Monday, September 30, 2013

Food sharing networks

Food sharing networks are organized to make sure excess produce grown but which cannot be sold is instead shared with those in need. With modern, and sustainable, food growing techniques, there is no reason for anyone to starve as long as there are people who organize the network for food sharing.

Cropmobster [], implemented by []

"Cropmobster: Connecting the Dots Between Farms, Food Waste and Hunger"
2013-09-30 by Dani Burlison []:
Perched along the rolling hills of Coastal Sonoma County, Bloomfield Farms spreads out across 50 acres, close to 40 of which are thick with kale, chard, heirloom tomatoes, summer squash, potatoes and more. The foggy gray skies that often hang over this part of the county on summer mornings have not deterred several families from venturing out to the farm where they make their way down rows of greens, picking their own vegetables as a part of the "U Pick" program. Back at the farm stand, several more gather for a Sunday pay-what-you-can brunch. A musician strums his guitar, friends and strangers alike gather around community tables and the sun breaks through the clouds for an idyllic late summer treat.

It's not just the screaming deals through Bloomfield's pick-your-own program, the local, organic meal or the ambiance on these laid-back Sundays that have given Bloomfield Farms a prominent place on the map in the North Bay's tight-knit organic farming community. A new food gleaning and supply-sharing program called Cropmobster, spearheaded by Bloomfield's General Manager Nick Papadopolous, has created simple and effective solutions to address food waste and hunger and increase farmer visibility in a decentralized, community-based way. And it's spreading like wildfire.
“It started in March,” says Papadopolous. “Standing in our vegetable cooler on a Sunday night it finally clicked that, wow, there is a lot of food left at the end of the week that should go to people.”
His response was to mobilize; to get this food away from the compost and onto tables. He began by posting deals on Facebook. He was honest about the situation, letting people know that they had excess food and that they’d love to get this food to people, as well as help cover some of their costs. On the first weekend, someone texted Papadopolous, “I’m in!” The second weekend, the same thing happened.
“Both of those times,” says Papadopolous, “it was people just like you: moms, parents, whoever, driving out the very next day for perfectly edible wonderful organic food and distributing it to their neighbors. Everyone got a really great deal, we recovered some of our costs, we got to meet some amazing people and build new friends in the community.”
Experiencing the quick and relatively simple benefits of his crowdsourcing solution, Papadopolous thought of the benefits local grocers, distributors and anyone with excess food could experience. He teamed up with a friend to build Cropmobster, an instant alert platform that anyone who has excess food can post to. Community members can also make posts asking for donations of plant starts for school or community gardens and even, in the case of several elders who have used Cropmobster, asking for donations of food or garden supplies for personal use. To date, Papadopolous says that anywhere from twenty to thirty school gardens have been planted with seedlings that would have otherwise gone to compost.
“All of these great groups are out there in our community doing awesome work,” he says. “But there is no community exchange or infrastructure to allow folks to communicate and to mobilize and use crowd-sourcing and decentralized systems to really tackle some of these problems.”
Past deals on Cropmobster have included gleanings of four acres of peaches; six acres of premium grapes; farmers selling ten bunches of basil for $1 each; restaurants and bakers offering truck loads of stale bread to pig farmers; and dozens of egg-laying hens finding new homes.
Based in Sonoma County, Cropmombster has reached beyond the county lines and in less than a year is now utilized by hunger-relief organizations, churches, farmers, ranchers, retailers and individuals in 11 northern California counties. It has caught the attention of local and national community leadership, too. From agriculture commissioners, farmer advocacy groups and people like Slipstream Strategy founder Tamsin Smith and Assistant Chief of Natural Resources Conservation Service James Gore, who both serve on the groups advisory committee, groups and individuals are watching closely and stepping in to help. One can hope that the concept can continue to spread to where it is needed the most.
“Our vision with the Cropmobster community exchange,” says Papadopolous, “is to create a community platform to allow folks to exchange excess food and other materials, and we've seen a lot of donations. He continues, “For instance, one of the greatest grocers in San Francisco, Bi-Rite Market, is using Cropmobster to publish donations.”
An independently-owned, family-run grocer based in San Francisco, Bi-Rite focuses on sourcing and selling artisanal and sustainably-sourced food. The grocer has sourced farm-direct produce from Bloomfield for several years and became Cropmobster's first San Francisco-based retailer.
“We’ve used Cropmobster as a way to manage our in-house, day-of food excess at both of our grocery stores, and [to] specifically target and build ongoing relationships with hunger relief organizations in San Francisco,” says Bi-Rite's Community Coordinator Shakirah Simley. “We post online alerts and Cropmobster's staff blasts this donation out through their platform, through social media, and direct e-mail. We generally hear from a non-profit organization within the hour.”
Simley says that within the first two months of using Cropmobster, Bi-Rite donated over $2,000 worth of organic fresh produce and artisanal food to San Francisco hunger relief organizations. They’ve also made connections with organizations like Glide SF, Project Open Hand, Episcopal Community Services and Food Runners, helping feed several hundred food-insecure individuals including the homeless and people living with HIV. Cropmobster posts impact reports so the public can see where the food goes and watch the ripples of positive impact as it spreads through the community.
With roughly 14-15 percent of U.S. households currently experiencing, or at-risk of, food insecurity, and an estimated 40 percent of food being wasted before ever reaching those in need, Cropmobster continues to connect the dots locally. In addition to Bi-Rite's donations, several other Bay Area hunger-relief organizations have reaped the benefits of Cropmobster through donations or through gleaning events that are specifically geared toward nonprofit organizations. On a more basic level, individuals often benefit directly when someone with a few apple trees makes a post offering access to their crop for free. Community members connect and develop friendships and business relationships with one another, and local farmers gain visibility.
“It benefited us with getting a minimal profit and benefited the recipient with getting a high quality product at a cheap price,” says Karen McKenzie of Twin Palms Ranch in Santa Rosa. “It also spread the word about our farm and who and what we are in the community.”
Papadopolous stresses that it’s important for farmers to be recognized more in the community.
“Over 50 percent of small farms in this state lose money,” he says. “We've got to find a way to lift up farms and make them visible. And if there's excess, it should go to the public. I've never seen an industry or a business where there's so much loss and waste.”
Papadopolous says that projects like Cropmobster can help put a dent in the problem and mobilize the community around things that no one can disagree with.
“We really need more projects that tend to inspire people to work together,” he says. “No matter where this goes, it's important to shatter the mindset that it's acceptable for 40 percent of food to go to waste. What's inspiring us at the end of the day are the impacts,” he continues. “It is a really exciting time to look at the systems in our communities and see if there are ways to connect dots differently, and take it to the next level.”

Friday, September 27, 2013

Communities for Resilience - Map Your Future Project

Join us in launching this exciting new program!
Contact -
* Program Director Kirsten Schwind [] [510-834-0420]
*  If you work with a youth group in the Bay Area and would like to collaborate on developing and testing this program, contact []
* "Map Your Future" Blog []:

"Our Vision for 2013: Map Your Future Project"
2013-05-21 message from Bay Localize:
In 2013, Bay Localize is excited to launch the Map Your Future Project to prepare young adult job seekers (age 18-25) to find their first jobs in building local climate resilience.
The project trains youth to document efforts to prevent and prepare for the local impacts of climate change that also create job opportunities, and map them on online. The project captures the stories of what kind of investment and policy change it would take to ramp these efforts up to create even more jobs. Youth leverage this research process to explore job opportunities and build professional networks to build careers serving their community.
Bay Localize is partnering with youth organizations around the Bay Area to host trainings to prepare their members to become resilience mappers. Trainings also feature a special emphasis on low-income communities of color and low-income youth with barriers to employment (e.g. no high school diploma, history of incarceration, at-risk), who suffer the highest rates of unemployment.
Youth mappers will be trained in:
* Impacts of climate change locally and what we can do about it.
* Identifying community efforts that are building climate resilience.
* Interview and research skills.
* Following up on job opportunities they are interested in.
Based on the research findings from our mappers, we will develop action recommendations to ramp up local resilience jobs and livelihoods in the Bay Area. Bay Localize will document training curriculum, web tools, and program methodology for replication worldwide.

