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Environmental and political concerns about GMO crops

lostdollsclub:

I find it deeply frustrating that while pro-GMO commentators always happily face down the health-scare aspect of the anti-GMO movement, they seem extremely loath to address either the environmental or political aspects.

I’ve yet to read an explanation of how pre-loading a plant with environmental toxins is not as bad for beneficial insects as the same crop sprayed with the same toxins (however safe either may be for human consumption).

Similarly, such pro-GMO commentators don’t address super-weeds nor super-bugs, both of which were predicted and both of which have eventuated.

Most significantly, to my mind, they show no comprehension of the power imbalances between large corporates and Western farmers, let alone subsistence farmers in the developing world. Without which understanding they are then unequipped to address the political concerns raised around who controls the food supply. Which is probably why they typically ignore it.

Of course, once confronted with these, they climb into their Great White Saviour superhero costume and talk about starving children in Africa getting diphtheria. Because enabling people to grow a variety of crops for their own use - instead of cash crops for the West - and ensuring they have access to clean water (& Nestle is a long way away with their greedy hands tied behind their back) and simple sanitary systems, is not an option, I guess?

There’s no discussion of the political and economic causes of food distribution inequality. No comment on crop variety (especially grown as a mixed crop) as a factor in health, food security and sustainable farming methods. No response to accusations that Monsanto and other big players are trying to control the food supply, & that (for example) their insistence on forcing GMO corn into Mexico - the home of corn in many splendid forms - is part of corporate colonialism.

In the event that the politics is understood, we are expected to differentiate between small labs and the big corporates - fair enough, so far. But then in accepting the work of the former we are left with no option to differentiate in order to refuse the later. Besides, saying Small Lab X is not Monsanto shouldn’t be a get-out-of-jail-free-card ensuring that said small lab is now exempted from political critique.

I cannot say this strongly enough: it is not anti-science to expect scientists to not act as if they operate in an apolitical bubble. Nothing is more necessary, and therefore nothing is more political, than food.

[this was in response to this piece and the associated comments: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/collideascape/2014/08/07/vaccine-gmo-denial-treated-equally/#.U-VUjjcayc0]

papress:

Farming Cuba — A new model for cities and countries facing threats to food security brought on by the end of cheap oil

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Cuba found itself solely responsible for feeding a nation that had grown dependent on imports and trade subsidies. Citizens began growing their own organic produce anywhere they could find space, on rooftops, balconies, vacant lots, and even school playgrounds. By 1998 there were more than 8,000 urban farms in Havana producing nearly half of the country’s vegetables. What began as a grassroots initiative had, in less than a decade, grown into the largest sustainable agriculture initiative ever undertaken, making Cuba the world leader in urban farming. Learn more in Farming Cuba: Urban Agriculture from the Ground Up, by Carey Clouse, available now from PAPress.

Op-Ed | The trouble with (just) recycling

lololovesskiing:

Consider this: If every human being on earth lived and consumed as Americans do, we would need over four earths to support ourselves. This is called global overshoot, and it is like living off our ecological credit card. Our current unsustainable way of life is borrowing from the future. Is this sustainable? Hardly. So, as Tufts students, as young people coming of age at a time of deep social and environmental injustices, what should we do? We didn’t create these problems; we inherited them. Yet the responsibility to act falls squarely on our shoulders. 

I challenge Tufts students to go deeper than just recycling or Zero Waste Week, and to have discussions and debates about what it will really take to create sustainability on this small and fragile planet. 

It is time to turn our critical eye toward our institution’s “green initiatives.” I challenge my peers to go beyond traditional environmentalism. We must go beyond the institutionalized ideas of “going green,” such as recycling and responsible consumerism, in order to tackle the great environmental crises of our time: climate change, deforestation, fresh water depletion and total ecological unraveling. 

The trouble with recycling is that most of our so-called environmental problems are actually social and economic problems and problems of power. 

We need collective political action and systemic changes. We need radical paradigm shifts and shifts in consciousness, as well as bold transformations of our economic, political and social systems. This is because we are not isolated. We are not, in actuality, the hyper-individualized consumers we are conditioned to be. Our economic and social behaviors are interrelated with each other and entangled in broader systems of economic activity, resource extraction and networks of economic and political power. Simply making different individual decisions as consumers is based on the assumption that our personal consumption is the root of the problem. Personal overconsumption is certainly part of the problem, but so is the problem of corporate power, institutionalized racism and a whole model of economic growth that puts profits for an elite class over peoples’ health and the earth’s vitality. 

Our human activities are interrelated in a sort of ecology not dissimilar from the ways nature and her natural processes are interrelated. For example, the political power of the fossil fuel companies in turn affects what consumer choices are available to us. Our system isn’t broken; it is fixed — specifically set up to reinforce class and racial hierarchies and to benefit corporate power. The myth of the free market obscures the fact that our intertwined economic and political system prioritizes large, unsustainable corporate profit via tax cuts, “free trade” agreements and government subsidies. Consider that fossil fuel companies do not pay any taxes or fees on carbon pollution and are heavily subsidized by governments globally to the tune of $1.9 trillion a year. Trillion, with a T, 2.5 percent of the global GDP. This is corruption and greed at the highest level and evidence of a massive failure on the part of our leaders. To bring about a clean energy revolution, we will need to not simply recycle and use less, but also confront this reality of corruption and systemic failure. 

