Click a program icon to find a chapter
Click here for other Liberally programs

The Answer is Up

As I zoomed across I-80 this weekend in a single shot from New York to Chicago and back, my mind drifted back and forth across the countless miles of corn and my gas meter, as all that 4 dollar gas dripped away. The big question in my mind was how the heck we were going keep shipping all this corn all the way to New York and California, not to mention shipping banana in refrigerated cars all the way from South America. The answer is not bringing the food to Manhattan but bringing the farms.

Vertical Farms are the way of the future, or so says Dr. Dickson Despommier who has been working on vertical farming technology for 10 years now. Take 35 acres of farmland, stack then into a precisely regulated farming skyscraper, and you have yourself a Vertical Farm. In fact an acre of vertical farmland is predicted to have 4-6 times greater output than a boring old acre of flat land. This is a big deal with a population slated to increase 3 billion, 80% of whom will be living in urbanized areas, by 2050. With ever increasing transport and fuel costs for farming our farming practices must evolve vertically if we are going to stop millions from starving and full nations worth of natural ecosystems laid waste by flat and fat farms.

Many designs have been published for these towering greenhouses, which can protect plants from irregular weather, pests and pesticides, recycle water, transform methane to energy, and provide a source for urban food and jobs, while leaving our battered world to recuperate a little. Still the notion as a few ominous sci-fi elements with the website describing them as a prerequisite for moon colonization and asking, “Don't our harvestable plants deserve the same level of comfort and protection that [people] now enjoy?” This may be the great green hope for agriculture but it is also implies a huge condensing of our food source and the complete stewardship of people creating a new ecosystem. Futuristic and yet surprisingly obvious, this is the thinking that will reshape both urban and rural landscapes, and could make some real change, leaving carbon offsets and the inefficiency of ethanol in the dust.

Working Together in the Progressive Movement

As part of our efforts to facilitate greater communication between progressive organizations, here is a guest post from Kathryn Fitzgerald of Young People For about their recent brown bag lunch panel on interconnectivity in the progressive movement. Enjoy!

These past few days have been full of firsts for me; my first metro north ride, my first blogpost, and most importantly hosting my first Brown Bag Lunch! On Friday, after weeks of preparation, Renia, another YP4 intern, and I hosted YP4’s first Brown Bag lunch of the summer.

We had speakers from Earth Day NY, The Harlem Children’s Zone, Young Democratic Socialists, and The National Campaign to Restore Civil Rights. It was a fabulous opportunity to hear what work is being done in areas of the progressive movement outside your own and to find out how to get involved in the work of other sectors of the movement. We started with everyone slowly trickling in, eating some pizza and mingling, building those bridges...

At 1:00 when we kicked off the event, Marianne Engelman Lado from The National Campaign to Restore Civil Rights started our panel portion of the lunch by highlighting for us the importance of the courts in the battle for equal rights; she was followed by Paul Kendrick from the Harlem Children Zone who talked about the important work being done in Harlem for disenfranchised children. He explained how HCZ works to create an educational community to ensure children are supported through every step of their education, from pre-K to college and beyond. Next we had David Duhalde from Young Democratic Socialists speak about the economic justice work being done around the country. Betta Broad from Earth Day NY closed the panel addressing what can be done in your own back yard to help the environment.

After the panel was over we opened up the discussion to the whole group to explore the different ways our issues intersect and the different ways we can work together so we all accomplish our goals. We had a great conversation and came up with several ways for progressives to come together and even more reasons why they should!

More after the jump!

Reading Liberally Read of the Day

The one article every liberal must read today:

by Mark Weisbrot, AlterNet

"For something that's not supposed to exist, the anti-war movement sure was effective in fighting a recent resolution to blockade Iran." Mark Weisbrot covers this relatively unknown story of progressive success.

Reading Liberally: Tips for Alleviating Those First-Time Nerves

Going in to host my first (and in fact, THE first in NYC) Reading Liberally last night, I was somewhat unaccountably nervous. Granted, I wasn't really thrown into hosting alone, as I was surrounded by my loyal posse of Living Liberally friends and coworkers. However, in the hopes of making Reading Liberally more of an established and regular event, I would like to bestow upon you my top tips for running a successful chapter meeting, garnered from our slightly attended yet ultimately satisfying meeting last night.

1.) Go for an intimate space where everyone can hear one another and feel connected, but make sure that wherever you go doesn't turn into an awkwardly quiet study spot at night-- this appeared to be the initial situation when I arrived at Earthmatters Cafe last night, but luckily all the nice people who were already surrounded by heaps of books and papers just shot me a few nasty glances before picking up and moving to the upper floor (so in this case, lots of extra space was a valuable asset!)

2.) Back to my previous comment about my nerves: make sure that you have at least a couple of cohorts to accompany you on your first time!

3.) Make sure that at least ONE person has read each book very well-- chances are, very few people that attend will have read any/all of the books, so the key to successful discussion in this situation is to make sure that you can summarize the book and easily move into whatever universally relevant political topic your book deals with. (On this note, it's best to have a few questions prepared for when conversation gets sparse!)

