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Timidity and Palliatives While the Planet Burns

Timidity and Palliatives While the Planet Burns

Photograph Source: Eric Fisk – Public Domain

The best conditions for genuine discussion, for me at least, is during a feast of good food and drink. Ancient Greeks called that symposium.

The wisdom behind the tradition of symposium – millennia ago and today — is simple. Friends and guests eating food and drinking wine feel good about themselves. Organic food well-cooked and excellent wine do that. They are medicines. In such euphoria, symposiasts are very likely to be honest, even eloquent, in their expression of their views or opinions.

This is the reason Plato chose the dialogue for the spreading of his ideas. The dialogue comes from intimate symposium discussions.

Today I often hear Americans speaking in radio or television saying this and that must be part of a “national conversation.” I wonder what they have in mind.

Invisible civil war

This is because in the second decade of the twenty-first century Americans are divided as never before. Republicans are embracing guns, perpetual wars, corporate plutocracy, America-first, and ecocide. Indeed, Trump and the Republicans are now moving the country for a possible war against Iran.

The Democrats advocate policies that may improve the well-being of Americans. Yet when the Democrats had the White House and Congress, those policies were timid in fixing the gross inequality among rich and poor in America. In addition, Democrats have yet to propose a coherent plan to diminish and end global warming.

Given this political instability, verging on soft civil war between the rich and poor, the cultural elites are covering up the schism by palliative measures, especially unpolitical but fashionable talk in the academy. Professors pontificate about sexuality, race (whites or blacks or lesbians for new appointments?) and other anthropological headings.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Ecological Civilization: Could China Become a Model for Saving the Earth?

Ecological Civilization: Could China Become a Model for Saving the Earth?

Peasant and industrialized agriculture facing each other — in China. Painting gifted to me by Ye Jingzhong, China Agricultural University, Beijing, China. Photo: E.G. Vallianatos.

Industrialized agriculture is threatening humanity with catastrophe. It feeds global warming and dissolves societies. In addition, its pesticides contaminate and poison drinking water and food.

Undoing rural America

I reached this conclusion from working for the US Environmental Protection Agency for twenty-five years. I summarized my experience in my 2014 book, Poison Spring: The Secret History of Pollution and the EPA. This essay reflects my knowledge from that experience.

The industrialization of agriculture did massive damage to rural America, turning most of that beautiful land into medieval plantations. Instead of millions of small family farmers, we now have a few thousand large corporate farmers in charge of rural America and the growing of most food. Democracy and human and environmental health suffered a severe blow. Money and power triumphed.

Catching up

Like many countries, China is trying to catch up with the agricultural superpower illusion of America. Yes, America produces huge amounts of food, but at unsustainable and catastrophic costs and consequences.

There are non-toxic alternatives to coaxing more from an acre of land.

In the United States, the alternative to chemical farming has the name of “organic” agriculture. In the European Union, the alternative is “biological” agriculture. These alternatives are sophisticated modifications of traditional agriculture. They produce and sell food without using pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, genetic engineering, sludge, and radiation. But like industrialized farming, the organic-biological alternatives ignore the size of farms, the plight of farm workers, the kind and size of farm machinery, the use of petroleum and petroleum products like plastics.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Of Insects and Men

Of Insects and Men

Photo by John Severns – Source Wikimedia Commons

Invisible denizens — everywhere

Insects are all over the world – in and over the waters at the edge of the seas, in and over the waters of lakes, rivers and creeks and swamps and irrigation ditches. They thrive in the forests, mountains, deserts, land, cities, villages, in the tropics and in the homes of the poor and the powerful. Their populations are the largest of all other species. They have been occupying the Earth for 400 million years.

However, insects are tiny, short-lived organisms, hiding for the most part under the surface of the land, crawling in the floor, among rocks, and on everything that has roots, trunk or leaves. So, unless they are beautiful like the Monarch butterflies and obviously very useful like honeybees, insects are invisible.

We call scientists who study insects entomologists from the Greek word for insect, entomon, something that is divided in parts. Aristotle gave this name to insects, saying these parts or notches are on the bellies or the backs and bellies of insects. He studied honeybees and mayflies and some other five-hundred animals in his pioneering zoological research. He founded science and biology as we know them.He urged us to study and love animals because we live in their midst. They make up the natural world, which is absolutely essential for human survival and happiness.

