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Bee news (some US-centricity)

Bee-pocalypse news. There's an article at BBC News online about a biological treatment being developed to help honeybees against a parasite BUT that won't stop agribusiness poisoning bees and governments knowingly allowing it. Full article archived below:

EPA Document Shows It Knowingly Allowed Pesticide That Kills Honey Bees

By Ariel Schwartz, Fri Dec 10, 2010

The world honey bee population has plunged in recent years, worrying beekeepers and farmers who know how critical bee pollination is for many crops. A number of theories have popped up as to why the North American honey bee population has declined--electromagnetic radiation, malnutrition, and climate change have all been pinpointed. Now a leaked EPA document reveals that the agency allowed the widespread use of a bee-toxic pesticide, despite warnings from EPA scientists.

The document, which was leaked to a Colorado beekeeper, shows that the EPA has ignored warnings about the use of clothianidin, a pesticide produced by Bayer that mainly is used to pre-treat corn seeds. The pesticide scooped up $262 million in sales in 2009 by farmers, who also use the substance on canola, soy, sugar beets, sunflowers, and wheat, according to Grist.

Full text of article for archiving purposes.Collapse )

Clothianidin has already been banned by Germany, France, Italy, and Slovenia for its toxic effects. So why won't the EPA follow? The answer probably has something to do with the American affinity for corn products. But without honey bees, our entire food supply is in trouble.

spiralsheep's additional links:

1. A more detailed article at Grist.

2. More at Fast Company.

Aug. 24th, 2010

http://www.merip.org/mero/mero081710.html

Disaster Strikes the Indus River Valley

"Scientists are quick to say that no single weather event can be tied to global warming. The planet’s climate is too complex to identify sole causes. But the preponderance of expert opinion does concur that a pattern is underway by which violent storms are becoming more common and that this pattern is unique to the carbon emissions era. There is reason to believe, for instance, that Asian monsoons are becoming more variable and more extreme with the progression of climate change. Many climate scientists predict that, for the most part, the semi-arid zone of Asia to which most of Pakistan belongs will see less and less rain as time goes by. Farmland will be swallowed by desert as irrigation ditches run dry. In a cruel irony, though, the monsoons will not peter out gradually, but will decrease or increase in intensity in variances that will be predictably unpredictable. The 2007 assessment report of the prestigious Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says it is “very likely” that “heavy precipitation events” are increasing in number along with the anthropogenic heating of the globe. When it rains, that is to say, it is apt to pour.

More conclusive is the evidence of melting of the Himalayan snow pack, which swells the Indus and other rivers with runoff. In a tempest in a teapot typical of the climate change debate, global warming deniers lambasted the IPCC in January for modifying a statement in the 2007 report suggesting that Himalayan glaciers could vanish by 2035. The real rate of melting is probably not so fast, but the shrinkage of glaciers is an observable fact worldwide. And in Pakistan the possible consequences are similar to monsoons: dramatically less water in the long term, heightened risk of flooding for the time being.

Pakistan, whose rate of automobile ownership is 8 per 1,000 people (as compared to 765 per 1,000 in the US), has contributed almost nothing to the blanket of greenhouse gases warming the earth and the oscillating weather patterns that result. But many Pakistani observers attribute the scale of the flooding and displacement in part to a series of decisions by the Pakistani state --namely, the building of large dams at key points along the course of the Indus. Dams, of course, are the quintessential symbol of modernity in water infrastructure. Seeking to emulate the American civil engineers who made the Californian desert bloom, post-colonial states across the Middle East and Asia hurried to erect taller and taller dams to catch the water that would enable a green revolution in every river basin and churn out electricity to light every city street. Aside from the social dislocation caused by their construction, the dams’ sustainability is now greatly in doubt. "


