Thursday, April 26, 2012

Gulf Waters Closed To Shrimping

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources acted this week to close waters along the Gulf Coast to shrimping due to [EDIT: amidst] widespread reports from scientists and fishermen of deformed seafood and drastic fall-offs in populations two years after the BP oil spill. [‘Official’ reason is now reported to be smaller than average shrimp.]

“We’re continuing to pull up oil in our nets. People who live here know better than to swim in or eat what comes out of our waters.”

All waters in the Mississippi Sound and Mobile Bay, and some areas of Bon Secour, Wolf Bay and Little Lagoon were closed to shrimpers. Reports of grossly deformed seafood all along the Gulf from Louisiana to the Florida panhandle have been logged with increasing urgency, but Alabama is the first state to actually close waters to the seafood industry.

And it’s not just the shrimp. Commercial fishermen are reporting red snapper and grouper riddled with deep lesions and covered with strange black streaks. Highly underdeveloped blue crabs are being pulled up in traps without eyes and claws…
Commercial fishers Tracy Kuhns and Mike Roberts from Barataria, LA reported to Al Jazeera when showing samples of eyeless shrimp…
“At the height of the last white shrimp season, in September, one of our friends caught 400 pounds of these. Disturbingly, not only do the shrimp lack eyes, they even lack eye sockets.”
And there’s no question that the leftover mess from BP’s disaster can affect human health. The dispersants BP used to ‘hide’ the extent of their blow-out contain solvents that are notoriously toxic to people and include known mutagens. Pathways of human exposure include inhalation, skin and eye contact as well as ingestion, and exposure causes headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, chest pain, respiratory system damage, skin sensitization, hypertension, CNS depression, neurotoxic effects, cardiac arrhythmia and cardiovascular damage. They also cause fetal deformities and cancer. More


Save the Bees -Avaaz

Posted: 24 April 2012

Quietly, globally, billions of bees are dying, threatening our crops and food. But if Bayer stops selling one group of pesticides, we could save bees from extinction.

Four European countries have begun banning these poisons, and some bee populations are already recovering. But Bayer, the largest producer of neonicotinoids, has lobbied hard to keep them on the market. Now, massive global pressure from Avaaz and others has forced them to consider the facts, and in 24 hours, Bayer shareholders will vote on a motion that could stop these toxic chemicals. Let’s all act now and shame the shareholders to stop killing bees.

The pressure is working, and this is our best chance to save the bees. Sign the urgent petition and send this to everyone -- let's reach half a million signers and deliver it directly to shareholders tomorrow in Germany! Click Here

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

South Africa’s Smallholders Lose Battle for Seed Security

CAPE TOWN, South Africa, Apr 23, 2012 (IPS) - In an almost ceremonial manner, Selinah Mncwango opens her big plastic bag and pulls out several smaller packets, each filled with different types of seeds: sorghum, bean, pumpkin, and maize. They are her pride, her wealth, the "pillar of my family," says the farmer from a village in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province.

Sixty-five-year-old Mncwango comes from a family of smallholder farmers in the village of Ingwawuma in the east coast province. The crops she grows today are from seeds that have been handed down from generation to generation, over decades, she says. Other seeds come from exchanges with neighbouring farmers. "My seeds are very important to me. I hope the day will never come when I have to buy seeds from a shop," says the farmer, whose five children and eight grandchildren largely depend on her harvest. She is keenly aware of the fact that seed saving, storing and exchanging promotes crop diversity, saves money and provides smallholder farmers with a safety net in case of harvest failures.

But the traditional farming methods of smallholder farmers – which, researchers say, also help to fight soil depletion, reduce irrigation needs and adapt to climate change – may soon disappear. They are being wiped out by governments focused on promoting commercial monocultures that they hope will bring fast, high yields in order to boost national agricultural sales on global markets.

"The sector is dominated by commercial seed companies and industrial agricultural production," explains Rachel Wynberg, policy analyst at the Environmental Evaluation Unit of the University of Cape Town in South Africa. Small-scale farmers have been systematically pushed out of the system by those who put profits before food security and biodiversity, she says.

