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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.

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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.

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Photo by Felicia Simion

Photo by Felicia Simion

A couple of days ago, in a two year old copy of Granta I read an abbreviated account by Moroccan citizen Ahmed Errachidi of his captivity in the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp. Errachidi was a “traded commodity”, sold to the Americans by Pakistanis for the sum of 5000 USD. Although innocent of any crime Errachidi was tortured for nineteen consecutive days then sent to Guantanamo where he was held for over five years, three of which were spent in punitive isolation. Eventually, thanks to the efforts of attorney and human rights activist Clive Stafford Smith and the Reprieve organisation he was released without charge in 2007. His story, and those of many others like him make harrowing reading, bearing comparison with accounts by survivors of the Holocaust or the Soviet gulags.

It was a story that made me feel shocked, sad, and angry at the same time. I had to keep reminding myself  that this was happening now. It’s not the history of a time when the world didn’t know any better, this is the time we live in.  And then, just when I’d concluded that certain sections of the human race couldn’t possibly sink any lower I read this story in the morning paper: CIA made doctors torture suspected terrorists after 9/11, taskforce finds

You can read the story for yourself if you can bear it. I’m certainly not going to attempt to reproduce any of it here – it’s likely to suck the lifeforce right out of you if you’re in any way sensitive to the sufferings of other human beings.

But one line in the article really jumped out at me, and as I went about my day kept reappearing in my consciousness as though it was pleading for more attention.  I’d had to read it several times to be certain that I understood the implications of what it said. It was this: “Detainees are not permitted to receive treatment for the distress caused by their torture.”

Isn’t that one of the saddest things you’ve ever read? The suffering summed up in those few words must be indescribable.

There doesn’t seem to be any bottom to this, no point at which the depths plumbed cause those who perpetrate such crimes to stop and say enough is enough. And of all the possible questions that could and have been asked I’m left with just one: Who is to be held to account for what’s been done in that lawless, evil place; the sleek puppets at the top, or the deluded automatons at the bottom of the pile, those who engage in the day-to-day drudgery of torture and imprisonment without trial?

My guess is that top, bottom, and the shadows in the middle who run this game will walk away scot-free, at least until the unlikely dawn of a more enlightened age.

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In recent, occasionally heated discussions with friends and others about genetically modified foods the following argument comes up time and again: “How else are we to feed the world’s exploding population if we don’t utilise GM technology to increase crop yields?”

A number of counter arguments spring quickly to mind. There is, for example absolutely no scientific evidence that GMOs increase crop yields in the long-term. On the contrary the damage and deterioration inflicted on biodiversity and the environment by the methods used to cultivate GM crops are guaranteed to store up massive problems in the very near future, as thousands of American farmers are now discovering.

Evidence Based

Meanwhile, there is plenty of evidence that traditional and contemporary organic methods and basic good husbandry virtually guarantee healthy soil, robust and abundant crops, and therefore good, plentiful food that not only fills the stomach but lays the foundation for good health.

Read the following article to see just one example of what can be done without GMOs, chemical fertilizers or pesticides: Miracle Grow-Indian-farmers smash crop yield records without gmos 

"Scuttlebutt Sam Says" - Who's Wasti...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But if even that argument doesn’t convince then there’s little that’s debatable about the following statistic as outlined in this recent Guardian article: Almost half of the world’s food thrown away. This article is based on a report by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers: Global Food – Waste Not, Want Not. 

Blindingly Obvious

Since when did it become ok to waste vast quantities of anything let alone a fundamental resource such as food?

If governments and corporations mean what they say when they bare to us their bleeding, altruistic hearts then why not do the blindingly obvious and start by vigorously encouraging an environment in which the wholesale waste of food is unacceptable?

The “starving millions” argument so often introduced into any discussion about GMOs is the result of a combination of a lack of knowledge and the subtle propaganda of those who stand to profit on an unimaginable scale from pursuing their agenda against a background of our ignorance or indifference.

