Category Archives: Agriculture

Cuba Prepares for Disaster

The September 2021 Scientific American included a description by the editors of the deplorable state of disaster relief in the US. They traced the root cause of problems with relief programs as their “focus on restoring private property,” which results in little attention to those “with the least capacity to deal with disasters.” The book Disaster Preparedness and Climate Change in Cuba: Adaptation and Management (2021) comes out the next month. It traced the highly successful source of the island nation’s efforts to the way it put human welfare above property. This collection of 14 essays by Emily J. Kirk, Isabel Story, and Anna Clayfield is an extraordinary assemblage of articles, each addressing specific issues.

Writers are well aware that Cuban approaches are adapted to the unique geography and history of the island. What readers should take away is not so much the specific actions of Cuba as its method of studying a wide array of approaches and actually putting the best into effect (as opposed to merely talking about their strengths and weaknesses). The book traces Cuba’s preparedness from the threat of a US invasion following its revolution through its resistance to hurricanes and diseases, which all laid the foundation for current adaptions to climate change.

Only four years after the revolution, in 1963, Hurricane Flora hit the Caribbean, killing 7000-8000. Cubans who are old enough remember homes being washed away by waters carrying rotten food, animal carcasses and human bodies. It sparked a complete redesign of health systems, intensifying their integration from the highest decision-making bodies to local health centers. Construction standards were strengthened, requiring houses to have reinforced concrete and metal roofs to resist strong winds.

Decades of re-designing proved successful. In September 2017 Category 5 Hurricane Maria pounded Puerto Rico, leading to 2975 deaths. The same month, Irma, also a Category 5 Hurricane, arrived in Cuba, causing 10 deaths. The dedication to actually preparing the country for a hurricane (as opposed to merely talking about preparedness) became a model for coping with climate change. Projecting potential future damage led Cubans to to realize that by 2050, rising water levels could destroy 122 coastal towns. By 2017, Cuba had become the only country with a government-led plan (Project Life, or Tarea Vida) to combat climate change which includes a 100 year projection.

Disaster Planning

Several aspects merged to form the core of Cuban disaster planning. They included education, the military, and social relationships. During 1961, Cuba’s signature campaign raised literacy to 96%, one of the world’s highest rates. This has been central to every aspect of disaster preparation – government officials and educators travel throughout the island, explaining consequences of inaction and everyone’s role in avoiding catastrophe.

Less obvious is the critical role of the military. From the first days they took power, leaders such as Fidel and Che explained that the only way the revolution could defend itself from overwhelming US force would be to become a “nation in arms.” Soon self-defense from hurricanes combined with self-defense from attack and Cuban armed forces became a permanent part of fighting natural disasters. By 1980, exercises called Bastión (bulwark) fused natural disaster management with defense rehearsals.

As many as 4 million Cubans (in a population of 11 million) were involved in activities to practice and carry out food production, disease control, sanitation and safeguarding medical supplies. A culture based on understanding the need to create a new society has glued these actions together. When a policy change is introduced, government representatives go to each community, including the most remote rural ones, to make sure that everyone knows the threats that climate change poses to their lives and how they can alter behaviors to minimize them. Developing a sense of responsibility for ecosystems includes such diverse actions as conserving energy, saving water, preventing fires and using medical products sparingly.

Contradictions

One aspect of the book may confuse readers. Some authors refer to the Cuban disaster prevention system as “centralized;” others refer to it as “decentralized;” and some describe it as both “centralized” and “decentralized” on different pages of their essay. The collection reflects a methodology of “dialectical materialism” which often employs the unity of opposite processes (“heads” and “tails” are opposite static states united in the concept of “coin”). As multiple authors have explained, including Ross Danielson in his classic Cuban Medicine (1979), centralization and decentralization of medicine have gone hand-in-hand since the earliest days of the revolution. This may appear as centralization of inpatient care and decentralization of outpatient care (p. 165) but more often as centralization at the highest level of norms and decentralization of ways to implement care to the local level. The decision to create doctor-nurse offices was made by the ministry which provided guidelines for each area to implement according to local conditions.

A national plan for coping with Covid-19 was developed before the first Cuban died of the affliction and each area designed ways to to get needed medicines, vaccines and other necessities to their communities. Proposals for preventing water salinization in coastal areas will be very different from schemas for coping with rises in temperature in inland communities.

Challenges for Producing Energy: The Good

As non-stop use of fossil fuels renders the continued existence of humanity questionable, the issue of how to obtain energy rationally looms as a core problem of the twenty-first century. Disaster Preparedness explores an intriguing variety of energy sources. Some of them are outstandingly good; a few are bad; and, many provoke closer examination.

Raúl Castro proposed in 1980 that it was necessary to protect the countryside from impacts of nickel mining. What was critical in this early approach was an understanding that every type of metal extraction has negatives that must be weighed against its usefulness in order to minimize those negatives. What did not appear in his approach was making a virtue of necessity, which would have read “Cuba needs nickel for trade; therefore, extracting Cuban nickel is good; and, thus, problems with producing nickel should be ignored or trivialized.”

In 1991, when the USSR collapsed and Cuba lost its subsidies and many of its trading partners, its economy was devastated, adult males lost an average of 20 pounds, and health problems became widespread. This was Cuba’s “Special Period.” Not having oil meant that Cuba had to abandon machine-intensive agriculture for agroecology and urban farming.

Laws prohibited use of agrochemicals in urban gardens. Vegetable and herb production exploded from 4000 tons in 1994 to over 4 million tons by 2006. By 2019, Jason Hickel’s Sustainable Development Index rated Cuba’s ecological efficiency as the best in the world.

By far the most important part of Cuba’s energy program was using less energy via conservation, an idea abandoned by Western “environmentalists” who began endorsing unlimited expansion of energy produced by “alternative” sources. In 2005, Fidel began pushing conservation policies projected to reduce Cuba’s energy consumption by two-thirds. Ideas such these had blossomed during the first few years of the revolution.

What one author refers to as “bioclimatic architecture” is not clear, but it could include tile vaulting, which was studied extensively by the Cuban government in the early 1960s. It is based on arched ceilings formed by lightweight terra cotta tiles. The technique is low-carbon because it does not require expensive machinery and uses mainly local material such as terra cotta tiles from Camagüey province. Though used to construct buildings throughout the island, it was abandoned due to its need for skilled and specialized labor.

Challenges for Producing Energy: The Bad

Though there are negative aspects to Cuba’s energy perspectives, it is important to consider one which is anything but negative: energy efficiency (EE). Ever since Stanley Jevons predicted in 1865 that a more efficient steam engine design would result in more (not less) coal being used, it has been widely understood that if the price of energy (such as burning coal) is cheaper, then people will use more energy.

A considerable amount of research verifies that, at the level of the entire economy, efficiency makes energy cheaper and its use goes up. Some claim that if an individual uses a more EE option, then that person will use less energy. But that is not necessarily so. Someone buying a car might look for one that is more EE. If the person replaces a non-EE sedan with an EE SUV, the fact that SUVs use more energy than sedans would mean that the person is using more energy to get around. Similarly, rich people use money saved from EE devices to buy more gadgets while poor people might not buy anything additional or buy low-energy necessities.

This is why Cuba, a poor country with a planned economy, can design policies to reduce energy use. Whatever is saved from EE can lead to less or low-energy production, resulting in a spiraling down of energy usage. In contrast, competition drives capitalist economies toward investing funds saved from EE toward economic expansion, resulting in perpetual growth.

Though a planned economy allows for decisions that are healthier for people and ecosystems, bad choices can be made. One consideration in Cuba is the goal to “efficiently apply pesticides” (p. 171). The focus should actually be on how to farm without pesticides. Also under consideration is “solid waste energy capacities,” which is typically a euphemism for burning waste in incinerators. Incinerators are a terrible way to produce energy since they merely reduce the volume of trash to 10% of its original size while releasing poisonous gases, heavy metals (such as mercury and lead), and cancer-causing dioxins and furans.

The worst energy alternative was favored by Fidel, who supported a nuclear power plant which would supposedly “greatly reduce the cost of producing electricity.” (p. 187) Had the Soviets built a Chernobyl-type nuclear reactor, an explosion or two would not have contributed to disaster prevention. Once when I was discussing the suffering following the USSR collapse with a friend who writes technical documents for the Cuban government, he suddenly blurted out, “The only good thing coming out of the Special Period was that, without the Soviets, Fidel could not build his damned nuclear plant!”

Challenges for Producing Energy: The Uncertain

Between the poles of positive and negative lies a vast array of alternatives mentioned in Disaster Preparedness that most are unfamiliar with. There are probably few who know of bagasse, which is left over sugar cane stalks that have been squeezed for juice. Burning it for fuel might arouse concern because it is not plowed into soil like what should be done for wheat stems and corn stalks. Sugar cane is different because the entire plant is hauled away – it would waste fuel to transport it to squeezing machinery and then haul it back to the farm.

While fuel from bagasse is an overall environmental plus, the same cannot be said for oilseeds such as Jatropha curcas. Despite the book suggesting the they might be researched more, they are a dead end for energy production.

Another energy positive being expanded in Cuba is farms being run entirely on agroecology principles. The book claims that such farms can produce 12 times the energy they consume, which might seem like a lot. Yet, similar findings occur in other countries, notably Sweden. In contrast, at least one author holds out hope of obtaining energy from microalgae, almost certainly another dead end.

Potentially, a very promising source for energy is the use of biogas from biodigesters. Biodigesters break down manure and other biomass to create biogas which is used for tractors or transportation. Leftover solid waste material can be used as a (non-fossil fuel) fertilizer. On the other hand, an energy source which one author lists as viable is highly dubious: “solar cells built with gallum arsenide.” Compounds with arsenic are cancer-causing and not healthy for humans and other living species.

The word “biomass” is highly charged because it is one of Europe’s “clean, green” energy sources despite the fact that burning wood pellets is leading to deforestation in Estonia and the US. This does not seem to be the case in Cuba, where “biomass” refers to sawdust and weedy marabú trees. It remains important to distinguish positive biomass from highly destructive biomass.

Many other forms of alternative energy could be covered and there is a critical point applying to all of them. Each source of energy must be analyzed separately without ever assuming that if energy does not come from fossil fuels it is therefore useful and safe.

Depending on How You Get It

The three major sources of alternative energy – hydroturbines (dams), solar, and wind – share the characteristic that how positive or negative they are depends on the way they are obtained.

The simplest form of hydro power is the paddle wheel, which probably causes zero environmental damage and produces very little energy. At the other extreme is hydro-electric dams which cross entire rivers and are incredibly destructive towards human cultures and aquatic and terrestrial species. In between are methods such as diverting a portion of the river to harness its power. The book mentions pico-hydroturbines which affect only a portion of a river, generating less than 5kW and are extremely useful for remote areas. They have minimal environmental effects. But if a large number of these turbines were placed together in a river, that would be a different matter. The general rule for water power is that causing less environmental damage means producing less energy.

Many ways to produce energy start with the sun. Cuba uses passive solar techniques, which do not have toxic processes associated with electricity. A passivehaus design provides warmth largely via insulation and placement of windows. Extremely important is body heat. This makes a passivhaus difficult for Americans, whose homes typically have much more space per person than other countries. But the design could work better in Cuba, where having three generations living together in a smaller space would contribute to heating quite well.

At the negative extreme of solar energy are the land-hungry electricity-generating arrays. In between these poles is low-intensity solar power, also being studied by Cuba.

The vast majority of Cubans heat their water for bathing. Water heaters can depend on solar panels which turn sunlight into electricity. An even better non-electric design would be to use a box with glass doors and a black tank to collect heat, or to use “flat plate collectors” and then pipe the heated water to an indoor storage tank. As with hydro-power, simpler designs produce fewer problems but generate less energy.

Wind power is highly similar. Centuries ago, windmills were constructed with materials from the surrounding area and did not rely on or produce toxins. Today’s industrial wind turbines are toxic in every phase of their existence. In the ambiguous category are small wind turbines and wind pumps, both of which Cuba is exploring. What hydro, solar and wind power have in common is that non-destructive forms exist but produce less energy. The more energy-producing a system is, the more problematic it becomes.

Scuttling the Fetish

Since hydro, solar and wind power have reputations as “renewable, clean, green” sources of energy, it is necessary to examine them closely. Hydro, solar and wind power each require destructive extraction of materials such as lithium, cobalt, silver, aluminum, cadmium, indium, gallium, selenium, tellurium, neodymium, and dysprosium. All three lead to mountains of toxic waste that vastly exceed the amount obtained for use. And all require withdrawal of immense amounts of water (a rapidly vanishing substance) during the mining and construction.

Hydro-power also disrupts aquatic species (as well as several terrestrial ones), causes large releases of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from reservoirs, increases mercury poisoning, pushes people out of their homes during construction, intensifies international conflicts, and have killed up to 26,000 people from breakage. Silicon-based solar panels involves an additional list of toxic chemicals that can poison workers during manufacture, gargantuan loss of farm and forest land for installing “arrays” (which rapidly increases over time), and still more land loss for disposal after their 25-30 year life spans. Industrial wind turbines require loss of forest land for roads to haul 160 foot blades to mountain tops, land loss for depositing those mammoth blades after use, and energy-intensive storage capacity when there is no wind.

Hydro, solar and wind power are definitely NOT renewable, since they all are based on heavy usage of materials that are exhausted following continuous mining. Neither are they “carbon neutral” because all use fossil fuels for extraction of necessary building materials and end-of-life demolition. The most important point is that the issues listed here are a tiny fraction of total problems, which would require a very thick book to enumerate.

Why use the word “fetish” for approaches to hydro, solar and wind power? A “fetish” can be described as “a material object regarded with extravagant trust or reverence” These sources of energy have positive characteristics, but nothing like the reverence often bestowed upon them.

Cuba’s approach to alternative energy is quite different. Helen Yaffe wrote two of the major articles in Disaster Preparedness. She also put together the 2021 documentary, Cuba’s life task: Combatting climate change, which includes the following from advisor Orlando Rey Santos:

“One problem today is that you cannot convert the world’s energy matrix, with current consumption levels, from fossil fuels to renewable energies. There are not enough resources for the panels and wind turbines, nor the space for them. There are insufficient resources for all this. If you automatically made all transportation electric tomorrow, you will continue to have the same problems of congestion, parking, highways, heavy consumption of steel and cement.”

Cuba maps out many different outlines for energy in order to focus on those that are the most productive while causing the least damage. A genuine environmental approach requires a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA, also known as cradle-to-grave accounting) which includes all mining, milling, construction and transport of materials; the energy-gathering process itself (including environmental disruption); along with after-effects such as continuing environmental damage and disposal of waste. To these must be added social effects such as relocating people, injury and death of those resisting relocation, destruction of sacred cites and disruption of affected cultures.

A “fetish” on a specific energy source denotes tunnel-visioning on its use phase while ignoring preparatory and end-of-life phases and social disruption. While LCAs are often propounded by corporations, they are typically nothing but window-dressing, to be pitched out of window during actual decision-making. With an eternal growth dynamic, capitalism has a built-in tendency to downplay negatives when there is an opportunity to add new energy sources to the mix of fossil fuels.

Is It an Obscene Word?

Cuba has no such internal dynamics forcing it to expand the economy if it can provide better lives for all. The island could be a case study of degrowth economics. Since “degrowth” is shunned as a quasi-obscenity by many who insist that it would cause immeasurable suffering for the world’s poor, it is necessary to state what it would be. The best definition is that Global Economic Degrowth means (a) reduction of unnecessary and destructive production by and for rich countries (and people), (b) which exceeds the (c) growth of production of necessities by and for poor countries (and people).

This might not be as economically difficult as some imagine because …

1. The rich world spends such gargantuan wealth on that which is useless and deadly, including war toys, chemical poisons, planned obsolescence, creative destruction of goods, insurance, automobile addiction, among a mass of examples; and,

2. Providing the basic necessities of life can often be relatively cheap, such as health care in Cuba being less than 10% of US expenses (with Cubans having a longer life expectancy and lower infant mortality rate).

Some mischaracterize degrowth, claiming that “Cuba experienced ‘degrowth’ during its ‘Special Period’ and it was horrible.” Wrong! Degrowth did not immiserate Cuba – the US embargo did. US sanctions (or embargo or blockade) of Cuba creates barriers to trade which force absurdly high prices for many goods. One small example: If Cubans need a spare part manufactured in the US, it cannot be merely shipped from the US, but more likely, arrives via Europe. That means its cost will reflect: [manufacture] + [cost of shipping to Europe] + [cost of shipping from Europe to Cuba].

What is amazing is that Cuba has developed so many techniques of medical care and disaster management for hurricanes and climate change, despite its double impoverishment from colonial days and neo-colonial attacks from the US.

Daydreaming

Cuba realizes the responsibility it has to protect its extraordinary biodiversity. Its extensive coral reefs are more resistant to bleaching than most and must be investigated to discover why. They are accompanied by healthy marine systems which include mangroves and seagrass beds. Its flora and fauna boast 3022 distinct plant species plus dozens of reptiles, amphibians and bird species which exist only on the island.

For Cuba to implement global environmental protection and degrowth policies it would need to receive financing both to research new techniques and to train the world’s poor in how to develop their own ways to live better. Such financial support would include …

1. Reparations for centuries of colonial plunder;

2. Reparations for the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, multiple attacks which killed Cuban citizens, hundreds of attempts on Fidel’s life, and decades of slanderous propaganda; and,

3. At least $1 trillion in reparations for losses due to the embargo since 1962.

Why reparations? It is far more than the fact that Cuba has been harmed intensely by the US. Cuba has a track record proving that it could develop amazing technologies if it were left alone and received the money it deserves.

Like all poor countries, Cuba is forced to employ dubious methods of producing energy in order to survive. It is unacceptable for rich countries to tell poor countries that they must not use energy techniques which have historically been employed to obtain what is necessary for living. It is unconscionable for rich countries to fail to forewarn poor countries that repeating practices which we now know are dangerous will leave horrible legacies for their descendants.

Cuba has acknowledged past misdirections including an economy based on sugar, a belief in the need of humanity to dominate nature, support for the “Green Revolution” with its reliance on toxic chemicals, tobacco in food rations, and the repression of homosexuals. Unless it is sidetracked by by advocates of infinite economic growth, its pattern suggests that it will recognize problems with alternative energy and seek to avoid them.

In the video Cuba’s Life Task, Orlando Rey also observes that “There must be a change in the way of life, in our aspirations. This is a part of Che Guevara’s ideas on the ‘new man.’ Without forming that new human, it is very difficult to confront the climate issue.”

Integration of poor countries into the global market has meant that areas which were once able to feed themselves are are now unable to do so. Neo-liberalism forces them to use energy sources that are life-preservers in the short run but are death machines for their descendants. The world must remember that Che’s “new man” will not clamor for frivolous luxuries while others starve. For humanity to survive, a global epiphany rejecting consumer capitalism must become a material force in energy production. Was Che only dreaming? If so, then keep that dream alive!

Don Fitz (moc.loanull@nodztif)is on the Editorial Board of Green Social Thought, where a version of this article originally appeared. He was the 2016 candidate of the Missouri Green Party for Governor. His articles on politics and the environment have appeared in Monthly Review, Z Magazine, and Green Social Thought, as well as multiple online publications. His book, Cuban Health Care: The Ongoing Revolution, has been available since June 2020. Thoughts from Stan Cox and John Som de Cerff were very helpful for technical aspects of this review.

The post Cuba Prepares for Disaster first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Salt of the Earth and Foot Soldiers

Context of this Article

This article didn’t just arise from nowhere. It is preceded by decades of my researching and writing about America’s “corpocracy,” or what I call the “Devil’s Marriage” between the superior power elite of corporate America, particularly throughout eleven sectors of organized endeavor, and the subordinate power elite of government America in firstly its shadow government and secondarily in the Oval Office and in the other branches of the government. The corporate elite tell the government elite what to spend from the taxpayers’ pockets, what do with the money, and what to say.

About the Title

Yes, it’s an odd title. Let’s turn to Merriam-Webster for definitions. “Salt of the Earth:” — “a very good and honest person or group of people,” and “foot soldiers:” — “a person likened to an infantryman especially in doing active and usually unglamorous work in support of an organization or movement.” I have several synonyms for foot soldiers: functionaries, lackeys, toadies, water carriers, and courtiers. Whatever we name them, they have in common doing the biding of people in power, or the power elite.

Where the Salt of the Earth Work

They are most likely to work in benign jobs that do not require any wrongdoing or evildoing. Typical jobs include trades’ people such as carpentry, plumbing, electricians, retail clerks, and sanitation workers. Sanitation workers are by far the most indispensable but typically are the most unappreciated and taken for granted. Without sanitation workers, however, we would all sink in our own detritus.

Profile of Foot Soldiers’ Work

Foot soldiers work primarily in 11 sectors of organized endeavors to be identified shortly. Over time I have compiled hundreds of examples of foot soldiers in action in those 11 sectors. The actions described range from “ordinary” wrongdoing such as incompetent and slothful behavior, to heinous evil doing, such as deliberately killing millions of people. Bear in mind that it was the power elite in each sector that ordered directly or obliquely the actions carried out by the foot soldiers usually far removed from the power elite’s locations.

For this article I have picked some examples from each sector. The harm done ought to be implicitly recognized. It is beyond the scope of this article to include descriptions of the consequences such as up and close personal depictions like the narrative of a real foot soldier suffering the post-traumatic syndrome just before he committed suicide.

I want to emphasize that there are exceptions to my listings. Not every CEO, for instance, fits the typical profile of the power elite who authorize wrongdoing and evildoing. Some earn their wealth honestly and live honestly. For instance, I knew personally very well one member of the power elite who was a very good and honest person, Robert Allen (1935-2016), the late CEO of AT&T. Bob was a high school classmate of mine.

  1. Agriculture, Chemical and Food Sector

Conducts false tests of products.

Uses unsafe antibiotics and growth hormones on animals.

Manufactures unhealthy pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers for feed production.

To get their genetically modified products approved, coerces, infiltrates and bribes government officials around the globe.

  1. Ammunition, Gun and War Sector

Promotes gun sales by stoking fear and racism.

Makes and sells products deliberately intended to kill.

Contractors’ personnel torture captives at secret overseas bases.

Abandons contractor waste at military bases dotting the globe

Leaves land mines and cluster bombs behind.

Contaminates air, soil and drinking water supplies with toxics.

Drone operators guide armed, pilotless planes to bomb targeted sites

  1. Communication and Entertainment Sector

Hollywood produces movies glorifying war.

Publishes ads designed to look like news.

Shows commercials disguised as talk shows, panel discussions, self-improvement seminars, etc.

Plays to the lowest common denominator of audience/readership with sensationalism, sex, and violence.

Dupes and distracts the American people.

  1. Education Sector

Dumbs down the teaching of children, such as, for example, teaching the what of history but avoiding the why.

After the draft was abolished by Congress to avoid the recurrence of massive protests against the Vietnam War, recruiters swarm high school hallways recruiting poorly educated students from impoverished homes who would otherwise be jobless eventually.

  1. Energy Sector

Operating carelessly built and maintained nuclear power plants that leak radioactive waste.

Digging and operating offshore oil rigs that leak huge amounts of pollutants into the water and adjacent land.

Running pipelines through sacred Native American land.

Operating tar sands fracking.

  1. Financial Sector

Peddles falsified debt documents to collection firms.

Gets default payments by filing thousands of collection lawsuits against consumers expecting them not to contest the claims.

Preys on customers, hiding costs and penalties, downplays the effects of variable rates, and issues unaffordable loans for the purchase of fraudulently overvalued homes.

Constantly raises deductibles while shrinking coverage.

Auto insurers coerce car repair shops to use cheap and sometimes dangerous parts.

Asks claims adjusters to lie to customers and to overestimate their losses and vastly overprice premiums.

Soaks credit card holders with excessive rates.

Finances wars, even on both sides.

Launders drug money.

  1. Government Sector

Breaks its own laws (e.g., Articles 1 and 3 of the Constitution; 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th Amendments; all laws protecting human nature such as homicidal laws against murder; and international laws such as the 1928 Kellogg–Briand Peace Pact.

Refuses to join the International Criminal Court.

Lies to the American people.

Forcefully enters homes with falsified warrants.

Detains citizens without trial.

Established an extra judicial court to rubber stamp illegal activities.

Maintains data on over one million Americans.

  1. Health Care Sector

Blood testing labs pay doctors a percentage on the business they refer.

Health insurance companies try to avoid insuring people needing care or deny as many insurance claims as possible.

HMOs covertly screen out any Medicare applicant viewed as a high risk.

Prior to accreditation inspections, hospital alters in-house records of problems.

  1. Pharmaceutical Sector

Uses improper techniques to test drugs.

Intimidates and threatens their in-house scientists.

Fabricates drug safety data and lies to the FDA.

Routinely bribes doctors with luxury vacations and paid speaking gigs.

Provides drugs to doctors at a discount so they can be sold to patients at a big profit.

Markets a drug that is more expensive than alternative drugs and deadly among adults and children.

Compounds drugs that are often too weak or too strong.

Dilutes cancer drugs to boost profits.

Mislabels and adulterates several of its drugs used by millions of consumers and then masterminds a massive cover up of its wrongdoing.

  1. Spiritual Sector

There has never been a war that organized religion did not start, promote, or tolerate.

Children are taught to see what they believe.

  1. Transportation Sector

A financially ailing airline routinely ignored vital repairs and maintenance to minimize downtime of planes and then falsified records to make it appear as if the work had been done.

Airline, knowing a flight departure will be delayed, boards passengers anyway to prevent them from seeking alternative flights.

Car maker stages a large truck being dropped from a crane onto a new model without telling viewers the car had been reinforced to withstand the impact.

Automaker sets back the odometer settings and sells the cars as new to dealers.

Automakers sometimes instruct their dealers to fix certain common defects free of charge or at reduced cost but only if auto owners demand that the repair be made under warranty.

Imposes demanding and unrealistic schedules on truck drivers.

Skimps on truck fleet maintenance overhauls.

Two Foot Soldiers Up Close and Personal

My graduate school advisor, Dr. Carroll Shartle (1903-1993) personified the foot soldier — and so did I without realizing it. He had a research grant from the U.S. Airforce, the source of my stipends as one of Dr. Shartle’s research assistants. Both my master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation were underwritten by this grant. Dr. Shartle then became chief behavioral scientist for the U.S. Department of Defense War. To my credit, I entered graduate school to maintain my student deferment from being drafted into the Vietnam War, which I loathed. To my discredit, near the end of my graduate school tenure I worked for an aircraft plant making low altitude flying jets for bombing Vietnam and at the same time taught a course for airmen at a nearby air force base. I then took a job with the U.S. government and muted my criticism of the war. It was only after I retired that I became an “armchair” activist for peace and social economic justice.

In Closing

My hunch is that by not having sold their soul to any company store the salt of the earth do not experience my kind of guilt feelings over having sold my soul more than once.

The post Salt of the Earth and Foot Soldiers first appeared on Dissident Voice.

An Inconvenient Truth:  The Peasant Food Web Feeds the World

In October 2020, CropLife International said that its new strategic partnership with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) would contribute to sustainable food systems. It added that it was a first for the industry and the FAO and demonstrates the determination of the plant science sector to work constructively in a partnership where common goals are shared.

A powerful trade and lobby association, CropLife International counts among its members the world’s largest agricultural biotechnology and pesticide businesses: Bayer, BASF, Syngenta, FMC, Corteva and Sumitoma Chemical. Under the guise of promoting plant science technology, the association first and foremost looks after the interests (bottom line) of its member corporations.

Not long after the CropLife-FAO partnership was announced, PAN (Pesticide Action Network) Asia Pacific along with 350 organisations wrote a letter to FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu urging him to stop the collaboration and for good reason.

A 2020 joint investigation by Unearthed (Greenpeace) and Public Eye (a human rights NGO) revealed that BASF, Corteva, Bayer, FMC and Syngenta bring in billions of dollars by selling toxic chemicals found by regulatory authorities to pose serious health hazards.

It also found more than a billion dollars of their sales came from chemicals – some now banned in European markets – that are highly toxic to bees. Over two thirds of these sales were made in low- and middle-income countries like Brazil and India.

The Political Declaration of the People’s Autonomous Response to the UN Food Systems Summit in 2021 stated that global corporations are increasingly infiltrating multilateral spaces to co-opt the narrative of sustainability to secure further industrialisation, the extraction of wealth and labour from rural communities and the concentration of corporate power.

With this in mind, a major concern is that CropLife International will now seek to derail the FAO’s commitment to agroecology and push for the further corporate colonisation of food systems.

The July 2019 UN FAO High Level Panel of Experts Report concluded that agroecology provides greatly improved food security and nutritional, gender, environmental and yield benefits compared to industrial agriculture. This report formed part of the FAO’s ongoing commitment to agroecology.

But agroecology represents a direct challenge to the interests of CropLife members. With the emphasis on localisation and on-farm inputs, agroecology does not require dependency on proprietary chemicals, seeds and knowledge nor the long-line global supply chains dominated by transnational agrifood corporations.

There does now appear to be an ideological assault from within the FAO on alternative development and agrifood models that threaten CropLife International’s member interests.

In the report ‘Who Will Feed Us? The Industrial Food Chain vs the Peasant Food Web (ETC Group, 2017), it was shown that a diverse network of small-scale producers (the peasant food web) actually feeds 70% of the world, including the most hungry and marginalised.

The flagship report indicated that only 24% of the food produced by the industrial food chain actually reaches people. Furthermore, it was shown that industrial food costs us more: for every dollar spent on industrial food, it costs another two dollars to clean up the mess.

However, two prominent papers have since claimed that small farms feed only 35% of the global population.

One of the papers is ‘How much of our world’s food do smallholders produce?’ (Ricciardi et al, 2018).

The other is an FAO report, ‘Which farms feed the world and has farmland become more concentrated? (Lowder et al, 2021).

Eight key organisations have just written to the FAO sharply criticising the Lowder paper which reverses a number of well-established positions held by the organisation. The letter is signed by the Oakland Institute, Landworkers Alliance, ETC Group, A Growing Culture, Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, GRAIN, Groundswell International and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

The open letter calls on the FAO to reaffirm that peasants (including small farmers, artisanal fishers, pastoralists, hunters and gatherers and urban producers) provide more food with fewer resources and are the primary source of nourishment for at least 70% of the world population.

ETC Group has also published the 16-page report ‘Small-scale Farmers and Peasants Still Feed the World‘ in response to the two papers, indicating how the authors indulged in methodological and conceptual gymnastics and certain important omissions to arrive at the 35% figure – not least by changing the definition of ‘family farmer’ and by defining a ‘small farm’ as less than 2 ha. This contradicts the FAO’s own decision in 2018 to reject a universal land area threshold for describing small farms in favour of more sensitive country-specific definitions.

The Lowder et al paper also contradicts recent FAO and other reports that state peasant farms produce more food and more nutritious food per hectare than large farms. It maintains that policy makers are wrongly focused on peasant production and should give greater attention to larger production units.

The signatories of the open letter to the FAO strongly disagree with the Lowder study’s assumption that food production is a proxy for food consumption and that the commercial value of food in the marketplace can be equated with the nutritional value of the food consumed.

The paper feeds into an agribusiness narrative that attempts to undermine the effectiveness of peasant production in order to promote its proprietary technologies and agrifood model.

Smallholder peasant farming is regarded by these conglomerates as an impediment. Their vision is fixated on a narrow yield-output paradigm based on the bulk production of commodities that is unwilling to grasp an integrated social-cultural-economic-agronomic systems approach that accounts for the likes of food sovereignty and diverse nutrition production per acre.

This systems approach also serves to boost rural and regional development based on thriving, self-sustaining local communities rather than eradicating them and subordinating whoever remains to the needs of global supply chains and global markets. Industry lobbyists like to promote the latter as ‘responding to the needs of modern agriculture’ rather than calling it for what it is: corporate imperialism.

The FAO paper concludes that the world small farms only produce 35% of the world’s food using 12% of agricultural land. But ETC Group says that by working with the FAO’s normal or comparable databases, it is apparent that peasants nourish at least 70% of the world’s people with less than one third of the agricultural land and resources.

But even if 35% of food is produced on 12% of land, does that not suggest we should be investing in small, family and peasant farming rather than large-scale chemical-intensive agriculture?

While not all small farms might be practising agroecology or chemical-free agriculture, they are more likely to be integral to local markets and networks, short supply chains, food sovereignty, more diverse cropping systems and healthier diets. And they tend to serve the food requirements of communities rather than those of external business interests, institutional investors and shareholders half a world away.

When the corporate capture of a body occurs, too often the first casualty is truth.

The post An Inconvenient Truth:  The Peasant Food Web Feeds the World first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Living in Epoch-Defining Times: Food, Agriculture and the New World Order

Farmerless farms manned by driverless machines, monitored by drones and doused with chemicals to produce commodity crops from patented genetically engineered seeds for industrial ‘biomatter’ to be processed and constituted into something resembling food. Data platforms, private equity firms, e-commerce giants and AI-controlled farming systems.

This is the future that big agritech and agribusiness envisage: a future of ‘data-driven’ and ‘climate-friendly’ agriculture that they say is essential if we are to feed a growing global population.

The transformative vision outlined above which is being promoted by the likes of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation amounts to a power grab. Whether through all aspects of data control (soil quality, consumer preferences, weather, etc), e-commerce monopolies, corporate land ownership, seed biopiracy and patenting, synthetic lab-made food or the eradication of the public sector’s role in ensuring food security and national food sovereignty, the aim is for a relative handful of corporations to gain full control of the entire global food system.

Smallholder peasant farming is to be eradicated as the big-tech giants and agribusiness impose their  ‘disruptive’ technologies.

This vision is symptomatic of a reductionist mindset fixated on a narrow yield-output paradigm that is unable or more likely unwilling to grasp an integrated social-cultural-economic-agronomic systems approach to food and agriculture that accounts for many different factors, including local/regional food security and sovereignty, diverse nutrition production per acre, water table stability and boosting rural development based on thriving local communities.

Instead, what is envisaged will lead to the further trashing of rural economies, communities and cultures. A vision that has scant regard for the right to healthy and culturally appropriate food and the right of people to define their own food and agriculture systems.

But is any of this necessary or inevitable?

There is no global shortage of food. Even under any plausible future population scenario, there will be no shortage as evidenced by scientist Dr Jonathan Latham in his paper The Myth of a Food Crisis (2020). Furthermore, there are tried and tested approaches to addressing the challenges humanity faces, not least agroecology.

Reshaping agrifood systems

An organic-based, agrifood system could be implemented in Europe and would allow a balanced coexistence between agriculture and the environment. This would reinforce Europe’s autonomy, feed the predicted population in 2050, allow the continent to continue to export cereals to countries which need them for human consumption and substantially reduce water pollution and toxic emissions from agriculture.

That is the message conveyed in the paper Reshaping the European Agro-food System and Closing its Nitrogen Cycle: The potential of combining dietary change, agroecology, and circularity (2020) which appeared in the journal One Earth.

The paper by Gilles Billen et al follows a long line of studies and reports which have concluded that organic agriculture is vital for guaranteeing food security, rural development, better nutrition and sustainability.

For instance, in the 2006 book The Global Development of Organic Agriculture: Challenges and Prospects, Neils Halberg and his colleagues argue that there are still more than 740 million food insecure people (at least 100 million more today), the majority of whom live in the Global South. They say if a conversion to organic farming of approximately 50% of the agricultural area in the Global South were to be carried out, it would result in increased self-sufficiency and decreased net food imports to the region.

In 2007, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) noted that organic models increase cost-effectiveness and contribute to resilience in the face of climatic stress. The FAO concluded that by managing biodiversity in time (rotations) and space (mixed cropping), organic farmers use their labour and environmental factors to intensify production in a sustainable way and that organic agriculture could break the vicious circle of farmer indebtedness for proprietary agricultural inputs.

Of course, organic agriculture and agroecology are not necessarily one and the same. Whereas organic agriculture can still be part of the prevailing globalised food regime dominated by giant agrifood conglomerates, agroecology uses organic practices but is ideally rooted in the principles of localisation, food sovereignty and self-reliance.

The FAO recognises that agroecology contributes to improved food self-reliance, the revitalisation of smallholder agriculture and enhanced employment opportunities. It has argued that organic agriculture could produce enough food on a global per capita basis for the current world population but with reduced environmental impact than conventional agriculture.

In 2012, Deputy Secretary General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Petko Draganov stated  that expanding Africa’s shift towards organic farming will have beneficial effects on the continent’s nutritional needs, the environment, farmers’ incomes, markets and employment.

meta analysis conducted by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and UNCTAD (2008) assessed 114 cases of organic farming in Africa. The two UN agencies concluded that organic agriculture can be more conducive to food security in Africa than most conventional production systems and that it is more likely to be sustainable in the long term.

The 2009 report Agriculture at a Crossroads by the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, produced by 400 scientists and supported by 60 countries, recommended agroecology to maintain and increase the productivity of global agriculture. It cites the largest study of ‘sustainable agriculture’ in the Global South, which analysed 286 projects covering 37 million hectares in 57 countries, and found that on average crop yields increased by 79% (the study also included ‘resource conserving’ non-organic conventional approaches).

There are numerous other studies and projects which testify to the efficacy of organic farming, including those from the Rodale Institute, the Oakland Institute, the UN Green Economy Initiative, the Women’s Collective of Tamil NaduNewcastle University and Washington State University. We also need look no further than the results of organic-based farming in Malawi.

In Ethiopia, agroecology has been scaled up across the entire Tigray region, partly due to enlightened political leaders and the commitment of key institutions. But Cuba is the one country in the world that has made the biggest changes in the shortest time in moving from industrial chemical-intensive agriculture to organic farming.

Professor of Agroecology Miguel Altieri notes that, due to the difficulties Cuba experienced as a result of the fall of the USSR, it moved towards organic and agroecological techniques in the 1990s. From 1996 to 2005, per capita food production in Cuba increased by 4.2% yearly during a period when production was stagnant across the wider region.

By 2016, Cuba had 383,000 urban farms, covering 50,000 hectares of otherwise unused land and producing more than 1.5 million tons of vegetables. The most productive urban farms yield up to 20 kg of food per square metre, the highest rate in the world, using no synthetic chemicals. Urban farms supply 50 to 70% or more of all the fresh vegetables consumed in cities such as Havana and Villa Clara.

It has been calculated by Altieri and his colleague Fernando R Funes-Monzote that if all peasant farms and cooperatives adopted diversified agroecological designs, Cuba would be able to produce enough to feed its population, supply food to the tourist industry and even export some food to help generate foreign currency.

Serving a corporate agenda

However, global agribusiness and agritech firms continue to marginalise organic, capture public bodies and push for their chemical-intensive, high-tech approaches. Although organic farming and natural farming methods like agroecology offer genuine solutions for many of the world’s pressing problems (health, environment, employment, rural development, etc), these approaches challenge corporate interests and threaten their bottom line.

In 2014, Corporate Europe Observatory released a critical report on the European Commission over the previous five years. The report concluded that the commission had been a willing servant of a corporate agenda. It had sided with agribusiness on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and pesticides. Far from shifting Europe to a more sustainable food and agriculture system, the opposite had happened, as agribusiness and its lobbyists continued to dominate the Brussels scene.

Consumers in Europe reject GM food, but the commission had made various attempts to meet the demands from the biotech sector to allow GMOs into Europe, aided by giant food companies, such as Unilever, and the lobby group FoodDrinkEurope.

The report concluded that the commission had eagerly pursued a corporate agenda in all the areas investigated and pushed for policies in sync with the interests of big business. It had done this in the apparent belief that such interests are synonymous with the interests of society at large.

Little has changed since. In December 2021, Friends of the Earth Europe (FOEE) noted that big agribusiness and biotech corporations are currently pushing for the European Commission to remove any labelling and safety checks for new genomic techniques. Since the beginning of their lobbying efforts (in 2018), these corporations have spent at least €36 million lobbying the European Union and have had 182 meetings with European commissioners, their cabinets and director generals: more than one meeting a week.

According to FOEE, the European Commission seems more than willing to put the lobby’s demands into a new law that would include weakened safety checks and bypass GMO labelling.

Corporate influence over key national and international bodies is nothing new. From the World Bank’s ‘enabling the business of agriculture’ and the influence of foreign retail on India’s NITI Aayog (the influential policy commission think tank of the Government of India) to the Gates Foundation’s role in opening up African agriculture to global food and agribusiness oligopolies, democratic procedures at sovereign state levels are being bypassed to impose seed monopolies and proprietary inputs on farmers and to incorporate them into a global agrifood chain dominated by powerful corporations.

But there are now also new players on the block. Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and others are closing in on the global agrifood sector while the likes of Bayer, Syngenta, Corteva and Cargill continue to cement their stranglehold.

The tech giants entry into the sector will increasingly lead to a mutually beneficial integration between the companies that supply products to farmers (pesticides, seeds, fertilisers, tractors, etc) and those that control the flow of data and have access to digital (cloud) infrastructure and food consumers. In  effect, multi-billion dollar agrifood data management markets are being created.

In India, Walmart and Amazon could end up dominating the e-retail sector. These two US companies would also own India’s key consumer and other economic data, making them the country’s digital overlords along with Google and Facebook.

The government is facilitating the dominance of giant corporations, not least through digital or e-commerce platforms. E-commerce companies not only control data about consumption but also control data on production, logistics, who needs what, when they need it, who should produce it, who should move it and when it should be moved.

These platforms have the capacity to shape the entire physical economy. We are seeing the eradication of the marketplace in favour of platforms owned by global conglomerates which will control everything from production to logistics, including agriculture and farming.

The farmer will be told how much production is expected, how much rain is anticipated, what type of soil quality there is, what type of (GM) seeds and proprietary inputs are required and when the produce needs to be ready.

E-commerce platforms will become permanently embedded once artificial intelligence begins to plan and determine all of the above.

In April 2021, the Indian government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Microsoft, allowing its local partner CropData to leverage a master database of farmers. The MoU seems to be part of the AgriStack policy initiative, which involves the roll out of ‘disruptive’ technologies and digital databases in the agricultural sector.

CropData will be granted access to a government database of 50 million farmers and their land records. As the database is developed, it will include farmers’ personal details, profile of land held, production data and financial details.

