed through data gathered during game play.

No man is an island, and my games are not “island” concepts, but interdependent games which I hope can add fun and meaningful celebrations of accomplishment to meeting real-life challenges, green, sustainability and resiliency issues. Value-differentiation, Risk/consequence-management, and Future/strategic-sustainability play games focus on building understanding and finding solutions, as well as providing fun– because, logically, stray animals don’t really find their lives to be very play-filled, game-like, or even safe, secure, or sustainable (although arguably, feral and viral populations can manifest a biologic footprint which can overtake many of the other organisms within their path/field-of-affect), nor do the other at-risk and underserved plant, animal, and human populations around the world.

Games can add tolerance, understanding, contribute ideas to the pool of solutions, and increase social interaction and Human/Gaia values as well as provide individualized entertainment and learning platforms, as well as highlight the extreme battles, obstacles, and daily tasks of life in a fun, meaningfully interactive environment. 

Of course, developmental Value-differentiation, Risk/consequence-management and Future/strategic-sustainability games can be challenging, engaging, and lots of fun, on a surface level, as “simple games,” too.  Games, like sports, have, indeed, provided a unifying balm, a focal point for disparate energies and loyalties, throughout the long centuries of our shared history. Sports and other types of games add greatly to the resilience of our lives. And, yes, gaming should be about fun, play, entertainment, and enjoyment. But that does not preclude games from including other benefits and raisons-d’etre, as well.

Some proponents of Edu-gaming tout games as a crucial determinant to the success of global progress into an interdependent 21st Century. Edu-gaming can become a tool for peace, an aid for development, a source of education, well-spring of inclusion, of emergent and indigenous knowledge, skills, and culture. Fred Donaldson, Play Practitioner, has adapted many of his successful healing techniques by decoding play signals, and observing and measuring the concessions pf behavior which overcome asymmetries of power and skill, trust and conflict.

Games can assist with learning or accomplishment, to lighten the drudgery of daily ‘devoirs’ and repetitive tasks. And, actually, I think that if social change or humanitarian groups could incorporate more games into their efforts, it might make charitable involvement and contributions more fun, the work more accessible and understandable, and the leadership/choices more transparent (concomitant to increased awareness).

Games can embrace social awareness, while not requiring huge investments time, affirmations of loyalty, or attempting to dictate mores, culture, or choices. Introductory play among mainstream, differently- and dis-abled children, preliminary liaison between hostile gangs and other groups locked in spiraling lose-lose battles, and other “intervention” meetings frequently exhibit gestures of measured social trust, “permission” to drop stances imposed by conflict, efforts to communicate, interact, and, finally, even to play.

The philosopher Plato said “you can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” People play games not only to build bonds of understanding and trust, but to break rules, explore old concepts and new opportunities, to feel powerful, have both freedom and control, to create complex or even counter-intuitive solutions and systems to build order from chaos.

Stuart Brown, a physician and clinical researcher who founded the National Institute for Play _
http://www.nifplay.org/vision.html (play+science=transformation) discussed the primal levels at which play exists even in the wild, presenting a photo essay with a polar bear who befriended a husky dog at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHj82otCi7U

Historically, children have had society’s “permission” to play (except in situations of deprivation). Resumption of play, or, better, continuation of play at the adult level has been shown to establish, or re-establish security, balance, and flexibility, enabling individuals and groups, human and animal, across species, and within, to react and adapt positively to the unexpected, to challenges and changes of social/community order, of the environment, of life.

Across the global financial sector, “play” earns billions a year, organized sports billions more. And yet, in urban and rural spaces all around the world, children and adults also play low- and no-tech games, requiring little more than a few sticks, or recycled scraps, a ball or two, and creativity.

Our children’s favorite games reflect this simpler approach. Most of my/our children’s games are born of necessity. Many people work long hours and have very little free time,. Many others have little or no extra income to spend on expensive entertainments. After all, for adults and children alike, life would be pretty harshly boring and inflexible without games and fun to liven things up.

