Monday, August 7, 2017

Healthy and sustainable

 It would be selfish of me not to share this inspiring talk with you.
Growing food is an endeavor of love.

 Let's teach every kid about food. Here's an insightful passionate talk on this.


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Seeds of Hope and Inspiration

“Always leave the Earth better than you found it,” our daughter

“I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority.” E.B White

 Something exciting happened  after publishing my post on growing food. I came across “Seeds of Hope”, a book by Jane Goodall.

Jane Goodall is a scientist and an excellent storyteller. “Seeds of Hope” brims with stories of inspiration and hope. I was in awe to read the stories of seeds that sprouted after hundreds of years. Her book delves into many of the topics I wrote about in my previous post.

 As I write this, the air from a fan powered by solar energy helps me to cool down. By the way, if you are one of the privileged ones who relies on air conditioning on hot summer days, set up the temperature to a higher level to avoid wasting so much energy and to decrease the level of carbon dioxide you release into the air. Remember that the hot air of your home ends up raising the temperature outside.
 Let’s all be part of the solution instead of the problem.

 Jane Goodall has a a way of explaining complicated subjects in very simple terms. This is a thought-provoking educational book. She explores the mysterious world of plants and how their lives are interconnected with all other living beings. You will also learn about the adventurous lives of botanists; many chapters are devoted to growing food and to the need of feeding the world ethically.

 She writes extensively about GMOs and explains the research that shows the deleterious effects on the health  of animals as well as their impact on the environment. GMOs have led to the emergence of "superpests" and "superbugs" that help corporations like Monsanto sell more dangerous pesticides. The word “pesticide” is a misnomer because pesticides kill many beneficial insects such as bees, so why do we use it?
   The American Academy of Environmental Medicine, which is an accredited provider of medical education for health care professionals, has even asked physicians to avoid GM foods because of the risks seen in animal studies.

  The British Soil Association has conducted an exhaustive review of all the scientific literature published between 1999 and 2007 that addressed the question of whether or not organic agriculture could feed the world. Every one of these papers concluded that organic farming has the potential to feed the world’s population. Even the UN concluded that shifting our agriculture model to small-scale, sustainable farming is the only way we can successfully feed the world in the future.

  Both Jane Goodall and Vandana Shiva are an inspiration to me because of their knowledge, clarity of mind, boldness and commitment to important causes. Jane Goodall is the leader of Roots and Shoots. Feel free to check this movement.

   Jane Goodall mentioned the seed savers in Decorah, Iowa. I am very thankful for these seed savers who preserve the legacy of organic seeds that are not contaminated by GMOs. They have been doing this since 1975. We appreciate their work; our organic vegetable gardens are the best evidence of our thankful attitude.

  There are many captivating stories in “Seeds of Hope”about how gardens empower individuals  and communities in many ways.

Vandana Shiva created Navdanya, a movement in India for saving seeds, protecting biodiversity, and spreading ecological methods of farming. They created more than one hundred community seed banks which have provided open access to grow  tasty food with no external inputs, increasing both their nutrition and their incomes. These seed banks rescued farmers in times of climate extremes, including droughts, floods and cyclones.

  I was a bit surprised that Dr Goodall did not discuss the story of amaranth, a kind of food rich in iron and protein. It was thrilling to discover this nutritious food recently. I will tell you more about the history of this seed later in this post.

  Bear in mind that taking a shower takes about 25 gallons of water, but manufacturing a hamburger takes 3,500 gallons.  Don’t worry, I have not given up on my shower, but I haven’t eaten a meat hamburger for a long time. Besides wasting water, meat consumption is also worsening climate change.

Let’s talk about The Clean Power Plan. Those who claim to care about human health should be paying attention to it.

The Clean Power Plan would lead to 90,000 fewer asthma attacks a year, 300,000 fewer missed work and school days, and 3,600 fewer premature deaths a year. The Republican administration is not impressed by these numbers. They are in the process of discarding the Clean Power Plan to serve the interests of the fossil fuel industry.

