Category Archives: Food/Nutrition

Earth Day is 24/7, and Every Hour and Every Minute of Every Day According to Local Activists

For us to maintain our way of living, we must tell lies to each other and especially to ourselves. The lies are necessary because, without them, many deplorable acts would become impossibilities.

— The Culture of Make Believe, Derrick Jensen

Part One — I am scrambling to get this first part of the Earth Day two-part article series up and running while I work hard Friday night to write the second, more sobering part of what Earth Day 2019 is and, unfortunately, what it is not.

I like going local by looking at global issues. I will talk about the reality of recycling products as a big scam. I will write about all this chatter from millionaires like Naomi Klein and now the leadership of the so-called alternative web journalist site, The Intercept. I watched the interview and the live-illustration by Molly Crabtree, “We Can Be Whatever We Have the Courage to See,” which, according to Klein’s millionaire husband, Avi Lewis, has had 4 million hits already as of April 18, 2019.

Hits on the internet, and this Lewis fellow declares this as a huge win for Mother Earth, for “the movement, and, surely, a grand win for the New Green Deal. This can be so dishearenting to hear the idiocy around these moments and digital expressions. Earth systems are in total collapse, and it’s more than some Canadian writer’s world view or the Holly-wood-ization of the world seen through the looking glass of the two dirtiest countries’ liberal spokespeople: Canada and USA.

Daily, it becomes more and more delusional on all aisles of the political manure pile, but also on all fronts of mainstream media and fake alternative media. The Press is out to lunch, man, big time. Having Today’s (4/18) Democracy Now:

We can be whatever we have the courage to see.” That’s the message of a stunning new video released by The Intercept, Naomi Klein and award-winning artist Molly Crabapple Wednesday that imagines a future shaped by the Green New Deal. It’s called “A Message from the Future with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.” The film was co-written by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez herself, along with Avi Lewis, the co-founder of The Leap. We speak with Avi Lewis and award-winning artist Molly Crabapple about the power of art to create social change.

Crabtree’s new thing is as follows:

As an award-winning animator, she has pioneered a new genre of live-illustrated explainer journalism, collaborating with Jay Z, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, The ACLU and The Equal Justice Initiative to tell stories about America’s prison system and history of institutional racism.

“Live-illustrated explainer journalism”! Wow. That’s a whole other book to write about, what this all means to humanity’s greater and greater loosening of its grip on sanity. In any case, the part two of my Earth Day hit will look at this new-fangled mixed up and same old Capitalism loving soft shoe bull crap lying about what has to be done to mitigate a world without ice. Because that’s the fact, Jack, so bullet trains and cool ass urban jobs and folks like Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis, a Canadian self-proclaimed Jewish couple with Jewish children, well, they are living the good millionaires’ liberal lifestyles, and, the revolution and the rebellion will not live in the belly of the controlled opposition which they are very centered inside.

Interesting the power centers in Canada vis-a-vis the family lines of both Klein and Lewis, from Wikipedia, really are at the top of elites. I bring this up to point out that the narrative around climate change and the New Green Deal and poverty and envirogees and starvation and physically harming toxins in this Mad Mad Mad World of Consumerism CANNOT be shunted into elitist and vain-glory liberal and pro-Capitalist politics or centers of non-profit gobbledygook:

Avi Lewis is the great grandson of Moshe Losz (Lewis), an outspoken member of the Jewish Bund who left Svislach, Poland (today Belarus), after being interrogated by the Russians and threatened with death or the Gulag for his political activity. He left for Montreal in 1921, with his wife Rose (née Lazarovitch) and three children. Avi Lewis is the grandson of former federal NDP leader David Lewis and the son of former Ontario NDP leader and diplomat Stephen Lewis and journalist Michele Landsberg. Avi Lewis is married to journalist and author Naomi Klein; his sister Ilana Landsberg-Lewis is the executive director of the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

Naomi Klein was born in Montreal, Quebec, and brought up in a Jewish family with a history of peace activism. Her parents were self-described “hippies” who moved to Montreal from the U.S. in 1967 as war resisters to the Vietnam War. Her mother, documentary film-maker Bonnie Sherr Klein, is best known for her anti-pornography film Not a Love Story. Her father, Michael Klein, is a physician and a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility. Her brother, Seth Klein, is director of the British Columbian office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Before World War II, her paternal grandparents were communists, but they began to turn against the Soviet Union after the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in 1939. In 1942, her grandfather, an animator at Disney, was fired after the 1941 strike,[ and had to switch to working in a shipyard instead. By 1956 they had abandoned communism. Klein’s father grew up surrounded by ideas of social justice and racial equality, but found it “difficult and frightening to be the child of Communists”, a so-called red diaper baby.

Klein’s husband, Avi Lewis, was born into a well-connected political and journalistic family; he works as a TV journalist and documentary filmmaker. The couple’s only child, son Toma, was born on June 13, 2012. (Wikipedia)

I continue to question the elite’s role in furthering the decline of people and third world societies, and those playing around with apocalypse (art, education, performing, documentaries, non-profit complex) and those seeing green as the new non-profit profit industry, or green washing or green pornography thing, or green whacking or green is the new black towering inferno of lies, as in profits for all and great new renewable energy jobs and business pretty much as usual thinking.

You see, I just taught at a Toledo, Oregon, school, actually both HS and elementary schools. I will write about that, too. Youth that are really bad, according to one teacher (math) who hails from New Jersey but went to school in Massachusetts, taught there, Vermont, Eugene, OR, Bullhead City, AZ, and now Toledo. She told me that hands down this high school was the worst place she ever taught at.

She’s got 14 or more years under her belt as a traveling teacher, and now she lives in Newport with her highly-paid (compared to Toledo or Newport wages) husband who works for Oregon State University (average undergraduate/grad tuition — for a state school in a dumpy town, Corvallis,  is:  $11,166 for Oregon residents and $30,141 for out of State students and the 2019 graduate school tuition & fees are $14,061 for State residents and $24,483 for others). Interesting, this 50 year old-ish teacher with a middle class wage and state retirement portfolio, and a second wage earner in the mix, and they are white, so there is probably inherited well in the mix, telling me, a part-timer, 62, precarious worker (a substitute teacher, come on!), that in her limited scope, Toledo, Oregon (not Ohio) has the worse students in both Junior/Senior High School in her realm of teaching.

Image result for Toledo OR paper mill

This town is Koch Brothers-polluted with a paper-mill run by Georgia Pacific which is owned by the billionaire Koch brothers who despise poor people, hence the dirty water, the dirty air, the dangerous jobs and the low pay for parents and those future workers barely getting through high school (many want to quit and go to Jobs Corps or get their GED’s while pumping gas).

What makes these students “the most destructive to school property and the most disruptive and disrespectful,” according to the East Coast teacher, we’ll talk about that too, soon, in a future article. Or what makes a teacher declare that in the public school realm, that too will be addressed.

Image result for Toledo, Oregon paper mill and high school

You know, all that paper the Klein-Lewis family uses for their copy and books, manuscript and TV scripts, etc., hmm, where does that shit come from? What are the consequences of all that paper use/misuse? All that virgin paper used in Congress, in political halls of injustice, and, yes, colleges and PK12?  Really, come on — these children are coughing up a storm from the pulp mill pollution. These youth I talked with several times are broken and need alternatives to classrooms with broken lights, peeling paint, and rows of desks — they are so down on themselves, so not confident they will go anywhere in life, so traumatized and broken, so chronically seized with negativity and put-downs and self-loathing . . . or self-delusional.

I guarantee, Earth Day to them is a day off, since it falls on the bizarre holiday of Easter Sunday/take off/Monday!

Image result for Toledo, Oregon paper mill and high school

Back to Part One —

Local Environmentalists Meet Inside for some Presentations — A Far-Cry from the Earth Days I Organized in Spokane! 

Celebration in Newport is April 22, at the public Library

The first “earth” day started really with nuts and bolts issues focusing on stopping air and water pollution, using a more sexy crisis as a platform for marching:  awareness around the annual increasing depletion of whale populations worldwide. That was in 1970, and the iconic blue and humpback whales were plastered all over posters and some were paper mâché giant icons that led the marchers on a pathway of civic engagement and political action tied to the planet’s degraded ecosystems, including those in cities.

On April 22, 1970, millions of people took to the streets to bring voice to the planet and hold corporations responsible in large part for the negative impacts of 150 years of industrial development.

In the U.S. and around the world, smog alerts were common, turning deadly. This fortified leading scientists and health experts to connect growing air, water, food and soil pollution to developmental delays in children, respiratory ailments and cancers in both young and old.

Almost 50 years ago — biologists supported by universities that were not so beholden to corporate influence and censorship — proved global biodiversity was in decline as a result of the heavy use of pesticides and other pollutants. We were just beginning as citizens to see how timber cutting and plowing over the rain-forests of the world for animal feed crops – to just name a few heavy-handed human scale degradations – could exponentially expand creating a much different – and lesser — world.

Those big events across the globe, especially the first earth day in Washington DC, pushed politicians, media and the average citizen to become aware of ecological challenges. The US Congress and President Nixon responded to the pressure, and in July of the same year, they created the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as significant environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, among many.

For Lincoln County – with three branch campuses of Oregon Coast Community College, and with the OSU Hatfield Center and a plethora of environmental and conservation groups, 2019 Earth Day is more like a whimper than a roar . . . a pebble splashing in the big blue Pacific Ocean.

It’s a huge body of water now hobbled with acidification fueled by the world’s oceans absorbing 93 percent of all carbon dioxide expelled through fossil fuel burning and forest burning.

Hypoxia, or dead zones, buffet the oceans around here, and from time to time, these oxygen-squeezed sections have huge marine species die-off’s. Sometimes fish like halibut just flee the waters nowhere to be found.

Towns like Newport, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Waldport and Yachats depend on whale watching, beach tourism, sport fishing and, of course, commercial fishing, yet we have significant issues tied to clear-cutting forests up to the ocean (or Highway 101); solid waste (bio-waste) dispersal on land and into watersheds; and significant fracturing of natural ecosystems through construction, road building and dike deployment to “hold back” natural sea and freshwater flooding. Our estuaries were once amazing natural systems of biological and hydrologic ebb and flow.

Interestingly, the Earth Day theme for the big groups organizing it last year was “End Plastic Pollution.” Many organizations – thousands – were working on ending single-use plastics and promoting alternatives to fossil fuel-based materials, as well as pushing for 100 percent recycling of plastics, corporate and government accountability, and changing human behavior concerning plastics.

That has become the strategy of non-profits and grassroots groups – educating citizens so they can become active players in demanding governments and corporations control and clean-up plastic pollution.

Most environmental issues, whether it’s stopping the slaughter of whales or curbing pesticide use, go to the core of the topic at hand by looking for frameworks from which to regulate. Part of the Earth Day celebrations I have been involved in as a coordinator in Spokane, Auburn and El Paso included passionate and knowledge voices who have lead movements, written books, directed documentaries and risked their lives to stop wanton destruction of, say, the Amazonian rain-forest.

Yes, getting entire groups of people and communities (including the colleges I taught at and for which I acted as sustainability coordinator) to take personal responsibility for whichever consumptive practice is producing more and more negative environmental effects, such as plastics, involves educating them on how to live a life of reducing, refusing, reusing, recycling and removing.

In one more year, 2020, the 50th anniversary of earth day arrives, but this year’s theme is Protect our Species. That includes the threatened and endangered species that are both rare, like the white rhino, snow leopard or the killer whale pod living in the Puget Sound, and once ubiquitous like butterflies, turtles, lizards, what have you.

However, there are more threads to the environmental quilt that are not just frayed, but outright missing in huge patches.

We are losing many insect species, and birds around the world are becoming fewer in terms of sheer numbers and diversity. Writer and researcher Elizabeth Kolbert made popular the science community’s assessment that we are in the Sixth Mass Extinction.

Kolbert:

Regarding the Anthropocene, on some level that’s neither here nor there. You could say that a meteor strike is natural in the sense that it’s part of the cosmos or whatever. But a meteor strike is unusual, and its effect is an unusual and devastating one for many other species. So I don’t think whether we are “natural” or not is the issue. Obviously, we’re having a very dramatic impact on the planet and on other species. And if you want to say that’s natural, fine. And if you want to say it’s unnatural, fine. We need to decide whether we like the impact we’re having, not whether we’re natural or not.

I am pretty new to the Central Oregon Coast—as in four months. Part of my journey into communities is I get to know the people, the systems within community structures – especially services tied to youth, aging, poverty and social justice – and the built and ecological environments.

I’m teaching PK12 in the schools. I just became a member of both Surfrider and the American Cetacean Society. I also am closely tied to Oregon’s writing communities, and my hope is to get more involved in the ones out here on the coast.

I’ve met some dedicated people on microplastic beach clean-ups and the big SOLVE beach clean-up. I’ve made an effort to listen to subject matter experts in order to glean from them knowledge I need to move forward as writer and activist.

I posed four fundamental questions to many environmental and conservation-minded people, tied to the value, meaning and effectiveness of Earth Day awareness and celebration campaigns —

  1. Students ask, “What’s one thing I can do for the environment?” Give us your best answer here.
  2. Earth Day is going on 50 years in 2020. What is one big issue — and why — you are concerned about that needs addressing not only in the USA/Lincoln County but globally?
  3. What is one big change you have seen to your community you’ve been in the past few years tied to the environment?
  4. Tell us your favorite or most memorable time in “wilderness” or “nature.”

For Charlie Plybon, Oregon Policy Manager of Surfrider Foundation, his eye is on individual habits and consumption choices: “Consider the source and eventual fate of your purchases and consumption habits – think about that before you buy it. From foods to plastics, we need to understand the full impacts of what we purchase and consume. Buy local, reduce consumption or avoid “single-use”, compost, grow food and plant trees.”

It makes sense to look at the area’s youth as future leaders in the movement to stop the pollution and mitigate the effects of global warming. Martin Desmond, 67, is a volunteer for Citizens Climate Lobby and has been in Newport for six years. He states: “The most effective action that students can take is to become involved with getting carbon reduction legislation passed at the local, state, and federal levels.”

For someone who has been here on the coast for 46 years, Scott Rosin, 70, has a simple answer for students to abide by:

Be aware of your effect on the environment every waking minute and act accordingly in a positive manner. If you can transcend to effective action instead of bogus rationalizations or despair, do so.

