Thursday, December 31, 2009


Lee Judge / The Kansas City Star (October 22, 2009)

That Huge Sucking Sound....

Jim Morin / Miami Herald (December 4, 2009)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

No Faith in Faith

Nod, nod..wink, wink...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Fox Repeats Lies - Gasp!

Sean Hannity's Bogus Russian Climate Scandal

| Tue Dec. 22, 2009 4:50 PM PST

Late last week, Fox's Sean Hannity sent global warming skeptics into their biggest tizzy since ClimateGate when he announced that "a major Russian climate change organization dropped a bombshell:

The Institute of Economic Analysis now claims that much of its climate data was tampered with by a leading British research center. In fact, they say that any of their data that could help disprove global warming was simply ignored. Not exactly the news that all the alarmists in Copenhagen were now hoping for.

The conservative media has seized upon Hannity's "bombshell" as apparent confirmation that ClimateGate was but the tip of a solidly frozen iceberg. "Climategate goes SERIAL," crowed a blogger for the UK Telegraph, joining a chorus of triumphant skeptics in the Washington Times, the Investors Business Daily, and the, which described the IEA as a "key Russian ministry." What none of them mentioned is that the IEA is actually a libertarian think tank that has no scientific expertise in climatology but numerous ties to industry-backed climate change denial groups in the United States. (Needless to say, British scientists never tampered with the IEA's "data" or any other climate data)

Read the rest here....

In a Nutshell?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Republican vet understands what he fought for.

"That was one of the most moving speeches I have ever in my life heard. It brought a tear to my eye and a lump to my throat. This remarkable and truly honorable man puts humanity into such clear perspective, I can only hope that the haters and the naysayers will stop, listen & reflect in their hearts the admonition to love and respect others of good will as we would want to be loved and respected. Unconditionally & without reservation."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Greening the Desert - Part 1 and 2

When there’s no soil, no water, no shade, and where the sun beats down on you to the tune of over 50°C (122°F), the word ‘poverty’ begins to take on a whole new meaning. It is distinct and surreal. It’s a land of dust, flies, intense heat and almost complete dependency on supply lines outside of ones control. This is the remains of what was once called the ‘fertile crescent’. It is the result of thousands of years of abuse. It is a glimpse at a world where the environment – whose services provide for all human need – has all but completely abandoned us. This is a glimpse at the world our consumer society is inexorably moving towards, as our exponential-growth culture gorges itself at ever-increasing rates.

The original Greening the Desert video clip has been watched hundreds of thousands of times and has been posted to countless blogs and web pages in the datasphere. Although only five minutes long, it has inspired people around the globe, daring the lucid ones amongst us, those who can see the writing on the wall, to begin to hope and believe in an abundant future – a future where our survival doesn’t have to be based on undermining and depleting the very resources of soil, water, phosphorus, etc. that we depend on. The work profiled in that clip demonstrates that humanity can be a positive element within the biosphere. Man doesn’t have to destroy. Man can repair.

Greening the Desert II: Greening the Middle East from Craig Mackintosh on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Stupid Virus

Salmon and An Economics of Care

Imagine if leading economists spent time in the wilderness. Perhaps the chair
of the Federal Reserve could spend an afternoon standing at the mouth of the
Tsiu River on central Alaska's little explored lost coast, as the sleek
bodies of silver salmon everywhere swelled upstream pushing against him.

Andrew Kimbrell, driven by his personal experience of the Coho salmon on the
Pacific Coast, is on a quest for an economic ecology, a consideration of our economic system as subservient to and informed by nature. As a result of that afternoon in the river, he "began to imagine a world where the
economist knows the salmon." For Kimbrell, the salmon embodies the qualities of nature abandoned and ignored by our competitive free market system, namely redistribution, reciprocation and gift-giving.

The Return to Sanity

by Andrew Kimbrell

"To live on the land we must learn from the sea." George Sumner

What can the salmon offer that will move us toward a new paradigm in economics? Can their homeward journey help us rid ourselves of the obsolete, dangerous, and somewhat pathological market mentality? To answer these questions we will need to look more closely at the "economy" of the salmon's life cycle.

When the Pacific salmon return to the rivers of their birth, they carry in their bodies a number of nutrients, including nitrogen and phosphorous garnered from their ocean sojourn. In fact, isotopic analyses indicate that riverside vegetation near spawning streams receives 22 to 24 percent of its nitrogen-the nutrient that most commonly encourages plant growth from salmon. As a result, trees on the banks of salmon-stocked rivers grow more than three times faster than their counterparts along a salmon-free river.

Alongside spawning streams Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) have been found to take eighty-six years instead of the usual three hundred to reach 50 cm. in thickness. Research also shows that at least one-fifth of the nitrogen in the needles of Sitka spruce trees and other plants near spawning sites comes from the ocean via Pacific salmon carcasses. These same trees that have been
fertilized by the carcasses enhance the quality of breeding and rearing habitats for the fish by providing shade, sediment and nutrient filtration, and large woody debris.

It is not just the vegetation that profits from these nutrients. Muscle samples taken at these riversides from vertebrate herbivores (deer mice, voles, shrews, and squirrels) show increased levels of nitrogen compared with samples taken from animals farther away. The animals eating the salmon also help with the spread of these nutrients. It has been estimated that 70 percent of a black bear's annual protein comes from salmon. During a 45-day spawn each black bear catches about seven hundred fish and leaves half of each carcass in the forest. At 2.2 kg. per fish, this amounts to 120 kg. of nitrogen fertilizer per hectare of land. British Columbia's 80,000 to 120,000 bears could be transferring, through salmon carcasses and the bears' dung, as much as 60 million kg. of salmon tissue into the rainforest, accounting for half of the nitrogen fixed by old-growth trees

Salmon are also the principle source of food for the brown bear. And analysis of hair from grizzly bears, who became extinct in Oregon's Columbia River Valley in 1931, has shown that 90 percent of their diet came from salmon. Additionally, the salmon's eggs and carcasses are the major source of food for sea otters and several trout species. The carcasses also provide critical nutrient resources for aquatic invertebrate scavengers, detritivores, and aquatic microbes-organisms that in turn help enrich the nutrient capital of the wetland itself. And perhaps most crucial of all, 50
percent of the nutrients that young salmon receive comes from their dead parents.

In contemplating this "salmon economics" we find no trace of the self-interest and laws of supply and demand endemic to the human market mentality. What alternative economic values are taught by the cohos' life cycle and final journey? One value is redistribution. The riches of the ocean are redistributed to the wetlands and the rivers. It is an intricate, diverse, and egalitarian redistributive system, extending to the needles of the Sitka spruce, the muscles of the vole, the intertidal microbes, the bodies of the fry, and then even to the bear dung that becomes fertilizer for the trees farther inland.

