We live in a world of contrasting elements and sometimes
a direct experience of opposites can help us grow and evolve.
For example, loss can teach us about connection, grief can give us an appreciation for joy, a long cold winter will make us celebrate the coming spring. Last fall I was working on an article about GMO, and I really enjoyed researching the topic. I learned some important things about issues that seemed unrelated on the surface but are actually quite interconnected and essential for all of us to recognize. Monsanto, so often despised on social networks and demonized – yet it may be providing an opportunity for a much needed dialogue, in effect enlightening us through demonstrating the contrast of opposites.
It is fair enough to say that Monsanto opposes the beliefs of those who care about their right to know what is in their food, by pushing back against GMO labeling laws. This giant corporation also stands in contrast to the belief systems of those who believe in heirloom seeds, organic and bio-dynamic agriculture. The increase in pesticides used on GMO crops end up pouring into our waterways, which places Monsanto at odds with environmental groups and those concerned with water quality. Others find themselves in contradiction with this multinational bio-chemical corporation because the bees that pollinate flowers and vegetables are threatened by these pesticides. If opposites attract, Monsanto has done wonders to attract and unite many people who share a deep love for life on the planet.
Sustainability is defined, in ecology as ”…how biological systems remain diverse and productive. Long-lived and healthy wetlands and forests are examples of sustainable biological systems. In more general terms, sustainability is the endurance of systems and processes.”
The definition of greenwashing is “A form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization’s products, aims or policies are environmentally friendly. Evidence that an organization is greenwashing often comes from pointing out the spending differences: when significantly more money or time has been spent advertising being ‘green’ (that is, operating with consideration for the environment), than is actually spent on environmentally sound practices.
Greenwashing efforts can range from changing the name or label of a product to evoke the natural environment on a product that contains harmful chemicals to multimillion dollar advertising campaigns portraying highly polluting energy companies as eco-friendly.”
Using the logic of opposites, we can be grateful that Monsanto has illuminated issues that we should all be concerned about. Here are 5 worth considering:
1. Recognizing the damage of pesticides in our water:
The growth of GMO crops eventually produce pesticide-resistant insects which increases the amount of pesticides needed to obtain the same results year after year. The increased use of these pesticides runs off into creeks, streams, watersheds, and our drinking water.
The Pesticide Induced Diseases Database provides access to a wide array of scientific studies on the dangerous health effects of pesticides. Glyphosate and Roundup, the herbicides which GE crops depend upon, are implicated in numerous adverse health impacts in human beings. Roundup formulations are of particular concern because the ‘inactive/inert’ ingredients in the product have been shown to enhance the toxicity of glyphosate. One particular ‘inactive’ ingredient, polyethoxylated tallowamine, or POEA, a surfactant used to adhere and allow glyphosate to penetrate into plant leaves, was shown to be capable of killing human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells, according to a study published in Chemical Research and Toxicology.
– Beyond Pesticides
2. Teaching us about the history of chemical warfare:
Agent Orange was one of the herbicides and defoliants used by the U.S. military as part of its herbicidal warfare program, during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971. It was manufactured for the U.S. Department of Defense primarily by Monsanto Corporation and Dow Chemical. The British were the first to employ herbicides and defoliants to destroy the crops, bushes, and trees of communist insurgents in Malaya during the Malayan Emergency.
We now have a revolving door between high-level Monsanto lobbyists and politicians, who legislate food safety and production with business interests placed above the environment and public health.
3. Understanding the interconnected web of life including honey bees
Who woulda’ thought that the ecosystem was so interconnected and interdependent that all these vegetables would be dependent on honey bees?
• Apples • Onions • Avocados • Carrots • Mangos • Lemons • Limes • Honeydew • Cantaloupe • Zucchini • Summer squash • Eggplant • Cucumbers • Celery • Green onions • Cauliflower • Leeks • Bok choy • Kale • Broccoli • Broccoli rabe • Mustard greens
More information here.
