Category Archives: The Environment

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.

 

Update shmupdate

 

“Without a struggle there can be no progress”

– Frederick Douglass

I am slightly bashful to admit that I’ve been consumed by the US primaries for the first time in my life. I never thought I would care so much. But as much as I’ve tried to ignore politics – perhaps because I spent so many years living abroad – I sincerely thought it didn’t really affect me.  But I admit it now.

It does.

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I have been nitpicking through the media with a fine-tooth comb to separate the real stories from the corporate spin engines. And today, I just remembered that, in my distraction, I didn’t share some big announcements that came in the wake of this year’s Natural Products Expo.

Basically – drumroll – Big food:  Kelloggs, ConAgra, General Mills, Mars, Hershey, Campbell and Del Monte announced that they will label GMOs nationwide in time for Vermont’s GMO labelling law which kicks in July 2016!!!  Imagine that?!!  Well, it’s not such a stretch since they all already label or reformulate their GMOs in 64 countries.  But finally, they’ve agreed to transparency for their customers in the land of the free and home of the brave.

To remind you all, Big food and Biotech sued the state of Vermont to overturn Vermont’s  GMO labelling law. And lost. They have spent millions upon millions  irrationally fighting grass-roots initiatives to keep American consumers in the dark (CA, WA, CO etc). They lobby congresspeople and senators to the tune of millions of corporate bucks a year. These guys are behind the recently defeated DARK act cloture. So these labelling announcements are BIG news, BIG turnarounds. Finally! This tide is turning, the creaking, leaking ol ship is changing course about the horizon of GMO labelling.

Diya GMO 3 hole shirt

Albeit – there is no guarantee they will follow though. And, although the announcements are not really due to a change of heart, I’m embracing the forth-coming transparency. Some folks have written that they will wait til Big Food follows through and actually labels before declaring victory for the consumer….

Yes, it still is too early to say whether or not the companies who have agreed to label GMOs will renege if they can get the Senate to pass a modified version of the DARK act. The DARK Act = Deny Americans the Right to Know thanks to Senator Roberts and bought politicians protecting corporations over citizen’s rights. To put things into perspective, the DARK Act, alas, is far from dead. Moreover, Vilsack, the US secretary of Agriculture, is still trying to push through the ridiculous idea of QR codes instead of #4simplewords.

Sad to report that my Canadian brothers and sisters are temporarily doomed to the dark, although there are stirrings afoot. More and more people are waking up to the toxic biocide aspect of GMOs, which is a key buried story of this unproven, untested technology.

Let’s just take a tiny second to grin.

(Can you?  Even a bittersweet one-sided wry little upturned lip will do.)

Yes, we still have to push for transparency, fight for the bees and monarchs. We must ban glyphosate, ban neonicotonoids and other biocides, ban these toxic GMOs, stop the TPP, Site C and countless other injustices to people and planet. Work and struggle are ahead indeed. However, things are moving. I just heard about Costco lending money to farmers to spur forward organic production. What fantastic news.

Now if you still haven’t broken out in a smile, check out the Garry Oak Seedling growing out of the remains of an invasive Scotch Broom stump:

garry oak seedling next to broom stub

To summarize, needed change is happening in this important food movement. Away from the dark and towards the LIGHT.  We are turning like Sunflowers.

The truth is our collective light.  The medium is the internet.  I thank independent news, rabble rousers, and social media. I say a great big Grazie to my tireless, driven facebook friends.  Thank you all for sharing inconvenient news we need to hear and have to know. I’m grateful, oh so grateful for you, for this technology. Without it, we would be beholden to corporate media.

Maybe they didn’t realize that in burying our voices, they were inadvertently sowing seeds. Which have been germinating….

Biocide in me

“Someday we shall look back on this dark era of agriculture and share our heads.  How could we have ever believed that it was a good idea to grow our food with poisons?”

– Jane Goodall

Results are in.

And they’re not great.

I’ve ridden a few medical roller coasters to know too well the sinking feeling of just *waiting* to take the test. Then waiting for the results. And then, finally, the surreal moment where it’s confirmed you have “it.” (It being the worst possible outcome.)

In many cases, “it” is a defined problem requiring surgery or unpleasant treatment. In other cases, it is not clear what is going on. In this case my “it” is 3.1 parts per billion glyphosate in my body.

Glyphosate in my body! 3.1 parts per billion! Huh? Say what? How? Why?

Although I have more questions than answers, I wanted to share this news with you. I’ve been slowly ruminating on the results, trying to learn more about its implications. Let me backtrack for a second…. In the summer, through the detox project www.detoxproject.org I sent off samples of my urine and kitchen tap water. They were part of the first ever batch of Canadian samples from a small group of Canadians including Tony Mitra, worried about toxic exposure to glyphosate. When the results came in a few weeks ago, I found that the tap water was blessedly clean. But the urine… Well… Here are my results from The Detox Project (previously known as Feed the World):

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If you’re not familiar with this ‘herbicide’ which I prefer to call a biocide, here’s a summary in the next paragraph. Glyphosate is the main ingredient in round-up, a best selling herbicide, a patented antibiotic and one of the worst things to ever be used in agriculture. Up there with DDT and Agent Orange perhaps? For a video summary about glyphosate in our food, check out Thierry Vrain’s talk:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiU3Ndi6itk

