I’ve been debating if I should try to participate in a local NGO’s Study Tour of Bangladesh(Ja link). I’ve known about them for years, translated for them a couple times over the last 10 years or so, but just recently started eating and visiting with them. They started out fighting for Arsenic Victims’ Compensation and other issues here in Southern Rural Japan’s Miyazaki. Now they are all over doing JICA and other projects to mitigate Arsenic contamination.
I keep mentioning Vandana Shiva when we start talking about Agriculture and Heirloom Seeds but I the conversation never really took off. I don’t know if it was the timing, my pronunciation and/or miss-guess of the transliteration of her name or what… I think Vandana Shiva is at the B-fest Chris Spannos and Kostas have been blogging about so I did a quick search for some links. Maybe e-mail text will get some kind of reaction from the NGO. I didn’t have time to find the equivalent Japanese links, but hopefully there will be reason to soon.
Here’s a great Vandana Shiva Video, with flashing text for emphasis explaining how knowledge is a collective effort and shared by all of society. Of course she has her own Zspace page. She had an article in the English press in Japan too, just last month, Seed Monopolies Lead to Harvest of Suicides. There’s a useful writeup on Earthkeeper Heros. The myhero.com site makes you think of Howard Zinn on DemocracyNow! saying there’s no need to retain genocidal Presidents as heros, pop the bubbles and replace them with more interesting, worthy heros in American history, like Mark Twain. (I didn’t know it was Mark Twain that provided the memorable quote about Dad’s wisdom changing according to kid’s ages, but it’s a shame the 5th grade class didn’t talk/find out about the anti-imperialist league)
George Monbiot, in England and Scotland, makes you think of Vandana Shiva‘s seeds and collective knowledge with his impassioned descriptions In Defense of Fruit in general and apples in particular. This apple variety article is also available in Japanese(scroll down past all the text adds). He makes you want to be a ‘guerrila gardener’ like the group affectionately portrayed in Ruth L. Ozeki‘s All Over Creation. Monbiot even found common ground with a hunter that hated him at first.
A recent survey conducted by Navdanya reveals shocking statistics of dramatic decreases in microorganisms and beneficial soil enzymes in the soil of Bt Cotton fields. The study comes amid controversial government attempts to commercially introduce Bt Brinjal into India, despite consistent opposition and growing evidence of the negative impact genetically modified organisms have on society, human health and the environment. Numerous studies have linked farmer suicides in India to Bt Cotton due to increased costs of agricultural inputs and falling market prices, resulting in insurmountable debts and desperation. Various other studies have found high rates of infertility in rats that are fed GMO products, animal deaths after grazing on GMO fields and butterfly deaths after feeding on Bt corn pollen. This study now provides damning evidence of the environmental degradation caused by Bt crops, as the crop literally kills organisms in the soil that make available the nutrients plants need to grow, a frightening trend that can lead to large scale desertification . Irregardless of these warning signs and significant opposition, European governments as well are trying to push through a GMO corn variety, Mon810. We demand that an international moratorium be placed in commercialization of GMO crops until there has been more studies conducted to confirm its safety to human health as well as the environment.
Navdanya’s study was conducted in Bt cotton growing areas of Vidharbha, comparing the microbial biomass in the soil of Bt cotton fields with that of fields that grew other crops or other types of cotton. The survey found statistically significant drops in 2 microbes and 3 beneficial enzymes. These results are significant as it provides scientific evidence that Bt Cotton is making the soil infertile by decreasing microbial activity, and thus essentially killing the very soil that the crop is grown in. Additionally this proves that industrial agriculture creates a relentless cycle of despair as industrial agricultural products deteriorate soil fertility that then necessitates intensified fertilizer and agricultural application, which ultimately results in increased farmer’s costs and soaring debts. It is interesting to note that the study was conducted in a region which has shown an alarmingly high rate of farmer suicides, a shocking 20,000 in the past 5 years. Finally, the fact that Bt cotton crops decreases microbial activity in the soil portends a future of sterile soil that may result in massive desertification and loss of arable land in the future in a time where food security is evermore essential.
I have to find my Dirt, The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth. I like people that can be ecstatic about being earthy. He had some great stuff in there about Native Americans sharing corn with deer and raccoons – though you can’t imagine that now with the ecology so broken up and down that deer eat bushes (not to mention gardens!) right up against Surburban houses. The book drives home how important underground life is, there’s as much biomass underground as above it. The largest living thing (by mass) was found under some woods in Wisconsin. Some kind of fungus that weighed as much as the biggest whale. Amazing. You think Rachel Carson’s Sense of Wonder and ‘esoteric’ band Shreikback‘s Sticky Jazz ‘never seen the world like this before.’ with information like that.