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Saturday, June 01, 2002

Ethical Coffee: Stimulating Bio-diversity

A global shift to shade-grown coffee production can save nearly 10 million hectares of rainforest and bring us better tasting coffee, according to a report by Brian Halweil from the US-based research organisation the Worldwatch Institute. “Coffee, if grown right, can be one of the rare human industries that actually restore the Earth’s health,” writes Halweil in the latest issue of the organisations magazine World Watch. But in the last few decades, he adds, over 40 percent of the area devoted to growing coffee in Colombia, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean has been converted to full-sun cultivation. “While this conversion allows farmers to grow more coffee per hectare, it destroys the rainforest and squanders many of the natural benefits of growing coffee in the shade. The initial economic gain is, at best, short-term.” According to Halweil, coffee grown under a rainforest canopy requires fewer pesticides, less chemical fertilizer, and almost no irrigation water.

For more information, contact the Worldwatch Institute on

Let's not forgot coffee that is fairly traded -- leading to the end of the coffee slave trade (a little) -- and organic beans (Peet's Coffee sells Gaia Organica -- a nice strong blend), no pestacides and chemical fertilizers! What better drink to have consciousness about then coffee -- the consciousness drink?

Posted by Richard
6/01/2002 06:55:17 PM | PermaLink

Environment and Technology

People have mistaken this blog as being "anti-technology" -- this is, in fact, part of a criticism against the Green movement in general...that being "sustainable" is code for becoming pre-historic. In fact, following Terence McKenna, I do believe that if we all learned how to be pre-historic once again, it would do us all (and the planet) a lot of good. However, what this means is much more complicated than simply pretending that we don't live in a world riddled with technolgies (including this computer and communications infrastructure). As Marx once wrote, there can be no question of going back (i.e. to the future: that's for Hollywood), the way out of history is only forward.

In this sense, then, I am committed to trying to use technologies in a new manner, as part of a different project (than capitalist info-tainment, for instance) part of a revolutionary democracy, that attempts to utilize the possibilities released by these technologies to radically educate as many as possible towards an Earth-awareness. Isn't it interesting that just when the Earth itself appears to be bent on widespread collapse and catastrophe, that a potentially global, democratic media arises like the Internet? Thus, online banking (however nifty) is a joke. The status of being online can only be about realizing a revolutionary new level of awareness through the act of consciousness-raising raised to the power of 100.

Here's a blog I found yesterday -- Northwest House Blend -- also interested and looking at the intersections of education, technology and environment.

For more on this see this Dr. Menlo blog and my response.

This article on digital divide appeared yesterday.

Posted by Richard
6/01/2002 09:00:22 AM | PermaLink

Thursday, May 30, 2002

Union Carbide over Manhattan?

Greenpeace thinks so...while the government tries to take information off the Net about dangerous chemical plants in America, Greenpeace plans to put information up that shows exactly how an attack on a South Kearney, NJ plant would send a giant chlorine cloud over the Hudson, creating untold devastation in the Big Apple.

Greenpeace's mission and the resulting controversy is covered in this Ann Davis piece in today's Wall Street Journal:

Posted by Richard
5/30/2002 04:13:58 PM | PermaLink

And Another...

and then back to saving the planet or whatever it is that we do here.

But I have been told that Veshka Valkyrie of Thought Puddles has passed through these here electronic parts, and deserves a mention. Thanks Veshka.

BTW, your t-shirt collection wins hands down...although, it's not clear that you have any single tee to stand up to the power of "Can't Sleep Clowns Will Eat Me."

Posted by Richard
5/30/2002 03:51:57 PM | PermaLink

An Omission

Looking through the stats, I see that I missed an important blog reader: Manufacturing Dissent.

This critical, political blog straight out of the heart of New York saw fit to give the "Get Vegan" movement a nice listing in its Far Left/Right section. Which are we I wonder? I've heard people describe Aldo Leopold as an "Eco-fascist" b/c they see him as an evangelist for the biotic Spock logic of "The good of the organic many necessarily outweighs the rights of the inorganic one."

Here, we just call the present day like we see it -- and if that's radical, to either the left or the right, then we'll take that name proudly!

Posted by Richard
5/30/2002 12:52:06 PM | PermaLink

Democracy: Finishing off the Monarchs?

An interesting debate is going on amongst ecologists working on the problem of the massive Monarch buttterfly die-off in Mexico. What is going on here?

Dr. Lincoln Brower has been travelling the country predicting a complete Monarch extinction within 10-20 years and he has been distributing pictures of his assistants buried up to their necks in dead Monarchs. They were three feet deep, it has been reported.
He also showed a graph which correlated forest thinning to monarch mortality.
Here is a picture of an assistant up to his knees and shoulder in dead monarchs.

