Cary Neeper

Writer, Blogger, and Painter -- esteeming life wherever and whatever it might be.

Check out Critical Non-fiction for links to reviews in Goodreads.com

COMPLEXITY
Exploration of complexity, its indicators, embedded chaos, and value in human organizations.

Forty Years with Birds and Dogs
Care and Respect

What You Expect Is What You Read—Or Not

April 16, 2013

Tags: Writing and Publishing, Reviews

Since viewing the Nature program “Animal Odd Couples,” a PBS video, I’ve been focused on the many engaging stories aired by PBS and by many authors, including Penny Patterson, and Koko, Temple Grandin, making a difference, and Frans deWaal, studying animal emotions. Therefore, I expected more anecdotes when I started reading Gary Kowalski’s Blessings of the Animals.

Indeed, in the middle of that book, there are some good stories--a polar bear coming nightly to play with Huskys in Alaska, a young leopard playing with a Golden Retriever puppy in South Africa, the friendship of two Groton goats and a timber wolf at the San Diego Zoo, the gorilla Koko and her kitten.

As I began reading I became disoriented. The first two chapters of Kowalski’s book talked about animals in church and something about old saints. I should have known better. The book was about blessings. The title said so.

Once I woke up to that fact, I was ready for the wonderful examples of blessings the author had written. Each chapter illustrated a different way in which animals have blessed human life.

Our job as writers clearly demands that we do our best to reflect the essence of our stories in our titles and 25-word tags. As readers, it might be helpful to believe what the titles of books are trying to say.

#10 Encouraging Scenes from the Steady State--Money

April 2, 2013

Tags: Sustainability/Steady State Economics, Domestic Bird Care, Reviews

Regarding money, the authors of Enough Is Enough point out that in the steady state "...get-rich-quick dreams blink out of existence, replaced by investment in real wealth [like chickens] that earn modest returns...[and] build low-carbon infrastructure, restore ecosystems, improve social conditions, and develop useful technologies [as on Varok in my novel The Webs of Varok]...No one becomes obscenely affluent." This is the end of the series on "encouraging scenes from the steady state."Don't miss the whole story.Dietz and Dan O'Neill Enough Is Enough.

Here's my problem. The Hen House is not a cheap hobby. Although I do hire locals to take care of the birds when we are away, thus boosting the job rate, I drive 50 miles round trip to get their cracked corn and lay pellets, alfalfa and straw for bedding. Some animal feed is grown locally. but who knows where the dogs' food comes from?

We do reuse the feed bags for garbage. And all our kitchen scraps--except onion peels, citrus, and banana peels--disappear at 4 p.m. into the Hen House pen. I carry the scraps down in a large yogurt bucket to chum in the birds from the yard. I suppose I should be making compost out of the scraps, but the birds love to work them over, and I do use their dirty straw as mulch. Maybe that counts.

The point is that we need to do better about how we throw money around—both in earning it and in spending it. On a full Earth, we need to conserve what we can and invest our precious time to produce useful goods and helpful services that enhance life, not abuse it.

#5-The Look of Business in the Steady State

February 26, 2013

Tags: Sustainability/Steady State Economics, Domestic Bird Care, Reviews

Dietz and Dan O'Neill Enough Is Enough, p.200. Don't miss the whole story.
#5 in the authors' "...Encouraging Scenes From a Steady State Economy" is a vision of business in the steady state. Profit is not the only objective, as is seems to be now. In the steady state, businesses will also focus on improving social and environmental conditions. More democratic management, worker ownership, shared working hours could be part of the scene, thus providing more sense of purpose and contentment in holding a job.

In exploring the best development of business as a complex system, simple guiding rules, communication, relationships, and feedback at all levels are recommended by Margaret Wheatley. Giving these practices high priority provides more chance for a business to execute its best intentions while allowing it employees to be creative and explore new ideas.

