Thursday, July 29, 2010

An earthship touches down in Haiti

According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, 64-year-old Michael Reynolds visited Haiti earlier this month and — never one to rest on his laurels — got right to work. Within four days, with the help of a small team from Earthship Biotecture and nonprofit group Grassroots United, Reynolds rounded up a crew of 40 eager locals, ages 4 to 50, to pitch in and construct a 120 square-foot earthship under his guidance. Like other earthships, the earthquake- and hurricane-proof abode is built from dirt-filled tires (the standard earthship building blocks), plastic bottles, and other waste materials. (From Mother Nature Network)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Feeding humanity in a future of declining resources and environmental crisis

The Food and Farming Transition: Toward a Post Carbon Food System

Richard Heinberg, Michael Bomford

The American food system rests on an unstable foundation of massive fossil fuel inputs. It must be reinvented in the face of declining fuel stocks. The new food system will use less energy, and the energy it uses will come from renewable sources. We can begin the transition to the new system immediately through a process of planned, graduated, rapid change. The unplanned alternative-reconstruction from scratch after collapse-would be chaotic and tragic.

The seeds of the new food system have already been planted. America's farmers have been reducing their energy use for decades. They are using less fertilizer and pesticide. The number of organic farms, farmers' markets, and CSA operations is growing rapidly. More people are thinking about where their food comes from.

These are important building blocks, but much remains to be done. Our new food system will require more farmers, smaller and more diversified farms, less processed and packaged food, and less long-distance hauling of food. Governments, communities, businesses, and families each have important parts to play in reinventing a food system that functions with limited renewable energy resources to feed our population for the long term.
Read the full report:
»  Download the PDF (1.9 MB)
»  Download the PDF (print quality, 9.2 MB)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Put Your Money Where Your Food Is

Don't pee in our pool...

Our Toxic Waterways: Flushing Away Our Future?

(from Eating Liberally)

Big River Trailer from Wicked Delicate Films on Vimeo.
Frustrated swimming pool owners in thousands of backyards across this country have posted a sign that pleads "We don't swim in your toilet, so please don't pee in our pool!"
The message is crude but clear. Nobody wants to wallow in somebody else's waste--or our own, for that matter. So why do we treat our seas like sewers? Why do we contaminate our streams, rivers, lakes and oceans with a horrible hodgepodge of chemicals, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, plastic debris and waste?
Evidently, the world's waterways are a giant toilet into which we can dump anything and everything, and then simply flush it all "away." As if river currents and rolling waves will pull our pollution into some giant cosmic garbage disposal.
Industrial agriculture's synthetic fertilizers have given us lush green lawns and amber waves of grain. But the run-off from all those yards and farms seeps into our water table and feeds the "red tides", those toxic algae blooms that cause massive die-offs of aquatic plants and animals.
Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, the filmmakers who fondly documented their brief stint as Iowa corn farmers in King Corn, explore agribiz's downstream downside in Big River. In this thirty-minute sequel, Cheney and Ellis revisit their Iowa acre and trace its toxic trail all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.
The film will make its Manhattan debut on March 15th at the Brecht Forum, followed by a panel discussion with Cheney, Ellis, King Corn director Aaron Woolf, Hudson Valley farmer and MacArthur genius Cheryl Rogowski, and Steve Rosenberg of Scenic Hudson.
The screening is a benefit for the Food Systems Network NYC, a non-profit organization whose members (myself included) are dedicated to bringing fresh, wholesome foods to all New Yorkers and supporting our region's farmers, both urban and rural.

Slow Money, Slow Food, Slow Down


WATCH The Food and Climate Connection

The Food and Climate Connection from WhyHunger on Vimeo.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Let's Grow Some More Like This One

