I call this page “Bonsai Dreams” because I had once envisioned that my daily work would one day consist of me in an empty office sitting behind a beautiful wood-top desk with nothing on it except a single Bonsai tree where the only thing I did all day was listen to problems and offer new ideas and solutions to those willing to listen, grasp and run with them.
Like everyone, I’ve had many ideas and dreams. Some I’ve pursued but most have remained in limbo, untouched and gathering dust in the old file cabinets of my mind, waiting for some opportune moment to be reviewed and either resurrected or forever cast away and dismissed into the dustbin of bad ideas.
Well, the time has come for me to dust them off and drag these out into the open by listing them here in the hopes that either myself or you, the readers of this page, (or maybe the both of us together!) may see something worthwhile here to take action and pursue. Or that by exposing them it then becomes apparent how silly they are and should have never even been thought of in the first place. Below are a list of ideas that have come to me and have remained undeveloped until now. They will be removed when it is discovered that either someone has already done it or it deserves to be in the dustbin and forgotten.
1. Supermarkets With No Packaging
Here, I envision a grocery store where everything (and I mean absolutely EVERYTHING) is sold in bulk and where you bring your own containers, or you can buy recyclable ones on the premises. There would be no presence of any packaging anywhere; no brand names, no colorful designs, and no sensational words to entice you. Each food section would have their own wait staff who would take your containers and fill them up with the desired amount of product and then give you a ticket which you would then take up to the cashier. What this idea does is eliminate the excessive expense of creating, marketing and distributing all those packages that one sees the moment one enters a supermarket which is wasteful (look at what’s in your kitchen garbage) and can be deceptive. Food marketing should be based on integrity and transparency and not flash, “bling”, and other gimmicks, that are intended to mask or hide what’s really behind or in the products. (Where advertising expense could go is in future food product “descriptions” which would be online.) If successful, this idea could also eliminate the heavy environmental burden involved in repackaging and transporting goods in “throw-away” packaging (which never really go away, anyways). It also prevents customer spillage and potential fraud at bulk areas as well adds a new desirable level of customer service. If we are to truly go environmental friendly then supermarkets will have to go this way.
As of june 2011 this is now an idea in the works! See: http://www.indiegogo.com/ingredients
2. “Macrobiotc Soup” – Soup kitchens that serve healthy food for the homeless
Why aren’t we serving the best food everywhere, like in schools, hospitals, prisons and other institutions? With “Macrobiotic” soup kitchens we could not only feed the homeless but also help them become healthier at the same time! I see “Macrobiotic Soup” as a nationwide organization that could arrange for feeding the homeless the highest quality food available with funding from federal and state grants, non-profit organization and private donations. This kind of effort could add another flow of quality organic produce, such that in times of crisis they could be redirected to help victims of, for example, Hurricane Katrina, and in areas hit today by the economic meltdown.
3. A “Fast Food” chain that has a unique, different, sustainable and local menu at every location
Why isn’t there a fast food chain with an easily identifiable brand but is unique and different at every location? The most obvious thing wrong with today’s fast food is that the menu does not change and is not in harmony with its local environment. I am sure that a franchisable formula can be created that would accommodate macrobiotic principles of originality, flexibility and adaptability including obtaining produce from local organic growers, maintaining a seasonal menus and using sustainable resources and recyclable materials.
4. Music Centers
This would be like a huge Barnes and Nobles or Borders Bookstore, but would be focused around music. The first floor would be a coffee shop where there would be large comfy easy chairs of listening stations with headphones and monitors to explore the entire music catalog. Then, with a push of a button you could order the music in any format you wish including plugging in your iPod.
On the second floor there would be a large virtual concert hall with a large screen and great sound system that featured artists around the world doing live performances. There would also be many smaller virtual “live” listening rooms for other types of genres.
The third floor would be a live performance space for local artists to book and to play. Their concerts would then stream out to other locations and be featured in their virtual concert halls.
Would this really work? Is it even feasible? Or is it one for the dustbin?
