Archive for the ‘Room For Improvement’ Category

Your Food Supply #1


The first in a series of video posts about Your Food Supply

#1 The Trip West: An Experiential Rude Awakening
By Randy and Amanda Richards

This was Amanda’s first trip across the U.S., so we thought we’d drive. Destination? Colorado, where we would house-sit for a fellow Mountain Spirit board member. We thought we’d stay off the interstates, instead, crossing rural routes, starting  with Indiana Route 24, then Missouri Route 36 west of Macon.  Shortly after departing we decided to listen to The Omnivore’s Dilemma, a book on tape by Michael Pollan.

Want to know what's in your food?

As we traveled through Indiana, Missouri, and then Kansas, the book narrated our trip with views of tightly packed cornfields, and more corn, and then more corn. It turns out, about the only thing the U.S. is growing  is corn, at least from what we saw.  Sure there are apples in Washington, and spinach, avocados etc, in California, but in the Midwest, there’s corn, and a lot of it. We did see some soybean fields, but nothing much else than corn.  We certainly didn’t see many pastoral scenes of cows grazing on open pastures. But we did see lots and lots of corn. As we listened to Pollan’s book, we were shocked to learn where all this corn is ending up in the food supply, plus how many bushels per acre of corn the farmers were squeezing out of the land. Read his book for the stark details of our homogenized food supply, and as you do, imagine seeing it in front of your eyes, passing by the window of your car. It was eery for us.  I’ve driven across the U.S. probably over 45 or 50 times, and each time I’ve felt grateful to do so, and very cognizant of my impact by doing so.

I won’t go into detail about all we learned in Pollan’s book. Buy his book. However, one of the major topics he covered was how corn is not only a food, but a commodity, that is in almost all our food in a wide variety of forms. Corn drives the modern industrial food machine, being sent to beef feedlots where cows are forced to eat corn. Grass is their natural diet. Monsanto’s Roundup Ready genetically Modified Corn was another scary thing we learned about, plus how our farmers are forced work for fewer and fewer dollars, while ADM and the other monopolies make the money.

So starts our video series, rows and rows of corn, somewhere in Kansas on Route 36, but it could be anywhere in the Midwest. Stay tuned for Your Food Supply #2,  for a feedlot and processing plant scene west of Dodge City Kansas, which may shock you.

Send Chevron a Message


Chevron's Logo?

Please sign this petition to Chevron’s CEO, Mr. Watson asking that Chevron finally do the right thing in Ecuador. (En español aquí)

Dear Mr. Watson:

As the new CEO of Chevron, climate change and the environmental and human rights impacts of Chevron’s operations are the two issues that will define your tenure at the helm of one of the world’s largest oil companies. Chevron has fallen behind other businesses and many political leaders already taking a leadership position on climate change. Furthermore, your company is drawing increasing criticism for failing to rectify its massive human rights and environmental disaster in Ecuador. Taking the following steps will demonstrate a true commitment to environmental responsibility and respect for human rights – which will only strengthen your company’s future.

We the undersigned call on Chevron CEO John Watson to:

* Clean up Chevron’s toxic legacy in Ecuador, compensate affected communities for health and environmental impacts, and provide affected people real access to health care and potable water.
* Develop a global environment and human rights policy that will prevent similar tragedies in the future.
* Adopt aggressive strategies to provide clean energy to a carbon-constrained world.

Fake Accounting, Greed and Oil


By John Perkins
Sent by email, also published in the Huffington Post

John Perkins

While countries around the world continue to watch their economies collapse, and Goldman-Sachs leaders testify to Congress about how they manipulated both their shareholders and the American public, we are also faced with a tragic oil spill on our most fragile coastlines.
The sad truth is that oil, greed and fake accounting work hand in hand to empower those who have — and significantly disempower those who do not.
In my book, Hoodwinked I talk about the 30,000 Ecuadorians who filed a lawsuit against Texaco (since purchased by Chevron). The company destroyed vast sections of rain forest and the toxic wastes from its operations allegedly killed many people and made many more chronically sick. (more…)

BP’s CEO – Does he grasp severity of accident?

On May 10, 2010, British Petroleum’s Chief Executive Officer, Tony Hayward, was interviewed by Michele Norris on NPR’s All Things Considered concerning the failed attempt to cap the broken oil rig on May 8th and 9th. (listen to the interview)
The part that most disturbed me about this interview was Dr. Hayward’s comparison of this accident to the Apollo 13 mission, and the Air France Flight AF447 which crashed in the ocean last June. Here is a transcript from part of the interview:
NORRIS: Mr. Hayward, this is the deepest well blowout on record. And the people are most knowledgeable in dealing with deep water wells are at the outer edge of their expertise, even when things are going well. The Coast Guard and oil industry analysts say that drilling here is almost like visiting outer space. It’s like a great unknown. So why are you drilling there if there’s so much that is not known about this territory?Dr. HAYWARD: Well, we’re drilling because it’s a very important source of energy for the United States and the world. That is the reality. Almost 30 percent of the United States oil production today comes from the deep waters. That is where there is the opportunity to provide domestic energy security. That is where there is an opportunity to provide energy security for the world. And, of course, oil isnt all of the solution but it’s a part of the solution.

