Can Post Consumerism Solve The Climate Change Problem?


If gross consumerism is feeding the beast of climate change and post-consumerism is the solution, what the heck is post-consumerism exactly? Post-consumerism is a complete paradigm shift of thinking for capitalist consumer cultures. Its approach is to put the well-being of others and the environment before material success. The core value is to be satisfied with what is enough to sustain a life for today rather than mass accumulation of goods that are unnecessary and solely for the purpose of vanity.

Does this mean we would all live in crappy looking homes, wear crappy looking clothes and not bathe regularly? Will we be tilling our backyard gardens and lugging firewood and reading by candlelight with no more Internet? Will we be trading our home-grown tomatoes for a bar of soap from our crafty neighbor? The gringa wants to know the details. It’s all well and good to spout humanitarian “isms” that are noble and high-minded, but, the reality is, if it is too uncomfortable and crappy, spoiled people are just not going to be interested.

Well, first of all post-consumerism is not interested in ridding the world of commercial businesses. It does expect businesses to be held accountable to the highest standards of social, economic, and environmental responsibility. A post-consumer will only engage in trade for goods and services with businesses that operate this way. A post-consumer uses their dollars to hold businesses accountable. The gringa’s on board with that one, however, I would like more options. I would prefer if more businesses operated ethically in the world. Right now it’s kind of expensive for me to live true to a post-consumer standard where shopping is concerned. A $3 Starbucks coffee is a little steep compared to McDonald’s coffee on the 99cent menu.

For post-consumerism to become more affordable, more businesses have to operate ethically creating more competition that will drive down prices. But how can this happen? The same way it always happens in a capitalist system. The market responds to consumer demand.

Consumers underestimate the power of the dollar in bringing about change. We don’t have to miss a few days of work to attend a mass protest demanding corporate accountability. We don’t have to end up losing our jobs after getting arrested and thrown in the slammer for a couple of days at said protest. We simply need to recognize that in a capitalist consumer culture, the dollar is God. It has the Almighty power to make or break a business. And little ol’ you and me wield the power of God in a consumer society. Wield that power wisely and a society can redirect a business culture toward social, economic and environmental responsibility. That is how post-consumerism works. If enough people signal to a market what it is they demand in goods and services, the market will respond because they want your money. A concerted effort of consumers collectively rejecting unethical business goods and services, while at the same time supporting ethical businesses, can change the world.

How to live the powerful life of a post-consumer:

  • Minimize and use less “stuff”
  • Repurpose and re-use as much as possible
  • Shop ethically as much as possible and when you can’t, if possible, shop second hand
  • Embrace and practice any level of self-sufficiency or off-grid lifestyle that you are capable of where you are right now
  • Consider “first-world” luxuries you enjoy and the possibility of living without them or at least opting for energy-efficient models, alternative energy models, etc.
  • Minimize exposure to marketing campaigns
  • Expect to feel uncomfortable and perhaps a bit like a crazy radical when transitioning, embrace it and accept it
  • Reach out and begin to build community around you with your neighbors through projects such as swap meets (surely you have a few neighbors who are crafting away in the seclusion of their homes) or establishing a community garden that can supply everyone’s kitchen and maybe earn the community a bit of change at the local farmer’s market, and don’t forget to bond over some fun with a block party every now and then
  • Begin with the youth by starting up a local children’s book club and help children grow up with a sense of community responsibility fostered by the literature they read

So, how does the gringa measure up? Am I practicing what I preach? I am trying and it is not easy. There are just not as many options available for the goods and services I need. But, I try. A few examples based on the above listed recommendations:

  • Minimizing & Repurposing – We have the furniture that we need for our household (2 beds, 1 sofa, 2 chair dinette, 2 dressers, 2 file cabinets that serve as bedside tables, 2 desks, 1 bookcase). Our luxury furniture is rather minimal (2 TVs with TV tables, decorative entry table, 3 decorative side tables, 1 recliner). We also have furniture that is not necessary but either functional, can be argued to be “emotionally” nurturing, or sentimental (craft table, grandmother’s cedar chest, patio furniture). And then there are the wall decorations which are either family photos, my own art, or things we have picked up on our travels
  • Shop Ethically or Second Hand – We do this faithfully although there are still goods and services that we need and have no viable options, such as getting the oil changed in our car, certain grocery items, etc. I buy almost all of my clothes and furniture second hand.
  • Self-Sufficient/Off-Grid Lifestyle – I have a patio herb and tea garden and a few vegetables. We have no cable TV/Wifi service. We have an antenna to get local news channels on the television and I use a mobile hotspot with my cellphone for Internet on my laptop when I work. I have to budget my online time. We do not use a clothes dryer. I have a laundry line on my back patio. We live where I can walk to my necessities (post office, bank, small grocery) so I only drive one day weekly when I go to the big market and I do all of my other “away” errands on that day. And I make some “stuff” we need like fabric softener. I save all of our vegetable clippings and waste and brew “compost” tea every week for plant fertilizer.
  • “First World” Luxuries – We have an energy efficient washing machine but I really want one that operates when you pedal a stationary bike (one day it shall be mine!). Living in a rental apartment, we have no control over whether or not our refrigerator, stove or dishwasher is energy efficient.
  • Minimize Exposure – This is probably the key to converting to post-consumerism. We simply must accept that marketers and advertisers know their craft and regular folk are no match for their techniques. We quickly become brainwashed into believing we cannot have a happy life unless we have this, that or the other. I do not look at magazines, watch television or go to the mall just to walk around and “look”.
  • Reach Out – I reach out beyond my community in an attempt to build literacy. I participate locally with local reading programs and occasionally stick my big nose into a political demonstration if it’s local and an issue I agree with. I KNOW my neighbors, engage with them regularly and we share over-abundances we have with one another whether it is food, patio plants, or a bulk bag of socks for kids.

Although what the caveman and I do is very little, it is changing our way of thinking. Each time we change a little something, we awaken more. We realize there is much more we can do and are willing to do but transition is slow and gradual. Sometimes something is staring us in the face and it just takes a while to realize because we are so conditioned to accept things the way they are.

For example, I have a netted enclosure on my back patio for my parakeet, finch and dove. Most of the year the gulf coast is the perfect weather for them to enjoy being out of doors in a flight cage. My dove usually lays an egg every now and then. We just realized that we have room for a few more dove and could be enjoying fresh eggs, albeit tiny ones, practically every day. So, change is gradual but in the end, it is still change. And if all people living a gross consumer lifestyle begin the process, the overall impact can be world changing.

The reality is that, although faithful recycling is great, waste is really not the heart of the problem. Accumulation of more and more “stuff” is. Higher demands of certain types of services is another part of the equation. Urban living makes post-consumerism more of a challenge but not impossible.  The gringa is open to radical change and the caveman is resigned to enjoy the ride because his little gringa’s crazy ideas often save him a nickel or two.

Source:  www.postconsumers.com

Image credit: http://www.prrepublika.wordpress.com

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Here Comes The Sun, Little Darlin’


China may be one step closer to saying, “Bye, bye,” to fossil fuels. With their latest invention, an artificial sun of hydrogen gas, in fact, an incredibly dense artificial sun of hydrogen gas that is triple the power of that glorious glowing ball of gas high in the sky, they may very well have a limitless power source.

The first thought is, “Hurrah! The global energy crisis is over! Human caused acceleration of climate change can be ceased with no more use of fossil fuels!” However, the gringa hates to be the cynic and rain on everyone’s parade. I will withhold my judgement that this incredible invention will work successfully, everything going as planned. And, if it does, that it will be put to use for humanitarian purposes for the benefit of mankind. The gringa will “wait and see”.

China’s Institute of Physical Science in Hefei is the brainchild and creator of a magnetic fusion reactor that has produced this seemingly inexhaustible source of hydrogen based energy. This is a direct outgrowth from technology developed over 60 years ago by Soviet scientists who created the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST). It is a metallic chamber shaped like a figure-8.  The reactor can produce hydrogen energy up to 50 million Kelvins (that’s almost 50 million degrees Celsius or 122 million degrees Fahrenheit). Wow, that’s enough to curl my hair! Consider that the sun burns at about 15 million Kelvins. So, China’s man-made sun is more than three times as hot as the real McCoy. It’s not as big a deal as it seems because scientists were only able to maintain this core temperature for less than two minutes.

Now, really, this artificial sun news is really no new news. The Germans claimed to have created such a thing already. The real news is the length of time the existence of the “sun” lasted. However, at two minutes a pop, the gringa doesn’t see how this is really going to change the energy game around the world. China, Germany and Russia are still years, probably even decades, away from perfecting the technology to the point that it will even matter to mankind.

And really, despite all the fuss being made over China, artificial suns are actually a dime a dozen. The technology has been around for ages. And every nation that has a decent scientific community has one. Consider Coelux. This Italian invention uses nano technology to create the natural lighting of the sun and sky. This technology is being used around the world in museums, shopping malls, airports, subways, garages, and even homes.

However, the gringa’s favorite use of Italy’s artificial sun is in healthcare. The medical community is responding to the human aversion of being confined. By introducing artificial natural light (if THAT’S not an oxymoron!) into treatment rooms that are usually windowless, medical professionals are seeing patients respond positively through the psychological and physiological benefits of being in a space illuminated by the sun and sky.

People can even enjoy this at home. Even on a rainy day you can be enjoying the rays of a tropical sun. And the Italians are not just scientifically sterile in their lighting craft. Channeling Italy’s deep roots within the art community, they offer lighting perspectives for every taste: dramatic tropical sun, a gentle Mediterranean sun, or a cool Nordic sun. The gringa thinks this is sensational, um, I meant “sunsational” (darn you, auto-correct)!

Sources: South China Morning Post, www.scmp.com, www.coelux.com

Photo credit: www.coelux.com

The ISS Just Keeps Bringin’ It


The International Space Station is important for the critical research that is ongoing and will help us eventually get to Mars. However, there are even greater benefits that the people of earth enjoy right now from the work the astronauts are doing.

In a world where the major economies have been experiencing terrible recessions, growth and opportunity in new markets are vital for recovery. One such economy can be found in what is called the “low-Earth orbit” economy. NASA and the ISS make a pathway to this economy accessible. Companies such as NanoRacks hardware are forging new territory exploring the profitability of doing business in low-Earth orbit. NanoRacks provides laboratory space. One of their creative ideas are CubeSats that were recently deployed from the space station and will help the research going on in the cosmos be more efficient and affordable. Private sector models like this are a part of the world economy’s future that could very well bring about profitable competition that will benefit the entire planet.

One of the gringa’s favorite things NASA and the ISS regularly contribute to are global efforts to provide clean drinking water to disadvantaged people. Commercialization of the technology used by space agencies to provide drinkable water for astronauts has resulted in organizations collaborating together to put this technology to humanitarian uses. Thirsty people in sub-Sahara Africa need only look to the stars and say “thank you”.

We’ve all heard about the disease muscular dystrophy. What we may not have all heard of is the important research going on within the space station that could very well result in a better designed drug that could successfully treat this disease. Because of muscular issues long-term deep space deployment creates, NASA is always on the look out for a breakthrough that will keep astronauts strong and healthy. Part of this ongoing research has resulted in growing and cultivating high-quality protein crystals. Microgravity is the perfect place to grow these crystals. By better understanding the structure of these proteins and how they affect the human body, more effective treatments can be designed.

How many of us have had a loved one receive an ultrasound to determine the health of a pregnancy and, perhaps, the gender of the baby? This technology is something most of us take for granted. Well, sometimes an astronaut can benefit from an ultrasound in space if immediate medical attention is required. However, because of the nature of the space station, new technology had to be developed to shrink down the typical monstrosity of an ultrasound scanner. Now, NASA didn’t play stingy with its new pint-sized ultrasound device that was developed for the health security of astronauts. Medical care worldwide, especially in remote areas, has been improved because NASA shared this technology.

A couple of decades ago when Lasik eye surgery was in it infancy and was then called radial keratotamy (RK), the gringa had that corrective surgery on both of her near-sighted eyes. The laser surgery was originally developed to be used in the space program. That shared surgical technique has, over the past decades, refined and perfected to the point that it is a simple, everyday outpatient treatment which rarely even results in missing a day of work. It’s just incredible.

Thanks to NASA and its willingness to share such wonderful technology, the phrase “inoperable tumor” may become a phrase of the past. Robots are going to play such an important part of getting us to Mars that it is only logical that there will most certainly be some sharing of robotics technology with medicine. The neuroArm is a robotic arm that has already successfully removed supposedly “inoperable” tumors. The technology of this robotic arm is based on the Canadarm that was developed by multiple agencies for the space program. The robots of Canada’s space agency perform heavy lifting and maintenance tasks on the ISS. But, the gringa believes that nothing weighs heavier than a tumor that has been deemed “inoperable”. If anything at all makes the crazy dreams of exploring outer space valid, I think it has to be the lives of the thirty-five patients who had their “inoperable” tumors removed.

One thing that is going to affect all of us at some point will be the effects of old age. One thing old timers have to try to prevent is osteosporosis. Because space missions always result in the loss of bone and muscle mass because of the lack of gravity, some of the most groundbreaking discoveries on osteosporosis take place among the scientists of our space agencies. Already humans are benefitting from the development of a drug as a direct result of outer space research.

However, one benefit that warms the heart of the gringa is how the work at the ISS inspires our youth of today. I am so thankful that NASA regularly engages students of all ages and levels to participate in challenges and programs. The gringa cannot think of a better way for the world to become a better place where political factions and border wars can be relegated to the meaningless backburner and we can all recognize one another as fellow human beings who are sharing and exploring an incredible universe together. Truly our youth are not only our hope to save our physical planet, but surely they will be the generation that can socially and politically evolve to a higher level and get our planet one step closer to eradicating factious war.

Great Space “Spin-Offs”


As we go about our everyday life we are enjoying the benefits of what NASA does and, most of the time, we are completely unaware of this space agency’s contribution. As NASA develops new technologies that are vital to mission success or products designed for a specific purpose, there is almost always a “spin-off” product or technology that reaches the Earthling market that makes things a little better for humanity.

How many of us have mixed up a bottle of baby formula or spooned a jar of peas and carrots into the hungry mouth of a toddler? If you have, you were giving that baby space food. Almost one hundred percent of commercially sold infant formula is infused with a natural omega-3 fatty acid ingredient discovered while researching life support technology for the Mars mission. The next generation of Earthlings will have healthier brains, eyes and hearts thanks to NASA.

If you’re reading this article on my blog, then you’ve also probably seen the videos I’ve been posting reading books aloud. The technology used in my laptop camera as well as cellphone cameras are all NASA inspired inventions. Astronauts needed to miniaturize cameras in order to save as much space as possible as they packed and organized supplies for their space missions.

And, how many of my dear readers have ever flown in a great big airplane? Chances are, all of you. You know when you look up at a low-flying passenger jet and see those little up-turned wingtips and wonder just what the heck those things are? Well, the ever curious gringa asks that question every single time I see one. Those things are called “winglets”. These little aerodynamic dynamos are saving airlines billions of dollars in fuels and it’s all thanks to the research and development that goes on at NASA. When NASA develops technology in order to save the taxpayers a dime or two, that technology is eventually shared with companies so they can save a dime or two which then means the tax-paying consumer gets to save another dime or two when they shell out the dough for their airfare.

How many of us have “Google Earthed” our physical addresses to see what pops up on the satellite image? Yes, the curious gringa does this all the time. The accuracy of our current GPS technology is also thanks to the efforts of research and development at NASA. Everyone, everywhere, all over this globe, benefit in some form or fashion from this technology. I tell the caveman all the time to remember that my GPS locator is always activated on my cellphone so if anyone kidnaps me, and lets me keep my phone, he can find me. He assures me that if I remain my true, “Chatty Cathy” self they will certainly let me go so I need not waste the battery power. But, even if they don’t tire of my incessant chatter and question asking, he’ll come looking for me in a day or so.

That is when the gringa goes off for a pout by curling up with a good book in her space bed. Surely you know what I mean? That greatest invention mankind has ever come up with for people with back problems? You know, the memory foam mattress! Good Lord, over the years I have had so many falls with seizures and received neck and back injuries as a result, that I prayed for a non-gravity sleep chamber or a wind tunnel sleep chamber that wouldn’t put any pressure on my neck, hips or back no matter what position I might lay in. Well, the memory foam is the next best thing and a decent compromise. I’m able to get a relatively pain-free night’s sleep now because astronauts needed a material that would help keep them comfortable during times of extreme acceleration. Thank you, NASA, from the bottom of the ginga’s little heart.

I love watching law enforcement reality shows. One of my favorite types to watch is search and rescue. When I see the Coast Guard rushing to respond to a distress beacon for some poor crew of fishermen or pleasure sailors who have gotten themselves into trouble, once again NASA has been the source for a vital live-saving device. Without the satellites that NASA has deployed into Earth’s orbit, there would be no relay device for their distress signals.

The “greenies” out there can also feel some affinity toward the space agency for reducing big rig fuel consumption by almost 7,000 gallons annually per truck because of the NASA inspired new aerodynamic designs most modern rigs sport. As you pass one of these eighteen-wheelers on a bridge, you can feel secure because most modern bridges feature state of the art shock absorbers bracing them in place, technology originating with NASA in their efforts to develop technology to help astronauts survive the extreme effects of rocket launches.

One of the gringa’s favorite technology sharing tidbits of information regarding NASA, and, yes, even more of a favorite than my awesome memory foam mattress, are the vulnerable people around the world that are able to have access to clean drinking water. Water purification devices that are used today on the small scale of an individual, reusable, filtering water bottle or a hand held device that can provide clean water for an entire village is all thanks to the humanitarian mission of NASA. Growing up in the jungle and having to boil river water was how my caveman grew up. Needless to say, as a child, he and his siblings often suffered water-borne, internal, parasitic infections. There is a very soft spot in the gringa’s heart toward NASA for making it possible for many children around the world to improve the quality of their life and enjoy something I take for granted every day.

As I ponder the amazing contributions astronauts and scientists at NASA make to our world, I can’t help but flash a smile. And, thanks to one more of NASA’s greatest inventions of all time, invisible orthodontic braces, the gringa smiles boldly instead of covering that grin with a hand, embarrassed by crooked teeth and crazy fangs. Thanks, NASA, for not only inspiring fantastic dreams of space exploration but also for making everyday life a little bit better for everyone everywhere!

Source: http://www.nasa.gov

Operation New Life – Humanitarian Based Immigration Reform In 1975


With the Vietnam War officially ending April 30, 1975, one way the United States responded to the cessation of hostilities was to enact humanitarian based immigration reform. The 1975 Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act was signed into law less than a month later on May 23. This bill allowed refugees from Southeast Asia to resettle in the country. As the U.S. prepared to return its military personnel home, consideration had to be made for the many natives that had aided the U.S. war effort. With the Americans gone, these allies would be vulnerable to retaliation from the North Vietnamese government. Provision for financial assistance was included in the bill for these new arrivals who often had only the clothes on their backs and, if they were lucky, a suitcase.  $455 million was allocated to facilitate the resettlement of these refugees.  Considered political refugees, many were granted permanent residence status.

If these refugees did not succeed in reaching evacuation points where airlifts were designated, many eventually fled by boat or even attempted to walk across the country to safety. These were the people newspaper headlines called the “boat people”. As their situation became more desperate, they were willing to risk dehydration, starvation, attack by pirates and drowning if their boat capsized or sunk. Hope of reaching safety was greater than their fear of the dangers they would face on overcrowded, small vessels attempting to cross the vast ocean. Those that were captured were imprisoned in concentration camps for “re-education”.

President Gerald Ford took a strong leadership stance in support of this legislation. He faced direct opposition in congress by naysayers who, in their conditioned state of xenophobia, naturally reacted with fear of a future wave of immigrants. Once again, the emotionally stirring, but non-factual, political propaganda of how immigrants would lower wages and become a burden on society was shot down by the forward-thinking humanitarians who understood the truth. Immigrants, throughout American history, have proven to be hard working, law-abiding people that make a positive contribution to society.

The gringa says, “Way to go, President Ford! You may have often tripped and fell in your soup bowl, but you stayed strong and true on the path of leadership.” The gringa is thankful that President Ford was not an irrational xenophobe. The gringa is proud of a president that did not use a false representation of a group of people to pander to his electorate. Certain people in the nation’s current political spotlight could learn a lesson from Ford’s socially evolved decision to support this immigration reform.

About 200,000 Vietnamese and Cambodians eventually made their way to America’s shores as a result of this bill. They arrived at one of four entry points: Camp Pendleton, California; Eglin Air Force Base, Florida; Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania; and Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. The Arkansas base aptly referred to their duty as “Operation New Life”.  Although the gringa is certain all military stations performed their duty as honorably as Arkansas, I will use Fort Chaffee as a snapshot of U.S. history with regards to this legislation.

Within seven months of the May 2 commencement of “Operation New Life”, over fifty thousand refugees had been received at Fort Chaffee. May 4, 1975, just two days after the first new arrival, the Vietnamese newspaper Tan Dan began publication. As autumn approached, the refugees began to enjoy the benefit of a bilingual radio station. The local community college created English classes specifically with the new immigrants in mind. It seems that, as a whole, Arkansas did America proud in its welcoming spirit. The gracious people of Arkansas even went that proverbial extra mile and organized an Independence Day celebration with a rodeo as a way of introducing these war weary people to what it means to be American.

 As the immigrants learned what it was to be American, they seemed to relish in a freedom that had previously been denied them. This resulted in some interesting occurrences in the practice of their liberty.  June 20, 1975, eighty Vietnamese had a demonstration about all the things that were frustrating them in their new homeland. Two days later there was a counter protest by 600 refugees expressing their gratitude for all America had done for them. The gringa is amused by this. However, not all was bon-bons and roses at the fort. There were tensions among some of the refugees toward a group of refugees that were government officials. As a result of these hostilities, Provost Marshal reports indicate the possibility of related violent crimes. However, despite any difficulty, the 325 babies that were conceived by these new immigrants at Fort Chaffee indicates they moved on from the horrors of war and embraced their new life with gusto.

As the immigrants began to mingle in their new communities, media accounts reflected the reaction of a polarized community. There were the xenophobic racists who continued in their belief that the immigrants would rob locals of opportunity and jobs. But, the gringa is thankful that there was an enlightened populace who reacted with hospitality and charity, assisting the newcomers with education and cultural assimilation. The fact that many of the Indochinese who arrived in Arkansas even married some of the locals is a testimony to the spirit of tolerance and acceptance that prevailed in Arkansas.

In Arkansas, alone, researchers estimate that the local economy experienced a boon of several million dollars as a result of this immigration policy. So much for the naysayers arguments of how immigrants are an economic burden on society. They may need a little help in the beginning, but, once successfully maneuvering a traumatic cultural adjustment, society benefits greatly from the contributions made by immigrants.

As our nation considers immigration reform in the future, I hope many will recall the success that was realized in Arkansas. The gringa looks forward to the day when all the xenophobes in the U.S. outgrow their irrational fears and ignorant belief in political propaganda. The gringa is ready for these fear-mongering xenophobes to put on their big girl panties and their big boy briefs and quit being scaredy-cats in their little-people pants and little-people minds.

Immigrants are just people looking for a better life. The way things are going in the United States, who knows, one day the shoe could be on the other foot. America could begin to fall down in shambles, it seems it’s already begun. Terrorized Americans could start to flee in droves. If Americans want compassionate welcomes as immigrants looking for a better life, they should take a good hard look in the mirror and see if they really deserve such treatment.

As for the propaganda spewed forth from politicians pandering to a voter base they are hoping to mobilize? Fact check everything they say. When you fact check, go to unbiased sources, such as Census records, rather than statistics put together by organizations with political ties. As the scales of propaganda begin to fall from xenophobic eyes, the truth will be revealed that the majority of immigrants eventually adjust and become productive contributors to their community. And they manage to do this without becoming murderers and drug slingers. Chances are those are the very horrors they were trying to escape. Many are trying to escape a life of instability and vulnerability most Americans cannot even conceive of in the isolated, privileged country we call home. Of course such people will arrive with needs that need to be met with compassion and charity. But that doesn’t mean they will be  permanently dependent. History and facts prove that the majority of immigrants emerge from a period of transition as people who have succeeded in gaining employment and education. The potential of what they can contribute in the future far outweighs what it costs society to receive them and help them through a brief period of adjustment. The gringa says, “Just give them a chance. Quit being so scared.”

Sources:

http://library.uwb.edu/guides/usimmigration/1970s_indochina.html

http://immigrationinamerica.org/607-indochina-migration-and-refugee-assistance-act-of-1975.html

http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=5562

Photo credit:  www.kpbs.org