Book Review: It Could Happen Here


In some important ways, Judson’s book follows perfectly on a line of thought presented in three of my previous Buzzflash book reviews:

In “Reinventing Collapse,” Dmitry Orlov talked about his experience as a teenager in Russia when the USSR collapsed and how now, as an American resident, he sees the same dynamics at play here – only we’re less well prepared than was the former Soviet state.

In “The Great Crash of 1929,” John Kenneth Galbraith laid out how Republican/conservative economic policies played out through three successive Republican presidencies led directly to the Great Depression in 1929, and implicitly how thirty years of Reaganomics/Clintonomics is leading us in the same direction now.

And in “The Impact of Inequality” Richard Wilkinson shows how the more unequal a society is, the more sick and unstable it becomes – and documents how the United States is now the most unequal industrial society in the world.

In “It Could Happen Here,” Bruce Judson walks us right up to the edge of a total political collapse in the United States – a “revolution” is the word he uses – and points out that we’re a country that has often experienced both revolutions and violence in response to economic crises.

Local Energy and Corporate Power (Part 4)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

This man says it perfectly, so I’ll just quote him. What follows is John Geesman’s fact sheet about the PG&E power grab:


Peter Darbee’s (CEO of PG&E) Dog of an Initiative:
3 Tapeworms Eating Away at the Internal Logic of Prop. 16


I was dumbstruck when I read that PG&E’s board has authorized spending up to $35 million on this initiative. The local governments, municipal utilities, and irrigation districts who are its targets are prohibited by law from spending anything to oppose it. California’s investor-owned utilities face a Himalayan task in modernizing our electricity system and building the infrastructure necessary to serve a growing economy. They ought to focus on that, rather than manipulating the electorate to kneecap their few competitors. Has there ever been a time when we needed greater downward pressure on electricity rates? Perhaps I can contribute to stopping this outrage by assembling this information.

On February 25, I had the privilege of testifying on Proposition 16 before the joint hearing of the California Senate Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Committee and the California Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee.  This is what I said:

Open Letter To The Editor Re: Board of Supervisors CEO Appointment

Mendocino County

When I read that the Board of Supervisors appointed Ms. Carmel Angelo to a two-year contract as a CEO, I was very disappointed.  In my disappointment I sent around an overly cranky email directed at John McCowen, who had sent around a notice of the Board’s actions.

I apologize for the overly cranky email.  Since then I have heard that Angelo is indeed a very good administrator, and had I had information on her performance in other jobs, or some evaluation of her performance I likely would have agreed that her appointment was a good thing for the county.  I do like the fact that she is actually living here (she is, isn’t she?) and therefore is not someone who has to be moved to the county and introduced to all the players.

That said, it would have been helpful if the members of the Board had shared their thoughts in a wider forum than in individual communications.  It’s the preemption of public input (in a public forum) that drives county residents crazy.

And then there is the issue of a two-year contract.  Would she have just picked up and left if the BOS had said she would continue as the interim CEO until the BOS decided whether to continue the CEO model, or do something else?  If the answer is yes, then maybe she isn’t so dedicated to the welfare of the county residents as we would like to think she is.

In sum, after 2 disastrous CEOs, to go ahead and appoint another one without some deliberations (in public) seems dangerous.

Going forward, I would like to see the BOS adopt a formal tracking system so that the BOS receives updates on its priority items.  This is something I have seen work in my career in the federal government.

Food Renegade: Vandana Shiva on the Dangers of GMOs (Video)

Food Renegade

Until a few months ago, I didn’t know who Vandana Shiva was. Now I think of her as India’s Sitting Bull — a well-educated freedom fighter who is outspoken against the use of GMOs.

In Shiva’s home country of India, thousands of farmers are taking their lives. In the mainstream news media, reports of the mass suicides are blamed on failed crops. Shiva tells a different story. She blames failed GMO crops.

Monsanto comes to India promising illiterate farmers radical yield increases (empty promises), and in turn the farmer (usually for the first time in his life) takes on debt to buy Monsanto’s seeds. He then has to take on additional debt to pay for the accompanying herbicides, pesticides, irrigation, and machinery needed to make these GMO crops grow. If they don’t have the credit to buy the whole package — say they couldn’t afford to irrigate their fields and instead relied on rain which never came (or came at the wrong time in the sensitive lifespan of the GE plant) — then they experience a loss: no increased yields, and now mountains of unpayable debt.