The way I see it, everyone should be recycling, composting and using efficient light bulbs and appliances. This should be a baseline. If companies come up with innovative, efficient products or new ways of using materials, that is great. If Tufts promotes recycling initiates or encourages students to consume less, I am all for it. But it isn’t nearly enough to match the problem at hand. We too often succeed at being responsible consumers but fail at being engaged with the broader political systems we are a part of. As Annie Leonard has said, we need to flex our citizen muscles, as well as our good consumer muscles. 

The simple truth is that we need immediate, bold and collective action in order to rapidly create a paradigm shift and radically change our social and economic systems. An over-emphasis on recycling makes too many of us feel good about ourselves, without actually accomplishing much. 

As Naomi Klein wrote recently: “Climate Change. It’s not an ‘issue’ for you to add to the list of things to worry about. It is a civilizational wakeup call. A powerful message — spoken in the language of fires, floods, storms and droughts — telling us that we need an entirely new economic model, one based on justice and sustainability.”

So please, keep recycling, keep trying to buy things produced and grown locally and use a reusable water bottle and coffee mug. That is important. But don’t think that it is enough, and please don’t stop there. Join the growing climate movement, which is turning to tactics such as divestment and civil disobedience to challenge the power of the fossil fuel industry. Take classes on environmental justice, environmental racism and social change. Educate yourself about alternative economic paradigms, such as the new economy movement and eco-socialism. Be a part of this movement. There is room for you, and you are needed. 

-Kyra Sturgill, The Tufts Daily 

astrodidact:

New data reveals that Germany broke a record at the start of June by generating half its energy from solar power, demonstrating the country’s impressive renewable energy capabilities.

Research from the Fraunhofer ISE research institute showed that German solar panels generated a record 24.24 GW of electricity between 1pm and 2pm on Friday, June 6th. And on Monday June 9th, a public holiday, solar power production peaked at 23.1 GW, which was 50.6 percent of total electricity demand.

Tobias Rothacher, an expert for renewable energies at Germany Trade & Invest, told The Local: “I think we could break a new record every two to three months now. We are installing more and more PVs [solar panels].”

Germany has had success with solar by encouraging citizens to install panels on their roof tops, rather than focussing on building large-scale solar farms. In fact, 90 percent of Germany’s solar panels are on individuals’ roofs.

Good weather has also helped solar power production this year, which has increased 34 percent in the first part of 2014.

With the current rate of production, Germany will need to invest in more energy storage technology to keep up.

In comparison, Australia has the potential to generate just 1.1 percent of its electrical energy from solar. The United States gets 0.2 percent of its energy from solar, according to 2011 data.

http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20142306-25725.html

ecowatchorg:

Ethical Barcode App Uses 20 Nonprofits to Ensure Sustainable Grocery Shopping

It’s not always easy to remember which companies test on animals, use harmful chemicals or make genetically modified products. That’s why an app developer has taken to smartphones to help us keep it all together before potentially spending hard-earned money on products that support causes that don’t consider the planet or people.

SEE MORE:

http://ecowatch.com/2014/06/09/ethical-barcode-app-sustainable-shopping/

halftheskymovement:

Wangari Maathai was a Kenyan environmental activist who founded the Green Belt Movement, which focused on planting trees and women’s rights; her organization paid a small stipend to women to plant seedlings throughout the country. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, with the committee citing her contribution to “sustainable development, democracy and peace.”

If drinking purified pee weirds you out, don’t live in a desert

starchedpajamas:

Eric Holthaus on Slate today (June 17, 2014) explains why recycling water is a better option than desalination for people in California, whose state has undergone severe drought and water shortages in recent years. He opens with a startling statistic. That is, the largest desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere – currently under construction in Carlsbad in San Diego County – will cost around $1 billion. When the desalination plant comes online in 2016, it will produce 50 million gallons per day, enough to offset just 7 percent of the county’s water usage. That’s why, Holthaus says, water recycling is probably a better option for California and other desert areas, assuming people can get used to what he calls the yuck factor…

—http://earthsky.org/human-world/if-drinking-purified-pee-weirds-you-out-dont-live-in-a-desert?utm_source=EarthSky+News&utm_campaign=8d25ccd127-EarthSky_News&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c643945d79-8d25ccd127-393674005

lastrealindians:

Teen scientist harnesses sun power to help Navajo community

New Mexico teen Raquel Redshirt uses everyday materials and the sun to build solar ovens, fulfilling a Navajo community need and winning an award at the Intel ISEF competition.

Growing up on New Mexico’s Navajo Nation, Raquel Redshirt was well aware of the needs of her community. Many of her impoverished neighbors lacked basics such as electricity, as well as stoves and ovens to cook food.

Though resources in the high desert are limited, Raquel realized one was inexhaustible: the sun. “That’s where I got the idea of building a solar oven,” the teen says.

She researched solar ovens and found that most incorporate mirrors or other expensive materials. Raquel wanted to create a design that anyone could easily afford and replicate, using readily available materials.

READ MORE HERE: http://lrinspire.com/2014/06/19/teen-scientist-harnesses-sun-power-to-help-navajo-community/

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