Myth Three – Industrial Food is Cheap

From Fatal Harvest
The Seven Myths of Industrial Agriculture

3/31/09 Ukiah, North California

The Truth If you added the real cost of industrial food—its health, environmental, and social costs—to the current supermarket price, not even our wealthiest citizens could afford to buy it.

In America, politicians, business leaders, and the media continue to reassure us that our food is the cheapest in the world. They repeat their mantra that the more we apply chemicals and technology to agriculture, the more food will be produced and the lower the price will be to the consumer. This myth of cheap food is routinely used by agribusiness as a kind of economic blackmail against any who point out the devastating impacts of modern food production. Get rid of the industrial system, we are told, and you won’t be able to afford food. Using this “big lie,” the industry has even succeeded in portraying supporters of organic food production as wealthy elitists who don’t care about how much the poor will have to pay for food.

Under closer analysis, our supposedly cheap food supply becomes monumentally expensive. The myth of cheapness completely ignores the staggering externalized costs of our food, costs that do not appear on our grocery checkout receipts. Conventional analyses of the cost of food completely ignore the exponentially increasing social and environmental costs customers are currently paying and will have to pay in the future. We expend tens of billions of dollars in taxes, medical expenses, toxic clean-ups, insurance premiums, and other pass-along costs to subsidize industrial food producers. Given the ever-increasing health, environmental, and social destruction involved in industrial agriculture, the real price of this food production for future generations is incalculable.

Environmental Costs
Industrial agriculture’s most significant external cost is its widespread destruction of the environment. Intensive use of pesticides and fertilizers seriously pollutes our water, soil, and air. This pollution problem grows worse over time, as pests become immune to the chemicals and more and more poisons are required. Meanwhile, our animal factories produce 1.3 billion tons of manure each year. Laden with chemicals, antibiotics, and hormones, the manure leaches into rivers and water tables, polluting drinking supplies and causing fish kills in the tens of millions.

The Quiet Coup

The crash has laid bare many unpleasant truths about the United States. One of the most alarming, says a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is that the finance industry has effectively captured our government—a state of affairs that more typically describes emerging markets, and is at the center of many emerging-market crises. If the IMF’s staff could speak freely about the U.S., it would tell us what it tells all countries in this situation: recovery will fail unless we break the financial oligarchy that is blocking essential reform. And if we are to prevent a true depression, we’re running out of time.

Keep reading The Quiet Coup at The Atlantic Magazine→

Once the five problem banks have been put into isolation by the FDIC and the Treasury, the Administration must introduce legislation to immediately repeal the Larry Summers bank deregulation including restore Glass-Steagall and repeal the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 that allowed the present criminal abuse of the banking trust. Then serious financial reform can begin to be discussed, starting with steps to ‘federalize’ the Federal Reserve and take the power of money out of the hands of private bankers such as JP Morgan Chase, Citibank or Goldman Sachs.

See also Geithner’s ‘Dirty Little Secret’ at Global Research→

I suspect a trick…

From Michael Laybourn

3/30/09 Ukiah, North California

With a tip of the fedora for Janie Sheppard
The big question is why would DDR want to change the zoning to build a mall these days? The economy tells us quite clearly that malls and shopping centers are not the way to go. Mall developers including DDR are all in serious financial trouble, as we can see here:

Friday March 27, 2009, 10:58 am EDT
NEW YORK (AP) — Fitch Ratings downgraded several ratings on Developers Diversified Realty Corp. on Friday, citing the shopping center developer’s liquidity position.

Fitch downgraded Developers Diversified’s issuer default rating, $1.3 billion in unsecured revolving credit facilities, $1.4 billion in unsecured medium-term notes and $833 million in unsecured convertible notes one notch to “BBB-” from “BBB.” The new rating is Fitch’s lowest investment-grade rating.

Fitch also downgraded $555 million in preferred stock to “BB+” from “BBB-,” sending it into non-investment grade, or “junk,” status. It assigned a negative outlook to the new ratings, implying another downgrade could be forthcoming. Fitch also said the company would have a liquidity shortfall of $300 million through the end of 2010 due to limited availability under the company’s revolving credit facilities and debts coming due in 2010. Last week, the company was removed from the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index due to a low market capitalization.

Holy smokes! Here is a company spiraling down to worthlessness that wants to spend a huge amount of money to convince voters to change the zoning for the Masonite property they bought to build a mall. This doesn’t seem to make any sense, just considering their own financial problems. In the past year DDR’s stock has plummeted from a high in 2007 of around $70 per share to a low of under $2 a share as of March, 2009. Nosing around a little bit more, we find that In December, 2008, another article noted that:

Mendocino County Voters Beware!

From Janie Sheppard

3/30/09 Ukiah, North California

In April, a group calling itself Mendocino County Tomorrow will launch an effort to get enough signatures on a petition to allow placing an initiative on the ballot.

The initiative, if passed by a majority of Mendocino County voters, would allow building an 800,000 square foot mega mall on the old Masonite site, just north of the Ukiah city boundary.

Diversified Development Realty, better known by its initials “DDR,” realizing that the Board of Supervisors would vote 4-1 to defeat the attempt to change the zoning from industrial to retail, will now go to the voters.

The initiative, a 310-page document, would become the law on the Masonite site without environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act.  Once passed, the developer could do anything it pleased, provided what it wanted to do fit within the very loose parameters of the initiative.  The county would have no leverage to get changes.  Now, when the county finds a builder’s plans would damage the environment, the county planners can get the plans changed.  Not so on the Masonite site if the initiative passes.