5. FUNDOSHI (a/k/a “Samurai Underwear”)
Okay, this idea is not mine, but is my mother’s and one that was reminded to me by a family friend, Jim Guiness. Before you knock it I want to remind that it was my mother who introduced FUTONS and TOFU to the US and now look at how prolific they are. People of the West seem to like to take in all things Japanese like a sponge, from futons, cars, chopsticks, sushi and cartoons. Why not underwear? Today’s men’s underwear is dominated by only one or two styles and brands: boxers and briefs. Would people go for it if they knew about FUNDOSHI (pronounce as “foo-n-doe-shee”)? Click this link for a demonstration: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYzcxUshh6E . What do you think? (By the way, they don’t just come in white but in all colors and in different patterns as well as in 100% naturally dyed organic cotton.)
6. A Commodities Market based on Organic Agriculture
In the early 1990s I used to work in the organic trade industry as well as the organic certification business. (It was a couple of those Bonsai ideas that I did pursue.) My company was called “Whole Food For Peace” and was basically a brokering company that contracted farmers to grow organic crops for export. The most important concern I had in this business, aside from organic quality, was, naturally, price and how much money I could make. So the main question for me was to understand how are prices set for organic crops. Well, the only pricing standard available for crops is the Chicago Board Of Trade, which determines the prices for all the basic agricultural commodities, including wheat, corn, rice, etc – all grown conventionally with chemicals. How these prices are set is based on the complexities of supply, demand and speculation. What organic farmers would do is take those prices as a base and add on a few dollars more per bushel, or whatever the unit of measure was. Obviously, their goal was to add on as much as they could but not so much as to price themselves out of the market. Once I saw that organic agriculture was directly tied to the conventional agriculture prices, I realized that, unless the organic agriculture industry creates their own standard and measure of pricing, then it was all a big joke. Organic Agriculture would always be over priced and always a side market, no matter how popular it became. Real organic agriculture should actually cost less than conventional agriculture and therefore should be less at the consumer level instead of how it is today.
So, the only solution and opportunity is for the organic agricultural industry to create it’s own market system independent of the Chicago Board Of Trade. It could be part of it, but operate independently of it. Given the rapid growth of the organic industry maybe this has begun to happen already. I don’t know since I am no longer involved in the business and haven’t been since 1997. I hope it is. If not, then it is all a joke. But of course, no organic farmer is going to go for it when they can earn more money the way it is.
7. A Free And Cooperative Organic Seed Bank – In Every State!
In my opinion, one of the greatest legalized crimes is happening today right here in the United States and it is that we allow the patenting of life forms. Let me explain further:
Another concern I had about organic agriculture when I was involved in the business was that organic farmers regularly used conventionally grown seeds of which some were “enhanced” in variety of ways and that this was allowed in organic standards including being treated with pesticide, fungicides, hybridized and nowadays, I am most certain, genetically modified. (GMO) When I saw this I realized that this too made organic agriculture seem to me like a big joke. While the organic certification effort went to great lengths to ensure the organic purity of products, which was wonderful, they looked the other way when it came to the use of conventional seeds. This allowed for the big commercial seed growers, who basically controlled the U.S. agriculture, to maintain an upper-hand over the entire organic industry. When you add the patenting of new life forms, such as GM seeds then you have a company which can demand royalties from all farmers who use their patented seeds including the organic ones. I see this as legalized criminal behavior.
Let me further explain that, in principal, I have nothing against genetic manipulation and the advancement of that science. What I am against is the patenting and ownership of such life forms. In my opinion, life should not and cannot be owned like a mechanical invention. Science is not sophisticated enough to be able to predict how new life forms will behave and effect the environment when they are unleashed into our world, and yet at the same time there will always be a scientific curiosity with genomics. One thing that will prevent such a curiosity from spiraling out of control is to take away the financial incentive. Ownership of life forms should be illegal.
So while the issue around owning life and GMOs continues to be unresolved, there is, meanwhile, an opportunity to develop the opposite direction, which is to create local organic seed banks around the country. I envision them working in this way:
After every crop organic farmers would deposit 5~10% of their yield to these seed banks. New organic farmers could make a free withdrawal on the condition they continue this trend. I am sure there are plenty of other details that someone more knowledgeable about agriculture could add, but I think you get the point. I am also sure that this happens to some degree right now and has happened throughout the history of agriculture. But what I am talking about is a comprehensive return to such a system such that it renders ALL profit motivated seed companies out of business and puts an end, once and for all, to the agricultural tyranny and madness that has now taken over the world and threatens to destroy it.