NORRIS: That opportunity obviously comes, though, with great peril. Is deepwater drilling riskier than BP believed?

Dr. HAYWARD: I think you have to go back to, you know, the track record of the industry and BP’s over the last 20 years. The industry has drilled over 5,000 wells. BP has drilled around 1,500 of those 5,000 wells, and this is the first time that we’ve had a major incident. And I think it is legitimate to draw analogies with, for example, the space program.

The space program was not canceled because of the issues around Apollo 13. It’s also legitimate to draw comparisons with the airline industry. When the Air France plane fell out of the sky coming out of Brazil, we didnt ground the airline industry. So we need to learn the lessons here. They will be learned and they will shape, I’m certain, the industry as it moves forward.

Drawing analogies between this accident and the  Apollo 13 mission makes no sense at all and he uses it to distract from the severity of this incident. There were, first off, no deaths associated with the Apollo 13 mission, and second, Dr. Hayward is completely disregarding the damage the leaking oil and gas is causing to the environment and the coastline communities.
The same is true of the Air France flight. Yes, 228 people died in the accident, but Dr Hayward is saying we should not stop deep oil drilling because we did not ground the airline industry after the plane went down. This analogy illustrates how disconnected Dr. Hayward is from the severity of the oil spill.  He is only seeing the deaths, and the money lost. He is not considering the vast unaccountable ecological damage the oil is causing. Moreover, the Apollo 13 mission and Flight AF447 did not lead to an economic disaster causing hundreds of people to lose their livelihood as is happening on the Gulf coast right now. Flight AF447 did not continue to reek havoc on the surrounding environments for months after the crash.
This sort of thinking is how we got into the environmental situation we are in now. People in power in these large corporations are not willing to say, “You know, this technology is not necessary, it is just too harmful.”  Their focus is always on shareholder profits, never on wider ecological impacts. Our disconnection from the natural systems that keep our communities and economies alive is leading us to our own destruction.
Think about this: people talk of nuclear power as a “clean, alternative” energy source. However, what will a CEO say when a plant starts leaking radioactive material into the environment, killing everything? Will he or she say, “We didn’t stop the oil companies from drilling when they had accidents, why should we be shut down?”
Where would we be if a hundred years ago people noticed how dirty and destructive fossil fuels were and decided to try alternatives instead?

Sustainability and the American Mind


Another Tear-Down

Seminario, performing in Keene, NH

Guillermo Seminario, the director of Chimu Inka, the Peruvian band came to the U.S under invitation from Mountain Spirit Institute to run a program to perform and teach about Peruvian folklore music in 2008.  In one Vermont town, we were being housed in a very nice old residence in one of the more ritzy parts of town. At one point during the evening, Guillermo turned to me, shaking his head, saying, “In Peru, there are children without food, and a place to sleep.” He queried, “It confusing me, seeing such wealth in your country when Peru is so poor in many parts of my country.”

Our Peruvian Guests on the Coast, NH

We  have thought and discussed this much since that day. Tearing down a perfectly good house just doesn’t seem right.

It’s more than, “Finish your broccoli, there are people starving in other countries,” but it stems from the same disconnect. It’s true the U.S and other 1st world country’s inhabitants are happily oblivious to our role in contributing to The Empire’s excesses. It’s time to think small, and stop the waste. I have a gut feeling this level of living will not continue, mostly due to peak oil. It’s actually quite obvious.

Room For Improvement


Considering Civility* in the USA
Ann Coulter Speech Canceled  At University Of Ottawa

The Huffington Post, and Canada’s Globe and Mail
OTTAWA — A protest by hundreds of students led organizers to cancel a Tuesday night speech by American conservative commentator Ann Coulter at the University of Ottawa.

A spokesman for the organizers said Coulter was advised against appearing after about 2,000 “threatening” students crowded the entrance to Marion Hall, posing a security threat.
Read the rest of this story

Editor’s Note: While postings such as this are usually outside our realm, due to the recent reports of physical threats to members of U.S. congress members, we thought is might be a good reminder to reflect on, from where such vitriol originates. While this editor subscribes to both online and in-print alternative press, we at MSI are reminded of the wise words of G. Edward Griffin, author of Creature from Jekyll Island, (more…)

When is Enough, Enough?


