Myth One – Industrial Agriculture Will Feed The World


From Fatal Harvest
The Seven Myths of Industrial Agriculture

3/23/09 Ukiah, North California

The Truth
World hunger is not created by lack of food but by poverty and landlessness, which deny people access to food. Industrial agriculture actually increases hunger by raising the cost of farming, by forcing tens of millions of farmers off the land, and by growing primarily high-profit export and luxury crops.

There is no myth about the existence of hunger. It is estimated that nearly 800 million people go hungry each day. And millions live on the brink of disaster, as malnutrition and related illnesses kill as many as 12 million children per year. Famine continues in the 21st century, though few of us are aware of the truly global nature of the problem. In Brazil, 70 million people cannot afford enough to eat, and in India, 200 million go hungry every day. Even in the United States, the world’s number one exporter of food, 33 million men, women, and children are considered among the world’s hungry.

There is, however, a myth about what is causing this tragic hunger epidemic and what it will take to alleviate it. Industrial agriculture proponents spend millions on advertising campaigns each year claiming that people are starving because there is not enough food to feed the current population, much less a continually growing one. “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? 10 billion by 2030″ proclaimed an old headline on Monsanto’s Web page. The company warns of the “growing pressures on the Earth’s natural resources to feed more people” and claims that low-technology agriculture “will not produce sufficient crop yield increases to feed the world’s burgeoning population.” Their answer is pesticide- and technology-intensive agriculture that will produce the maximum output from the land in the shortest amount of time. Global food corporations, they say, will have to serve as “saviors” of the world’s hungry.

First day of Spring


From Janie Sheppard

Urban Organic Food Growing in Havana

A delightful 8-minute video of organic gardening in Cuba. Great music, old cars, a handsome narrator with a great British accent. Happy farmers and reformed bureaucrats.

Click on Title (First Day of Spring) above to get full screen


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This is going to piss you off…


From Dave Smith

“Short selling hedge funds lit the spark that led to the global economic meltdown. Now they want to help craft the laws Congress will pass to fix our broken regulatory system. That’s insane.”

Go to: Hedge funds and the Global Economic Meltdown (Video)

Hat tip The Automatic Earth
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From Michael Moore

Friends,

I am in the middle of shooting my next movie and I am looking for a few brave people who work on Wall Street or in the financial industry to come forward and share with me what they know. Based on those who have already contacted me, I believe there are a number of you who know “the real deal” about the abuses that have been happening. You have information that the American people need to hear. I am humbly asking you for a moment of courage, to be a hero and help me expose the biggest swindle in American history.

Keep reading Will you help me with my next film?
~~

The hype is spilling over from south of the border


From Jim Houle

3/20/09 Ukiah, North California

Since Sunday March 15th we have been hit with one of those Talk Show Tsunamis that always leave us trying to sniff out the Washington hype from the real goods. What are they saying?

- Mexico is losing control of its cities to drug gangs and could collapse.
- Mexico is close to becoming a failed state.
- 2000 weapons each day are shipped into Mexico from the wide-open gun dealers in the US.
- Drug syndicate criminals are infiltrating the US.
- This situation is our top priority: Homeland Security Czar Napolitano.
- Its a serious problem: Secretary of Defense Gates.
- US Embassy in Mexico City tries to dampen it down: “The US had no intention of sending troops into Mexico”.
- DEA’s top intelligence official Antony Placido believes: “Calderon is making important strides against the cartels. The violence we see is actually a signpost of success.”
- Obama says he’s considering putting troops on the border.
- Chief of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mullen says he is willing to supply unmanned drones and helicopters to chase down the Mexican drug mafia.
- Bay Buchanon (Pat’s lethal sister) says Calderon and his government are down for the count. Without a US rescue operation Mexico will soon become a narco-state.
- Sen Joe Lieberman says he’s: “looking into potential implications of increased terrorist activity”. (Does he mean the increased activity is potential or that the implications he foresees are still potential? In other words that they don’t even exist at this point in time.)