I hate to be negative, but we need to do something to get current business ethics back on track Practices like death dating and planned obsolescence, shrinking content or packaging, selecting fruit for shipping longevity at the expense of nutrition and taste, selling produce laced with pesticides--all make me sick at heart. We can do better than that. Is the bottom line are only guidepost? We don't do quality anymore? Honesty? Integrity?

We are way behind some other countries in making official some of the most useful policies to ensure a reasonable future for our grandchildren. One example: I just did a search on EPR--Extended Product (or Producer) Responsibility. Its history on this continent is here. In short, EPR means "...economy-based rules require manufacturers to partially or fully pay for end-of-life management costs, including collection, recycling and final disposal." Details include take-back policies (or product taxes and recycling subsidies), product labeling, and responsibility for environmental damages and clean-up costs. EPR encourages longevity in design and the provision of spare parts and repair--plus the jobs that would go with the restoration of those old-fashioned ideas. Earth 911.com provides details and a list of companies and products that engage in the practice.

The application to all this in the Hen House becomes obvious when you look around. The pen is a made from reused chicken wire, posts, and three large acrylic paintings from the set of my musical "Petra and the Jay." The paintings make great shade for part of the pen in summer, and they reduce the snow load in winter.
I must admit, however, that we don't recycle the occupants. Turkey is now 11 years old and Lucy goose is twelve. They eat a lot, and the whole gang goes through one cup of oyster shell every day, not to mention the water the ducks spill out of their bathtubs. At least the ducks provide eggs for a neighbor child who is allergic to chicken eggs.

#4."...Encouraging Scenes From a Steady State Economy"--Community

February 19, 2013

Tags: Sustainability/Steady State Economics, Domestic Bird Care, Reviews

California poppies. Photo by Shawne Workman
Rob Dietz and Dan O'Neill Enough Is Enough, p.200. Don't miss the whole story.

In the 1950s the San Francisco Bay Area was surrounded by fruit orchards and countryside--brown rolling hills in summer dotted with huge oak trees that loomed in grand silhouettes when the hills turned green in winter. Tall eucalyptus lined the streams and roads. You drove through the hills for five miles or more before a collection of small farms signaled the appearance of a collection of shop-lined streets--the next city down the road. Streetcars laced the shops together if you didn't want to walk through town. You knew who owned what shop, which owner liked kids, and that the ice cream parlor was next door to the dress shop, right in the middle of town. There you could get real ice cream sodas, made with thick syrup blasted into the creamy dessert drink with a fizz-fazz spigot.

Such is the vision of Dietz and O'Neill in Enough Is Enough: Building A Sustainable Economy In a World of Finite Resources. We need to transition our economic focus from global to local and quit wasting energy shipping cardboard fruit all over planet Earth. (more…)

Stabilizing Population

January 28, 2013

Tags: Sustainability/Steady State Economics, Domestic Bird Care, Reviews

Today we consider #2 in Rob Dietz's engaging scenarios for the steady state in "Enough Is Enough," the no-growth economics text that should be required reading. In #1 we mentioned efficiency, the need to conserve, economize, recycle, consume responsibly. Rob said "We can consume enough to meet [our] needs...without undermining the life-support system of the planet."

The planet doesn't go on forever, but our population growth seems to be doing just that, at a faster and faster rate. Education and consensus and women's rights have stabilized the population in Europe and some other places. It's clear we can do this without being told we have to.

Marq deVilliers in "Our Way Out" puts it this way "Growth has to stop, and this does not imply economic stagnation and distress. Like it or not, population has to be stabilized. Unrestrainable resource depletion has to be terminated." I know this all too well. I love raising chicks so much, when I go into the feed store I will find any excuse to get a few more. Well, no more. Now that I'm preaching steady state ethics, I'd better realize that the Hen House in winter and the pen, even the yard, in summer is only so big. Enough geese, turkey, ducks, chicken, and two dogs is enough.