The result? They take their lives.

You can understand why Dr. Shiva is so passionate.

Recently, she sat down for a three part interview with the folks at Cooking Up A Story. In this first part (shown below), Vandana Shiva begins to outline some of the environmental, economic, and health dangers associated wtih GMO crops.

It’s a must see

Mendocino Renegade: Els Cooperrider inducted into the Truth in Labeling Coalition Citizens Hall of Fame


Whereas genetically engineered food ingredients are now contained in over 70% of the American food supply, and no animal or human testing has been done to prove their safety; and the FDA has ruled that there is no significant difference between conventional foods and genetically engineered foods; therefore they don’t need to be labeled; and

Whereas genetically engineered food crops are contaminating organic crops in the field, threatening the integrity of organic agriculture; and

Whereas seed companies and food manufacturers are labeling their European exports as genetically engineered; there are no labeling requirements in the United States, and

Whereas in response to the threat of genetically engineered food, the county of Mendocino in California passed a ban on the planting of genetically engineered crops, and Els Cooperrider led the campaign,

Therefore be it resolved, that Els Cooperrider be inducted into the Truth in Labeling Coalition Citizens Hall of Fame; and is hereby commended and honored for her work.

[Way to go, Els!! -DS]

Take Action! Stop GMO Contamination of Organic!


Don’t Let Obama’s USDA Approve Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready Alfalfa!

Submit comments yourself to personalize Organic Consumers Association’s template letter.

Don’t believe Monsanto’s greenwashing. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), aren’t meant to feed the world or be resilient when there are droughts and floods – they’re designed to sell pesticides, especially Monsanto’s weed killer RoundUp, which the “Roundup Ready” crops, corn, cotton, soy, canola, and now sugar beets and alfalfa, are genetically engineered to withstand.

A 2009 study showed that, over the last 13 years, Roundup Ready crops have dramatically increased herbicide use by 383 million pounds!

Before Obama took office, the movement to stop new GMOs was making progress. In 2007, a Federal court ruled that the Bush USDA’s approval of Roundup Ready alfalfa violated the law because it failed to analyze risks such as the contamination of conventional and organic alfalfa and the development of “super-weeds.” The court banned the planting of GE alfalfa until USDA completed a rigorous analysis of these impacts. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals twice affirmed the national ban on Roundup Ready alfalfa planting, but Monsanto is appealing. They’re taking producers of organic alfalfa seed all the way to the Supreme Court!

Take Action Now!

(Mostly) Against Movies

Front Porch Republic

…almost all movies leave me feeling robbed of time: time, whose wingéd chariot ever at my back I hear—time, that subtle thief of youth, that running grave that tracks you down.

I’m quite sure I haven’t seen any movie that came out in the last decade. I remember how treasonous it was that I hadn’t seen ET. It was ill-breeding and lack of intellectual curiosity that kept me from seeing Matrix. I once heard someone call Fight Club a “must-see,” an epithet that resounded in my ear like an interdiction from God not to see it, so I didn’t.

But I do remember making a grave error once. I allowed a student write an essay on American Beauty, and this, like most mistakes, led to a second: seeing the movie. American Beauty is far and away the most puerile flick I know of—and, of course, it won Best Picture. Not even Kevin Spacey’s line about the couch could redeem it. I find it hard to believe that anyone not suffering a severe rectal-cranial inversion could utter a single unaccented syllable in its favor. It is, plainly and simply, a P.O.S. But that’s just the technical term for it.

And of course I didn’t see—hell’s bells, I don’t even know what else it is I haven’t seen. I know only that I won’t be seeing it. I don’t have any plans to see anything.

The reason is that movies are by nature, and in principle, boring—and I can’t see the sense in parting with my money to bore myself…

See full article here

Twice Baked Irish Potatoes with Stout, Onions, and Kale (Videos)


Cooking Fresh with Ivy Manning — In the Kitchen

First, Ivy Manning visited with Shari Sirkin, of Dancing Roots Farm, and learned more about kale. Now it’s time to take that kale into the kitchen and create something delicious and easy to make, with ingredients that are commonly found in most kitchens!

