Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Genetic engineering is a threat to food security, especially in a changing climate. The introduction of genetically manipulated organisms by choice or by accident grossly undermines sustainable agriculture and in so doing, severely limits the choice of food we can eat.

Once GE plants are released into the environment, they are out of control. If anything goes wrong - they are impossible to recall.

GE contamination threatens biodiversity respected as the global heritage of humankind, and one of our world's fundamental keys to survival.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Defining Characteristics

From the ever useful and information-rich Energy Bulletin

Published Mar 15 2011 by Resilient Homes blog,
Permaculture: Deconstructing a Definition

by Lisa Fernandes

The question “What is permaculture?” is notoriously difficult to answer in one sentence. It defies the “sound bite” culture we live in.

Let’s start with what permaculture is NOT. Seriously, it has nothing to do with permafrost. It is not sheet-mulching, though some may use that as a particular strategy. It is not a variant (or deviant:) of “organic,” though it may use many organic growing strategies. It is not getting a bunch of people together to stomp some mud in a kiddie pool and build a cob oven, though that’s a pretty darn good time in most permaculture circles. Finally, it is not some rarefied ivory tower of secret knowledge that only those who have worshipped at the church of the holy sacred PDC (permaculture design certificate) get to experience.

Permaculture, at its core, is a design process (1) and set of techniques (2) for creating resilient (3) and [truly] sustainable (4) human habitats and healthy ecosystems. (5) Now, I will footnote the daylights out of this definition, which is one of many definitions currently in use, all of which have virtues and drawbacks.

(1) Yes, you have to do design, even if it’s only in your own head, that helps chart a course from where you are today to where you want to be going. Permaculture design, unlike many other design disciplines, is informed by a set of design ethics and principles which are flexible and powerful. Think of the permaculture design as a really, really well-thought out “map” for creating the best possible chance of manifesting a particular vision or set of goals. As with most maps, a printed,visual version of that is often far more helpful (especially in group settings) than that map you keep in your head. And, as with most maps, they only work if you know where you are and can formulate an idea on where you want to go.

(2) The techniques are not the discipline. Sheet mulching, swaling, herb spirals, flowforms, de-paving, renewable energy, cordwood saunas (OK, this list could run into next week, but you get the idea) are NOT permaculture, they are techniques and strategies that we may employ in the service of good design based in real, articulated goals and visions. Those techniques and strategies may be invoked when needed, just like you choose the best tool for the job out of your tool box. Permaculture design is one of the most powerful ways to expand, organize and then intelligently use the toolkit available to you.

(3) Resilient: the ability to withstand shocks or disruptions and the ability to bounce back and/or rebuild with the least possible amount of distress or dysfunction. I would posit that resilience comes in a bunch of flavors: personal, household, neighborhood/community. There are more, but for the purposes of permaculture design, these are the most common types of resilience that need attention and can be enhanced with good design. Creating integrated, healthy, whole ecosystems (within which human habitats are embedded) calls for organizing ourselves in a way that is not beholden to unlimited cheap fossil fuels and not reliant on stable, unchanging climate patterns.

(4) Sustainable as a word gets put in the same bucket as “green” and “eco” for me. It’s like the hackneyed photo of the human hands holding soil and teensy weensy seedling. They are overused, examples of greenwashing and mean many different things to many different people. Technically, it means something that can be continued…what?…. indefinitely? As one of my students said recently, even “dysfunction can be continued indefinitely.” So, is that sustainable? I don’t have the new definition, so I use the word very sparingly and ask others what they mean when they use it.

(5) A sort of core, or common, view among permaculture folks is that humans are a part of, and not separate from, the non-human ecosystems around us. Therefore, our fate is embedded in the fate of the interconnected set of relationships and elements in the broader world. As such, many of us use the term “landscape” to include people, buildings, villages, etc. along with forests, fields and streams. It is one integrated whole and the designs we create do focus on the “landscape” which includes food production, ecosystem health, soil fertility, buildings, energy, waste, economic systems and much more. Permaculture also seeks to learn from and work far more closely with the patterns of organization found in parts of our ecosystems that have evolved over several billion years. So we often model our design work and strategies on “patterns in nature” and encourage something called “pattern literacy.“

Every single one of these footnotes is worthy of complete exploration in its own right, and I may get around to that via this blog and encourage others to do so as well.