The current hype leaves one to ask “Qui Bono” – who benefits from this sudden tsunmai? The parroting of this story in almost identical language in all of our remaining newspapers coast to coast and on the major TV news broadcasts suggests the dead hand of the Pentagon’s War Justification Unit. We know them only too well from the buildup to Iraq. The stationing of a sizable US military force on the Mexican border has not happened since 1914 when we dispatched 11,000 troops across the border and occupied Veracruz. The Mexicans rose up in revolt against this and the entire power structure was toppled in the 1920′s . It took another half century for the wealthy land-owners to regain the full hegemony they and their northern partners now enjoy over the Mexican economy.

Selling Out America


From Ron Epstein

Blame Wall Street for the current financial crisis. Investment banks, hedge funds and commercial banks made reckless bets using borrowed money. They created and trafficked in exotic investment vehicles that even top Wall Street executives — not to mention firm directors — did not understand. They hid risky investments in off balance-sheet vehicles or capitalized on their legal status to cloak investments altogether.

They engaged in unconscionable predatory lending that offered huge profits for a time, but led to dire consequences when the loans proved unpayable. And they created, maintained and justified a housing bubble, the bursting of which has thrown the United States and the world into a deep recession, resulted in a foreclosure epidemic ripping apart communities across the country.

But while Wall Street is culpable for the financial crisis and global recession, others do share responsibility. For the last three decades, financial regulators, Congress and the executive branch have steadily eroded the regulatory system that restrained the financial sector from acting on its own worst tendencies. The post-Depression regulatory system aimed to force disclosure of publicly relevant financial information; established limits on the use of leverage; drew bright lines between different kinds of financial activity and protected regulated commercial banking from investment bank-style risk taking; enforced meaningful limits on economic concentration, especially in the banking sector; provided meaningful consumer protections (including restrictions on usurious interest rates); and contained the financial sector so that it remained subordinate to the real economy. This hodge-podge regulatory system was, of course, highly imperfect, including because it too often failed to deliver on its promises.

But it was not its imperfections that led to the erosion and collapse of that regulatory system. It was a concerted effort by Wall Street, steadily gaining momentum until it reached fever pitch in the late 1990s and continued right through the first half of 2008. Even now, Wall Street continues to defend many of its worst practices. Though it bows to the political reality that new regulation is coming, it aims to reduce the scope and importance of that regulation and, if possible, use the guise of regulation to further remove public controls over its operations.

Keep reading Sold Out (pdf file)
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Local Food from the South Lawn of the White House (Updated)


[It doesn't get much better than this! -DS]

By Marian Burros

New York Times

Published: March 19, 2009

WASHINGTON — Michelle Obama will begin digging up a patch of the South Lawn on Friday to plant a vegetable garden, the first at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt’s victory garden in World War II. There will be no beets — the president does not like them — but arugula will make the cut.

While the organic garden will provide food for the first family’s meals and formal dinners, its most important role, Mrs. Obama said, will be to educate children about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables at a time when obesity and diabetes have become a national concern.

“My hope,” the first lady said in an interview in her East Wing office, “is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities.”

Twenty-three fifth graders from Bancroft Elementary School in Washington will help her dig up the soil for the 1,100-square-foot plot, in a spot visible to passers-by on E Street. (It is just below the Obama girls’ swing set.)

Students from the school, which has had a garden since 2001, will also help plant, harvest and cook the vegetables, berries and herbs. Virtually the entire Obama family, including the president, will pull weeds, “whether they like it or not,” Mrs. Obama said with a laugh. “Now Grandma, my mom, I don’t know.” Her mother, she said, will probably sit back and say: “Isn’t that lovely. You missed a spot.”

Whether there would be a White House garden had become more than a matter of landscaping. The question had taken on political and environmental symbolism, with the Obamas lobbied for months by advocates who believe that growing more food locally, and organically, can lead to more healthful eating and reduce reliance on huge industrial farms that use more oil for transportation and chemicals for fertilizer.

Then, too, promoting healthful eating has become an important part of Mrs. Obama’s own agenda.

Keep reading  Obamas To Plant Vegetable Garden at White House at NYT→

Update

First lady breaks ground on Kitchen Garden

~~

The coming great cook-out? Part 1 of 4


From Don Sanderson

3/19/09 Ukiah, North California

That global warming is occurring has become obvious here in Northern California. As I am writing this paragraph, it is now the second week in December, we still have tomatoes and peppers ripening in our garden. Last year, some made it until Thanksgiving, a November first here in the experience of a 90 year old friend and native.

