Despair, Hope, and the Built World


From FRONT PORCH REPUBLIC

A description of the human condition: we are habituated to the world long before we become aware of it, and we are aware of it long before we are aware of our habituation to it.

This assumes, of course, that we ever become aware of our habituation. But, whatever our awareness, the fact of our habituation does not change. We are “at home.”

But it is difficult for me to believe that anyone aware of his habituation can remain “at home” in the world for long—I mean this scientized technological everything’s-for-sale world we’re habituated to. If the world isn’t exactly the dung heap (and we the maggots that crawl upon it) that Dulcinea pronounced it to be, it surely isn’t the sort of place we can look at and be particularly proud of or comfortable in. We may be at home, but we are at home only in a kind of somnambulant homelessness. Something needs remodeling, even if we aren’t exactly sure what it is.

But that “something” is precisely what’s at stake. So let us look about.

We are habituated to an immersive ugliness in architecture, civic design, and infrastructure. We are habituated, if not also addicted,

(Breaking) Poll: 1 In 5 Americans Believe Obama Is A Cactus


From THE ONION
Thanks to Ron Epstein

WASHINGTON—According to a poll released Tuesday, nearly 20 percent of U.S. citizens now believe Barack Obama is a cactus, the most Americans to identify the president as a water- retaining desert plant since he took office.

A growing segment of the population believes the president is pollinated by moths and hummingbirds.

The poll, conducted by the Pew Research Center, found a sharp rise in the number of Americans who say they firmly believe Obama was either born a cactus, became a cactus during his youth, or has questionable links to the Cactaceae family.

“We asked people of varying races, ages, and backgrounds the same question: ‘What is President Barack Obama?'” Pew spokeswoman Jodi Miller told reporters. “And a fifth of them responded, ‘A cactus.'”

According to the poll, Obama has lost favor among many voters who supported his candidacy in 2008 but have since come to doubt he is a mammal. While these Americans concede Obama may not specifically be a cactus, most believe he is a plant of some kind, with 18 percent saying the president is a ficus, 37 percent believing him to be a grain such as wheat or millet, and 12 percent convinced he is an old-growth forest in Northern California.

Doctor’s Orders: Eat Well to Be Well


From NYT
Thanks to Janie Sheppard

Oakland–Dr. Preston Maring was striding along a hospital corridor at double speed on a recent Friday morning, his tall frame, white hair and frequent gesticulations prompting waves of greetings from colleagues, who also took care to sidestep his forward momentum. His destination was the weekly farmers’ market he started in 2003, just outside the front door at the Kaiser Permanente medical center here.

“Since it’s mine, I made the rules — all organic,” he said as he skimmed by a line of stalls where fresh fruits and vegetables are sold to hospital workers, passers-by and even, he said, those bringing patients to the emergency room.

Dr. Maring, 64, a gynecologist and obstetrician with three decades as a surgeon, is well known as a former physician in chief at the hospital, the man who spearheaded the creation of its new pediatric neurosurgery unit.

But increasingly, his reputation and perpetual motion revolve around his conviction that in the health professions, the kitchen must become as crucial as the clinic. Food is at the center of health and illness, he argues, and so doctors must make all aspects of it — growing, buying, cooking, eating — a mainstay of their medical educations, their personal lives and their practices.

Though Dr. Maring blithely refers to himself as “that food nut around the hospital,”

Bruce Patterson: PTSD


From BRUCE PATTERSON
4Mules.com
Anderson Valley

“It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself to resist invasions of it in the case of others.” –Thomas Jefferson

The late comedian George Carlin did a bit about Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (back then it wasn’t called a Disorder). During WW1, Carlin reminded us, we called it “shell shock.” Now those two words pack some punch, don’t they? It’s shocking language, really. So during WW2 we started calling it “combat fatigue.” As if war makes a soldier sleepy and, after a nap, milk and cookies, he’s as good as new. During Vietnam we started calling it Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Has a nice ring, doesn’t it? You’re given a choice between “trauma” and “post-trauma”—which are you going to take? Experiencing “Stress” is something we can all sympathize with. Getting stuck in traffic is stressful. And who knows what a “Syndrome” is? Yet it’s a pretty word that rolls off the tongue…

Gene Logsdon: Selling A Book That Has No Name


From GENE LOGSDON

Prairie Public Radio interviewed me recently about my latest book, Holy Shit. The interviewer was kind about my writing. He knew a lot about farming which is rarely the case but always a relief when discussing agriculture before an urban audience. The only problem was that he did not mention the title of the book during the entire interview! He said that he would get fired if he did. Regulations forbid the utterance of that awful word, shit, even when it is in the title of a book.

