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Ways of the World

Carol Stone, business economist & active Episcopalian, brings you "Ways of the World". Exploring business & consumers & stewardship, we'll discuss everyday issues: kids & finances, gas prices, & some larger issues: what if foreigners start dumping our debt? And so on. We can provide answers & seek out sources for others. We'll talk about current events & perhaps get different perspectives from what the media says. Write to Carol. Let her know what's important to you:

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

"Ways of the World" Has a Birthday!

This week marks the first anniversary of the "Ways of the World" blog on the Geranium Farm website. A recent query from a reader in Texas had us digging back into some old articles, especially from last summer, and we were reminded of the variety of issues we have been talking about.

The reader asked us about the Grameen Bank, the Nobel-Prize-winning "people's bank" in Bangladesh which seeks to facilitate personal growth in that nation's villages through micro-loans. They've succeeded now for 30-plus years, and we were surprised to realize that we have written about them about half-a-dozen times, celebrating that effort.

This people-oriented perspective governed our approach to the Millennium Development Goals. Our favorite foray into that world-wide topic was a "field-trip" to St. Bart's Church in Manhattan to hear Archbishop Ndungane of South Africa. He emphasized that what his people hope for in that program is not charity, but access to resources: "a hand up, not a hand out" as the saying goes.

We've talked several times about business leaders in their roles as creators of jobs and wealth for everyone and as philanthropists in the use of their own wealth. We've prayed for them, in a deliberate attempt to call attention to what we – frankly – have long perceived as a scarce element among the concerns of the Church. This isn't an appeal to a gospel of prosperity, but a recognition of these business leaders as people who have major responsibilities and very much need God's guidance and support. This topic will come up again right away next week when the Church commemorates Rogation Days on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before Ascension Day, a traditional time of prayer for commerce and industry as well as agriculture.

We've talked about ourselves as consumers. In response to a resolution passed by last June's General Convention called "Culture of Debt", we examined the way people spend money and run up bills. We suggested that retirement planning – at any age – might help reduce people's hunger to "… Buy Things They Don't Need", the title of a marketing book we quoted. We even wrote a silly song: a new verse to "Here Comes Santa Claus" that encourages you to "Watch Your Credit Card".

The topic we became the most excited about is ecology. High energy prices got our attention and we were amazed to learn that the world is consuming more than 42,000 gallons of petroleum every second. That number still appalls: 42,000 gallons a second. There are many kinds of waste with petroleum and with other natural resources. Carbon emissions are bad. Once again and especially in the absence of a consensus in the United States on the proper role of government, our emphasis here has been on private sector initiatives. The rest of us can tackle the problem without waiting for further public policy changes. In fact, operating businesses and households in a "greener" way is becoming more mainstream every day. We ourselves have come to believe that taking care of the world doesn't really require "sacrifice", but instead different styles and practices than we're used to in daily living. It's our current profligacy, by contrast, that will bring about the eventual sacrifice.

So what is coming up in Year 2 of Ways of the World? To begin, what would YOU like to hear about? For instance, we do have a reader's question of long standing about fair-traded coffee and other goods, and we promise to get to that soon to assess its effectiveness in improving the farmers' and the producers' lot. That will lead us into the maze of globalization. Last week, we referred to government budgets as a hornets' nest, and we need to work our way around that issue. We haven't mentioned social security or health care, and we really need to go through those together. But, please, good readers, do let us know what you are interested in as well. And if you disagree with arguments we make, let us know that too. We can all grow by having more discussion.

Writing these articles is a pleasure for me and this is a good opportunity for me to thank Barbara and the supporters of the Geranium Farm for making "Ways of the World" possible. Imagine the imagination of these Episcopal Church leaders who would take in a former Wall Street financial economist and let her write articles under the heading "Ways of the World"! I think that's pretty innovative, and I hope what we're doing here is what they thought it might be.


Blogger Joanna Depue said...

Happy Birthday....WOW, WoW! It takes me a while to get around to some of these things... but here it is. Your contributions to the farm and its financial groundedness - and to all the Farmers near and wide wo have not always drawn a direct line between spirituality and spending. Keep up the wonderful work. DJ

5/29/2007 10:26 AM  

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