Waste not, want not” may sound like a trite homily to “consumers” used to having every desire fulfilled at the touch of a button, but think about those words for a moment. This culture of waste is something that’s come about in the space of two generations and it’s neither an inevitable consequence of “progress” nor simply the way of the world.  Things don’t have to be like this. We decide, and our individual decisions, however small they might seem at the time make a difference.

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10000000000001900000010C8B6EFA71On the 14th of May the European Council for Agriculture & Fisheries adopted a set of conclusions pertaining to organic farming and the organic sector in general within the EU.

This is a set of Conclusions that presents a political view of how the current organic production regulatory framework is functioning; how it could be made more effective and how it should evolve in the European Union. The conclusions also provide a focus for policy development in the future.

The document lists 25 points of application of the regulatory framework and development of the organic sector. I’ve listed a number of the conclusions that immediately stand out below, but you can read the complete document and download a copy of the PDF here

A Few Highlights

1. Organic production and the organic foodstuffs sector in the European Union is established as a sustainable farming and production system which fulfils a dual societal role by responding to an increasing consumer demand for organic products while also delivering public goods which contribute to the protection of the environment, animal welfare and rural development.

5. The Council in its Conclusions on the future of agricultural promotion policy encouraged the Commission to provide consumers with better access to information on the European production model and increase their level of familiarity with quality systems such as organic farming.

7. The use of GMOs is strictly prohibited in organic production.

THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION
CALLS ON THE MEMBER STATES AND THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION,
in accordance with their respective competences, to:

13. Develop the organic farming sector at an ambitious level by reviewing the current legal framework, with a view to improving its usability while providing for a period of stability and certainty, and aiming at :
– further clarification and simplification;
– addressing the current outstanding issues requiring further development;
– clarifying the situation regarding protection of the use of the term ‘organic’ for non Annex I products;
– providing guidance on the organic claims associated with the preparation of organic products in mass catering operations.

16. Take specific measures aimed at protecting the reputation of the organic sector and meeting consumer expectations. Explore proposals for the adoption of a rigorous, proportionate, cost-efficient control regime which should include the unambiguous allocation of responsibilities between the relevant control stakeholders and a harmonised sanction regime agreed at European level.

22. Encourage the promotion of the organic sector and increased consumption of organic produce.
Take action to harmonise and guarantee application of the EU logo as a very positive measure to increase the recognition and differentiation of organic products in the market; raise public awareness and promote its use through on-line information and specific campaigns.

25. Continue to recognise and encourage the innovative dynamism and potential of the organic sector and support relevant research and innovation, in particular within the framework of the European Innovation Partnerships (EIPs).”

Standouts

While there are several notable points here two in particular really stand out as helpful: in point 13 the sentence “clarifying the situation regarding protection of the use of the term ‘organic’ for non Annex I products”; and point 16:  “Take specific measures aimed at protecting the reputation of the organic sector and meeting consumer expectations”, show evidence of an awareness among politicians that the consumer-driven success of the organic sector hasn’t gone unnoticed in the boardrooms of the corporate food industries.  Type the sentence “corporate takeover of the organic foods market” into a search engine for example, and you’ll see why this level of awareness is so important.

To understand more about this relatively new aspect of the situation in the US and the seek and destroy mentality of the agribusiness and biotechnology giants follow this link: http://www.organicconsumers.org/Organic/

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gjon_mili_picasso“I do not seek, I find.”

Pablo Picasso

Focus

For various reasons, but mostly because it takes up time that I feel could more usefully be spent in other ways I’ve been very close to closing down this blog.  However, not having been able to bring myself to the point of actually pushing the button I’ve decided to change course a little bit in the hope that the project will once again begin to make sense to me.

More focus is what’s needed, and so starting with this post I’ll be concentrating on what I feel is the single most important and pressing issue of the times we live in, namely the wholesale appropriation and corruption of our genetic heritage by a cartel of privately owned corporations, aided and abetted by national governments, private armies, and fraudulent or misguided science.

Not Done

Climate change and deterioration is a battle lost it seems and we’ll have to deal with the consequences as best we can. The argument for and against the use of genetic engineering in order to facilitate the centralization of the source, cultivation, and distribution of the world’s food supplies into the hands of a select few is however a battle that’s still being fought,  and it’s far from done and dusted.

