We are shifting our focus in light of the Corona Virus – and seek your help

After almost 3 years of work, during which time we helped school leadership, teachers and students in around 40 schools “make invisible pollution visible” we are hitting the pause button because all schools are closed.

Instead, the 6,000 members of this mailing list will begin receiving emails from The Optimistic Futurist – same author, different mission, different focus. We will re-start The Pollution Detectives once schools have restarted, and school administration has enough bandwidth to engage with us on that topic again.

I am starting two new projects I’d like for you to know about.


1) A Digital Labor Exchange – a way to keep people employed. Economists have announced that we are going to face a devastating collapse of our economy (already begun) which will last several years. Unemployment will soar, and families will have difficulty paying for food, utilities, and housing.

The new organization I want to help start is a bit like a local bank or credit union – it maintains a database of who received or performed some form of goods or service, and what the person/organization who performed it got paid. In effect, it manages a barter system – electronically.

The compensation is paid in a form of credit, like a gift card, or Frequent Flyer points and it can be spent to acquire other goods or services from other members of the organization.

Imagine a parent who needs a math tutor for their child. They go on-line to the Skills Inventory and identify/email a fellow member who is a suitable teacher, who gets a non-dollar payment to their account. The teacher, in turn, can reach out to someone to cut their grass, and pay them using the same credit system. And the lawn cutting person can pay a participating local restaurant for a home-delivered dinner, who then can pay the driver with the same kind of credit.

These kinds of community co-ops have been in existence around the world, and in the United States for decades. They come in a few different structures and names.

Here are some links to short YouTube videos that may help you get your head around the general concept. Just click on the title.

     –  In Maine, Service Time Swapped to Help Stretch Dollars in Recession

     –  Ithaca HOURs Online

     –  Question 7: How are Ithaca HOURS Different from Time Dollars?

     –  These systems can be done digitally – watch this video, and around minute 9:05 you will see how the Pay by Text works.

Over the next weeks I am hoping to form a group of experts in these kinds of digital barter systems from around the country, along with community and local business leaders to craft the system most suited to North Carolina, starting in Rowan County – and replicable elsewhere. We will give away our work product to others for free, or if we invest money, request partial reimbursement.


2) The second project is teaching out-of-school students to plant food during the virus crisis.

America imports one-third of its fresh vegetables and more than half of its fresh fruit from countries that have the coronavirus epidemic.

Importing food is not limited to acquiring food from other countries – the majority of America’s heavily populated East Coast states import fruits and veggies from West Coast states.

Even if the infection curve is flattened, the resulting year-long impact of one-third of the workforce getting ill over the coming months, coupled with others staying home from work to care for the sick, will result in some kinds of food becoming scarce.

When schools close here, parents will be going crazy because their kids will be unable to leave their yard to play.

How do we give the kids meaningful educational work to do at home when schools are closed, and at the same time help solve a potential food shortage?

Have them plant a garden.  This could be one of the best educational experiences they can have at this time.

Our country has faced food shortages before.  During the Second World War, an estimated 20 million “Victory Gardens” (backyard gardens) produced roughly 8 million tons of food—which was the equivalent of more than 40 percent of all the fresh fruits and vegetables consumed in the United States at that time.

Most people have not wrapped their heads around the fact that this coronavirus situation will be going on for a year or more.  In that time period, you could teach them how to raise chickens to make eggs for breakfast.  There are grandparents who know how to do this and can teach them by using video calls on their cell phones.

On Tuesday of this week, Dr. Brian Monahan, Congress’ in-house doctor, told Capitol Hill staffers at a close-door meeting that he expects 70 to 150 million people to be infected in the United States — roughly a third of everyone in the country.   They will have to be isolated for weeks.

Many people who help provide us with food will be unable to do so. So think about this: where is your food going to come from when trucking lines shut down, canning factories cannot get help, grocery clerks are out sick, or when you do not want to go shopping for fear of catching the virus?

We can grow food.  This is a skill that almost all Americans, including most kids, had at one time.   It is time to restore that skill.  Not tomorrow – now.

I am going to be setting up a planning group that involves agriculture experts, school teachers who know about this subject, and potential supporters of the effort.

Details on both of these projects will follow as progress unfolds. I will be working on both of these projects without compensation.


If you wish to provide input or support to the planning effort, reach out to me at futuristfran@aol.com.

Facebook Page called The Optimistic Futurist – https://www.facebook.com/The-Optimistic-Futurist-177426458972067/

Website link – http://theoptimisticfuturist.org/new_site/


Francis Koster Ed.D. lives in Kannapolis N.C.   He is a retired pediatric healthcare administrator who has spent his working life studying threats to the basic life support systems of air, water, food, and fuel and their impact on human health.  – futuristfran@aol.com

Authored by Francis Koster Ed. D.