We are now entering a citrus climate, so what’s not to love? Avocados next? Mangos? Beginning last winter and continuing though this fall, except for a brief rainy spell, we have had a high pressure system above more typical of summer. When we have had frosts, the cold hasn’t come from the north, but from loss of ground heat to the empty sky typical of a desert. We now have had rainfall amounts characteristic of areas several hundred miles south and water shortages are becoming critical. The creek in front of our home, which typically still has had pools into July, emptied in May last year and early April this – fifteen years ago it was nearly perennial and hosted successfully spawning steelhead. Fires that burned all over the area early in the summer are forcing winemakers to filter the smoke chemicals out of their wine.

Funny, though I point out to others that these are likely effects of global warming and may be expected to get worse, it doesn’t appear to be changing anyone’s behavior. From discussions, many seem to feel that ‘they’ will fix it, whoever ‘they’ are. Besides, some of my friends are reading that some ‘authorities’ are saying that this will only increase land for agriculture in the north – if climate change is indeed happening, which these persons doubt.

A mid-January, 2009, addendum: we finally had a frost in mid-December followed by a couple inches of rain; the creek remains dry and warm sunny days are predicted for a week or more into the future. In late January, 2009, still no more rain, local lakes are at record lows, and we are reading the news of terrible droughts in Argentina and Australia. Perth is in danger of becoming uninhabitable.

Early March, 2009, addendum: we’ve had maybe 7 or 8 inches of light rain since the middle of February and the creek is running, though I can now step across at some places without getting wet; will that get us through the summer? It was just reported that Lake Mendocino’s water level is now at 55 percent, whereas it was at 96 percent at this time last year, so let’s not hold our breaths. I learned a week ago or so that the Colorado Plateau drought, which is now more than 11 years old, is threatening the water supplies of Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas, San Diego, and so on. It appears we should be expecting this situation of confront us soon. Meanwhile, the sky is blue, the sun is shining, and the forecast is more of the same – well, maybe a sprinkle.

Ukiah Farmers’ Market Saturday 3/21/09


From Scott Cratty
Ph: 707-462-7377

3/18/09 Ukiah, North California

Greetings.

Did you know that the makers of Terra Savia olive oils, a treat that you can pick up regularly at the Saturday Ukiah Farmers’ market also make some great wines from organic grapes?  Two of their releases from last Fall recently

won medals at this year’s Grand Harvest Competition in Sonoma County.  The 05 Reserve Petit Verdot won Silver and the 05 Reserve Cabernet won Bronze. They were competing with over 1600 entries from North America, Europe, thePacific Rim and South America.  Here’s more information on the Grand Harvest Competition.  Wines bottled by the grape grower using their own grapes can actually be sold at our farmers’ market. Why don’t you stop by and encourage them to bring some to the market this season?

Speaking of wine, if you visit Tierra Art, Garden, Wine on — just up the street from the market at 312 North School St — and show off what you purchased at the farmers’ market, I understand they will give you a discount.

For those of you who missed them, Mad Scientist Game will play their acoustic jug rock at this Saturday’s market.  Come experience music made with a plastic water bottle.

Check the Market Message column in Friday’s paper for my thoughts in response to DDRs suggestion that they may include a farmers’ market in their proposed shopping mall at the old Masonite site.

Hope to see you at the market Saturday.

In case you want to learn how to grow your own fruit to market in future seasons, here is a worthy event:

The Butler Cherry Ranch Project is sponsoring a free grafting workshop with master orchardist Patrick Schaffer on Saturday March 28. He will demonstrate techniques and participants will get to graft cherries and peaches.

The event, at the Butler Community Orchard at Ridgewood Ranch, will begin at 10 a.m. with a tour led by orchard manager and biodynamic expert Charles Martin. The demonstration and practice session will follow. Bring a bag lunch and water.

The back up date in case of rain is April 4 but if the weather looks rainy the day before, please call 463-2736 for an update.