By targeting the insects that ruin crops, pesticides have inadvertently hurt our bees to the extent that we could have wide spread bee colony collapse if we don’t do something about it.
4. Questioning commercial agriculture and considering where our food comes from
Our population has grown exponentially, and what may have been a solution 50 years ago may be a problem today. Consider all the fossil fuels used to ship food across the planet. What if more food was grown locally, if local laws encouraged community gardens and food forests? It is important to question the direction in which things are going. Some of the problems we currently face are forcing us to reconsider what large-scale agriculture should look like. Asking the tough questions always leads to solutions, and there are always safer, more effective ways to move forward.
5. Inspiring us to grow our own heirloom seeds and source our food locally
Because of the industry push-back against local and state ballot-initiatives to have GMO food accurately labeled, one of the best ways to know what you are getting is to grow your own or support local farmers. Supporting local farmers and growing your own also decreases the amount of fossil fuels that are used in transport and provides you with the freshest, most nutritious food possible. Heirloom seeds are available at places like Native Seed Search and with them comes a long lineage of cultural heritage and stories from the people who have preserved them. This helps us to have a deeper understanding of our place within the larger web of life around us, and our role in history to make this place better for future generations. This Culture Collective article has a list of great resources about the importance of heirloom seeds.
When we were children we all learned to walk by falling down… lots! We learned the importance of honesty when we told a fib and lost the trust of a friend. We learned how precious love is when we lost a lover. We are wired to embrace opposites in this world of contrast, sometimes there are painful lessons but the quicker we adapt and learn, the quicker we grow and heal. Biotech gave us many solutions as our population swelled, but it is riddled with problems that we must now openly address. Just as training wheels may have once helped us ride a bike, we would find them limiting if we were to keep them on after we knew how to ride. Permaculture has many organic solutions that help to regenerate the land while using organic, and we need to consider transiting commercial agriculture into safer ways of producing healthy food. Perhaps we may one day thank Monsanto for causing us to wake up, to organize, and push for safer alternatives!
WORDS BY JACOB DEVANEY
“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.” – Herman Hesse
Several years ago we spent an autumn season in the orchard region just outside of Melbourne. I was in between creative projects and feeling the need to do something more dynamic with my energy than sitting at the computer sending and receiving emails, so I followed an impulse to a local biodynamic farm and got a job picking apples during the last six weeks of harvest.
The notion was quite romantic initially… I’d spend my days wandering the orchard rows connecting with my Muse, and my evenings writing to my heart’s content. The first few days were pretty exciting – driving tractors, climbing trees, embracing the daily challenge of filling 3 big apple crates with 2,000 apples each before sunset. But by day four… I’m pretty sure I hated it. With bruised grooves in each shoulder from my apple pouch and carpel tunnel in my wrists from twist-pulling Fuji’s all day, I hadn’t had the energy to open my laptop once, much less to write anything of value. I was starting to wonder if I was wasting my time – ‘valuable time’ I was telling myself, that I could be channeling into any number of potentially exciting projects. Here I was, slaving away for a fraction of my normal fee, getting pounded by the days and by the foreman, who had a way of applying subtle pressure to the pace of my picking that made me feel, well, inept. I’d be out there working my way up the rows, soaking wet with morning dew, and he’d stop by on his motorcycle, look into the bins and just kind of shake his head. He wouldn’t say much, but what his eyes were speaking was, “Really? This is all you got?!”
By week two I was getting faster, but my restlessness was growing. I was still finding myself too exhausted to be creatively useful in the evenings (shower-food-sleep was the pattern, waking just in time to throw on my overalls and get back out there the next morning) and on top of that, I had missed several key business calls and meeting invitations while being stuck up the ladder with a pouch full of Red Delicious. In two short weeks, this 40-acre property of fertile soil and thriving harvest had gone from poetically beautiful to overbearing, overwhelming and almost oppressive. So many apples… so many fricken apples. How would we ever get through them all?