It happened again. The excellent website, The Chronicle of Higher Education, referred to my book with kind praise, even calling it “charming.” But never once did the reviewer give the title of the book. Policy, he said.

Several years ago, I wrote an article for The Draft Horse Journal in which I felt obliged out of sheer honesty to use the naughty word. This proved to be a problem for Maury Telleen, the editor. He didn’t have a problem actually, but his lovely wife, Jeannine, (they are two of my favorite people) ruled the roost when it came to proofreading and she did not intend for the naughty word to soil her publication. They compromised and rendered the word

Mendocino County Health Care News


From ALLIANCE FOR RURAL COMMUNITY HEALTH
Mendocino County

There remains among the public a great deal of uncertainty about how President Obama’s health care initiative will impact health costs and protect consumers. The new law continues to take center stage in an increasingly heated political climate.

We believe that as provisions designed to protect consumers become law, and as election-season fervor subsides, the mood around country and county will allow for a less cynical outlook on the most important piece of social reform in the last half century.

First Health Care Reform Provisions Enacted

On the six month anniversary of the Affordable Care Act’s passage, a series of important reforms mark the first steps of the health industry overhaul.

As of September 23rd, all private health plans will be prohibited from dropping people from coverage when they get sick. In addition, all private health insurers will be prohibited from placing lifetime caps on coverage. Annual limits will also be subject to strict regulation.

They’re Tracking What You Browse Online


From NYT
Thanks to Rosalind Peterson

Sandra Person Burns used to love browsing and shopping online. Until she realized she was being tracked by software on her computer that she thought she had erased.

Sandra Person Burns is among those taking legal action against companies that track computer users’ activity on the Internet.

Ms. Person Burns, 67, a retired health care executive who lives in Jackson, Miss., said she is wary of online shopping: “Instead of going to Amazon, I’m going to the local bookstore.”

Ms. Person Burns is one of a growing number of consumers who are taking legal action against companies that track computer users’ activity on the Internet. At issue is a little-known piece of computer code placed on hard drives by the Flash program from Adobe when users watch videos on popular Web sites like YouTube and Hulu.

The technology, so-called Flash cookies, is bringing an increasing number of federal lawsuits against media and technology companies and growing criticism from some privacy advocates who say the software

Skill Up, Party Down



Rob Hopkins, Founder, Transition Towns

From YES! MAGAZINE

Transition Towns plan a gentle descent from oil dependence—and have a blast in the process.

Ciaran Mundy, a successful high-tech entrepreneur with a Ph.D. in soil ecology, started a website to update people on all the “terrible news about climate change.” But after a while, he felt it wasn’t working—that it would never work. “It took me years to realize there’s no point in putting up more facts and figures,” he says. “They just bounce off people.”

Then he stumbled across the Transition Town movement, which was just picking up steam in his city—Bristol, England. When Mundy attended a training session on Transition Towns, he found a group of people addressing the big problems of our time, and doing it with optimism and a sense of celebration.

The Transition movement is built around making the transition to a world after peak oil—the time when world oil production reaches an all-time high, then goes into irreversible decline. Oil prices will spike and the economy will stop growing, wreaking havoc in our society, which depends on petroleum for nearly everything, from growing food to maintaining economies.

Crash Course In Resilience


From YES! MAGAZINE

We can strengthen our communities and ourselves to prepare for the uncertain world of failing economies, climate change, and oil depletion.

