Sunday, 21 June 2015

A Barn That No Longer Stands

I heard from 'This American Life' host Ira Glass that the US government stopped keeping statistics on number of people living on farms in 1993. He said that the number was so small (less than 1 percent) that it didn't really make sense to keep track of it anymore.

However, the USDA Economics, Statistics and Market Information System (ESMIS), a collaboration between  Cornell University and of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has been keeping track. They offers us a lot of paperwork with a lot of numbers buried in confusing text and all in a completely unusable format. It is precisely what Hans Rosling is always on about. 

Anyone who cares to take the time to find some statistics on farming demographics in the US can look to ESMIS to find the data. I've just taken a little time to look through the statistics and see what they have to say about the number of farms and farm area. It turns out that the total number of farms has been pretty steady since a big jump back in 2007. According to the statistics the US went from 2,088,790 farms to 2,204,950 that year. 

That same 2007 jump in the number of farms also corresponds to a big drop (yes drop) in the average farm size.

Props to the Greenhorns and the Young Organics and the Slow Food movers and shakers. They are really doing it.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Vietnamese indigenous peoples' song about herbalism

From a manuscript I am working on with indigenous peoples' of North Vietnam:

Bài hát của các Già làng về n ghề t​huốc nam

Nếu bạn là ​bạn của ​cây thuốc
Hãy ​truyền lại từ thế hệ này sang thế hệ sau
Những ​con ​người có trái tim nhân hậu
Họ sẽ trở thành những ​người ​th​ầy thuốc nam
Mọi người đang mong chờ được chữa lành mọi vết thương

Elders song about herbalism 

If you are herbal friends 
Passed down from generation to generation 
Kind hearted 
Kind person to become a herbalist 
People are waiting to be healed 

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Tragedy as a Source of Strength


"Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength. No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful the experience, if we lose our hope, that's our real disaster." 
—H.H. Dalai Lama
Just reading the latest call from the Charter for Compassion in response to the situation in Nepal, for those crossing into Europe, and Baltimore's Freddy Gray. Charter for Compassion's message is that all of these tragedies call out for compassion and compassionate action.
As the Dalai Lama reminds us, we must have hope, but our real hope exists in the action we bring to tragedy. 
I turn to Walt Whitman, as ever, for inspiration and insight on this path of compassion:
"I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person." And: "Pointing to another world will never stop vice among us; shedding light over this world can alone help us."