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PROUT
For a More Progressively Evolving Society

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Cooperative Ways to a Stronger Economy



Co-ops — just like people — can get more done together than anyone can do alone. They come in many forms, and are more common than you might imagine.  



Guest article

Our little group of a dozen families was running out of time. After meeting every weekend for three years to plan our hoped-for cohousing community, and after investing much of our savings to acquire a few acres of land, it looked as though our dream would fail. We couldn’t find a bank that would finance a cooperative.  

It was our local credit union that saved us. “You’re owned by your members? What’s
so odd about that? We’re owned by our members,” the president of the Kitsap Credit Union mused.
With that financing, we were able to build 30 affordable homes and a common house, and to make space available for gardens, an orchard, a playfield, and a tiny urban forest. In 1992, we moved into Winslow Cohousing, the first member-developed cohousing community in the United States.
Co-ops—just like people—can get more done together than anyone can do alone. The good news is that co-ops come in many forms and are more common than you might imagine. They are owned by workers, residents, consumers, farmers, craftspeople, the community, or any combination. What they have in common is that they circulate the benefits back to their member-owners, and these benefits ripple out to the broader community. As Marjorie Kelly explains, cooperative forms of ownership allow the well-being of people, the planet, and future generations to take priority over profits for shareholders and executives.
This is an exciting moment for cooperatives. A growing disillusionment with big banks and corporations is sparking interest in economic alternatives, and new opportunities are opening up:
• The United Steelworkers and other unions are exploring worker-ownership as a means to assure stable, living-wage jobs that can’t be outsourced to low-wage regions.
• Communities seeking alternatives to profit-driven corporate health insurance are forming health care co-ops.
• Hundreds of thousands of people who “moved their money” from Wall Street banks to local banks and credit unions now have a say in how their money is used.
• Consumers are turning to co-ops like Equal Exchange for ethically produced goods, and Equal Exchange, in turn, supports co-ops made up of farmers and producers in some of the world’s poorest regions.  
These cooperatives can be powerful forces for change. Vancity, Canada’s largest credit union, targets its investments to local enter- prises that have positive impacts. It divested its holdings in Enbridge due to concerns about the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline. And it adopted a living wage policy that applies to its own employees and to service providers.
Cooperative structures can strengthen an economy. For example, Italy’s Emilia Romagna region, where about a third of the economy is cooperative and has far less inequality. Most people there can find living wage jobs, and quality of life is high.
Last year, Winslow Cohousing celebrated its 20th year, and the grown sons and daughters of the early members returned to share what it meant to them to grow up in a community, surrounded by love and support.
My hope? That many more children have the opportunity to grow up in cooperative spaces; that more adults get the respect and empowerment that comes from working in cooperatives and buying from co-ops; and that over time, diverse forms of democratic ownership displace predatory capitalism as the foundation for our economy.
This article first appeared here

Sarah van Gelder wrote this article for How Cooperatives Are Driving the New Economy, the Spring 2013 issue of YES! Magazine. Sarah is executive editor of YES!
Political Democracy can and will be fortuitous
when Economic Democracy is established.  

Explore this and other articles covering alternative economics, ethical leadership, economic democracy, and a society without the weal and woe of social and economic vicissitudes HERE  
How does PROUT compare or contrast with capitalism or communism?  Explore the answers HERE

What are essential ingredients assuring progressive sustainability bereft of the vicissitudes of economic or political predation, privation or disparity?  Learn more HERE  

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

6 Ways to Fuel Cooperative Takeovers


Guest article

From now on, the global mantra for filling market gaps is going to be, “There’s a co-op for that.”  But co-ops need customers, money, and training.  How do we shift from business as usual to the work of cooperation? 


Wages Co-Op
A WAGES-trained co-op.
In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, businesses, products, and services that benefit people, communities, and the planetĂ‘instead of a few megabanks and billionaires—have been in higher demand.  The International Cooperative Alliance's recently published "Blueprint for a Cooperative Decade" lays out a long-term vision to make cooperatives not only the fastest-growing form of business but the acknowledged leader in environmental, social, and economic sustainability.  From now on, the global mantra for filling market gaps and new demands, according to Eric DeLuca of the National Cooperative Business Association, is going to be, "There's a co-op for that."  But co-ops—like any kind of business—need customers, money, training, political support, and help from their communities.  How do we shift from business as usual to the work of cooperation?  Here are a few strategies.  

