Apricot and Permaculture

“Permaculture is revolution disguised as gardening”

– Mike Feingold

A couple months ago, I met a beautiful soul by the name of Hannah Apricot.  Yes. That is her real given and legal name.  She talked to me about Permaculture.  What is permaculture – you may be asking as I did?  From permaculturemag.org:

  1. ” Permaculture is an innovative framework for creating sustainable ways of living.
  2. It is a practical method of developing ecologically harmonious, efficient and productive systems that can be used by anyone, anywhere.”

We talked about Hannah Apricot’s unique peripatetic lifestyle, several things good and a few things bad. When I was updating her on the Dark Act, she asked me if I would write an article about GMOs for Permaculture magazine.  I gladly accepted.

Please check out https://permaculturemag.org/ and click on GMO article in Permaculture Magazine to read the article!

 

GE Free Victoria passed. Unanimous.

Eloquence is the poetry of prose.

– William C Bryant

First of all, I was inspired by a quote from Robyn O’Brien. The gestalt was “Keep speaking, even when you’re trembling.”  I was trembling.

This post has been more widely shared than most of my recent posts on the Deeper Side.  A comment on Facebook just came up that made me realize that I need to expand this post with more background information to help more readers understand. So if you are familiar about the subject, please skip the rest of this paragraph.  For some background on the terminology: GE = Genetic Engineering = GMOS.  Not talking about an extension of traditional plant breeding. I’m talking about Canadian food crops that have been modified to withstand herbicides (like glyphosate) or express a pesticide (like BT). Many GMOS have both traits. Talking about food crops that are not modified for higher yield or better nutrition. No governments have done their own safety studies. GMOs contaminate non GMOs. And Canadian law favours the patent holders of the GE seeds over the farmers who have had their crops contaminated. For some background, I recommend the 2013 documentary ‘GMO OMG’. Another great resource is GMO Myths and Truths you can find online.

Now for the specifics of the Motion put forth by Councillors Ben Isitt and Jeremy Loveday,  There is a bunch of Wheras’s.  If you want you can look up the motion or write back at me and I’ll include them all. Generally given the lack of long-term studies both for human safety and on ecology, and following the precautionary principle the “ask ” was that the City of Victoria go on record to oppose this new technology until the requisite studies are done.  Specifically to quote from the motion:

“THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the City of Victoria hereby opposes the cultivation of genetically engineered crops, plants and trees in the City of Victoria.

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City call upon the Federal and Provincial governments to implement a regime of mandatory labelling of all genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for sale in BC and Canada.

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City call upon the Federal and Provincial governments to impose a moratorium on bringing further GMOs to market for sale until a regime of independent and transparent scientific assessment and GMO management is introduced.

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Victoria shall forward copies of this resolution to the Premier, Prime Minister, all local MLAs and MPs, Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and The Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM).”

Let me give you a play by play account of how tonight’s Victoria Council Session went.

I came into a mostly empty council chambers as a virtuoso pianist was serenading the room from about 6 – 6:30.  Robert Holliston.  Beautiful playing.  Set the tone? I was not expecting that – it was kind of surreal.  Actually, it was almost mystical.


I met Tony for the first time.  Love his sign and his smile. 
Then Mayor Helps and councillors came in.  I need to give props, snaps, shout-outs to Councillors Ben Isitt and Jeremey Loveday for their commitment to this important cause.

Mayor Lisa Helps (in what looked like a locally-made smoking lily dress oh ye followers of the Style-Diet) called the session precisely at 6:30 and after a few words, I was the first speaker for GE Free Victoria.  Read from my notes.  Held by my trembling hands.  Heard my voice quake and shake. But hung in there.  You can probably guess what I talked about.


Second up was Jim Jordan, a seeker of social and environmental justice.  A soft-spoken man, an organized thinker and most importantly: a do-er.  The steady driving force behind tonight.  Jim spoke about seeds and how the machines and chemicals of war were repurposed to agriculture. Jim provided the council with a speech and presentation by Dr Thierry Vrain, former GMO scientist and current organic farmer.  Dr Vrain summarized recently findings about the biocide/herbicide glyphosate.

Third up was Arzeena Hamir, an agrologist and organic farmer of Amara Farm up in Courtney.  An excellent speaker (a fabulous soul too), she focused on how Richmond benefitted from a GE Free Resolution.

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Next was Tony Beck, a PhD from London and a UN Advisor on food security and gender issues.  Eloquent, beyond knowledgeable.  I wish I had taken notes!  What I recall was how municipalities need to take the charge and how 50% of seeds lies with only a handful of companies.

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Afterwards, Rob Pearce, virtuoso drummer and therapist spoke clearly about the dubious and unethical practises of certain biotech patent holders.  Like me he is more of a musician than a public speaker.  But he was wonderful, informative. He went out of his comfort zone.  Respect.

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Dr Joan Russow, erstwhile leader of the Green Party delved into the history of the international struggle against this questionable technology.  Even since I first met Joan, I have been totally bowled away by her energy and focus.  Gratitude for her voice.

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Frances Litman, sparkling, a great speaker and 2012 CRD EcoStar Community Leadership Award Winner on behalf of Creatively United For The Planet, read two statements.  One from the conscious dietician Rachel Dickens and another from Dionne Laslo-Baker from DeeBee’s organic tea pops.

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It didn’t stop there.  No folks.  Three more speakers followed.

First of the trinity was Michael Coon who has been railing against GMOs in Hawaii (ground zero for GMOs).  He’s a powerful speaker and focused his talk on the findings of Steven Druker in the book “Altered Genes, Twisted Truth.”  Wonderful and terrible at the same time. But the eloquence….

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Next was Professor Emeritus Edwin Daniel.  In his 9th decade, he was clear as a bell. And he hit home that there is no independent, long-term studies showing the safety of GMOs.

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To round out was sharp Dr Judy Gaylord.  She was commanding, delivered one truth after the other.  Such impressiveness.

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I was honoured to be there, to be a part of it.  I wanted to take a group photo but we all dispersed at different times.  None of us understood when the motion would be voted on and all thought it would be weeks, not minutes. So I left.  On the way out I got a quick pic with Arzeena and Tony. (Thanks to the dude in uniform at the door for snapping)

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The light outside was good so I finagled a selfie for fun (uncle Godfrey first pointed out this excellent sculpture of Sir John A. Macdonald a couple years ago.)  I like to think of John A holding up the sign!

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I left feeling light, thinking that we’d hear something maybe in a week or two or at the next council session.

BUT THEN, Francis texted me!  It passed.  Unanimously.  Jim called to confirm the news!

This is why Im writing this post now.  In jubilation and exaltation!  Need to share with you all.  Ye who are curious.  Ye who want to know what a council meeting in Victoria looks like.  Ye who may want to bring a motion to your own City Council!

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A little history was made.  In a small provincial capital.  But an important one.  My home since 2009.  This GE Free Resolution is a first for Victoria – and a first for me too.  (Did you know that this was the first time I spoke at at council session?!)

I guess that thinking globally but acting locally has made some kind change.  Today.

Courage is contagious.  Infect others.

Tomorrow.  (Now it’s late: Goodnight dear ones)

 

Politics

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever”

– Mahamta Gandhi

 

When I was young, I didn’t think politics was that important.  What mattered to me was learning about *important* things in life: my research into behaviour and development, art, friends, singing…  Yeah, there were some boring folks in government were doing the horribly tedious “government stuff” or “bureaucracy.”  Lawyers and politicians….  Maybe they made it all seem so mind-numbing because they were trying to dissuade others from getting involved?

Well… I am not young anymore.  But neither am I old.

After I came back from thirteen years in Europe, I had an awakening.  What started out as a passion to know more about why and how our food in N. America contains GMOs without our knowledge or permission turned into something else.  I have fortunately – or unfortunately –  developed a sliver of understanding about how the political process works.

In a nutshell, it’s kind of a twister game called follow the money.

How many billions of dollars of subsidies and recorded campaign contributions and speaking fees have influenced policy? Last week, Obama signed the DARK act into law (Deny Americans the Right to Know aka the Roberts-Stabenow Bill of ‘un-labelling’).  For those of you unaware, this bill undoes the hard-won state battles, fought with blood, sweat and tears to label GMOs.  So much for the 4 simple words “produced with genetic engineering” which thousands of products started carrying to conform to Vermont’s law.  Thanks to the DARK act, Vermont’s law is now overturned.  And NOW there will be this strange QR code/funny symbol that only those with a smart phone will be able to interpret.  This DARK bill is about continuing to hide what is in our food.  To continue to confuse the consumer about what is healthy for people and planet.

Although I am wildly angry at this injustice, I continue to harbour hope.  There is so much positive change happening right now.  And everything shows that our clean food movement is gaining ground.  Despite billions of dollars, bought scientists and bought politicians trying to convince us otherwise, sales of Non-GMO and organics are going up.  Farmers markets, urban farms, acres converted to organic and non-GMO are all going up.  Foodies are mushrooming.  We ‘producers’ (not ‘consumers’), through our collective actions (ie: every food purchase), are fundamentally driving the change we want to see.

As the world gets smaller through myriad connections, the polarity of enlightenment shines even brighter in its truth.  I know that with enough political pressure and speaking up and out, we are changing things.  Change comes through struggle for justice. And via the dissemination of truth pollen.

