Saturday, November 2, 2013

The First Step to Solving a Problem Is Recognizing That There Is One ....

Source / The New Civil Rights Movement

Thanks to Jerry Withers / Fluxed Up World

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Friday, November 1, 2013

A Little Much-Needed Truth About "Class Warfare"

The Logic of Stupid Poor People
By Tressie McMillan Cottom / October 29, 2013

We hates us some poor people. First, they insist on being poor when it is so easy to not be poor. They do things like buy expensive designer belts and $2500 luxury handbags.

To be fair, this isn’t about Eroll Louis. His is a belief held by many people, including lots of black people, poor people, formerly poor people, etc. It is, I suspect, an honest expression of incredulity. If you are poor, why do you spend money on useless status symbols like handbags and belts and clothes and shoes and televisions and cars?

One thing I’ve learned is that one person’s illogical belief is another person’s survival skill. And nothing is more logical than trying to survive.

My family is a classic black American migration family. We have rural Southern roots, moved north and almost all have returned. I grew up watching my great-grandmother, and later my grandmother and mother, use our minimal resources to help other people make ends meet. We were those good poors, the kind who live mostly within our means. We had a little luck when a male relative got extra military pay when they came home a paraplegic or used the VA to buy a Jim Walter house (pdf). If you were really blessed when a relative died with a paid up insurance policy you might be gifted a lump sum to buy the land that Jim Walters used as collateral to secure your home lease. That’s how generational wealth happens where I’m from: lose a leg, a part of your spine, die right and maybe you can lease-to-own a modular home.

We had a little of that kind of rural black wealth so we were often in a position to help folks less fortunate. But perhaps the greatest resource we had was a bit more education. We were big readers and we encouraged the girl children, especially, to go to some kind of college. Consequently, my grandmother and mother had a particular set of social resources that helped us navigate mostly white bureaucracies to our benefit. We could, as my grandfather would say, talk like white folks. We loaned that privilege out to folks a lot.

I remember my mother taking a next door neighbor down to the social service agency. The elderly woman had been denied benefits to care for the granddaughter she was raising. The woman had been denied in the genteel bureaucratic way — lots of waiting, forms, and deadlines she could not quite navigate. I watched my mother put on her best Diana Ross “Mahogany” outfit: a camel colored cape with matching slacks and knee high boots. I was miffed, as only an only child could be, about sharing my mother’s time with the neighbor girl. I must have said something about why we had to do this. Vivian fixed me with a stare as she was slipping on her pearl earrings and told me that people who can do, must do. It took half a day but something about my mother’s performance of respectable black person — her Queen’s English, her Mahogany outfit, her straight bob and pearl earrings — got done what the elderly lady next door had not been able to get done in over a year. I learned, watching my mother, that there was a price we had to pay to signal to gatekeepers that we were worthy of engaging. It meant dressing well and speaking well. It might not work. It likely wouldn't work but on the off chance that it would, you had to try. It was unfair but, as Vivian also always said, “life isn’t fair little girl.”

I internalized that lesson and I think it has worked out for me, if unevenly. A woman at Belk’s once refused to show me the Dooney and Burke purse I was interested in buying. Vivian once made a salesgirl cry after she ignored us in an empty store. I have walked away from many of hotly desired purchases, like the impractical off-white winter coat I desperately wanted, after some bigot at the counter insulted me and my mother. But, I have half a PhD and I support myself aping the white male privileged life of the mind. It’s a mixed bag. Of course, the trick is you can never know the counterfactual of your life. There is no evidence of access denied. Who knows what I was not granted for not enacting the right status behaviors or symbols at the right time for an agreeable authority? Respectability rewards are a crap-shoot but we do what we can within the limits of the constraints imposed by a complex set of structural and social interactions designed to limit access to status, wealth, and power.

I do not know how much my mother spent on her camel colored cape or knee-high boots but I know that whatever she paid it returned in hard-to-measure dividends. How do you put a price on the double-take of a clerk at the welfare office who decides you might not be like those other trifling women in the waiting room and provides an extra bit of information about completing a form that you would not have known to ask about? What is the retail value of a school principal who defers a bit more to your child because your mother’s presentation of self signals that she might unleash the bureaucratic savvy of middle class parents to advocate for her child? I don’t know the price of these critical engagements with organizations and gatekeepers relative to our poverty when I was growing up. But, I am living proof of its investment yield.

Why do poor people make stupid, illogical decisions to buy status symbols? For the same reason all but only the most wealthy buy status symbols, I suppose. We want to belong. And, not just for the psychic rewards, but belonging to one group at the right time can mean the difference between unemployment and employment, a good job as opposed to a bad job, housing or a shelter, and so on. Someone mentioned on twitter that poor people can be presentable with affordable options from Kmart. But the issue is not about being presentable. Presentable is the bare minimum of social civility. It means being clean, not smelling, wearing shirts and shoes for service and the like. Presentable as a sufficient condition for gainful, dignified work or successful social interactions is a privilege. It’s the aging white hippie who can cut the ponytail of his youthful rebellion and walk into senior management while aging black panthers can never completely outrun the effects of stigmatization against which they were courting a revolution. Presentable is relative and, like life, it ain’t fair.

In contrast, “acceptable” is about gaining access to a limited set of rewards granted upon group membership. I cannot know exactly how often my presentation of acceptable has helped me but I have enough feedback to know it is not inconsequential. One manager at the apartment complex where I worked while in college told me, repeatedly, that she knew I was “Okay” because my little Nissan was clean. That I had worn a Jones of New York suit to the interview really sealed the deal. She could call the suit by name because she asked me about the label in the interview. Another hiring manager at my first professional job looked me up and down in the waiting room, cataloging my outfit, and later told me that she had decided I was too classy to be on the call center floor. I was hired as a trainer instead. The difference meant no shift work, greater prestige, better pay and a baseline salary for all my future employment.