"Communities for Resilience: Map Your Future with Ma'at Youth Academy"
2013-09-17 update from Corrine at Bay Localize:

We're excited to announce that Bay Localize recently tested our Map Your Future curriculum with the outstanding Ma'at Youth Academy (ages 16-21).  The curriculum was very well received by the youth, who were eager to bring their lived experience, knowledge, passion and innovative ideas to the table.
Our vision for the Map Your Future project is to make it easy for local planners and community organizations, especially youth groups, to work together to map out community resilience assets.
Our test curriculum with Ma'at began with introducing the concepts of "Climate Impacts" and "Vulnerable Communities" and had youth map out relevant examples in Richmond. We then shifted to concepts of "Climate Resilience," "Climate Action" and "Assets," which had them identify some of the solutions to address climate impacts and vulnerabilities.  Each of the youth performed a skit on the climate solution of their choice, mapped out assets, and identified jobs that would be created as a result of investment. We wrapped things up with a letter from each youth to a decision maker about their recommendations to address climate change, how they are impacted, and how they'd like to be involved. "The skits helped me think critically about what needs to be done, " expressed one of the youth.

2013-08-15 update from Corrine at Bay Localize:
What an amazing day with the youth at Ma'at Academy. We sought out to test our Map Your Future curriculum, and needless to say we were blown away by the consciousness, knowledge, passion and innovative ideas that these youth (ages 16-21) brought to the table.
Over the course of several weeks this summer, these youth learned about the history of Richmond, CA, wetland ecosystems, watershed, landuse planning, changes in global average surface temperature, food justice, environmental justice and climate justice. Walking into the room I found myself not only inspired by what they knew, but the urgency in their presence to want to do something about it to improve their communities. For most of these youth, there was no question that climate change is real. They along with their families and communities feel the impacts of limited access to clean air and water, healthy food, transportation, housing and jobs.
We began by introducing the concepts of "Climate Impacts" and "Vulnerable Communities" and had them map out relevant examples in Richmond. We then shifted to concepts of "Climate Resilience," "Climate Action" and "Assets," which had them identify some of the solutions to address climate impacts, vulnerabilities, how to make them better, and think about alternatives.  Each of the youth performed a skit on the climate solution of their choice, mapped out assets and identified jobs that would be created as a result of investment. "The skits helped me think critically about what needs to be done, " expressed one of the youth.
As we wrapped things up for the day, we asked the youth to take action by writing a letter to a decision maker about their recommendations to address climate change, how they are impacted and how they'd like to be involved.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Worker owned factories & Co-ops

How to Start a Grocery Co-op [link]

There is so much ferment in the worker co-op sector in the US right now, you should check your assumptions about co-ops at the door and look into it:
* US Federation of Worker Cooperatives (USFWC) [].
* CECOPA federation of worker co-ops world wide [].
* Shift Change documentary film, [], about the incredible new activity in the worker co-op sector in the USA.
* Cooperative Grocers Information Network []
* International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) []
Many of the more than 300 worker co-ops in the US right now are committed to social transformation and ecological accountability, in addition to creating good jobs and democratic workplaces. The commentators who simply dismiss worker co-ops as no better than predatory consumer capitalism are missing what is happening at the grass roots in the movement. The discussions are not about outsourcing, minimizing input costs and maximizing consumer sales, but about social transformation, social justice and ecological accountability.
The fastest growing sector of worker co-ops in the USA is in Latino/a immigrant communities, where workers especially women are creating stable decent-paying work in businesses they own and control, primarily in housecleaning using non-toxic chemicals but also in other sectors.
 Mondragon Cooperative Corporation is working long-term so that workers at factories in the "outsourcing" countries get support to reorganize their work lives to become worker-owners in their own cooperatives.
Also MCC has worked with the United Steel Workers Union to get the Union movement in the USA to look seriously at taking direct control of factories and workplaces instead of stagnating in a permanent adversarial relationship of contract negotiation with a superior owning class. This has led to the new Union Co-op model, and USW will be working over the next few years to launch worker-owned industrial enterprises in the USA.

King Arthur Flour, a worker owned company in New England [link]

Worker-Owned business is subsidized in Bolivia [link]

"A Decade after the Take: Inside Argentina's Worker Owned Factories"
2013-09-25 by Nora Leccese []:
The economy is pretty untrustworthy in Argentina right now - the economy’s 30% inflation will eat away at your paycheck till there is nothing left and it’s not wise invest with Argentina pesos. It is very difficult to conduct business at all given the frustrating lack of transparency of most monetary transactions. Which is why it’s incredible that worker-owned businesses have flourished in the rubble. In Argentina, worker ownership requires trust against all odds. As a student of economics and a young activist, I have held the worker-ownership model in Argentina up as a beacon I could orient towards, an alternative and a method of resistance that might be widely applicable.

The Spark for the Movement: Economic Crisis in 2001 -
For the past two months, I have been visiting, interviewing and working with the worker-owners of Argentina's empresas recuperadas, or taken factories. The movement of taken factories gained enormous momentum after the Argentine economic collapse of 2001, when foreign investors saw Argentina's strong industrial sector crumble, and closed up shop. The economy lost thosands of factories that supplied millions of jobs. Workers at some of these factories saw the lunacy in letting their former workplaces lie cold and vacant while they were out of work and already knew how to run the businesses and operate the machines. One by one, they began to occupy their factories and demand the right (protected under Argentina’s constitution) to work, and to re-start production as a worker-owned cooperative, resulting in more than 180 cooperative factories employing over 10,000 workers.
The workers' logic was that since their labor produced all the added value for the products, and their employers had walked away from their businesses, that it was their only option and also their right to run the factories themselves, under horizontal direct democracy. Once workers decided to take over their factory, a long and often complicated judicial process awaited them. They camped out for months in or near their workplaces to ensure the former bosses didn’t gut the factory and sell the machines in the middle of the night.
Early in the process, many occupations turned violent as police tried repeatedly to evict the entrenched coop members. But the process has now become more streamlined and normalized. I met one group of workers in the middle of the recuperation process. Their little camp on the street was filled with laughter, music and homemade empanadas delivered by other members of the movement, worker owners who already won their battles for the right to produce.
This movement provided immense hope for many around the world who saw factory occupation and recuperation as the beginning of a paradigm shift; a chance to build a new system within the broken shell of globalized capitalism. The flood of energy and idealism was undoubtedly released in the US by a film by Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis called The Take [], documenting a successful factory recuperation. I gained a window into the maturation of this dream in Buenos Aires now 11 years after the first factory take over, of a movement that through its institutionalization process has held fast to some fairly radical principles, while beginning to access mainstream markets.
The stories of the workers I've interviewed are filled with contradiction, with relentless struggle against oppression and with degrees of triumph. My time in Buenos Aires helped me to redefine the meaning of dignified work, and provided a frame for the global struggle for worker self-determination. Studying the coop movement in Argentina and identifying pieces that could be translated for the movement in the US, we have so much to learn from our friends in the South.

