Tag Archives: climate change

Rough Cut: The Devil’s Family Tree & the House of Butterflies

Six years ago, in my first draft of Fruit of the Devil, I described my protagonist’s research into the multinational corporate persons who control global chemical-intensive agriculture. The passage is obviously too long to include in my novel, but a friend recently encouraged me to resurrect this buried limb of Fruit of the Devil, and to call it “The Devil’s Family Tree”.

The information seems important, even if it’s too much to stuff into a novel. So here, to the best of my research ability, is how I believe that methyl bromide, brilliantly marketed as an “essential” agricultural pesticide, is really a nothing but a toxic waste product of the petrochemical industry. How did they get us to buy that, and Eat it on our food?????? Methyl Bromide hasn’t gone away yet. And the strategies these corporations use to dupe the public are well-honed and still being used. I think we need to know how they’re playing us.

(This might be a good time to listen to Bob Dylan’s Hard Rain Gonna Fall.)

“The soil is, as a matter of fact, full of live organisms. It is essential to conceive of it as something pulsating with life, not as a dead or inert mass.” Albert Howard, The Soil and Health, 1947

 

The Devil’s Family Tree: Who are the Multinational Corporate Persons that control our world?

Chapter 55. Monday, April 18, 1999. Passover Begins at Sundown.

Aurora sat propped up in her big bed, with several fat pillows stuffed behind her back. It was raining hard. It had been raining all weekend, without any breaks in the storm. Aurora leaned back against her pillows and enjoyed the sound of the rain on the roof. Suddenly, the sound shifted, like gravel falling from the sky. Hail!

Blue jumped off the bed and went to the glass door. As he watched the falling hail, the tip of his tail twitched. Aurora stood next to the large black cat, looking out. The hail subsided, turning into a pounding rain. The frozen beads on the ground and on the hot tub cover quickly melted. Aurora crawled back into bed,  snuggled the comforter up around her, pulled her knees up to her chest and settled back against her pillows to resume her research.

Like following a thread through a labyrinth, she read over the material again. It was complicated. Bit-by-bit, the muddied waters were beginning to clear. She was beginning to understand who, hidden in the tangled web of interlocking corporate directorates, was responsible for methyl bromides’ persistence as an agricultural pesticide, in blatant disregard of all the legislation requiring its phase-out. She was starting to see how the system was being manipulated, and who was pulling the strings.

Who Are the Bromide Barons? Just three corporations account for most of the world’s methyl bromide production. The Great Lakes Chemical Corporation and Albemarle in the US, and a Tel Aviv-based subsidiary called the Dead Sea Bromine Group control over seventy-five percent of global production of the pesticide. Their affiliated corporations in France and Japan, together with North Sea Bromine, Alumina Belgique, and Dubai Potash are responsible for the remaining production. The global bromine industry is an oligopoly, Aurora read, controlled by Albemal and the Dead Sea Bromine Group.

Another downpour of hail battered the roof like machine gun fire Through the glass door Aurora watched frozen white beads beat up the ragged daffodils. The hail turned into sheeting rain again, and she went back to her reading.

These three companies are joined by Trical Corporation in California, which, together with its affiliated companies, dominates methyl bromide fumigation in the United States. A number of large agribusiness corporations, such as Sun Diamond Growers Cooperative, as well as the large California strawberry shipper-cooler conglomerates also play a central role in the political-economic battle over methyl bromide.

These key players have worked together on local, national and global initiatives, including propaganda, intimidation, and outright buy-outs of politicians, to fight the phase-out of this acutely toxic, ozone-depleting chemical. The Barons of Bromide strive to perpetuate methyl bromide use through industry associations, such as the Methyl Bromide Working Group, the Methyl Bromide Global Coalition, the Crop Protection Coalition, and the Agricultural Workers Committee.

Aurora had been over this material before, but she still felt like she was missing something. She sensed there was something more, something bigger driving all of this. Albemarle and affiliates controlled most of the world’s methyl bromide production. But who, she wondered, was the wizard in the closet behind Albemarle?

She climbed out of bed, wrapped herself in a warm fleece bathrobe decorated with polar bears and penguins, snuggled her feet into fleece slippers, and headed for the kitchen. Blue padded next to her, apparently hoping that, if he stayed tight on her heels, she would remember to feed him. She looked down at the fat cat and laughed.

“OK. Breakfast time. Here you go.” The sound of the cat kibble pouring into the bowl made a counterpoint to the rain on the roof, now a gentle, steady patter.

Aurora topped off her mug with hot Earl Grey tea, toasted an English muffin, spread with butter and olallieberry jam, sat down at her kitchen desk and turned on the computer. She  typed in “Albemarle”, and clicked on “Search”.

Albemal began in 1887 as a US paper manufacturing company. Paper manufacturing, Aurora knew, was a dirty, highly polluting industry. She and her students had recently read a book by Lynne Cherry, A River Ran Wild, telling the story of a paper mill’s destruction of the Nashua River in Massachusetts. How it had come to light that the river was so polluted it was spontaneously catching on fire, and this had led, after a protracted struggle by the public, to the passage of the US Clean Water Act in 1965. Growing public awareness and concerns about the environment had ultimately led to the formation of the US Environmental Protection Agency in 1970.

“In 1921, a team of chemists performing research for General Motors discovered tetraethyllead (TEL) had antiknock properties as a gasoline additive. As a result, the Ethyl Gasoline Corporation in Richmond, Virginia began production of tetraethyllead in 1937. TEL remained the primary product of the Ethyl Gasoline Corporation through the next four decades. When the Ethyl Gasoline Corporation expanded its product line (particularly to include MMT), its name was changed to the Ethyl Corporation. The Albemarle Paper Manufacturing Company borrowed $200 million in 1962 and purchased Ethyl Corporation, a company more than thirteen times its size.”

So Albemal, a little Arkansas paper company, merged with the Ethyl Corporation in 1962. Ethyl? Gasoline? Paper and petrochemicals? Aurora read on. In ’68, the Ethyl/Albemal company acquired a bromide chemical plant in Arkansas from Dow Chemical. Dow Chem, the ozone eating chlorofluorocarbon manufacturer?

