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Archive for the ‘global food crisis’ Category

Compare And Contrast: Colombia And Venezuela

Posted by Phoenix Woman on September 29, 2011

First, Colombia:

We have known for years about the dangers of being a trade unionist in Colombia, of the murders of organizers and labor officials. The murders have increased in frequency in the years since the US negotiated a trade deal with Colombia. They are well documented.

Now, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has put names to the tragedy. In a letter to President Obama, Trumka says that 22 union activists have been killed in Colombia this year, including 15 since a so-called “Action Plan” designed to crack down on union violence was instituted in the country. All of their names are in a fact sheet at the end of the letter.

Trumka added that six Catholic bishops have been killed in Colombia in 2011.   The Bishops Conference of Colombia believes the killings occurred because of “their courageous commitment… with the prophetic denunciation of injustice and the cause of the poorest in the country.”

Now, Venezuela:

On a hillside overlooking Caracas, Venezuela, Pedro Echavez feeds sweet potato greens to his rabbits. These animals are raised for their meat, but their droppings also fertilize Echavez’s black bean and vegetable plots. This four-acre farm produces enough food to provide 80 percent of the diet for the sixteen people living in his community.


The Venezuelan equivalent of the US Department of Agriculture is overseeing the project. Yet, unlike the USDA, which gives around $20 billion in subsidies to the largest producers in the United States annually, Venezuela is giving 4.3 billion bolívares fuertes ($1 billion) in low-interest credit solely to small and medium-sized grain producers. Another 13 billion bolívares fuertes ($3 billion) is set aside for fruit and vegetable operations, as well as growers of crops like coffee, cacao and sugar cane. A portion of what farmers grow will be used to pay off the loans, and much of this produce will be locally packaged, processed and sold at state-owned supermarkets.

President Hugo Chávez’s leftist Bolivarian Revolution has embraced the idea of food sovereignty, or the right of a people to define their own food and agriculture policy. The food sovereignty movement is a global one, and the organization at the forefront, La Via Campesina, counts 300 million members. Venezuela is one of many countries, including Ecuador, Bolivia, Mali and Nepal, that have, in response to this grassroots movement, developed a legal framework for food sovereignty.

Tell your congresscritters to oppose the trade deal with Colombia. The fact that this nation’s bloodsoaked ruling classes are feted by the US’ elite, while the far more democratic and human Chavez is demonized by corporate-owned American media and corporate-owned American politicians, shows just how amoral is our leadership.

Posted in Colombia, farming, food, global food crisis, unions, Venezuela | Tagged: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

We are all hibakusha (被爆者) now, American version

Posted by Charles II on June 27, 2011

“Hibakusha” means “explosion-affected people” and refers to the survivors of the atomic blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Recently, I used it to characterize the effects of the Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdowns, which I accurately predicted (not online) were much more serious than we were being led to believe.

Now the tragedy is coming home to America, where everything downstream of Omaha is at risk.

AThe Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station turned to diesel-powered generators Sunday after disconnecting from the main grid because of rising floodwaters.

That move came after water surrounded several buildings when a water-filled floodwall collapsed.

The plant, about 19 miles north of Omaha, remains safe, Omaha Public Power District officials said Sunday afternoon.

Sunday’s event offers even more evidence that the relentlessly rising Missouri River is testing the flood worthiness of an American nuclear power plant like never before. The now-idle plant has become an island. And unlike other plants in the past, Fort Calhoun faces months of flooding.

Floodwater surrounded the nuclear plant’s main electrical transformers after the Aqua Dam, a water-filled tubular levee, collapsed, and power was transferred to emergency diesel generators.

OPPD officials said the transfer was precautionary because of water leaking around the concrete berm surrounding the main transformers.

Plant operators later reconnected to off-site power once all safety checks had been completed.

Water now surrounds the auxiliary and containment buildings, which are designed to handle flooding up to 1,014 feet above sea level. The river is at 1,006.3 feet and isn’t forecast to exceed 1,008 feet.

The 2,000-foot berm collapsed about 1:25 a.m. Sunday due to “onsite activities,” OPPD officials said.

Seventy five miles downstream, the Cooper nuclear plant is also embattled.

And, according to David Hendee:

As bad as it’s been, the hardest parts [of the flood] are still ahead, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the river system’s managers.

“It’s going to be a devastating season in terms of how the levees do,” said Brig. Gen. John McMahon, commander of the corps’ Northwestern Division. “There’s going to be a lot of pain and suffering.”