La Matanza: A Coop With Very Old Problems and Brand New Solutions -
We turned onto a side street of a dirty industrial district on the edge of Buenos Aires and parked in front of a warehouse belonging to La Matanza, a worker owned cooperative since 2003 that makes screws.  At the time of its factory take over, the workers hadn't been paid for ten months, so they staged a fifteen day occupation of their factory to ensure that the owner couldn't ferry the stock away and sell it off. The nine current members (or socios) of La Matanza are aging, most close to sixty years old. Some have worked in the dim, cold interior of La Matanza for forty years and now are building new relationships based in horizontal authority and collective decision making with the men they worked next to for so long.
Business is pretty good at La Matanza with a stable client base and higher than average returns (they're not called wages in a coop). They feel secure in their work. The biggest problem, everyone said was the delays they experience when the machines break down. “Well, how old are the machines?” I asked.  They looked at each other, shrugged, and said casually,  "Around one hundred years old." This factory started producing screws before the dictatorship, Juan Peron, and the Falkland Islands War and nearly everything that has shaped the face and the fate of Argentina today.  When these centenarians break down, the workers take them apart, honing new parts out of scrap metal and coax them back to life. But it takes a couple days, and that's their biggest impediment to production.

They display intimacy, the men and their machines. One member was showing me how a compressed air pump stamps the Phillips-head imprint onto the head of a screw and stuck his smooth calloused fingers so close to the pumping mechanism that I began to wince, bracing for the yowl of snagged flesh. But he knew he was safe. He knew the cadence of the rotation, showed me with pride how his craft works. Some of these men have spent more time with these machines, inside this dim cold warehouse where everything is covered in eerie, shimmering dust, than they have with their families, their friends. Than they've spent outside in the open air. This is the price of industry.

Flexible Politics at Cooperativa SG Patria Grande -
My next stop outside the city was a coop called SG Patria Grande []. As soon as we stepped in from the bright sunlight I was surprised by a flurry of color and activity. Boxes were flying around the warehouse, being chucked from the loft and unceremoniously corralled into the open doors of a truck. Everyone working was young, under thirty-five, and was bustling around, whistling and cracking jokes. The boxes flew through the air with such ease because this coop distributes a wide array of intentionally lightweight disposables. Every imaginable extrusion of Styrofoam and cardboard and wrapping paper and Kleenex lay carefully ordered in yet another layer of packaging, in a warehouse stacked to the ceiling with what amounts to pre-trash.
The coop has a dream of using funds from their distribution business to open a responsibly produced bulk food store and restaurant, and seem very serious about making the transition, but know they will rely on revenues from pre-trash for the next ten years at least. They’re trying to offer more corn-based compostable products, but they are not confident that these products are a viable long term alternative.
I began chatting with Julio, one of the founders of SG. He is 35, super alert, casual and bounced around on the soles of his bright red converse as he spoke with us. He started SG with more than a dozen friends when they were in their late twenties. They are all from middle class backgrounds, much younger than other coop socios I've met, and very concentrated on building cooperativism as a social movement.  SG would like to host a coop summit to get all movement leaders together to share stories and create both business and personal connections. They hold workshops in cooperative business management and are a great resource for their fellow worker owners to access legal and technical information.
He said that when they first started, there were just a few stacks of boxes at the back, and now they've crept forward so that the room is nearly bursting.  The huge back stock is a measure of the good health of this growing cooperative. On one wall of the warehouse there is a huge colorful mural of a masked Zapatista warrior with a baby on one hip (also in a black mask) and waving the rainbow checked indigenous flag. In the US, it would be unthinkable to see such a blatant representation of a clearly subversive group like the Zapatistas in any sort of capitalist business establishment.
Even odder, is that this Zapatista mama was flanked on the wall by a life sized cut out of Christina Fernandez de Kirchner, Argentina's current lady president. This is the type of small business her rhetoric is intent on supporting, although in practice she strongly favors supporting massive (Argentine, not foreign) corporations. More importantly perhaps, she represents a distinctly mainstream “business as usual” attitude with regard to capitalism that clashes with the chants of “que se vayan todos” (“get them all out”, with regards to the power elite) that rang through the streets in 2001 when the empresas recuperadas movement was born. That was a time where people were desperate enough to imagine what a more radical shift might look like.

The empresas recuperadas movement helped people to envision what an economy based in solidarity and horizontal decision making might be, how that would change their daily lives and their relationships to their neighbors. But small gains for people clawing their way back towards middle class have tempered that vision, and many social movements in Argentina have once again set their sights on reform and not revolution.  Julio saw me staring in bewilderment at the two women on the wall, he just smiled again and said mischievously, "We like a little bit of everything at SG.”
The socios at SG are doing admirable work through their plans to supply more sustainable products and continue hosting cooperative workshops. They, and the rest of the worker-owners I spent time with, are building new networks together of good and services, providers and clients, producers and consumers based in socially responsible economic principles that provide mutual benefit. The challenges they face are an aging industrial landscape and a weak currency, however their struggle has weathered 11 years already and shows no signs of going away. Their success will lead to the success of their children and their communities.

An Advancing Global Movement -
While the economic conditions in Argentina have been incredibly precarious, the consciousness that evolved as a result of the crisis provided fertile ground for a vibrant movement. Similar conditions are ripening in parts of the US as well. Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis and Chicago are all looking to new economic models. Chicago is the home of the first worker cooperative takeover of a factory in the US, New Era Windows [] and Detroit unions are seriously considering replacing the corporate auto industry that fled with their jobs with worker-owned industries. Despite the movement’s contradictions, Argentina is still a priceless window into a new path and economic paradigm of worker’s dignity, mutual aid and trust that can provide tangible inspiration to struggling workers and communities around the world.
The Working World [] is now helping to turn those dreams into reality in other countries and helped New Era purchase their factory from its previous owner. Working World  is a non-profit organization that provides investment capital and technical support for worker cooperatives. Upon return, all investment money is reintegrated to a locally-based revolving loan fund, overseen by the cooperatives and the community it serves. According to Working World, "We support worker cooperatives using a finance model that puts money at the service of people, not the other way around. We help design, fund, and carry out productive projects, only requiring that cooperatives pay us back with the revenues the investments generate. As active partners, we are more motivated to ensure that these projects are successful, or in other words, that finance is only used as a tool to create real, lasting wealth for those that it serves."

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Vehicles powered by H2O (Water)

Sovereign technologies [link]

"Water Powered Car Unveiled: Yes It’s Real"
2013-07-28 by Arjun Walia []: 
Everyday the world becomes aware of technologies that have the potential to halt the unnecessary damage we continue to create using fossil fuels. We’ve been talking about it for years, transitioning our way of  life to be more harmonious with the planet and its natural systems. I’m not talking about solar or wind power (although great), I’m talking about clean and green technology that  render fossil fuel burning technologies inferior and obsolete. One of these “new” technologies is a water fuelled car, and it has been unveiled on a number of occasions. It’s an automobile that derives its energy directly from water, and water alone. It is not hard to see why it’s not available to the masses. An engine powered by water would wipe out a large chunk of the fossil fuel industry and change the way these companies do business all together. The oil and gas corporations combine to bring in trillions of dollars every year. Inventions like these are a direct threat to the industry.