We do, course, have redistribution in our current economy. Through taxation, for example, we redistribute wealth to aid those in need, whether the unemployed, elderly, disabled, or poverty stricken. But these programs are constantly under attack by free-market advocates and are often eliminated under the rubric of tax relief. Unfortunately, those defending these programs never amplify and undergird their argument by pointing to the natural and ecological archetype of redistribution as found in the salmon cycle and throughout nature. Redistribution is not only altruistic or an expression of largesse, it is the fundamental element in successful and sustainable natural economies. In sum, redistribution is the way nature survives and thrives. It is a kind of natural law. By contrast, the purported free-market laws of supply and demand are recent intellectual
constructs with no foundation in nature.

Then too, the salmon teach us about the value of reciprocity. There is a complex reciprocal relationship between the salmon and future animal and plant generations. As noted, the salmon's nutrients help the growth of riverside vegetation, which in turn provides shade, protection, and
nutrients for the growing parr and smolts, preparing them for their ocean journey and the repeating of the cycle. Moreover, the nutrients given to the animals help fertilize the trees, whose roots in turn protect the rivers and streams from erosion. Overall, it would be virtually impossible to
comprehensively describe the entire reciprocal interaction between the salmon and the life around them, from microbes through mammals.

As with redistribution, our current economy also contains many reciprocal elements. We pay our taxes so that we can have roads, schools, and other basics that will be there for us. We participate in civic associations, on zoning boards, or in local governments, with the assumption that our time
spent will benefit us, our families, and future generations. But perhaps more importantly, the vast majority of Americans' work is based on reciprocity. My research indicates that more than 70 percent of us get up every morning to take care of something or someone, not to make a profit by
selling something for more than we paid to produce or buy it.

This is what I term "the care economy," which I contrast with "the profit economy." Teachers, doctors, nurses, firemen, policemen, social workers, and all those working in government and the public-interest community, including those protecting our fellow creatures and the natural world, will not make more or less profit depending on how much they produce. They are the care economy and are paid a flat-rate salary for their service. Firemen will not pick one house to save and turn down another based on making a profit for saving the more expensive house. Teachers will not pick one child to teach over another because they will be paid more for teaching the richer child.
After a natural disaster, animal rescuers save mutts and purebreds with equal energy without wondering whose owner will pay more.

The tragedy of September 11, 2001, provided a graphic contrast between the profit and care economies. During and after the terrorist attacks Wall Street closed down, and there was a virtual halt in trading for days as brokers looked to foreign investment until they could assess whether it was safe and profitable to invest once again in America. Meanwhile, from the very first the care economy was fully invested. Emergency workers, police, and fire personnel worked tirelessly and under great personal risk for days and weeks as did health professional, government, and nonprofit
organizations. Everyone seemed to grasp intuitively the reciprocal nature of this sacrifice, to understand that the greater community can function only when each of its members gives in this way, knowing that it will be reciprocated should tragedy strike elsewhere. The fate of each is wedded to the care and skills provided by the other.

The care economy, though it represents a solid majority of us and we all depend on it, is not privileged in our society. Even progressives often call it the "service" economy, which is more suggestive of entry-level restaurant workers than of the vast majority of Americans who are part of this care economy. Instead, America is often portrayed as the land of "entrepreneurs," where "the business of America is business." Never do we hear in defense of reciprocation that it is a fundamental principle of natural economic life and has the imprimatur of eons of successful natural economies behind it, whereas the market system with its profit mandate is just over two hundred
years old and is already unsustainable.

Along with redistribution and reciprocation, the salmon teach yet a third economic value-gift-giving. Unlike the self-interest of the market, embodied in legal contracts, gift-giving affirms a sense of community, charity, reverence, and a spontaneous sense of the relationship between humans and
the natural world. In a way it is the antidote to the market system. As ethicist Thomas Murray explains:

Gifts create moral relationships that are more open-ended, less specifiable, and less contained than contracts. Contracts are well suited to the marketplace, where a strictly limited relationship for a narrow purpose-trading goods or services-is desired. Gifts are better for initiating and sustaining more rounded human relationships, where future expectations are unknown, and where the exchange of goods is secondary in importance to the relationship itself.

Salmon provide the ultimate relational gift-a gift for the otters, the bears, the rainbow trout, their own offspring, and a gift for all of us who witness and learn from them. This gift is an eternal promise, always kept if not sabotaged by the intrusion of humans and their technology. It is an intrinsic aspect of the very being of the salmon, not given in calculation of receiving something in return. There are so many in our society who give without looking for a return: the teacher staying late to help a student, the neighbor helping the elderly couple next door, those millions giving their time, work, and money to help in a cause they believe in or to help others more needy than themselves. This generosity represents a major sector of our economy but is usually marginalized as exceptional altruism instead of being understood for what it is-an essential part of the economy of all living systems.

One additional and critical economic lesson of the salmon I will mention is the profound importance of the local. Salmon provide remarkable instruction about the fundamental value of place. Father Thomas Berry has spoken about the importance of the "smell of home," the odor of place. No creature better embodies this teaching than the salmon. An Alaskan Fish and Wildlife study found that just one drop of water from the home stream of salmon added to 250 gallons of water will take these salmon in the direction of that water.

It is impossible not to be astonished by the great odyssey of the salmon and their uncanny ability to ultimately find the exact stream or even rivulet of origin and to mate there, with all the redistribution, reciprocation, and gift-giving going to that local place and its environs.

Every Thanksgiving, when tens of millions crowd the airplanes and jam the roads, we catch a glimpse of the homing instinct, however alienated, that survives in each of us. Mobility is prized and privileged in our society (just think of the automobile, which embodies the glorified values of
autonomy and mobility-ergo "auto-mobile"). And this is a necessary attribute of the supply-and-demand market economy, which may cause extreme dislocation many times in our lives as we-purported human commodities-move about, often involuntarily, to find work, economic survival, or increased opportunity. Although this dislocation corresponds to the logic of capital, it is not
what most of us seek. Reminiscent of the salmon's journey is the yearning we still carry for home, place, and community.

Moreover, in economic terms the idea of the local is becoming ever more important. For millennia human economics was local, but over recent decades we have seen a massive expansion in the global economy. Now transnational corporations - obeying the call of the market, whose only motive is profit and their own self-interest - roam the world in search of resources and markets for their products. They forcibly bring down trade barriers and any protections that localities might have against this economic onslaught. Corporate-led globalization brings a corresponding contraction, and destruction, of the local economies it replaces. The corporate enclosure of these local communities and eco-systems devastates the natural world, homogenizes cultures, disrupts communities, and deprives their members of any meaningful control over their lives.

How is this process to be halted and reversed? The salmon give us the answer: local production for local consumption. Note that the salmon travel freely as they grow and become mature but always ultimately return to provide their local community with what it needs. I like to think of this as a kind of internationalism based in the local as opposed to the homogenizing juggernaut of market-based globalization. Internationalism allows each of us to travel and learn from all peoples and cultures and geographies, but unlike globalization it understands that the purpose of this travel is to return and nourish the local with a diversity of knowledge and experience.

Fortunately we are beginning to see a rebirth of the local around the world in food and energy production, local currencies, and emphasis on local governance. To those who inevitably will state that this localization is contrary to the ersatz laws of free trade and the market we need only point
to the salmon and note that localization corresponds with the laws of nature.