Go 5 miles north on 101 beyond Reeves Canyon. Turn left at Ridgewood Ranch and follow the road downhill, making a right at the sign for the ranch and La Vida School. Continue west/southwest past Seabiscuit’s barn and the Golden Rule parking lot. Turn right on Maple Ln. and head west past outbuildings and across the creek. The orchard is on the left. Parking is available at the orchard site. The Cherry Ranch Project is sponsored by Cloud Forest Institute.
~~

Fatal Harvest – The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture


From Fatal Harvest
The Seven Myths of Industrial Agriculture

3/17/09 Ukiah, North California

Industrial agriculture is devastating our land, water, and air, and is now threatening the sustainability of the biosphere. Its massive chemical and biological inputs cause widespread environmental havoc as well as human disease and death. Its monoculturing reduces the diversity of our plants and animals. Its habitat destruction endangers wildlife. Its factory farming practices cause untold animal suffering. Its centralized corporate ownership destroys farm communities around the world, leading to mass poverty and hunger. The industrial agriculture system is clearly unsustainable. It has truly become a fatal harvest.

However, despite these devastating impacts, the industrial paradigm in agriculture still gets a free ride from our media and policy makers. It is rare to hear questioning, much less a call for the overthrow, of this increasingly catastrophic food production system. This troubling quiescence can be attributed, in part, to the enormous success that agribusiness has had in utilizing the ”big lie,” a technique familiar to all purveyors of propaganda. Corporate agriculture has flooded, and continues to inundate the public with self-serving myths about modern food production. For decades, the industry has effectively countered virtually every critique of industrial agriculture with the ”big lie” strategy.

These agribusiness myths have become all too familiar. Most farmers, activists, and policy makers who question the industrial food paradigm know the litany of lies by heart: industrial agriculture is necessary to feed the world, to provide us with safe, nutritious, cheap food, to produce food more efficiently, to offer us more choices, and, of all things, to save the environment. Additionally, when confronted with the indisputable environmental and health impacts of industrial agriculture, the industry immediately points to technological advances, especially recent achievements in biotechnology, as the panacea that will solve all problems. These claims are broadcast far and wide by way of industry lobbying efforts, product promotions, and multimillion-dollar advertising campaigns, including television, newspaper, magazine, farm journal, and radio ads. Moreover, as the industry becomes more consolidated-with biotech companies owning the seed and chemical businesses and a handful of companies controlling a majority of seeds and food brands — the strategies for promulgating these myths become ever more concerted and the messages ever more honed. Archer Daniels Midland is now known to us all as the ”supermarket to the world,” while Monsanto offers us ”Food, Health, Hope.”

These myths about industrial agriculture have been, and are being, repeated so often that they are taken as virtually unassailable. A central goal of [these essays] is to conceptually debunk the myths that have for too long been used to promote and defend industrial agriculture. This myth busting is an essential step in exposing the impacts of current agriculture practices and educating the public about the realities of the food they are consuming.

We identify the seven central myths of industrial agriculture, note their assumptions and dangers, and provide direct and clear refutations. This is specifically designed to provide consumers, activists, and policy makers with clear, compact, and concise answers to counter the industry’s well-funded misinformation campaigns about the benefits of industrial agriculture. We encourage you to utilize these seven short essays whenever you are faced with the ”big lies” being used by corporate agribusiness to hide the true effects of their fatal harvest.

Intro
Myth One – Industrial Agriculture Will Feed The World

Myth Two – Industrial Food Is Safe, Healthy and Nutritious
Myth Three – Industrial Food Is Cheap
Myth Four -  Industrial Agriculture Is Efficient

Myth Five -  Industrial Food Offers More Choices

Myth Six – Industrial Agriculture Benefits the Environment and Wildlife
Myth Seven – Biotechnology Will Solve the Problems of Industrial Agriculture

Excerpted with permission
Fatal Harvest: The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture

Edited by Andrew Kimbrell
Published by Island Press

~

See also Ingredients of Kraft Guacamole

…and We Will Need Fifty Million Farmers
~~

Digging their way out of recession


From The Economist

IN 1943 Eleanor Roosevelt encouraged a return to the “victory gardens” that had become popular during the first world war, when the country faced food shortages. Mrs Roosevelt planted a garden at the White House; some 20m Americans followed her lead, and by the end of the war grew 40% of the nation’s vegetables.