“What’s your favorite potato story?” Gene Theil, the spunky potato farmer nicknamed “ Gene the Potato Machine,” asked me one crisp November morning as I chose from his table of russets. I drew a blank. “Everyone has a potato story,” he assured me. It finally dawned on me: colcannon. My grandmother used to make the satisfying mash of kale or cabbage and potatoes for me when I was a kid. She said its origins came from necessity when times were tough in Ireland. Women would add kale, cabbage, or even seaweed to their mashed potatoes to stretch the meager harvest;– the greener the colcannon, the tougher the times. Gene was happy to hear that he was right again, we all have a potato story. My love of simple but comforting colcannon inspired this satisfying variation of double- stuffed potatoes; it’s a sort of Irish soul food, if you will.

From the Fields: Kale here

Potato Recipe and Instructions here

Local Energy and Corporate Power (Part 3)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

In my last article about PG&E furiously trying to stop counties from developing their own energy sources, the ending thought was about how the recent Supreme Court decision that allowed corporations to put unlimited funds into the political process will affect us:

Speculation has been raging over whether the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent junking of federal campaign spending limits on corporations will be very bad for democracy, or not so bad. With this huge ballot campaign launched by our biggest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, we can say this: It’s going to be worse than you can possibly imagine.

And not only that… PG&E Corp, the parent company, of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. utility is raising the stakes again.

David R. Baker, Chronicle Staff Writer
Saturday, February 20, 2010

that would limit the ability of cities and counties to go into the public power business, the company reported Friday. PG&E has supplied all of the proposition campaign’s funding so far, totaling $6.5 million. On Friday, PG&E took the unusual step of telling its investors that funding for the campaign would affect the company’s 2010 profits, lowering them by 6 to 9 cents per share.

Book Review: Fat – An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, With Recipes


Healthy eating. We all know what that means: no added salt, no added sugar, no added fats. We know it, and it makes us grimace. If I were forced to that awful diet, my first step would be to caramelize a heaping mound of onions. I crave for those added chemical wonders that make food sparkle.

Well, to be accurate, it’s the first two I think I need: salt and sugar. It’s elemental that salt adds a new dimension to food. And sugar. I do love the crinkly sweetness of granulated, the seductive smoothness of confectioners, and the molasses underpinnings of browns. I have to have all those.

But fat? Ah, it’s easier to dispense with fat. Think about it, fat is not pleasant. Imagine a piece of bacon streaked with that opaque, sticky substance that does not even taste good. It’s hard to put in your mouth.

Uh, actually, oh dear, it’s the other way around. It’s good to put in your mouth. It can be very good. And fat includes butter. Certainly all those combinations of butter and chocolate we bake are essential for human life.

So, just how are we to think about fat? Why do we have such a schizophrenic view of fat and how did we all get to this point?

Travels With Frisbee

Under The Table
Anderson Valley

Fredrick Morrison, the inventor of the Frisbee, died at the age of ninety on February 11, 2010. I still carry a Frisbee in my knapsack as I have since 1965 when I bought my first one at Woolworth’s for 69 cents, a flimsy little thing much smaller than the smallest Frisbees sold today.

Though it may seem a preposterous boast, I am very likely the first person to introduce Frisbee to the University of California Santa Cruz in 1967. If perchance someone came before me, I was certainly one of the pioneer users there, and took it upon myself to teach dozens of young men and women the fundamentals of tossing the holy disc. I used to joke that I majored in Anthropology and minored in Frisbee, but the reverse is true. The happiest hours of my two years in college were spent running over hill and dale in pursuit of far-flung Frisbees, my college buddy Dick Mead capable of prodigious tosses across the Elysian Fields of that cattle ranch turned university.

In 1970, a year after I dropped out, I traveled through Mexico and Central America as a translator for a marine biologist and his family. I brought along a dozen Frisbees because they were easy to lose and I thought it would be fun to introduce new friends to the delights of the floating disc. Little did I anticipate the sensation we would cause whenever and wherever we started flinging our Frisbees.

Perhaps our most memorable demonstration of the art

Microbusiness Independence: Invent your way out of the rat race

Wetknee Books

Did you know that people in pre-Industrial societies worked only 3 hours per day on average?  Why are you working 40+ hours per week when you could feed yourself and your family on just a couple of hours a day?

With less than a thousand dollars in startup costs, we built a small, home-based business which started paying all of our bills in just six months.  I’m here to tell you that you can make money from home too, and in a way that fits a simple, homesteading lifestyle.  In fact, using all of the tips in this book, I’ll bet we could have reached our current work at home income level in half the time.”

