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It’s Time To Develop Community Volunteer Pools -

by : Dan Stafford
Monday January 28, 2008 - 10:45

It’s Time To Develop Community Volunteer Pools -

"Foreclosures Prompt Cities to Make Plea for Aid :

The United States Conference of Mayors ( usmayors.org ) As more than 250 mayors , agreed that the collapse of the subprime market had left a growing problem of vacant houses, depressed property values, tighter credit, and a need to cut services to close municipal budget gaps.
 http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/24/u... "

With news like this, and many other stories threatening the possibility of a global Depression, (Based on a repeat of the land speculation mistakes of the 1920’s and other factors) it is time to organize volunteer labor pools. Absent any real leadership from the government, the unemployed and bankrupt will increase in numbers dramatically over the next few years. This represents a lot of economically desperate people and a huge pool of idle talent.

Food security is going to become difficult under these circumstances. It will become vital to begin massive vegetable gardening efforts in urban and suburban areas. It is also going to become necessary to build large scale shelters as housing foreclosures continue to skyrocket, driving up the ranks of the homeless.

Why not begin forming the structures of a "citizens’ W.P.A." now, before all this happens? Strapped municipalities could use these pools of labor to avoid much of the cost of infrastructure improvements, focusing their dwindling property tax intake on purchasing materials for volunteer workers to use. In return, such municipalities could provide materials and space for shelters and gardening projects to feed the volunteers and their families.

Additionally, judicious use of eminent domain laws could foreclose on the Foreclosers - seizing bank-owned vacant properties and using them to house homeless laborers in return for their labor hours on community projects. They do not need the federal government to solve the problem. This could be a way for rural communities and suburbs to turn the situation around - since such efforts would in effect fall outside the purview of the failing capitalist economy.

Obviously, recycling and local sourcing of materials would be driven higher by such measures. Energy efficiency could also be built into such plans.

Just as the States are taking action on renewable energy and climate change through local initiatives, the States and local communities could begin a national turn-around absent help from the federal government, in a legal and moral manner.

Idle union workers could initiate apprenticeship programs within the volunteer pools, creating a vast pool of skilled workers for when the economy does rebound. Municipal energy projects such as wind, solar, and biomass (not using food grains, but rather agricultural and yard waste) systems could be built also, driving up local renewable power generation.

Local sustainable forestry programs could also be developed and maintained, providing a source of lumber for furniture and interior building structures. Earthen housing using lumber only for floors, windows and roofing could provide highly durable and energy-efficient housing in place of the current lumber-intensive methods of buildings. Existing vacant structures could be tapped for materials and space to build with.

Municipalities that embark on such paths could begin to draw people back out into the small towns and suburbs without the need for long-distance commuting.

Small family-owned farms might even work with such communities, providing much-needed food in return for volunteer labor to help with growing and harvesting. Composting and sustainable farming methods are age-old ways of working farms without the need for petroleum-based fertilization. Natural methods of controlling pests would leave enough production in place, when combined with urban/suburban gardening efforts, to feed local populations.

Grass lawns are a waste of precious crop-growing space. If you add up the aggregate land area of lawns in the USA, that is a large area of "farmable" land.

I also wonder if milkweed pod fiber and cattail fiber couldn’t be used to produce small quantities of local textiles in a manner similar to the way cotton is used today. Does anyone out there know if there are small-scale textile mills that could be used or built to operate with such materials? Milkweed and cattails are ubiquitous in the Midwestern US in my experience.

It’s time to think outside the traditional box, and recover some of the skill sets that were our heritage from times when communities had to be much more self-reliant in the past, combined with modern technologies in ways that are harmonious to the natural environment and the natural rhythms of the human body.

There are things we can do to head the worst effects of a severe economic downturn off, while making the lives we lead more sustainable and healthy. More walking, biking, and horsepower in the flesh, more local foods, more local work, shared computers at libraries, community fire brigades, and many other means are available.

Open private schools where laid-off teachers could educate children and recover from the closures of public schools resulting from No Child Left Behind and lack of federal funding.

There are ways to do these things, using non-profit entities and local initiatives that would bypass the failures of national-scale systems. A mixture of the best from the past and present could lead to a more sustainable, stable, and bright future.

It’s not necessary to go down in flaming despair at all - if we work together, and start now.

JMHO,

Dan Stafford

 http://firstchurchhealingearth.blog...



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