"Disaster Strikes the Indus River Valley"


http://www.merip.org/mero/mero081710.html
 

"Scientists are quick to say that no single weather event can be tied to global warming. The planet’s climate is too complex to identify sole causes. But the preponderance of expert opinion does concur that a pattern is underway by which violent storms are becoming more common and that this pattern is unique to the carbon emissions era. There is reason to believe, for instance, that Asian monsoons are becoming more variable and more extreme with the progression of climate change. Many climate scientists predict that, for the most part, the semi-arid zone of Asia to which most of Pakistan belongs will see less and less rain as time goes by. Farmland will be swallowed by desert as irrigation ditches run dry. In a cruel irony, though, the monsoons will not peter out gradually, but will decrease or increase in intensity in variances that will be predictably unpredictable. The 2007 assessment report of the prestigious Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says it is “very likely” that “heavy precipitation events” are increasing in number along with the anthropogenic heating of the globe. When it rains, that is to say, it is apt to pour.

More conclusive is the evidence of melting of the Himalayan snow pack, which swells the Indus and other rivers with runoff. In a tempest in a teapot typical of the climate change debate, global warming deniers lambasted the IPCC in January for modifying a statement in the 2007 report suggesting that Himalayan glaciers could vanish by 2035. The real rate of melting is probably not so fast, but the shrinkage of glaciers is an observable fact worldwide. And in Pakistan the possible consequences are similar to monsoons: dramatically less water in the long term, heightened risk of flooding for the time being.

Pakistan, whose rate of automobile ownership is 8 per 1,000 people (as compared to 765 per 1,000 in the US), has contributed almost nothing to the blanket of greenhouse gases warming the earth and the oscillating weather patterns that result. But many Pakistani observers attribute the scale of the flooding and displacement in part to a series of decisions by the Pakistani state --namely, the building of large dams at key points along the course of the Indus. Dams, of course, are the quintessential symbol of modernity in water infrastructure. Seeking to emulate the American civil engineers who made the Californian desert bloom, post-colonial states across the Middle East and Asia hurried to erect taller and taller dams to catch the water that would enable a green revolution in every river basin and churn out electricity to light every city street. Aside from the social dislocation caused by their construction, the dams’ sustainability is now greatly in doubt."


"A Dutch court has found multinational Trafigura guilty of illegally exporting toxic waste from Amsterdam and concealing the nature of the cargo. In 2006, Trafigura transported waste alleged to have been involved in the injury of thousands of people in Ivory Coast. Trafigura denied any wrongdoing. It expressed disappointment in the ruling and is considering an appeal. The firm was fined 1m euros (£836,894) for its ship, the Probo Koala, transiting Amsterdam with its cargo. The ship then went on to unload its cargo in Ivory Coast."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-10735255

YES!!
Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/10486605.stm

The developers of a solar lamp that aims to replace kerosene-burning lights in developing countries have won a prestigious environmental award.

D Light Design says its lanterns, which sell for around $10 (£7), contribute to the reduction of carbon emissions. D Light takes home the £40,000 ($61,000) Gold Award, for "its passion and dedication to the cause of ridding the developing world of the health and pollution problems associated with the use of kerosene lighting", the judges said. The company, set up by Indian entrepreneurs, says indoor air pollution by Kerosene fumes kills 1.5m people per year. One of the entrepreneurs said: "This will do to kerosene what mobile phones did to letters."

"The judges were particularly impressed with their highly effective marketing strategy which has put solar lighting within reach of over a million people in 32 countries with significant potential for further expansion," the Ashden Awards said in a statement.

One of the runners-up for the Ashden Award for Sustainable Energy was the Rural Energy Foundation (REF) for promoting solar energy in Africa. According to the awards body, in three years REF has helped 300,000 people in nine Africa countries gain access to solar energy.
Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/latin_america/10333304.stm

Slowly but surely an extinct glacier in a remote corner of the Peruvian Andes is being returned to its former colour, not by falling snow or regenerated ice sheets, but by whitewash. It is the first experimental step in an innovative plan to recuperate Peru's disappearing Andean glaciers. But there is debate between those who dismiss the idea as just plain daft and those who think it could be a simple but brilliant solution, or at least one which should be put to the test.

