March 19th, 2009


Women Farmers Fight Climate Change

I was encouraged by this article about sustainable agriculture:

In India, Women Farmers Ready to Beat Climate Change
Keya Acharya, Inter Press Service: "A collective of 5,000 women spread across 75 villages in this arid, interior part of southern India is now offering a chemical-free, non-irrigated, organic agriculture as one method of combating global warming."

Fieldhaven News

In Illinois, spring is coming. The crocus and snowdrops are blooming; tulips and daffodils are sprouted and some are showing buds. Honeysuckle, rose, lilac, and other bushes are budding. Forsythia blooms will open soon. The air is less cold and smells of rich wet earth. We're starting early yardwork like picking up sticks and pulling dead weeds.

We have plans to visit Champgain-Urbana, IL tomorrow for the Celtic Ways performance at Heartland Gallery. We'll also be grocery shopping for our Ostara event on Saturday. We're going to make teriyaki chicken for the potluck feast.

I've finally picked a restaurant for my birthday celebration: Pasha's, a Mediterannean restaurant in Champaign-Urbana. For new readers, my birthday is April 1; dinner is set for the weekend after that so my parents can join us. (I have an wishlist if anyone is shopping for me and doesn't know what to get.) Hm, I should also put some thought into a local observance, since the weekend before my birthday is Common Grounds.

The White House Vegetable Garden

I was delighted to read that Michelle Obama is planning an organic garden for the White House that will include vegetables, herbs, and berries. Hopefully this will encourage more people to try growing some of their own food. And she's really going out on a limb: this is her first garden. She's lucky to have a mob of landscapers to help.

Obamas Prepare to Plant White House Vegetable Garden
WASHINGTON — On Friday, Michelle Obama will begin digging up a patch of White House lawn to plant a vegetable garden, the first since Eleanor Roosevelt’s victory garden in World War II. There will be no beets (the president doesn’t like them) but arugula will make the cut.

Water Rights

I found these two articles about water rights today:

Is Access to Clean Water a Basic Human Right?
Istanbul, Turkey - With fresh water resources becoming scarcer worldwide due to population growth and climate change, a growing movement is working to make access to clean water a basic universal human right.

    But it's a contentious issue, experts say. Especially difficult is how to safely mesh public-sector interests with public ownership of resources - and determine the legal and economic ramifications of enshrining the right to water by law.

The right to life is widely recognized as a fundamental human right. Anything which is absolutely required for life -- such as water and food -- must therefore be considered a right also, because otherwise the right to life cannot be exercised and becomes meaningless.

Who Owns Colorado's Rainwater? Denver - Every time it rains here, Kris Holstrom knowingly breaks the law.

    Holstrom's violation is the fancifully painted 55-gallon buckets underneath the gutters of her farmhouse on a mesa 15 miles from the resort town of Telluride.

The barrels catch rain and snowmelt, which Holstrom uses to irrigate the small vegetable garden she and her husband maintain.

    But according to the state of Colorado, the rain that falls on Holstrom's property is not hers to keep. It should be allowed to fall to the ground and flow unimpeded into surrounding creeks and streams, the law states, to become the property of farmers, ranchers, developers and water agencies that have bought the rights to those waterways.

As a general rule, what lies over or on or under a piece of land belongs to the owner of that land, although some things can be sold separately. But they should not all be sold out from large sectors because that dimishes the usefulness of the land itself and can cause hardship for people later. In particular, it is more desirable that people learn to live within the water budget of their own land than buy water from elsewhere after exceeding what it naturally apportioned to that place.

What we have here, in these two articles, is a ruthless illustration of what happens when people treat water as a commodity. It isn't like luxury trade goods. It is a necessity of life, and there is only so much of it. When people in power try to prevent other people from gaining access to water, the result is disaster -- because it's not like people can just do without it. They are often forced to scrounge or steal or hoard it, and if all else fails, they will go to war and kill for it, because they would rather do that than lie down and die. If we wish to keep the peace, we must learn to treat water as a natural resource to be shared.