Over recent decades there has been a growing interest in the field of ecological economics, a field that infuses certain ecological realities into current economic thinking. Much good work has been done in this area, but perhaps it is time to reverse the adjective and noun in ecological economics
and call it economic ecology, not privileging thereby human economy but recognizing that our economic needs fit into the larger "economy" of our eco-systems. The tendency in ecological economics can be to "greenwash" capitalism or socialism. By contrast, an earth economics would base the allocation of resources primarily on ecological principles, including those so beautifully embodied in the salmon life cycle and other of the earth's living systems. It is a call for the economist to truly meet and learn from the salmon, a call for an economics of earth that is based not on the abstractions of thinkers but on the study of, and wonder at, its creatures.

This new and important discipline is not without its precedents. Indigenous societies were never based on market economies but on a mix of reciprocal service and exchange, redistribution of resources, and gift-giving in local situations. These societies based their economic behavior-redistribution, reciprocation, gift-giving, and localization-on the archetypal patterns of the natural systems around them. To survive we must follow their lead, and without delay. We must learn and integrate the great economic lessons of the salmon.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Its the Stupidity Stupid

The Age of Stupid is a 2008 film by Director Franny Armstrong (McLibel, Drowned Out) and first-time producer Lizzie Gillett. It is a co-production between Franny's company Spanner Films and Executive Producer John Battsek's (One Day In September) company Passion Pictures.

Oscar-nominated Pete Postlethwaite stars as a man living alone in the devastated future world of 2055, looking at old footage from 2008 and asking: why didn’t we stop climate change when we had the chance?

The production was notable for its innovative way crowd-funding financing model, as well as the Indie Screenings distribution system which allows anyone anywhere to screen the film. The full story of the production of the film is told in the 50-minute Making Of documentary which is free to watch online and also available on the double-pack DVD.

The film was released in 2009 and became one of the most talked-about films of the year. It also spawned the hugely-successful 10:10 campaign.

Age of Stupid: DVD: Copenhagen Kids from Age of Stupid on Vimeo.

Age of Stupid: Trailers: Original Theatrical Trailer from Age of Stupid on Vimeo.

Age of Stupid: Making Of: War for Resources from Age of Stupid on Vimeo.

In Transition - the Movie

'In Transition' shows a practical vision for creating a post-consumer society, where ordinary people make a difference. Coming to a theater near you. Stay tuned...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Monsanto's Phosphorus Theft

Phosphate processing plant in
Soda Springs, USA, operated by Monsanto.
Source: The Center for Land Use Interpretation

Idaho black rock phosphate, and phosphorus in general, is a finite and non-renewable primary plant nutrient. Monsanto, instead of leaving it alone so it can be conserved and made available for use by generations of America's sustainable and organic farmers, turns it into the herbicide Roundup.

Next to clean water, phosphorus will be one the inexorable limits to human occupancy on this planet” wrote Bill Mollison in Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual more than 20 years ago .

Peak Phosphorus barely registers alongside it’s more gregarious, attention-getting bigger brother, Peak Oil. Yet, the implications are even more dramatic. While both peaks are associated with massive food shortages, unmitigated Peak Phosphorus would easily win the award for best disaster.

The latest research tells us that Peak Phosphorus is an issue we cannot afford to ignore any more:

… a global production peak of phosphate rock is estimated to occur around 2033. While this may seem in the distant future, there are currently no alternatives on the market today that could replace phosphate rock on any significant scale. New infrastructure and institutional arrangements required could take decades to develop.

While all the world’s farmers require access to phosphorus fertilizers, the major phosphate rock reserves are under the control of a small number of countries including China, Morocco and the US. China recently imposed a 135% export tariff on phosphate rock essentially preventing any from leaving the country. Reserves in the U.S. are calculated to be depleted within 30 years. Morocco currently occupies Western Sahara and its massive phosphate rock reserves, contrary to UN resolutions. – Western Sahara Resource Watch

From the Times Online:

Battered by soaring fertiliser prices and rioting rice farmers, the global food industry may also have to deal with a potentially catastrophic future shortage of phosphorus, scientists say.

Researchers in Australia, Europe and the United States have given warning that the element, which is essential to all living things, is at the heart of modern farming and has no synthetic alternative, is being mined, used and wasted as never before.

Massive inefficiencies in the “farm-to-fork” processing of food and the soaring appetite for meat and dairy produce across Asia is stoking demand for phosphorus faster and further than anyone had predicted. “Peak phosphorus”, say scientists, could hit the world in just 30 years. Crop-based biofuels, whose production methods and usage suck phosphorus out of the agricultural system in unprecedented volumes, have, researchers in Brazil say, made the problem many times worse. Already, India is running low on matches as factories run short of phosphorus; the Brazilian Government has spoken of a need to nationalise privately held mines that supply the fertiliser industry and Swedish scientists are busily redesigning toilets to separate and collect urine in an attempt to conserve the precious element.

Dana Cordell, a senior researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology in Sydney, said: “Quite simply, without phosphorus we cannot produce food. At current rates, reserves will be depleted in the next 50 to 100 years.

Human excreta (urine and feces) are renewable and readily available sources of phosphorus.
Urine is essentially sterile and contains plant-available nutrients (P,N,K) in the correct ratio. Treatment and reuse is very simple and the World Health Organization has published 'guidelines for the safe use of wastewater, excreta and greywater.

More that 50% of the worlds’ population are now living in urban centers, and in the next 50 years 90% of the new population are expected to reside in urban slums. Urine is the largest single source of P emerging from human settlements.

According to some studies in Sweden and Zimbabwe, the nutrients in one person's urine are sufficient to produce 50-100% of the food requirements for another person. Combined with other organic sources like manure and food waste, the phosphorus value in urine and feces can essentially replace the demand for phosphate rock. In 2000, the global population produced 3 million tonnes of phosphorus from urine and feces alone.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Fox in the Henhouse

—Photo by flickr user jekrub used under a Creative Commons license
Remember when the pesticide lobby attacked First Lady Michelle Obama
because she wasn't championing the use of chemicals in her White House

Somehow a top official from CropLife -- the powerful chemical industry
trade group that went after Michelle Obama's organic garden -- has been
nominated to serve as America's chief agricultural negotiator for
international trade.

The nominee's pro-pesticide group actually went as far as to organize a
protest of the lack of "crop protection products" (read: pesticides) in
the organic White House garden, explaining to its members:1

"The garden is a great idea and the photo op of the First Lady and local
elementary schoolchildren digging up the ground was precious... [But] did
you realize that it will be an organic garden?"

If confirmed by the Senate, Isi Siddiqui, who has spent the last several
years of his career fighting various restrictions and bans on
environmentally hazardous pesticides, would bring that inappropriately
aggressive stance on broadening pesticide use to the White House and
influence trade negotiations with Europe and the developing world.

Please tell President Obama to drop the nomination of Isi Siddiqui as
chief agricultural negotiator in the Office of the United States Trade
Representative. You can automatically add your name to our petition by
clicking here.