Microbusiness Independence is not a get rich quick book. 

Not Just Food: Saturday Farmers Market in Ukiah

Mendocino County

When it’s sweets you crave, the best toffee in the whole world is to be had at the Saturday Farmers Market.   Just try to resist after tasting it . . . impossible!

But, let’s say you want a toy.  This sheep bah-ed “Snuggle me!”  Poor little sheep, I took its picture instead.

Whiling away a few more minutes before picking up my share of vegetables from the MendoOrganics Winter CSA, I noticed a young man, Eric Cinowalt, with an intriguing knife sharpening gadget that holds a knife at a steady angle while sharpening it on a traditional sharpening stone.

Local Energy and Corporate Power (Part 2)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

PG&E Spending Millions to Block Local Utilities

From San Jose Mercury News: PG&E is spending millions of dollars on a statewide initiative that would make it tougher for you to get your power from anyone else. The initiative, one of several appearing on the June 8 ballot, would require two-thirds approval from local voters before cities or counties could choose an alternate energy provider. The utility says the initiative, which it refers to as the “Taxpayers Right to Vote Act,” will ensure that voters have a final say on big energy decisions.

“We value our customers very much and we are going to stand up and resist efforts to take over our customers,” said Chairman Peter Darbee.

PG&E has so far spent $6.5 million on the initiative, according to documents on the California secretary of state’s Web site, and has signaled it is prepared to spend millions more. It says money spent on the campaign comes from shareholder dollars, but critics charge that customers are essentially footing the bill.

Pacific Gas and Electric is supporting California Proposition 16 to create a virtual stranglehold on its monopoly.  In a blatant thumbing of its nose at the political process, this corporate giant is attempting to use the proposition system to cement its own power and maintain its monopoly.

The Briarpatch Way

Excerpt from To Be Of Use

During the seventies and eighties, two businesses I cofounded, Briarpatch Cooperative Market and Smith & Hawken, were members of the Briarpatch Network, an informal business association centered in San Francisco. The network was a group of like-minded small-business owners who shared ideas and values about business. I also cofounded a branch of the network on the San Francisco Peninsula, soon to become famous as Silicon Valley, and met weekly with small local businesses at Jesse Cool’s Late for the Train restaurant in Menlo Park. We were a thriving community that shared expertise and resources in the best tradition of mutual aid, and that periodically got together to square dance and whoop it up.

One key to Briarpatch values was the ability to live on less. By participating in a community that supported and valued frugality and rejected the symbols of material success and conformity that demanded one’s participation in their acquisition, we gained the freedom to experiment with alternative ways of doing business. In short, changing the rules of the game made the game a lot more fun. Radical political analysis had taught us the direct connection between the bombs we were dropping on other people in Vietnam and the materialist addictions of our culture. But rather than just protesting and picketing, we were creating new, alternative models for human livelihood. Along with these values, we embraced voluntary simplicity in our personal habits, living conditions, and buying patterns, which made it possible to focus less time on generating income to pay the bills.

What About Bob? (Video)


Bob Gives Away The Store… To His Employees

In the age of corporate consolidation, one business owner has refused to sell his multi-million dollar company, and instead has handed it over to his 209 employees this week, who he considers a ’second family.’ Bob Moore, owner of Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods, started his business selling organic whole grain products in Portland, Oregon in 1978.

“Its the only business decision that I could make,” Moore told ABC News. “I could not sell the company. I don’t think there’s anybody worthy to run this company but the people who built it.” He continued, “There is a lot of negative stuff going into business today. There is a good old basic Bible lesson, and that is that ‘the love of money is the root of all evil.’ And unfortunately our entire philosophy today to get as much money as you can any way that you can has caused people to do a lot of things just for money that they feel in their hearts is just not the right thing to do. I’ve just truly tried to set some of that aside and do what I thought was the best thing for the group of people who made this all possible.”

Go to Civil Eats for video here

Should Mendocino County Take Control of Its Energy and Power? (Part 1)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Local control far fetched?  Marin County’s fledgling public power agency, the Marin Energy Authority, has set its rates and has picked a company to buy electricity wholesale for many of the county’s residents. They just fired PG&E or, as any large corporation would say, downsized them.

Of course this drives PG&E up a telephone pole in fury, because these large corporate monopolies don’t like competition. A free market is just a bit much for them, somewhat similar to health insurance companies. They just don’t like the competition.