But some ecologists debate the accuracy of this -- though not that Monarchs are involved in some form of die-off. One ecologist who has visited the region has provided these photos of less substantial catastrophe to the population and that it is happening within forest canopies too. If this is the case, it would appear to counter the forest canopy theory that has been picked up by such large organizations as the WWF.

Posted by Richard
5/30/2002 12:25:12 PM | PermaLink

Wolf at the Door

Read the full article:
Capping off a long, discouraging week, Carter Niemeyer set out around dawn on Saturday, April 6, resigned to killing the most popular pack of wolves in Idaho. Armed with a semiautomatic 12-gauge shotgun, wearing a flight suit, helmet and safety glasses, he and another federal wolf controller, Rick Williamson, boarded aircraft in Challis, a small town in the beautiful mountain country near the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Idaho's equivalent of a major national park. Niemeyer took off in a helicopter whose doors had been removed to clear his field of fire. With so much air roaring through, he hooked himself to a harness to avoid being swept out. The pilot flew him low over the East Fork of the Salmon River, where ranchers own the bottomland for cattle pasture and the hillsides are national forest leased for grazing. With Williamson in a spotter plane at higher altitude, they flew in an attack formation, scouting the folds of the terrain. Locating their targets was not the difficult part of the job.
I respect wolves. I still don't like them killing our sheep. (05/30/02) High Country News
Not much room for more wolves (05/30/02) High Country News
Wolves still struggle in the Southwest (05/30/02) High Country News
For more on this issue, and the incredible irrationality of what is happening with these wolves -- from the standpoint of number of kills, and the dollars and cents of the issue -- see my 4/19/02 post.

Posted by Richard
5/30/2002 12:05:13 PM | PermaLink

Living with Energy

Professor's Self-Sustaining House Fuses Creativity with Energy

It looks like a normal house at first glance.

There's a front porch entrance, fireplaces in the bedrooms and a kitchen.

But it has a name, the "Earthship," and it possesses powers that belie its humble exterior.

Created by history professor Scott Bartchy, the house sustains itself entirely on solar power and is designed to produce more energy than it will ever use. [Read more...]
Sometimes I'm so proud to be a part of UCLA...

Posted by Richard
5/30/2002 11:55:54 AM | PermaLink

Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Who's Been Reading Lately?

Well, I'm very happy to say that (quite unexpectedly) this blog seems to be catching on and generating a little interest! Why unexpectedly? -- well, I'm sure I'm not the only one to have heard that the blogging community is decidedly right-wing...then again, my position here is not exactly main stream moderate or even liberal. If 1 percent of the population is vegan, how many are revolutionary vegans?

But, as I said, happily one doesn't have to agree to read this blog -- and that's exactly how it should be!

Recent readers include:
Dr. Menlo's Blogs From Space -- gave a shout out on his main page! Hey, if the doctor's good enough for Bruce Sterling, he's good enough for me...
Randomwalks -- came fluxing through.
Full Bleed -- got in a long debate about eco-justice and my post on Peta and Charles Barkley with Drucilla B. Blood, and then some of her readers too!
Kaymc, who blogged us into his link list and made this entry.

Posted by Richard
5/29/2002 03:52:57 PM | PermaLink

I Dreamt of Chicken Beaks

On the curious similarities between McDonald's chickens and farmed Atlantic salmon
by Howard Silverman

It all began with this piece on NPR.

Daniel Zwerdling described recent changes in McDonald's standards for chicken and egg production that would force adjustments in practices across the entire industry.

Wonderful news. Kind of like Home Depot's 1999 announcement to give preference to the purchase of sustainably harvested lumber. Through their market-muscle, big players such as these can compel significant changes in the practices of suppliers along the various stages of product development. The chain-of-chick-custody, as it were, in the McDonald's case.

Zwerdling embellished his report more than once with the gruesome fact that a common practice in industrial chicken farming is the snipping off of the chickens' beaks. Seems that tightly confined chickens will peck each other violently. So their beaks are clipped off.

That's where my nightmares started. If you're already picturing a henhouse full of beakless biddies, no more need be said.

Along the rain forest coast there is a food industry that is mired in a slew of similarly distressing practices -- farmed salmon. Here's a taste of what's going on: Read On

Posted by Richard
5/29/2002 10:39:33 AM | PermaLink

Europe's Organic Panic

This from Mother Jones:
European Union officials are apparently wishing they'd followed the prosecutors' mantra: Never ask a question you don't know the answer to. A recently completed EU study found that the use of genetically modified (GM) foods in commercial agriculture will kill organic farming in Europe, since it will be impossible to keep the GM genes from contaminating organic crops. The Independent reports that the EU tried to keep their findings confindential because of the "sensitivity of the issue."

