Dec 172013

Santa Claus is Most Definitely a White Man!

Picture 1In case you haven’t heard, there has been some “debate” lately about which race Santa Claus is. As a white man, I’m here to tell you, Santa is most definitely white. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, let me get you up to speed; Slate Author Aisha Harris, wrote an article questioning why Santa is always portrayed as white (or even human – see below), citing the shame she felt growing up because Santa is white and her family is black; in response, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly assured kids everywhere they had nothing to worry about, because Santa is what he is, “white” (to which the always brilliant John Stewart gave the prefect response), finally Michael Daly of the Daily Beast, attempted to settle the debate, reminding us that Nelson Mandela had actually become Santa Claus in 1995.

All of this mind you is an actual debate, taking up real time and space, on “real” news outlets. Seriously.

This entire debate has gotten so ridiculous I feel compelled to bring a voice of reason to the table. As a white man, I want to assure everyone that Santa Claus is clearly white – and frankly, I’m surprised this is even a debate to begin with. First, however, we need to acknowledge who Santa Claus is, or since he is not real, what it is that he (and yes, Santa is a he) represents.

Santa Claus represents corporate greed at its worst; he is an abusive and judgmental racist, who has shifted the meaning of Christmas from giving to receiving. As such, he has stolen the meaning of Christmas straight from the hands of Jesus Christ (who is not white, but still a man) and gifted it directly to the powers that be of corporate America.

If this doesn’t sound like a white man to you, you’re living in a dreamland. Of course, that’s exactly where most Americans live these days, in a dreamland of self-entitled consumerism, with little to no attention paid to any consequence – past, present, or future – all supported by the unfettered corporate domination of our media, government, the environment, and most unfortunately, us as citizens of what was once a great nation.

Let’s take a closer look at my claims within this preposterous debate.

Santa is abusive:
Where exactly is Santa getting all of the toys he delivers? They either come from elves toiling away day and night in the North Pole, or from factory workers in China, Bangladesh, Taiwan, or some other place where workers are treated like slaves (and pollution sullies the land, water, and sea). Either way, Santa is an abusive tyrant.

Santa is Judgmental:
Who the hell is Santa to make a list of who’s been naughty or nice? Where does he get off? I don’t think anything could possibly be more judgmental. To whose standards is he measuring? Sounds like fascism at its finest, or the extreme Christian right (almost always dictated by white men).

Santa is racist:
That’s right, a racist – he’s certainly classist, which almost always turns out to be racist in the end. Who gets the lion’s share of Santa’s booty? Is he going to Africa, India, China, the inner cities of America or Latin America? Maybe to a ever so slight degree, but certainly not to the same level as he visits America’s middle classes on up (which are overwhelmingly white).

Santa has shifted the meaning of Christmas from giving to receiving:
I feel like I shouldn’t even have to explain this one. This guy does a pretty good job of eviscerating his own kid, who clearly deserves it, so I’ll let you contemplate this point on your own. But here’s the basic deal: Jesus was about giving, Santa is about receiving, and while the Christian Church has done an excellent job of pushing Jesus and his message to the side, that doesn’t change the basic fact that Santa stands in stark contrast to what Jesus represents. So in the image of televagelists everywhere (who are also all about receiving as opposed to giving), Santa looks more and more like the fat white man that he most definitely is. Capitalists should worship Santa.

I’m not saying white men are necessarily like Santa Claus, nor that we’re bad people – obviously the vast majority of us are good folks. What I am saying is that this entire charade of a “debate” about Santa’s race is so completely inane, it makes me want to gouge my own eyes out with an icicle. If we’re going to debate the shortcomings of Santa, can’t we at least have a legitimate debate about Christmas?

I don’t doubt the good intent of Aisha Harris one bit, but rather than digging deep into the social, environmental, and economic abuses Santa has come to represent, she instead suggests we turn Santa Claus into a penguin (really?!)…as if our already geographically challenged youth need a Santa Claus – who lives in the Arctic – that is in actuality an animal from Antarctica. This is both literally and figuratively an idea of polar opposition within itself.

Michael Daly’s attempt to settle the debate by pointing out that Mandela was appointed the first International “Santa Claus of the Year” in 1995, also misses the mark.  While a fair attempt, I have to question if we really want to taint Mandela’s legacy as one of the greatest men to ever walk the planet with the stigma of Santa Claus? Other than calling Santa a harmless old man (see above points), I agree with Cornell West’s assessment (which Daly disputes in his article): “…Nelson Mandela is a spiritual giant, moral titan, and political revolutionary. We turned the revolutionary into…a huggable old man with toys in a bag, smile on his face, no threat to anybody, domesticated, tamed, and no longer really full of the fire. But we know at 95, brother Nelson Mandela was still full of fire. He had that militant tenderness and subversive sweetness and radical gentleness tied to refusing to be fearful or intimidated in the face of a vicious white supremacist apartheid regime.”

Can’t he just be the great Nelson Mandela? Can’t we have a real debate about Christmas rather than a farcical side show about Santa Claus? Trust me, I’m not anti Christmas, far from it, but the meaning of Christmas as my parents taught me was something entirely different from what it has become today. Santa Claus represents all that I have come to loathe about the ways corporate America has abused our once great nation…abuses mostly driven by white men. Santa Claus is the perfect embodiment of this process, and turning him into a penguin, or Nelson Mandela fails to acknowledge the truths that look us straight in the eye.

