Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Tragedy of Our Choices

We could say that our Earth Mother doesn’t need us, her ‘child,’ to survive and if we die, another species could arise to fulfill our lost potential. But, at the same time one child isn’t the same as another and perhaps our Mother might miss us and mourn the tragedy of our choices.

Clouds in the Las Vegas sky.

     Have you noticed lately we have an awesome planet? I mean, how great are clouds? All white and puffy against a background of deep blue. I realized once while I was gazing up at a cloud tinged with orangey pink on the edges that I was so much more connected with the cloud than I had ever really understood before. Every time I exhale I am breathing out water vapor and standing there breathing, my exhaled water vapor was in a small part helping to create the clouds in the sky. Clouds don’t have definitive edges…we like to think they do, but they don’t have definitive shapes either. The boundaries of clouds are fuzzy, hazy wisps of water vapor. Where does a cloud really begin and end? A small part of the cloud body was within my lungs. In that moment my experience of myself in the world expanded; my boundaries blurred and I marveled at my place in the world. Not on it, but deeply in it—an active, co-creative part of the planet. Who we are is very context dependent—where we begin and end as bodies and individuals isn’t as solid as we’ve been lead to believe.

     We are utterly connected to this earth and each other. We need to touch soil because there are microbes in it which help us regulate our hormones. We need sunlight or we become depressed and our bones become deformed. We couldn’t exist as we are without everything else on this planet and in the universe. We are a part of the life of this planet with gifts to give and responsibilities to uphold. Somehow we’ve forgotten and become lost. The way we live now doesn’t work for most of us or for our planet.

     On one level the planet doesn’t need us as much as we need it… but what if it wants us? What if we as a species have a role and a potential we haven’t yet realized? As Peter Senge discussed in Presence, What if we have something to give instead of just take? So many people think of the earth as our host and humanity is the bad guest, but in truth, the earth is our Mother and we are hurting her. We could say that our Earth Mother doesn’t need us, her ‘child,’ to survive and if we die, another species could arise to fulfill our lost potential. But, at the same time one child isn’t the same as another and perhaps our Mother might miss us and mourn the tragedy of our choices.

     It is astonishing to understand the impact a single species can have within this vast web of life on this earth. It is astonishing to glimpse how spectacularly life maintains such dynamic balance on this planet. If we as the human species on earth decided to work with this web of life, what impact could we have? Every species on this planet has a role, a niche. What is our niche?

     I have heard many people say humanity is like a virus, but at this time I think ‘cancer’ is a better analogy than a ‘virus’ because we weren’t always so destructive and imbalanced. And not all people and cultures treat the planet this way. I think it’s unfair to paint all of humanity with the ‘virus’ or ‘cancer’ brush. Just like a living organism some cells maintain their place and contribute to the life of the whole while the cells of the western world have forgotten their place and role in the wider web and are now wreaking havoc—like a cancer. The way I understand it, cancer is when a cell or cells in an organism ‘forgets’ it is part of the whole and breaks the balance thinking only of its growth and its life, stealing nutrients and ravaging the larger body. Humans are a part of the larger earth body (not a foreign invader like a virus) and we’ve forgotten who we are. We are under a spell of separation.

     Cancer can be healed and balance restored while a virus must be purged from the body. While most traditional cancer treatments try to kill the cancer cells, causing great harm to the larger body, newer more holistic treatments and drugs are focusing on reminding those cells of who they are through epigenetic tags (switching off the genes and codes demanding unrestricted growth). The results have been amazing along with alternative treatments focusing on restoring balance to the body. Those of us rising up for sustainability are like the immune system of the earth or perhaps even 'imaginal cells' creating an entirely new way of being. But rather than eradicate the ‘bad’ cells, we are trying to remind people of who they really are and of their place on the earth and in the greater cosmos. Obviously this cancer model is just a model and not a perfect fit, but I think it describes our impact a little better. At the very least, it offers hope for us to restore balance with our earth.

     So…are you a virus, cancer cell, or awakened immune/imaginal cell?