In addition to facilitating data harvesting and a data management market, the Indian government is trying to establish a system of ‘conclusive titling’ of all land in the country, so that ownership can be identified and land can then be valued, bought or taken away.

The plan is that, as farmers lose access to land or can be identified as legal owners, predatory global institutional investors will buy up and amalgamate holdings, facilitating the further roll out of high-input, corporate-dependent industrial agriculture.

This is an example of stakeholder-partnership capitalism, much promoted by the likes of the World Economic Forum, whereby a government facilitates the gathering of such information by a private player which can then, in this case, use the data for developing a land market (courtesy of land law changes that the government enacts) for institutional investors at the expense of smallholder farmers who will find themselves displaced.

By harvesting information – under the benign-sounding policy of data-driven agriculture – private corporations will be better placed to exploit farmers’ situations for their own ends.

Imagine a cartel of data owners, proprietary input suppliers and retail concerns at the commanding heights of the global economy, peddling toxic industrial (and lab-engineered) ‘food’ and the devastating health and environmental impacts associated with it.

As for elected representatives and sovereign state governments, their role will be highly limited to technocratic overseers of these platforms and the artificial intelligence tools that plan and determine all of the above.

But none of this is set in stone or inevitable. The farmers victory in India in getting the corporate-friendly farm laws repealed show what can be achieved, even if this is only viewed as a spanner in the works of a global machine that is relentless.

New world order

And that machine comprises what journalist Ernst Wolff calls the digital-financial complex that is now driving the globalisation-one agriculture agenda. This complex comprises many of the companies mentioned above: Microsoft, Alphabet (Google), Apple, Amazon and Meta (Facebook) as well as BlackRock and Vanguard, transnational investment/asset management corporations.

These entities exert control over governments and important institutions like the European Central Bank (ECB) and the US Federal Reserve. Indeed, Wolff states that BlackRock and Vanguard have more financial assets than the ECB and the Fed combined.

To appreciate the power and influence of BlackRock and Vanguard, let us turn to the documentary Monopoly: An Overview of the Great Reset which argues that the stock of the world’s largest corporations are owned by the same institutional investors. This means that ‘competing’ brands, like Coke and Pepsi, are not really competitors, since their stock is owned by the same investment companies, investment funds, insurance companies and banks.

Smaller investors are owned by larger investors. Those are owned by even bigger investors. The visible top of this pyramid shows only two companies: Vanguard and Black Rock.

A 2017 Bloomberg report states that both these companies in the year 2028 together will have investments amounting to 20 trillion dollars. In other words, they will own almost everything worth owning.

The digital-financial complex wants control over all aspects of life. It wants a cashless world, to destroy bodily integrity with a mandatory vaccination agenda linked to emerging digital-biopharmaceutical technologies, to control all personal data and digital money and it requires full control over everything, including food and farming.

If events over the last two years have shown us anything, it is that an unaccountable authoritarian global elite knows the type of world it wants to create, has the ability to coordinate its agenda globally and will use deception and duplicity to achieve it. And in this brave new Orwellian world where capitalist ‘liberal democracy’ has run its course, there will be no place for genuinely independent nation states or individual rights.

The independence of nation states could be further eroded by the digital-financial complex’s ‘financialisation of nature’ and its ‘green profiling’ of countries and companies. If we take the example of India, again, the Indian government has been on a relentless drive to attract inflows of foreign investment into government bonds (creating a lucrative market for global investors). It does not take much imagination to see how investors could destabilise the economy with large movements in or out of these bonds but also how India’s ‘green credentials’ could be factored in to downgrade its international credit rating.

And how could India demonstrate its green credentials and thus its ‘credit worthiness’? Perhaps by allowing herbicide-resistant GMO commodity crop monocultures that the GM sector misleadingly portrays as ‘climate friendly’.

As for concepts such as localisation, food sovereignty, self-reliance and participatory democracy – key tenets of agroecology ­– these are mere inconveniences to be trampled on.

Olivier De Schutter, former UN special Rapporteur on the right to food, delivered his final report to the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, based on an extensive review of scientific literature. He concluded that by applying agroecological principles to the design of democratically controlled agricultural systems we can help to put an end to food crises and address climate variabilities and poverty challenges.

De Schutter argued that agroecological approaches could address food needs in critical regions and double food production within 10 years. However, he notes there is insufficient backing for organic-based farming which seriously hinders progress.

But it is not just a case of insufficient backing. Global agribusiness and agritech corporations have leveraged themselves into strategic positions and integral to their strategy has been attacks on organic farming as they attempt to cast it as a niche model which cannot feed the world. From the false narrative that industrial agriculture is necessary to feed a growing population to providing lavish research grants and the capture of important policy-making institutions, these firms have secured a thick legitimacy within policy making machinery.

These conglomerates regard organic approaches as a threat, especially agroecology which adheres to a non-industrial, smallholder model rooted in local independent enterprises and communities based on the principle of localisation. When people like De Schutter assert the need for a “democratically controlled” agroecology, this runs counter to the reality of large agribusiness firms, their proprietary products and their globalisation agenda based on long supply chains, market dependency, dispossession and the incorporation of farms and farmers into their agrifood regime. And as we can see, ‘democracy’ has no place in the world of the digital-financial complex.

The 2015 Declaration of the International Forum for Agroecology argues for building grass-root local food systems that create new rural-urban links, based on truly agroecological food production. It says that agroecology should not be co-opted to become a tool of the industrial food production model; it should be the essential alternative to it.

The declaration stated that agroecology is political and requires local producers and communities to challenge and transform structures of power in society, not least by putting the control of seeds, biodiversity, land and territories, waters, knowledge, culture and the commons in the hands of those who feed the world.

According to Pat Mooney of the ETC Group, this involves developing healthy and equitable agroecological production systems, building short (community-based) supply chains and restructuring and democratising governance systems that could take 25 years to accomplish: in effect a ‘long food movement’.

We are currently living through epoch-defining changes and the struggle for the future of food and agriculture is integral to the wider struggle over the future direction of humanity. There is a pressing need to transition towards a notion of food sovereignty based on agroecological principles and the local ownership and stewardship of common resources.

The post Living in Epoch-Defining Times: Food, Agriculture and the New World Order first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Key Body Demands Complete Ban on Glyphosate in India

In October 2020, Pesticide Action Network India and PAN Asia Pacific released the report ‘State of Glyphosate Use in India’. It concluded that the use of the world’s most widely used herbicide is rampant. Despite this, it noted that its disturbing effects on the environment and the health of farmworkers and the public are not being addressed (see: State of Glyphosate Use in India).

Although Punjab, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and several other states have moved towards banning glyphosate due to their concerns for consumers, farmers and environment, the report – based on a field survey in seven states (300 respondents – 30 retailers, 270 farmers/farmworkers) – noted at least 20 non-approved uses of glyphosate, with 16 of them in food crops.

It concluded:

In the light of mounting evidences on the unacceptable health and environmental outcomes of glyphosate, the ground reality of its use in India is seen as an ‘anarchic’ scenario. This would have undesirable impacts on soil health, farm productivity, food safety, agriculture trade, public health as well as environmental wellbeing in the country. The scenario of glyphosate use thus necessitates the urgent need of eliminating it from India.

The report documented many disturbing features of glyphosate use, not least in terms of its impacts on farmers and farmworkers.

Now in December 2021, the influential Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM) has demanded a complete ban on the use of glyphosate in India, arguing it is carcinogenic and damages ecology and that it adversely impacts cultivators and their livelihoods.

The SJM has close ties to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and has consistently adopted a critical stance on the government’s pro-foreign direct investment policies and the ‘globalisation’ (dependency) agenda.

National Co-convenor of the SJM Ashwani Mahajan recently submitted a petition with 201,609 signatures of people favouring a complete ban on glyphosate to Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar.

The organisation argues that the government’s stated intent to restrict (not ban) the use of glyphosate (see Government moves to restrict use of glyphosate – The Hindu BusinessLine) is meaningless.

The SJM informed the agriculture minister that, though there is a restriction on the use of glyphosate (aside from on tea plantations and non-crop areas), the weedicide is blatantly being used for illegally grown genetically engineered herbicide tolerant (HT) cotton. It added that this has been going on for years with the full knowledge of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee and the state governments.

The minister was informed that, at present, some “miscreant seed companies” are trying to illegally spread HT Bt cotton, on hundreds of thousands of acres of land, to promote the use of glyphosate.

The SJM says glyphosate is being used both for weed control and to desiccate crops prior to harvesting and there is a strong opposition to this as the weedicide and its adjuvants are absorbed by the plant and consumed by humans.

Glyphosate is a known carcinogen and endocrine disruptor and is linked with several serious illnesses. The SJM informed the minister that there are more than 100,000 cases pending against Monsanto/Bayer company for damages by the users of its glyphosate based herbicide after they (the litigants) developed 10 different types of cancer, including non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. The herbicide has been declared carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Despite this, the push to get illegal HT genetically engineered crops into Indian fields persists. In 2017, for instance, the illegal cultivation of HT soybean was reported in Gujarat. There are also reports of HT cotton illegally being cultivated in the country.

In a 2017 paper in the Journal of Peasant studies, Glenn Stone and Andrew Flachs show how cotton farmers have been encouraged to change their ploughing practices, which has led to more weeds being left in their fields. The authors suggest the outcome in terms of yields (or farmer profit) is arguably no better than before. However, it (conveniently) coincides with the appearance of an increasing supply of HT cotton seeds.

Stone and Flachs observe:

The challenge for agrocapital is how to break the dependence on double-lining and ox-weeding to open the door to herbicide-based management…. how could farmers be pushed onto an herbicide-intensive path?

They show how farmers are indeed being nudged onto such a path via the change in practices and also note the potential market for herbicide growth alone in India is huge. Writing in 2017, the authors note that sales could soon reach USD 800 million with scope for even greater expansion. Little wonder we therefore see the appearance of HT seeds in the country. These seeds are designed to be used with glyphosate or other similar toxic argrochemicals such as glufinosate.

A report in the Indian press (June 2021) (Sale of illegal HT Bt cotton seeds doubles – The Hindu) states that the illegal cultivation of HT Bt cotton has seen a huge jump over a 12-month period, with seed manufacturers claiming that the sale of illegal seed packets had more than doubled. Industry lobbyists had been openly encouraging farmers to plant the seeds in violation of government regulations.

Industry lobbyists and industry-funded scientists often refer to regulatory agencies across the globe which have approved the use of glyphosate in their attempts to invalidate calls for imposing a ban. But if we turn to Europe, long-time campaigner against glyphosate Dr Rosemary Mason says:

The only reason it has to date remained on the market in Europe is because of the companies behind the European Glyphosate Renewal Group (GRG).

The GRG is a collection of companies seeking the renewal of the EU authorisation of glyphosate in 2022. Its current members are Albaugh Europe SARL, Barclay Chemicals Manufacturing Ltd., Bayer Agriculture bvba, Ciech Sarzyna S.A., Industrias Afrasa S.A., Nufarm GMBH & Co.KG, Sinon Corporation and Syngenta Crop Protection AG.

In the run up to the decision on whether to relicense glyphosate in 2022, Mason adds:

These member companies joined forces to prepare a dossier with scientific studies and information on the safety of glyphosate. This dossier was submitted to the evaluating member states and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) as part of the EU regulatory procedure to continue the authorisation of glyphosate and glyphosate-containing products on the EU market.

It is telling that researcher Claire Robinson (see: Glyphosate: EU assessment report excludes most of the scientific literature from its analysis (gmwatch.org)) now notes that the preliminary EU report on glyphosate prepared by the Dutch, Hungarian, French and Swedish (the states tasked with evaluating glyphosate) regulators, failed to take into account the overwhelming majority of studies published in the scientific literature.

Robinson notes that of the 1,550 studies on the toxicity of glyphosate that the organisation Générations Futures found had been published in the literature over the last ten years, only 11 were deemed reliable by the evaluating states. Of the 1,614 ecotoxicity studies identified, once again only 11 were considered reliable. The rate is even lower for endocrine disruption effects: out of 4,024 published studies, only eight are considered reliable by the evaluating states.

Générations Futures notes that the studies presented by the manufacturers were treated with greater leniency and ended up forming the basis of their (the evaluating member states) assessment – in spite of there being “significant methodological flaws”.

Key studies indicating the toxicity of glyphosate from Asia or South America were not accounted for in the evaluation.

Robinson asks:

Are the studies provided by pesticide manufacturers in support of the glyphosate re-authorisation application subject to the same scrutiny?

She goes on to explain that this has not been the case. The system is designed to favour the manufacturers.

Rosemary Mason has been compiling data and citing official and peer reviewed reports on glyphosate for more than a decade. In her dozens of reports (on the academia.edu website), she has been documenting the devastating health and environmental impacts of glyphosate.

In an era defined by the notion of ‘protecting public health’ and ‘flattening the curve’ to reduce the strain on health services, it must be asked why the agrochemical companies are granted free rein to continue to roll out their health damaging products that – as Mason and many others show – are fuelling a decades-long spiralling public health crisis and result in burdening health services.

The post Key Body Demands Complete Ban on Glyphosate in India first appeared on Dissident Voice.

In the Name of Saving the Climate, They Will Uberise the Farmlands

Mining Cryptocurrency, 2021

Mining Cryptocurrency, 2021.

As the last private plane takes off from the Glasgow airport and the dust settles, the detritus of the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, remains. The final communiqués are slowly being digested, their limited scope inevitable. António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, closed the proceedings by painting two dire images: ‘Our fragile planet is hanging by a thread. We are still knocking on the door of climate catastrophe. It is time to go into emergency mode – or our chance of reaching net zero will itself be zero’. The loudest cheer in the main hall did not erupt when this final verdict was announced, but when it was proclaimed that the next COP would be held in Cairo, Egypt in 2022. It seems enough to know that another COP will take place.

An army of corporate executives and lobbyists crowded the official COP26 platforms; in the evening, their cocktail parties entertained government officials. While the cameras focused on official speeches, the real business was being done in these evening parties and in private rooms. The very people who are most responsible for the climate catastrophe shaped many of the proposals that were brought to the table at COP26. Meanwhile, climate activists had to resort to making as loud a noise as possible far from the Scottish Exchange Campus (SEC Centre), where the summit was hosted. It is telling that the SEC Centre was built on the same land as the Queen’s Dock, once a lucrative passageway for goods extracted from the colonies to flow into Britain. Now, old colonial habits revive themselves as developed countries – in cahoots with a few developing states that are captured by their corporate overlords – refuse to accept firm carbon limits and contribute the billions of dollars necessary for the climate fund.

