Where there is a will there is a way

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fairtrade cocktail soiree with Harriet Lamb and Good magazine etc

It wasn't easy, but I came out to this fair trade event! It sounded cool, it was affordably priced - and basically because of the subject matter I had to go.

It was also an exciting opportunity to meet some people who are taking part in the great struggle and battle to make the world a healthy place, who perhaps see some of the things I do.

At 5 o'clock I was making pizza in my Stillwater home at a mile a minute, making the bases, throwing the ingredients on, and with the pizzas in the oven I got Savannah to take over making sure the family would survive the end of a work-day without me being there. I set the GPS to the appropriate address in the city and careened to the city in my somewhat low-emissions car, ironically still kicking up greenhouse gas fumes to get there.

I was excited to be going, but when I got to the big magazine print garage where the event was held I found myself in a room full of strangers. I didn't actually know anyone; the people were all unopened books, and I felt spare looking this way and that as well-dressed people spoke to their companions.

In the large space of magazine printing machines we were encircled by a few tables run by the various companies providing fair trade food and alcohol for the event, such as All Good bananas, and Kokako.

The editor of Good magazine, Sarah Heeringa, soon gave the introduction. She had first read Harriet's book,"Fighting the Banana Wars and Other Fairtrade Battles", and had included the story in an issue of Good, where I had read the story. It was a really important story, and had made a big impact on me. I had had no idea that banana workers in many countries were forced to work in conditions with pesticides that large banana companies like Dole knew damaged the human reproductive system (sterilized the workers), or worse, cause horrible birth defects in babies they did give birth to. Because the big banana companies can produce their bananas cheaply in this way, many farmers of smaller farms can't compete. Some islands where bananas are their main way of making a living had given up, and the young people were getting involved in drugs and crime.

But the good part of this story is where fair trade comes in as a way for people to produce make a living from bananas without using the damaging pesticides. There are manypeople in the UK, and now NZ (All Good bananas) who are happy to buy them, and now there are islands which are healthy and flourishing due to fair trade bananas.

Anyways, back to the night - we were a room full of strangers, and insecurities about how suitable my clothing and appearance were haunting me a little in the seemingly sophisticated media savvy crowd. But when Harriet spoke with her rich UK accent, and spoke about her experiences, we all became human again. We shared in her horror when she met a banana worker's wife who had had a deformed baby whom she couldn't comfort, but also in her hope for the future. She had an important message for our world, that trade should place people first. It is a very simple concept, but it doesn't happen when countries push the interests of their own people despite the impact on those living elsewhere.

She brought up a Michael Jackson song, Man in the Mirror. As an artist the song really expressed that our responsibility lies with our own actions - the person we look at in the mirror. Our choices make an impact, such as buying cheap bananas without knowing how they are produced.

Harriet inspired us with a saying she was told by a farmer, that all the tiny raindrops in the mountains and valleys make the mighty river flow. "I hope you'll all be good little raindrops now..."

After she was done speaking again, when we were all humans, I too the opportunity to meet Good's current editor, then it was on to my main mission of the night. I was pretty sure that I could tell who the man who ran All Good bananas was by how he carried himself (and he had a big yellow banana on his black t-shirt, see top photo by Harriet, his name is Chris Morrison) but I found out to make sure and then snuck behind the Banana drink-making pirates to speak to him. I just wanted to know why the large grocery store in our area (the Albany Pak'NSave) had stopped selling his Fair Trade bananas. Had the other main companies such as Dole kicked up a fuss about him selling there? I had loved seeing them at this mainstream grocery store. Apparently it is just the produce manager who is only interested in selling them for a rock-bottom deal. Well, we'll see about that, sonny! Sometimes for your customers - it's just not about the money.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Freecycle website - for getting free stuff or getting rid of stuff

Freecycle works well! I heard about it a little while ago, but recently I needed to get rid of an assembled roof for a deck extension, and the day after I posted it I had 6 replies of people wanted to take it away! That's great.

You just go to http://www.freecycle.org/ and register in your local group, then you can offer or look for offers. It's all free. I believe that there are networks of freecycle all over the world; it was my sister in Toronto that actually told me about it.

Their description:
"Network to promote waste reduction and help save landscape from being taken over by landfills."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Beth Krommes illustrations (The house in the night)

I love that moment where you jump to freedom, no longer constrained by reality.

I also love how she contrasts the image richness of the book (below) with plain empty space.

Beautiful illustration of how the moon gets its light:

Look at that awesome umbrella.

And, of course any good book ends with momma love.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Greens view attacks as badge of honour | Adam Bennett | NZ Herald June 7 2011

Article posted by NZ Herald June 7, 2011 (both in print and online), link to online article here.
Cate Blanchett features in a campaign urging Australians to back a carbon tax. Photo / AP

Greens view attacks as badge of honourBy Adam Bennett 5:30 AM Tuesday Jun 7, 2011

Attacks on the Greens' crusade against climate change are "a badge of honour" and put them in the same company as the suffragettes and the anti-slavery movement, says Australian Greens leader Bob Brown.