"There is a poor understanding of small farmers’ rights. Traditional agricultural practices have thus been eroded over decades," she adds.

In South Africa, and in most other countries on the continent, the rights of small-scale farmers are regularly violated by governments and commercial entities that push genetically modified (GM) and hybrid seeds – which have been cross-pollinated in controlled environments – on them. More


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Will Permaculture become the new dominant narrative?

The dominant narrative of our culture is that economic growth can continue indefinitely but the realities of resource depletion, peak oil and ecosystem collapse mean this is wishful thinking. Cameron Leckie explains that if permaculture becomes the new dominant narrative, it will ensure that the changes that will eventually be forced upon us will be empowering rather than authoritarian or dictatorial.

Narratives define our society. Pick any significant issue and it is the narrative, rather than the 'facts,' which define it. Narratives have been part of the human experience for millennia and no doubt will continue to do so for millennia to come. They drive how we view the world, the way we live and the decisions that we make.

Narratives do not necessarily reflect reality. Rather they offer a version of reality which suits the group or groups of people that believe in the narrative (or want you to believe). Examples include religious or other groups which try to convince others that the end of the world is nigh but that the true believers will be saved and the cargo cults of the Pacific who believed that a combination of magic and religious rituals would result in more cargo/material goods arriving.

Narratives change over time. Change occurs as societies develop new understandings or differing groups within a society attempt to convince others of a particular narrative. Over time a dominant narrative tends to form. This does not happen by accident but is both perpetuated and strengthened through culture, media institutions, politicians and society at large. More


Friday, April 13, 2012

Millions Against Monsanto: The Food Fight of Our Lives

Finally, public opinion around the biotech industry's contamination of our food supply and destruction of our environment has reached the tipping point. We're fighting back.

"If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it." -- Norman Braksick, president of Asgrow Seed Co., a subsidiary of Monsanto, quoted in the Kansas City Star, March 7, 1994

"Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA's job." -- Phil Angell, Monsanto's director of corporate communications, quoted in the New York Times, October 25, 1998

For nearly two decades, Monsanto and corporate agribusiness have exercised near-dictatorial control over American agriculture, aided and abetted by indentured politicians and regulatory agencies, supermarket chains, giant food processors, and the so-called “natural” products industry.

Finally, public opinion around the biotech industry’s contamination of our food supply and destruction of our environment has reached the tipping point. We’re fighting back.

This November, in a food fight that will largely determine the future of what we eat and what we grow, Monsanto will face its greatest challenge to date: a statewide citizens’ ballot initiative that will give Californians the opportunity to vote for their right to know whether the food they buy is contaminated with GMOs. More


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

How Coral Bleaching Could Lead to Famine

The effects of climate change, such as coral bleaching, become slow-motion disasters, with knock-on effects for years.

Between March and July of that year, a rare climatological double whammy sent ocean temperatures spiking 1 to 2 degrees Celsius above the normal range for spring and summer. An unusually intense El NiƱo weather pattern coincided with the warm phase of another cyclical area weather event. This turned out to be a slow-motion disaster. Half the corals in the region bleached and died that year. Some had a 90 percent loss. "The bleaching and mortality event took about six months to fully unfold, but many of the reefs have not recovered even today -- 14 years after the event," said McClanahan, an employee of the Wildlife Conservation Society. He has spent more than 20 years working along Kenya's southeastern coast.

For Tim McClanahan, a zoologist studying fisheries, what happened in Kenya during the spring of 1998 was a wake-up call.

It took four years before scientists could definitively show dramatic declines in three commonly caught species of food fish. The lag and the devastating results got McClanahan thinking about climate change's potential to damage the economies of communities that traditionally rely on fish to eat and fish to sell. He's not alone in pondering the fate of the world's fisheries in a changing climate, and how the fortunes of fish will affect the lives and livelihoods of more than 1.5 billion people who depend on seafood for at least a fifth of the animal protein they consume. More