Category Archives: transitional community

General Strike Called Nationwide for January 20th Inauguration Day

 
Boxes of sugar cubes bearing the image of US President-elect Donald Trump on sale at a supermarket in Tula, Russia. (Photo by Sergei StarikovTASS via Getty Images)

Boxes of sugar cubes bearing the image of US President-elect Donald Trump on sale at a supermarket in Tula, Russia. (Photo by Sergei StarikovTASS via Getty Image

“On the Day of Trump’s Election, spontaneous protests broke out across the United States. People saw the danger represented in Trump’s politics and refused to comply with business as usual. Out of those protests, a nationwide call has gone out for a General Strike on the day of the Presidential Inauguration, January 20th.” the following article was posted by the Santa Cruz General Strike Organizing Committee.

What is a General Strike? Why a General Strike?

A General Strike is a political action in which the general population refuses to engage in work, they close the doors to their workplaces and their schools. Born out of early 20th century labor movements, we can thank General Strikes for the 8 hour workday, minimum wage, and the weekend, among other accomplishments.
 
The General Strike is one of the strongest political tools that the people have at our disposal. General Strikes have the power to force governments to their knees. Just in these past few months: a General Strike forced the South Korean President to resign, a General Strike forced the Polish government to roll back restrictive anti-choice legislation.
 
Our political system only offers limited input for ordinary people in the form of voting and lobbying our “elected representatives.” When it fails the people, we have little recourse to act within the system. A General Strike has the power to bring the system to a halt, to force those in power to hear the people.
 
In addition to the disruptive power of the General Strike, it is also a demonstration of solidarity. Trump won an election based on hate and fear. We seek to overcome that hate and fear with mutual respect and love. With Solidarity. By joining together in the General Strike we show that we are able to overcome a politics based on individualistic difference. We will stand together and defend each other in the face of misogynistic and racist attacks, cuts to social services, environmental catastrophe, and impoverishment.
 
Instead of being forced to rely on a broken system that only offers false choices between hatred and corruption, by striking we show that we are ready and able to build a new order. One that is not based on hate, fear, and profit, one that is built on solidarity, mutual-aid, and respect. When we do not work, when we do not go to school, when we do not allow business as usual, we show that we will not allow politics as usual to rule us. We will not allow a racist, misogynistic billionaire to rule us.
 
It is important to not normalize Donald Trump’s governance. A first step to building a meaningful opposition to his rule is to make sure the day is not a normal work day. We have no illusions that not going to work on January 20th is going to bring down the Trump administration and systems of oppression in a single day. But striking together is the first step towards building the meaningful solidarities and organization that will allow us to actually oppose and survive his administration.
The election of Trump was a Coup D’Etat by the Russians. Sufficient evidence is available to the public to support this. Why? The Russians have far greater oil reserves than any other country, and they can’t sell it because of US sanctions. The Russian Trump puppet  will lift those sanctions and set a course for massive exploitation, production  and profit-taking by the billionaires’ multinational fossil fuel industry.
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Standing Rock Insiders Urgently Request Help as Violence from DAPL Mercenaries Escalates

Standing Rock tepeeDecember 1, 2016
Standing Rock, North Dakota

Dear Friends and Relatives,

In late August I responded to an utterly compelling, impossible-to-refuse Call from Spirit to go to Standing Rock, North Dakota. Since I’ve returned home, everyone I’ve met has expressed a deep hunger to better understand the current situation at Standing Rock and to know how they can help. There is a mainstream media black out. What little information is broadcast on mainstream media is often unreliable. Below, I pass on the following insider information from friends at Standing Rock – urgent calls for help which I KNOW will make a difference for the good right now:

1. Donations to the Standing Rock legal support efforts may be made to:

The Water Protector Legal Collective is the National Lawyers Guild legal support team for those engaged in resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline. It maintains a 24/7 presence on-site at the Oceti Sakowin camp near Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

For updates, visit waterprotectorlegal.org, and follow the WPLC at Facebook.com/WaterProtectorLegal and Twitter @WaterProtectUs.

The National Lawyers Guild is dedicated to the need for basic and progressive change in the structure of our political and economic system. Through its members–lawyers, law students, jailhouse lawyers and legal workers united in chapters and committees–the Guild works locally, nationally and internationally as an effective political and social force in the service of the people.

“The Morton County Sheriff’s Department’s illegal use of force against the Water Protectors has been escalating (throughout the Fall). It is only a matter of luck that no one has been killed. This must stop.”

On November 29,2016, the Water Protector Legal Collective (WPLC-formerly Red Owl), an initiative of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), filed suit in US District Court against Morton County, Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirschmeier, and other law enforcement agencies for using excessive force against peaceful Water Protectors on the night of November 20, 2016. http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2016/11/28/water-protector-legal-collective-files-suit-excessive-force-against-peaceful

The class action suit, filed on behalf of persons who were injured on the night of November 20 and early morning of November 21, seeks an immediate injunction preventing the Morton County Sheriff’s Department and other law enforcement from using impact munitions such as rubber bullets and lead-filled “beanbags,” water cannons and hoses, explosive teargas grenades and other chemical agents against protesters.

2. Those concerned are urged to CALL NOW local and federal agencies below to demand (1) immediate end to construction of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline, (2) the immediate cessation and a full investigation into law enforcement abuses, (3) dropping felony charges against water protectors from the October 27 police raid, and (4) permitting the Water Protectors to stay at their current encampment until the DAPL’s application to drill under Lake Oahe and the Missouri River is permanently denied.

  • White House: 202-456-1111 (ask for “hot line to President”) or 202-456-1414 and/ or sign the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s White House petition standwithstandingrock.net/take-action
    • White House Situation Room, 202-456-9431
    • North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple’s Office: 701-328-2200
    • Morton County Sheriff’s Office: 701-667-3330
    • Morton County State’s Attorney’s Office: 701-667-3330
    • Army Corps of Engineers-Bismarck 701-255-0015 or D.C. office 202-761-5903
    Energy Transfer Partners: the pipeline owner ― Lee Hanse, executive vice president, 210-403-6455; Glenn Emery, vice president, 210-403-6762; Michael (Cliff) Waters, lead analyst, 713-989-2404.

3. U.S. veterans for peace are raising donations on Go Fund Me
< https://www.gofundme.com/veterans-for-standing-rock-nodapl > to help our veterans get to Standing Rock to protect protesters in the threatened “December sweep”. I’m worried the military could get really really violent in attempt to remove people so they can complete the pipe under the water. The water protectors WILL NOT LEAVE unless they are dead or forcibly dragged away, until they are sure the fracked oil pipleline is no longer a threat to the drinking water of millions of people.

http://heavy.com/news/2016/11/standing-rock-veterans-donations-fundraiser-go-fund-me-dapl-dakota-access-pipeline-arm-blown-off-video-photos-amazon-list-facebook/?ref=emailshare WE NEED TO HELP GET THOSE VETS THERE before Dec 4th.