8. Peruvian Dreams
- The Mythical Blue Cotton
Supposedly, somewhere deep in the jungles of Peru quietly growing wild and untouched since the days of the Incas is a mythical blue colored cotton. I have seen cotton grow in variety colors including brown, red, green, pink and purple. But legend has it that there is a blue cotton and the reason why they believe this to be true is because their are ancient Incan tapestries and garments hanging in museums today made from colored cotton including blue! Why is blue cotton potentially so valuable? Think of blue jeans and the fact that the process to color dye cotton is actually toxic to workers and the environment. If we could grow cotton in colors then we could also avoid the step of toxic color dying. This is one instance where genetic modification could be beneficial. Imagine never having to dye cotton with harmful chemicals again. Imagine your blue jeans and every other colored cotton clothing being permanently colorfast?
- Seabird Guano As Fertilizer
The Peruvian mountainous coastal geography creates a unique situation not found anywhere else on earth. The high jungles of Ecuador and Peru offer one of the most bio-diverse areas on earth such that, for example there are over 4,000 different species of potatoes, and perhaps as many varieties of corn. Because of this rich and abundant fertility high in the mountains then the rivers that flow down from to the oceans carries such a vibrant mix of nutritious soil. As this soil goes into ocean it then feeds the sea life along the coast, making the Ecuadorian and Peruvian coasts as the most abundant and desired area for shrimp, crabs and other seafood. This in turn makes for a great feeding ground for Peruvian seabirds who feed themselves on the wonderfully rich sea life and this has been going on for a very, very, very long time. So now, what do all these well-fed seabirds do? They make guano (that’s “bird droppings” in Spanish) and not just any kind guano. They make the best and most nutritious guano on earth (possibly). There are some twenty or so little islands right off the coast of Peru near Lima where these Seabirds live and the birds have been pooping on them for so long that the islands are now so deeply covered by guano that you cannot see any of the land anymore, just guano.
Peruvian Seabird Guano has supposedly been used as a natural fertilizer since the time of the Incas. It became very popular in the 1930s and 1940s. In fact, it became so popular that, according to a story that I heard, Peru was supplying all the powerful countries of the world with it and because it worked so well, Peru was becoming financially very powerful and it made those countries worried. To stop this potential threat of dependence and dominance of and from Peruvian Seabird Guano, they allegedly did two things: one was to come up with an alternative to guano (hence the creation of chemical fertilizer) and second was to destabilize the Peruvian government and economy by encouraging (maybe even instigating) a border war between Ecuador and Peru. Since then, Peru (and Ecuador) never regained itself and remained an economically depressed and trouble country. Meanwhile the best natural fertilizer continues to gather on those twenty odd little islands just off the coast of Peru.
9. The Pay It Forward TV Show
The idea is simply to interview people who have found fortune and fame in their lives and find out how they are paying it forward – meaning helping the world by giving back. Guests could range from the ultra wealthy like Bill Gates and Rupert Murdoch to movie stars, pop stars, politicians, religious leaders, lottery winners, extraordinary heroes and obscure selfless individuals who give of themselves.
It could examine the effectiveness of their gifts and contributions toward improving whatever specific situation or cause they are trying to address. It could seek to expose contradictions and those gifts that are more of a publicity stunt and weeding them out from those that are truly worthy causes.
It could also explore corporate giving and sponsorship and expose any contradictions in that arena.
It could also explore NGOs and non-profits and find out just how they operate and where and how all their funds are actually distributed.
The show could potentially be a huge hit and resource and a way to educate the masses on the whole area of non-profits, NGO’s and social justice. There could be tie-ins to Facebook and social networking.
Anyone interested? If you are then go for it!
This is one of my ways to “Pay It Forward”…
more ideas to come…
© 2009 Phiya Kushi, All Rights Rserved