Now a grassroots movement wants Barack Obama to plant another White House victory garden. The new secretary of agriculture, Tom Vilsack, announced recently that his department would create “The People’s Garden” out of a paved area outside their building. And he won’t stop there. Mr Vilsack wants there to be a community garden at each of the department’s offices around the world.

Margaret Lloyd, a researcher on victory gardens at the University of California at Davis, finds many reasons for this new national trend. The recession is one; but people are also worried about food safety, want to eat more healthily, and are bothered about climate change. This may be a way to make a difference.

If Washington needs further inspiration it might examine the movement in Bill Clinton’s former stamping-ground. Although Arkansas is an agricultural state, urban gardening has not always been popular. But now victory gardens are springing up in backyards, school grounds and even on front lawns in posh neighbourhoods. Many gardeners are focusing on “heirloom” plants—rare varieties from earlier times that do not appeal to agribusiness.

Keep reading Digging… at The Economist→

A recent survey conducted by the National Gardening Association confirms that vegetable gardening in the United States is on the rise… Go to Recession spurs millions of new gardeners

The petrocollapse and the economic crisis have a bright side; they will be the catalyst for the rebirth of the local small farm. These will be the kinds of farms that we need: diverse, educational , and organic… Go to Small Farm Renaissance

The idea of investing in new home construction and high-end restaurant businesses would send most entrepreneurs running these days, but developers in a small community in rural Georgia say they’re still growing… Go to Contemporary commune bucks housing crash

Hat tip Energy Bulletin
Image: Victory Garden Poster, WWII, Wikipedia Commons

Chore Time


From Gene Logsdon
Garden Farm Skills

As far back into childhood as I can remember, every morning and every evening I went to the barn to “do chores.”  “Chores” on the farm then (and now) meant feeding the chickens and livestock, gathering the eggs, and milking the cows. This work must be done every day come hell or high water—- especially come hell or high water. I did chores even in seminary college— I  much preferred being in the barn than in chapel. That’s how it finally dawned on me that the priestly life was not for me, so I can say with all honesty that doing chores guided me to my true place in life.  I am still doing chores although I have bowed to age and given up everything except sheep and chickens.

In childhood, I didn’t always go to the barn happily, but now, except in the coldest weather, I still prefer my barn to any church or any public meetinghouse. Farm animals are so appreciative of getting fed and watered and when you get to know them well, they make good company. They are always glad to see me and do not try to tell me how to vote or pray. If you have only a few of each, they become your friends or at least your close acquaintances, each with his or her own personality. When I shell a little corn off the cob by hand to feed to the hens, one of them, always the same one, parks herself right between my feet to get the first kernels that fall. More than once I have stumbled on her. Our golden-feathered rooster is so utterly vainglorious that when I watch him strut about the barnyard, I can’t help but think of Donald Trump.

Keep reading Chore Time at OrganicToBe.org→

FDR Welcoming Hatred of the Fat Cats


““We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace — business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. … Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me. And I welcome their hatred!”

Pink Friday


From Annie Esposito

3/16/09 Ukiah, North California

Friday the 13th was Pink Friday all over the state – including Mendocino County.  Teachers and supporters wore pink to protest the pink slips being given to teachers.  About 60 teachers here could be affected.  A crossing guard wearing a pink muffler, a teacher on traffic duty with a pink necktie – made a rosy picture.

But of course the big picture is not.  And teachers face the brunt of the steady decline in enrollment and the budget crisis.  Superintendent Lois Nash promised to take the same cuts as everyone else.  But one teacher noted that it’s different when you get in the negotiating room:  A lawyer represents the superintendent in negotiations.  And teachers are on their own.  Cutbacks could include school closings – and Hopland could lose its local school.