Entomologists are confirming the science and wisdom of Aristotle. They have been saying insects hold ecosystems together. By ecosystems they mean large parts of the natural world: mountains, lakes, rivers, creeks, swamps, seas, deserts, and land. Insects work hard to survive and, in that process, they keep the natural world healthy.

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Toxic Pesticides Assault in Utah

Toxic Pesticides Assault in Utah

In 2014, I met Blaine Malquist. This was in Florida at the Pesticides Forum of Beyond Pesticides, a national organization fighting for environmental and public health protection from the use and misuse of pesticides.

Mosquito fogging

Malquist lives in Nephi City, Juab County, Utah. He briefly said to me that the careless use of pesticides in Utah has made his life and the life of his daughter unbearable.

Apparently, the Juab County has been sponsoring a regular mosquito fogging program that is out of control, spraying homes, people and the natural world indiscriminately. At least, that’s my understanding from talking to the distressed Malquist. He said to me he complained to the local authorities and, in 2011, sued the Juab County for poisoning his garden.

Nothing worked, however. The mosquito foggers and their local and state supervisors saw no trouble in killing mosquitoes.

In 2018, Malquist and his daughter spoke to me on the phone and sent me brief statements about their struggle with pesticides and those spraying them.

C. Eileen, daughter of Malquist, described her predicament in apocalyptic terms:

Toxic assault and chemical rape and trespass

“Exposure to pesticides destroyed our lives. I was trapped for approximately ten years as a prisoner in my own home.  I didn’t know what was happening to me, but I knew that I was sick in horrendous ways and I felt even worse outside [my home]. I was / am having severe reactions to something that destroys my life, but I didn’t know what it was. I even collapsed at the county fair when they began spraying it [pesticide]. The suffering is so horrible and vast there aren’t words to describe it. I was literally starving to death – allergic even to my food, including food grown on my own property… I didn’t know if I would survive.  I still don’t…

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Land Grabbers: the Threat of Giant Agriculture

Land Grabbers: the Threat of Giant Agriculture

In the 1980s, I met a retired general at a Borders bookstore in northern Virginia. He used to buy tons of military history books. I used to buy environmental and classics books. We started talking about books. But, slowly, in our discussion of Latin America, I criticized American policies, especially the immoral support of  landlords against landless peasants.

“If I knew you a few years ago, I would take you outside the town and shoot you,” he said to me.

I dismissed this vicious threat as a sign the old man was crazy. But the threat, nevertheless, mirrors the invisible war around farming, food, and the environment. I felt the tension of that ceaseless war for decades.

Agrarian reform

In January 28 – February 1, 1992, I was attending an international climate and development conference in Brazil. I was one of the speakers addressing agrarian reform.

I argued that it was necessary for governments and international institutions to protect peasant farmers from the violence of large industrialized farmers. Moreover, Brazil and many other countries, including the United States, should give land to peasants and very small family farmers because the farming they practice has had negligible impact on climate change. In contrast, agribusiness and, especially animal farms, are having significant effects on global warming.

Taking this position in 1992, apparently, was controversial. Once at the conference in the gorgeous city of Fortaleza, Ceara, Northeast Brazil, I learned I would not be delivering my paper. Instead, I joined a few professors in a small room wasting our time: debating agrarian reform and drawing recommendations destined to oblivion.

Fear in the countryside

This is just one example of what happens to unwelcomed ideas. Governments ignore or suppress them. Powerful media refuse to publish them. Advocates of those ideas often abandon them. Sometimes, they risk death.

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Sacrificing Children: Pesticides in the Time of Oligarchy

Sacrificing Children: Pesticides in the Time of Oligarchy

Photo Source Andy Powell | CC BY 2.0

Oligarchy is bad for children’s health

All past civilizations protected children. It was self-evident that healthy children assured continuity, security and happiness.

However, machine-powered civilizations give the illusion corporations, oligarchies, and the government control everything. Children fade in this confused vision. The disproportional power of the few dehumanizes everything, including children.

Oligarchs control medicine, drugs, chemicals, farming and politics. If their products harm children, their lobbyists, scientists and politicians cover up the truth.

Delaney Clause 

In the United States, this oligarchic control has flooded the country with thousands of chemicals, most of them untested and potentially harmful to life. This fact angered Democratic Congressman James Delaney from New York. He found it intolerable that America in the 1950s was bathed in around 50,000 chemicals.