4. Medical support for the camp is desperately needed. The official tribal funding page for this is   https://medichealercouncil.com/volunteer/
To get a better idea of current conditions at the camp, especially if you are considering going there, read the healer’s page and the FAQ.  If you’re not sure you are prepared physically and emotionally to withstand extremely severe winter conditions (6 degrees, 26 mile/hr winds, completely exposed living plus under siege by a military force) don’t go and become a liability on an already stressed community. But if you have the food, arctic clothing, camping equipment, physical stamina and temperament to care for yourself and others, and you feel you should go, Do Not Hesitate! They need you NOW! (no drugs, alcohol, weapons – only strong, peaceful, prayerful hearts)

5. Medical support for Sophia Wilansky, young woman whose arm was blown up by a DAPL  mercenary’s grenade <  https://www.gofundme.com/30aezxs# > Her father speaks about the attack on his daughter:  < https://www.facebook.com/paul.blumekmsp/videos/1115197865202714/>

6. DIVEST any and all of your assets that are invested in Chase, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America – they all own a big piece of the pipeline

 

~ LINKS  ~  LINKS  ~  LINKS ~

* Great overview Fusion video of what’s going on  https://www.facebook.com/fusionmedianetwork/videos/1543459422346697/

* Democracy Now full show Thanksgiving Day starts with now infamous dog attack video then summarizes Standing Rock to date with good new material https://www.democracynow.org/shows/2016/11/24?autostart=true

* For more of the BIG PICTURE: Robert Kennedy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bdvSQaWYk8M&feature=share

* New York Times editorial  http://nyti.ms/2gkKUmB

* Amnesty Int’l and ACLU decry human rights abuses against water protectors https://insideclimatenews.org/news/24112016/police-dakota-access-protesters-aclu-amnesty-international-standing-rock

*FIRE racist, unqualified U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Commander and District Engineer of the Omaha District Colonel John W. Henderson
Read more at Cheyenne River Sioux Chair Calls for Resignation of US Army Corps’ Henderson Cheyenne River Sioux Chairman Harold Frazier demands ouster of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ district commander John W. Henderson after “racist” conversation.  indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com

*Indigenous Environmental Network  http://www.ienearth.org/

* Oceti Sakowin Camp Known as “The Main Camp” at Standing Rock http://www.ocetisakowincamp.org/

* Kandi Mossett Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=Kandi%20Mossett

*Myron Dewey Facebook posts about Why the government is banning Standing Rock indymedia’s drones https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=myron%20dewey%20posts

YES! online magazine has been doing excellent ongoing work of covering Standing Rock with timely, in-depth articles  http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/why-the-assaults-on-standing-rock-require-police-from-seven-different-states-and-other-questions-20161031

Thank you relatives and friends. The media is not covering this situation. It’s up to us!

Please share this information as widely as you can.
We MUST stop this pipeline, with strictest legal bindings, Before inauguration day!

Water is Life

"Water Is Life"

“Water Is Life”


 

 

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Californians for Pesticide Reform: Twenty Year Anniversary Rally and Day of Action in the State Capitol

Please Listen to Tish Hinojosa’s song, “Something in the Rain”

Today, a new generation of teachers has awakened to the pesticide issue, and the embers of Farm without Harm have caught fire again. The new group, which meets once a month in Salinas and once a month in Watsonville, has named itself Safe Ag Safe Schools – SASS. And this growing group does have plenty of Sass, energy, and intelligence to move our cause forward.

A bit of history: In 1988 when I started teaching at Amesti Elementary in the Pajaro River Valley of South Santa Cruz County, California, my colleagues and I were only vaguely aware of the fact that pesticides were being used on the vast agricultural lands of the valley. The beauty of the valley and the excitement of having a good teaching job made it easy for me to repress my uneasiness about pesticides exposure.

IMG_6072But by the mid nineties, I could no longer hide from myself the fact that something was wrong at my school. Cancer, asthma, rashes, dizziness, miscarriages . . . I came to understand that two highly volatile toxic gases – methyl bromide and chloropicrin – were being injected into the soil of the strawberry fields just on the other side of the chain link fence from our school.

With growing concern, I participated in a forum on environmental health at the Louden Nelson Community Center in Santa Cruz where I met Gary Karnes, a pesticide activist from Monterey. Soon, I was attending meetings at the UFW offices in Watsonville with a group of teachers, parents, scientists, and concerned citizens. We formed a group, which  we named “Farm without Harm”,  to educate about pesticides and advocate for reform. Someone in the group reached out to Pesticide Action Network, an international organization based in San Francisco. PAN sent a full-time activist to the Monterey Bay to work with us.  It was around this time that Californians for Pesticide Reform was also created.

By 2000, the struggle over pesticide use near the schools had become so fierce and vicious that I, and many of the other teachers who were engaged in the struggle, left our jobs in the school district. In retrospect, I realize that our early work did help kick the door open for acceptance of organic agriculture in the Pajaro Valley. Today, the most successful organic vegetable grower in the valley is the uncle of one of my former third grade students from that era. Dick Peixoto of Lakeside Farms has personally acknowledged to me that it was we teachers who first got him thinking about going organic.

IMG_8735In 2010, under pressure to comply with the Montreal Protocol’s mandated phase-out of methyl bromide, the pesticide industry tried to roll out a chemical substitute that was even worse than the banned ozone-depleting chemical methyl bromide: methyl iodide.  Activists from the “early days” came out of the woodwork and helped to soundly quash the roll-out of the carcinogenic methyl iodide .

Farm without Harm no longer exists, but over the years since the founding of Farm without Harm, coalition building has been quietly moving forward. The Californians for Pesticide Reform is now a statewide coalition of more than 185 organizations.

Founded in 1996 to fundamentally shift the way pesticides are used in California, CPR’s mission is to protect public health, improve environmental quality and expand a sustainable and just agriculture system by building a diverse movement across California to change statewide and local pesticide policies and practices. CPR has built a diverse, multi-interest coalition to challenge the powerful political and economic forces opposing change. Member organizations include public health, children’s health, educational and environmental advocates, clean air and water organizations, health practitioners, environmental justice groups, labor, organizations, farmers and sustainable agriculture advocates. Members are actively engaged through a unifying four point platform: 1) eliminate use of the most dangerous pesticides 2) reduce use of and reliance on all pesticides 3) support safer, ecologically sound and more socially just forms of pest management 4) expand and protect the public’s right to know about pesticide use, exposure, and impacts.

The coalition is governed by a Steering Committee, currently comprised of:
California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation
Center for Environmental Health
Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment
El Quinto Sol de America

Monterey Bay Central Labor Council
Pesticide Action Network
Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles

Going forward in 2016, I’m proud to be affiliated with our new SASS-y generation of Pajaro Valley teachers, many of whom participated in a rally this summer in our state capitol. You can find out more about SASS on their Facebook page < https://www.facebook.com/safeagsafeschools/  >and website < http://dev-safe-ag.pantheonsite.io/ >, designed by students at California State University Monterey Bay.

IMG_8633

On July 12, 2016, the Californians for Pesticide Reform 20th Anniversary  “Day of Action” Rally for pesticide reform took place in Sacramento. Farmworkers, teachers, citizens, doctors, legislators, scientists, seniors, and children made their way to the California  Environmental Protection Agency building in the state capitol, with boxes to present to the Department of Pesticide Regulation full of thousands of signatures on petitions and letters signed by over 200 organizations. Many people got up at 3 am and traveled hours on buses to attend the rally.

During the rally, I had the opportunity to make some meaningful and hopefully lasting connections with some very inspiring people, including a young doctor, and a group of amazing young women and future leaders who will start college in the fall.IMG_8664

The goal of the rally was to demand that the people who work for the California Department of Pesticide Regulation do the job they are paid for: to protect the people, and our children, from harmful pesticide exposure. We want the DPR to draft new regulations requiring a one mile pesticide-free buffer zone around all ag fields that are near schools. Please send them your comments!