The Siddiqui nomination makes a mockery of President Obama's restrictions
on lobbyists in government. Even though he is not technically a current
registered lobbyist, CropLife is responsible for lobbying the government
on behalf of pesticide companies. While at CropLife, Siddiqui labored to
minimize restrictions on pesticides in NAFTA, and he succeeded in
exempting US farmers from a worldwide ban on the antifungal methyl
bromide, a potent ozone depleter.

Born in the USA - so get over it.

Born in the U.S.A.
The truth about Obama's birth certificate.
In June, the Obama campaign released a digitally scanned image of his birth certificate to quell speculative charges that he might not be a natural-born citizen. But the image prompted more blog-based skepticism about the document's authenticity. And recently, author Jerome Corsi, whose book attacks Obama, said in a TV interview that the birth certificate the campaign has is "fake."

We beg to differ. staffers have now seen, touched, examined and photographed the original birth certificate. We conclude that it meets all of the requirements from the State Department for proving U.S. citizenship. Claims that the document lacks a raised seal or a signature are false. We have posted high-resolution photographs of the document as "supporting documents" to this article. Our conclusion: Obama was born in the U.S.A. just as he has always said.

Update, Nov. 1: The director of Hawaii’s Department of Health confirmed Oct. 31 that Obama was born in Honolulu.
Update Nov. 1: The Associated Press quoted Chiyome Fukino as saying that both she and the registrar of vital statistics, Alvin Onaka, have personally verified that the health department holds Obama's original birth certificate.

Fukino also was quoted by several other news organizations. The Honolulu Advertiser quoted Fukino as saying the agency had been bombarded by requests, and that the registrar of statistics had even been called in at home in the middle of the night.
Honolulu Advertiser, Nov. 1 2008: "This has gotten ridiculous," state health director Dr. Chiyome Fukino said yesterday. "There are plenty of other, important things to focus on, like the economy, taxes, energy." . . . Will this be enough to quiet the doubters? "I hope so," Fukino said. "We need to get some work done."
Fukino said she has “personally seen and verified that the Hawaii State Department of Health has Sen. Obama’s original birth certificate on record in accordance with state policies and procedures."

Since we first wrote about Obama's birth certificate on June 16, speculation on his citizenship has continued apace.
Some claim that Obama posted a fake birth certificate to his Web page. That charge leaped from the blogosphere to the mainstream media earlier this week when Jerome Corsi, author of a book attacking Obama, repeated the claim in an Aug. 15 interview with Steve Doocy on Fox News.

Corsi: Well, what would be really helpful is if Senator Obama would release primary documents like his birth certificate. The campaign has a false, fake birth certificate posted on their website. How is anybody supposed to really piece together his life?

Doocy: What do you mean they have a "false birth certificate" on their Web site?

Corsi: The original birth certificate of Obama has never been released, and the campaign refuses to release it.

Doocy: Well, couldn't it just be a State of Hawaii-produced duplicate?

Corsi: No, it's a -- there's been good analysis of it on the Internet, and it's been shown to have watermarks from Photoshop. It's a fake document that's on the Web site right now, and the original birth certificate the campaign refuses to produce.

Corsi isn't the only skeptic claiming that the document is a forgery. Among the most frequent objections we saw on forums, blogs and e-mails are:
  • The birth certificate doesn't have a raised seal.
  • It isn't signed.
  • No creases from folding are evident in the scanned version.
  • In the zoomed-in view, there's a strange halo around the letters.
  • The certificate number is blacked out.
  • The date bleeding through from the back seems to say "2007," but the document wasn't released until 2008.
  • The document is a "certification of birth," not a "certificate of birth."
Recently FactCheck representatives got a chance to spend some time with the birth certificate, and we can attest to the fact that it is real and three-dimensional and resides at the Obama headquarters in Chicago. We can assure readers that the certificate does bear a raised seal, and that it's stamped on the back by Hawaii state registrar Alvin T. Onaka (who uses a signature stamp rather than signing individual birth certificates). We even brought home a few photographs.

The Obama birth certificate, held by FactCheck writer Joe Miller

Alvin T. Onaka's signature stamp

The raised seal

Blowup of text

You can click on the photos to get full-size versions, which haven't been edited in any way, except that some have been rotated 90 degrees for viewing purposes.

The certificate has all the elements the State Department requires for proving citizenship to obtain a U.S. passport: "
your full name, the full name of your parent(s), date and place of birth, sex, date the birth record was filed, and the seal or other certification of the official custodian of such records." The names, date and place of birth, and filing date are all evident on the scanned version, and you can see the seal above.

The document is a "certification of birth," also known as a short-form birth certificate. The long form is drawn up by the hospital and includes additional information such as birth weight and parents' hometowns. The short form is printed by the state and draws from a database with fewer details. The Hawaii Department of Health's birth record request form does not give the option to request a photocopy of your long-form birth certificate, but their short form has enough information to be acceptable to the State Department. We tried to ask the Hawaii DOH why they only offer the short form, among other questions, but they have not given a response.

The scan released by the campaign shows halos around the black text, making it look (to some) as though the text might have been pasted on top of an image of security paper. But the document itself has no such halos, nor do the close-up photos we took of it. We conclude that the halo seen in the image produced by the campaign is a digital artifact from the scanning process.

We asked the Obama campaign about the date stamp and the blacked-out certificate number. The certificate is stamped June 2007, because that's when Hawaii officials produced it for the campaign, which requested that document and "all the records we could get our hands on" according to spokesperson Shauna Daly. The campaign didn't release its copy until 2008, after speculation began to appear on the Internet questioning Obama's citizenship. The campaign then rushed to release the document, and the rush is responsible for the blacked-out certificate number. Says Shauna: "[We] couldn't get someone on the phone in Hawaii to tell us whether the number represented some secret information, and we erred on the side of blacking it out. Since then we've found out it's pretty irrelevant for the outside world." The document we looked at did have a certificate number; it is 151 1961 - 010641.

Blowup of certificate number

Some of the conspiracy theories that have circulated about Obama are quite imaginative. One conservative blogger suggested that the campaign might have obtained a valid Hawaii birth certificate, soaked it in solvent, then reprinted it with Obama's information. Of course, this anonymous blogger didn't have access to the actual document and presents this as just one possible "scenario" without any evidence that such a thing actually happened or is even feasible.

We also note that so far none of those questioning the authenticity of the document have produced a shred of evidence that the information on it is incorrect. Instead, some speculate that somehow, maybe, he was born in another country and doesn't meet the Constitution's requirement that the president be a "natural-born citizen."

We think our colleagues at, who also dug into some of these loopy theories put it pretty well: "It is possible that Obama conspired his way to the precipice of the world’s biggest job, involving a vast network of people and government agencies over decades of lies. Anything’s possible. But step back and look at the overwhelming evidence to the contrary and your sense of what’s reasonable has to take over."

