Learning what to make of it

SUBHEAD: I begin to make restitution, to walk the walk after so many years of talking the talk.

By Paul Kingsnorth on 24 May 2017 for Dark Mountain -
(http://dark-mountain.net/blog/learning-what-to-make-of-it/)


Image above: "Small Holding" photograph from original article.

When we win, it’s with small things, and the triumph itself makes us small. What is extraordinary and eternal does not want to be bent by us.
– Rilke
Certain gardens are described as retreats when they are really attacks.
– Ian Hamilton Finlay
The most exciting thing in my life at the moment is a five gallon bucket full of human excrement.

I should explain.

I recently tore the flush toilet out of our family home and replaced it with a compost toilet which I built myself. It is of the most basic variety: essentially, we crap into a big bucket and cover the crap with sawdust, then when the bucket is full I empty the contents onto a compost heap, where it rots down over the course of a year.

At the end of that year, we should have a safe and nutritious compost to use on our fruit trees and bushes, on the fuel coppices of aspen and birch we’ll be planting this winter, and on the small native forest that we are planning to grow here for as long as we are healthy.

It’s a big job, something like this, and undertaking it has made me realize how much effort needs to be put into the most simple things, and that in turn has made me realize why the society I live in has become addicted to paying for complicated things instead, and how this has laid a great big elephant trap for us that we may struggle ever to get out of.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The first thing I did was to build a rectangular box out of planks and nails, and the remains of two kitchen cupboard doors which we didn’t need any more. There followed a lot of sanding and planing and painting and varnishing and swearing when things were the wrong length and hinges didn’t fit where they should have done.

This took a few weeks, on and off, but at the end of it I had quite a handsome varnished wooden structure with two shiny blue hinged covers and a toilet seat on top. A five gallon brewing bucket fitted underneath.

Then I had to build a compost heap: two, in fact, so that we could keep an annual cycle of compost from the toilet going. I bought some old pallets from the timber yard up the road and carted them home in my van. That was a couple of days’ work.

After I had finished, I stood back and admired them for about half an hour. I am a writer. I have never been a practical man, or have never believed I am, and I’m still at the stage where successfully completing a practical task fills me with astonishment.

Still, that was the easy bit. Ever tried taking out a flush toilet? It’s a messy job. In the end, a friend came round and devoted an afternoon to helping me to do it. He is a casually practical man, so the job went well. In the aftermath, big chunks of porcelain lay on the grass outside and all that remained in the bathroom was a blocked up outflow pipe and a gash in the lino. In went the compost loo, in went a bucket of sawdust, in went a wall hanging to cover the gaping holes, and voilà: a closed loop system.

The flush toilet, to me, is a worthy metaphor for the civilization I live in. It is convenient, it is easy, it is hygienic and it is wonderfully warm and dry. It is the most luxurious pooing experience known to man. You can do your business and never have to think about what happens next: never have to think about what happens to the feces and urine you have just produced, just as you probably never thought about the origins of the food which created it in the first place.

u can act, if you like, as if you have never produced it at all; as if you were far too civilised to have to engage in such base and primitive behavior. You can sit in the warmth, reading an amusing light-hearted book, then you can simply press a button, and you will never have to deal with your own shit.

What happens to a society that won’t deal with its own shit? It ends up deep in it.

A compost toilet is harder work. First you have to build the toilet and the compost heaps, and then you have to source a regular supply of sawdust or pine needles, which will keep the smells and flies away and give the compost enough bulk on the heap.

Most importantly, you have to empty the bucket when it gets full, which is every few days most of the time. This is the part of the job which really seems to disgust those of my friends and family who can’t understand why I have disposed of a perfectly good toilet and replaced it with something medieval.

But it’s also the part of the job that I enjoy the most. I’ve noticed myself getting almost excited as the bucket approaches being full. Emptying the thing on to the compost heap, covering it with grass, inspecting the progress of the heap so far, cleaning and replacing the bucket, putting a new layer of sawdust in the bottom: would you believe me if I told you this was a satisfying process? Anticipating being able to use the results on my own trees is almost thrilling.

If a flush toilet is a metaphor for a civilization that wants to wash its hands of its own wastes as long as they accumulate somewhere else, then a compost toilet is both a small restitution, and a declaration:
  • I will not turn my back on the consequences of my actions. 
  • I will not hand them over to someone else to deal with. 
  • I will not crap into clean drinking water and flush it down a pipe to be cleaned with industrial chemicals at some sewage plant I have never visited.
I will fertilize my own ground with my own manure, and in doing so I will control an important part of my life in this world, and that control will give me more understanding over it. I will claw something of myself back. Even in the rain, even in winter, I will deal with my own shit.



In 2014, I emigrated. My wife and I moved with our two young children from urban England, where we had always lived, to rural Ireland. We bought ourselves a small bungalow with two and a half acres of land up a quiet lane. It was the culmination of a personal project we’ve been engaged in for more than half a decade: to find a way escape from the urban consumer machine we were both brought up in.

We wanted to live more simply; or perhaps just more starkly, because life here is rarely simple. Our kids were just getting to school age, and the idea of sending them to school to systematically crush their spontaneity and have them taught computer coding so that they could compete in the ‘global race’ made us miserable. We wanted to grow our own food and compost our own shit and educate our own children and make our own jam and take responsibility for our own actions.

This can all sound very cloying. Western middle class people going ‘back to the land’ is a modern cliché, and when we think we are hearing that story we tend to react in a particular way, positive or negative depending on our political or cultural persuasions.

Perhaps I am a cliché, but I’m not especially interested in other people’s expectations. I was brought here by many things, but one of them is a voice that has been whispering in my ear for years, and growing louder for the last few.

This voice tells me that I am one of the luckiest people on Earth. It tells me I am a middle-class man from a country grown fat on centuries of plunder, that I have a university degree, that I go to restaurants and have a laptop computer and an internet connection, and I can publish articles like this in magazines.

In other words, I am somewhere up near the top of the pyramid of human fortune. And that in turn means I am up near the top of the pyramid of human cupidity and destruction which is driving the natural world to the edge.

One of the driving forces in my life is a deep love of nature. If you ask me to explain precisely what I mean by that, or why it has such a grip on me, I won’t be able to. But I could tell you about profound experiences I’ve had in forests and mountains, about the joy that rises in my heart when I see a hawk circle or hear the roar of an untamed river, and the misery that sinks into it if I’m trapped in a city or on a motorway.

I could tell you about the occasional brief glimpses I get into the reality that I am a passing moment in an ancient, beautiful, terrifying whorl of life on a vast unknowable planet; that I am not an observer of it, but a part of its wide flow; that there is no such thing as outside.

This kind of thing is nearly impossible to put down on paper, as you can see. Once upon a time, many millennia ago, I suspect it would have been the default worldview, but today, it is a hard one to live with. The culture that I was born into is systematically dismantling the web of life itself, and as it does so it is dismantling my sense of meaning and many of the things that I love.

My status as a middle-class consumer in a Western industrialised country means that I am part of this problem, whether I want to face up to that or not.

This is what that voice whispered to me, as once it whispered to Rilke: you must change your life. I came here because I can’t justify my complicity any more. I feel a personal duty to live as simply and with as little impact on the rest of nature as I possibly can.

I’ve no interest in extending this duty to anybody else, or in preaching about it or politicising it, or in pretending that I am in any way pure or unsullied or even halfway competent yet at undertaking it. It is just a personal calling.

But perhaps it explains my joy at that full toilet bucket. I feel I am at last starting to do my bit, to make restitution, to walk the walk after so many years of talking the talk. I can’t write or talk about natural beauty, or natural anything, unless I’m trying to do as little damage to it as possible; and at this time in history, that means taking myself away from the heart of the beast. It means stripping back.