To cherish what remains of the Earth and to foster its renewal is our only legitimate hope of survival.—Wendell Berry

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
—Victor Frankl

Not long ago, a rocket took off from a Florida launching pad taking Americans to the moon. The moon shot signified to many that Americans could do anything we set our minds to.
Today, in another part of Florida, toxic oil is washing up on beaches. Hundreds of miles of Gulf Coast have been devastated, and people whose resilience was tested by Hurricane Katrina are being tested even more severely today. There are good reasons to believe many more of us will have our resilience tested in coming months and years.

Future historians may see this time as a turning point for Western civilization. In the popular zeitgeist, there is much discussion of end times.

Dave Smith: State Budget Talks Heat Up. Take Action in Support of Sales Tax Fairness.


From DAVE SMITH
Ukiah

We need to you to act now. The Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association, and the American Booksellers Association are urging you to please contact the Governor Schwarzenegger’s office and ask him to support the “affiliate nexus” (sales tax fairness) provision in the budget. Please call the Governor’s office today (Monday) or tomorrow, at the latest.

The most reliable information we have tells us that this is the moment to act. We’ve heard that budget talks have swung into high gear, and in the proposed state budget package, there is a sales tax fairness provision that mirrors

Peak Complexity: Standing On the Brink of Release


From SIMPLE PLANET

[...] Buzz Holling was instrumental in describing the adaptive cycles of complex ecological systems, and specifically he studied forest ecosystems. He identified 4 general stages of evolution in complex ecological systems (what he termed “fractal adaptive cycles”), and these could just as easily be applied to human systems that have been built on the foundation of those ecological systems (my descriptions will be greatly simplified – follow the referenced sources for more detail) :

1. Growth – The system finds an abundance of available resources and spaces which are exploited for material wealth, and this flow of energy/resources allows the development of many inter-dependencies, efficiencies and specialized functions. Diversity of agents within the system increases as does overall wealth.

2. Conservation – The system’s rapid growth decelerates as it becomes highly specialized and opportunities for novel exploitation strategies diminish. Increasing amounts of energy are directed towards conserving the existing system instead of growth, and “wealth” is extracted from the periphery to central parts of the system. The system’s complex inter-dependencies become more rigid

Six Reasons Why I’m Not On Facebook


From WIRED MAGAZINE

[This goes for this old dude, too... DS]

“David, you’re sounding like an old dude!” Matt Flannery, who runs social-lending website Kiva, couldn’t understand when I explained that, no, I wouldn’t be keeping in touch with him via Facebook. “What are you worried about?” he teased in a break at the PINC conference in Holland. “Only old guys get worked up about privacy.”

Well, Matt, I admit I’m the wrong side of 30, and that I still avoid using emoticons in formal correspondence. But let me explain why I’m not active on Facebook, nor sharing my credit-card purchases on Blippy, nor allowing Google Buzz to mine my contacts list, nor even publishing my DNA on 23andMe.com. My cautious use of the social networks has nothing to do with paranoia about privacy; and yes, I celebrate the unprecedented transparency and connectivity that these services can empower. But what’s increasingly bothering me is the wider social and political cost of our ever-greater enmeshment in these proprietary networks. Here are half a dozen reasons why.

Take Action! 13-year Old Takes to the Web to Just Say “No” to Pesticides

From BEYOND PESTICIDES

[Local Context: Many towns, cities, and counties in north America are banning the use of cosmetic chemicals on lawn and gardens. In our local, so-called "progressive community" our city and county lawns, parks, golf courses and ball fields are saturated with poisons and not managed organically... to the detriment of our collective health. We have the world's first organic brewpub, we were the first county to ban GMO plants and roadside spraying, our co-op sells only organic produce, several of our wineries are organic and biodynamic pioneers, our environmental centers have brought world attention to the destruction of the redwood forests, yet our children and pets roll around on chemical-saturated grass, our school kids play in poison, and the Big Box colonizers and locally-owned home improvement stores sell thousands of gallons of expensive and unnecessary chemical treatments every month. What's wrong with this picture? -DS]

A thirteen-year old girl in a Northern Virginia suburb has recently launched her own campaign