I have about a half dozen other stories like this. What is remarkable is not that this happened. There is empirical evidence that women and people of color are judged by appearances differently and more harshly than are white men. What is remarkable is that these gatekeepers told me the story. They wanted me to know how I had properly signaled that I was not a typical black or a typical woman, two identities that in combination are almost always conflated with being poor.

I sat in on an interview for a new administrative assistant once. My regional vice president was doing the hiring. A long line of mostly black and brown women applied because we were a cosmetology school. Trade schools at the margins of skilled labor in a gendered field are necessarily classed and raced. I found one candidate particularly charming. She was trying to get out of a salon because 10 hours on her feet cutting hair would average out to an hourly rate below minimum wage. A desk job with 40 set hours and medical benefits represented mobility for her. When she left my VP turned to me and said, “did you see that tank top she had on under her blouse?! OMG, you wear a silk shell, not a tank top!” Both of the women were black.

The VP had constructed her job as senior management. She drove a brand new BMW because she, “should treat herself” and liked to tell us that ours was an image business. A girl wearing a cotton tank top as a shell was incompatible with BMW-driving VPs in the image business. Gatekeeping is a complex job of managing boundaries that do not just define others but that also define ourselves. Status symbols — silk shells, designer shoes, luxury handbags — become keys to unlock these gates. If I need a job that will save my lower back and move my baby from medicaid to an HMO, how much should I spend signaling to people like my former VP that I will not compromise her status by opening the door to me? That candidate maybe could not afford a proper shell. I will never know. But I do know that had she gone hungry for two days to pay for it or missed wages for a trip to the store to buy it, she may have been rewarded a job that could have lifted her above minimum wage. Shells aren’t designer handbags, perhaps. But a cosmetology school in a strip mall isn’t a job at Bank of America, either.

At the heart of these incredulous statements about the poor decisions poor people make is a belief that we would never be like them. We would know better. We would know to save our money, eschew status symbols, cut coupons, practice puritanical sacrifice to amass a million dollars. There is a regular news story of a lunch lady who, unbeknownst to all who knew her, died rich and leaves it all to a cat or a charity or some such. Books about the modest lives of the rich like to tell us how they drive Buicks instead of BMWs. What we forget, if we ever know, is that what we know now about status and wealth creation and sacrifice are predicated on who we are, i.e. not poor. If you change the conditions of your not-poor status, you change everything you know as a result of being a not-poor. You have no idea what you would do if you were poor until you are poor. And not intermittently poor or formerly not-poor, but born poor, expected to be poor and treated by bureaucracies, gatekeepers and well-meaning respectability authorities as inherently poor. Then, and only then, will you understand the relative value of a ridiculous status symbol to someone who intuits that they cannot afford to not have it.

Source / tressiemc

Thanks to Alan Brodrick / Fluxed Up World

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Friday, October 25, 2013

To Retain Your Perspective, Throw Away Your Television

Source / YouTube

Thanks to Telebob / Fluxed Up World

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Russell Brand Rants On the Corporate Establishment

Source / Common Dreams

Fluxed Up World

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

We Still Seek the Cure Even When the Cause Is Under Our Noses

Protestor at the March Against Monsanto in Minneapolis, Minnesota on October 12, 2013.

Source / March Against Monsanto Facebook Page

Fluxed Up World

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Front-Line Battle for Environmental Justice on Kauai, Hawaii

Protestors in Kauai display anti-GMO, anti-pesticide, and, more generally, anti-industrial-agriculture protest signs as they march to stop the poisoning of their land and livelihoods. Photo credit: March Against Monsanto.

Chemical Corporations Tremble at Kauai's Unwavering Determination
By Andrea Brower / October 12, 2013

Over forty people lined up at 10 pm on Monday evening to get a seat in Kauai's small council chambers the following day at 8:30 am. They stood, laid and danced in line, through dark tropical downpours, for over 10 hours just to witness one of many ongoing council meetings. This has become the state of our lives over the past months. Public hearings lasting past 1 am, historical mobilizations of thousands taking to the streets, nights where sleep has been replaced by research, writing and sign-making.

Little Kauai's struggle against the largest chemical-seed corporations in the world is inspiring much attention. Nearly every corn seed in the industrial food system touches Hawaii somewhere; the most isolated islands in the world have become a main hub of research and development for the multinational companies that dominate the agricultural input market. Six corporations control 70 percent of the global pesticide (including herbicide and insecticide) market and essentially the entire market for genetically modified seeds. Four of them -- Pioneer DuPont, Dow, Syngenta and BASF -- occupy 15,000 acres on Kauai. Kauai has a population of 64,000 mostly working-class residents. A true David versus Goliath story that is just beginning to fully unfold.

Some recent media commentators have asked "why now?" about Hawaii's growing movement against the agrochemical-GMO industry, suggesting the influence of a relatively paltry sum of non-local funding, a few friendly politicians, and Facebook. All things that perhaps have been tools in the movement, but surely not an explanation for its presence, popular resonance and firm determination.

To understand the "why" of our local struggle, it firstly needs to be situated in a larger global movement that is responding to a radically unjust, anti-democratic and ecologically destructive food and agricultural system. On Kauai, the movement is partly about the local manifestations of that food system -- the poisoning of land and people for the development of new technologies that the world does not want, and does not need. It is a response to resident grievances over breathing in pesticide-laden dust on a daily basis for the past 15 years; parent and teacher anger after dozens of students were poisoned a second and third time; local physician concerns that they are noticing higher rates of illnesses and rare birth defects; the frustration of Native Hawaiian taro farmers watching rivers go dry as chemical companies divert and dump water; beekeeper fears that they will be next to loose organic certification due to pesticide contamination, or experience hive die-off from the known bee-killers.

Some of the same commentators have mistakenly labeled our struggle an "anti-GMO" movement, reducing our activism to mere opposition to a technology. More accurately, on Kauai we are responding to the specific impacts of the agrochemical-GMO industry on our island -- clearly an issue of environmental justice. Within the global movement that we are a part of, there are people who do not believe we should be influencing life at the fundamental level that GMO technology does. There are also a lot of people in the movement who are not strictly opposed to the science of genetic engineering itself. In regards to GMOs, what is being opposed is the direction and control of that science, and the resulting social and ecological devastation of how it is being used.

