Monthly Archives: March 2009

The Food Crisis Spurs Gene Patenting Race

Big Biotech is gearing up to substantially increase their market share in the face of a global food and climate crisis — in hopes of cashing in on desperation. The patenting office has never been so busy.

Do you remember the pulitzer prize-winning photo that shocked the world back in 1994? You know, that macabre shot of an emaciated child struggling hopelessly towards a feeding station a kilometre away, with a vulture waiting patiently, and wistfully, behind. With that single image, the photographer, Kevin Carter, brought the Sudan famine into stark relief for an astonished public.

Well-framed images can evoke sympathy and outrage, so I am thus left almost desperately wondering how to frame what I see happening with the current international food crisis — as sympathy and outrage are needed now like never before.

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Posted in Diversity, Food Shortages, GMOs, Pollution

India Suicides: I Want My Father Back

I’ve made mention of the social and environmental costs of monocultures and genetically modified crops often. Amongst these has been many mentions of a humanitarian disaster occuring on a daily basis in India, where thousands of farmers have been committing suicide as a result of failed harvests — the failed harvests being the result of failed promises from the likes of Monsanto. The following documentary, produced in India, by Indians, paints the clearest picture of this situation that I’ve yet seen. In addition, the documentary compares the failure of those sucked into input-intensive industrialised agriculture with the success of those who have reverted to organic methods.

Posted in Food Shortages, GMOs, Health, Pollution, Society

Community-Based Rain Forest Restoration Work is Huge Success in Borneo

In his twenty minute talk, Willie Smits (a Dutch forestry scientist who emigrated to Indonesia 20 years ago to help the country grow trees) explains how a chance encounter with a dying baby Orangutan changed the direction of his work – culminating not only in his creating the biggest orangutan rehabilitation center in the world, but also in restoring large tracts of rainforest in a community-based endeavour that is bringing work and prosperity to the people too.

The word ‘Permaculture’ is never mentioned in the TED presentation above, but the project that is the subject of this talk certainly contains many elements of Permaculture design. Among the spectacular results of the project is a documented cooling in local climate, increased cloud cover and rainfall, and a rapid increase in biodiversity of flora and fauna.

Posted in Diversity, Permaculture

A Farm for the Future

Seeing Permaculture promoted on the BBC is yet another positive sign of the times. In this 50 minute presentation, wildlife film-maker Rebecca Hosking returns to her farming roots – hoping to take over the reins of her family farm in Devon, UK – and duly considers exactly what kind of farm she wants to develop. Significantly, Rebecca looks at where the world is heading in regards to food production, and, in particular, thinks about the serious implications of peaking oil supplies on our fossil-fuel dependent agriculture.

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Posted in Consumerism, Diversity, Global Warming, Health, Permaculture, Society

In Memory of Dorothy Stang

Preamble: I post the following today, as next Wednesday night (8pm March 25, 2009) HBO2 in the U.S. is running the new documentary They Killed Sister Dorothy. If you have opportunity, be sure to watch it. Read the following to find out what it’s about.

If you have opportunity to pick up a January 2007 copy of the National Geographic, take it. It’s easily recognisable by the startling image of a forlorn looking tree, standing alone where was once a thick bio-diverse rainforest. The author, Scott Wallace, unfortunately doesn’t follow through very well on the external connections that are causing the Amazon to shrink, instead focusing on some of the main local antagonists in the battle over the land the forest sits on. Despite this weakness, however, I believe that meeting these characters helps bring the whole tug-of-war over the environment a little closer to home, and in this he’s done an excellent work.

Scott begins his article thus:

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Posted in Deforestation, Diversity, GMOs

Will Obama Allow Organic Farming and Farmers’ Markets to Effectively Get Banned?

A potential new legally enforced system of regulating how food is produced and processed currently before the U.S. Congress has profound and worrying implications for everyone who eats – and all those seeking to work towards sustainability. Significantly, the Bills before Congress may give a new ‘Food Safety Authority’ enormous powers of control – despite not specifically detailing exactly what this new authority intends to do with this power…. This post needs to be read, considered and acted upon by all.

Note: Feel free to skip my intro, and the background, and jump to the meat if you so desire.

I have a dream.

I dream of an age where governments stop pandering to big business lobbyists, and start incentivising a sensible, transitional shift to small-scale, localised food systems. This dream has our current dependence on (rapidly diminishing) supplies of oil – with its extreme cost in human life and economic and environmental destruction – effectively short-circuited. With current industrialised agriculture consuming ten calories of fossil fuels to create a single calorie of food, I see that this dream, if it doesn’t crystalise into reality, and soon, could quickly become a nightmare.

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Posted in Geopolitics & Economics, Health, Pollution, Society

Global Warming is Old News

Yes – you heard me right. Global warming is old news. Watch this fifty year old clip to see what I mean (circa 1958).

Posted in Global Warming

An Ocean of Unknown


Photo copyright: Simon Nash

Carbon dioxide emissions from human activities are acidifying the oceans and threaten a mass extinction of sea life, a top ocean scientist warns.

Dr Carol Turley from Plymouth Marine Laboratory says it is impossible to know how marine life will cope, but she fears many species will not survive. – BBC

That’s a quote from today’s BBC news. To follow is a quote from an updated intro to a well-loved book – one first published 140 years ago:

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Posted in Diversity, Global Warming