The Children Are The World

Feed the ChildrenThe other night my wife and I were watching television when a familiar humanitarian plea appeared.  There was the face of a little girl, saddened and dirty from hunger and poverty, the underlying lyrical song…”The children are the future”…and a voice over by some current day celebrity, a crackle in her voice, as she spoke about the millions of children around the world who are suffering.

My wife looked at me and said; “Really!…I don’t mean to be crass, mean hearted, or cruel; but how long have we been sending money to help save these children?…Thirty, forty, or fifty years and we still have a problem?…With all of the technology, innovation, and experience we have, why are we still doing this?…Seems like we need to change the way we are doing things.”

I looked at my wife and said; “You are absolutely right.”

We talk about Corporate Social Responsibility, and a whole lot of “Green” certifications that not only protect the environment but the farmers and workers in foreign nations that pick and process crops, sew and manually manufacture goods, yet the faces of starving children still stream across our television screens.

Massive amounts of money is spent by consumers, charitable organizations, companies, and governments in efforts to solve problems yet, they still exist and are compounded almost daily by forces of nature, war, and population growth.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day…teach him to fish and you feed him for life.”

Are we just giving or are we teaching?

How do we change this cycle?

Is there an answer?

Posted in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR),, Globalization, Green, Investor Relations | Leave a comment

Corporate Social Responsibility…Where has it gone?

There have been a lot of comments about last night’s State of the Union address by President Obama.

One of the issues that the President has put on his agenda is current Federal Minimum Wage rate that businesses are obligated to pay their employees.  Of course this subject has raised the cackles of the Republican Party who think that there is too much government intervention into business already and is trying to reduce it even more.  The Democrats for the most part back the plan to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour, which based upon a 40 hour work week would equate to an annual gross pay of 21,008, up from $15,080.

FYI, the 2013Federal poverty guideline is an annual income of $23,550 for a family of four. This is the most commonly used statistic. Add $4,020 for each additional person to compute the Federal poverty level for larger families. Subtract $4,020 per person to compute it for smaller families.

I agree with most people that Government should not be trying to generate jobs or be involved in the process of employment.  Government should focus on the original intent of the Constitution.

However, a lot has happened since the writing of the Constitution in 1776; technology and population growth are two key factors.  In the seventeen and eighteen hundreds, the entire population was self sufficient, they plowed their own fields and grew their own food.  They hunted and trapped for meat and fur that they used for nourishment and warmth.  Whatever extra bounty they had from their efforts they sold or traded for things they needed and could not make for themselves.

When the nineteen hundreds came around we saw the industrial revolution.  People were brought hired in mass by factories to build things and these factory workers were then, in a sense, slaves to the companies that built the factories.  Factory profits were high and wages were low.  Workers lived pay check to pay check.  Enter the Unions who fought for the workers for fair wages and benefits.

After the stock market crash and the Great Depression, things started looking up for the American workers and throughout the 50’s and 60’s the middle class started building a little nest egg as corporate profits rose, so too did wages and benefits in appreciation of a job well done.

The 70’s were a bit rough with a few minor economic hiccups that economists call “market corrections.”

The real problem began in the 80’s when computer technology and automation began to replace human labor.  At first it was in the name of efficiency, accuracy, and speed.  But when corporate America found that they could increase profits by decreasing human overhead, then the layoffs started.

The 90’s were all about the “bottom line” and when cheep labor was found in Asia, most of the physical labor was shifted overseas leaving only administrative and high level jobs, sitting at a computer, the only real permanent employment available for the American worker.

Those people without the higher education skills were then forced to find other labor type jobs.  Enter the ever growing fast food and retail industry.

Fast food jobs used to be entry level positions for teen age workers to earn a little extra spending money.  But as more and more adults found themselves unemployed they turned to McDonalds, Burger King and other retailers for employment.  These adult workers not only displaced the teen age job seekers but were willing to work for the same teenage wages just to have an income.  With 40 hours worth of pay, they were barely getting by.

But a forty hour work week was hard to come by as corporations found that they could again reduce overhead by limiting workers to fewer than 30 hours per week and not be required to pay for insurance.  The result, a growing workforce of under employed and under insured that could not properly feed or care for their families.

Many of these workers sought to work two jobs in an effort to bring in enough money but that attempt was thwarted when their current low pay employer would not assign regular hour shifts but instead required them to be available, as needed, for any shift and making it impossible to know from one week to the next the hours that they would be working.

So what is the solution?  Just like the growing drug problem of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s; or the predatory interest charged by so called banks or loan company’s; there needs to be some sort of intervention to help bring workers back to their feet.

It is clear that corporations are only interested in their bottom line profits and pleasing their shareholders/investors and will continue to do whatever is needed regardless of how adversely it affects the workers.

Enter the Federal Government who must now referee and try to regulate something that the private sector should be doing on their own out of concern for their fellow mankind.  But alas, Corporate Social Responsibility is not a bottom line balance sheet item.

Both the growth in population and automation has lead to a disproportionate number of available full time jobs for the number of workers in need of jobs…and that gap continues to grow wider.

Posted in Business, Constitution Rights, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR),, Employee Relations, Ethics, Government Incentives, Investor Relations | 2 Comments

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,700 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 45 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Food Choices

Buy Local, Buy Organic

FarmersMarket_H

When you choose organically grown local foods, you avoid the pesticides that can cause health issues. Organic produce is also high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. By choosing wild-caught and free-range fish and grass-fed beef and lamb, you can avoid foods that are injected with hormones and other chemicals. Eating whole food and avoiding processed foods can reduce your intake of fat, sodium and sugar — which can cause obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other chronic health conditions.

To help you make more sustainable seafood choices, visit http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch.aspx and download their free Seafood Watch Pocket Guide.

Get involved in your local food co-op. Food co-ops are people working together for better food, stronger communities and a healthier world.

A new study, Healthy Foods Healthy Communities: The Social and Economic Impacts of Food Co-ops (commissioned by the National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA) and the ICA Group), quantifies the impact food co-ops have as compared to conventional grocery stores. The study’s compelling results demonstrate the many ways that food co-ops do well while doing good.

Some ways food co-ops make a stronger community and a healthier world:

  • They strengthen the local economy
    • The economic impact that a grocery store has on its local economy is greater than just the sum of its local spending, because a portion of money spent locally re-circulates. For example, food co-ops purchase from local farmers who, in turn, buy supplies from local sources, hire local technicians to repair equipment, and purchase goods and services from local retailers. According to the study, for every $1,000 a shopper spends at their local food co-op, $1,604 in economic activity is generated in their local economy—$239 more than if they had spent that same $1,000 at a conventional grocer.
  • They create community
  • They provide a reliable marketplace for local farmers, artists, and other entrepreneurs
  • They are an educational center
  • They promote healthy eating
  • They engage in environmental stewardship
  • Grocery stores—co-ops and conventional alike—generate a significant amount of waste. What sets retail food co-ops apart is what they do with that waste. According to the study results, co-ops recycle 96 percent of cardboard, 74 percent of food waste and 81 percent of plastics compared to 91 percent, 36 percent and 29 percent, respectively, recycled by conventional grocers.

 

For information on Farmers Markets in the Las Vegas area check out this web page http://www.naturalawakeningslv.com/VEGA/Eat-Well/Local-Farmers-Market-CSA-Guide

how does your grocery store checkout_FINAL_11x14

Infographic Source: Stronger Together.coop

 

Posted in Business, Collaboration, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR),, Environment, Green, Stakeholder Engagement, Sustainability, Waste Minimization | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Corporate Profits over Employee Compensation

A ''Now Hiring'' sign is seen in the store front window in Miami, Fla.

A ”Now Hiring” sign is seen in the store front window in Miami, Fla.

What is the future for people who perform unskilled labor at a minimum wage?  Will they be able to earn enough money to live a comfortable life?  Or has corporate profitability destined these individuals to become modern day slaves who never get ahead.  I was listening to a story on NPR’s program Marketplace where they explored such a question.

Stephanie Luce is a labor sociologist at the City University of New York’s Murphy Institute. She has studied union movements around the world and co-authored, with the Retail Action Network, a study based on surveys of retail workers in New York titled Discounted Jobs: How Retailers Sell Workers Short.

During the study they found that; “Among low-wage employers — retail, hospitality, food service — employers are requiring their employees to say they’re available for a full-time schedule, even when they know they’re never going to schedule them for full-time.”

“Managers are asked to schedule based on customer-flow, on weather, on trends in the economy, and to change the schedule day-to-day,” says Luce. “They don’t want employees that are going to say ‘I can’t come in, I have another job.’ They want employees that’ll say, ‘OK, I’ll come in if you need me. I won’t come in if you don’t need me.’”

