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‘I’ Newspaper: England Could Run Out Of Water in 20 Years

Yesterday’s I for 10th July 2020 carried an article by Madeleine Cuff, ‘England ‘at risk of running out of water’, which reported that MPs had criticized the water authorities for the state of the country’s water supply. The article ran

MPs have issued a stinging rebuke to England’s water authorities, warning the country is at “serious risk” of running out water within 20 years unless “urgent action” is taken to shore up supplies.

“It is very hard to imagine, in this country, turning the tap and not having enough clean, drinkable water come out – but that is exactly what we now face,” said Public Accounts Committee chair Mog Hillier.

In a report published today, it accused the Department of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Environment Agency, and the water regulator Ofwat of having “taken their eyes off the ball” in the race to secure a sustainable long-term supply of fresh water. It follows similarly stark warnings from the national Audit Office in March.

England is already extracting groundwater at unsustainable rates, and as climate change brings hotter, drier weather, water supply will come under more intense pressure.

Yet every day more than three billion litres of fresh drinking water is lost through leakages, a fifth of the total volume used. Urgent action must be taken to reduce this “wholly unacceptable” level of leakages.

Meanwhile, industry action to persuade the public to use less water has “failed”, the MPs added.

The water crisis has been going on a long time, and doesn’t only affect England. It’s all over the world. Viewers of Stacy Dooley’s documentary a few months ago into the massive environmental impact of the ‘fast fashion’ industry will remember the scenes of the dried-up wastes of what used to be the Caspian Sea, caused by Uzbekistan diverting the water to irrigate the fields for its cotton industry. Way back in the 1990s the Financial Times covered the emerging water crisis in arid countries in Africa and the Middle East, and predicted that in this century conflict over water would become the major cause of war.

The I and other papers also published reports years ago about the declining state of Britain’s own water supply. Even at the time water extraction, including that for industrial purposes, was exceeding the supply. And when I was at Bristol University studying for the archaeology doctorate nearly a decade ago, we had a visiting archaeologist tell us in a seminar about the effects of climate change on civilizations across the world down through time that we needed to save water.

It is not, however, just the water authorities’ fault. The real responsibility lies with the water companies and their privatisation. They were sold to mostly foreign companies with the promise that this would bring extra investment. It hasn’t. The foreigners who own our water supply simply regard it as a profit-stream, rather than a vital utility. The profits have gone out of the country, while they themselves have done precious little to maintain the water supply to an acceptable standard.

And if the water authorities haven’t done much about this, it’s because they were deliberately prevented from doing so by the Tories when the water industry was privatized. There were a series of reports in Private Eye about how the Tories had cut back the scope and regulatory powers of Defra, Ofwat and their predecessors, so that their ability to interfere in the running of the new, privatized companies was severely limited.

The crisis has been going on for a long time. And it is partly due to Margaret Thatcher and her insistence on the primacy of private industry. But private industry has shown itself incompetent to run the water supply. It’s one of the reasons its renationalisation was in the 2019 Labour manifesto under Jeremy Corbyn.

But Corbyn was massively smeared and reviled by the establishment right and their poodle media. Which is why we now have a parliament, who will do nothing about this, adding drought and thirst to the misery they are inflicting on the poor.

 

History of Global Slavery in Maps

James Walvin, Atlas of Slavery (Harlow: Pearson Education 2006).

I’ve blogged several times about the importance of putting western, transatlantic slavery in its global context. Slavery was not something that only White Europeans did to Black Africans. It has plagued humanity across history and the globe. It existed in ancient Greece and Rome, in the Arab and Islamic worlds and even in sub-Saharan Africa itself. And it reappeared in the 20th century in the Nazi concentration and death camps, and the gulags of Stalin’s Soviet Union, as well as the Russian dictators deportation of whole ethnic groups and nations to Siberia.

While concentrating very much on European transatlantic slavery, in which Black slaves were transported to the Caribbean and North and South America, Walvin’s book does place it in this global, historical context. James Walvin is a former history lecturer at the University of York, and was the co-editor of the journal Slavery and Abolition. He has also published a series of books on the subject. Walvin’s Atlas of Slavery presents the history of slavery throughout the world in maps. The blurb for it on the book’s back cover runs

The enslavement of Africans and their transportation across the Atlantic has come to occupy a unique place in the public imagination. Despite the wide-ranging atrocities of the twentieth century (including massive slave systems in Nazi Europe and the Russian Gulag), the Atlantic slave system continues to hold a terrible fascination. But slavery in the Atlantic world involved much more than the transportation of human cargo from one country to another, as Professor Walvin clearly explains in the Atlas of Slavery.