Following are some scenes and video clips from the rally and the  luncheon at St. John Lutheran Church.IMG_8646

 

 

 

 

 

Video: Rally in Sacramento, CA – Californians for Pesticide Reform July 12, 1916 Introductory remarks by Dr. Ann Lopez

Video: State Assemblyman Dean Florez speaks of dedication, leadership, and “ganas” during luncheon award ceremony at St. John’s Lutheran Church

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Another 9-11

June 2 2015 DPR public workshop Salinas, CA

June 2, 2015 California Department of Pesticide Regulation public workshop Cesar Chavez Library Salinas, CA

Our Safe Strawberry Working Group met last night at the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council Offices in Salinas with the Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner, Eric Lauritzen and seven other county, state, and federal pesticide regulatory officials. This meeting was a follow-up to the June 2 public meeting that overflowed the Cesar Chavez library in Salinas, one of  a series of workshops around the state conducted by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) to solicit public input from the communities most affected by pesticide use near public schools.  IMG_6317

IMG_6319

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ag Commissioner Lauritzen began last night’s meeting with a request that the gathering be framed in a collaborative rather than an adversarial spirit. He gave assurances that county, state, and federal regulators are doing all they can to study the situation. Melissa, a teacher from Pajaro Valley’s Ohlone Elementary made it clear that, while the people in the room want to be respectful and collaborative, they have patiently waited for years for “further studies”. She told us about her colleague and friend who is battling cancer after teaching for years next to the fields, and she demanded immediate action to reduce pesticide exposure around schools, including implementation of mandatory one-mile buffer zones.IMG_6312

Buffer Zones Around Schools:
Currently, the state of  California has no standardized regulations regarding pesticide-free buffer zones between schools and chemical-intensive agricultural fields. Practice from one county to another varies widely. The state DPR representatives indicated that the matter is still “under study”, and that it will be a long time before their office sets any new rules for buffer zones. Safe Strawberry Working Group has countered with a proposal that, if the state cannot act to standardize adequate buffer zones in a timely manner, then the County ag commissioner should immediately set a buffer zone requirement of one mile for our local community.

State, County, and Federal Pesticide Regulators

Eric Lauritzen, Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner; Bob Roach Assistant Ag Commissioner; Karen Stahlman, Chief Deputy Ag Commissioner; Marylou Verder-Carlos, Assistant Director, California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR); George Farnsworth, Assistant Director, CDPR; Randy Segawa, Special Assistant, CDPR; Kathy Taylor, USEPA Region IX; Dr. Ed Moreno, Monterey County Public Health Officer

County Ag Commissioner Lauritzen stated that it is not within his power to set regulations on buffer zones.  One of the other officials said she thought that the city council and the planning commission are the agencies with that authority. However, according to Mark Weller, Director of the Safe Strawberry Working Group, it IS the legal authority of the county agricultural commissioner to make rules regarding buffer zones, granted in state code (Section 11503.5 of the Food and Agricultural Code), and city councils and planning commissions have no authority in pesticide matters. A representative of Sustainable Monterey challenged Lauritzen, stating that if the people asking him for better protection from pesticides were affluent white residents of Carmel rather than teachers and farmworkers from Salinas, he would act swiftly.

 A representative of the federal Environmental Protection Agency explained that all regulatory decisions have to be based on a careful cost-benefit analysis. She reminded the group that California agriculture provides a large percentage of California’s revenue. A person in the group asked where all that revenue is going,  and why can’t some of that money be used to provide better notification of pesticide applications to communities.IMG_6324

Call to Action:
According to Lauritzen, the Salinas school board recently purchased a tract of land adjacent to chemical-intensive agricultural fields on Boranda Road and plans to build a new school there. Lauritzen showed a map of the proposed school site. The group expressed incredulity and outrage.

IMG_6330There will be hearings in the near future about the proposed new school. All are urged to get involved by attending the hearings, as well as contacting the school board, the city council, and the planning commission. In addition, no matter where you live or how old you are, if you’re concerned about pesticide exposure near schools, please sign the Californians for Pesticide Reform petition calling for the Santa Cruz and Monterey County Agriculture Commissioners to require one mile buffer zones around schools.

Another 9-11:
A recent 9-11 call from school personnel who were afraid that a neighboring farmer was spraying toxic pesticides brought an immediate response of police and rescue personnel. The call was, according to the ag commissioner, an expensive false alarm: the spray the farmer was using while disking his field was water.  Everyone in the room agreed that more effective communication between growers and the community is needed.IMG_6316Observing the interaction between regulators and activists, I felt I perceived glimmers of the professional masks beginning to melt and crack open in the extreme heatwave we’ve been experiencing this week. There is still a wide gap between points of view, a lack of understanding between the two sides of the room, but I thought I saw glimpses last night of the real human faces under the masks – vulnerable, afraid. Worried about the future of their children, their families. Concerned about the future of agriculture, and the future of the world. I sensed in the room last night that everyone – pesticide regulators and citizens – has now at least started to hear on some level the 9-11 call that is going out all over the planet.

No one in the room last night mentioned Climate Change, but after the meeting I had a private conversation in the parking lot with one of the CAL DPR scientists. She told me that when the US does ban a toxic chemical, it’s usually re-marketed overseas –  that she’s from the Philippines and has experienced this in her own country. She acknowledged that the problems we now face with agriculture are not just local, but global. Chemical intensive ag, heavily dependent on fossil fuels from production to shipping and distribution, cannot be sustained. As our global climate changes, the geography of arable land is shifting. It’s urgent that we redesign our agricultural system now to adapt to the changes coming. We must learn how to frame this challenge collaboratively. We must learn how to grow food without further harming our land and ourselves. We must learn to see one another – all beings  – not as adversaries but as interconnected and interdependent relations, each an essential thread in the web of life.  This  is a 9-11 call for our planet. It is not a false alarm. We need to act now to save all that we love.

Pesticides And Schools Video (short)

Full Video from the meeting @ https://youtu.be/1cd2ubxHWNk

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Electric Cars Spark Change

Don’t hold your breath waiting for politicians to move this country to sustainable energy policies. Focus on the marketplace if you want  to help our country transition to sustainable energy. Right now is the perfect time to go solar if you own a house. We did it, and we love watching our electric meter run backwards.   solar roof

Recently we leased an Electric Vehicle, which we plug into our solar system to charge. It’s amazing! No gas, no oil! And California Department of Energy gave us a $2,500 cash rebate for driving our new 2015 Chevy Spark EV off the lot! https://energycenter.org/clean-vehicle-rebate-project

EV_Dash2

There are now many great electric car options on the market. Tesla seems to be everyone’s first choice, but we couldn’t afford one. So we took a three year lease on a Chevy Spark. We love it! It has about a 100 mile range, which we find is all we need most of the time. (Our Prius, which we use  for longer trips, is usually parked these days.) Our Sparky is peppy. Lots of torque. chevy evCharging is easy. Around our area there are more and more public charging stations available. But so far, we haven’t needed to use them. We get our charge at home. We just plug in to our 240 V wall outlet. We charge overnight, when our electric rates are lowest. With our solar system, even with our car plugged in, we now pay nothing for electricity. Zero. All our power, including our transportation, comes from the sun. maryChange seems to have accelerated this summer. Sharks, possibly warm water creatures of the south, have taken up residence at our favorite cold water swimming beach in Santa Cruz. The color of the water itself has changed,  due perhaps to the warmer temp. According to a marine scientist friend, a warm water plankton who doesn’t “belong” here, a protist called “cocolithophoridae”, who showed up and is shedding its calcite scales, is turning the bay glacial-melt blue. No sane person can deny the reality of global warming any longer, and yet the Keystone XL Tar Sands Oil Pipeline is still being shoved down our gullets and Shell Oil is trying to drive its ship up to Alaska to drill. This crazy addiction to fossil fuel must be stopped before we end life as we know it on our precious Mother Earth.