From Seedlings to Servings: 11-Year-Old Grows Tons of Veggies for the Homeless

It all began in third grade, when Katie Stagliano's 40-pound cabbage fed 275 homeless people. Now, Katie's six gardens have produced over 4,000 pounds of vegetables to feed the needy.
katie.jpgWhen Katie Stagliano was in third grade, she planted a cabbage in her family's small garden. When it grew to an astounding 40 pounds, she donated it to a soup kitchen, where it was made into meals for 275 people (with the help of ham and rice). "I thought, 'Wow, with that one cabbage I helped feed that many people?'" says Katie, now entering sixth grade. "I could do much more than that."
So Katie started planting vegetable gardens as part of her nonprofit Katie's Krops — she has six right now — including one the length of a football field at her school in her hometown of Summerville, S.C. Classmates, her family and other people in the community help plant and water, and Bonnie Plants donates seedlings. This past year, Katie took her commitment to a new level: she has given soup kitchens over 2,000 pounds of lettuce, tomatoes and other vegetables. Katie and her helpers are now harvesting the spring planting, and another 1,200 pounds will be donated by October.
"She just walks in like a proud little girl with her treasures in her arm," says Sue Hanshaw, CEO of Tricounty Family Ministries, the soup kitchen in Charleston, S.C. where Katie first brought her 40-pound crucifer. "I love what she exudes, caring for others. It's made a big impact on a lot of people."
Says Elois Mackey, 49, a formerly homeless mother of two who has received a weekly vegetable delivery from Katie since September: "She is showing that you can help other people no matter how young you are. I love the vegetables she brings."
katieportrait.jpgKatie is a well-spoken 11-year-old who juggles the life of a school child with that of a world-changer. Swim practice, tennis matches, and studying (she has had the highest GPA of her class for the last four years) are sandwiched between daily waterings and tending.  "It makes me feel good," says Katie. "I feel bad for those people who have to go to Palmetto house [a homeless shelter where she and residents recently planted a garden], but I feel good that I'm helping people."
Katie's desire to help as well as create sprouted early. "She's always been very inquisitive and wants to go above and beyond," says her mom, Stacy, 41. "It's like, 'What about this and why aren't we doing this?"
Since the age of four, Katie has placed first in competitions that include inventing a toothbrush now on sale that teaches water conservation, for the Dr. Fresh company. "When you put the toothbrush in your mouth to brush," says Katie, "it plays a rap song that says, 'Turn off the water when you brush your teeth, and you can save eight gallons of water.'"
As a third grader, upset about a local drought, Katie decided her school, Pinewood Prep, needed to conserve water. Katie wrote the headmaster over Christmas break, suggesting how the school could better conserve. Soon after, the high school's advanced placement environmental studies teacher called to meet with her and work on a water conservation project. Katie's suggestions for rain barrels to catch water and other ideas were soon implemented throughout the school. "As a parent, I am so moved," says Stacy. "I say to her, 'I hope some day when you are a parent, you have a kid who is as amazing as you so you can see it from a mom's perspective.'"katieandfriends.jpg
Much of the thanks goes to Stacy and Katie's devoted group of helpers, including her 7-year-old brother, John Michael, who has toiled in two of the gardens to plan pumpkin patches.
Since February of last year, master gardener Lisa Turocy has not only sat shoulder to shoulder with Katie planting and giving advice, she's transformed her entire front yard into a garden with 600 seedlings. "If I can help her change the world," says Turocy, "that's awesome."
Locals Linda and Bob Baker, golf professionals with 41 acres of farmland set along a rutted dirt road on the outskirts of Summerville, gave Katie some acreage for a garden. Bob lugged his John Deer tractor to Katie's school to till the soil, and taught Katie how to drive the machine. Says Bob: "It makes you feel so good to see someone that young with that amount of compassion, step in there and really make a difference."
As one of Katie's best friends told Tonic, most kids their age mainly like to watch TV and play on computers; they don't like to do what Katie does. Another friend, Anna Semar, 11, inspired by Katie to grow her own vegetable garden, says: "If there were more people like Katie the world would be a better place."
Katie wants to get more kids across the country growing gardens to help others, so she's holding a contest and offering the winners a grant. And, Katie will come and help start each garden. Click here to apply.
If you want to donate to Katie's nonprofit, Katie's Krops, she needs money for irrigation equipment, fertilizer and other supplies for her six gardens.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

When Will You Be "Mad As Hell and Not Going to Take It Anymore"?