Cloud Ccomputing, 2021.

Cloud Computing, 2021.

The organisers of COP26 designated themes for many of the days during the conference, such as energy, finance, and transport. There was no day set aside for a discussion of agriculture; instead, it was bundled into ‘Nature Day’ on 6 November, during which the main topic was deforestation. No focused discussion took place about the carbon dioxide, methane, or nitrous oxide emitted from agricultural processes and the global food system, despite the fact that the global food system produces between 21% and 37% of annual greenhouse gas emissions. Not long before COP26, three United Nations agencies released a key report, which offered the following assessment: ‘At a time when many countries’ public finances are constrained, particularly in the developing world, global agricultural support to producers currently accounts for almost USD 540 billion a year. Over two-thirds of this support is considered price-distorting and largely harmful to the environment’. Yet at COP26, there was a notable silence around the distorted food system that pollutes the Earth and our bodies; there was no serious conversation about any transformation of the food system to produce healthy food and sustain life on the planet.

Instead, the United States and the United Arab Emirates, backed by most of the developed states, proposed an Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM4C) programme to champion agribusiness and the role of big technology corporations in agriculture. Big Tech companies, such as Amazon and Microsoft, and agricultural technology (Ag Tech) firms – such as Bayer, Cargill, and John Deere – are pushing a new digital agricultural model through which they seek to deepen their control over global food systems in the name of mitigating the effects of climate change. Stunningly, this new, ‘game-changing’ solution for climate change does not mention farmers anywhere in its key documents; after all, it seems to envisage a future that does not require them. The entry of Ag Tech and Big Tech into the agricultural industry has meant a takeover of the entire process, from the management of inputs to the marketing of produce. This consolidates power along the food chain in the hands of some of the world’s largest food commodity trading firms. These firms, often called the ABCDs – Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge, Cargill, and Louis Dreyfus – already control more than 70% of the agricultural market.

Ag Tech and Big Tech firms are championing a kind of uberisation of farmlands in an effort to dominate all aspects of food production. This ensures that it is the powerless smallholders and agricultural workers who take on all the risks. The German pharmaceutical company Bayer’s partnership with the US non-profit Precision Agriculture for Development (PAD) intends to use e-extension training to control what and how farmers grow their produce, as agribusinesses reap the benefits without taking on risk. This is another instance of neoliberalism at work, displacing the risk onto workers whose labour produces vast profits for the Ag Tech and Big Tech firms. These big firms are not interested in owning land or other resources; they merely want to control the production process so that they can continue to make fabulous profits.

Genetic Patent, 2021

Genetic Patent, 2021.

The ongoing protests by Indian farmers, which began just over a year ago in October 2020, are rooted in farmers’ justified fear of the digitalisation of agriculture by the large global agribusinesses. Farmers fear that removing government regulation of the marketplaces will instead draw them into marketplaces controlled by digital platforms that are created by companies like Meta (Facebook), Google, and Reliance. Not only will these companies use their control over the platforms to define production and distribution, but their mastery over data will allow them to dominate the entire food cycle from production forms to consumption habits.

Earlier this year, the Landless Workers Movement (MST) in Brazil held a seminar on digital technology and class struggle to better understand the tentacles of the Ag Tech and Big Tech firms and how to overcome their powerful presence in the world of agriculture. Out of this seminar emerged our most recent dossier no. 46, Big Tech and the Current Challenges Facing the Class Struggle, which seeks to ‘understand technological transformations and their social consequences with an eye towards class struggle’ rather than to ‘provide an exhaustive discussion or conclusion on these themes’. The dossier summarises a rich discussion about several topics, including the relationship between technology and capitalism, the role of the state and technology, the intimate partnership between finance and tech firms, and the role of Ag Tech and Big Tech in our fields and factories.

 The section on agriculture (‘Big Tech against Nature’) introduces us to the world of agribusiness and farming, where the large Ag Tech and Big Tech firms seek to absorb and control the knowledge of the countryside, shape agriculture to suit the interests of the big firms’ profit margins, and reduce agriculturalists to the status of precarious gig workers. The dossier closes with a consideration of five major conditions that are behind the expansion of the digital economy, each of them suited to the growth of Ag Tech in rural areas:

  • A free market (for data). User data is freely siphoned off by these firms, which then convert it into proprietary information to deepen corporate control over agricultural systems.
  • Economic financialisation. Data capitalist companies depend on the flux of speculative capital to grow and consolidate. These companies bear witness to capital flight, shifting capital away from productive sectors and towards those that are merely speculative. This puts increasing pressure on productive sectors to increase exploitation and precarisation.
  • The transformation of rights into commodities. The fact that public intervention is being superseded by private companies’ meddling in arenas of economic and social life subordinates our rights as citizens to our potential as commodities.
  • The reduction of public spaces. Society begins to be seen less as a collective whole and more as the segmented desires of individuals, with gig work seen as liberation rather than as a form of subordination to the power of large corporations.
  • The concentration of resources, productive chains, and infrastructure. Centralisation of resources and power amongst a handful of corporations gives them enormous leverage over the state and society. The great power concentrated in these corporations overrides any democratic and popular debate on political, economic, environmental, and ethical questions.
The Fragmentation of Work
, 2021

The Fragmentation of Work, 2021.

In 2017, at COP23, participating countries set up the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA), a process that pledged to focus on agriculture’s contribution to climate change. KJWA held a few events at COP26, but these were not given much attention. On Nature Day, forty-five countries endorsed the Global Action Agenda for Innovation in Agriculture, whose main slogan, ‘innovation in agriculture’, aligns with the goals of the Ag Tech and Big Tech sector. This message is being channelled through CGIAR, an inter-governmental body designed to promote ‘new innovations’. Farmers are being delivered into the hands of Ag Tech and Big Tech firms, who – rather than committing to avert the climate catastrophe – prioritise accumulating the greatest profit for themselves while greenwashing their activities. This hunger for profit is neither going to end world hunger, nor will it end the climate catastrophe.

Connected Cables, 2021.

Connected Cables, 2021.

The images in this newsletter come from dossier no. 46, Big Tech and the Current Challenges Facing the Class Struggle. They build on a playful understanding of the concepts underpinning the digital world: clouds, mining, codes, and so on. How to depict these abstractions? ‘A data cloud’, writes Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research’s art department, ‘sounds like an ethereal, magical place. It is, in reality, anything but that. The images in this dossier aim to visualise the materiality of the digital world we live in. A cloud is projected onto a chipboard’. These images remind us that technology is not neutral; technology is a part of the class struggle.

The farmers in India would agree.

The post In the Name of Saving the Climate, They Will Uberise the Farmlands first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Amazon: “Economic Terrorism” and the Destruction of Competition and Livelihoods

Global corporations are colonising India’s retail space through e-commerce and destroying small-scale physical retail and millions of livelihoods.

Walmart entered into India in 2016 with a US$3.3 billion take-over of the online retail start-up Jet.com. This was followed in 2018 with a US$16 billion take-over of India’s largest online retail platform, Flipkart. Today, Walmart and Amazon control almost two thirds of India’s digital retail sector.

Amazon and Walmart have a record of using predatory pricing, deep discounts and other unfair business practices to attract customers to their online platforms. A couple of years ago, those two companies generated sales of over US$3 billion in just six days during Diwali. India’s small retailers reacted by calling for a boycott of online shopping.

If you want to know the eventual fate of India’s local markets and small retailers, look no further than what US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in 2019. He stated that Amazon had “destroyed the retail industry across the United States.”

Amazon’s corporate practices

In the US, an investigation by the House Judiciary Committee concluded that Amazon exerts monopoly power over many small- and medium-size businesses. It called for breaking up the company and regulating its online marketplace to ensure that sellers are treated fairly.

Amazon has spied on sellers and appropriated data about their sales, costs and suppliers. It has then used this information to create its own competing versions of their products, often giving its versions superior placement in the search results on its platform.

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) published a revealing document on Amazon in June 2021 that discussed these issues. It also notes that Amazon has been caught using its venture capital fund to invest in start-ups only to steal their ideas and create rival products and services. Moreover, Amazon’s dominance allows it to function as a gatekeeper: retailers and brands must sell on its site to reach much of the online market and changes to Amazon’s search algorithms or selling terms can cause their sales to evaporate overnight.

Amazon also makes it hard for sellers to reduce their dependence on its platform by making their brand identity almost invisible to shoppers and preventing them from building relationships with their customers. The company strictly limits contact between sellers and customers.

According to the ILSR, Amazon compels sellers to buy its warehousing and shipping services, even though many would get a better deal from other providers, and it blocks independent businesses from offering lower prices on other sites. The company also routinely suspends sellers’ accounts and seizes inventories and cash balances.

The Joint Action Committee against Foreign Retail and E-commerce (JACAFRE) was formed to resist the entry of foreign corporations like Walmart and Amazon into India’s e-commerce market. Its members represent more than 100 national groups, including major trade, workers’ and farmers’ organisations.

JACAFRE issued a statement in 2018 on Walmart’s acquisition of Flipkart, arguing that it undermines India’s economic and digital sovereignty and the livelihoods of millions in India. The committee said the deal would lead to Walmart and Amazon dominating India’s e-retail sector. It would also allow them to own India’s key consumer and other economic data, making them the country’s digital overlords, joining the ranks of Google and Facebook.

In January 2021, JACAFRE published an open letter saying that the three new farm laws, passed by parliament in September 2020, centre on enabling and facilitating the unregulated corporatisation of agriculture value chains. This will effectively make farmers and small traders of agricultural produce become subservient to the interests of a few agrifood and e-commerce giants or will eradicate them completely.

Although there was strong resistance to Walmart entering India with its physical stores, online and offline worlds are now merged: e-commerce companies not only control data about consumption but also control data on production and logistics. Through this control, e-commerce platforms can shape much of the physical economy.

What we are witnessing is the deliberate eradication of markets in favour of monopolistic platforms.

Bezos not welcome

Amazon’s move into India encapsulates the unfair fight for space between local and global markets. There is a relative handful of multi-billionaires who own the corporations and platforms. And there are the interests of hundreds of millions of vendors and various small-scale enterprises who are regarded by these rich individuals as mere collateral damage to be displaced in their quest for ever greater profit.

Thanks to the helping hand of various COVID-related lockdowns which devastated small businesses, the wealth of the world’s billionaires increased by $3.9tn (trillion) between 18 March and 31 December 2020. In September 2020, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s executive chairman, could have paid all 876,000 Amazon employees a $105,000 bonus and still be as wealthy as he was before COVID. Jeff Bezos – his fortune constructed on unprincipled methods that have been well documented in recent years – increased his net wealth by $78.2bn during this period.

Bezos’s plan is clear: the plunder of India and the eradication of millions of small traders and retailers and neighbourhood mom and pop shops.

This is a man with few scruples. After returning from a brief flight to space in July, in a rocket built by his private space company, Bezos said during a news conference:

I also want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all of this.

In response, US congresswoman Nydia Velazquez wrote on Twitter:

While Jeff Bezos is all over the news for paying to go to space, let’s not forget the reality he has created here on Earth.

She added the hashtag #WealthTaxNow in reference to Amazon’s tax dodging, revealed in numerous reports, not least the May 2021 study ‘The Amazon Method: How to take advantage of the international state system to avoid paying tax’ by Richard Phillips, Senior Research Fellow, Jenaline Pyle, PhD Candidate, and Ronen Palan, Professor of International Political Economy, all based at the University of London.

Little wonder that when Bezos visited India in January 2020, he was hardly welcomed with open arms.

Bezos praised India on Twitter by posting:

“Dynamism. Energy. Democracy. #IndianCentury.”

The ruling party’s top man in the BJP foreign affairs department hit back with:

Please tell this to your employees in Washington DC. Otherwise, your charm offensive is likely to be waste of time and money.

A fitting response, albeit perplexing given the current administration’s proposed sanctioning of the foreign takeover of the economy, not least by the unscrupulous interests that will benefit from the recent farm legislation.

Bezos landed in India on the back of the country’s antitrust regulator initiating a formal investigation of Amazon and with small store owners demonstrating in the streets. The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) announced that members of its affiliate bodies across the country would stage sit-ins and public rallies in 300 cities in protest.

In a letter to PM Modi, prior to the visit of Bezos, the secretary of the CAIT, General Praveen Khandelwal, claimed that Amazon, like Walmart-owned Flipkart, was an “economic terrorist” due to its predatory pricing that “compelled the closure of thousands of small traders.”

In 2020, Delhi Vyapar Mahasangh (DVM) filed a complaint against Amazon and Flipkart alleging that they favoured certain sellers over others on their platforms by offering them discounted fees and preferential listing. The DVM lobbies to promote the interests of small traders. It also raised concerns about Amazon and Flipkart entering into tie-ups with mobile phone manufacturers to sell phones exclusively on their platforms.

It was argued by DVM that this was anti-competitive behaviour as smaller traders could not purchase and sell these devices. Concerns were also raised over the flash sales and deep discounts offered by e-commerce companies, which could not be matched by small traders.

The CAIT estimates that in 2019 upwards of 50,000 mobile phone retailers were forced out of business by large e-commerce firms.

Amazon’s internal documents, as revealed by Reuters, indicated that Amazon had an indirect ownership stake in a handful of sellers who made up most of the sales on its Indian platform. This is an issue because in India Amazon and Flipkart are legally allowed to function only as neutral platforms that facilitate transactions between third-party sellers and buyers for a fee.

Under investigation

The upshot is that India’s Supreme Court recently ruled that Amazon must face investigation by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) for alleged anti-competitive business practices. The CCI said it would probe the deep discounts, preferential listings and exclusionary tactics that Amazon and Flipkart are alleged to have used to destroy competition.

However, there are powerful forces that have been sitting on their hands as these companies have been running amok.

In August 2021, the CAIT attacked the NITI Aayog (the influential policy commission think tank of the Government of India) for interfering in e-commerce rules proposed by the Consumer Affairs Ministry.

The CAIT said that the think tank clearly seems to be under the pressure and influence of the foreign e-commerce giants.

The president of CAIT, BC Bhartia, stated that it is deeply shocking to see such a callous and indifferent attitude of the NITI Aayog whch have remained a silent spectator for so many years when:

… the foreign e-commerce giants have circumvented every rule of the FDI policy and blatantly violated and destroyed the retail and e-commerce landscape of the country but have suddenly decided to open their mouth at a time when the proposed e-commerce rules will potentially end the malpractices of the e-commerce companies.

Of course, money talks and buys influence. In addition to tens of billions of US dollars invested in India by Walmart and Amazon, Facebook invested US$5.5 billion last year in Mukesh Ambani’s Jio Platforms (e-commerce retail). Google has also invested US$4.5 billion.

Since the early 1990s, when India opened up to neoliberal economics, the country has become increasingly dependent on inflows of foreign capital. Policies are being governed by the drive to attract and retain foreign investment and maintain ‘market confidence’ by ceding to the demands of international capital which ride roughshod over democratic principles and the needs of hundreds of millions of ordinary people. ‘Foreign direct investment’ has thus become the holy grail of the Modi-led administration and the NITI Aayog.

The CAIT has urged the Consumer Affairs Ministry to implement the draft consumer protection e-commerce rules at the earliest as they are in the best interest of the consumers as well as the traders of the country.

Meanwhile, the CCI will probably complete its investigation within two months.

The post Amazon: “Economic Terrorism” and the Destruction of Competition and Livelihoods first appeared on Dissident Voice.

All the World’s a Stage . . . Except in our Own Backyards!

The fourth of John Talbott’s criteria is the need for cultural sustainability: Satisfying our need as human beings to be creative and expressive; to learn, grow, teach and be; to have a diverse, interesting, stimulating and exciting social environment and range of experiences available.
― Christine Connelly, Sustainable Communities: Lessons from Aspiring Eco-Villages

And, we can take what Connelly states in her book to the level of — There is relatively little sharing of facilities, faculties, things, social capital, land, farming, cooperative everything, largely due to the dispersement of collective action capitalism has welded to the capitalist consumer, err, citizen. In one sense, many people in this Western society like the idea of big familial situations, and dispersing extra “things” and extra “time” in a cooperative sense, but the systems of oppression, the systems of dog-eat-dog, the systems of malformed educations and coocoo histories, all of that and the retail mentality AND the psychological fears (real, imagined, post-hypnotically suggested through a debt society) of losing home, health, humanity with the wrong throw of the mortgage and employment dice, we have now mostly a society that is not a sharing society, not a sharing economy, not a cadre of millions who believe in a genuine progress index as a marker of a democracy’s overall health.

But to allude to the title, specifically, I am looking at more and more systems of shutting out the ground-view of things versus the global view, or the international view. I am seeing more and more web sites forgetting the lynch-pin of humanity — the family, the community around a family, and the attempt to create tribes and communities of similar purposes and communities of place. Leftist websites spend countless miles of digital ink repeating what the take is on Imperial power, what the take is on the perversities of the American Chaotic diseases, what the world is in those white nations (sic) of more and more poverty, fencing out solutions and global bullshit tied to hobbling literally China, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and any country where a social contract with the people and the land is emerging. Important, sure, but some of us are Marxists because we look at the ground as a way toward the larger truths.

Keeping it Local for Global Perspectives

The reality is that, like Thoreau, most do not have to travel far geographically or scholastically to understand systems from one example or a limited set of examples. If a community, or town or county can’t stop job-killing, physiology-killing, ecological-killing things/ideologies/processes coming into said community, such as, say, aerial sprays of mountains and valleys and hills that have been razed by industry, then, what sort of hope do people hold out in the larger view that your country will do the right thing with say, oh, Cuba. You know, stopping the plague of economic and financial and shipping sanctions/blockades. You can see in plain view the results of stealing countries’ bank accounts or stopping the shipping of valuable life saving “stuffs.”

So, how can that Lincoln County, OR, attempt to go to the State Supreme Court to lobby these shyster judges to do the right thing — stop the spraying of neurological and gut killing sprays to inhibit the unnatural grown and profusion of noxious weeds and opportunist shrubs and bushes on a part of mother earth that once was a dynamic forest with dynamic species, with shaded creeks, with ground food for subsoil, terrestrial and avian creatures.

I get why web sites that carry leftist news and reports go for the international gut wrenching or elitist view, but we need balance. We need proof of life and hope and action at the human level. We need writers like me to take one example of humanity doing humanity right, and giving it to the world.

That is the world here, for a moment — less than 72 hours on a plot of forest land I happen to own with my sister. Nothing fancy, just 20 acres of white pine and cedar and Douglas fir. Turkeys and bears, and the amazing skies. It is near Pahto, or Mount Adams. What should be wet soil is something like I’d find in Colorado near Durango. Snow for the season, more than one fifth the average snowfall. And there has been no rain since June 17.

We are talking Oregon, in the viewshed of Pahto and Wy’east (Adams and Hood). Things on those 20 acres and my neighbors’ adjoining 75 acres are not right. Fire, as one of the brothers told me, will be — unless climate models change 180 degrees — a bigger and bigger part of the land. The landscape. The people’s trial and tribulations. Throughout the west. Throughout the globe.

As we are in a 24-7 loop of being entertained (distracted) to death with sports, Trump Beatification Syndrome/Trump Derangement Syndrome, the politics of perversity, Corona Crisis Number 999, and all the junk that occupies the brains of Homo Retailopethicus.

Land Ethic

I’ve been coming to this property for going on 30 years. Not regularly since I have lived and worked in such places as El Paso, Spokane, Seattle, Portland, Gladstone, Beaverton, Estacada, Vancouver, and down here on the coast. It is a three and three-quarters of an hour trip from our house on the Pacific (Central Coast) to the place eight miles north of a town called White Salmon.

I met the neighbor landowners, let’s call them Rita and Ron, before they had put down the concrete footings to their house. Now, some 30 years later, they have a garden, tapped into water, have a nice modern house, lots of out buildings, a Cat for grading, and other things to make life in the woods pretty nice. Ron’s got a degree from U of Washington in geography. He is from Seattle. His brother (we’ll call him JW) put in 30 years at Boeing, and he spends time up on some acres he owns next to my property. A motor home that is nothing fancy, a SUV and he has juice, water and a septic system. There is a lot to do, and not a lot to do. He has a condo in Scottsdale, and he has kids in Spokane and Florida. He is living the good life, and it isn’t a huge ecological footprint. He’s a dyed in the wool democrat.

There are robust and real discussions with these two guys and Ron’s wife Rita. She has been married three times, has childhood trauma, had major drug addictions and she is a big time worker, gets things done, and is in recovery. Her gigs include not just taking care of rich people’s linens, scrubbing and cooking. She’s done this sort of work so long that she gets requests from really sick spouses, or individuals. She is there as caretaker, first responder, nutritional coach, travel agent, companion on some of those trips, and navigator for finances, health care concerns, family issues, and more.

Heavy things taking care of people who once were robust, skiers, surfers, outdoors folk, who are now bed-ridden and stroke paralyzed. There are plenty of issues tied to family members of the people she cares for wanting their cut of the goods, and those who want to outright steal from their moms and dads, grannies and papas.

This is a job we call “caring for people” angels. While Rita doesn’t buy into any heaven/hell theme, she jokes about being both an angel of mercy and of death. Many have died on her watch due to advanced stages of cancer, Alzheimer’s, and the like.

I worked as a union organizer in Seattle, for part-time college faculty, but my union, SEIU, was and is all about health care workers. I spent time with women and men in Seattle and surrounding communities who were the licensed caregivers — the care home owners and the care home workers. Those workers are many times employed by the state to work the low paying, hard hours jobs of assisting people, old or young, who are incapable of thriving on their own without help with any number of things. Many of the people I represented in the union did the bathing and the feeding.

What I learned in those microcosms (again, the big picture stuff was always at the forefront in the union, with them beating the drum to support Obama-2 and Insley for WA governor) was again ramifying how mixed up Capitalism is under Democrats or the Demons of Republicanism. In Seattle, post-Occupy where I got to teach a few times in those famous street teach-ins, all of the Trayvon Martin protests, and those against Amazon, the fabric of that disjointed concept of those who have and those who do not have was in plain sight.

The levels of inequity were in plain sight in that backyard of mine. And, those people from African nations, those Latinx, working as personal care support, or CNAs, and those managing houses where the old, tired, sick would end up, now that was yet another lesson, and all the world is a stage was there as the underlying theme in that Diaspora of people from poverty-stricken post (sic) colonial lands, where war and murder by despots were daily concerns. These humble people were/are the caregivers, the end-of-life shepherds for “our” people — citizens.

In so many cases, the people who come from poor countries, they were the only people in the lives of these American citizens who were languishing in their sadness as their families had abandoned them in many instances. Some woman from Somalia, Sudan, Nigeria, there she was, bathing, soothing, singing to and holding the lives of white people who were stuck in a room, slowly or rapidly dying.

Caregivers, and SEIU represented them as a unit. All the training these caregivers have to undergo, at the state and county levels. Black women and men, and those of Muslim faith, in the Seattle area, tending to the lives of the dying, or the developmentally disabled, that is the reality of capitalism as throwaway society. Capitalism of the impersonal, Capitalism of the scam after scam. Each layer of Capitalism is like a tree riddled with termites and beetles and all manner of disease eating it from the inside out.

That’s the real world stage — what a society does to assist the old, young, vulnerable, failing, too weak to move. What a society does to collectively build safety nets, to look at the “all the world as a stage” perspective from a macro lens, in order to widen the scope to the county, regional, national, global level. Rita taking care of super vulnerable people who do not worry about how they are paying for her private services. Aging in place — in these big homes overlooking the Columbia Gorge. Aging at home before all things go south.

In some cases, Rita is their only confidant, their only set of ears and eyes. Twice weekly visits are the only human touch they receive in their lives. Her job is that multiplicity of jobs in a patriarchal disaster capitalism society — nurse, PT provider, social worker, psychologist, taxi service, health navigator, nutritionist, legal consultant, errand person, cook, mover, travel consultant, companion, financial planner, and more. to end up as a symbolic friend and quasi-daughter or sister.

Rita and Ron live a good life out in the woods, with turkeys jumping into the trees, deer coming to the great garden they have, and the seasonal bear pushing over stumps to look for grubs. A riot of hummingbirds. Snakes and lizards. Butterflies we don’t see in suburban areas anymore. And those trees.

Ron works the land, tends to the canopies, looks for crowded trees, or dying ones, and has learned how to shepherd the land so the trees on the property thrive. Canopies where the crowns don’t touch. A better than park-like feel to the land. And now, with the changing precipitation, the nighttime temperatures last week in the nineties, all that desiccating climate heating, we have yet another “world is a stage” with the poor management of the land, the lack of state resources, the lack of collective will to mitigate fire suppression, and how to bring these forests into some manageable fire dampening state.

Yes, Ron is 68, still capable of logging and stacking trees, but his shoulder a few years ago was operated on, and a knee replaced this year. And, just a week ago, a reminder that the other knee will be chopped out with a titanium replacement to come.

Rita and Ron save money, use the Washington state Medicaid system, they are not consumers — Ron saves the old Ford sedan, cannibalize parts from old washers and dryers, and he knows how to tune up chainsaws, and how to build. His degree in geography and his deep regard for American history keep him sane. He likes golf, he plays dozens of types of cards, including Texas Hold’em, and he does Scrabble. He knows the native names of the two mountains in his geographic area.

This is the small fry of America, and a hidden gem. I know for a fact that old aging in place infirm people, or chronically unhoused folk, or people on the more untenable end of the Autism Spectrum, as well as people who do not fit in, who have intellectual disabilities, or those with complex or simple PTSD, would thrive here.

Again, setting up communities that are multi-generational, with residents possessing multiple avocations and occupations, people with varying skills, those who want community big time, and those who need community in their lives to do some checks and balances. Horse therapy, or dogs. Healthcare and PTSD recovery through gardening. Skills of building a tiny home from logs to end product. Designing microhomes that are in kits, packages that a couple could put together. Imagine that, housing people, and getting abandoned farms or degraded farms into the hands of intentional and healing communities.

So, that one 72 hours on the land, my land shared in title with my sister (it’s really never OUR land, now is it), the small things of just regular people spark, again, from this socialist, Marxist, communist, the deep well of experience and deep learning to a much higher ground, something worthy. But imagine, a thousand, or ten thousand farming centered healing communities, with Native American elders/wisdom, with that wounded veteran to farmer ethos, with all the markings of communitarian outposts of real healing and body-mind-spirit functioning. You know, all those yellow buses that are no longer road worthy. Think of them in the millions, taken to some of these places to be stripped, insulated, interior designed, made into HOMES, with amazing artistic touches, in a big circle, like a sunflower, with a community gathering place in the center, commercial kitchen and food processing center, healing center, and arts center. Imagine that, Bezos and Gates and all the other Financial Stormtroopers who have gutted communities from the bottom, up.

Alas, that’s what the small generates — the systems thinking approach to communities, which need food security, water security, direct health care, even living, aging and dying in place. This does work, will work, and should be scaled up to the thousandth degree. But in this scorched earth and scorched body capitalism, nothing can be moved unless there are a thousand lawyers, ten thousand contracts, and one hundred thousand overseers-code enforcers-middlemen/women in the mix, denigrating human agency, deconstructing the value of people and ideas, and destroying hope.

Bear, turkey, deer, on the deck sipping tequila, and the four of us talking about life, aging, the intricacies of lives so different yet here, on this plot of land, with a common humanity beyond just the intercourse of money and exchanges a la capitalism. The land, that is, the mountains and hills, all those animal trails, each tree a testament to these people, Rita and Ron, caring for the place for more than three decades.

Got a Few Million for this Real Solution?