Albemarle continued to expand and diversify into chemicals, plastics, aluminum and energy, netting millions in profit. In the ‘90’s the company sharpened its focus on its core chemical businesses, forming an alliance with a Japanese chemical company, Dead Sea Bromine, and Dubai Potash. It also acquired an oil fields chemicals plant, giving Albemarle access to customers in the North Sea. Oil fields chemicals? In 1997, Albemarle restructured into two business units: Polymer Chemicals and Fine Chemicals.

So Albemarle Paper merged with Ethyl Gasoline? Aurora remembered hearing something about Ethyl gasoline when she was a child. She Goggled “Ethyl”, and read:

“In 1920, the DuPont family consolidated its grip over General Motors. During this period, a team of scientists perfected an anti-knock gasoline additive that boosted octane content. After first marketing the “no knock” tetraethyl lead (TEL) in 1922, GM- DuPont formed a 50-50 joint venture with one of the most powerful petroleum corporations on the planet – Standard Oil – and its New Jersey subsidiary, which later became known as Exxon, to produce and market the chemical. The new company was called the Ethyl Corporation.”

So, Albemarle Paper Company became the world’s largest producer of methyl bromide, after a merger with Ethyl no knock gasoline, which was created by General Motors, DuPont, and Standard Oil. Bells and whistles started going off. Standard Oil!? Oh, my God. One of the most powerful petroleum corporations on the planet was somehow behind methyl bromide. The wizard, the puppeteer pulling the strings of the TriCal King of Poisoners, was now standing just behind the curtain, and his face was covered in oil.

Aurora kept reading.

“Almost immediately, Ethyl ran into trouble. Scientists raised concerns that automobiles running on leaded gasoline were ‘a serious menace to the public health.’ In 1924, the story broke that 80% of the workers who produced tetraethyl lead had either been killed or were suffering acute poisoning. Employees suffered such severe nerve damage and extensive hallucinations at one refinery that it was dubbed ‘the House of Butterflies.’ Ethyl, supported by its owners – DuPont, General Motors, and Exxon/Standard Oil – fought back against concerns of scientists and the public.”

Corporate publicists contradicted a growing body of scientific evidence with a bold public relations and lobbying campaign, hiring a journalism professor from Columbia University to place favorable articles in newspapers, and run full page ads touting the product in Life Magazine and other popular journals. General Motors’ director of research told the American Medical Association that, ‘there is absolutely no danger of acquiring lead poisoning, even through prolonged exposure to exhaust gases of cars using Ethyl gas.’ ”

“There’s absolutely no danger… Our product is perfectly safe. Don’t worry about a thing. We’re the experts. Trust us. We’ll keep you safe.” Where had she heard that before? “Noooooo problem. Don’t worry your little head about the pesticides. We’ll take care of you.”

Aurora addressed Blue, who was meticulously cleaning his paws and whiskers. “Can you believe this, Blue? Way back in 1924, Standard and Ethyl Big Oil were already colluding with General Motors and DuPont Chemical, creator, along with Dow, of ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons, to spin junk science and propaganda. Way back then, they were already successfully manipulating the public into believing that their poisonous concoctions were safe. They’ve had decades to perfect their propaganda. No wonder they’ve been able to trick the public into believing that growing food with poisons is good for us.” Blue blinked his big yellow eyes, said Meow, then sauntered off to the window seat to watch the rain. Aurora turned back to the computer screen.

“The campaign to promote Ethyl and protect its market share was highly successful. A Surgeon General’s panel of scientists called for further study, but the required studies were never conducted. General Motors produced high-compression engines that ran only on leaded gasoline, further assuring Ethyl’s successful capture of the market share. By 1940, 70% of all US gasoline contained deadly Ethyl. Competitor’s products were driven out of the market – the same fate that befell the refrigerants that were rivals of GM-DuPont’s chlorinated fluorocarbon ‘Freon’. ”

“Hum,” thought Aurora. “Required studies were never conducted. Well, that’s familiar. Just like the way they’ve never bothered to complete the tests on methyl bromide that were required by the California Birth Defects Prevention Act. How do they get away with that?”

The rain got louder. Aurora  stretched, and gazed through the sliding glass door. Rain was coming down in solid sheets, blowing nearly sideways. The patio and the garden paths were flooding. All the trees were blowing wildly. She shuffled into her living room and watched through the bay window.  The water had risen almost to curb level. Something orange bobbed on the water flooding toward the storm drain.

Continuing her house inspection, she opened the door from the laundry room off the kitchen into her garage, which she used as an art studio. The floor was still dry. She checked the whole house, looking for signs of moisture on the ceilings, and along seals around doors and windows. Everything looked dry and snug. She turned on the gas wall heater that warmed her cottage. The gas ignited and the heater made a comforting purring sound. Aurora suppressed her misgivings about the environmental impact of heating her house with gas and sat back down at the computer. She continued reading, wondering how long she had before the power went out.

So Ethyl, Albemale, and methyl bromide. Ethyl/Albemarle’s involvement in the methyl bromide business had its roots in Ethyl’s leaded gasoline business. When tetraethyl lead was invented back in the 1920’s, it turned out that the product left a corrosive byproduct in the engine. The solution that Ethyl’s scientists found was to add a chemical called ethylene dibromide (EDB) to the mix. Ethyl first produced “no knock” EDB in 1934 by extracting bromine from sea water in a joint venture with Dow Chemical. This process was replaced in 1969 by a joint venture between Ethyl and an Albemarle subsidiary located near an Arkansas salt marsh. The new process used concentrated brine drilled from deep beneath the salt marsh to make bromine.

In 1972, the same year it banned DDT, the US government finally ordered the phase out of leaded gasoline in the US. Since the House of Butterflies story had first been suppressed, it had been a run of almost fifty years that deadly ethyl gasoline was successfully marketed in almost every tank.