In fact, the conspiracy would need to be even deeper than our colleagues realized. In late July, a researcher looking to dig up dirt on Obama instead found a birth announcement that had been published in the Honolulu Advertiser on Sunday, Aug. 13, 1961:

Obama's birth announcement

The announcement was posted by a pro-Hillary Clinton blogger who grudgingly concluded that Obama "likely" was born Aug. 4, 1961 in Honolulu.

Of course, it's distantly possible that Obama's grandparents may have planted the announcement just in case their grandson needed to prove his U.S. citizenship in order to run for president someday. We suggest that those who choose to go down that path should first equip themselves with a high-quality tinfoil hat. The evidence is clear: Barack Obama was born in the U.S.A.

Update, August 26: We received responses to some of our questions from the Hawaii Department of Health. They couldn't tell us anything about their security paper, but they did answer another frequently-raised question: why is Obama's father's race listed as "African"? Kurt Tsue at the DOH told us that father's race and mother's race are supplied by the parents, and that "we accept what the parents self identify themselves to be." We consider it reasonable to believe that Barack Obama, Sr., would have thought of and reported himself as "African." It's certainly not the slam dunk some readers have made it out to be.

When we asked about the security borders, which look different from some other examples of Hawaii certifications of live birth, Kurt said "The borders are generated each time a certified copy is printed. A citation located on the bottom left hand corner of the certificate indicates which date the form was revised." He also confirmed that the information in the short form birth certificate is sufficient to prove citizenship for "all reasonable purposes."

by Jess Henig, with Joe Miller

Go Out and Play....Please!

Scientific American: Time Spent in Nature Changes our Value Systems


Friday, December 4, 2009

Annie Leonard at Bioneers

Cap and Crap and Stuff

The Story of Cap & Trade is a fast-paced, fact-filled look at the leading climate solution being discussed at Copenhagen and on Capitol Hill. Host Annie Leonard introduces the energy traders and Wall Street financiers at the heart of this scheme and reveals the “devils in the details” in current cap and trade proposals: free permits to big polluters, fake offsets and distraction from what’s really required to tackle the climate crisis. If you’ve heard about cap and trade, but aren’t sure how it works (or who benefits), this is the film is for you.

The Story of Cap & Trade from Story of Stuff Project on Vimeo.

The Story of Stuff from UTOPIA AG on Vimeo.

Blue Skies...All of Them Gone....

I've been watching this unfold in our skies for the last 7 years. When I first heard about it I would get less than a hundred Google hits. Now, it's 400,000+.
Delusion? I don't think so. Now the science is being done. Aluminum and barium are saturating our air, water and soil and this is the tip of the proverbial (melting?) iceberg. Forest decline; birds, bats, and bees falling from the sky; and more. Look into it and look up! (Some of this is truly wacko. Don your "sorting hat".) See the slide show at Strange Days, Strange Skies.

Mad Tea Party

One Politics Fits All?

This lengthy video raises some real doubts. Caution, people you (and I!) might not normally listen to are featured. Barack - a puppet? Corporate kleptocracy is pulling all our strings. Snip, snip?

Hello? Why, yes, I'm cooking my brain, too.

Multimedia Presentation on Wireless Health Hazards from ElectromagneticHealth.Org on Vimeo.

In the video above, founder Camilla Rees presents an overview of an emerging public health issue -- excessive exposures to microwave radiation from wireless technologies.

Illness linked to electromagnetic radiation exposure inclufiede many cancers, neurological conditions, ADD, sleep disorders, depression, autism, cognitive problems, cardiovascular irregularities, hormone disruption, immune system disorders, metabolism changes, stress, fertility impairment, increased blood brain barrier permeability, mineral disruption, DNA damage and much, much more.

Learn how to sensibly protect yourself in high EMF environments, and why it is important you join others in advocating for stricter safety standards for wireless technologies.

The Web site also offers ten free audio interviews with some of the world’s leading experts in the field of EMF.

Click image for larger view:

Get a grip...Carpe diem!

Friend, colleague, farmer, and fellow Blogger Sharon Astyk ponders the implications of well-timed, concerted action in response to crises - natural or engineered. Don't let governments, militaries, and corporations define our responses to the inevitable shocks yet to come. Carpe diem!

Seize the Day - Threshold Moments and the Hope for Change

It is common to respond to plans for radical change by stating that it is impossible to get this or that change enacted. This, of course, is manifestly wrong. We have only to look at historical events to see that it is perfectly possible, for both good and ill, to radically change circumstances in a host of ways that looked completely impossible not very long before.

The question is, how does that happen? And is it possible to imagine that we could, in fact, change things, and for example, bring about a relocalized economy, or 100 million farmers? Is that even feasible? More importantly, could it possibly happen before it has to? That is, we all know that we'd be a lot more secure if the transition to a sustainable agriculture happened a little before we were all out of food. Is that within the realm of possibility? I think so, but it requires a change in our perspective.

Now generally speaking, radical change is enacted one of two ways. The first is by revolution of one sort or another – a violent (not always warlike, but always violent), and deeply disruptive overthrow of what has gone before. In a very short time – the casting off of what has always seemed inviolable – slavery, colonialism, the divine of kings – transforms the landscape.

The problem with revolutions is that the costs are extremely high. Even a non-violent revolution means that large chunks of the existing population in power are simply cast out, and often come back to haunt you (think Cuba’s wealthy landowners, for example). Revolutions are vastly destructive, and anyone who simply isn’t ready, either adapts, or is overrun.

The other option is culture change – the gradual transition of a society from old values to new ones. It starts as a small movement, growing gradually, until ideas permeate the culture. Most of those who resist are given the chance to acclimate, and eventually come to accept, if not like, the dominant culture view. Eventually, cultural norms make it impossible even for those who espoused previous views to acknowledge them or to express them – think, for example, of the American Civil Rights movement. While racism was once a cultural norm in the US, now if you ask around, there are only about 4 people in the US who will admit to ever having expressed racist views.

The difficulty with this method is that it is far too slow for our present purposes – the major advances of the Civil Rights movement, for example, came over a period of 20 years. We simply don’t have 20 years of marching and gradually changing cultural norms.

Now it is necessarily the case that every movement contains elements of both of these – that is, the Civil Rights movement did include revolutionaries, and revolutions often begin with demonstrations. It is impossible for me to describe historical courses in any detail in a five page essay – but most such changes are dominated, either by a moment of overthrow, or by the lack of that moment.

Are those our only choices? That is, are our only options taking up arms, or marching and singing? Both might work or they might not – we may well be able to transition our culture, given enough time or enough will and anger – to a society that can adapt to the new environmental norms. But we do not have multiple decades to make such a transition. James Hansen, for example, notes that most of our environmental changes will have to come rapidly over the next decade. And because almost all our changes take some major lead time, that means that the period we have to change attitudes is very short.

As for revolution, it is simply too destructive, even were it not a bad idea for a host of other reasons. The human costs of radical, sudden transformation are resistance – lots of it. And lots of resistance means either the failure of overall goals or repressive responses that destroy what is created from the inside out.

So are there any other choices between the complete rupture of prior experience and the gradual transition to a new way of thinking? I think there is another option, but it depends upon being prepared to take hold of a moment, and claim it as your own.