DDR, if it remains the developer, has very little capital.  It would skimp on the fancy stuff that you likely saw in the appealing mailers.  We know this because on Friday, March 27th, Fitch Ratings, the same rating agency that downgraded the county’s debt, downgraded DDR’s debt.  DDR debt was downgraded to the lowest investment grade.  Its preferred stock now has “junk” status.  And, it has a “liquidity shortfall” of 300 Million Dollars.  DDR’s broke.

Alternatively, what DDR may be trying to do is put the Masonite site up for sale, recouping its 6 Million Dollar investment and then some.   In which case, the county would not be dealing with DDR, but with some other developer that would be so leveraged after buying the site, it too would have no money for niceties.

Don’t sign DDR’s petition.  Just say NO.

Let’s save the Masonite site for industry and real jobs.

We can do it.  Si se puede.

See also Is the American mall dying? at MSN Money→

Mendocino Coastline Threats

From Annie Esposito

3/30/09 Ukiah, North California

The Mendocino Coastline is facing three threats right now.  (Well, at least three.)  Offshore oil and gas development are back on the table, along with experiments in wave energy generation.  And the Navy wants to extend military training on the coast.

The Navy does a kind of high tech target practice out of Puget Sound, which extends down to the Humboldt-Mendocino line.  Supervisor John McCowan notes that fish and sea mammals don’t know about the line; and high tech target practice will affect Mendocino’s coast as well.  Officials from the Navy will be at the Board of Supervisors Tuesday March 31st, at 4 pm. They will be answering questions from the Supervisors and the public.  Community members are encouraged to be there to let the Navy know that there are grave concerns about militarization of the coast and the threat it poses both to peace and marine habitat.

Meanwhile Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, will be in San Francisco April 16th. It is the nearest of several regional meetings on energy development on the outer continental shelf.  Judith Vidaver of the Mendocino County chapter of the Sierra Club is encouraging people to attend that meeting as well.  People will get a chance to inform the Secretary about regional opposition to offshore drilling and experimental wave energy devices.  And people can also give their input on the militarization of the coast while they’re at it.  For information on car pooling, people can contact Vidaver at 964-2742.  If there are 50 people interested in going, they may rent a bus.  It would leave from Willits early in the morning, to get to San Francisco by 8:30 a.m. – again, on Thursday, April 16th.

Living from our local landscape and countryside – Wendell Berry

From Wendell Berry
Interview mashup

3/20/09 Ukiah, North California

People need to live from their local landscape and their local countryside as much as they possibly can, as much as they reasonably can… The idea that a city surrounded by fertile farmland that’s well-watered should be importing food 2,500 miles away is preposterous. It drives the cost up and it removes from the consumers all the powers of choice, of knowledge and of judgment. The consumers who import foods from long distances eat what they’re given to eat, what they’re sold. Many things would improve if they ate closer to home, including the local farm economy.

It would be wonderful because the quality of our food would go up. As the distance that it’s transported decreased, the quality would go up, and it would also go up as it came more and more under the influence of the consumers. Consumers don’t eat hard, tasteless, characterless tomatoes because they choose to. They eat those tomatoes because those are the only tomatoes they’re offered…

If you’re talking about a local food economy or any other kind of local economy, you’re talking about an economy that’s going to have to run a considerable extent on cooperation, not on competition between consumers and producers. You’re talking about an atmosphere of good feeling in which people try to find out what they can do well for one another. The local consumer is going to have to be concerned that the local producer have a livable income. The local consumers want the best products possible and the local producers are going to have to be interested in supplying the most desirable products possible to the local consumers. So if you’re going to succeed, it can’t be a situation in which everybody is in an economic war against everybody. That’s a description of the global economy.

The advantage of the local economy is you can secede from the global economy, which permits the exploitation of everybody and everything for the benefit of relatively few.

There’s  a lot of scorn now toward people who say, “Not in my backyard,” but the “not-in-my-backyard” sentiment is one of the most valuable that we have. If enough people said, “Not in my backyard,” these bad innovations [big box malls] wouldn’t be in anybody’s backyard. It’s your own backyard you’re required to protect because in doing so you’re defending everybody’s backyard. It is an altogether healthy and salutary.

However, a community has to understand that if it refuses the proposal, then it has to come up with something better. And if a corporation comes in and says, “We want you to have this obnoxious installation because it will employ your people; it will bring jobs,” then the community has to have an answer to the question: “Where are we going to find jobs?” Sometimes it won’t be an easy question. Sometimes it will be a devastating question, but the community nevertheless has to begin to look to itself for the answers, not to the government—and not to these corporations that come in posing as saviors of the local community, because they don’t come in to save the local community.

So the community has to begin to ask what they need that can be produced locally, by local people and from the local landscape, and how it can be produced in a way that doesn’t damage the local landscape or the local community. You have to realize that people are working very hard to remove the choice between an economy of grace, based on generosity, and in an economy of scarcity based on acquisition. They can remove that choice simply by making it impossible for small economic enterprises to survive.

A community, for one thing, is an economy. And if you have a community but no local economy your community is seriously impaired. It becomes a thing of feeling only. And you can’t exclude any members from the community. If a community becomes false, it becomes artificial, and is in danger the way all false things are. A community can’t exclude the nonhuman creatures, for instance, if it hopes to last. It can’t exclude its climate. It can’t exclude the air. All these, in a real community, are members. So if you are careful enough in defining a community, you see that it’s a pattern of practical relationships. It’s also, of course, a pattern of loyalties and it’s an emotional pattern.