Ethyl/Albemarle quickly responded to the government-mandated phase out of Ethyl with a three track strategy. First, they continued to aggressively claim that leaded gasoline emissions posed absolutely no human health hazards. Although studies found that, after elimination of TEL leaded gasoline, the level of lead in American’s blood fell as much as 75%, Ethyl/Albemarle continued to dismiss all evidence of the hazards of tetraethyl lead.

Second, they globalized production and distribution, developing international markets for leaded “anti-knock” gasoline. To compensate for the decline in the domestic consumption of tetraethyl lead, Ethyl globalized leaded gasoline. Consequently, TEL is responsible for nearly 90% of airborne lead pollution in Third World cities today.

Finally, Ethyl/Albemarle diversified their US production. Faced with a steadily diminishing market for leaded gasoline, they sought to find other uses for the vast salt brine reserves they had been using to produce the ethylene dibromide (EDB) additive to TEL. They marketed EDB as an agricultural chemical, encouraging its use in grain storage silos and as a pesticide applied directly to crops. In 1983, the US Environmental Protection Agency banned EDB as a pesticide, finding that it posed an unacceptable cancer risk. Cakes, breads and cereals containing EDB were recalled from supermarket shelves.

Despite the setback, Ethyl/Albemal rapidly expanded their bromine production, ultimately cornering all of the US bromide production and one-third of the bromide production world-wide. They developed a bromide product line that included flame retardants, drilling fluids, water treatment chemicals, cleaning solvents, glass making, detergents, pesticides, photographic chemicals, and pharmaceuticals.

To the rhythm of the falling rain, Aurora heard inside her head that song from the Dr. Seuss movie, The Lorax, that she showed to her students every year. The song about all of the many, many uses that could be made out of Thneeds, those things that the Onceler made out of chopped down trees. …drilling fluids, water treatment chemicals, cleaning solvents, glass making, detergents, pesticides, photographic chemicals, pharmaceuticals And thneeds are what everyone, everyone needs!” The Lorax

She went over the material again in her mind, wondering why she’d never heard this story before. Everyone should know about this, she thought. People should know how our lives and our world are being manipulated. So, it took from 1924 to 1972 for the government to finally ban leaded gasoline, even though the science proving that leaded gas was a deadly toxin had been available from the beginning. And, once it was finally banned in the US, the companies just sold it overseas, plus they remixed the same chemicals and re-marketed them under a different name for different uses, including as agricultural pesticides. The people that do these things must be so cynical, thought Aurora.

A bolt of lightening lit the sky, followed by a satisfying crack of thunder. Thunderstorms were fairly rare on the Central California coast. Aurora hurried to the window to watch for another lightening flash. Another bolt forked across the dark sky. Aurora counted the seconds. … one thousand five. Caboom! went the thunder, followed by a downpour. Aurora returned to the computer.

One of their products, a highly profitable brominated fire retardant called tetrabromobisophenol-A (TBBA), they sold to the electronics industry for use in the manufacture of fire-resistant epoxy circuit boards and personal computer housing. A by-product of TBBA is methyl bromide.

OK, thought Aurora. So, here comes the methyl bromide.

In a brilliant marketing move, Ethyl/Albemarle promoted methyl bromide, the toxic waste from the manufacture of TBBA, as a substitute for the carcinogenic pesticide EDB, which the government had mandated to be phased out. Methyl bromide quickly became a strategic product for Ethyl/Albemarle.

“Oh, perfect. So, methyl bromide is toxic waste that they figured out how to sell us as a substitute for a banned carcinogenic pesticide. Cute. These people are clever as hell, Blue.” The cat was still watching the rain. He didn’t bother to turn around and look at her, but simply flicked the tip of his tail in response.

Albemarle produced methyl bromide under a licensing agreement with Dow Chemical. Monsanto, the giant corporate arm that controls a large share of the powerful berry cooler-shipper business, assured the ongoing demand for methyl bromide in the California berry industry, which accounts for 80% of all US strawberry production.

“Monsanto? The entire Devil’s Family is in the room now. Of course. You could have guessed that, right, Blue? ” Blue flicked his tail and batted at Aurora’s hand, then left the room. Aurora squinted at the computer screen.

Today, with the rapid growth of the computer industry, demand for TBBA is increasing world-wide. In response, Albemarle is increasing its TBBA production, and with it, the amount of methyl bromide byproduct generated. If ever the International Montreal Protocol’s ban on methyl bromide is actually enforced in the US, methyl bromide will cease to be a highly profitable pesticide, and instead will become, for the Ethyl/Standard Oil/General Motors/DuPont/Exxon/Dow/Monsanto/Albemarle cartel a toxic waste disposal liability.

Holy shit., Batman. Monsanto, General Motors, Dow Chemical and Standard Oil. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, Aurora stood before the screen as the curtain lifted. She could finally see who was pushing the buttons, pulling the levers and dancing the puppets on the strings. The wizard had a face. But not a human face. It was the face of one of the oldest and most powerful petrochemical corporations on the planet. Standard Oil, with the tentacles of an ancient and evil octopus.

Lightening and thunder cracked the sky. The surge protector clicked off. The computer monitor flickered, and went black. Aurora tried a light switch. The electricity was down. She groped her way into her garage and flipped the switches on the circuit breaker. No power. But the gas heater continued to purr. Aurora unrolled her yoga mat. She kicked off her slippers, pulled off her robe and nightgown, tossing them on the nearest chair, and began a naked sun salutation. She spent an hour practicing yoga, as the thunder and lightening continued. Then she took a hot shower, grateful for her gas water heater, but thinking she should look into solar water heating. Somehow, she had to get off her fossil fuel gas and oil dependency.

