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Saturday, November 9, 2019

Living with Fire - a thought experiment

This is a thought experiment on fire inspired by the Kincade fire, discussions with poet laureate Maya Khosla and a trip we just took to Ettawa Springs a charming yet disheveled turn of the century resort in the forested  hills near Loch Lomond in Lake County.
Imagine a new day for life on earth -- Living in community with many thousands on ten thousand acres of forest and wilderness land.  Over time and generations we would restore and grow and tend and improve habitat, sinking carbon and then the fire comes -- inevitable -- all your compassionate work thought lost. 
If your village were nomadic you would move on, or perhaps if you were a caretaker society of the future you would set in motion restoration of the burn, hastening its regeneration using technologies and infrastructure and propagation, and then let wilding take its course.  Your work, done for the moment. 
Life in your village, if your structures were hardened and survived the fire would be a shadow of what it was, transformed by fire, dwellers having completely different purpose and its culture transformed in relationship to the land -- but burn it will, burn it must, again and again over eons. We would live and return to the landscape for ages, as caretakers, and carry that knowledge of fire in our bones,  ancient memories we pass to our children in stories. Nature knows the way and fire will always be part of nature.

There is of course  a dominate and modern story.  Private property estates on the hill and resorts in wild lands and private mansions nestled in tracts of wilderness with vineyard and affluence.  As picturesque as these modern stories may be, they are out of step with the original human in nature story.  I do not think they can ever be reconciled with fire, try as they will.

PG&E is a criminal syndicate run amok in this modern story, but they did not make this story.  So although we must hold them to account for their crimes,  this will not repair our modern story and our relationship to fire.  It will just be a lawnmower next time.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Wasted! the movie

This is two years old and yet very relevant. Anthony Bourdain, and other celebrity chefs, help solve the problem of food waste and hunger as one-third of all food grown for human consumption ends up in the garbage. Herein lay answers to the global food crisis that on its way whether we like it or not.  Although governments are doing absolutely nothing at scale to fend off this disaster this film has good answers to the problem -- deliciously.

Image result for wasted movie

I do not have a youtube link this time but rather a link to the CBS (Canadian Public Broadcast) channel that runs the show.  Good luck may need cookies.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Banning chemicals in Rohnert Park not so much

Big Ag Tobacco is an Example of Bad Policy

I am not a smoker but not a teetotaler, so here's the article.  It is interesting to note that Wendell Berry was a tobacco farmer as his family before him and believed deeply in sustainability and the nobility of good old fashioned values held by small family farmers. This article chronicles the demise of these farmer.
You might be surprised to learn that well into the 1990s, tobacco production was a hidden hold out of profitable small-scale family operated agriculture, especially in Appalachia and the Piedmont plateau. In 1987, the average tobacco farm was just 4.6 acres, and run mostly with family labor.

That of course changed with our state policy mantra of "Get Big or Get Out."


Saturday, November 17, 2018

Butterfly Ship Presents a Winter Spectacular

I am very excited with this event.  It brings me back to my roots when at Jungle Vibes Toys we did arts and crafts for kids on the riverside deck.  I will be personally staffing a booth making paper kaleidoscopes, yarn craft and leaf prints. All the paints and supplies are provided.  Kids can make art cards and gifts for the holidays.  So sweet....and I don't have to tell you how sweet and talented are the crew of Butterfly Ship


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Can Better Photosynthesis Help Feed the World?