Green Peace Photo

Green Peace Photo: Activists in Portland, Oregon hang from bridge to block Shell Oil Vessel bound for drilling operation in Alaska.

 

Greenpeace activist blocks Shell Oil vessel from heading to Artic

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another thing that seems to be rapidly changing is the proliferation of Electric Cars in our neighborhood. This is good! The time has come! If you’re in Santa Cruz County, go see our local Chevy dealer, Chevrolet of Watsonville. They  gave us an incredible deal: No down payment, they made our first month’s lease payment for us, and they pay all vehicle maintenance. (Plus, there was that state cash rebate.) Check it out! You could be driving right past the gas station soon, and never ever have to stop and fill up again. No gas. No oil. Imagine! It’s a great feeling. Make the change!

 

 

 

 

 

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Organic and Sustainable Agriculture – Re-Designing the Food System

I’ve taken the last 6 months away from my novel to go back to classroom teaching in the Pajaro River Valley. My middle school classroom – a well-equipped computer lab in a state-of-the-art Google Classroom paperless school – is surrounded by agricultural fields. Many of my 7th and 8th grade students are children of freseros – strawberry workers.

I received a call to come back to Pajaro Valley School District for this one semester position because a dear colleague and old friend of mine was unable to finish the year and needed a replacement. She was stricken with a bone cancer linked to pesticides used around the school where she taught for over thirty years.

[Addendum: I wrote this post in May, 2015. I’m very sorry to say my friend and colleague Betty Geesman, died of Multiple Myeloma in June. ]

I feel as though my novel has come alive and I’ve stepped into its pages. The school where I’m teaching is at the epicenter of Fruit of the Devil. The bell of Our Lady of Help Church tolls hourly, just across the highway. And the St. Francis, the Catholic high school built upon the site of an Ohlone burial ground, which provides backstory for one of my main characters, is on the other side of the cyclone fence from my computer lab.

I’ve been shocked to find that so many of my students appear to be in a state of extreme mental and emotional chaos – more so than the average middle school adolescent. Attention deficit, hyperactivity, and Autism spectrum disorders are rampant. There are obviously many factors contributing to this, including poor nutrition and the proliferation of the cell phones, mp3 players, and the Chrome Book laptops to which every student is now constantly connected. But according to recent research findings, it is likely that much of the neurological anomalies we are seeing in the Central California schools are caused by long-term exposure to pesticide neurotoxins.

According to a soon-to-be-released California Health Report article < http://www.healthycal.org/ > Dangerous Drift by Lily Dayton:

In 1999, researchers from UC Berkeley began studying how pesticides affect the health of people living in the Salinas Valley. Researchers have studied hundreds of Latino families
who work in agriculture. Mothers in the study had higher levels of metabolites from
organophosphate pesticides in their urine than women in the general population. Related to chemicals developed during World War II for nerve gas, organophosphates are neurotoxins.
Children of mothers with the highest levels of organophosphates were more likely to have developmental problems, including abnormal reflexes, autism-related conditions, low IQ
and indicators of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, the study found.

Mixtec Immigrant Picking Strawberries

I thought that when I returned to the Pajaro Valley to teach, I’d be able to interest other teachers in the struggle to reform pesticide exposure around the schools. It’s been discouraging to find that everyone is overwhelmed by the stressful demands of the job, and few teachers want to discuss the subject of pesticide exposure or even think about it.

Nevertheless, it was a source of tremendous hope to reconnect recently with Dick Pexiote, the uncle of one of my students 20 years ago when teachers, parents and community members founded Farm without Harm to promote organic agriculture. Dick is the owner of Lakeside Organics, the largest family-owned and operated solely organic vegetable grower/shipper in the US. When I dropped by his Watsonville office one afternoon after school about a month ago, he welcomed me and told me he remembered very well the teachers’ fight to end pesticide drift. He said it was partly our efforts that first got him thinking seriously about going organic. Dick’s courageous transition, when fellow growers told him he’d “lost his marbles”, has not only been an inspiration to many others, but has also turned out to be a very profitable business decision.

In the 1990’s conventional growers were calling Organic Agriculture a “Communist Plot” and telling those of us with the dream of a model sustainable agricultural valley to, “Go back to Cuba”. Today, 30% of Santa Cruz County’s agriculture is organic. When Farm without Harm was founded in the mid 90’s, we teachers  proposed writing grants to help family farmers make the costly transition to organic. Now, there are millions of dollars in state grants available to farmers who want to transition to sustainable food production practices. Societal change can take a long time. But I  hear the voice of my favorite teacher, the late Dr. Kenneth Norris, saying, “Never give up.”

Farm without Harm no longer exists, but Pesticide Action Network, the organization that helped us file pesticide use permit challenges back in the 90’s, is now part of a broad coalition of environmental groups under the umbrella Californians for Pesticide Reform.

The CPR coalition has asked California Department of Pesticide Regulation to focus on development of a statewide policy to protect school children, staff and families from agricultural pesticide use near schools, parks and homes.

This spring and early summer the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) will conduct a series of workshops around the state to solicit public input from the communities most affected by pesticide use near public schools. 

Everyone who is concerned about childhood and community pesticide exposure should take this opportunity to attend a workshop where you can meet face to face with the state regulators. Together we can make real change! Please come out and make your voice heard. We need to fill the halls!

Workshops are scheduled for:

May 28th: Cal EPA Building, Sierra Room  
                  1001 I Street
                  SACRAMENTO, CA 95814
3:00 pm: Grower & pesticide applicator issues
5:30 pm: Community, parent, & teacher issues (with simultaneous Spanish translation)
June 2nd: Cesar Chavez Library
                  615 Williams Rd.
                  SALINAS, CA 93905
3:00 pm: Grower & pesticide applicator issues
5:30 pm: Community, parent, & teacher issues (with simultaneous Spanish translation)
 
June 3rd: Ventura County Govt. Center
                  Board of Supervisors Room
                  800 South Victoria Ave.
                  VENTURA, CA 93009
3:00 pm: Grower & pesticide applicator issues

June 3rd: Rio Mesa High School Library
                 545 Central Ave.
                 OXNARD, CA 93036
7:00 pm: Community, parent, & teacher issues (with simultaneous Spanish and Mixteco (Baja) translation)
June 4th: Kern County Library – Lamont Branch
                 8394 Segrue Rd.
                 LAMONT, CA 93241
3:00 pm: Grower & pesticide applicator issues
5:30 pm: Community, parent, & teacher issues (with simultaneous Spanish translation)

June 9th: City of Coachella Corporate Yard
                 53-462 Enterprise Way
                 COACHELLA, CA 92236
3:00 pm: Grower & pesticide applicator issues
5:30 pm: Community, parent, & teacher issues (with simultaneous Spanish translation)

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Tipping Points: How Global Warming is Changing Our World

The photo above is linked to a Community TV YouTube broadcast of four scientists discussing the question: How Global Warming is Changing our World. Have we already triggered tipping points from which there is no going back?

I sought the advice of these and several other esteemed climate scientists when writing the following excerpt from my novel, a “chronopost” from the year 2065 AGWD (after the global warming deluge).

The action of my novel unfolds in 1998-99, in the context of the dot com and real estate/development bubbles and public concern about the Ozone Hole. There is an undercurrent of growing awareness about Climate Change. The signs, such as the extinction of the Coho salmon in the nearby creek, and salt water intrusion into the aquifer of the fertile agricultural valley are ominous. People are beginning to realize that Global Warming is changing our world.