Although ignorance is bliss, once the sleeper is awakened, she cannot go back to sleep. She cannot un-know.  I salute Ye who have been engaged for so long in real politics, fighting for justice and positive change each step of the way. Thank you for waking me up. Here I am trying pay it forward.

So, if you’re new to the deeper side…

TAG! You’re it!

Prophetess of the soil

“In this handful of soil is your future.”

  • Thus spake Vandana Shiva, 14 July 2016, Indian Summer Festival

In this troubled time of brutality, inequality, political corruption and injustice, I’ve been swallowing the bitter pill of disillusionment as GMO labelling was undone today in the US Congress.  Another blow to democracy where over 90 percent of Americans want to know what’s in their food.

The silver lining is that my spirits were bolstered by being in the presence of the great Vandana Shiva: eco-prophetess, woman warrior, seed saviour.

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She overflowed the church tonight, sitting in an armchair decked out in a gorgeous sari.  She effortlessly hurled one pearl of wisdom after the other.  She was like Kali-Saraswati-Durga Devi. Her pronouncements were interrupted several times with ovations.  It’s intense stuff.  Life and death, suicides, oppression, the history of the industrial agricultural movement with its violent roots in the machines of war… Here is a sample of one-liners I scribbled down on the back of my e ticket (folded into quadrants.  I hope I got these right):

  • “We are pro-Earth, not anti-GM”
  • “The real problem is the war against the Earth.  You take care of the Earth, the rest just happens”
  • “The seed is a self-organised auto-poetic system. Not a machine”
  • “It’s anti-science to not know how nature works”

I could go on and on but I think lists are boring.  Better for someone to take these one-liners and make convenient facebook memes….?

Afterwards, powerhouse Elizabeth May joined Dr Shiva in conversation and my fave line from her was “Foodie is a radical concept that people want to eat food that actually tastes good.”  May also urges us to stand up for the Peace River, against Site C Dam (which is primarily to enable fracking) and support the last-stand family farmers who refuse to leave their homes in the best farmland in BC.  The Peace River protests are all about food security.  Let’s join them.

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Dr Shiva’s premise is that we are at a fork in the road: on one hand is total obliteration, a warlike worshipping of killing (bugs, pests, “weeds”) under the guise of progress/science.  On the other hand is peace and prosperity.  Once we replenish the soil and respect the integrity of the seed and all that nature has to teach us, we will be able to solve many social problems from water supply to displacement of peoples.  Her case is compelling.  She’s written more than 20 books on these subjects.  Nine honorary degrees…

Although we have so much fighting against nature and the sustainable food movement – the huge lobby dollars, the subsidies, the bought scientists, the paid-for trolls and smear-ers… despite everything they throw at us to convince of their flawed paradigm… we aren’t buying it. Organics is growing. Yugely.

Smile. Go ahead. Yes, you see through the elaborate deceptions.  And your eyes are open and the future is pregnant with possibilty.

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Now, since it’s getting late, I’ll end with a positive quote by Dr Shiva.

“We can seed another future because we can live with peace with all the creatures on the Earth.”

Amen.

 

Time to Act

The time is now.

Remember my post “Update Schupdate” where I was cautiously happy about Vermont’s upcoming GMO labelling victory?

Well, Senators Roberts and Stabenow have come up with Monsanto’s, Dow Chemicals’ and the GMA’s sweet-dream GMO labelling bill at the 11 hour.  First of all, it will invalidate all individual state GMO labelling including Vermont which was so hard won.  Second it will take 2 years to come up with some kind of agreement.  Third it will use QR codes or 1800 numbers for consumers to find out if there are GMOs in their food.  Really?  I mean, really? It is just ridiculous.

Might as well call this “The Non-Labelling Bill.”  Or the Dark Act version: Deathstar.

There are already a whole host of large multinational companies who have changed their American packaging (with no extra cost) for July 1st.  It was easy.  Remember that over 90% of N. Americans want labelling.  Like the other 64 countries in the world…

If you are American and care about your food, please contact your state senator which might be the best thing to do.  They will listen to their irate and concerned constituents.  Otherwise  please sign a petition like the one below, share galore, email your friends….

https://action.organicconsumers.org/o/50865/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=18302&track=moFRN&tag=FRN

The time to act is now.

Action always beats intention.

 

Style-Diet Shot: patented dress?!

“On matters of style, swim with the current. On matters of principle, stand like a rock.”
– Thomas Jefferson

You know how I feel about patented seeds… But how about a patented dress?! I just happened across this pop-up shop while going from yoga to the Pantheon with my friend Cath. Inspecting the tags, I came across la designer. Her name is Barbara Annunziata – an architect go figure – and the first person I ever met to patent a dress!!! I didn’t know you could even patent a dress until I experienced this one. You can wear it a gazillion ways and it is called La Ruota (translated to “wheel of fortune”Check it out at http://www.wearever.it/santarella-ruota.  