The science here is funded by Gates so OK I guess and it will ultimate involve Genetic engineering. I am not of the persuasion to think GMO baaaaad! I just think it's science. Commercializing it and releasing it on the world helter skelter has turned out bad of course. Herein lies my caution. Gate is all about increasing yield in crops in a system that has already proven to be unsustainable because of depletion of soils 
As human population growth fuels the need for increased crop yields, researchers look to engineer plants that perform photosynthesis more efficiently
If you go to the link for the article that crop they are standing amid appears to be tobacco.  Hum, there's money in it but I am not sure the planet need increased yields of that particular vegetable. 
Of course, plant researchers have been thinking about using improved photosynthesis to increase crop yields for decades, but recent leaps in computer modelling and genetic engineering techniques have started to bring that goal within reach. In 2011, and again in 2015, a group of scientists came together to publish an article that called for research into the improvement of photosynthesis as a means for meeting the increased yield demands of coming decades, as well as laying out potential strategies. One of the strategies the group highlighted was the possibility of engineering plants to use near infrared light.
While this tech could be used to allow inter cropping food crops under canopies which certainly has promise if it can be done safely, its primary use will be in field crops to get the immediate short term gain in yield while continuing other destructive practises.  

Re-engineering shade loving plants to efficiently photosynthesize under canopies of trees in deep layers could turn the forests into carbon sucking monsters which of course would accelerate drawdown and thus be of good use, this may not be the ultimate planet we want. I can imagine a kind of sci-fi out of control jungle and I kind of like the one we have so how do we contain the genetics so that it can be normalized in the future. Also who will live in these new carbon sucking forests? It is not a niche that has yet been adapted to so you would expect die offs and unwitting population explosions to happen. Hum, I think it should stay as science until understood better.


This undark site is really cool on their about us it explains the name --


The name Undark arises from a murky, century-old mingling of science and commerce — one that resulted in a radium-based industrial and consumer product, called Undark, that was both awe-inspiring and, as scientists would only later prove, toxic and deadly. We appropriate the name as a signal to readers that our magazine will explore science not just as a “gee-whiz” phenomenon, but as a frequently wondrous, sometimes contentious, and occasionally troubling byproduct of human culture.

As such, the intersection of science and society — the place where science is articulated in our politics and our economics; or where it is made potent and real in our everyday lives — is a fundamental part of our mission at Undark. As journalists, we recognize that science can often be politically, economically and ethically fraught, even as it captures the imagination and showcases the astonishing scope of human endeavor. Undark will therefore aim to explore science in both light and shadow, and to bring that exploration to a broad, international audience.

Undark is not interested in “science communication” or related euphemisms, but in true journalistic coverage of the sciences.

Undark is a non-profit, editorially independent digital magazine exploring the intersection of science and society. It is published with generous funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, through its Knight Science Journalism Fellowship Program in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Low Impact Development Making a Positive Contribution

This is the information on the project in Wales that I first came upon in a youtube about the Lamis ecovillage project.  I am proposing that little ecosettlments could be proposed in otherwise protected land such as riparian and other important watershed areas in this county that are the current responsibility of various water and conservation agencies and that by putting people in the landscape in this way we can advance sustainability goals, hasten regeneration while providing protection for habitat.

My proposal would additionally provide livelihood, shelter and food.  While the structures and infrastructure constructed would be un-permitted and low impact the overall project would nonetheless be self-monitored using science based tools and reviewed by agencies to insure that the plan is working to provide a positive contribution, extremely low inputs and substantially according to plan.

The following excerp from transcript of that video

Welsh Assembly is one of the few governments in the world to have made a legal commitment to sustainability.  As a result of this commitment Pembrokeshire County Council adopted something called policy fifty-two in 2006 which was intended to provide for eco small holdings in previously protected open countryside on the basis that they make a positive environmental social and economic contribution.
Paul initially formulated his proposals for the land mass project in direct response to this policy but still the council didn't make his life easy. Three years two rejections and thousands of planning application papers later the lamis project was given the green light in the summer of 2009.  The opportunity that we are celebrating here at lamis is now available across the whole of Wales because the the Welsh Assembly government see that actually the way forwards in terms of sustainability to get people back onto the landscape working the land in that way the landscape becomes more productive the landscape becomes more diverse and we can take more carbon out of the atmosphere

This is a PDF guide from the Pembrokeshire County Council that helps applicants apply for this.  This is a very useful 19 page read that covers many of the questions that may come up in discussions with policy makers.  It is true that Wales is a much more rural culture than California and to some degree issues like defining livelihood and economic contribution my be incongruent with levels accepted in Wales owing largely to our absurd economy and lifestyles.  This will no doubt have to be addressed.