Trust Your Guts

[We do not have a democracy if our economics is not democratically controlled. The Federal Reserve runs our economy and it is not answerable to our elected representatives, only to the private bankers. Here’s a solution. -DS]

by William Greider

A reassuring new story line is emanating from our leaders. I heard Representative Barney Frank, chair of the House Banking Committee, explain it. Then I read the same line in a Washington Post news story. That tells me people in high places are selling it. Dynamic capitalism, they explain, invents ways to create greater wealth, but sometimes it goes a little too far. Then government has to step in to correct things. This need typically occurs every generation or so, all in a day’s work. The Obama administration is proposing “sweeping” new regulatory laws so that capitalism can continue its good works.

The story makes disturbing current events sound practically normal. But what are the storytellers leaving out? They aren’t saying that this financial catastrophe was not merely an inevitable development of history but a man-made disaster. Greedheads on Wall Street did their part, but so did Washington. The reason we need new rules is that a generation of Democrats and Republicans systematically repealed or gutted the old ones–the regulatory controls enacted eighty years ago to remedy the last breakdown of capitalism (better known as the Great Depression).

The White House executed a nifty two-step this week to re-educate the public and deflect anger. On Tuesday Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner relaunched the massive bailout of banking and finance. Knowing how unpopular this is with the people at large, Geithner followed on Thursday with his “sweeping” plans to re-regulate the bankers and financiers. Whenever official plans are called “sweeping,” it indicates that they really, really mean it this time.

Most Americans are not financial experts. It’s very difficult, nearly impossible, for normal mortals to sort through the dense policy talk and conflicting opinions to figure out if the rhetoric of reform is real. Confusion is widespread in the land. Most Americans want to believe this president is leading us out of the swamp, but how can they know? I say, trust your gut feelings. They are as reliable as the learned experts.

Keep reading Trust Your Guts at Common Ground via The Nation

Where are our young, local, small business entrepreneurs now that we need them?

From Dave Smith
My Foreword to Finding The Sweet Spot by Dave Pollard

[To counter the efforts of those who would foist The Masonite Monster Mall on our community, we need young entrepreneurs to galvanize new local businesses at the potential Masonite Transition Park. The intended gathering of Big Box Dinosaurs and other chain and franchise stores to force their way in, feed at our community trough, and leak their ill-gained revenues and profits to parts unknown, rather than allow small locally-owned businesses to thrive and re-circulate our money locally, will leave our community with lasting scars. If they overrule local citizens and government through their big bucks purchase of the initiative process, and the zoning of the Masonite site is changed adding $30 million to its value, then you can kiss local small business opportunities here goodbye for a generation at least. It’s highly doubtful, for many reasons, that a mall will ever be built. But by keeping the zoning industrial, we will keep the property price within reach of local appropriate technology startups, with good paying jobs, rather than having some retail monstrosity imposed on us from outsiders. Recessions, with great changes upon us, are opportune times to help create the next world of business. Because credit and investment capital is tight or non-existent, businesses will have to be started on shoestrings. This is good. It focuses attention and requires great tenacity. The choice is ours. This book is a key business how-to manual from Dave Pollard for budding entrepreneurs. And here is my Foreword. -DS]

3/27/09 Ukiah, North California

A couple of stories, one a “business failure”, the other a “business success.”

During the seventies, with high unemployment and energy shortages a fact of daily life, some friends and I started and ran a very successful natural food cooperative in Menlo Park, California called Briarpatch Natural Foods. It was created to fill a real community need, following the age-old business adage of “find a need and fill it.” People had time on their hands, and natural foods were expensive, so by working 8 hours every three months, members were able to purchase healthy foods for at least 30% less. Three of us co-managed the store, and the work of unloading trucks, stocking shelves, buying fresh produce at the produce terminal, running the cash registers, and everything else needed to operate a small grocery store was done by members. At one point, there were over 350 families on the waiting list.

Because labor is, by far, the largest expense of doing business, taking most of that cost out of the expense statement created not only cheaper food but an enormous forgiveness for the obvious inefficiencies of volunteer, untrained labor and the lack of basic business skills by its enthusiastic and smart, but woefully unskilled management. What fun we had playing store!

It eventually proved to be unsustainable long-term for the simple fact that business is cyclical and when Silicon Valley exploded into runaway growth and success, no-one had time to play store, and the store didn’t adapt quickly enough to the rapidly changing times that did it in. All vendors were fully paid, all member investments were fully returned, and the graceful ending of a beautiful success left us only fond memories. By our current business standards, it was a failure because it didn’t grow and make its “investors” a ton of money. By those of us most intimately involved in the daily business of running a community cooperative, it was one of our most beautiful, successful business experiences.

On the other hand, Smith & Hawken, the $100 million garden company I co-founded is considered an enduring entrepreneurial success. I disagree, and here’s why.

Myth Two – Industrial Food is Safe, Healthy and Nutritious

From Fatal Harvest
The Seven Myths of Industrial Agriculture

3/27/09 Ukiah, North California

The Truth

Industrial agriculture contaminates our vegetables and fruits with pesticides, slips dangerous bacteria into our lettuce, and puts genetically engineered growth hormones into our milk. It is not surprising that cancer, food-borne illnesses, and obesity are at an all-time high.

A modern supermarket produce aisle presents a perfect illusion of food safety. Consistency is a hallmark. Dozens of apples are on display, waxed and polished to a uniform luster, few if any bearing a bruise or dent or other distinguishing characteristics. Nearby sit stacked pyramids of oranges dyed an exact hue to connote ripeness. Perhaps we find a shopper comparing two perfectly similar cellophane-wrapped heads of lettuce, as if trying to distinguish between a set of identical twins. Elsewhere, throughout the store, processed foods sit front and center on perfectly spaced shelves, their bright, attractive cans, jars, and boxes bearing colorful photographs of exquisitely prepared and presented foods. They all look unthreatening, perfectly safe, even good for you. And for decades, agribusiness, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have proclaimed boldly that the United States has the safest food supply in the world.