He convinced Congress to eliminate cancer-causing chemicals in food. He authored the 1958 Food Additives Amendment to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act — the Delaney Clause.

Suddenly, agribusiness, chemical, and drug industries faced a law that challenged their monopolies to do whatever pleased them with food. They set up roadblocks to the enforcement of the law. They purchased scientists to denounce the controversial law.

The General Accountability Office, the least partisan organization in the federal government, took up the Delaney Clause. The December 11, 1981 GAO report put the controversy in this light:

“The heart of the issue centers on Delaney’s “zero-risk” concept that no substance, in any amount, may be intentionally added to food if it has been shown to cause cancer.”

Science lipstick

The Reagan administration of the 1980s did not enforce the law. And the Clinton administration of the 1990s killed it. But Bill Clinton marshalled the power of science to cover up his shameful policy. He paid the National Academy of Science to prepare the ground.

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The Zika Scare: a Political and Commercial Maneuver of the Chemical Poisons Industry

The Zika Scare: a Political and Commercial Maneuver of the Chemical Poisons Industry

Aedes aegypti mosquito potentially carrying the Zika virus. Courtesy Wikipedia.

Researchers discovered the Zika virus in the Zika forest of Uganda – in 1947. It is a virus not much different than the viruses causing dengue, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, West Nile fever, and St. Luis encephalitis. The Zika virus eventually spread throughout most of the world. Mosquitoes carry and spread the Zika virus. But for decades the Zika disease afflicting humans was free of brain deform or the shrinking of the infant’s brain  known as microcephaly (a Greek term meaning tiny brain-head).

The 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

I heard the name Zika for the first time in 2016 during the Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Reporting on the PBS Newshour offered warnings for those going to Brazil. Other large media went almost berserk. They were shouting that women near the Olympics site were giving birth to babies with tiny brains. They blamed Zika virus. They blamed the mosquitoes for the malformation of the brain of the babies. The Olympics should be delayed or moved to another country. Brazil was dangerous.

Imagine hundreds of athletes and hundreds of thousands of tourists returning to Europe and the  United States with this dreadful Zika disease, especially pregnant women likely giving birth to deformed babies.

Astonishing as these unverified news stories were, government agencies rushed to give them credence. I heard representatives of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention repeating the questionable newspaper and TV stories about the Zika virus. In addition, CDC keeps saying that fighting Zika virus-carrying mosquitoes in Brazil and Florida with a neurotoxin named “naled” is harmless. After all, farmers and mosquito controllers have been spraying naled for more than fifty years in the United States.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Chemical Deceit

Chemical Deceit

Photo Source CGP Grey | CC BY 2.0 www.CGPGrey.com

A friend recently put me in touch with Janet Brown (not her real name). This is a woman from Chicago who had the misfortune of renting an apartment that had been sprayed with the neurotoxic pesticide chlorpyrifos. Dow/DuPont produces this deleterious substance.

In late August 2018, Janet Brown visited me and we spent several hours talking. Her real education started in the poisoned apartment in Chicago.

She had read my book, Poison Spring. She wanted to talk.

A poisoned apartment

Our discussion was mostly about pesticides and the Environmental Protection Agency, which “regulates” toxic pesticides like chlorpyrifos. I told Janet Brown a few of my EPA stories. And she told me her astonishing story.

Janet Brown grew up in Illinois. She got married to a doctor. She had hopes of becoming a doctor herself. However, the poisoned apartment blew up in her face, causing a tsunami of psychological and health adversities and pain.

The tragedy took place in the 1990s. Janet Brown gave birth to two children. The apartment landlord informed her he was spraying the apartment. He did that for a decade.

The effects of chlorpyrifos poisoning were devastating to her and her children. She had trouble staying awake. She was confused, ill, and endured chronic and savage headaches. The children screamed for days and months. They could barely crawl, walk and talk. Experts said autism explained their hyperactivity, inability to pay attention,  low self-esteem, and aggressive behavior.

This tyranny of disease, the perpetual anguish of the mother, and the ceaseless pain of the children: their constant humiliations in school, the incomprehensible anger and hidden violence boiling over at home and everywhere else, teenagers unable to sign their name or find their shoes – all but annihilated their future.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai III: Cataclysm
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