Sunday, January 15, 2012

From Corporate Empire to Compassionate Capitalism: A Conversation With John Perkins

John Perkins
In his books and articles, John Perkins has outlined the predations of what he calls the corporatocracy, including the impoverishment of Third World nations and the financial implosions in the mature industrial economies. His latest book, Hoodwinked (now out in an updated paperback edition) explores the workings of the corporatocracy, but also advances a prescription for a new “compassionate capitalism.” I sat down with him recently to talk about the book.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Citizen Power Goes Solar

In the U.S. and abroad, citizens are banding together to provide clean energy for themselves and their neighbors.

In 2011, we saw a burgeoning movement of protest spread around the world. But protest is only one side of the coin – and maybe not even the most important side. That's because ordinary citizens around the world are not just demanding change, they are making it. And they’re not waiting for governments to step up to the plate.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Euro Year: Part Three And a Recipe

January 3, 2002 La Saumane, Haute Provence, France
(An excerpt from my book-in-progress, Province of the Heart)

Well, I have won the gastronomic hearts of the French, trumping the best their cuisine has to offer—and that with one of the humblest dishes of American fare: the apple crisp. Not only that, rather than burrowing for the recipe through a raft of august tomes like a proper French pastry chef, I took it off the Internet like any other tech-savvy Amercan. (This was 2002, when dial-up was the only option and few in rural Provence went online regularly.) And with American brashness, I modified it—“invented”, as my friend the chef Michel might sniff. (Read my story about him here.) And they gobbled it up, with several helpings apiece. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Euro Year: Part Deux

January 2, 2002 La Saumane, Haute Provence, France
(An excerpt from my book-in-progress, Province of the Heart)

Today is really the first day of the euro, since yesterday, the day of its formal introduction to the eurozone, everything was closed.  It is marvelous to watch an entire society wrenched into the sudden confrontation with a new means of doing something they have been taking for granted their entire lives: exchanging money.

Change (pun intended) does not come easy—the oldsters around here still reckon in the former French franc, which was retired soon after World War II.  But for me, the international traveler, using a new currency brings only a blasé yawn. Francs, pesetas, euros: it’s all the same. In fact, the euro is the easiest of them all, since it is roughly equal to the dollar, at least for now. Pesetas are (oops! were) 185 to the dollar, francs about 7.4 to the dollar, so for the mathematically challenged like myself, it was always a matter of either groping for the calculator or rounding up or down with careless abandon in multiples of ten and hoping I wasn’t risking the poorhouse with my purchases. And the numbers were always a bit of a shock: 1000 (pesetas) for lunch, 100 (francs) for a pre-paid phone card. I say, bring on the euro!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The New Euro Year: Part One

Tired of the inner turmoil... I took up my walking stick. That act alone was magic. -- Jean Giono, Serpent of Stars

January 1, 2002 La Saumane, Haute Provence, France

(An excerpt from my book-in-progress, Province of the Heart)

Mme. Pascal
My fingers are tapping away at the keys of my laptop when suddenly outside my little window a little creature appears on the windowsill: a Provençal squirrel, with tawny red-golden fur, delicate tufted ears, and pale pink fingers from which protrude pale pink claws. His tail describes a frothy curve along his back. The windowsill is a splendid perch from which to survey the world and he remains there for a long time, peering down with great interest over the pale stone edge or craning his neck to look up and about. He quivers with the intensity of his gaze.

After many hours at the keyboard a stretch turns into the realization that I must take a walk, move, breathe the bright cold air of the day. Outside it is not as cold as I had thought; the air has that limpid purity that I love so well here and the sun takes the edge off the chill. Walking up the long path through the village, I pass Mme. Pascal’s—closed, but not shuttered. I have the feeling that if I knock on the door, she would come, slowly as always, ducking through the narrow passage that leads from her home to the interior of the store, with a little dip to her walk, thrusting her hands deep into the pockets of her blue cardigan and say, “Bonjour, madame.” And, as today is New Year’s, she would add, “Bonne année”.