Below, hanging with Barbara and her cutie 10 month old (wearing a teeny La Ruota.) I’m wearing a brown-on-brown version (as some of you might be able to surmise, the darker brown is a stretchy material). 

  

I confess that I feel more inclined to don La Ruota as a light summer coat but happy to experiment with the nth number of ways to wear this superlative garment. It’s really like getting 20 for 1- howz that for a Style-Diet?? Repurposing galore… My gladiator sandals made and bought in Italy. Sure going to miss this place.  

Until the next post, baci a tutti!

The Style-Diet Shot celebrates individuals with unique style, wearing at least one article of clothing acquired via the Stephens’ Sisters Shopping Diet. It must be local, sustainable, second-hand/re-purposed, inherited or ethically produced. If you can’t find clothing fitting that criteria then it must be from a country with stellar human rights records.

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Royal Birthday

I love birthdays.

I love wishing facebook friends and acquaintances Happy Birthday. Even people I’ve never met, I like to wish them happy birthday.  I love singing happy birthday for strangers in restaurants.  (I love singing). In fact, I just got back from singing “God Save the Queen” along with a largely British commonwealth crowd. In England. At Windsor castle. At Her Royal Majesty’s 90th birthday celebration!  It was epic. Gosh darn, I even teared up whilst singing.

I just love that song.  It’s the first song I ever learned in grade school in Vancouver.  It’s short and to the point.  It has enough high notes for this soprano to get real pleasure in hitting them with brute (roll the r) force and warbling gusto.

I did not meet the Queen or even see her.  But I did see Princess Anne (the “Princess Royal” aka the Queen’s daughter) who met my Uncle Godfrey in 1971 when one of his abstract carvings was formally presented to her.  At the “Spectacular Spectacular,” Princess Anne was seated a few rows below and to my right.  I could see the back of her head and her profile when she turned to talk to the gentleman (Duke? Dude? Knight?) beside her.  Sorry ye royal buffs, I am not an expert… 

Getting on to the fashion now… What on Earth would I wear to a Queen’s 90th Birthday celebration? With some valuable feedback from fashionista friends (grazie Sophie, Rhea, Andra, Jyoti, Rimps et Cathy…), a great dress from Tina and Flora, and borrowed accessories (thanks Mom), it all pulled-together last minute.

The dress is from Tina Songergard (www.tinasondergaard.com), a Roman-based designer who made the dress – with Flora – in her charming shop in the happening Monti area of Roma.  A black and white version of the dress was on a red carpet this last season!

The back of Tina’s shop:

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The front of Tina’s shop with Tina on the left, Flora on the right:

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Here is the outfit just before I got into the car for Windsor:

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Apologies for the lighting but above is the only photo I have that gets (almost, alas not all) the shebang.  Shoes miu miu made and bought in Italy.  The buckles just felt so right, although Sophie lobbied hard for a more feminine shoe (thinner higher heel, more of a ballet-like front).  Sophie was probably right, but the buckle undid me.  They felt 18th Century which seemed an overriding enough reason to wear them to a royal birthday celebration. The clutch (pochette they call them in Italia) is a wee Fendi made and bought in Italy many years ago.  The earrings, made and bought in India were a happy loan from mamma along with ‘il’ clutch. 

For those of you who asked about hats – since it was an evening event, no hats were in evidence….  (I know I know such a pity.)

Below is the photo I like the best (not posed).  It looks like a selfie! In fact I was grabbing for the phone to dash to the car.  (Thanks Pops for da pics!)

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I’m glad I got these photos before I left.  Not only was my car late arriving, but then I got stuck for 2 hours in hideous traffic.  And although I lived for 4 years in London, I forgot. And missed the first part of the evening.  O horror.  All the pics I took of the event are only suitable for ‘memories’ (not blog posts) since the lighting wasn’t my friend.

It was indeed a spectacular event with horse whisperers, horse acrobats, cannon fire, salutes, famous actors and singers.  There were even a handful of beautiful rare-breed cows, dogs and a frisky little goat mascot! Drumming, marching bands and flag waving, including quite a lot of our Canadian maple leaf…  In sum it was royal pomp and circumstance benefitting… a Queen!

Our culture, history and folklore of the princess and the ball and the dress and the queen and her loyal subjects (and the handsome soldiers and beautiful singers and marching bands and bagpipes – I think I could go on) appealed deeply to my not-so-latent chivalrous and blushingly romantic notions.  

On that note, gentle readers, let me sing hip hip hooray to your health, happiness and your birthdays too.

(For balance – and for the record – I am reading a fun book called Princesses Behaving Badly: Real stories from history without the fairy-tale endings by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie)

Toodle-pips.