A Japanese company called Genepax [] unveiled their water powered car in 2008 in Osaka, Japan [] [] [] [].
It doesn’t matter if it’s tap, bottled, or lake water, any type of water can make this car run. An energy generator splits the water molecules to produce hydrogen and this is used to power the car. They use a membrane electrode assembly (MEA) to split the Hydrogen from the Oxygen through a chemical reaction. The cell needs only water and air, eliminating the need for a hydrogen reformer and high pressure hydrogen tank.
This isn’t a conspiracy! The reality of this device has been verified by patent offices all over the world. To search a Japanese patent, you have to go through the Industrial Property Digital Library (IPDL). This organization makes patents available to the intellectual property department of the Japan Patent Office. The IDPL provides over 60 million documents and their relevant information as published since the end of the 19th century. The fact that these are even published for patent pending says a lot.
Click HERE [] to view the water energy system patent. You can also visit  the Industrial Property Digital Library itself, do a “PAJ” search. Type in the publication number **2006-244714**. Documents are also on file with the European Patent Office, you can view them HERE []. Reuters also did a brief report on the vehicle as you can see in the video below.
So what happened to Genepax? Approximately a year after revealing their device, the company shut down. They stopped displaying their device as well as promoting it. The only explanation given was a lack of monetary funds.

Genepax isn’t the only group to have come forward demonstrating that we can turn water into hydrogen fuel and use it to power cars. Stanely Allen Meyer is another one who invented a water powered car and it received very little attention when it came to making the news available to the masses. Today, it’s a fairly well known story due to the mass awareness that has been created around the story. Stan’s invention was picked up very briefly by a local news station in Ohio.
You can view his patent HERE, it also describes the whole process []. You can view the entire collective of his documents here [].
Here is another brief clip of Stan as he demonstrates his technology. Water contains a lot of hydrogen, as we know, which is a very efficient type of fuel. Converting water into hydrogen is 100 percent clean!
So what happened to Stanley Meyer? He was sued by potential investors, it was determined that his device was nothing revolutionary and simply uses the process of electrolyses. His claims were determined fraudulent, and  his technology was under investigation by a number of investors, the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Defense. It was patent pending, all of a sudden Stan Meyer died suddenly in 1998 after dining at a restaurant. Many close to him, including his twin brother, believe Stan was intentionally poisoned. Stan claimed,, just before he died in  he restaurant parking lot, that he was poisoned.

Water makes the perfect fuel source. It’s comprised of two hydrogen atoms and one atom of oxygen. When the water molecule is separated into its two component atoms and oxidized as fuel, the result is equivalent to an energy output that is two and one half times more powerful than gasoline. The byproduct of the combustion is water vapour, totally pollution free, returning water back into the atmosphere. The process used is known as electrolysis, which is a method of separating elements by pushing an electric current through a compound. Various techniques for water splitting have been issued in water splitting patents all over the world. You can click here to look at a few from the United States [] [].
Not to long ago, researchers at Virginia Tech extracted hydrogen energy from water. They discovered that the energy stored in xylose splits water molecules as-well, yielding high purity hydrogen. You can read more about that here []. There are multiple examples of creating hydrogen by splitting the water molecule (2).
Another existing technology that can replace that entire industry is the Free Energy Device []. Implementation of these two technologies alone would create one of the biggest technological changes in human history. The same group of people that own the big oil companies also own the mainstream media, so it’s not surprising that we don’t hear about these technologies. Scientists have been murdered, labs have been burnt down, and prototypes have been taken.
Alternative technologies are great, and obviously have tremendous implications. We must remember that the human race cannot create from the same level of consciousness that created this system in the first place. A change for planet Earth coincides with the change of heart more people are experiencing everyday. The key to move forward and enter into a new paradigm is simple, it’s love. With love, we’d already have these technologies implemented Because of greed, hate, fear and ego, they remain suppressed, but only for now.
Hopefully this article inspires more to further their research on water powered cars. There are multiple stories with very similar endings for the parties who came forward with this ground breaking technology. Why do we continue to speak about change when we already have the technologies to implement change? One reason is because a large majority of people have yet to become aware of these alternative technologies. They are not marketed, publicized or given much attention. It can be hard to accept that there are people on the planet actually engaged in the suppression of such information, but unfortunately it’s a reality. We are living in the age of transparency, many of us are waking up to thoughts and ideas we never thought we would ponder. In some cases revealing these technologies can cost you your life, that’s how much opposition exists against it -for now. When a new technology becomes so evidently clear,  the implications are far reaching and can threaten multiple corporate interests.

"Stan Meyers water powered Buggy"
2007-04-09 upload by "Mokdo68" []:
Stan Meyer's Dune Buggy that ran on water. Hydrogen/Oxygen fuel in an ICE motor. On board electrolysis, no hydrogen tanks, no bombs on-board, just water.It ran 100 miles per gallon!    It was a shame to hear that he was poisoned (March 98') and no longer with us. He died in the parking lot of a restaurant in his home town of Grove City, Ohio. Sharks came a week later and stole the the dune buggy and all of his experimental equipment, according to his brother, Steve. Stan said while he was alive, that he was threatened many times and would not sell out to Arab Oil Corps. (Stan Meyers was threatened and eventually poisoned, Andrija Puharich mysteriously fell down a flight of stairs. Carl Cella died in prison!!! Get the picture yet - the OIL picture!!!)

Vehicles powered by air pressure

Sovereign technologies [link]

"$10,000 Car - AirPod - That Runs On Air"
2010-10-29 upload by Dale Hyde []: An amazing affordable auto that runs on air!

AIRPod is the culmination of MDI studies on pollution and urban mobility.
This concept will be the first to leave the production line in spring 2009. MDI will respond to an invitation to tender of the city of Paris, "Autolib'", and is already the subject of applications for various municipalities.
With small size, a tiny price, zero pollution, fun and futuristic design, AIRPod mark a turning point in the range of urban vehicles while renewing the idea of the automobile and transportation. You can drive with a joystick, it only costs one euro per 200 km and leaves no one indifferent in crept in traffic.
It is a real breath of fresh air in our cities and the prelude to travel without pollution. Its small size make it easy to park, keeping still a large internal volume. AIRPod help us to forget the price of petrol.
AIRPod is part of the MDI production licence of "less than 500kg vehicles", and is manufactured in the same factories as OneFlowAir, following the original production concept proposed by MDI.

The standard version is designed for the transport of persons. It has four seats (3 adults and one child) and has space for luggage. It is dedicated to multiple uses as in the private and public sectors. Airports, train stations and municipalities also need a cheap, non-polluting car with high mobility.
This vehicle is changing our urban life in the city center in freeing ourselves of the prohibitive cost of petrol and offering us mobility never gained until today.

AIRPod Cargo
This carriage version with a single place has a load volume greater than one meter cube that makes deliveries easy in town. Designed for runners, messaging, and the artisans and communities, Cargo AIRPod brings Zero Pollution in institutions. The Post, factory handling and delivery are markets of choice for AIRPod Cargo.

AIRPod Baby
Two front seats and a chest of more than 500 liters, all for less than 1,80m long, it's the most extreme, a real challenge for car design. This model was created keeping in mind the most congested cities by traffic. It is a versatile which can also be used for deliveries, municipal services, roads and small logistics.

Sovereign technologies

This is a catalog of technologies, techniques and ideas which will grant sovereignty to the people.

Solar thermal desalination [link]

Food growing techniques
for high-yield crops on small parcels and shared housing units (apartments, condos):
* The Permablitz [link]

Industrial Hemp (Cannabis) [link]
Hemp is grown in our climate conditions and can be used in building materials, food, plastics, and medicines.

