Saturday, June 30, 2012

One More Benefit of Local Food: A Farmer Sings the Praises of Having Non-Farmers Close at Hand

by Shannon Hayes, Yes! magazine:

Shannon Hayes wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Shannon is the author of Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture, The Grassfed Gourmet and The Farmer and the Grill. She is the host of and Hayes works with her family on Sap Bush Hollow Farm in Upstate New York.

Cover of "Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming ...
Cover via Amazon
Two nights ago my mom left a message on my voicemail:

**sigh**  Your father’s crying. One of his favorite pigs just died, the coyotes killed another lamb last night, and one of the ewes delivered a set of twins that were so huge, the second one died before we could pull it.

**sigh** I’ve been mowing all day, and I’m too damned tired to do a thing about it.**click.**

After spending a day in the full sun battling weeds, covered in scratches and sweat, so was I. I deleted the message and slammed the receiver down.

Adding to my despair was the fact that I’d spent the last four years nursing along recalcitrant blueberry bushes that looked beautiful two weeks ago. A visit to their part of the garden a few hours earlier led to my discovery that two of them were dead, two mostly dead and one was dying.

When I came inside to express panic, frustration, and woe, Bob’s ears were completely unsympathetic. One of his bee hives was swarming for the sixth time in 5 days, and he was seriously considering lighting fire to the boxes and walking away.
This is part of the beauty of our slowly de-centralizing food system ... because of the local food movement, everyone in a community is now playing a part in growing the food.
That’s farm drama. It happens every other week during the growing season, every few hours during lambing season (which is now) and haying season (which is starting). If any of us truly sought sympathy, we would be wasting time seeking it from each other, much less any other farmer.

This degree of failure is just part of the day for folks like us, and any sad stories are likely to be easily one-upped by the next farmer.

If pity is truly what we need, we seek out the non-farmers … those folks living at a safe distance from the vicissitudes of nature who will reward our tales of woe with gratifying looks of horror, hugs of sympathy, and encouraging hyperbolic platitudes complimentary of our heroic vocation: Thank heaven there are people like you in this world who can do this kind of work. The rest of us are counting on you. We owe you so much. If there is anything we can do to help, tell us.

Maybe that all sounds hokey, but that’s powerful medicine. Sometimes it is all we need to hear in order to climb up to bed, utter prayers of gratitude for all things still living, and start fresh in the morning.

This is part of the beauty of our slowly de-centralizing food system. A few years back, the industrialized food system left us farmers detached from the rest of the culture. Transport and processing systems kept us far away from the people who ate our food and depended on us.

Our relationships were more homogenous: Many farmers socialized only with other farmers, and the natural annual cycles of the work meant that many were emotionally and physically isolated from each other all at the same time. That doesn’t bode well for mental health and safety.

We talk about the benefits of a local food system because the farmer gets a fair return for their labor; because non-farmers are able to get fresh, local, more nutritious food; because our local biodiversity is improving.

But one of the best parts is that, as we localize our food, everyone grows closer to the land. Everyone becomes keenly aware of the dramatic events that play out in the course of growing supper for the table.

Not everyone may put their hands in soil or inside the birthing canal of a sheep. But because of the local food movement, everyone in a community is now playing a part in growing the food. That sure makes my days a lot easier.
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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Greenpeace Campaign: The Polar Bear and the Warship

Hello readers,

The following email was sent to me earlier today by Nick Young, Head of Digital at Greenpeace NZ. This is a vital campaign, please support it in every way you can!


The Zeitgeist Is Changing

Join us to secure the Arctic as a global santuary for all life on Earth before it's too late. Sign up at
The polar bear and the war

Click here to save the polar

Dear Robert,

This time last year I was aboard one of the Greenpeace ships in the Arctic. I saw things there that will remain with me for the rest of my life.

From the stark beauty of an Arctic sunrise, to the horrible wrongness of a dirty oil rig amongst the icebergs and the simple bravery of my crew-mates who took action against it in that harsh environment, it’s all unforgettable.

But the one image in particular that haunts me is of a warship bearing down on a young polar bear sitting alone on the sea ice. For me it captures the plight of the Arctic in one frozen moment.

Our captain warned the warship of the bear’s predicament in time for them to alter course, so catastrophe was averted on that particular day - but the bear’s plight continues.

