Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Does Horticulture Matter?

Hear Ye!

"Gardening is a fundamental part of how we nurture our planet.  It affects our eco-systems, our food chains, our economies, our education and our personal wellbeing.  Let’s not belittle that.  You would not see a report presented to Government from any other industry with an opening gambit that it’s ‘the best job in the world’  Because it clearly isn’t.  That’s a somewhat ridiculous,  subjective statement.  I realise this is a ‘Forward’ but first impressions count.  This is about the brand of gardening.  Gardening is an increasingly important job in my opinion, for a multitude of reasons, and it deserves to be analysed and lobbied with the same intellectual prowess as is driving and influencing other industries."

 - See more at: http://www.my-garden-school.com/why-the-world-needs-more-gardening

In a previous post "Land Hoe: Returning Dignity to Hoes and Men" I have bemoaned the erosion of this distinguished agricultural implement.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Obesity: We can't just dance the problem away.

I love First Lady Obama's efforts in the arena of fighting childhood obesity (http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/08/05/michelle-obamas-newest-initiative-using-hip-hop-to-fight-obesity)...the videos and her dance moves are inspiring. Her White House garden is also inspiring. However, Beyonce was an early icon of her approach that emphasizes exercise, and now Beyonce is a leading shill for Pepsi. Beyonce dismisses the criticism of her endorsement by saying "It's all about choices." That is bull. She knows damn well that she has tremendous influence over young people's choices--she just sold out, pure and simple. Pepsi bought her out specifically because they know how powerful her influence is. It is an industry wide tactic and includes buying out scientists and nutritionists too. Read Michele Simon's glaring report "And now a word from our sponsors" in case you have any doubt about this claim. If the strategy to end obesity is just "get up and dance," or "just make better choices" (e.g., to avoid "food" products laden with sugar, salt, and fat) then this effort is destined to fail. When 80% of the food supply is tainted with industrial-added sugar, children hardly have a choice anymore. The daily average intake of sugar is now 22 teaspoons per day. I DO think dancing is a part of the equation, but our national leaders, cultural icons, scientists and doctors need to stop dancing around the bush and find the courage to stand up against big food and big sugar, and stop the onslaught of lies and toxins that we are injecting into the minds and diets of our children at epic levels. The childhood obesity crisis won’t be solved without forcing "food" companies to do things they don’t want to do. Self-regulation does not work. The "Hyderabad Statement" declares that "All significant developments in public health involve and require the use of law. This is a rule to which there is no exception." This is an industrial pandemic, so we can't afford to place the entire obesity problem on backs of our children, and tell them to just get up and dance the problem away. To quote from the insightful article "Profits and Pandemics":
  • Transnational corporations are major drivers of non-communicable disease epidemics and profit from increased consumption of tobacco, alcohol, and ultra-processed food and drink (so-called unhealthy commodities)
  • Alcohol and ultra-processed food and drink industries use similar strategies to the tobacco industry to undermine effective public health policies and programmes 
  • Unhealthy commodity industries should have no role in the formation of national or international policy for non-communicable disease policy
  • Despite the common reliance on industry self-regulation and public–private partnerships to improve public health, there is no evidence to support their effectiveness or safety 
  • In view of the present and predicted scale of non-communicable disease epidemics, the only evidence-based mechanisms that can prevent harm caused by unhealthy commodity industries are public regulation and market intervention
This isn't an intellectual exercise for me. I am part of a generation that grew up exposed to massive amounts of tobacco smoke, sugar, processed food, and other environmental toxins. This is why I am dedicating myself to helping found the Institute for Responsible Nutrition, and working with people like Dr. Robert Lustig. There is a solution to this madness caused by industrial malevolence and consumer ignorance.

Monday, June 10, 2013

One way of hiding sugar in your food is to give it different names, break it down into smaller ingredient amounts so it doesn't seem like it is the leading ingredient (when it is) and slap words like "bran" or "natural" or "whole grain" and "good source of fiber" on it. Assume the average consumer (or the U.S. Government) doesn't know or doesn't care and abracadabra - your food is "Generally Regarded as Safe!" And, if some respectable doctor or scientist like Dr. Robert Lustig says that sugar is a leading cause of disease in our diet, just call him a radical member of the food police.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Poverty is spreading, and the suburbs aren't immune.

Poverty has risen dramatically in the Bay Area over the last decade. Hard to believe? Read this article.

"While the poor are with us everywhere in greater numbers than ever before, the authors of "Confronting Suburban Poverty in America" conclude that the Bay Area's two largest metropolitan areas have experienced the spread of this scourge in starkly different ways. The percentage of people living in poverty in the suburbs rose 56.1 percent in the San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont metro area from 2000 to 2011, compared to 64 percent nationwide. The San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara metropolitan region surged 53.1 percent. But Silicon Valley experienced a corresponding rise (49 percent) among its urban poor, while in San Francisco, inner-city poverty increased by only 18.4 percent."

"It has been nearly a half century since President Lyndon Johnson declared his War on Poverty, setting in motion development of America’s modern safety net. Back in the 1960s, tackling poverty “in place” meant focusing resources in the inner city and in isolated rural areas. The suburbs were home to middle- and upper-class families—affluent commuters and homeowners who did not want to raise kids in the city. But the America of 2012 is a very different place. Poverty is no longer just an urban or rural problem but increasingly a suburban one as well.
In Confronting Suburban Poverty in America, Elizabeth Kneebone and Alan Berube take on the new reality of metropolitan poverty and opportunity in America. For decades, suburbs added poor residents at a faster pace than cities, so that suburbia is now home to more poor residents than central cities, composing over a third of the nation’s total poor population. Unfortunately, the antipoverty infrastructure built over the past several decades does not fit this rapidly changing geography. The solution no longer fits the problem. Kneebone and Berube explain the source and impact of these important developments; moreover, they present innovative ideas on addressing them."

Friday, August 3, 2012

Agroecology and Peasant Agriculture

If you are not already familiar with his research, I would highly recommend looking at the work of Miguel Altieri because he is among the foremost academics that have been looking at peasant agriculture and agroecology. Altieri’s research contradicts commonly held beliefs and assumptions that peasant agriculture is less productive than large scale western style mechanized agriculture. 

Here is some quick references off the web:

With starvation threatening one-sixth of the world’s population, and the West’s technological solutions called into question—the Green Revolution of the 1950s and 1960s failed to solve the problem, and now the Gene Revolution, or agricultural biotechnology, is under increasing attack—many think it’s time for another way. Berkeley’s Miguel Altieri, an associate professor of insect biology in the College of Natural Resources, has a world-wide reputation for his alternative solution: “agroecology,” or sustainable agriculture, which respects the knowledge of indigenous peoples, protects the environment, and promotes social equity.

“I was trained in the West,” says Altieri, “but after studying ancient agricultural systems, I realized that Western knowledge is inadequate to deal with the complexities of Third World agriculture.” Altieri has an impressively broad range: he works in the fields alongside the world’s poor farmers, writes influential books and articles about the principles he champions, and attends conferences around the world, speaking out against biotechnology and in favor of agroecology. His advice has been sought by peasants, a Prince, and the Pope.”

I consider his work essential reading that underscores the values of biologically and human intensive agriculture -- particularly relevant to urban agriculture systems.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The job of the company leader now is changing fast: "You have to think of yourself not as a designer but as a gardener" --seeding, nurturing, inspiring, cultivating the ideas coming from below, and then making sure people execute them.

-Jeff Bezo