It means inconveniencing myself. It means paying attention.

• Dark Mountain co-founder Paul Kingsnorth’s new essay collection, Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist, was published last month by Faber. It brings together 18 of Paul’s essays from the past decade, along with Uncivilisation, the original manifesto that got the Dark Mountain Project started. This is an excerpt from one of the essays in the book, ‘Learning What to Make of It’ 

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Waikiki Beach & Ala Wai waters rise

SUBHEAD: King tides have beachgoers dodging waves while the canal nears the top of its retaining wall.

By Emily Cardenall on 25 May 2017 for Civil Beat -
(http://www.civilbeat.org/2017/05/king-tides-are-providing-a-glimpse-of-hawaiis-future/)

Image above: Tourists dodge ocean waves breaking at seaside of Outrigger Hotel in Waikiki. Note tarp and sandbags at left to retain site landscaping. From (http://www.civilbeat.org/2017/05/waikiki-beaches-contract-while-ala-wai-canal-rises/).

Waikiki could get the highest tides in more than on hundred years this weekend,

The combination of high lunar tides, a south swell and ongoing sea level rise is giving Hawaii a preview of what’s to come with climate change.

With record high tides expected through the weekend, Hawaii is getting a preview of what could become the new normal with sea level rise.

The ever-increasing effect of global warming is combining with some of the year’s highest lunar tides and a south swell to produce what are predicted to be the highest ocean levels in 112 years of record-keeping. Volunteers for the University of Hawaii’s Sea Grant College Program are taking to the coasts to document the effects.

A group called Citizen Scientists is working with Sea Grant’s Hawaii and Pacific Islands King Tides Project to take photos of coastlines all over the state to record the effects of rising sea levels.

Matthew Gonser, an extension agent with Sea Grant College who works with the volunteers, said this documentation will help make predictions for what the baseline sea level could look like in the future, among other research endeavors.

He was working with the volunteers in front of the Outrigger Canoe Club in Waikiki on Thursday afternoon.

Predictions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have tides rising around 2.4 feet higher than average through the weekend. The average itself has been increasing slowly due to sea level rise tied to climate change, and Gonser said the result over the next couple of days could actually exceed the predictions.


Image above: Paddlers practice on Ala Wai Canal in Waikiki when canal water was within a foot of topping its t=retaining wall. From (http://www.civilbeat.org/2017/05/waikiki-beaches-contract-while-ala-wai-canal-rises/).

May’s king tides mark the third documentation session for the volunteer group. While their photos are important to visualize and track data, the community conversations that follow will be perhaps the most significant result, Gonser said.

“We hope to engage in this conversation — that is actually really difficult to have — about how rising sea levels impact our locale,” he said. “You can’t ignore it.”

Factors are converging to create the epic tides, said Philip Thompson, associate director of the University of Hawaii’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology. They include a recent increase in slow-moving, rotating and churning bodies of water, called ocean eddies, and the lasting effects of the 2015-2016 El Nino.

Meanwhile, climate change is producing rising sea levels with no end in sight.


This poses an issue for the coastal areas in Hawaii, in particular, because washed-out beaches hurt tourism and the environment.

“Maintaining our beaches and nourishing them will be an ongoing struggle,” Thompson said.

The Citizen Scientists also plan to document the next expected king tides June 23-24 and July 21 and 22.


Image above: Flooding on Ahua Street near Keehi Lagoon Beach Park in Honolulu during a king tide Wednesday. From original article.

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Hawaii's feral chicken "problem"

SUBHEAD: What came first? The chicken or the Whole Foods parking lot in Kailua on Big Island.

By Kristen Downey on 25 May 2017 for Civil Beat -
(http://www.civilbeat.org/2017/05/why-wild-chickens-are-flocking-to-whole-foods-in-kailua/)


Image above: The Wild chickens are flocking to Whole Foods in Kailua on the Big Island. From original article.

The Kailua Neighborhood Board passed a motion recently asking the city to revise its feral chicken removal program to focus on trapping roosters.

In the past two years, regular customers at the upscale Whole Foods grocery store in Kailua have been noticing an odd phenomenon — more and more feral chickens are roosting in the parking lot.

Whole families of birds –roosters, chickens and chicks– are perching in and under the trees near the entrance to the store, nesting near the area where the shopping carts are stored, and strutting up and down the rows of the parking lot. They’re also crowing. A lot.

Inside the store, a 5-pound, free-range chicken from California costs about $20. Outside, in the blocks surrounding the store, about three dozen are roaming free.

“I don’t remember there ever being chickens like this. Never. Maybe on the Pali, but never like this,” said Amanda Gomez, 29, of Kaneohe, scanning the Whole Foods parking lot. “There are so many moms and babies. They love this area right here.”

Opinions are divided over the feathered newcomers. Some in Kailua admire the birds’ bright plumage and see them as charming wildlife.  Some are irritated by their incessant crowing. Some wonder if they could carry disease and some are growing afraid of them. Some have a live-and-let-live attitude toward the birds.

And some people want the government to get rid of them.

“Are they pests or are they pets?” asked Scot Matayoshi, who serves on the Kailua Neighborhood Board. He has been pushing for the city to trap and remove the birds, particularly the roosters, but said that his effort has been controversial to some people on the board who would prefer the birds be left in peace.

“Whether or not one regards feral chickens as pests is a matter of individual preference,” said Sheila Conant, a professor emerita at University of Hawaii and an expert on Hawaiian birds.

“Having a neighborhood rooster that crows in the middle of the night or very early in the morning could certainly be exasperating. At the moment, I don’t mind the chickens. They can be fun to watch.”

According to the Hawaii Department of Health, the birds don’t present a public health risk.

The federal Centers for Disease Control, however, advises that people who have physical contact with poultry or poultry waste are at risk of salmonella infection. The germs can get on the hands, shoes and clothes of people who have contact with the birds or their saliva or droppings.

Complaints about chickens came up last month at the Kailua Neighborhood Board meeting. Board members passed overwhelmingly a motion asking the city of Honolulu to revise its feral chicken removal program to focus on trapping and removing roosters. They said that would be cheaper than eradicating both males and females.

But Matayoshi said city officials told him they haven’t been able to find a pest removal company that wants to remove the birds. There’s only one company on the islands, Sandwich Isles Pest Solutions in Pearl City, that can be hired to remove bothersome birds, and the city does not have a standing contract with the firm for the work, Matayoshi said.

Harold Scholes, a pest control consultant at Sandwich Isles Pest Solutions, said the company catches and euthanizes unwanted chickens for private clients. For $300 a week and $115 per trip to each site, the company will set up a trap, provide it with bait and water, and remove the animal humanely. He said that other parts of the island, not just Kailua, have seen an increase in feral chickens.

According to Sherilyn Kajiwara, director of the Honolulu customer services department, the  city manages feral chicken issues only on its own property, and only on a case-by-case basis.  Other property owners — whether private owners, the federal government or the state government — are responsible for dealing with their own problems.

But in response to growing calls for action, the city last year added what she called a “fowl response component” into its animal control contract with the Hawaiian Humane Society. The Humane Society began handling the job in January.

“Under the city contract, the HHS will respond to public complaints related to pet fowl nuisances,” Kajiwara said in a statement to Civil Beat. “It does not address feral animals and does not have a fowl eradication component.”

She referred further questions to the Hawaiian Humane Society.

Fines For Nuisance Violations

Suzy Tam, communications director for the Humane Society, said the $80,000 contract for poultry remediation services calls for the Humane Society to respond to “nuisance” complaints. That’s defined as any animal “making noise continuously for ten minutes or intermittently for 30 minutes or more,” and causing a disturbance, or owning an excessive number of animals.