   Clean energy means clean air and water. When you use solar  and wind energy you are not polluting the water and the air. When you use coal, gas and oil you ARE poisoning the air and the water and you are relying on a resource that will not last forever. On the other hand, by using wind and solar energy we are not depleting the Earth of any resource. It is a kind of recycle-reuse strategy that works in harmony with Mother Nature.

 Contrary to what Big Oil will tell you, clean energy fosters the creation of new jobs and strengthens the economy. I wrote an article about clean energy a while ago; it was published in The Mindful Word. Those who love the poorly educated do not want people to understand the need for clean energy and how it makes a difference in the well-being of human beings and the planet.

 When a  powerful man acknowledges climate change to protect his golf course but not to protect humanity and the environment, you know we are in trouble. Speak up and educate yourself. Educating yourself is the best vaccine against demagoguery and the manipulation of the masses.

 This kind of manipulation is similar to what the tobacco industry did to hide the truth about the effects of smoking. They did not care that people died of  cardiovascular disease, lung cancer and other types of cancer. They were concerned about the profits they made from people's smoking habits. Do you believe that making people sick helps the economy? It does just the opposite.
  The same situation applies today when we think of those who defend the interests of coal, oil and gas while they destroy the planet along with the health and livelihoods  of millions of human beings. In fact, some of the same people who defended the tobacco industry now deny the man-made climate chaos that our planet is going through.

 I am married to a man who has a passionate interest in solar energy. A few months ago we had solar panels installed on our roof. We now produce 50% more energy than we use, which means that we are supplying our community with clean energy.

 Our goal for the near future is to buy no gasoline. We are working progressively toward this goal. Our strategies include biking more and using an electric car which we can power with solar energy.
What are your goals? What are your strategies to get there?

 Let’s talk about clean water.

 We all know that water is a basic right. Without water there is no life. We should all have access to drinking water and protecting water should be considered a priority. The Clean Water Rule was created to protect streams, lakes and rivers. It helps to safeguard the drinking water of millions of Americans. The Republican administration, however, is planning to get rid of this regulation to allow industrial agriculture and other industries to pollute the water.

  Water shortages are on the rise in the world. The United States is not an exception.  Do you know about the legal battles between the states of Georgia and Florida, for example? Alabama was also involved in these legal battles. In the meantime, the Republican administration increases the budget of the military while it cuts down on the environment.

What is their next strategy? How are they planning to address the water shortages? Are they going to make up an excuse to invade another country and steal their water?

 Destroying people’s livelihoods in other countries has nothing to do with freedom, regardless of what the interests of the war industry tells you. Let’s ignore the everyday fossil fuel- propaganda and use our critical thinking skills.

 Water is not something that should be taken for granted. Many conflicts masked as religious or ethnic conflicts have to do with water. Scapegoating and fundamentalism are the weapons of the demagogues. Stay mindful.

In Syria the civil war broke out after a severe drought struck the nation. Industrial agriculture had eroded the soil and they were not able to withstand the consequences of the drought.  They lost 80 % of their crops.

  Climate change causes droughts, floods, hurricanes, and other natural disasters (or I should say unnatural disasters). It is also associated with the melting of ice sheets and the rise of sea levels. Complex problems demand multiple actions on multiple levels. They require behavioral changes and collective awareness. They call for mindful choices. 
 Denying the existence of these issues and discarding regulations that ensure the health of our communities is not intelligent. It is stupid and dangerous.

   Let’s make this clear: The Republican administration is planning to review the Clean Water Rule because they have an interest in getting rid of it. Do you think it is patriotic to enable the pollution of water ? Are you aware that water shortages are on the rise?  Do you think enabling the pollution of the waterways is an act of respect for present and future generations? Do you think it is acceptable to do this? 
  I believe it is akin to an act of terrorism, and it is also deplorable. If you agree with me, speak up. Call your Representatives, write letters, educate others. Apathy is part of the problem, so let go of it.
I know, I know. Women are expected to apologize for everything—for what they do, and for what they don’t do. The good news is that I am not going to apologize for expressing myself.