Global warming, retreating sea ice, a looming oil rush and increased militarisation all spell doom for the polar bear and many creatures like it that live in the Arctic.

To put it bluntly, polar bears are dying out and global warming threatens them with extinction while Shell aims to invade their home and drill for oil in extremely risky conditions where a spill would be impossible to contain.

It’s up to us to draw a line in the ice and say no.

That’s why we have launched one of our biggest global campaigns ever. We aim to create a global sanctuary in the high Arctic - making it off limits to oil drilling and other industrial activities.

Folk like Paul McCartney, 'One Direction' and our very own Lucy Lawless - as well as over 200,000 others have already added their names to our “Arctic Scroll” in the first week!

Can you join them now by adding your name and help us create a global sanctuary in the high Arctic where polar bears and the other living creatures that call it home will be protected?

Big oil companies like Shell - who have played a major part in creating this environmental crime - are now ready to take advantage of the retreating sea ice.

It’s up to us to keep offshore oil drilling out of the Arctic and save the polar bears' home. We can only do this with your help.

Act now! Click here:

Your name, together with the first million Arctic defenders, will be added to a scroll we'll plant on the North Pole seabed together with a Flag for the Future to demand world leaders declare the Arctic off limits to oil drilling and industrial fishing and create a global sanctuary in the area around the North Pole.

Thank you very much for your support,

Nick and the whole crew at Greenpeace

PS When we first launched so many people went to the site all at once it overloaded and crashed - so apologies if you found it not working but it is all working perfectly now so please do try again.
Click here to save the polar

11 Akiraho Street, Mount Eden, Auckland, New Zealand
0800 22 33 44 |

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Elinor Ostrom’s Parting Advice to Rio+20: The Late Nobel Prize Winner Warned Against a Too-Rigid International Structure to Solve Climate Change

Press conference with the laureates of the mem...
Press conference with the laureates of the memorial prize in economic sciences 2009 at the KVA: Elinor Ostrom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by , Yes! magazine:

Note from YES! Magazine Publisher Fran Korten: On June 12 the world lost a powerful voice for value of collective action. Elinor Ostrom, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009, passed away after months of struggle with pancreatic cancer. 

Her groundbreaking research documented the conditions under which local people the world over will manage natural resources in an equitable and sustainable manner. Lin was my friend and colleague, and I deeply mourn her loss.

Her perspective is sorely needed now, as delegates gather for the Rio+20 conference in Brazil to negotiate agreements on the best ways to reach a sustainable world. Lin was wary of formulaic solutions that ignore and constrain the capability of local people to act in their own long-term best interest. Government's role, she felt, was to support local capability, not undermine it, as is so often the case.

In the interview that I conducted shortly after she had received the Nobel Prize, I asked her what would be her advice to people in power. "No panaceas!" was her instant response. Large institutions - whether governments or corporations - err in looking for standardized approaches, while local people can tailor their solutions to the unique characteristics of their place. The negotiators at Rio would do well to heed her words.

Elinor Ostrom shared her advice for Rio + 20 with Project Syndicate shortly before her death:

Much is riding on the United Nations Rio+20 summit. Many are billing it as Plan A for Planet Earth and want leaders bound to a single international agreement to protect our life-support system and prevent a global humanitarian crisis. Inaction in Rio would be disastrous, but a single international agreement would be a grave mistake.

We cannot rely on singular global policies to solve the problem of managing our common resources: the oceans, atmosphere, forests, waterways, and rich diversity of life that combine to create the right conditions for life, including seven billion humans, to thrive.

We have never had to deal with problems of the scale facing today’s globally interconnected society. No one knows for sure what will work, so it is important to build a system that can evolve and adapt rapidly.

Decades of research demonstrate that a variety of overlapping policies at city, subnational, national, and international levels is more likely to succeed than are single, overarching binding agreements. Such an evolutionary approach to policy provides essential safety nets should one or more policies fail.

The good news is that evolutionary policymaking is already happening organically. In the absence of effective national and international legislation to curb greenhouse gases, a growing number of city leaders are acting to protect their citizens and economies.

This is hardly surprising - indeed, it should be encouraged.