Fruit of the Devil is structured much like a conventional thriller/mystery, with a ticking clock marking off the days of the school year. But there is a paranormal edge: According to Haida legend, after spawning, the Salmon People swim downstream to their “Village Under the River”, where they step out of their salmon bodies and live peacefully as native people until it’s time to return “upstream” and offer their gifts to the humans once again. At time the novel takes place, with climate chaos already setting in, the fabric of both worlds is unraveling, causing anomalies, such as time leaks, allowing “chronoposts” from the year 2065 to drop into the narrative.

 *     *     *     *     *

3rd Year of Restoration, 2065, A.G.W.D.*
Recording #568-e from the archived collection of Dr. Melody A. Escobar, Anthropologist
Narrator: Yáahl, an old Storyteller, Age, and Tribe Unknown.Claiming to be from Naadaayi Héen a Tayee, the Village on the River Under the River, an area not locatable on the GPS

Tape 3: The Consequences of Global Warming

                  We were like frogs in a kettle of water. We didn’t notice the water heatin’ up, ‘til it was too late to save ourselves.

                  Old folks talked about the weather actin’ strange. And on the news, people even heard that sea levels were risin’, drownin’ whole island countries and swampin’ coastal cities. But that all seemed far away. At first, it jus’ wasn’t real to the people who could actually do somethin’ about it. Nobody wanted to come out an’ call it Climate Change or Global Warming.

                  Folks jus’ couldn’t wrap their heads ‘round the idea that humans could make a whole planet’s climate go haywire. Anyway, everyone was jus’ too damn busy workin’, makin’ money, takin’ care of their families, and tryin’ to get on in the world to spend any time worryin’ ‘bout the oceans rising.

                  By 2014, when we’d wiped out over half the diversity of life on earth, including most of our large mammals and ninety percent of the big fish in the ocean, only a few people took much notice. Living in cities, people heard about it on TV, but I guess it jus’ didn’t seem real.

                  Once we’d lost all the elephants and whales, most of us got it, but it was too late. See, we triggered too many tipping points. Seems that warming the Atlantic Ocean stirred up Pacific trade winds at a level no one had ever heard of or seen before, and that triggered a sudden deadly runaway heat wave. Now, we’ve got a six degree centigrade temperature increase. That’s about forty-three degrees Fahrenheit, in case you didn’t know. And the temperature is still rising. We don’t know if any humans are gonna survive, or any of the other big animals either. We jus’ hope some small kind of life will endure on Mother Earth, and will start over without us.

                  You wanted to know ‘bout the other tipping points? Well, the Arctic ice sheet, being white, reflected heat back into the atmosphere, and that helped keep Earth’s climate stable for millions of years. But when the temperature started to rise ‘cause of our fossil fuel binge, and the polar ice melted, well – the water underneath was dark, and that absorbed even more heat. That’s called a feedback loop. We triggered lots of them. Like melting the permafrost, which released underground methane, a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The ice caps melted and methane fires burned in the sea. And the atmosphere got hotter, which melted more permafrost. And so it went. No stopping it.

                  Thing is, it woulda taken four or five planets worth of water and food, forests, fossil fuels, minerals, and fish in the sea to support our hunger and drive for more. Mother Earth jus’ couldn’t carry all seven billion of us. She gave out. Like aphids, we sucked the life outa her.

                  She got the sweats, with crazy storms and floods. In some places, sea level rise happened slowly at first. Sea water began to push into aquifers; we got salt water in wells and agricultural fields. But other places were inundated all at once. Whole cities drowned. People said these were “hundred year floods”, until they were permanently underwater.

                  In some areas, it rained too much, but other places, the rain jus’ stopped fallin’ altogether. They made it worse by cuttin’ down forests. Fertile soils were paved over, or blew or eroded away. It got hotter and hotter. Drought. No water. Farmers couldn’t depend on a stable climate that they understood. And Mitsinto destroyed our food seed bank, so the seeds we had couldn’t adapt to the changing climate. Pesticides killed bees and other pollinators. When the pollinators went extinct, that caused the demise of thousands of plants. Which in turn caused the extinction of still more pollinators. Feedback loops. At first, people didn’t notice, as our food supply winked out, one pollinator at a time. But when crops failed all over the world, competition for food got desperate, and dangerous.

                  Things unraveled fast. Transportation, electrical power, communications, medical care, services of all kinds started breaking down. Crime, violence, and terrorism kept getting worse. When fuel got too expensive, shipping and transport failed. People who depended on an international food supply chain could no longer get what they needed. Everything was disrupted. There was fear and chaos. Starvation spread. Famine.

                  The suffering has been indescribable. More than a billion people starved to death in Asia, Africa, and South America. China and the Middle East have nearly annihilated each other in wars over food and water. Extreme militarization at the borders of the US and Northern Europe kept out the millions of starving, terrified refugees, for awhile. But finally, even rich countries couldn’t buy food. Places where crops could still grow were under constant attack. Armed soldiers guarded farmers while they harvested. There were riots. People would do anything for food; even kill.

                  Epidemics and plagues crossed borders, and spread like wildfire. People found out that weapons and military strength could not keep out the diseases. Even with mass graves, we were not able to bury all the dead.

                  With no one left lookin’ after the nuclear power plants in Asia, the Middle East, Scandinavia, Europe, Australia, South America, the US . . . they all melted down.

                  The oceans died, all of a sudden. Acidification, they called it.

                  For those few of us that’s left, life is different now. What we used to call civilization is gone. Could things have been different? Maybe, if people woulda just woke up in time.

* After Global Warming Deluge                                        

 What to Do About Climate Change?

3rd Year of Restoration, 2065, A.G.W.D.*
Recording #568-e from the archived collection of Dr. Melody A. Escobar, Anthropologist
Narrator: Yáahl, an old Storyteller, Age, and Tribe Unknown.Claiming to be from Naadaayi Héen a Tayee, the Village on the River Under the River, an area not locatable on the GPS

Tape 3: The Consequences of Global Warming

                  We were like frogs in a kettle of water. We didn’t notice the water heatin’ up, ‘til it was too late to save ourselves.

                  Old folks talked about the weather actin’ strange. And on the news, people even heard that sea levels were risin’, drownin’ whole island countries and swampin’ coastal cities. But that all seemed far away. At first, it jus’ wasn’t real to the people who could actually do somethin’ about it. Nobody wanted to come out an’ call it Climate Change or Global Warming.

                  Folks jus’ couldn’t wrap their heads ‘round the idea that humans could make a whole planet’s climate go haywire. Anyway, everyone was jus’ too damn busy workin’, makin’ money, takin’ care of their families, and tryin’ to get on in the world to spend any time worryin’ ‘bout the oceans rising.

                  By 2014, when we’d wiped out over half the diversity of life on earth, including most of our large mammals and ninety percent of the big fish in the ocean, only a few people took much notice. Living in cities, people heard about it on TV, but I guess it jus’ didn’t seem real.

                  Once we’d lost all the elephants and whales, most of us got it, but it was too late. See, we triggered too many tipping points. Seems that warming the Atlantic Ocean stirred up Pacific trade winds at a level no one had ever heard of or seen before, and that triggered a sudden deadly runaway heat wave. Now, we’ve got a six degree centigrade temperature increase. That’s about fourty-three degrees Fahrenheit, in case you didn’t know. And the temperature is still rising. We don’t know if any humans are gonna survive, or any of the other big animals either. We jus’ hope some small kind of life will endure on Mother Earth, and will start over without us.