As with all the myths of industrial agriculture, things are not exactly as they appear. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that between 1970 and 1999, food-borne illnesses increased more than tenfold. And according to the FDA, at least 53 pesticides classified as carcinogenic are presently applied in massive amounts to our major food crops. While the industrialization of the food supply progresses, we are witnessing an explosion in human health risks and a significant decrease in the nutritional value of our meals.

Increased Cancer Risk
A central component of the industrialized food system is the large-scale introduction of toxic chemicals.
This toxic contamination of our food shows no signs of decreasing. Since 1989, overall pesticide use has risen by about 8 percent, or 60 million pounds. The use of pesticides that leave residues on food has increased even more. Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that more than 1 million Americans drink water laced with pesticide runoff from industrial farms. Our increasing use of these chemicals has been paralleled by an exponential growth in health risks, to both farmers and consumers.

The primary concern associated with this toxic dependency is cancer. The EPA has already identified more than 165 pesticides as potentially carcinogenic, with numerous chemical mixtures remaining untested. Residues from potentially carcinogenic pesticides are left behind on some of our favorite fruits and vegetables. In 1998, the FDA found pesticide residues in over 35 percent of the food tested. Many U.S. products have tested as being more toxic than those from other countries. What’s worse, current standards for pesticides in food do not yet include specific protections for fetuses, infants, or young children, despite major changes to federal pesticide laws in 1996 requiring such reforms. Many scientists believe that pesticides play a major role in the current cancer “epidemic” among children. And the cancer risk does not just affect consumers; it also imperils tens of thousands of farmers, field hands, and migrant laborers. A National Cancer Institute study found that farmers who used industrial herbicides were six times more likely than non-farmers to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer. Along with their cancer risk, pesticides can cause myriad other health problems, especially for young people. For example, exposure to neurotoxic compounds like PCBs and organophosphate insecticides during critical periods of development can cause permanent, long-term damage to the brain, nervous, and reproductive systems.

A Potential Community Development Plan for the Masonite Site (Part 1)

[“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” This could not be more true for what our community is facing. Without a clearly thought-out viable plan that is well along in community acceptance, and documented evidence of funding potential (including property purchase), our community risks losing the battle to save the Masonite site for the future economic health of our community. Ukiah Blog posts regarding a community  plan for the Masonite site will be categorized under “Masonite Transition Park”. What’s your vision? Your own comments and posts are crucial and most welcome. -DS]

From Earl Brown

3/26/09 Ukiah, North California

This post represents a synthesis of viewpoints, conversations and ideas I have had over thirty years of working in Lake and Mendocino Counties regarding self-reliant communities, job creation and healthy ecosystems. Many discussions concerning the environment, living wage jobs, sustainable communities, endangered species protection, watershed management, production agriculture, cottage industry, tourism, and education have contributed, directly, or indirectly, to the ideas contained within this post. Some people who read through this will see their thoughts and ideas reflected here. I appreciate their contributions, although I have not tried to duplicate their ideas in any exact way, but blended them into my visioning. My purpose is to present these ideas in a way that helps the reader to see our potential; to open their imagination and begin to envision their own possibilities for Mendocino County; not just the Masonite property, but for our bio-region and beyond.

We are living during a time of great crisis and great potential. I believe that, even with the corruption and abuse of funds that will undoubtedly come with President Obama’s stimulus package, it still represents an opportunity for us to take a little control of our future. It is an opportunity for us, the grassroots people, to express our creativity, our willingness to cooperate, and our desire to create a sustainable Mendocino County. My concept is based upon an “eco-village” approach where businesses, manufacturing and other village elements work cooperatively and with mutual benefit for themselves and the larger community. As a “living systems” thinker it is natural for me to think in patterns and connections; in complexes of relationships that are always in flux, inter-relating and self-organizing. I see human environments the same way and the eco-village concept attempts to establish relationships between our natural environment, local self reliance, mental and spiritual health, and sustainability (responsibility to future generations).

This post is a boiler-plate and not intended to be a complete or exhaustive list of potentials for the Masonite property. Here, I have identified sixteen aspects of a potential community development that I believe would enhance our self-reliance, help stabilize our economy and build a stronger network of community. The aspects are not listed in any order of importance or priority and have a brief explanation for each. I have also prepared further posts to expand on several of the themes that I have particular interest and experience in. I invite comments, more ideas, expansion of these ideas, questions, discussion, meetings and I want to hear whatever moves you, including honest, meaningful, insightful criticism. This is not about agreement, but about the discussion.

Once again I want to acknowledge all of the people who have contributed to these ideas and claim no ownership of this material. Step one may be allowing that something greater than ourselves is trying to move through us, that it is not about us, specifically, but about our collective potential; this is certainly larger than me.

The sixteen aspects are: (in no order of importance or priority)

Solar farm with solar charging station
The solar farm would consist of an array of panels linked directly to the charging and distribution system. Roof surfaces of many structures can be fitted with solar collectors and be networked into the main system grid to also feed the charging and distribution center. The charging station would be a service center for locals and travelers with hybrid and/or electric vehicles, including electric vehicles used in the village, and supply the power for the village with the excess sold to the grid to help offset other expenses.

Food Processing Facility
This facility is to stimulate a diverse cottage agriculture community by housing the necessary equipment and space necessary to process local fruit and vegetables into value added food items such as jellies, jams, chutneys, sauces, fermented vegetables, soups, juices and more. There would be a crushing capability; hammer mill, stemmer crusher, bladder press; pumps, hoses, filters, heat exchanger, small processing equipment and storage capability. Washers and scrubbers for vegetables will be available for tubers and other tough skinned veggies. Solar fruit dehydrators could be developed at this site or in another location depending upon space, type and size of dehydrator. The building would consist of at lease three separate, rentable, commercial kitchen units, open production space (fillers, bottle-line), cold storage with freezer, warehouse space, shipping and receiving dock, office and public retail space. This facility could be expanded to produce fruit wines, specialty brandies, fruit liqueurs and other specialty products. Local people could use the facility to produce products of their own, or sell fruit to other producers. The facility could be a source of job training, seasonal employment as well as provide some permanent employment for skilled people.

Amusement Center (miniature golf – solar go cart track – skate/bmx park)
This would be the entertainment center for the youth of our area and fun center for visitors. There is room for innovation and creativity here and this could be a real fun addition to our area. The golf course could be constructed from locally harvested alternative building materials, be landscaped with native plants, and watered with reclaimed water from the waste treatment system.

Small Diameter Pole Mill
Fire fuels reduction in our forests is an imperative and there are a large number of small diameter trees that could be milled into alternative building materials for post and pole frame construction. Removing the excess small diameter trees in a thin and release venture could help offset the expense of the work and by mulching the slash back into the ecosystem nutrients will be recycled mimicking a natural fire. Measures need to be taken to assure that this does not trigger more clear-cutting of timber, but is a part of a concerted watershed and forest restoration project aimed at retaining the forest health of Mendocino County. (County building codes will need to be changed to accommodate alternative building materials such as these small diameter poles)

Natural Materials Furniture Construction and Fabrication
A furniture construction facility that uses locally grown willow species, alder and other suitable trees to produce quality, durable, furniture. Planting sections of willows and other usable species on the Masonite property would create green and open space while supplying raw material for the furniture construction facility. Wood chips, bark and other organic waste will be used to generate fuel, or be composted to use on the agricultural land.

Fiber Mill
A fiber manufacturing facility would utilize local wool, hemp fiber, bamboo, willow, and fungi to produce a variety of fabrics for local markets and manufacture.

Community Interpretive Watershed and Visitor’s Center
This is a public resource center focused on our region’s watersheds, streams and rivers. The Center would be a library of multimedia resources, including written word, video, DVD, photo documentary, maps, and other information regarding our watersheds and their health. This Center could network with schools, adult education programs, employment development projects, and other community service groups to provide job skills training, work experience, social skills and personal life skills as well as a source for outdoor curriculum for schools. A crew, or crews, could be trained and available for contract work through the center which if operated as a not-for-profit could be used to work on both public and private lands for environmental protection and restoration.

Green Zone (community forest park)
There needs to be a good amount of public open/green space in the development. A small mixed forest could grow into a location for summer fairs, outdoor music, picnic and relaxing space. This green space could also include plantings of various willow varieties for furniture manufacture and other usable woody species as needed.

Agriculture land
Land set aside, beyond green space, for the cultivation of specialty willows for furniture, fiber crops, row crops, flowers, and other crops as identified. Solar green houses, mushroom sheds, solar fruit dehydrators and similar production houses may also be considered. Water for irrigation can come from the reclaimed water from the waste treatment systems, as well as any other no-potable water uses.

Housing for the area would reflect the eco-village approach and be suitable housing for people to live, work and thrive within the village. It is natural for people to live at, or within walking distance, of their work, although modern commuter society has altered this through rapid modes of transportation. In simpler times a person knew and was known by the people in their neighborhood. They knew the land and they knew what else lived there, they were a part of it and interacted with it daily. The eco-village approach encourages people to live and work in the village, to know and support each other and help to collectively keep the security and safety of the village intact.

Bio-fuel generation facility and filling station
This facility would focus on developing local means of power generation. Rendering vegetable oils into bio-diesel, developing a methane extractor for wood and other organic waste, making wood pellets for fireplaces, and potentially extracting combustible oils from forest products, would be included in the design of this element.  A cottage industry could rise by taking small plots of land and growing a bio-fuel crop such as Jerusalem artichokes, corn or other high starch plants for ethanol. Emphasis should be on electric (wind and solar) for most local transportation with bio-fuels augmenting the transition from fossil fuel to sustainable power. Caution needs to be taken so land needed for food production is not lost for bio-fuel crops. Empty, or unused, urban space to small for commercial agriculture could be planted into bio-fuel crops which would give landowners a source of extra income and keep rural agriculture space open for food production.

Small retail
There is room for small retail space such as a deli, restaurant, local products (soaps, herbal essence oils), local crafts (clothes, wood working, and art), wine tasting and other suitable, non-polluting, business. The concept is not to take business, or employees, from existing businesses, but to create new businesses that reflect the nature of our valley and its people; no box stores.

13. Light Manufacture/Business
A recycle-reuse mill that would take what recyclables we can and develop methods of re-manufacturing them into usable products. This would help minimize our waste output to the transfer station, employ a wide range of skilled employees, provide job training opportunities and help raise awareness of needless or careless waste. A solar panel construction business would be a benefit; data storage, alternative building material manufacture and a laboratory for culturing the bacteria and other micro-organisms for waste digestion and soil remediation, are other business possibilities.

This is an eco-tourism business involved in rafting, biking, kayaking, wine/beer tours and other activities for visitors. Two studies, one from the 1960’s and the other in 2008, indicate that with the richness of Mendocino County and the California North Coast tourism is the prime economic resource to be developed. This industry and its economic potential have been completely overlooked by business and civil leaders alike. Eco-tourism has many faces; river rafting, kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, camping, sightseeing, rock hounding, bird watching, photography, photo journalism, botany, self-reflection and spiritual experience, to name a few.