Amy Goodman: Percy Schmeiser vs. Monsanto


From DEMOCRACY NOW
Video here

AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from Bonn, Germany, where the thirtieth anniversary of the Right Livelihood Awards is being held. The Right Livelihood Award was established in 1980 and has become widely known as the Alternative Nobel Prize. Gathered here in Bonn this week are some eighty Right Livelihood Award laureates, including the Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser, who has battled the biotech company Monsanto for years. In 1997, Percy and his wife Louise won the Right Livelihood Award for their courage in defending biodiversity and farmers’ rights. I spoke with Percy Schmeiser yesterday in Bonn, but first I want to turn to Bertram Verhaag’s documentary Percy Schmeiser: David versus Monsanto.

    NARRATOR: The pesticide Roundup produced by the multinational concern Monsanto is the most widely sold spray in the world. Monsanto made its canola resistant to Roundup. This means Roundup kills every plant without exception.

Rosalind Peterson: Take Action! What You Can Do By October 11, 2010 About The U.S. Navy’s New Threat To Northern California And Gulf Of Mexico Marine Life


From ROSALIND PETERSON
Redwood Valley

CONTACT YOUR ELECTED OFFICIAL TODAY! ASK FOR U.S. CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS TO PROTECT PUBLIC HEALTH, OUR MARINE MAMMALS & OUR OCEANS.

U.S. NAVY 5-YEAR WARFARE TESTING PROGRAMS A NEW THREAT TO THE PACIFIC, GULF OF MEXICO & ATLANTIC MARINE MAMMALS

U.S. CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS NEEDED TODAY TO PROTECT ALL OCEAN WILDLIFE & HUMAN HEALTH!

USA TODAY broke this news when they published a news story titled: “Navy Plans Could Affect More Marine Mammals” on August 5, 2010 [1]. According to USA Today news article, backed up by federal documents from the U.S. Navy and NOAA: “…The Navy plans to increase ocean warfare exercises, conduct more sonar tests and expand coastal training…

Organic: It’s Worth It


Diversity of Benefits Documented in Major Organic Strawberry Study

The long-awaited Washington State University (WSU) organic versus conventional strawberry fruit quality study has been published in the prestigious journal PLoS ONE (September 2010, Vol. 5, Issue 9: e12346).

The study compared 13 pairs of organic and conventional strawberry fields matched to include the same three varieties, harvest schedule, irrigation methods, soil types, and weather.  The team found that the organic strawberries were more nutrient dense, stored longer, and were produced in soils characterized by greater microbial diversity and capacity to overcome stress.

The organic fruit was, on average, smaller, which some commentators noted as a disadvantage, but in reality, it is an important advantage if the goal is to produce tasty, nutrient dense fruit

Greenhorns: the network breathing new life into US farming


From DAVID HAWKINS
The Ecologist

It‘s helping attract youthful talent into sustainable agriculture across the US, but can the Greenhorns movement survive in the land of Big Ag?

The Greenhorns is an exciting new movement tearing up the turf (gently) in the USA. This fresh network of young farmers is mapping the future of food production with ambitious targets, incisive communication and savvy marketing – all fertilised with plenty of organic passion.

Severine von Tshcarner Fleming started the Greenhorns because she was fed up with the negativity she kept encountering while studying agroecology, and the low levels of funding available for sustainable agriculture. She wanted to reflect ‘the incredibly positive uprising of people engaged in the day-to-day rebuilding of our food system’ found everywhere she worked on the land. Hence these ‘young farmers’ are united more in attitude than age.

Todd Walton: Art Rant (includes favorite films)


From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

Books

Rae’s eyes were red and swollen. They sat on the couch side by side, in silence, waiting for the doctor.” from Crooked Little Heart by Anne Lamott

The silence of the eyes rings true, and the eyes being side-by-side seems plausible, but how in heck did those eyes get onto that couch without Rae?

I was thirteen and had devoured a thousand books before I discovered the first typo of my reading career, an error that struck me as a scandalous affront to the artistry of writing. I was an insatiable reader, and wanting to be a professional writer I did not skim, but read every word. And when I found passages that wowed me, I copied their lines longhand to teach my sinews the feel of great writing.

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