The Buffalo staff may be a little distracted this week. A giant Lake Effect snowstorm has shut down the city. This co-managing editor is currently stuck at my home in South Buffalo under a State of Emergency, a travel ban, and the ongoing potential for a 100 inch snowfall by Friday. Already nearly 60 howling inches have fallen. The streets are impassable. The news is that FEMA will be declaring the area a disaster area soon. The National Guard has arrived in my neighborhood, but they had to helicopter in. I still have power, heat, and food, so these are First World problems–so far at least!
Category Archives: Commodification of Life
Great Lakes Echo published a piece this week outlining declining honey and wild bee populations in the Great Lakes. Bee populations continue to decline across the world and are linked to agricultural practices and affiliated disease.
By Ruth Krug, Great Lakes Echo. 10 November 2014
Recently the Ontario environmental commissioner, Gord Miller, said that bee-killing pesticides are a bigger threat to crops than the now-banned insecticide DDT.
Beekeeper Devin Joseph Wash of Trenton, Ontario, said the province recently issued permits to allow the use of pesticide-treated seeds near honey bee farms and conservation areas.
Today is Veterans Day in the United States. Many of us have ourselves or have family members that for one reason or another have served in military capacities.
Maybe today is a good day to reflect not only on those that have fought and sacrificed but also a renewed context to think about what we have fought for and where this is to go.
Originally, the 11th day of the 11th month was known as Armistice Day. The original Congressional Resolution said “this date should be commemorated with…excercises designed to perpetuate peace…” Today, we will see images and messages commemorating flag waving patriotism and young weaponized people in full combat dress embracing engagements of violence and conflict. Today we may not be able to think much about peace.
No question, the struggle for human survival has entered an intensified stage. Today’s metastasizing wars continue to exploit economic domination strategies that engulf literally every human, every ecosystem, every space.
The horrors of war are very real. Can we find ways to stop depleting the earth? Can we stop just harvesting it to complete depletion? Can we work on in nurturing nature? Human warring against the earth or for parts of the earth is not a winning strategy. Not for humans anyway.
Today, on the 11th Day of the 11 Month we share two resources with you. They both motivate us to think of peaceful solutions.
From Common Dreams, an excerpt from Randall Amster’s excellent new book about re-imagining what is possible in this age of conflict and crisis, driven by the increasing scarcity of natural resources. Read it here: Peace Ecology: Deep Solutions in an Age of Water Scarcity and War.”
And, a video message created over a decade ago by some people that are no longer with us. The message, which is thousands of years old, will resonate for as long as there are people to listen to it.
Created by Anders Fredblad in 2008 and includes narration by Red Crow Westerman and Oren Lyons.
Last January OXFAM International issued a report, “Working for the Few, Political Capture and Economic Inequality“. The report details how just 85 individuals own half of the world’s wealth. Yesterday, Alternet published a piece describing how 47 wealthy Americans own more than half of the wealth in the United States. We think that this is a good reminder for today. This is one day after a major American election that transferred the balance of power in the United States Congress to the Republican Party.
We remind ourselves of the politics and economics that are driving America and the American political process.
By Paul Buchheit, Alternet. 4 November 2014
A recent posting detailed how upper middle class Americans are rapidly losing ground to the one-percenters who averaged $5 million in wealth gains over just three years. It also noted that the global 1% has increased their wealth from $100 trillion to $127 trillion in just three years.
The information came from the Credit Suisse 2014 Global Wealth Databook (GWD), which goes on to reveal much more about the disappearing middle class.
An anecdotal article by freelance writer Alexander Zaitchik puts a sad reality to a very real truth — defeating Big Oil in court doesn’t get your land back, doesn’t clean your water and doesn’t revive lost lives.
The Indigenous Peoples of Guiyero, Ecuador, fought and beat Chevron in New York courts after the oil company left behind massive amounts of oil and toxic wastewater when it pulled out of the town in the mid-1990s. The Guiyero’s land and water became another casualty of corporate greed, a giant sludge of pollutants and slime.
by Alexander Zaitchik, Take Part World, 30 October 2014
One day in early August, I took a long and lazy canoe trip down the Río Tiputini in northeastern Ecuador. My destination was the village of Guiyero, a remote dot of an Indian community more than a hundred miles downriver from the oil city of Lago Agrio. The riverside hamlet is at the eastern edge of territory deeded to the Waorani, one of the largest tribes in the region. Situated where some of Ecuador’s last unspoiled wilderness meets its oil frontier, it is a good place to see what a resource extraction boom entering its sixth decade can do to a rainforest.