By the end of week three I was starting to seriously consider pulling the escape hatch… That’s when George arrived.
George was a tall, thin Chinese man. I don’t know how old he was but I would guess mid-fifties. He had run a successful importing business for many years but recently let it go to be with and look after his parents for a while. Somehow he found the orchard and had decided to drive 90-minutes each way across city traffic to be there picking each day. I was having a hard time dragging myself out of bed to make the ten-minute drive, so I wondered how long George would last. He was a quiet man and we didn’t talk much for the first few days, but one thing I noticed straight away – which admittedly gave me some comfort at the time – was that he was a much slower picker than me. I was about half as fast as the foreman, and George… well George was about half as fast as me. Within a few days, the silent glares I’d been receiving from the foreman, started manifesting into snide remarks in George’s direction.
But the days were getting shorter and they needed the help, so as a couple of slow, misfit pickers, we were partnered up to work the same section of the orchard each day, sharing the harvest. Knowing that I would now have to pick even faster in order to make up for George if we were going to make our daily quota (a concept that George didn’t seem to understand) I found myself getting stressed and almost a bit resentful of my new partner. But a few days into our partnership, during our first lunch together, all of this changed.
After searching for a spot of high ground to check my phone messages, I joined George on the edge of an apple crate where he was eating a big chunk of homemade bread. We were well behind schedule, so I was eating fast and starting to do the math in my head of how many chest pouches would be needed to fill the next crate, when I heard George bite into a crispy Pink Lady and take a deep sighing breath. “This is the best job ever,” he said, with the sincerity of a child. “Fresh air, fresh apples, green grass, blue sky… Best job ever.”
I couldn’t see his eyes (in fact I’m not sure if I ever saw his eyes on the other side of his gold framed, Top Gun style shades), but I wouldn’t have been surprised if there was a tear hovering there. I looked at him for a long moment, taking in what he said and I realized that while we were both there doing the exact same work together, George was having a totally different experience to me. I was stressing out, picking as fast as I could, going home exhausted and frustrated, feeling like I should be doing something else… and he was driving three hours a day, picking half the amount of apples and experiencing moments of enlightened rapture. I was definitely missing something.
After lunch I watched George picking for a while… gently handling each apple, looking at it for a moment or two before he placed it in his pouch and reaching for the next. He might have been pissing the foreman off, but he was doing something right. We finished the day at sunset and I remember glancing back at George just leaning back, smelling the air as I drove the tractor back up the hill.
“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.” – William Blake
The next morning was wet and raining so most of the team took the day off. George had made the trip across town unknowingly and I didn’t have the heart to abandon him, so I stuck around to help. I decided to leave my phone – and as many thoughts as possible – in the car for the day, and for once really give myself a chance to BE at the orchard. Almost instantly, the day began to feel a bit different. The apples seemed to come off a little easier and my steps through the long, wet grass just seemed to be lighter. Despite the rain, it felt good to be there, surrounded by all this life and growth and energy in full fruition. I began to feel inspired by each tree’s ability to give forth so many ripe creations (hundreds of apples and thousands of seeds!), and how every single apple had the capacity to give birth to a whole new family of apple-giving trees. What a model for sustainable living! I wasn’t rushing, I wasn’t forcing anything, I wasn’t counting… but somehow the pouches and buckets were filling.
Midway through the morning, it started bucketing down with rain. Really hard. I ducked under a mature Granny Smith, whose branches were so laden with wet fruit that the canopy hung around me like a giant umbrella. I continued picking, lightening the load of her limbs, moving in to the very center. As I stretched out around her trunk to reach a stray apple on the other side, suddenly a strange feeling came over my body. The air seemed to get a bit thicker and I felt this sort of calm wash through me that I hadn’t felt for a very long time. I took a deep breath of apple-tree-air and looked up to realize that the limbs of this tree were all wrapped around me like a giant, tree arm hug. And with my chest against the trunk, I swear I could feel her pulse. I glanced around sheepishly to make sure the foreman wasn’t coming… and then I slid my arms fully around and hugged her right back. Several seconds (maybe minutes) passed. Not a single raindrop hit me. My face was wet with tears.