Violations can lead to fines of up to $50 for a first offense and up to $1,000 for further offenses.
She said the Humane Society does not remove nuisance chickens, whether owned or free-roaming.
Tam said the Humane Society has gotten 289 complaints about chickens since late January, with calls coming from all over the island.

She said they have mailed out 83 warning letters and issued six citations to residents with chickens on their properties during that period, but have no way of comparing the numbers to previous years because the contract is new.

Outside Whole Foods in Kailua, there is a whole range of perspectives about the chickens and speculation about where they came from.

Dallas Pabilona, of Hayward, California, a tourist, squealed with laughter when she spotted a cocky rooster strutting in the median in front of her car. She was dismayed to hear that some people want to cull the flock.

“If they weren’t here, where would they live?,” she asked. “This is everybody’s home.”

Bob Beard, the oceanarium manager at the Pacific Beach Hotel and a long-time Kailua resident, on the other hand, scowled at the birds as he sat at an outside dining table near the entrance to Whole Foods, only a few feet from a rooster perching noisily in a tree.

“They’re chickens,” he said. “They do what people like to do. They copulate. I’m surprised there’s not more cats around—there’s a lot of free meat.”
He also thinks they’re dirty.

Michael La Rochelle, 25, a nanny and student, said he called 911 one day this week after spotting a young man trying to catch a large rooster with a kind of lasso. He said Kailua police said they would check it out. When he returned, the man was gone, and the rooster was still the cock of the walk.

La Rochelle said he thought the man was trying to catch the rooster to use it for cock-fighting. “He was going after a rooster,” he said. “If he wanted to eat it, he would pick a chicken.”

Pumehana Piko, who grew up on Molokai and Maui but who has lived on Oahu for 14 years, said she believes the chickens in Kailua have been released or escaped from cockfighting businesses because they seem unusually fierce. Cockfighting is illegal in most parts of the country but is only a misdemeanor in Hawaii, and the events can be popular and well-attended.

“They breed for chickens that are aggressive,” said Piko, 37.  She said people who organize cockfights earn big money from it–$5,000 or $20,000 for a match—and that more people are trying to get into the business.

“You’ll see kids try to grab them for pets or experiment to get them to fight each other,” Piko said.
Pauline Menor-Ozoa, of Kailua, who works in the human resources department at Queen’s Medical Center, also believes the chickens are escapees from cockfighting operations.

“My girls are afraid of them,” she said. “Usually chickens run away, but these follow you and look at you.”

Conant, the bird expert, said she is growing curious about why chickens are proliferating so quickly. In an email to Civil Beat, she said she believes that more people have been raising chickens to get their own fresh eggs, and that when it proves troublesome to care for them, they are releasing them, and they become feral.

“Feral chickens, much like feral cats, can do quite well without assistance (food or shelter) from people,” she said in an email to Civil Beat.

She identified one of the birds at the Kailua Whole Foods as a rooster, and she said his color patterns and the lack of any unusual plumage characteristics, such as feathers on the feet, or an ornate crown of feathers or distinctive markings, make it likely the bird is what is known as a “jungle fowl.” That’s the common name for the wild species from which modern chicken breeds have been developed.
There are more than 200 breeds of chickens, Conant said.

“Once individuals escape and breed on their own, they revert back to the appearance of jungle fowl in very few generations,” she wrote.

Why Kailua? And why Whole Foods? The managers at Whole Foods, as well as their public relations firm, declined repeated requests for comment.

So for now, the question is open. Perhaps the fowl feel particularly safe there.
After all, the chickens only need to cross the road.

On the other side, they get to the Kawainui-Hamakua Marsh Complex, the largest single wetland in the state, a safe haven for birds.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Chicken Odesssy - not from Polynesia 3/18/14
Island Breath: Moa - Red Jungle Fowl 10/31/06

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Human lineage from Greece?

SUBHEAD: Fossils cast doubt on early human lineage originating in Africa.

By Will Dunham on 23 May 2017 for Ekathimerini.com -
(http://www.ekathimerini.com/218639/article/ekathimerini/news/fossils-cast-doubt-on-human-lineage-originating-in-africa)


Image above: Graecopithecus freybergi lived 7.2 million years ago in the dust-laden savannah of the Athens Basin. This view from Graecopithecus freybergi’ place of discovery, Pyrgos Vassilissis, to the southeast over the plain of Athens and under a reddish cloud of Sahara dust; in the background: Mount Hymettos and Mount Lykabettos. Illustration by Velizar Simeonovski. From (http://www.sci-news.com/othersciences/anthropology/graecopithecus-freybergi-hominin-04888.html).

Fossils from Greece and Bulgaria of an ape-like creature that lived 7.2 million years ago may fundamentally alter the understanding of human origins, casting doubt on the view that the evolutionary lineage that led to people arose in Africa.

Scientists said on Monday the creature, known as Graecopithecus freybergi and known only from a lower jawbone and an isolated tooth, may be the oldest-known member of the human lineage that began after an evolutionary split from the line that led to chimpanzees, our closest cousins.

The jawbone, which included teeth, was unearthed in 1944 in Athens. The premolar was found in south-central Bulgaria in 2009. The researchers examined them using sophisticated new techniques including CT scans and established their age by dating the sedimentary rock in which they were found.

They found dental root development that possessed telltale human characteristics not seen in chimps and their ancestors, placing Graecopithecus within the human lineage, known as hominins. Until now, the oldest-known hominin was Sahelanthropus, which lived 6-7 million years ago in Chad.

The scientific consensus long has been that hominins originated in Africa. Considering the Graecopithecus fossils hail from the Balkans, the eastern Mediterranean may have given rise to the human lineage, the researchers said.

The findings in no way call into question that our species, Homo sapiens, first appeared in Africa about 200,000 years ago and later migrated to other parts of the world, the researchers said.

"Our species evolved in Africa. Our lineage may not have," said paleoanthropologist Madelaine Böhme of Germany's University of Tübingen, adding that the findings "may change radically our understanding of early human/hominin origin."

Homo sapiens is only the latest in a long evolutionary hominin line that began with overwhelmingly ape-like species, followed by a succession of species acquiring more and more human traits over time.

University of Toronto paleoanthropologist David Begun said the possibility that the evolutionary split occurred outside Africa is not incongruent with later hominin species arising there.

"We know that many of the mammals of Africa did in fact originate in Eurasia and dispersed into Africa at around the time Graecopithecus lived," Begun said. "So why not Graecopithecus as well?"

Graecopithecus is a mysterious species because its fossils are so sparse. It was roughly the size of a female chimp and dwelled in a relatively dry mixed woodland-grassland environment, similar to today's African savanna, alongside antelopes, giraffes, rhinos, elephants, hyenas and warthogs.

The findings were published in the journal PLOS ONE.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Evolution becomes Conscious 1/5/13
Ea O Ka Aina: One time Through the Bottleneck 7/21/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Hobbits and Menehunes 5/9/09

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The Militarized Pacific

SUBHEAD: American military excess in a region scarred by militarism and an ongoing legacy of war without end.

By Jon Letman on 14 May 2017 for Truth Out -
(http://www.truth-out.org/op-ed/item/23688-the-militarized-pacific-an-anniversary-without-end)


Image above: Marshallese children swim and play amongst a junk heap on the shore of tiny Ebeye island, one of the most densely populated places on earth. Some 11-12,000 people are packed onto the 80 acre island. Photo by Richard Ross. From original article.

March 1, the 60th anniversary of the Castle Bravo test - a nuclear detonation over a thousand times more powerful than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima - has come and gone.

