Thursday, 29 March 2012

Climate Change? will connect the Dots

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) just published 'Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters, to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX)' a report on climate change and weather extremes. The work includes evidence of past and future changes and the impacts at global and regional scales. It also has an extensive discussion about managing weather-related risks with guidance for policy makers and change-makers in general.

The activist community will support this work with an action day on May 5. is calling it a day of global witness, which will connect groups (each with a giant dot) around the planet suffering from the effects of global climate change.  The ideas is to make the pattern of Global climate change visible by connecting the dots, to refute climate change deniers and to find hope that the world will choose to take action.

The day will also feature hopeful projects like sustainable energy and community gardens. Either way Start or join an event near you has even offered to help figure out some of the logistics...

Check out the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 'Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters, to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX)'

Finally, a poem: I think it is appropriate to revisit the poem from the Greenhorns and the Irresistible Fleet of Bicycles: 


       less slavery
       less diesel
       less hunger+ obesity
       less cronyism and chemicals and corporate control

       (in the form of a brisk, conversion of our economy towards healthier mix).

       more jobs
       more rural prosperity, and dancing
       more layers on the land
       more soil biota
       more resilient economies based in places, in buildings, in relationships
       more entrepreneurship
       more faith in a more functional democracy

it may be hard, but it will not be boring.

A Dissapointed Mainer

Somehow the Maine Senate seems to have lost it's mind. York County Republican Senator Courtney introduced a Joint Resolution Memorializing the President and the Congress of the United States to Support the Completion of the Keystone XL Pipeline. The resolution suggested a number of falsehoods including that the pipeline would create a substantial number of jobs - certainly we would not get any jobs in Maine with from this pipeline.

Along with nearly 2,000 other Mainers, I signed a petition last week asking the the senate to oppose the resolution. Sadly, somehow, the vote was passed 17-15.
Tar sands oil and its acquisition, production, transportation, and usage is one of the dirtiest fossil fuels on the planet. I had a feeling that Maine was ready to move forward in support of environmentally-supportive energy choices.

Amid my disappointment, I am left asking myself what the legislature is even doing wasting time on this issue. With only a few weeks left in this session Maine legislators should be focused on improving Maine's economy and environment.

The only thing left to do is to contact the Senators who supported this Resolution and contact Representatives to make sure they know our minds on this issue and keep working at home.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Will Economic Growth Destroy The Planet?

Normally I rely on NPR's Planet Money for good, accurate and honest reporting. Reporting that takes a careful look at all the sides of an issue concerning economics and carefully spells it out for the lay person. I have learned more from this program than I did in any economics course.

However, I must protest the oversimplified version of economic growth they presented in episode #317 'Will Economic Growth Destroy The Planet?' In it they attempt to answer a question 'Is economic growth bad for the planet?' which they say comes from many of their listeners. In the episode the hosts of Planet Money talk to a few economists and come to the conclusion that economic growth in it's current form is good for the planet.  Most economists love economic growth and call it an essential driver of rising living standards, the economists in the show also think of economic growth as being exactly right for the planet as well.

The producers overlooked a whole genera of economics, one that follows Aldo Leopold's Land Ethic and E.F. Schumacher's Small is Beautiful; ideas about economics that are quickly gaining ground. I think that Planet Money should revisit the question and interview the economists who are thinking outside the box. Economists like Manfred Max Neef and business people like Woody Tasch should be part of the next show.

Check out Manfred Max Neef and his barefoot economics at the World Future Council:

Read more about Woody Tasch and the Slow Money project:

Hope can be found in James Gustave Speth's piece for Yes Magazine 'America the Possible: A Manifesto' in Yes Magazine

Monday, 26 March 2012

Forests, Biodiversity, and Food Security

"Forests are a considerable source of biodiversity and, as such, are inextricably linked to people's food security, nutrition and health in a number of fundamental ways." -International Forestry Review

The many links between nature and food security are so complex that they often go unnoticed. Many believe that natural spaces have ceased to be important to food security. Therefore protection of them, and the multiple ecosystem services and functions (ESSF) they provide, often takes a backseat to agricultural production. - However, biodiversity does contribute to nourishing people around the world. Roughly one billion people are reliant on wild harvested products which adds not only considerable calories but also much needed protein and micronutrients. This is true of both urban and rural populations (e.g. 4.5 million tons of bushmeat a year comes from the Congo Basin). Even ESSF direct contribution to food is not as important as inputs to agricultural production e.g. regulation of water flow and quality, provision of pollination services, maintenance of nutrient cycling and soil fertility, mitigation of climatic extremes, control of agricultural pests and diseases.

