Tuesday 09 November 2010
by: Mike Ludwig, t r u t h o u t | News Analysis
A delegation of politicians and community activists gathered on August 7 in La Leonesa, a small farm town in Argentina, to hear Dr. Andres Carrasco speak about a study linking a popular herbicide to birth defects in Argentina's agricultural areas.
But the presentation never happened. A mob of about 100 people attacked the delegation before they could reach the local school where the talk was to be held.
Dr. Carrasco and a colleague locked themselves in a car as the mob yelled threats and beat on the vehicle for two hours. One delegate was hit in the spine and has since suffered lower-body paralysis. Another person was treated for blows to the head. A former provincial human rights official was hit in the face and knocked unconscious.
Witnesses said the angry crowd had ties to local officials and agribusiness bosses, and police made little effort to stop the violence, according to human rights group Amnesty International.
Carrasco is a lead embryologist at the University of Buenos Aires Medical School and the Argentinean national research council. His study, first released in 2009 and published in the United States this past summer, shows that glyphosate-based herbicides like Monsanto's popular Roundup formula caused deformations in chicken embryos that resembled the kind of birth defects being reported in areas like La Leonesa, where big agribusinesses depend on glyphosate to treat genetically engineered crops.
by Emily Loftis, Mother Jones Online
Posted on October 16, 2010, Printed on October 22, 2010
By choice, Mark Boyle basically doesn't have a cent—or, more accurately, a pence—to his name. Boyle lives in rural England in a trailer he spotted on Freecycle.org. He feeds himself by growing everything from barley to potatoes, foraging wild edibles like berries and nettles, and occasionally dumpster-diving for luxuries like margarine and bread. He cooks with a wood stove fashioned from large restaurant olive cans; brushes his teeth with his own mixture of cuttlefish bones and fennel seed; and makes paper and ink from mushrooms. He barters labor for rent, Internet service, and whatever else he can't find, grow, or make.
This experiment in currency-free living started in 2008 after Boyle, an Irishman who worked in the organic food industry, saw Gandhi and was inspired by the Indian nationalist's legendary asceticism. Boyle's experience became the basis for his book, Moneyless Man: A Year of Freeconomic Living, which has just been released in the states. By the end of his year without dough, he'd decided that the life he'd gained by shedding currency was worth continuing. When I recently spoke with Boyle, he was making plans to buy land with the royalties from the book—his only cash transaction in the last two years—to start a moneyless community. He talked about the insights that drove him to make his new lifestyle more permanent.
Emily Loftis: It seems pretty ironic that you were a student of economics and now you're moneyless.
Mark Boyle: You're right, it's a bit ironic. But I think it's wrong to think of economics as money. The actual word itself actually revolves around meeting one's needs. Money is one way of meeting our needs, but it's only one way. I think I couldn't do what I do today without studying economics, because you need to understand the system first—how it currently works—in order to change it.
The Hudson Valley Seed Library and its founders Ken Greene, seated (with the dog, Kale), and Doug Muller.
By JOY Y. WANG
Published: October 6, 2010
AS a child, Peg Lotvin used to watch her father, Hank, head out into his garden every fall on a mission. After setting aside part of the bean harvest for his neighbor Flossy, who was reputed to make the best baked beans in all of Ghent, in New York’s Hudson Valley, he would select the largest, heartiest beans from the crop and put them up to plant the next year.
More than 60 years later, Ms. Lotvin, the former director of the town library in Gardiner, N.Y., and others throughout the Northeast are still growing Hank’s X-tra Special Baking Bean. The preservation and propagation of the ghost-white bean have occurred thanks in part to a former colleague of Ms. Lotvin’s at the Gardiner Library named Ken Greene, who founded a group called the Hudson Valley Seed Library three years ago.
In structuring the venture, which aims to be a center for regional heirloom seeds, Mr. Greene chose the library model he knew well: the members of his group receive seeds each spring and then are encouraged to “return” the seeds from the mature plants in the fall.
If America’s present system of political economy were performing well, there would be little need to question it or seek fundamental change. But that is not the case. Asked what the key goals of economic life should be, many would reply, “to enhance social well-being while sustaining democratic prospects and environmental quality.” Judged by this standard, today’s political economy is failing. It is a failure that reaches many spheres of national life—economic, social, political, and environmental. Indeed, America can be said to be in crisis in each of these four areas.