Predictably, major decadal events, like a 15-megaton explosion over a Micronesian atoll, garner fleeting attention, but it's all the days between the anniversaries that tell the real story of those who live with the impacts.

For the people of the Marshall Islands, where Enewetak, Bikini and neighboring atolls were irradiated and rendered uninhabitable by 67 nuclear tests between 1946 and 1958, the brief anniversary recognition only underscores what little attention the Marshallese and, in a broader sense, millions of peoples of the Asia-Pacific are given by the US government and public.

The Marshallese, like people across the Pacific, live with impacts of plans devised at the United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) headquarters in Hawaii. After the Pentagon, PACOM is one of the world's most far-reaching military command centers.

With a self-proclaimed "Area of Responsibility" that absorbs half the world's population and covers roughly half the planet from the Arctic to the Antarctic, across the Indian Ocean and from Central Asia to the Central Pacific, it gives new meaning to the word "vast."

Generally, the US public gives little, if any, thought to the impact their military has on entire societies, economies and the natural environments that sustain them - as they pursue "American interests" and "national security" under America's self-dubbed first Pacific president.

Many Americans are aware of the US military presence in Hawaii, Okinawa, Guam and throughout Japan and South Korea. Those old enough may recall the now-closed naval base at Subic Bay in the Philippines and might have noticed President Obama's 2011 announcement of an Asia-Pacific pivot.

Part of the pivot includes the deployment of up to 2,500 Marines, along with B52 bombers, FA18s, C17 transport aircraft and other military hardware, to Northern Australia and a naval base in Western Australia.

However, places like the US-backed naval base being built on South Korea's Jeju island and the enormous military testing and training ranges in the Northern Mariana Islands (larger than much of the western United States) receive almost no attention. Names like Pagan, Rongelap and Kwajalein are scarcely known in the country that uses these islands for its own military testing.

Something to Prove
Nowhere are the costs of a militarized Pacific better illustrated than in the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI). The tiny Micronesian nation, located between Hawaii and Guam, has just 53,000 people. The Marshallese are a young population - the median age is just over 19 years old - yet the country is burdened with some of the highest cancer rates in the Pacific following 12 years of US nuclear tests in what was called "the Pacific Proving Grounds."

Dr. Neal Palafox of the John Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii has been working in the RMI on and off since the 1980s. Palafox says health impacts are not limited to elevated cancer rates (especially cervical, breast and liver) and birth defects, but include heart disease, diabetes, stroke, hepatitis, obesity and substance abuse that stem from the dramatic changes the country has undergone since the 1950s.

"The rapidness at which [Marshall Islanders] had to enter Westernization is a large part of the cause of the non-communicable diseases which are lifestyle and diet [related]," Palafox says, adding that increased levels and types of cancers in the Marshall Islands, based on National Cancer Institute (NCI) research and firsthand accounts by Marshallese, are the result of nuclear testing.

In a series of eight papers published in the journal Health Physics, the NCI found average thyroid radiation doses in the southern Marshall Islands ranged from 12 to 34 megarays (mGy), in the mid-latitudes from 67 to 160 mGy and in the northern inhabited atolls (closest to the nuclear tests) from 760 to 7,600 mGy. In the mainland United States, the report notes, exposure to natural radiation in the environment is 1 mGy.

The militarization that continued after World War II led to sweeping societal changes for the Marshallese as the combination of forced evacuations and relocations due to nuclear testing and the lure of jobs at the military base on Kwajalein Atoll led to rapid urbanization.

Today three-quarters of the country's people live on just two tiny islands - the capital Majuro and Ebeye Island, part of Kwajalein Atoll, home to the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site (RTS), one of the premier missile testing facilities in the Pacific.

Founded in the 1960s, RTS supports the US Space Surveillance Network, the Missile Defense Agency and AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense testing which contributes to the land-based missile systems the US is preparing to deploy in Poland and Romania.

"Slum of the Pacific"
Three miles north of Kwajalein's main island is Ebeye. At 80 acres, it's little more than a speck of dry land but it's home to an estimated 11,000-12,000 Marshallese, making it one of the most densely populate places on Earth. Over half the population is under 18 years old, largely supported by adults who commute daily to work at RTS as groundskeepers, kitchen workers, custodians or in clerical positions.

Noda Lojkar, who was born on Ebeye says, "The living conditions are really hard - it's bad, especially with power and water [shortages]." Lojkar is the consul general at the RMI's consulate in Honolulu, but has family on Ebeye and still regularly visits.

He says some 800 Marshallese work at RTS, each of them supporting around 14 people on Ebeye. Lojkar remembers less crowded times and a friendlier relationship with military personnel but says conditions have grown more rigid in recent years. "The base became stricter and stricter, and it changed people's mentality and how they looked at the Americans," he says.

After 9/11, Kwajalein island access for Marshallese grew tighter even when visiting in search of potable water. "On Ebeye, there's not enough water," Lojkar says, explaining that the military has multiple sources of water.

With almost no space to grow or raise food, Ebeye residents live mostly on imported rice, flour, canned meats and fish from the US or Australia. The tropical bounty found on other Pacific islands is in short supply on Ebeye, and simply traveling to another island to harvest food is impractical or impossible for those who don't have a boat, can't afford the expensive gas and don't own land on other islands.

A Life Changed
Life on Ebeye wasn't always like this. Giff Johnson, editor of RMI's sole newspaper, the Marshall Islands Journal, has been visiting Ebeye since 1976. He's spent close to a year on the island and has watched as various bodies - the US military, the RMI and US governments, and most recently Australia - have tried to improve basic water, power and hygiene infrastructure.

The urbanization of not just Ebeye but the entire country, which began in the 1950s and 60s, saw people come from as far away as the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and Palau to work at "Kwaj." As outsiders converged on Ebeye, families grew, and conditions became what they are today.

Johnson, who lives on Majuro, describes how Marshallese visiting Kwajalein, have to go through gratuitous security checks that include multiple identification passes, X-rays, fingerprinting and even confiscation of possessions as innocuous as candy bars.

This treatment is disturbing to Marshallese inside their own country. "We're your allies, [we] vote with the US at the UN. We support you and work on the base. We're not al Qaeda. We are your partners," Johnson says, repeating the sentiment of many Marshallese.

RTS did not respond to a request for comment.

By hosting RTS, Marshallese must also submit to restricted access to Kwajalein lagoon before, during and after range operations - that is, when missiles armed with dummy warheads are being fired from or into the lagoon.

Besides poor infrastructure, overcrowding and few job opportunities, Johnson says life is hard in the RMI's crowded urban centers, citing alcohol abuse, dropping out of school, high suicide rates and chronic health problems as contributing factors to RMI's high outward migration and disproportionately high rate of enlistment in the US military.

"Our industry here is government grants from the United States," Johnson says wryly. "That's our economy."

"Safe" Is a Relative Term
In the northern Marshall Islands, 150 miles east of Bikini, is Rongelap Atoll. Today, the main island is mostly empty, the majority of its population having been removed, relocated and then evacuated with the help of Greenpeace in 1985. The Rongelapese community is divided between remote Mejatto Island and Majuro.

Senator Kenneth Kedi represents Rongelap - his home community - in the RMI's parliament. Kedi describes how, following the nuclear tests, women on Rongelap began having "very unnatural babies - octopus-looking, grape-looking." He says a 1982 report by the US Department of Energy (DOE) confirmed that parts of Rongelap were as contaminated as Bikini.

In 1996, the US provided $45 million to the Rongelap local government for "environmental remediation and resettlement," but today less than $10 million remains and, according to Kedi, "we are not even close to ten percent of decontaminating our islands." A Nuclear Claims Tribunal awarded $1 billion for cleanup and compensation, but Kedi says, "[they] did not have the money. It did not even pay us a penny for that."

