Sustainable Agriculture: It is possible

Over the years, there have been many discussions about the  potential to  create large-scale organic  farming enterprises to  replace the disastrous  impacts of chemical farming.

A lovely article by  Tom Philpott of Mother Jones outlines  one  attempt by  some US farmers to break  the  dead-end cycle of spraying,  tilling and loss of environment caused by commercial  farming, using no-plough methods and winter “cover crops”. While this method does not completely eliminate  the toxic impacts of spraying ;  it does go  a long way  to  develop  large-scale sustainable  farming practice.

Another “new” farming concept is  is the use of charcoal  in  soil.  Native american indians used Terra preta in pre-Columbian times to  create long term sustainable gardens in  environments where high  rainfall  leaching should have made sustainable agriculture impossible.

The ShortcutGiven  that  at  least  a third of commercially produced food is wasted, it would seen perfectly feasible to  create food sources closer to  food  consumers, allowing less wastage in  transit,  and better targeting of food production to  need.

We dont need the environmental  destruction that is touted as necessary  by  agribusiness to  create sustainable  global food production. We don’t need to  keep  killing our essential  insects   with  insecticides, spraying weedicides to  control  the plants we dont want,   constantly digging up  the soil to  destroy  its structure and life, and  destroying more and more natural  environments  and the plants and animals that live there, for short-term gain. We can live a  wonderful  sustainable and more joyful life through  living instead of buying.

 

Syrian Chemical Attack: A Summary

This post is predominantly a  compilation of   commentaries on  the gas attacks on  the  Damascus  suburb of Ghouta  on 20th  (or the 21st ) August 2013. Given  the huge implications of an aerial  attack on Syria by  the US France and the UK , using the chemical attacks as justification, it is vitally important that  the truth of the allegations by the Syrian  rebels is established.

There is no  question that  the Assad regime is brutal  enough  to have launched the attacks , but is it stupid enough  to  do  so and why  would it launch  chemical  attacks?

What is not discussed here is the likely catastrophic  fallout from  an aerial  attack   on Syrian infrastructure as we have seen  relatively recently  in Iraq and  Libya.

Russian news media  state that  the YouTube uploads by  Syrian  rebels of the chemical  attack  were uploaded a day  before the chemical  attack  was supposed to have occurred. However they appear to be back-tracking on  that issue. Russian media and state agencies also claim the previous gas attack  was  proved by  their analysis to have been primitive sarin  chemicals  manufactured by  the rebels. It should be noted that  Adnan Silu, Major General and former head of Syria’s chemical weapons programme,  defected to the rebels in July 2012.

While Western media and Western  government leaders are saying the  agreement Sunday  between the Syrian government and the UN to enter Ghouta is “too little, too late”, presumably  because evidence will have gone of  the sarin gas ,  experts note that  while sarin  evaporates in  a similar way  to  water, the residues and  impacts on  body  tissue remain  for some weeks and months:- one wonders therefore at  the  urgency  with which  France, UK and the United States are  threatening to  bomb  Syria now.

The YouTube videos show doctors and others trying to  treat the chemical  victims  without removing their clothing (which  would mean the chemical  residues retain  their impact on the victim (and rescuer) for a considerably longer period of time) ,  and the medical  teams  are not covered in  protective clothing ,  which  would be essential  for the medical teams’  safety in  such  a situation. While the videos show some of the victims’ limbs twitching  as would be expected from neurotoxin  poisoning,  in the video  seen, only the victim’s legs are spasming, which  would be somewhat unusual.

While  a number of  chemical  weapons  experts are saying the videos of the victims is consistent with sarin gas poisoning, t here are  no  signs of the dead victims having soiled themselves ,  one of several key signs of neurotoxin poisoning.

The analysis by by  Rogue Adventurer here shows the rockets the rebels allege to have been fired by  the Syrian government containing sarin. Given that the Assad regime has considerable technical  engineering skills,  the rockets appear  to be relatively unsophisticated, almost “handmade”   weapons;  this could of course be part of the attempt by  the Assad regime to implicate the rebels.  A more  in-depth analysis of the rocket  attacks can be found here.