1. Find Money

Where do you get the money to finance a new co-op?  Traditional banks are loath to lend to co-ops, often because they are unfamiliar with them or do not trust that a cooperative business model can yield profits.  But there are institutions that can help.  
The National Cooperative Bank (NCB) has become a leading funder for new housing, business, and consumer cooperatives.  Chartered by Congress in 1978 and privatized as a member-owned financial institution in 1982, it has provided more than $4 billion in loans and investments to co-ops all over the country—from a New York City housing co-op to an organic grocery in San Francisco to a solar project at Denver International Airport.  Most recently, NCB has been working with PNC Bank in Pittsburgh to allocate $13 million in loans to local co-ops.  
The nonprofit Heartland Capital Strategies Network—allied with NCB and other credit unions—is another rapidly growing source of funding for cooperatives, especially for the union co-op movement.  The organization has committed billions of investment dollars to profitable projects in green construction, manufacturing, affordable housing, and transportation.  

McKusker's Market photo courtesy of Franklin Community Co-op.
McKusker's Market photo courtesy of Franklin Community Co-op.
2. Convert to a Co-op

Some cooperatives get their start from traditional sole proprietorships or corporations.  This can happen, for example, when a business owner wants to retire or move on and the employees buy the business. 
Franklin Community Cooperative (FCC) in Greenfield, Mass., acquired McCusker's Market, in nearby Shelburne Falls, when the owner of the longstanding natural foods store was ready to retire.  A third of FCC's members lived near McCusker's.  The purchase allowed FCC to keep its commitment to serve downtown Greenfield while solving its space problem at its popular flagship store.  All of McCusker's Market's staff were rehired and retrained, and sales went up 15 percent during the store's first year as a cooperative.  Since the purchase, the cooperative has attracted many more members all over the region.  

3. Hook Up With Big Partners

Bring co-op business to the mainstays of your community—hospitals, schools, government services—which are already committed to community-scale investment and the public good.  It's a mutually beneficial relationship:  The co-op keeps money circulating in the community; the institution provides stable demand for the co-ops services or products.  
Ohio Cooperative Solar photo courtesy of the Cleveland Foundation
Ohio Cooperative Solar photo courtesy of the Cleveland Foundation.
"If you can get even a small bit of a university's goods and services devoted to your co-op," says Democracy Collaborative co-founder Gar Alperovitz, "you can go to any bank, and they'll be happy to finance you, because you've got a market."  
The Evergreen Cooperative Initiative, a group of local, sustainable, and worker-owned co-ops in Cleveland, is built on a strong partnership between the co-ops and local institutions—such as Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, and Case Western Reserve University—which have a combined annual buying power of more than $3 billion.  
Ohio Cooperative Solar, another Evergreen business, is in the process of installing photovoltaics at these three institutions and has also placed nearly 700 solar panels on the city hall and library rooftops in nearby Euclid.  Evergreen Cooperative Laundry (a green cleaning operation) washes bed linens for Judson Retirement and McGregor Homes, two large nursing homes in the area.  

Shift Change Poster
The film Shift Change gives an inspiring look at worker-owned enterprises, from the MondragĂłn co-ops in Spain to the Arizmendi bakeries in San Francisco to Isthmus Engineering in Madison, Wis.
4. Be Co-op Curious

