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Once again outside "experts" "who had never heard of Humboldt's weed reputation .... a media myth"  ("Happyland," June 16) blather ostentatiously on how idiosyncratically dysfunctional we are here in goddess country.

Fifteen percent of Humboldt's businesses failed in 15 years? So what? What's the norm elsewhere? Without qualitative comparisons with other regions, such statistics are useless. However, we can agree that change is in the wind. Rather than masturbating ourselves into rosy visions of grabbing a bigger piece of the shrinking capitalist pie, we should consider adjusting our sights to a radically different world.

The fact is that our logging is mostly kaput. Tourism will not increase with rising fuel prices. Our farm and ranch economy is healthy but limited to meat and milk. Marijuana is still booming, but as the various states decriminalize it, its total value will fall. Meanwhile the New Great Depression slowly eats up our reserves of cash, credit and optimism.

What is needed is not more pie-in-the-sky, but the acceptability of a new economical paradigm: one that need not necessarily grow to function well for the entire population. The outmoded ideologies of the Cold War have blinded us to this possibility. Time to read Schumacher's Small is Beautiful again. Stable, non-expanding, societies have always existed and can serve as models for the future. A transition to a viable culture no longer completely dependent on world trade, distant fuel sources, unstable economies, and the uncertainties of a rapidly changing planet will be the greatest challenge of the 21st century.

Such a society will need to actively redistribute scarce capital, creating jobs in the green sector, subsidizing fuel-efficient housing and transport (both public and private), encouraging greater agricultural diversity, and promoting the re-localization of all those technological and human capacities that have been outsourced to other regions.

Since the state and feds are incapable or unwilling to begin such a radical restructuring of our economy, it is incumbent on the citizens of the smaller administrative entities (county, city) to initiate this process immediately, no matter how quixotic any chance of quick solutions.

Stephen Millard, Redway



You know it's desperate times when your cash-strapped county appropriates thousands of dollars to hire a motivational speaker to provide positive affirmations about marketing ourselves in a "Redwood brand." For a generation, the $25 billion per year motivational-speaker industry has primarily served corporate interests to manufacture a message that has become ubiquitous in American culture: "a world of plenty for the deserving," aka "bigger is better"; bigger homes, cars and medical procedures mean bigger profits. What actually "trickles-down" from an economy focused on serving one class of citizen has disappeared from the "news"....it's just "too negative."

When the financiers of bigger-stuff faced regulations of over-the-counter derivatives from the director of the U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Commission [Brooksley Born], the director was labeled "too negative,"  the commission's budget was slashed and the director resigned in 1999 (see PBS's Frontline episode "The Warning"). Today, four years into the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, most Americans have never heard of the CFTC or OTC derivatives.

The lessons from Wall Street should be very clear: Ignoring uncomfortable economic truths and sustainable alternatives is not positive, it stifles debate and prolongs the status quo. Uninformed citizens do not demand change and OTC derivatives remain unregulated.

The challenge at home is the same. There's a recurring theme among the redwood region economic summits, the Workforce Investment Board, the North Coast Prosperity Network, the "Imagine the Possibilities" seminar, Blueprint Humboldt, and the Humboldt Independent Business Alliance, among others, that local-grown manufacturing represents the most important focus for the future. Yet uninformed communities see no need for change and unfunded public subsidies for more sprawl, and more big boxes will continue to enrich the few.

Focusing community efforts to grow locally owned businesses that meet local demands should be our top priority, but it will require extensive public outreach to counter the prevailing ideology that "bigger is better."  We desperately need community-interest media; workshops with economic experts; public and private resolve to train our youths in manufacturing and business skills; capital investment for small business loans, and land reserved for manufacturing incubators and industrial parks.

George Clark, Eureka



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