Wednesday, August 24, 2011




Midwest Independent Research creates free educational websites on a variety of subjects in eight categories: Cultural; Economic; Health Care; Health Promotion; International; Practical; Science; and Social. Our purpose is to provide college and high school students and adults with educational material and book lists on important subjects.

Some of the websites correspond to academic courses such as Anthropology, History, Life Sciences, Mathematics, and Sociology and others are oriented to current issues such as Co-ops, Global Warming, Native Trees, Progressives, and Race.

"It is important that an aim never be defined in terms of a specific activity or method. It must always relate to a better life for everyone." W. Edwards Deming  The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education (1993)


We neglect many things that could bring substantial improvements, like infrastructure investment, which is usually extremely productive and long-lived. This is a pattern in the way we live. The particular subjects below are illustrations of this general idea. There are many more possible subjects. This website is dedicated to offering information and suggestions for substantial improvements in the way we live.

Look at Deming's work in Japan, his concept of continual improvement – that there are always ways to improve things and that every worker can be a source of good ideas. He went to Japan because he couldn't interest corporations in this country in his ideas. He was a statistician and his thinking came out of his very logical quantitative way of seeing things. Toyota is the company that most consistently followed his advice and has been called the most successful corporation in history. A book about Toyota was titled, One Million Suggestions, about all of the ideas workers contributed.

People get stuck in patterns where they simply don't think about what they are doing or don't do anything about their thoughts. E.g., even "green" buildings are not designed for fire safety or lightning protection or tornado shelters or water conservation. Very few people understand the importance of planting native trees or the serious environmental problems involved with turfgrass lawns.

With politics, everyone seems to know how corrupt our political system is but there is very little effort made to change this. It has been clear for many years that our health care system is failing in terms of access, cost and quality but we have not been able to create a better system. 

Neglected aspects of our lives:

Passive solar energy
Energy conservation
Water conservation
Planting native trees
Replacing turfgrass lawns
Indoor air quality
Fire safety
Lightning protection
Tornado protection
Alternative agriculture and nutrition
Auto safety

Passive solar could supply significant heat to homes but is almost totally neglected in both new and existing homes. Passive solar costs little or nothing in new homes and is often a low cost retrofit in existing homes.
Very few people have greenhouses but greenhouses can provide solar heat and extend growing seasons for gardens.
Most homes don’t take advantage of energy conservation measures that would save more than 50% of energy use on average.
There is tremendous waste of water in this country in spite of easy ways to save substantial amounts of water.
We lose 4 trees for every tree planted in urban and suburban areas. Planting trees is inexpensive. Native trees make the most sense.
Turfgrass lawns involve a great deal of fertilizer and pesticide use and gasoline use and air pollution. Many better alternatives exist, native plants, clover, buffalo grass, edibles.
There are many contaminants in indoor air and most houses have very poor ventilation. Many inexpensive improvements are possible.
Houses are not much more fire safe than they were 100 years ago (they are safer in Europe). Significant improvements are available.
More rural houses had lightning rods 50 years ago than have them now and lightning is a major cause of fires in rural and suburban areas. Rural and suburban houses and trees near houses should have them. Even many urban homes could benefit from them. Most commercial and industrial building do have lightning protection.
Tornado shelters are inexpensive to build but few houses have them. Basements can be modified to make them safer.
Both our agriculture and our nutrition have tremendous problems. Alternative agriculture is growing rapidly now creating the basis for better nutrition.
We have had many advances in auto safety but people with safer cars often drive more unsafely (the speeding Volvo syndrome) so the accident statistics have not improved as much as they should have (and a lot of the improvement in mortality was due to better traumatic surgery rather than safer cars). A few simple changes in regulations and habits could make a big difference.

Improvements can be large or small, universally accepted or controversial. They succeed if they can be shown to work. If they meet opposition they will succeed only if enough people are willing to fight for them and prove that they make sense.


Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.    
               Samuel Johnson, Rasselas (1759), 41

If decisions were a choice between alternatives, decisions would come easy. Decision is the selection and formulation of alternatives.  Kenneth Burke (1932: 215)