You can learn more about the business of sharing—how co-ops work, why they're important, how to support them, and how to start and manage one—from organizations across the country working to promote cooperative enterprise.  
The Bay Area group Women's Action to Gain Economic Security (WAGES) was founded in the 1990s to help immigrant women form cooperative housecleaning services.  Now they are creating toolkits for anyone looking to start a green cleaning co-op.  "With all the emphasis on co-ops coming on the heels of the Occupy movement, we're seeing an increased interest right now," says Elena Fairley, who is working with WAGES as an AmeriCorps VISTA member.  
College and university programs are also training the next generation of cooperative entrepreneurs.  The Cooperative Teach-In is a nationwide initiative that has connected colleges, universities, and programs like AmeriCorps VISTA with cooperatives across rural and urban America.  
Co-opoly
The Toolbox for Education and Social Action is a worker-owned producer of resources in support of the cooperative movement, including the game Co-opoly.
The Teach-In uses creative tools to help participants learn the importance of cooperative economics.  For example, the "Democracy Rating Warm-up Exercise," an interactive survey, allows participants to "rate the level of democracy in the institutions they interact with on a daily basis," and group discussions explore how the cooperative model differs from typical business models.  And a fun way to gear up for a cooperative future is to play a round of Co-opoly:  The Game of Cooperatives.  
As interest in cooperative business has grown, some young entrepreneurs have taken it upon themselves to learn more.  For example, Co-cycle is a group of 15 undergraduates who crossed the country last year on their bicycles, visiting more than 70 co-op organizations and building a network of like-minded communities.  "A year ago I didn't know what a cooperative was," writes Co-cycle participant Riko Fluchel on the riders' blog.  "Now, after the nine weeks of touring cooperatives across the continental United States, I know first-hand that cooperatives empower people's lives."  
The Co-cycle journey is chronicled by a team of filmmakers from New York University in the forthcoming feature-length film To The Moon, which will introduce viewers to the ideas that guide cooperatives and Co-cycle—like teamwork and dedication to a new shared economy.  

Arizmendi Bakery photo by Tony Nguyen
Arizmendi Bakery photo by Tony Nguyen.
5. Shop Co-op

By buying from co-ops or using cooperative services, you can create local jobs, keep wealth in your community, and shop according to your values.  
  • The most comprehensive directory of U.S. cooperatives is CooperateUSA.  
  • You can also find your local food co-op through the Cooperative Grocer Network
  • Looking for a co-op starting near you?  The Food Co-op Initiative maintains a map of co-ops still in the organizational stage.  
  • The new Data Commons Cooperative is building a "Stone Soup" directory,find.coop, created by members.  

6. Make Co-op Friendly Laws

Cooperatives are often at a financial and technical disadvantage in an economy dominated by quarterly profits and shareholder returns.  The United Nations recently resolved "to encourage governments and regulatory bodies to establish policies, laws, and regulations conducive to cooperative formation and growth."  In 2012, the United Nations celebrated the "International Year of Cooperatives," noting that co-ops "build a better world" and "empower people."  
How credit unions put members' money to work right where they live.


At the federal level, supporters of cooperatives are pushing for the National Cooperative Development Act (H.R. 3677) (NCDA), which would create a national development center designed to bring federal resources to cooperative development.  From loans and seed capital for start-ups to funding for technical assistance providers, passage of the NCDA would not only help level the playing field for co-ops but increase economic development and create much-needed jobs in underserved areas of the country.  
A different bill would raise the cap on small business loans from another type of co-op:  credit unions.  Fifteen years ago, the banking industry lobbied for and obtained this cap to throttle its competition.  The Credit Union Small Business Jobs Bill (S. 2231) would more than double the limit to nearly 30 percent of assets.  According to the Credit Union National Association, this would enable credit unions to loan an extra $13 billion of their $300 billion lending capacity to small businesses in the first year alone, helping to create as many as 140,000 jobs.  
This article first appeared here

Sven Eberlein wrote this article for How Cooperatives Are Driving the New Economy.  Sven is a San Francisco-based freelance writer.  
Political Democracy can and will be fortuitous
when Economic Democracy is established.  

Explore this and other articles covering alternative economics, ethical leadership, economic democracy, and a society without the weal and woe of social and economic vicissitudes HERE  
How does PROUT compare or contrast with capitalism or communism?  Explore the answers HERE

What are essential ingredients assuring progressive sustainability bereft of the vicissitudes of economic or political predation, privation or disparity?  Learn more HERE  

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Chronicle of Taliban Republicans Hell Bent Upon Destroying Democracy and Healthcare

We may not all agree with the final healthcare bill, while behaving like Bolsheviks and Taliban, the behavior of parasitically regressive Republicans is whorishly unconscionable.  

Chronical of Conservatives and Republicans blovatenating to Liberals, Democrats, Obama, and other Human Americans about HealthCare:  


Oct 2008: "You'll never get elected and pass healthcare."


See Video Below
Nov 2008: "We'll never let you pass healthcare."

Jan 2009: "We're gonna shout you down every time you try to pass healthcare."

July 2009: "We'll fight to death every attempt you make to pass healthcare."

Dec 2009: "We will destroy you if you even consider passing healthcare."

