Archive for December 16th, 2012

by lizard

I’ve been struggling with how to broach the topic of the Sandy Hook massacre directly. Instead, I found this post, which I think is the most honest thing I’ve read so far, and it echoes what I’ve been thinking the conversation should be focused on: mental health, not gun control, although work on the latter still needs to be done.

So please, take the time to go to the link or click for more, and read the story of a mother and her mentally ill son. Being somewhat familiar with the constraints of the mental health system, it’s an incredibly sad, insightful look at what parents of mentally ill kids are faced with.

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Panhandling For Peace Beer

by lizard

Helena native Robert Rivers and his partner Fernanda Menna Barreto Krum are trying to monetize 25 years of working for global peace by opening another brewery in Missoula.

But this won’t be your average brewery. No, it’s going to be a conflict resolution brewery, because nothing makes people more peaceful than alcohol, right? From the article:

After working to promote peace in 15 conflict zones around the world over the past 25 years, Helena native Robert Rivers and his partner Fernanda Menna Barreto Krum want to promote peace by using something that’s brought people together for thousands of years: good beer.

“Conflict is an invitation to growth, or violence, depending on how you deal with it,” Rivers said. “Usually conflicts become exacerbated when people take an individual approach.”

Rivers and Menna Barreto Krum intend to open Big Medicine Brewing Co. in Missoula. They say the brewery will bring people together to educate them about social conflict and social change. They also plan to serve beer inspired by breweries around the world.

The couple visited Helena on Sunday to gather support in Rivers’ hometown. They’re also trying to raise $200,000 to supplement their own investment.

Instead of using conventional means to finance the project, the couple is asking for donations to their for-profit venture. The brewery is currently incorporated and their recent fundraising efforts have brought them $35,000.

They’re taking that approach to avoid taking on debt that would detract from their mission, they say, and to create a sense of community from the start of the project.

What a brilliant business plan: transform selfless humanitarian NGO work in dangerous conflict zones into a beer brand, then go around panhandling people for “donations” to mitigate the risk a big bank loan comes with.

In vetting this post with my wife, she reminded me that I have a tendency to be an obnoxious hater on the topics I have strong feelings about. It’s true.

So allow me to acknowledge that the risks and sacrifices Rivers and Krum took on to help people suffering in war zones is worth celebrating. I shouldn’t let my criticism of how NGO’s are too often deployed as instruments of US imperial soft power detract from the exemplary work people do.

And while I can see the connection being made between beer’s positive social role aligning with this for-profit Big Medicine brewery venture, I’m also keenly aware of the negative impacts of alcoholism.

All that said, it sounds like good things could come from this new beer brewing business:

Big Medicine Brewing Co. will intentionally bring people together to collaborate, learn and share ideas to promote social change, Rivers said.

In the first year of operation, two-day workshops are planned each month, featuring subjects related to social conflict and social change initiation, as well as one-hour dialogues twice a month.

For the first year Rivers and Menna Barreto Krum plan to draw on their own expertise and experience to facilitate these programs and brew the beer. Rivers has a master’s degree in peace and conflict studies from the European Centre for Peace Studies, and Menna Barreto Krum has a master’s degree in psychology and a certificate in global mental health from Harvard.

From Missoula to Connecticut, we need a paradigm shift in dealing with mental health, so I’m hopeful this new brewery can be more than just a brewery.

And just to be clear, more than a brewery is what this business is being sold as, according to Brad Robinson, co-founder of Big Sky Brewing Co.

I found this part of the article interesting:

But does Missoula have room for another brewery?

Robinson thinks so. He said that, while he is confident their beer will be a success, their product is social change. The couple said they picked Missoula as a place to start because the market for breweries is strong.

Once up and running, Big Medicine Brewing Co. will produce no more than 1,000 barrels of beer a year, Rivers said. Yearly earnings are capped at $50,000 each for Rivers and Menna Barreto Krum, and any earnings beyond that will go toward purchasing land for a retreat center near Missoula, the couple said.

Robinson said other breweries might turn a cold shoulder to their project, but Menna Barreto Krum and Rivers have seen genocide, Robinson pointed out. He is confident they can handle the local competition.

Nice, a self-imposed cap on market aspirations accompanied by an endorsement from a local brewery powerhouse.

And how about that cute little quip of having “seen genocide” directed at local competition?

I can’t wait for that first conflict resolution workshop. I hope they don’t mind if I bring my own pint of Coldsmoke.

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