The bottom line is that we are scared of calling a spade a spade in this country – and no, I am not referring to Santa as an African American or vice versa. Unless you’re the Pope, or a social radical, chances are you’re scared of legitimately calling out corporate America as the bully it has become, and the self-entitled laziness of our citizenry that continues to empower it. Christmas is the perfect backdrop to do so, but in so doing, we are automatically labeled Commie Scrooges. That, I promise, is something I am not. Again, I love the true meaning of Christmas, and I also believe in my heart that free – and fair – market economic exchange (something we rarely actually see anymore) is the only way societies effectively function.

Just as Christmas has been co-opted by Santa Claus, so too has free market ideology by short-sighted corporate greed. The analogous metaphor is too perfect to pass up, yet as citizens, we are too scared – or likely too lazy – to acknowledge what is right in front our own face.

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Feb 242013

The first step toward a better understanding of aquaponics is to examine the ecology of all the species interacting with the system, including humans. We use ecology instead of environment, because it accounts for the symbiotic relationships between all the stakeholders in aquaponics rather than simply examining the physical conditions in which it operates.

Essentially in aquaponics, an ecosystem is created and maintained to balance the inputs and outputs of the fish, plants, and beneficial bacteria in order to provide food for us. Its efficiency lies in continuously recirculating the water and using the waste of one process as the input for another. As the water is circulated throughout the fish tank and growing area, the real workhorse making the system progress is the beneficial bacteria that break down the fish waste to food for the plants. These are the same bacteria involved in the nitrogen cycle in countless other ecosystems on the planet. The plants in turn, absorb the nutrients and filter the water for the fish. This lends itself to the two major benefits of aquaponics: efficient use of water and growing without a high quality soil.

Balancing the ratios of water to fish to plants is extremely important in maintaining the health of the system. All of the species are equally important and all are interdependent on each other. Balance is crucial in any ecosystem, because there is always competition for the same resources and there are limits to those resources. When these are exceeded and the system is out of balance, diseases are more prevalent, fish die, and plants are malnourished.

So how does this fit our model? Let’s simply look at our own relationship and apply our personal values to the food system at all levels: global, national, and local. Where is our food coming from? Is it sold at a fair price for both producer and consumer? Can the current methods be continued for the next generation? Our modern lifestyle depends on the health of multiple ecosystems, which are being stretched past their limits. Aquaponics is an alternative solution that we think can heal these relationships and supplement our food supply. One of the goals of Project Haiti is to do just that in a country that has suffered from severely damaged ecosystems due to poor natural resource management.

Be sure to check in for the next post exploring some of the economic aspects of aquaponics.

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Jan 232013

Over the past two years, Ecofficiency.org has included aquaponics as one of its core programs. We have built systems in Haiti, The Bahamas, Baja California, and several California schools. There is no doubt that it is an increasingly popular growing method due to its sustainability, novelty, and the desire to reconnect with our food.

During the next several weeks we will be exploring why aquaponics works so well with the Ecofficiency model. If you want to understand how the physical system works, click here. The model is explained in our 15 page philosophy that can be found on our website, which I am sure everybody has read and fully understands. (insert sarcasm) The model is a three-part Venn diagram, with each section representing a major component: Ecology, Economy, and Equity. The basic model is used by many people to help establish structure to sustainable decision-making and planning. What sets Ecofficiency.org apart is our focus on the relationships between the main components:

Sustainable Natural Resource Management + Cultural Diversity and Appreciation + Environmental Justice = A prosperous and peaceful world that we all want to live in

Ecofficiency_Graph

We’ll start with the main components then transition to the relationships to better understand how aquaponics can satisfy each section. Stay posted for the first article on Ecology in the next few days.

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Sep 252012

Positively Delicious OC is a 4-day event series focused on sustainable food in Orange County. Produced by The Positive Plate, in collaboration with OC Food Access Coalition, Slow Food OC, and A Harvest of Hope, the goal of Positively Delicious OC is to showcase the wonderful food community we have in our backyard, and bring much needed attention to important food related issues to OC residents.

For tickets and more details, visit the Positively Delicious OC website.

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Aug 72012

During our last trip to Haiti, we had the pleasure of meeting Markendy Desomeau, a Haitian with a passion for helping his country make changes with a positive and lasting impact.

We met Markendy, who has a Master’s Degree in Animal Husbandry, deep in the mountains of Pays Pourri, where we have been distributing water filters, and offering cholera education classes. He was an interpreter for a mobile medical clinic that we had linked up with…he speaks Creole, French, Spanish, and English quite well. I was immediately impressed with his intelligence, work ethic, and genuine desire to help people less fortunate than himself.

Markendy immediately expressed an interest in coming to the US to earn a PhD in sustainability related issues. Of course we would try our best to help him, but we also know how hard it can be to get someone into the US from a country as poor as Haiti. Let alone, position him to meet professors that he could possibly work with.

Well, two weeks ago, Markendy was named a UCI International Sustainability Fellow after spending a week on the UCI campus exchanging ideas with 70 Sustainability Fellows from 18 countries around the world! He was able to meet three different professors who all said they had an interest (no promises) in having Markendy work under them. Needless to say, Markendy was extremely excited about his visit, and we are so happy we could help him come to the US to study and meet potential professors to work with!

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