A special appeal

South America

(Deejay Pilot-istockphoto)

Somewhere to the south of us, an indigenous farmer is raising his voice against the eradication of ancient seed stocks by corporate interests. An army of volunteer gardeners is sowing a food security system on rooftops, patios and abandoned lots. A tribe in the Amazon is using Google Earth to give virtual tours of its ancestral forests in a bid to build global support for their preservation. A troupe of young bicyclists is plotting colorful new ways to capture the public’s attention and steer its city policy toward the path of sustainability.

As forests burn, icecaps melt and sea levels rise, people at the grassroots aren’t waiting for the government to fix things for them. Nowhere is this more evident than in Latin America.

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Four days and counting

Tuesday the movers come to put all my things into storage, and I’m fluctuating between exhilaration, panic and denial. The to-do list keeps growing, the time keeps shrinking. Here’s a piece I did for The Buzz Magazine that summarizes where I’m at right now, how I got here and where I’m going.

Location Independent
Digital nomads redefine the office

by Tracy L. Barnett, contributing writer

Last spring, I was handed an amazing opportunity. But at first it seemed like a disaster.
Like millions of others in this recession, I lost my job. It was especially unsettling, as I had moved to Houston not so long ago to take that job.

Nonetheless, I took stock of my situation and realized it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. My daughter was grown and nearing completion of her education; I had no mortgage, no debt, no health problems and a little bit of savings. I had a marketable skill set, and no urgent need to make a lot of money.

This might just be the moment to follow my dreams, I said to myself.

Most of my life I’d worked for someone else: Newspaper corporations, nonprofit organizations, a university. I had always wanted to see what I could do working for myself. And I’d always wanted to take a year for travel.
I spent hours surfing the web, seeking a way to make it happen, and I found that I was far from alone. In fact, an international community has emerged to share ideas and support each other in what is being called the location-independent lifestyle.
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Party with a purpose at the Farm

Saturday dawned misty and chilly, but it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the crowds who flocked to the Last Organic Outpost Saturday to celebrate the two-year anniversary of the group’s Emile Street Farm, learn about food security, forage for wild edibles, eat organic tamales and meet interesting folks.
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(photos by Mona Metzger of Houston Green Scene)

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The Yes Men Fix the World

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If laughter is the best medicine, The Yes Men are the best physicians I’ve seen in a long while.

This pair of merry pranksters just released their new movie, The Yes Men Fix the World, and after seeing it last night at Houston’s Angelika Theater, I’m still laughing.

Here’s the trailer:

In the world of the Yes Men, not only does Dow Chemical accept responsibility for the Bhopal disaster, but Exxon pays billions to rebuild the wetlands it’s destroyed, the Department of Housing and Urban Development pays to rehab public housing instead of tearing it down, and the New York Times leads with an end to the Iraq War, nationalization of the oil companies with profits to fight climate change and George Bush indicted for high treason.

The pair create fake websites and field invitations to corporate events, where they pose as company representatives hawking everything from candles made of human flesh to the “SurviviBall,” an inflatable disaster suit designed to protect the rich from “anything nature can throw at you.” The performances are slapstick laughable, but their antics illustrate the dark side of corporate globalization. When the media condemns them for raising false hopes with their “cruel hoax,” they visit Bhopal and Katrina to consult with disaster victims and learn their stories.

Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno are two guys in cheap suits and geeky glasses whose outrageous sense of humor is only matched by their sense of outraged justice. Their escalating series of escapades lands them in hot water when journalists catch on to their act, but they are eloquent in flipping lies into truth.

Their aim is not just to entertain, but to catalyze. The last scene pans the crowds receiving the fake New York Times and focuses on the readers’ faces, wavering between incredulity and hope.

“If a few people at the top can make the bad news happen, why can’t all of us at the bottom make the good news happen for real?” Bonanno demands. But, he adds, “It would take more than two guys in cheap suits with fake websites. It would take millions…”

The camera pans back to the milling crowd… and as the credits roll, the Yes Men plan their next move.
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