  Thankfully, I was raised by a father and a mother who taught me to value, respect and honor Mother Nature. They also taught me that I have the right to express myself. If somebody has trouble understanding this basic principle, they should go read the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

   We are water, air, soil. Why can’t they understand that harming Nature is harming ourselves? Such is the power of arrogance, shortsightedness and greed.

 Our garden produces food and is a haven for wildlife. It attracts pollinators, fireflies, birds and many beautiful creatures that brighten our spirit and perk up our moods.

 We celebrate their visits everyday,  even though we know how challenged their existence is by different factors. One of them is the stupidity of those who use lawn weed killers.

 Thankfully, there is a movement to educate others on the effects of lawn weed killers and on the need to put pressure on those who are in power to stop spreading these dangerous chemicals on public parks, day-care centers, playgrounds, schools, public libraries and other places. The massive use of these pesticides has a health cost.

Do you believe it is smart to poison your children to get rid of some weeds? Do you believe it is okay to pollute the water, air and soil with these pesticides?

Has anybody wondered why cancer in children is increasing

 Another important point that deserves your urgent attention is the Endangered Species Act. Republicans in power believe that there is no need to keep this important regulation. Do I need to say more?

 Let’s go back to the story of amaranth now. This food was grown by the Aztecs. They worshiped it and believed it had special powers. Then the Europeans came. They wanted to impose their Christianity upon them, so they destroyed the plantations of amaranth and they punished those who possessed this nutritious food. Yet amaranth survived.
  How did it happen? Perhaps somebody dared to save the seeds. Despite the oppression of those who believed they were superior to others, amaranth survived.This is a story of hope.

To finish this post I will introduce you to one of my peaceful friends: a Red-Wiggler, also known as Eisenia fetida. These Red Wigglers are a kind of earthworm that we keep indoors. They turn our garbage into food for the plants. This is called vermicomposting. We also rely on outdoor composting  which is more efficient during this time of the year compared to vermicomposting due to the summer temperatures; it is performed by other kinds of earthworms along with bacteria and fungi. They all transform our trash into nutritious food for the plants. By doing so, they enrich the soil.

 Whenever the soil suffers from some kind of nutritional deficiency, it passes it on to the plants, and from there to animals and human beings.

The more living organisms a soil contains, the more fertile it is because all those organisms are the ones that confer fertility to the soil. The soil is a reservoir of water. Its water holding capacity depends on these organisms. The efficiency to drain water also depends on them. Thanks to them the soil is more resilient to droughts and floods. The nutrition and all the beneficial properties that make it fertile depend on these living things.

 Our nutrition is related to the life of the soil. Therefore, the health of the soil is NOT dissociated from human health, no matter how much industrial agriculture ignores this by injecting chemicals into the soil.

 Healthy soils build healthy plants, and healthy plants give rise to healthy communities (the opposite is also true).

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to visit these blog posts I wrote not too long ago:

 “If you can’t run, walk, if you can’t walk, crawl, but never stop moving forward.” Martin Luther King

Note: this post was updated to add this photo of our solar panels and some links that are pertinent to the article.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Growing food

“A nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.” ~Franklin Roosevelt

Do you like this flower staring at the sun? It belongs to one of our potato plants. I grow them in containers.
 Did you know that a conventional potato from the store may contain 35 pesticides? A conventional tomato may contain about 40 pesticides. Washing it does not make much of a difference.

 Growing food is an endeavor of love, but industrial agriculture has turned it into an act of destruction. Somebody may have made you believe that industrial agriculture feeds the world. This  is a fallacy.
 One billion people  are hungry as I write this post. By destroying the foundation of food production industrial agriculture worsens hunger and poverty.

 Only 30% of the food that people eat comes from large-scale industrial farms. The other 70% comes from small-scale farmers working on small plots of land.  In addition to being more expensive due to the cost of pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers, industrial agriculture is responsible for 75% of the ecological damage being done to the planet.  It pollutes more water and fails to conserve it.  Vandana Shiva’s book “Who feeds theWorld?” explains that these figures are routinely hidden, ignored and denied.