The economic crisis of the Great Recession brought on by Wall Street financial excesses has stripped tens of millions of middle class Americans of their jobs, homes, and retirement assets and plunged many into poverty and despair.
A social crisis of extreme and growing inequality has been unraveling America’s social fabric for several decades. A tiny minority has experienced soaring incomes and accumulated grand fortunes, while wages for working people have stagnated despite rising productivity gains and poverty has risen to a near 30-year high. Social mobility has declined, record numbers of people lack health insurance, schools are failing, prison populations are swelling, employment security is a thing of the past, and American workers put in more hours than workers in other high-income countries.
An environmental crisis, driven by excessive human consumption and waste and a spate of terrible technologies, is disrupting Earth’s climate, reducing Earth’s capacity to support life, and creating large-scale human displacement that further fuels social breakdown.
And a political crisis is reflected in governmental paralysis and a democracy that is weak, shallow, and corrupted—the best democracy that money can buy.
The case for fundamental change is underscored especially by the urgency of environmental conditions.1 Here is one measure of that problem: All that human societies have to do to destroy the planet’s climate and biota and leave a ruined world to future generations is to keep doing exactly what is being done today, with no growth in the human population or the world economy. Just continue to release greenhouse gases at current rates, just continue to impoverish ecosystems and release toxic chemicals at current rates, and the world in the latter part of this century won’t be fit to live in. But, of course, human activities are not holding at current levels—they are accelerating dramatically. It took all of history to build the $7 trillion world economy of 1950; recently, economic activity has grown by that amount every decade. At typical rates of growth, the world economy will now double in size in less than 20 years. We are thus facing the possibility of an enormous increase in environmental deterioration, just when we need to move strongly in the opposite direction.
A new sharing economy is emerging—but how does it fit within our legal system? Time for a whole new field of cooperation law.
by Janelle Orsi
What do you call a lawyer who helps people share, cooperate, barter, foster local economies, and build sustainable communities?
That sounds like the beginning of a lawyer joke, but actually, it’s the beginning of a new field of law practice. Very soon, every community will need a specialist in this yet-to-be-named area: Community transactional law? Sustainable economies law? Cooperation law?
Personally, I tend to call it sharing law. We need sharing lawyers to help people like Lynne:
Lynne lives in an urban cohousing community and shares ownership of a car with two neighbors. Every day, she fluidly shares, borrows, and lends (rather than owns) many household goods, tools, electronics, and other items.
She is a member of a cooperative grocery, through which she receives significant discounts in exchange for putting in a few monthly work hours. She grows vegetables on an empty lot and sometimes sells the veggies to neighbors.
She has a successful rooftop landscaping business, which she launched using 20 microloans and investments from friends and family. She often barters, doing odd jobs in exchange for goods and services.
She also owns a 5 percent share of a hot springs retreat center outside of town, which she acquired through sweat equity.
With the help of sharing, cooperation, and collaboration, Lynne has managed to craft an affordable, comfortable lifestyle, put her skills to use, do varied and self-directed work, and live/work in a supportive community. She has “financed” property ownership and launched a thriving business off of the traditional financial and banking grid.
The collapse of the talks at Copenhagen took away all momentum for change and the lobbyists are back in control. So what next?
An iceberg melts in Kulusuk Bay, eastern Greenland. Photograph: John Mcconnico/AP
The closer it comes, the worse it looks. The best outcome anyone now expects from December's climate summit in Mexico is that some delegates might stay awake during the meetings. When talks fail once, as they did in Copenhagen, governments lose interest. They don't want to be associated with failure, they don't want to pour time and energy into a broken process. Nine years after the world trade negotiations moved to Mexico after failing in Qatar, they remain in diplomatic limbo. Nothing in the preparations for the climate talks suggests any other outcome.
A meeting in China at the beginning of October is supposed to clear the way for Cancún. The hosts have already made it clear that it's going nowhere: there are, a top Chinese climate change official explains, still "huge differences between developed and developing countries". Everyone blames everyone else for the failure at Copenhagen. Everyone insists that everyone else should move.
But nobody cares enough to make a fight of it. The disagreements are simultaneously entrenched and muted. The doctor's certificate has not been issued; perhaps, to save face, it never will be. But the harsh reality we have to grasp is that the process is dead.
Human growth has strained the Earth's resources, but as Johan Rockstrom reminds us, our advances also give us the science to recognize this and change behavior. His research has found nine "planetary boundaries" that can guide us in protecting our planet's many overlapping ecosystems.
The Center just added seven more ewes to its breeding population, which now stands at sixteen sheep. Here's a picture of the recent additions:
While we're at it, we came across some pictures of rams at the Dempsey Perkins farm. Our ram, Papa, is a Perkins bred ram and he looks just like them:
Lastly, the Center had two sets of twins born this past June, consisting of three rams and a ewe. Other ewes are pregnant with either Fall or Winter lambs. We do not separate our rams from the ewes so they can breed at any time.
by: Jill Richardson
Fri Jun 18, 2010 at 21:01:35 PM PDT
The USDA has come out with a new proposed rule and - based on the reaction it has gotten thus far - it's a big fucking deal. In a good way. Here's how the AP described the new rule:
The rules would place the sharpest limits on meat companies since the Great Depression, drastically lowering the bar that farmers and ranchers must meet to sue companies whom they accuse of demanding unfairly low prices.
The rules would dictate how meatpackers buy cattle on the open market, and prohibit them from showing preference to big feedlots rather than buying from small producers.
They would also limit the control chicken companies have over the farmers who raise birds for them. The companies couldn't require farmers to take on debt to invest in chicken houses, for example, unless farmers were guaranteed to recoup 80 percent of the cost.
The law would also make it easier to file suits under the Depression-era Packers and Stockyards Act by stating that farmers don't need to prove industrywide anticompetitive behavior to file a lawsuit under the act.
Sen. Feingold, a longtime champion for fair competition in agriculture, has already come out praising this rule in a statement I've included below. South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson praised the rule as well, as did R-CALF USA. You can see the USDA's press release about this here and the actual rule itself here.
While Goldman Sachs agreed to pay $550 million to resolve a civil fraud lawsuit filed by the SEC, Goldman has not been held accountable for many of its other questionable investment practices. A new article in Harper’s Magazine examines the role Goldman played in the food crisis of 2008 when the ranks of the world’s hungry increased by 250 million. We speak to Harper’s contributing editor Frederick Kaufman.
Frederick Kaufman, contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine. Author of the piece The Food Bubble: How Wall Street Starved Millions and Got Away With It from the July issue of the magazine.
AMY GOODMAN: We continue with Goldman Sachs.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, while Goldman Sachs agreed Thursday to pay $550 million to resolve a civil fraud lawsuit filed by the SEC, Goldman has not been held accountable for many of its other questionable investment practices. A new article in Harper’s Magazine examines the role Goldman played in the food crisis of 2008, when the ranks of the world’s hungry increased by 250 million. The article is titled "The Food Bubble: How Wall Street Starved Millions and Got Away With It."
AMY GOODMAN: The author of the article, Frederick Kaufman, joins us now. He’s a contributing editor at Harper’s Magazine.
Well, explain. We’re talking about Goldman Sachs today, this—they call it a landmark settlement, but they made more after-hours in trading last night than they will have to pay. So let’s look at Goldman Sachs and its record overall.
FREDERICK KAUFMAN: Yeah, this is really—it’s really outrageous. And on a certain level, this reform bill is really a sham, because it does not cover, in any way, shape or form, what Goldman Sachs—and really, let’s be honest here, it wasn’t just Goldman; it was Goldman, and it was Bear, and it was AIG, and it was Lehman, it was Deutsche, it was all across the board, JPMorgan Chase—what these banks were able to do in commodity markets, really which reached its peak from 2005 to 2008, in what is now known as the food bubble. And as Juan points out, this is unconscionable what happened, in the sense that their speculation and their restructuring of these commodity markets pushed 250 million new people into food insecurity and starving, and brought the world total up to over a billion people. This is the most abysmal total in the history of the world.