And, in some of the urban and remote places we have lived, my children and I love to invent playground games, like “Octopus” (modified freeze tag, dodgeball and base-stealing game I play with my little guys) and “Lava Vulture” (modified black-swan resilience/emergency-management technique-building qua hide-and-seek, requiring participants to dodge or react to seemingly-impassible “magma” and flood zones, to establish safe habits and safe spaces and codes for run-lanes, large-bouncy-dodge-balls and tag-outs, which is enjoyed by my little guys and willing adult athletes; the game can be as simple or complex as players can handle).

Actually, home-grown sports-games like Octopus, Lava Vulture, hopscotch, musical chairs (which some scholars liken to the survival games which were born of the hunt-hide-survive and plague-eras, and the resilience-building and coping techniques the adults and children of the times developed, hundreds of years ago), and all the other games of children and care-takers worldwide will probably never have the cache, branding, and huge profits of soccer, cricket, football, and stadium sports, or online and board games. But they are fun, require little equipment, cross cultural and language barriers (for example, our children/we seldom live where we speak our mother tongue), give great exercise, challenge, team-building/rapport, and lots of laughing, wherever we play them.

Across species, play is a universal means of building trust, interaction and cooperation, creativity, growth and development. Psychiatrists and zoologists have measured the dangerous, long-term consequences of play deprivation, which include lack of social skills, lack of optimism, perceived lack of alternatives, and tendencies to meet stressful situations with violence. Like the games born of necessity, whether no-tech, low-tech, or high-tech, MMOPG, ARG, or other format–  playing games seems to be beneficial for all moving species (and maybe even plants, for all I know… climbing trees always seem to grow stronger, not weaker, with repeated interactive play from children, or climbing animals…).

Silence is unsustainable; Rohingyans, Humanity, Earth

It is easy to persecute those who are different, less powerful, less-protected, and when the world remains unaware, or simply silent, such exclusion and mistreatment can escalate to invasive, indelible crimes which stain our common humanity. The Rohingya people wake, walk, work, and wish, like so many other peoples in so many other places. Rohingyan babies cuddle, Rohingyan children hope to play, Rohingyan youth hope to find jobs, love, build lives for themselves, and Rohingyan adults and elders, like adults and elders in so many other places, hope for safe, secure, sustainable lives, for the serendipity of circumstance which might allow some joy. Rohingyans, and other excluded peoples, must, however, struggle to find the hope merely to subsist in refugee camps, hope merely for a cessation of persecution, violence, rape, genocide—hope, merely, to survive.

The Rohingya people, any people ostracized, excluded, victimized and “eradicated” in the name or guise of social or economic superiority, share bonds of common humanity with their neighbors, with their oppressors, share bonds with each and all of us. Crimes, violence, depredations and wars against individuals, communities, cultures or nations affect each, and all of us, and each and all of our fellow earth species. The cycles of depletion, destruction, obliteration must cease, while we, as humans upon this interdependent planet, have time to alter, repair, and improve our course of development, as individuals, as societies, as a species. Our capabilities, our arts, our cultures, our brains, our choices distinguish each and every one of us—yet our common humanity, our composition as organic beings, can be reduced, inexorably, to the same components of carbons, hydrogens, and other base materials when life ends. We are equal in death, in decomposition—but is this all that can be attained? The ultimate leveling of us all, when life has ceased?

We live in a world of great resources, arable land, flowing waters, adequate air, sunshine, and modernizing transport, exchange, and communications. People can share information almost as immediately as perceiving (and digitally recording) and transmitting it. While the wheels of change travel as slowly as the minds and hearts of the least connected among us, we are capable of seeing our history, both in perspective long-past, and as it unfolds “real-time.” We are capable of deciding to make changes to the course of our growth, interactions, and evolution as humans. Our decisions, our choices and actions impact our individual, societal, and global development—and our actions affect every other species sharing our habitation spaces. We are responsible for our choices, and we are not alone in bearing the repercussions, or, in a possible, kinder realm, the benefits, of them.

