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Barleycorn by Traffic

Is it too late in the year for a harvest song? Possibly, although I harvested the last of the carrots and parsnips only yesterday, but this great, stripped down live version of John Barleycorn by Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood, aka Traffic, just seems to perfectly suit the mood of the day.

Today’s Number

honey-bee-pollinating1265,000,000,000

The most recent estimate of the global economic benefit of pollination amounts to some €265bn, assessed as the value of crops dependent on natural pollination. This is not a “real” value of course, as it hides the fact that, should natural pollination be severely compromised or end, it might prove impossible to replace – effectively making its true value infinitely high.

Bees and other pollinating insects play an essential role in ecosystems and the world could not survive a total bee collapse. But over the past decade, beekeepers worldwide have consistently reported a decline in bees with yearly bee colony losses of 20-50%

In a world without bees who would pollinate our essential crop and wild plants? Most plants and a third of our food depends on pollination by bees.

The bee collapse is a challenge to mankind on the scale of global warming, ocean acidification or nuclear devastation.

helpsCast your vote

Clicking the link below will take you to the SlowFood.com website where you can read more about the Public Eye Awards, the competition that puts the spotlight on corporations with a dismal record of social and environmental responsibility. Online voting started on November 26.

Commonly referred to as “The Awards of Shame”, the initiative was launched by Greenpeace International and the Berne Declaration to highlight irresponsible business practices and provide a platform to publicly criticize cases of human and labour rights violations, environmental destruction or corruption.

Among the nominations for this year’s award, submitted by various NGOs, are Syngenta, Bayer, and BASF, producers of those chemical pesticides known to pose the most serious threat to the existence of pollinators.

The Public Eye Awards are deliberately set to coincide with the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) to provide a critical counterpoint to the annual meeting in Davos: Many CEOs of nominated companies are present at the WEF. Previous winners of the People’s Award include Shell in 2013 and Nestle Oil in 2012.

The Award of Shame: Vote to Save the Bees! | Focus on | Slow Europe – Our Idea of Europe.

A Silent Spring

aRachelCarson“As crude a weapon as the cave man’s club, the chemical barrage has been hurled against the fabric of life – a fabric on the one hand delicate and destructible, on the other miraculously tough and resilient, and capable of striking back in unexpected ways. These extraordinary capacities of life have been ignored by the practitioners of chemical control who have brought to their task no “high-minded orientation,” no humility before the vast forces with which they tamper.”

Rachel Carson, Silent Spring 1962

Today’s Number

6060%

Bee populations are so low in the US that it now takes 60% of the country’s surviving colonies just to pollinate one California crop, almonds. And that’s not just a west coast problem—California supplies 80% of the world’s almonds, a market worth $4 billion.

The well-publicized problems in the US where the battle seems as good as lost can tend to overshadow the fact that potentially this is a worldwide catastrophe waiting to happen. Fortunately the picture in Europe is less clear cut.

Meanwhile those nice people at Bayer and Syngenta, aided and supported by British environment minister Owen Patterson are suing the European Commission in an effort to overturn the temporary ban on a small part of the arsenal of death-dealing chemicals that saturate European farmland.

Corporate lobbyists and other interested parties use a familiar line in obfuscation when explaining away the obvious connection between wholesale chemical application and the decimation of the pollinators our food supply depends on. But despite what they would have us believe there is no “mystery” as to why bee colonies around the world appear to be in a state of terminal decline.

Independent scientific research, that is research not funded by chemical companies, appropriated by agribusiness, or under the thumb of the British government has consistently found that the exposure of pollinators to cocktails of chemicals, (in some cases traces of as many as 35 different pesticides have been found in toxic pollen) is a crucial contributing factor in their decline.

Such independent research is also opening up a huge can of worms by exposing the relationship between the chemicals without which mainstream agriculture can barely function, and the looming calamity of pollinator decline. Neonicotinoids, those notorious pesticides now banned by the European Commission are just the tip of the iceberg it seems.