Posted in global food crisis, global warming, nukes | Comments Off on We are all hibakusha (被爆者) now, American version

A threadbare year, a year of want

Posted by Charles II on February 12, 2011

From Jean Guerrero and Leslie Josephs, Dow Jones Newswire, 1/11/11:

The record cold that blasted through Florida last month severely damaged crops, providing an opportunity for farmers across the southern border of the U.S. to help make up for the shortfall.

Mexican farmers are expected to increase their vegetable exports to the U.S. this year after a second straight season of freezes destroyed some of Florida’s output of green beans, cucumbers, bell peppers, sweet corn and other crops. Damage to several major crops will push prices higher in January and February, the Florida Department of Agriculture said in an emailed statement.

“When Florida freezes it’s an opportunity for Mexico,” said Mike Stuart, president of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association.

Things didn’t quite work out that way.

From KVOA (Tucson) news, 2/9/11:

Produce suppliers say last weeks cold temperatures haven’t frozen crops in Sinaloa, Mexico since 1956.

Now they’re having to evaluate the damage before more products are brought to the U.S.

“There are some plants that got severely damaged or some plants that were lost, so we are anticipating lower volumes going forward than normal volumes,” Martin Ley said.

A more detailed report on the implications from The Packer,

Many importers of Mexican fruits and vegetables are still waiting to assess the effects of a freeze the night of Feb. 3-4, but some already are reporting extensive damage.

Nogales, Ariz.-based Ciruli Bros. expects total losses of its remaining Sinaloa-grown green peppers, eggplants, green beans and shadehouse cucumbers, partner Chris Ciruli said Feb. 7.

“Through the weekend we received reports that were worse than what we initially thought,” Ciruli said.

Green peppers and green beans had been expected to ship possibly through March, eggplant into early April and cucumbers into May, Ciruli said.

Ciruli Bros. will know better the fate of its tomato and colored bell pepper crops Feb. 8 or Feb. 9, Ciruli said.

Tomato losses were first estimated to be in the 20% range, they could wind up being closer to 50%, he said.

In Sonora, some growers expected total losses of squash and melon crops.

But vegetables weren’t the only ones affected. There was also this, from BBC, 2/12/11:

A spell of unusually cold weather in northern Mexico has severely damaged the maize crop in the state of Sinaloa.

Officials estimate the losses could amount to four million tonnes of corn – 16% of Mexico’s annual harvest.

These are ominous events. Certainly prayers are in order. But neither they nor money alone will solve a crisis of this magnitude. It is probably a good time to make some kind of fast… just reducing the amount of meat we eat will increase the food available for others. Simply eating less would probably benefit most Americans, and add to the supply available for the hungry.

In the long term, the solution is in the democracies that are being seeded from the exasperation of the world with the American empire. Countries like Mexico and Egypt, which could feed themselves, can become net food exporters if only US government-subsidized grain ceases to be dumped in their markets. And, of course, the late-sprouting seed of American renewal, which must end the tyranny of the oil and coal companies, a tyranny which is responsible for the failure of the world to act in the face of the clear and present danger of climate change.

Posted in global food crisis, global warming, Mexico | Comments Off on A threadbare year, a year of want

Good News From The Biomass Front

Posted by Phoenix Woman on December 6, 2010

The Kreidermachers show how it’s done.

From the Sustainability page on their website:

Everything grown onsite – our family grows everything on the farm starting from seeds or small cuttings of plants, so there is no trucking of finished plants before you purchase them in our retail greenhouse. We have a special production greenhouse with open roof vents (below), so we don’t need to run fans to cool the greenhouse and plants get direct sun making them adapt faster when you take them home.

Water conservation – for several decades we’ve watered all the plants thru “ebb and flow” benching (below), which means we pump water into the bench, let the plants soak up the water and then drain the remainder back into a tub at the end of the bench to save for the next watering. Besides saving a lot of water, the plants stay healthier since the foliage isn’t getting wet (and susceptible to disease). For nearly the past decade, we’ve taken the next step by collecting rain water onsite and using it to water the plants. We also have rain collection barrels for customers to use at home.

Heating thru renewable energy sources – as everyone is concerned about the increasing cost of gas for their cars/trucks, we’ve been seeing even sharper increases in natural gas prices for heating the greenhouses over the past decade. Eric and Paul have changed the greenhouse heating to bio-mass boilers (above) and currently working on making our own pellets from native prairie grasses, corn stover, etc., which are better renewable energy sources. See Alternative Energy Solutions, LLC for more.