We are beginning to expose what happens at "Ground Zero" of the chemical-GMO industry's R&D operations. Kauai may soon pass a bill that would give us the right to know what pesticides are being used in massive amounts right up next to schools, hospitals and residences. Kauai County Bill 2491 would also establish buffer-zones around these sensitive areas, mandate a health and environmental impact study, and if passed in its full form, put a temporary halt on expansion of the industry.

As Kauai's pesticide "Right to Know" bill moves forward, the chemical companies are revealing just how afraid they are of us gaining even the most basic information about their operations. Arrows to derail, distract, depress and divide us are being shot from every direction, and from some of the deepest pockets on the planet. Above all, the chem-seed corporations are attempting to exterminate our belief that we are capable of making change. They tell us that justice is illegal, that we must choose between jobs and health, that we will be inept at regulating them (wouldn't they like to think!), that we can't possibly feed ourselves from our best agricultural lands, and that without them the world will go hungry. They try to push us to retreat back to our individual lives, convinced that collective action for social change has become impossible, and that there simply is no alternative to the food system they are designing.

Too often we concede our imaginations to the status quo; the dominant logics of the day train us to do so. We talk as if all the deals have already been made. We say we tried in the 60's, but nothing ever changes. We decide that the best we can do is buy organic or fair-trade, crossing our fingers that our "dollar vote" will transform the entire food system. We attempt to just "opt-out" of the system, hoping that the billions of others will somehow find their way "out" too (even though we know ours is rife with contradictions). We sing "don't worry, just be happy," and pop a Prozac.

But what is happening on Kauai is inspiring the eyes of the world and terrifying the chemical companies because we have not, and will not, surrender our belief in the possibility of big, meaningful social change. When they tell us that "there is no alternative" to their malignant existence, we are calling their bluff.

We are on the verge of forcing insidiously powerful corporations to disclose what kinds of toxic experiments they are conducting on our land and people. And this is just the very tip of what is happening on Kauai, and what is increasingly happening around the world. As we build new solidarities, connect the dots of destruction in our food system, and situate these in the broader economic-political context, we are having new conversations and thinking in ways that push the boundaries of what is considered possible. We are beginning to talk seriously about our fundamental human rights to clean air, water and soil; about the colonial legacy of concentrated land ownership; about the privatization of the resources needed to grow food; about the injustices of an economic system where competitive profit accumulation is the only defining logic; and about the possibility of new ways, often based in old knowledge and wisdom.

Though the chemical companies may be devastating our lands and waters, they have not devastated our imaginations. Whether or not we pass a bill, we are growing the momentum, intelligence and creativity of a movement that will continue to take bigger and bolder steps. The food movement, locally and globally, is rising, and it isn't going away. And we will win, because the world we are fighting for is what the vast majority of people want, and we are simply reminding people how to believe that it is in fact possible to make that world.

[Andrea Brower is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Auckland. She has been very active in alternative food and global social justice movements, and spent several years co-directing the non-profit Malama Kauai in Hawaii, where she is originally from.]

Source / Huffington Post

Fluxed Up World

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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Changing the World, One City at a Time

Source / Vimeo

Fluxed Up World

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Occasionally, the Truth Is Very Painful

Source / Go Left (on Facebook)

Thank you to J.S. Cline / Fluxed Up World

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Cole on Climate Change: "Yep, We're Screwed"

In Ohio, alterations in temperature, wind patterns, and water circulation translate into tons of toxic algae floating in Lake Erie. In October of 2011 when these NASA images were taken, nearly one-fifth of the lake was covered with the slimy cyanobacteria, killing marine life by depriving the water of oxygen, and producing a number of other foul byproducts that caused sickness, death, and gender switching in other species. Aided by agricultural practices from farmers spreading phosphorus-based fertilizers, the algae blooms could potentially become a regular occurrence according to a postmortem analysis of the 2011 bloom by the Carnegie Institution for Science. Photo: Inhabitat.

Yep, We’re Screwed: Top Ten Recent Climate Change Findings that should Scare You
By Juan Cole / August 15, 2013

1. A warmer planet will spur aggression and violence, according to UC Berkeley scientists.

2. Climate change is causing animals to migrate into new areas, spreading diseases across species: “Earth’s changing climate and the global spread of infectious diseases are threatening human health, agriculture and wildlife,” say the National Science Foundation’s Sam Scheinter of a new paper just published in Science.

3. The oceans are heating up, according to a study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of data from 2012: “Global average ocean surface temperature was higher than the 1981–2010 average and has been for at least a decade . . .” “Heat content in the upper 2,300 feet of the ocean remained near record high values in 2012. Overall increases were also observed in the deep ocean below . . .” The increases in upper ocean temperatures explains why land surface temperature rise has stalled in recent years: the oceans are acting as a “sink.” Unfortunately when that effect ends, land surface temperature may shoot up.

4. The oceans are rising, threatening coasts and low-lying cities like Miami and New Orleans. Likewise, according to the same study, sea levels are rising like never before since human beings have been keeping records: “Average global sea level reached a record high in 2012. Total sea level has increased at an average rate of 3.2 mm per year since 1993.”

5. America burning up:

NASA explains,
“With climate change, certain areas of the United States, like the great Plains and Upper Midwest, will be at a greater risk of burning by the end of the 21st-century. Areas like the Mountain West that are prone to burning now will see even more fires than they do today.
NASA’s recent video explains.

6. Arctic sea ice, as it melts, fractures and forms pools on the surface, is becoming darker and less reflective. It is no longer reflecting as much sunlight back into outer space, allowing it onto earth and accelerating global warming.

7. The melting of tundra in the East Siberian Arctic shelf could cause a sudden release of massive amounts of methane, costing the world economy $60 trillion.