See also:

Treehugger:  Scientists discover another cause of bee deaths, and it’s really bad news 

Guardian article April 2013:  Insecticide firms in secret bid to stop ban that could save bees

European Food Safety Authority report published 21 November 2013: EFSA’s 18th Scientific Colloquium on Towards holistic approaches to the risk assessment of multiple stressors in bees

if-we-die-were-taking-you-with-us

Good Times

ralph-waldo-emerson_avsDz_1359374400“This time, like all times is a good one, if we but know what to do with it.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

extreme weatherBusiness as Usual

It was news to me but apparently something that passes for normal practice these days is the buying and selling of weather derivative contracts, financial products bought and sold by industrial corporations and the financial services industry for the purpose of making a profit out of climate instability.

These aren’t just fly-by-night insurance scams but standard, widely used products designed and marketed by energy companies and industrial giants such as Enron and Koch Industries.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

So when for example, representatives of the energy industries in Britain stand in front of a Parliamentary Select Committee and argue that taxes on their products, those “Green Levies” designed to be redirected into renewable energy sources should be scrapped, we need to realise that they do so in the knowledge that for them, and their brothers in globalised industry, it doesn’t matter if the climate further destabilizes – they’re going to make huge profits from selling insurance products to those on the front line (those who can afford them, of course), then trading said products on the “free” market.

Caught in the StormA Vested Interest

Why bother then to confront and grapple with the causes of climate instability? All you need to do to stay in business is to analyse, predict, then profit from climate change and the worldwide imperative to adapt.

To put it another way these are companies – including energy companies – that have a vested financial interest in continued climate change. Some might even call this an incentive to keep fear of the consequences of weather instability in the forefront of people’s minds, (fear after all is the most effective tool to apply when selling insurance) without actually having to do anything about it.

Big Data

Technically weather derivatives are financial products rather than insurance policies and like any other comparable construction can be traded on the derivatives market. Given the way in which such products are structured, and the fact that payouts are triggered based on observed weather conditions rather than specific losses, information and data analysis are at the core of this expanding market. Whoever has first access to the most refined data is going to be streets ahead of their competitors. So it’s no surprise to hear that the first significant “big data” acquisition has been made by agricultural giant Monsanto, with its purchase of data science company Climate Corporation.

14rain6Another Day, Another Dollar

Scarcely a day goes by without reading of some new way that corporations have found to infiltrate the legislative process, corrupt the path of scientific impartiality, or influence the flow of information reaching the public. These people never sleep it seems.

By binding farmers to an inescapable genetically modified merry-go-round in which the company at the centre receives cash flow from all directions Monsanto makes virtual serfs of its clients. Blinding them with modified science and a vast body of data that only they control adds another link to the chain of dependency Monsanto has “creatively” engineered to tighten its grip on the world’s food production and save us all from starvation.

4269sotmr-weather-insurance-crisis-disaster-resizeGroundup

We need to forget about the fantasy of globalised business producing creative, innovative solutions to the climate crisis and helping us out of this mess. Their creativity has been solely in the service of protecting and maximizing profit margins whatever the weather, and that’s the way it’s going to stay. Politics has sold its soul, lured by the dangling carrot of limitless economic growth, seeming to spend most of its time justifying the appropriation of common resources for the benefit of private organisations and facilitating the destruction of Nature by non-sustainable development.

We know that big changes are coming, that some will be within our powers to manage and many won’t. Genuinely creative ideas, techniques, strategies and solutions are arising, often quite literally, from the ground up, as fledgling organisations such as the Transition Network, the Occupy movement and many others bypass the established chain of command and take matters into their own hands. Such groups are at least offering a body of fresh ideas, and a blueprint or framework for a sustainable alternative. But those who believe that we can buy, sell, or bargain our way out of trouble are living in an absurd dream.

For a concise and readable analysis of so-called weather derivatives see the article below.

Think Again

Gregory Bateson“The major problems in the world are the result of the difference between the way Nature works and the way people think.”

Gregory Bateson

 

Jack Angelo

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