Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Here We Go Again with the Great American Traitor Corporations Using Spineless lawmakers and judges to Kill Free Ideas

So, in sunny Vancouver, I am on day-three of this five-day leadership course, at this really progressive University of British Columbia campus, learning about sustainability, how BC and Vancouver want to be the greenest places on earth. No matter how much spin or technology and energy and resource metering gets into these discussions, luckily, this weeklong institute has the wherewithal to get people in who know what greenwashing is and know that there are larger issues to sustainability that see to get the short shrift all the time.

Even with that frame -- depending on planners and energy and resource gurus --  they have the gumption to give us those planners and development experts who fail the sustainability test by really not taking on several of the FIVE e's in sustainability, yet, we get to go to the farm and see true ecological, economic, educational, energy, and equity sustainability in action. It's an interesting way to see a movement's deficits -- really lacking the guts to tackle community development, wages, and livability, and happiness and health, in most camps, to promote this or that cool gizmo or solar sucking thing.

Students in 2000 drove the board and community and powerbrokers to "save" the land they had been working on teaching people and bringing in community (communities of every shape and kind) to understand the interconnectedness of farming-food-ecology-community.

Students. Fighting for 24 hectares of land, with a community plan behnd them, looking at green academics, multidisciplinary work, across ages, economics, cultures. Andrew Rushmore, UBC Farm/Center for Sustainable Food Systems, spoke of one leading edge fighter for this parcel of complex land to stave off the developers and housing proponents. That would be Moura Quayle, UBC Saunder School of Business who chaired Vancouver's Urban Landscape Task Force, which resulted in the birth of the city's Greenways program.

Thirty conference participants, five staff, and, well, unfortunately, not the more than a dozen speakers and facilitators, were on the farm. But while I am in sunny BC, the news down under -- in the lower 48 -- is daunting. That's a whole other blog series -- how Canadians see us, as impediments, to solving global problems. They know they have their problems, but the attack on social services, teachers, unions, and smart thinking and action, well, Canadians are looking like we all are characters in Deliverance Three -- The Next Chapter in the Tea Party. So, via Alternet, here's the ugly news:

Mark Bittman on Proposed Big-Farm Film Ban: "The System is Already Gagged"

Bittman has a great column this week about the ridiculous proposed laws to ban filming and photography at farms. Animal rights and sustainable food activists have embarrassed corporate farms by publishing footage of how corporate farms actually treat animals, and the disgusting and cruel conditions that they maintain (the footage is often shot by brave employees of the farm who are offended by what they see at work every day). In response, the food industry pushed legislators to just make it illegal to record what goes on in their facilities. The laws haven’t passed, but it’s still nearly impossible for journalists (or anyone else) to get into factory farms to see how things are run. Bittman tried, and was repeatedly refused.
When a journalist can’t see how the food we eat is produced, you don’t need ag-gag laws. The system’s already gagged.
The videographers that have made it into closed barns have revealed that eggs are laid and chickens are born and raised in closed barns containing (literally) hundreds of thousands of birds; an outsider wouldn’t even know what those barns were. Pigs are housed cheek-to-jowl, by the many thousands, in what are called concentrated animal feeding operations, where feeding, watering and monitoring are largely mechanized. Pregnant sows are confined in small concrete cells. Iowa is industrial agriculture’s ground zero. But when it comes to producing animals, zero is pretty much what you’re going to see.

Which would bring us a step closer to China, whose Health Ministry is trying to clamp down on news media outlets that “mislead” the public about food safety issues. (It’s worth noting, on the other hand, that the Chinese Supreme Court has called for the death penalty in cases of fatal food poisoning.) “Mislead” apparently means reporting about pork tainted with the banned drug clenbuterol, which sent a couple hundred wedding guests to the hospital; watermelons exploding from the overuse of chemicals; pork disguised as beef, or glowing blue; and — my favorite — cooking oil dredged from sewers. (Check my blog for the details.)
Our watermelons don’t explode and, for now, I can write about it. Yet when a heroic videographer breaks a horror story about animal cruelty, as happens every month or so, the industry writes off the offense as an isolated incident, and the perpetrators — usually the workers, who are “just following orders” — are fired or given wrist slaps. Business continues as usual, and it will until the public better understands industrial animal-rearing techniques.
And until the food industry stops intimidating journalists, suing anyone who speaks ill of them, and using their economic and political might to obliterate small ethical farmers.

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