Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “texting”

Millennials – We are missing the point

The Pew Research Center has recently released a study comparing about the millennials. Since I work with college students I am particularly interested, though not surprised at the results.

Forty years ago, as the college campuses erupted in protests to the wars in Vietnam and Cambodia, students held sit-ins, threw stones at police and when the National Guard opened fire at Kent State, killing four students, and the entire college system was galvanized and ground to a halt.

It is hard to imagine anything galvanizing students today and the Pew study highlights how this generation, instead of rebelling against their parents actually embrace their values. An earlier study asked the students to list their three heroes. Most included at least one of their parents.

Forty years ago, 74% of students responded to a Gallup poll agreeing that their parents’ generation was corrupt and that they felt alienated from their values. Today’s college students are Facebook friends with their parents and text them on average 10x a week. They shop together because they wear the same clothes, listen to the same music, and the millennials credit their parents as having superior values to their own generation.

Parents and children still tied together virtually

This, and similar studies, has led to considerable criticism of the millennials: that they lack values and motivation, that they embrace an air of entitlement, that they are more concerned with the latest cell phone than the headlines of a newspaper.

There are two mistakes here. Firstly, if we are going to compare between the two generations, we would have to admit that this generation has better education, opinions that are more diverse and have an inherent belief in the system. But it is the advancement of technology and social media that is shaping this generation and it is making comparisons with past generations almost impossible.

But there is a second point that we are missing. While it is easy to berate the millennials while idealizing their parents’ radicalization at their age, we forget to give credit to this generation’s parents. These are the people who, through honest and committed parenting, have engendered the close bonds with their children. By listening to their music and watching their TV programs, this generation of parents are informed about their children as no other generation ever was.

These parents are deeply committed to being a part of their children’s’ lives without offering value judgments that would push their children away. By embracing their children and joining them on their own turf (Facebook, Twitter, texting), they are engendering a sense of intergenerational acceptance that is unique and deserves credit.

Perhaps it was something that evolved during those college protests forty years ago, but today we are so focused on the millennials, we forget that their parents are still out there holding their values up for the whole world to see.

When I meet the parents of my students and see their mutual love,  commitment and comfort, it inspires me to be a better parent to my children because I see the bond between them as a cause worth fighting for. 

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Socially Networked Farm – Roger Ingalls

I have visited the farm of the future, it was a mind-blowing experience. Shockingly wonderful, this place presented a roadmap of what could be and gave me a sense of relief and hope that a healthy, happy and properly nourished community was possible in a peak-oil economy.

Farmville

Like many of the out-of-towners visiting the farm’s Produce Bazaar, I was mesmerized by the sheer variety of fruits and vegetables. There were forty-nine different types of tomatoes—I’ve never tried more than five varieties in my whole life!

The bazaar had question after question popping from my mouth. Again, the choices and coordination of the place were astonishing. Finally, the lead attendant at the info center, probably out of frustration, sent a text message to the farm’s operations manager asking if he could rescue her from the interrogation. He, Joe, would end up spending the next four hours with me—he was rightfully proud of the farm and enjoyed explaining the inner workings of the operation.

Here’s the amazing part; the farm is a co-operative enterprise of over 500 micro-farms, all within a single metropolitan area and all located within three miles of one another. This is an urban farm co-op organized around community gardens, commons, business rooftops, balconies and warehouses but most of the produce comes from residential farms (converted lawns).

Front Yard Farm

The micro-farms sell and barter their goods seven days a week, all year long, at a nearby land commons that is the home of the Produce Bazaar. It resembles a typical farmers market but is much larger and centrally organized by a command and info center. The bazaar is set up much like a wagon wheel with the command and info center serving as the hub.

The co-op organizes and markets using social media. Twitter and Facebook pages give a daily update on which farms will be at the bazaar and what produce will be available. As the micro-farms check in with the bazaar’s command center in the morning, they are assigned a location and their produce is listed on the website. A map of the bazaar is actively updated minute by minute showing produce type and where it is located and all this info is tweeted to interested followers. Phone apps are available so you can create a shopping list and a map of the bazaar is generated showing you where to go to pick up or view your produce of interest. The apps can be used to forward your shopping list to the command center and a runner will pick up the goods and have it ready when you arrive—for a small fee. The farmers also use social media to send and receive customer info, such as, how a particular crop is progressing, when it should be available and also to ask what produce customers would like planted in the future.

Approximately 90% of the produce is organic. Synthetic fertilizer is only allowed in closed-looped farming systems, such as, hydroponic operations. This is allowed because balcony and rooftop farms are best suited for hydroponics. Any product that is grown using synthetic fertilized is labeled as non-organic. Absolutely no synthetic pesticides are allowed.