Despite this, in 2010 the US Department of Interior began pressuring Rongelapese to return to the island or face cuts in financial support. When Kedi asked a DOE official and scientist if it was safe to return to Rongelap they told him "safe is a relative term." That, Kedi says, sounds more like an environment for animals, not humans.

Kedi describes an ongoing health and environmental crisis that is the direct result of the United States but says, "a lot of our leaders in the [US] Congress have no understanding whatsoever of what took place in the Marshall Islands...they have no idea how grave the situation is..." He adds the same is true for the American public.

"There are still outstanding issues with this unique and great relationship that we have. The United States government needs to address the issue of the radiation legacy. We need to bring this to a closure."

Kedi spoke to Truthout by Skype from Majuro hours after the surprise announcement of a lawsuit that RMI filed against the nine nuclear nations at the International Court of Justice on April 24. Kedi likens the filing to David vs. Goliath but criticizes the lawsuit for its failure to address compensation.

"If [the lawsuit] were to include the issues of the Marshall Islands for compensation and health care and rehabilitation...then I would support that. Shouldn't we be focusing on our own issues that we are actually struggling with today - health care and contaminated land?" Kedi asks.

Resolving these outstanding issues, Kedi says, is not just a matter of dollars. "It's about doing the right thing...We just want peace and harmony like we used to have before the testing time."

"More Like Us Than Mice"
Today the Rongelap local government is working with Julian Aguon, a human rights lawyer in Guam. Aguon says too many people consider America's nuclear legacy in the Marshall Islands "a chapter that is closed in a book that has ended, it's relegated to the past."

"Oh, this was so tragic... and we're so sorry it happened but it's over," Aguon says, in a voice feigning concern. He says the US ignores a range of big issues and arguments and relied on a faulty study about limited radioactive contamination. "It's very clear that everywhere in the Marshalls was contaminated - not just four atolls."

The ongoing fear of radiation, Aguon says, is part of the reason why so many people have left the RMI, taking advantage of a special agreement that allows visa-free US residence for nationals of the RMI, FSM and Palau. These compacts of free association (COFA) are full of major shortcomings, not the least of which is the requirement to be taxed like a US citizen but with the burden of heavily restricted health care access. COFA has led to sizeable Marshallese communities in Hawaii and places like Salem, Oregon, and Springdale, Arkansas.

"To put it in historical context, these people aren't able to trust anything that the US says only because in 1957 they were moved back with a very clear plan that they were going to be purposefully exposed to long-term low-level radiation. Not the acute exposure right after the bomb but the inhalation and the consumption of the food," Aguon says.

Aguon describes the Marshallese as having been "corralled together and made the unwitting subjects of non-consensual medical experimentation after the Bravo nuclear test."

In a 1956 Atomic Energy Commission meeting, Merril Eisenbud, director of the AEC Health and Safety Laboratory, described the Marshallese thus: "While it is true that these people do not live, I would say, the way Westerners do, civilized people, it is nevertheless also true that these people are more like us than the mice."

"We, in these far-flung places," Aguon says, "[have] a sense that American civil society really bears a greater responsibility for trying to arrest the spread of certain juggernaut forces like militarism that is being perpetuated in their name by their government for their safety."

(Another) Asia-Pacific Pivot
The plight of the Marshall Islands is the back-story of today's increasingly militarized Asia-Pacific, but David Vine, associate professor of anthropology at American University, sees nothing particularly new about Obama's Asia-Pacific pivot.

"Very early on islands were identified as playing a very important role in expanding the reach of the United States, and US commerce in particular," Vine says, citing early US military forays into Okinawa and the tiny Bonin (Ogasawara) Islands southeast of Japan. In the 1960s US nuclear weapons were kept in Okinawan ports and have been documented as passing through Japanese islands despite Japan's stated opposition to introducing and storing nuclear weapons.

Similarly, in 1987, the nation of Palau, under pressure from the US, dropped its opposition to the entry of US nuclear armed and powered vessels into its territory.

Vine talks about the post-World War II "forward posture" of creating a wall of Pacific islands as close as possible to Asia for its own strategic interests. He describes Pacific island nations like the RMI, Palau and FSM as being technically sovereign but, like American Samoa, Guam, Saipan and the Northern Mariana Islands, effectively run as colonies.

Vine says these islands exist under conditions that overwhelmingly benefit US military interests, perhaps best illustrated by the US insisting on the "right of strategic denial." This "right," claimed under COFA, grants the US exclusive military control over half a million square miles of the Pacific and includes provisions allowing for the use of RTS on Kwajalein through 2066 with the option to extend to 2086.

Pointing to small Pacific outposts that lack "Burger King bases" (sprawling military bases loaded with recreational and other amenities), Vine says, "while sometimes military facilities might be quite limited, they often can form the nucleus for what could be a much larger base." He says austere bases with small numbers of personnel or "temporarily embedding" US forces within another nation's military base (Australia, Singapore, the Philippines), are part of the "lily pad strategy." Vine says what constitutes a US military base in name is often subject to semantic games, using words like "military place" instead of "military base."

According to the Department of Defense 2013 Base Structure Report, the US has just one military base in the Marshall Islands: RTS at Kwajalein. However, it also controls 10 other sites in the RMI which are not counted as bases because they don't meet the criteria of at least ten acres and $10 million PRV ("plant replacement value"). Regardless of the true number, in a country made up of just 70 square miles, every foot of dry land counts.

Vine has thoroughly documented the displacement of Chagos Islanders to make way for the US military base at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean in his book Island of Shame: The Secret History of the US Military Base on Diego Garcia. He says the patterns of displacement in the Pacific, specifically the Marshall Islands, are similar to what happened at Diego Garcia.

Anniversaries Without End
According to Vine, this is a very dangerous time in the Asia-Pacific and the US is playing a largely unproductive role that is increasing danger and heightening tension between China and other nations. "The presence and build-up of US bases," he says, "is not the way to ensure peace and security in the region."

In the coming months, the world will mark the 70th anniversary of Pacific battles in Saipan, Guam, the Mariana Islands, New Guinea, Palau, the Philippines and Burma.

More anniversaries will be recognized next year to commemorate battles in Bataan, Manila and Iwo Jima, followed by anniversaries of the firebombing of Tokyo, the battle of Okinawa and then, in August 2015, the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Each event represents death and destruction of the past in a region scarred by militarism and an ongoing legacy of war without end.

• Jon Letman is a freelance journalist on Kauai. He writes about politics, people and the environment in the Asia-Pacific region. Follow him on Twitter: @jonletman.
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GMOs - China - Syngenta

SUBHEAD: China pushes public to accept GMO food products as Syngenta takeover nears.

By Shuping Niu on 21 May 2017 for Bloomberg -
(https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-05-22/china-pushes-public-to-accept-gmo-as-syngenta-takeover-nears)


Image above: A bowl of genetically-modified "Golden Rice." Photograph by Imaginechina. From original article.

China will carry out a nationwide poll next month to test the public’s acceptance of genetically-modified food, a technology the government says would boost yields and sustainable agriculture in a country that’s seen consumption soar.

Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University and two other Chinese colleges will carry out the survey, said Jin Jianbin, a professor at Tsinghua’s School of Journalism and Communication. The poll, sponsored by the government, will be carried out in tandem with a campaign on social media to broadcast basic knowledge on GMO technology, which is widely misunderstood in the country, Jin said.

China is the world’s fourth-largest grower of GMO cotton and the top importer of soybeans, most of which are genetically modified and used for cooking oil and animal feed for pigs and chickens. But public concern over food safety issues and skepticism about the effects of consuming GMO foods have made the government reluctant to introduce the technology for staple crops.

A 2012 trial of so-called Golden Rice -- a yellow GMO variant of the grain that produces beta-carotene -- caused a public storm after reports that the rice was fed to children without the parents being aware that it was genetically modified.

“Many Chinese turn pale when you mention the GMO word,” said Jin in his small office. Some still believe GMO food can cause cancer and impair childbirth, due to misleading reports in newspapers and social media, he said. A recent decision by a local legislative body against growing GMO crops has added to public confusion, Jin said.

‘Half-Cooked Rice’

The national survey aims to discover what the public’s concerns are so that the government can resolve the confusion, Jin said. “If the government pushes ahead before the public is ready to accept the technology, it would be embarrassing -- like offering a pot of half-cooked rice to eat.”

Jin said he expected the poll result to show that the general public’s perception of GMO is still negative, but “as more people get to know the technology, more would be willing to accept it.”

The lack of an authoritative scientific institution to answer questions, the widespread illegal cultivation of GMO crops, and public mistrust of government authorities after a series of food scandals have all contributed to skepticism about GMO, Jin said.

Producers of GMO crops claim they offer improved yields, enhanced nutritional value and resistance to drought, frost and insects. Critics have raised concerns over safety and potential adverse ecological effects.

Last year, the U.S., the world’s largest producer of GMO crops, mandated that food makers label products with modified ingredients. EU lawmakers this month objected to imports of herbicide-resistant strains of corn and cotton.

Syngenta AG, which produces genetically modified seeds for corn, is gearing up for rapid expansion in the country after shareholders accepted a $43 billion offer for the Swiss agribusiness by China National Chemical Corp. The Chinese state-owned company is expected to complete the deal this month.

The American Chamber of Commerce in China had complained that U.S. strains of GMO suffered from slower and less predictable approval for import into China. Chinese and U.S. officials have agreed to evaluate pending U.S. biotechnology product applications by the end of the month, including corn and cotton.

China itself has spent billions on research of its own GMO technology over the past decade, but has not allowed commercial production of grains, with scientists citing public resistance as part of the reason for the delay. China has said that it will allow commercial production of modified corn and soybeans by 2020.

Government officials have said that the country would introduce the use of the technology first on feed grains after cotton. China’s corn consumption is estimated to grow nearly 20 percent in the coming decade on demand for protein-rich meat and dairy products.




Syngenta sells Hawaii Sites

SUBHEAD: IB Publisher's note - this is because of the extent of military operations throughout the state of Hawaii and on Kauai the large Syngenta presense at and around the PMRF where research and development and testing of new weapon systems takes place.

By  Jessica Else on 12 May 2017 for The Garden Island - 
(http://thegardenisland.com/business/local/syngenta-sells-hawaii-sites/article_330d8eae-ebd4-55a0-8acb-cb1246eedcbb.html)

An Iowa company is taking over the Hawaii Syngenta sites, including the location on Kauai’s Westside, but day-to-day activities will stay the same, according to company representatives.

The purchase agreement between Hartung Brothers, Inc. and Syngenta was announced Thursday. The deal should close by the end of June for an undisclosed amount.

“There are no planned reductions (in staff) resulting from this,” said Paul Minehart, Syngenta spokesman.

Syngenta’s Kauai location employs about 100 people.

Hartung Brothers, Inc., is a seed company founded in Madison,Wisc., in 1975, that has been providing seed corn production, processing and distribution services to Syngenta since the 1980s.

“We are extremely pleased to have this agreement with Hartung Brothers for our Hawaii sites,” said Ed Attema, Syngenta head of Global Seed Operations, Production & Supply in a press release. “The goal has been to have our employee talent base and facilities maintained and to contract work with the new owner, and that will be achieved.”

All employees will be offered employment by Hartung when the acquisition closes, according to the release.

Part of the agreement includes Syngenta contracting current Hawaii-based seed production activities from Hartung. According to the release, the purchase “ensures ongoing crop innovation will continue to be part of Hawaii agriculture, which plays an important role in food production for the U.S. and around the world.”

Bennette Misalucha, executive director of Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, welcomed the new agribusiness to the Hawaii agriculture community.

“Hartung Brothers, Inc.’s purchase of Syngenta’s Hawaii operations will ensure the preservation of jobs and continuation of seed production activities on Oahu and Kauai,” Misalucha said.

Activists who have been asking the state to regulate pesticide use by the agribusiness companies on the Westside are keeping an eye on the sale, hoping to see a change in practices.

“It would be refreshing if a company came in, grew something non-toxic and profitable, (so) that we could have jobs that are safe from continual pesticide exposure,” said Jeri Di Pietro, of Hawaii SEED.
Di Pietro said she hopes Hartung Brothers will use practices that remedies the soil.

“Even the worst soil can be made healthy again, we need to see what this new company has in mind,” she said.

In August, Syngenta Seeds announced a potential $43 billion sale of the company to China National Chemical Corporation (ChemChina) and the deal between the state-owned ChemChina and the Swiss-owned Syngenta is nearing completion.

In a Wednesday announcement, the two companies said the takeover has won support from about 80 percent of Syngenta’s shareholders.

The transaction required 67 percent of shareholders to accept the acquisition. According to a timeline provided by the companies, the first half of the settlement will be paid on May 18 and the second half will be paid on June 7.

ChemChina is headquartered in Beijing and owns production, research and development, and marketing systems in 150 countries and regions.

Since the August announcement of the pending sale, Hawaii locations have been exempt from the deal by the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment.

Even so, Syngenta officials have been planning to sell its operations on Oahu and Kauai since the announcement of the possible ChemChina buyout in August.

The purpose was to pursue a different operating model by contracting Hawaii-based seed production activities with the new owner, according to a news release, while maintaining a commitment to developing agricultural innovation in Hawaii.

This isn’t the first time Syngenta has entertained the idea of selling or merging the company. In August 2015, Monsanto abandoned a $47 billion proposed takeover of the company.

Though Hartung is taking over the reins at Syngenta’s Hawaii locations, the family owned agribusiness plans to keep the focus on providing customers with quality seeds and services, as well as maintaining a strong workforce.

“Our company is very much a family business rooted in the work ethic instilled in us by our parents Lorna and Galen Hartung,” said Dan Hartung, president, Hartung Brothers, Inc. “We are excited about the opportunities this acquisition will bring our current customers.”

He continued: “It will also allow us to expand our customer base with new capabilities. We are very impressed with the current Hawaii management team and employees. Their dedication, knowledge and pride shows in all they do.”

Syngenta works about 4,000 acres on Oahu and Kauai for inbred and hybrid seed production sites and was established in Hawaii in the late 1960s.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: ChemChina takeover of Syngenta 5/5/17
Ea O Ka Aina: China's suicidal food strategy 9/30/16
Ea O Ka Aina: China to take over Syngenta? 2/2/16
Ea O Ka Aina: GMO Corn Wars 8/28/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Oxfam at Odds over GMO's 4/14/10
Island Breath: TGI#24 - Down with King Corn 2/28/08
Island Breath: GMO Free China 12/22/05


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The Banality the Anthropocene

SUBHEAD: When my uncle becomes blind to the violence of his own corn, he becomes blind to Standing Rock, and more.

By Heather Anna Swanson on 22 February 2017 for Cultural Anthropology -
(https://culanth.org/fieldsights/1074-the-banality-of-the-anthropocene)


Image above: Barn along Highway 1, south of Fairfield, Iowa. Photograph  by Ken K. From original article.



I want to propose an Anthropocene territorialization and a subject-making project in which anthropologists might want to engage. The territory of which I write is a place called Iowa.

There are plenty of troubling things about the Anthropocene. But to my mind, one of its most troubling dimensions is the sheer number of people it fails to trouble.

For many living in precarious situations, the Anthropocene is already life-altering, life-threatening, and even deadly. It comes in the form of a massive flood or a rising tide that takes their homes away. Or as an oil well that poisons the river on which they depend.

But for others, especially the white and middle-class of the global North, the Anthropocene is so banal that they do not even notice it. It is the green front lawn, the strip-mall parking lot, the drainage ditch where only bullfrog tadpoles remain.

Iowa lies at the heart of this banal Anthropocene. The Anthropocene, here, is wholesome. It is the cornfield and the industrial pig farm. It is the 4-H county fair and eating hot dogs on the Fourth of July. It is precisely this banality, this routinized everydayness (see Arendt 1963), that makes the Iowa Anthropocene so terrifying.

I write of Iowa not from the outside, but from a place of connection. I, too, am Iowa. Without it, I would not be where I am. My mother and father were born and raised in Iowa, and its mid-twentieth-century agricultural modernization and postwar dreams for better futures propelled their upward mobility.

It allowed them to get off the farm and become the first people in their families to go to college. Iowa’s industrial agriculture and its surpluses thus made my own scholarly career possible.
Indeed, we are all implicated in Iowa.

We are all entangled with the everyday violences of industrial agriculture and nationalist projects in a way that substituting an organic latte for the hot dog or shopping at Whole Foods won’t solve.

We cannot make ourselves clean. The urbanized coasts are made possible by the production of the heartland. New York is standing on Iowa (cf. Moore 2010).
How is it that Americans, especially white middle-class ones, learn not to notice such entanglements, to not be affected? How do we learn not to see the damage around us?

Iowa is objectively one of the most ruined landscapes in the United States, but its ruination garners surprisingly little notice. Less than 0.1 percent of the tallgrass prairie that once covered much of the state remains. You’ve seen the Anthropocene J-curves: the rise of atmospheric CO2, human population growth, and dammed rivers, to name a few (Steffen et al. 2015). The decline in Iowa prairie makes a reverse J.

Between 1830 and 1910, Iowa lost a whopping 97 percent of its prairie acreage. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. The reorientation of Iowa’s landscape toward capitalist agricultural production has resulted in the obliteration of worlds that once occupied it. The American Indians who carefully tended the prairie through burning and bison management have been forced out of the state.

Nearly every acre has been privatized. Today Iowa ranks forty-ninth out of the fifty U.S. states in public land holdings.

Ninety-nine percent of its marshes are gone. The level of its main aquifer has dropped by as much as three hundred feet since the nineteenth century, largely due to the extraction of irrigation water. Water quality is a mess, too.

Between 2010 and 2015 more than sixty Iowa cities and towns had high nitrate levels in drinking water due to the leaching and run-off of agricultural fertilizers. And those same fertilizers wash down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico, where they have created an aquatic dead zone the size of Connecticut.

Few people, either within or beyond Iowa, notice the profundity of these changes. When my uncle, a farmer in northeast Iowa, gazes out at his cornfields, he does not see the annihilation of the prairie, the loss of the bison, or the displacement of American Indian communities.

He does not notice the contamination of groundwater, even though he had to redig his well a few years ago due to bacterial seepage from a nearby pig farm. He simply shrugs off such things and wonders what the crop prices will be next year.

Blindness proliferates: when my uncle becomes blind to the violence of his own corn, he becomes blind to others in neighboring farmhouses, in the neighboring towns, in neighboring states. He cannot see Standing Rock, and he cannot see why Black Lives Matter might matter to him.

It isn’t exactly his fault that he doesn't notice. White middle-class American subjectivities are predicated on not noticing. They are predicated on structural blindness: on a refusal to acknowledge the histories we inherit. As Deborah Bird Rose (2004) has shown in the case of Australian settler colonialism, dreaming of futures requires blindness to the past.

Michel Foucault’s work reminds us that the discourses that shape our subjectivities are not just words; they are also the bricks of the prison, the institutional form of the clinic (see Hirst 1995). But we have failed to see that they are also the monocrop cornfield. Iowa’s landscape infrastructure produces us and the Anthropocene.

The cornfield is an assemblage that brings the so-called common good of progress and nationalist growth into being. It produces grain futures markets and cheap hamburgers. How can we better see its terrors and erasures?

One of these terrors is that there are countless Iowas beyond Iowa. I currently live in Denmark, where I am a member of a research project called Aarhus University Research on the Anthropocene (AURA).

One of my colleagues, Nathalia Brichet, uses the term “mild apocalypse” to draw attention to the normalized degradation of Danish landscapes. In the midst of Denmark’s rolling fields and highly managed forests, the Anthropocene continues to be stubbornly hard to see.

Donna Haraway has called for curiosity as both scholarly method and political practice, as an antidote to these learned blindnesses. In her book When Species Meet (Haraway 2008), she becomes curious about who and what she touches when she reaches out to pet her dog.

That curiosity becomes a radical practice of tracing and inheriting histories, such as the dog-herding practices of livestock-based Australian colonization efforts and the making of purebred dogs.

But in a world of structural blindness, such kinds of curiosity do not come naturally. They must be cultivated. But how? How, in the words of Joseph Dumit (2014), do we wake up to connections?

Can we imagine corollaries to Bible study meetings or consciousness-raising groups in which people would be encouraged to trace the histories of the landscapes they inhabit, a process that might draw them into new ways of seeing themselves and their worlds? I imagine such practices as a multispecies analogue to Foucauldian genealogy (see Foucault 1970).

Might exploring the genealogies of Iowa cornfields, for example, denaturalize them and counter the power of their banality?

Might they enable Iowans and all of us to become more curious about the conditions of our own subjectivities and, in turn, how we might transform the landscapes with which they are entangled? This is the important work of making curiosity more common, of troubling the Anthropocene.

References

Arendt, Hannah. 1963. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. New York: Viking Press.

Dumit, Joseph. 2014. “Writing the Implosion: Teaching the World One Thing at a Time.” Cultural Anthropology 29, no. 2: 344–62.

Foucault, Michel. 1970. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of Knowledge. New York: Pantheon. Originally published in 1966. 

Haraway, Donna. 2008. When Species Meet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Hirst, Paul. 1995. “Foucault and Architecture.” In Michel Foucault: Critical Assessments, Volume 4, edited by Barry Smart, 350–71. New York: Routledge.

Moore, Jason W. 2010. “‘Amsterdam is Standing on Norway’ Part One: The Alchemy of Capital, Empire, and Nature in the Diaspora of Silver, 1545–1648.” Journal of Agrarian Change 10, no. 1: 33–68.

Rose, Deborah Bird. 2004. Reports from a Wild Country: Ethics for Decolonization. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press.

Steffen, Will, Wendy Broadgate, Lisa Deutsch, Owen Gaffney, and Cornelia Ludwig. 2015. “The Trajectory of the Anthropocene: The Great Acceleration.” Anthropocene Review 2, no. 1: 81–98.

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Real Wealth and trusting No System

SUBHEAD: We are into the Anthropocene Age. Previous systems that provided wealth are bankrupt.

By Juan Wilson on 23 May 2107 for Island Breath -
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2017/05/real-wealth-and-trusting-no-system.html)


Image above: A dwarf lime tree in Hanapepe Valley produces hundreds of limes throughout the year. Photo by Juan Wilson.

If you have not noticed already I'd be surprised. What you say? You have not gotten whiff of the acrid smoke has been coming off the carcass of "Our American Way of Life".  It's happening. 

For me 'resistance" has been going on for three generations. Back to the civil rights movement and anti-Vietnam War protests during Kennedy and Johnson years; on through Nixon and Reagan's soulless "Christian" operations, into Bush & Son's CIA 911 psychosis and now through sly Obama's and clueless Trump's endless robot wars against the Middle East.

For much of that time I thought I was dealing with individual moral and social issues. That each issue could be dealt with and we could get back on the track to a fairer and friendlier future for all Americans.

It did seem like much was still right with the country - and if we could only get a handle on some of  the mean spiritedness, selfishness, etc that things would be okay... Not to happen.

It has become clearer and clearer that our institutions are creating the problems and not dealing with the results... in fact they use the problems created with one policy to feed the fire to create more bad policy.

As it stands our legislatures, judiciaries, regulatory agencies, government service departments, banking institutions, fuel energy sector, corporations, insurance operations and just about anything else you can think of is part of the problem. They are in self denial and cannot get a grip on the underlying systemic failure we face.

In fact, since Trump's rise to power it seems any marginally positive service the government might provide (like measuring and identifying environmental problems) are being reduced or systematically eliminated and uncontrolled profiteering on limited resources is being encouraged. We are poring our blood and sweat into increasingly useless and self destructive behavior. 

However, an economic phase change is about to occur.

For America to "thrive" the intercontinental container shipping, along with the interstate trucking, and long haul rail shipping systems must run smoothly and continuously. That is how the Walmart, Costco, Amazon and Home Depot remain operational. These corporations will stop operating when it is not profitable. And those underlying transportation systems are far more delicate than most people realize - and no! roboticized semi-tractor trailers is not the solution.

This moment it is really clear that;
GROWTH IS DEAD!
THE RESOURCES ARE GONE!
THE ENVIRONMENT IS MORTALLY DAMAGED!
will mean we are really into the Anthropocene Age. Previous systems that provided wealth are bankrupt. We are on our own.

It means the future of "The American Way of Life" no longer exist. Then it will be our responsibility to make America coherent again... and feed ourselves.

Remember when America gloated as the Soviet Union came apart at the seams and went through collapse. Well, now it's our turn. We will find out, as the Russians did, how fragile wealth and security are.

So get used to it... but more importantly realize that your salaried pay, or pension deposit or Social Security check, or Electronic Benefit Transfer Card could simply evaporate. From now on you should see that it is coming and act appropriately to have an alternate future available.

Real wealth is having food, water, shelter, energy information and safety. In the future you will have to provide these things for yourself, or have something real to trade acquire them... like gold, tobacco, alcohol or bullets.

Almost all of us run from task to task oblivious of the sources wealth. We work to create credit that we can use to purchase those things that constitute real wealth.
  • We buy bottled water by the case. 
  • We buy bags of organic produce flown across the ocean. 
  • We buy subscribe to information systems that are equivalent to a monthly car loan.
Many are totally underwater on our home, education and car payments. Others owe it to the healthcare systems.

Our job should be creating our own real wealth at home. Think of it as a slo-mo transition away from the current system.  

Growing food; collecting water; making things; providing service. It's not complicated. Just get good at it and it will pay off.

As an example is the dwarf lime tree in our back yard.  We planted it about six years ago. It produces enough fresh juicy limes that we on average consume at one a day in beverages, on salads, cooking. We are able, as well to share several with friends and neighbors.

The small, shriveled, yellowish limes we see at our local supermarket (shipped in from God knows where) are priced with tax at over a dollar a piece.

That dwarf lime is "earning" us about $400 a year, over $30 a month, just sitting in the sun enjoying itself.

Over the last several years we have become macadamia nut independent with one mature tree (and two coming on)

And with about ten small cacao trees producing fruit, we are about to become chocolate independent. We've made a few batches and the last competed with commercial dark chocolate in taste.

As John Michael Greer wrote so prophetically in 2012:
"Collapse now and avoid the rush!"
(http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2012/06/collapse-now-and-avoid-rush.html)
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Dow-DuPont illegal spraying on Oahu

SOURCE: Jeri DiPietro (ofstone@aol.com)
SUBHEAD: Whistleblower alleges herbicide spraying by Dow-DuPont in Waialua, Oahu, violated safety rules.

By Rick Daysog on 22 May 2017 for Hawaii News Now -
(http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/35491969/whistleblower-alleges-herbicide-sprayings-potentially-exposed-waialua-community)


Image above: Still frame from video report on DuPont pesticide spraying on Oahu. From video at (http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/clip/13352327/whistleblower-alleges-herbicide-sprayings-in-waialua-violated-safety-rules).

A former farm worker alleges in a lawsuit that a GMO seed company dangerously mishandled herbicides, potentially exposing the Waialua community.

Shannell Grilho said that DuPont Pioneer fired her and her husband Morgan Armitage about a year ago, after she raised questions about the company's spraying practices.

"They should not be able to do this to anyone," Grilho said. "We're still dealing with it now. We're trying. We got evicted from where we were living."

According to Grilho, the company sprayed its fields even on days when the winds exceeded safety rules. Pioneer's former Waialua farm is adjacent to Waialua High and Intermediate School and a nearby subdivision.

"You're talking about health, safety and welfare, hazardous chemicals. Not only are they worried about their co-workers who they supervise but they're worried about bringing this back to their children," said Michael Green, Grilho's attorney said.

Pioneer declined to respond to the specific allegations in the lawsuit but issued this statement: "We … (follow) rigorous safety protocols to ensure the safety of our employees and our neighbors."
Pioneer no longer uses those fields, but has operations in Kunia and on the Big Island.

According to Grilho's lawsuit, Pioneer sprayed its fields with herbicides such as Roundup and Honcho, using backpack sprayers and boom sprayers mounted on tractors. The sprayers are required to keep 500 feet away from workers.

But Grilho said sprayers sometimes came too close, forcing her to evacuate co-workers in a van to drive to a safer location.

She said that after she raised her concerns with a supervisor, she was reprimanded and was ordered to work in the fields.

She said she was given boots two sizes too big and was required to walk up to 50 acres a day, injuring her knee.

Two days before Christmas in 2015, she was fired. Her husband Morgan, a 13-year Pioneer employee, was terminated about a month later.

"This is only to make as much money DuPont can make, to get these crops done and get them sprayed. Everyday it's for the almighty dollar for them and the hell with the workers," Green said.
"This is disgusting of major corporations and it has destroyed this family financially. But they can't destroy their spirit."

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Stop Monsanto-Bayer Merger 1/14/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Chemical Company Troubles 5/13/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Stink Grows Over Chlorpyrifos 1/23/16
Ea O Ka Aina: DowPont Genetically Modified Offices 12/15/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai's Toxic Cocktail 6/20/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Ecoterrorist Coprorations 4/25/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Dow - DuPont - Syngenta sue Kauai 1/11/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Farming vs poisoning the land 2/14/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Glorious night for Kauai 1/18/13

Hawaii environmentalists advocate for pesticide regulations
State to study impacts of agricultural pesticide use
Pesticide-free zones proposed near schools, hospitals

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The Final Show

SUBHEAD: As the curtain draws shut on the Greatest Show on Earth so it goes with the "Greatest Country". 

By Simon Black on 22 May 2017 for Sovereign Man -
(https://www.sovereignman.com/trends/the-final-show-of-the-greatest-country-on-earth-21824/)

http://www.islandbreath.org/2017Year/05/170523circusbig.jpg
Image above: Poster of wild animals that were displayed by Ringling Bros Barnum & Bauley Circus. From (https://www.cinemasterpieces.com/circus.htm). Click to embiggen.

On May 31, 1866, John C. