There must justice for all or there is justice for no one.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


My oldest nephew is getting married this summer. We have to work to build a better world for them to raise their family in.

Just received a copy of Raj Patel’s Stuffed & Starved (more on that later). I’m on page 93 and I’ve only bounced it off the wall twice. Anyway the book led me to his blog which led me the website of a network of groups searching for alternatives to pesticide and herbicide uses.

Myth #1: Pesticides are necessary to the feed the world

Reality: The most comprehensive analysis of world agriculture to date tells us that what can feed the world — what feeds most of the world now, in fact — is smaller-scale agriculture that does not rely on pesticides.

In 2009 one quarter of US grain crops went to ethanol distilleries. That 107 million tons of grain was enough to feed at least three hundred million people for a year. Livestock consumes nearly half the soybeans and almost two thirds of the corn produced in this country. When you factor in the water, fertilizer and transportation costs to get fodder crops to the feedlots the system operates at a significant loss. A loss in that far more calories go into producing a calorie of beef than if we just ate the food ourselves.

Most home gardeners know that it’s a good idea to move your plants around if you can and that certain plants seem to be made to grow next to each other. Tomatoes and basil are excellent companion plants. On the other hand pesticide and herbicide use encourages monocropping and discourages rotating crops. After a few years planting corn or soy season after season you might as well hang a sign that says “Eat at Joe’s” because every pest in the county is going to be heading your way. As of 2008 some experts estimate that crop losses in corn crops have increased from 3.5% to 12% even though uses of pesticides, including organophosphates, have increased nearly 1,000% since the end of WWII. We aren’t quite at the point where the bugs can be found laughing hysterically as the poison is applied to the slowly dying land, but we’re getting closer and closer.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


I'm posting this entry over here too. It impacts not only my spirtual search but the ability of our families to survive and prosper.

While some of you were watching John Muir, we were watching a rerun on the National Geographic channel on the conspiracies surrounding 9/11. Actually I think the Muir program came on later in our area. We had the Roadshow at eight and then a program from OPB on Oregon Oystermen. Anyway, back to the conspiracy theories. The program was interesting. I was aware of the various “theories” floating around but was not aware of just how impervious the truthers are to any attempts to prove that they just might be a couple of stubbies short of a six pack. Along with the birthers, deniers (climate change), and worders (Biblical literalists).

At least until I ran across this. It might have been The Parish blog or researching something I read on Greg’s blog. There are at least two ways people organize information. There’s the “give me a chance to study the facts and I’ll adjust my world view to fit them.” This world view gave us scientists like Galileo, experimental science and the Enlightenment.

“Everybody” just knew that if you dropped a one pound ball and a two pound ball from the same height the two pound ball would fall twice as fast. So Galileo took two balls up to the top of that tower in Pisa, probably yelled the Italian version of “look out below” and dropped them. Which was followed by “?????????” when both balls hit the ground at the same time. Which was probably followed by sending an increasingly tired assistant down to retrieve the balls so he could do it again. Which led to the knowledge that falling objects accelerate at the same speed no matter how heavy they are as long as wind resistance is the same. A one pound feather might not drop as fast as a one pound ball of lead because the shape is different.

Then we have the other group. They are the poster children for “my mind is made up. Don’t confuse me with the facts.” Except that they aren’t confused; confronted with what the rest of us call facts, they simply refuse delivery. The 9/11 program took up each objection. Scientists or engineers used computer models or designed experiments to test their objections as best they could, presented the information and were hit with “it couldn’t have happened that way.” They don’t really know how the towers came down, except that it was a huge government conspiracy and they aren’t changing their minds any time soon. In spite of the fact that any of their scenarios would have required so much time to set up and so many people to pull it off that somebody, somewhere would have set up shop in a country without extradition treaties with the US, written a book, made a fortune, bought a house with a state of art security system and hired a very competant crew of body guards.

We see the same attitude the birthers. It doesn’t matter how many people examine the information the state of Hawaii has released and swear on a stack of Bibles that the president was born in Hawaii, they won’t believe it. Ok. They’re several degrees off plumb. It’s distracting and/or infuriating but they aren’t really hurting anyone else….at the moment.

But, those other two groups. Hey, I’m somewhat open minded. Maybe all of the climate change we’re seeing isn’t caused by human intervention. Sure is funny how the CO2 levels started spiking around the time the Industrial Revolution started though. And how industrial level livestock operations give off more green house gasses than our cars. Think that just might be hint that you can't treat steers like widgets? Yes, CO2 levels were much higher in the past. Say about 250 million years ago when Siberia literally erupted and kept erupting for millennia. Before it was over most life on the planet was extinct. The atmosphere was full of CO2 and sulfur dioxide. The seas warmed, currents that brought cold, oxygen rich water to the surface collapsed and the oceans nearly suffocated. The earth survived, cleansed itself and life recovered. Uh, guys, the earth will survive. We, most or all of us cantankerous humans, might not.

Then there are the Worders, the folks that believe that the Bible must be taken literally. And that those who don’t agree with this and their interpretation are wrong. Not just wrong but heretics and apostates. I wouldn’t mind that so much except that some of these folks put environmentalists, even Bible believing environmentalists, and their attempts to clean up our messes on their lists of heresies and apostasies. As best as I can understand their beliefs, the Second Coming is just around the corner. The earth will be renewed. Jesus will take care of it. At this point words fail me. Frankly I didn’t stick around, I got the heck out of Dodge as quickly as possible. This mindset may also underlie the whole "Jesus died for my sins, I'm saved, that's all I need to focus on." The hell with everything He taught.

Yes, the Deniers have freedom of speech, and the Worders can claim freedom of religion. But, in the famous words of Mark Twain “your freedom to take a swing at me ends where my nose begins.” Your right to your opinions and beliefs ends when it endangers the lives and safety of others. Don’t expect us to sit by in silence.