Posted by Richard
5/29/2002 10:05:52 AM | PermaLink

Glaciers Rapidly Receeding, Will Have Global Impact (Some Good, Mostly Bad)

"Glaciers in most areas of the world are known to be receding," said Kargel, who is also the international coordinator for GLIMS. "But glaciers in the Himalaya are wasting at alarming and accelerating rates, as indicated by comparisons of satellite and historic data, and as shown by the widespread, rapid growth of lakes on the glacier surfaces."

While ice reflects the sun's rays, lake water absorbs and transmits heat more efficiently to the underlying ice, kicking off a feedback that creates further melting.

According to a 2001 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, scientists estimate that surface temperatures could rise by 1.4°C to 5.8°C by the end of the century. The researchers have found a strong correlation between increasing temperatures and glacier retreat.

Glacier changes in the next 100 years could significantly affect agriculture, water supplies, hydroelectric power, transportation, mining, coastlines, and ecological habitats. Melting ice may cause both serious problems and, for the short term in some regions, helpful increases in water availability, but all these impacts will change with time, Kargel said.

Posted by Richard
5/29/2002 09:23:25 AM | PermaLink

Parched Thirst?

Some interesting posts on the American Samizdat blog of Dr. Menlo concerning the state of water supply both domestic and abroad:
Water and Water, water everywhere

Posted by Richard
5/29/2002 08:54:12 AM | PermaLink

De-Creeing Capitalism as the Only Alternative?

The following came over the Anarchy listserv yesterday -- someone posted the Cree prophecy, and then this post updating the capital situation there:

Quebec's Cree indian lands and rights sold for $3.8 billion. The treaty was signed February 7th. The Cree community wants profits from hydroelectricity and forestry projetcs despite their famous prophecy :

'Only after the last tree has been cut down,
Only after the last river has been poisoned,
Only after the last fish has been caught,
Only then you will find out that money cannot be eaten.'

The treaty was hailed as a triumph, the final, cheery chapter of an otherwise messy history between the Quebec government and the province's Cree. The 50-year deal would give the Cree much needed income and stability, while allowing the province to develop the vast hydroelectric, forestry and mining opportunities in the north.
Then, last night, I was involved in a long debate around the intersections of the work of radical educator Paulo Freire and the problems of indigenous peoples. It was pointed out that the North American indigenous peoples, through wave upon wave of oppression against them, find themselves in the contradiction of 1) shut out capitalism and try in whatever brutal fashion to remain traditional in non-traditional times, or 2) embrace capitalism and be assimilated. In the United States, the Cree appear to have chosen the latter, though in the guise of a cyborg culture which practices both native traditions and Anglican traditions -- weddings for instance have priests from both supervising. In any event, it was pointed out by Peter McLaren that it is interesting that a third possibility is never apparently an option for these peoples: to take capitalism up critically in revolutionary struggle against its oppressive nature.

Posted by Richard
5/29/2002 08:48:23 AM | PermaLink

Monday, May 27, 2002

Mexico to Grant Whales Refuge

MEXICO CITY — Mexico recently announced an accord to protect whales in its waters, making it the world's largest national sanctuary for the giant mammals, environmental groups said.

The office of Mexican President Vicente Fox said the Area of Refuge accord would provide added protection in areas such as reproduction, growth, and migration to 39 whale species that spend time in Mexican waters. The accord was signed at the International Whaling Commission meeting in Shimonoseki, Japan.

"We have the largest national protected area for whales in the world," said Juan Carlos Cantu, the coordinator of the Greenpeace Mexico biodiversity campaign. "We're talking about nearly 3 million square kilometers (1.15 million square miles) of the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean," he added, speaking on national radio.

Some 17,000 gray whales come into Mexican waters each year, many of them using the warm waters as a breeding ground.

Since 1933, Mexico has been active at international forums to protect whales. Early this year it established penalties for whaling in its waters. "No marine mammal, regardless of species, can be hunted for commercial uses or for subsistence," Fox's office said in a statement, adding that only accredited institutions would be allowed to capture whales for scientific or educational purposes.

The International Whaling Commission wound up an acrimonious annual meeting Friday after rejecting both a bid by native peoples to keep hunting whales and Japan's wish to resume commercial hunts.

The five-day meeting in the old Japanese whaling city of Shimonoseki hardened battle lines in the long-running feud between those who want to hunt whales for commercial and traditional reasons and those who want to protect them.

Posted by Richard
5/27/2002 10:13:53 PM | PermaLink