Train Depot, or spur to main track
The success of this mixed light industry, agriculture and eco-village is largely dependent upon the re-opening of the rail to Willits. There are efforts within Sonoma County to open and maintain the track to Cloverdale where they have invested in rebuilding their rail station; we should do the same. U.S. Highway 101 connects us, north to south, yet soon, fuel prices and the awareness of the hidden costs of oil (war, oppression, racism) will soon cut into people’s ability and desire to burn fossil fuels for personal pleasure. Affordable mass transit will be a necessity in the future. The existing rail system, to Willits, stands ready to be utilized, with minor investment, for commuter transit, transport of local produce and products south, to bring needed supplies north, and to give tourists, specifically ecologically minded tourists, access to Mendocino County.

Autonomous, Waste Water Treatment System
A stand alone (autonomous) wastewater digestion system will be designed to eliminate liquid waste. Using bacteria, fungi and other naturally occurring micro-organisms (no genetic engineering) to digest the waste material reclaims the water and breaks the waste down into its natural organic compounds. The bacteria blend and the system can be designed to take all of the liquid waste, grey and black water, as well as chemicals, soaps, petroleum hydrocarbons, medicines, hormones, and many harmful bacteria, that may find its way into the waste treatment system. The end result of the digestion process is a clear, nutrient rich, liquid …. water…. that with minimal effort can be brought up to potable standards. This water can be used to irrigate landscaping, agricultural land, stored in wildlife/ornamental ponds, or used in any other way non-potable water can be utilized. In drought conditions, when water is scarce, this system reclaims the usable water and makes it available for uses that would otherwise use potable water that would be better used for human and animal consumption.

These are my sixteen suggestions for potential uses of the Masonite property. It is a small list and needs to be fleshed out, reconsidered, discussed, added to, and made real. Right now these are just words, yet, with some effort, a grassroots development, not too different than the ideas contained within this post and future posts could come into existence. I will add the other posts as they are developed for your reading and comment, if you choose to do so.

A Potential Community Development Plan for the Masonite Site – Part 1
Eco-Train, Rail and Depot – Part 2
Ecologically-Oriented Tourism – Part 3
Rail to Trail – Part 4
Autonomous Waste Water Treatment System – Part 5
Community Interpretive Watershed and Visitor’s Center – Part 6
Food Processing Facility – Part 7

Small Diameter Pole Processing Mill – Part 8
Fiber Processing and Re-Manufacture Mill – Part 9

Ukiah Farmers’ Market Saturday 3/28/09

From Scott Cratty
Ph: 707-462-7377

Friends of the Farmers Market,

Greetings.  As of this moment the Weather Channel is predicting a sunny 75 degree day for this Saturday’s farmers’ market.  If you have been sitting out the off-season market so far, this is a great chance to start getting back into shape for the summer.

The fish selection started to broaden last week.  Given the mild weather this week, I would expect a good range of options again this week.

Also, in case you haven’t noticed, Mendocino Organics has started vending in the back Southern corner of the pavilion.

Saturday will be your last chance in the off-season market to catch Jerry Krantman’s eclectic acoustic originals and cover tunes at the Saturday Farmers’ Market.  Hopefully we can find a date that works for Jerry in the summer season as well.

My column in the UDJ this coming Friday delves into the complexities of determining if and when to let distant farms sell at our market.  To take the issue a bit further, I thought I would invite you to share your thoughts about whether we should invite Neufeld Farm, the vendor who has been bringing dried fruits to the winter market, to keep coming during the regular season. Neufeld’s production in is Kingsberg CA, a bit south of Fresno.  So, the fruit is coming a fairly long way. Their production in the summer would include fresh fruits, some of which (like peaches) would overlap with local sources and some of which would not.  If you care to, please share your opinion.

Now for this week’s educational installment, here is a bit from the TimesOnline/UK forwarded by Friends of the Market member Terry Nieves.

10 Things We Didn’t Know About Food

How the authors of the new Rough Guide to Food lost their appetites for the

food industry.

by George Miller and Katharine Reeve

A surprise consequence of writing a book about food was that we lost our appetite. A month in, we realised we had underestimated just how devastating the effects of our industrial food systems are on our health, animal welfare, climate change and the earth’s resources.

Thankfully, a few trips to some farmers markets with their good news story of artisan baking, handmade cheeses and fresh-from-the-ground veg offered the escapism we needed and helped provide a sense of perspective.

Food, lies and red tape

Overwhelmingly we found that most of us simply don’t know much about food, having grown up knowing only supermarkets. In our confusion we are at the mercy of food manufacturers’ aggressive marketing campaigns, especially for highly profitable “healthy” foods.

Keep reading 10 Things… at Times OnLine→

The Fierce Urgency of Now

[The car-centric dinosaur Masonite Monster Mall feeds the Climate Change disaster rather than alleviating it. We need transitions to inviting, walkable, bikable, sustainable, small towns run with renewable energy systems… with jobs based on organic farming and localized, appropriate technology. -DS]

Yes, windmills and dams deface the landscape but the climate crisis demands immediate action

From Bill McKibben

Don’t be too “Canadian” about the backlash – this is no time for Mr. Nice Guy

Watching the backlash against clean energy projects build in Canada has moved me to think about what Americans have learned from facing this same problem. I have been thinking and writing for several years about overcoming conflict-avoidance and the importance of standing up for “Big Truths” even at the price of criticizing fellow environmentalists.

It’s not that I’ve developed a mean streak. It’s that the environmental movement has reached an important point of division, between those who truly get global warming, and those who don’t.

By get, I don’t mean understanding the chemistry of carbon dioxide, or the importance of the Kyoto Protocol, or those kinds of things – pretty much everyone who thinks of themselves as an environmentalist has reached that point. By get, I mean understanding that the question is of transcending urgency, that it represents the one overarching global civilizational challenge that humans have ever faced.