There are seven continents, hundreds of nations, thousands of cultures of humanity living on our interdependent Earth. One central concept, upheld by the U.N. and other governing bodies, by nations, and by individuals, is that there are “universal” human rights. That is, every human being is entitled to safe, secure, and sustainable life. The issues involved include: food, water, energy, environment, even habitat/living space. Beyond this concept of universal human rights are social justice considerations such as equality (gender, cultural, racial, educational, religious, etc), freedom (access to- , use of- , communication/exchange of- information, resources and assets), and the oft-alluded-to “pursuit of happiness.” The right not only to survive, but to thrive. Balanced with these is one central ecological and ethical reality. Out of about 25 million or so species, all are Earthlings. One is human. Ethical priorities must move beyond concepts of safety, security, sustainability and social justice, to concepts of inclusive/ecolo-centric ethics, which value diversity of ecosystems and cultures, and are grounded in an awareness of the relative position of human kind within the ecosystems of the Earth.

The exclusion, violence, extermination and extinction of earth species, of individuals of any species, must cease. We, humans, can be, must be, responsible for our choices and actions, and find sustainable solutions to our life challenges. Short-term acts of control and violence, such as those exacted against the Rohingyans in Burma, permanently alter the evolution of our individuality, of our humanity, of human kind upon this planet.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Serendipitous Beneficiaries and the Economy of Needs

In Africa, in an interconnected, interdependent world, the mismatching of needs, resources, opportunities, competition and accountability is undermining the perceived value of education, of labor markets which cannot absorb the vast pools of skilled and unskilled labor, of social infrastructures which cannot at present maximize the multifaceted resources of human capital. Inequality of access and value-of-outcome for individual, or group, efforts and achievements very often lead to financial hardship, gender-based deprivation, perceived/actual disenfranchisement, crime, violence, and larger conflicts.

Technologies in communication, transit, cloud-based information storage and sharing are providing unprecedented opportunities for growth in the knowledge capital of humanity. In previous centuries, humanity experienced the pseudo-sustainability of growth with the advancement and enrichment of a sheltered upper class, with acceptable numbers of jobs for uneducated, semi-skilled and skilled laborers. In the 21st Century, however, the increasing millions of educated young people eager to apply their talents and skills to forge lives for themselves have clearly demonstrated that neither private nor public sector employment landscapes provide adequate opportunity, compensation, the attainment of life-goals.

Social infrastructures, regardless of climate, location, or resources, depend upon the investment of participants, individually and as communities, to endure. Poor outcomes which commence with gender-based discrimination leading to early child-birth, low-parental education and wealth, poor nutrition, geographic factors of exclusion-by-circumstance are reinforced by the disparities in the next generation of children’s education, and the improbability or even impossibility of obtaining a well-paid job—causing productivity levels and dependency levels to become progressively imbalanced.

Social structures are straining under ever-increasing populations of job-seekers, ever-increasing deficits of funding, and the double-sided swords of instant communication and transit technologies. While communities, states and nations should be building social and economic infrastructures which amplify the rights, and the responsibilities of an interdependent human species, inequality of opportunity continues to exacerbate the poor outcomes of the non-privileged.

Clear expectations of recompense-for-effort are reinforced by media and crowd influences, yet equitable, durable opportunities for educational, economic, environmental, energy and ethical (“universal” freedoms and rights) security are ever-more threatened. At a time crucial to the development of human responsibility and investment in a sustainable, interdependent world, poverty of outcomes is impoverishing, endangering the future of our species on this planet.

From the very start, impoverishments of circumstances affect each child’s probability of receiving adequate healthcare, nutritional, and educational services to succeed in life. Almost inescapably, these same circumstances and subsequent poor outcomes affect the ability of the working generation to support themselves, their children, and their elderly. Opportunities for education and hiring based upon connections, rather than merits, undermine the whole process of building human capital, and evolving from a top-heavy distribution of wealth, resources, power, and access, to a more equitable, merit-based, sustainable assumption of responsibility and recompense.