8. Climate has changed in past eons because of things like varying volcanic activity, meteor strikes, and so forth. But human beings in this century are putting so many billions of metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually that they are causing climate change at a place orders of magnitude faster than anything in the archeological record. Species often went extinct even during the slower climate change eras of the distant past. The current change event will almost certainly kill off large numbers of species, including much of ocean life.

9. The ozone hole over the Antarctic, caused in part by human-produced chemicals, may be speeding up global warming.

10. Hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” of subterranean natural gas has been hailed as making available a fuel that burns cleaner than coal. But the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has recently done flyovers of fracking sites in Utah and found disturbing evidence of substantial methane emissions. Methane is a very powerful and dangerous greenhouse gas that would more than cancel out the benefit of natural gas over coal.

Source / Informed Comment

Fluxed Up World

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Then and Now

Source / The Amendment Gazette

Fluxed Up World

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Friday, August 2, 2013

The Ghastly Cost of Fossil Fuel Pipeline Transport

Please watch this full-screen. This video shows the number of incidents involving fossil fuel pipelines since 1986: 7,978 incidents, 512 deaths, 2,360 injuries, and a total cost of $6.838 billion in property damage. And that says nothing of the "externalized" climate effects that threaten humanity and other costs that the industry refuses to acknowledge.

Source / Center for Biological Diversity

Fluxed Up World

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Monday, July 29, 2013

A Great Transition for Humanity: Moving Away from Money

Source / YouTube

Fluxed Up World

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Friday, June 21, 2013

Why Do We Ask Who's Worse? They're All Hopeless!

Is Obama Worse Than Bush? That's Beside the Point
By Gary Younge / June 21, 2013

Obama's transformation from national security dove to hawk is the norm: any president is captive to America's imperial power
Not long after the story into the National Security Administration's spying program broke, US president Barack Obama insisted the issues raised were worthy of discussion:

"I welcome this debate and I think it's healthy for our democracy. I think it's a sign of maturity because probably five years ago, six years ago we might not have been having this debate."
In fairly short order, a YouTube compilation appeared, showing Obama debating with himself as he matured. Flitting back and forth between Obama the candidate and Obama the president, we see the constitutional law professor of yore engage with the commander-in-chief of today. Referring to the Bush White House, candidate Obama says:

"This administration acts like violating civil liberties is the way to enhance our security. It is not."
Referring to the NSA surveillance program, President Obama says:
"My assessment and my team's assessment was that they help us prevent terrorist attacks."
Candidate Obama says of the Bush years:
"This administration also puts forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we provide."
President Obama retorts:
"You can't have 100% security and also then have 100% privacy and zero inconvenience. We're going to have to make some choices."
The notion that a president's record might contradict a presidential candidate's promise is neither new nor particular to Obama. And we should hope that politicians evolve as their careers progress and new evidence and arguments come to light.

What makes these clips so compelling is that they show not evolution, but transformation. On this issue, at least, Obama has become the very thing he was against. They're not gaffes. These are brazenly ostentatious flip-flops. And regardless of how much they cost him, Obama has clearly no intention of taking them back.

Given that he is not only defending but escalating the very things he criticized the Bush administration for, the accusation that many have made that he is "worse than Bush" on this issue, and others relating to privacy, security and drone attacks, is not unreasonable. Obama's administration has denied more Freedom of Information Act requests than Bush did, and prosecuted more whistleblowers than all previous administrations combined.

But the charge also misses the point.

It should go without saying that Obama the individual is responsible for all that he says and does. It should also go without saying that once he ascends to the Oval office he is no longer simply talking for himself, but, as commander-in-chief, for the state of which he is the head.

Just as one head of a Chamber of Commerce may be more or less hostile than another to the labor movement, but is ultimately charged with representing the interests of the business community, so Obama's room for maneuver is constrained by the institutions in which he is now embedded.

Whereas Bush illegally invaded a nation with great fanfare, Obama has chosen to bump people off with great stealth (unless it's Bin Laden, in which case he metaphorically parades around with a head on a pike). Those are different strategies, but the discussion about which is better or worse is sterile precisely because neither is good and neither works. Whatever their declared intentions, both involve the murder of civilians and the creation of enemies, which in turn demand a clandestine security structure that seeks to pre-empt the metastasizing resistance to its policies both at home and abroad. The sprawling growth of its spying program is commensurate with the size of its military and the spread of its incursions into countries like Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan where it is not formally at war.

As I wrote the day before Obama's first inauguration:

"He has been elected to represent the interests of the most powerful country in the world. Those will not be the same interests as those of the powerless."
America did not come by that power through its own innate genius. It acquired it, as do all empires, in no small part through war, invasion, subterfuge and exploitation. Spying and lying about it comes with the job description for which Obama applied and was reappointed.

None of this is inevitable. But changing it cannot be entrusted to a single person at the top. It will change because there is a demand from Americans that is both large in number, deep in commitment and active in pursuit, to enable a fundamental change in America's role in the world. That does not exist yet.

Where Obama is concerned, this excuses nothing – but explains a great deal. Given the timidity of his campaign agenda, his supporters must, to some extent, own their disappointment. He never said he was a radical, nor proposed anything radical, even if he was happy at one time to be marketed as one.

Given that he kept on Bush's defence secretary and appointed an economic team friendlier to Wall Street than the poor, we should not be too shocked about these continuities. But there are some things he did promise to do – and was twice elected with a massive mandate to do them. Protecting civil liberties was one of them.

When given the choice of representing the interests of those who voted for him and the interests of American military and economic hegemony, he chose the latter. That's not the change people believed in.

© 2013 Guardian/UK

[Gary Younge is a Guardian columnist and feature writer based in the US.]

Source / The Guardian

Fluxed Up World

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Don't Believe Monsanto's Myth-Making

Marching against Monsanto in San Francisco. Photo: Steve Rhodes.

