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Archive for April, 2008

The Revolution will not be Microwaved!

I LOVE this book. LOVE it- can’t say enough good things about it. So, I won’t. I’ll just launch right into copying down the quotes I want to save, let you intelligent readers put the pieces together, and hope I get done before the baby wakes up.

Ready, set, GO!

Katz met a guy who has an illegal bakery- laws are set up so that you can’t bake using your own household kitchen, which means that you have to go into a ton of debt or be a big corporation to make homemade goodies, so this guy just decided to start baking, letting his friends know, and move around every week, hoping he doesn’t get caught. AWESOME- civil disobedience, I love it! 🙂

“Investigative journalist Greg Palast obtained an internal State Dept document dated Feb 2003 (a month BEFORE US invaded Iraq) that included seed and plant patents as part of the US economic agenda in Iraq- war devastated most Iraqi agricultural research centers and seed stocks- resulted in the loss of nearly all generations of seeds and all crops- appears that US military agenda is to disrupt agricultural self sufficiency and create dependency on high tech global seed market (GMOs), while imposing legal framework to permanently disempower local farmers.”

Monsanto is evil, just in case you didn’t know, “Monsanto is polluting American farms with it’s GE crops,, not properly informing farmers about these altered seeds, and then profiting from it’s own irresponsibility and negligence by suing innocent farmers.”

And check this out: “Michael Taylor worked for Monsanto drafting proposed regulations for GM crops for Monsanto’s lobbyists to promote. When we was appointed deputy commissioner for policy at the US FDA, Taylor was able to implement the regulations he had drafted. Taylor’s good work at the FDA got him promoted to the position of administrator of the USDA’s Food and Safety and Inspection Service, where he continued to be involved in setting policy related to GM foods. He was later hired BACK by Monsanto as it’s VP for public safety.”

Most of the world is against GMOs- I can’t type out all the ways various countries have opposed them, but this is notable: “French court sentenced sheep farmer and activist Joze Bove to 4 months in jail for his role in destroying GM corn.”- Bove was invited in 2006 to speak at an American university, but wasn’t permitted to enter the country. – wonder why….?

Katz says, “My personal paranoid fantasy of where biotechnology industries are headed involves human reproduction. Isnt’ that the next frontier after plant reproduction and animal reproduction have been fully commercialized? There are already plenty of signs that human reproductive abilities are on the wane: decreasing fertility rates, reduced levels of sperm vitality and viability, the massive use of drugs by women to increase fertility, and by men to overcome ED (excuse me, incompetent penis- HWM ;)), and diminishing penis size linked to exposure to chemicals called phthalates, which are commonly found in plastics, cosmetics, and perfumes.”

I think he takes it a little far, and I think he knows he is, but the realities of decreasing male and female fertility are real.

Regarding the loss of small farming as a profession:

“We can all survive without another condominium, Taco Bell, or shopping center. Can we really survive without fertile soils, without fresh and unpoisoned food, without a place to teach our children about interconnections and context, or a place to gather on the land?”

The farmer who said that, Michael Ableman fought to keep his farm despite heavy pressure to sell to developers- all the rest of the land around him was sold and developed- “We protested the sacrifice of the richest topsoil on the entire West Coast. We cited the agricultural history of this valley, our perfect Mediterranean growing climate, the loss of farmland everywhere, and the importance of small farms and local food for our children. Our voices were drowned out by housing statistics, traffic studies, and promises for parks and tennis courts, all supported by sophisticated maps and graphs.”

“After the plan went through, the farmer who had sold his land was quoted in the paper as saying, “Farming is a dying profession”, to which Ableman reacted, “I had to wonder where HIS food came from.”

Cool organization: WWOOF World-wide opportunities on organic Farms: match young farmer wanna-bes up with older farmers who have no heirs to learn from the old farmers so the farm doesn’t die out.

In May 2005 23 women working in a California vineyard had to be rushed to the hospital after chemicals being sprayed on a neighboring field drifted in their direction and engulfed them. First they smelled something odd, then they started feeling dizzy and nauseous. They tried to run away. Four of them fell into convulsions.

In the Mexican tomato fields, Barndt finds that many of the pickers are women and their children, not uncommonly breast-feeding mothers with babies on their backs. “In breastfeeding her child, Reyna (a tomato picker) passed the pesticides from the plants to her hands, which then got into his mouth, and almost poisoned him”, reports one of the tomato pickers she interviewed. Indigenous women and children are clearly in the most precarious position of all who bring us the corporate tomato. (From “Tangled Routes: Women, Work, and Globalization on the Tomato Trail”)

The Makah, a Washington state tribe that traditionally subsisted largely on the meat of the gray whale made an attempt a few years ago to revive their food tradition. The gray whale is so central to their culture that in an 1855 treaty with the US, the Makah traded 90% of their land for the right to continue whaling. As the commercial whaling industry grew, the Makah watched the whale populations dwindle. In the 1920s they made the voluntary decision to stop whaling altogether, 50 years before the gray whale became legally protected as an endangered species.- In 1994 it was removed from the endangered species list. Because of that 1855 treaty, the fact that they do not hunt for commercial purposes, the Makah are at least theoretically exempt from the commercial whaling ban. They decided to resume tradition- some misguided environmentalists and animal rights activists protested with slogans such as “Abolish the treaties!” and “Save a whale- Hunt a Makah!”- in 2000 a federal court ordered the Makah to stop whale hunting, treaty or no treaty, extinction threat or not, preventing them from practicing their ancient food traditions in a sustainable way.

