The poor are always with us, just like evil, until we recycle

Fall is a great time of year to collect beetles.  The biggest ones are now strutting about, making an impressive show, not knowing they are doomed.  Much like a polished political speaker.

Sometimes I wish I was a good public speaker.  I did pretty good in high school debate, but my coach said, “It’s a good thing you’re smart, cause you sure can’t speak.”

mealworm beetle 081007If I could give a good speech, maybe I’d even get invited to give one to  the U.N. sometime.  I doubt they’d like my speech as much as one urging the well-dressed delegates to end poverty once and for all, as in Obama’s recent exegesis. Or, that we all must unite to defeat the brutal, evil bad guys, to paraphrase Putin’s late eloquence.

Jesus could have done a good job on both of those topics, I guess.  My speech would probably be a little closer to His response when the apostles complained of waste:  “the poor will always be with you.”

My speech would be on how we must learn from the poor and the evil, for they are outputs we must recycle.  A resilient social-ecological system becomes more and more adept at incorporating the poor and the evil for productive purposes.

Recycling is what all resilient systems love to do.  In a resilient system, there is no waste.  All outputs are resources for other systems which feed into other systems which eventually provide inputs to the first system.

All waste must become a resource, or  resilience is compromised.  Luckily even intractable plastic waste has value which can be released by the right process.  Witness recent results from Stanford and Beihang University researchers on degrading Styrofoam and other polystyrenes by bacteria in the gut of the common meal worm–the larval form of a beetle you can find on almost any farm.

The mealworm is not a worm. It is the larval stage (grub) of the mealworm beetle. Although it looks a bit like a worm, the mealworm has six small, jointed legs. Both the larva and the beetle are mainly active at night.  The scientific name of the mealworm genus is Tenebrio which literally means “seeker of dark places,” figuratively a trickster. It’s also called the darkling beetle in English.

It’s family, the Tenebrionidae, contains an estimated 20,000 species.  Hitching a ride on stored meal and grain, mealworm beetles are on almost every farm everywhere in the world.

Mealworms fed with Styrofoam as a sole diet are reported to lived as well as those fed with a normal diet (bran).  Within a 16 day test period, 47.7% of the ingested Styrofoam carbon was converted into COand the rest into other products plants can use.

Mealworms, along with mushrooms and others who feed on dead matter, with the help of bacteria in their gut, create products plants use to create food for us.

The poor and evil could do the same. How?  Let’s look at societies which have lasted much longer than our current consumer/industrial society.  How do the poor contribute in India, for example?

They collect what the rich consider trash and make it into something useful.  Much as many millennials dumpster dive.

We could try to create a government program to encourage dumpster diving and other useful recycling activities.  Unfortunately, most poverty programs are geared mainly to creating high paying jobs for the staff of government poverty programs.

We could create a program to teach poor people recycling skills.  Unfortunately, most education programs are geared mainly to create high paying jobs with good pensions for educators.  Most educators are mainly interested in giving lectures, not in helping people learn ecologicalabaster_box_lgally resilient skills.

The poor and evil are wicked problems–too integrated with other systems for us to address them in isolation.  For more on wicked problems from the Harvard Business Review, click here.

Recent data indicates the number of poor in the world is dropping like mad.  See a New York Times essay citing the research by clicking here.  Yet lots of us seem to be getting poorer in the United States.  Why?

Face the fact that poverty programs, and other government initiatives to combat evil, have been hijacked by the consumer/industrial political economy which is destroying our planet’s resilience.

We’re doing something about it with our Meadowcreek and Deltanetwork initiatives.  Join us and learn more.

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