The third choice is something I’m calling (for lack of a better term) “threshold moments” – those points at which history intervenes, and something that was unimaginable the day before becomes entirely possible. At those moments, it is possible to make a larger step forward than could previously have been imagined – people are poised for radical change.

Now such moments occur in two ways. The first is when events demand a particular change – for example, as in Cuba when the cutoff of oil supplies demanded a rapid fire deindustrialization of agriculture and the transition to a new economy. In this case, cause and effect are direct – that is, the systemic response to food shortages is the institutionalization of a new system. The bombing of Pearl Harbor leads to a military response and US participation in the World War. While it can never be said that there is no other response possible, the response is the logical, successful addressing of a problem

But there is another kind of threshold moment, one in which we perceive we are at a transitional moment, and at which it is possible to imagine a number of possible responses – where what matters is that the populace is poised for response – and multiple possible successful responses are possible. Here is the moment at which it is possible to advance a new agenda – and possible to override other public agendas by laying claim to that moment and advancing one’s agenda as a logical response.

The obvious example here is 9/11. If you are not American, I think it is hard to understand how desperately Americans were casting around after 9/11 for some way to make their own response match up to the radical change in their world that they experienced. And there is nothing logically contiguous with the event about, say, invading Iraq or going shopping – that is, what was most notable about 9/11 was that people were willing to make massive changes, had they been asked. They were not asked – and no one made a strong attempt to wrest the narrative of 9/11 away from the government – individuals resisted the story we were being told, but there was not a fully formed attempt, say to recast our response to 9/11 in terms of oil and energy, and to use it as a major call for renewable growth. Some attempts were made, but there weren’t enough people working together.

Such threshold moments come around fairly often in history, and are likely to come more often as we enter what has been called “interesting times.” In the last decade, we’ve had large-scale threshold moment, 9/11, and a smaller one in which some significant cultural changes might have been enacted, Hurricane Katrina.

Does that sound strange and unlikely? I think it is true that had Americans been told after 9/11, “We want you to go out and grow a victory garden and cut back on energy usage” the response would have been tremendous – it would absolutely have been possible to harness the anger and pain and frustration of those moments, and a people who desperately wanted something to do. Even after Katrina, it would have been possible for a concerted narrative that ran the pictures from the superdome over and over again saying “And if you never want this to happen again, you must…” Katrina would not have been nearly as effective as 9/11, but a great deal of change could have been made with it, regardless. And making use of the momentum of such events could have enabled us to be that much further along in the adaptation process before a moment comes at which a particular response is truly necessary.

Naomi Klein notes that this is precisely the claim of Milton Friedman’s “Shock Doctrine” which says that at a moment of crisis, you can sweep away the old and transform things utterly. Up until now, such a system has been mostly used for ill, for market reforms that are utterly destructive to our public life. But since such events will be used, it only makes sense for us to use them for good.

Moreover, as Klein points out, the Shock Doctrine’s essential message, overthrowing the past, is destructive to the ordinary people who are victims of a crisis. That is, those who live through such threshold moments in history and are directly affected by them want to cling to what they have of the past, to restore what they have lost. The Shock Doctrine model destroys, rather than reclaims the past.

Here, sustainability advocates have an enormous advantage in being able to claim the narrative from those who want to overthrow the past. Because ultimately, our propositions are always tied to the past, to previous successful responses to hard times and disaster. We are tying our propositions to what people dreamed of in suburbia, the small slice of personal eden that never was, and saying you can have that thing you once sought, as part of the promise of restoration. Those who claim that we are merely advocating a return to the past are missing the point – it is never possible to go back, but it is feasible to anchor the future in the past, to offer a narrative in which we do not have to give up what we value, but can retain it, and take it with us into a new and radically different world.

To do this, we will have to prepare and watch for the next such threshold moment. The peak oil and climate change movements were simply not organized enough 7 years ago at 9/11, and we mishandled Hurricane Katrina – there were plenty of individual attempts to tie it into climate change, but there was no unified attempt to create a single narrative account of Katrina.
If we are to imagine Relocalization and steady state economics taking over, if it is possible (and I do not say that it is, merely that we cannot fail to try), we must be absolutely prepared for the next threshold moment, and to explain how it is (and it will be, we won’t have to lie) about the oil, about the climate, and how it demands a particular response, not blowing up another country far away, but a change in us.

I have no idea when that moment will come, and neither does anyone else. It could happen tonight, and have us wake up in a changed world. Or it could leave us hanging for years, and the next such threshold we cross could be the transition into a real disaster, one in which our options are limited. But regardless, since it is always possible to fuck things up worse than necessary, sustainability advocates of every kind must be prepared to take one story and echo it back across media and blogs, to tell it and tell it, and teach others to demand a particular kind of response.

One of the things about this that is important is to remember that this doesn’t work in a linear way. That is, the process involves going along making small changes, and adding a few new recruits and tiny incremental alterations for a good long time. At first it seems like you aren’t making any progress at all – that the change is so vast that the little moves can’t get you there. But it is important to remember that you are doing the advance work for something that is likely to alter, not with a gradual building, but in a moment. That is, we’re doing what we can now, so that when the right time comes, we can do vastly more.

Kurt Cobb observed at Community Solutions that the best example of this narrative claiming is the 9/11 Truth Movement – regardless of what you think of their claims, they have been enormously effective in changing the official story about what 9/11 was. There are more of us – Paul Hawken has called the sustainability movement the largest movement on the planet, and that may well be true. There are tens of millions of people all over the world who care about this. And we have to be able to tell the story, the true story, of how climate change and peak oil have created a disaster to which we must now respond.

In the meantime, we grow our victory gardens and build our movement and educate our neighbors and plan and wait. It won’t be too long in coming. And then it will be time – to pass the word, and make our move – to try and take control of the narrative and say “This is what is needed as a response, to make us better.” And everything we do in the meantime, everything we start, every working model we create, every program we start, every change we make in our homes and neighborhoods, gets us that much more ready to seize the day.


Welcome to Kleptocracy

As many governments know, kleptomania is a wonderful can always take something for it.

A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.
Thomas Jefferson

A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.
George Bernard Shaw

Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.
P.J. O‘Rourke, Civil Libertarian

Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.
Frederic Bastiat, French Economist (1801-1850)

If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it‘s free.
P.J. O‘Rourke

Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn‘t mean politics won‘t take an interest in you.
Pericles (430 B.C)

What this country needs is more unemployed politicians.
Edward Langley, Artist (1928 - 1995)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Good Ideas....

These are taken from The God Delusion although I have heard they were not originally written by Richard Dawkins. Regardless, these are some pretty good ideas to live by.:

1. Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you

2. In all things, strive to cause no harm

3. Treat your fellow human beings, your fellow living things, and the world in general with love, honesty, faithfulness and respect.

4. Do not overlook evil or shrink from administering justice, but always be ready to forgive wrongdoing freely admitted and honestly regretted.

5. Live life with a sense of joy and wonder

6. Always seek to be learning something new

7. Test all things; always check your ideas against the facts, and be ready to discard even a cherished belief if it does not conform to them.

