Welcome to the Center for Community Alternatives' web site. We're a non-profit educational organization dedicated to teaching people how to live lightly on the planet. We do this through information sharing, instruction, research and education.
Sunday, 17 November 2013 00:20 By Eleanor J Bader, Truthout | News
(Image: Locally grown via Shutterstock)
According to the US Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service, the number of women-operated farms more than doubled in the 25 years between 1982 and 2007. In fact, female farmers now make up the fastest-growing sector of the country's changing agricultural landscape and nearly 1 million women - approximately one-third of total domestic farmers - list farming as their primary occupation. The National Women in Agriculture Association calls it "breaking the grass ceiling." It's that and more.
Some are choosing to farm as a way of maintaining continuity, tending land that has been in their families for decades. Others, however, are choosing farming for many different reasons, among them the desire to do something concrete, constructive and quickly gratifying; to tweak gender norms; or simply to have better control over their work lives. Many see their efforts as overtly political.
"Women are leading the way in sustainable and organic agriculture," Lindsey Lusher Shute, executive director of the National Young Farmers' Coalition told Truthout. Although she works for the Coalition full time, as co-owner of the Healthy Roots Community Farm in Tivoli, New York - 100 miles north of the city - she is involved intimately in all aspects of growing fruits and vegetables in a sustainable manner.
A Midwesterner whose grandfather farmed, Lusher Shute's career was launched in Brooklyn, New York, where she helped create the East Williamsburg Community Garden in 2002. "We grew vegetables, ornamental plants and flowers," she begins. "I loved the interface between gardening and the community. The community started out divided between residents who'd been there for a long time and newcomers, but the opportunity to work together on something to beautify the neighborhood led to friendships that might not have happened otherwise. We held weekly barbecues, and the garden became a place to work out community tensions and problems."
Lusher Shute, now 34, ultimately left Brooklyn, married had children and moved upstate. Nonetheless, the desire to farm led her and her farmer spouse to buy 70 acres of farmland. "It is critical for farms to ring cities," she said. "We employ eight or nine people, some of them year-round and some seasonal, and grow vegetables and produce eggs for a community-supported agriculture program that runs 22 weeks a year."
As Lusher Shute speaks, her enthusiasm and pride are obvious. "For me, farming is an amazing career. It allows you to be an entrepreneur and offers flexibility. I like being able to put high-quality, healthy food in the hands of people. It's something you can feel good about. It's a way to give back and at the same time earn a paycheck."
But this is not to say that it is easy. "Over the next 20 years, 70 percent of the nation's farmland will change hands," she said. "At this point the social circles you see farmers running in are largely male. They're typically very buddy-buddy and may never think to involve younger female farmers. It's hard to know why, if it's gender-driven discrimination or if they've just known each other forever and are comfortable doing what they've always done. Plus, the young people may want to do things differently."
In addition to being ignored or greeted with overtly sexist derision, Lusher Shute reports that a lot of young farm women are working hard to figure out how best to balance parenthood with their work lives. Indeed, the Young Farmers' discussion board is filled with questions, concerns and suggestions about achieving an effective balance. A closed thread called "Moms and Dad/baby wearing on the farm" includes Emily's post: "Instead of carting my screaming child out into the field where we'll both be uncomfortable, I've decided to take over more of the business end of things," she wrote. "And God knows, there are tons of things to be done on that end of the farm operation - applying for grants, responding to emails, keeping up the website and blog, writing our newsletters, organizing our CSA, hiring interns and staff. Although it's been really hard to be out of the field, I have come to the conclusion that all the other stuff is essential to running our farm and I'm grateful to have enough flexibility to be able to tailor a role with my son in mind."
While some might see this as falling into traditional gender roles - with mom in the house and dad on the tiller - 30-year-old Debbie Weingarten, one of four co-owners of the 15-acre Sleeping Frog Farms in Cascabel, Arizona, notes that for her, the decision to focus on business tasks was driven by pragmatism. "My son is 30 months old, and I have had a very difficult time trying to integrate him into my farm responsibilities. He has been a difficult sleeper, which has left me pretty sleep-deprived and not operating on all cylinders. I also have a 7-year-old stepson who we are homeschooling, which further splits my time. As my journey into motherhood has progressed, I've found it easier to take care of the backbone of the business."
Like Emily, Weingarten answers emails, organizes the farm's CSA and develops fliers and promotional materials. But she also makes deliveries, milks the goats, and runs their farmers market. "In between I raise my children," she wrote in an email. "I definitely see this as becoming more of a central conversation between women as more young families become involved in agriculture." That said, Weingarten admits that the stress - worry over uncontrollable things like the weather as well as fear of a pest infestation or CSA closure - can impact the household in negative ways.
By Dr. Jeff Masters, 10:50 AM GMT on September 27, 2013
"Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased." Thus opens the landmark 2013 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report issued today. Working without pay, hundreds of our most dedicated and talented climate experts have collaborated over a six-year period to create the most comprehensive and authoritative scientific document on climate change ever crafted. The first 31 pages of what will be a 4,000-page tome was released this morning after an all-night approval session that stretched until 6:30 this morning in Stockholm, Sweden. This "Summary For Policymakers" lays out a powerful scientific case that significant climate change with severe impacts is already occurring, humans are mostly responsible, the pace of climate change is expected to accelerate, and we can make choices to cut emission of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases that will limit the damage.
Monday, October 08, 2012 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: Monsanto, chemical poisoning, court case
(NaturalNews) A French farmer who can no longer perform his routine farming duties because of permanent pesticide injuries has had his day in court, literally, and the perpetrator of his injuries found guilty of chemical poisoning. The French court in Lyon ruled that Monsanto's Lasso weedkiller formula, which contains the active ingredient alachlor, caused Paul Francois to develop lifelong neurological damage that manifests as persistent memory loss, headaches, and stuttering during speech.
Reports indicate that the 47-year-old farmer sued Monsanto back in 2004 after inhaling the Lasso product while cleaning his sprayer tank equipment. Not long after, Francois began experiencing lasting symptoms that prevented him from working, which he says were directly linked to exposure to the chemical. Since Lasso's packaging did not bear adequate warnings about the dangers of exposure, Francois alleged at the time that Monsanto was essentially negligent in providing adequate protection for its customers.
Widely considered the most important environmental book of the 20th century, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring has been reissued after 50 years. Margaret Atwood considers its impact and legacy
'No informed person now would seriously advocate deploying pesticides or herbicides or any other chemical agent in the wholesale manner of the 1940s and 50s.' Photograph: Andy Sacks/Getty Images
In my 2009 novel, The Year of the Flood – set in that always-available patch of real estate, the Near Future – Rachel Carson is a saint.
Of course many people think she's a saint anyway, but in this book it's official. The God's Gardeners – members of a fictional cult that reveres both nature and scripture – needed some saints. The Gardeners would choose them for their devotion to the divine natural world, and their saintly deeds could range from the writing of creature-friendly poetry – like that of Saint Robert Burns of Mice – to the saving of a species, like the efforts of Saint Diane Fosse of the mountain gorillas.
But my first choice was Rachel Carson. She fully deserved beatification, and now she has it: in the God's Gardeners hagiography, she is Saint Rachel of All Birds.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson's momentous book, Silent Spring, considered by many the most important environmental book of the 20th century. Its subject was the human poisoning of the biosphere through the wholesale deployment of a myriad new 20th-century chemicals aimed at pest and disease control. Carson was already the most respected nature writer in the United States, and a pioneer in that field. She knew how to explain science to ordinary readers in a way that they could understand; she knew also that if you don't love a thing you won't save it, and her love for the natural world shines through everything she wrote. For Silent Spring – which she already knew would be her last tilt at the windmill – she polished all her rhetorical weapons, and synthesised a wide range of research. She was able to combine a simple and dramatic presentation with a formidable array of backup statistics, and to forge a call to specific action. The impact was enormous – many groups, pieces of legislation, and government agencies were inspired by it – and both its main insights remain central today.
The book also met with furious resistance, chiefly from the big chemical companies and the scientists in their employ. Multiple attempts were made to destroy not only Carson's scientific credibility but also her personal reputation: she was a fanatic, she was a "bunny hugger", she was a dangerous reactionary who would drag modern society backwards into a new Middle Ages filled with pests, vermin, crop destruction and lethal diseases. Yet Silent Spring never advocated an outright ban on pesticides: only careful testing and informed use, in contrast to the scorched-earth policies that had been pursued, with many disastrous outcomes.
Posted By jrlatham On September 10, 2012 @ 12:15 am
The plutocratic remaking of America has a parallel in the countryside. In rural America less than 3 percent of farmers make more than 63 percent of the money, including government subsidies.
Evaggelos Vallianatos (Photo Credit: Homini:)
The results of this emerging feudal economy are everywhere. Large areas of the United States are becoming impoverished farm towns with abandoned farmhouses and deserted land. More and more of the countryside has been devoted to massive factory farms and plantations. The consequences, though worse now than ever, have been there for all to see and feel, for decades.
Walter Goldschmidt, an anthropologist with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) was already documenting the deleterious effects of agribusiness on small communities in California’s Central Valley as long ago as the 1940s (1).
He revealed that a community (he studied the town of Dinuba in northern Tulare County) with small family farmers thrived. Its economy and cultural life were vigorous and democratic. Thus the Dinuba of 1940 was a middle-class town whose residents were not divided in any significant manner by differences in wealth. They had a stable income and strong interest in the life of their community.
By Tom Burridge BBC News, Arrasate, Spain
Many students at a local university find jobs at the Mondragon enterprise
Economic success stories are rare in recession-hit Spain these days but one can be found in the small northern Basque town of Arrasate, nestling in rolling green hills.
Here lies the headquarters of Mondragon, reckoned to be the world's largest worker co-operative. The name is the same as the town's, when translated from Basque into Spanish.
The unemployment rate in the Basque Country is 15%, and lower in the province of Guipuzcoa, where Mondragon is based. The rate in Spain as a whole is now 25%.
The Mondragon co-operative is a collective of around 250 companies and organisations. They include Mondragon Assembly in Guipuzcoa, which employs some 85 people.
The firm produces machines for making industrial components, for example the room-sized plant for making solar panels.
According to the company's commercial director, Inaki Legarda, government subsidies for renewable energy have dried up in much of crisis-hit Europe, and therefore, so has much of the company's business closer to home.
A worker at a Mondragon plant, Spain Workers have been protected from the worst of the financial crisis by the co-operative system
"We used to sell a lot in Spain and in Europe," says Mr Legarda, but the company is now targeting places like South Africa, Brazil, China and North Africa.
Their two biggest projects at the moment are in Kazakhstan and Lithuania.
Partly because of falling sales closer to home, Mondragon Assembly had to lay off several workers throughout 2008 and 2009.
But those workers who lost their jobs were taken on by other companies within the co-operative.
By 2010, the company's fortunes were on the up again, and those people were able to return to their former jobs.
"Today we fortunately have work for everybody," says Mr Legarda.
"We are actually recruiting people from other companies within the group because they are now having tougher times than us."
Fagor Arrasate is another company within Mondragon, which employs around 600 people. They make house-sized machines which manufacture parts for cars.
The majority of the firm's workers are "socios", which translates literally as "members", but also means they are all shareholders in the business.
The socios, some of whom are managers, all have one vote in a general assembly, which makes important decisions affecting the business.
Other decisions have to be approved by a governing council, elected by the assembly.
Anoitz, a 34-year-old engineer working at Fagor Arrasate, argues that "if many people are thinking about a problem, then the solution is better".
An example he gives is that if the business is not doing well, the employees can vote to reduce their own salaries.
Interestingly, the pay of bosses working at Mondragon is capped at six times that of the average worker.
Oskar Goitia, head of Mondragon Automocion, a conglomerate of Mondragon firms which do business in the automotive sector, says that for the business model to work it requires "consensus".
Machine that makes parts for cars at Fagor Arrasate None of the firms in the Mondragon co-operative have gone out of business
He admits it "takes a little bit more time to explain what the plans and projects are.
"But once we agree… it's much easier because everyone pushes in the same direction."
Firms within Mondragon are not immune to the eurozone crisis, but none of its companies has gone out of business.
And although the Basque economy is expected to shrink by around 1.2% of GDP this year, and the Spanish economy by approximately 1.5-1.8%, many of the co-operative's companies are doing more of their business further away from home.
However, according to Manuel Escudero, an economist at the prestigious Deusto business school in Bilbao, the Mondragon model is difficult to export.
He argues the region enjoys "a deep culture of egalitarianism".
And that is why, he believes, so far people who have travelled to Mondragon to learn about the co-operative have been unable to replicate this particular business model elsewhere.
Rio+20: Declaration of Kari-Oca II Adopted by Five Hundred Indigenous Representatives in Sacred CeremonySubmitted by admin on Sun, 07/15/2012 - 09:22
Written by Jeff Conant
Thursday, 21 June 2012 08:54
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 19, 2012 – Over five hundred Indigenous Peoples from Brazil and throughout the world gathered at Kari-Oca II, an encampment seated at the foot of a mountain near Rio Centro, to sign a declaration demanding respect for Indigenous Peoples’ role in maintaining a stable world environment, and condemning the dominant economic approach toward ecology, development, human rights and the rights of Mother Earth.
“We see the goals of UNCSD Rio+20, the “Green Economy”, and its premise that the world can only ‘save’ nature by commodifying its life-giving and life-sustaining capacities as a continuation of the colonialism that Indigenous Peoples and our Mother Earth have faced and resisted for 520 years”, the declaration states.
Global survey reveals differing attitudes on green living..
Commuters on bicycles, electric bikes, and mopeds buzz through Shanghai, China, in 2008.
Photograph by Eugene Hoshiko, AP
Americans are the the least likely to suffer from "green guilt" about their environmental impact, despite trailing the rest of the world in sustainable behavior, according to a new National Geographic survey.
This year's Greendex report, conducted by the National Geographic Society and the research consultancy GlobeScan, also found that Americans are the most confident that their individual actions can help the environment. (National Geographic News is a division of the Society.)
"There's a disconnect there, and we hope the Greendex helps shed light on it," said Eric Whan, GlobeScan's director of sustainability.
"In our culture of consumption, we've sort of been indoctrinated to believe that we can buy ourselves out of environmental problems," said Whan, who's based in Toronto, Canada, another country ranked low in the survey.
"But what people need to realize is that the sheer volume of consumption is relevant as well." (Listen to NPR's coverage of Greendex.)
Conducted by the National Geographic Society and GlobeScan since 2008, the Greendex report explored environmental attitudes and behaviors among 17,000 consumers in 17 countries through an online survey that asks questions relating to housing, transportation, food, and consumer goods. (Learn more about how Greendex is created.)
This year Americans ranked last in sustainable behavior, as they have every year since 2008. Just 21 percent of Americans reported feeling guilty about the impact they have on the environment, among the lowest of those surveyed.
Yet they had the most faith in an individual's ability to protect the environment, at 47 percent.