So, the state of affairs is rotten, to the max, in every aspect of Capitalism. Sure, JC and Rita and Ron have a more middle of the row belief in this country’s exceptionalism. They are not versed in Howard Zinn, W.E.B. DuBois, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, and so many others who have pried open this country’s evil roots, it’s so-called founding, and the wars, the expansionism, all of that. It’s much easier to look at the past with rose tinted glasses, and to believe that something was right, with Eisenhauer or Truman, FDR, any of them. That is the limitation of Americans, even good ones like Ron, Rita and JC. Truly, but they are in their own world, so to speak, a bubble, and yes, they get the world around them is harsh, that some (sic) of USA’s policies have kinked up the world. But to have those limits, to not see how the US has always been Murder Incorporated, or that this is Rogue Nation, a nation of chaos, a nation run by CIA-DoD and the secretive cabal of banks-industrialists-AI fuckers.

And, lo and behold, another friend, we’ll call her Betty, sent to me this other chunk of land, in Oregon, near wine country, 205 acres, up for sale, with amazing infrastructure, up for sale for 6.9 million dollars. The possibility of a developer coming into 205 acres, setting the torch for 5 acre dream (sic) homes for the rich, in a planned and gated community of millionaires, well, that is the rush she had to ask me if I had ideas.

Of course, I have ideas. Look at the list above. This place is called Laurelwood — Look at it here. Link.

205 Acres Southwest of Hillsboro, OR

Here, the low down via the realtor —

  • $6,945,000.
  • 205 +/-  acres zoned AF-5
  • Includes 49 Acre Campus with 6+ Buildings totaling approx. 130,000 SF:
    1. Expansion Hall- Administration Building with Auditorium, Classrooms and Offices
    2. Harmony Hall- Girl’s dorm with 67 rooms, 7 offices, lounge, chapel, commercial kitchen, dining room, bath suites, etc. and attached 3-bedroom Dean’s house
    3. Devotion Hall- Boy’s dorm with 49 rooms (19 rooms need sheetrock finished and painted), apartment with kitchen, bath suites, rec room, lounges, etc. and attached 5-bedroom Dean’s house
    4. Gymnasium/Music Building with Stage
    5. Science Classroom Building with Library
    6. Industrial Arts Building with Auto Shop, Wood Shop and Welding Shop
  • Extensive Updates during current ownership include:
    1. Administration Building has newer metal roof, updated windows, new insulation, remodeled auditorium and meeting rooms, new HVAC, electrical service and lighting
    2. New windows, high efficiency hot water system, new HVAC, new kitchen appliances and walk-in refrigerator, insulation, paint, lighting and carpeting in Harmony Hall (Girl’s dorm)
    3. New windows, insulation in 49 rooms plus new sheetrock in 30 rooms of Devotion Hall (Boy’s dorm)
    4. New and repaired roofs and new electrical services
  • Domestic water system and sewage system for campus
  • Includes separate 4.69 acres (Tax Lot 1301) with Spring and water rights– domestic water source for campus
  • Adjacent 151 +/- acres well suited for low density residential development with 30 LA water co-op certificates
  • Vineyard soils & Beautiful Views
  • South Fork Hill Creek flows through property
  • Rural location approximately 14 miles south of Hillsboro near Gaston
  • Washington County
  • Tax Lots 2400 & 1532, Sec 5, Tax Lots 400, 2400 & 2500, Sec 5c and Tax Lot 1301, Sec 16, T2S, R3W, W.M.

Ahh, the place is now a retreat, in retreat, as the Yoga enthusiasts are old or aging, and the place was closed due to the corona insanity/lockdown, and the people are giving up, and now it’s on the market: It is Ananda of Laurelwood. I present the basic website verbiage:

What Is Ananda?
Ananda is a global movement to help you realize the joy of your own highest Self.

Ananda Oregon
Living Wisdom School
Temple & Teaching Center
Yogananda Gardens
Conscious Aging

Our Inspiration
Paramhansa Yogananda
Swami Kriyananda
Ananda Worldwide
Education for Life

There you have it — water, a spring, land, buildings, the potential of being not just this 205 intentional-healing-farming-tiny home building community, but a model for many others to spread across the land. I know I could get dozens of groups to come to this property for workshops, test kitchen work, growers, even wine producers, horse therapy folk, music healers, and even entomologists to create insect and pollinator fields. Students from the dozens of colleges around the Pacific Northwest, doing projects on aging, on healing, the dog and horse therapy works.

Take a look at this —

 

Our retreat center is located southwest of Portland in a beautiful pastoral valley. There are numerous places to walk and connect with nature throughout our gardens, orchards, and grounds. Our guest rooms are simple, decorated to create an uplifting space to rejuvenate. Each room has its own sink with bathrooms just down the hall. Three delicious vegetarian meals served each day are included as part of your stay. Your retreat includes morning and afternoon yoga and meditation.

So, how do I, well trained, well educated, well versed, find the money? My proposal to Betty is to send a letter to, well, that famous ex-wife, McKenzie Bezos, now McKenzie Scott Tuttle. Billionaire who has pledged to give away half of her wealth, in the billions, tens of billions. Oh, there is Nick Hanauer, and other billionaires, so, imagine, just putting 6.9 million down, owning the property, shelling out for two or three years the monthly upkeep and insurance shit that this property would need while people like me and others build this community, pulling in all those actors, business women and men, the nonprofits, the outside the envelope people who could help design this place as a place of healing.

For me, it is a quick writing prompt, and what follows it that letter to McKenzie Scott Tuttle. First draft. You can never get this to Abigail Disney or Melinda Gates, others, including the Phil Nike Knights. That is Capitalism on steroids — lies, flimflam, propaganda, marketing us to death, layer after layer of buffering, check systems, until good ideas and a good piece of land go the way of the dodo — extinct. This project I could spark into action. I have no problem talking with McKenzie or her handlers with her there, of course. Anyone. There are 2,800 billionaires in the world. Hundreds of philanthropies. A few million angel investors. Collective action and stakeholder building. But the property needs to be held in a trust, a placeholder to allow for a group of people to design its future, to get entrepreneurs involved, to get this thing going so it can be self-sufficient. A model for thousands of other places around the USA and Canada, being scarfed up by the evil ones, the developers.

Below my letter to Scott-Tuttle,  see Nick Hanauer. McKenzie Scott gets wealthier even giving away billions below that. Abigail Disney below that. Below her, the author of Dream Hoarders. Better yet, Michael Parenti on Capitalism below the hoarder talk. Below that, Michael’s son, Christian, speaking about Tropic of Chaos, his book climate chaos/heating fueling violence and war.

Here, my letter to McKenzie Scott Tuttle (Warren Buffett and Bill Gates started the Giving Pledge in 2010. It encourages those billionaires to pledge to give away 50% of their earnings to charity. By 2012, over 81 billionaires joined the Giving Pledge. That number is now over 120 billionaires, as of May 2014, according to the Giving Pledge’s official website.)

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Dear McKenzie Scott-Tuttle:

RE: Satellites of Tierra Firma – Some Look to Mars and the Moon, We Look to Soil Here

& Medicine Wheel of Healing, Growing, Learning, Living

People and land need healing which is all inclusive – holistic.

                 — Allan Savory

 Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

                — Nelson Mandela

Reverence is an emotion that we can nurture in our very young children, respect is an attitude that we instill in our children as they become school-agers, and responsibility is an act that we inspire in our children as they grow through the middle years and become adolescents.

                — Zoe Weil, p. 42, Above All Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times

Oh, the naysayers tell me and my cohorts to not even try to break into the foundation you run, that this concept of having Mackenzie Scott Tuttle even interested in becoming a placeholder for an idea, and for this land that a group of visionaries see as an incubation collective space for dreams to become reality.

We place our hopes in your ability to read on and see the vision and plans driving this solicitation, this ask. And it is a big ask.

This is figuratively and literally putting the cart before the horse. Here we have 200 acres, and the vision is retrofitting this center that is already there, Ananda,  into a truly holistic healing center, youth run, for a seven generations resiliency and look forward ethos of learning to steward the land, learning to grow the land, toward biodynamic farming, all mixed in with intergenerational wisdom growing.

We are seeing this, as stated above, as a medicine wheel. A circle of integrative thinking, education, experimentation and overlapping visions of bringing stakeholders from around the Pacific Northwest (and world) into this safe harbor. There are already facilities on this property as you can see from the real estate prospectus. There are 120 rooms in a great building. There are outbuildings, a gymnasium, barns, and spring water.

It is unfortunately up for sale, and the danger there is a developer with a keen eye to massive profits and turning a spiritual and secular place of great healing and medicine wheel potential into “dream homes” for the rich.

Good land turned into a gated community? We are asking your philanthropy to take a deep dive into helping put this property on hold from those nefarious intentions and allow our group to develop this circle of healing – education across disciplines, elder type academy mixed with youth directed programs; farming; food production; micro-home  building and construction facility; trauma informed healing.

Actually, more. Think of this as a community of communities.

Young People Need Hope, a Place (many places) and Leadership and Development

So many young people are done with Industrial and Techno Capitalism. They know deep down there is more to a scoop of soil than a billion bacteria, and they want to be part of healing communities.

We are proposing the Foundation you have set up invest in this property, as a placeholder for our development plan – actually it is an anti-developer plan. This property will be scarfed up for a steal, by, land and housing developers who want McMansions out here in this incredible eco-scape. Just what we do not need in the outlying areas of Portland.  Or in so many other locations across this country.

We are a small group ready to do what we can to get food growers and producers at the table to invest in intellectual and sweat and tears capital to make this 200 acres work as a living community of new farmers, people living and learning on the property, incubating ideas for, we hope, to include a micro-home building project, crops, vineyards, learning centers for farming and preserving, marketing and engaging in food healing.

We come at this with decades around food systems, learning from Via Campesina/o or Marion Nestle, Alice Waters, Winona LaDuke, Rachel Carson. We believe in biomimicry, that is, learning how nature settles scores, survives and thrives. We come at this as deeply concerned about ecological footprints, life cycle analyses, the disposable culture and the planned and marketed obsolescence.

We are also coming at this as educators – earth teachers, who know classrooms in prison like settings, with rows of desks, do not engender creative and solutionaries– young people ready to go into the world, even a small community, with engaged, creative and positive ways to deal with climate chaos and the impending shattering of safety nets, including biological and earth systems “nets” and “webs.”

This property is unique, as all of our earth is. This is firstly Kalapua land, first, and that is the Grande Ronde and Siletz, as well as the Atfalsti, too. We call it Gatson, near Hillsboro, Oregon, but the land is the essence of the spirit givers of this continent before “discovery.”

Rich, in the wine country of the new people to this region, this land is about applying our ethos and yours, Ms. Scott-Tuttle, toward a real healing, a real stewardship and real intergeneration ethos around carrying the wisdom of tribes and growers and educators to the youth. We believe women are at the center of many of the themes already listed – farming, educating, healing, human stewardship.

Think of this project as the cart before the horse because the old system, the horse, was always the money, the source of power, and with power comes strings attached. The people involved in this project are looking to have a multistoried community of farmers, learners, youth learning trades and people skills, as well as elders, both Native and new arrivals, to understand that a farm is more than that, as well as a vineyard is more than the sum of the grapes. It is about a reclaiming of the sacred – soil, air, photosynthesis in a truly sustainable fashion.

The only “green washing” we can imagine this project will carry forth is the washing of the greens, the other harvests, in tubs of clear spring water.

Some of us on this project have traveled to other parts of this continent, and spent time with coffee growers and understand that shade grown coffee and beyond fair trade are the only elements to a truly fair and equitable system. Train the people of the land, who are the true stewards, to not only grow, but to roast and market the bounty. Grow the community with water projects, irrigation, schools, and globalized sharing of people, visitors.

This project needs a placeholder, to keep the land out of the insane real estate market. We will do the rest, we solutionaires. There are so many growers and investment angels who want to be part of the Seventh Generation solution.

Clearly, the lessons for people to be in this 200 acre community, farm-soil-healing satellite, are lessons you, Ms. Scott-Tuttle,  the fiction writer, know, which you capture deftly with Luther Albright. The world for young people in the Pacific Northwest is that crumbling home and crumbling dam of Albright. The healing we need is more than the structures and infrastructure. It is inside, at the heart of the soul of imagination. Some of us on this project are soliciting from your charity a placeholder purchase of the property are tied to the arts, believing STEAM is the only way forward, and that S.T.E.M. is lifeless and dangerous without the A – arts. We believe the true voice of people are those who believe in asking “what should we do” rather than what is currently on superchargers – “What Can We Do?”

We realize that for many young people, politics have failed them. Many youth I speak with and work with, believe this country is in the midst of an empire of chaos in steep decay. Alternatives to the decay is building communities that would fit the model here on 200 acres – agro-ecological farming; nutritional centered living; housing; long-term care assistance; youth directed entrepreneur projects; bringing in local and state businesses leaders to be part of a design from the grassroots up.

The catch for most of the youth we have engaged is —  to paraphrase and level  a composite point,” We are ruled by an elite class of individuals who are completely out of touch with the travails of the average American.” This simple statement is packed full of context and frightening reality for millions of students and adults who feel disconnected and neutered by both government agencies and corporate policies.

First, who wants to be “ruled” by anyone? That we have this class system of elite, middle managers, the elite’s high ranking servicers, and then, the rest of the citizens, the so-called 80 percent who have captured less than the overall 10 percent of “wealth” in this country. The very idea of an elite out of touch, or completely out of touch speaks to an ignorance that is dangerous to the world, to the 80 percent, and also speaks to a possible planned ignorance. That we have millions of amazing people, to include nonprofits, community-led organizations, educational institutions, journalists, and others, who can speak to what those “travails” are, and yet, the elites failing to grasp those challenges, or failing to even acknowledge them, this is what many believe is the decay of this society.

This may not sit well with you or your philanthropy, but we as a group have dozens of years experience working with K12, higher ed, farming groups, social services/mutual aid movements, and have systems thinking in our backgrounds, and we underscore youth and community-driven projects and designs. This medicine wheel/circle land trust we are asking you to consider with a follow up meeting, well, this is the only way to a model-driven set of safety nets to move into some challenging times for this Empire in a world that is no longer USA centric.

We are solutionaries, that is, we look for solutions by taking apart problems and then applying holism and deep experimentation in design, but using tried and proven systems that do work.

Healthy food, healthy relationships to culture, people, nature, healthy work, worthy work, with an eye always on the arts. Just as a farming and tiny home community, where biodynamic farming and food preserving and from nail to roof to complete tiny home design are part and parcel the key elements for this community to thrive under, well, there are no better classrooms and transferable skills.