Investment in dynamic, strategic employment and social infrastructures is essential to impartial, merit-based hiring, to widening access for qualified enterprises and individuals. Investment opportunities to encourage the increase of businesses and agencies which look beyond regional and sectarian considerations, which work together to conserve limited finite resources while maximizing the potential of renewable resource utilization would strengthen infrastructures, and encourage new ideas, and new markets for services created, offered, and utilized.

In an overhauling of current collateral regimes of protectionism and creditor rights at the expense of small-investors, wage-earners, and subsistence- or poverty-line laborers, increased understanding of the economy of needs, rather than wants, reflects a richness of social fabric, rather than a paucity of empty promises.

The concept of serendipitous beneficiaries, of responsible development which considers the interconnectedness of humankind, of other earth species, of limited finite resources, global-renewable resources, and potential for sustainability, is crucial to the “greening” of markets, services, and human occupations today. Value-adding serendipitous beneficiaries to the associated/collateral choices and activities of market-share providers of goods and services enables citizen-consumers to make responsible choices themselves, empowering those enterprises ensuring "green," sustainable practices.

For example, in many nations, young people, unable to find adequate employment in their “home” communities, regions, or nations, tend to leave, congregating in urban centers where they hope to find paying jobs. This leaves the parent-generations cope, alone, with aging grandparents. In nations where poverty and tradition caused young girls to be married to men three and four times their age, this “flight” of the young generation leaves many, many older women, without adequate education or job skills, without financial training, property rights, or any access to healthcare, adequate nutrition, transportation or services, to support aged, dependent spouses alone.

A project to address constraints of youth receiving adequate training to get a job could include considerations of what jobs, projects, products, and collaborative efforts would best benefit the communities inhabited by each group of youths. Appropriate locally- or regionally-based projects could include plans to create new, and provide access to existing education and jobs in product -creation, -sales, -utilization; in service –training, -providing; in education, heritage knowledge preservation and tech-based communications/interconnectivity; in medical services and specialties; in domestic and hospital/hospice-based care and sustainable interventions. Every community eventually will have elder-citizens requiring assistance, inclusion, active care; every community at some point has adult and youth-emergent work forces needing employment and services themselves.

Serendipitous beneficiaries of locating training sponsorship for youth development and skills/vocational training could include infrastructure, energy-and-communications grids, construction, maintenance, and transit-systems/access, water/waste management, and social-services training, as well as specialized/medical field employment. Collaborative development and endorsement of projects with applicable industry sponsors, for equipment and for training, provide opportunities for “green-minded” corporations to invest at the community level in the sustainability and serendipitous outcomes of the populations served by their market-products/services, and build their market share among the young populations to which they offer training and opportunity.  

The elder communities served by such inclusive projects have their own associations of serendipitous beneficiaries, including adult offspring who are more able to contribute in their own jobs, knowing adequate, safe care is available to/provided for the elder family dependents. With more training, connectivity, and jobs available in outspread communities, urban flight and other employment-seeking population shifts would be less likely, with less detriment to the social fabric. Upgrades to “green” and environmentally-sustainable facilities and resource/waste management practices would benefit the ecosystems of the communities served. Infrastructure and service administration practices could become more transparent, as communities actively collaborate with funding sources on the projects undertaken, and employed participants contribute to the longevity of the program(s).

The concept of serendipitous beneficiaries as a measure and enhancement of social responsibility and sustainability could add to the flexibility of social infrastructures, educational programs, to the accountability and responsibility of service, commercial and industrial providers. In an interdependent humanity, on an interdependent planet of limited resources, a “green” approach which includes associated industries and efforts as serendipitous beneficiaries of planned output can result in alleviation of “poor outcomes” for all strata of society, for our shared environment and pool of resources, and can result in a raised quality of sustainable lifestyles for humankind, and our millions of fellow-earth species.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The objectified, the bystanders, and those living within the circle of care-- from the borders of bedlam, to beyond.