The World Bank clearly believes the idea - the brainchild of 55-year-old Peruvian inventor, Eduardo Gold - has merit as it was one of the 26 winners from around 1,700 submissions in the "100 Ideas to Save the Planet" competition at the end of 2009.

Mr Gold, who has no scientific qualifications but has studiously read up on glaciology, is enthused that the time has come to put his theory into practice. Although he is yet to receive the $200,000 (£135,000) awarded by the World Bank, his pilot project is already underway on the Chalon Sombrero peak, 4,756 metres above sea level, in an area some 100km west of the regional capital of Ayacucho. The area has long been denuded of its snowy, white peaks.

Four men from Licapa, the village which lies further down the valley, don boiler suits and mix the paint from three simple and environmentally-friendly ingredients: lime, industrial egg white and water. The mixture which has been used since Peru's colonial times. There are no paint brushes, the workers use jugs to splash the whitewash onto the loose rocks around the summit. It is a laborious process but they have whitewashed two hectares in two weeks. They plan is to paint the whole summit, then in due course, two other peaks totalling overall some 70 hectares.

Mr Gold may not be a scientist but his idea is based on the simple scientific principle that when sunlight is reflected off a white or light-coloured surface, solar energy passes back through the atmosphere and out into space, rather than warming the Earth's surface. The US Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, has endorsed a similar idea using white roofs in the United States - possibly more pragmatic than painting mountains. Changing the albedo (a measure of how strongly an object reflects light) of the rock surface, would bring about a cooling of the peak's surface, says Mr Gold, which in turn would generate a cold micro-climate around the peak.

Full text of article for archiving purposes.Collapse )

But if Mr Gold's pilot project proves successful in pushing down the temperature, he envisages expanding it to Peru's most threatened glacial regions on a large scale. "I'd rather try and fail to find a solution than start working out how we are going to survive without the glaciers, as if the situation was irreversible," he says.


I've posted about Peruvian environmental technology in this com before but here's a link to a reminder about water nets:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/8297276.stm

Great Green Wall of Africa

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/10344622.stm

African leaders are meeting in Chad to push the idea of planting a tree belt across Africa from Senegal in the west to Djibouti in the east. The Great Green Wall project is backed by the African Union and is aimed at halting the advancing Sahara Desert. The belt would be 15km (nine miles) wide and 7,000km (4,350 miles) long. The initiative, conceived five years ago, has not started because of a lack of funding and some experts worry it would not be maintained properly. The BBC's Tidiane Sy in Senegal says the initiative has the full backing of Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, who is in Chad with 10 other heads of state to discuss desertification. His government has created the website dedicated to the Great Green Wall. But our reporter says many other leaders seem ready to forget the project.

At the Copenhagen Climate Change summit last year the Senegalese delegation made a presentation on the project.

It is envisaged that the belt would go through 11 countries from east to west. The trees should be "drought-adapted species", preferably native to the areas planted, the Great Green Wall website says, listing 37 suitable species. The initiative says it hopes the trees will slow soil erosion; slow wind speeds and help rain water filter into the ground, to stop the desert from growing. It also says a richer soil content will help communities across the Sahel who depend on land for grazing and agriculture.

Senegal says it has spent about $2m (£1.35m) on it and communities are being encouraged to plant trees.

The BBC's former Chad correspondent Celeste Hicks says older people in N'Djamena - where the conference is being held - talk anecdotally about how the capital city has become a dustbowl over the last 20 years as the Sahara Desert has encroached southwards. The country has made efforts to plant a green belt of trees around the capital, and tens of thousands of young trees are being grown in nurseries on the outskirts of the city, she says. But so far little has been done to transplant these trees to the northern desert areas to become part of the Great Green Wall.

food/sustainability + whiteness/privilege

hey. i posted this to debunkingwhite and was asked to repost here by unusualmusic.






i actually wrote this for a facebook note but figure people might be more interested here. :P


CAN EVERYONE who doesn't already PLEASE TAKE A SECOND TO THINK ABOUT WHITE AND CLASS PRIVILEGE IN THE CONTEXT OF ALTERNATIVE FOOD MOVEMENTS?

this post on sustainable food and privilege [focusing on representation of the movement] came up on racialicious the other day. this particular post isn't awesome, but raises other issues. some of the comments are actually a lot more insightful than the actual post:
  • amaryah: "The over-representation of white men is often my problem with the sustainable food movement. There are so many people of color doing brilliant work for food justice but all we keep hearing and seeing are the same folks."