Think Systemically

A lot of the problems we're having now stem from society's attempt to chop the world into tiny pieces. It's not a pile of pieces. It's a vast system full of smaller subsystems all intricately connected; and it acts like a system.

How to Destroy the Government in Three Easy Steps
    In eight short years, conservatives have effectively bankrupted many state governments and left the fed in shambles. And now citizens have to "make tough decisions" and share the suffering equally across the land (unless of course, you're part of that lucky 1 percent who co-opted the functions of government to serve their own ends ... they'll be cozy with their offshore bank accounts, golden parachutes and permanent tax holidays).</p>

    Are you a teacher who educates our future citizens? Too bad. You've got to tighten your belt and let that job go. Manual laborer? Sorry, but that job can earn more money for our shareholders if it's done in Micronesia. Need a college degree? Prepare for indentured servitude because you'll be working to pay us off for most of your adult life. Health care? Ha! That's just a Ponzi scheme dreamed up by a bunch of socialists.

The problems with the government are not flukes or accidents. They are part of a pattern -- indeed, part of a plan. If you have fallen through a crack, chances are it wasn't a random event, but rather, someone created that crack and pushed you into it because that works to their advantage. The more trouble you have just keeping your nose above water, the less a threat they think you will be to their wealth or goals.

The Secret War Against American Workers: The Unemployment Story No One Notices
Juanita isn't the only one at this job center on the precipice of acute need. And she isn't alone in relating a story about being fired for what would seem to many a frivolous reason. Chris Topher, 25 and making his first visit here, was axed in March of last year. The telecommunications company he had been working for sent him packing when, as he tells it, he installed cable equipment a customer hadn't ordered. It didn't matter that the mistake was on the work order Chris was given. "It was the best job I had since I graduated high school and I've had a few: Turnpike Commission, working in a Senator's office. I've had some nice jobs, but that one, I enjoyed it the most."

This is another example of how, in many ways, workers are forced to do more with less money, and then condemned when they cannot. People who fear job loss are especially vulnerable to economic, sexual, and other exploitation. This isn't an accident. It's a very cunning trap. The real problem is -- we're all in it, even the rich people, even the business owners and managers. Workers make the food, drive the buses, teach the children, clean the floors, repair the bridges. Or not. If they're too starved or stressed or sick to do a good job, then important jobs get done less and less well. Replace them? Sure -- with more people who are also facing the same stresses and will wear down the same. We all pay the price for that foolishness.

A Structural Crisis Demands a Comprehensive Solution
Some pretend to believe that the present crisis is a passing incident - just more serious than previous such incidents - which an injection of public money will allow us to overcome. The progressive exhaustion of natural resources, climate change, public indebtedness: it's more likely that we are witnessing the rupture with a specific development model and mode of reasoning.

    We're going to have to enter a great transition to a sustainable society. It will lead us to cut our energy and raw materials consumption back to the biosphere's reproductive capacities and to rebalance the access different regions of the world enjoy to those resources.

    The present crisis is structural; it calls for structural responses. There's no solution to the aberrations of finance without the recreation of a global monetary order; no monetary order without an energy order; no energy order without evolution of the system of production and trade; no evolution of that system without new global governance. The transition will take time because it involves a profound renewal of concepts, institutional agency and regulatory methods. If we undertake that today, we will make the crisis an opportunity.

Here, at last, someone is finally thinking systemically. We don't have just this problem and that problem; we have a whole nest of problems all intertangled with each other and influencing each other. In order to restore balance, we need a whole new paradigm. We need to perceive the world as a whole -- the environment, the societies, ourselves -- in which damage to one quickly damages the others. Only by caring for the Earth and each other can we create a world worth living in. Because right now, a lot of unbalanced structures are collapsing all around us, and if we're not careful, we'll get crushed under the debris of falling paradigms.

Look for the patterns. Then ask who benefits from them, and who is harmed. Then look for a sustainable alternative.