“I was just reading a retail consulting report,” says Luce, “that said this was the main area in which businesses could achieve profit – using labor-scheduling technologies. Employers want to reduce their cost. It was excess inventory in the ‘90s. And now it’s excess employment. This is a way for them to cut down on labor costs, and in theory shift it from a fixed cost to a variable cost that could shift with consumer demand.”

For the full story go to; More people need second jobs, fewer can find them and then tell me what you think.

Posted in Business, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR),, Employee Relations, Ethics, Sustainability | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Gun Control

HandgunsI have developed this forum as a means to convey information on the subject of sustainability and being green.  Most view this subject matter to pertain to things that   effects the environment, either with positive or negative results.  But sustainability is also about people and what affects them.  Thus, the pertinence of this topic in this forum.

There is, and has been for many years, a lot of talk about gun control.  To me, gun control was what my father taught me when I was a young boy of around the age of ten.

Grip the pistol lightly with my right hand and just the tip of my index finger on the trigger.  Place the palm of my left hand on the pistol grip with those fingers wrapped around the top of the right hand fingers.  Stand with my feet shoulder width, left leg slightly forward and extend both hands forward.  Pull back slowly and evenly on the trigger.  And practice.

Today, all the rhetoric is not about how you control your gun, but instead about identifying and controlling the violence enacted by criminals and mentally disturbed people with their guns. Something that I think might be a losing battle until the time we are able to master the art of the Vulcan mind meld.

However, short of being able to control the minds of other people, we can control and allow the acquisition of guns by law abiding citizens (e.g. those who do not have a history of social violence, mental illness, or criminal activity).  Now obviously, there will be those that will slip through the system. Just as the saying goes, ‘there are two types of sailboat operators –those who have run aground and –those who about to run aground,’ there are and will be those gun owners who might fit the category of exclusion but have yet to flip the mental switch.

The solution that I speak of is the mandatory registration of all handguns.  (Notice that I said “handguns”). I say handguns because of the fact that those small weapons can be easily concealed and are used in many more crimes than rifles.

So what is the concern here?  Most of what I have been hearing is fear from U.S. citizens that if their gun is registered then the Federal Government will have the ability to come to your home and seize your guns.  Quite frankly, I find that whole concept paranoid and crazy.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. 

This Amendment provides that all citizens (those who have not lost their Constitutional Rights through the Court System) the right to keep and bear arms and that that right cannot be taken away without an Amendment to the Constitution. And if you know anything about the process for amending the Constitution (see below for details), you would know that repealing the Second Amendment would be impossible.  The only other thing that the Federal Government could do would be to declare war on its citizens which I also do not see happening.

Therefore if you a legal, law abiding citizen –you have nothing to lose with stricter laws for the acquisition of a gun.  If you are a law abiding citizen –you have nothing to lose with the stricter tracking of guns.  And, if you are a law abiding citizen –you should have nothing to hide.

Now, let me state that I am not naive enough to think that just because a handgun is registered to someone that it will prevent them from doing bad thing with that weapon.  Not at all!  However, if we start now, by registering all handguns at the point of sale, it will significantly slow the proliferation of illegal (unregistered), handguns from getting onto the streets.  This process will not happen overnight and may in fact be a ten year process, but as more and more handguns are registered it will leave less and less unregistered handguns on the street until the supply is dwindled down to a more manageable number.  And, through this process, at the very least handguns will be traceable back to a person that legally purchased that gun and then either gave it or sold it to someone who in turn does bad things –like go on a shooting spree.  So in turn, the person that gave or sold that weapon to the “bad guy”, could be severely penalized for contributing to a crime or the death of another person.  With this penalty clause in effect, a registered (and legal), gun owner will think twice about selling his gun on the black market.

Is this some sort of euphoric dream?  I don’t think so.

The other day I was listening to an interview of a young man that grew up in the Watts neighborhood of L.A.  He like most of his friends was involved in gang activity even as a very young boy.  He told the interviewer that during times of heightened gang activity he would be given a gun by one of the older members of his gang and told to use it against rival members.  If the gun was used he would “ditch” that gun by literally throwing it away, because it is better not to be caught by the police with a gun and because unregistered guns were plentiful.

Again I say, if we start an aggressive registration program today, ten years from now we may have eliminated 90% of the illegal handguns that are on the street and used by gangs.