4.) Have a sign to mark your turf-- useful both in alerting the previously noted studious sorts, and in directing people to the table. I personally made a very bootleg sign by taking screen shots of the reading liberally logo and arranging them in a word document.

Finally, the most important thing is just to make sure that people come. In terms of starting a book group, the key to success (more than flyer-ing, or advertising, or random outreach) seems to be meeting people that genuinely want to experience progressive politics through literature. Here's to starting just such a Reading Liberally chapter!

Oh, and by the way, we read Free Rideby Dan Brock and Paul Waldman, both of which are worth considering for your first foray into group-friendly political lit.

Sustainability for the rest of us

There are some books which you can open and read from cover to cover in one sitting. Climate Solutions by Peter Barnes is not one of those books.

Climate Solutions is a book about exactly what the title suggests, climate solutions, or rather the policy which determines the future of our "one sky" as Barnes lovingly calls it. Climate Solutions holds all of the simplicity as a "gerund for dummies" book but has none of the tedious length.

If you've ever tried to pick up the Bible and read it like the new Stephen King thriller then you will have no trouble absorbing a read like Climate Solutions.

For everything you ever wondered about carbon capping, carbon taxes, or bills such as the Clean Skies Act, Climate Solutions is a good place to start. It is not bogged down with the jargon of sustainability that can be intimidating to someone who is new to environmental issues but wants to learn more. Barnes explains the subject simply and honestly with the bias of a well-to-do citizen who's sincere concern for the Earth shines through in his words.

As a bonus there are even semi-humorous comics and quips intermittently placed among the statistics. Climate Solutions is an essential read that deals with contemporary problems that everyone can relate to.

The Daily Digest

1. Christian Bale arrested. Police were nice enough to wait until after London premiere of Dark Knight.

2. President Bush:
"Wall Street got drunk...and now its got a hangover"

more at ThinkProgress

3. Former advisor to George H.W. Bush schools the Bush Administration on diplomacy: 'Don’t talk about 'do we bomb [Iran] now or later?'…' By using such language 'we legitimize the use of force…and may tempt the Israelis'

Former advisor to President Jimmy Carter said 'I don’t want the public to believe a preemptive attack can be justified'

4. Barack Obama: "A nuclear Iran would pose a grave threat and the world must prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon"

5. Bush Administration thinks power plants do not emit CO2, therefore they should be further deregulated.

6. McCain Campaign Ad: Obama is the reason gas prices are rising, says McCain

7. David Brook's OpEd, The Culture of Debt

8. And one from the backfiles, Naomi Klein's fantastic article on Obama's economic ideology. Liberals be alarmed.

Praying Liberally: From Sudan to Haifa

Or Hadash is not your average Israeli synagogue. In the port city of Haifa, Or Hadash provides a home for the largest progressive Jewish community in Israel.

Rabbi Edgar Nof, the spiritual leader of the congregation, is a man deeply committed to Judaism and justice and for these purposes he has turned the synagogue into a home for all kinds of activities and community services, such as group therapy sessions for victims of terror, interfaith youth programs, immigration services for Ethopian immigrants and day care centers for local kids. He also has a contract from the City to perform Bar-Mitzvahs for youth with mental and physical disabilities.

Recently, Rabbi Nof has to take up an additional sacred responsibility. Over the past year, many refugees from Darfur have snuck into Israel to escape Sudanese genocide. This situation has cause quite a bit of debate in Israel, with some treating the refugees as enemies because of their illegal immigration from an enemy country, and others saying that as victims of the Holocaust, Israel is responsible for taking in and protecting these refugees.

Avner Shalev, chairman of Yad Vashem, the Jewish state's Holocaust museum and memorial, recently wrote to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert urging Israel to "show solidarity" with the Sudanese refugees and help find a solution.

"As members of the Jewish people, for whom the memory of the Holocaust burns, we cannot stand by as refugees from the genocide in Darfur hammer on our doors," Shalev wrote referring to the Nazi Holocaust, when six million Jews were killed during World War Two.

But the Israeli government has been unwilling to fully accept the refugees, jailing and deporting many of them. So when a Sudanese mother and her 3 year old daughter came to Nof's synagogue, he knew it was his duty as Jew to keep them safe. Nof enrolled the daughter in one of the synagogues preschools and gave the mother a part time job doing maintenance in the synagogue. Or Hadash also bought them an apartment and connected them to their immigrant services program.

The government recently took away the family's working papers with the threat of deportation but Nof, Or Hadash and their lawyers are fighting for the mother and her daughter's legal status. Just this week they sent a letter to Israeli authorities informing them that the family will be under the synagogues protection and they will shelter them and fight against any efforts by the government to make them leave.

Rabbi Nof and Or Hadash are great examples of a religious community that supports progressive action and liberal values. They truly are Praying Liberally.

Screening Liberally Watch of the Day

An effective way to joke about Obama: