Monthly Archives: May 2006

The Future of Agriculture

If we are to have a future, if we are to survive, this is what it will look like. Folks in Memphis and other cities around the country have started community gardens and I’d bet that the trend will continue. In fact, it will become a part of everyday life. Our future will look like our past. With each passing day I become more convinced that peak oil has arrived and with it, the very harsh reality of climate change.

Community gardens, will become a core component of a renewed community life which is to say, real and functional community institutions. We will have to learn the lesson that the government and global capital were never the solution but the problem. The solution lies with our own work in our own space. The gardens in our community, the solar panels in and around our homes, the bicycles on our streets, all are pieces of a sustainable future that will be based in our neighborhoods. I fear we may be too late but some days I’m hopeful.

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What If They Gave a War…?

Tony Long at Wired News thinks we “desperately need a revolution”:

1968. It was the height of the Vietnam War, the year of My Lai and the Tet offensive. Student riots in Paris nearly brought down the French government. Soviet tanks put a premature end to Czechoslovakia’s Prague Spring.

In the United States, the streets were teeming with antiwar protesters and civil rights demonstrators. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated within two months of each other. The Democratic convention in Chicago dissolved into chaos. And by the summer, America’s cities were in flames.

The world was seething, and for good reason. There was a lot to be angry about. It was a lousy year, 1968.

I was in high school then. I quit the baseball team because, frankly, sports seemed frivolous. In 1968, there were more important things to worry about than perfecting a curveball. All very high-minded and, in retrospect, more than a little pompous. But nearly 40 years down the road I don’t regret having done it. My political consciousness was awakened and I was actively engaged in the world around me.

But as bad as things were then, they seem infinitely worse now.

So why aren’t the streets clogged with angry Americans demanding to know why their president lied and deceived them so he could attack a country that had absolutely nothing to do with his so-called war on terror? To an extent, we got suckered into Vietnam. We can’t make that claim about Iraq. Iraq was the premeditated, willful invasion of a sovereign nation that was threatening nobody. “Saddam Hussein is a prick who treats the Kurds miserably” is no justification. By the principles established by the Nuremberg Tribunal and international law, our president is a war criminal.

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deCleyre Co-op being revived

Glad to here my friends and former housemates in Memphis are breathing new life into deCleyre. For about a year it had been in a free fall. Thanks to some good folks stepping up to the challenge it looks like the co-op will not only survive but may be entering a time of real growth. Now more than ever I think cities need places like deCleyre so I can’t say how happy I’d be to see it continue and flourish. The Co-op was 7 years old as April 1. From the deCleyre Blog:

It is almost the end of May. The bell tolls from the church down the street and it reminds me that a judgement day is coming for Decleyre. Thus far we have cleaned out almost the entire house, save a few rooms and a closet. We have gathered enough materials for all the building projects save a few pieces of siding. We even have enough to build a tin roofed garden shed. Now the momentum picks up. We are recruiting bands and artists for the benifit extravaganza in early June, and flyers for housemates and well-wishers are finding their way onto the streets. JB has even decided on hipster buisness cards for Decleyre and this very blog, so all the cool kids know whats goin down.

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Less Oil, More Wars

Over at Michael Klare discusses the arrival of energy-based wars. He provides a brief but insightful description of the historical context of cheap oil and it’s impact on U.S. development. He also delves into the effects of colonial development/imperialism on the oil rich regions of the world. A thought provoking introduction to just a few aspects of oil, energy, and the politics of development. Here’s a bit:

To explain the current run-up in gasoline prices, pundits throw out many reasons, including concern over a possible war with Iran, insatiable demand from China, inadequate refinery capacity, greedy oil companies and the gradual depletion of the world’s oilfields. All of these do bear some degree of responsibility, but they are not the fundamental cause. There has been a historic shift in the center of gravity of world oil production from the global North—the older industrialized countries—to conflict-plagued areas of the global South—the developing world. Because this shift is all-encompassing and irreversible, global oil output will remain vulnerable to overseas instability and gasoline prices will remain high.

What explains this shift in production, and why does it cause perennially high gasoline prices?

Although we tend to think of Middle Eastern deserts when hearing the term “oil production,” the global oil industry arose in the United States in the middle of the 19th century. It then concentrated in other early-to-industrialize nations. Up until 1950, most of the world’s oil was produced in the global North. This meant that the sites of production were located relatively close to the sites of demand, and that any outbreaks of disorder in the oilfields (never entirely absent in the global North) could swiftly be suppressed.

The early concentration of oil production in North America, in particular, had an especially profound impact on critical developments of the 20th century. It helped make possible the early emergence of automobile culture and suburbia in the United States after World War I, and its full-blown effervescence after 1945. During World War II it gave the Allies an enormous advantage over Germany and Japan—neither of which possessed domestic sources of petroleum and had to fight for whatever meager supplies they could acquire from abroad. After the war, North American oil helped rebuild European economies under the Marshall Plan.

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Global Food Supply Near the Breaking Point

I think it’s safe to say that the combination of climate change and peak oil will indeed bring havoc to our global food production. I have no doubts. Stephen Leahy of the Inter Press Service reports that Global Food Supply Near the Breaking Point:

The world is now eating more food than farmers grow, pushing global grain stocks to their lowest level in 30 years.

Rising population, water shortages, climate change, and the growing costs of fossil fuel-based fertilisers point to a calamitous shortfall in the world’s grain supplies in the near future, according to Canada’s National Farmers Union (NFU).

Thirty years ago, the oceans were teeming with fish, but today more people rely on farmers to produce their food than ever before, says Stewart Wells, NFU’s president.

In five of the last six years, global population ate significantly more grains than farmers produced.

And with the world’s farmers unable to increase food production, policymakers must address the “massive challenges to the ability of humanity to continue to feed its growing numbers”, Wells said in a statement.

There isn’t much land left on the planet that can be converted into new food-producing areas, notes Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute, a Washington-based non-governmental organisation. And what is left is of generally poor quality or likely to turn into dust bowls if heavily exploited, Brown told IPS.

“There’s not nearly enough discussion about how people will be fed 20 years from now,” he said.

Hunger is already a stark and painful reality for more than 850 million people, including 300 million children. How can the number of hungry not explode when one, two and possibly three billion more people are added to the global population?

The global food system needs fixing and fast, says Darrin Qualman, NFU’s research director.

The article suggests that the old bumper sticker phrase, “Think Globally, Act Locally” is a large part of the solution. I agree. Not only will we discover that it is the solution for food production but energy production as well. Capitalism has produced agribusiness, which is an industrial process of food production based on maximizing profits. It’s never been about supplying the people of the planet with healthy, nutritious food.

If we survive on this planet long enough we will eventually learn that capitalism was a very big mistake. There are other ways, better ways, to organize our society.

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National Security and the CIA: Judge protects law breaking

Truman over at Irregular Times has an excellent post regarding the use of National Security as a basis for imprisonment, torture, and the general breaking of laws by the U.S. government. Each day seems to bring news that the U.S. government and George Bush are totally out of control. Judge Rules That Justice Is Inconvenient for National Security:

This news comes to us from the Washington Post this morning:

A federal judge yesterday threw out the case of a German citizen who says he was wrongfully imprisoned by the CIA, ruling that Khaled al-Masri’s lawsuit poses a “grave risk” of damage to national security by exposing government secrets… Sources have said Masri was held by the CIA for five months in Afghanistan because of mistaken identity. Masri says he was beaten, sodomized and repeatedly questioned about alleged terrorist ties. But [Judge] Ellis said the remedy cannot be found in the courts. Masri’s “private interests must give way to the national interest in preserving state secrets,’’ the judge wrote in dismissing the lawsuit filed last year against former CIA director George J. Tenet and 10 unnamed CIA officials.

Think about this for a minute, and consider what it says about the radical impact of the right wing judiciary installed by George W. Bush. Judge Ellis ruled that the United States government has the power to break the law, imprison and abuse an innocent person without a trial or hearing of any kind, and never pay the price, so long as the government claims that national security is involved. If Judge Ellis’s ruling stands, is there anything our government could not do, using national security as an excuse?All indications are that Khaled al-Masri was never involved in terrorism. Yet, he was kidnapped and flown by American agents across international borders to a secret prison in order to be tortured. If a person cannot file suit in America for such treatment, what are our courts good for anymore? What good is American law anymore?

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A visit to the Missouri Botanical Gardens

Just as I was telling myself I would slow the expansion of our garden I make the mistake of visiting the Missouri Botanical Gardens. If you are a gardener you can’t help but be inspired by such a magnificent place. We had a perfect day for the visit. Not only were we treated to many beautiful gardens but also an exhibit of blown glass… very nice. My favorite is the home gardening exhibit and the Missouri natives demonstration garden.

So now I sit looking out my window thinking yet again about the many ways I can expand our garden. In the past two springs I’ve taken what was an shady area struggling grass (more moss than grass), mulched it and added 35+ native Missouri species. On the northwest side of our house where we get a bit more sun I ripped up a 6 X 20 foot area of grass and planted a mix of 35+ native prairie/glade species. So that’s at least 70 new species and well over 100 actual plants. I’m fairly happy with the results but we’re on five acres of land here. The defined yard area is probably about an acre with the rest left to woodland. The garden area I’ve created is probably about 5% of this one acre. So there’s still plenty of room for more garden!

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Climate Change Round Up… Getting Worse, Much Worse

This is not good… really, not good. Nor is it a surprise. We’ll start with Reuters’ coverage of a new report, Global warming threatens extinctions:

OSLO (Reuters) – Global warming will become a top cause of extinction from the tropical Andes to South Africa with thousands of species of plants and animals likely to be wiped out in coming decades, a study said on Tuesday.

“Global warming ranks among the most serious threats to the planet’s biodiversity and, under some scenarios, may rival or exceed that due to deforestation,” according to the study in the journal Conservation Biology.

“This study provides even stronger scientific evidence that global warming will result in catastrophic species loss across the planet,” said Jay Malcolm, an assistant forestry professor at the University of Toronto and a lead author of the study with scientists in the United States and Australia.

Last month, a UN study said humans were responsible for the worst spate of extinctions since the dinosaurs and urged unprecedented extra efforts to reach a UN target of slowing the rate of losses by 2010.

The Times of London 3C hotter. Earth’s danger point. Now scientists say it is going to happen:

The world will warm by 3C (5.4F) even under emissions projections for 2050 that leading scientists consider optimistic, the United Nations group that studies global warming has said.

The increase, which would cause drought and famine for 400 million people and devastate wildlife, is predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its most confident assessment yet of how greenhouse gases are affecting global temperatures.

A draft of part of the panel’s fourth report, which the US Government has released on the internet, shows that it has, for the first time, placed a likely figure on the progress of global warming, indicating a level of scientific certainty that it has avoided in the past.

Global warming fastest for 20,000 years – and it is mankind’s fault

Global warming is made worse by man-made pollution and the scale of the problem is unprecedented in at least 20,000 years, according to a draft report by the world’s leading climate scientists.

The leaked assessment by the group of international experts says there is now overwhelming evidence to show that the Earth’s climate is undergoing dramatic transformation because of human activity.

A draft copy of the report by a working group of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases are at the highest for at least 650,000 years.

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