With so many participants, food is abundant and the variety is unlike any market anywhere. The produce is also inexpensive because most of it comes from converted residential lawns. The former lawns cost the homeowners money to water, mow and fertilize and there was no financial payback. Now the residential land grows edible crops so money is made from sales and the expenses are used to lower the tax burden because the farm is a business.

The co-op had a profound impact. Past becomes future as neighbors talk, farm and socialize making the neighborhood more safe. Participants have an additional source of income. The social media aspect engages all age groups so even the youth want to be involved, and the extra activity along with improved nutrition has produced a healthier community. The farming is local, not based on fossil fuel derived fertilizers and pesticides so the whole operation is environmentally sound.

Every movement begins with a single step toward tomorrow. Their community could be yours, and mine, if we take that step together.

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Roger Ingalls is well travelled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

Sir Punk Rocker

Bob Geldof is/was a hero of mine. It is not often that Her Majesty knights a punk rocker who freely swore on TV (when it was not okay to do so), who wore his heart on his sleeve, called it as he saw it, and never flinched from courting controversy.

The Boomtown Rats were my favorite band in the late ’70’s and early ’80’s. One hot English summer, the youth were incarcerated by the sound of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John crooning Summer Nights at each other every night at 5.50pm as they stood at No. 1 in Capital Radio’s daily Top Ten. And then there was Rat Trap, crawling up the charts and it was, I believe, on a Thursday that Rat Trap reached No. 2.

London held its collective breath (wildly embellished from a then 14-year-old’s memory) and that Friday, Capital Radio boasted record listening statistics as at 5.45pm, whatever song had reached No. 3 finished and whoever had obliviously booked that advertisement slot months before enjoyed unexpected exposure.

Then the DJ announced: “After six Weeks at No.1, their reign is over.” London (well, at least me and my mates) cheered even if we couldn’t text each other or update our Facebook statuses. Five minutes later, the Boomtown Rats had arrived.

But it takes more than displacing John Travolta to earn a knighthood. Even the most stodgy Brits nodded in approval as six years later Bob Geldof galvanized the music world with the Live Aid concerts.

For the next 25 years, Geldof has led the activist charge to relieve the massive debt in Africa. He has never shied from controversy or let politics get in his way. When George Bush publicly stated he was willing to fight AIDS in Africa, Geldof embraced him.

Bob Geldof is not a model of chivalry or the kind of gentleman that one conjures up an image of a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, on his knee, head bowed as Her Majesty nobly swings her sword. In the music world of cheap commercial popularism, he never embraced the grovelling need for marketable acceptance.

But Bob Geldof is a relentless activist, a showbiz man who kept it real, and kept it real for many others in the celebrity world and on the street. So what if he used profanity on T.V. in the middle of the Band Aid concerts, it shamed people into reaching into their wallets and answering the call of a desperate nation.

Bob Geldof has saved millions of lives. He has often single-handedly led a charge for a desperate and forgotten part of our world. He has woken many of us up and released us from our own Rat Trap …

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/

Empty Shelves

Whenever I enter the house of someone who I have just met, I look for defining features. What books are on their shelves? What CD’s do they listen to? What art is on their walls?

I recently visited two long-time friends. They are book-people and bookcases adorn every room. Books spill out onto the floor, a pile sits in the bathroom, and their garage, where I have crashed at various times of my life, has precarious towers of crumple covered books. Their walls are also covered in pictures. They are ‘stuff’ people.

Both these people are tech savvy. Their music has long been stored on iPods and there are hardly any audio footprints around the house except for iPod docking stations. But on this visit I was confronted by two paper bags full of books and piles of others sorted on their dinning room table.

“We are in the middle of a project,” one offers apologetically.

“We have almost everything digital now,” the iPad partner offered with the confidence unmoved by the appearance of the iPad 2 within a couple of months since he first brandished his new toy in my house.


A few days later I picked up my youngest son from a play date with a friend whose parents I had not met. Their house was the opposite to my friends: quite empty in comparison. There was a solitary bookcase, stored asthetically with art books sorted by size, and a few modern eye-catching pictures adorned the walls of cafes and jazz musicians.

What did I think of these people? What was my first impression and what were my frames of reference? I had few books to scan, no CD’s and little in the way of art.


It was tough. I had no choice. I had to resort to conversation. In a world of texting and tweeting, of Facebook profiles and LinkedIn status, will the empty shelves provide the last frontier of face-to-face communication?

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

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