In the U.S., there are all manner of fights to stop or delay every imaginable low-carbon technology. Wind, solar, run-of-river hydro – these are precisely the kinds of renewable energy that every Earth Day speech since 1970 has trumpeted. But now they are finally here – now that we’re talking about particular projects in particular places – people aren’t so keen.

Opponents of renewable energy projects point out (correctly) that they have impacts – there are (overstated) risks to birds from wind turbines, to fish from run-of-river hydro, that the projects mean “development” somewhere there was none and transmission lines where there were none before.

They point out (again correctly) that the developers are private interests, rushing to develop a resource that, in fact, they do not own, and without waiting for the government to come up with a set of rules and processes for siting such installations.

The critics also insist that there’s a “better” site somewhere – and again they’re probably right. There’s almost always a better site for anything. The whole business is messy, imperfect.

If we had decades to burn, then perhaps the opponents would be right that there’s a better site, and a nicer developer. There’s always a better site and a nicer developer. But in the real world, we have at most 10 years to reverse the fossil fuel economy. Which means we have to do everything quickly – conservation and plug-in cars and solar panels and compact fluorescents and 100-mile food and tree planting. And windmills, windmills everywhere there is wind, just like off the shores of Europe.

Keep reading The Fierce Urgency of Now at The Toronto Star via Common Dreams→

A Call for an Equitable and Sustainable Economy

Dear fellow business leaders and social entrepreneurs,
To review and sign this letter, please click on this link and sign by Tuesday, March 31st.

To: White House Offices: The Office of Public Liaison/Dept. of Energy, Environment and Natural Resources; The Office of Social Innovation and Civic Engagement; and The Council on Environmental Quality
From: American Sustainable Business Council
Subject: A Call for an Equitable and Sustainable Economy
Date: March 31, 2009

This document was written by business executives and social entrepreneurs who are working to create a more equitable and sustainable economy. The undersigned individuals are the chief executives of mission-driven businesses, social enterprises, and sustainable business networks representing hundreds of thousands of employees, members and leaders, and hundreds of billions in economic activity.

We have been very pleased with the leadership and transparency of the Obama Administration to revitalize the U.S. economy. Our council and partners are working to build on this momentum with new thinking on a critical but often overlooked segment of the economy: mission-driven enterprises.

We believe it is time to create the foundation and framework for a transition to a new, 21st century American economy grounded in principles of sustainability and equity. We need to move beyond the politics and business of the past to create the innovative solutions—enterprises, collaborations, and ideas—necessary for accelerating such a transformation.

While our recommendations come from a variety of sources, this community is unified in the conviction that the current economic, social and environmental crises we are facing are rooted in inequitable and unsustainable practices and structures that must be transformed if there is to be a renewal of hope and prosperity. As Einstein famously stated, “we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

An overarching strategy behind our recommendations is for government to empower the engines of our economy—businesses and social enterprises—to be the agents of recovery and revitalization. By removing obstacles, creating incentives, providing support, and partnering, government can help create an enabling environment in which restorative, equitable and sustainable economic models can thrive. These recommendations will unleash the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation across all sectors and disciplines to confront and solve the economic, social and environmental problems we are now facing.

In this document, we share high level perspectives and recommendations in major policy categories and offer examples of changes we consider to be effective and feasible in the current political climate. As a companion to this proposal, this council will be working in collaboration with others to launch an ongoing, comprehensive multi-stakeholder initiative to aggregate, synthesize and prioritize the most effective policy recommendations that promote equitable and sustainable economic reform.

Stark Choice: Masonite Monster Mall…


Transition Town Ukiah


Masonite Transition Park
(Appropriate Technology Center)

:: Stay tuned in to Ukiah Blog ::

Art, Independence and Spirit – Van Gogh, Brenda Ueland

From Brenda Ueland
Excerpted from If You Want To Write (1939)
Still in print

If you read the letters of the painter Van Gogh you will see what his creative impulse was. It was just this: he loved something—the sky, say. He loved human beings. He wanted to show human beings how beautiful the sky was. So he painted it for them. And that was all there was to it.

When Van Gogh was a young man in his early twenties, he was in London studying to be a clergyman. He had no thought of being an artist at all. He sat in his cheap little room writing a letter to his younger brother in Holland, whom he loved very much. He looked out his window at a watery twilight, a thin lampost, a star, and he said in his letter something like this: “It is so beautiful I must show you how it looks.” And then on his cheap ruled note paper, he made the most beautiful, tender, little drawing of it.

When I read this letter of Van Gogh’s it comforted me very much and seemed to throw clear light on the whole road of Art. Before, I had thought that to produce a work of painting or literature, you scowled and thought long and ponderously and weighed everything solemnly and learned everything that all artists had ever done aforetime, and what their influences and schools were, and you were extremely careful about design and balance and getting interesting planes into your painting, and avoided, with the most stringent severity, showing the faintest academical tendency, and were strictly modern. And so on and on.

But the moment I read Van Gogh’s letter I knew what art was, and the creative impulse. It is a feeling of love and enthusiasm for something, and in a direct, simple, passionate and true way, you try to show this beauty in things to others, by drawing it.

You’re not here to become an entertainer…

From Karl Paulnack, welcoming address to freshman students at Boston Conservatory of Music [thanks to Dave Pollard, who thanks Beth P for the link -DS]

If we were a medical school, and you were here as a med student practicing appendectomies, you’d take your work very seriously because you would imagine that some night at 2:00 AM someone is going to waltz into your emergency room and you’re going to have to save their life. Well, my friends, someday at 8:00 PM someone is going to walk into your concert hall and bring you a mind that is confused, a heart that is overwhelmed, a soul that is weary. Whether they go out whole again will depend partly on how well you do your craft.