Marin could start selling power to its first customers by May. If that happens, Marin County would become California’s first county to adopt a new form of public power called community choice aggregation using a law written in the wake of the state’s energy crisis. Under community choice aggregation (CCA), cities and counties can buy electricity for their residents, while traditional utilities continue to own and operate the power grid.

Marin County also wants to control – and increase – the amount of renewable power they use. The Marin Energy Authority – consisting of the county and most of its cities – has adopted a contract with Shell Energy North America to secure electricity from sources other than PG&E. The initial rates will match PG&E with the long range goal being to lower costs to customers.

Mendo Time Bank Barter Market, Sunday 3/7/10

Mendo Time Bank

On Sunday, March 7th come to Ukiah’s first Barter Market at the Saturday Afternoon Club at 107 S. Oak,  from 1-4 PM.  At the Market you are encouraged to meet other people in the community that are offering their services (for Time Dollars), get volunteers for projects you’re working on, trade quality items, vegetables, homemade crafts, and more.

No money is necessary for this event.  All participants can barter, and Time Bank members can use Time Dollars.  Admission is free, and use of tables is free for Time Bank members.  Cash is OK if you’re selling an item that required bought raw materials to produce.  Otherwise,  no money  accepted– Barter or Time Dollars only.

Barter Market  1-4 pm

We’ll have tables ready for your wares– veggies, starts, homemade food and crafts, and other quality items. Contact Louisa if you have any questions or special needs.

Service Exchange 2-3 pm

Bring ideas for projects you want help with, skills you can offer the community, and your calendar. Bonus material: flyers, photos or other information about your offers or requests.

Here’s The Beef (With Organic Grass-Fed Steak And Hamburger Recipes)


Not long ago, I spent a day at a ranch in Central Texas where my father grew up. One of his childhood friends was showing us around his section of grazing land. Bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush were blooming, and along the horizon, a small herd of cattle stood in silhouette against the clear blue sky punctuated with puffy white clouds.

“I’m leasing the land now to a fellow who’s raising grass fed beef,” explained my father’s friend. “He wants to keep it all natural.” As we walked, my Old Man and his friend shared memories of their childhoods during the Great Depression when their parents worked at the nearby cotton gin.

“Do you remember the burgers?” my father’s friend wanted to know. “I used to ride my bike from the cotton gin into town to buy hamburgers for the crew. They charged a nickel apiece, but if I could get five other guys to order one, the burger joint would give me six burgers for a quarter and I could keep one for myself. Those hamburgers were the best-tasting things in the world.” My father agreed; nothing like ‘em. “Beef just tasted better then.”

How Now Brown Cow?


How and why to buy your beef direct from the ranch

Worried about E. coli in your hamburgers? Skeptical that “natural” beef isn’t as natural as it sounds at the supermarket? Trying to stretch the annual food budget?

Consider skipping the middleman and buying your beef directly from the farmer. You get to meet the person who raised the animal and ask questions about what it was fed, how it was treated, and even how it was slaughtered. And in most cases, you get to order exactly the cuts of meat you want. Bonus: Per pound, this premium meat is cheaper than most meat in the supermarket.

Here are eight reasons to buy your own side (a half-cow, for the technically minded) of grass-fed beef. As we head into spring, meat CSAs are signing up customers; now’s the time to investigate farm-direct purchasing of meat.

Egg In The Eye (Organic Recipe)

Organic To Be

Both of my kids, who are grown and cooking for themselves now, never tired of this dish. In truth, the best part was always the little piece of toast that came from the cutout circle in the middle of the bread, where the yolk peeks through. Jonah, my youngest, was very happy when I buttered an extra slice of bread, cut it into little pieces, and toasted it, so he could have more crispy toast for dipping in the yolk. This recipe calls for only 1 egg per person. You can cut a larger hole in each bread slice and cook 2 eggs inside.

6 bread slices (white, wheat, Italian, sourdough, potato, English muffins)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
4 organic, free-range eggs
Salt and freshly ground pepper

E. F. Schumacher Rides Again

E. F. (Fritz) Schumacher

The Archdruid Report

Last week’s Archdruid Report post [Becoming a Third World Country] fielded a thoughtful response from peak oil blogger Sharon Astyk, who pointed out that what I was describing as America’s descent to Third World status could as well be called a future of “ordinary human poverty.” She’s quite right, of course. There’s nothing all that remarkable about the future ahead of us; it’s simply that the unparalleled abundance that our civilization bought by burning through half a billion years of stored sunlight in three short centuries has left most people in the industrial world clueless about the basic realities of human life in more ordinary times.