Physical health, mental health, mental abilities—among the “normal” and the differently-abled (challenged and gifted)—as the “higher species,” humans have long separated, described, documented, and dealt with (for better or worse) family and community members enduring some state of injury, disease, or condition which alters their ability to succeed, cope, or even survive in general society. Folk lore, arts, writings and institutions have, for centuries, acknowledged, if not improved the condition of the differently-abled within their communities—and have long, if inadequately, recognized the frequent companions of untreated disability/different-ability: poverty, ignorance, and isolation (of individuals, or whole groups). From appearances in nursery rhymes and Breugel paintings, to harsh realities of slave galleys and circuses where the different were paraded and exploited for the amusement and profit of the “normal” or the more powerful, the costs of being different have long weighed heavy on the shoulders of the afflicted.

The catch-term “mental illness” (including Alzheimer’s, dementia, personality disorders, substance-related disorders, epilepsy and other neurological disorders, and other conditions) has often been grouped among  “non-communicable” diseases—running distantly behind global awareness of cardiovascular diseases, lung diseases, cancers, diabetes and organ-deteriorating diseases. Improving genetic study technologies are showing links between maternal health, child health, and possible hereditary and environmental causes contributory to many mental as well as physical diseases.

Despite increased awareness, human-rights and social-justice programs lag in their capabilities to address the physical, mental, and community-health issues, even when deprivation and lack of status contribute to the downward spiral of dysfunction and discrimination, exacerbating health conditions through lack of options, care, and concern. Even crowd-sourcing and internet local-to-global appeals struggle to get the attention of funders, NGOs, research and care institutions and programs… and the families and caregivers of the less-capacitated are caught in what many consider a catch-22 of lose-lose options.

Many people lump differently-abled children and adults, those with birth-related dysfunctions, profound dis-abilities, autism, chronic-or-deteriorating neurological and/or physical afflictions which curtail “normal” communication/participation and social interaction, and severe/debilitating injury due to accident or malpractice together with the mentally ill— if for no other reason than the perceived differences in appearance, behavior and social participation from “The Normal.”

And many people do not want to be associated with mental illness. The centuries of separation, exploitation and exclusion have created stigma associated with “difference” which are sometimes nearly impossible to overcome. Many people think there is no “hope” associated with being differently-abled, ill, incapacitated—without ever seeming to define “hope” itself (using it as a blanket excuse for lack of participation or involvement), for in aligning with the “Many” comes the anonymity of non-responsibility, the safety of escape, the lure of “backing the winner” and avoiding the “loser,” the weaker, the disabled, the “other.”

Yes, there is a “global” health community, albeit, on the non-professional side, loosely-knit and sporadically-joined. Yes, there are local, community, national and online/stateless efforts to raise awareness, funding, and treatment-levels for the panoply of hereditary, communicable, chronic, non-communicable, trauma-related, event-induced (et cetera) illnesses and conditions. World Mental Health Day (held annually on the 10th of October) helps raise awareness and global concern about mental health issues, awareness of treatment, costs, and related effects and syndromes. And the opportunity to research resources and techniques, to find mentors and affirming/supportive “friendships” online have elevated options and opportunities for care to the realm of possibility even in impoverished, remote, and underserved communities and households.

However, while global estimates of the annual costs associated with mental health/illness mount ever-closer to the trillion-dollar mark, mental illnesses and programs to improve mental health and chronic-illness treatment/care options struggle to get the attention of funders. Perhaps part of the problem is exactly the nearly-overwhelming burden of simply beginning to combat the massive imbalance built through years of inadequate care, and lack of confidence for a sustainable future—for the afflicted, and for the family/caregivers.