Hey, Non-GMO Activist: Monsanto's CEO Thinks You're an Elitist
By Anna Lappé / June 11, 2013

On May 25, 2013, tens of thousands of people in 36 countries participated in a global "March Against Monsanto." But according to Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant, those who protest against agricultural genetic engineering -- including the farmers, students, academics, and more who turned out in March -- are "elitists," fomenting distrust of technology that could save the lives of millions of hungry people.

For years, industry leaders like Monsanto have been pushing this myth. At a biotechnology industry trade conference I attended in 2005, one participant even claimed that those fighting against GMOs "should be tried for crimes against humanity." A charge, I tend to think, usually reserved for serious attacks on human rights.

This particular mythmaking is a powerful PR tactic. Who among us wants to feel that our attitude toward a technology could be causing hunger here or abroad? Or, worse, that our opposition to Monsanto could be putting us among the ranks of Yugoslavia's Miloševi? or Guatemala's Rios Montt? Not me.

In his recent interview with Bloomberg News, Grant was hyping this myth again, claiming challengers of genetically engineered foods, "are guilty of elitism." (An interesting choice of words for someone who pulled in $12.84 million last year -- and averaged $26.3 million in annual earnings over the past six years, according to Forbes.)

Grant says critics of GMOs, "fail to consider the needs of the rest of the world."

Is he right?

We have nearly 20 years of commercialized GMO use under our belt. We can learn a lot from this global experiment. What we know is that not only do GMOs fail to address the roots of hunger, but the technology can also actually worsen hunger as it maintains and, in some cases, worsens, farmers' dependency on costly seeds, chemicals, and fertilizer -- all at volatile and rising prices.

Today nearly 870 million people on the planet suffer from extreme, long-term undernourishment, according to the United Nations, and nearly as many are overfed, consuming too many of the wrong calories. These twin crises have many root causes, including poverty, inequality, and a lack of choice over how food is grown, where it's grown, and who has access to it -- a deficit of democracy. A technology like genetic engineering, which has been developed and is controlled by a handful of companies, does nothing to transform this dynamic. Indeed, the technology serves to further concentrate power over our food system: An estimated 90 percent of U.S.-grown soybeans and 80 percent of corn and cotton crops are grown from Monsanto's seeds.

While biotech proponents love to talk about the promise of drought-resistant, nitrogen-efficient, and nutritionally enhanced varieties, to date, commercialized genetically engineered crop varieties have been mostly limited to two types: those developed to resist a proprietary herbicide, and those engineered to produce a specific insecticide. This comes as no surprise, since the technology creation is led by chemical companies, like Monsanto, Dupont, and Dow.

Genetic engineering techniques have also been commercialized for only a handful of crops: mainly corn, soy, canola, cotton, and sugar beets. These are not foods to nourish the world. They're commodities that mostly end up in the gut of a cow, the tank of a car, or the ingredients list of processed foods.

GMOs are also only being grown in a handful of countries. Ninety-one percent of GMOs worldwide are planted in just five countries: the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, and India. In most of the other 23 countries with commercialized GMOs, the crops are growing on a negligible number of acres.

Moreover, the technology does not help the lion's share of those who are hungry: small-scale farmers in the developing world. Why not? Because adopting GMOs makes cash-poor farmers dependent on buying seeds, fertilizer, and chemicals that provide uneven yields, foster weeds resistant to pesticides, undermine soil health, and reduce biodiversity. Plus, planting monocrops -- whether the seeds are heirloom varieties, hybrids, or genetically engineered -- means smallholders have all their eggs in one basket, leaving them vulnerable to catastrophic weather events or global price swings.

Research is showing that "agroecological" methods -- the ones that use on-farm soil fertility, natural methods for pest and weed control, and locally adapted crop varieties--can outperform GMOs, especially during drought years. These methods also improve the nutritional value of crops, benefit biodiversity and soil health, and reduce on-farm greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, these techniques can increase farmers' incomes (in large part because their input costs go way down), freeing them from debt and dependency. In fact, small-scale farmers around the world adopting and spreading agroecological practices are getting excellent results and, not coincidentally, are increasingly vocal critics of genetic engineering.

I wonder what the small-scale farmers I've interviewed around the world who oppose GMOs -- from the foothills of the Himalayas to the plains of Brazil -- would think of Grant's comments? They might just find it odd that they'd be considered "elitists."

[Anna is the author of Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and co-author of Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen and Hope’s Edge. She is a founding principal of the Small Planet Institute.]

Source / Common Dreams

Fluxed Up World

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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Think You're Not a Racist? A Sexist? Think Again ...

Source / YouTube

Thanks to Bix Burkhart / Fluxed Up World

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Exxon Really DOES Hate Your Children

Source / Indian Country

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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Coming Soon: 130 Degree Temperatures in NYC

Workers take a break from the near-100-degree heat outside of City Hall Park. New York, NY. July 7, 2012. Photo by Observe the Random on Flickr.

How We’re making a Frankenstein’s Monster of our Climate
By Tom Giesen / March 31, 2013

The option to avoid 3.6 degrees F (2 degrees C) of global warming – our goal for more than 10 years – is out of reach: we have emitted too many greenhouse gases and are on a much warmer trajectory. In 2000, we had many choices regarding global warming, but instead of reducing emissions in various ways, we elected to accelerate. Global greenhouse gas emissions have increased in all but one year since 2000, and those compounding emissions increases have dramatically diminished our choices.

By exceeding 3.6 degrees F, we will have caused “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”. If we allow warming to reach, say, 7.2 degrees F (4 degrees C) of warming, we will likely have created a chaotic world, i.e. a world with an unstable environment (The World Bank Report, 2012).

Without large reductions in emissions soon, we will have much more warming – 10.8 degrees F (6 degrees C) by 2100 (PriceWaterhouseCoopers 11/5/12). The CIA is a funder for a report that says “climate events will produce consequences that exceed the capacity of affected societies or (the) global system to manage…” (National Research Council 2013).

Those organizations’ and others’ warnings reflect the hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies that form the basis for current concerns.