The trick is, how do we make it both convenient and affordable for conscientious, law abiding citizens to buy and register handguns.  The simple way would be to authorize licensed gun dealers to process the “legal” registration when they sell a handgun.  Things are so automated these days, with computers and such, that the $25.00 background check fee should include the issuing of a registration card as well.  Once you have one handgun registered, an additional $10.00 registration fee for additional handguns would be a reasonable price to pay to the retailer as a processing fee.  With this system in place, if I wanted to sell one of my registered guns to a friend or stranger, I could go to my local gun dealer, have him be the middle man in the transaction to assure that a proper background check was made and that the registration of that handgun was transferred from me to the new buyer, relieving me of all responsibility of that handgun.  Of course, this can still be done for free at the local police sub-station but for convenience sake, there are many more authorized gun dealers than police sub-stations.

Once we overcome the hurdle of limiting the amount of illegal guns that are on the streets, and have a handle on who owns handguns; we can then address the issue of mental stability/illness and how to record and report persons that appear to have, but not yet openly displayed, violent tendencies, without violating their personal rights.  This will be a much more tedious process and I am sure will include enough lawyers, politicians, and doctors to fill each and every hotel room in Las Vegas.

Craig A. Ruark

Conscientious Handgun Owner

Constitutional Amendments

There are essentially two ways spelled out in the Constitution for how to propose an amendment. One has never been used.

The first method is for a bill to pass both houses of the legislature, by a two-thirds majority in each. Once the bill has passed both houses, it goes on to the states. This is the route taken by all current amendments. Because of some long outstanding amendments, such as the 27th, Congress will normally put a time limit (typically seven years) for the bill to be approved as an amendment (for example, see the 21st and 22nd).

The second method prescribed is for a Constitutional Convention to be called by two-thirds of the legislatures of the States, and for that Convention to propose one or more amendments. These amendments are then sent to the states to be approved by three-fourths of the legislatures or conventions. This route has never been taken, and there is discussion in political science circles about just how such a convention would be convened, and what kind of changes it would bring about.

Regardless of which of the two proposal routes is taken, the amendment must be ratified, or approved, by three-fourths of states. There are two ways to do this, too. The text of the amendment may specify whether the bill must be passed by the state legislatures or by a state convention. See the Ratification Convention Page for a discussion of the makeup of a convention. Amendments are sent to the legislatures of the states by default. Only one amendment, the 21st, specified a convention. In any case, passage by the legislature or convention is by simple majority.

The Constitution, then, spells out four paths for an amendment:

  • Proposal by convention of states, ratification by state conventions (never used)
  • Proposal by convention of states, ratification by state legislatures (never used)
  • Proposal by Congress, ratification by state conventions (used once)
  • Proposal by Congress, ratification by state legislatures (used all other times)

It is interesting to note that at no point does the President have a role in the formal amendment process (though he would be free to make his opinion known). He cannot veto an amendment proposal, or ratification. This point is clear in Article 5, and was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court in Hollingsworth v Virginia (3 US 378 [1798]):

Posted in Constitution Rights, Gun Control | 6 Comments

Green Energy and its Cost

English: The , also known as the Green Mountai...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There have been of late, numerous articles and comments made about green energy, wind and solar in particular, and the viability of those energy sources to dominate the now prevalent natural gas and coal power generating plants.  Much of the concern is over the cost to generate equal amounts of green energy and the cost burden to the consumer.

According to the federal Energy Information Administration, the “levelized cost” of new wind power (including capital and operating costs) is 8.2 cents per kWh.  Advanced clean-coal plants cost about 11 cents per kWh, the same as nuclear. But advanced natural gas-burning plants come in at just 6.3 cents per kWh.

But a new report by George Taylor and Tom Tanton at the American Tradition Institute called “The Hidden Costs of Wind Electricity” asserts that the cost of wind power is significantly understated by the EIA’s numbers.

Taylor explains that he started with 8.2 cents per kWh, reflecting total installation costs of $2,000 per kw of capacity. Then backed out an assumed 30-year lifespan for the turbines, which increases the cost to 9.3 cents per kwh. Then after backing out the effect of subsidies (On January 1, 2013 the federal production tax credit on wind investments expired), allowing accelerated depreciation for wind investments you get 10.1 cents.  Next, add the costs of keeping gas-fired plants available, but running at reduced capacity, to balance the variable performance of wind — 1.7 cents. Extra fuel for those plants adds another 0.6 cents. Finally, tack on 2.7 cents for new transmission line investments needed to get new wind power to market. The whole shebang adds up to 15 cents per kwh.