It’s this cluelessness that underlies so many enthusiastic discussions of a green future full of high technology and relative material abundance. Those discussions also rely on one of the dogmas of the modern religion of progress, the article of faith that the accumulation of technical knowledge was what gave the industrial world its three centuries of unparalleled wealth; since technical knowledge is still accumulating, the belief goes, we may expect more of the same in the future.

See rest of article Why Factories Aren’t Efficient here
See also

A Simpler Way

Panania, Australia


Global problems are rapidly getting worse.  The environment is being severely damaged.  Resources are being depleted.   The poorest billion are probably becoming poorer.  Even in the richest societies the quality of life is falling, cohesion is eroding and social problems are accelerating.

These problems cannot be solved without huge and fundamental change, because they are directly caused by our present socio-economic system.

The basic faults built into our society centre firstly on the demand for high material “living standards” in a world of limited resources. We cannot keep up the present levels of production and consumption and resource use for long, and there is no possibility of all the world’s people ever rising to these levels. People in rich countries have these high “living standards” only because we are taking much more than our fair share of the available resources and depriving the majority.

Salmon vs. Small Farmers?


This is a response to the piece on Senator Feinstein’s amendment to the jobs bill (Feinstein Declares War On Salmon and Fishing Jobs).

I’m no fan of Feinstein, who not only stuffs her and hubby Richard Blum’s pockets with millions of taxpayer dollars and whose response to letters is always the same: “Thank you for your letter concerning impeachment proceedings against President George W. Bush. I appreciate the time you took to write and welcome the opportunity to respond….” , but we really know more than you about this…

My understanding of this amendment is that she proposes to increase farm water allocations from 10 percent last year to 40 percent this year and next, an amount that farmers say is the bare minimum they need.

I have been studying the water situation for some time and found that it is a highly complex situation. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but here are some other things to think about…

Pathways to Re-Localisation with Joel Salatin (Video)

Video After The Jump Below

HopeDance via Energy Bulletin

… Not merely a “lunatic farmer,” Joel Salatin is also a prolific author, front-line local-food activist, regenerative-silvo-pastoral-profitable-Permaculture farmer, sought-after speaker, marketing guru, agricultural innovator, eco-prophet, and general “bio-evangelist.” He has been written about quite extensively elsewhere, has appeared in worthy films such as Food, Inc. and Fresh, and well-deservedly ranks as something of a celebrity-dynamo in the eco-ag domain.

In 1961 his father moved the family to an abused, soil-depleted, de-vegetated, gully-infested, 550 acre block of land in Virginia called Polyface Farm. Beginning then, and continuing to this day, the Salatin family began a series of adaptive experiments in natural farming that regenerated Polyface and, to a large degree, aspects of the surrounding communities.

Healthy Food, Local Food

Professor Emeritus, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO – USA

Local foods have replaced organic foods as the most dynamic sector of the retail food market. Sales of local foods grew from $4 billion in 2002 to $5 billion in 2007 and are projected to reach $11 billion by 2011.[i] Organic food sales are still far larger, more than $20 billion, but the rate of growth in organic food sales seems to be slowing while local food sales are accelerating.  For many people, local has become more important than organic. In fact, the word “locavore” was chosen by the New Oxford American Dictionary as their 2007 “word of the year.” The term was first associated with the “100-mile diet,” but is described more generally as someone who shows a strong preference for foods that are locally grown, seasonally available, and produced without unnecessary additives or preservatives.[ii]

The local foods movement represents the latest phase in the decades-old evolution toward a new sustainable food system.

Goats, Chicken Yurts, and Olive Trees


Tour the century-old organic Chaffin Family Orchards where even the animals are “farm hands.”

Visit chickens in their egg-mobile, scratching for bugs and pooping fertilizer in the heirloom stone-fruit orchards.

Goats chomp off low branches from the olive trees, so no fuel or human labor is needed.

This certified predator-friendly enterprise includes 200 acres of olive trees plus various fruit and nut trees; sheep, goats, broiler and egg-laying chickens.