It’s not my intention to waste anyone’s time (including my own) broadcasting my personal opinions about the subject at hand. Anybody who’s ever taken the trouble to read this blog will pretty much know where I stand. Rather I’d like to spend the time available helping to point readers in the direction of those who know and understand with more precision than I exactly where the dangers lie.

262465_464375843637703_1548718134_nScare Stories

It’s not difficult to find scare stories about GM technology and the profit motivated manipulation of every link in the food chain. Take for example the recent case of the Indiana farmer dragged through the courts by Monsanto and brought to the brink of bankruptcy by the GM giant. But rather than filling page after page with alarms, horror stories, and negativity I’ll make an effort to keep in the foreground the knowledge that not only do scientifically proven alternatives to GM technology exist, (and have always existed), there is also a huge and growing movement against this dangerous and irreversible folly.

In order to do so I’ll highlight and share every instance of resistance that I can find, from organizations and individuals that work to establish and maintain seed banks free of F1 hybrids and GMOs, to movements committed to slow food, localization, and life after Peak Oil. Along the way (and at the risk of preaching to the converted) I’ll share everything I know or can find about the ways and means to work with and alongside Nature for our mutual benefit.

21238_593913780627146_739328318_nThink Twice

I have a strong feeling that the vast majority of people simply haven’t yet realized the scope and importance of this issue. Many people I know scarcely ever think twice about what they eat or where it comes from as long as it’s easily and cheaply available. This is exactly the state of mind that corporations like Monsanto depend and thrive on. A passive populace in thrall to consumerism can’t or won’t understand the arguments for and against until the decisions have been made for them, by which time they’ll have other things to worry about.

Taking personal responsibility for the fundamentals of life while sticking up as many fingers as you can spare to the corporations is a way out of this mess. I decide, you decide, we decide – that’s the way forward.

By the way,  music – because it’s life-affirming and a joy will always have a place on this blog.

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Gordian knotIt’s not my place to expound on events such as the Connecticut school shootings where so many innocent people died last week. I’m not qualified, and although I have an opinion about it, as we presumably all do, opinions, least of all mine aren’t going to help anyone. But I will voice an opinion, helpful or otherwise, about something I saw recently, coincidentally on the same day that those shootings took place.

Spaghetti Western

The trailers to the new Quentin Tarantino movie Django Unchained, two and a half-minute packages of graphic violence in word and deed are now available for all to enjoy on various websites. Of course there may be more to the movie than can be gleaned from watching a couple of trailers, but having seen something of that director’s work in the past I rather doubt it. However well dressed up, the movie will essentially be about individuals experiencing traumatic injustices and/or gruesome conflicts all of which will sooner or later be avenged by the use of an arsenal of assorted weaponry, in this case mainly handguns. The characters will be believable and the dialogue edgy and sardonic. As an audience we will root for the good guy however flawed, and come to despise the bad guy for his misdeeds. But never fear – revenge will be sweet and death will come swiftly to those who stand in the way of vengeance blah, blah, blah. In short Django Unchained is a Spaghetti Western with brains and apparently, in its use of certain characterizations, with 2012 sensibilities.

 peacemediaThe Acceptable Face

While my opinion about Tarantino and his work is that it would be better for everyone if he would confine his psychosexual fantasies to the psychiatrist’s couch (preferably while locked away in a remote mental asylum) it goes without saying that his work is by no means the worst of what’s out there. What it does seem to be, judging by the critical reaction to his movies is the acceptable face of extreme violence, made stylish and attractive by the use of hip dialogue and the sharp character definitions so beloved of film critics everywhere. Seen in this light ultra-violence is almost a desirable lifestyle choice and its practitioners trendsetters.

I abhor violence in whatever form it presents itself but I believe that I’ve come to a degree of understanding about particular aspects of it. I understand, for example, that certain people while living safe, secure, but tightly structured lives can become fascinated by the decisive act of violence as a way of cutting through confusion and complexity. I also understand its seductive power as a simplistic means to an end, and even as a form of self-expression when all else fails.