   We need an urgent plan to transition this system into one that is sustainable and fair to everybody. As I write this, Republicans are defunding the Research Center for Sustainable Agriculture in Iowa.
  If you genuinely care about animals don’t forget to educate yourself on the horrendous abuse that industrial farming inflicts upon domesticated animals. Here's an article on this important issue.

  The promise of GMOs to use less chemicals and  water turned out to be false. Research has shown that GMOs  are responsible for the use of more pesticides and herbicides, the emergence of resistant weeds and pests, and, as a consequence of this, they continue to destroy ecosystems and create new problems.

  Sustainable agriculture is based on ecological principles. It creates jobs, strengthens communities, and treats animals with respect and kindness. It minimizes its impact on the environment and strives to preserve the health of ecosystems through the enrichment of the soil with organic matter, integrated pest management, diversity of cultures and rotation of crops.

   Enriching the soil should be a priority.  In order to produce nutritious food we need healthy soils.  The soil needs to be enriched with organic matter. Healthy soil teems with life, but industrial agriculture treats the soil as an empty inert container, loading it with synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. These chemicals destroy soil fertility by killing  organisms in it. The excess of nitrates it injects into the soil end up polluting the water. The chemicals create dead zones in lakes, rivers and oceans, where no life can thrive.

 Healthy soil produces healthy plants by making them more resilient and resistant to pests and diseases.
  Good quality soil also allows to conserve water, but  industrial agriculture ignores this fact, so it requires intense irrigation systems to function. Water is a precious resource and the only ones that benefit from wasting and polluting water are the corporations that  get paid to try to purify it. This leads to more inequality and injustice because drinking water becomes more expensive. High concentrations of nitrates in drinking water increase the risk of cancer.

 We all know that climate change is not a hoax.  A healthy soil is better able to endure climate adverse conditions due to its efficiency in regulating water and its capacity to hold onto moisture, which is another reason to nurture the soil instead of destroying it.

 Alber Einstein must have been ahead of his times when he said, “When the last bee disappears, humans will disappear.” Today 75% of bee populations in some regions have been killed over the last three decades because of toxic pesticides and monocultures. Climate change is also contributing to the decline of pollinators.  

Losing bees is not only about losing honey. More than 140 fruits and vegetables depend on hardworking honeybees for pollination. We’ll lose small family farms and local businesses. We will lose an estimated $15 billion dollars in agricultural revenue.

 Neonicotinoids play an important role in the decline of bees. Avoid using these chemicals altogether. Make sure you plant untreated seeds to grow  the flowers whose nectar bees need to feed on, such as Aster, Black-Eyed Susan, Blazing Star, Calstrop, Currant, Huckleberry, Purple Coneflower, Woodland Sage, Scorpion Weed and many others.  Let’s all be part of the solution instead of the problem. Check the ones that are native in your area and grow them.

 Let’s remember that many scientists have been persecuted and threatened for exposing their research on GMOs, pesticides and herbicides. Examples of scientists who have been in these situations include Arpad Pusztai of the United Kingdom, Gilles-Eric Seralini of France, Tyrone Hayes of the University of California, Berkeley, Vicki Vance of the University of South Carolina, and many others.

 Diversity of cultures is also necessary to create an environment that produces food in sustainable ways, but industrial agriculture relies on monocultures. In doing so, it erodes the soil and contributes  to the decline of pollinators. Industrial agriculture claims to have a “high yield per acre”, but high yield does not mean high nutrition per acre. Their soil is deprived of nutrients , so they produce tasteless food that lacks nutrition.
   Vandana Shiva explained it well: "Life evolves through cooperation and self-organization. Fifty trillion cells cooperate to create the human body. Millions of species cooperate to shape ecosystems and the planet. Plants cooperate with each other. Take, for example, the mixed farming system of corn, beans and squash. Nitrogen- fixing beans provide free nitrogen to cereals, and the stalks of cereals provide support for the bean stalks to climb. The squash provides cover to the soil, preventing soil erosion, water evaporation and the emergence of weeds. Together, these crops provide nutrition for soil, animals and human beings."

