GreenBiz Reads

Standing our ground by investing in our soil

Soil growing from investments

The following is an excerpt from the book "SOIL: Notes Towards the Theory and Practice of Nurture Capitalby Woody Tasch (Slow Money, 2018).

I'm sad as hell and I'm not going to fake it anymore. Our democracy is ebbing and carbon is flowing — into the atmosphere, that is, instead of back into the soil, where it belongs. I'm sad as hell and I'm not going to forsake it anymore — poetry, that is.

To be sure, quirky, playful poetry is an idiosyncratic response to hundred-billion-dollar arms deals, nuclear uncertainty, a quadrillion dollars' worth of derivatives, hunger, obesity and the invasion of every facet of life by media and markets. But, when I went looking for a meaningful response to the fakery of our current predicament, poetry is what I found.

Turns out that while you can't make this shit up and the truth is stranger than fiction, someone really did make this shit up, history is a nightmare from which we really do need to awake, and poetry may be truer than the realest news.

* * * * *

Soil by Woody TaschThis is a call to farms. A call to all who plant, grow, harvest, eat, hug, argue, clink, put up, squirrel away, fritter away, lay away and otherwise regret that civility and community went that-a-way. A call to gather our wits — one farm at a time, one town at a time, one county at a time, one watershed at time, one refusal to argue about politics at a time, one sleeve rolled up at a time. Just why is it, anyway, that the economy keeps growing, military spending keeps exploding, drug prices keep soaring, the stock market keeps lifting off, but the strength of our marriages, the health of our kids, the vitality of our Main Streets and the fertility of our soil keep going down?

My search for answers, encouraged by conversations with thousands of folks around the country, leads me to explore the boundaries between heart and mind, between finance and poetry, between fiduciary responsibility and free-range imagination.

* * * * *

Is the sky really falling this time? It has fallen before — after the Holocaust and Hiroshima, the assassinations of JFK, RFK and MLK, the war in Vietnam, Kent State, Watergate, Black Monday, Enron, 9/11, Shock and Awe, Bernie Madoff, the Great Recession. 

Now, in the second decade of the 21st century, climate change, terrorism, widening wealth inequality and fake news are clamping down on our consciousness. We need to discover new ways to bend entropy, befuddlement and violence towards beauty, health and peace.

That's what bunches of us have been doing, in very small ways, since 2009, in tents, barns, theaters, performing arts centers, farmers markets, restaurants and other gathering spots in scores of communities around the country (and a few in Canada, France and Australia), under the loose banner of Slow Money. More than $57 million has gone to over 600 small, organic food enterprises.

Yes, we are putting a little of our money into local food systems. But what is driving us forward is something more — an impulse towards beauty, health and peace. There is also a more basic impulse. It's the impulse to be real neighbors, rather than fake neighbors — fake meaning our cars are parked here, our kids are in school here, we shop here, our roofs are pounded by the same hailstorms, but most of our money is doing god knows what god knows where, our political energies are swallowed up by national and international shenanigan, and our bonds as community members are wanting. 

* * * * *

As this volume was being put to bed, Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, stated, "We just have to face the fact that our government isn’t working." Add to this what Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz said a few years back: "We aren’t fixing the structural problems of the economy because we don’t know what the structural problems are."

We sense that macroeconomic fixes and national political debates are not enough. We sense that what we are being fed is not healthy. We sense that our cultural compass is no longer reliable. Which is why we are all going a little bit crazy right now.

If we are going to change course, really and truly change course, we must start by standing our ground against things dumbed down, watered down, twittered down, trickled down and hunkered down, against things overly politicized, polemicized, marginalized, externalized, rationalized, systematized, professionalized, fiscalized, intellectualized and anti-intellectualized.

In this pursuit, I've gone Poetically Incorrect, because I harbor the suspicion that deep down, deeper down than the Ogallala Aquifer and the deepest recesses of fear, millions of us can still find the wherewithal to allow rhyme to flirt with reason in the land of the free and the home of the peaceably inclined.