Today, the global community faces a critical decision: reduce emissions, or accept planetary heating which is likely to make our world unrecognizable.

The critical nature and timing of this decision has been poorly communicated. As a nation, we are very poorly informed about global warming. Because of this ignorance, Americans still seem unlikely to demand and adopt policies to significantly reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, China, India and other countries say they will continue increasing emissions until about 2025 or 30. In the absence of an effective global treaty, emissions, and hence global warming, will continue to increase.

Repeated attempts to limit and reduce global emissions have become predictable failures – the recent Doha meetings postponed drafting a new emissions reduction treaty until 2015, and postponed a date for initial limits on emissions to 2020. The long history of emissions agreements failures suggests that the 2020 target date for actual global reductions in emissions will likely be missed.

Cap-and-trade to reduce carbon emissions has not worked – not in the EU, not in the Northeast US – not anywhere. Emissions have been reduced in the few cases where carbon taxes have been imposed (in some EU nations, Australia, and Costa Rica). However, in practical terms, there are no global controls on greenhouse gas emissions: neither the US nor any global body has adopted policies or treaties to effectively reduce emissions.

Globally, carbon emissions are out of control, and so is the climate. It is the tragedy of the commons writ large.

Suppose we do nothing in the near future to substantially and progressively reduce emissions. That will likely bring 7.2 degrees F of warming by 2060, and that would be a planetary average warming, but it would be much less over oceans (70% of the planet) and much more over land. Cities at high latitudes and all large cities would be a lot warmer; eastern North American urban temperatures could be 18 degrees F warmer than today’s already hot summer temperatures (100 – 110). Temperatures of 118 to 128 degrees F are literally deadly summertime temperatures for many folks.

Today’s agricultural areas could be warmed by 9 – 14 degrees F, leading to large reductions in productivity; many existing agricultural operations will need to repeatedly relocate to areas with more favorable conditions of temperature, sunlight, moisture and soils.

A 7.2 degrees F degree warmer world “is likely to be one in which communities, cities and countries would experience severe disruptions, damage and dislocation, with many of those risks spread unequally” (World Bank Report 2012). Fertile well-watered lands today may become semi-arid. Water supply for irrigation, mediated now by snow and/or ice, could diminish as ice melts and snow fails to accumulate. Climate refugees, in large numbers, would likely try to relocate, creating chaos. Valuable assets today (grazing lands, recreation areas, forests, farms, some towns and cities) could become much less valuable – or worthless. In hotter and more arid forests, widespread fires could be common, and species will change; in areas of the PNW, the climate will likely be moving northward about 3 miles a year or more.

Some global agricultural/ecological systems are likely to collapse. Permafrost melting, releasing methane (a potent greenhouse gas) in large quantities could radically accelerate warming. Changes could evolve from incremental to transformative; change could be unprecedented. There is no evidence that a 7.2 degrees F warmer world would be stable; there are no paleoclimatic precedents for such a rapid, mammoth ecological transformation as 7.2 degrees F of warming could bring.

The present atmospheric CO2 concentration (392 ppm) is higher than climatic and geologic evidence from prehistoric eras indicates has occurred at any time in the past 15 million years.

In the absence of new, significant emissions reductions, we could have 7.2 degrees F of warming by 2060, just 47 years from now.

In my view, the primary obstacles to reducing emissions are three-fold. First, vast profits are made from fossil fuels. (Some of those profits are funneled into phony position papers used to cast doubt on the science.) Second, the depictions of the future under 1) more global warming or 2) without warming but with much less energy, do not seem real to many – they seem incomprehensible; impossible; dystopian. Third, our culture supports views hostile to inquiry, science and reason – views often rooted in communal nostalgic love for an imagined idealized history. Since governments won’t act, change is likely to come, if at all, from grassroots activists.

Some such groups have convinced their towns to turn to renewable sources and to provide electricity themselves, essentially seceding from the hydrocarbon grid. Your city can do this as well, if you pressure its city council to put in solar panels and wind turbines.

Coal plants are major polluters and almost all are in violation of the Clean Air Act. The Sierra Club has been successfully suing some of the worst offenders, leading to plant closures and resort to cleaner natural gas or renewables instead. Activists should pull out all the stops to close the coal plants.

Here are some things (among many) you can do to respond to this crisis.

In many cases, it is possible to simply use less energy. Move closer to work or relocate to cities with good public transit, When you can bike to your destination, try doing so (this is also better for your health). Make sure your home is insulated.

Second, be aware that there is almost no momentum for change, and enormous momentum to continue the fossil-fuel-using status quo. Turn that awareness into action. Transform your life by investing your energy into forcing our government to really address warming. Break the taboo: get your neighbors to join you in collective action to get the US to do the right thing by adopting real emissions reductions.

Third, recent ideas about what is “sustainable” and “green” behavior are grossly inadequate. They have not worked. Emissions continue to rise. Our circumstances require radical change.

Global warming and diminished energy availability are not about a distant future – the consequences of unchecked warming and scarce energy will dramatically degrade the lives of our children and spawn a far more chaotic world.

[Tom Giesen is a summer adjunct instructor and research associate at the University of Oregon, and will teach Global Warming Preparedness (PPPM 399) this summer.]

Source / Informed Comment

Fluxed Up World

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Priorities in the US: Train Wreck in Action

Source / Americans Against the Tea Party

Thanks to Jay Jurie / Fluxed Up World

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Ultimate Codependent Relationship

Source / Armchair Patriots (Facebook)

Thanks to Janet Gilles / Fluxed Up World

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Saturday, March 9, 2013

We Are No Longer Homo Sapiens: We're Cyborgs

Valerie Belin/Edwynn Houk Gallery/New York.

Mental Breakdown of a Nation: Panting for Breath on a Virtual Shore
By Stefanie Krasnow / February 28, 2013

We are no longer homo sapiens: we're cyborgs.

Each day, our porous skin opens less and less to fresh air, sunlight, the touch of others, the smell of pine, rain, compost, and manure . . . and instead we find ourselves hunched over machines in the standard posture of reverence, bowing our heads to the humming and warm computer-pets that rest on our laps or in our palms.