In this fascinating new book he looks at slavery in the Americas in the broadest context, taking account of both earlier and later forms of slavery. The relationship between the critical continents, Europe, Africa and the Americas is examined through a collection of maps and related text, which puts the key features of the history of slavery in their defining geographical setting. By foregrounding the historical geography of slavery, Professor Walvin shows how the people of three widely separated continents were brought together into an economic and human system that was characterized both by violence and cruelty to its victims and huge economic advantage to its owners and managers.

Professor Walvin’s synthesis of the complex history of Atlantic slavery provides a fresh perspective from which to view and understand one of the most significant chapters in global history. We may think of slavery as a largely bygone phenomenon, but it is a practice that continues to this day, and the exploitation of vulnerable human beings remains a pressing contemporary issue.

After an introduction, the book has the following chapters:

  1. Slavery in a global setting.
  2. The ancient world.
  3. Overland African slave routes
  4. 4 European slavery and slave trades
  5. Exploration and the spread of sugar
  6. Europeans, slaves and West Africa
  7. Britain, slavery and the slave trade
  8. Africa
  9. The Atlantic
  10. Crossing the Atlantic
  11. Destinations
  12. Arrivals
  13. Brazil
  14. The Caribbean
  15. North America
  16. Cotton and the USA
  17. Slave resistance
  18. Abolition and emancipation
  19. East Africa and the Indian Ocean
  20. Slavery after abolition.

The book concludes with a chronology, further reading list and index.

This is slavery minutely described. The maps and accompanying texts not only discuss the history of slavery itself, but also the general trading systems of which it was a part, the goods and agricultural products, like cotton, it served to produce, and the regions, towns and cities that produced and traded in them and the routes across which they were transported. There is even a map of the currents of the Atlantic Ocean as part of the background to the horrendous Middle Passage – the shipping route across the ocean used to transport slaves from Africa to the New World.

The book’s an excellent resource for people studying or simply interested in the history of slavery. The book is almost totally devoted to transatlantic slavery, as you’d expect. But not totally so, and as I said, this global historical context is needed if an equally racist, anti-White view of the history of slavery is to be avoided.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bet You Didn’t Know This About Bees

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 25/06/2020 - 6:33am in

THE POLLINATORS, follows migratory beekeepers and their truckloads of honeybees as they pollinate the crops we all eat. The challenges that beekeepers and their bees face in their travels reveal the flaws to our simplified, chemically dependent agriculture system. Director … Continue reading

The post Bet You Didn’t Know This About Bees appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

The Pollinators: This Film Only Matters if You Eat Food

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 16/06/2020 - 7:55am in

The Pollinators takes you on a journey around the United States following migratory beekeepers and their truckloads of honey bees as they pollinate the flowers that become the fruits, nuts and vegetables we all eat. You need to see this film if you eat food. Continue reading

The post The Pollinators: This Film Only Matters if You Eat Food appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

J.A. Hobson on Capitalism and Imperialism

One of the crimes for which Jeremy Corbyn was pilloried as an anti-Semite was that he had written a foreword for an edition of J.A. Hobson’s book, Imperialism. First published in 1903, Hobson’s book has become one of the classic critiques of imperialism. Hobson considered that the motive force behind imperialist expansion and overseas conquest was capitalism and the continual need to find new markets. The book influenced Lenin’s own analysis of imperialism, Imperialism: The Highest Form of Capitalism. Fifty years after the book was published it was praised by the great British historian A.J.P. Taylor, who said that ‘No survey of the international history of the twentieth century can be complete without the name of J.A. Hobson’ because he was the first to identify imperialism’s economic motives. Hobson has been accused of anti-Semitism.

Imperialism and the Anti-Semitism Smears against Corbyn

I think it’s because he believed that Jewish financiers were behind the Anglo-South Africa or ‘Boer’ Wars. I think the real force was the British desire to expand into the African interior,  retain the Afrikaners as imperial subjects and acquire the riches of the southern African diamond fields as well as Cecil Rhodes own megalomaniac personal ambitions. However, when the various witch-hunters were howling about how anti-Semitic Corbyn was for endorsing the book, others pointed out that it was a very well-respected text admired and used by entirely reputable historians. Yes, it was a bit anti-Semitic. A very small bit – there was only one anti-Semitic sentence in it. It was another case of the witch-hunters grasping at whatever they could, no matter how small, to smear a genuinely anti-racist politician.

Financial Capitalism, Imperialism and the Decline of Ancient Rome

There’s an extract from Hobson’s Imperialism in The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century Protest, edited by Brian MacArthur (London: Penguin 1988). This is a collection various writings protesting against a wide variety of issues ranging from indictments of the poverty of Edwardian England, to various wars, including Vietnam, Civil Rights and anti-Racism, as well as feminism, gay rights, the power of television and the threat of nuclear war. Yes, there’s an extract from Hitler’s Mein Kampf, but there’s also a piece by the American Zionist rabbi, Stephen S. Wise, against the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany as well as other condemnations of Nazis and their horrific rule. The book very definitely does not endorse Fascism or the Communism of Stalin, Pol Pot and the other monsters.