Senator Brown, who addressed the final day of the New Zealand Greens' annual meeting in Auckland yesterday, is at war with Rupert Murdoch and his media empire over plans to introduce a carbon tax.

The issue is reaching boiling point ahead of a decision expected on July 1.

Australian voters have been urged to "Say Yes" to the tax in an advertising campaign featuring actor Cate Blanchett, and thousands rallied in support of it across the country over the weekend.
But a poll commissioned by Mr Murdoch's News Ltd and published yesterday found just 28 per cent of 500 Australians asked were in favour of it compared with 58 per cent against.

Mr Murdoch fuelled ill-feeling between himself and Senator Brown last year when he warned that "the bloody Greens" were a threat to Australia's economy.

The senator told yesterday's meeting: "Whenever I get a little bit despondent about the attacks, I go and look at what happened to the suffragettes or the people who were going to get rid of slavery, or get children out of the mines.

"In every case those who were living for these huge advances in civilisation were condemned on economic grounds.

"It's a badge of honour to know we're just following in the good company of the past."

Senator Brown said his party's stance on climate change policy was based on advice "from the best economic as well as environmental experts in the country".

He was confident his negotiations with Julia Gillard's Labor Government would be successful.

The Greens - who from next month will hold the balance of power in the Upper House and whose one vote in the Lower House is vital to keeping Labor in government - are negotiating the shape and price of the tax against stiff opposition from the Liberal Party and industry.

Failure to agree on the tax could break Ms Gillard's tenuous hold on the Treasury benches by forcing a snap election.

But while the Greens have a far more ambitious target than Labour for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Senator Brown said yesterday that he accepted "it won't be a Green carbon price" if the tax went ahead.

"It is a compromise; we are responsible about this," he said.

What happens in Australia with regards to a carbon charge has implications for the future of New Zealand's emissions trading scheme (ETS), which is under review.

Prime Minister John Key has said he will not throw the agriculture sector "to the wolves" by forcing it to enter the scheme in 2015 as scheduled if our main trading partners are not taking similar measures.

Senator Brown said the Australian carbon tax was likely to be a "tighter and more targeted" scheme than the ETS and would "challenge New Zealand to look again at the structure of that trading system".

* Would effectively tax Australia's 1000 largest polluters on their greenhouse gas emissions.
* Much of the money would go to offsetting the impact of higher power prices on households.
* Would not apply to petrol.
* Would transition to a cap-and-trade system after three to five years.

By Adam Bennett Email Adam

Monday, June 6, 2011

Monster Salmon and Butterflies documentary (RT News program)

Monarch butterflies are one of the unintentional victims of genetically modified crops used in the US, as their habitat, milkweed, is not allowed to grow.

I was watching this really great news program from Russia (in English) called RT. They did a special on a documentary called "Monster Salmon and Butterflies". I knew it would be important.

There is a Canadian company called "Aqua Bounty" which is seeking approval for farming huge genetically modified salmon.

The interviews that were shown with various scientists and people aware of the possible ramification were fascinating. Andrew Kimbrell, in particular, really made the situation clear. The person who represented Aqua Bounty was a few bolts short of a functional human being.

Andrew mentioned that the perspective of these people is that life is a machine (genetic "engineering"), that it can be changed at will, but life doesn't function that way. Fish escape, genes are transmitted through the entire food chain, we don't really have control.

"Biological pollution" was mentioned in the documentary, something that, unlike chemical pollution, doesn't fade away but that grows larger. DNA replicates, so the pollution replicates.

Aqua Bounty was trying to reassure, in interview, that all the large fish would be sterile, and female. Andrew made you realize how much folly it was that the great life technology they had invented was going to need to end the ability of the life form to reproduce - I can't actually say it like he said, but he was laughing about what a great technological achievement it was not.

These decisions effect our world - the living world - most of all. They are the most important. Genetic changes aren't to benefit everyone, they are a way to wrestle ownership over the unownable, as they are then able to patent life. As a democratic society, we need to be making these types of choices democratically most of all.

There is a short trailer below for Monster Salmon and Butterflies, but you won't get a sense of the many thoughtful interviews that I saw with brave, thinking people who were speaking their minds, some even pioneering risk assessment research. They were just people trying to do the right thing before we all realize it's the right thing and support them properly.

I remember now, a really effecting piece - it might have been Andrew Kimbrell - through just buying food we are making moral choices about the way the food we eat is produced, including incredibly cruel practices. Farming has a huge impact. Basically to change this we have to be more than just "consumers". We have to become educated.

Note: I find it's better to listen to the news from other countries if you want to get an unbiased view - they don't have to protect their own interests.