They distribute only locally through fruit and meat CSAs (community-supported agriculture), growers markets and a farmstand, providing fresh foods that burst with flavor and nuance.

Take Action! Feinstein Declares War on Salmon and Fishing Jobs

Thanks to Rosalind Peterson, Redwood Valley

Call Senator Dianne Feinstein today to stop her from dismantling the Endangered Species Act’s (ESA) basic protections for California’s endangered chinook (also known as king) salmon.

The Pacific Fisheries Management Council has just released numbers showing California’s once abundant salmon runs came in at a new all time record low in 2009.

As a result, regulators closed all ocean fishing of chinook salmon in California and most of Oregon in 2008 and 2009 to save the salmon.

Senator Feinstein is proposing an amendment to a federal jobs stimulus bill that, in effect, would suspend rules that protect salmon from being killed by the giant diversion pumps in the San Francisco-San Joaquin Delta and would pump more water from the estuary.

Feinstein claims that this amendment will bring jobs to California.  But, the closure of the western salmon fisheries has cost 23,000 jobs and $1.4 billion in the California economy.

Why Aren’t Americans Scared of GMOs?


After reports last week that India halted plans to introduce a genetically modified eggplant to the market because of an outcry from environmental groups and the general public, it begs to question why in the US genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are so common. In fact, more than 9 out of 10 soybean seeds are not only genetically modified, but come from Monsanto. It’s just a little lower for corn. It makes you wonder why Americans aren’t a little more skeptical, if not completely frightened of the fate of our food system.

Last week the Times of India reported that Jairam Ramesh, the country’s environment minister, said there is no clear consensus among scientists on the safety of a genetically modified eggplant and, therefore, halted its release. And Europe is just as skeptical. The European Parliament adopted the world’s strictest and most comprehensive rules on the labeling of GMOs. Egypt also has strict rules on GMOs. Collin wrote extensively about GMOS around the world. But here in the US, the picture is a little different. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved a bill which specifies that the US must fund GMOs and biotechnology. Even without this additional push in the wrong direction, we have already ventured a long way down a GMO road.

A Round-up of What’s Happening out in the World of Transition

Transition Culture

We haven’t done one of these for a while, so here, thanks to the marvel that is Google Alerts, is a taste of some of things underway out there in Transition-land.  For more regular and formal updates you can subscribe to Transition Network News, but these irregular digests offer a more informal and random insight into what you are up to.  Congratulations to Transition Horncastle for being selected to compete in the British Gas Green Streets project, which could win them £100,000 to spend on a local environmental project if they are the best at achieving the Green Streets project’s objectives. And well done TT West Kirby for being awarded funds for their Youth Inclusion Project. Congratulations also to TT Kingston for their Green Guardian award and TN’s Shaun Chamberlin’s Green Champion award, both sponsored by the Kingston Guardian newspaper and the local council.

In the US, towns are rushing to make the Transition to low-carbon communities including TT Berea, which has started a community campaign of ‘50×25’ to reduce its energy use by 50%, and also get 50% of its food and energy from local sources, all by 2025…and Transition Reno kicks off with action on awareness raising. Also in the US, there’s a Transition Farm (not official) in North Carolina… and TT Charlotte together with the Energy Committees of Charlotte and Shelbourne are working with Efficiency Vermont to bring a new energy-saving program to local residents. And from Canada, we have a little movie all about some of the wonderful activities that Transition groups in Calgary are up to.

A Citizens Panel to Restructure County Government NOW

Redwood Valley

To My Fellow Concerned Citizens:

Now is a the perfect opportunity to seize the initiative.  The CEO system has failed us. The CEO arrangement tends to accumulate too much power in too few hands, leaving the Board of Supervisors disconnected from the mechanics of day to day governance. The costs of the CEO system are exorbitant when the past two CEOs, Ball and Mitchell immediately added additional staff at high salaries. They placed another layer of administration between Department heads and policy makers on the Board of Supervisors and made it more difficult for the Supervisors to determine what were the problems, where were departments under-performing, and finding out from the workers themselves how they felt changes, reforms and economies could best be made.

If the past is any guide to future performance, the BOS is likely to futz around for months before they recruit another CEO or decide to revert to the CAO structure that served the county for a much longer period. We recommend that a Citizens Panel be set up, independent of the Board of Supervisors, and selected by the citizens themselves to study all aspects of the question, hold public meetings to discuss their ideas and receive input, and prepare a report.within a few months recommending changes to the structure, if they determine they are necessary, and  suggesting a procedure  for finding a new  Chief of Government, whether CEO or CAO.