The extract included in the book does identify financial capitalism and militarism as the force behind Roman imperialism, which led to the enslavement of Rome’s enemies abroad and the emergence of an immensely wealthy aristocracy, while impoverishing ordinary Romans at the other end of the social hierarchy, and compares it to the comparable development of the British imperialism of his own time. The extract runs

The spirit of imperialism poisons the springs of democracy in the mind and character of the people. As our free self-governing colonies have furnished hope, encouragement and leadership to the popular aspirations in Great Britain, not merely by practical successes in the arts of popular government, but by the wafting of a spirit of freedom and equality, so our despotically ruled dependencies have ever served to damage the character of our people by feeding the habits of snobbish subservience, the admiration of wealth and rank, the corrupt survivals of the inequalities of feudalism. This process began with the advent of the East Indian nabob and the West Indian planter into English society and politics, bring back with his plunders of the slave trade and the gains of corrupt and extortionate officialism the acts of vulgar ostentation, domineering demeanour and corrupting largesse to dazzle and degrade the life of our people. Cobden, writing in 1860 of our Indian Empire, put this pithy question: ‘Is it not just possible that we may become corrupted at home by the reaction of arbitrary political maxims in the East upon our domestic politics, just as Greece and Rome were demoralized by their contact with Asia?’

The rise of a money-loaning aristocracy in Rome, composed of keen, unscrupulous men from many nations, who filled the high offices of state with their creatures, political ‘bosses’ or military adventurers, who had come to the front as usurers, publicans or chiefs of police in the provinces, was the most distinctive feature of later imperial Rome. This class was continually recruited from returned officials and colonial millionaires. The large incomes drawn in private official plunder, public tribute, usury and official incomes from the provinces had the following reactions upon Italy. Italians were no longer wanted for working the land or for manufactures, or even for military service. ‘The later campaigns on the Rhine and the Danube,’ it is pointed out, ‘were really slave-hunts on a gigantic scale.’

The Italian farmers, at first drawn from rural into military life, soon found themselves permanently ousted from agriculture by the serf labour of the latifundia, and they and their families were sucked into the dregs of town life, to be subsisted as a pauper population upon public charity. A mercenary colonial army came more and more displace the home forces. The parasitic city life, with its lowered vitality and the growing infrequency of marriage, to which Gibbon draws attention, rapidly impaired the physique of the native population of Italy, and Rome subsisted more and more upon immigration of raw vigour from Gaul and Germany. The necessity of maintaining powerful mercenary armies to hold the provinces heightened continually the peril, already manifest in the last years of the Republic, arising from the political ambitions of great pro-consuls conspiring with a moneyed interest at Rome against the Commonwealth. As time went on, this moneyed oligarchy became an hereditary aristocracy, and withdrew from military and civil service, relying more and more upon hired foreigners: themselves sapped by luxury and idleness and tainting by mixed servitude and licence the Roman populace, they so enfeebled the state as to destroy the physical and moral vitality required to hold in check and under government the vast repository of forces in the exploited Empire. The direct cause of Rome’s decay and fall is expressed politically by the term ‘over-centralization’, which conveys in brief the real essence of imperialism as distinguished from national growth on the one hand and colonialism upon the other. Parasitism practised through taxation and usury, involved a constantly increasing centralization of the instruments of government, and a growing strain upon this government as the prey became more impoverished by the drain and showed signs of restiveness. ‘The evolution of this centralized society was as logical as every other work of nature. When force reached the stage where it expressed itself exclusively through money the governing class ceased to be chosen because they were valiant or eloquent, artistic, learned or devout, and were selected solely because they had the faculty of acquiring and keeping wealth. As long as the weak retained enough vitality to produce something which could be absorbed, this oligarchy was invariable; and, for very many years after the native peasantry of Gaul and Italy had perished from the land, new blood, injected from more tenacious races, kept the dying civilization alive. The weakness of the moneyed class lay in this very power, for they not only killed the producer, but in the strength of their acquisitiveness they failed to propagate themselves.’