Only then did I truly arrive in the orchard, and from that day forward, I cherished my time with these trees.
“The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe. To match your nature with Nature.” – Joseph Campbell
Some days George and I made our daily quota, some days we didn’t. He never really understood what it meant, and I no longer really cared. Strangely as I relaxed, so did the foreman. He stopped counting apples in the bin and I stopped counting my phone messages. As luck would have it, we finished the picking season just before the first frost… right on time. And just a few days after our final day of picking, my next writing project began. Right on time.
Last time I saw George he was talking about getting a job on an oil rig for a few months so he could be out in the ocean. He had heard it was good pay but difficult work with tough crews. I can just imagine him out there amongst a group of sea-weathered oil riggers, tearing off a piece of his homemade bread, taking a deep breath of clear ocean air. “Ah. Best job ever.”
WORDS BY CHIP RICHARDS
The post How an Apple Tree Transformed my Life appeared first on UPLIFT.
Source: Uplift Connect
By Courtney Mattison & Rachel Devorah
It’s a heartbreaking yet familiar scene. Oil disasters of catastrophic proportions, seeping and sludging all over marine and coastal habitats; hundreds of dead seabirds and dolphins; sick residents and failing coastal economies. The same irrevocable accidents continue to occur. It’s easy to see history repeating itself, posing the inevitable question: will we ever learn from our mistakes?
As the five-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster approaches on April 20, the effects of this devastating accident are still raw throughout the Gulf of Mexico. The 2010 catastrophe spewed approximately 210 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in America’s worst environmental crisis to date and the second largest oil disaster in world history next to the 1991 Gulf War spill, during which Iraqi forces intentionally released 252-336 million gallons of oil into the Persian Gulf. British Petroleum (BP) has paid over $28 billion in damage claims and cleanup costs and pleaded guilty to criminal charges, including manslaughter for the 11 men killed when the oil rig exploded. United States District Court Judge Carl J. Barbier found BP to be grossly negligent – a charge that may result in additional fines amounting to $18 billion in new civil penalties (far surpassing the $3.5 billion BP initially reserved) pending a federal investigation by a court in New Orleans. The U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) was restructured to separate the agency that oversees safety from the one that oversees revenue collection. Most of the major challenges from this tragedy may appear to be nearly resolved, but that is far from the case.
The ecosystems and communities affected by the Deepwater Horizon disaster are far from healed. They are sick and they are struggling. Gulf Coast communities still haven’t received the billions of dollars they were promised. Some of the most distressing effects of Deepwater Horizon are still being discovered, with a new study recently published in the journal PLOS One suggesting that Corexit 9500 – the chemical most widely used to disperse oil in the Gulf of Mexico – likely caused respiratory damage in exposed humans and marine life by degrading cell tissues found in their lungs and gills.
Last month, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) published an annual report titled Five Years and Counting: Gulf wildlife in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which provides a comprehensive analysis of publicly available research on the effects of the disaster on the Gulf ecosystem. The federal government is still building its case against BP for the ongoing trial so not all research findings have been released, but the available evidence underscores how much damage persists in the Gulf today as well as the fact that it may take decades for researchers to properly assess the full scale of the disaster.
The following excerpt from the NWF report summarizes its findings:
- In 2014, dolphins on the Louisiana coast were found dead at four times historic rates, and there is increasing evidence that these ongoing dolphin deaths are connected to the 2010 oil disaster.
- Between 27,000 and 65,000 Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are estimated to have died in 2010, and the annual numbers of Kemp’s ridley nests have declined in the years since the spill.
- Twelve percent of the brown pelicans and 32 percent of the laughing gulls in the northern Gulf are estimated to have died as a result of the BP oil spill.