Doctors without Borders press release here  of 24th August  states that  the three hospitals in Syria’s Damascus governorate that are supported by the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have reported to MSF that they received approximately 3,600 patients displaying neurotoxic symptoms in less than three hours on the morning of Wednesday, August 21, 2013. Of those patients, 355 reportedly died. Angry  Arab notes  “there was internal conflict within Doctors without Borders’ unprecedented political announcement about the use of chemical weapons in Syria.  There were people within the leadership of the organization that opposed the statement but the pro-US lobby prevailed.”

The timing of these attacks, coinciding with the arrival of UN  weapons inspectors in Damascus  to  investigate previous chemical  weapons attacks in  Syria   seems  an  unusual  strategy  for the Assad government- but again  – as some reporters have noted, not an impossible piece of bravado  for a dangerous and brutal regime  such  as Assad’s. And would Assad launch  a chemical  weapon attack  so  close to other areas of Damascus where support for  the regime remains, and where chemical  contamination would be highly likely,  as in  this article by Reuters?  PressTV  in  Iran  notes that its government had warned the US that  rebels were  importing sarin  gas into  Syria 8 months ago .

An in-depth  analysis by  Dan Kaszeta of Strongpoint Security here,  whose analysis suggests that  the attack  was not Sarin  or another neurotoxin, and might be the result of other chemical releases. What for instance has happened to this pharmaceutical  factory in Jaramana, Damascus on  the Ghouta plain? Note also this pharmaceutical  factory recently bombed by  either  the Syrian  regime or rebels.

The UN has previously accused Syrian  rebels of small  scale manufacture and  delivery of sarin gas, as in the Daily Telegraph  report from  6th  May  2013 here. However the Assad regime is the only agency  currently  deemed able to  manufacture and deliver such  a large quantity of sarin gas (if that is what the chemical is ) . A detailed list of alleged chemical  attacks over the past two  years is  noted  here

It should also be noted that there are very  large number of  vested interests  (ie controlled by   right wing corporate interests) American  and UK “think-tanks”  gunning for the Assad government.  One of only many examples is the  UK’s Royal  United Services Institute whose motto is ” Independent Thinking on Defence and Security”  whose Research Director, Malcolm Chalmers solemnly stated, with  presumably a straight face , that  My view is that the Syrian government’s apparent agreement to the U.N. inspection has been triggered by the growing possibility of military action, I think that is why they are doing it.” -somewhat ignoring the fact that  the  UN inspectors had been  given approval  to visit Damascus several months ago, and that the  frontline in  the Damascus suburb of Ghoutta is highly volatile as the recent sniper attacks on UN vehicles attempting to reach East Ghoutta appear to  show.

Note also  that  some (but not all) “human rights” groups, are actively involved in  mobilising  the Western  populace’s support for more gungho  adventures in  foreign lands . See this extraordinarily foolish  article by  Amnesty  UK here.

Interesting to note that  it is Israeli  security who  have provided the “information”  to US officials that the Assad government authorised the chemical  attack . And of course we know that  Israel has absolutely no  axe to  grind with  the Syrian  government and is a reliable source of dis- information! See Craig Murray’s analysis of the likelihood of the Mossad information being truthful here.

Postscript

The December 2013  article by  Seymour Hersh entitled “Whose Sarin” appears to  substantiate the claims by  the Assad regime that   Syrian rebels were responsible for the attack.

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Links

The US “Centers for Disease Control   and Prevention”   commentary on Sarin  and required  safety measures, is listed here

A very  fair and reasonable analysis (surprisingly ) by Stars and Stripes on  the situation as at  26th  August  here

A somewhat  dubious but plausible analysis of the rocketry  used in  the attack  by  Rogue Adventurer here

A vast  leap  to  assumptions of guilt by  Brown  Moses here  and used by  Peter Beaumont of the UK Guardian to  cheerlead  the US France and UK launching air attacks on  Syria.