While Earth Day can be a day of celebration and self-congratulatory homilies, I know false hope, greenwashing (using environmental and ecological language to make money and still not stop pollution and degradations), and all those adults in the room telling youth and activists to “just take baby steps” will not turn the tide, so to speak, on the great melting of polar and glacial ice. We are talking about scientists who are independently looking at a world without ice in the coming hundred to three hundred years.

For 42-year-old Plybon, with 19 years as a resident of South Beach, he is concerned about several big issues the country and Lincoln County have to face. Again, this earth day story is not for the faint of heart: “Climate change and water,” Plybon stated. “The inhabitability of our earth will be the challenge of the next generations – that’s not an environmental issue, that’s an everybody issue. Today’s kids are asking what next, will we have a place to live?”

Rosin, on the other hand, goes right back to the plastics on the beaches and in the oceans, which now account for millions of marine birds perishing as well as turtles, seals and sea lions, whales and dolphins choking or starving to death. Every apex predatory in the ocean – those that we end up eating – has microplastics in their blood and flesh.

“Plastic pollution in the environment and particularly the ocean is a death sentence for most animals larger than mice, as surely as the Yucatan Meteor was sixty-six million years ago. The difference is that event and outcome (to channel T. S. Eliot) was practically instantaneous (a bang,) whereas what we face will take years (a whimper.)”

Celebrating wilderness is probably the best bet for any Earth Day participant. Get out in the woods, on the mountaintops, in the rivers and ocean. Remember those powerful spiritual moments in nature and then fight for those same memories for future generations to experience.

For Plybon, making large connections to one species has been amazing.  “Fishing in Alaska with my dad —  behind the big sockeye run — for trout, everything makes sense. My family and existence, the idea of ‘salmon nation,’ the connections of the forest and wildlife to a single species’ migration and reproduction make this world feel fragile and inexplicably connected.”

Desmond too has family memories about deep connections to nature:

We took our grandkids to Yellowstone several years ago when Lillian was four years old and Evan was one and a half years old.   While Yellowstone is known for its unique geothermal features and large numbers of bison, elk, grizzly bears, and wolves, our Evan got the most pleasure out of watching ground squirrels crawl up to his shoes while we were illegally feeding them.  For Lillian, she remembers swimming near Mammoth where a hot spring pours into Gardiner River.  Our granddaughter Lillian has now collected 12 junior ranger badges from national and state parks.

Finally, anyone working hard on conservation and fighting to restore and preserve the environment can get philosophical, as Rosin did when I asked him about his most memorable time in wilderness: “The illusion of the ‘natural’ life I believed I was once living has evaporated to the point I that I can no longer mentally conjure it. Once, respite only required paddling beyond the breakers and keeping my back to the shore. Now I know what floats around me.”

Here, for a list of Monday’s Newport speakers:

Citizens’ Climate Lobby – Newport Group and 350 Oregon Central Coast will be sponsoring an Earth Day celebration from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm, Monday, April 22nd at the Newport Public Library.

Mark Saelens, District Manager for the Solid Waste District of Lincoln County, will speak about the county’s recycling and sustainability efforts. Saelens is a former Newport City Councilor.

Martin Desmond, volunteer for Citizens’ Climate Lobby – Newport group, will give an update of HB 2020, the carbon reduction bill that is moving through the Oregon State Legislature. The Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction is expected to pass out the bill on Earth Day. Desmond will briefly speak about the development of climate action plans for Lincoln County.

Rio Davidson, owner of Cascade Coast Solar, will discuss the potential of solar energy installation in commercial and residential homes in Lincoln County. Cascade’s solar systems typically pay for themselves and start saving money on energy bill in seven years to ten years.

Jason Gonzales, the Forest and Watershed Campaign Organizer of Oregon Wild, will speak about impacts to forests in the Oregon Coast Range. Gonzales grew up near Sierra Nevada mountains, exploring the granite domes, freezing rivers, and giant pines on public lands around Yosemite National Park.

Aimee Thompson of Thompson’s Sanitary Services will discuss current recycling and disposal procedures. Thompson’s is offering free compost, Saturday April 20 near its main office, 7450 NE Avery Street, Newport, in celebration of Earth Day while supplies last, limited to one pick-up load per person.

Organizations that will have informational tables include Oregon Wild, Cascade Coast Solar, Thompson’s Sanitary Services, Lincoln County Community Rights, Friends of Yaquina Lighthouse, Oceana Natural Foods Co-Op, Citizens Climate Lobby – Newport group and 350 Oregon Central Coast. Light refreshments will be served.

We will also be serving light refreshments.  Thanks for your interest.

***

Note: I attempted to get a more “diverse” set of responses from a more diverse set of interviewees — youth, teachers, poor people, tribes people. I wrote the above article for the local Newport Times News, for Friday’s edition (not sure it will make it in). I have to say the new normal is outright fear of answering questions posed to people by writer/journalists — as in fear of reprisals (not sure which ones), fear of being in print media, and many more issues, including not having approval of the various employers to speak as a teacher or tribal member on some environmental board.

I got one woman’s take, late, after my deadline for the local Wednesday and Friday newspaper; I will include her responses here, since I think they are important. Joy also is the Oregon Chapter leader for the American Cetacean Society, for which I just finished a naturalist certification course under her auspices.

1. Every year the most common question I get from students and people I talk with about deep ecology and ecosocialism is,

“What’s one thing I can do for the environment?” Give us your best answer here.

JP: “Everyone can do the 4 R’s: Reduce, Reuse/Repurpose, Recycle, and Rot (compost). Start with number one Reduce. Buy less by buying only what you really need and will use. Choose durable items that will last. Buy gently used, shop at garage sales and thrift stores.”

2. Earth Day is going on 50 years in 2020. What is one big issue — and why — are you concerned about that needs addressing not only in the USA/Lincoln County but globally?

JP: “Our oceans! Over 2/3 of the earth is ocean. The ocean is critically linked to our survival on earth and is under attack in multitudes of ways. Pollution of all types, chemical, industrial, plastic, and coastal development are destroying habitat. Ocean acidification is a huge problem. It negatively impacts the food web as well as fisheries. The world needs to focus on ocean health.”

3. What is one big change you have seen to your community you’ve been in the past 10 years (or more if it’s the same community) tied to the environment?

JP: “I grew up in the Midwest in an area and time where the environment was only looked at as a resource to be used for farming. My children however, grew up in a time and place where they learned to recycle, to compost and garden, and to take walks to pick up garbage while in elementary school. They and their generation learned a better way to take care of the environment. We still have a long way to go but society can make positive change.”

4. Tell us your favorite or most memorable time in “wilderness” or “nature.” A couple of sentences.

JP: “I have so many it is hard to choose just one. I’ve been fortunate to spend time in many environments from deserts to forests to the ocean.
I recall hiking along the Umpqua River outside of Roseburg. I was by myself, it was so quiet and peaceful, just the sounds of nature and deer for company. Of course, being surrounded by blue whales is an incredible experience!”

5. Name, age, organization/affiliation, is this your home (where) and for how long? Joy Primrose, 53, Oregon since 1992 — ACS Oregon Chapter President

Earth Day is 24/7, and Every Hour and Every Minute of Every Day According to Local Activists

For us to maintain our way of living, we must tell lies to each other and especially to ourselves. The lies are necessary because, without them, many deplorable acts would become impossibilities.

— The Culture of Make Believe, Derrick Jensen

Part One — I am scrambling to get this first part of the Earth Day two-part article series up and running while I work hard Friday night to write the second, more sobering part of what Earth Day 2019 is and, unfortunately, what it is not.

I like going local by looking at global issues. I will talk about the reality of recycling products as a big scam. I will write about all this chatter from millionaires like Naomi Klein and now the leadership of the so-called alternative web journalist site, The Intercept. I watched the interview and the live-illustration by Molly Crabtree, “We Can Be Whatever We Have the Courage to See,” which, according to Klein’s millionaire husband, Avi Lewis, has had 4 million hits already as of April 18, 2019.

Hits on the internet, and this Lewis fellow declares this as a huge win for Mother Earth, for “the movement, and, surely, a grand win for the New Green Deal. This can be so dishearenting to hear the idiocy around these moments and digital expressions. Earth systems are in total collapse, and it’s more than some Canadian writer’s world view or the Holly-wood-ization of the world seen through the looking glass of the two dirtiest countries’ liberal spokespeople: Canada and USA.

Daily, it becomes more and more delusional on all aisles of the political manure pile, but also on all fronts of mainstream media and fake alternative media. The Press is out to lunch, man, big time. Having Today’s (4/18) Democracy Now:

We can be whatever we have the courage to see.” That’s the message of a stunning new video released by The Intercept, Naomi Klein and award-winning artist Molly Crabapple Wednesday that imagines a future shaped by the Green New Deal. It’s called “A Message from the Future with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.” The film was co-written by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez herself, along with Avi Lewis, the co-founder of The Leap. We speak with Avi Lewis and award-winning artist Molly Crabapple about the power of art to create social change.

Crabtree’s new thing is as follows:

As an award-winning animator, she has pioneered a new genre of live-illustrated explainer journalism, collaborating with Jay Z, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, The ACLU and The Equal Justice Initiative to tell stories about America’s prison system and history of institutional racism.

“Live-illustrated explainer journalism”! Wow. That’s a whole other book to write about, what this all means to humanity’s greater and greater loosening of its grip on sanity. In any case, the part two of my Earth Day hit will look at this new-fangled mixed up and same old Capitalism loving soft shoe bull crap lying about what has to be done to mitigate a world without ice. Because that’s the fact, Jack, so bullet trains and cool ass urban jobs and folks like Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis, a Canadian self-proclaimed Jewish couple with Jewish children, well, they are living the good millionaires’ liberal lifestyles, and, the revolution and the rebellion will not live in the belly of the controlled opposition which they are very centered inside.

Interesting the power centers in Canada vis-a-vis the family lines of both Klein and Lewis, from Wikipedia, really are at the top of elites. I bring this up to point out that the narrative around climate change and the New Green Deal and poverty and envirogees and starvation and physically harming toxins in this Mad Mad Mad World of Consumerism CANNOT be shunted into elitist and vain-glory liberal and pro-Capitalist politics or centers of non-profit gobbledygook:

Avi Lewis is the great grandson of Moshe Losz (Lewis), an outspoken member of the Jewish Bund who left Svislach, Poland (today Belarus), after being interrogated by the Russians and threatened with death or the Gulag for his political activity. He left for Montreal in 1921, with his wife Rose (née Lazarovitch) and three children. Avi Lewis is the grandson of former federal NDP leader David Lewis and the son of former Ontario NDP leader and diplomat Stephen Lewis and journalist Michele Landsberg. Avi Lewis is married to journalist and author Naomi Klein; his sister Ilana Landsberg-Lewis is the executive director of the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

Naomi Klein was born in Montreal, Quebec, and brought up in a Jewish family with a history of peace activism. Her parents were self-described “hippies” who moved to Montreal from the U.S. in 1967 as war resisters to the Vietnam War. Her mother, documentary film-maker Bonnie Sherr Klein, is best known for her anti-pornography film Not a Love Story. Her father, Michael Klein, is a physician and a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility. Her brother, Seth Klein, is director of the British Columbian office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Before World War II, her paternal grandparents were communists, but they began to turn against the Soviet Union after the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in 1939. In 1942, her grandfather, an animator at Disney, was fired after the 1941 strike,[ and had to switch to working in a shipyard instead. By 1956 they had abandoned communism. Klein’s father grew up surrounded by ideas of social justice and racial equality, but found it “difficult and frightening to be the child of Communists”, a so-called red diaper baby.

Klein’s husband, Avi Lewis, was born into a well-connected political and journalistic family; he works as a TV journalist and documentary filmmaker. The couple’s only child, son Toma, was born on June 13, 2012. (Wikipedia)

I continue to question the elite’s role in furthering the decline of people and third world societies, and those playing around with apocalypse (art, education, performing, documentaries, non-profit complex) and those seeing green as the new non-profit profit industry, or green washing or green pornography thing, or green whacking or green is the new black towering inferno of lies, as in profits for all and great new renewable energy jobs and business pretty much as usual thinking.

You see, I just taught at a Toledo, Oregon, school, actually both HS and elementary schools. I will write about that, too. Youth that are really bad, according to one teacher (math) who hails from New Jersey but went to school in Massachusetts, taught there, Vermont, Eugene, OR, Bullhead City, AZ, and now Toledo. She told me that hands down this high school was the worst place she ever taught at.

She’s got 14 or more years under her belt as a traveling teacher, and now she lives in Newport with her highly-paid (compared to Toledo or Newport wages) husband who works for Oregon State University (average undergraduate/grad tuition — for a state school in a dumpy town, Corvallis,  is:  $11,166 for Oregon residents and $30,141 for out of State students and the 2019 graduate school tuition & fees are $14,061 for State residents and $24,483 for others). Interesting, this 50 year old-ish teacher with a middle class wage and state retirement portfolio, and a second wage earner in the mix, and they are white, so there is probably inherited well in the mix, telling me, a part-timer, 62, precarious worker (a substitute teacher, come on!), that in her limited scope, Toledo, Oregon (not Ohio) has the worse students in both Junior/Senior High School in her realm of teaching.

Image result for Toledo OR paper mill

This town is Koch Brothers-polluted with a paper-mill run by Georgia Pacific which is owned by the billionaire Koch brothers who despise poor people, hence the dirty water, the dirty air, the dangerous jobs and the low pay for parents and those future workers barely getting through high school (many want to quit and go to Jobs Corps or get their GED’s while pumping gas).

What makes these students “the most destructive to school property and the most disruptive and disrespectful,” according to the East Coast teacher, we’ll talk about that too, soon, in a future article. Or what makes a teacher declare that in the public school realm, that too will be addressed.

Image result for Toledo, Oregon paper mill and high school

You know, all that paper the Klein-Lewis family uses for their copy and books, manuscript and TV scripts, etc., hmm, where does that shit come from? What are the consequences of all that paper use/misuse? All that virgin paper used in Congress, in political halls of injustice, and, yes, colleges and PK12?  Really, come on — these children are coughing up a storm from the pulp mill pollution. These youth I talked with several times are broken and need alternatives to classrooms with broken lights, peeling paint, and rows of desks — they are so down on themselves, so not confident they will go anywhere in life, so traumatized and broken, so chronically seized with negativity and put-downs and self-loathing . . . or self-delusional.