Some of us have seen youth and adults learn the crafts needed to design, plan, buildings, and market tiny homes that would be used to seed communities that are, again, centered around farming, centered around healing, centered around Native American healing, and local community values. A young woman who finishes the hands-on learning of building a tiny home – with windows, skylights, plumbing, furnishings, electricity ready, all of that which a home entails – is a remarkable, valuable person. All those skills, again, like a medicine wheel, teach deeper lessons, and transferable skills.

This is what this property would also “house.”

All Tied Together – School, Outdoors, People, Action, Solving Food Insecurity and Housing

The should is an educational-farming-entrepreneur-solutions incubator on these 200 acres. Proving that this could be one of a thousand across the land. There are literally thousands of similar properties around the US, within their own cultural-community-ecological-historical milieus, but again, this project is one that Luther Albright would have thrived inside as a “New Engineer for Growing Communities,” as opposed to river-killing dam builder.

Our earthquake is here now, with all measure of tremors and aftershocks —  that is the climate chaos, wildfires, food insecurity, and alas, the New/New Gilded age of deep inequities that are criminal, as you well know, Ms. Scott Tuttle.

Here, the cart (before the horse):  this amazing collective piece of land and buildings with a multiversity of spiritual under girders . The horses are ready, but they need the cart, the home, the fabric of incubation. Those stallions and mares are engaged, ready, who are willing to take a leap of faith here and risk being outside the common paradigm of predatory and consumer-driven capitalism that has put many millions in a highly precarious position.

It’s amazing, the current system of philanthropy which forces more and more people to beg for less and less diverse money for fewer and fewer truly innovative ideas. Funding a project like this is a legacy ad-venture, the exact formula we need (scaled up to a 1,000 different locales) to break the chains of Disaster and Predatory Capitalism. We need that “capital,” the cart, to help those stallions and mares to break for the field of ideas and fresh streams of praxis.

There are any number of ideas for sustainability communities. Co-ops, growers groups, or mixed communities for young and old to exchange knowledge, capacity, growth, sweat equity —  called intergenerational living. This is about a pretty inventive suite of concepts and practices:

  • learning spaces, inside and outside
  • buildings to develop micro home (unique, easily packaged and ready to put together) manufacturing and R & D
  • food systems – farming of sustainable food, herbs and those vines
  • husbandry
  • learning food systems, from farm to plate
  • ceramics, painting, music, dance, theater and writing center
  • speakers’ bureau
  • farmers,  restaurateurs and harvesters with a stake in the community
  • healing center
  • Youth directed outdoor education and experiences
  • sustainability practicum’s for students
  • low income micro home housing
  • day care center, early learning center

How does this make any sense to a billionaire, who has devoted her life to “giving away” half of her wealth in her lifetime? Well, we see this project – this land-property – as a legacy for many of the avocations and interests (passions) you have articulated over the years. Your vision and commitment to education and women-centered projects are admirable. This is one of those projects.

There is that emotional and sappy Movie, Field of Dreams, and the statement – “if you build it, they will come.” We have found that over the years teaching in many places – Seattle, Spokane, Portland, El Paso, Auburn, Mexico – that young people and nontraditional students want mentoring, leadership and the tools to be mentors and leaders. They need the cart before the horse can herald in the new ideas, and the new way to a better future. If the classroom and master facilitator allows for open growth, unique student-led ideas and work, well, that person has BUILT the field of dreams from which to grow.

There are so many potentials with this project, and it starts with the land, holding it as a Scott-Tuttle placeholder. From an investment point of view, as long as you have people wrangling other people and professionals to get this satellite of sanity, the medicine wheel with many spokes radiating out and inward, the property increases in monetary value. Land is sacred, but just as sacred are the ideas and the potential that land might germinate and grow. It is the reality of our country – too few control too much. We see it in the infamous “Complex” – not just military, but, Big Pharma, Big Ag, Big Media, Big Business, Big Education, Big Medicine, as well as private prisons, for profit social services, AI , and Big Tech, so called Surveillance Capitalism.  Who in the 80 percent has the funds to purchase a $7 million project?

Big ideas like this cooperative land medicine wheel (a first of many satellites) might be common, but the web of supportive and cohesive things tied to this property is unusual, to say the least. With the failing of small businesses throughout the area, with the food insecurity for women, children and families, with the housing insecurity, added to debt insecurity —  with all those insecurities young and old face, this project could be the light at the end of many tunnels.  We have connections to Oregon Tilth and Latinx Farmers, and large biodynamic vineyards. We have connections to women’s veteran groups, to aging in place experts. We have connections to trauma healers and growers and interested folk who know construction and design. Additionally, the Pacific Northwest, from Puget Sound to Gold Beach, OR, is full of innovators, and those include the dozens of colleges and universities just in these two states – Oregon and Washington. We intend to trawl for investors – farms, food purveyors, wineries, restaurants, schools and various college programmers – to put into this project. A soil plot to test perennial wheat, a al the Land Institute, to Amory Lovins, Novella Carpenter, and so many more, finding a place of integrated living, ag, permaculture and ever-evolving cultural understanding of the finite planet we are on.

We are hopeful, even under the current Sixth Extinction.

It is telling, this entomologist and educator’s perspective after three decades of teaching:

Diana Six, an entomologist for 30 years who teaches at the University of Montana, took her students to Glacier National Park on a field trip and reported the following:

Life doesn’t just deal with this. When I went up Glacier with my students a few weeks ago, the flowers were curling up. At some of the lower elevations, glacier lilies were shriveled, lupins didn’t even open. The flowers should extend for another three weeks and they’re already gone. Any insects or birds that depend upon them, like bees or hummingbirds, are in trouble, their food is gone. Bird populations have just baked… People seem to think of extinctions as some silent, painless statistic. It’s not. You look at birds that can no longer find fish because they’ve moved too far off shore. They’re emaciated; they’re starving to death. We are at the point that there’s nothing untouched.

How contradictory and illustrative that this student experience took place in a “protected national park.”

Referencing how climate change impacts life, Diana said:

Somewhere along the way, I had gone from being an ecologist to a coroner. I am no longer documenting life. I’m describing loss, decline, death.

We are hopeful that our youth can document life on this Medicine Wheel Land Satellite, and instead of  describing “loss, decline, death,”  this one satellite can help individuals to describe resurgence, restoration, holism, and growth. A model, like the one we propose, could be the incubator and inspiration for other similar projects throughout the land. So many empty buildings, so many abandoned farms, so much good land about to be grabbed up by McMansion developers, or those who have no vision toward a resilient and communitarian existence.

We are thinking of a medicine wheel since so many people can utilize the Farm, from horse therapists, to gardening as trauma healers; from alternative medicine experts, to restaurants with a connection to growers. This is Tierra Firma Robusta, for sure, with so much potential to integrate a suite of smart, worldly, localized and educational programs, permanent, long-term, and short in duration.  This would be the linchpin of inspiration, an incubator for similar projects, and we’d make sure that the Philanthropy you head up would be in some form of limelight – imagine, a billionaire placing a property with a deep spiritual history into a land trust of perpetuity. I know another billionaire has purchased farmland and is now the largest farm land holder in the US, but this one here we propose would fit an entirely different model, having nothing to do with industrial farming, genetic engineering and monocultures. Like all good societies, the cornucopia of life and backgrounds and people and land is what makes them dynamic, healthy and resilient, as well as fair.

We propose a grand idea, but we need that field of dreams, that field, that farm, before we can engage a hundred people to be part of this medicine wheel of land healing and hope.

Please let our team discuss this further. Truly, we have both the passion and persistence to get this Medicine Wheel of Healing Farm Community to an unimaginably vibrant level. Will you be part of our field of dreams?

Sincerely,

Paul Haeder

205 +/- Acres southwest of Hillsboro, OR

The Ananda Center at Laurelwood is considered an educational nonprofit. It started as a retreat center with workshops including yoga and energy healing. It also offers a non-credit residential study program and a non-accredited (but state authorized) college offering bachelor and associate degrees and educational certificates.

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Videos, as promised:

https://youtu.be/-sR_w3aDKLc

https://www.c-span.org/video/?301

Tropic of Chaos

Christian Parenti reported on several countries where environmental change is fueling violence and war. He responded to questions from members of the audience at Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C.

The post All the World’s a Stage . . . Except in our Own Backyards! first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Mobilising Against the Corporate Hijack of Agriculture and the UN Food Systems Summit

The UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS), including a ‘pre-summit’, will take place in September 2021 in New York. The Italian government is hosting the pre-summit in Rome from 26–28 July. The UNFSS claims it aims to deliver the latest evidence-based, scientific approaches from around the world, launch a set of fresh commitments through coalitions of action and mobilise new financing and partnerships.

Despite claims of being a ‘people’s summit’ and a ‘solutions’ summit, the UNFSS is facilitating greater corporate concentration, unsustainable globalised value chains and agribusiness leverage over public institutions. As a result, more than 300 global organisations of small-scale food producers, researchers and indigenous peoples will gather online from 25-28 July to mobilise against the pre-summit.

The Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples’ Mechanism (CSM) for relations with the United Nations Committee on World Food Security is working to eradicate food insecurity and malnutrition. According to the CMS, the UNFSS – founded on a partnership between the UN and the World Economic Forum (WEF) – is disproportionately influenced by corporate actors, lacks transparency and accountability and diverts energy and financial resources away from the real solutions needed to tackle the multiple hunger, climate and health crises.

The CMS argues that the UNFSS is not building on the legacy of past world food summits, which resulted in the creation of innovative, inclusive and participatory global food governance mechanisms anchored in human rights, such as the reformed UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS).

Promoting industrial agriculture

It seems the UNFSS is now dominated by corporate front groups and corporate-driven platforms, including the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the International Agri-Food Network, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the EAT Forum as well as the Rockefeller Foundation and the Gates Foundation. The President of AGRA, Agnes Kalibata, was even appointed as UN Special Envoy for the summit.

According to the CMS, those being granted a pivotal role at the UNFSS support industrial food systems that promote ultra-processed foods, deforestation, industrial livestock production, intensive pesticide use and commodity crop monocultures, all of which cause soil deterioration, water contamination and irreversible impacts on biodiversity and human health.

The industrialised food system that these corporations fuel does not even feed the world, despite corporate claims to the contrary. For example, the 2021 UN Report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition indicates that the number of chronically undernourished people has risen to 811 million, while almost a third of the world’s population has no access to adequate food. Furthermore, the Global South is still reeling from Covid-19 related policies which have laid bare the inherent fragility and injustices of the prevailing food system.

Those who contribute most to world food security, smallholder producers, are the most threatened and affected by the corporate concentration of land, seeds, natural and financial resources and the related privatisation of the commons and public goods.

And these processes are accelerating: the high-tech/data conglomerates, including Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Google, have joined traditional agribusiness giants in a quest to impose a one size fits all type of agriculture and food production on the world. Digitalisation, artificial intelligence and other technologies are serving to promote a new wave of resource grabbing and the restructuring of food systems towards a total concentration of power.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is also heavily involved, whether through buying up huge tracts of farmland, funding and promoting a much-heralded (but failed) ‘green revolution’ for Africa, pushing biosynthetic food and new genetic engineering technologies or more generally facilitating the aims of the mega agrifood corporations.

Under the guise of saving the planet with ‘climate-friendly solutions’, helping farmers and feeding the world, what Gates and his corporate associates are really doing is desperately trying to repackage the dispossessive strategies of imperialism wrapped in the language of ‘sustainability’ and ‘inclusivity’.

Through various aspects of data control pertaining to soil quality, consumer preferences, weather, and land use, for example, and e-commerce monopolies, corporate land ownership, seed biopiracy, patents, synthetic food and the undermining of the public sector’s role in ensuring food security and national food sovereignty, global agricapital seeks to gain full control over the world’s food system.

Smallholder peasant farming is under threat as the big-tech giants and agribusiness impose lab-grown food, genetically engineered (GE) soil microbes, data harvesting tools and drones and other ‘disruptive’ technologies. The model being promoted desires farmerless industrial-scale farms being manned by driverless machines, monitored by drones and doused with chemicals to produce commodity crops from patented GE seeds for industrial ‘biomatter’ to be processed and constituted into something resembling food.

The CMS notes that these are false ‘solutions’ that seek to bypass and undermine the peasant food web which currently produces up to 70% of the world’s food, working with only 25% of the resources. Moreover, these false solutions do not address structural injustices such as land and resource grabbing, corporate abuse of power and economic inequality. They merely reinforce them.

Towards food sovereignty

More than 380 million people belong to the movements protesting against the UNFSS. They are demanding a radical transformation of corporate food regimes towards a just and truly sustainable food system. They are also demanding increased participation in existing democratic food governance models, such as the UN Committee for World Food Security (CFS) and its High-Level Panel of Experts. The UNFSS threatens to undermine CFS, which is the foremost inclusive intergovernmental international policy-making arena.

There is an intensifying fight for space between local markets and global markets. The former are the domain of independent producers and small-scale enterprises, whereas global markets are dominated by increasing monopolistic large-scale international retailers, traders and the rapidly growing influential e-commerce companies.

It is therefore essential to protect and strengthen local markets and indigenous, independent small-scale producers and enterprises to ensure community control over food systems, economic independence and local food sovereignty. With this in mind, the CMS is calling for a radical agroecological transformation of food systems based on food sovereignty, gender justice and economic and social justice.

Agroecology is practised throughout the world. As numerous high-level (UN) reports have argued over the years, this approach improves nutrition, reduces poverty, contributes to gender justice, combats climate change and enriches farmland. With no need to purchase proprietary inputs (chemicals, seeds, etc) and its outperforming of industrial agriculture, agroecology represents a shift towards genuine food sovereignty and thus a direct threat to corporate agribusiness.

During the online mobilisation against the pre-summit, participants will share small-scale food producers and workers’ realities and their visions for a human rights-based and agroecological transformation of food systems. In doing so, they will highlight the importance of food sovereignty, small-scale sustainable agriculture, traditional knowledge, rights to natural resources and the rights of workers, indigenous peoples, women and future generations.

More information about the online mobilisation from 25-28 July can be found on the FoodSystems4People website .

The post Mobilising Against the Corporate Hijack of Agriculture and the UN Food Systems Summit first appeared on Dissident Voice.