And, while this is all very conceptual, one of the powerful things about permaculture is that it tends to attract real roll-up-your-sleeves and let’s-get-this-done kind of people. We do spend time thinking through design and learning new ways of working with and in the world, but almost to a one, permaculturists are actively changing the way we live, right now, starting at our own doorsteps and working out from there.

Editorial Notes
About the author:
Lisa Fernandes is the organizer and founding member of Portland Maine Permaculture and has been a student of permaculture and green design since 1992. She is a certified permaculture designer, team trainer and group facilitator and owned a training & consulting business for several years. She studied political science at Boston College and then environmental studies at The Evergreen State College while designing & implementing municipal waste reduction & recycling programs with a focus on organic waste recycling. Lisa is a gardener, certified Master Composter and has studied medicinal plants for nearly twenty years. She has worked in the public, private and non-profit sectors and currently brings her varied experience to developing & delivering sustainability and resilience-building events and permaculture designs for the local community. She currently serves on the Cape Farm Alliance and provides staff support to the Eat Local Foods Coalition of Maine (ELFC) and sits on the Southern Maine Partnership for Sustainable Communities. She is a proud member of the Portland Food Coop (Member-Owner #11) and the Slow Food Portland Convivium. Lisa serves on the board of the Permaculture Institute of the Northeast (PINE), helped launch The Pattern Factory design studio at Newforest Institute and is the principle permaculture designer in Resilient Homes, a solar hot water and permaculture design company. Lisa and her family are actively working to convert their 1/3 acre property into a demonstration site for resilient and sustainable “post-carbon” living.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Second American Revolution Looks Like This

Democracy School online

Democracy School - Part I from Mari Margil on Vimeo.

The Daniel Pennock Democracy School is a stimulating and illuminating course that teaches citizens and activists how to reframe exhausting and often discouraging single issue work (such as opposing toxic dumps, quarries, factory farms, etc.) in a way that we can confront corporate control on a powerful single front: people’s constitutional rights.

Democracy School explores the limits of conventional regulatory organizing and offers a new organizing model that helps citizens confront the usurpation by corporations of the rights of communities, people, and the earth. Lectures cover the history of people's movements and corporate power, and the dramatic recent organizing in Pennsylvania by communities confronting agribusiness, sewage sludge, and quarry corporations. Included with enrollment in the Democracy School is a 300 plus-page notebook of background reading material. For a historical review of the Pennsylvania work through the end of 2003, see a feature article that appeared in Orion Magazine.

Created by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) and Richard Grossman, co-founder of the Program on Corporations, Law, and Democracy (POCLAD), Democracy Schools were launched with five weekend sessions at Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania in 2003. Since then, the number of schools has grown rapidly. In 2006, there are over a dozen locations across the country offering Democracy Schools, so peruse our list and find a school near you!

The Schools are built around carefully designed readings, clear presentations and group discussions.

* Each School reveals how it came to be that the law enables corporate managers to dictate their values, and impose their projects on communities.
* Includes an intense, comprehensive history of the judicial bestowal of constitutional rights of persons on corporations.
* Learn the secret of how People’s Movements have cut to the essence and won their struggles to be “found” in the constitution.

* The Anti-Federalists
* The Abolitionists
* The Suffragists
* The Populists
* The Labor Movement

* And learn about earlier Movements, including the Levelers and the Diggers.
* Experience the story of Pennsylvania communities, and New England Town Meetings, as well as North Western city battles – in the ongoing struggle to take the power to govern out of the Corporate Boardrooms and put it back in our communities where it belongs.
* For people of all ages, interests and occupations
* Classes consist of small groups of 10-15 people like you.

"If you take no other training this year, do the Democracy School. It is a superlative unfolding revelation of how corporations have hijacked democracy. It meticulously deconstructs the historical arc that brought us to this precipice. But most importantly, it then departs into the highly pragmatic and inspiring work now underway that is slowly turning the tide . . . This Second American Revolution may be the most important political work going on anywhere in the country or the world."

-Kenny Ausubel ‘05, Founder and Co-Executive Director, Bioneers

"Democracy School was a mind-blowing experience. During the School, I was forced to come to grips with the understanding that I really knew very little about the true structure of law that controls our activism. Democracy School is a must for everyone who seeks to be liberated from our defensive, after-the-fact reactive organizing strategies."

Featuring Thomas Linzey Esq. and Mari Margil -- WATCH PARTS II - VI HERE

Monday, March 14, 2011

Nuke the Males (Who Design Solutions Like This)

The no-BS info on Japan's disastrous nuclear operators

by Greg Palast 
New York - March 14, 2011

I need to speak to you, not as a reporter, but in my former capacity as lead investigator in several government nuclear plant fraud and racketeering investigations.

Texas plants planned by Tokyo Electric. Image:NINA

I don't know the law in Japan, so I can't tell you if Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) can plead insanity to the homicides about to happen.

But what will Obama plead?  The Administration, just months ago, asked Congress to provide a $4 billion loan guarantee for two new nuclear reactors to be built and operated on the Gulf Coast of Texas — by Tokyo Electric Power and local partners.  As if the Gulf hasn't suffered enough.

Here are the facts about Tokyo Electric and the industry you haven't heard on CNN:

The failure of emergency systems at Japan's nuclear plants comes as no surprise to those of us who have worked in the field.

Nuclear plants the world over must be certified for what is called "SQ" or "Seismic Qualification."  That is, the owners swear that all components are designed for the maximum conceivable shaking event, be it from an earthquake or an exploding Christmas card from Al Qaeda.

The most inexpensive way to meet your SQ is to lie.  The industry does it all the time. The government team I worked with caught them once, in 1988, at the Shoreham plant in New York.  Correcting the SQ problem at Shoreham would have cost a cool billion, so engineers were told to change the tests from 'failed' to 'passed.'

The company that put in the false safety report?  Stone & Webster, now the nuclear unit of Shaw Construction which will work with Tokyo Electric to build the Texas plant, Lord help us.

There's more.

Last night I heard CNN reporters repeat the official line that the tsunami disabled the pumps needed to cool the reactors, implying that water unexpectedly got into the diesel generators that run the pumps.

These safety back-up systems are the 'EDGs' in nuke-speak: Emergency Diesel Generators.  That they didn't work in an emergency is like a fire department telling us they couldn't save a building because "it was on fire."

What dim bulbs designed this system?  One of the reactors dancing with death at Fukushima Station 1 was built by Toshiba.  Toshiba was also an architect of the emergency diesel system.

Now be afraid. Obama's $4 billion bail-out-in-the-making is called the South Texas Project.  It's been sold as a red-white-and-blue way to make power domestically with a reactor from Westinghouse, a great American brand.  However, the reactor will be made substantially in Japan by the company that bought the US brand name, Westinghouse — Toshiba.

I once had a Toshiba computer.  I only had to send it in once for warranty work.  However, it's kind of hard to mail back a reactor with the warranty slip inside the box if the fuel rods are melted and sinking halfway to the earth's core.

TEPCO and Toshiba don't know what my son learned in 8th grade science class: tsunamis follow Pacific Rim earthquakes. So these companies are real stupid, eh?  Maybe.  More likely is that the diesels and related systems wouldn't have worked on a fine, dry afternoon.

Back in the day, when we checked the emergency back-up diesels in America, a mind-blowing number flunked.  At the New York nuke, for example, the builders swore under oath that their three diesel engines were ready for an emergency. They'd been tested.  The tests were faked, the diesels run for just a short time at low speed.  When the diesels were put through a real test under emergency-like conditions, the crankshaft on the first one snapped in about an hour, then the second and third.  We nicknamed the diesels, "Snap, Crackle and Pop."

(Note:  Moments after I wrote that sentence, word came that two of three diesels failed at the Tokai Station as well.)

In the US, we supposedly fixed our diesels after much complaining by the industry. But in Japan, no one tells Tokyo Electric to do anything the Emperor of Electricity doesn't want to do.

I get lots of confidential notes from nuclear industry insiders.  One engineer, a big name in the field, is especially concerned that Obama waved the come-hither check to Toshiba and Tokyo Electric to lure them to America.  The US has a long history of whistleblowers willing to put themselves on the line to save the public. In our racketeering case in New York, the government only found out about the seismic test fraud because two courageous engineers, Gordon Dick and John Daly, gave our team the documentary evidence.

In Japan, it's simply not done.  The culture does not allow the salary-men, who work all their their lives for one company, to drop the dime.

Not that US law is a wondrous shield:  both engineers in the New York case were fired and blacklisted by the industry.  Nevertheless, the government (local, state, federal) brought civil racketeering charges against the builders. The jury didn't buy the corporation's excuses and, in the end, the plant was, thankfully, dismantled.