8. Never seek to censor or cut yourself off from dissent; always respect the right of others to disagree with you.

9. Form independent opinions on the basis of your own reason and experience; do not allow yourself to be led blindly by others.

10. Question everything

After 500 Years Indigenous Permaculture Rises Again

Cooperative action amongst indigenous permaculturists from around the Americas (South Dakota, El Salvador, and California's San Francisco Bay Area, to name a few), has generated growing interest in practical, low-cost solutions to many of their cultures' basic problems. This puts them way ahead of the curve in contrast to the colonial cultures in which they live.

Tribes represented by program leaders include Maya, Nahuat, Shuar, Lakota, Pima, Yaqui, Sonsonate (of El Salvador), and Oglala Lakota.

We all stand to gain a lot from their experience, experiments, and example. Bravo!

The Indigenous Permaculture Program is a grassroots organization that supports community food security to revitalize ecological health.

  • Revitalize Native and local communities through indigenous science, land stewardship, sustainable agriculture, community food security, and sustainable development.
  • Promote awareness of human impacts on the natural environment and on Indigenous communities when unsustainable choices are made
  • Use locally-available resources and demonstrate the power of conscious choices to create self-sufficient communities that care for and preserve Mother Earth

We share traditional farming practices and apply environmentally and culturally-appropriate technology, with the ultimate goal of community food security, and do this work in an affordable way that builds capacity within the community. We provide holistic support to design and implement community food security projects, inspired by indigenous peoples' understanding of how to live in place.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Drugged and Confused?

Found at
The Laws of the Pharmaceutical Industry

The main principles governing the pharmaceutical “business with disease.” It is not in the financial interests of the pharmaceutical industry to prevent common diseases – the maintenance and expansion of diseases is a precondition for the financial growth of this industry.

1 The pharmaceutical industry is an investment industry driven by the profits of its shareholders. Improving human health is not the driving force of this industry.

2 The pharmaceutical investment industry was artificially created and strategically developed over an entire century by the same investment groups that control the global petrochemical and chemical industries.

3 The huge profits of the pharmaceutical industry are based on the patenting of new drugs. These patents essentially allow drug manufacturers to arbitrarily define the profits for their products.

4 The marketplace for the pharmaceutical industry is the human body – but only for as long as the body hosts diseases. Thus, maintaining and expanding diseases is a precondition for the growth of the pharmaceutical industry.

5 A key strategy to accomplish this goal is the development of drugs that merely mask symptoms while avoiding the curing or elimination of diseases.

This explains why most prescription drugs marketed today have no proven efficacy and merely target symptoms.

6 To further expand their pharmaceutical market, the drug companies are continuously looking for new applications (indications) for the use of drugs they already market. For example, Bayer’s pain pill Aspirin is now taken by 50 million healthy US citizens under the illusion it will prevent heart attacks.

7 Another key strategy to expand pharmaceutical markets is to cause new diseases with drugs. While merely masking symptoms short term, most of the prescription drugs taken by millions of patients today cause a multitude of new diseases as a result of their known long-term side effects. For example, all cholesterol-lowering drugs currently on the market are known to increase the risk of developing cancer – but only after the patient has been taking
the drug for several years.

8 The known deadly side effects of prescription drugs are the fourth leading cause of death in the industrialized world, surpassed only by the number of deaths from heart attacks, cancer and strokes (Journal of the American Medical Association,April 15, 1998). This fact is no surprise either, because drug patents are primarily issued for new synthetic molecules.

All synthetic molecules need to be detoxified and eliminated from the body, a system that frequently fails and results in an epidemic of severe and deadly side effects.

9 While the promotion and expansion of diseases increase the market of the pharmaceutical investment industry - prevention and root cause treatment of diseases decrease long-term profitability; therefore, they are avoided or even obstructed by this industry.

10 Worst of all, the eradication of diseases is by its very nature incompatible with and diametrically opposed to the interests of the pharmaceutical investment industry. The eradication of diseases now considered as potential drug markets will destroy billions of investment dollars and eventually will eliminate this entire industry.

11 Vitamins and other effective natural health therapies that optimize cellular metabolism threaten the pharmaceutical “business with disease” because they target the cellular cause of today’s most common diseases - and these natural substances cannot be patented.

12 Throughout the more than one hundred year existence of the pharmaceutical industry, vitamins and other essential nutrients, with defined functions as cofactors in cellular metabolism, have been the fiercest competition and the greatest threat to the long-term success of the pharmaceutical investment business.

13 Vitamins and other effective natural health therapies that effectively prevent diseases are incompatible with the very nature of the pharmaceutical “business with disease.”

14 To protect the strategic development of its investment business against the threat from effective, natural and non-patentable therapies, the pharmaceutical industry has – over an entire century - used the most unscrupulous methods, such as:

(1) Withholding life-saving health information from millions of people.

It is simply unacceptable that today so few know that the human body cannot produce vitamin C and lysine, two key molecules for connective tissue stability and disease prevention.

(2) Discrediting natural health therapies. The most common way is through global PR campaigns organized by the Pharma-Cartel that spread lies about the alleged side effects of natural substances – molecules that have been used by Nature for millennia.

(3) Banning by law the dissemination of information about natural health therapies. To that end, the pharmaceutical industry has placed its lobbyists in key political positions in key markets and leading drug export nations.

15 The pharmaceutical “business with disease” is the largest deception and fraud business in human history. The product “health” promised by drug companies is not delivered to millions of patients. Instead, the “products” most often delivered are the opposite: new diseases and frequently, death.

16) The survival of the pharmaceutical industry is dependent on the elimination by any means of effective natural health therapies. These natural and non-patentable therapies have become the treatment of choice for millions of people despite the combined economic, political and media opposition of the world’s largest investment industry.

Know Your Lifeboat - Brock Dolman

This brief interview gets to the heart of Permaculture Politics which is every person's intimate relationship with their watershed (or waterspread as Brock calls it, since the point is slow it down, rather than merely shed it, so that its gifts can be used over and over). In a nutshell, water is everyone's personal (and interpersonal) Source of Life (which is important to remember if love is really the aim our game).

Know Your Lifeboat: An Interview with Permaculturist Brock Dolman
Marita Prandoni |Know Your Lifeboat: An Interview with Permaculturist Brock Dolman

Brock Dolman photo courtesy Brock DolmanBrock Dolman is a permaculturist at the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center (OAEC) based in Occidental, California. He is a member of the Sowing Circle Intentional Community and is Director of the OAEC’s WATER Institute (Watershed Advocacy, Training, Education, & Research) and Permaculture Design Program. He also co-directs OAEC’s Wildlands Biodiversity Program.

His Basins of Relations and other permaculture-related courses are designed for farmers, gardeners, land managers, landscapers, home or landowners, builders, educators and activists who want to restore their surroundings and extend their unique ecosystem attributes. Brock also co-manages the Center’s biodiversity collection, orchards and 70 acres of wilderness.