So, what are the costs of medical challenges, to those who endure the injury or condition, to those who love them, to those who provide care? Attendant costs, in some economic strata, of care planners, legal teams, “entitlement” specialists, social/medical-aid procurement specialists, public/private health liaison specialists, therapy/rehabilitation providers, procurement/cost specialists, personal-coach/counseling specialists… and tertiary costs: extra expenses for transit, equipment, training, specialized wardrobes, site-accommodations, service-accommodations, costs associated with inabilities to handle exigent circumstances… and “hidden” costs: lack of access, the huge resources of time/grooming/support needed to overcome perceived and actual discrimination, the postponed realities of geriatric care for individuals who have spent their live energies and life capital supporting the attendant costs of a disability or chronic condition (whether as care givers or care recipients)—leaving few if any provisions for the solitary shouldering of the entire burden of care when old age separates need from sufficiency, “retirement” from security, and adds the burden of “silencing” the marginalized by leaving them in isolated backwaters seldom noticed by the flowing tides of people competing for money, power, and life in an ever-evolving marketplace.

Without the capacity to change the circumstances of an ongoing condition, the physical and mental realities of the daily and nightly struggle to live in a body so afflicted, those who endure illness or trauma already face, with aging, the liabilities of depleted assets of strength, affluence, even basic inter/intrapersonal life/communication skills.

Those who are able to rely upon a network of support may have an easier journey in the short term, but unless they are able to achieve and maintain a level of self-reliance or committed-ongoing support, their apparent autonomy is tenuous, at best—and might collapse with the removal of the assistance, accommodation, and/or access-due-to-affluence to services needed to maintain a life of best-possible circumstance.

Sometimes the realities of this dependency so paralyze the afflicted individual that they are unable to assume a level of independence that they otherwise might have reached—perhaps fearing the removal of support if they become “too successful”—and fearing, more, the day when their abilities again are insufficient for the demands of the lifestyle they have attained, this time, striving and struggling or even failing without any network of support, because they have presumed to be “normal.”

Sometimes, the bubble of support so encourages the chronically or permanently differently-abled that they fly, like Icarus, to heights beyond their capacity to sustain… and the sudden or gradually-escalating demands for additional intervention by caregivers become so unbalanced within the level of resources actually available, that these efforts collapse, again insufficient to the demands of the lifestyle—this time having exhausted and/or lost the network of support which had previously been available.

Of course, there are myriad stages in between, where the socially-aware and the self-or-insular-focused dependent/differently-abled individuals alike find some balance which permits the continuation of daily life, and myriad stages between the levels of quality, or lack of quality, of those lives. And afflicted and care-giver alike encounter all the myriad stages of feelings of dependency, frustration, guilt, rage, wishes to escape or self-harm or suicide attendant to afflicted lives, as well.

And so the afflicted capable of doing so, and those who love the afflicted, the differently-abled, struggle to provide, to constantly reassess needs, and constantly realign degrees of care, support, autonomy, community in the fragile balance between security and challenge, comfort and control, predictability/sufficiency and collapse/chaos. Massively-invested family- and caregiver- circles pour life resources of time, energy, attention, affluence and affection into the pooled experience of life with a differently-abled circle-member. Other kinds of family-caregiver circles assign the expenditure of resources to exterior providers, and the differently-abled circle-member is relocated to an alternate place of residence/care, and must form a new circle of experience, trust, expectation and hope (or lacks thereof).

One of the contradictory realities which caregivers and circle-members also face is the division between urban/rural care-opportunities/resources, urban monetary-costs-of-living, urban costs-of-quality-of-life, and the potential gross separation between individual care and mass-cost-saving/profit alternatives. Uninformed, “qui tacet consentire videtur” and/or participatory support for care-provider neglect, malpractice or the flagrant misuse of power contribute to additional injury/affliction. These include mental-care/health-care “providers” who increase dependency to build economic inflow of predictable patient rolls; care providers, educators, and others in the train-attain-ladder who withhold/deny care/funding—or grant it based upon skewed demands for favors and other abuses; care “givers” who hide behind appearances of adherence to protocols and established practices while extending sub-standard, deleterious or even damaging assessments/therapies/regimens-of-treatment to patients in their care.