Jensen and Hedges
PM Press / Truthdig
What is it going to take for concerned and engaged citizens to finally feel as though some crucial threshold has been crossed—that our nation’s political system and the global corporate culture it both serves and feeds into will never represent them or serve their needs? Continuing along that line, what’s to be done once that realization has hit home, as it has for authors Chris Hedges and Derrick Jensen? Both Hedges and Jensen offer their ideas in this July 5 interview with Mount Royal University professor Michael Truscello.Listen to this powerful talk from Truthdig.


Recommended Reading

Now available in the Permaculture Activist book catalog

NEW! The Barefoot Architect: A Handbook for Green Building
by Johan van Lengen
720 pp, 2008

The first English translation of the international bestseller dripping with easy-to-understand drawings.
A former UN worker and prominent architect, Johan van Lengen has seen firsthand the desperate need for a "greener" approach to housing in impoverished tropical climates. This comprehensive book clearly explains every aspect of this endeavor, including design (siting, orientation, climate consideration), materials (sisal, cactus, bamboo, earth), and implementation. The author emphasizes throughout the book what is inexpensive and sustainable. Included are sections discussing urban planning, small-scale energy production, cleaning and storing drinking water, and dealing with septic
waste, and all information is applied to three distinct tropical regions: humid areas, temporate areas, and desert climates. Hundreds of explanatory drawings by van Lengen allow even novice builders to get started.
Basic design, climate, and site planning for humid and dry climates. Includes info on Adobe, rammed earth, bamboo, plaster, wood, concrete and ferro-cement; Foundations, roofs, floors, walls, doors, windows, and eco-techniques; Solar heating, water-powered electricity, natural cooling and ventilation; Water purification, pumps, cisterns, septic tanks, composting toilets
This book is for people who dream of building a simple home. It is also for those in the building trades: carpenters, masons, plumbers, and artisans, as well as for urban planners, rural technicians, and small community designers.
It covers basic design, use of a great variety of natural materials, construction details, natural heating and cooling, and water and sanitation techniques. Although many of the methods shown are traditional, more modern techniques are shown as well.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

How Sugar Ruins Your Health

This list is from Julia Ross's site The Diet Cure

  • Sugar can suppress the immune system.
  • Sugar upsets the minerals in the body.
  • Sugar can cause hyperactivity, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and crankiness in children.
  • Sugar produces a significant rise in triglycerides, a leading cause of heart disease.
  • Sugar contributes to the reduction in defense against bacterial infection.
  • Sugar can cause kidney damage.
  • Sugar reduces high density lipoproteins.
  • Sugar leads to chromium deficiency.
  • Sugar leads to cancer of the breast, ovaries, intestines, prostate and rectum.
  • Sugar consumption is the top cause of type II diabetes, as it increases levels of glucose and insulin. 
  • Sugar causes copper deficiency.
  • Sugar interferes with absorption of calcium and magnesium.
  • Sugar raises the level of neurotransmitters called serotonin.
  • Sugar weakens eyesight.
  • Sugar can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels).
  • Sugar can produce an acidic stomach.
  • Sugar can raise adrenalin levels in children.
  • Sugar malabsorption is frequent in patients with functional bowel disease.
  • Sugar consumption can cause aging.
  • Sugar consumption can lead to alcoholism.
  • Sugar consumption is the top cause of tooth decay.
  • Sugar use contributes to obesity.
  • High intake of sugar increases the risk of Crohn's Disease, and ulcerative colitis.
  • Sugar can cause changes associated with gastric or duodenal ulcers.
  • Sugar can cause arthritis.
  • Sugar can cause asthma.
  • Sugar can cause candida albicans (yeast infections).
  • Sugar can cause gallstones to form
  • Sugar can cause heart disease.
  • Sugar can cause appendicitis.
  • Sugar can cause multiple sclerosis.
  • Sugar can cause hemorrhoids.
  • Sugar can cause varicose veins.
  • Sugar can elevate glucose and insulin responses in oral contraceptive users.
  • Sugar can lead to periodontal disease.
  • Sugar can contribute to osteoporosis.
  • Sugar contributes to saliva acidity.
  • Sugar can cause a decrease in insulin sensitivity.
  • Sugar leads to decreased glucose tolerance.
  • Sugar can decrease growth hormone.
  • Sugar can increase cholesterol.
  • Sugar can increase the systolic blood pressure.
  • Sugar can cause drowsiness and decreased activity in children.
  • Sugar can cause migraine headaches.
  • Sugar can interfere with the absorption of protein.
  • Sugar causes food allergies.
  • Sugar can contribute to diabetes.
  • Sugar can cause toxemia during pregnancy.
  • Sugar can contribute to eczema in children.
  • Sugar can cause cardiovascular disease.
  • Sugar can impair the structure of DNA.
  • Sugar can change the structure of protein.
  • Sugar can make our skin age by changing the structure of collagen.
  • Sugar can cause cataracts.
  • Sugar can cause emphysema.
  • Sugar can cause atherosclerosis.
  • Sugar can promote an elevation of low density proteins (LDL).
  • Sugar can increase free radicals in the blood stream.
  • Sugar can cause overeating