It took millions of years of evolution for life on earth to move out of the oceans onto land, where our phylogenetic ancestors gasped for their first breaths on a pebbled beach. Now, some 590,000,000 years later, we find ourselves panting for air on a virtual shore.

We're embarking on the second greatest migration in the history of life of earth, from the physical world into virtuality. In the span of just one generation, we've been completely wooed over by the entirely-cerebral and entirely-virtual adventures accessed when our fingertips apply light pressure to a plastic "mouse."

Today, teenagers in America spend seven hours on a screen each day, 11 if you include multitasking hours: this is more time than human beings spend doing anything else, including sleeping. Teenage girls send over 3,700 texts a month, even 12 year old girls have over 500 Facebook friends, 250 of which are total strangers to them. The combination of online sexual coercion in chat rooms and cyber-bullying drives a young girl, Amanda Todd, to suicide. And just think, it's only been thirty years – even less for most – since the world wide web came into our lives.

Initially, the internet was created by and for the military. For several decades after that it was used only in emergencies, and later on by computer engineers, IT professionals or for the back-end of certain businesses and institutions. But then came the commercialization of the internet in 1995, the invention of search engines in the mid-late 90s, Google in 1998, BlackBerry in 2001, Facebook in 2004, and the first iPhone in 2007. These events have all occurred in less than twenty years. The most current trend, the personal computer revolution – where everyone, everywhere, is online, nearly all the time – is very new, less than five years old. It is this latest trend which has impacted our lives most dramatically, and in a remarkably unprecedented way if you consider the vast timeline of our development on planet Earth. We are no longer homo sapiens: we're cyborgs.

Our common understanding of cyborgs are hollywood clichés: rogue robots with human skin pulled taut over sleek metal wiring, and ON/OFF buttons tucked away in thigh or knee crevasses. But we don't have to wait until we embed chips beneath our skin, nor till we get Google Goggles as contact lens glued to our eyes, to earn our status as cyborgian. As Donna Haraway famously suggests, we are entirely cyborgs just as we appear now – with smart-phones tucked snugly in our pockets for every minute of every waking hour, held as close as possible to our skin in a hard-to-access area, much like a sacred amulet was once worn around one's neck in a burlap pouch.

In her Cyborg Manifesto, Haraway collapses the boundaries between human/animal, and human/machine, suggesting that there is as much artifice as there is "nature" in human nature. Our cyborgian condition was not begot by some sinister mutation, rather, we are as vitally and ineradicably entwined with machines as we are with the bacteria in our intestines. As Marshall McLuhan said: "we create machines in our own image and they, in turn, recreate us in theirs."

Years before the techno-prolifia we live in today, McLuhan wrote an eerie forecast that has perhaps now come true: "Man would it were, the sex organs of the machine world, as the bee of the plant world, enabling it to fecundate and to evolve ever new forms. The machine world reciprocates man's love by expediting his wishes and desires, namely, in providing him with wealth."

The bond between man and machine indeed gleams of eroticism. Technically speaking though, this relationship is an endosymbiotic one (a reciprocal relationship where one of the beings lives within the body of the other, merging with it). But is it us who live inside the machine, as it's sex organs, or does the machine live inside us? Contrary to McLuhan, Freud believed the machine lives on us, as an appendage that has enabled us to become God-like. We're omnipotent, since we've overcome nature where we can; and thanks to Google, we feel omniscient. In 1929, Freud wrote in Civilization and its Discontents: Man has, as it were, become a kind of prosthetic God. When he puts on all his auxiliary organs he is truly magnificent; but those organs […] still give him much trouble at times. Future ages will bring with them new and possibly unimaginably great advances in this field of civilization and will increase man's likeness to God still more. But in the interests of our present investigation, we will not forget that present-day man does not feel happy in his God-like character.

Generations before tamagochi, Facebook and iPads, Freud sensed that there was something primordial being forsaken as man became more and more civilized, and he warned that the prevalent disavowal of our animality would have costs – psychically, physically, socially, erotically.

Today's most popular gadgets – those palm-sized avatars of hyper-activity and hyper-connectivity – are precisely so seductive because they compensate for the physical, social and erotic loses that technological advances bring. Every ding, tweet, ring, and vibration promises a social, sexual, or professional opportunity. And in less than a decade, our brains have been reprogrammed to respond to these dings, tweets, rings and vibrates with rushes of dopamine, adrenaline and other stimulating neurotransmitters, such that our brains on smart-phones look, on an MRI scan, identical to those of an addict on drugs. The internet's effects on the brain is the subject of Nicholas Carr's bestseller, The Shallows: What the internet is doing to our brains, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Price. The latest studies in neuroscience confirm Carr's suspicions that the internet is a detriment to cognition, concentration, contemplation and psychological health. These studies are finding that what's most addictive about the internet is not the technology itself, nor the content, but these jolts of energy we get from habitual use of internet applications, which foster and promote compulsive behaviour.

Peter Whybrow, the director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, explains that “the computer is like electronic cocaine,” instigating cycles of mania followed by periods of depression. “There’s just something about the medium that’s addictive,” adds Elias Aboujaoude, a psychiatrist who manages the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Clinic at Stanford Medical School, “I’ve seen plenty of patients who have no history of addictive behavior – or substance abuse of any kind – become addicted to the internet and these other technologies.” Scientists at Oxford University warn that children who spend too much time on social networks sites could suffer from personality and brain disorders. Research published in China discovered links between internet addiction and “structural abnormalities in gray matter,” that is, a fifteen percent shrinkage in the area of the brain that controls speech, memory, motor control, emotion, sensory, and other information. This shrinkage is cumulative: the more time online, the more grey matter shrivels.