  • Blackandalive: "So, in the same way when people in a poor neighborhood grow food in their yards … it’s just being poor– but when white people do it they are saving the earth or something."

  • ls: "As a person of color who exists in a lot of spaces that are largely labeled “white,” I think we do a disservice by saying things are “always” white/wealthy/male. I think it invisible-izes and isolates folks of colors who do exist in these (largely) white spaces."

  • MsDisgrace: "I don’t know, all I do know, is that there is an INCREDIBLE amount of privilege involved in “returning to the land” in any fashion, and particularly in regards to becoming a local for-profit grower. And I hate seeing this glossed over. I also hate seeing that the true nature of farming (that it is SERIOUS HARD LABOR) is often glossed over as well."

  • nathan: "One of the problems as I see it is that so much of the discussion about “sustainable food” gets trapped in capitalist frameworks. Buying organic or local doesn’t change the other systems of oppression operating around food all over the world. For example, the environmental racism that occurs all over the place when multinationals decide to dump toxic waste on communities that are predominantly POC, thus rendering it next to impossible for these people to actually grow their own food, or have access to farms growing healthy, local food."

  • little mixed girl: "But, to the people who’ve commented on how shipping cheap food from overseas is bad…well, that may be. However I see this as another “rich” vs. “poor” thing. The rich will continue to eat locally grown, but more expensive organic/etc food, and look down at and poo-poo the poor for buying food that’s been imported from abroad. Then when we get rid of the low cost foreign fruits and veggies, we’ll continue to poo-poo the poor for their bad eating habits because they can only afford canned and processed foods…"




breeze harper summarized what appears to me to be the biggest problem here in her call for abstracts for a potential book:
The alternative foods, ethical consumption, and environmental sustainability movements in the USA, have grown exponentially in the past decade. The fusion of white racialized consciousness, 1st Worldism, and middle/upper class experience drives the formulation of "ethics", "morality", and "sustainability" that the "status quo" dominating these movements expouse. Rarely, if ever, has the status quo of these movements written about how [white] racialized consciousness and class status impact their philosophies and advocacy of animal rights, veganism, fair trade, eco-sustainable living, etc., in the USA. Deeper investigations by academic scholars have found that collectively, this "privileged" demographic tends to view their ethics as "colorblind", thereby passively discouraging reflections on white and class privilege within alternative food movements (Slocum 2006) ... Consequently, academic scholars such as Dr. Rachel Slocum feel that rather than fostering equality, "alternative food practice reproduces white privilege in American society" (Slocum 2006, 13).


slocum, who harper quoted, actually wrote some pretty super articles. i can't find any accessible full-texts on the internet, so here are .pdf download links and abstracts.

"Anti-racist Practice and the Work of Community Food Organizations"
abstract:
Whiteness enables the coherence of an alliance organized to promote community food security and sustainable farming. This unnamed presence shapes a discourse identifying the focus of struggle as well as resource allocation, conference form and content, list serv discussions, staffing and programming. Unacknowledged white privilege gives the lie to the movement's rhetoric of justice, good intentions and sustainability. And yet it is clear that racism is an organizing process in the food system: people of color disproportionately experience food insecurity, lose their farms and face the dangerous work of food processing and agricultural labor. Critical analyses of social movements argue that a failure to confront difference undermines progressive change efforts. The paper provides evidence of how the community food movement reproduces white privilege and proposes ways it might engage with anti‐racism.