Monday, July 5, 2010

National Guard Learns Permaculture!

Is this a positive trend or just military / corporate exploitation and co-option of permaculture?  Time will tell. Thanks to the folks and supporters at the Permaculture Institute. 

National Guard Learns Permaculture Skills to Take to Afghanistan 

Northern New Mexico, the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and Afghanistan all share the same type of unique ecosystem, that in turn gives rise to particular land cultivation traditions, types of plants and animals, and cultural approaches to natural resource management. This is why Oklahoma National Guard selected New Mexico as their training ground for their Agricultural Development Team (ADT) deploying to Afghanistan in the Fall of 2010. In addition, ADT leadership determined that permaculture with its diverse range of topics and its holistic approach to design was a good match for the needs of their mission.

Permaculture Institute, with its 20+ years of experience of teaching and practicing permaculture in this bioregion, created a special, and practical permaculture intensive training to meet ADT needs. A team of instructors, farmers, landscape ecologists, orchardists, beekeepers and permaculture practitioners was called to action. A dynamic and informative 15-day course had information that was very broad and deep in the areas required by the Guard.

The training included a five-day introduction to methods and
approaches of permaculture design, ethics, methodology, pattern understanding, reading of the landscape and landscape ecology. This was followed by a ten-day intensive hands-on training using the permaculture tool kit (see topics listed below). National Guardsmen participated in farm chores, harnessed draft animals, plowed fields, turned compost, harvested chickens, made goat cheese after milking a 15-goat herd, opened bee hives and much more. They also received formal classroom instruction and a long list of resources to take along.

We didn’t expect the Guardsmen attending the class to retain all the information thrown at them but hoped that at the end of the course they would have a very strong background in the field of sustainability for their projects in Afghanistan. It was an honor to work with these 10 men and 4 women who show such dedication to their mission to help the villagers of Afghanistan. Surely they will succeed!

Course Topics (not listed in order):

  • Soil fertility, mulching, composting
  • Landscape ecology - water on the land, soil conservation - in the field
  • Broadscale land restoration techniques
  • Flood Irrigation (Acequia System) Use - in the field observation + hands-on
  • Use of animals for land restoration & weed control
  • Food forests - field trip to 2 sites
  • Animal forage systems - in the field observation + hands-on
  • Pollination Hedges, Windbreaks, Plant Guilds
  • Food storage - field trip
  • Using draft animals, tilling/cultivating the earth with animals - hands-on
  • Chicken forage systems, harvesting chickens - hands-on
  • Sheep shearing - hands-on
  • Introduction to spinning wool, weaving - hands-on
  • Using herbs as dyes - hands-on
  • Using herbs for animal health - observation
  • Topbar beekeeping - hands-on
  • Orchard pruning - hands-on
  • Grafting on existing fruit trees - hands-on
  • Layering berry plants, plant propagation - hands-on
  • Milking goats - hands-on
  • Cheese making in field conditions - hands-on
  • On-farm seed breeding and seed saving
  • Small scale farming - observation
  • Crop Rotations, Use of Cover Crops
  • High-altitude Farming
  • Daily Farm Chores - hands-on
  • Attendance and Observation of Three Farmers’ Markets

Special thanks to Scott Pittman, Arina Pittman, Toby Hemenway, Joel Glanzberg, Rebecca Belletto, Lynda Prim, Martha Davis, Mary & Charles Zemach, staff of Espanola Valley Fiber Arts Center, Liesel Orend, Bob Davis, Gemini Farm, Greg Nussbaum, Patricia Pantano, Seeds of Change Research Farm, students and staff of Camino de Paz Farm & School, Les Crowder, Lots of Life in One Place Farm, Karen Koch & Luminaria team.