Am I on some kind of xenophobic anti-Nippon crusade?  No.  In fact, I'm far more frightened by the American operators in the South Texas nuclear project, especially Shaw. Stone & Webster, now the Shaw nuclear division, was also the firm that conspired to fake the EDG tests in New York. (The company's other exploits have been exposed by their former consultant, John Perkins, in his book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.)
If the planet wants to shiver, consider this:  Toshiba and Shaw have recently signed a deal to become world-wide partners in the construction of nuclear stations.

The other characters involved at the South Texas Plant that Obama is backing should also give you the willies.  But as I'm in the middle of investigating the American partners, I'll save that for another day.

So, if we turned to America's own nuclear contractors, would we be safe?  Well, two of the melting Japanese reactors, including the one whose building blew sky high, were built by General Electric of the Good Old US of A.

After Texas, you're next.  The Obama Administration is planning a total of $56 billion in loans for nuclear reactors all over America.

And now, the homicides:

CNN is only interested in body counts, how many workers burnt by radiation, swept away or lost in the explosion.  These plants are now releasing radioactive steam into the atmosphere. Be skeptical about the statements that the "levels are not dangerous."  These are the same people who said these meltdowns could never happen.  Over years, not days, there may be a thousand people, two thousand, ten thousand who will suffer from cancers induced by this radiation.

In my New York investigation, I had the unhappy job of totaling up post-meltdown "morbidity" rates for the county government.   It would be irresponsible for me to estimate the number of cancer deaths that will occur from these releases without further information; but it is just plain criminal for the Tokyo Electric shoguns to say that these releases are not dangerous.  Indeed, the fact that residents near the Japanese nuclear plants were not issued iodine pills to keep at the ready shows TEPCO doesn't care who lives and who dies whether in Japan or the USA. The carcinogenic isotopes that are released at Fukushima are already floating to Seattle with effects we simply cannot measure.

Heaven help us.  Because Obama won't.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Feeling Neutered, Guys? Get Monsanto Out Of Your Pants.

Pesticides wreak havoc on reproductive health in men

Thursday, March 03, 2011 by: T.M. Hartle

(NaturalNews) Reports from European countries have found sub-fertile semen quality in 1 out of 5 young men ages 18 to 25. Research has also shown increasing rates of testicular cancer, un-descended testes in babies, and other hormone-related problems in men. Fertility and reproductive health is declining in men and has been over the last 50 years according to recent reports. The cause of this decline in health is multi-factorial, but research continues to expose agribusiness chemicals as potent hormone disruptors. The evidence of declining male reproductive health in connection with commonly used agricultural chemicals is found in a host of scientific research that has spanned decades.

Research found that men with high levels of three common pesticides in their urine were 10 times as likely to have low sperm quality. The conclusions of the study suggested that common weed killers including alachlor, atrazine and diazinon harm the reproductive health of men, who drink water contaminated with these common chemicals.

Several studies published in late 2010 found that many pesticides and fungicides used on the food supply impaired testosterone synthesis. Despite the evidence that these chemicals have the potential to cause serious reproductive harm no action is being taken. As the scientific literature exposes the dark side of our chemical laden society, the government barely takes notice and the use of these chemicals continues. The evidence from this research deserves the attention of researchers, government regulatory agencies, and the agricultural community.

There is strong evidence that agribusiness chemicals have anti-androgen and hormone disrupting properties, and this certainly is a major contributing factor to the declining reproductive health in men. The declining sperm count and rising reproductive impairment in developed countries has a myriad of causes. There are many contributing factors in food packaging, chemicals used in food production, plastics and a host of other factors in the environment. Despite the reality that there is no simple, one answer solution to the declining reproductive health in men, action should be taken when significant contributing factors are identified.

The use of toxic chemicals is based on increasing profitability, not public health. However, the general public does not have to be at the mercy of agribusiness. Men can take a stand and protect their reproductive health by supporting organic agriculture, avoiding processed foods, drinking only pure water filtered to remove contaminants, or joining the local community supported agriculture. If there is a shift in profitability because of a larger demand for organically produced food, there will be a movement toward safer, organic, and sustainable food production practices in order to follow public demand. The greatest tool for change in food production is in our wallet.


About the author

T.M. Hartle has a Bachelors degree in Natural Health Science with a concentration in Clinical Nutrition as well as a Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition from Cornell University. She is a student midwife who teaches pregnancy nutrition courses to midwives and childbirth educators throughout the country. She has a certificate in the Essentials of raw culinary arts from Living Light Culinary Arts Institute and is the Owner and Chef of The Peaceful Kitchen.