A short sane  commentary  on chemical  weapons issues by  New Scientist here

A Syrian government  supporter view of the  attacks from  Moon of Alabama

A recent article on  the  Syrian chemical  attack at  Antiwar, by Justin Raimondo

Perhaps also  useful  to note this December 10th 2012 article in Antiwar  about US defence contractors training Syrian rebels in ‘securing chemical  weapon stockpiles”.

An old June 2013, but nevertheless very relevant piece, on  the implications of US “no-fly”  zones, by  the always reasonable  Helena Cobban at Just World News

A somewhat  US-hostile  (perhaps justified) view of the issue from Counterpunch here

Truthout’s version of events by  Gareth Porter here

Gareth  Porter’s assessment  via IPS of the US Government Intelligence report on  the chemical  weapons attack here

Some speculation from  the Strategic Culture Foundation by  Wayne Madsen on  a possible alternative source of the chemical  weapons

A further blog from  Moon of Alabama on  the  hypotheses about the origin  of the sarin  gas, as the UN team has verified the chemical  to be.

A post UN observer assessment  by  Sharmine Narwani and Radwan Mortada  of Al Akhbar

A post UN assessment by Dan Kaszeta  at  Strongpoint Security (pdf)

A Scribd critique of the UN report on chemical  weapons by  Denis R O’Brien (PhD,Esq) can be downloaded  here   (pdf)

A further Moon of Alabama report  based on analysis  by the MIT missile expert Theodore Postol which argues that  the range of  the  chemical  projectiles indicates that  the Syrian regime could not have fired them. The report by  Postol  and Lloyd entitled Possible Implications of Faulty US Technical Intelligence in the Damascus  Nerve Agent Attack of August 21, 2013 can be found here

The Red Line and the Rat  Line-Seymour Hersh

 

Living on the Planet “Stupid”

A recent sobering article in the Guardian notes that as of May  2013 we have now reached the new exciting record of having 400  parts per million of Co2 in our atmosphere!

The Guardian  states that:

The last time so much greenhouse gas was in the air was several million years ago, when the Arctic was ice-free, savannah spread across the Sahara desert and sea level was up to 40 metres higher than today.

These conditions are expected to return in time, with devastating consequences for civilisation, unless emissions of CO2 from the burning of coal, gas and oil are rapidly curtailed. But despite increasingly severe warnings from scientists and a major economic recession, global emissions have continued to soar unchecked.

Hockeystick

The CO2 “Hockeystick” graph (courtesy of http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/interactive/2013/may/10/climate-warming-gas-carbon-dioxide-levels-interactive )

However what is most sobering, is that last slide in  this Guardian narrative, which shows the likely scenario of reaching 1000  parts of carbon  dioxide per million by  2100 if industrialization continues as it has for the past 200 years; which is everybody’s best guess at  this point.

Not one government in  the world is committed to real  carbon  dioxide emission reductions  at  this point. Most governments talk about reducing carbon  emissions, but in  reality pedal  “progress’  and ‘economic growth ” as the panacea to their  little national  problems of recession or poverty…  However  “growth” and  “progress” are the true causes of our death-wish.

By the time  real decisions are made to  reduce industrialization and consumption  globally, we will be well  and truly past  the point of ensuring our  survivability as a species  with any significant numbers on the planet,  along with  thousands of other species. In  reality,  right now, we are  long-gone.

What  the impacts of living on  a planet with 1000 parts per million of carbon  dioxide will be; no-one knows. Nor do  we know what the short to medium term impacts of this totally  never-before-witnessed  sudden change in our atmospheric composition will have on  this planet.

Nor does anyone know, even if we stop producing CO2 right now, how long it will  take before  CO2 levels start to  decline,  and consequently the world’s  climate begin to return to”normal ” conditions. Quite possibly it may take  thousands of years for climate conditions to return to the levels of the 1960s; if they ever do  at  all.

What  we do  know is that we have  entered an unfamiliar world-there is no  going back.

Be prepared for the unexpected!

 

 

Peddling Over the Cliff

George Monbiot in  his blog “The Great  Unmentionable” once again  powerfully articulates the insanity of consumerism -the relentless drive by  governments, media and corporates to encourage us all  to not only maintain  our spending on  foolish things, but to increase it.