Dressing in comfortable sweats, she sat cross-legged on floor pillows and meditated in the gloamy light, focusing on her breathing while she chanted her Mata Amritanandamayi mantra. By the time she finished meditating, the squall had passed. She checked the lights. On. She felt grateful to whomever the heroes were who were out there in the deluge doing the difficult and dangerous work of restoring electricity to neighborhoods with downed power lines. What a wonderful thing, electricity. Living in the age of fossil fuel. An age ushered in, to a large extent, by the big oil companies…

There were so many contradictions to come to terms with, living in these times. Where did her electricity come from? Every year, she asked her students that, and together, they discovered the answer for their locality. Moss Landing. The Moss Landing Power Plant, across the highway from the Moss Landing Harbor. It had generated electricity for Pacific Gas and Electric customers by burning oil up until the 1970’s, and then had converted to natural gas.

Thank God there were no longer dirty oil tankers coming into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to refuel the power plant, with their ever-looming threat of oil spills. But still, gas was a fossil fuel, too. A non-renewable resource. It was becoming more and more clear, Aurora thought, that any process involving the extraction of materials from the earth – coal, oil, gas, blood diamonds  . . .  all of it, when you scratched the surface, turned out to be dirty, destructive, and toxic, and controlled by people willing to do anything – lie, steal, cheat, destabilize countries, ruin watersheds, and even knowingly let people die – just so they could make their obscenely huge profits. Why? Was it the amassing of more and more wealth that these people were addicted to? Or was there something else driving the insatiable desire of these hungry ghosts? Power, lust?

Standard Oil and methyl bromide. Well, that was certainly interesting. So, the petrochemical industry, the oil companies, actually owned the pesticide industry. The Methyl Bromide Barons essentially worked for the Frankenstein ghost of Standard Oil. Maybe the CEO’s of all the corporations were one and the same people. Interlocking corporate boards of directors.

It was time to figure out another way. To get free of pesticides, and clear of as many petrochemicals as possible. Although they seemed to be everywhere, in everything she touched, from food, to clothing, furniture, plastics, and gasoline. Aurora resolved once and for all that she was going to find out how to at least get her energy – her light, heat, transportation – through sustainable, renewable means, as much as she could. For starters, she was going to look into putting solar hot water and electricity on her house, as soon as possible. Eventually, maybe should could get an all electric car to plug into her home solar system. She didn’t want to be a participant or an enabler of this country’s fossil fuel addiction any longer.

The phone rang.

Aurora didn’t pick it up. She let the machine take it and listened to the auto dialer’s message. The fire department was letting everyone know that, due to the unusual El Niño conditions, severe storms were expected to continue for the next three days. Flooding was expected in most areas. Residents who needed sandbags could pick them up at the nearest fire station. And there were flood evacuation centers at the following locations…..

Aurora made herself a tuna sandwich. Blue circled her ankles like a shark. Taking her sandwich plate to her desk, she googled Standard Oil.

The first hit was a link to an article in the Atlantic Monthly entitled “The Dismantling of the Standard Oil Trust”.

Aurora clicked on the link, and read: “The saga of Standard Oil ranks as one of the most dramatic episodes in the history of the U.S. economy. It occurred at a time when the country was undergoing its rapid transformation from a mainly agricultural society to the greatest industrial powerhouse the world has ever known. The effects of Standard Oil on the U.S., as well as on much of the rest of the world, were immense, and the lessons that can be learned from this amazing story are possibly as relevant today as they were a century ago.

Standard Oil Company was founded by John D. Rockefeller in Cleveland, Ohio in 1870. In just a little over a decade, through a variety of cutthroat and often violent strategies, it had attained control of nearly all the oil refineries in the U.S.

During this period, a brilliant inventor, Rudolf Diesel, was promoting his diesel engine, which ran on clean peanut oil. Diesel was mysteriously murdered, and his plant seized and burned. Immediately after Diesel’s murder, Standard Oil rolled out a petroleum distillate called diesel gasoline to take the place of clean bio-diesel. The mysterious death of Rudolf Diesel cleared away one of Standard Oil’s most serious competitors.

(Josh Tickell gives an excellent portrayal of Diesel’s mysterious death in his film FUEL.)

By 1878 Rockefeller had attained control of nearly 90 percent of the oil refined in the U.S., and shortly thereafter he had gained control of most of the oil marketing facilities in the U.S.

Standard Oil initially focused on horizontal integration (i.e., at the same stage of production) by gaining control of other oil refineries. But gradually the integration also became vertical (i.e., extended to other stages of production and distribution), mainly by acquiring pipelines, railroad tank cars, terminal facilities and barrel manufacturing factories. It was the first of the great corporate trusts.

A trust was an arrangement whereby the stockholders in a group of companies transferred their shares to a single set of trustees who controlled all of the companies. In exchange, the stockholders received certificates entitling them to a specified share of the consolidated earnings of the jointly managed companies. The trustees elected the directors and officers of each of the component companies, and all of the profits of those companies were sent to the trustees, who decided the dividends. This arrangement allowed all of the companies to function in unison as a highly disciplined monopoly. The unified organization of the trust finally made the disciplined regulation of production levels possible, thereby giving its owners complete control over prices. Massive and unprecedented profits of Standard Oil were made possible by this control over prices, the huge economies of scale attained from the control of almost all oil refined in the U.S. and the ability to pressure railroads and other suppliers of goods and services into giving them bargain rates.

Rockefeller became the first billionaire in the U.S. However, even this unprecedented wealth and power was not enough. Rockefeller and Standard Oil needed ever more. The company thus expanded into the overseas markets, particularly Western Europe and Asia, and after a while it was selling even more oil abroad than in the U.S. Moreover, Rockefeller, in addition to his role as the head of Standard Oil, also invested in numerous companies in manufacturing, transportation and other industries and owned major iron mines and extensive tracts of timberland.

The astonishing success of Standard Oil encouraged others to follow the Rockefeller business model, particularly in the booming final decades of the 19th century. Trusts were established in close to 200 industries, although most never came close to Standard Oil in size or profitability. Among the largest were railroads, coal, steel, sugar, tobacco and meatpacking.