ESSF is complex and dynamic and therefore difficult to understand. For our entire existence we have nourished ourselves directly from the bounty of forests, grasslands and other wild places. Our existence and theirs is a symbiosis of complex interactions. A simplified version of this interaction is obvious: what we exhale and excrete is nourishment for the wild places; wild places in turn produce food, clean water and oxygen. The relationship includes deep connections, spirituality, cultural diversity, and many other resources, services, knowledge. The diversity of ESSF is also one reason why natures crucial role in food security goes unappreciated. 

We have forgotten that these wild places are still nourishing us and that we should respect and nourish them.

I think of it as 'use it or lose it'. I also know that 'we will not fight for what we do not love' and that the cultural importance of native species has lead to much of the activism for environmental conservation.

So much of the critical conservation enacted in our world happens invisibly and is carried out by people without degrees or professional titles; while most of the resources go to environmental groups who are well-intentioned and well-staffed but rarely have the extensive site-based knowledge. What we need is a movement. This must be based on research with inquiries linking the use of biodiversity and the conservation of it through well managed (sustainable, holistic) utilization of native species. 

A special issue of the International Forestry Review on "Forests, Biodiversity, and Food Security" is taking a step toward rectifying these knowledge gaps through multidisciplinary and international studies that focus on a variety of approaches and perspectives, as well as a wealth of data and analysis on the question of what forests contribute to food security, nutrition, and human wellbeing. It suggests the answer lies again in diversity: a diversity of approaches, perspectives, methods, and tools. is part of the DVD title "Establishing a Food Forest" with Permaculture teacher Geoff Lawton from a trip he made in Vietnam a while back to visit a 300 year old Food Forest built on 2 acres of land and still functioning well in the same family 28 generations later. More info: (more on diversity and genetic resources maintained in Vietnamese Home gardens, in: Agrobiodiversity conservation and development in Vietnamese home gardens, Agricultural Ecosystems and Environment 2033. and Vietnamese Home Gardens, Cultural and Crop Diversity in Home Gardens and Agrobiodiversity)

And some Eco Films on the permaculture model and how that is encouraging more appreciation of humans in nature

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Food Not Bombs

"A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense
than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death." Martin Luther King, Jr.

According to the recent message from the San Francisco Bay Area Food Not Bombs and the World Hunger Education Service, as many as one in 7 households in the United States experiences hunger each day. Hunger, in this case, is referred to as food insecure: the uneasy or painful sensation caused by want of food and the exhausted condition that goes with it.

In 1997 The Department of Agriculture estimated that 96.4 billion pounds of the 356 billion pounds of edible food produced in the United States went uneaten. Since then the rate has climbed, most of it is burned or put into landfills.

The call from the global Food Not Bombs movement holds that we can totally eradicate hunger in the United States by redirecting this food from the trash into hungry mouths. Food Not Bombs shares free vegan and vegetarian meals with the hungry in over 1,000 cities around the world to help end poverty and violence against people and nature.

The San Francisco Bay Area Food Not Bombs reminds us that an impoverished person is a person in crisis and a humanitarian society should take care of people in crisis, regardless of how that crisis came about. We have an obligation to nourish our impoverished citizens and we can feed them at no cost if we pass laws that mandate edible food be donated to share with the hungry. This is recycling at it's best and leads to a better, more fair and sustainable world.

Here is Shel Silverstein's poem Sharing

I'll share your toys, I'll share your money,
I'll share your toast, I'll share you honey,
I'll share your milk and your cookies too– –
The hard part's sharing mine with you.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

유영훈Leader of the Paldang Farmers in 두물머리 is running for Green Party election!

My good friend Mr. Young-Hun Yu (유영훈), the leader of the Paldang Organic farmers and activists in Dulmulmoeri (두물머리), is running for the election for the launch of the Green Party in South Korea.  - Word on the street in Seoul is that people are strongly supporting him. He is a strong activist for Organic farmers and says he vows to spread sustainable organic agriculture in South Korea.  

Mr. Young-Hun Yu (유영훈) talking about fighting the Korean Government in Support of Organic farmers.

Mr. Young-Hun Yu (유영훈) protesting in Dulmulmoeri (두물머리) to save the Organic farmers of Paldang. 

Thanks are due to both the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) and the Korean Federation of Sustainable Agriculture (KFSA) for supporting the Paldang farmers throughout the planning of the IFOAM GA and OWC. - This cost the KFSA its budget this year and for a while it was looking like it might cost IFOAM the Korean Government support.   

It looks like things are turning around in South Korea. - We can all look forward to visiting an Organic South Korea soon. 

Friday, 23 March 2012

Deep Ecology and Conservation

Deep ecology is another mechanism for conservation Stephanie Caza explains that Gary Snyder and his poetry following Han Shan 'Cold Mountain' and the ancient mountain poetry of China and Japan lead to Deep Ecology as a domain of the Environmental Movement.

Deep Ecology (like many indigenous groups, Engaged Buddhism and the Permaculture movement) does not see humans as separate from nature, it holds that there is a need and instinct to be compassionate to all living beings and looks to the health of the natural world as it relates to the health of the self and the health of community. In a way, it is about healing the relationship of humans and nature through a dialogue.

Caza says we must learn to speak, or at least respect the language of nature, a language that mycologist Paul Stamets has said we cannot understand and therefore we disregard. Caza calls for a look to Joanna R. Macy and the idea of the ecological self, which she says is similar to what HH Dalai Lama calls the universal self. It is also similar to EO Wilson's Eco Philia (i.e. nature helps people stay healthy and to heal, they get better in hospitals when the have plants and when they see plants, also true in prisons).

A Poem by Han Shan translated by Gary Snyder

Clambering up the Cold Mountain path,
The Cold Mountain trail goes on and on:
The long gorge choked with scree and boulders,
The wide creek, the mist-blurred grass.
The moss is slippery, though there's been no rain
The pine sings, but there's no wind.

Who can leap the world's ties
And sit with me among the white clouds?

The Nouabale-Ndoki National Park Congo

Great News! The Republic of Congo (ROC) has just expanded the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park to include the Goualougo Triangle, expanding deeper into the rainforest to protect great apes. The expansion is a demonstration of an increasingly positive relationship between conservation organizations, Congolese Industry and the ROC government.

The Goualougo is a very dense, swampy forest that is home to a nearly pristine and untouched great ape population that was first discovered in 1989 by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) scientists. The inspiration for the expansion came from studies of the area's chimpanzee and great ape populations, conducted by WCS as part of the Goualougo Triangle Great Ape Project. An effective buffer zone was created surrounding the park for which concessions were made by Congolais Industrielle des Bois which gave up its legal right to harvest timber from the Goualougo Triangle.

Skillful means of activism - Sacred Earth

I just heard Dekila Chungyalpa's very inspiring presentation to H. H. Dalai Lama on Skillful Means of Activism. She spoke about her work with the Sacred Earth program, a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) project to develop partnerships with faith leaders and institutions in order to protect biodiversity, natural resources and environmental services. The program works with religious leaders and faith communities to address ethical and spiritual ideals around the sacred value of earth and its diversity. It supports partnerships with local faith communities, and religious leaders to address conservation issues and look for ways to enrich and transform societal values and aspirations towards a sustainable future. The Sacred Earth program holds that working with faiths is not only an important and critical strategy for conservation but also a way to bring about genuine sustainable development. Most people in the world follow a spiritual faith and the faith leaders can help articulate ethical and spiritual ideals around the sacred value of Earth and its diversity.

It all sarted in1986 when WWF and HRH Prince Philip, then President of WWF, invited leaders of major world religions to discuss the relationship of faith and nature. The resulting Alliance of Religion and Conservation (ARC) and WWF started Sacred Gifts for a Living Planet in Kathmandu made a declaration with a commitment to clean protected Baghmati River in Nepal. Then in 2005, WWF and ARC wrote Beyond Belief, which lists over a hundred sacred places that are rich in biodiversity and can be considered potential "sacred sites", now an internationally recognized term of protection of biodiversity and culture.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Slash-and-burn 'improves tropical forest biodiversity'

According to the Science and Development Network slash-and-burn a practice common among indigenous and small scale farmers and foresters, actually improves tropical forest biodiversity.
Slash-and-burn agricultural practices have been banned by many governments because of the risk of uncontrolled fires. However, it turns out that they provide better growing conditions for valuable new trees than more modern methods of forest clearance.

Testing three diferent methods: clear-felling, bulldozing, and slash-and-burn: researchers cleared 24 half-hectare areas of tropical forest in Quintana Roo state, in southern Mexico. Mahogany seeds and seedlings were then planted and after 11 years, the researchers compared the sites and found that slash-and-burn techniques had provided the best growing conditions for mahogany. Many other valuable species also thrived in the slash-and-burn plots, whereas in clear-felled areas more than half of each area contained tree species of no commercial value. In areas cleared by slash-and-burn 60 per cent of species were commercially valuable. Additionally, the largest trees in slash-and-burn areas were 10 percent bigger than those in bulldozed areas.

Results were presented at the annual conference of the International Society of Tropical Foresters at Yale University

Less than one week to reach one million

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is preparing to approve genetically engineered salmon, which would be the first genetically engineered animal on supermarket shelves in the United States. The salmon is engineered to produce hormones year-round that cause the fish to grow at twice its natural rate - without labels, people in the US will never know if they are eating it or not.