I guarantee, Earth Day to them is a day off, since it falls on the bizarre holiday of Easter Sunday/take off/Monday!

Image result for Toledo, Oregon paper mill and high school

Back to Part One —

Local Environmentalists Meet Inside for some Presentations — A Far-Cry from the Earth Days I Organized in Spokane! 

Celebration in Newport is April 22, at the public Library

The first “earth” day started really with nuts and bolts issues focusing on stopping air and water pollution, using a more sexy crisis as a platform for marching:  awareness around the annual increasing depletion of whale populations worldwide. That was in 1970, and the iconic blue and humpback whales were plastered all over posters and some were paper mâché giant icons that led the marchers on a pathway of civic engagement and political action tied to the planet’s degraded ecosystems, including those in cities.

On April 22, 1970, millions of people took to the streets to bring voice to the planet and hold corporations responsible in large part for the negative impacts of 150 years of industrial development.

In the U.S. and around the world, smog alerts were common, turning deadly. This fortified leading scientists and health experts to connect growing air, water, food and soil pollution to developmental delays in children, respiratory ailments and cancers in both young and old.

Almost 50 years ago — biologists supported by universities that were not so beholden to corporate influence and censorship — proved global biodiversity was in decline as a result of the heavy use of pesticides and other pollutants. We were just beginning as citizens to see how timber cutting and plowing over the rain-forests of the world for animal feed crops – to just name a few heavy-handed human scale degradations – could exponentially expand creating a much different – and lesser — world.

Those big events across the globe, especially the first earth day in Washington DC, pushed politicians, media and the average citizen to become aware of ecological challenges. The US Congress and President Nixon responded to the pressure, and in July of the same year, they created the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as significant environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, among many.

For Lincoln County – with three branch campuses of Oregon Coast Community College, and with the OSU Hatfield Center and a plethora of environmental and conservation groups, 2019 Earth Day is more like a whimper than a roar . . . a pebble splashing in the big blue Pacific Ocean.

It’s a huge body of water now hobbled with acidification fueled by the world’s oceans absorbing 93 percent of all carbon dioxide expelled through fossil fuel burning and forest burning.

Hypoxia, or dead zones, buffet the oceans around here, and from time to time, these oxygen-squeezed sections have huge marine species die-off’s. Sometimes fish like halibut just flee the waters nowhere to be found.

Towns like Newport, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Waldport and Yachats depend on whale watching, beach tourism, sport fishing and, of course, commercial fishing, yet we have significant issues tied to clear-cutting forests up to the ocean (or Highway 101); solid waste (bio-waste) dispersal on land and into watersheds; and significant fracturing of natural ecosystems through construction, road building and dike deployment to “hold back” natural sea and freshwater flooding. Our estuaries were once amazing natural systems of biological and hydrologic ebb and flow.

Interestingly, the Earth Day theme for the big groups organizing it last year was “End Plastic Pollution.” Many organizations – thousands – were working on ending single-use plastics and promoting alternatives to fossil fuel-based materials, as well as pushing for 100 percent recycling of plastics, corporate and government accountability, and changing human behavior concerning plastics.

That has become the strategy of non-profits and grassroots groups – educating citizens so they can become active players in demanding governments and corporations control and clean-up plastic pollution.

Most environmental issues, whether it’s stopping the slaughter of whales or curbing pesticide use, go to the core of the topic at hand by looking for frameworks from which to regulate. Part of the Earth Day celebrations I have been involved in as a coordinator in Spokane, Auburn and El Paso included passionate and knowledge voices who have lead movements, written books, directed documentaries and risked their lives to stop wanton destruction of, say, the Amazonian rain-forest.

Yes, getting entire groups of people and communities (including the colleges I taught at and for which I acted as sustainability coordinator) to take personal responsibility for whichever consumptive practice is producing more and more negative environmental effects, such as plastics, involves educating them on how to live a life of reducing, refusing, reusing, recycling and removing.

In one more year, 2020, the 50th anniversary of earth day arrives, but this year’s theme is Protect our Species. That includes the threatened and endangered species that are both rare, like the white rhino, snow leopard or the killer whale pod living in the Puget Sound, and once ubiquitous like butterflies, turtles, lizards, what have you.

However, there are more threads to the environmental quilt that are not just frayed, but outright missing in huge patches.

We are losing many insect species, and birds around the world are becoming fewer in terms of sheer numbers and diversity. Writer and researcher Elizabeth Kolbert made popular the science community’s assessment that we are in the Sixth Mass Extinction.

Kolbert:

Regarding the Anthropocene, on some level that’s neither here nor there. You could say that a meteor strike is natural in the sense that it’s part of the cosmos or whatever. But a meteor strike is unusual, and its effect is an unusual and devastating one for many other species. So I don’t think whether we are “natural” or not is the issue. Obviously, we’re having a very dramatic impact on the planet and on other species. And if you want to say that’s natural, fine. And if you want to say it’s unnatural, fine. We need to decide whether we like the impact we’re having, not whether we’re natural or not.

I am pretty new to the Central Oregon Coast—as in four months. Part of my journey into communities is I get to know the people, the systems within community structures – especially services tied to youth, aging, poverty and social justice – and the built and ecological environments.

I’m teaching PK12 in the schools. I just became a member of both Surfrider and the American Cetacean Society. I also am closely tied to Oregon’s writing communities, and my hope is to get more involved in the ones out here on the coast.

I’ve met some dedicated people on microplastic beach clean-ups and the big SOLVE beach clean-up. I’ve made an effort to listen to subject matter experts in order to glean from them knowledge I need to move forward as writer and activist.

I posed four fundamental questions to many environmental and conservation-minded people, tied to the value, meaning and effectiveness of Earth Day awareness and celebration campaigns —

  1. Students ask, “What’s one thing I can do for the environment?” Give us your best answer here.
  2. Earth Day is going on 50 years in 2020. What is one big issue — and why — you are concerned about that needs addressing not only in the USA/Lincoln County but globally?
  3. What is one big change you have seen to your community you’ve been in the past few years tied to the environment?
  4. Tell us your favorite or most memorable time in “wilderness” or “nature.”

For Charlie Plybon, Oregon Policy Manager of Surfrider Foundation, his eye is on individual habits and consumption choices: “Consider the source and eventual fate of your purchases and consumption habits – think about that before you buy it. From foods to plastics, we need to understand the full impacts of what we purchase and consume. Buy local, reduce consumption or avoid “single-use”, compost, grow food and plant trees.”

It makes sense to look at the area’s youth as future leaders in the movement to stop the pollution and mitigate the effects of global warming. Martin Desmond, 67, is a volunteer for Citizens Climate Lobby and has been in Newport for six years. He states: “The most effective action that students can take is to become involved with getting carbon reduction legislation passed at the local, state, and federal levels.”

For someone who has been here on the coast for 46 years, Scott Rosin, 70, has a simple answer for students to abide by:

Be aware of your effect on the environment every waking minute and act accordingly in a positive manner. If you can transcend to effective action instead of bogus rationalizations or despair, do so.

While Earth Day can be a day of celebration and self-congratulatory homilies, I know false hope, greenwashing (using environmental and ecological language to make money and still not stop pollution and degradations), and all those adults in the room telling youth and activists to “just take baby steps” will not turn the tide, so to speak, on the great melting of polar and glacial ice. We are talking about scientists who are independently looking at a world without ice in the coming hundred to three hundred years.

For 42-year-old Plybon, with 19 years as a resident of South Beach, he is concerned about several big issues the country and Lincoln County have to face. Again, this earth day story is not for the faint of heart: “Climate change and water,” Plybon stated. “The inhabitability of our earth will be the challenge of the next generations – that’s not an environmental issue, that’s an everybody issue. Today’s kids are asking what next, will we have a place to live?”

Rosin, on the other hand, goes right back to the plastics on the beaches and in the oceans, which now account for millions of marine birds perishing as well as turtles, seals and sea lions, whales and dolphins choking or starving to death. Every apex predatory in the ocean – those that we end up eating – has microplastics in their blood and flesh.

“Plastic pollution in the environment and particularly the ocean is a death sentence for most animals larger than mice, as surely as the Yucatan Meteor was sixty-six million years ago. The difference is that event and outcome (to channel T. S. Eliot) was practically instantaneous (a bang,) whereas what we face will take years (a whimper.)”

Celebrating wilderness is probably the best bet for any Earth Day participant. Get out in the woods, on the mountaintops, in the rivers and ocean. Remember those powerful spiritual moments in nature and then fight for those same memories for future generations to experience.

For Plybon, making large connections to one species has been amazing.  “Fishing in Alaska with my dad —  behind the big sockeye run — for trout, everything makes sense. My family and existence, the idea of ‘salmon nation,’ the connections of the forest and wildlife to a single species’ migration and reproduction make this world feel fragile and inexplicably connected.”

Desmond too has family memories about deep connections to nature:

We took our grandkids to Yellowstone several years ago when Lillian was four years old and Evan was one and a half years old.   While Yellowstone is known for its unique geothermal features and large numbers of bison, elk, grizzly bears, and wolves, our Evan got the most pleasure out of watching ground squirrels crawl up to his shoes while we were illegally feeding them.  For Lillian, she remembers swimming near Mammoth where a hot spring pours into Gardiner River.  Our granddaughter Lillian has now collected 12 junior ranger badges from national and state parks.

Finally, anyone working hard on conservation and fighting to restore and preserve the environment can get philosophical, as Rosin did when I asked him about his most memorable time in wilderness: “The illusion of the ‘natural’ life I believed I was once living has evaporated to the point I that I can no longer mentally conjure it. Once, respite only required paddling beyond the breakers and keeping my back to the shore. Now I know what floats around me.”

Here, for a list of Monday’s Newport speakers:

Citizens’ Climate Lobby – Newport Group and 350 Oregon Central Coast will be sponsoring an Earth Day celebration from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm, Monday, April 22nd at the Newport Public Library.

Mark Saelens, District Manager for the Solid Waste District of Lincoln County, will speak about the county’s recycling and sustainability efforts. Saelens is a former Newport City Councilor.

Martin Desmond, volunteer for Citizens’ Climate Lobby – Newport group, will give an update of HB 2020, the carbon reduction bill that is moving through the Oregon State Legislature. The Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction is expected to pass out the bill on Earth Day. Desmond will briefly speak about the development of climate action plans for Lincoln County.

Rio Davidson, owner of Cascade Coast Solar, will discuss the potential of solar energy installation in commercial and residential homes in Lincoln County. Cascade’s solar systems typically pay for themselves and start saving money on energy bill in seven years to ten years.

Jason Gonzales, the Forest and Watershed Campaign Organizer of Oregon Wild, will speak about impacts to forests in the Oregon Coast Range. Gonzales grew up near Sierra Nevada mountains, exploring the granite domes, freezing rivers, and giant pines on public lands around Yosemite National Park.

Aimee Thompson of Thompson’s Sanitary Services will discuss current recycling and disposal procedures. Thompson’s is offering free compost, Saturday April 20 near its main office, 7450 NE Avery Street, Newport, in celebration of Earth Day while supplies last, limited to one pick-up load per person.

Organizations that will have informational tables include Oregon Wild, Cascade Coast Solar, Thompson’s Sanitary Services, Lincoln County Community Rights, Friends of Yaquina Lighthouse, Oceana Natural Foods Co-Op, Citizens Climate Lobby – Newport group and 350 Oregon Central Coast. Light refreshments will be served.

We will also be serving light refreshments.  Thanks for your interest.

***

Note: I attempted to get a more “diverse” set of responses from a more diverse set of interviewees — youth, teachers, poor people, tribes people. I wrote the above article for the local Newport Times News, for Friday’s edition (not sure it will make it in). I have to say the new normal is outright fear of answering questions posed to people by writer/journalists — as in fear of reprisals (not sure which ones), fear of being in print media, and many more issues, including not having approval of the various employers to speak as a teacher or tribal member on some environmental board.

I got one woman’s take, late, after my deadline for the local Wednesday and Friday newspaper; I will include her responses here, since I think they are important. Joy also is the Oregon Chapter leader for the American Cetacean Society, for which I just finished a naturalist certification course under her auspices.

1. Every year the most common question I get from students and people I talk with about deep ecology and ecosocialism is,

“What’s one thing I can do for the environment?” Give us your best answer here.

JP: “Everyone can do the 4 R’s: Reduce, Reuse/Repurpose, Recycle, and Rot (compost). Start with number one Reduce. Buy less by buying only what you really need and will use. Choose durable items that will last. Buy gently used, shop at garage sales and thrift stores.”

2. Earth Day is going on 50 years in 2020. What is one big issue — and why — are you concerned about that needs addressing not only in the USA/Lincoln County but globally?

JP: “Our oceans! Over 2/3 of the earth is ocean. The ocean is critically linked to our survival on earth and is under attack in multitudes of ways. Pollution of all types, chemical, industrial, plastic, and coastal development are destroying habitat. Ocean acidification is a huge problem. It negatively impacts the food web as well as fisheries. The world needs to focus on ocean health.”

3. What is one big change you have seen to your community you’ve been in the past 10 years (or more if it’s the same community) tied to the environment?

JP: “I grew up in the Midwest in an area and time where the environment was only looked at as a resource to be used for farming. My children however, grew up in a time and place where they learned to recycle, to compost and garden, and to take walks to pick up garbage while in elementary school. They and their generation learned a better way to take care of the environment. We still have a long way to go but society can make positive change.”

4. Tell us your favorite or most memorable time in “wilderness” or “nature.” A couple of sentences.

JP: “I have so many it is hard to choose just one. I’ve been fortunate to spend time in many environments from deserts to forests to the ocean.
I recall hiking along the Umpqua River outside of Roseburg. I was by myself, it was so quiet and peaceful, just the sounds of nature and deer for company. Of course, being surrounded by blue whales is an incredible experience!”

5. Name, age, organization/affiliation, is this your home (where) and for how long? Joy Primrose, 53, Oregon since 1992 — ACS Oregon Chapter President

As the 2019 Indian General Election Takes Place, Are the Nation’s Farmers Being Dealt a Knock-Out Blow?

In 1830, British colonial administrator Lord Metcalfe said India’s villages were little republics that had nearly everything they could want for within themselves. India’s ability to endure derived from these communities:

Dynasty after dynasty tumbles down but the village community remains the same. It is in a high degree conducive to their happiness, and to the enjoyment of a great portion of freedom and independence.