Natural liquid Daniels Fertilizer – everyone comments on how healthy our plants look. We credit some of that to the fact that for more than ten years we have used a liquid fertilizer that is much “friendlier” to plants. It’s a natural fertilizer, made from soybean extract, and thereby doesn’t burn the plant’s roots if it’s stressed. We also sell the Daniels Fertilizer in the retail for use at home.

Soil Mix made with renewable resources – we’ve been working for years to get the right mix of components to grow in, and in the past few years we’ve been primarily looking at alternatives to peat moss. Our soil mix (pictured below) is now primarily made with Coir (Coconut fiber) and Rice hulls. We also make a soil mix especially formulated for container gardening that can be purchased in our retail.

Organic pest & disease control – We don’t like having to spray chemicals anymore than our customers, so we’ve been experimenting with beneficial bugs and compost teas. We still need to do more work to understand how it all works, but so far it seems to be looking very promising. Customers are always asking for “safer” means of treating bugs and fungus on their plants at home. We have the best organic products on the market.

Bio-degradable pots & baskets – for a number of years we’ve used fiber hanging baskets and perennial pots, as well as Rice hull pots for the annuals. Both the fiber and rice hull pots will break down in a compost pile or landfill within 2-3 years, but unfortunately they don’t break down fast enough to leave the plants in them when you plant in the ground. Our goal, beyond getting rid of the use of plastics, is to find a pot that you can just put in the ground with your plant still in it and the roots will go right thru the pot. We’re getting closer this year with a new pot (pictured below) for the vegetables that has slits for the roots to grow right thru.

We’re never done searching for ways to improve the way we grow or “greener” ways to do it. We’ll be sure to keep updating on what we’re doing.

Posted in energy, environment, family values, farming, food, gardening, global food crisis, global warming, Good Causes, Good Things, Minnesota, sustainability | 3 Comments »

“More complicated than rocket science”: global warming and famine

Posted by Charles II on October 3, 2009

Stephen Leahy, IPS (via t/o):

Rocketing food prices and hundreds of millions more starving people will be part of humanity’s grim future without concerted action on climate change and new investments in agriculture, experts reported this week.

The current devastating drought in East Africa, where millions of people are on the brink of starvation, is a window on our future, suggests a new study looking at the impacts of climate change.

“Twenty-five million more children will be malnourished in 2050 due to effects of climate change,” such as decreased crop yields, crop failures and higher food prices, concluded the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) study.

We need to develop means to desalinate water in non-destructive, energy efficient ways. Fast.

Posted in Africa, farming, global food crisis, global warming | 1 Comment »

Some Good News

Posted by Phoenix Woman on June 1, 2009

Because good news is good!

From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (via BooRadley):

Three abandoned, century-old greenhouses that years ago produced flowers to beautify the graves and grounds of the historic south side [Forest Home] cemetery are being brought back to life, this time with vegetables.

Empty for nearly a decade because they became too expensive to heat through winter, the A-frame glass greenhouses will be used year-round by the organization Growing Power to grow thousands of pounds of fresh vegetables for city residents and others served by the nonprofit group, based on the north side.


Growing Power can produce a high volume of affordable food because [Growing Power CEO and founder Will] Allen has developed cost-efficient renewable energy systems to nurture fast-growing plants in tight, urban spaces.

The nonprofit also is tied into a network of farmers to help provide produce year-round.

The cemetery greenhouses will be heated in winter through aquaponics – a closed system that replicates a clean river with fish and plants. It works like this: Large tanks of water stocked with fish such as tilapia are heated. The water releases heat into the air, so no other energy source is required. (Heating water also is much less expensive than heating air.) Plants keep the water clean for the fish, which also are sold as food.

Allen, a former pro basketball player, grew up on a farm in the Washington, DC area. When he finished with his pro career, he went to work for Procter & Gamble and then got back into farming — this time, urban farming. If there is such a thing as the Lord’s work, he’s doing it.

Posted in farming, food, gardening, global food crisis, Good Things, heroes | 12 Comments »

Vertical Farming

Posted by Phoenix Woman on May 21, 2009

Terrapass’ Adam Stein, who is normally skeptical of vertical farming, links approvingly to this LA Times piece on two high-tech greenhouses that grow large amounts of high-value crops like tomatoes with far less of a water input than needed in conventional farming — a big deal in desert places like Southern California:

Rising out of verdant acres of strawberries and artichokes between Highway 101 and the Pacific Ocean in Ventura County are two mammoth, high-tech greenhouses.


