For your consideration:
A meme I created this morning with a short quote from the books I co-authored with Trauger Groh:
For your consideration:
A meme I created this morning with a short quote from the books I co-authored with Trauger Groh:
No No Nano: My Macro-Objections to
Micro-Machinations of Industrial Processed Food
“To be interested in food but not in food production is clearly absurd.” – Wendell Berry
Steadily, stealthily, corporations are driving the goodness of natural life itself from our food, and cleverly – though unwisely – infesting it with dim bits of microscopic material substance that are obscured from human awareness. I object. Wholeheartedly.
Just as synthetic chemicals, manufactured additives, irradiation, and then genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been corporately imposed upon processed food, now a micro-invasion of nanoparticles is gaining momentum. Patented lab-created nanoparticles are even penetrating the realm of organic food, as the USDA’s organic program chooses to do nothing.
The rest of the story is here.
Evrett Lunquist and wife Ruth Chantry, parents of five children, own and operate Common Good Farm in Nebraska. They produce for a CSA and the market: herbs, vegetables, free-range eggs, grass-fed beef, and pork. Photo courtesy of Open Harvest Coop Grocery.
On December 7, 2011 the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) inadvertently violated its own policies and released the name of a Nebraska man who had accurately reported a farmer who was flouting the legally binding organic rules.
In so doing, the NOP unleashed upon Evrett Lunquist a multi-year plague of legal pleadings, and a barnload of legal expenses to defend himself.
After his name was released in response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act, the man who correctly reported the violations, Biodynamic farmer and part time inspector Evrett Lunquist, was sued for $7.6 million in a Nebraska Court by Paul A. Rosberg, the vengeful farmer who had violated organic rules. Later in the proceedings, International Certification Services was added as a defendant.
After more than 18 months of tedious hearings and a numbing cascade of motions filed by the plaintiff, Lancaster County Judge Paul D. Merritt finally in August 2013 issued a summary judgment dismissing the case.
After the expensive ordeal of defending himself against the allegations unleashed by the NOP’s procedural error, Lunquist, who followed the letter of the law acting as a private citizen when he initially reported the violations, had racked up more than $43,000 in legal expenses. While he received no support or acknowledgement of responsibility from the NOP, he and his family did find generous support from their church and their community. I have previously reported on this case both here and here.
This convoluted case calls into question the ability of the USDA and its National Organic Program (NOP) to stand behind citizens and inspectors who report violations of organic standards. Consequently, the case has sent a palpable chill through America’s network of organic inspectors, and may thereby compromise consumer confidence in the integrity of the USDA’s “Certified Organic” label. Meanwhile, another kind of food certification — Certified Naturally Grown — is emerging….
The rest of this story is on my blog for The Call of the Land. – Steven M.
When I heard about the historically feeble wheat crop of 2013 I began to look around again in the realm of world food production, and once again to connect dots. The sad state of the wheat crop in America’s Central Plains is happening right in my back yard of Nebraska, so that’s what captured my attention again. But the wheat tribulations of the Heartland are but part of far larger story about world food production with far greater implications for local food production.
Anyone paying attention to news about world food production should have snapped to attention by now, and should be motivated for action to promote, develop and expand local food production systems. That’s just common sense. The pattern of the news about food and farms is a steady concerning drumbeat, a thumping call to attention.
Yet further rigorous international studies released this week declare that the world is lurching towards an agricultural crisis, with crop production falling behind rates needed in coming decades.
In one case, in a follow up to the United Kingdom’s Climate Change Risk Assessment, a just released official report stated that climate change abroad would have a more immediate effect than climate change at home. Taking the most reasonably optimistic view possible, the report states that the UK is likely to be hit by increasingly volatile prices of many food commodities as the climate is disrupted.
Global production of many key foodstuffs is concentrated in a just few countries. Those countries are likely to suffer increasing episodes of extreme weather. As a consequence, the report states, the biggest threats are shortages of particular items, increased volatility in food prices in general, and constricting protectionist measures over food.