Metcalfe was acutely aware that to subjugate India, this capacity to ‘endure’ had to be broken. Since gaining independence from the British, India’s rulers have only further served to undermine village India’s vibrancy. But now a potential death knell for rural India and its villages is underway.

There is a plan for the future of India and most of its current farmers don’t have a role in it. Successive administrations have been making farming financially unviable with the aim of moving farmers out of agriculture and into the cities to work in construction, manufacturing or the service sector, despite these sectors not creating anything like the number of jobs required.

The aim is to displace the existing labour-intensive system of food and agriculture with one dominated by a few transnational corporate agribusiness concerns which will then control the sector.  Agriculture is to be wholly commercialised with large-scale, mechanised (monocrop) enterprises replacing family-run farms that help sustain hundreds of millions of rural livelihoods, while feeding the urban masses.

So why would anyone set out to deliberately run down what is effectively a productive system of agriculture that feeds people, sustains livelihoods and produces sufficient buffer stocks?

Part of the answer comes down to India being the largest recipient of World Bank loans in the history of that institution and acting on its ‘advice’. Part of it results from the neoliberal-driven US-Indo Knowledge Agreement on Agriculture. Either way, it means India’s rulers are facilitating the needs of (Western) capitalism and all it entails: a system based on endless profit growth, crises of overproduction and market saturation and a need to constantly seek out and expand into new, untapped (foreign) markets to maintain profitability.

And as a market for proprietary seeds, chemical inputs and agricultural technology and machinery, India is vast. The potential market for herbicide growth alone, for instance, is huge: sales could reach USD 800 million this year with scope for even greater expansion. And with restrictions on GMOs in place in Europe and elsewhere, India is again regarded as a massive potential market.

A few years ago, influential ‘global communications, stakeholder engagement and business strategy’ company APCO Worldwide stated that India’s resilience in weathering the global downturn and financial crisis has made governments, policy-makers, economists, corporate houses and fund managers believe that the country can play a significant role in the recovery of the global economy in the years ahead.

Decoded, this means corporations moving into regions and nations and displacing indigenous systems of production and consumption. And where agriculture is concerned, this predatory capitalism hides behind emotive, seemingly altruistic rhetoric about ‘helping farmers’ and the need to ‘feed a burgeoning population’ (regardless of the fact this is exactly what India’s farmers have been doing).

Prime Minister Modi is certainly on board. He has proudly stated that India is now one of the most ‘business friendly’ countries in the world. What he really means is that India is in compliance with World Bank directives on ‘Ease of Doing Business’ and ‘Enabling the Business of Agriculture’: facilitating environment-destroying policies and forcing working people to take part in a race to the bottom based on ‘free’ market fundamentalism.

None of this is a recipe for national sovereignty, let alone food security. Renowned agronomist MS Swaminathan recently stated:

Independent foreign policy is only possible with food security. Therefore, food has more than just eating implications. It protects national sovereignty, national rights and national prestige.

Despite such warnings, India’s agrarian base is being uprooted. In a recent interview, Director of Food First Eric Holt-Giménez notes that when Cargill, Bayer or Syngenta say they need to expand the use of GMOs or the other latest technologies so they can feed the world, they’re really talking about capturing the market that’s still controlled by peasant agriculture. To get those markets they first must knock out the peasantry.

Looking at the Industrial Revolution in England, historian Michael Perelman has detailed the processes that whipped the English peasantry into a workforce ‘willing’ to accept factory wage labour. Peasants were forced to leave their land and go to work for below-subsistence wages in dangerous factories being set up by a new, rich class of industrial capitalists. Perelman describes the policies through which peasants were forced out of agriculture, not least by the barring of access to common land. A largely self-reliant population was starved of its productive means.

Today, we hear seemingly benign terms like ‘foreign direct investment’, ‘ease of doing business’, making India ‘business friendly’ or ‘enabling the business of agriculture’. But behind the World Bank/corporate-inspired rhetoric lies the hard-nosed approach of modern-day capitalism that is no less brutal for Indian farmers than early industrial capitalism was for English peasants.

GDP growth has been fuelled on the back of cheap food and the subsequent impoverishment of farmers: the gap between farmers’ income and the rest of the population has widened enormously. While underperforming corporations receive massive handouts and have loans written off, the lack of a secure income, exposure to international market prices and cheap imports contribute to farmers’ misery.

Farmers must also contend with profiteering seed and chemical companies, corrupt middlemen, high interest loans and debt and the overall impacts of the corporate-inspired US-Indo Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture that flung open the sector to US agribusiness. Up to 400,000 farmers have taken their lives since 1997 and millions more are experiencing economic distress.

As independent cultivators are bankrupted, the aim is that land will eventually be amalgamated to facilitate large-scale industrial cultivation. Those who remain in farming will be absorbed into corporate supply chains and squeezed as they work on contracts dictated by large agribusiness and chain retailers.

Even the scaling up of Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) across Andhra Pradesh is a cause for concern. For instance, the involvement of BNP Paribas Bank (which has funded numerous questionable projects, including in India), the Gates Foundation (with its staunch commitment to GMOs and gene editing technology and its cosy relationship with global agribusiness) and the potential illegal accessing of agrobiodiversity and traditional knowledge by foreign entities does not bode well.

There are also serious concerns about farmer’ interests being ignored. In effect, ZBNF seems to be focused more on global export chains, the further commodification of agriculture, facilitating consumerism and the involvement of unethical international finance. Even here it seems Western interests are being handed the reins.

If British rule, the impacts of the Green Revolution and neglect and mismanagement of the countryside since independence all served to undermine rural India and its inhabitants, Western agricapital now seems intent on delivering a knock-out blow. The timely reminder as voting in the 2019 Indian General Election gets underway is that certain leading politicians have been all too willing to facilitate the process.

Musings on a Monday After Teaching High School Get You Down? Nope!

Hold those things that tell your history and protect them… The ability to have somebody to tell your story is so important. It says: ‘I was here’.

— Maya Angelou

Image result for biodiversity loss and its impact on humanity

One of those splattering days — called to teach special education at one of the high schools in Lincoln City. Wonderful students, wonderful para-educators, wonderful teachers.

But not according to the powers that be in the world! How many students are thrown to the floor/ground and handcuffed by armed cops? How many schools are like prisons, with armed school personnel and local cops there to intimidate?

We are priming youth with these strip searches and forced drug tests and grillings about their allegiances outside the capitalist frame to be compliant adults, scared of their own shadows, frightened to death to take too many breathes of air.

No one can dispute a federal appellate court’s characterization of a strip-search as “demeaning, dehumanizing, undignified, humiliating, terrifying, unpleasant, embarrassing, [and] repulsive, signifying degradation and submission.” Even the Supreme Court has said that a search that intrusive “demand[s] its own specific suspicions.” The shock and humiliation suffered by persons subjected to such arrests and searches is aggravated by the fact that they are almost always ordinary citizens who have never been in jail before. In one case a Chicago woman doctor who had been strip searched afterward suffered paranoia, suicidal feelings and depression and would not undress anywhere but in a closet.

The Fourth Amendment was designed to stand between us and arbitrary governmental authority. For all practical purposes, that shield has been shattered, leaving our liberty and personal integrity subject to the whim of every cop on the beat, trooper on the highway and jail official. The Framers would be appalled.

Source: “How the Supreme Court Came to embrace Strip Searches for Trivial Offenses.”

So, how many students are put through this fascist ringer, forced into this series of illegal, unethical, inhumane, insane demands that speak to deeply dehumanizing actions by the so-called powers?

Teaching students in public schools is like pulling the blinders and the blindfolds off of captives who have been shuttered away in some dark and cold cave in Pakistan. They think they sort of have these freedoms outlined in the Constitution, or Bill of Rights, but in reality, they know the jig is up. They know you can’t cross the street while being black without a police confrontation. They know that if they skip rope the wrong way or if they wrestle with their buddies in the cafeteria, then they are subject to the resources officer (thug, wannabe cop) coming in and escalating the situation.

You can’t wear caps, and you can’t hug in public. If you raise your voice in school as a Latino or some teen who is Asian and expressively dressed, well, we have the entire thug force of America come at you full-force.

The Fourth Amendment is dead, and the new government bureaucrats and Gestapo chieftains have taken away unlawful and overreaching search and seizure laws and have normalized their complete “right” to search, seize, strip, scan, spy on, probe, pat down, taser, and arrest any individual at any time and for the slightest provocation.

In any given day, thousands of Americans undergo forced cavity searches, forced colonoscopies, forced blood draws, forced breath-alcohol tests, forced DNA extractions, forced eye scans, forced inclusion in biometric databases.

I have worked for the Starvation Army, through the auspices of the VA, and that corrupt religious outfit — brown shirts one and all — not only forces veterans to pee in a cup for an illegal UA test, but twice daily everyone in a transition housing center has to blow in a straw and prove sobriety with an alcohol monitor.

It’s not for the benefit of the individual, mind you. Getting caught with a hot pee or positive for booze blow, for the homeless vet, the powers that be come down like orchestrated hammers to remind you that you are broken, that you need fixing, that your three hots and a cot are jeopardized and that you might be on the streets, with your four bags of belongings, your emotional support dog, your wife and three kids in tow.

The same treatment is in store for our first through 12th graders.

Typical of the public schools is a North Carolina case of administrators strip-searching a 10-year-old boy in hopes of finding a $20 bill lost by another student, even though the accused boy protested twice that he did not have the missing money. Get this — these little and big brown-shirts, like this ass. principal, ordered the fifth grader to disrobe down to his underwear and subjected him “to an aggressive strip-search that included rimming the edge of his underwear.”

The so-deemed ripped-off $20 bill was later found in the school cafeteria. Did the parents come in with bats and get retribution? Was anything done?

The children of the world want real answers, real stories, real heroes and real tools to navigate a world of fascists, climate change, huge class divides, no economic futures for at least 40 percent of the students as they matriculate out and meander in the wasteland of the 21st century’s second decade in. We have talking sessions and the youth want to ask why people my age and younger have allowed the corporations and government to seize the most intimate details of who we are. Why this is a police state, and a policed school system.

They get it and don’t think all of this talk is some movie script for a Minority Report Two. They already know all their testing scores and performance reports are held captive somewhere. They also know that their vaccination and health records are easily accessed by school officials.

I try and tamp down the urge to tell it like it is early in a class: in the United States we are now guilty until proven innocent.

Students want to know why there are so many fellow classmates with Epipens, why so many are on Individualized Employment Plans, why so many have para-educators assigned to them, what so many are pulled out of classes for special ed or special diets.

We can’t share snacks at breaks because so many are allergic to gluten or sugar or corn or coconut or peanuts of eggs or soy. They are these nervous assist objects and gizmos for many youth on the spectrum to handle, and some are allowed to bring in their own beanbags or to stand up away from the class or pace the room.

We talk about the consequences of unintended fallout from all the junk and plastic products and chemicals laced in the foods and emanating from every corner of a community.

Background checks, parents’ credit checks, health records, records on what they eat and purchase and what their parents plop down on credit cards. What we think, believe, hope for, covet, adhere to spiritually, all of it is recorded, put out in the cloud, held by the IRS, Medical-Pharma-Finance-Debt Complex.

On one hand, we talk about climate change, plastics in their feces, why they get sick with cheese or white bread or with peanut butter. These are smart kids, probing, wanting to know more and more.

They want people in their lives that take them over to the edge of the cliff, and strap them into the hang-glider and take off. They want teachers and mentors taking them to the edge of the boat and plopping backwards to the great blue sea in their snorkel and scuba gear.

They want to go into the forest, not the edge of it. They want to spend time with beavers and watch the process of dam building and the amazing species of aquatic animals thriving.

These children are tired of the Tupperware brand of education and the countless coloring projects and poster projects. They want teachers to help them build catfish ponds, to build gardens, to learn in tepees, to learn how to make children’s puzzles out of wood to sell to the public. They want zip lines around their school, and they want more and more hands-on work. They want to know how to make clay pots, and they want to learn how to arrange flowers, and grow them. They want to learn how to grow food and prep it and cook it. They want to build solar powered pedicabs, and they want to go to all the nursing homes and care facilities with their homemade drums and pianos and accordions and voices and sing and dance and perform for their elders.

It all can be done, and they ask why not, and we talk about every dollar put into a system like decent and real life education getting many dollars matched in return for each dollar invested in children and youth.

Then, we talk about what it means to give up everything for the job, that getting a low paid service job means not having health insurance and being forced to not take vacations, ever, if the job is below a certain amount of hours. They know they won’t be high paid $2000-an-hour lawyers, and they know that very few of the graduates from all the schools in this county will get to be brain surgeons.

We talk about the power in numbers, like bee hives, or ants, and then relate it to people — how many people would it take to get some land, build gardens, do some home-cottage industry work, and sustain a healthy lifestyle. I name this as intentional communities and cooperative living.

Unfortunately, these children are going to be the products of parents who are downtrodden, negative about their own futures, and denigrating against any or all new ideas to get out of this hamster wheel America.

Most of the ideals the youth I teach possess come from Hollywood or thereabouts. They have not met real farmers who are also experts in cheese making and cooking and preserving. They are not meeting the people who are the survivors and the ones who can help us get through this climate and economic chaos.

We talk about the very concept of making sure not to degrade or toxify one self of any of the vital keys to self and community preservation — you are what you eat, you are what you read, you are what you dream, you are what you hope, you are what you think, you are what you say, you are what you believe, you are what you imagine, you are what you do.

There is a lot of pressure on youth, but mainly because the education system as such and the economic horizon we have gifted them are imperiled and off the rails. They want to know what Genetic Engineering is, why all the food items in grocery stores that are not in the green grocery section are contaminated with Roundup, or glyphosate.

They want to know what a Franken-fish is. We talk about that, the mighty salmon, since they reside in Salmon Nation.

Twenty million people share our home in this place we call Salmon Nation.

It spans 100 million acres between San Francisco and Anchorage and generates over $500 billion in economic activity each year, yet is only a sliver of the range that Pacific salmon once ran.

The historic salmon runs remind us of our heritage—what is, was, and, maybe, could be again. Salmon Nation offers a framework for our thinking—a nature state, not a nation state—based on interconnection and the broad distribution of wealth between marine and terrestrial, freshwater and saltwater, urban and rural. Our work is to figure out how to organize our communities and economies to sustain, or even restore, that wealth into the future. Salmon Nation is about the connection between people and place—loving where you live and leaving it better than you found it.