The facility generates its own renewable power. It hoards rainwater. It hosts its own bumblebees for pollination. And it requires a fraction of the chemicals used in neighboring fields to coax plants to produce like champions.


The son of a Dutch immigrant farmer, the 51-year-old Houweling has helped build his family’s agricultural business into one of the largest greenhouse-based growers in North America. But the California facility is no ordinary hothouse.

On a recent afternoon, he was eager to show visitors clusters of plump, sweet tomatoes hanging overhead from vines that reach high into the rafters. This arrangement allows the farm’s 450 permanent employees to climb ladders to pick the fruit instead of stooping. The plants, which are fed individually through tubing that looks like intravenous hospital equipment, produce 20 times more fruit per acre than in conventional field production.

Virtually nothing is wasted in this ecosystem. Workers have dug a four-acre pond to store rainwater and runoff. This water, along with condensation, is collected, filtered and recirculated back to each of the 20-acre greenhouses. That has cut water use to less than one-fifth of that required in conventional field cultivation. Fertilizer use has been reduced by half. There are no herbicides and almost no pesticides, and there is no dust.

Five-acres of photovoltaic solar cells supply much of the electricity to run pumps and climate controls. Thermal systems collect solar heat and warehouse refrigeration exhaust to warm the greenhouses on cool evenings. Together, the two systems generate 2.1 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 1,500 homes.

“We believe this is the first greenhouse in the world that is energy neutral,” Houweling said.

Until recently, it wouldn’t have been possible to do this and make any money at it — and it certainly won’t work everywhere, or for every crop. But in places like California, where the prices for land are high and access to water is by no means guaranteed, this is likely going to be the wave of the future for various types of produce.

Posted in climate change, energy, environment, farming, food, gardening, global food crisis, global warming, Good Things | 2 Comments »

Greenish News For A Monday Morning

Posted by Phoenix Woman on December 22, 2008

— Got an iPod? Looking for a speaker dock, but want something more attractive than white or black plastic? Try these wood-enclosed units from Vers. They look pretty spiffy to me!

— I should try this: The fine art of using miniature greenhouses, or cloches, to extend a short growing season.

— Wondering how much energy your roof could give you? If you live in San Francisco, wonder no more (h/t Time Magazine). You can find out your roof’s potential solar output, as well as the cost of a solar system, simply by going to this website and typing in your address.

Posted in gardening, global food crisis, solar, sustainability | Comments Off on Greenish News For A Monday Morning

Thursday Morning News Roundup

Posted by Phoenix Woman on August 14, 2008

— Adam Stein discusses the limits of localism and why vertical gardens aren’t the solution to feeding city dwellers.

— GM’s all-electric Chevy Volt won’t be released until 2010, but the car already has over 33,000 prospective buyers waiting for one — and many of those buyers are overseas ones. This is how we save American industry, people.

— Sean Hannity, trying to minimize John McCain’s many adulteries even as he attacked John Edwards for straying, actually used the words “extenuating circumstances” in McCain’s defense. And Alan Colmes, normally Mister Milquetoast, just did a Benihana-chef number on him for it.

Posted in 2008, automobiles, energy, environment, gardening, global food crisis, global warming, John Edwards, John McCain, Republicans acting badly, rightwing moral cripples, saving the earth, sustainability | Comments Off on Thursday Morning News Roundup

Paul Farmer on Haiti

Posted by Charles II on May 28, 2008

Paul Farmer of Partners in Health did an interview on Democracy Now regarding his medical work in Haiti. There’s all kinds of interesting history and asides, including the story of Peligre Dam, and how a development project supposedly designed to improve living standards instead impoverished a region. An excerpt on the food situation:

AMY GOODMAN: So the farmers get wiped out in Haiti because of the subsidized rice coming in, and then when there is a crisis, when the food prices soar, there’s no Haitian farmers or there’s not enough Haitian farmers to make up the slack?
DR. PAUL FARMER: Or the land has gone fallow, or the irrigation ditches have gone, because, you know, how can—there’s no way that they can undercut the prices of the staples coming from the subsidized rich world, which is for Haiti is the United States.

This, AIDS generics, drug resistant TB in Siberia, Creole pigs, and more! Listen and, if you are so moved, give.

Posted in global food crisis, Good Causes, Good Things, Haiti | 1 Comment »