This dominance of oil, together with its tentacles entwined deep into the railroads, other industries, influential private foundations, and even various levels of government, persisted and intensified, despite a growing public outcry and repeated attempts to break it up. There was widespread disgust and revulsion, not only among the many people who had their businesses or jobs wiped out by the ruthless predatory tactics of the trusts, but also by countless others who were affected by the increased costs and reduced levels of service that often resulted from the elimination of competition.

The monopolization of the economy became a major topic for the independent print media, which helped to create a widespread awareness not only of the effects of this consolidation but also of the techniques that were being used to attain it, including the extensive use of fraud, political corruption and physical violence.

The media attack on monopolies and corruption reached a peak from 1902 to 1912, which is often referred to as the muckraking decade. The muckrakers helped bring about an unprecedented era of reform. The U.S. Supreme Court was finally able to act decisively in 1911. Pioneering legislation was passed, aimed at restoring free competition to the economy and at protecting the food supply along with other measures designed to stop the excesses and abuses of corporate greed.

1911 was also a pivotal year for the petroleum industry in another respect. It was the year in which the U.S. market for kerosene (until then the main product from oil refining) was surpassed by that for a formerly discarded byproduct of the refining process — gasoline.

Wind rattled the windows. Rain hammered on the roof. Another squall was hitting the coast. Aurora got up and put her sandwich plate in the sink. She clicked on the gas under the teakettle. While she waited for the water to boil, she watched the storm through the window. A large branch broke off a cedar tree across the street and fell onto the neighbor’s yard, barely missing the car in their driveway. A tall palm tree down the block was bending sideways. Huge palm fronds flew through the air. Rain lashed against the front of Aurora’s house, blowing off the bay at nearly gale force. The street was a muddy, turbulent river. Water was rising up over the sidewalk. This has to be a hundred year storm, Aurora thought. She couldn’t remember anything like it.

The Muckrakers. Aurora remembered having learned about muckrakers when she was in high school. The conditions today seemed so similar to back then. Globalization of the economy was leading to monopolization and control by big corporations, job loss, exploitation of workers, fraud, political corruption, predatory lending all over the world. Just like Standard Oil took over the U.S. economy a hundred years ago, the World Trade Organization was becoming even more powerful than sovereign nations today, in its control of the global economy. And the US Supreme Court had given corporations the legal status and constitutional rights of “personhood”. Where was the independent media? Where were the muckrakers? Why wasn’t the public being made aware of what was happening?

The teakettle whistled. Aurora made herself a cup of instant Miso soup with seaweed and shitake mushrooms. Stirring the savory soup, she took her cup back to the desk, woke up the computer, and continued reading.

In spite of the outraged public sentiment awakened by the muckrakers, it took the government a long time to take effective measures to deal with the abusive tactics by Standard Oil and other monopolies. The strong desire on the part of the monopolies for preventing government intervention undoubtedly played a major role in this delay.

But the vehement public opposition to the trusts, especially among farmers who protested the high charges for transporting their products to the cities by railroad, finally resulted in the passage of the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890. This was the first measure enacted by the U.S. Congress to prohibit trusts. The Sherman Antitrust Act, based on the constitutional power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce, authorized the Federal Government to dissolve the trusts. It was passed by an overwhelming vote of 51-1 in the Senate and a unanimous vote of 242-0 in the House, and it was signed into law by President Benjamin Harrison.

Roosevelt, who became president in 1901, preferred regulation to dismantling. He attempted to steer a middle course between the socialism favored by some reformers and the laissez faire approach advocated by the Republicans. His hand was strengthened by an increasingly outraged public, which, although leery of government intervention in the past, had become far more supportive of it because of the seemingly endless growth in the numbers and power of the monopolies.

Several steps were taken by Roosevelt during his first term that proved highly successful despite intensive efforts by big business to block them. They included: (1) Convincing Congress to establish a Department of Commerce and Labor, the first new executive department since the Civil War, in order to increase the federal government’s oversight of the interstate actions of big business and to monitor labor relations. (2) Setting up the Bureau of Corporations in the new department in order to find violations of existing antitrust legislation. The Bureau soon began investigations into the oil, steel, meatpacking and other industries. (3) Instructing his attorney general to launch a total of 44 lawsuits against what were determined to be harmful business combinations, among which was the Standard Oil Trust.

The Court ordered the Standard Oil Trust to dismantle 33 of its most important affiliates and to distribute the stock to its own shareholders and not to a new trust. The result was the creation of a number of completely independent (although eight of them retained the phrase Standard Oil in their names) and vertically integrated oil companies, each of which ranked among the most powerful in the world. This decision also paved the way for new entrants into the industry, such as Gulf and Texaco, which discovered and exploited vast new petroleum deposits in Texas. The consequent vigorous competition gave a big impetus to innovation and expansion of the oil industry as a whole.

Historians of the future will likely continue to view the dissolution of the Standard Oil Trust as an important milestone in the unending struggle to restore and preserve free competition in the U.S. economy. Yet, they will no doubt note developments in the second half of the 20th Century turning the tide again in favor of transnational corporate control of the U.S. and global economy and a new era of monopoly creation on a global scale. And they might also be far more concerned than their predecessors about the failure of the market mechanism, and of society as a whole, to address an issue of at least equally great importance: namely, the inexorable rush to consume and deplete what increasingly appears to be the very finite resources of planet earth, virtually regardless of the consequences.” 

The Dismantling of the Standard Oil Trust Created May 21, 2004. Updated October 12, 2006. Copyright © 2004 – 2006 The Linux Information Project. All Rights Reserved.

Aurora’s eyes grew heavy. She shut off the computer, moved the sleeping cat over and flopped down on the couch, pulling a blanket over herself and Blue. She picked up her new book from the coffee table, opened it, and began reading. The Heat is On: the Climate Crisis, the Cover-Up, the Prescription by Ross Gelbspan. The rain fell softly. In a few minutes, Aurora was asleep.

She was underwater, wrestling a giant octopus. It sprayed black, oily, toxic ink into the water. Through the shadowy muck she could make out many other writhing figures – humans, penguins, polar bears, enormous salmon with human faces, strangling and struggling in the tentacles of the monster. She was drowning.