                  You wanted to know ‘bout the other tipping points? Well, the Arctic ice sheet, being white, reflected heat back into the atmosphere, and that helped keep Earth’s climate stable for millions of years. But when the temperature started to rise ‘cause of our fossil fuel binge, and the polar ice melted, well – the water underneath was dark, and that absorbed even more heat. That’s called a feedback loop. We triggered lots of them. Like melting the permafrost, which released underground methane, a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The ice caps melted and methane fires burned in the sea. And the atmosphere got hotter, which melted more permafrost. And so it went. No stopping it.

                  Thing is, it woulda taken four or five planets worth of water and food, forests, fossil fuels, minerals, and fish in the sea to support our hunger and drive for more. Mother Earth jus’ couldn’t carry all seven billion of us. She gave out. Like aphids, we sucked the life outa her.

                  She got the sweats, with crazy storms and floods. In some places, sea level rise happened slowly at first. Sea water began to push into aquifers; we got salt water in wells and agricultural fields. But other places were inundated all at once. Whole cities drowned. People said these were “hundred year floods”, until they were permanently underwater.

                  In some areas, it rained too much, but other places, the rain jus’ stopped fallin’ altogether. They made it worse by cuttin’ down forests. Fertile soils were paved over, or blew or eroded away. It got hotter and hotter. Drought. No water. Farmers couldn’t depend on a stable climate that they understood. And Mitsinto destroyed our food seed bank, so the seeds we had couldn’t adapt to the changing climate. Pesticides killed bees and other pollinators. When the pollinators went extinct, that caused the demise of thousands of plants. Which in turn caused the extinction of still more pollinators. Feedback loops. At first, people didn’t notice, as our food supply winked out, one pollinator at a time. But when crops failed all over the world, competition for food got desperate, and dangerous.

                  Things unraveled fast. Transportation, electrical power, communications, medical care, services of all kinds started breaking down. Crime, violence, and terrorism kept getting worse. When fuel got too expensive, shipping and transport failed. People who depended on an international food supply chain could no longer get what they needed. Everything was disrupted. There was fear and chaos. Starvation spread. Famine.

                  The suffering has been indescribable. More than a billion people starved to death in Asia, Africa, and South America. China and the Middle East have nearly annihilated each other in wars over food and water. Extreme militarization at the borders of the US and Northern Europe kept out the millions of starving, terrified refugees, for awhile. But finally, even rich countries couldn’t buy food. Places where crops could still grow were under constant attack. Armed soldiers guarded farmers while they harvested. There were riots. People would do anything for food; even kill.

                  Epidemics and plagues crossed borders, and spread like wildfire. People found out that weapons and military strength could not keep out the diseases. Even with mass graves, we were not able to bury all the dead.

                  With no one left lookin’ after the nuclear power plants in Asia, the Middle East, Scandinavia, Europe, Australia, South America, the US . . . they all melted down.

                  The oceans died, all of a sudden. Acidification, they called it.

                  For those few of us that’s left, life is different now. What we used to call civilization is gone. Could things have been different? Maybe, if people woulda just woke up in time.

 

* After Global Warming Deluge 

– See more at: http://bluebirdcreek.net/blog/chronopost-year-2085-message-future/#sthash.XGRNjxQz.dpuf

3rd Year of Restoration, 2065, A.G.W.D.*
Recording #568-e from the archived collection of Dr. Melody A. Escobar, Anthropologist
Narrator: Yáahl, an old Storyteller, Age, and Tribe Unknown.Claiming to be from Naadaayi Héen a Tayee, the Village on the River Under the River, an area not locatable on the GPS

Tape 3: The Consequences of Global Warming

                  We were like frogs in a kettle of water. We didn’t notice the water heatin’ up, ‘til it was too late to save ourselves.

                  Old folks talked about the weather actin’ strange. And on the news, people even heard that sea levels were risin’, drownin’ whole island countries and swampin’ coastal cities. But that all seemed far away. At first, it jus’ wasn’t real to the people who could actually do somethin’ about it. Nobody wanted to come out an’ call it Climate Change or Global Warming.

                  Folks jus’ couldn’t wrap their heads ‘round the idea that humans could make a whole planet’s climate go haywire. Anyway, everyone was jus’ too damn busy workin’, makin’ money, takin’ care of their families, and tryin’ to get on in the world to spend any time worryin’ ‘bout the oceans rising.

                  By 2014, when we’d wiped out over half the diversity of life on earth, including most of our large mammals and ninety percent of the big fish in the ocean, only a few people took much notice. Living in cities, people heard about it on TV, but I guess it jus’ didn’t seem real.

                  Once we’d lost all the elephants and whales, most of us got it, but it was too late. See, we triggered too many tipping points. Seems that warming the Atlantic Ocean stirred up Pacific trade winds at a level no one had ever heard of or seen before, and that triggered a sudden deadly runaway heat wave. Now, we’ve got a six degree centigrade temperature increase. That’s about fourty-three degrees Fahrenheit, in case you didn’t know. And the temperature is still rising. We don’t know if any humans are gonna survive, or any of the other big animals either. We jus’ hope some small kind of life will endure on Mother Earth, and will start over without us.

                  You wanted to know ‘bout the other tipping points? Well, the Arctic ice sheet, being white, reflected heat back into the atmosphere, and that helped keep Earth’s climate stable for millions of years. But when the temperature started to rise ‘cause of our fossil fuel binge, and the polar ice melted, well – the water underneath was dark, and that absorbed even more heat. That’s called a feedback loop. We triggered lots of them. Like melting the permafrost, which released underground methane, a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The ice caps melted and methane fires burned in the sea. And the atmosphere got hotter, which melted more permafrost. And so it went. No stopping it.

                  Thing is, it woulda taken four or five planets worth of water and food, forests, fossil fuels, minerals, and fish in the sea to support our hunger and drive for more. Mother Earth jus’ couldn’t carry all seven billion of us. She gave out. Like aphids, we sucked the life outa her.

                  She got the sweats, with crazy storms and floods. In some places, sea level rise happened slowly at first. Sea water began to push into aquifers; we got salt water in wells and agricultural fields. But other places were inundated all at once. Whole cities drowned. People said these were “hundred year floods”, until they were permanently underwater.

                  In some areas, it rained too much, but other places, the rain jus’ stopped fallin’ altogether. They made it worse by cuttin’ down forests. Fertile soils were paved over, or blew or eroded away. It got hotter and hotter. Drought. No water. Farmers couldn’t depend on a stable climate that they understood. And Mitsinto destroyed our food seed bank, so the seeds we had couldn’t adapt to the changing climate. Pesticides killed bees and other pollinators. When the pollinators went extinct, that caused the demise of thousands of plants. Which in turn caused the extinction of still more pollinators. Feedback loops. At first, people didn’t notice, as our food supply winked out, one pollinator at a time. But when crops failed all over the world, competition for food got desperate, and dangerous.

                  Things unraveled fast. Transportation, electrical power, communications, medical care, services of all kinds started breaking down. Crime, violence, and terrorism kept getting worse. When fuel got too expensive, shipping and transport failed. People who depended on an international food supply chain could no longer get what they needed. Everything was disrupted. There was fear and chaos. Starvation spread. Famine.

                  The suffering has been indescribable. More than a billion people starved to death in Asia, Africa, and South America. China and the Middle East have nearly annihilated each other in wars over food and water. Extreme militarization at the borders of the US and Northern Europe kept out the millions of starving, terrified refugees, for awhile. But finally, even rich countries couldn’t buy food. Places where crops could still grow were under constant attack. Armed soldiers guarded farmers while they harvested. There were riots. People would do anything for food; even kill.

                  Epidemics and plagues crossed borders, and spread like wildfire. People found out that weapons and military strength could not keep out the diseases. Even with mass graves, we were not able to bury all the dead.