 If you are in the business of pesticides and herbicides, consider switching to another business: the business of massive composting. Garbage is nutrition. You can invest in a business that turns garbage into compost. By making compost you can help to feed the soil, and by nourishing the soil you foster the production of healthy food and help to maintain the integrity of the ecosystems. This is beneficial for the future of your children.
 A true patriot should be expected to nurture the soil, not to kill the organisms that live in it. Earthworms are the best fertilizers. Start composting now. Instead of sending trash to landfills, where it pollutes the air and soil and increases the temperature of the planet through the production of methane, you can turn it into a valuable resource that will be treasured by farmers and gardeners and by anybody who is interested in the art of growing food and flowers.

 Growing food should  be an act of compassion and empathy, not of destruction… do you think those workers like to spray your fruit and vegetables with chemicals? Many of them are immigrants who work under the threats of those who exploit them.  These workers are coerced into spraying chemicals that harm their own health.
Ask yourself: where is the chicken coming from? How was she treated? Let’s be mindful of what this means.
 Poisoning the soil, water and air does not feed the world. It contributes to food insecurity, social injustice, inequality and wars. Worsening climate change and the effects of it is an act of terrorism . Let’s acknowledge this simple truth instead of hiding it behind the veil of propaganda. Pesticides and herbicides may be beneficial to the fossil fuel industry, but not to the health of humanity and the environment.
 Even the fossil fuel industry will eventually suffer, because we all live in the same planet. (They just don’t have the foresight to acknowledge the consequences of their current actions).

  Perhaps you are considering to support a CSA (community supported agriculture), or you may want to volunteer for one of the community gardens in your area ; you may want to grow some of your food. You can do so in containers if you don’t have a garden.

Go ahead: write a blog post on this subject. I challenge every reader of this blog to read about the food they eat and to write about what they do to reduce their carbon footprint and on how to lead a more sustainable lifestyle.  
Small changes can be the beginning of bigger changes. They can be the starting point of a different kind of mindset and attitude, one that is more devoted  to being healthier , more considerate and caring.
Spread the word. Inspire others. Share ideas.
 If you educate yourself on this important subject you will discover that there is a lot that you can do to become part of the solution.
 Remember that educating others is also part of our  mission.
Did I awaken your interest?
I found some links for you.
 Growing food takes time, knowledge and observation.  When we do so we are more attuned to nature, to the rhythms and patterns. We become deeply connected to  the creatures and plants that surround us. We become aware of how they interact with one another, and we learn something everyday.
Look at this leather jacket. Every time I get the soil ready to sow seeds I find a few   of them (they are pests to the vegetable plants), so I put them on one of the bird-feeders.  Chickadees and Cardinals devour them. I can assure you that birds turn up to feast on them  in less than five minutes.

As we restore our union with Mother Nature, we clear our minds, open our hearts,  get more creative and feel happier.
It’s time to return to the soil; I have a lot of work to do.

“Let us all return to the soil
That lays the corners of its garments
And awaits for us.
Life rears itself from her breast,
Flowers bloom from her smiles,
Her call is the sweetest music.
Her lap stretches from one corner to the other,
She controls the strings of life.
Her warbling waters bring
The murmur of life from all eternity.”

Rabindranath Tagore

Monday, April 17, 2017

"1984" by George Orwell

"Of course the people do not want war... But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them that they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism. " German Field Marshall

 A reader of this blog took the time to e-mail me the post I deleted by accident. Thank you , Claire. I appreciate your time and cooperation.
 Today I’m publishing my post on “1984” again, with a few “upgrades”.
  If there is something about the plot and/or characters that offends somebody, please bear with it. George Orwell is now dead so you can’t bully the author. Excuse my sense of humor here. I know, I know. Women are not expected to have this kind of sense of humor (unless they use it to pester a woman who opposes the bully in power).
 Thankfully, I’m married to a man who loves my sense of humor.
 Do people get annoyed by the use of pen-names? Hopefully not because George Orwell is a pen-name. Ladies and gentlemen: live and let live.