A spirited group of teachers “pinked” in front of the County Court House; they got loud support from cars traveling past the scene.  The teachers marched to Grace Hudson museum for a party and to hear announcements.  They will be waiting for the May Budget Revise to learn more about their fate.  Teachers are asking for creative ways to save money – other than the quick and easy axe.
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Lipsticking The Pig – Masonite Monster Mall


From Dave Smith

3/15/09 Ukiah, North California

Letter To The Editors

Our community is gearing up once again to keep the Masonite site available for living-wage jobs as a light industrial site, rather than permitting DDR to change its zoning so they can impose a Monster Mall on our citizens, colonizing our county, sucking revenue and profits out to distant absentee owners from our small towns and communities, devastating our locally-owned, independent businesses, crushing our small business entrepreneurial  spirit, and reducing our job seekers to non-living wages with no benefits. Two County Supervisors have lost their jobs, and several City Council candidates were defeated, for supporting this travesty. What part of our resounding NO don’t DDR, and its local enabler Ruff and Associates, understand?

Corporate retailers have so eroded our sense of community that they think they can sell it back to us in the form of superficial design concepts. To overcome opposition on the part of city planners and elected officials, DDR has made a big show of redesigning their original Monster Mall plans “to better fit the community” by adding amenities, like pockets of “green space” and pedestrian walkways that snake alongside parking lots to add a suggestion of walkability to their project built entirely for cars, and solar powered parking lots. This is standard operating procedure that mall builders have used to hoodwink communities for many years.

These revisions are presented to us as major concessions and meant to make county planners feel as though they are doing their jobs by holding a tough line with the developer and even forging a legitimate compromise with citizens who oppose their project. But they are obscuring the real issues by putting lipstick on the pig. You can’t put cosmetics on a bad concept and expect it to work. It won’t work, and we’re not going to allow the project.

Another common ruse is to depict themselves as responsible and involved members of the community by donating to various local causes and charities, then manipulate the publicity to further the corporation’s goals. One community charity  in another town celebrated with one of those blown-up checks from Wal-Mart for $500. That Wal-Mart store was doing upwards of $100 million in sales, a big chunk of it stolen from downtown merchants.

The most critical question about corporate retailers charitable giving, rarely asked, is whether their donations actually make up for the contributions lost when locally owned businesses close in their wake. WalMart donated $170 million in 2004, which actually works out to less than one-tenth of 1 percent of revenue, the equivalent of someone who earns $35,000 a year giving $21 to charity. Why did Target, with no local presence, recently donate to a local charity?

We will vote NO on any initiatives DDR puts on the ballot to change the zoning on the Masonite property. History has moved on, malls are dinosaurs, and our community will defend itself and create its own unique future.

[Thanks to Big Box Swindle for some of the above info. -DS]
~

See also The Mall Man’s Dreams For Ukiah at The AVA→

…and More Big Box Marts Coming To Ukiah?→

…and The Wal-Mart Dilemma

…and Muy Mall Meltdown

…and DeadMalls.com

…and what about the malls here soon to be abandoned?
The Parable of the Shopping Mall
(Alexander Cockburn) at Creators.com→
Hat tip Jim Houle

Images Credit: Evan Johnson
~~

The Mall To Nowhere – Mendocino Crossings (Masonite Monster Mall)


From Cliff Paulin

3/16/09 Ukiah, North California

”Mendocino Crossings”:
A Metaphor for Our Time in the Ukiah Valley & Mendocino County

Much has been made of the proposed regional retail shopping center, Mendocino Crossings, being proposed by Developers Diversified Reality (DDR) at the former Masonite site just north of Ukiah.  While the name Mendocino Crossings was likely chosen by DDR to represent the Ukiah Valley as the county’s center of trade, the name also reflects the fact that our community faces a major decision concerning the direction we want to see our valley move in.

In the direction proposed by DDR, we have a model that promotes suburban sprawl: a development outside the city limits and urban core of Ukiah that requires conversion of valuable industrial land into an island of retail in a sea of parking lots.  This is a model that undermines local business, brings low wage service sector jobs, puts strain on city and county resources, brings increased traffic, and causes further homogenization of the unique character of our county.

In the other direction is community self determination that builds on local assets by constructing an infrastructure that will provide sustainable economic growth for the future via the reactivation of light industry, value creation for local products, the creation of living wage jobs, and the relocalization of our economy which is so vital in these uncertain times.