                  With no one left lookin’ after the nuclear power plants in Asia, the Middle East, Scandinavia, Europe, Australia, South America, the US . . . they all melted down.

                  The oceans died, all of a sudden. Acidification, they called it.

                  For those few of us that’s left, life is different now. What we used to call civilization is gone. Could things have been different? Maybe, if people woulda just woke up in time.

 

* After Global Warming Deluge 

– See more at: http://bluebirdcreek.net/blog/chronopost-year-2085-message-future/#sthash.XGRNjxQz.dpuf

 

 

 

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Don’t Frack My Salad

PLEASE SIGN OUR PETITION AT http://bit.ly/1pkc8oC to urge EARTHBOUND FARM to Support Measure J! Don’t Frack My Salad!

please don't frack my salad

anti-fracking demonstration in Ca state capitol, Sacramento

Little San Benito County, California, is engaged in a David and Goliath struggle with the Oil Industry over fracking. San Benito is a scenic and historically significant county, with priceless agricultural and ranch lands.  It supports a growing organic and sustainable agricultural industry, renewable energy projects, and tourism. It’s home to Pinnacles National Park, the endangered California Condor, the historic Mission at San Juan Bautista, and the San Benito County Wine Trail.  San Benito depends on its excellent quality of soil and water to sustain its economy and the very life of the community.  But the oil industry has plans to expand risky oil extraction processes – fracking, cyclic steam injection and acidizing – endangering the community’s water, health and future.

Fracking and associated fossil fuel extraction processes generate toxic waste that  contaminate drinking water and farmland. Fracking also requires millions of gallons of water, an egregious misuse of a priceless resource during a period of extreme drought. Fracking is associated with increased risk of earthquakes – not a good technology to apply in a highly seismically active state. The hazardous chemicals used in fracking have been linked to cancer, birth defects, miscarriages, and infertility. Well-documented open ponds of fracking wastewater kill domestic stock and wildlife. Children and the elderly are especially at risk from the fracking pollutants that cause asthma and other respiratory ailments.

Don't Frack My Salad

Winnemem Wintu Natives at Sacramento, California Anti-Fracking Rally

A local grassroots group of concerned citizens – farmers, ranchers, vintners, doctors, nurses, teachers, students, Native Americans – have formed an organization to defend the health of the people and the land, and to create a brighter environmental, economical, and socially sustainable future for many generations to come. The goal of San Benito Rising is to to educate about the dangers of “enhanced” drilling technologies to water supply and safety, property values, public health and the vibrant agriculture and tourism industries of San Benito. But they are much more than a county campaign. San Benito Rising is part of a larger movement for community self-determination and sustainable alternatives. With your help their historic ballot initiative will be the first major blow in the battle for a frack-free California and beyond! Following the model of New York State, California is rising, county by county to protect their water, land, air, health and future. Marin, Butte and Santa Barbara counties, have similar ballot measures in the works. In November, 2014 help pass San Benito’s Measure J to ban fracking, and then watch California Rising with the national tide to say NO! Don’t Frack my Salad!

P.S.
Why hasn’t San Benito-based organic produce distributor Earthbound Farm come out publicly in support of Measure J? Please urge Earthbound Farm owners Drew and Myra Goodman and their partner White Wave Foods to stand up for the values they purportedly represent. PLEASE SIGN OUR PETITION AT http://bit.ly/1pkc8oC to urge EARTHBOUND FARM to Support Measure J!

The Oil Industry is pouring millions into the battle to defeat Measure J. The people need Earthbound Farm’s support!   Please Don’t Frack my Salad!

Please don't Frack my Salad!

Summer farm dinner at Route 1 Organic Farms

 

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Wage Slave

“Ring the bell that you can ring
forget your perfect offering
there is a crack in everything
that’s how the light gets in”
–    Anthem by Leonard Cohen

I worked on writing my story every day for three years, from 2010 to 2013. Then, last Fall, I took a full time teaching job with a “virtual academy”. This year has been agony. I feel like I gave birth and then left my infant in a trash can in some back alley to go make money whoring myself. I was a slave in my own kitchen this year, chained to the laptop at the kitchen table, where I was required to spend many hours a day (sometimes from 7 am to 2 am) filling out redundant excel and google doc spreadsheets documenting my student contacts. Little of my time was actually spent in contact with students. This is the corporate version of “charter school” education, now being funded by public educational monies. All the while I worked at those spreadsheets, I felt like my soul was bleeding out of my body. Maya Angelou wrote, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” I am sick inside my skin. Itching under my flesh to hold my book in my hands, to feel others read it, and love it. I need to see my novel alive, breathing and walking on its own, out in the world.

My teaching contract ended June 13th, and I did not seek to renew it. I feel both relief and anxiety. I think without the money I earned (less than a beginning teacher’s salary), I’d be floundering financially at this point. So, without it, going forward? Will I be able to live with less, live more simply, learning to thrive in the evolving non-growth economy, the transitional economy – with more time to freely explore my creativity, my passions, my life, but less money to finance my existence, and the bringing forth of my novel?

“Nothing is harder than being a true novelist unless that is all one wants to be. In which case, although being a true novelist is hard, everything else is harder.”  John Gartner

 

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New State Report on Pesticide Use Near Schools

I just drove home, on this beautiful full moon California night in June, from a meeting at the AFL-CIO Labor Hall in Salinas with the Safe Strawberry Working Group. When I got home, I said hello to my dogs, poured three fingers of Chivas Regal in my glass, and read over the news and information about the new state pesticide report.

According to the new state study, Agricultural Pesticide Use Near Public Schools in California, authored by the California Department of Public Health, released in April, 2014, “over the past 20 years, incidence of many serious childhood diseases has risen dramatically. Health professionals tell us that we have a ‘silent pandemic’ of learning disabilities and disorders including autism and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Certain childhood cancers – such as brain cancer and leukemia – are increasing, as are rates of childhood obesity and diabetes. On the Central Coast, researchers have demonstrated a link between exposure to pesticides and a reduction in children’s IQ. Science now points to pesticide exposure as a contributing factor – and in some cases, a key driver – of these trends. Over 500,000 students attend school within 1/4 mile of highly hazardous pesticide use; 118,000 students go to schools within 1/4 mile of the heaviest use of these pesticides. There are 137 county schools, with 73,876 students, within a quarter-mile of the highest concentration (319 to 28,979 pounds) of pesticides used.1 in 4 Monterey schoolchildren (the highest percentage in all of California) go to school within ¼ mile of heavy use of highly hazardous pesticides. Latino children are 91% more likely to be in heavy use areas than white children.” ( see Californian article: http://bit.ly/1johQE0    and Herald article http://bit.ly/1lnKTfm )

In response to the report, Monterey County Farm Bureau Executive Director Norm Groot wrote in a Monday column in The Californian, “The report makes no claim that children are being adversely affected by farming activities, but only implies that, by proximity, the use of agricultural chemicals near schools is automatically a bad thing. The perception this report infers is that use equals risk, which is falsely implied by not providing proper context of the regulatory process that exists to protect against exposure incidents.”

Norm’s statement is PURE BULLSHIT. Orwellian doublespeak. Meaningless obfuscation in a belittling tone, intended to confuse and make the listener/reader feel stupid and uninformed. The sentence is nonsense. The report infers a perception?  Non sequitur!   (a report can’t infer anything – utter b.s.)  “…falsely implied by not providing proper context of the regulatory process….”  Go back to English composition class, Norm.

I’m not usually so hard on my English students, but this guy is trying to pull a trick that’s so old it’s irritating; “Talk down to them, use pseudo-scientific/technical language and double talk to make them think they’re dumb and they don’t understand.” Nope. Not buying it. Let me give it to you in plain language, Norm. Here’s the deal: Pesticides are poison. It is insane to poison our kids. The pesticide poisoning needs to stop. Stop pretending you don’t understand, that the context is “improper”, or that you need “more research”. Cut the bull.

This report is nothing new. The issue of pesticide exposure around schools and in residential neighborhoods has been studied over and over again, for decades. See my blog entry on the DPR Permit Challenge Hearing we had in the Pajaro Valley on this issue in the 90’s.

Way back in 1989, Cesar Chavez said, “In the old days, miners would carry birds with them to warn against poison gas. Hopefully, the birds would die before the miners. Farm workers are society’s canaries.  Farm workers – and their children – demonstrate the effects of pesticide poisoning before anyone else.” Whenever people get interested in the issue again, a new study is proposed, then released with hoopla. There is some discussion about the “findings”, and then the issue blows over until next time, when a new study is called for with great fanfare. Then it’s critiqued; then dismissed or forgotten. We’ve had enough studies. We have peer reviewed scientific papers documenting the health effects of pesticide exposure: cancer, brain damage, nerve damage, respiratory failure, miscarriages, birth defects, and death. We need real change. Now. We need to transition completely away from chemical-intensive mono-crop industrial-style agriculture, and move to a sustainable ecological food system as soon as possible.

Eric Lauritzen, Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner, quibbles over details. Timing, he says. Timing schmiming – an hour before or after school? WTF! Never, Norm. Never on school days. Read my lips. Never apply pesticides near schools on school days.  And the ag comish claims that the report “… inflames rather than informs.” Apparently, the report is not inflammatory enough, Mr. Lauritzen, or you would act. You see, People, our agricultural commissioner has the power to mandate much safer practices, immediately – such as buffer zones at least 1/4 mile wide, no pesticide applications on school days,  72 hour pre-notification to all residents, schools, hospitals, and work places within drift range of all pesticide applications, large and clear fog-and-waterproof signs in Spanish and English posted on fumigated and sprayed fields.

Oh, but the ag comish and the Farm Bureau Director were up in Sacramento just as this report was being released, to derail SB1411 – a bill that would have required notification of schools and residents prior to fumigant, aerial and air-blast pesticide applications, and would have required that pesticide “do not enter” signs include the name of the pesticide, the phone number of the local agricultural commissioner and the expiration date of the sign. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, would have provided greater protection to farmworkers and would have assisted first responders in an emergency. The bill was defeated. Shsssss. Don’t tell. Don’t tell people when you’re going to poison them. We don’t want them to know. Does that remind you of anything? Like, the abuser, pedophile, or wife beater, for example, who always says, “shhusssss. Don’t tell anyone.” That’s sick. Yep. It’s about time we scream ’til we’re heard and we get some help. Time to start screaming about this, everyone. This time, don’t stop screaming ’til we get a real, complete 911 rescue from the poison.

Come on. Just do it, Mr. Lauritzen. Mandate 1/4 mile or wider buffer zones, no school day applications, and proper notification. You can do it. You have the power. It would be the right thing to do. You know it. You’re just scared to rock the boat. Right? Sorry, but the boat is going to be rockin’ way more than you may expect, maybe sooner than you think. Did you know that methyl bromide, the fumigant used on strawberry fields, is an ozone depleting chemical, banned by international treaty?  Yet it’s still in use more than a decade after it was banned because strawberries are such a lucrative crop in California that congress grants the growers “critical exemptions” to apply the banned substance. By the way, methyl bromide is also a dangerous greenhouse gas – a serious contributor to global warming.

Here’s something else you need to stop pretending you don’t believe: If we have any chance at all as a species to preserve our global food security and mitigate inevitable mass human die-offs from climate-change induced world-wide famines, we need to immediately redesign and shift our food production as well as our energy systems. Commercial, chemical-intensive strawberry production poisons people and destroys the soil. It relies on dangerous petrochemicals that drive global warming. It’s far too water intensive.  It fosters unjust political-economic conditions. The planet cannot continue to support these unsustainable practices. Big beautiful strawberries will be one of the first things thrown overboard as our boat sinks and over 50% of our biodiversity becomes extinct. “Get out of the way if you can’t lend a hand. The times, they are a’changing.”

Meanwhile, BUY ORGANIC! Go down to the Redman House Farm stand on the way to Palm Beach – or to your nearest Farmers’ Market – and buy some organic strawberries. They are big, they are beautiful, they are delicious, they are NOT poison, and the their workers and the kids nearby weren’t poisoned either.

 

 

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Our Watershed as a Lifeboat, Our Whole Earth Watershed, “Planet Water”

IMG_3212.JPG

“The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land.” Luna Leopold

This weekend, the University of California Santa Cruz Common Ground Center (“Education for a Just and Sustainable World”) sponsored a series of programs about restoring our watersheds. The keynote speaker was Brock Dolman of Occidental Arts & Ecology. He’s such an inspiring teacher! He coined the phrase “Planet Water” and talked about our watersheds as “basins of relations” and lifeboats.

We heard from community leaders who saved the San Lorenzo River Valley from becoming a 4 lane freeway and sewer canal in the 1970’s, and we took a walk along the San Lorenzo River with salmon expert Don Alley. Don talked about the loss of the Coho Salmon in the San Lorenzo as a consequence of city water diversion during droughts, and discussed the need new water use policies that leave water in the river for fish, including regulation of sand bar opening at the river mouth and regulation of the Branciforte Creek diversion channel. Our city Council needs to hear from us about these issues!

There are three major river systems that flow into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary: the Salinas River (subject of much of John Steinbeck’s writing), the Pajaro River (where much of the action in Fruit of the Devil takes place), and the San Lorenzo (which flows from the Santa Cruz Mountains through the center of Santa Cruz City). Historically, they all supported wild salmon, a keystone species, and now an endangered species in those watersheds. The presence or absence of salmon is an indicator of the health of the watershed, the health of our lifeboat and “basin of all our relationships”.

The Coastal Watershed Council, one of the organizations participating in the weekend watershed  “teach-in”, has started a new coalition of local watershed organizations – the San Lorenzo River Alliance. Recently, they sponsored a community paddle on the San Lorenzo, which has been closed to boating through the city for decades. I got to go on that adventure, and discovered the great beauty of the wild river that flows through our city. The City Council may decide to lift the ban on boating the San Lorenzo. I hope so! And “I hope someday you’ll join us!”

IMG_3216.JPG SanLorenzRiv1 SanLorenzRiv2  IMG_3214.JPG IMG_3215.JPG IMG_3217.JPG

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Pregnant with Pears

PearPregnantDoes anyone have any pear recipes?  Our magical fairy pear tree exploded with pears this August. Raining down sweet perfect pears by the hundreds. I’ve been giving away as many as possible, and trying to make sure Joe and I eat at least one a day. Please, leave your pear recipes here.

My neighbor Beth’s pear salad: pears, chilled and sliced thin. mild red onion sliced very thin. blood oranges. toasted walnuts. gorganzola. arugula. a light dressing of olive oil and white peach balsalmic

This is the first year we’ve had good plums. Beautiful Santa Rosas. plumsSM

I waited nearly 20 years for the old plum tree to decide to bear fruit before cutting her down and putting in new plum trees. This tree bore in its third year. Next year, two more plum trees should begin to fruit.

Our gifted Orchardist, Mathew Sutton of Orchard Keepers, and his crew worked magic in our garden this spring.

 

squashLots of people complain about having too much summer squash, but I never seem to get enough.

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