Sources:
The Barons of Bromine Corp Watch  – This information is referenced and quoted with permission from The Bromide Barons by Joshua Karliner, Alba Morales, and Dara O’Rourke, of Corporate Watch, San Francisco, 1997.
Shaping the Industrial Century: The Remarkable Story of the Evolution of the Evolution of the Modern Chemical and Pharmaceutical Industries by Alfred Dupont Chandler
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albemarle_Corporation
The Dismantling of the Standard Oil Trust Created May 21, 2004. Updated October 12, 2006. Copyright © 2004 – 2006 The Linux Information Project. All Rights Reserved.

“Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son? And where have you been my darling young one? I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’, I heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world. And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, It’s a hard rain a-gonna fall.” Bob Dylan

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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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#NoDAPL The Dakota Access Pipeline: Protecting Our Water at Standing Rock

Native artist silk screens at Standing Rock

“Water Is Life”

Thursday, September 22, 2016. “Water,” as the Indians say, “is Life”. I’m sitting in a hotel room in Sioux City, Iowa looking out of my window at the wide Missouri River. Today the river is agitated and grey-green under storm clouds.  I left the encampment at Standing Rock, North Dakota yesterday, and followed the Missouri here. From Standing Rock to Sioux City, the river was beautiful, calm and clear-blue, sparkling with sun diamonds and reflections of autumn-gold Cottonwood trees, and reflections of acre-upon-acre of golden GMO corn, wheat, soy, and sunflower fields. It worried me, driving through all that monoculture, that I did not see any birds.

photo of river

    The Wide Missouri River

The Missouri River brings Life as it meanders through five states,  joining with the great Mississippi and flowing into the gulf. These two  rivers form the artery of our heartland.

Vast and priceless, this watershed is now threatened with the possibility of complete and irrevocable destruction. What will it mean not only for ourselves but also for our children and grandchildren, “for the next seven generations” as the Indians say, if we allow one of the most significant watersheds in the Continental US to be destroyed?

It’s that question that by mid-September, 2016, had brought together more than 350 Native American tribes and over 7,000 non-indigenous people from all over the world, with more arriving every day. The people have gathered by the river to protect the Mississippi-Missouri artery running through America’s heart from destruction by the Energy Transfer Partnership Company.

Standing Rock Camp, North Dakota

Standing Rock Camp, North Dakota 9/2016

Young warrior at Standing Rock

Young warrior at Standing Rock 9/2016

How could one nice little energy company threaten such devastation? ETP is the mythical gyre-wolf in sheep’s clothing; a monstrous many-headed hydra; the giant Black Snake, foretold thousands of years ago in Native prophesy, that will bring the end of the world if it’s not stopped. ETP – parent of the North Dakota pipeline project – is (wait for it): an amorphous and opaque partnership of the largest US banks and financial institutions (the same guys who brought us the global financial crisis of 2007-2009), plus major world banks, and multinational petrochemical extraction-processing-distribution corporations, all wrapped up into one mullti-billion dollar tangled writhing vipers’ nest of financial/legal/oligarchy.  http://www.democracynow.org/2016/9/6/new_investigation_names_wall_street_banks

Solar Energy at Standing Rock

Solar Energy at Standing Rock 9/2016

Now that the Keystone XL pipeline has been defeated, the Energy Transfer Partners’ new game is to construct a pipeline through Native American lands, and in-and-out under the river two times, so they can transport their fracked oil from the Bakken shale fields (a Canada -Montana- North Dakota wasteland) to the gulf as fast as possible, and ship it overseas for enormous profits. (Nope, that oil is not for us Americans. Sorry, Charlie.) http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/news/who%27s-banking-dakota-access-pipeline

But if we stop the pipeline and keep the oil in the ground, how will we make everything go? And What About the Union, Jobs, and all that?
Re: Pitting protectors of the water against pipeline workers

It’s one of the oldest propaganda strategies they’ve got: The old “They are trying to take away your jobs” trick has duped AFL-CIO to endorse the pipeline instead of the defenders of the water. What a terrible mistake, not really in the interest of the workers at all.  https://www.revealnews.org/article/in-north-dakotas-bakken-oil-boom-there-will-be-blood/

“The Bakken is the most dangerous oil field to work in the U.S. The energy producers never pay for their mistakes.” — Justin Williams, Wegner attorney

Pipeline workers, your jobs are hurting you and are really terrible. Terrible for you, horrible for your families, for your neighbors, for the world. You can have MUCH MUCH BETTER JOBS if you’ll get on board and help us build a clean, socially and environmentally just, loving, joyful, sustainable New Earth. Lots of jobs. New technologies are here! Wind. Solar, Geothermal, Tidal, . . .

A Haida Man Stands with Lakota to Protect the River

A Haida Man Stands with the Lakota at Standing Rock to Protect the Water 9/2016

The stand-off at Standing Rock is historic: never before have so many Indigenous Peoples and representatives of so many tribes gathered together for a common cause. Over 350 tribes counted, as of the end of August, including not only a large percentage of tribes from the continental U.S. but also indigenous groups from Hawaii, Mexico, Ecuador, and even Palestine. In my opinion, the Standing Rock gathering is biblical in its nature and import. While I was there, I witnessed the miracle of Loaves and Fishes happening 24/7. People arrive day and night, many having traveled enormous distances under great hardship, and they are all lovingly welcomed, hugged, and fed. Thousands of people (an estimated 7,000 as of October 1st) are being fed well with donated food, cooked by volunteers on outdoor fires, without electricity or running water. Tribal groups bring  their most sacred foods to share – such as wild Alaskan salmon from the Haida People. A lesson in nurturing and love.

