Green Business

Just like the terms “organic” and “sustainable”, the term “green business” is devoid of meaning unless there is a checklist of traits and behaviors that set the standard. I’ll suggest one such standard: the greenest business has the shortest hauling path. Translation: the Phoenicians were the first trading culture. They made a huge error in human judgment. They believed that by moving materials great distances on the surface of the planet, one could become rich and happy. Now we compound that error, burning the world’s carbon to move materials, driven by desire, not need. Compare that to the biodynamic farm model where the farmer makes his happiness mostly from materials at hand. Certainly that farmer doesn’t want to waste much time hauling watery products for long distances. Materials and supplies are reduced to the essence. Water is used to grow crops (gravity flow is preferable, as in the terrace farms of China that direct rainfall), and of course water is used in the home to cook nourishing meals and to clear one’s energy with the benison of hot water. Every farmer and every seaweed harvester needs a hot tub of one sort or another. As much as possible, products transported to the market are compact, as in making cheese or dried herbs and seeds. Once I had a job in a plants nursery, and my boss, Rudy, was from Latvia. One day Rudy said to me, “Back in the old country, we measured a family’s wealth by the size of the manure pile beside the garden. That was true wealth. That was their potential to grow good quality food at home without having to travel anywhere or sell anything.” Ryan Drum describes his grandfather teaching him a way to deal with market capitalists who rely on unsettled, ungrounded and destabilized wage slaves: “Give them ALL the money, and don’t sell them anything.”

Seaweeds can contain as high as 90% water. I can harvest a ton of kelp within my working radius of five miles of home port and transport it home using a gallon or two of gas. Compare that to the lobsterman’s world: He uses bait (herring) that was caught by 60′ long midwater trawling boats. That herring could have been directly canned as an inexpensive source of protein for the poor. (Note: 40 years ago, midwater trawls didn’t chase after herring offshore. Herring were caught in weir traps in the bays. The fish came to the fishermen! Now the herring stocks are depleted by too-efficient midwater trawls.) Instead of being canned as sardines, the herring are now used as bait in what amounts to a bay-wide aquaculture operation, with “feeding stations” (traps) spread out on the bottom of the bay in midsummer every hundred feet or so. I say “feeding stations” because lobsters are smart enough to crawl into and out of traps. This has been proven with underwater video cameras. The lobsterman catches the lobsters that happen to be feeding in the trap at the time he hauls it to surface. What’s the result? After requiring a lot of fuel for midwater trawls and lobster boats, the end product is pricey gourmet food for the upper middle class on vacation, here and overseas, delivered by refrigerated truck or overnight air. More fuel is involved, shipping lobsters and keeping them cold and wet. All of this is possible because our society under-values oil and continues to burn it as though it is an unlimited resource that cannot affect our climate. The next generation of seaweed harvesters will rediscover a combination of lighter boats often moved by oar and sail, the wisdom of living close to the work, plus efficient and non-polluting solar-powered electric outboards.