There is less than one week left until the FDA responds to a petition calling for labeling of genetically engineered foods -- and we need to make sure the FDA knows how Americans feel about this issue before that deadline.

That's why I submitted a comment to the FDA through demanding that genetically engineered foods be labeled. Please visit the petition page at and tell the FDA that you support mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods:


Sunday, 18 March 2012

Toward Organic Asia and the organic and conservation movements of the Mekong

As Chöngyam Rinpoche said: 
"Better never to start...
Once you have started better to finish"

The Toward Organic Asia (TOA) meeting at the Social Policy and Ecology Research Institute (SPERI) could yield some great things for young organic farmers in the Mekong. Young farmers will go from Vietnam to Thailand to see Uncle Ti's farm and the Pacanho minority community to see models for sustainable agriculture. SPERI will join the meeting at the Findhorn Ecovillage and take a leading role in capacity building for young farmers in the region within the TOA cooperative framework. Three indigenous youth will come from Myanmar and a group of farmers will come from Laos to the Human Ecology Practice Area (HEPA) for training.

The Organic and conservation movements of the Mekong are in need of more cooperation and real support. The Organic movement is all still very small, vague, and more or less lost on the average person here. Most tragically it is lost on the farmers and sustainable wild collectors who need attention and support.  

The idea behind the TOA is beautiful but sadly the Mekong region has a long long way to go to get such a conservation and sustainable agriculture movement off the ground. TOA was brought forth by the School for Wellbeing to offer a network for sustainability movements in the region so that they can move ahead, but it has a long way to go, and a lot to learn before it can start to get there.

So, those of you in the Mekong, and in the rest of the world for that matter, please keep your eyes wide open for good farming and conservation practices, get to know those farmers, hunters and wild collectors and find out how you can help them directly. 

A poem from the Greenhorns:


       less slavery
       less diesel
       less hunger+ obesity
       less cronyism and chemicals and corporate control

       (in the form of a brisk, conversion of our economy towards healthier mix).

       more jobs
       more rural prosperity, and dancing
       more layers on the land
       more soil biota
       more resilient economies based in places, in buildings, in relationships
       more entrepreneurship
       more faith in a more functional democracy

it may be hard, but it will not be boring.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, et al. v. Monsanto

Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, et al. v. Monsanto, was filed in federal district court in Manhattan on March 29, 2011, on behalf of 83 family farmers, seed businesses and organic agricultural organizations, representing over 300,000 members. Sadly, on February 24, 2012 Judge Naomi Buchwald dismissed in the case.

Time for Alternative Action: As Vandana Shiva says it is time to occupy the food system. Corporate interests are controlling our food and it is not leading to healthy communities, farming systems, or food. Clearly, the judicial system of the United States is not prepared to offer real justice.
 - The Organic Consumers Association is offering some resources for petitioning the corporate interests and for food justice:
Join IFOAM and support the global organic movement

Compassion for the Mosquito

Human evolution and the annoyance of the mosquito has been the topic of a lot of conversations here in Vietnam these days. "Why is it so annoying" someone asked "if it did not sing with a flute and make me itch after it bite I would not care so much about it".

What biologists tell us is that the itchiness and annoyance from the sound is our own body's reaction for dealing with the mosquito. Our ancestors who were the most annoyed and bothered by mosquitos were most likely to survive. - They did not get malaria, did not get sickness and die and therefore they were most likely to reproduce and make more humans. - We are the children of these ancient humans, the ones who were the most annoyed. Our bodies, which get a swelling itchy spot from the bite, and wake up in the middle of the night to swat and scratch are a gift from our ancestors. The bodies that gave them the most happiness and the easiest life are the bodies we have now.

What about fleas, bedbugs, mites, lice. Clearly what they all want is what we want: to be comfortable, to live well, to do what comes next. Are they compassionate in that quest? They sacrifice and risk life to our swatting and scratching so that they can give life to their children. Do they also make sacrifices for us? For the birds? As they die and become food for birds which sing and fly and inspire us.
Do they show appreciation? As they fly away full and singing...

Though the Buddha said this about annoying people, it is still instructive for dealing with mosquitoes:

Five ways to stop being annoyed from the Aghatapativinaya Sutta:

Onlooking equanimity
Forgetting and ignoring
Ownership of deeds

'This good person is owner of his deeds, heir to his deeds, his deeds are the womb from which he is born, his deeds are his kin for whom he is responsible, his deeds are his refuge, he is heir to his deeds, be they good or bad.'

- Buddha (Aghatapativinaya Sutta)