Keeping Land Developers in Their Box
By D.R. Richards,
I remember that particular afternoon, when a friend and I talked about trying to do something to help save Mount Sunapee from the dread of slope-side condo development. Sullivan county, New Hampshire had no history* of activism, none, zero, zip. Being a native, of a conventional, conservative county, I had to really watch my thoughts of not wanting to make waves in my home town.  I didn’t want to stand out. Besides, people I talked to said there was “nothing that could be done”, “it was already a done deal”, or they were “going to develop the mountain and what could anyone do anyway”.  That particular afternoon, the friend and I decided to call a few people, and set up a meeting at the Abbott Library in Sunapee to see what could be done. That first meeting eventually led to the formation of Friends of Mount Sunapee.  (*Current FOMS Vice President Linda Dennis was a founding member of a previous Mt. Sunapee land protection group, but  at the time we convened, it was not active).

Mt. Sunapee has Friends

Never underestimate what the efforts of a few committed people can do in the face of deep pockets and driven land developers.  Thanks to many, (too many to mention here) the word spread about the threat to our State Park, and eventually it spread to the candidate for New Hampshire governor,  John Lynch.  Lynch has been the most popular Governor New Hampshire has seen, and because of his courageous stance to defend the state lands of Mount Sunapee, the developers decided to sue him, and the state of NH, because their imaginary back-door deal wasn’t honored.  Now I read the owners  are threatening to sue again. This time they’re stomping their feet at  the U.S. Forest Service in Colorado,  for again, not getting their desires met to expand their ski area. (For more info click here)

Overdevelopment is not pretty, Okemo, VT

It makes  one wonder how some can be so incredibly out of touch with reality, out of touch with the wishes of the locals and the natural environment.  I just watched the movie Avatar, (I still have a headache from the Imax 3-D version three days later) and the Muellers’  insatiable appetite for land and profit remind me of the miners in Avatar and their lust for the precious “unobtainium” mineral at all costs.
My dad was a developer. He built one of the first “funnel developments” on Lake Sunapee called Fisher’s Bay. (more…)

Room for Improvement at Machu Picchu


Tourists ‘bribe their way out of flooded Machu Picchu’
By Hannah Strange

Bus Road to MP, Image: MSI File Photo

British backpackers were among 1,500 tourists trying to escape from Peru’s Inca citadel of Machu Picchu yesterday, which has been cut off by floods and landslides.

As food supplies dwindled and hostels ran out of space many tourists were sleeping in the railway station and the town’s main square while they waited to be rescued by helicopter.

“The situation is about to erupt,” Rudy Chalco, a tour guide with a group of elderly Europeans, told the Peruvian daily newspaper El Comercio. “We don’t have any more food, disorder is starting to reign, the soldiers and police don’t know what to do or how to organise the help that has arrived, people are getting desperate and no one is taking charge.”

Some tourists were paying up to $500 (£300) for a seat on one of the helicopters, he said.

Fernando Celis, one of 300 Chileans stranded in Machu Picchu, said that people were bribing rescuers. “A helicopter arrived yesterday to take out the elderly and the unwell and some tourists who had more money. There are almost no North Americans left, only the backpackers. People on tours who were waving their money about, they were all evacuated,” he said.

He added that local vendors had doubled their prices. Read the rest of this story

Fooling Some of the People with BGH


U.S. FDA’s Curious Statement on Carton of Milk

Perplexing labeling re: BGH

We were pulling a small carton of light cream from the fridge tonight and noticed a perplexing statement on Oakhurst’s container. On the one hand, there’s a banner under the logo stating “America’s 1st Farmers’ Pledge, No Artificial Growth Hormones Used”

And then in small print, at the lower left hand corner of the same panel reads, “FDA states No significant difference in milk from cows treated with artificial growth hormone.”

Who are they trying to kid? You can’t fool all the people all the time.
If it’s so safe, why are Americans looking bloated that drink BGH milk. Also why do so many other countries prohibit the sale of BGH milk?

At first we thought it was some sort of trick on Oakhurst’s part. But, on second thought, we concluded it’s another strong-arm tactic of big pharma.  I’ll send an email to Oakhurst  in the morning and query them as to why there are two apparently contradictory statements on one carton of milk.

The ‘Fat Map’


Putting World Hunger Into Perspective
From: The Huffington Post
By Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein
Hunger now scars the lives of over 1 billion people — a new record. Today, Monday the 16th, world leaders will gather at a UN food summit in Rome to debate what to do about it. As a former Goodwill Ambassador for the World Food Program, I sense how the meeting may go.

Per capita calorie consumption, nation by nation. By: World Food Program

There will be more media attention on the politicians than on the issues, an abundance of speeches, and a series of oddly fancy luncheons — with more speeches. At a similar luncheon, I remember wondering:  Read the rest of this article