This is the largest, planest instance history presents of the social parasite process by which a moneyed interest within the state, usurping the reins of government, makes for imperial expansion in order to fasten economic suckers into foreign bodies so as to drain them of their wealth in order to support domestic luxury. The new imperialism differs in no vital point from this old example. The element of political tribute is now absent, or quite subsidiary, and the crudest forms of slavery have disappeared: some elements of more genuine and disinterested government serve to qualify and and mask the distinctively parasitic nature of the later sort. But nature is not mocked: the laws which, operative throughout nature, doom the parasite to atrophy, decay, and final extinction, are not evaded by nations any more than by individual organisms. The greater complexity of the modern process, the endeavour to escape the parasitic reaction by rendering some real but quite unequal and inadequate services to ‘the host’, may retard but cannot finally avert the natural consequences of living upon others. The claim that an imperial state forcibly subjugating other peoples and their lands does so for the purpose of rendering services to the conquered equal to those which she exacts is notoriously false: she neither intends equivalent services nor is capable of rendering them, and the pretence that such benefits to the governed form a leading motive or result of imperialism implies a degree of moral or intellectual obliquity so grave as itself to form a new peril for any nation fostering so false a notion of the nature of its conduct. ‘Let the motive be in the deed, not in the event,’ says a Persian proverb…

Imperialism is a depraved choice of national life, imposed by self-seeking interests which appeal to the lusts of quantitative acquisitiveness and of forceful domination surviving in a nation from early centuries of animal struggle for existence. Its adoption as a policy implies a deliberate renunciation of that cultivation of the higher inner qualities which for a nation as for its individual constitutes the ascendancy of reason over brute impulse. It is the besetting sin of all successful state, and its penalty is unalterable in the order of nature.

(Pp. 15-18).

Financial Capitalism Operating to Exploit Former Colonies and Undermine Domestic Economy

While the British Empire has gone the way of Rome’s, the same forces are still operating today. The Iraq invasion was really to enable western multinationals to seize Iraq’s state industries, and for the American and Saudi oil industry to seize its oil reserves. They weren’t about bringing it democracy or freeing its citizens. Although our former African colonies are now free, they are still plundered through highly unfair trade agreements. At home manufacturing industry has declined because Thatcherite economics favours the financial sector. And the immensely rich now hoard their wealth in offshore tax havens or invest it abroad, rather than in domestic industry. Thus denying British industry investment and making millions of domestic workers unemployed. There’s a further parallel in that in the later Roman Empire, the senatorial aristocracy retreated to their estates rather than pay tax, and so the tax burden increasingly fell on the ordinary Roman citizen. This is the same as the way the Tories have given vast tax cuts to the rich, which have ensured that the tax burden must also be increasingly borne by the poor.

Conservatives have also drawn parallels between the fall of the Roman Empire and today’s west. This has mostly been about non-White immigration, which they have compared to the barbarian invasions. But as Hobson’s Imperialism showed, capitalism and imperialism were connected and together responsible for Rome’s decline and fall. 

But strangely they don’t talk about that!

 

 

Shaw’s Classic Defence of Socialism for Women Part Three

George Bernard Shaw, The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism, foreword by Polly Toynbee (London: Alma Classics 2012).

Socialism and Marriage, Children, Liberty and Religion

Shaw also discusses what socialism would mean for marriage, liberty, children and the churches, and these are the most problematic sections of the book. He looks forward to marriage being a purely voluntary commitment, where people people can marry for love instead of financial advancement. This will produce biologically better children, because people will be able to choose the best partners, rather than be limited to only those from their class. At the same time incompatible partners will be able to divorce each other free of stigma.

He defines liberty in terms of personal freedom. Under socialism, people will be freer because the amount of time they will have for their personal amusement and recreation will be greater. Legislation might go down, because the laws currently needed to protect people will become unnecessary as socialism is established and society advances. Shaw also believes that greater free time would be enough to attract the top brains to management positions in the absence of the usual inducement of greater pay. Shaw realised that not everyone could run industries, and that it was necessary to hire the very best people, who would be a small minority. Giving them greater leisure time was the best way to do this, and he later criticises the Soviet government for not equalising incomes.

But this is sheer utopianism. The Bolsheviks had tried to equalise incomes, and it didn’t work, which is why they went back to higher rates of pay for managers and so on. And as we’ve seen, socialism doesn’t necessarily lead to greater free time and certainly not less legislation. The better argument is that socialism leads to greater liberty because under socialism people have better opportunities available to them for careers, sport, entertainment and personal improvement than they would if they were mere capitalist wage slaves.