I talk about the power of young people occupying buildings, occupying parks, occupying grocery stores, and occupying the world. They want to know how to protest, how to sing, how to develop the tools that will one day be used by them collectively to do more in the world than to work for the man and bleed their souls for the debts incurred in this capitalist nation.

Image result for Frankenfish

We parse the following press release just pushed out by environmental groups:

FDA Lifts Import Ban on Genetically Engineered Salmon

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Center for Food Safety, Friends of the Earth and Quinault Indian Nation, and Feed Seven Generations today decried the FDA’s decision to lift the 2016 import alert that banned genetically engineered salmon from entering the U.S.

“USDA’s new guidelines don’t require adequate mandatory labeling, don’t require calling the fish “genetically engineered” and don’t help consumers know what kind of fish they are buying,” said George Kimbrell, Legal Director at the Center for Food Safety. “These guidelines don’t require mandatory labeling of GE salmon, and instead allow producers to use QR codes or 1-800 numbers for more information. That clearly is not what the Murkowski amendment requires.”

Dana Perls, Senior food policy campaigner with Friends of the Earth, warned, “The FDA’s decision to allow GMO salmon onto the U. S. market runs counter to sound science and market demand. More than 80 retailers have said they won’t sell this risky, unlabeled GMO fish and polls show consumers don’t want it.”

“The FDA’s unilateral decision, without tribal consultation, is an alarming signal that our sacred and prized wild salmon is now even more vulnerable to external markets and ecological threats,” said Fawn Sharp, President of the Quinault Indian Nation. “It’s unconscionable and arrogant to think man can improve upon our Creator’s perfection in wild salmon as a justification and excuse to satisfy corporate ambition and greed.”

“By lifting the ban on genetically engineered salmon, the FDA has put American consumers at serious risk and has directly attacked the life ways of Pacific Northwest Tribal communities,” said Valerie Segrest, Muckleshoot Tribal Member and Executive Director of Feed Seven Generations. “They have done this without a single tribal consultation, which violates their legal responsibility, mandating that they consult with tribes. Clearly this is an appropriation of our culture and this action will lead to inevitable contamination and irreversible damage to our food system.”

In every year since 2015, Senator Murkowski (R-AK) has inserted a requirement into FDA appropriations language that requires the FDA to issue mandatory labeling guidelines for GE salmon, using clear, on-package labeling stating that these fish are genetically engineered. FDA claims that the USDA new “bioengineered food” labeling guidelines are adequate, but the USDA “bioengineered” guidelines do not require explicitly labeling GE salmon as “genetically engineered.” Moreover, companies could choose to hide the label using a QR code, rather than on-package labeling.

George Kimbrell, Legal Director at the Center for Food Safety, announced that CFS is examining possible legal actions to force the FDA to comply with the Murkowski amendment. Moreover, the Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice are leading the legal challenge to whether the FDA even has the legal authority to approve this genetically engineered fish as a “new animal drug”.

More information on health and environmental risks of genetically engineered salmon and a full list of stores that have made commitments to not sell genetically engineered seafood and salmon, letters sent to companies by Friends of the Earth U.S., Center for Food Safety and allies, and a list of coalition partners are available at www.gefreeseafood.org.

We talk about how youth, how students, even how their own parents have no say in this insanity of releasing Frankenstein fish into their diets. They are already concerned about other grand experiments by the sociopaths — nanoparticles in all processed foods; more and more chemicals on their bodies, inside their bodies, inside their lungs, unregulated created by these sociopaths in the sciences and technologies hired as hired-guns to make profits for the elite at the expense of global health, and each child’s health. We talk about the native American way, that we need sanity back, sane ideas, sustainability that is real.

Tribal fishermen scramble to contain a spill of farmed Atlantic salmon in north Puget Sound before they tarnish local waters, shedding light on a global struggle between farmed and wild fish. Annie Crawley worked with the Lummi Tribe, Wild Fish Conservancy, Lummi Island Wild, Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife and many others to tell the story of the farmed Atlantic salmon spill into the Salish Sea in August 2017. The event sparked a movement of people to speak out against Atlantic salmon net pens in the Puget Sound. Although our state government has taken action to remove the net pens, they are still in other parts of our world ocean. We hope this film will ignite others to choose wild salmon over farmed salmon and create awareness around the impact farmed salmon can have to wild populations.

— Annie Crawley 

The young people of today are our only hope. It’s not the aging politicians that will work to solve the global problems. It’s not the rich and the famous and the celebrity who give a shit about us, the 80 percenters. It’s not the athletes or the CEOs or the bankers who will put the blood sweat and tears into the problems to solve them.

Young people are the lost generations, the lost people, the lost souls, as we adults have abandoned their futures by eating up their futures with this continual continent-sized pile of lies and magical thinking.

They are ready for action and for actors to help them lead themselves. Young people are open to radicals and revolutionaries. Young people need leaders and shaman people to help them crawl out of the dungeons their parents have constructed in not only their own lives, but the future lives of their children.

The students.

Each day I learn more and more about the value of listening and being with and being one with the people of the world, the new people, the arising ones, the people who have not felt gravity enough to weigh down their hope and outlook and creativity. Unfortunately, the systems set up in Capitalism are all about colonizing people at younger and younger ages so they too can be ready for the hamster wheel of Capitalism.

Image result for hamster wheel for humanity

India’s Agrarian Crisis: Dismantling “Development”

In his 1978 book India MortgagedT.N. Reddy predicted the country would one day open all sectors to foreign direct investment and surrender economic sovereignty to imperialist powers.

Today, the US and Europe cling to a moribund form of capitalism and have used various mechanisms to bolster the system in the face of economic stagnation and massive inequalities: the raiding of public budgets, the expansion of credit to consumers and governments to sustain spending and consumption, financial speculation and increased militarism. Via ‘globalisation’, Western powers have also been on an unrelenting drive to plunder what they regard as ‘untapped markets’ in other areas of the globe.

Agricapital has been moving in on Indian food and agriculture for some time. But India is an agrarian-based country underpinned by smallholder agriculture and decentralised food processing. Foreign capital therefore first needs to displace the current model before bringing India’s food and agriculture sector under its control. And this is precisely what is happening.

Western agribusiness is shaping the ‘development’ agenda in India. Over 300,000 farmers have taken their lives since 1997 and many more are experiencing economic distress or have left farming as a result of debt, a shift to (GMO) cash crops and economic liberalisation.

Other sectors have not been immune to this bogus notion of development. Millions of people have been displaced to facilitate the needs of resource extraction industries, land grabs for Special Economic Zones, nuclear plants and other large-scale projects. And the full military backing of the state has been on hand to forcibly evict people, place them in camps and inflict human rights abuses on them.

To help open the nation to foreign capital, proponents of economic neoliberalism are fond of stating that ‘regulatory blockages’ must be removed. If particular ‘blockages’ stemming from legitimate protest, rights to land and dissent cannot be dealt with by peaceful means, other methods are used. And when increasing mass surveillance or widespread ideological attempts to discredit and smear does not secure compliance or dilute the power of protest, brute force is on hand.

India’s agrarian crisis

India is currently witnessing a headlong rush to facilitate (foreign) agricapital and the running down of the existing system of agriculture. Millions of small-scale and marginal farmers are suffering economic distress as the sector is deliberately made financially non-viable for them.

At the same time, the country’s spurt of GDP growth – the holy grail of ‘development’ – has largely been fueled on the back of cheap food and the subsequent impoverishment of farmers. The gap between their income and the rest of the population has widened enormously to the point where rural India consumes less calories per head of population than it did 40 years ago. Meanwhile, unlike farmers, corporations receive massive handouts and interest-free loans but have failed to spur job creation.

The plan is to displace the existing system of livelihood-sustaining smallholder agriculture with one dominated from seed to plate by transnational agribusiness and retail concerns. To facilitate this, independent cultivators are being bankrupted, land is to be amalgamated to facilitate large-scale industrial cultivation and remaining farmers will be absorbed into corporate supply chains and squeezed as they work on contracts, the terms of which will be dictated by large agribusiness and chain retailers.

US agribusiness corporations are spearheading the process, the very companies that fuel and thrive on a five-year US taxpayer-funded farm bill subsidy of around $500 billion. Their industrial model in the US is based on the overproduction of certain commodities often sold at prices below the cost of production and dumped on the rest of the world, thereby undermining farmers’ livelihoods and agriculture in other countries.

It is a model designed to facilitate the needs and profits of these corporations which belong to the agritech, agrochemicals, commodity trading, food processing and retail sectors. A model that can only survive thanks to taxpayer handouts and by subsidising the farmer who is squeezed at one end by seed and agrochemical manufacturers and at the other, by powerful retail interests. A model that can only function by externalising its massive health, environmental and social costs. And a model that only leads to the destruction of rural communities and jobs, degraded soil, less diverse and nutrient-deficient diets, polluted water, water shortages and poor health.

If we look at the US model, it serves the needs of agribusiness corporations and large-scale retailers, not farmers, the public nor the environment. So by bowing to their needs via World Bank directives and the US-Indo Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture, what is the future to be for India?

A mainly urbanised country reliant on an industrial agriculture and all it entails, including denutrified food, increasingly monolithic diets, the massive use of agrochemicals and food contaminated by hormones, steroids, antibiotics and a range of chemical additives. A country with spiralling rates of ill health, degraded soil, a collapse in the insect population, contaminated and depleted water supplies and a cartel of seed, chemical and food processing companies with ever-greater control over the global food production and supply chain.

But we don’t need a crystal ball to look into the future. Much of the above is already taking place, not least the destruction of rural communities, the impoverishment of the countryside and continuing urbanisation, which is itself causing problems for India’s crowded cities and eating up valuable agricultural land.

So why would India want to let the foxes guard the hen house? Why mimic the model of intensive, chemical-dependent agriculture of the US and be further incorporated into a corrupt US-dominated global food regime that undermines food security and food sovereignty? After all, numerous high-level reports have concluded that policies need to support more resilient, diverse, sustainable (smallholder) agroecological methods of farming and develop decentralised, locally-based food economies.

Yet the trend in India continues to move in the opposite direction towards industrial-scale agriculture and centralised chains for the benefit of Monsanto-Bayer, Cargill and other transnational players.

The plan is to shift hundreds of millions from the countryside into the cities to serve as a cheap army of labour for offshored foreign companies, mirroring what China has become: a US colonial outpost for manufacturing that has boosted corporate profits at the expense of US jobs. In India, rural migrants are to become the new ‘serfs’ of the informal services and construction sectors or to be trained for low-level industrial jobs. Even here, however, India might have missed the boat as jobless ‘growth’ seems to have arrived as the effects of automation and artificial intelligence are eradicating the need for human labour across many sectors.

If we look at the various Western powers, to whom many of India’s top politicians look to in order to ‘modernise’ the country’s food and agriculture, their paths to economic prosperity occurred on the back of colonialism and imperialism. Do India’s politicians think this mindset has disappeared?

Fueled by capitalism’s compulsion to overproduce and then seek out new markets, the same mentality now lurks behind the neoliberal globalisation agenda: terms and policies like ‘foreign direct investment’, ‘ease of doing business’, making India ‘business friendly’ or ‘enabling the business of agriculture’ embody little more than the tenets of neoliberal fundamentalism wrapped in benign-sounding words. It boils down to one thing: Monsanto-Bayer, Cargill and other transnational corporations will decide on what is to be eaten and how it is to be produced and processed.

Alternatives to development

Current policies seek to tie agriculture to an environmentally destructive, moribund system of capitalism. Practical solutions to the agrarian crisis must be based on sustainable agriculture which places the small farmer at the centre of policies: far-sighted and sustained policy initiatives centred on self-sufficiency, localisation, food sovereignty, regenerative agriculture and agroecology.

The scaling up of agroecological approaches should be a lynch pin of genuine rural development. Other measures involve implementing land reforms, correcting rigged trade, delinking from capitalist globalisation (capital controls) and managing foreign trade to suit smallholder farmers’ interests not those of foreign agricapital.

More generally, there is the need to recognise that genuine sustainable agriculture can only be achieved by challenging power relations, especially resisting the industrial model of agriculture being rolled out by powerful agribusiness corporations and the neoliberal policies that serve their interests.

What is required is an ‘alternative to development’ as post-development theorist Arturo Escobar explains:

Because seven decades after World War II, certain fundamentals have not changed. Global inequality remains severe, both between and within nations. Environmental devastation and human dislocation, driven by political as well as ecological factors, continues to worsen. These are symptoms of the failure of “development,” indicators that the intellectual and political post-development project remains an urgent task.

Looking at the situation in Latin America, Escobar says development strategies have centred on large-scale interventions, such as the expansion of oil palm plantations, mining, and large port development.

And it is similar in India: commodity monocropping; immiseration in the countryside; the appropriation of biodiversity, the means of subsistence for millions of rural dwellers; unnecessary and inappropriate environment-destroying, people-displacing infrastructure projects; and state-backed violence against the poorest and most marginalised sections of society.

These problems, says Escobar, are not the result of a lack of development but of ‘excessive development’. Escobar looks towards the worldviews of indigenous peoples and the inseparability and interdependence of humans and nature for solutions.

He is not alone. Writers Felix Padel and Malvika Gupta argue that adivasi (India’s indigenous peoples) economics may be the only hope for the future because India’s tribal cultures remain the antithesis of capitalism and industrialisation. Their age-old knowledge and value systems promote long-term sustainability through restraint in what is taken from nature. Their societies also emphasise equality and sharing rather than hierarchy and competition.

These principles must guide our actions regardless of where we live on the planet because what’s the alternative? A system driven by narcissism, domination, ego, anthropocentrism, speciesism and plunder. A system that is using up oil, water and other resources much faster than they can ever be regenerated. We have poisoned the rivers and oceans, destroyed natural habitats, driven wildlife species to (the edge of) extinction and have altered the chemical composition of the atmosphere to the point that runaway climate change seems more and more likely.

And, as we see all around us, the outcome is endless conflicts over fewer and fewer resources, while nuclear missiles hang over humanity’s head like a sword of Damocles.