Living in the wasteland of the free – Iris Dement


We got preachers dealing in politics and diamond mines
and their speech is growing increasingly unkind
They say they are Christ’s disciples
but they don’t look like Jesus to me
and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

We got politicians running races on corporate cash
Now don’t tell me they don’t turn around and kiss them peoples’ ass
You may call me old-fashioned
but that don’t fit my picture of a true democracy
and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

We got CEO’s making two hundred times the workers’ pay
but they’ll fight like hell against raising the minimum wage
and If you don’t like it, mister, they’ll ship your job
to some third-world country ‘cross the sea
and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

Living in the wasteland of the free
where the poor have now become the enemy
Let’s blame our troubles on the weak ones
Sounds like some kind of Hitler remedy
Living in the wasteland of the free

We got little kids with guns fighting inner city wars
So what do we do, we put these little kids behind prison doors
and we call ourselves the advanced civilization
that sounds like crap to me
and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

We got high-school kids running ’round in Calvin Klein and Guess
who cannot pass a sixth-grade written test
but if you ask them, they can tell you
the name of every crotch on MTV
and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

We kill for oil, then we throw a party when we win
Some guy refuses to fight, and we call that the sin
but he’s standing up for what he believes in
and that seems pretty damned American to me
and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

Living in the wasteland of the free
where the poor have now become the enemy
Let’s blame our troubles on the weak ones
Sounds like some kind of Hitler remedy
Living in the wasteland of the free

While we sit gloating in our greatness
justice is sinking to the bottom of the sea
Living in the wasteland of the free
~

Our Town

And ya know the sun’s settin’ fast
And just like they say, nothing good ever lasts
Go on now and kiss it goodbye
But hold on to your lover ’cause your heart’s bound to die
Go on now and say goodbye to our town, to our town
Can’t you see the sun’s settin’ down on our town, on our town
Goodnight.

Our Town – Iris Dement on YouTube→
~~

The Wal-Mart Dilemma


From Dave Pollard (2003)

Please read this thorough and extraordinary article from Fast Company entitled The Wal-Mart You Don’t Know. If its length discourages you, read the following excerpt (emphasis mine), and you’ll want to go back and read the rest:

If Levi [Strauss] clothing is a runaway hit at Wal-Mart, that may indeed rescue Levi as a business. But what will have been rescued? The Signature line–it includes clothing for girls, boys, men, and women–is an odd departure for a company whose brand has long been an American icon. Some of the jeans have the look, the fingertip feel, of pricier Levis. But much of the clothing has the look and feel it must have, given its price (around $23 for adult pants): cheap. Cheap and disappointing to find labeled with Levi Strauss’s name. And just five days before the cheery profit news, Levi had another announcement: It is closing its last two U.S. factories, both in San Antonio, and laying off more than 2,500 workers, or 21% of its workforce. A company that 22 years ago had 60 clothing plants in the United States–and that was known as one of the most socially reponsible corporations on the planet–will, by 2004, not make any clothes at all. It will just import them.

The article brilliantly describes what I call the ‘Wal-Mart Dilemma’, which is represented by the cycle diagrammed at above in red.

The intervention in blue that can stop this ‘race to the bottom’ is anathema to ‘free’ traders. It says simply that if a product can reasonably be produced domestically, then duties and other regulations should be imposed to protect domestic producers. In other words, the alternative to ‘free’ trade is not no trade, but rather regulated trade, regulated to protect the economy and social fabric of the regulating country. That switches the cycle shown in red to the cycle shown in green.

Of course, it’s not all black and white, or we would have resisted the globalization extremists and wouldn’t be facing this dilemma today at all. In the red vicious cycle, the seduction is:

  • lower prices ‘every day’
  • low inflation

and the downside is:

  • low wages
  • low product quality
  • high unemployment
  • high poverty levels

The green cycle also is not perfect. Its seduction is:

  • high wages
  • high product quality
  • lower unemployment
  • lower poverty levels

and its downside is:

  • higher prices
  • higher inflation

You pays your money and you takes your choice. In my biased opinion, the vast majority of people are ahead with the green cycle, and the very rich few are ahead with the red cycle. Guess who’s lobbying and bribing governments for untrammeled globalization and ‘free’ trade? Contrary to what most of us are taught in school, modest inflation is the single most effective way to painlessly redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor, because it allows debts to be repaid in ‘cheaper’ future dollars. There are environmental and social advantages to the green cycle as well. The use of slave labour is discouraged. Lax environmental laws in third world countries are not exploited as much. And if the red cycle gets out of control (some would argue it already has), a possible consequence is deflation, a terrible threat to the whole economy that we need to avoid like the plague.