Here’s my essay on “1984” by George Orwell.

 ‘1984’ is a dystopian novel about a country called Oceania. (The name Oceania probably alludes to the isolationist nature of its people).  Oceania  is constantly at war, but its citizens do not know why it is at war. They do support it, though, because anybody who is not a supporter is considered a traitor.
  Hatred and rage fuel the support of this endless war. 

 Anyone who dares to oppose the dictator’s ideas or think differently is vilified and will disappear. Those who work for the party are instructed to manipulate the truth as needed.  In fact, nobody is expected to  care about the truth because their lives would be at stake if they did. Freedom is considered to be blind obedience to the leader. 
 Physical movements and facial expressions are closely monitored by screens in people’s homes, political prisoners are treated worse than criminals and love does not exist; hatred and fear condition everybody’s behavior. Blind obedience to Big Brother is what matters.

 Torture and starvation await anybody who dares to challenge the system in any way.  Another strategy of the ruling Party is to destroy words. “We’re cutting the language down to the bone. Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?” “There will be no thought as we understand it now. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.”

  Winston is a thirty-nine year-old man who works for the Ministry of Truth. He helps to change the historical facts but, in reality, he is a free thinking person who would like to sabotage Big Brother’s dictatorship. He falls in love with a woman, and they both challenge the system by loving each other and having secret encounters that they must plan in advance.

 When Winston becomes a political prisoner a member of the inner Party confesses to him, “Our civilization is founded upon hatred. In our world there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph, and self-abasement. Everything else we shall destroy - everything. Already we have destroyed the habits of thought which have survived from before the Revolution. We have cut the links between child and parent, and between man and man, and between man and woman. No one dares trust a wife or a child or a friend any longer. ..”
   “There will be no loyalty, except loyalty toward the party. There will be no love, except the love of Big Brother. There will be no laughter, except the laugh of triumph over a defeated enemy. There will be no art, no literature, no science”.
The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power”. “We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power”.

 The truth is distorted to meet the leader’s interests; conformity becomes the rule.
 The society in which the authoritarian regime thrives is designed carefully to disregard critical thinking and to believe blindly in their leader. His authority is not to be questioned, and those who dare do it are punished and labeled as enemies. George Orwell portrays the dynamics of this society with striking details.

 The features that make Big Brother powerful are the following:
-Exacerbated nationalism
-Mindless slogans and repeated lies
-The destruction of language
-Use of songs and ceremonies to venerate the leader

  The past becomes mutable for the government can manipulate history by rewriting the historical facts and changing the data to keep the dictator in power.  This is done because the omnipotence of the dictator can only be preserved through lies and irrationality. 

  In Oceania the proletarians - also called “the proles”- are the majority of the population. The Party claimed to have liberated “the proles”, but, in reality, the dictator does not care about them.
“So long as they continued to work and breed, their other activities were without importance.”
“All that was required of them was a primitive patriotism which could be appealed to whenever it was necessary to make them accept longer working hours or shorter rations”.
   Contradictions are at the heart of the regime. In ‘1984’ the Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture, and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation. 

    The question that lingers in my mind is whether these totalitarian leaders succeed because of the ignorance and/ or apathy of the masses or the conformism of the intellectuals. I think it is a combination of both. As Albert Einstein said, “Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.”

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Apologies to the readers of this blog...

Dear readers,
                     On December 3 2016 I wrote a post on "1984", a novel by George Orwell.
                     The novel became a best-seller on January 21 2017 and it was shared in movie theaters all over the world on April 4 2017.
                      Today I deleted the post on "1984" by accident. This action was not intentional. I don't know how to recover it, but I hope that you consider reading this book.
                     Sorry for the deletion; enjoy the read.