 

A Dangerous Road: A New Technological Revolution in Food

Back in 1968 The Population Bomb, by Paul and Anne Ehrlich, created a sensation with its predictions of famine and Malthusian disaster. Ultimately their predictions were proven to be incorrect, at least in terms of the time-frame that the authors suggested. What the Ehrlichs had failed to take into account was the so-called Green Revolution in agriculture that had begun in the 1950s but was a long way from reaching its potential impact on food production. Technological innovation, through new methods, new crop varieties, the use of oil-powered machinery, artificial pesticides and fertilizers transformed farming across the world, particularly in developing countries where it had not been utilized before.

Greater efficiency in production meant that as the human population continued expanding the production of food supplies would also expand to meet and surpass the necessary levels to sustain the continued growth of humanity. This revolution in agriculture was hailed as a miraculous success, which is perhaps true in the sense that its rollout probably saved millions or even billions of people from death by starvation and diseases caused by malnutrition. Paul Ehrlich, himself, acknowledges that he was indeed wrong but still believes that his fundamental theory was correct and that we have merely deferred an inevitable disaster.

Some sixty years after the Green Revolution began we now understand that the effects of this dramatic change are not all positive. While it brought farmers from a way of working that had not changed fundamentally in hundreds and in some places thousands of years, to more efficient modern methods, it has also been highly destructive. Just as the automation of the Industrial Revolution caused unemployent and mass migration in Europe, the Green Revolution did the same thing in much of the developing world. Instead of being subsistence farmers in their ancestral villages many people find themselves making products in factories under horrific conditions that leave them little or no better off than previous generations.

Even if you choose to ignore the social implications of this transition, it is hard to ignore the catastrophic enviromental cost of the Green Revolution. The truth is that the success of this new agriculture did not come for free – it was a trade off between increased productivity and increased enviromental damage. In recent decades we have all become aware of the decimation of the planet – through burning fossil fuels, deforestation, pollution, desertification etc. Much of these problems are a direct result of the continual expansion of modern agriculture. Brazil has been cited as a great success story of the Green Revolution but at what cost? The reality of the situation is catastrophic rainforest loss, biodiversity loss and destruction of the soil to produce cheap crops for export. Part of this process has been to make the land less acidic by putting tens of millions of tonnes of lime on Brazillian fields, resulting in Brazil being the world’s second largest exporter of soya beans. Formerly biodiverse land is also used to raise cattle, but in both cases the land eventually ends up depleted and reliant on continual artificial fertilization.

The evidence of the last sixty years should be more than enough to demonstrate that we need a rethink about agriculture and how it can be made sustainable in a world of finite resources. Less than half of the world’s population now lives in rural areas and about one third of the world’s working people work in agriculture, although numbers in both these areas are likely drop in coming decades. We are fast approaching another technological revolution in food production and signs of it are already in evidence. If one travels through rural France the landscape is dramatically changed from that of a few decades, due to the proliferation of mega-farms. In Australia some of the farms owned by one or a few people are of staggering proportions, running into many millions of acres. In China you’ll find the two largest individual farms in the world, comprising over 33 million acres between them.

A new report in the UK, The Future of Food 2040, gives an optimistic although cautious look at what farming might look like in two decades from now, it offers some sobering thoughts about how industrial agriculture will look to deal with the challenges ahead. The overriding theme of the report is that of technological innovation to continue to produce food in the quality and quantity needed to keep up with future demands.

A major part of what is predicted for the future of agriculture is automation through the introduction of robotics, drones and AI to improve efficiency. A nod is given to ideas such as increased recyling, less waste, renewable energy and pollution control, but ultimately this is a vision of the high-tech farm that will operate almost by itself – with few or no people.

This report applies to the UK but with the increasing spread of large-scale agricultural concerns, similar technological rollout is likely to happen all over the world. There is increasing integration between food technology, global biochemical industry (note Monsanto and Bayer have merged) and the agricultural sector. Large scale farming operations will be able to implement these innovations at an early stage making them more competitive and leaving the small producers even further behind. Some of the technology discussed is quite startling – nanoencapsulation (coating tiny particles), genome editing in breeding, 3d printing of food and even GPS collars on livestock to monitor and control their location using ‘negative electric stimuli capability’, more commonly known as electric shocks.

Robotics is likely to play a big part in this new technological Green Revolution – driverless, autonomous farm vehicles; drones to monitor and spray crops; robotic fruit pickers and autonomous animal or crop care bots, all of which will be monitored and controlled through sophisticated AI software. The report suggests that the global market for robots in agriculture will vastly expand, from $3 billion in 2015 to well over $70 billion by 2024. Clearly, automation although in its infancy, is already here and set to expand in an explosive way.

One might argue that all of this is a good thing and that, as it did from the 1950s, enable us to feed an ever increasing human population. One can say that technology, in itself, is not a bad thing and that we should not be scared by the increasing visibility of robotics in society; after all we’ve been using tools since we lived in caves. However, one must look at who is really going to benefit from this creeping industrialization and automation of food, our most basic necessity.

For those that can afford to invest in these new technological innovations it is likely to be a real ‘game changer’. Just as the arrival of a new tractor transformed the horse-powered farm, this technology will transform productivity and profitability. However, this does not really take into account the human element of the equation. Farmers usually live on or next to their farms, they need to support a household and probably a number of family members as well as themselves. With the increasing consolidation of small farms into larger ones – either by big farmers or corporate farming interests, the mega-farm will be avail of these innovations while the small farmer may not. The mega-farm will no longer need significant staff levels, perhaps only a manager who understands software as well as he/she does farming.

Already one can see a trend of industrial food producers and supermarkets becoming increasingly involved in agriculture, if this trend continues the traditional farmer could become a rare sight. In twenty years from now the majority of farms may be gigantic but with far fewer or even no people physically present. One must ask if this vision of the future is about better practices, productivity and good food or is it about eliminating the troublesome costs of human labour and human error in order to maximize profits? Will the consumer truly benefit from these predicted changes or will this mean even less transparency in an industry that already makes great efforts to hide unethical practices?

Technology has the ability to be an incredible and transformative boon to how we live and can play a vital role in solving our environmental problems in the decades ahead. Unfortunately, if the past is anything to go by, it will lead to consolidation of already too powerful industrial interests, unemployment, environmental depletion and increased profits into fewer and fewer pockets. Now is the time for us to look at where this is going and demand that governments do not allow this to evolve unchecked. If commercialization of such life-changing technology occurs without careful and decisive oversight, it could have dangerous implications for human society and the future of the planet itself.

A Dangerous Road: A New Technological Revolution in Food

Back in 1968 The Population Bomb, by Paul and Anne Ehrlich, created a sensation with its predictions of famine and Malthusian disaster. Ultimately their predictions were proven to be incorrect, at least in terms of the time-frame that the authors suggested. What the Ehrlichs had failed to take into account was the so-called Green Revolution in agriculture that had begun in the 1950s but was a long way from reaching its potential impact on food production. Technological innovation, through new methods, new crop varieties, the use of oil-powered machinery, artificial pesticides and fertilizers transformed farming across the world, particularly in developing countries where it had not been utilized before.

Greater efficiency in production meant that as the human population continued expanding the production of food supplies would also expand to meet and surpass the necessary levels to sustain the continued growth of humanity. This revolution in agriculture was hailed as a miraculous success, which is perhaps true in the sense that its rollout probably saved millions or even billions of people from death by starvation and diseases caused by malnutrition. Paul Ehrlich, himself, acknowledges that he was indeed wrong but still believes that his fundamental theory was correct and that we have merely deferred an inevitable disaster.

Some sixty years after the Green Revolution began we now understand that the effects of this dramatic change are not all positive. While it brought farmers from a way of working that had not changed fundamentally in hundreds and in some places thousands of years, to more efficient modern methods, it has also been highly destructive. Just as the automation of the Industrial Revolution caused unemployent and mass migration in Europe, the Green Revolution did the same thing in much of the developing world. Instead of being subsistence farmers in their ancestral villages many people find themselves making products in factories under horrific conditions that leave them little or no better off than previous generations.

Even if you choose to ignore the social implications of this transition, it is hard to ignore the catastrophic enviromental cost of the Green Revolution. The truth is that the success of this new agriculture did not come for free – it was a trade off between increased productivity and increased enviromental damage. In recent decades we have all become aware of the decimation of the planet – through burning fossil fuels, deforestation, pollution, desertification etc. Much of these problems are a direct result of the continual expansion of modern agriculture. Brazil has been cited as a great success story of the Green Revolution but at what cost? The reality of the situation is catastrophic rainforest loss, biodiversity loss and destruction of the soil to produce cheap crops for export. Part of this process has been to make the land less acidic by putting tens of millions of tonnes of lime on Brazillian fields, resulting in Brazil being the world’s second largest exporter of soya beans. Formerly biodiverse land is also used to raise cattle, but in both cases the land eventually ends up depleted and reliant on continual artificial fertilization.

The evidence of the last sixty years should be more than enough to demonstrate that we need a rethink about agriculture and how it can be made sustainable in a world of finite resources. Less than half of the world’s population now lives in rural areas and about one third of the world’s working people work in agriculture, although numbers in both these areas are likely drop in coming decades. We are fast approaching another technological revolution in food production and signs of it are already in evidence. If one travels through rural France the landscape is dramatically changed from that of a few decades, due to the proliferation of mega-farms. In Australia some of the farms owned by one or a few people are of staggering proportions, running into many millions of acres. In China you’ll find the two largest individual farms in the world, comprising over 33 million acres between them.

A new report in the UK, The Future of Food 2040, gives an optimistic although cautious look at what farming might look like in two decades from now, it offers some sobering thoughts about how industrial agriculture will look to deal with the challenges ahead. The overriding theme of the report is that of technological innovation to continue to produce food in the quality and quantity needed to keep up with future demands.

A major part of what is predicted for the future of agriculture is automation through the introduction of robotics, drones and AI to improve efficiency. A nod is given to ideas such as increased recyling, less waste, renewable energy and pollution control, but ultimately this is a vision of the high-tech farm that will operate almost by itself – with few or no people.

This report applies to the UK but with the increasing spread of large-scale agricultural concerns, similar technological rollout is likely to happen all over the world. There is increasing integration between food technology, global biochemical industry (note Monsanto and Bayer have merged) and the agricultural sector. Large scale farming operations will be able to implement these innovations at an early stage making them more competitive and leaving the small producers even further behind. Some of the technology discussed is quite startling – nanoencapsulation (coating tiny particles), genome editing in breeding, 3d printing of food and even GPS collars on livestock to monitor and control their location using ‘negative electric stimuli capability’, more commonly known as electric shocks.

Robotics is likely to play a big part in this new technological Green Revolution – driverless, autonomous farm vehicles; drones to monitor and spray crops; robotic fruit pickers and autonomous animal or crop care bots, all of which will be monitored and controlled through sophisticated AI software. The report suggests that the global market for robots in agriculture will vastly expand, from $3 billion in 2015 to well over $70 billion by 2024. Clearly, automation although in its infancy, is already here and set to expand in an explosive way.

One might argue that all of this is a good thing and that, as it did from the 1950s, enable us to feed an ever increasing human population. One can say that technology, in itself, is not a bad thing and that we should not be scared by the increasing visibility of robotics in society; after all we’ve been using tools since we lived in caves. However, one must look at who is really going to benefit from this creeping industrialization and automation of food, our most basic necessity.

For those that can afford to invest in these new technological innovations it is likely to be a real ‘game changer’. Just as the arrival of a new tractor transformed the horse-powered farm, this technology will transform productivity and profitability. However, this does not really take into account the human element of the equation. Farmers usually live on or next to their farms, they need to support a household and probably a number of family members as well as themselves. With the increasing consolidation of small farms into larger ones – either by big farmers or corporate farming interests, the mega-farm will be avail of these innovations while the small farmer may not. The mega-farm will no longer need significant staff levels, perhaps only a manager who understands software as well as he/she does farming.

Already one can see a trend of industrial food producers and supermarkets becoming increasingly involved in agriculture, if this trend continues the traditional farmer could become a rare sight. In twenty years from now the majority of farms may be gigantic but with far fewer or even no people physically present. One must ask if this vision of the future is about better practices, productivity and good food or is it about eliminating the troublesome costs of human labour and human error in order to maximize profits? Will the consumer truly benefit from these predicted changes or will this mean even less transparency in an industry that already makes great efforts to hide unethical practices?

Technology has the ability to be an incredible and transformative boon to how we live and can play a vital role in solving our environmental problems in the decades ahead. Unfortunately, if the past is anything to go by, it will lead to consolidation of already too powerful industrial interests, unemployment, environmental depletion and increased profits into fewer and fewer pockets. Now is the time for us to look at where this is going and demand that governments do not allow this to evolve unchecked. If commercialization of such life-changing technology occurs without careful and decisive oversight, it could have dangerous implications for human society and the future of the planet itself.

Cuba: “The Equilibrium of the World” and Economy of Resistance

The Forth International Conference for “The Equilibrium of the World” took place in Havana., Cuba from 28 to 31 January 2019. The Conference, organized by the José Marti Project of International Solidarity, was sponsored by UNESCO and a number of local and international organisms and NGOs. It coincided with the 60th Anniversary of the Cuban Revolution and as such was also a celebration of that successful demonstration to the world that socialism, solidarity and love for life can actually survive against all odds and, yes, Cuba, has faced more hardship than any other country in recent history, through boycotts, embargoes and all sorts of economic sanctions, heinous military infiltrations and assassination attempts, initiated by the United States and followed, largely under threats from Washington, by most of the western world.

Viva Cuba!  A celebration well deserved and in the name of José Marti, who was born 166 years ago, but whose thoughts and spiritual thinking for a new world are as valid today as they were then. They may perhaps best be summarized as love, solidarity, justice, living well for all and in peace. These principles were taken over by Fidel and Raul Castro, Che and Hugo Chávez. They transcend current generations and reach far beyond Latin America.

The conference had many highlights; brilliant speakers; a torch march was organized at the University of Havana in honor of José Marti; and the organizers offered the participants an extraordinary music and modern ballet performance at the National Theater.

From my point of view some of the important messages came from the representative of China, who talked about the New Silk Road, or the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), of building bridges and connecting countries and people, whereas the west was building walls. A Russian speaker sadly admitted that it took his government a long time and relentless trying to build alliances with the west, until they realized, relatively recently, that the west could not be trusted. Professor Adan Chavez Frias Chavez, Hugo’s brother, described an invasive history over the past 100 years by the United States of Latin America and called upon the brother nations of the Americas and the world to bond together in solidarity to resist the empire’s infringement and steady attempts to subjugate sovereign nations with a vision towards a multipolar world of equals, of sovereign nations living together in peaceful relations.

*****

My own presentation focused on Economy of Resistance. And what a better place than Cuba to talk about economy of resistance! Impossible. Cuba has a 60-year history of successful resistance against a massive embargo, ordered by Washington and followed by almost the entire western world, thus demonstrating that the west has been reduced to a US colony. This was true already during the Cold War, but became even clearer when the Soviet Union “fell”. Here too, the west, led by Washington, was instrumental in the collapse of the USSR – but that’s another story – and the US grabbed the opportunity to become the emperor of a unipolar world. Cuban troops also resisted and conquered the attempted US Bay of Pigs (Playa Girón) invasion launched by President Kennedy in 1961, and not least, Fidel Castro survived more than 600 CIA initiated assassination attempts.

The principles of Economy of Resistance cover a vast domain of topics with many ramifications. This presentation focused on four key areas:

  • Food, medical and education sovereignty
  • Economic and financial sovereignty
  • The Fifth Column; and,
  • Water Resources: A human right and a vital resource for survival.

On food, health and education sovereignty – Cuba is 100% autonomous, as far health and education go.

However, Cuba imports more than 70% of the food her citizens consume and that, at present, mostly from the European Union. Cuba has the capacity and agricultural potential to become not only fully self-sufficient, but to develop and process agricultural produce into an agricultural industry and become a net exporter of agricultural goods.

This process might be addressed as a priority policy issue. However, it will take some time to fully implement. Meanwhile, it may be wise to diversify imports from other parts of the world than the EU – i.e. Russia, China, Central Asia, friendly ALBA countries – because Europe is not trustworthy. They tell you today, they will always honor your purchasing contracts, but if the empire strikes down with sanctions, as they did recently for anyone doing business with Iran, Cuba may be “cooked”.

Spineless Europe will bend to the orders of Washington. They have demonstrated this time and again, not least with Iran, despite the fact that they signed the so-called Nuclear Deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, on 14 July 2015 (the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – the United States, UK, Russia, France, and China—plus Germany and the EU – and Iran), after which Obama lifted all sanctions with Iran only to have Trump break the agreement and reimpose the most draconian sanctions on Iran and on enterprises doing business with Iran. The US government, and by association Europe, does not adhere to any agreement, or any international law, for that matter, when it doesn’t suit them. There are plenty of indications – Venezuela today, to be followed by Nicaragua and Cuba. These should be valid signals for Cuba to diversify her food imports until full self-sufficiency is achieved.

Already in 2014, Mr. Putin said the ‘sanctions’ were the best thing that could have happened to Russia. It forced her to revamp her agriculture and rebuild her industrial parks with the latest technology – to become fully independent from imports. Today, sanctions are a mere propaganda tool of the west, but they have hardly an impact on Russia. Russia has become the largest wheat exporter in the world. – Cuba could do likewise. She has the agricultural potential to become fully food-autonomous.

On Economic and financial sovereignty four facets are being addressed. The first one, foreign investments, Cuba may want to focus on (i) technology; (ii) assuring that a majority of the investment shares remain Cuban; (iii) using to the extent possible Cuba’s own capital (reserves) for investments. Foreign capital is bound to certain conditionalities imposed by foreign investors, thus, it bears exchange rate and other risks, to the point where potential profits from foreign assets are usually discounted by between 10% and 20%; and (iv) last but not least, Cuba ought to decide on the sectors for foreign investors – NOT the foreign investor.

Following scenario, as propagated by opposition lawyer and economist, Pablo de Cuba, in Miami, should be avoided:

Cuba cedes a piece of her conditions of sovereignty and negotiates with foreign investors; puts a certain amount of discounted debt at the creditors’ disposal, so as to attract more investments in sectors that they, the investors choose, for the internal development of Cuba.

As the hegemony of the US dollar is used to strangle any country that refuses to bend to the empire, a progressive dedollarization is of the order, meaning, in addition to the US dollar itself, move progressively away from all currencies that are intimately linked to the US dollar; i.e., Canadian and Australian dollars, Euro, Yen, Pound Sterling and more. This is a strategy to be pursued in the short- and medium term, for the protection against more sanctions dished out by the US and its spineless allies.

Simultaneously, a rapprochement towards other monetary systems, for example, in the east, especially based on the Chinese gold-convertible Petro-Yuan, may be seriously considered. Russia and China, and, in fact, the entire SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), have already designed a monetary transfer system circumventing the western SWIFT system, which has every transaction channeled through and controlled by a US bank. This is the key motive for economic and financial sanctions. There is no reason why Cuba could not (gradually but pointedly) join such an alternative system, to move out of the western claws of embargo. The SCO members today encompass about half of the world population and control one third of the globe’s GDP.

Drawbacks would be that the import markets would have to be revisited and diversified, unless western suppliers would accept to be paid in CUC, or Yuan through a system different from SWIFT. Moving away from the western monetary transfer system may also impact remittances from Cubans living in the US and elsewhere in the west (about US$ 3.4 billion – 2017 – less than 4% of GDP). It would mean departing from monetary transactions in the Euro and European monetary zones.

Be aware – the future is in the East. The West is committing slowly but steadily suicide.

Another crucial advice is – stay away from IMF, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), World Trade Organization (WTO) – and the like. They are so-called international financial and trade organizations, all controlled by the US and her western “allies” and tend to enslave their clients with debt.

Case in Point, Mexico: President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), a leftist, has little margin to maneuver Mexico’s economy, inherited from his neoliberal predecessor, Enrique Peña Nieto. Mexico’s finances are shackled by the international banking system, led by the IMF, FED, WB and by association, the globalized Wall Street system. For example, AMLO intended to revive PEMEX, the petroleum state enterprise. The IMF told him that he first had to “financially sanitize” PEMEX, meaning putting PEMEX through a severe austerity program. The banking community agreed. In case AMLO wouldn’t follow their “advice”, they might strangle his country.

CUC versus the Peso, a dual monetary system (CUC 1 = CuP 25.75), has also been used by China up to the mid-80s and by Germany after WWI, to develop export / import markets. However, there comes a time when the system could divide the population between those who have access to foreign currencies (CUC-convertible), and those who have no such access.

Also, the convertibility of the CUC with the Euro, Swiss franc, Pound Sterling and Yen, make the CUC, de facto, convertible with the dollar – hence, the CUC is dollarized. This is what Washington likes, to keep Cuba’s economy, despite the embargo, in the orbit of the dollar hegemony which will be used in an attempt to gradually integrate Cuba into the western, capitalist economy.  However, Washington will not succeed. Cuba is alert and has been resisting for the last 60 years.

The Fifth Column refers to clandestine and / or overt infiltration of opposing and enemy elements into the government. They come in the form of NGOs, US-CIA trained local or foreigners to destabilize a country – and especially a country’s economy – from inside.

There are ever more countries that do not bend to the dictate of the empire and are targets for Fifth Columns – Russia, China, Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Pakistan and more – and Cuba.

The term, “Fifth Column” is attributed to General Emilio Mola, who during the Spanish civil war in 1936, informed his homologue, General Francisco Franco, that he has four columns of troops marching towards Madrid, and that they would be backed by a “fifth column”, hidden inside the city. With the support of this fifth column he expected to finish with (the legitimate) Republican government.

The process of “infiltration” is becoming ever more sophisticated, bolder and acting with total impunity. Perhaps the most (in)famous organization to foment Fifth Columns around the world, among many others, is the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the extended arm of the CIA. It goes as a so-called NGO, or ‘foreign policy thinktank’ which receives hundreds of millions of dollars from the State Department to subvert non-obedient countries’ governments, bringing about regime change through infiltration of foreign trained, funded and armed disruptive forces, sowing social unrest and even “civil wars”. Cases in point are Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Libya – and more – and now they attempt to topple Venezuela’s legitimate, democratically elected Government of Nicolás Maduro.

They work through national and international NGOs and even universities in the countries to be ‘regime changed’. Part of this ‘Infiltration” is a massive propaganda campaign and intimidation on so-called allies, or client states. The process to reach regime change may take years and billions of dollars. In the case of Ukraine, it took at least 5 years and 5 billion dollars. In Venezuela, the process towards regime change started some 20 years ago, as soon as Hugo Chavez was elected President in 1998. It brought about a failed coup in 2002 and was followed by ever increasing economic sanctions and physical military threats. Earlier this year, Washington was able to intimidate almost all of Europe and a large proportion of Latin America into accepting a US-trained implant, a Trump puppet, Juan Guaidó, as the interim president, attempting to push the true legitimate Maduro Government aside.

To put impunity to its crest, the Trump Government blocked 12 billion dollars of Venezuela’s foreign reserves in NY bank accounts and transferred the authority of access to the money to the illegitimate self-appointed interim president, Juan Guaidó. Along the same lines, the UK refused to return 1.2 billion dollars-worth of Venezuelan gold to Caracas. All these criminal acts would not be possible without the inside help, i.e. the “Fifth Column”, the members of which are often not readily identifiable.

It is not known, how often the empire attempted ‘regime change’ in Cuba. However, none of these attempts were successful. The Cuban Revolution will not be broken.

Water resources is a Human Right and a vital component of an economy of resistance.

Water resources will be more precious in the future than petrol. The twin satellites GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) discovered the systematic depletion of groundwater resources throughout the world, due to over-exploitation and massive contamination from agriculture and industrial waste. Examples, among many, are the northern Punjab region in India with massive, inefficient irrigation; and in Peru the Pacific coastal region, due to inefficient irrigation, unretained runoff rain- and river water into the Pacific Ocean, and destruction of entire watersheds through mining.

Privatization of water resources, not only of drinking water and water for irrigation, but of entire aquifers, is becoming an increasing calamity for the peoples of our planet. Again, with impunity, giant water corporations, led by France, the UK and the US are gradually and quietly encroaching on the diminishing fresh water resources, by privatizing them, so as to make water a commodity to be sold at “market prices”, manipulated by the water giants, hence, depriving ready access to drinking water to an ever-growing mass of increasingly impoverished populations, victims of globalized neoliberal economies. For example, Nestlé and Coca Cola have negotiated with former Brazilian President Temer, and now with Bolsonaro, a 100-year concession over the Guaraní aquiver, the largest known, renewable freshwater underground resource, 74% of which is under Brazil. Bolsonaro has already said he would open up the Amazon area for private investors. That could mean privatization of the world’s largest pool of fresh water – the Amazon basin.

Economic Resistance means water is a human right and is part of a country’s sovereignty; water should NEVER be privatized.

For Cuba rainwater – on average about 1,300 mm / year – is the only resource of fresh water. Cuba, like most islands, is vulnerable to rainwater runoff, estimated at up to 80%. There are already water shortages during certain times of the year, resulting in droughts in specific regions. Small retention walls may help infiltrate rainwater into the ground, and at the same time regulate irrigation, provide drinking water and possibly generate electricity for local use through small hydroelectric plants.

The National Water Resources Institute (INRH – Instituto Nacional de Recursos Hidráulicos), is aware of this issue and is formulating a forward-looking water strategy and planning the construction of infrastructure works to secure a countrywide water balance.

Other challenges include the hygienic reuse and evacuation of waste water, as well as in the medium to long run an island-wide Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM).

In Conclusion, Economic Resistance might be summarized as follows:

  • Self-sufficiency in food, health services and education. Cuba has achieved the latter two and is now aiming at achieving 100% agricultural autonomy – and in the meantime is advised diversifying food import markets.
  • Economic and financial sovereignty, including progressive dedollarization, deglobalizing monetary economy and creating internal monetary harmony.
  • The “Fifth Column” – always be aware of its existence and with perseverance keep going on the path of past successes, preventing the Fifth Column’s destabilizing actions.
  • Water resources autonomy – achieving countrywide Integrated Water Resources Management, with focus on protection, conservation and efficient water use.

Oil, Agriculture and Imperialism: Averting the Fast-Track to Armageddon?

US National Security Advisor John Bolton has more or less admitted that the ongoing destabilisation of Venezuela is about grabbing its oil. He recently stated:

We’re looking at the oil assets… We’re in conversation with major American companies now… It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies really invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.

The US’s hand-picked supposed leader-in-waiting, Juan Guaido, aims to facilitate the process and usher in a programme of ‘mass privatisation’ and ‘hyper-capitalism‘ at the behest of his coup-instigating masters in Washington, thereby destroying the socialist revolution spearheaded by the late Hugo Chavez and returning to a capitalist oligarch-controlled economic system.

One might wonder who is Bolton, or anyone in the US, to dictate and engineer what the future of another sovereign state should be. But this is what the US has been doing across the globe for decades. Its bloody imperialism, destabilisations, coups, assassinations, invasions and military interventions have been extensively documented by William Blum.

Of course, although oil is key to the current analysis of events in Venezuela, there is also the geopolitical subtext of debt, loans and Russian investment and leverage within the country. At the same time, it must be understood that US-led capitalism is experiencing a crisis of over-production: when this occurs capital needs to expand into or create new markets and this entails making countries like Venezuela bow to US hegemony and open up its economy.

For US capitalism, however, oil is certainly king. Its prosperity is maintained by oil with the dollar serving as the world reserve currency. Demand for the greenback is guaranteed as most international trade (especially and significantly oil) is carried out using the dollar. And those who move off it are usually targeted by the US (Venezuela being a case in point).

US global hegemony depends on Washington maintaining the dollar’s leading role. Engaging in petrodollar recycling and treasury-bond ‘super-imperialism‘ are joined at the hip and have enabled the US to run up a huge balance of payments deficit (a free ride courtesy of the rest of the world) by using the (oil-backed) paper dollar as security in itself.

More generally, with its control and manipulation of the World Bank, IMF and WTO, the US has been able to lever international trade and financial systems to its advantage by various means (for example, see this analysis of Saudi Arabia’s oil money in relation to African debt). US capitalism will not allow its global dominance and the role of the dollar to be challenged.

Unfortunately for humanity and all life on the planet, the US deems it necessary to attempt to prolong its (declining) hegemony and the age of oil.

Oil, empire and agriculture

In the article ‘And you thought Greece had a problem’, Norman Pagett notes that the ascendance of modern industrialised humans, thanks to oil, has been a short flash of light that has briefly lifted us out of the mire of the middle ages. What we call modern civilisation in the age of oil is fragile and it is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to extract remaining oil reserves. The age of oil is a driver of climate change, that much is clear. But what is equally disturbing is that the modern global food regime is oil-dependent, not least in terms of the unnecessary transportation of commodities and produce across the planet and the increasing reliance on proprietary seeds designed to be used with agrochemicals derived from petroleum or which rely on fossil fuel during their manufacture.

Virtually all of the processes in the modern food system are now dependent upon this finite resource:

Vast amounts of oil and gas are used as raw materials and energy in the manufacture of fertilisers and pesticides, and as cheap and readily available energy at all stages of food production: from planting, irrigation, feeding and harvesting, through to processing, distribution and packaging. In addition, fossil fuels are essential in the construction and the repair of equipment and infrastructure needed to facilitate this industry, including farm machinery, processing facilities, storage, ships, trucks and roads. The industrial food supply system is one of the biggest consumers of fossil fuels and one of the greatest producers of greenhouse gases.

Norman J Church (2005)

Pagett notes that the trappings of civilisation have not altered the one rule of existence: if you don’t produce food from the earth on a personal basis, your life depends on someone converting sunlight into food on your behalf. Consider that Arabia’s gleaming cities in the desert are built on its oil. It sells oil for food. Then there is the UK, which has to import 40 per cent of its food, and much of the rest depends on oil to produce it, which also has to be imported. Pagett notes that while some talk about the end of the oil age, few link this to or describe it as being the end of the food age.

Without oil, we could survive – but not by continuing to pursue the ‘growth’ model China or India are pursuing, or which the West has pursued. Without sustainable, healthy agriculture, however, we will not survive. Destroy agriculture, or more precisely the resources to produce food sustainably (the climate, access to fresh water and indigenous seeds, traditional know-how, learning and practices passed on down the generations, soil fertility, etc.), which is what we are doing, and we will be in trouble.

The prevailing oil-based global food regime goes hand in hand with the wrong-headed oil-based model of ‘development’ we see in places like India. Such development is based on an outmoded ‘growth’ paradigm:

Our politicians tell us that we need to keep the global economy growing at more than 3% each year – the minimum necessary for large firms to make aggregate profits. That means every 20 years we need to double the size of the global economy – double the cars, double the fishing, double the mining, double the McFlurries and double the iPads. And then double them again over the next 20 years from their already doubled state.

Jason Hickel (2016)

How can we try to avoid potential catastrophic consequences of such an approach, including what appears to be an increasingly likely nuclear conflict between competing imperial powers?

We must move away from militarism and resource-gabbing conflicts by reorganising economies so that nations live within their environmental means. We must maximise human well-being while actively shrinking out consumption levels and our ecological footprint.

Some might at this point be perplexed by the emphasis on agriculture. But what many overlook is that central to this argument is recognising not only the key role that agriculture has played in facilitating US geopolitical aims but also its potential for transforming our values and how we live. We need a major shift away from the current model of industrialised agriculture and food production. Aside from it being a major emitter of greenhouse gases, it has led to bad food, poor health and environmental degradation and has been underpinned by a resource-grabbing, food-deficit producing US foreign policy agenda for many decades, assisted by the WTO, World Bank, IMF and ‘aid’ strategies. For instance, see ‘Sowing the Seeds of Famine in Ethiopia’ by Michel Chossudovsky and ‘Destroying African Agriculture’ by Walden Bello.

The control of global agriculture has been a tentacle of US capitalism’s geopolitical strategy. The Green Revolution was exported courtesy of oil-rich interests and poorer nations adopted agricapital’s chemical-dependent model of agriculture that required loans for inputs and related infrastructure development. It entailed trapping nations into a globalised system of debt bondage, rigged trade relations and the hollowing out and capture of national and local economies. In effect, we have seen the transnational corporate commercialisation and displacement of localised productive systems.

Western agricapital’s markets are opened or propped up by militarism (Ukraine and Iraq), ‘structural adjustment’ and strings-attached loans (Africa) and slanted trade deals (India). Agricapital drives a globalised agenda to suit its interests and eradicate impediments to profit. And it doesn’t matter how much devastation ensues or how unsustainable its food regime is, ‘crisis management’ and ‘innovation’ fuel the corporate-controlled treadmill it seeks to impose.

But as Norman J Church argues, the globalisation and corporate control that seriously threaten society and the stability of our environment are only possible because cheap energy is used to replace labour and allows the distance between producer and consumer to be extended.

We need to place greater emphasis on producing food rooted in the principles of localisation, self-reliance, (carbon sequestrating) regenerative agriculture and (political) agroecology and to acknowledge the need to regard the commons (soil, water, seeds, land, forests, other natural resources, etc) as genuine democratically controlled common wealth. This approach would offer concrete, practical solutions (mitigating climate change, job creation in the West and elsewhere, regenerating agriculture and economies in the Global South, etc) to many of the world’s problems that move beyond (but which are linked to) agriculture.

This would present a major challenge to the existing global food regime and the prevailing moribund doctrinaire economics that serves the interests of Western oil companies and financial institutions, global agribusiness and the major arms companies. These interlocking, self-serving interests have managed to institute a globalised system of war, poverty and food insecurity.

The deregulation of international capital flows (financial liberalisation) effectively turned the world into a free-for-all for global capital. The further ramping up of US militarism comes at the back end of a deregulating/pro-privatising neoliberal agenda that has sacked public budgets, depressed wages, expanded credit to consumers and to governments (to sustain spending and consumption) and unbridled financial speculation. This relentless militarism has now become a major driver of the US economy.

Millions are dead in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan as the US and its allies play out a continuation of what they regard as a modern-day ‘Great Game’. And now, in what it arrogantly considers its own back yard, the US is instigating yet another coup and possible military attack.

We have Western politicians and the media parroting unfounded claims about President Maduro, like they did with Assad, Saddam Hussein, Qaddafi and like they do about ‘Russian aggression’. All for what? Resources, pipelines, oil and gas. And these wars and conflicts and the lies to justify them will only get worse as demand across the world for resources grows against a backdrop of depletion.

We require a different low-energy, low-carbon economic system based on a different set of values. As the US ratchets up tensions in Venezuela, we again witness a continuation of the same imperialist mindset that led to two devastating world wars.

Capitalist Agriculture: Putting Soil on a Diet of Snake Oil and Doughnuts

In their rush to readily promote neoliberal dogma and corporate-inspired PR, many government officials, scientists and journalists take as given that profit-driven transnational corporations have a legitimate claim to be custodians of natural assets. The premise is that under capitalism water, food, soil and agriculture should be handed over to powerful and wholly corrupt transnational corporations to milk for profit, under the pretence these entities are somehow serving the needs of humanity.

These natural assets (‘the commons’) belong to everyone and any stewardship should be carried out in the common interest by local people assisted by public institutions and governments acting on their behalf, not by private transnational corporations driven by self-interest and the maximization of profit by any means possible.

Concerns about what is in the public interest or what is best for the environment lies beyond the scope of hard-headed commercial interests and should ideally be the remit of elected governments and civil organisations. However, the best-case scenario for private corporations is to have supine, co-opted agencies or governments. And if current litigation cases in the US and the ‘Monsanto Papers’ court documents tell us anything, this is exactly what they set out to create.

Of course, we have known how corporations like Monsanto (and Bayer) have operated for many years, whether it is by bribery, smear campaigns, faking data, co-opting agencies and key figures, subverting science or any of the other actions or human rights abuses that the Monsanto Tribunal shed light on.

Behind the public relations spin of helping to feed the world is the roll-out of an unsustainable model of agriculture based on highly profitable (GM) corporate seeds and massive money-spinning health- and environment-damaging proprietary chemical inputs that we now know lacked proper regulatory scrutiny and should never have been commercialised in the first place. In effect, transnational agribusiness companies have sought to marginalise alternative approaches to farming and create dependency on their products.

Localisation and traditional methods of food production have given way to globalised supply chains dominated by transnational companies policies and actions which have resulted in the colonisation of land in the Global South as well as the destruction of habitat and livelihoods, ecocide, mass displacement of peoples and the imposition of corporate-controlled, chemical-intensive (monocrop) agriculture that weds farmers and regions to a wholly exploitative system of globalised capitalism. Whether it involves the undermining or destruction of what were once largely self-sufficient agrarian economies in Africa or the devastating impacts of soy cultivation in Argentina or palm oil production in Indonesia, transnational agribusiness and capitalism cannot be greenwashed.

Soil on a doughnut diet

One of the greatest natural assets that humankind has is soil. It can take 500 years to generate an inch of soil yet just a few generations to destroy. When you drench soil with proprietary synthetic chemicals, introduce company-patented genetically tampered crops or continuously monocrop as part of a corporate-controlled industrial farming system, you kill essential microbes, upset soil balance and end up feeding soil a limited “doughnut diet” of unhealthy inputs (and you also undermine soil’s unique capacity for carbon storage and its potential role in combatting climate change).

Armed with their synthetic biocides, this is what the transnational agritech companies do. In their arrogance (and ignorance), these companies claim to know what they are doing and attempt to get the public and various agencies to bow before the altar of corporate ‘science’ and its scientific priesthood.

But in reality, they have no real idea about the long-term impacts their actions have had on soil and its complex networks of microbes and microbiological processes. Soil microbiologists are themselves still trying to comprehend it all.

That much is clear in this article, where Brian Barth discusses a report by the American Society of Microbiologists (ASM). Acknowledging that farmers will need to produce 70 to 100 per cent more food to feed a projected nine billion humans by 2050, the introduction to the report states:

Producing more food with fewer resources may seem too good to be true, but the world’s farmers have trillions of potential partners that can help achieve that ambitious goal. Those partners are microbes.

Linda Kinkel of the University of Minnesota’s Department of Plant Pathology is reported by Barth as saying:

We understand only a fraction of what microbes do to aid in plant growth.

Microbes can help plants better tolerate extreme temperature fluctuations, saline soils and other challenges associated with climate change. For instance, Barth reports that microbiologists have learned to propagate a fungus that colonizes cassava plants and increases yields by up to 20 per cent. Its tiny tentacles extend far beyond the roots of the cassava to unlock phosphorus, nitrogen and sulphur in the soil and siphon it back to their host.

According to the article, a group of microbiologists have challenged themselves to bring about a 20 per cent increase in global food production and a 20 per cent decrease in fertilizer and pesticide use over the next 20 years – without all the snake oil-vending agribusiness interests in the middle.

Feeding the world? 

These microbiologists are correct. What is required is a shift away from what is increasingly regarded as discredited Green Revolution ideology. The chemical-intensive green revolution has helped the drive towards greater monocropping and has resulted in less diverse diets and less nutritious foods. Its long-term impact has led to soil degradation and mineral imbalances, which in turn have adversely affected human health.1

Adding weight to this argument, the authors of this paper from the International Journal of Environmental and Rural Development state (references in article):

Cropping systems promoted by the green revolution have increased the food production but also resulted in reduced food-crop diversity and decreased availability of micronutrients. Micronutrient malnutrition is causing increased rates of chronic diseases (cancer, heart diseases, stroke, diabetes and osteoporosis) in many developing nations; more than 3 billion people are directly affected by the micronutrient deficiencies. Unbalanced use of mineral fertilizers and a decrease in the use of organic manure are the main causes of the nutrient deficiency in the regions where the cropping intensity is high.

(Note: we should adopt a cautious approach when attributing increases in food production to the green revolution technology/practices).

The authors imply that the link between micronutrient deficiency in soil and human nutrition is increasingly regarded as important:

Moreover, agricultural intensification requires an increased nutrient flow towards and greater uptake of nutrients by crops. Until now, micronutrient deficiency has mostly been addressed as a soil and, to a smaller extent, plant problem. Currently, it is being addressed as a human nutrition problem as well. Increasingly, soils and food systems are affected by micronutrients disorders, leading to reduced crop production and malnutrition and diseases in humans and plants. Conventionally, agriculture is taken as a food-production discipline and was considered a source of human nutrition; hence, in recent years many efforts have been made to improve the quality of food for the growing world population, particularly in the developing nations.

Referring to India, Stuart Newton’s states:

The answers to Indian agricultural productivity is not that of embracing the international, monopolistic, corporate-conglomerate promotion of chemically-dependent GM crops… India has to restore and nurture her depleted, abused soils and not harm them any further, with dubious chemical overload, which are endangering human and animal health. (p. 24).

Newton provides insight into the importance of soils and their mineral compositions and links their depletion to the green revolution. In turn, these depleted soils cannot help but lead to mass malnourishment. This is quite revealing given that proponents of the green revolution claim it helped reduced malnutrition.

And Newton has a valid point. India is losing 5,334 million tonnes of soil every year due to soil erosion, much of which is attributed to the indiscreet and excessive use of fertilisers, insecticides and pesticides. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research reports that soil is become deficient in nutrients and fertility.

The US has possibly 60 years of farming left due to soil degradation. The UK has possibly 100 harvests left in its soils.

We can carry on down the route of chemical-intensive (and soil-suffocating, nutritionally inferior GM crops), poisonous agriculture, where our health, soil and the wider environment from Punjab to the Gulf of Mexico continue to be sacrificed on the altar of corporate profit. Or we can shift to organic farming and agroecology and investment in indigenous models of agriculture as advocated by various high-level agencies and reports.

The increasingly globalised industrial food regime that transnational agribusiness promotes is not feeding the world and is also responsible for some of the planet’s most pressing political, social and environmental crises – not least hunger and poverty. This system, the capitalism driving it and the corporations that fuel and profit from it are illegitimate and destructive.

These companies quite naturally roll-out their endless spin that we can’t afford to live without them. But we can no longer afford to live with them. As the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver says:

The power of the corporations over governments and over the scientific community is extremely important. If you want to deal with pesticides, you have to deal with the companies.

As we currently see in litigation cases involving Monsanto in the US, part of ‘dealing’ with these corporations (and hopefully eventually their board members and those who masquerade as public servants but who act on their behalf) should involve the law courts.

I would go further than Elver by saying that while dealing with these corporations is a step forward, we must also address the root cause: capitalism and its international relations of production and consumption. And we must also offer solutions – beginning with an agroecology that is underpinned by a strong ecosocialist political vision.

  1. See this report on India by botanist Stuart Newton, p. 9 onward.