Loaves and Fishes, Salmon and Buffalo: sacred food given and received with prayer 9/2016

Many people I spoke with at the camp told me they had felt Called to come help Protect the Water. I myself received the Call to journey to Standing Rock while I was watching Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now on TV in my California living room. When I saw the video of the dogs,  I knew I had to go – video of unarmed, prayerful  Native Americans being attacked  with pepper spray;  private mercenary military personnel on the payroll of ETP going after men, women, children, and babies with attack dogs.  Watching blood drip from the mouth of one of the dogs, with the memory of the 1960’s Birmingham Civil Rights movement playing in my head, I knew I had to immediately unharness myself from the business-as-usual of my life and join the people at Standing Rock. Going  was one of the most meaningful acts of my life.

Did you see that attack dog video? If you did, you’re in a minority. Because of an oligarcy-imposed media blackout, most Americans have no idea what’s going on in Standing Rock North Dakota. See it here and then Share: https://youtu.be/kuZcx2zEo4k

View my interview with an eyewitness to the attack

Gathering at Standing Rock to Defend our Water:
a Movement By and For the YOUTH

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Lakota Lance K. in his Buffalo Robe 9/2016

Lakota Teen

A Lakota Teen Prepares to Overwinter by the River in her Tent. 9/2016

 

 

Young Lakota Warrior on horseback. Defender of the Water.

Young Lakota Warrior on horseback. Defender of the Water. 9/2016

In early August, 2016, thirty Native youth from the Oceti Sakowin (Great Sioux Nation) completed a 2,000-mile relay run from North Dakota to Washington, D.C. to deliver a letter to President Obama reminding him to “Rezpect Our Water”. This visit was a follow-up to a massive “Our Generation, Our Choice” youth mobilization and rally last November, 2015 in D.C. for Racial and Climate Justice . After delivering their letter asking the President to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, the thirty Lakota youth returned to Standing Rock to hold a continuous prayer vigil for the water.

California Native Youth at Standing RockThe Youth Speak: Interviews from Standing Rock

*Standing Rock Youth Council: Runners for Water

*Jackie Fawn – Yurok Artist

*Chyenne River Blackfoot Farrah King speaks about defending his homeland

*Kanyon Sayers – Ohlone

 

Native Woman with Tribal Flags

Native Woman with Tribal Flags

To date, few mainstream newspapers or television have reported this historic stand-off. Many lies populate the internet, promulgated by the denizens of Energy Transfer Company. In fact, right after the dog attack incident, ETP’s PR people flooded Twitter with fake accounts that made false statements about Standing Rock. Those fake accounts were outed and removed, but not before they had done their dirty work spreading confusion, fear and hatred.

Even though mainstream papers and television aren’t reporting on Standing Rock, many grass-roots participant-observers are working to keep the public informed via social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, blogs. Some of the Indy reporters have access to fairly sophisticated communications devices, but many, myself included, have been recording and sharing what we can, just using our smart phones. Please help spread the word.

Preparing Buffalo in Outdoor Kitchen

Preparing Buffalo, a sacred food, in Outdoor Kitchen 9/2016

Standing Rock camp is “primitive” – tents, and open fires for cooking, heating, and prayer; no running water or electricity except for a little solar.

fry bread

Fry Bread cooked on open fires

Fry Bread cooked on open fires at Standing Rock Main Camp Kitchen 9/2016

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I’m told Cellular service on the land used to be decent until the protest started, but now it’s only available on one hilltop above the camp and even that service is “spotty”.

The legal tent is up on "2 Bar Hill"

The legal tent is up on “2 Bar Hill”, where there is some cell service. A team of attorneys from all over the US provide pro-Bono legal assistance to the Water Protectors . Arrests and violent assaults on peaceful demonstrators and even on journalists are escalating. Help solarize the legal tent for the winter:  https://fundrazr.com/links/StandingRockSolar?ref=sh_35y699

The casino, about 10 minutes down the road by car, is the only place with WiFi. Everyone using media goes to the casino to tweet and post to their Facebook pages and blogs. People fill the lobby at all hours, sitting on chairs and on the floors, trying to get the message out about the pipeline. But someone or something is CENSORING much of the material people try to post. I wouldn’t believe it if it hadn’t happened to me.

Volunteers Bringing Solar into Camp

Volunteers Bringing Solar into Camp

fancydancerstandingrock

Fancy Dancing – Navajo. Standing Rock Main Camp 9/2016

One afternoon at the casino, I re-tweeted a benign post – no bad or hateful language, only a factual report on the conditions at Standing Rock. A little while later, I noticed that the post had been BLACKED OUT, and in white block letters across the black rectangle were the words CENSORED. At first, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Have you ever heard of anything like that happening in the United States of America?  I mentioned it later to someone else uploading posts at the casino. He asked if I’d taken a screen shot. No. When I went back to Twitter to look for the censored post, it had completely vanished.

A woman working on a GoFundMe project for warm winter clothes for the camp told me that when she posts information about her project on Facebook, within an hour her posts have disappeared. Everyone I’ve talked to has a different theory about who is doing this censoring. No one really knows why our internet is showing signs of repression in the United States of America. My attorney friends who volunteer at the camp say they believe it’s the work of Homeland Security or the National Security Agency. Are we being censored because NSA thinks we’re terrorists. Yikes. That’s scary.

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I am not the kind of person typically profiled as a terrorist. I am a middle-class white woman from an affluent suburb, a law-abiding, highly-educated professional. A paragon of responsibility. Pretty much the epitome of “respectability”. I am a patriot. I love my country. I am NOT a terrorist. But guess what? Being a member of a privileged class won’t protect you if you cross that line to stand with your oppressed brothers and sisters. Surprised?

No wait.  My country does not Censor my First Amendment Rights to Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press, right?  WeIl . . . I’ve been hearing many troubling stories of censorship on Facebook and Twitter. How abut you? The Independent media group Unicorn Riot has a report documenting journalists being repeatedly threatened and arrested. http://www.unicornriot.ninja/?p=9147 

Honestly, how did  these poor people who work for our public agencies – the police, highway patrol and military – get so twisted that they perceive nice old grandmas and beautiful young teenagers, doctors, lawyers, priests, artists and college students as evil enemies to be hated, feared, attacked and locked up? The Black Snake has been slithering around for a long time. Remember Kent State, when young, innocent National Guardsmen massacred young, innocent college students?