In the quest for change, with national economies teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, and national health-care plans nearing insolvency, with health care providers hoping (logically) to work where the amenities and necessities of care are available, the precedent has been flight of intellectual and talent-based capital to urban centers. However, increasingly overcrowded, food/water-and-resource-dependent urban centers have become unsustainable, and a rebalancing of concepts of time, value, remuneration, of monetary-vs-social credit might redefine concepts of “ability and dependency,” of “success” of mastery of skills and the providing of care.

Cultural demands to care-for-your-own, fear of the suspicion, stigma and sanctions associated with differences/and visible-vs-invisible injury, illness and needs, and burgeoning global poverty/limited non-renewable resources might, serendipitously, coalesce to provide a sustainable solution to the mounting challenges, costs and considerations of mental illness and mental, community, and social well-being.

That is, rather than turning to self-attributions of self-imposed guilt (or sadly, even self-hatred) for being dis- or differently-abled, or for self-imposed guilt or blame/hatred for somehow contributing to the condition of the dis- or differently-abled dependent, individuals, care-givers and communities can learn from the focus of those coping with life-long afflictions—who strive to find the balance between living in their “reality” and creating the environment of joy whenever it is possible to pursue those activities/avocations/vocations they most love… Not all the differently-abled are able, or want to find what might be enduring questions of voyages of life, of interdependence on a global scale, of corporate, social, legal, and “humanitarian” responsibilities for levels of care and the quality of life—and whether that care is viewed as burden, sacrifice, obligation, labor-of-love, continuation of life-as-it-is, or opportunity.

Many humanitarian projects and programs, whether crowd-sourced/funded, privately-endowed, or beneficiaries of micro-loans and other self-help sponsorship/aid-partnerships have provided accumulating evidence that ground-to-boardroom community-involvement is crucial to the successful introduction, implementation, and continuation of the work/projects to-be-accomplished. Inclusion of the challenges of care for the differently-abled of our global community among the inception-to-completion planning procedures of humanitarian projects might sound glib and facile, but in many of the best global healing traditions, the differently-abled, from child to elder, maintain some sort of role or status in the community, involved with not only healing rituals and shared responsibilities for self- and assisted- care, but non-exploitative work or social-value contributions are encouraged, with opportunities offered, and assistance provided, so each, child to elder, can feel a part of the community network. This not only mitigates the tensions and tolls of care for the immediate family, but affirms the awareness, acceptance, and encouragement of the extended family, larger community, and provides backup links and support for interactions with the professional care-providing community.

While community and family-based care cannot provide extreme interventions which may be required for specific cases, the value of an inclusive social network, which does not disparage the efforts of the differently-abled to live their lives at whatever level might be best for them, which does not disparage nor diminish the efforts of the family and community of care-givers to diminish the stigma, discrimination and exploitation associated with extraordinary needs and the differently-abled, and which does uphold the best of the traditions of healing and humanitarian care in a manner which can lead to greater productivity of all the networked family-and-care-circle members, lead to lowered costs and attendant costs, in time, money, resources, and quality of life, and which can help bring greater stability, through increasing reliance on networks of care, and on internet-communication reinforcement of care and life-partnering, and a lowered consumption of resources, time and money, as well as lowered costs.

And where extreme interventions and extraordinary levels of care are required for specific circumstances, there will be a more globally-equitable availability of measurably-reliable care available, rather than supporting a huge network of procurement-management-specialists, rather than the actual providers of care. In our increasingly interdependent global society, the importance of sustainable mental and physical health can be an overwhelming burden, top-heavy with high-end corporate and associated-costs and charges, or a challenge and opportunity to actually deliver sound services and care, needed for the health and well-being of each of us, in the smaller and larger circles of community surrounding the differently-abled.