Follow 2-45th in the news: Farm Help on the front line - National Guardsmen Learn Agricultural Skills to Share with Afghanis

Friday, July 2, 2010

Monsanto Says, "Buy Organic to Avoid GMOs"

Recent news from Organic Consumers Association (who should change their name to Organic Citizens Association. "Consumer" is the  name corporations spliced onto us.)

"If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it." - Norman Braksick, president of Asgrow Seed Co., a subsidiary of Monsanto, quoted in the Kansas City Star, March 7, 1994

Ever wonder what Monsanto's executives feed their kids? The following quote, taken directly from Monsanto's Web site, shows that Monsanto's savvy employees understand that if they want to avoid genetically engineered foods, all they have to do is buy organic:

"Individuals who make a personal decision not to consume food containing GM [genetically modified] ingredients can easily avoid such products. In the U.S., they can purchase products that are certified as organic under the National Organic Program. They can also buy products which companies have voluntarily labeled as not containing GM ingredients. The law allows for voluntary labeling so long as the information is accurate, truthful and avoids misleading consumers about the food. Monsanto supports both options."

Of course, Monsanto's bottom line business model relies on misleading consumers, monopolizing seeds, buying off scientists and politicians, and strong-arming farmers. They're not afraid of organic, so long as certified organic crops and foods remain a small niche market. Unfortunately Monsanto's business model seems to be working, at least in North America. The overwhelming majority of corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, and sugar beets grown in the U.S. and Canada are Monsanto's patented GMO varieties, despite mounting evidence that these "Frankencrops" are bad for the environment and hazardous to animal and human health. While nearly everyone in North America has eaten genetically modified foods, only 26% believe that they have. The only way to turn this around is to label genetically engineered foods, which Monsanto, of course, opposes. They understand that health and environmentally conscious consumers are increasingly becoming aware of the dangers of GMOs, and that if given the choice through mandatory labeling, as in the European Union, they will avoid them or boycott them.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Behind the Corporate Curtain

I'm reading Thom Hartmann's latest book Unequal Protection: How Corporations Became "People" and How You Can Fight Back, 2nd Edition, wherein I have learned some startling things about the reasons that "our" government "of, by, and for the people" has become, instead, of, by, and for the corporations.

Wonder why your liberties are shrinking, your vote not counting? You better read this. Think "big government" is the total cause of your affliction and misfortune? You're part right...and part wrong. The main reason it's gotten SO big and controlling is that corporations have basically taken it over. The recent Supreme Court decision, which tossed out corporate campaign finance limits, is just the latest in a long string of judgments that have steadily eroded people rights and created huge inequalities.

The first Tea Party revolt was, as some seem to have forgotten, against transnational corporate domination of the early American economy by the East India Company. Modern Tea Partiers owe it to themselves to understand this fundamental truth and to rechampion the same cause that birthed the American Revolution and our nation.

Chapter 6 provided a surprising list of 19th-century laws, common to most states at the time, regulating corporations. If American citizens (not "consumers" by the way; that's the corporate name for us) still had the powers once provided by these kinds of limits, we would be enjoying a cleaner world, more freedom, and much greater happiness.  Here's that list:

- Corporations were required to have a clear purpose, to be fulfilled but not exceeded.
- Corporations' licenses to business were revocable by the state legislature if they exceeded or did not fulfill their chartered purpose(s).
- The state legislature could revoke a corporation's charter if it misbehaved.
- The act of incorporation did not relieve corporate management or stockholders/owners of responsibility or liability for corporate acts.
- As a matter of course, corporation officers, directors, or agents couldn't break the law and avoid punishment by claiming they were "just doing their job" when committing crimes but instead could be held criminally liable for violating the law.
- State (not Federal) courts heard cases where corporations or their agents were accused of breaking the law or harming the public.
- Directors of the corporation were required to come from among the stockholders.
- Corporations had to have their headquarters and meetings in the state where their principal place of business was located.
Corporation charters were granted for a specific period of time, such as twenty or thirty years (instead of being granted "in perpetuity", as is now the practice.
Corporations were prohibited from owning stock in other corporations, to prevent them from extending their power inappropriately.
Corporations' real estate holdings were limited to what was necessary to carry out their specific purposes.
- Corporations were prohibited from making any political contributions, direct or indirect.
- Corporations were prohibited from making charitable or civic donations outside of their specific purposes.
- State legislatures could set the rates that some monopoly corporations could charge for their products or services.
- All corporation records and documents were open to the legislature or the state attorney general.