This is a link to a planning software that Pembrokeshire recommends and could be integrated into the reporting of restoration efforts that agencies would like to see. With a  tools like this our project would be putting a low tech low impact farmers in the riparian landscape but providing a very sophistocated tech to report out that could provide substancial proof of concept in just 4 or 5 years.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Workers Fear Injury as Administration Clears Way for Faster Chicken Slaughter

Factory farming baaaaaaaad. Speeding up the slaughter machine worse for everybody but the profiteers.

by Claire Kelloway

Late last month, the Trump administration cleared the way for chicken plants to increase their processing line speeds from 140 birds per minute to 175 birds per minute. The change deals a blow to workers and reverses the efforts of labor and animal welfare advocates, who fought to halt poultry line speed increases in 2014. It also indicates the administration will likely soon remove line speed limits in hog slaughter and lower workplace injury reporting requirements throughout all sectors of the economy.

“This decision and the ones we expect are coming up is the pattern of the Trump administration to be cutting back on protections for workers and making decisions in favor of corporations rather than working people,” says Joann Lo, Co-Director of the Food Chain Workers Alliance.

The change comes in response to a 2017 petition to the Food Safety and Inspection Service by the National Chicken Council, the lobbying group representing poultry corporations. While FSIS denied the NCC’s request to lift all poultry line speeds, the USDA agency announced in January that they would set criteria by which poultry processors could apply for waivers to increase their line speeds to 175 birds per minute. FSIS released those criteria in February and published their final guidelines and public response to comments on September 28th. The agency is accepting applications for waivers.

Working conditions in poultry processing are already extremely hazardous. According to the Department of Labor, workers in meat processing plants are injured five times more frequently than all other private workers and are nearly twenty times more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome. But true injury rates are likely even higher, as studies by the Government Accountability Office suggest that federal data does not capture all meat processing injuries. One reason is that an estimated 28 percent of meat processing workers are foreign-born, and these workers are less likely to report injury or workplace misconduct due to fear of retaliation or deportation.

Surveys by the Southern Poverty Law Center and Food Chain Workers Alliance found that at least two-thirds of poultry workers suffered significant work-related injuries, dwarfing officially reported injury rates.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Mexico’s Native Corn Varieties Threatened by New NAFTA

The original NAFTA was very bad for Mexican corn farmers, putting millions out of business and losing land by the forced import of cheap, subsidized corn from big ag in the United States.  Trumps new version of the trade agreement is the next step in the corporate plunder of Mexico and is even worse.
“It makes it easier for the United States to challenge any rule or regulation or process governing biotech crops that it contends are illegal trade barriers,” says Woodall. “It is designed to provide a brand new avenue of attack against regulations … and enshrine Trump’s deregulatory purge into a trade deal that will outlast this administration.”
Over 8,000 years ago farmers in present-day Mexico first domesticated corn from a wild grass, teosinte. Corn holds incredible cultural, economic, and ecological significance in Mexico to this day. Mexico has maintained a vast array of diverse corn species, with 64 recognized strains, called landraces, and over 21,000 regionally adapted varieties. Over two-thirds of Mexican corn farmers still save their own seeds and plant native strains. 
This diverse genetic trove is “absolutely critical to modern crop breeding,” says Tim Wise, the Director of Policy Research at the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University. “It’s a critical natural resource for the modern world,” he says. When researchers look for drought-resistant strains or corn that can requires less fertilizer, they turn to Mexico’s native corn gene pool.

Yep, it's all about deregulation.  This article posted is by Claire Kelloway from Food & Power who I have featured here many times and is very authoritative.  She runs a DC institute started by LEAH DOUGLAS who is also a journalist with an amazing body of work in the area of food, farming and policy.  I recommend reading the entire short article and also perusing other topics in there archives at the above links.