Living up to his specialized-generalist nature, and rekindling the dwindling art of the peripatetic natural historian, his experience ranges from the study of wildlife biology, native California botany and watershed ecology, to the practice of habitat restoration, education about regenerative human settlement design, ethno-ecology and ecological literacy activism toward societal transformation. Brock recently presented at the 2009 Bioneers Conference.

EcoHearth: What is permaculture?

Brock Dolman: Well, it’s not an Alaskan hairdo. My simple answer is that it’s a design methodology for regenerative human settlement patterns. Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren named the method when they introduced it in the 1970s, but much of what it talks about is on the cutting edge of 10,000-year-old ideas. As the word implies, it is a way fostering the relationships in natural ecologies and of honoring the wisdom of cultures and people throughout time. Permaculture recognizes the foundation of history on which we stand with the modern issues we face.

EH: What are basins of relations?

BD: Most referential feedback happens on a watershed scale. Everybody on the planet lives in a watershed. Besides its poetic ring, the idea is one of a cradle, or a container as water flows overland, collecting into a river, and sometimes making its way to the ocean. Basins of Relations® are three-dimensional topographical territories created over time by geology, hydrology, fire, and uplifted and eroded land. They are about honoring and rekindling our relationship with all our relations on the planet. The most efficacious place for this is in the watershed. This is where we can have social, local, intentional community with other life forms and inanimate processes, like the fire cycle and the hydrological cycle. It’s not reductionist and it is not a NIMBY[not in my backyard – Ed.] opportunity. For a community to have regenerative settlement patterns, we’d better figure out the water cycle, which is tied to the soil and air. The fire cycle is tied to the air cycle, which is responsible for vegetation, photosynthesis, smoke and nutrient processes like those involving phosphorus and nitrogen.

EH: I haven’t heard you use the word sustainability.

BD: If you asked a friend how her relationship with her husband was, and she told you it was sustainable, wouldn’t you get the sense that it wasn’t that great? When you unpack “sustainability,” you get a question about your ability to sustain the cycles of life. Watersheds should embody the geographic scale of applied sustainability, which must be regenerative because we desperately are in need of making up for lost time.

Watersheds offer an important scale for relationship and feedback. Is the water quality cleaner and quantity more abundant or not? If the river doesn’t reach the ocean or makes a dead zone at the mouth, we need to take pause and evaluate the cycle from ridgeline to river mouth. How are humans behaving there? What is their relationship to water, soil, nutrient cycle and biodiversity? We need baseline criteria. Where are we starting, and what are we comparing our watershed to?

In the pre-contact Pacific Northwest, the salmon were so plentiful “you could walk on their backs.” What was the feedback mechanism that allowed them to flourish? If you choose indicators like the salmon, you identify keystone species. Certain critters, if you hold them up, help us track the health of a watershed from summit to sea. They reflect for us interspecies relationships.

In indigenous hydro-engineering systems like the acequias of northern New Mexico, Peru and Ecuador, or the chinampas of Mesoamerica, the whole is greater than the sum of its parciantes (water shareholders). It’s called a hydro-democracy or aqua-democracy—truly a commonwealth, when the ditch is flowing.

EH: Over history and around the world, going back millennia, many cultures have continued the erosion of soil, largely through livestock grazing. Can livestock have a restorative role in permaculture?

Blue Corn photo © Jan Mangan, BioneersBD: History has good and bad examples. Part of being a good ecological designer is utilizing case studies that express behaviors that show cultural and ecological integrity over time versus witnessing the collapse of civilization from overuse or abuse of the natural resources a community depended on.

Agriculture includes forestry, livestock and cultivation of crops. The first cut on the land is cutting vegetation—converting trees and shrubs, grasses at the hand of people themselves. We may clear it to allow for settlements. Then we manipulate it for the extraction of resources, like wood, fodder or crops. Animals were domesticated and enslaved to be put to work by people. Just as a saw can be used to prune or to kill, cows can be used to stimulate regenerative growth of grasses or to denude the land. The responsibility comes back to the people manipulating the landscape. Don’t blame the cows.

We turned away from responsible agriculture when we committed to significant clear-cutting, allowing for the loss of topsoil, and by altering our waterways. The great deforestation has led to desertification. If we undermine resiliency within the larger scale trend, we begin to set up behaviors within the smaller scale trend that weaken resilience. We’ve compromised so many processes and flows in the tapestry of life that the warp and weft are now tattered and torn. We need a methodology to reweave this world.

EH: Most people living in cities don’t think about their watershed. The water flows from the tap.

BD: Watersheds can be as vast as the Mississippi basin, the third-largest in the world that drains 41% of the lower 48 US states into the Gulf of Mexico, or they can functionally be as small as all the land in your neighborhood that flows from your yard, roof, driveway and streets to the storm drain and into your local creek or lake. Watersheds underlie all human endeavors and form the foundation for all future aspirations and survival.

At any time, less than 1% of the world’s water is available as freshwater in lakes, rivers and accessible ground water for shared use by humans and other freshwater-dependent beings. The melting ice caps and glaciers are spilling into the saline oceans. As we drain wetlands and clear-cut forests, plow soils and pave over our watersheds, we further reduce freshwater supplies. OAEC’s practical and philosophical response is Conservation Hydrology®, which advocates that humans move from a dehydration model—pave it, pipe it and pollute it—to a rehydration model—“slow it, spread it and sink it”®. Thankfully at a national level, as part of the Clean Water Act, stormwater management is increasingly based on waterspread restoration. Bio-swales and rainwater gardens serve to biologically filter storm water, enhancing its quality and allowing it to recharge aquifers while reducing floods flows.

EH: As a peripatetic natural historian, where have you roamed? What lessons have you brought home from other parts of the world?

My dad is a retired marine, so growing up I traveled a lot in the U.S and Japan. As an adult I traveled in other countries—throughout Central America, the northern Andes, Brazil, Israel, Cypress and Turkey. The year 2009 was Darwin’s 200th birthday and as a member of the Junior Darwin Overachievers Society, I’m totally interested in tundra, rainforests and a plethora of ecological diversity. What’s fun is going to places like the high, dry Tibetan plateau, where water systems are aligned with cultural religious integrity. By going to cultures that have a semblance of intactness, we can honor that and find wisdom in those traditions. Then we can incorporate those ideas back here in North America while tending the wild.

EH: How can we organize our own basins of relations?

BD: One task at hand is permeating the headwaters in our own heads and our imprint on our watersheds. We are perched on the tipping point of a “watershed moment.” Now is the time to bring our communities together to set in motion plans and processes that ensure our watersheds will remain healthy in perpetuity. Each process, like every watershed and its associated community, is unique. Often certain local, state and federal jurisdictions are ready to collaborate with communities. Get to know members on the regional water board, irrigation district, planning commission, board of supervisors or city council. Know your state and federal legislators. Your home basin of relations is your lifeboat.

Additional resources:
A Forest Journey: The Story of Wood and Civilization by John Perlin
Totem Salmon: Life Lessons from Another Species by Freeman House
Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California's Natural Resources by M. Kat Anderson
EcoHearth Pieces on Watersheds