- Oil and dispersant compounds have been found in the eggs of white pelicans nesting in three states— Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois.
- Exposure to oil has been shown to cause abnormal development in many species of fish, including mahi-mahi, Gulf killifish and bluefin and yellowfin tuna.
- Spotted seatrout, also known as speckled trout, spawned less frequently in 2011 in both Louisiana and Mississippi than in previous years.
- Both 2010 and 2011 had the lowest numbers of juvenile red snapper seen in the eastern Gulf fishery since 1994.
- Coral colonies in five separate locations in the Gulf – three in the deep sea and two in shallower waters – are showing significant oil damage.
- Sperm whales are spending less time foraging in the area around the wellhead.
- Oil has been found in sediments deep in the Gulf of Mexico, in a 1,200-square-mile area surrounding the wellhead.
Last year, Dr. Barbara Block and her team from Stanford University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that crude oil interferes with fish heart cells, giving fish like tuna in the Gulf heart attacks. National Geographic reports that the oil also killed mangrove trees, causing islands such as Cat Island to wash away at a greater rate and removing nesting habitat for pelicans. BP has claimed in its own study that marine life in the Gulf is recovering and remaining damage is negligible.
Watchdog researchers like Dr. Bonny Schumaker of On Wings of Care – a nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of wildlife, wild habitat, and natural ecosystems – and Dr. Mandy Joye, an oil spill expert and founder of the Joye Research Group at University of Georgia, are working tirelessly to expose the extent of the Deepwater disaster. On Wings of Care has flown with members of the U.S. Coast Guard, researchers, political leaders and the media over the Gulf to monitor and document oil slicks and marine life. “The scientists that I would take out, they were absolutely changed once I took them out there in the plane and they saw with their own eyes,” Schumaker said in an interview with Oceana. “We were flying over miles and miles and miles of nonstop oil… that’s when they realized that this is really bad.”
While the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster is the largest in American history, it certainly isn’t the only source of oil causing damage to our ocean and coastlines today. Oil leaks and spills from offshore drilling and transport equipment all the time, and oil disasters occur far more frequently than reported. The Department of Interior (DOI) reports that the number of offshore oil-related accidents and injuries has increased per oil producing well since 2010 in American waters. The U.S. government has made changes to its offshore oil drilling policies and safety protocols, including new regulations announced this month for the design, operation and maintenance of oil well blowout preventers. The DOI now requires access to “containment dome technology” – a dome that can cover an exploded well to prevent gushing oil from spreading – for any company performing deep sea drilling in the Gulf, and nearly doubled the number of safety inspectors in the area. The Environmental Protection Agency is also reviewing its policies governing the use of dispersants and other chemical and biological products on oil spills in U.S. waters, and is accepting public comments through April 22. However, the Obama Administration recently approved an expansion of oil exploration along the Atlantic coast and the DOI is now reviewing a proposal to allow Royal Dutch Shell to drill in the Chukchi Sea off the Alaskan coast.
If the United States is to move into an era of foreign oil independence and protect its natural environment from the atrocious and avoidable effects of deepwater drilling accidents (not to mention climate change and ocean acidification), we must prioritize renewable energy solutions and wean ourselves from oil. It’s that simple. As Dr. Sylvia Earle says, “Just as we have the power to harm the ocean, we have the power to put in place policies and modify our own behavior in ways that would be an insurance policy for the future of the sea, for the creatures there, and for us, protecting special critical areas in the ocean.”
Submit comments on the EPA’s proposed new rules governing the use of dispersants and other chemical and biological products on oil spills in U.S. waters through Wednesday, April 22 (Earth Day) HERE.
Read the full National Wildlife Foundation report: Five Years & Counting
A new film by Margaret Brown explores the fallout from Deepwater Horizon in the lives of Americans in the southern U.S. The Great Invisible premieres Monday, April 20, at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on Pivot TV.