The Black Snake is Poisoning our Mother Earth. It’s twisting our Peoples’ hearts and minds, so they don’t recognize their own family and friends anymore. The Black Snake needs to be stopped.

Seven Nation Council Tent

Seven Nation Council Tent

The thing is, Standing Rock is a Women’s Issue.

Standing Rock is at the epicenter of a shift taking place within each of us, and within every family, community, and nation around the world. The obscene assaults on the feminine, Mother Earth and her children, which we are witnessing this presidential election, are public displays of  a world view that is no longer sustainable.

According to a Standing Rock legend, long ago a woman was so humiliated and abused by her husband that she turned to stone, a stone which can still be seen on a hill above camp. Now this woman is coming back to life. Her heart beats again. She is rising to protect Mother Earth and her children from the Black Snake.

For more, read the beautiful and insightful article by Emmy-winning film producer : Wisdom from the Women of Standing Rock  (  Her new film is End Of The Line  )

 Women and Men of Good Hearts, Rise Up!

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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

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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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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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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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Leaks in Space Time, Future Games, and Water

chronofact2

At Lighthouse Field in Santa Cruz, CA  last weekend, we discovered a Leak in the SpaceTime Continuum. A phone booth from another dimension materialized on the field, and we were able to listen to voicemails from the many possible future threads unwinding out of the chaos created by unfolding Climate Change. Some of the voicemails crystallized as they fell through into this reality. Identified as “chronofax”, they look like thischronoFact

Find out more about these “chronofall” phenomenon, and hear voicemails from the future at http://futurecoast.org/    A brilliant collaborative interactive game style exploration supported by the National Science Foundation through the Columbia University Climate Center Earth Institute, “FutureCoast aims to spark collaborative exploration of possible futures, including climate-changed ones, and create an open channel for sharing visions of how people and systems respond and adapt to change.”

Two of the characters in my novel, Fruit of the Devil, get pulled into an ocean vortex and sucked into an alternate dimension, where they learn that the fabric of all the worlds is unraveling, due to climate change and our abuse of planetary ecosystem life supports.

What can we do now to tow our lifeboat toward a positive liveable future?


Watch an interview with climate scientists

 

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Rain

“What is the Northwest? Anywhere the salmon can get to.” Timothy Egan. A Year Without Rain

This year, there is so little water in the streams and rivers that the Coho Salmon had to be rescued by volunteers from the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project.  San Lorenzo river cojo capture

In an area like California where water is in short supply, fracking is a terrible idea.

In an area like California where water is in short supply, fracking – an extremely water intensive fossil fuel extraction process – is a terrible idea.                                                                           Anti-Fracking demonstration in front of the Steinbeck Museum, Salinas, CA January, 2014.

Ground Hog Day. Today we had the first real rain all winter. Some say this may be our worst drought in the 155 years that records have been kept.  When people were raving about the beautiful, sunny weather in December and January, I wanted to participate in the joy and gratitude, but the weather has felt ominous to me. No rain during the rainy season, in a rainforest. I imagined I could hear the redwoods worrying. The land and plants have been looking so thirsty.

California needs water.

California needs water.

 

I remember our last drought in Central California – in the ’70’s. Everyone was aware of it, knew what it meant for our drinking water and our forests, and talked about conservation all the time. “Did you hear about our new local wine – P-no-poo-do?” No one flushed for number 1. People had buckets in their showers to catch the extra water. That awareness is strangely absent this time. But finally, the city of Santa Cruz, which is 100 percent dependent on local rainfall for its water supply, has created a drought-specific web page to build drought awareness and help city residents and businesses reduce water consumption during the ongoing drought. http://www.cityofsantacruz.com/index.aspx?page=2029

 

drought causes remarkable sunsets

Twin Lakes Beach, January, 2013.    This winter, the sunsets have been astonishingly beautiful, because of all the pollution that has accumulated in the air without winter rains to wash it away

Droughts, we’ve been told, are a cyclical occurrence in our area. But climate change is on people’s minds. Could this drought be evidence of climate change? Global weird-ing. What some scientists are now calling Climate Chaos, Climate Holocaust, Climate Armageddon. My novel, Fruit of the Devil, describes the great flood of 1999 on the Pajaro River.  It is predicted that climate change will bring unusually severe storms with increasing frequency, alternating with periods of drought. Are we ready for another “hundred year” flood?

Well, putting aside thoughts of doom, the rain this morning was beautiful. We celebrated the cozy feeling of being snug and warm in our little cottage, with the sound of rain on the skylights, by taking the time to prepare a real meal. It took us about 5 hours to go to market, prepare the food, eat, and wash up after the meal. Does real cooking take everyone that long? I guess that’s what the Slow Food movement is all about – reclaiming the personal time to nourish oneself and one’s family with real food – which requires a significant amount of time to prepare and to eat. The Straus Family Farm has a blog about the “True Time of Food Production” on their website.

We recently joined the Farm Fresh to You CSA.  (Community Supported Agriculture)  Our meal today grew out of the box of vibrant organic fruits and vegetables left at our doorstep a couple of mornings ago, plus our hens’ beautiful eggs. We had a frittata:

Organic Veggie Frittata: Preheat oven to 400. Saute in olive oil until soft and browned: onion, fresh garlic, thinly sliced baby butter creme potatoes, broccoli, leek, dinosaur kale, 1/4 fresh jalapeño, dash of sea salt, fresh spinach. Blend 8 fresh organic eggs, with 1/2 tsp sifted flour and a dollop of Straus sour creme or milk. Pour egg mixture over saute in pan. Lift from sides and slide liquid egg over until all egg is solid. Grate sharp Coastal Cheddar on top. Place pan in oven until egg has a golden brown crust, but is not dry. Serve with love, warmed salsa and jalapeños, Straus sour creme, avocado, and bacon or sausage. Take the time to fully savor the meal.

hand-made gnocchi

Foodie friends Jim and his daughter Mary take the time to prepare gnocchi by hand.

 

 

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