In 1998 India banned the sale of mustard oil and imposed new packagine requirements on other oils- triggered by the death of 50 people in New Delhi, caused by contaminated mustard oil- strong case for sabotage, no other reason why the contamination was so extensive. *On the very same day* they lifted all restrictions on the importation of soy oil. Markets were quickly flooded with soy oil, mostly GMOs.

Small scale, individual production eliminates large scale contaminations.

In Wisconsin, “America’s Dairyland”, the state agriculture dept engaged in a campaign of deception and espionage in it’s unsuccessful effort to shut down raw milk cow-share programs. Officials agreed to sanction a cow share at Clearview Acres, a Hayward WI dairy farm, and in negotiating the contract, they proposed inadequate safety and testing requirements, which farmer Tim Wightman replaced with his own more demanding protocols. Internal documents later revealed that the dept had acted in anticipation of people getting sick from raw milk so they could shut the whole program down. The agency sent a spy to buy a share, who secretly picked up milk weekly and had it tested for over a year for the presence of Listeria and Salmonella. Officials complained when the tests kept turning out negative- “So basically, the WI agency responsible for food safety has been caught deliberately promoting raw milk sales with improper safety protocols in an attempt to cause an outbreak of illness.”

I say it again: if you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention!!

In regards to trans fats: “Until this point, the law always considered traditional foods as “real”, in contrast to imitations. The 1970s law eliminated this distinction. Fabricated and fortified fragments of foods became the legal equivalents of traditional whole foods.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America claims that direct to consumer (DTC) drug advertising “enhances consumer knowledge” and “improves public health”. But two Harvard medical professors, both former editors of the New England Journal of Medicine counter that “DTC ads mainly benefit the bottom line of the drug industry, not the public. They mislead consumers more than they inform them, and they pressure physicians to prescribe new, expensive, and often marginally helpful drugs, although a more conservative option might be better for the patient.”

To this day, coca leaves are brought into the US by the Stepan Chemical Company of Maywood, NJ, the only legal importer in the country. Once the cocaine has been removed and sold to the pharmaceutical industry, the residue containing the essential oils and flavonoids is shipped to Coca-Cola. The company is not especially proud of this fact, but it ought to be, for it is the essence of the leaves that makes Coca-Cola the “real thing”. So the exceptions to the coca ban are granted for Coke and pharma manufacturers. Unfortunately the diverse highlands peoples whose traditional cultures revolve around this plant have not been granted similar exemptions.

Poppies are not banned outright in the US- you can posses poppies, as long as you don’t knowingly use them to get high. Jim Hogshire, the author of a diy guide called Opium for the Masses knew too much and brazenly shared his knowledge. One day, a police SWAT team raided his Seattle apt (his book constituted probable cause), found several bunches of dried poppies he had legally purchased from a florist, and arrested Hogshire and his wife on felony drug charges. Hogshire reports that a police officer waved a copy of his book in front of his face and asked, “With what you write, weren’t you expecting this?” It was Hogshires exercise of free speech that rendered his activities illegal. Whether or not the opium poppies in your garden (or indeed, purchased from a florist) are illicit depends on what you do, or even intend to do with them, but simply on what you know about them, concludes Pollan.”

This distinction, in which knowledge places people in legal jeopardy, is appearing in more drug laws. In 2005 LA enacted a law making it a crime for any person knowingly or intentionally to posses a material, intended for human consumption which contains a hallucinogenic plant. The law names 39 different plants and fungi, many common weeds. If datura grows in your yard, no problem. If you accidentally serve it in a salad and people get sick, still no problem, at least in terms of criminal liability. But in Louisiana, if you were in possession of a book of ancient witchy knowledge, with recipes for extracting datura into a flying ointment, that same weed in your yard becomes criminal due to your knowledge, and you could find yourself doing 10 years with hard labor.

I have to stop there, my hands are cramping. I only have a few things left to say, so maybe tonight I can finish it. Check back for another edit or two.

Edit: Here are the last few things I found especially apalling about this book:

“In the long, inscrutable anonymous food chain of the supermarket, we’re trusting mass producers, mass marketers, and mass regulators. The mass scale makes for mass risks. In the course of my research I learned that the FDA has been permitting meat packers to use CO2 in sealed packaging to preserve the fresh color of the meat, disguising age and spoilage. This practice, banned by the EU as deceptive and unsafe is defended by the industry’s American Meat Institute Foundation because it keeps meat looking presentable for longer in supermarket coolers.”

Not appalling, but really gets to the heart of my personal lifestyle:

“Reduce, reuse, recycle. Live this ethic fully. Eat it, wear it, drive it, live in it, create it. Become more connected to the cycles of life and encourage other people to join you. Extricate yourself from constant convenience consumerism and strive to eliminate waste.”

More evidence that Coke is evil- well, really, it’s not that unusual, and I think that’s what I’ve found most disheartening of all. I already knew selected companies were less ethical than others, but truly, the WHOLE system, the whole corporate world is corrupt. 😦

Talking about Coke’s presence in India:

“In some cases, particularly in dry reigons, the pumping of water from underground aquifers has dried up wells and other traditional water sources. Residents of several different towns in India have risen up against Coca Cola bottling plants for their drining of local aquifers and polluting of local waters and land. In Kala Dera, Rajasthan, Coke’s state of the art groundwater extraction resulted in a dramatic reduction of the water table. After only six years of the plant’s operation, fifty nearby villages reported water shortages as wells dried up. Many of these villages formed “struggle committees” and together they brought together 2,000 people to marth on the plant in 2004 to demand that they water extraction stop.- And Indian government hydrogeologist warns that continued extraction will lead to deterioration of the water quality and ecological repercussions such as rising surface temperatures and an increased likelihood of earthquakes, cause by the earth’s upper crust drying up.”

Think about that the next time you drink a Dasani.

In another Indian village, protesters keep vigil outside the plant “In addition to depleting water resources, this plant was distributing it’s solid waste to local farmers as “fertilizer”. Testing revealed cadmium and lead in the fertilizer, meaning that the land it had  been spread on was contaminated with heavy metals; the state has since ordered Coke to stop distributing it’s toxic waste to farmers.”

If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention! >(

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Family Culture

Like about half my posts (and I really hate it), I’m not exactly sure what I want to write about- it’s been brewing in the back of my mind for a while (like most of my posts). Three books that I’ve read lately really kind of comprise the beginnings of an idea- one is the Family Virtues Guide by Popov, one is called “What to do after you turn off the TV” by Francis Moore Lappe (the one who wrote Diet for a Small Planet), and one is called “Awakening the Hidden Storyteller“, which I also read in conjunction with ‘Storytelling for Children“. Anyway, each of these books has a piece of what I’m looking for- and I think what I’m looking for is a way to define our values as a family and impart them to our children. I’d really like to get together with The Boy, and talk about what our joint values are, and write a mission statement of sorts. Decide what we believe, and what we feel is important enough to pass along to Fairy Girl (and any future hypothetical children- can you tell I’m not done yet? :))

But it’s not JUST about imparting values. It’s also about having fun together, and really bonding, connecting. And I don’t believe you can do that very well while watching TV. I think you can impart values while watching TV- we all get together to watch Dancing with the Stars on Monday and Tuesday nights- it’s about the only time we turn on the network TV- the ads really are striking- it’s amazing how COUNTER to my values most of them are! I am really looking forward to using our slight TV watching time as a way to teach Fairy Girl about media literacy. I want her to know how tricky those ads are, and not to hold herself up to those standards of beauty that are just everywhere in the media. Part of that is to watch, and talk while you watch, part of that is to limit media exposure in all forms (though I believe to severely limit media exposure is unrealistic and rigid, and has the counter effect of making children less immune to the ways of advertising), and part of that is to expose yourself to the tricks of the media (psychology, twisting of facts, airbrushing… etc). But where was I? Oh yes, imparting values- I don’t want the media to impart IT’S values to MY family, thankyouverymuch.

Ok, that was an only slightly related tangent- since my idea of Family Culture doesn’t really involve sitting down in front of the TV (with notable exceptions), I guess I had to think that one out. But what DOES it involve?

It involves games, music, and storytelling. I am especially interested in storytelling right now- the oral tradition of fairy tales, making up your own stories, storytelling games, having an oral or visual ritual to the beginning and ending of storytime. And I don’t mean the “once upon a time” kind of storytelling, that you do with children, but the “gather round the fire” kind that has been virtually lost in our American culture- with adults and children all together. This is where things kind of get fuzzy- I’m not really sure where to go with this now. One of my favorite parts of “Storytelling With Children” (which is actually about the adult kind of storytelling too) is where she asks you to visualize your inner storyteller- mine is a round, strong, ancient woman with a long white braid sitting in front of a hearth that looks remarkably like Tasha Tudor’s hearth. Her eyes are wise, her voice is aged but strong and clear. She’s me, in about 60 years, I hope she is, anyway. She doesn’t have to speak loudly to command attention. She’s like Maya Angelou- she commands attention just by BEING. And you know that whatever comes out of her mouth is important, and is going to reveal some of yourself to yourself. THAT”S the storyteller I want to be.

I see storytelling as a way to impart our values, tell the stories of our family’s history, and to have fun. Part of our family’s culture.

It’s 3am here, and I don’t think I can be more concise tonight. I’ll just ramble in circles if I continue. So, hopefully I can come back more clear tomorrow and finish this.

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