Keep reading The Wal-Mart Dilemma at How To Save The World→

See also The Mall To Nowhere

and Wal-Mart chased out of Santa Rosa
Hat tip Steve Scalmanini
~~

The Soil Is Our Liberator – Vandana Shiva


From Vandana Shiva

Excerpted from a lecture
to the Soil Association conference,
One Planet Agriculture, England

There is increasingly reference to the Carbon Economy and I kind of shudder when carbon is addressed because carbon is what we eat also. I’d rather talk and differentiate between the fossil fuel existence of carbon and the renewable existence of carbon in embodied sunshine transformed into all the edible matter we have.

I differentiate between the fossil fuel economy of agriculture and the biodiversity economy of agriculture. One is a killing economy and one is a living economy. Interestingly the word ‘carbon’ is increasingly used as an equivalence term across the board and then everyone is being made afraid of every form of carbon, including living carbon.

If we add up the amount of fossil fuels that are going into food; take production, Pimentel has done all the calculations. We are using 10 times more calories in production of food than we get out as food. And there was a Danish study done some years ago. I remember I was at the conference where the environment minister laid out these figures. For a kilogram of food traveling around the world, it’s omitting 10 kilograms of carbon dioxide. So you are wasting a 10-fold amount in the production and then generating a 10-fold amount of carbon dioxide, all of it totally avoidable because better food is produced when you throw the chemicals out…

The part of GATT that really troubled me was something called TRIPS within it – the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement – basically an agreement forcing every country to patent life. To me it was a scandal so I went back and started to save seeds and have ended up doing a lot of the work as a result of just, in a way, keeping seed free and in farmers’ hands and not transformed into the property of giant corporations like Monsanto. But even I could not have imagined what we would go through in the decade to come.

One of the things that has taken us totally by surprise is a new epidemic of farmers’ suicides. Indian peasants have been so resilient. I’ve been in villages after disasters of floods and droughts and hurricanes, you have one season of a loss of agriculture, one season of having to struggle, and you are right back again. You rebuild your hut and you’re back on the field and you borrowed some seeds from somewhere and you’re farming again.

But the new industrialised globalised agriculture is doing something different, because it’s not like a natural disaster which you know will not be there in a permanent way. The first step in the globalised agriculture is dependency on what I call non-renewable seed. We’ve even made seed the very embodiment of life and its renewability behave like non-renewable fossil fuel – once and no more. When non-renewable seeds have to be bought each year, that’s a higher cost. Then they are sold as a monopoly with intellectual property royalties linked to it. The genetically engineered BT cotton, for example, costs about 2-300 rupees for a kilogram to produce. But when Monsanto sells it for 4,000 rupees a kilogram the rest is all royalty payment.

The seeds aren’t tested, they aren’t adapted, the same seeds are sold across different climate zones, they obviously don’t perform well. Instead of 1,500 kilograms per acre, farmers get 200, 300, sometimes total failure; add to this the fact that even if they have 300 kilograms of a bad cotton variety because its fiber is of a very inferior quality. And new studies that we have done are showing that there are huge allergies linked to it because what is BT cotton but toxic? 1,800 sheep died last year feeding on the plants. Anyone working in a mill where this Bt cotton is being used is getting allergies. Farmers who are collecting the cotton ball are getting allergies.

Linked to the fact that this is inferior cotton is the fact that in the United States there are $4 billion of subsidies linked to cotton, and now with these so-called ‘open markets’ the price has started to come down. In India, they’ve dropped to half. So your costs of production have gone up two, three, four times, sometimes 10 times, sometimes 100 times depending on what you were farming, and meantime what you are earning at the end of it has fallen to a third.

It’s a negative economy. Farmers get into debt, it’s unpayable debt. The people giving them the credit are the same as the salesmen and the agents at the local level. I don’t know how many of you read the Economist – it has a special article on the farmers’ suicides in India. We have been doing reports since the first farm suicide happened in ‘97. The first report was a 10 pager because only one farmer has killed himself, now there’s 150,000 farmers.

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