Grass-fed lamb — Which foods are you willing to pay top dollar for?


All the recent articles filled with tips on slashing your grocery bill are making me uneasy.

I am not opposed to most of the advice. In fact, I agree with it. Yes, we should shop mindfully, cook from scratch, and eschew convenience foods. This is true whether the economy is flush or tanking.

Let’s get reacquainted with these practical habits; let’s become better cooks.

What bothers me, though, is a certain tone. Underlying the lists of helpful hints, I detect a set of beliefs about food’s relative importance. Or unimportance.

One: We are like broken records, forever thinking that food ought to cost less. Are farmers’ markets really to be regarded as an occasional indulgence — as I have seen them characterized — when the fruits and vegetables for sale there are among the most nutrient-dense and healthful foods to be found?

Two: When the cost of living goes up, one of the first places we look to cut corners is on what we eat, to compromise on what we put into our bodies.

When we scale back, I fear that instead of practicing the peasant’s art of turning humble fare into a nice spread, we merely substitute poor-quality ingredients. This is a half-baked effort to eat the way we always have, but for less money… More at Culinate

A Mendo Meat Processing Plant?


After reading Michael Pollan’s books and researching the state of the meat industry (which is controlled by big ag corporations), I find I don’t like commercially processed meats. I was curious how best to eat free range chickens, eggs, grass fed cattle and bison and locally raised pork. In addition, I am interested in pushing for a strong local economy.

The first thought is food and how to support the farmers and ranchers locally. This is necessary if we want to build a true local economy. So I’ve been talking a lot to local cattle raisers, pig and chicken ranchers, the bison people out highway 20 and finding out this: That it is nearly impossible to find humanely raised and processed meat that has been processed locally, unless it has been done by a mobile butcher setup.

The food part of a local economy, to be strong, has to serve all the people locally, so any business that can help the ranchers and farmers raise food and provide jobs with an environmentally sound approach should be welcome.

It stands to reason that if we had a local meat processing plant in Mendocino county, then thousands of miles driven in trucks could be eliminated.

Globalization Is Killing the Globe: Return to Local Economies


Globalization is killing Europe, just as it’s already wiped out much of the American middle class.

Spain and Greece are facing immediate crises that many other European nations see on the near horizon: aging boomer workers are retiring with healthy benefit packages, but the younger workers who are paying for those benefits aren’t making anything close to the income (or, therefore, paying the taxes) that their parents did.

Globalists/corporatists/conservative “free market” and “flat earth” advocates say this is a great opportunity to cut benefits for the old folks (and for the young folks in the future), thus bringing the countries budgets back into balance, and this story is the main corporate media storyline.

But it overlooks the real issue (and the real solution): how globalization is killing these nations’ economies and what can be done about it.

From the days of Adam Smith, classical economics pointed out that manufacturing and extraction are the only two ways to “create wealth.”

“Wealth” is different from “income.” Wealth is value, which endures at least for some time. Income is simply compensation for work. If you wash my car for $10 and I mow your lawn for $10, we have a GDP of $20 and it looks like we both have income and economic activity. But no wealth has been created, just income.

Take Action! Comments to USDA on Genetically Modified Alfalfa


Just a few days left to comment on the release of genetically modified (GM) alfalfa. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) preliminary decision is to allow GM alfalfa without any limitations or protections for farmers, consumers or the environment.

According to USDA, there is no evidence that consumers care about GM alfalfa. And, the agency dismisses the threat of GM contamination to farmers’ domestic and export markets and organic dairy and meat products.

Go to USDA’s website and tell USDA that it should not approve the release of GM alfalfa.

Take Action! Mendocino County: Demand Community Input On New Leadership! (Updated)


Let’s abolish the title and function of CEO. It should be Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) who is a servant of the citizens and reports to our elected Supervisors. Of course, the title means nothing if the CAO acts like a CEO, as has been the history in this county whatever the title.

We must also have a responsive CAO who will work with our local expertise in moving to alternative energy systems rather than spending millions on consultants from elsewhere.

[Update: And while we are at it, change Supervisor meetings to evenings at citizen’s convenience, instead of Supervisor’s convenience!]

How do we make this happen?

Your thoughts?