Sunday, April 12, 2009

Toxic Propaganda Machine Reveals Itself

The authors of the MACA letter are not conscientious farmers facing the reality of uncertain weather, evolving pests, rampant disease, and fluctuating markets. The authors make and distribute agricultural chemicals (it's a requirement for MACA membership) and they include representatives from companies with names like Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences, Syngenta, BASF Corporation, and Bayer CropScience, some of the giants of modern pesticides, herbicides, and genetically modified crops.

You can counter the lies and propaganda of these megacorps by adding your voice. Read on...

Subject: Tell Pesticide Peddlers: We support Michelle Obama's organic garden.

Dear Friend,

The Mid America CropLife Association (MACA) has a bone to pick with Michelle Obama. MACA represents chemical companies that produce pesticides, and they are angry that - wait for it - Michelle Obama isn't using chemicals in her organic garden at the White House.

I am not making this up.

In an email they forwarded to their supporters, a MACA spokesman wrote, "While a garden is a great idea, the thought of it being organic made [us] shudder." MACA went on to publish a letter it had sent to the First Lady asking her to consider using chemicals -- or what they call "crop protection products" -- in her garden.

Michelle Obama and has done America a great service by publicizing the importance of nutritious food for kids (she's growing the garden in partnership with a local elementary school class) as well as locally grown produce as an important, environmentally sustainable food source.

I just signed a petition telling MACA's board members to stop using Michelle Obama's garden to spread propaganda about produce needing to be sprayed with chemicals. I hope you will, too.

Please have a look and take action.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Factory Food Feudalism Film

How much do we really know about the food we buy at our local supermarkets and serve to our families?

In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that's been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government's regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation's food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, insecticide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won't go bad, but we also have new strains of e coli--the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults.

Featuring interviews with such experts as Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma) along with forward thinking social entrepreneurs like Stonyfield Farm's Gary Hirshberg and Polyface Farms' Joel Salatin, Food, Inc. reveals surprising -- and often shocking truths -- about what we eat, how it's produced, who we have become as a nation and where we are going from here.

Review from Variety Magazine

With a constituency limited to anyone who eats, "Food, Inc." is a civilized horror movie for the socially conscious, the nutritionally curious and the hungry. Yes, it has a deceptively cheery palette, but helmer Robert Kenner's doc -- which does for the supermarket what "Jaws" did for the beach -- marches straight into the dark side of cutthroat agri-business, corporatized meat and the greedy manipulation of both genetics and the law. Doc biz may be in the doldrums, but "Food, Inc." is so aesthetically polished and politically urgent, theatrical play seems a no-brainer, though it won't do much for popcorn sales.

Corn is the vegetable-as-villain in "Food, Inc.," which builds on the work of nutritionists, journalists and activists Eric Schlosser ("Fast Food Nation") and Michael Pollan ("The Omnivore's Dilemma") to show how multinationals have taken over the production of food. As the movie tells us, corn -- which today assumes dozens of ubiquitous identities, notably high-fructose corn syrup -- is kept at unrealistically low prices by the government, is fed to animals that haven't evolved to eat it (such as the cow), causes those animals to develop maladies that must be treated with antibiotics (which are passed on to consumers), and has led to the mutation of new strains of the E.coli virus, which sickens tens of thousands each year.

The whole mess is exacerbated by opportunistic politics -- tools of Big Agriculture running the very regulatory agencies that are supposed to protect us -- and consumers who have become accustomed to eating whatever they want whenever they want, in quantities they don't need.

Fast food is presented as having turned meat production into a sadistic exercise in animal torture, something that's been seen in documentaries before, and it isn't pretty. But "Food, Inc." delves deeply into the case of Monsanto, which has monopolized the growing of corn by patenting the biology inside it -- and has been allowed to litigate against insurgent farmers through court decisions rendered by the likes of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, a onetime Monsanto lawyer. The whole system, "Food, Inc." tells us, is fixed.

That the filmmakers dress up all this information in glossy graphics, splashes of color and Mark Adler's often buoyant (and ironic) score is ingenious, because the artifice of the film's aesthetic is always subtly emphasizing the artificiality of the food. Schlosser and Pollan are eloquent Virgils guiding the viewer into the third circle of food hell. But then Joel Salatin -- a major figure in "Omnivore's Dilemma" who owns and operates a self- sustaining poultry-and-pig farm in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley -- arrives to throw some natural light onto the proceedings and illuminate just what can be done to salvage agriculture and our digestive systems.

Salatin is an infectiously enthusiastic champion of his own system, and the film needs him, because others in the movie -- such as a working-class Los Angeles family that can't afford fruit but can afford Burger King -- keep showing the insanity of the system.

Disturbing as it is, "Food, Inc." doesn't present some doomsday scenario. People can make a difference, it says: After all, look what happened to Big Tobacco.

— Variety

Monday, April 6, 2009

Rocket Stoves Rock!

Permaculturist Paul Wheaton just sent me a link to this new video featuring the extremely fuel-efficient build-it-yourself rocket stove / mass heater. It offers, in Paul's words, "A compilation of 12 rocket heaters, 8 video clips of rocket mass heaters, 2 video clips of pocket rockets, 1 picture from the cover of the book on rocket mass heaters and one drawing from me making a feeble attempt to explain what these look like. And look! A peek at the author Ianto Evans!"

You can watch several other rocket stove videos on YouTube here.

Enjoy this series of rocket stove construction photos by Erica Ritter at her Picasa webpix album.