"Whiteness, Space, and Alternative Food Practice"
abstract:
The paper demonstrates how whiteness is produced in progressive non-profit efforts to promote sustainable farming and food security in the US. I explore whiteness by addressing the spatial dimensions of this food politics. I draw on feminist and materialist theories of nature, space and difference as well as research conducted between 2003 and the present. Whiteness emerges spatially in efforts to increase food access, support farmers and provide organic food to consumers. It clusters and expands through resource allocation to particular organizations and programs and through participation in non-profit conferences. Community food’s discourse builds on a late-modern and, in practice, ‘white’ combination of science and ideology concerning healthful food and healthy bodies. Whiteness in alternative food efforts rests, as well, on inequalities of wealth that serve both to enable different food economies and to separate people by their ability to consume. It is latent in the support of romanticized notions of community, but also in the more active support for coalition-building across social differences. These well-intentioned food practices reveal both the transformative potential of progressive whiteness and its capacity to become exclusionary in spite of itself. Whiteness coheres precisely, therefore, in the act of ‘doing good’.




and by julie guthman:
"'If They Only Knew': Color Blindness and Universalism in California Alternative Food Institutions"
[i had to upload this to sendspace - click the link, scroll to the bottom, and click the orange button.]
abstract:
This article takes on the cultural politics of “if they only knew” as it relates to alternative food practice. It draws on surveys and interviews of managers of two kinds of alternative food institutions—farmers' markets and community-supported agriculture—to illustrate the color-blind mentalities and universalizing impulses of alternative food discourse. The ways in which these discourses instantiate whiteness may have a chilling effect on people of color who tend not to participate in these markets proportionate to whites. Minor exclusionary practices may have profound implications for shaping projects of agro-food transformation.






here are some pretty accessible articles/answers to questions suggested by breeze harper that probably aren't necessary here but i included on facebook. click to download the zipped .pdfs:



i planned to actually tie this all together and write some of my own thoughts but i have spent WAY too much time on this and it makes me feel guilty for not working on my thesis. :P i encourage everyone to read the articles.

Kenya protests block GM maize shipment

Remember the giant bioengineering corporations claiming GM crops wouldn't be forced on anyone and would help feed developing world people? Guess what happens when the only food available is GM and even hungry people don't want it....

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/8609316.stm (full text of article reproduced below for archiving purposes)

Kenya protests block GM maize shipment in Mombasa

A shipment of genetically modified (GM) maize has been blocked at the Kenyan port of Mombasa after protests by environmentalists. The cargo came from South Africa - whose maize exports mainly go to Kenya - and contained maize varieties developed by US multinational Monsanto. Protestors claimed that safety checks had not been carried out on the maize and that it could contaminate the soil. GM imports have been banned in several African countries. The 40,000-tonne shipment contained four varieties of maize, three of which were made by Monsanto.

Anne Maina, a spokeswoman for the Kenyan Biodiversity Coalition, told the BBC that the Kenyan government had not followed due process by carrying out safety checks on the imported maize. The group also claimed Kenyan authorities had failed to tell the public of its decision to import the GM maize.

The shipment came from South Africa, the continent's biggest producer of maize, and was approved by that country's Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Mariam Mayet, an activist at the South African-based African Centre for Biosafety, criticised her government's policy. "The way it is, one is inclined to say that South Africa was a springboard to contaminate the rest of the African continent by allowing multinationals to export from South African soil," she told South Africa's Business Report newspaper.

Many African countries are under increasing pressure to grow GM crops to tackle hunger and malnutrition, and drought in recent years has caused food shortages in Kenya.

"Zambia's farming revolution poster boy"

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/8582353.stm

"Dissenters say there is not enough empirical evidence to support the promotion of conservation farming as a magic bullet for sub-Saharan Africa's food shortfall. But several countries in the region are investigating its potential, hence the stream of visitors to Mr Mumba's door. They want to see if an average farmer really can produce such good results with just his hands and a hoe."

http://www.conservationagriculture.org/

[Note: I haven't fact-checked this one but am posting it anyway cos I know y'all can manage your own thoughtful reality-based responses.]