Religious people will also object to his views on religion and the churches. While earlier in the book Shaw addressed the reader as a fellow Christian, his attitude in this section is one of a religious sceptic. The reader will have already been warned of this through the foreword by Toynbee. The Groaniad columnist is a high-ranking member of the both the Secular and Humanist Societies, and her columns and articles in just about every magazine or newspaper she wrote for contained sneers at religion. Shaw considers the various Christian denominations irreconcilable in their theologies, and pour scorn on orthodox Christian doctrines such as the Atonement, that Christ died for our sins. Religion should not be taught in school, because of the incompatibility of the account of the Creation in Genesis with modern science. Children should not be taught about religion at all under they are of the age of consent. If their parents do teach them, the children are to be removed from their care. This is the attitude of very aggressive secularists and atheists. Richard Dawkins had the same attitude, but eventually reversed it. It’s far too authoritarian for most people. Mike and I went to a church school, and received a very good education from teachers that did believe in evolution. Religion deals with ultimate questions of existence and morality that go far beyond science. I therefore strongly believe that parents have the right to bring their children up in their religion, as long as they are aware of the existence of other views and that those who hold them are not wicked simply for doing so. He also believed that instead of children having information pumped into them, the business should be to educate children to the basic level they need to be able to live and work in modern society, and then allow the child to choose for itself what it wants to study.

Communism and Fascism

This last section of the book includes Shaw’s observations on Russian Communism and Fascism. Shaw had visited the USSR in the early ’30s, and like the other Fabians had been duped by Stalin. He praised it as the new socialist society that was eradicating poverty and class differences. He also thought that its early history vindicated the Fabian approach of cautious nationalisation. Lenin had first nationalised everything, and then had to go back on it and restore capitalism and the capitalist managers under the New Economic Policy. But Russia was to be admired because it had done this reversal quite openly, while such changes were kept very quiet in capitalism. If there were problems in the country’s industrialisation, it was due to mass sabotage by the kulaks – the wealthy peasants – and the industrialists. He also recognised that the previous capitalist elite were disenfranchised, forced into manual labour, and their children denied education until the working class children had been served. At the same time, the Soviet leaders had been members of the upper classes themselves, and in order to present themselves as working class leaders had claimed working class parentage. These issues were, however, gradually working themselves out. The Soviet leaders no longer had need of such personal propaganda, and the former capitalists could reconcile themselves to the regime as members of the intellectual proletariat. And some of the industrialisation was being performed by criminals, but this was less arduous than the labour in our prisons.

Shaw is right about the NEP showing that nationalisation needs to be preceded by careful preparation. But he was obviously kept ignorant of the famine that was raging in the USSR through forced collectivisation and the mass murder of the kulaks. And rather than a few criminals in the gulags, the real figures were millions of forced labourers. They were innocent of any crime except Stalin’s paranoia and the need of his managers for cheap slave labour. It’s believed that about 30 millions died in Stalin’s purges, while 7 million died in the famine in the Ukraine.

Shaw’s treatment of Fascism seems to be based mostly on the career of Mussolini. He considers Fascism just a revival of the craze for absolute monarchy and military leadership, of the kind that had produced Henry VIII in England, Napoleon, and now Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, the Shah of Iran and Ataturk in Turkey. These new absolute rulers had started out as working class radicals, before find out that the changes they wanted would not come from the working class. They had therefore appealed to the respectable middle class, swept away democracy and the old municipal councils, which were really talking shops for elderly tradesmen which accomplished little. They had then embarked on a campaign against liberalism and the left, smashing those organisations and imprisoning their members. Some form of parliament had been retained in order to reassure the people. At the same time, wars were started to divert the population and stop them criticising the new generalissimo. Industry was approaching socialism by combining into trusts. However, the government would not introduce socialism or truly effective government because of middle class opposition. Fascist regimes wouldn’t last, because their leaders were, like the rest of us, only mortal. In fact Mussolini was overthrown by the other Fascists, who then surrendered to the Allies, partly because of his failing health. That, and his utter military incompetence which meant that Italy was very definitely losing the War and the Allies were steadily advancing up the peninsula. While this potted biography of the typical Fascist is true of Mussolini, it doesn’t really fit some of the others. The Shah, for example, was an Indian prince.

Anarchism and Syndicalism

Shaw is much less informed about anarchism. He really only discusses it in terms of ‘Communist Anarchism’, which he dismisses as a silly contradiction in terms. Communism meant more legislation, while anarchism clearly meant less. He should have the articles and books on Anarcho-communism by Peter Kropotkin. Kropotkin believed that goods and services should be taken over by the whole community. However, rather than a complete absence of government and legislation, society would be managed instead by individual communities and federations.

He also dismisses syndicalism, in which industry would be taken over and run by the trade unions. He considers this just another form of capitalism, with the place of the managers being taken by the workers. These would still fleece the consumer, while at the same time leave the problem of the great inequality in the distribution of wealth untouched, as some industries would obviously be poorer than others. But the Guild Socialists did believe that there should be a kind of central authority to represent the interests of the consumer. And one of the reasons why nationalisation, in the view of some socialists, failed to gain the popular support needed to defend it against the privatisations of the Tories is because the workers in the nationalised industries after the War were disappointed in their hopes for a great role in their management. The Labour party merely wanted nationalisation to be a simple exchange of public for private management, with no profound changes to the management structure. In some cases the same personnel were left in place. Unions were to be given a role in management through the various planning bodies. But this was far less than many workers and trade unionists hoped. If nationalisation is to have any meaning, it must allow for a proper, expanded role of the workers themselves in the business of managing their companies and industries.

The book ends with a peroration and a discussion of the works that have influenced and interest Shaw. In the peroration Shaw exhorts the readers not to be upset by the mass poverty and misery of the time, but to deplore the waste of opportunities for health, prosperity and happiness of the time, and to look forward and work for a better, socialist future.

His ‘Instead of a Bibliography’ is a kind of potted history of books critical of capitalism and advocating socialism from David Ricardo’s formulation of capitalism in the 19th century. These also include literary figures like Ruskin, Carlyle and Dickens. He states that he has replaced Marx’s theory of surplus value with Jevons‘ treatment of rent, in order to show how capitalism deprives workers of their rightful share of the profits.

 

 

Growing an Appreciation for the Hands That Feed Us

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 09/05/2020 - 1:14am in

Tags 

agriculture

A celebrated peach farmer and author who often works in solitude talks to food leaders Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, Raj Patel, and others about how food connects us all. Continue reading

The post Growing an Appreciation for the Hands That Feed Us appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

Infrastructure that Helps Wildlife Migrate

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 30/04/2020 - 6:10am in

Welcome to The Fixer, our weekly briefing of solutions in the news. This week: critical corridors for migrating wildlife gain new urgency in an era of climate change. Plus, schooling on lockdown is changing Italy’s approach to education, and a debate over the merits of capturing methane from cow dung.

Crossing the lines

The Washington Post has a gorgeous interactive that allows the reader to follow the paths of wildlife fitted with radio collars as they navigate major highways. Biologists are working to aid these migrations with a network of bridges, tunnels and other structures that allow the animals to cross highways in the American West. Such crossings have existed for years, but are more urgent than ever in an era of climate change, as animals seek cooler places to spend the summer months. So scientists are tracking migratory routes and looking for ways to give wildlife new pathways to higher elevations, allowing them to find cooler air without requiring hundred-mile journeys.

The crossings are premised on research showing that, over the next 100 years of warming, only 41 percent of species will be able to seek out their preferred temperatures. If properly designed wildlife corridors are put in place to help animals get where they’re going, however, that number jumps to 65 percent. Some of this success is already visible. The 2,000-mile “Yellowstone to Yukon” corridor has allowed grizzlies and wolverines to move more freely, which has helped preserve species diversity as they breed with far-flung peers.

Read more at the Washington Post

A remote chance

Around the world, an outbreak of lockdown-prompted remote learning is upending educational techniques (not to mention exhausted parents’ lives). A report in the Guardian details some of the takeaways in Italy, which, despite being the birthplace of Montessori, takes a traditional approach to education that is now giving way to innovation. 

Italy’s lockdown could lead to long-term changes in the way it approaches education. Credit: Nenad Stojkovic

Teachers in Italy have been abandoning test-based learning — which doesn’t work well via video chat, since it’s easy for kids to cheat — for more unorthodox endeavors. One teacher reports that his students are getting their families involved in presentations, changing the dynamic from rote instruction to collaborative creativity. “I’ve got a 13-year-old, the son of two ex-offenders, who has produced some diaries of extraordinary depth,” said another. Still others have found that “the intimidation of the pack” has diminished, prompting participation from kids who might normally be too meek to speak up.

The article concludes that this extended period of remote education could transform Italy’s teaching techniques in lasting ways. “It makes you understand that we need a very varied form of education,” said a primary school teacher in Milan.

Read more at the Guardian

Feeder’s digest

Recently, we reported on the question of whether real meat, sustainably sourced, could be better for the planet than the fake stuff taking the fast-food world by storm. A similar debate forms the foundation of a new article at Civil Eats, which examines whether converting animal waste from methane into energy is really good for the environment, or simply enabling unsustainable farming practices.

dairyA dairy digester that can generate 1.5 megawatts of electricity. Credit: Puget Sound Energy

The article focuses on California, which subsidizes the construction and operation of such “dairy digesters” as part of its statewide efforts to reduce emissions. California has spent nearly $200 million on over 100 digester projects, mitigating thousands of tons of agricultural greenhouse gases. But some green groups, like the Center for Food Safety, think that promoting the technology is misguided. They say that because of the expense involved, most digesters are only built for dairy farms with more than 2,500 cattle, which encourages the kind of industrial farming that harms the environment. “It all sounds very good, but it’s not a clean fuel,” said one advocate. “We want dairies to move to more sustainable solutions and we support the state incentivizing that.”

Read more at Civil Eats

The post Infrastructure that Helps Wildlife Migrate appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Natural and Organic Pesticides for Your Garden

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 24/04/2020 - 9:42am in

Organic and natural pest control keeps many gardeners busy. Natural household pesticides are not just easy to make; they are safer and cheaper than several products you can purchase in stores. Here are some natural and organic pesticides that you can use in your garden. 1. Neem Oil Pesticide Neem tree seeds produce an oil…

The post Natural and Organic Pesticides for Your Garden appeared first on Peak Oil.

This ‘Carbon-Negative’ Burger Is Fighting Climate Change

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 11/04/2020 - 12:45am in

Everyone from Miley Cyrus to Trevor Noah is raving about the Impossible Burger, the vegan beef with the trademark “bleed” that debuted in 2016. It’s one of a handful of plant-based meats that have surged in popularity on claims that they can “drastically reduce humanity’s destructive impact on the global environment,” as Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown has put it.

But what if there’s another, earth-friendlier option? What if a juice-dripping burger from an actual cow could be better for the planet than vegan-but-you’d-never-know-it imitation meat? A few burger chains are tacitly suggesting as much, offering real beef burgers that, by some measures, are more sustainable, and show how farming, done correctly, can be good for the earth.

Carbon-negative beef

Burgerville, a 60-year-old fast-food chain in the Pacific Northwest, launched the No. 6 Burger in September, so named for the sixth element in the periodic table, carbon. The No. 6 is a lesson in regenerative agriculture, a holistic land management practice that reverses climate change by rebuilding soil’s organic matter and restoring its biodiversity. 

burgervilleThe original Burgerville restaurant in Vancouver, Washington, before it closed in 2011. Credit: Wikipedia

The 100-percent grass-fed beef burger is from Carman Ranch, which practices rotational grazing on pasture, sequestering carbon back into the soil. (More on that later.) The brioche bun is baked at Grand Central Bakery from wheat grown on two Northwest farms (Small’s Family Farm and Camas Country Mill) that practice minimum tillage, which prevents erosion and carbon loss. And the aged cheddar melted atop is from Face Rock Creamery, which works with small-scale dairies within 15 miles of its facility. Every one of these enterprises is based in Oregon or Washington. The burger is currently sold at nine of Burgerville’s 41 locations. (It was slated to roll out at 16 additional locations in March, but then the coronavirus pandemic hit.) 

“Soil health is the core principle of what we do,” says Cory Carman, the 40-year-old owner of Carman Ranch. The pasture at Carman Ranch is rich with deeply rooted perennial grasses and nutrient-dense cover crops like winter pea, oats, sunflowers and a brassica mix—all plants that feed soil microbes as well as the cattle, eliminating the need for trucking in carbon-reliant feed like corn. The cattle are rotated on pasture and cycle the nutrients through their bodies, nourishing the soil with their manure, which in turn feeds the next cover crop. After they graze, that area is left fallow for as long as a year so it can regenerate. Crucially, the grasses and cover crops that the cattle munch on also pull carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the soil. 

Though Carman doesn’t have funding to test how deep a carbon sink her grazeland is, other ranches that practice regenerative grazing have. White Oak Pastures, a Bluffton, Georgia-based farm, recently had an outside firm conduct a “Life Cycle Assessment” of its rotationally grazed beef. The results show that the operation produces a net total of negative-3.5 kilograms of carbon emissions for every kilogram of beef produced. In other words, the cattle of White Oak Pastures have a net-negative impact on the environment—the very process by which they’re raised reduces climate change.

A partnership, rare and well done

Back in 2017, before the No. 6 Burger was on their menu, a few Burgerville executives visited Carman on her family’s ranch in Wallowa County, Oregon. The company wanted to put its money where its values were—fostering a more resilient regional supply chain. But the executives were wary, in part, because of the premium price that Carman Ranch beef commands. 

cory carman ranchCory Carman on her ranch in Wallowa, Oregon. Credit: Steven Jackson / Flickr

Carman convinced them that supporting her ranch would help bring the operation to scale, allowing her to lower her prices —a virtuous cycle of its own. “I told them, ‘Listen, if you want us to scale up so we can become one of your suppliers eventually, you can’t just sit around!’” she recalls. The Burgerville execs agreed, and committed to making the ranch’s grass-fed beef about seven percent of the beef in all their burgers.

The partnership worked. Burgerville’s commitment to buying a steady weekly volume allowed Carman to scale up, doubling the ranch’s production from 20 head of cattle a week to 40. Today, the Carman Ranch beef Burgerville buys goes first to the No. 6 Burger, and if anything is leftover, they’ll use it in the grind for the regular burgers. (The chain uses Country Natural Beef, which is grass-fed and corn finished, for its other burgers.) And even though the coronavirus pandemic shuttered all Burgerville restaurants to dine-in customers (38 remain open for drive-through or delivery business), they’ve stuck by their weekly order from Carman Ranch. 