You’re not here to become an entertainer, and you don’t have to sell yourself. The truth is you don’t have anything to sell; being a musician isn’t about dispensing a product, like selling used Chevies. I’m not an entertainer; I’m a lot closer to a paramedic, a firefighter, a rescue worker. You’re here to become a sort of therapist for the human soul, a spiritual version of a chiropractor, physical therapist, someone who works with our insides to see if they get things to line up, to see if we can come into harmony with ourselves and be healthy and happy and well.

Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, I expect you not only to master music; I expect you to save the planet. If there is a future wave of wellness on this planet, of harmony, of peace, of an end to war, of mutual understanding, of equality, of fairness, I don’t expect it will come from a government, a military force or a corporation. I no longer even expect it to come from the religions of the world, which together seem to have brought us as much war as they have peace. If there is a future of peace for humankind, if there is to be an understanding of how these invisible, internal things should fit together, I expect it will come from the artists, because that’s what we do. As in the concentration camp and the evening of 9/11, the artists are the ones who might be able to help us with our internal, invisible lives.

Marching Orders – Masonite Monster Mall

5/23/09 Ukiah, North California

Dear Mr. Smith,

There are reasons most of us members of “Mendocino County Tomorrow” cannot identify ourselves as we march to assemble signatures for “Mendocino Crossings”, or Developers Diversified Realty, or whatever you want to call us. Yes, DDR/”Mendocino Crossings” is our sponsor with their $1,000 gift, and are helping us in many other ways*.

And it’s true we’re not actually a legally registered non-profit organization. But this is all about profit. In fact, most of us were hoping to profit directly on DDR’s coattails, before their stock prices fell from $70 to $2 a share. You can understand why we wouldn’t want our names associated with that, either.

And some of us were silenced at our very first meeting of “Mendocino County Tomorrow”, when that micro-economist “expert” from Sonoma State, Rob Eyler, told us that DDR’s mall there would create the worst possible outcome for economic development in Mendocino County. The room sure was quiet then, and we’ve been silent since. Silence really is golden!

But many of us are Realtors® and other business men and women in Ukiah, and would not like to be singled out for a boycott. If people in town knew we were collaborating with DDR’s hoax, selling our neighbors out, we’re afraid we’d be tarred and feathered! So we’re forced to operate by stealth, hoping that we can dupe enough people into signing a petition – you know, in the interests of democracy.

Not all of us are proud of our roles in this end run around the County planning processes, the elected officials and the will of the citizens. It’s hard for some of us to swallow this line about “taking it to the people”, especially after that last election. It’s really all about leapfrogging over the public. But with this petition, there won’t be any environmental review of the Masonite site. We’ll be saving the public a lot of time looking at that old dump. No “Love Canal” here!

I know that some have characterized this petition thing as some kind of “corporate hostile takeover”. That is so not us! We are not hostile, not at all. We are your neighbors, your associates and business partners. We just prefer to remain nameless. Think of us as your special “Secret Friends”. Others have already called us “collaborators”, as if we’re some kind of “fifth column”. Where do people get those ideas? And as for that sarcastic guy calling us “Mendocino County Yesterday”? Well, I think you can understand why we don’t want our names in the paper!

I wish I could say more, but I have to rush off to a “Board” meeting, if I can find it. Perhaps I can come out later, contact you, and we can discuss this more. Please don’t print my name, or put this in any stupid “blog”.

Very best,


Mendocino County Tomorrow

*PS:   See enclosure above. DDR/ “Mendocino Crossings” really helped us on the “Mendocino County Tomorrow” website!

[A letter we have yet to see from “Mendocino County Tomorrow” -EJ]

Give Obama more time…

Give Obama more time. Then give him hell.

The president has had only two months –  harsh judgments are premature

From Andrew Sullivan

The former New York City mayor Ed Koch was renowned for strolling about Manhattan when he was in office, grabbing strangers by the lapel and asking, “How am I doing?” This is not exactly Barack Obama’s style – he shimmers around, with a dry but beguiling smile that seems to say, “Don’t touch me” – but others are doing it for him. In an age of 24-hour news channels, millions of blogs and columnists vying to stay above the bloggerrhoeic tide, there is a real urge to make a clear and instant judgment.

I’m not going to do it, because, two months after a president has taken office in the middle of a global financial and economic crisis, as he grapples with two unending wars and a battered constitution, the whole idea of a definitive judgment is loopy. It’s also likely to be wrong. If you had judged the last Bush administration at this point, you would have said it was much better than expected. If you’d judged Bill Clinton in March 1993, you’d have said he was the most incompetent, clueless, chaotic manager the White House had survived. Now look at history’s judgment.

However, there’s a case for feeling that Obama is floundering. He has yet to solve the banking crisis, his Treasury is horrifyingly understaffed and he somehow allowed a bunch of incompetents and thieves at AIG to walk off with massive bonuses under his nose. His stimulus package was too controlled by the Democrats in Congress and is too spread out into 2010 to have a big impact now, when it’s most needed. He is trying to take on too many things at once – from climate change and healthcare reform to engaging Iran and reforming Pakistan. The aura of his campaign has waned as the poetry of insurgency has segued into the deadly and often ungrammatical prose of government. He seemingly still can’t speak without a teleprompter.

Keep reading Give Obama more time at TimesOnline

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


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

From Michael Moore


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)

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→


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


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.

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→

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.

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 what about the malls here soon to be abandoned?
The Parable of the Shopping Mall
(Alexander Cockburn) at→
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

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.