Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Preparing Personal Solutions

Are your clothes safe? Alina Bartell, owner of The Natural Clothing Company advises on fabrics, chemicals, and organic clothes. Dr. Joe Alton, MD on learning emergency medicine "when help doesn't come". Woody Tasch helps develop local food with "slow money". Radio Ecoshock 130703 1 hour.

Radio Ecoshock is back with more local solutions for global problems - from the Mother Earth News Fair.

This time I've picked three of the most intriguing interviews. Each seemed at first like a small problem, and each guest - all feature speakers at the Fair - takes us much deeper, into the industrial and financial mess - and out again with practical things we can do.


Download/listen to my interview on organic clothes with Alina Bartell in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Download/listen to Joe Alton, MD on emergency medicine in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Download/listen to Woody Tasch on "Slow Money" in CD Quality or Lo-Fi



Alina Bartell surprised me. I mean, do we really need "organic clothes"? Our discussion went from the poisoned fields of Asia and Central America through the industrial fashion machine that feeds the store shelves. The Earth and the workers are damaged at every step.

"Organic" clothing means more to Alina than just a lack of chemicals when you buy it, although that's important too. She started her search for safe clothing after her son developed difficulties. Alina and her husband moved to the country, changed to the purist possible foods, and their child improved.

But many Americans suffer from allergies and skin reactions to the chemicals used in clothing manufacturing. There is a residue of pesticides. Did you know that cotton is the most sprayed crop in the world? Alina tells us cotton occupies only 3% of farm land, but uses almost 25% of farm chemicals. It is not uncommon for pesticides to be sprayed on cotton while workers are in the fields below. There are very high disease rates, especially cancers, in some cotton growing areas.

Since the seventeen hundreds, woven materials like cotton have been treated to make the fabric strong enough to handle machine handling. It is called "sizing" and it used to be common starch. Now sizing is a wide-ranging combination of chemicals. That is why we know enough to at least wash a new shirt of dress before wearing it.

Rayon is made out of wood, combined with chemicals to press it out into fabric. Where did that wood come from? Alina says wood fabric like Rayon can come from sustainable forestry. Or you can buy clothes made out of bamboo. I felt a bamboo t-shirt, and it was soft like very fine cotton.

That is preferable to all-oil fabrics like nylon or polyester. These are made straight from crude oil - not a bi-product, but from crude oil. Did you know nylon manufacturing is a major, MAJOR source of greenhouse gas emissions?

We all need clothes, and every type of fabric comes with it's costs and compromises. The best we can do, Bartell says, is find out where the fabric comes from, was it made safely and ethically? Is it chemical-free?

Apparently the market for organic clothing has not yet taken off. There are only a few organic cotton producers left in America, for example. You will pay more for organic clothing - but the earth benefits, and the clothes should last a long time if well cared for.

You can contact Alina Bartell for more information at her web site.


Joe Alton MD

I'll be frank. At first I thought Dr. Joe Alton, and his wife "Nurse Amy" were kind of fringe characters. Having met Joe, and listened to his story, I've changed my mind.

Alton and Amy put out a series of You tube videos under the name "Doom and Bloom". The bloom part came from their origins as gardeners. Alton is a Master Gardener in the state of Florida. He's also a genuine surgeon, a fellow of the American College of Surgeons. Amy is a registered practical Nurse, with further training and lots of experience in midwifery.

Their basic premise is our fragile and high-priced medical system (at least in the United States) may not always be there when you need it. Just think of the three days or more in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina. You couldn't call 911. No ambulances were in service, the hospitals were closed. What if a loved one had a huge gash from blown debris? Would you be helpless?

The Altons also worry a financial or political crash could make medical care unavailable. Plus there are homesteaders and farmers who live too far away from a hospital to treat a serious injury.

Now that you think of it, it's a bit strange none of us are taught any health care these days. Schools don't teach it. Maybe as a Scout or a Guide you might learn how to dress a serious wound.

Dr. Joe thinks the medical establishment is holding on to essential information a little too tightly. By all means, he says, if there is a hospital available, seek professional treament from the system. But if not, why no prepare in advance with some training of your own? They have published a handbook called "The Survival Medicine Handbook (2nd edition)."

Here is their You tube video about that book.

As "Dr. Bones" and "Nurse Amy" the pair put out a series of You tubes with basic information we can all understand. Since there has been a heat wave going in the U.S. West, with lots more heat waves to come with climate change, I ask Dr. Joe about the signs and treatment of heat stress and the sometimes fatal heat stroke.

You can learn about that right in this radio interview.

This medical pair also compile lists of equipment you might need to help your family and your neighbors in a disaster. You can complete your own kits, at different levels, using their lists for free. Or you can buy the equipment from them. Some doctors and emergency workers buy their disaster packs to take to developing countries that have been hit with a hurricane, earthquake or other disaster.

My rating: their presentation is quirky but interesting; the information they teach is important. I'm going to take a look at my own medical supplies, and learn what I can from their videos and site materials.


Woody Tasch

Woody Tasch is a man who worked the finance industry, and then reevaluated his life. He longed to find a way to stimulate the growth of local food-sheds, with local finance. That developed into his book "Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms and Fertility Mattered."

But he didn't stop there. Tasch has crossed the country helping seed slow money organizations. These are non-profits who try various ways to hook up small investors and people in the local food chain. Customers might be a Community Supported Agriculture organization, a small "truck" farmer, an organic dairy, and so on.

The investors are ordinary people who want to put part of their investment money into making sure there is local food that is good to eat. Woody doesn't recommend putting ALL your money into one of these small ventures (he doesn't). He also recommends diversifying, investing in several ventures.

These small loans are kind of the American equivalent to the "Grameen" banks established by Professor Muhammad Yunus in Benglash, and now issuing micro-loans (as little as $50) to people in developing countries all over the world. In the United States a "small loan" might be $14,000 required to buy a used refrigeration truck needed to get produce to the market.

Tasch recommends two different styles of Slow Money. In North Carolina, there is a match-maker linking up investors to food producers needing money. Carol Peppe Hewitt has become a whiz at linking people up. She's written a book "Financing Our Foodshed: Growing Local Food With Slow Money."

At Slow Money Maine, it's a different story. They hold meetings where people looking for small loans make presentations in front of a crowd of possible investors. Slow Money in California does the same, with perhaps a couple of hundred people showing up for a meeting in a tent on a farm.

There has been a national Slow Money conference, where dozens of presenters get five minutes each to make their pitch, hoping to lure the investment money they need.

This isn't a way to get rich. It has risks like any investment - but it's probably no riskier than the stock market. Plus, you are not sending your money to strangers, who may invest in ways to harm the world, on the far side of the Earth. Slow Money investors know exactly who is getting the money, why, and that it will help the local community in eco-safe ways. That's got to be the future of our financial world, if we are going to survive.

Plug in here.


My thanks to the listeners who chipped in to pay my gas to the Mother Earth News Fair. We ended up with a bounty of interviews with thought-leaders in the underground movement to found a new and sustainable civilization. All these things are seedlings now, but they will grow into mighty things.

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I'm Alex Smith. Let's meet again next week.

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