Despite its $8 price tag — several dollars more than Burgerville’s $5.39 Northwest Cheeseburger — the No. 6 has been a hit. “I thought there was going to be all this pushback on pricing, but there wasn’t,” says Michelle Battista, the chain’s senior vice president for brand and marketing. From September to April 5, Burgerville sold nearly 50,000 No. 6 Burgers, nearly 14 percent of the company’s quarter-pounder burger sales. 

Impossible in nature

The No. 6 Burger is a story of long-game sustainability, in which shared risk and commitment lead to scaled-up carbon-negative farming.

The Impossible Burger’s story is different. A Silicon Valley food-tech triumph, its genetically engineered soy-based “heme” compound (the part that makes it “bleed”) has won over even un-woke fast food chains like Burger King and White Castle. But as critics like Anna Lappé, author of Diet for a Hot Planet, have pointed out, the company’s reliance on genetically modified soy is problematic in ways that have nothing to do with animal rights. 

impossible burgerOne of the biggest impacts of “vegan beef” products may be how quickly they have shifted focus away from more sustainable methods of farming and toward tech-based solutions instead. Credit: Tony Webster / Flickr

GM soy is genetically engineered so that it can be sprayed with Bayer-Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup. Not only has glyphosate use been linked to the decline in honeybee and monarch butterfly populations, it has been classified by the World Health Organization as a probable carcinogen. The company’s reliance on a monoculture crop — genetically modified soy — also perpetuates one of the worst aspects of the industrial food system. Growing one crop year in and year out degrades the soil and contributes to erosion — because there are no cover crops to keep the soil in place — and also requires chemical fertilizers and other fossil fuels to harvest and transport. According to the World Food LCA Database, soybeans have a footprint of two kilograms of carbon for every kilogram of beans produced.  

Rachel Konrad, the chief communications officer at Impossible Foods, says that the company routinely scans for pesticides and herbicides and that there is no glyphosate in the Impossible Burger (though she did not deny that glyphosate is used on GM soy crops). She also disputed that relying on soy would perpetuate a monocultural food system, saying, “Animal agriculture is the No. 1 reason we’ve developed dangerous, biodiversity-killing monocultures… For what it’s worth, if you want to avoid soy for some reason, then you must eliminate animal products from your diet since livestock consumes the vast majority of all soy.” This is entirely true of the cheap feedlot beef raised in America, which is what most fast-food chains depend on. However, it is not true of ranches, like Carman’s, that practice regenerative agriculture, since their cattle is grazed on only pasture; they never eat soy or corn.  

There is also the question of whether heme, made from fermenting a genetically engineered yeast, is safe to eat. Konrad cites conclusions from the U.S. FDA and third-party food safety scientists “that the heme in the Impossible Burger is totally safe to eat.” But organizations like the Center for Food Safety and Moms Across America argue that we don’t really know, since this is the first time humans have ever consumed this unique lab-made form of heme. 

But the biggest impact of these products may be how quickly they have shifted focus away from more sustainable methods of farming and toward tech-based solutions instead. Before fake meat made a splash, at least one fast-food chain had just begun committing to more sustainably raised beef. In 2015, Carl’s Jr. introduced an antibiotic-free burger sourced from free range, grass-fed cattle. It’s no longer on the menu — now the chain sells the Beyond Burger instead. 

While some regional chains like Elevation and Bareburger have continued to source grass-fed beef from smaller family-run farms, most are still sourcing their beef from confined animal feeding lots, which are devastating for the environment, horrific for the animals and not great for human health. (Cows evolved to eat grass, not corn, which tends to make them sick). This, at least, is something that Impossible CEO Brown and proponents of regenerative agriculture agree on: our addiction to cheap feedlot beef is harming the planet. 

Burgerville’s business has been crucial to Carman Ranch’s growth. But more important than revenue, the chain has given Cory Carman — and the other farmers behind the No. 6 burger — a chance to share her mission with the wider world. “We want to get the message out: Why should you pay a premium for grass-fed beef? Why is our species dependent on the health of the soil?” She, like other practitioners of regenerative agriculture, is concerned that lab-based meat perpetuates monocultures. “The integration of animals, in some way, is critical to all ecological systems,” she says.  

The benefits of regenerative agriculture are complex, but once customers are educated, says Battista, they’re on board. “As a marketplace, we got people to grass fed,” she says. “We got people to see the difference between grass-fed and conventional feedlot beef. And people are like, ‘Yeah, I get it!’ And they connect the dots back to their own health and wellness.” 

The post This ‘Carbon-Negative’ Burger Is Fighting Climate Change appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

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