A quick summary- skip if you know about glyphosate. Glyphosate started off as a patented industrial descaler invented to bind to heavy metals. It was discovered to kill plants and then used widely as a herbicide. Resistance was spliced into most GMOs that are available for human consumption. This is in order to control weeds (I won’t talk about superweeds and resistance to glyphosate in this post). It kills plants and bacteria by disrupting the shikimate pathway. So farmers spray glyphosate on GMO crops such that everything in the field dies except the GMO plant. Some folks call GMOs: Glyphosate Modified Organisms. Glyphosate is also widely used as a dessicant, killing and drying out a field of non-organic wheat, for example, to allow the farmer to harvest the field in one go. (The wheat isn’t washed before it’s ground into flour.) Other crops are also subject to this dessicant treatment. This is not a GMO application, which makes it perhaps even more insidious. Glyphosate was originally considered ‘safe’ because it doesn’t attack human cells. Well, there’s a more sinister application of glyphosate; Monsanto patented it a few years ago as an antibiotic because they determined that it kills bacteria. Guess what? We humans walk around with 10 bacteria cells for every human cell.  So it attacks our micro-biome (the magical mysterious universe of gut bacteria).

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Glyphosate is not allowed in organic farming and this is one reason I try to feed my body and my growing familys’ bodies certified organic food as much as possible. When I sent in the samples I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Maybe a low level of ‘environmental’ glyphosate in my body? Not purposely ingested of course, but emanating from the air (public parks and train tracks are sprayed with the stuff). OCD gardeners spray it on weeds like dandilions.  It can come from the water (polluted from industrial farming run-off).  Or perhaps from the non-organic food I ingest. I have read studies where unborn babies have glyphosate in their blood, and others that show glyphosate in wild animals. I have also read that in some studies, the chronically ill have higher levels of glyphosate in their bodies.*

I certainly didn’t expect such a level of 3.1 ppb.  What does it mean to have 3.1 ppb in my body of glyphosate? To be honest, nobody really knows for sure exactly what it means in humans.  But it’s certainly not *good* – how could any levels of this toxin, chelator, biocide, and antibiotic IN MY BODY be good? Without my permission. Without my volition.

Here are some links for you to peruse:

5 things you need to know about glyphosate testing:

http://detoxproject.org/5-things-you-need-to-know-about-glyphosate-testing/

10 things you need to know about glyphosate:

http://detoxproject.org/10-things-you-need-to-know-about-glyphosate/

And for those of you who want to geek out:

Glyphosate in Numbers with links to peer-reviewed studies.

http://detoxproject.org/glyphosate-in-numbers/

So, you may ask, if I suspected that I might have glyphosate in my body due to environmental contamination, why did I spend money to test myself?

Simply put: I want to know.

I ought to know.

I have the right to know and empower myself.

Knowledge is the first step towards change.

Let me tell you what I want. I want my fellow citizens to be aware of this probable carcinogen and toxin insidiously entering our bodies.  I want our governments to change laws, to protect us and to focus on sustainable agriculture than replenishes the soil.

I want all toxic biocides removed from our food production. I want chemical company shills to stop claiming that glyphosate is safe to drink! But what I really really want is the growing of food to return to being an act of love.

Ah.. just take a second and envision that.  Smile. It’s a happy place.

See the shiny happy children of a clean world?  It’s summer and they are playing geocache in ancient forests, whispering secrets to butterflies in restored meadows, canon-balling into clean waters teeming with life, growing vegetables with their grandparents…

And thanking you.

 

[I dedicate this post to the brave and beautiful Australian women from Byron Shire Chemical Free Landcare Volunteers.]

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*Studies not funded by the companies that manufacture Glyphosate, tend to show that it is harmful.  In fact, the WHO declared Glyphosate as a probable carcinogen.  The US regulatory bodies, however, have relied on research provided by the companies who will profit from its sale.

It’s different in Europe.  A few weeks ago in Rome, I was speaking with a forestry biologist from the FAO (sort of like the UN’s FDA).  Nicolas Picard said that the FAO has a whole department who researches the *sources* and *funding* of research.  They ensure that the research used in studies or to make important policy decision are independent.  Thus they discount the corporate research and University research primarily funded by industry. When I mentioned how Robyn O’Brien says that researches should wear lab coat or tee shirts with the logos of the companies that sponsor them, Nicolas gleefully agreed!

 

Style-Diet Shot – GTC

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

– Thomas Jefferson

I walked by a little store on the pedestrian Via dei Coronari in Rome and *had* to try on this ring. It’s Remus and Romulus suckling the Capitoline she-wolf. How much more Rome can you get? Dig this – it’s made in the shop by the sister and brother team of Michela and Roberto Borrazzi.  Crafted from resins, the result is antique pop art using original 1830 plaster casts. *Had* to share this photo Michela spontaneously took.  Ring: ‘Grand Tour Collection.’  http://grandtourcollection.it/ Purse made and bought in Italy about 5 years ago, and Woolen Coat by Selbu Knittings of Norway made and bought when I sang on the Hurtigruten S/V Midnatsol, (Midnight Sun) circa 10 years ago.  It’s gone through the ringer so many times – all those bits of wool that get pulled out by rings and buckles.  Thus, I am proud to proclaim that this Norwegian coat has been lovingly repaired countless times, most recently 4 weeks ago!

GTC

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.