Most major cities sit on coasts, straddle rivers, or lie on vulnerable deltas, putting them on the front line of rising sea levels and flooding in the coming decades. Adaptation is a necessity. But, with cities responsible for 70 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions, mitigation is better.

When it comes to tackling climate change, the United States has produced no federal mandate explicitly requiring or even promoting emissions-reductions targets. But, by May last year, some 30 US states had developed their own climate action plans, and more than 900 US cities have signed up to the US climate-protection agreement.

To read further, go to:
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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Rio+20: A Defining Choice - How Can We Create an Economy That Serves the Health and Well-Being of Both People and the Planet? Follow the Earth’s Lead

English: A view of Rio de Janeiro in the direc...
A view of Rio de Janeiro in the direction of Copacabana and Ipanema, from Sugarloaf mountain (Photo credit: Wikipedia).
by David Korten, Yes! magazine:

Next week, 20 years after the 1992 UN Rio Earth Summit, representatives of the world’s governments will gather again in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to frame a global response to the Earth’s environmental crisis.

Debates leading up to Rio+20 are focusing attention on a foundational choice between two divergent paths to the human future.

The Money Path

For money path advocates, money is the defining measure of value. Profit and growth in financial assets are the bottom line measures by which they assess the performance of both the firm and the economy.

They value natural wealth by the price it will fetch in the market and look to global financial markets as the preferred mechanism to organize our human relationships with one another and nature. They propose that the best way to save nature is to price her assets and sell them to wealthy global investors to hold and manage as their private property.

Privatization, commodification, monopolization, and financialization, they assure us, will drive up prices and thus create an incentive to provide for their proper care to maximize a perpetual flow of earnings.

The Life Path

For life path advocates, Earth is our living Mother, sacred and beyond price. Her health and vitality are essential to our well-being and are therefore a priority bottom line measure of economic performance.

In return for Earth’s gifts, we have a sacred obligation to future generations to protect and restore to full health the wondrous generative systems by which she replenishes her air, water, fertile soils, fish, forests, and grasslands, and maintains the stable climate on which our health and well-being depend.

Because we receive Earth’s abundance as a gift, we must assure it is shared to meet the needs of all. None among us created this abundance and no one of us has a right to claim it for our exclusive personal benefit.

Money, which is basically a system of accounting, is only a tool useful in facilitating human exchanges beneficial to people and nature. To use financial results as the bottom line indicator of economic performance makes no sense and leads to disastrous results.

Illusions of the Money World

Ignoring the reality that money in itself is nothing but a number, the institutions of money have created a fantasy world economy grounded in a grand illusion that money is real wealth and that making money creates real wealth to the benefit of all.

Since financial logic favors current returns over future returns and values natural systems only for the financial return they generate, it can lead to dangerously myopic short-term thinking.

Here are three examples:

1) Money in the bank is more valuable than trees in the ground

Some years ago the minister who managed Malaysia’s forests explained to me why Malaysia should clear cut its forests and sell the timber. The interest from the sale would grow faster in the bank than the trees grow in the forest. I imagined a lifeless Malaysian landscape populated only by banks housing computers faithfully calculating the interest payments on Malaysia’s savings deposits.

2) Financial bubbles create wealth

A 1996 article in Foreign Affairs, "Securities: The New World Wealth Machine" argued that the key to wealth creation is no longer the production of real goods and services, but rather the inflation of financial bubbles based on securitized assets. The argument was so absurd I at first thought the article was a joke. It wasn’t. The article circulated widely on Wall Street and reportedly helped inspire the mortgage securitization frenzy that crashed the economy in 2008.

3) Your fishery collapsed? No problem

A 1997 article in the culinary section of The New York Times urged readers not to worry about the collapse of Atlantic fisheries, because abundant supplies of delicious fish were being flown in each day from Chile and Thailand and were even cheaper than local varieties because of cheap labor. No mention of a global decline in fish stocks as the number of hungry mouths in the world continues to grow.

Since it evaluates all decisions based on financial returns to people who already have money, financial logic assures that whatever remains of Earth’s natural wealth will be controlled by the 1 percent, who are looking for the right moment to make a quick profit from a speculative sale.

Asking how to allocate natural resources to maximize financial return is the wrong line of questioning. In the real world of Earth Community the question we should be asking is, “How do we best meet our human needs in a way that maintains or enhances the health and vitality of the natural systems on which we depend?”