It's only been fifty years, the pundits say, since we have come to believe that growth is an "unquestionable dogma." The problem is that growth now costs the planet--and us--more than it is worth. Touting growth to supply more jobs so people can buy more stuff so there will be more jobs is a nasty trap, and we need to recognize that, sooner than later. Herman Daly points out that there are only two ways to get to a stable, no-growth economy. 1) Either growth fails and leads to unemployment and suffering or 2) steady state policies succeed, which they can because they are based on the realities of resource limits, not fictitious human behavior and fairy tale technology. We can do the limits to growth.

Downsizing On a Scale Grander Than the Hen House

January 22, 2013

Tags: Sustainability/Steady State Economics, Domestic Bird Care, Reviews

The guantlet was thrown down yesterday. Time to get busy. First, a quote from Rob Dietz and Dan O'Neill's ENOUGH IS ENOUGH--Putting aside our "...obsession with economic growth...[we can achieve] prosperity over the long run." Dietz and O'Neill's book

We can do this. It will not be easy, but the sooner we start the easier it will be. The first thing on the authors' list is easy enough 1) "...choose to consume energy and materials responsibly, conserving, economizing, and recycling..." i.e. mindful turning off the lights when you leave a room. There must me a gazillion things like that to do, especially for industry. I think it was DuPont that saved millions. On Varok every drop of water is captured and reused throughout the lodge and in the locale. Read The Archives of Varok.

I have to admit--sometimes, after I've filled the birds' water dishes outside the Hen House, it's easier not to walk up the hill to shut off the hose . I think to myself, "It will only take five minutes to put lay pellets and corn in the birds' dishes--maybe another three minutes to freshen their straw. Okay. Okay. I'll walk up the hill and shut off the water. At 22 seconds per gallon, letting it run for eight minutes would waste 22 gallons. Something to remember. Here in the dry southwest, we get our water from deep wells in an ancient aquifer whose level is dropping at an unsustainable rate. Precious stuff, that ancient water my geese and ducks bathe in--first thing, even before they take a beak-full of breakfast. They do appreciate it. (Maybe my sponge bathing is all I need today. My hair won't get stringy until tomorrow or Wednesday.)

"Enough Is Enough" Not A Cliche--A Critical Book by Rob Dietz and Dan O'Neill

January 15, 2013

Tags: Writing and Publishing, Reviews

The rumors are true. I am reading Robert Fishe's "The Dimwit's Dictinary cover to cover. I'm underlining it too. What? You heard me. (Ha! I just looked up that phrase. He forgot that one.) I said, I'm underlining words and phrases that I probably would use, phrases like "express (concern)" or "attitude." Fiske lists helpful alternative words, sometimes, so I'll continue reading and underlining. I'm up to G. I'm sure his book will help me in the ongoing struggle to ramp up my verbiage to new heights. (Ooops. No, that one's not there, either.)

That said, I'm moving on. (Ha again! Neither phrase is listed, but "moving forward," is.) I'm going to express my doubts about the phrases listed in the Dimwit's Dictionary. Some are too useful; they express too precisely what I mean to say, sometimes with a tone that no alternative phrase or word captures. Take, for example, the title of Rob Dietz and Dan O'Neill's excellent, concise summary of why we need to do this and that to begin the conversion to a steady state, now. "Economics for Dummies?" No! It's called "Enough Is Enough." Rob thought long and hard about using that title. A search can get 150 hits on the phrase. But it says exactly what they wanted to say, and I agree. They say why. They say how to make a steady state work for the betterment of all. It's a text that should be required reading in every school in the country, important for all of us to read before we can't stop imploding. I doubt that the title will hurt his sales. Enough Is Enough memorable and right on target. Just be sure to add the Dietz and O'Neill to your search. Here's an url to help. Enough Is Enough

2013 Nautilus Silver Award YA and 2012 Foreward Finalist Adult Science Fiction




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A Place Beyond Man
Authors Guild Edition 2011


The Oil Patch Project--Mystery team Cary and Don
See Oil & Gas tag above.