Threats from climate change overseas appear an order of magnitude higher than domestic threats, the report’s authors told BBC News.
Those same events would, naturally, also impact the economy, food supply, and the cost of food in North America, and elsewhere. Like it or not, we are all one planet. That’s an inescapable fact of life in 2013.
The paper regards climate change not only as fact, but as a multiplier of other threats. “Already price volatility of resources is the new normal,” the authors told BBC News. “This only looks as though it will get worse.”
Meanwhile, arising from the Southern hemisphere, another report warns that famine and its ancient, aggravating companion, war, are becoming an increasingly likely part of Australia’s future as the world struggles to feed itself.
“Clearly, the world faces a looming agricultural crisis, with yield increases insufficient to keep up with projected demands,” according to authors of the report. ”We have no time to waste.”
Shortages and rising prices are creating a double whammy: families struggling to put food on the table, while at the same time governments in the US, Australia and elsewhere are cutting back on food support and other social welfare programs.
In concert with obvious climate concerns is the political-corporate context. America’s Green Shadow Cabinet has just formally opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as an assault against food sovereignty. According to the Cabinet’s analysis, the trade agreement – now under secret international negotiation — places the profits of multinational companies ahead of the food security needs of individual nations.
TPP promotes not local, but rather export-oriented food production. In its analysis, the Cabinet found that its passage will increase global hunger and malnutrition, alienate millions from their productive assets and resourcesof land, water, fish, seeds, and technology and, thwart generations of accumulated cultural knowledge.
“Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to control their own food and agriculture…to guarantee the independence and food sovereignty of all of the world’s peoples, it is essential that food is produced though diversified, community based production systems.”
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In my own life I think not just of my backyard vegetable garden as one wee element of local food production, but also of our local food coop, Open Harvest, which now nearing 40 years of operation. Open Harvest is an active market agent buying food from over 110 organic, sustainable farms ranged around Nebraska’s capital city of Lincoln, and then selling that food at reasonable cost. Just participating in a local food coop as one of thousands of member-owner makes a huge difference in the push to develop local production systems.
There are hundreds of other proven pathways open now for the development of our local food systems, ranging from local farms, CSAs, coops, farmers markets, community kitchens, farm-to-school programs and other community agrarian initiatives. If you are paying attention to world food production, you will recognize that it is time now to be active in local food production, something both wise and increasingly imperative.
The elemental wherewithal of our farms and our food is in motion. Whirlwinds of change bear upon our land, air, water and climate. Fundamental forces have shouldered their way front and center. The land calls urgently.
As reported worldwide this month, scientific evidence shows that the level of the most important heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide (CO2), has mounted far beyond the danger zone. Heat is rising. Consequences are evident.
CO2 has now reached an average daily level above 400 parts per million, a level the Earth has not experienced for three million years. That was during an epoch called the Pliocene.
The overwhelming majority of scientists understand that this current rise in CO2 portends epic changes.
“Our food systems, our cities, our people and our very way of life developed within a stable range of climatic conditions on Earth,” former Vice President Al Gore observed in the wake of the CO2 report. “Without immediate and decisive action, these favorable conditions on Earth could become a memory.”
Following the front-page news about the rapid deterioration of the earth’s climate, came two other hard news stories that underscore the matter of food vulnerability: news of the disease-driven collapse of the staple food crop for more than 500 million human beings in Africa, and news of grave troubles for citrus fruits in America and around the world.
Climate change and crop disease are serious business. Here the land is not just calling, it’s shrieking.
In Africa the cassava plant – which produces a large, edible root – is succumbing to brown streak disease. Africa already suffers debilitating food shortages. Because casava is the staple food for the continent, this plant disease is calamitous.
Meanwhile, the citrus industry is grappling with an infernal bacterial disease that has now killed millions of plants in the southeastern United States and is threatening to spread across the entire country. The disease has also been found in Asia, Africa, and South America.
Citrus Greening, also called Yellow Dragon Disease (Huanglongbing), is fatal. The bacteria devastate trees, rendering bitter, misshapen oranges, then death for the entire organism. There is no known cure.
“This year (2012-13) was a real kick in the gut,” Florida’s agriculture commissioner told The New York Times. “It is now everywhere, and it’s just as bad as the doomsayers said it would be.”
* * * * * * * *
When I absorb this short stack of climate and food news — just a fraction of the farm and food factors in flux — I realize that we must dig in now more resolutely to build a clean, respectful, sacred and sustainable foundation for civilization. That’s the direction forward.
Many thousands of local, organic agrarian farm-and-food initiatives have arisen across the Americas in the last 25 years. They offer a wide array of working models. Those models can and should be replicated and emulated far and wide. They represent intelligent and promising responses to the imperative call of the land.
Organic farms and the cooperative food systems they are entwined with (the whole, broad range of 21st century agrarian initiatives) have manifold positive responses to the central issues, and a track record of evidence. They sequester carbon in the land and thereby mitigate CO2, helping stabilize climate. They offer clean, fresh food directly to people who live near the source. They provide dignified work in nature. They knit together healthy webs of relationship, both personal and digital, around concerns of a foundational nature to every human being. They teach essential ethical values. They establish oases of radiant environmental health. And they bring large numbers of people into a more direct and equitable relationship with the human beings who grow their food, and the land it is grown upon.
21st century agrarian initiatives also provide wholesome anchoring points (network nodes) for the brittle high-tech, digital-wave culture emerging so dynamically in our world. We are just at the beginning of that, really.
This 21st century agrarian initiatives – the many thousands of urban farms, CSAs, co-ops, community kitchens, church farms, and city gardens of all sizes shapes and descriptions – constitute core elements of a more wise and respectful human response to the imperative call of the land.
The cooperative development of clean local food systems is in no way a boutique idea or a passing fad. It is a key element of modern food security, and it is emerging not just as prudent but also as essential. It is also about the renewal of our overall human relationship with the earth that sustains us.
An authoritative new study sets out a grim vision of what lies ahead: climate change will cause shortages and violence, provoking much of civilization to collapse.
This blunt warning is the heart of the 2009 State of the Future study from the UN’s Millennium Project. The report, which will be made public in August, is based on the input of 2,700 researchers, and backed by a range of organizations including UNESCO, the World Bank, and the US Army.
According to the report, “The scope and scale of the future effects of climate change – ranging from changes in weather patterns to loss of livelihoods and disappearing states – has unprecedented implications for political and social stability.”
The immediate problems are rising food and energy prices, shortages of water and increasing migrations “due to political, environmental and economic conditions,” which could plunge half the world into social instability and violence.
The report suggests the threats could also engender wise and healthy responses. “The good news is that the global financial crisis and climate change planning may be helping humanity to move from its often selfish, self-centered adolescence to a more globally responsible adulthood…Many perceive the current economic disaster as an opportunity to invest in the next generation of greener technologies…and to put the world on course for a better future.”
What is good and healthy and helpful?
Reading the stark forecasts from this report put me in mind – thankfully — of someone I knew and admired, the late Leon Secatero of the Canoncito Band of Navajo, To’Hajiilee, New Mexico. Whenever Leon would hear pronouncements of inevitable doom, he would acknowledge the potential, then respond calmly.
In one of our conversations back in 2005, Grandfather Leon spoke with me about the future. “The journey we are beginning now is for the next 500 years. What will be the sacred path that people will walk over the next 500 years? Even in the midst of all the changes taking place and all the things falling apart, we are building that foundation now. That’s something important for us to remember and to focus on. If we don’t do it, no one else will.
“All anyone needs to do is look around,” Leon said. “We have been destroying nature systematically for many decades. Now nature is destroying us with winds and storms and earthquakes and volcanoes. All that was known a long time ago. The elders have been telling us for years that this would come. Now it’s here and it’s hurting us.