We would do well to answer that question by further asking, “What would nature do?” Or, more specifically, “What does the biosphere do?”

To read further, go to:
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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Forest Lands in the East (USA) Attract Oil and Gas Bidders, But Some Question Rush

National Forest Service lands as a percentage ...
National Forest Service lands as a percentage of total area by state. Data from (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post:

Oil and gas companies looking to lease swathes of U.S. Forest Service land holding the promise of shale gas deposits and other fossil fuel resources have made the Bureau of Land Management’s Eastern States Office in Springfield ground zero for a new land rush.

For years Forest Service land in the East was considered irrelevant when it came to oil and gas leasing. But in the past year and a half, the federal government has leased or scheduled for auction more than 384,000 acres at the request of private bidders, more than 10 times as much land as it had leased in the previous two years.

The burst of activity has sparked a public debate over how to reconcile the different uses of national forests. The office was scheduled to auction the rights to energy exploration on nearly 90,000 acres of Forest Service land in four states - Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi - next week, but announced Friday it would delay the Alabama auction in the face of widespread protest there.

Meanwhile, officials at Virginia’s George Washington Forest are embroiled in a controversy over whether to ban any future horizontal drilling in the forest, as they proposed last year, or leave open the possibility for companies in the future.

The intense competition in recent years to lease private land for a form of oil and gas drilling known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has made federal lands overlying shale deposits more attractive even if they might not be developed for years, said Kevin Book, managing director for research at Clearview Energy Partners.

With the exception of 38,174 acres in Alabama’s Conecuh National Forest, all of the Eastern U.S. forest acreage leased since 2011 lies over shale deposits. “Every area overlying shale resources is being leased, whether it’s in the West or the East,” Book said.

“When the race is on and in the heat of battle, the price of private land is very expensive. The federal government makes it slower and more difficult to do [drilling], but by comparison these are relatively cheap leases.”

Private land overlying shale deposits can sell for thousands of dollars an acre; land in the most recent BLM forest leases averaged $47 per acre. Robert Bonnie, senior adviser to the secretary of agriculture for environment and climate, said Friday that the government decided to delay the auction of 42,965 acres in Alabama’s Talladega National Forest because “both the Forest Service and the BLM recognize the need to solicit public input on this.”

But he said the government would press ahead with energy exploration elsewhere on national forests. “What we balance is conservation and resource extraction,” Bonnie said.

To read further, go to:
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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Germany Swaps Nuclear for Solar and Wind Power

Nuclear power plant at Grafenrheinfeld in Germany.
Nuclear power plant at Grafenrheinfeld in Germany. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by , Yes! magazine:

Germany, the world’s most aggressive adopter of renewable energy, is taking a bold leap toward a future free from nuclear energy.

In March, the German government announced a program to invest 200 billion euros, or approximately $270 billion, in renewables. That’s 8 percent of the country’s GDP, according to the DIW Economic Institute in Berlin.

Last year, in response to the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a plan to close down all 17 of Germany’s nuclear reactors and replace them with renewable energy, mostly solar and wind power. Germany has already closed eight nuclear reactors, and the rest will be shut down by 2022.

For now, natural gas is filling the void left by nuclear power, which formerly produced 20 percent of the country’s electricity. Under Merkel’s plan, 80 percent of Germany’s energy will come from renewables by 2050, according to the German Advisory Council on the Environment. Studies by the council show that 100 percent renewable power is a realistic goal for Germany.

In contrast, the United States has been much less ambitious. The president’s “New Energy for America” plan aims to supply the country with 25 percent renewable energy by 2025.

Eighty percent of German residents want to see their country abandon nuclear power, but some Germans have also opposed new energy projects in their backyards. The website for “Wind Power Opponents,”, lists more than 70 protest campaigns, most of which are regional, grassroots groups organized to stop specific projects.

Germany’s renewables plan will be expensive, but so was the Fukushima meltdown - it did $50 billion in damage to Japan’s economy by some estimates.

Dealing with the effects of climate change won’t be cheap either. Even German nuclear power companies are investing in the plan. Not only will it make Germany’s energy infrastructure among the safest in the world, it should provide many chances for economic growth, according to press statements by Philipp Rösler, Germany’s economics minister.
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