P.S. Just realized I left out the whole Intelligent Design crew. Heck, lump them in with the Worders. They pretty much overlap. Ran across a copy of a page of coloring book put out by these (fill in with description of your choice, nuts springs to mind) with Jesus riding a velociraptor complete with saddle and bridle. Again, words fail me. Unfortunately I may have some relatives that fall into this camp.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


School gardens’ aren’t a new idea. Upscale programs, Montessori and Waldorf for example, have been using gardens for hands on learning experience for years. But, until the last decade or two, gardens at public schools were less common especially in the big city schools or schools in lower income districts.

The path to the garden at Martin Luther King Middle School starts in Berkley’s Chez Panisse restaurant. Co-founder Alice Waters helped pioneer the use of fresh, local, in season ingredients nearly forty years ago. Chez Paniise models its menu on the small French eateries whose offerings reflect what is available at the local markets where the chefs shop every day.

Then add in the principal of a local middle school. He was less than happy about a story in the local paper that quoted Ms. Winter’s remarks about the appearance of the grounds around the school. In 1993 Martin Luther King Middle School had nearly one thousand students from widely divergent economic and ethnic backgrounds. The school’s cafeteria had been closed because it was too small to handle the increased enrollment. The student’s could buy microwaved or package items at a location in the parking lot. And the school was nearly surrounded by blacktop.

The principal wrote Ms. Waters a note. She asked him to lunch. She brought up the idea of a school garden. She explained that working with the garden in math, science and English classes. Alice was approaching step ten in the plans while the principal was still trying to figure out how to get rid of the blacktop on top of the acre or so plot of land proposed for the garden.

Within five years of breaking ground the students had worked nearly two hundred tons of organic fertilizer into the garden plot. When Frances Lappe visited the garden in the late nineties she found rows of artichokes, potatoes, tomatillos and kale. As much as possible all the work is scaled to middle schoolers skills. Adults may supervise basic construction, planting and sign painting but the kids do as much as is safe for them to do. The garden recently added a 6,000 gallon tank for rainfall harvesting. One inch of rain yields about 200 gallons of water. At approximately 25 inches of rain annually in the Bay area they can collect just about enough water to fill that tank every year.

The school originally used the renovated cafeteria as a cross between kitchen and class room. In 2001 the class room was moved to a renovated bungalow next to the garden. The students still prepare what they’ve grown and share the results. Approximately on third of the students prepare and share what they’ve grown each week. They sit down at tables with tablecloths, flowers from and garden and share the food they’ve grown and prepared.

Each ninety minute garden class is followed the next day with work on their journals and lessons on ecology, pesticides, composting or growing earthworms. The student’s learn something that too many of us have forgotten or prefer to ignore, where their food comes from. In that little oasis they become aware of the cycle of worm to soil to harvest and back again.

Link to the Edible Schoolyard website.

Information from Hope’s Edge by Francis Lappe and from the school’s website.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


I'm double posting this one. Degradation of an ecosystem not only damages our spiritual health but the health and safety of our families. All our families, whether they live on that river or not.

A few years ago I invested in the 1990’s Cousteau River Journeys DVD’s. Four of the episodes followed the Danube from headwaters to the Black Sea, with emphasis on the environmental degradation along the river in the former Soviet states. Chemical plants that dumped untreated waste into the river. The dangers of aging nuclear plants that weren’t that well built in the first place. Run off from contaminated ground water along with gas leakage into the atmosphere. Local economies based on fishing and farming were stressed out by the pollution.

The diversion of the river into man made channels to improve navigation, while destroying local economies based on the wetlands and marshes.

So, where is the soul of a river? Is it just the river? Or does the river and its soul stretch beyond the channel and the meandering blue line on a map. The river is the ocean that gives up its moisture to the rains and snows. The river is winter ice and summer sun. The river is snow, rain and hail. The river is the animals that depend on it for water and forage, the trees that shade the banks and shelter the birds.

The river is the disappearing marshes and the migratory birds that nest in the reeds. The canals are the river and so are the drying wetlands that used to hold back the floods. The dams we build are the river and so are the fish blocked from their native spawning grounds. The river is the disappearing fish and the villagers and fishermen who depend on them for their livelihood. The river is the untreated chemical waste that leaches into ground water. It’s the sewage from overburdened, aging city systems. The river is the rain falling through air contaminated with radiation from nuclear plants that couldn’t be built to withstand every possible risk.

The last episode ends with a group of children including one of Cousteau’s grandchildren flying kites along the river bank to remind us that they will have to live in the world we are we creating.

(Words fail me sometimes. I have the vision in my mind but can’t find the words to express what I see)

Friday, April 8, 2011


This is an adaptation of a Celtic prayer I found in the book KNITTING INTO THE MYSTERY.

May the blessing of light be on you, light without and light within and light inside the darkness within.

May the blessed sunlight shine upon you and warm your heart ‘til it glows, like a great peat fire, so that strangers may come and warm themselves and that friends may come.

And may the light shine out of the eyes of you, like a candle set in the windows of a house, bidding the wanderer to come in out of the storm.

And may the blessing of the rain be on you – the soft, sweet rain.

May it fall upon your spirit so that the seedlings of light in you shadow may spring up, and shed their sweetness on the air.

And may the blessing of the great rains be on you, that they beat upon your spirit and wash it fair and clean, and leave there many a shining pool, and sometimes a star.

And may the blessing for the earth be on you – the great round earth who carries all; the great round earth whose suffering has already become radiant.

May you ever have a kindly greeting for people you pass as you are going along the roads.

And now may the Lord bless you, and bless you kindly, your kin and all creatures.

Blessed be