Thursday, May 5, 2011

The darker side.

(This is part of a series; it started with bicycles and Beijing; and like my life, it has become somewhat of a mystery to me. But we shall see where I end up and how the stories will reveal themselves. Stay tuned.)

I started to reminisce my bicycles days in Beijing and somehow got to thinking about the two different aspects of Sustainability: the physical and the metaphysical. Please allow me to deviate from bicycles for a moment and comment on the US metaphysical sustainability problem. I think it’s as important as addressing the human rights issues in China, and often we forget that the topic that needs our most desperate attention is right in front of us, but we get busy marking other countries of their faults. It’s only human nature.

I have recently become more sensitive to the issue of disinformation regarding our food, farming and US industrial agriculture. Lauren and I are due to be married in September and most of her families are at the heart of that American culture - hard working farmers who value things such as fried pork belly meat and their own brand of corn. Yet I can’t help but detect a level of uncertainty they have towards me: do I represent the hard liberals who favors the “Organic” label and continued expansion of government social and welfare programs; or do I represent the hard right who would neglect value and integrity for profit and meaningless overtime lawyerly work, and is that why I decided to study law and have jumped on this “Green” bandwagon?

I don’t know how to tell them that I am neither; wanting good local produce and healthier life styles has nothing to do with the New New Deal of the Obama administration or the Golden Parachutes of the market that crashed our economy. It has very little to do with party lines or politics at all. But as the tactics of disinformation goes, politics is a sharp weapon to employ to dive and conquer. I am feeling the sharper end of that from the people I admire.

I am doomed to their stereotypes and uncomfortably so.

It is a difficult thing to cope with. They are family and cares for me more perhaps than my relatives in China. I could tell them about how and why I came to the conclusions I have. Trying to explain why I care would take hours and I doubt anyone has that kind of patience to listen to my sob stories. Explaining the intricate plots of the Agri-Industries is even more complicated. So I keep my mouth shut as much as possible and I try hard to enjoy their company because they are part of my family now. If I cannot care for them in return, I cannot care for anyone else.

But from the way they raise the issues I see they have been long molded to the thinking that has doomed our national economy on this crash course of fossil dependency and CAFO’s increased popularity. I also sense the danger of our food system integrity and I am sorry they do not see the risk in our industrial society by having less bio diversity and government subsidies for GMO products that may threaten the very existence of our food system.

These are farmers, and should be our champions for the Green cause; yet they are so adamantly protective of the profit interest of a few giant agri-empires. They get a subsidy check from the government and they are happy to continue their enslavement to the monopolies of the likes of Monsanto.

Why is this so?

Last time I checked, I don’t live in the information vacuum of Beijing, so why is it so hard to convince the farmers that biodiversity is good for the land and having locally produced varieties means more money in the pockets of the local farmers and more opportunities for the local economy? Why do farmers continue year after year, pay their toll to GMO seeds, expensive fertilizers, and more and more toxic pesticides? Why do they turn a blind eye to the very government-private partnership that is trying to monopolize their lives?

I’ve asked Lauren’s grandfather and uncle about the percentage of their income attributed to seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides each year. They do not deny the alarming amount they would pay for these things. I wonder if they have ever enjoyed saving their own seeds, and if they know that there were once thousands of different genetic varieties of rice in China. These days, American’s farming culture is marching into uniformity. Genetic uniformity leads to higher risk of disease and lessened resistance to different natural disasters. After nature battling back with tougher and tougher pesticide resistant weeds, our mono-culture food system is more and more at risk of entire wipe-outs. What would happen if there should be a catastrophic event? Would we fare better if we had a diverse food base system of if our food base is entirely one genetic strain that is susceptible to the catastrophe?

What is more interesting on a metaphysical level is that American is no better than China on its uniformed social genetic traits. China’s authoritarian system produced the Cultural Revolution, the Tiananmen Massacre, the killing of monks in Tibet, and jailing of artists and human rights and public interest lawyers. American social uniformity in the food culture has produced bullies in the likes of Monsanto. Socially uniformed genetic traits seem to increase the risk to social disease. China is experiencing one now that robs of the poor for the benefit of a few bureaucrats. American is experiencing this in the form of corporations robbing people of its basic fundamental right to have a healthy relationship with farming and food.

Dr. Colin Campbell has pointed out in his book (The China Study) his difficult path in brining to light the problems of misinformation in cancer research and its connection to dietary intakes. It was shocking to learn that many of “decorated scientists” are on the payrolls of corporate interests. I have also seen the same problem prevalent in the environmental scientific community. The opposition pumps millions of dollars into distracting the public from our real concerns and places the burden on the public to weed through bad opinions about science.

All of this for the interest of the few sectors of our established economy: food, transportation, etc.

We see the patterns repeat, the higher the risk requiring the more deadly measures. More dissent in China means more deadly forces used against its citizens. Here in the US, the more people would challenge the status quo and demand accountability and government and corporate action, the more cooperative the government and corporate interests seem to merge. I wonder if we will come to a day when dissents here in the US will be jailed for their open actions of saving a few non-GMO seeds or trying to expose what really goes on behind the scene of a CAFO. Wait, I think Monsanto already had filed lawsuits against farmers for just such daring actions and I think banning our First Amendment rights is not too far in the future:

Imagine if taking photos of farms were illegal — and the photographer was subject to fines and possibly jail time. If Big Ag got its way, that’s exactly what would happen. Right now they’re pushing legislators in Minnesota, Florida, and Iowa to criminalize taking photos or videos of their facilities.

I guess industrial agriculture has something to hide. Maybe it’s the way factory farms mistreat workers, animals, and the environment.

The clock is ticking — Iowa's legislation could pass an important hurdle as soon as next week. If we can raise a big enough stink, we can stop this state-based legislation from spreading nationwide.

Sign our petition and stand up for transparency and the right to take pictures of farms . . .

Jerusha Klemperer
Slow Food USA
Stay tuned.

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