Vehicles made with sustainably produced resources, like hemp, are a step forward towards continuing inexpensive and sustainable industrialized system of transportation.
* Electric bicycles [link]
* Vehicles powered by air pressure [link]
* Vehicles powered by H2O (Water) [link]
* Vehicles with 100+ gas mileage [link]
* Tesla Motors and Solar Powered vehicles [link]

Energy for an industrialised civilization like ours can be produced in in our region.

Solar Energy describes techniques of yielding energy or actions using the heat of the Sun. Most energy-yielding technologies cannot be made using local materials.
* Community-Owned Solar Power in Rehoboth, Mass [link]
* Solar-powered street lights [link]
* Hydrogen fuel production [link]
* Hydrogen fuel created which can retain 90% of energy collected from Solar Power, created by the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) [link]
* Organic Photovoltaic Cells [link]
* Transparent Luminescent Solar Concentrator [link]
Monopolist efforts to stifle Solar Energy technologies:
* Monopolist energy producers in California use law to penalize residential solar power generators [link]
* Monopolists convince California State Congress to penalize solar power owners, 2014-02 [link]
* Sovereign energy plan utilizing Solar is opposed by Northeast Utilities System (NU) in Massachusetts [link]

Ocean Wave Air Pressure Power Plants [link]

Bio-Fuels [link], using food-crops, cannot be produced locally in quantities needed to sustain an industrialized system of transportation, but, if produced locally, can enhance obtainable sources for high-grade motor fuel.

Wind Power
* Wind Farm technology produces energy for 25 years [link]

Hydrogen Fuel
* Hydrogen fuel manufactured from natural photosynthesis [link]
* Low-Power Hydrogen Fuel Extraction [link]

Petroleum made from algae [link]

Bacteriological energy sources [link]:
* Winery Wastewater into Hydrogen Fuel technology info from “Winery Pilot Tests Wastewater to Hydrogen Conversion Model” article, 2009-10-01 “Yountville Sun” V12N20: “Napa Wine Company” of Oakville implementing “microbial electrolysis cell” technology for converting winery wastewater into hydrogen fuel, overseen by Penn. State university environmental engineering professor Bruce Logan

Low yield energy producing platforms:
* Obtanium Electrical Generators [link]
* Urine-powered energy generator [link]

Fuel recovery from petroleum-based plastics:
When clean plastic is heated to around 800 deg in a sealed chamber it gasifies. So what is left in the chamber is almost 100% carbon black powder, a rather harmless byproduct. The rest of the gas that doesn't condense into a form of collected oil is composed of burnable gas like propanes,butanes, and small amounts of other inert gas that gets piped back into the fire box and totally burnt. The pollution created is on such a small scale that a lawnmower produces much more.
* [] []
* Blest Company in Japan sold this in 2006, cost of 12,700 USD. It is portable. []
* Backyard plastic to oil refinery that is wood fired. This is a proof of concept prototype. []
* Waste tires to oil. Make over $6 per tire by recycling through pyrolysis. [] []

Fuel recovery from petroleum-based plastic bags [link]

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Hemp (Cannabis)

Hemp is an adaptogenic plant used by nearly all nations throughout history for products including clothing and medicine.
* Industrial Hemp is a strain which is grown for it's fiber, nutritional (seeds) and cellulose content, and is not medicinal by any means, and it is non-psychedelic when used as food.
* Medicinal Cannabis ("marijuana") is a strain of hemp, created over 5000 years ago in northern India, to produce the best known non-toxic medicine used for a variety of ailments and celleur regeneration in the human body, with medicinal molecules scientifically labeled as cannabinoids, which can cure cancer.
All Hemp products were banned by monopolist corporations during 1937 in the USA through bribery in the Federal Congress, then worldwide during the 1962 through the threats of economic warfare provided by certain monopolist holding companies against the member governments of the General Assembly to the United Nations. Monopolists organized this concerted campaign against hemp to protect their monopoly over the synthetic materials used to create industrial technologies and medicines, materials which could be created using natural materials produced from hemp.

WHEN WE GROW, This is what we can do" documentary 

High Oleic Hemp Oil for food production [link]

Plastics made with Cannabis plant material are harder than steel, according to the research of Ford Motor Company during 1942.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Bacteriological energy sources

"Stanford scientists use 'wired microbes' to generate electricity from sewage" 
2013-09-20 from "SPX" []:
The release describes nature of these microbes; more than 100 can fit side by side in the width of a human hair; the microbes are white tubes; they are attached to the carbon filaments of the battery; the tendrils are the "wires" referred to; images were taken by scanning electron microscope. Credit: Xing Xie, Stanford University.

Stanford, CA -
Engineers at Stanford University have devised a new way to generate electricity from sewage using naturally-occurring "wired microbes" as mini power plants, producing electricity as they digest plant and animal waste.
 In a paper published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, co-authors Yi Cui, a materials scientist, Craig Criddle, an environmental engineer, and Xing Xie, an interdisciplinary fellow, call their invention a microbial battery.
 One day they hope it will be used in places such as sewage treatment plants, or to break down organic pollutants in the "dead zones" of lakes and coastal waters where fertilizer runoff and other organic waste can deplete oxygen levels and suffocate marine life.
 At the moment, however, their laboratory prototype is about the size of a D-cell battery and looks like a chemistry experiment, with two electrodes, one positive, the other negative, plunged into a bottle of wastewater.
 Inside that murky vial, attached to the negative electrode like barnacles to a ship's hull, an unusual type of bacteria feast on particles of organic waste and produce electricity that is captured by the battery's positive electrode.
 "We call it fishing for electrons," said Criddle, a professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering.
 Scientists have long known of the existence of what they call exoelectrogenic microbes - organisms that evolved in airless environments and developed the ability to react with oxide minerals rather than breathe oxygen as we do to convert organic nutrients into biological fuel.
 During the past dozen years or so, several research groups have tried various ways to use these microbes as bio-generators, but tapping this energy efficiently has proven challenging.
 What is new about the microbial battery is a simple yet efficient design that puts these exoelectrogenic bacteria to work.
 At the battery's negative electrode, colonies of wired microbes cling to carbon filaments that serve as efficient electrical conductors. Using a scanning electron microscope, the Stanford team captured images of these microbes attaching milky tendrils to the carbon filaments.
 "You can see that the microbes make nanowires to dump off their excess electrons," Criddle said. To put the images into perspective, about 100 of these microbes could fit, side by side, in the width of a human hair.
 As these microbes ingest organic matter and convert it into biological fuel, their excess electrons flow into the carbon filaments and across to the positive electrode, which is made of silver oxide, a material that attracts electrons.
 The electrons flowing to the positive node gradually reduce the silver oxide to silver, storing the spare electrons in the process. According to Xie, after a day or so the positive electrode has absorbed a full load of electrons and has largely been converted into silver.
 At that point it is removed from the battery and re-oxidized back to silver oxide, releasing the stored electrons.
 The Stanford engineers estimate that the microbial battery can extract about 30 percent of the potential energy locked in wastewater. That is roughly the same efficiency at which the best commercially available solar cells convert sunlight into electricity.
 Of course, there is far less energy potential in wastewater. Even so, the inventors say the microbial battery is worth pursuing because it could offset some of the electricity now use to treat wastewater. That use currently accounts for about three percent of the total electrical load in developed nations. Most of this electricity goes toward pumping air into wastewater at conventional treatment plants where ordinary bacteria use oxygen in the course of digestion, just like humans and other animals.
 Looking ahead, the Stanford engineers say their biggest challenge will be finding a cheap but efficient material for the positive node.
 "We demonstrated the principle using silver oxide, but silver is too expensive for use at large scale," said Cui, an associate professor of materials science and engineering. "Though the search is underway for a more practical material, finding a substitute will take time."

Thursday, September 19, 2013

City of Livermore expands reliance on Solar Power

"City of Livermore and Chevron Energy Solutions Celebrate Innovation and Sustainability"
2013-09-19 from "SPX" newswire []:
Livermore CA -
The City of Livermore has launched an innovative sustainability program expected to significantly reduce its energy costs, stimulate the local economy and create local jobs, engage the city's residents and students, and save taxpayers nearly $10 million over the next 25 years, without any up-front outlay of capital funding by the city. With the help of Chevron Energy Solutions, the city has installed solar generating capacity at three sites: the civic center, the maintenance service center and the airport. Combined with a range of energy efficiency measures, these installations are expected to offset almost 90 percent of the sites' power needs. In addition, over 6,000 streetlights have been retrofitted with new LED technology to reduce energy use. By partnering with Livermore-based Bridgelux, a developer and manufacturer of LED lighting technologies and solutions, the city is helping to support and scale a local business, create new local jobs and boost its economy. Facilitated by an innovative partnership between Chevron Energy Solutions and Silicon Valley-based WattzOn, Livermore high school students have also been hired to engage the city's residents in the effort to reduce their energy use. The City of Livermore selected Chevron Energy Solutions, a leader in delivering renewable and energy efficiency projects for local governments and educational institutions, to develop, design and construct the project.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

"Five Community Centers Built by the People for the People"

Community centers are a worldwide phenomenon. It may come as a surprise to some Westerners that many are built by hand by the people they serve. There are several advantages to this. It's fun and builds community. Participants take greater ownership of the building and often learn about long-forgotten vernacular architectural techniques. This also creates an enhanced sense of place. Below are five remarkable projects from around the world, built by the communities that they serve, often despite scarce resources.

San Pedro Apóstol Rural Sports Center, Mexico
For the younger generation in San Pedro Apóstol, a small municipality in the State of Oaxaca, an open community space for various sports and social activities has long been desired. Due to the limited resources, it has never been possible until recently, when land was donated by the municipality. Coming together with support from a GameChangers grant [], a group of international designers got involved. Using workshops and skills training, traditional materials and construction method, the center is being built primarily by the local community, designers, and students.
The center has two main fields that will hold sports competitions for the children of the schools, as well as for locals.
The Rural Sports Center in San Pedro Apóstol, Mexico. Photo Credit: Rootstudio.

Jabu Centre, Swaziland
Back in 2009, the women of the sewing business were working in small, poorly built huts in Jabu, a rural village in Swaziland. When a piece of land was donated by one of the locals, a design was proposed and the search for funding and sponsorship began. Given the rural context of the Jabu Centre, the design team strived to use found materials with vernacular techniques: earth plaster-sands were sourced nearby and the plasters were made and applied using the guidance and training of local craftsmen; salvaged bricks and paving stones were donated by a local brick factory; and two dry toilet units were donated by a South Africa-based company.
Today, the Jabu Centre has an open workshop, a classroom, a cooking area, a dry composting toilet block (two units), and rainwater collection. It hosts not only the working Jabu women, but also the whole village community.
 Found materials were used to build the Jabu Centre. Photo Credit: AID (Architecture in Development)

Black Bamboo Community Center, Indonesia
Black Bamboo Community Center was built and funded collectively by the 31 communities in Yogyakarta. Nesting over drainage, the bamboo structure was built by the community volunteers within two months, after four months spent collecting funds from the families of the communities. Later, the architectural organization Arkomjogja joined and suggested using local black bamboo for the construction. This process helped the community volunteers to learn about the traditional and contemporary bamboo building techniques, and take ownership of their very own gathering place.
 Community members built with local black bamboo. Photo Credit: Andrea Fitrianto.

House of Plenty, The Netherlands
In Nijmegen, Holland, a meeting and co-working place was constructed by a team of volunteers and built entirely out of reclaimed materials. Sourced from the street, or donated by individuals or corporations, these are materials normally considered as waste and destined to landfill. Without any former building experience, the initiator managed to realize the building by collaborating with an architect. Later on, constructors and builders -- who were part of the 300-strong volunteer team -- joined the team. Other people donated materials; some offered their expertise; some offered workforce; and others lent their equipment. Even the land was offered by the local city council for three years, free of charge.
Unfortunately, this inspiring community effort was burned down one month after it's completion, but it is one of the great examples of a community-driven building initiative.
 600 donated oak pallets were used. Photo Credit: Simon Claassen.

laTren / elNodo Participatory Cultural Center in Mexico

laTren / elNodo is a cultural and training facility located in a disintegrated, disconnected, and marginalized neighborhood in the city of Saltillo, Mexico. The goal of the project is to create an incubator for the independent production of neighborhood initiatives and local cultural activities by providing advice (logistical and financial) to support the proposals.
The design and building process was based on a participatory principle to involve the neighborhood through meetings and workshops, which sets it apart from the formal institution-run cultural centers. The process enabled the participants to co-create both the hardware and software of the center, and engaged more interest among both private companies and public institutions toward the neighborhood.
 Shipping containers used for a cultural center. Photo Credit: lavulka,

Monday, September 16, 2013

Threats to the Sharing Economy: Stringent Regulations

"The Sharing Economy Just Got Real"
2013-09-16 by Janelle Orsi []:
The legal problems of the sharing economy just got real. The latest lawsuits against "ride-sharing" companies Lyft and Über could be game changers []. The plaintiffs are drivers who give rides to strangers for money, paying a portion of their earnings to the companies. The class action lawsuits argue that the drivers should be classified as employees of the companies. Regardless of the outcome, the lawsuits call attention to the potential harms arising from the non-sharing parts of the sharing economy. It’s a good opportunity to declare that the so-called “sharing economy” needs a new business model.
The sharing economy is hard to define. In my mind, it encompasses a broad range of activities, including worker cooperatives, neighborhood car-sharing programs, housing cooperatives, community gardens, food cooperatives, and renewable energy cooperatives. These activities are tied together by a common means (harnessing the existing resources of a community) and a common end (growing the wealth of that community). The sharing economy is the response to the legacy economy where we tend to be reliant on resources from outside of our communities, and where the work we do and the purchases we make mostly generate wealth for people outside of our communities. The rich are still getting richer, and the sharing economy can reverse that.
Laws are already beginning to evolve for the sharing economy, but, for now, the sharing economy exists almost entirely in legal grey areas []. Zoning, securities, public utilities, health and safety, and employment laws aren't usually barriers to feeding, housing, lending a hand, and giving a ride to our family and friends. But they are barriers when we engage in the same activities as commercial businesses, such as restaurants, hotels, or taxis. Everything happening in the sharing economy lands somewhere on a spectrum between what is regulated and what is not. I love that about the sharing economy. The fact that it defies legal classification is proof that the sharing economy is new and different. In a world where business-as-usual creates extreme inequality and ecological destruction, we desperately need something new and different.
But the "sharing economy" we usually hear about in the media is built upon a business-as-usual foundation. If the high-profile companies like Airbnb, Lyft, Über, Sidecar, and TaskRabbit are to fulfill the dream and promise of the sharing economy, they need a new business model. For now, these companies are privately owned, venture-capital funded corporations. That’s a problem for both economic and legal reasons.
On one hand, these companies open economic doors. In times of high unemployment, it is comforting to know they are there. I know of people who, right now, simply couldn’t make ends meet without Airbnb or TaskRabbit.
But it’s dangerous to take comfort in the simple fact that these companies create new opportunities to make a living. It’s a double-edged sword, because the shareholders of these companies are getting rich because good stable jobs are otherwise scarce in this economy. In that respect, the sharing economy companies could even have a disincentive to create a world where we have zero percent unemployment []. Even if society achieves zero percent unemployment, companies like Lyft and Über will remain relevant and important, because ridesharing is a powerful way to reduce carbon emissions, to save money on transportation, and to reduce traffic. But I suspect that Lyft and Über are earning a lot of their money because people currently give rides to strangers with the primary motivation of making ends meet.
During times of high unemployment, our streets could become flooded with Lyft drivers. If competition among drivers grows, it won’t matter much to Lyft, but it might make drivers work longer hours or drive across town for the sole purpose of giving a quick ride. To the extent that they become economically dependent on Lyft, drivers are vulnerable to working under less-than-ideal conditions.
This is the whole reason we have employment laws. The Fair Labor Standards Act was passed in order to temper the harms of situations where workers become economically dependent on employers who control working conditions and profit from the work. It’s one big, dangerous combination. An employer stands to make more money if the worker is paid less, if the worker works faster, if the worker skips lunch, and so on. The current lawsuits will put a spotlight on this question: What is to stop all of that from happening with Lyft and Über?
(Side note: It’s interesting, and a little ironic, that proposed regulations by the California Public Utilities Commission would allow companies like Lyft, Über, and Sidecar to avoid burdensome regulations on taxis and shuttles, but only if the companies exercise more control over drivers, including requiring special licenses and background checks []. The more control the companies exercise over drivers, the more it looks like the drivers are employees. The companies should cross their fingers that they’ll find a regulatory sweet spot that allows them to avoid both employment laws and taxi/shuttle regulations.)
Overall, I’m simultaneously critical of and enamored with the world the sharing economy companies are creating. The founders of these sharing economy companies are generally cool people. They are nice, they are optimistic, and they created significant economic opportunities in the midst of a very damaged economy. In that respect, they are heroes to millions of people.
But the companies made one fatal error: You can’t truly remedy today’s economic problems by using the same business structures that created the economic problems. Because of their current ownership structure, Airbnb, Lyft, Über, and TaskRabbit could be bought out by ever larger and more centralized companies that won’t necessarily care about the well-being of people using the services, or about the overall abundance of jobs in our economy.
There is only one way to ensure that a company will make decisions in the interests of the people it serves: Put those people in control of the company. So let me introduce the T corporation. Most business-savvy people know that there are S corporations (Subchapter S of the Internal Revenue Code) and C corporations (Subchapter C), but almost no one thinks about forming a T corporation (Subchapter T []). But T corporations have been around for a long time, and they have a major benefit of not paying tax if 1) they are governed democratically by the shareholders (i.e., everyone gets one vote in the election of the board, regardless of share value) and 2) the earnings of the company are distributed to the shareholders on the basis of how much they patronize (i.e. do business with) the company.
Actually, no one ever calls them “T corporations.” But it might be worth calling them that, because it’s basically a way of saying “cooperative” without the cultural baggage that comes with the word “cooperative.” Cooperatives might otherwise make people think of hippies, natural food stores, farmers, and crowded student housing.
But, at the core of cooperatives is a very simple legal concept that turns the conventional business structure on its head. In a cooperative, money doesn’t buy votes in board elections and money doesn’t buy future profits. Rather, each member of the cooperative gets a vote and earns money based on the efforts they contribute. There is no single individual or group driving the company for their own profit. Many of the incentives for exploitation are simply absent in cooperatives.
If Lyft were a user-owned cooperative, it would be more apparent that Lyft operates simply to provide technology and payment processing to the users, and it will look less like drivers are working for and generating profits for Lyft. That will be a key distinction in the current lawsuits, because the appearance that drivers are working for Lyft is what prompted the lawsuits.
Simply being a cooperative won’t immunize Lyft from employment-related lawsuits like this one []. We have the Supreme Court’s ruling in Goldberg v. Whitaker House Cooperative, Inc. to demonstrate that point, in case any readers would like to geek out by reading the case law next to the complaint filed against Lyft. But, if Lyft were a cooperative, there would be no one at the top pulling the strings for their own profit benefit []. Lyft would be much less likely to devolve into an employer with the primary purpose of profiting from the labor of drivers. With users electing the board, the company would have an incentive to create economic empowerment for users and their communities, not to create economic dependence.
As a cooperative, Lyft would charge fees to users for the use of the technology, but only as much as it would need to cover operational costs. If Lyft charges more than was needed for the year, it would give users what is called a patronage dividend, which is tied to how much money each user paid to or earned for Lyft. In the end, all earnings go back to the users, and not toward the purpose of making rich people richer. The sharing economy companies could draw inspiration from REI, the recreational equipment retailer. REI is a consumer-owned cooperative, meaning that profits are distributed back to the customers on the basis of how much each customer purchased.
Whether Lyft should be a cooperative owned by drivers, riders, or both is an interesting question. That decision would likely be guided by considerations such as: Who does the company most care about benefiting? Is one stakeholder group vulnerable to harm or exploitation if another stakeholder group calls the shots? Which stakeholder group would be most likely to make decisions that benefit the whole community and remedy social problems?
If Lyft’s highest priority is to revolutionize transportation and reduce carbon emissions, then I would say that both drivers and riders should control the company. Revolutionizing transportation would require the support and collaboration of everyone who moves. But if Lyft’s highest priority is to create opportunities for drivers to make a living, then I think drivers should control the company. Deciding whether something should be a worker or consumer cooperative – or both – could be the subject of many future discussions and articles.
Now for the question of how to convert sharing economy companies to cooperatives. Lyft, Airbnb, TaskRabbit, and similar companies are now worth a LOT of money. But, if you think it’s too late for them to convert to cooperatives, remember that the value of the company is totally dependent on the customers. People are increasingly coming to understand that cooperatives will be at the core of a more just and sustainable economy. Smart consumers might eventually boycott any privately owned sharing economy company that isn’t on a path toward cooperative conversion. Losing users means losing company value.
To convert the sharing economy companies into cooperatives, each company and its shareholders could voluntarily enter into a legally binding agreement to begin the process of selling the company to its customers as a cooperative, even if it takes 10 years or more to complete the buy-out. The buy-out could happen in one of at least two ways: Users could form a cooperative corporation to slowly redeem the shares of the company, or the company could internally create a new class of shares for future co-op members. There are a variety of considerations involved in structuring the transition, and while this has mostly been done by small companies like Select Machine, it is doable even with large companies like Airbnb [].
Could or would each of the 2.1 million registered users of Airbnb come up with about $120 per year to complete the buy-out of a $2.5 billion dollar company in 10 years? Maybe []. The number of users is growing rapidly, which would reduce the buy-in cost for each user. And I, for one, would probably encourage everyone I know to buy in, if Airbnb took the revolutionary step of converting to a cooperative.
Cooperative conversion could be a double win for current Airbnb shareholders, who will lock in a substantial return on their investments, and play a key role in a movement toward a more just and resilient economy.
So this is a call to action for the companies, for their customers, for advocacy organizations like Peers, Collaborative Lab, and for anyone feeling hopeful about the sharing economy: Commit to a sharing economy. Commit to cooperatives. Think of these two commitments as one and the same.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Participatory Budget & Democracy in Vallejo