Monbiot points out that it is not  heating lighting and transport which  are the predominant carbon  emission culprits-it is the “stuff’  we buy – which  increasingly is produced for “us’  Westerners by  ‘those’ people over there.

In its quest  for economic   growth  and more wealth  for the wealthy, corporates attempt to  even commodify nature; where would we be for instance without our little sticky labels on  our fruit and veges, not knowing  which  international  conglomerate had marketed that piece of produce?

But by far the most insidious aspect  of consumption of  “stuff” is the central part it plays in the relentless destruction of  the natural world- the loss of natural habitat, the annihilation of species after species, for  more pieces of short-lived pieces of ‘stuff ‘ that no human will want in  a  year  or so.

The environment may be able to be resurrected  after the factories have been pulled down, as some artificial and dumbed-down version of true nature -but without the ever-growing list  of  extinct  species that  can never return to us.

SAM_2053
Maple Trees in Autumn

 

As our species becomes more and more urbanised, we lose our  awareness of our indelible link  with nature; our capacity to just  watch  and listen  and wonder at  the glorious  real world around us ;  our heads  down  watching  ‘smartphone” screens or  plugged in  to our latest preference for noise on our mp3 player. We become  immune to the beauty  and randomness and unexpectedness of nature of which  we are an integral  member-and  have blinded ourselves to that reality.

Instead of being open  and alive to  new and unexpected events and situations, we increasingly self-select our perception of the world from  an ever-narrowing mechanical IT menu driven by  our past experience.

We lose our connectedness to  the world around us-our inherent knowledge that we are transient fragile beings like all  other sentient things on this planet: that  we are different-but no better-  than all  the other species we live with.

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Postscript:

A great little article on  international  debt and how it fuels the crazy  cycle of “growth”  by Dinyar Godrej at the New Internationalist

Debt – a global scam

The standard response to the current financial crisis has been to punish the presumed debtors. Are the creditors blameless, then? asks Dinyar Godrej.

It’s almost a reflex. Think about debt and we think first about something owed. Then come secondary considerations of whether it ‘should’, ‘ought’ or ‘must’ be paid back, how this should happen, and whether possible.

Large outstanding personal debts – say a mortgage taken out during a housing bubble – can turn even the stoutest of us into ‘quivering insomniac jellies of hopeless indebtedness’ (as Margaret Atwood so accurately puts it). Debt is, we feel, whatever the rights or wrongs, ‘our own fault’.

We can’t help it, we are socialized to take such a moral view of debt.

 

Valueing Sentient Beings

In recent days we have seen vast Western media publicity on the Boston Marathon bombings: the dead, the wounded and the  likely perpetrators. At the same time, more than 140 people have been killed in multiple bombings in  Iraq with almost no  Western publicity.  And no  doubt,   many more “invisible” killings in  other countries have occurred  over that period, including at  least  5 people killed by  US drone attacks,  ‘collateral damage’  killings  in  Afghanistan,  not to mention  the mercenary wars going on in Mali  and other regions in  Africa, and  the Burmese civil  wars.

In my world view, every being killed is worthy  of equal  respect  and value as another. I  believe it is important if we are to be  truly compassionate human beings; (and is it not compassion that marks us as  being fully human?), that  we pay our  respects to those who have been  killed and wounded  in Boston, but that  we also  also  pay our  respects to all  those who  have died  elsewhere. I will also mourn all  those multitudes of beings from other species who  we as humans have killed in  our war  against our own environment; whether it be  through   our “need’  to  eat other fellow mammals or fish, or simply the collateral damage from  agri-business, mining,  logging, chemical spills, or our relentless need to seal the ground over for roads, carparks and buildings…..

Why  are we so  selective in  our valuing some humans over other humans,  and why  are humans so highly prized over other species on  this planet?

In my understanding, we value those who  are most like us, and de-value those who  are not like us-the other”.  That  “otherness” is encompassed in  our judgements about everything about our world; from people with other skin  colours not our own,  to  living beings who are not ‘cuddly’ and warm (and furry?) like us mammals. In  addition, from birth we are fed a diet of  reminders of what  a savage world it is outside , and only “we”, the familial clan,  can protect  you.  Upbringing, fear, ignorance and  a small  smattering of genes, all combine to give us permission to  brutalize all  those who  are “other”.

Without these selective filters on our senses, we would be able to see that  “we”  are no better  than “them” , we are fundamentally and unequivocally equal ;  we co-habit this little blue ball  together, and for own  collective wellbeing we must  nourish  and protect our fellow travellers on  this journey through the universe.

Are we really that simpleminded and judgemental  and superficial to do otherwise?- it would sadly appear so.

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Postscript:

Harmony – the ultimate goal between humans and nature by  Yuan Tze

 

 

THE BEES BAD KNEES

In  the last few years, New Zealand has seen  a massive decline in  honey bees. In my little garden  in  summer a few years ago, when all the flowers would be at  their peak, there would be many more honey bees than bumblebees and german wasps; but no longer. This year  the number of honey bees I sighted all summer, I could  count on  two hands.

“Uncontaminated ” research- ie not funded by  chemical  companies, has established clear correlations between  CCD  (Colony Collapse Disorder) and  pesticides  called neonicotinoids; chemically similar to  nicotine . The most common of these is a pesticide called imidacloprid. Two others are clothianidin and thiamethoxam.

However the correlations are not precise;  it appears to  require  cumulative poisoning over months and perhaps years for the effects of the neonicotinoids to  wreak  their havoc on bees. And as with other poisoning effects ,  the impacts on  the bees may lead to   a lack  of resistance to other diseases which  can not be directly attributable to the neonicotinoids. The EU has recommended a two year ban  on  the use of neonicotinoids in  specific circumstances, but that may go nowhere to  identify or address the issues of CCD. Nature is by  definition messy  and complex,  while man’s actions are linear and relatively unsophisticated. We may not be absolutely sure of the correlations-yet the results are very very clear and disastrous for us all.

As Jill  Richardson, in her How We Could Prevent Massive Bee Deaths and Save Our Food article notes at  Alternet, Although there’s little private citizens can do, beyond submitting comments to the EPA about these pesticides, contacting your representatives, and perhaps even getting your own beehive, you might be surprised to find out that these toxic pesticides are widely available for home use. Bayer sells imidacloprid in products sold for use on roses, flowers, shrubs, trees (even fruit and nut trees!), and lawns. Even the flea treatment Advantage sold for your pet contains it!

Once again  we see the power of corporates to distort  research, government  agency decision-making,  and the  truth; even while knowing that the results of their actions are environmentally disastrous for us all.

 

Cicada
cicada

 

Repeatedly, throughout the 20th  and 21st  centuries, we have seen the power of money over-ride the  intrinsic  value and beauty of this world’s environment,.  our co-habiting species and even homo sapiens’  wellbeing.  Like the cumulative   destructive power of neonicotinoids,  we are seeing the cumulative destruction of our planet  for corporate greed beginning to descend on us at ever-increasing speed.

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Postscript:

Read a further article on Activist Post by Heather Callaghan entitled, ‘Noid Rage & Angry Birds: EPA Sued over Declining Bees, Called on to Stop Bird Deaths

 

A coalition of interest groups, activists and beekeepers took the issue into their own hands on Thursday to slash the use of bee-killing pesticides in an effort to protect them and the future of food. Pesticide Action Network (PAN), Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides and four beekeepers are among the team who want bees safe from the chemicals that include clothianidin and thiamethoxam. Even if it takes suing the government. How are they able to bring a case against the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) for this problem?

Postscript:

A further article on  this issue by  By Rebecca Morelle Science reporter, BBC World Service entitled Neonicotinoid pesticides ‘damage brains of bees’  or http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-21958547 ,which beautifully articulates the hypocrisy and deliberate attempts to obfuscate by  the chemical sellers.

5 Astonishing Facts About Bee-killing Systemic Pesticides