As a very young soldier I experienced the powerful effects that both random and organised violence can have on individuals, groups, and societies. There is an intoxicating sense of liberation when our flimsy social structures fall away and life becomes a matter of striking first and hardest. All questions are answered and all doubts silenced in such moments. Caught up in that delirium consequences are for others to worry about, a dangerous illusion so insidious that otherwise sane and grounded people can easily be swept away by it.

One thing leads to another - Nadeem Chughtai

One thing leads to another – Nadeem Chughtai

From a Distance

The cowardice that lurks at the heart of the use of guns is carefully masked by the technical and cultural blarney that surrounds it, but it comes down to this: The ability to strike decisively from a distance simply by choosing to do so allows a level of dissociation from the consequences of the act and requires a lesser, meaner kind of courage than, for example, the courage of the boxer who steps into the ring to go nose to nose with his opponent. This same detachment allows soldiers in helicopter gunships to massacre innocent people gathering in the street below, allows for the use and justification of robot drones to bomb and kill at the touch of a distant button, and allows politicians to send generations of youngsters to do their dirty work for them. If on the face of it these actions may seem to have little connection with one another, I’m utterly convinced that in essence they are one and the same thing.

From my personal experience I know that nothing, not my upbringing, not the endless hours of training, nor my knowledge of, and confidence in the piece of technology that I held in my hands prepared me in a fit way for the moment when I had to decide whether or not to pull the trigger on another human being. This was the crucial piece that was missing I realised much, much later – an ability to grasp the full consequences of what my training and clever technology had made me capable of doing.

Conspirators at Sunset - Chrissie Park Macneil

Conspirators at Sunset – Chrissie Park Macneil

Links in the Chain

Maybe it’s because these days I tend to see things from a holistic point of view rather than grouping causes and effects into separate, disconnected boxes that I’m unable to make a clear distinction between the man who designs, manufactures, and sells the weapon, and the man who carries the process to its logical conclusion and uses it to commit an act of violence. To me the designer of the landmine for example, safely out of sight in his workshop, is no better than the man who deploys the device with the intention of blowing another human being to bits. The person who then produces a work of pop entertainment that normalizes, justifies, romanticizes or glorifies that act is just another culpable link in the chain, no better than the arms trader or the psychotic who closes the circle.

This should be the clearly recognised and acknowledged chain of culpability, beginning with the bright spark who designs and markets the weapon, via those who through various ways and means legalize, promote and profit from its use, to the poor fool who pulls the trigger. Surely it must be obvious by now that those who have to deal with the consequences are the victims of a collective effort channeled through a well-defined, well-worn trajectory.

lgph0330+make-peace-dalai-lama-posterLevel of Consciousness

Attempting to fight gun crime or bring about peace by the use of more and more weaponry is a lunatic philosophy worthy of the cancer cell. Calling for the banning or restriction of arms sales to private individuals while at the same time indoctrinating young people in the advantages of their use and flooding the world with weapons of every possible description is nothing but the most cynical hypocrisy, in my opinion. But the arms industry and certain sections of the entertainment industry, amongst others, have a vested interest in keeping people at a level of consciousness that facilitates hatred, violence and warfare as means of dealing with our fears and uncertainties.

Tarting up extreme violence in a slick hi-tech package and selling it as a “game”, a cool fashion accessory or a  must-see movie doesn’t make it ok. It’s not a useful contribution. At best it is deluded self-indulgence, and at worst an act of predatory capitalism with a nasty little ulterior motive. Neither does it confront us with “reality” to any useful extent or offer a valuable insight into the human condition, whatever critics and other media types might say ad nauseam. That particular piece of insight, however cleverly disguised in psychological hocus pocus has literally been done to death.

What it does do is keep us scared and stupid. Scared people, given the opportunity, go out and buy guns to make themselves feel safe, then sit at home nursing their insecurities until something has to give. Those who are scared and stupid go out and use them.

peacecat

Campaign Against the Arms Trade

Media for Peacebuilding

The Common Ground Blog

Adbusters

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