Featured Image (top): Oil released from the failed Deepwater Horizon wellhead rises up to the surface of the Gulf of Mexico amidst an offshore platform drilling a relief well. © Daniel Beltrá
Source: Mission Blue
Let’s Plant a Billion seeds this Earth Day!
It seems as if almost every time I speak about Earth Day, someone says ‘Why isn’t every day Earth Day?’, which is true, but also kind of misses the point.
While there are many campaigns which are aiming to highlight the myriad ways in which we could take better care of our planet, the ones that are really grabbing my attention this year are the ones that are inspiring us to take DIRECT ACTION. To get our hands in the soil, to plant a seed, to turn off our computers and phones for a moment and give some much needed attention back to this amazing and beautiful planet.
One of the most inspiring of these is the “PLEDGE TO PLANT” campaign that was created by a group of organisations and facebook pages including The Master Shift, Forest Nation, The White Feather Foundation and the Earth Day Network to give back a giant collective offering to the planet.
This has now grown into hundreds of organisations joining together, including UPLIFT. It seems as if there is a collective awakening happening right now that has been inspired by the power of social media, but now seeks to go beyond that; to take tangible real world action that makes a difference. Those inspiring facebook pages that you might like and share in your daily newsfeed are beginning to talk to each other and realise that alone each page may reach thousands, or even a million or so, people a week. Working together, however, we have the potential to reach tens of millions of people in a way that challenges the traditional mainstream media outlets. The difference is that instead of highlighting what isn’t working in the world, all of the problems, injustices, conflicts and destruction, we can highlight what is working, the solutions, the collaborations and the co-creations that are making the world a better place. This is the essential vision of UPLIFT, which Satish Kumar has described as “Sarvodaya”, or “upliftment for all”.
So, how do I participate in “Pledge to Plant”?
It’s really simple. All you need to do is commit by clicking on the link below and registering. Already there are enough people registered to commit to planting over a million trees. And that’s just the beginning! If you share this message to your networks, you can be part of this global wave of action. In fact, the whole success of this campaign depends upon YOU to DO SOMETHING! Of course, the next thing you need to do is to find a tree to plant (contact your local nursery, garden centre, or permaculture impact centre for advice) and then somewhere appropriate to plant it. There’s a bonus if you can film yourself doing it and the share it with us, so we can show the world that this is actually happening.
If you still have any doubt whatsover that we need to change our collective behaviour and stop cutting down trees and start planting them instead, watch the entertaining (and moving) 2-minute video that The Master Shift created for Earth Day here. It’s been watched by over 13,000,000 people already, so the campaign is really starting to catch fire.
How much will it take before we wake up to the impact we have on the world?
It’s a fact that forest fragmentation has had lasting detrimental effects on our planet’s ecosystem with habitat fragmentation leading to 13 to 75 percent decrease in plant and animal diversity!
“Nearly 20 percent of the world’s remaining forests are the distance of a football field, or about 100 meters, away from forest edges. Seventy percent of forest lands are within a half-mile of forest edges. That means almost no forests can really be considered wilderness,” Professor Nick Haddad, North Carolina State University.
Some people might argue that just planting a tree and then doing nothing else for the rest of the year makes no real difference. A good response is always to ask what that person actually did for Earth Day. Doing something is ALWAYS more powerful than being an armchair (or facebook) critic, but it is also true that we need to make a SYSTEMIC change to the way we treat our planet, not just an OCCASIONAL change. This is why the Declaration to Restore Mother Earth is so powerful, by making a personal commitment to change, we initiate the beginning of that systemic change, which is what we all really need to do in order to turn around the Global ecological crisis. Take a look at the video below and then sign the Declaration. It’s the perfect thing to do on Earth Day and also the best way we can ensure every day really is Earth Day too!
Make a personal commitment to Restore Mother Earth!
The post Plant a Tree for Earth Day appeared first on UPLIFT.
Source: Uplift Connect