From follow-up studies, we learn that it doesn't take even many hours online for these changes to occur. Gary Small, head of UCLA’s Memory and Aging Research Center, documented that even just five hours of internet use, for web-virgins, substantially rewired the prefrontal cortex of the brain. So we can infer what happens as we spend more and more hours online. The amount of time one spends online is directly correlated to depression, obesity, ADD, ADHD, OCD, and anxiety. New studies are showing that internet and social media use contribute to or instigate even bigger mental breakdowns: split-personality disorder, delusional and paranoid thought, suicidal thinking, even psychosis . . . psychosis, that is defined as, a loss of what is real.

This research must not be misinterpreted to suggest that those who've become addicted to Facebook, smart-phones, gaming, chatting, or the internet in general are entirely to be blamed. Is this really their own issue, or is it society's ill? Most people don't want to be online all the time. But its a necessity of today's urban, capitalist society that employees keep their Blackberry's always-on and within-reach even during holidays and private moments. Many workplaces now require employees to spend at least eight hours a day sitting at a desk staring at a screen. After-hours, the compulsion seeded by the habits of the work day to surf the web, refresh e-mail, tweet, update your status, and feel plugged in at all times continues late into the night. How many hours of the day are we not feeding and pruning our virtual alter-egos ? How many hours of our life are we not busying ourselves, hunting around aimlessly on virtual shores? What ways of being, beliefs, and values come along with this new digi-virtual media realm we are all being sucked into?

We must never lose sight that the internet is a solipsistic universe – everything you take in is stuff made by and for humans. No animals, no trees, no lichen, no insects, no fungi, none of those beings who help us breathe, none of the creatures who help us play are here. We are just stewing in our own juices. For those who do worry over what's happening to Nature, there are online portals which exist to compensate for this feeling of lack: 360-degree landscapes, from Peru to the Arctic, all online to explore, digital animal daemons who'll accompany you on an online adventure. These online animal avatars are designed (so goes the logic of the Telus ads) to assuage your anxiety, to help you feel more "natural" and at ease as you muck around in an entirely digi-realm. The Youtube showcase of a starry sky, the pictures of dogs, the representations of a representation of the real thing out there – offline – this is all wonderful, this is all we need.

The internet is like humanity's neural network. It mirrors the brain with its networks, coding systems, information storage, and with it's highly abstract and purely conceptual language. We feel proud as we look in this mirror. As we surf the net, we feel a deep sense of awe over our human ingenuity. Browsing has become not just a vital part of contemporary lifestyle, but a new modality of human being. Accordingly, the values and meaning with which we imbue life in this world are becoming more and more narrowly anthropocentric, and more and more cerebral, abstract, detached, and disembodied.

A word of advice: don't get too attached. We're still in a honey-moon phase with this new technology. The wonders afforded by the internet are still so dazzling to us that we can't really question it, or take into account that this invention may just be the leading cause of the mental breakdown of our species. Some 400,000 years ago, Homo Erectus discovered how to control fire. Humanity's first technology. As we learned with fire, we must work to master our inventions in order to augment their potential, else they will go out of control, and we get a nuclear burn.

The internet-enthusiasts who are no doubt severely agitated by this idea, who are assuming the author is a primitivistic luddite overlooking all the good brought into the world by the world wide web, consider this: for 100 years we celebrated the automobile as the ultimate achievement of our species' invention! What extraordinary feats we were suddenly capable of in locomotion and adventure! Not til generations later did we realize that cars were a leading villain in the destruction of the planet. What will we discover in 100 years about the internet, smart-phones and other harbingers of virtual life?

Already, our enthusiasm about cyberspace is turning against us, for all the information about ourselves which we volunteer to share online, and the data-trails we leave in our wake as we navigate, are being used against us in the war that's underway against our civil liberties. The obliteration of privacy comes with the appropriation of the internet by Big Daddy as the ultimate surveillance tool. And the radical potential we've seen in social media is being stolen from us: all the insidiousness of advertising is all the more in your face on the internet, more so than it ever was on TV. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, pitched Facebook as the ultimate advertising platform to Madison Avenue businesses in late 2012. She assured the industry people that Facebook's number one prerogative is to serve $ucce$$ for those that advertise on it.

The internet, to some, is a crystallization of, and homage to, the nearly-miraculous things human beings can do. We hang on to our god-like abilities attained via technology because they make us feel invulnerable. Though, a cosmic perspective will always put our precarity back in the spotlight. Amidst these ongoing solar storms, it's possible that one of these gigantic solar flares could hit the planet, and all the electronics and gadgets would be wiped out in an instant . . .

Source / AdBusters

Thanks to Deva Wood / Fluxed Up World

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Oh, Brave Second Amendment People: Read This

And on that note, this article recently appeared in Truthout:

The Second Amendment was Ratified to Preserve Slavery
By Thom Hartmann, Truthout / January 15, 2013

The real reason the Second Amendment was ratified, and why it says "State" instead of "Country" (the Framers knew the difference - see the 10th Amendment), was to preserve the slave patrol militias in the southern states, which was necessary to get Virginia's vote. Founders Patrick Henry, George Mason, and James Madison were totally clear on that . . . and we all should be too.

In the beginning, there were the militias. In the South, they were also called the "slave patrols," and they were regulated by the states.

In Georgia, for example, a generation before the American Revolution, laws were passed in 1755 and 1757 that required all plantation owners or their male white employees to be members of the Georgia Militia, and for those armed militia members to make monthly inspections of the quarters of all slaves in the state. The law defined which counties had which armed militias and even required armed militia members to keep a keen eye out for slaves who may be planning uprisings.
Read all of the article here.

Source of Graphics / Children's Defense.Org

Thanks to Kerry Johnson / Fluxed Up World

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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Our History and Future in Less Than Four Minutes

Civilized man. What an extraordinary creature. He has walked on the moon and created the worldwide web that connects billions of people like us right here. But there is a darker side of civilized man and his history that tends to remain unseen. A side that gets brushed over. YOU may actually be a part of it. Do you want to be? Time to open your eyes to the history of Taker culture in this animation by Steve Cutts.

Source / Films for Action

Fluxed Up World

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