It can be easy to forget the surrounding presence of industry during the slow river ride to Guiyero. As we floated around the bends and buckles of the Tiputini, the jungle beyond the banks looked lush, vast, and untouched, the only sounds bird cries and insect hums. Wooden dugouts tied up along the way suggested the persistence of an undisturbed pre-Columbian culture. But while a fraction of the Indian population along the Tiputini has escaped history, retreating ever deeper into shrinking tracts of forest, the number of theseno contactados is minuscule and falling.
Get the rest of the story.
It is said that the name “California” came from the Spanish after a Greek adopted legend about an island fortress populated by “beautiful Amazon women warriors whom were gifted in the use of golden tools and weapons.” Early European “explorers” described the place as having fog shrouded and rugged coastlines, vast mountains, deep valleys, desserts, and lakes. They dreamed and schemed about how to conquer the wilderness. Invasion and colonization of the west coast of the United States by Europeans began in earnest about 500 years ago. They did not know or care that they were preceded by at least 250 generations of people who were there first. People that had lived in relative harmony with the natural world and each other–Karok, Maidu, Cahuilleno, Mohave, Yo Semite, Paiute, Tule–were now put under the colonial guns. The wilderness that supported all life was on the road to evisceration.
There was once a vast waterbody, Lake Tulare, located in the Central Valley. It was the largest freshwater lake in North America outside of the Great Lakes. At one point, pre-contact with Europeans, it is thought that 70,000 human beings lived along this beautiful productive lake. Around this lake and stretching to the coast, vast groves of Giant Sequoia and Coastal Redwoods stood as sentinels that helped to balance the atmosphere and the ecosystem in ways that we are only just learning about in 2014.
Our friends at the ETC Group led this victory at the recently ended UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s Conference of the Parties in South Korea. Synthetic biology, a new extreme form of genetic engineering with researchers building unique organisms designed to facilitate the manufacture of various products, was previously unregulated. Now countries are urged to create regulations over this potentially disastrous Wild West of DNA manipulation.
Regulate Synthetic Biology Now: 194 Countries
SynBio industry’s wild west days are numbered
PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA– In a unanimous decision of 194 countries, the United Nation’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) today formally urged nation states to regulate synthetic biology (SynBio), a new extreme form of genetic engineering. The landmark decision follows ten days of hard-fought negotiations between developing countries and a small group of wealthy biotech-friendly economies. Until now, synthetic organisms have been developed and commercialized without international regulations; increasing numbers of synthetically-derived products are making their way to market. The CBD’s decision is regarded as a “starting signal” for governments to begin establishing formal oversight for this exploding and controversial field.
“Synthetic Biology has been like the wild west: a risky technology frontier with little oversight or regulation,” Jim Thomas of ETC Group explained from CBD negotiations in Korea. “At last the UN is laying down the law.”
“This international decision is very clear,” Thomas added. “Not only do countries now have to set up the means to regulate synthetic biology, but those regulations need to be based on precaution and not harming the environment.”
“The good news is that precaution won the day.”
This decision comes at a critical time. The SynBio industry is bringing some of its first products to market, including a vanilla flavour produced by synthetically modified yeast and specialized oils used in soaps and detergents derived from synthetically modified algae. In December, bay area SynBio firm Glowing Plants Inc. intends to release synthetically-engineered glow-in-the-dark plants to 6,000 recipients without government oversight. The United States is not a signatory to the CBD, making it one of only three countries that will not be formally bound by this decision (the other 2 are Andorra and the Holy See).
Catherine Wilson of the IPS News Agency provides this really interesting account of indigenous land reforms on the island of Vanatu in the South Pacific. It seems like a heady mix of tourism and tax evasion has led to a global rush on lands owned collectively by those indigenous to the island. New laws seek to secure indigenous ownership and access to the land, which, as Wilson writes in the caption for the picture above, “remains a vital source of food security, cash incomes and social wellbeing.”
Vanuatu Puts Indigenous Rights First in Land Reform
By Catherine Wilson, Inter Press News Service, October 14, 2014.
- Stemming widespread corruption in the leasing of customary land to investors is the aim of bold land reform, introduced this year in the Southwest Pacific Island state of Vanuatu, which puts the rights of traditional landowners above the discretionary powers of politicians.
Less than one hour from the capital, Port Vila, is the village of Mangaliliu, one of many across this sprawling nation of 82 islands and more than 247,000 people where livelihoods centre on agriculture and fishing.