Links References:

Agnos, Chris and George Monbiot (Producers). (Unknown). How Whales Change Climate.      Sustainable Human. [Web Video]. Retrieved from http://sustainablehuman.me/how-whales-change-climate/

Conservation International (2014). Julia Roberts is Mother Nature. Nature is Speaking. [Web Video]. Retrieved from http://natureisspeaking.org/mothernature.html

Cutts, Steve. (2012). Man. Youtube. [Web Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/user/steviecutts

Macy, Joanna. (2014, July 6). Five Ways of Being That Can Change the World. Films for Action. [Web Article/Excerpt]. Retrieved from http://www.filmsforaction.org/takeaction/five-ways-of-being-that-can-change-the-world/

NOVA Science Now. (2007, July 1). Epigenetics. PBS Video. [Documentary Series]. Retrieved from http://video.pbs.org/video/1525107473/

Sahtouris, Eilsabet. (Unknown). The Butterfly Story. Lifeweb. [Web Article]. Retrieved from http://www.sahtouris.com/#5_3,0,,1

Senge, Peter, Et. Al. (2008). Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future. Crown Business; Reprint edition (Janary 15, 2008).

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Instead of GMO's: The Potential Solutions to World Hunger

In order to solve world hunger we need to rethink our current relationships with how our food is produced and distributed and we need to rethink how we relate with each other and our planet.

Roots Community Garden in Las Vegas, NV. Photo courtesy of iSickles Media

The night was still warm while I sat on the simple chair listening to insect songs which sounded both familiar and strange. The stars seemed brighter than usual in the southern skies of Zambia. In the dim candlelight Batata (father) gestured to the saved pumpkin seeds spread on the mealie sack covering the hard packed earth. He told me the seeds were from pumpkins he grew before and pumpkins his father grew before and pumpkins his father grew and his father before that. I sat silently in awe staring at those seeds and the long link to the past they represented. How amazing is it to have such a connection to your ancestors and the land stretching back generations? Links like this seemed to be disappearing where I came from along with so many others.

Saving seeds links us with our deep past and growing our own food connects us with the soils of the earth, the water from the sky, and the sunshine coming from light-years away to warm and feed us. These connections are lost when we can’t save seeds and a laboratory is needed to serve as a middle-man between us and our food. Gardening and farming requires intimate knowledge of our natural environment and we need this intimacy with the natural world now more than ever. We are forgetting where our food comes from and how to grow it and by forgetting such vital information we are forgetting how to sustain ourselves in a most basic way. We are forgetting how to feed ourselves and have become dependent upon food companies to provide us with food and water—at a price.

Oddly, our current system of industrial food production and distribution isn’t organized with the goal of feeding people—it’s organized around making as much money as possible for certain people. Food companies are not asking, “How do we feed as many people as possible?” They are asking, “How do we make as much money as possible off of selling food to people?” The main block between people and food in this system, it’s most sacred rule, is if you don’t have money, you don’t get food.

We need a new pattern of organization. In the previous blog, GMO's Will Not End World Hunger, I pointed out the cause of world hunger isn’t due to inadequate food production; it is our way of distributing and granting access to the food that is causing world hunger. So, we need to change the way we distribute and allow access to food. This is simple to say, but complicated to do because it essentially requires us to completely rethink our economic system. It requires us to rethink our relationship with our food and how it is produced. It requires us to rethink our relationships with each other and with our entire planet. The solution to world hunger is allowing more people access to food through fairer distribution and trade. Instead of blaming poor people for being poor, let’s change our systemic pattern of organization instead. Local sustainable production through community gardens and urban agriculture will do far more to end world hunger than GMOs created in a laboratory. So will redesigning our current distribution systems to focus on actually feeding people as the primary goal instead of profit being the only consideration.

We need to take back control of food production by producing locally and consuming locally and we need to stop wasting so much of what is already produced. Support local urban agriculture, join a farmer co-op or CSA, and shop farmers markets. Start your own garden because, in my experience with gardeners, sharing food is inevitable! Support measures which make it easier to farm and garden in your area while working to change laws which make it illegal or very difficult. Learn more about co-ops and the emerging co-operative economy. Support organic food production which nourishes and conserves our soils while leaving room for other species on this earth. 

Sources and Things to Check Out:

My subversive (garden) plot. (Video)
  By Roger Doiron for TEDxDirigo.
  September 2011

A guerilla gardener in South Central LA. (Video)
  By Ron Finley for TED
  February 2013

Why Food Should be a Commons not a Commodity (Blog)
  By Jose Luis Vivero Pol for Shareable

It’s Now Legal to Catch a Raindrop in Colorado. (Article)
  By Kirk Johnson for the New York Times [U.S. Section]
  June 28, 2009

Trader Joe’s Ex-Exec Opens Nonprofit Grocery (Article)
  By Rachel Brugger for Urban Farm Online.com
  June 5, 2015

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Food Waste (HBO). (Video)
By Last Week Tonight on YouTube
Published July 19, 2015

The Story of Solutions (Video)
The Story of Stuff Project
Written by Annie Leonard and Jonah Sachs
Directed by Louis Fox
Produced by Free Range Studios
October 2013

APA format:

Brugger, Rachel. (2015, June 5). Trader Joe’s Ex-Exec Opens Nonprofit Grocery. UrbanFarmOnline.com. [Web Article]. Retrieved from http://www.urbanfarmonline.com/urban-farm-news/2015/06/05/trader-joes-exec-opens-nonprofit-grocery.aspx

Doiron, Roger. (2011, September). My subversive (garden) plot. TEDxDirigo. [Web Video].     Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/roger_doiron_my_subversive_garden_plot

Finley, Ron. (2013, February). A guerilla gardener in South Central LA. TED. [Web Video].Retrieved from                          http://www.ted.com/talks/ron_finley_a_guerilla_gardener_in_south_central_la?language=en

Free Range Studios. (Producers) & Fox, Louis (Director). (2013, October). The Story of Solutions. The Story of Stuff Project. [Web Video]. Retrieved from http://storyofstuff.org/movies/the-story-of-solutions/

Johnson, Kirk. (2009, June 28). It’s Now Legal to Catch a Raindrop in Colorado. New York Times, U.S. [Web Article]. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/29/us/29rain.html?_r=1&

Last Week Tonight. (2015, July 19). Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Food Waste (HBO). HBO. [Web Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8xwLWb0lLY

Vivero Pol, Jose Luis (2013, October 9). Why Food Should be a Commons not a Commodity. Shareable. [Blog]. Retrieved from http://www.shareable.net/blog/why-food-should-be-a-commons-not-a-commodity

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

GMOs Will Not End World Hunger

The promise of GMOs is to end world hunger by being able to produce even more food to feed the world. However, not growing enough food doesn’t really seem to be the problem. Looking deeper, the problem seems to be more with our system of distribution and how we allow access to the food we already produce.

Preparing my demonstration field in Zambia with a ripper instead of a traditional plow.

     In the 1970's, the developed ‘first world’ unleashed a new agricultural development agenda upon the developing ‘third world.’ It was supposed to end world hunger and eliminate poverty by replacing small traditional farming practices with modern industrial agriculture; creating dependency upon big machines and petroleum based fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and commercially produced seeds. It was called the Green Revolution even though it had nothing to do with eco-consciousness or sustainability.

     I saw the results of this Green Revolution during my Peace Corps service in Zambia (2009-2011) where I experienced the cycle of debt as farmers struggled to buy these now much needed synthetic inputs and commercially produced seeds every season. I saw crop outputs declining and people relocating from the exhausted soils of the southern region of Zambia because our industrial agricultural system depletes the soil instead of nourishing it. It seems this Green Revolution didn’t work and made things worse for the people it was supposed to help. Perhaps intentions were good, but the technology of industrial agriculture didn’t end world hunger.

     Now, a second Green Revolution is under way; however, this time it isn’t industrialization which will end hunger, it is the Genetically Modified Organism (GMO). The genetic manipulation involved in creating GMOs is not the same as the selective breeding and hybridization farmers have been practicing for thousands of years because traditional practices use natural processes to modify genes already existing within the plant’s genetic code. GMOs introduce completely new genes from a different species requiring a sophisticated laboratory. GMOs won’t nourish the soil either and still rely upon applications of toxic pesticides and herbicides which will continue to run-off into our water. We will keep doing more of what doesn’t work, polluting ourselves and our environment, while people still go hungry. GMOs represent a shallow solution to a problem that really requires a fundamental shift in how we do things. When we look at problems like world hunger, our first reaction is to think there isn’t enough food! So the solution seems to be we must grow more food! However, in reality, we already have more than enough food being grown and produced. Look around. How much food is thrown away on a daily basis? How much food do grocery stores throw away? If we are throwing away so much food, clearly we have more than enough. And with so much food being thrown away, why are so many people hungry here in the United States? If industrial agriculture and GMO technologies are the solutions to world hunger, why do we have hunger here in the developed world? Obviously in our current economic system, people aren’t allowed to eat the food unless they have enough money to buy it. The problem is actually our current system of distribution and a lack of access to the food we already produce. It is as simple and complex as that.

     Understanding this, it is easy to conclude that GMOs will not end world hunger, but could in fact perpetuate hunger while creating a slew of potentially devastating unintended consequences. We must never forget the primary motivation of any corporation, as required by our current economic system, is to make a profit for its shareholders at any cost; not to benefit humans or the planet. Are we sure we want a small handful of corporations, under these conditions, to have ownership of genes and so much control over our food supply? Are we sure we want to allow corporations to tinker with inserting genes from completely different organisms into our crops for profit? Is all of this risk while increasing the wealth and power of corporations under the guise of saving the world really what we want? Or is there another way that will better benefit people and planet?

     So, what are some solutions to this problem? Check out my next blog, Instead of GMOs!

Sources and things to check out:

3 vile myths too many food companies are shoving down our throats. Gross. (Web Article)
                By Franchesca Ramsey for Upworthy
                Accessed on March 12, 2015

100 years ago, people were eating things that most of us will never taste. So what happened? (Web Article)
                By Megan Kelley for Upworthy
                Accessed on March 12, 2015

A Silent Forest: The Growing Threat, Genetically Engineered Trees (Documentary)
                Directed by Ed Schehl
                2009 (USA)
                Produced by: Three Americas, Inc.
                Studio: Create Space Studio

An Invitation to Environmental Sociology, 2nd Edition.  (Textbook)
                By Michael Mayerfield Bell
                Published in 2004 by Pineforge Press: Thousand Oaks

Environment and Society: Human Perspectives on Environmental Issues, 3rd Ed. (Textbook)
                By Charles L. Harper, Jr.
                Published by Prentice Hall

Food, Inc. (Documentary)
                Directed by Robert Kenner
                2008 (USA)
                Produced by Participant Media

GE Trees May Be Even More Damaging to the Environment than GE Foods (Web Article)
                By Dr. Mercola
                Published on April 27, 2013

GMO OMG (Documentary)
Directed by Jeremy Seifert
2013 (USA)

Seeds of Change (Web Article)
            By the Take Part Staff
            Published on December 1, 2014

APA Format:

Bell, M.M. (2004). An Invitation to Environmental Sociology, 2nd Edition.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.

Dr. Mercola. (2013, April 27). GE Trees May Be Even More Damaging to the Environment than GE Foods. [Web Article]. Retrieved From http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/04/27/ge-trees.aspx

Harper, C. L., Jr. (2003). Environment and Society: Human Perspectives on Environmental Issues, 3rd Ed. Prentice Hall.

Kenner, R. (Director). (2008). Food, Inc. USA: Participant Media.

Kelly, M. (Accessed 2015, March 12). 100 years ago, people were eating things that most of us will never taste. So what happened? Upworthy. [Web Article]. Retireved from http://www.upworthy.com/100-years-ago-people-were-eating-things-that-most-of-us-will-never-taste-so-what-happened?c=upw1

Kunau, J. Howerton, J. Kucinich, E. (Producers) & Seifert, J. (Director). (2013). GMO OMG. USA.

Ramsey, F. (Accessed 2015, March 12). 3 vile myths too many food companies are shoving down our throats. Gross. Upworthy. [Web Article]. Retrieved from http://www.upworthy.com/3-vile-myths-too-many-food-companies-are-shoving-down-our-throats-gross?c=click

Take Part. (2014, December 1). Seeds of Change. Take Part. [Web Article]. Retrieved from http://www.takepart.com/video/2014/12/01/seeds-change?cmpid=foodinc-fb

Three Americas, Inc. (Producers) & Schehl, E. (Director). (2009). A Silent Forest: The Growing Threat, Genetically Engineered Trees.  USA: Create Space Studio. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUUYaTz0Brg