Whether you stay with the costs offered by the Energy Information Administration or opt for the Taylor numbers, the bottom line is that it is still more expensive to develop green energy over the current natural gas natural gas technology.  That is, assuming that we continue to source enough natural gas to keep the cost as low as it is today.  As with anything else, the amount of supply –vs.- demand controls the price.

But, most people base their assumptions of the amount of available natural gas on the current demand rates and then use those numbers to predict the availability into the future, say 30 or 50 years.  What they don’t consider is population growth. It is predicted that by the year 2050 there will be over one billion persons living in the United States (possibly up to 5 billion if current legislation to lift immigration limits passes congress), and a total world population of ten billion.  That is a lot of people demanding a whole lot of energy.  Can the natural resources keep up –I don’t think so.

So how do you plan now for the future?  The obvious answer is green/renewable energy.  Large wind farms placed in the right areas (e.g. coastal areas and interior parts of the U.S. with natural thermal convection climates), can generate tremendous amounts of electricity.  But it is true that winds are not consistent so some sort of storage or back-up generation to augment wind generator inefficiency is needed. In addition, wind farms for the most part are in areas of sparse population so major infrastructure must be developed to move the electricity to populated areas.  With those pitfalls in mind, I ask; is the concept of generating electricity from a central power source and distributing it to the masses outdated?  Should we instead be concentrating on individual sources of electrical generation through the use of Photo Voltaic technology and placing systems on as many roofs as we possibly can in the next decade?  Perhaps a neighborhood or subdivision could co-op a system in the same way they pay homeowner fees for other amenities, and therefore eliminate long runs of distribution lines and the line-loss attributed. According to EIA data, national, annual electricity transmission and distribution losses average about 7% of the electricity that is transmitted in the United States.

No matter the solution, there is no doubt that there will be costs involved.  But, if we begin implementing changes now and continue to gradually increase the amount of green/renewable energy over time, the costs will be spread out and the pain to both the public utilities and the public will not be as great.  On the other hand, if one day twenty years from now you wake up and find that you are running out of natural gas and oil and must scramble to build new infrastructure, the costs will be nearly insurmountable.

Even if you begin using the current “inefficient” technology of today, you are miles ahead of the game then you would be to wait another ten years for technology to improve.  It is far easier to upgrade existing technology then it is to implement new technology and its accompanying infrastructure.

Part of the green energy debate also concerns government subsidy programs and many critics are against spending money on solar and wind projects or the associated research and manufacturing companies.  However, if you look back over time, the government has been the driving force behind many of the things that we take for granted today.  It was the Federal Government that funded the construction of the Trans Continental Rail Road. It was also the Federal Government that funded the construction of the interstate highway system and other minor highways that are used to deliver people and products from one area of the country to another. Take a look at all of the things developed by the government for military use or to explore space, that we now use every day as a matter of convenience (e.g. microwave cooking, cellular communications, GPS, high definition video, anything made of plastic, and so much more).  But all of this current technology and infrastructure took decades to become as affordable and efficient as they are today, and for the most part,the only reason these products did evolve is because their initial invention investment was either completely or partially funded by the government and then made available to the public.

It was our fathers and grandfathers and perhaps even our great grandfathers that we must thank, for it was those men who helped pay for and build the world that we live in today.

All in all, I find it very odd that we are in this day and age arguing about costs as opposed to how to move forward toward the future and advancing green technology.  But then again, it seems that today it is all about the “bottom line.”  Businesses today are making higher profits than they have ever posted in the past, but to get these profits they are eliminating or at least minimizing overhead costs to the detriment of the employees.  Companies are eliminating positions, as well as, paying lower wages (and in some cases eliminating benefits), to the existing workers to perform the same jobs.  And as we move toward the next decade there will be an even further decrease in available jobs as technology continues to advance beyond repetitive labor functions.  These company’s should start caring a little less about the bottom line and a little more about the future if they expect to continue doing business for another 50 or more years.

With all of that said, perhaps I should be asking myself; why should I really care if we start implementing green technology today?  In fact, perhaps it is good that you are not raising my electric bill to pay for wind or solar power.  I am 58 years old and I am still working but why should I be forced to pay for someone else’s future..  My wife and I do not have any children so why should it matter to us, what happens to this earth 40 or 50 years from now.

In reality it is hard to, in good conscious, to continue to focus a blind eye on the environment. Perhaps advocacy for sustainability will be my only legacy.

Posted in Business, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR),, Environment, Ethics, Government Incentives, Green, Green Energy, Photo Voltaic, Price of Gas, Price of Oil, Solar Energy, Sustainability | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment