Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Economy and Food

Lately, the number one concern of Americans has been the economy. Between the housing crisis, the student loan crisis,the credit crisis and the deficit, it appears certain that we are either in a recession or about to go into one. Often terms are bandied about as if they are common knowledge. Most of us have heard the words for years so believe we know what they mean at least in some abstract sense. However, for the purposes of clarification; the difference between a recession and a depression is time. A recession is when the gross domestic product falls for two consecutive quarters. GDP quantifies goods and services produced by workers and capital during a year. A depression on the other hand is when there is a period during which business, employment and stock market values decline severely or remain low for longer than two quarters. I agree with the old timers who say the difference between a recession and a depression is that a recession is when your neighbor loses his job; a depression is when you do.

I occasionally find it interesting to listen to the economic "pundits" discuss the markets, and often wonder what beach they are hiding their heads under. They may look at charts and whether the stock market is lower today than yesterday, and I'm quite certain that their technique for making predictions can be found in some economic text book somewhere. Personally, I think an individual's level of optimism about the markets is directly related to how much money they have invested and what they stand to lose. I think the optimists harbor hope that if they repeat over and over again, "No, we aren't in a recession", and then click their heels together three times,this will somehow convince the rest of us to invest in the markets so they don't lose their shirts.

What they fail to realize is that investment requires money in the first place, and right now most people don't have any. You can bet this is the case when billboards of piggy banks and reminders to save pop up around town. President Bush encouraged us to go shopping after 9/11 as if retail therapy could fix the world. This,of course, was just one more path that lead us to where we are today, a credit crunch. President Bush and our politicians have agreed that we need a stimulus package. They seem to think that we're going to take our check and immediately go buy a new toy of some kind. Surely, they think, more retail therapy will do the trick. What they don't realize is that most people will use that check to pay on their winter fuel bill.

We live in difficult times there is no doubt. For a glimpse of what people are going through elsewhere in the country, check out this video from the BBC. You might ask yourself while watching, "Why is it that the BBC is carrying this story but I've not seen it the 6 O'clock news in the U.S.?"

So let the economic pundits talk their talk. I,for one, see a serious disconnect between the GDP, the markets, and the world I live in. In my world, it isn't about the stock markets because no one I know owns any, or few, or only via their 401(k) which is generally minimal because they have cashed it out every ten years or so because they needed to survive yet another period of unemployment. They will usually express regret about this decision because they had to pay the 10% penalty for early withdrawal and all, but they will ask you, what other choice can they make when the kids at home are waiting with open mouths and, expectations that were created by that talking box in the middle of the room? They'll be the first to tell you how awful the whining of youngsters can become when they want something.
They will also tell you, that no, they can't turn off the damn thing, because what would they do for relaxation then? Entertainment is expensive,and they don't have the money for such luxuries.

What I can tell you is that here in Youngstown we are fighters and survivors. We get knocked down and we just keep getting up. We all know that we have certain basic needs: food, water,and heat. So in this time of economic downturn I suggest that we start planning how we are going to get those needs met while simultaneously dealing with the global climate and energy crisis' we all face. Let's be proactive rather than reactive, let's turn grey to green.

For starters, I suggest that we start growing our own food. Grow Youngstown is an organization created to promote local growth of food, forage, forests, and fuel sources within sixty miles of Youngstown by creating Community Supported Agriculture, sponsoring urban gardens, food forests, and nurturing young gardeners. We have plenty of green space to cultivate gardens. Not only does the process provide bounty for our tables, it is healthy bounty. It is going to be spring soon, gardens provide a great excuse for turning off that talking box in the middle of the room. Let's go outside, have fun, grow food, and green Youngstown. While we're at it, let's stop filling up at the pumps and get on bikes. For further understanding of the food issues that we face please see the video below:


Alicia said...

Hi Debra,

I just wanted to leave you a note to say I really enjoy your blog. I like the intelligent topics and relevant advice for this time in history...


Tyler said...

Thanks for shining a light on this. I agree the BBC segment is an eye-opener, and it seems like we don't see much of that on American media.

Kris Harrington said...

Great post! I'm just glad that we're talking about what all of this consumerism means. And thanks for letting us know about Grow Youngstown.

Thanks for the blogroll. I just got around to starting mine, and Youngstown Moxie is on it.