2013-09-06 Participatory Budgeting Update from Vallejo News N.96, published by the City of Vallejo-
The City Council made history by voting to accept the results of the first ever Participatory Budgeting (PB) Vallejo vote in spring.  Subsequently, the City Council has also directed City Staff to implement 11 of the projects in consultation with the PB Vallejo Steering Committee. In addition, the City Council approved a budget on June 25 that includes an approximate $2.2 million allocation for PB Vallejo and hiring of staff to administer the PB process and implement the first cycle projects.  Job announcements for these positions will be posted on the City's website in the near future [].
The PB Steering Committee (PBSC) was recognized and appreciated for their great efforts during the first cycle of PB Vallejo at the City Council meeting on August 27. The Committee, now composed of 20 civic organizations, is responsible for overseeing the PB process, including designing the rules, planning public meetings and PB events, and conducting outreach and education with diverse constituencies. The Steering Committee works to ensure that PB Vallejo is transparent, fair, and inclusive, and with that the members have dedicated and volunteered a large amount of hours.
With the passage of the FY 2013-14 PB Rulebook [], the composition of the PBSC has evolved to include a maximum of 7 at-large and a minimum of 14 local civic organization members (21 members total). Local civic organizations and Vallejo residents are encouraged to apply to fill vacancies (additional information here). By participating, members learn more about the City's budget and build stronger relationships with diverse local organizations and the City of Vallejo.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Workers Self-Directed Enterprises (WSDEs)

2013-09-02 "Organized Labor's Decline in the US is Well-Known. But What Drove it? To secure gains for working people requires a social transition that puts them in charge of producing society's services"
by Richard Wolff from the London Guardian []:
Richard D Wolff is professor of economics emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he taught economics from 1973 to 2008. He is currently a visiting professor in the graduate program in international affairs of the New School University, New York City. Richard also teaches classes regularly at the Brecht Forum in Manhattan.
Organized labor's decline in the US over the past half century is well-known; what drove that decline, less so. The New Deal's enemies – big business, Republicans, conservatives – had developed a coordinated strategy by the late 1940s. They would break up the coalition of organized labor, socialist and communist parties: the mass base that had forced through the 1930s New Deal. Then each coalition member could be individually destroyed.
One line of attack used anti-communist witch-hunts (McCarthyism) to frighten socialists and labor unions into dissociating themselves from former communist allies. Another attack targeted socialists by equating them with communists and applying the same demonization. Still another attack, the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, directly weakened labor unions, their organizing capability and their alliance with the left.
Business and political leaders, mass media and academics cultivated a paranoid anxiety among Americans: suspect anything even vaguely leftist, see risks of "subversion" everywhere, and avoid organizations unless religious or loudly patriotic. Legal, ideological and police pressures rendered communist and socialist parties tiny and ineffective. Destroying unions took longer. The unionized portion of private sector workers fell from a third to less than 7% now. Since 2007, conservatives used crisis-driven drops in state and city tax revenues to intensify attacks on public employee benefits and unions. Both were denounced as "excessive and unaffordable for taxpayers". That plus public worker layoffs reduced public sector unionization.
Nor did labor unions or the left find or implement any successful strategy to counter the 50-year program aimed to destroy them.
To reverse organized labor's decline and to rebuild the left requires either reviving the old New Deal coalition or forming a new comparably powerful alliance. That means confronting and outwitting the long demonization of unions and the left. It requires a strategy that engages and wins struggles with employers. More importantly, it requires a strategy to reposition labor unions and their allies as champions of broad social gains for the 99%. To escape the label of "special interest" unions must work for far more than their own members.
The needed strategy is available. It proposes a new alliance among willing labor unions, community organizations and social movements. The alliance's basic goal is a social transition in which workers cooperatives become an increasing proportion of business enterprises. The increasingly used term workers self-directed enterprises (WSDEs) stresses democratic decision-making. In WSDEs, all workers democratically decide what, how and where to produce and how to use the net revenues their work generates. In WSDEs, whether or not workers are owners or self-manage, they function, collectively and democratically, as their own board of directors, "their own bosses".
This goal and strategy could solidify this alliance. Democratizing enterprises realizes inside them the same goals that inspire many community organizations and social movements. WSDEs established and nurtured by community organizations and social movements could, in turn, provide important financial and other resources for their allies.
Labor unions could regain strength from such an alliance. For example, consider employers who demand concessions (lower wages and benefits) and threaten otherwise to relocate enterprises, often abroad. Unions have mostly compromised on concessions to retain employers. The proposed new alliance offers a new bargaining tool for these situations. If an employer relocated, the alliance would assist workers to try to continue the enterprise as a WSDE. The relocated employer risks competition from a WSDE asking customers to favor it over an employer who had abandoned workers and communities for higher profits.
To establish new WSDEs in such ways, unions would draw upon their allied community organizations and social movements to mobilize local political support as well as funding. Local politicians could not easily refuse job-saving demands from that alliance (proven daily in Europe).
Another way for the proposed alliance to help form WSDEs would be a bold new federal or state program to combat unemployment. This would follow the example of Italy's 1985 Marcora Law. That law offers a new, second alternative to the usual unemployment dole. An unemployed worker can instead choose to take all unemployment benefits as an immediate lump-sum payment and pool that with lump sums similarly chosen by at least nine other unemployed workers. The total must then be used as start-up capital for a workers coop. Marcora's success is one reason why Italy has many more workers coops than the US.
These and still other actions by the proposed new alliance could build a significant WSDE sector while helping to solve major US social problems. That sector would enable many Americans to see and evaluate WSDEs. A WSDE sector gives Americans two new freedoms of choice: (1) between working in a top-down, hierarchical capitalist firm or a democratized worker coop, and (2) between buying the products of capitalist or cooperative enterprises. A significant WSDE sector would add its demands for government technical, financial, and other supports to those from other economic sectors.
As the Republican and Democratic parties increasingly cannot or will not serve average Americans' economic needs, the proposed alliance, strategy and actions would do exactly that. Here lie opportunities for resurgence in the labor movement and the left.
While reminiscent of the old New Deal coalition, the proposed new alliance would differ in one crucial dimension. The old coalition believed that it could not win more than progressive taxation, new regulations and new institutions (such as Social Security). It could not transform enterprises themselves. The old coalition left in their corporate positions the major shareholders and the boards of directors they selected. Those shareholders and boards then used corporate power and profits to systematically evade, weaken, and, when possible, dismantle the New Deal across the past 40 years.
Building a WSDE sector in the economy applies the lesson of those years. To secure gains for working people requires a social transition that puts them in charge of producing society's goods and services. A democratic society requires a democratic economy and that, the new alliance would insist, means a transition to democratically organized enterprises. When this September's AFL-CIO convention considers building an alliance with community groups and social movements, the strategic focus on WSDEs ought to be included.
Comment by Suspiria de profundis:
There another thing not mentioned in this article that helped lead to the decline of organized labor.
That is the dearth of farmers and the break up of the small family farms.
Those "Communists " and "Socialists" of the 1900s right through to the 1950s could very often count on the support of family farms in times of need. Many of them still had gardens or lived on small farms and could get their own food. Part of the orchestrated campaign against unions was also integrated with policies that broke up the family farms from which many of the more populist parties sprung from.
That populist party, an alliance of farmers and labor organizations pressured for things like the Anti-trust act which threw a scare into the Corporations which then worked on breaking that alliance up.
Once people had NO choice but to work or to starve it became much easier to break down the unions.
The small family farm acted as a sort of "commons" and privatizing the commons is integral to Corporate control.
Now imagine when water itself privatized and a persons going on strike meaning "I either work or I have no water".