Now imagine the country if these laws were still in place. You'll begin to understand why Thom chose the following titles for some chapters in his book...
     Unequal Uses for the Bill of Rights
     Unequal Regulation
     Unequal Protection from Risk
     Unequal Taxes
     Unequal Responsibility for Crime
     Unequal Privacy
     Unequal Citizenship and Access to the Commons
     Unequal Wealth
     Unequal Trade
     Unequal Media
     Unequal Influence

Here's a few reviewer's comments:

"If you wonder why the corporate world constantly lurches from malaise to oppression to governmental corruption and back, Unequal Protection reveals the untold story. Beneath the success and rise of American enterprise is an untold history that is antithetical to every value Americans hold dear. This is a seminal work, a godsend really, a clear message to every citizen about the need to reform our country, laws, and companies."
--Paul Hawken, author, Natural Capitalism

"This extraordinary book combines meticulous historical and legal research with a clear and compelling writing style to demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt the incompatibility of corporate personhood with democracy, the market economy, and the well-being of society. Complete with a practical program for essential reform to restore the rights of real persons - including model legislation - it is essential reading and an invaluable reference work for every citizen who cares about democracy, justice, and the human future. Hartmann combines a remarkable piece of historical rersearch with a brilliant literary style to tell the grand story of corporate corruption and its consequences for society with the force and readability of a great novel. I intended to take a first quick glance and then couldn't put it down."
--David C. Korten, author of When Corporations Rule the World

"Unequal Protection should be in the hands of every thinking American. If we do not awaken soon, democracy will be replaced by a new 'Third Reich' of corporate tyranny. To be aware of the danger is the responsibility of each of us. No one has told us the truth better than Thom Hartmann. Read it!"
--Gerry Spence, author of Give Me Liberty

"Unequal Protection is a blueprint for revitalizing the spirit of American democracy. Sometimes you have to understand the bad news in order to appreciate the good news. Thom Hartmann connects the dots in a way that is a tremendous gift for our generation of Americans."
--Marianne Williamson, author, Healing the Soul of America
(see more cartoons by this artist at

"Essential reading for anyone concerned about the future of democracy, both here and abroad. With devastating precision and well-reasoned passion, Thom Hartmann shows the reader precisely how the corporate entity gained such a perilously dominant role in the life of a nation whose founders meant for its politics to respond to the concerns of people and communities, not return-seeking corporations."
--Jeff Gates, president, Shared Capitalism Institute, author, Democracy At Risk

"We thought it was only in science fiction that things created by humans could actually take over what is inherently our human heritage. But Thom Hartmann shows how we've already let that happen on a frightening scale - not in Frankenstein's monsters or Kubrick's creeping computer Hal - but in the corporations that present their friendly 'faces' to us as if we have nothing to fear from this ultimate usurpation of our rights as real humans."
--Ed Ayres, Senior Editor at Worldwatch and author, God's Last Offer

"For years, Thom Hartmann has been asking the important questions and inspiring people to act on their solutions. Now he tackles one of the hardest - how democracy in America and worldwide has been eroded by unaccountable corporate power. He looks at the structures that encourage destructive behavior and offers alternatives. Fascinating history told engagingly. We need books like this to find a way forward."
--Paul Loeb, author, Soul of a Citizen

"Hartmann goes where no person has gone before - towards uncovering the true history of how corporations and the wealthy people behind them transformed our law and culture to usurp democracy. This book is an inspiration to all groups and communities and explains why we must rethink our engagement in single issue struggles and move towards the assertion of direct, democratic control over corporations."
--Thomas Linzey, Esq., Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

Read this book...please. 
(You can enjoy all of M. Wuerker's latest excellent political cartoons at