March 2010: "We can't believe you just passed healthcare."

April 2010: "We are going to overturn healthcare."

Sept 2010: "We are going to repeal healthcare."

Jan 2011: "We are going to destroy healthcare."

Feb 2012: "We're gonna elect a candidate who'll revoke healthcare NOW."

June 2012: "We'll go to the Supreme Court, and they will overturn healthcare."

Aug 2012: "American people'll never re-elect you-they don't want healthcare."

Oct 2012: "We can't wait to win the election and explode healthcare."

Nov 2012: "We can't believe you got re-elected & we can't repeal healthcare."

Feb 2013: "We're still going to vote to obliterate healthcare."

June 2013: "We can't believe the Supreme Court just upheld healthcare."

July 2013: "We're going to vote like 35 more times to erase healthcare."

Sept 2013: "We are going to leverage a government shutdown into defunding, destroying, obliterating, overturning, repealing, dismantling, erasing and ripping apart healthcare."

Oct 2013: "WHY AREN'T YOU NEGOTIATING???"  

Exclamations from the Bowels of Ignorance:  Gratuitous Flauntulence from the [G]rand [O]ld [P]otty.  

Republican Healthcare Plan 101







Political Democracy can and will be fortuitous
when Economic Democracy is established.  

Explore this and other articles covering alternative economics, ethical leadership, economic democracy, and a society without the weal and woe of social and economic vicissitudes HERE  
How does PROUT compare or contrast with capitalism or communism?  Explore the answers HERE

What are essential ingredients assuring progressive sustainability bereft of the vicissitudes of economic or political predation, privation or disparity?  Learn more HERE  









Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Yellowstone Supervolcano Alert: The Most Dangerous Volcano In America Is Roaring To Life

Guest article

Right now, the ground underneath Yellowstone National Park is rising at a record rate.  In fact, it is rising at the rate of about three inches per year.  The reason why this is such a concern is because underneath the park sits the Yellowstone supervolcano – the largest volcano in North America.  Scientists tell us that it is inevitable that it will erupt again one day, and when it does the devastation will be almost unimaginable.  

A full-blown eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano would dump a 10-foot-deep layer of volcanic ash up to 1,000 miles away, and it would render much of the United States uninhabitable.  When most Americans think of Yellowstone, they tend to conjure up images of Yogi Bear and “Old Faithful”, but the truth is that sleeping underneath Yellowstone is a volcanic beast that could destroy our nation in a single day and now that beast is starting to wake up.  

The Yellowstone supervolcano is so vast that it is hard to put it into words.  According to the Daily Mail, the magma “hotspot” underneath Yellowstone is approximately 300 miles wide…

The Yellowstone Caldera is one of nature’s most awesome creations and sits atop North America’s largest volcanic field.  
Its name means ‘cooking pot’ or ‘cauldron’ and it is formed when land collapses following a volcanic explosion.  
In Yellowstone, some 400 miles beneath the Earth’s surface is a magma ‘hotspot’ which rises to 30 miles underground before spreading out over an area of 300 miles across.  Atop this, but still beneath the surface, sits the slumbering volcano.

When most Americans think of volcanic eruptions in the United States, they remember the catastrophic eruption of Mount St. Helens back in 1980.  But that eruption would not even be worth comparing to a full-blown eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano.  

And now the area around Yellowstone is becoming increasingly seismically active.  In fact, Professor Bob Smith says that he has never seen anything like this in the 53 years that he has been watching Yellowstone…  

Until recently, Bob Smith had never witnessed two simultaneous earthquake swarms in his 53 years of monitoring seismic activity in and around the Yellowstone Caldera.  
Now, Smith, a University of Utah geophysics professor, has seen three swarms at once.  
In September, 130 earthquakes hit Yellowstone over the course of a single week.  This has got many Yellowstone observers extremely concerned…  

Yellowstone’s recent earthquake swarms started on Sept. 10 and were shaking until about 11:30 a.m. Sept. 16.
“A total of 130 earthquakes of magnitude 0.6 to 3.6 have occurred in these three areas, however, most have occurred in the Lower Geyser Basin,” a University of Utah statement said.  “Notably much of seismicity in Yellowstone occurs as swarms.”  
So what is the worst case scenario?  

Well, according to the Daily Mail, a full-blown eruption of Yellowstone could leave two-thirds of the United States completely uninhabitable…  

It would explode with a force a thousand times more powerful than the Mount St Helens eruption in 1980.  
Spewing lava far into the sky, a cloud of plant-killing ash would fan out and dump a layer 10ft deep up to 1,000 miles away.  
Two-thirds of the U.S. could become uninhabitable as toxic air sweeps through it, grounding thousands of flights and forcing millions to leave their homes.  
Can you think of another potential disaster that could accomplish the same thing?  

That is why what is going on at Yellowstone right now is so important, and the American people deserve the truth.  The following are some more facts about Yellowstone that I compiled that I included in a previous article…  

#1 A full-scale eruption of Yellowstone could be up to 1,000 time more powerful than the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980.

#2 A full-scale eruption of Yellowstone would spew volcanic ash 25 miles up into the air.  

#3 The next eruption of Yellowstone seems to be getting closer with each passing year.  Since 2004, some areas of Yellowstone National Park have risen by as much as 10 inches.  

#4 There are approximately 3,000 earthquakes in the Yellowstone area every single year.  

#5 In the event of a full-scale eruption of Yellowstone, virtually the entire northwest United States will be completely destroyed.  

#6 A massive eruption of Yellowstone would mean that just about everything within a 100 mile radius of Yellowstone would be immediately killed.  

#7 A full-scale eruption of Yellowstone could also potentially dump a layer of volcanic ash that is at least 10 feet deep up to 1,000 miles away.  

#8 A full-scale eruption of Yellowstone would cover virtually the entire midwest United States with volcanic ash.  Food production in America would be almost totally wiped out.  

#9 The “volcanic winter” that a massive Yellowstone eruption would cause would radically cool the planet.  Some scientists believe that global temperatures would decline by up to 20 degrees.  

#10 America would never be the same again after a massive Yellowstone eruption.  Some scientists believe that a full eruption by Yellowstone would render two-thirds of the United States completely uninhabitable.  

#11 Scientists tell us that it is not a matter of “if” Yellowstone will erupt but rather “when” the next inevitable eruption will take place.  

What makes all of this even more alarming is that a number of other very prominent volcanoes around the world are starting to roar back to life right now as well.  

For example, an Inquisitr article from back in July described how “the most dangerous volcano in Mexico” is starting to become extremely active…  
Popocatepetl Volcano is at it again.  The active volcano near Mexico City erupted again this morning, spewing ash up into the sky.  
The volcano is currently in the middle of an extremely active phase.  According to theInternational Business Times, the volcano has registered 39 exhalations in the last 24 hours.  
An eruption earlier this month caused several flights to be canceled in and out of Mexico City.  
The BBC notes that officials raised the alert level yellow following Popocateptl’s eruption on Saturday morning.  Yellow is the third-highest caution level on the city’s seven step scale.  
And an NBC News article from August noted that one of the most dangerous volcanoes in Japan has erupted 500 times so far this year…  
Ash wafted as high as 3 miles above the Sakurajima volcano in the southern city of Kagoshima on Sunday afternoon, forming its highest plume since the Japan Meteorological Agency started keeping records in 2006.  Lava flowed just over half a mile from the fissure, and several huge volcanic rocks rolled down the mountainside.  
Though the eruption was more massive than usual, residents of the city of about 600,000 are used to hearing from their 3,664-foot neighbor.  Kagoshima officials said in a statement that this was Sakurajima’s 500th eruption this year alone.  
So what does all of this mean?  

Are we now entering a time when volcanic eruptions will become much more common all over the globe?  

Could we rapidly be approaching the day when an absolutely devastating volcanic eruption will paralyze much of North America?  

Please feel free to share what you think by posting a comment below…  

This article first appeared here at the American Dream.  Michael Snyder is a writer, speaker and activist who writes and edits his own blogs The American Dream and Economic Collapse Blog.  Follow him on Twitter here.

Political Democracy can and will be fortuitous
when Economic Democracy is established.  

Explore this and other articles covering alternative economics, ethical leadership, economic democracy, and a society without the weal and woe of social and economic vicissitudes HERE  
How does PROUT compare or contrast with capitalism or communism?  Explore the answers HERE

What are essential ingredients assuring progressive sustainability bereft of the vicissitudes of economic or political predation, privation or disparity?  Learn more HERE