“We need to take a close look at this and then really come to terms with ourselves,” Leon said. “To move ahead into the next 500 years we must leave some things behind or they will contaminate or even eliminate the future. We cannot go forward if we keep destroying the earth. But we must also ask, what is good and healthy and helpful? Those good things can be part of our foundation, part of our pathway into the next 500 years…”
There is a growing cohort of people who are actively asking these questions, and responding creatively. I have come to think of them as the Millennial Agrarians, and they got a nod of acknowledgement this week from USA Today.
In the story, reporter Elizabeth Weise wrote “Agriculture specialists say there is a burgeoning movement in which young people — most of whom come from cities and suburbs — are taking up what may be the world’s oldest profession: organic farming.
“The wave of young farmers on tiny farms is too new and too small to have turned up significantly in USDA statistics, but people in the farming world acknowledge there’s something afoot.
“For these new farmers, going back to the land isn’t a rejection of conventional society, but an embrace of growing crops and raising animals for market as an honorable, important career choice.”
In the face of the grim vision described by the researchers involved with the State of the Future report, these Millennial Agrarians are an embodiment of hope. We are going to need millions more people – perhaps as many as 80 to 100 million more – to face what is happening in our world, and to respond intelligently to the call of the land.
(For more on this theme, including many more creative responses, see my blog at The Call of the Land.).
by Steven McFadden
I have recently initiated a new blog: The Call of the Land – An Agrarian Primer for the 21st Century.
If you have an interest in food and matters agrarian, I invite you visit the blog, which I will develop steadily in the years ahead. I set out my reasons for doing so in one of my initial posts.
Amplifying the Call
Our land, farms and food require immediate attention from everyone who recognizes what is so rapidly unfolding. Prices rising, supplies dwindling, crops mutating, population growing. An agrarian revolution is essential to our survival.
Agriculture is the foundation of our civilization. We must have it. Everything else depends on our meeting the primary needs of clean food and clean water. This state of affairs is a blessed necessity, for it interweaves our human souls with the soul of the earth. It is also a key to a successful future, for agriculture can serve as a basis for the wholesome renewal of our overall relationship with the earth.
Food and farms are in the ongoing thrall of a blitzkrieg of mutations, both negative and positive. Because agrarian matters are of such fundamental importance, impending matters of finance, transport, petrochemical supply, climate stability, environmental health, water supply, food availability and composition, necessitateâ€”right nowâ€”a clear, visionary look at matters agrarian.
Our current approach is, bluntly, unsustainable, and the harsh consequences are now plain. As a matter of survival â€“ while food prices rise and supplies dwindle — we must find wise ways to evolve. That evolution must take place swiftly, and it will require the involvement of almost all of us. A few farmers struggling the vortex of change cannot alone take care of us all. That has become an inescapable fact for anyone who follows agrarian news.
Just four months ago a major UN environment report (UNEP) concluded that our Earth is reaching the point of no return. The speed at which mankind is using and abusing the Earthâ€™s resources is putting humanityâ€™s survival at risk, the team of scientists said. They collectively issued an â€œurgent call for action.â€
Meanwhile, geologists are now debating whether they should add a new epoch to the geological time scale. They call it the Anthropocene â€“ the epoch when, for the first time in Earth’s history, humans have become a predominant geophysical force.
Perhaps the major factor of this â€œforceâ€ is modern industrial agriculture. On a massive scale it is poisoning and eroding the soil, draining water supplies, polluting the environment, and radically altering the genetic character of our planetary vegetation and livestock, as well as our diets and our perhaps our destiny.
While there may be no single remedy for the many challenges we face, there are many possible positive paths. With diligence we can construct a map for some of those paths, showing how a sustainable agrarian foundation can serve our brilliant yet fragile high-tech culture both nationally and globally.
For me a core ethical necessity in regard to our land and food is to strive in all endeavors to enhance the health and the regenerative capacity of the Earth. To support our farms so that, rather than being major sources of pollution, they are instead oases of environmental health, radiating this vitality out widely, and producing an abundance of clean food.
I intend this blog to amplify the call that is arising from our land. As Jack London put it in his classic novel, â€œThe Call of the Wild,â€ we face a moment of truth.
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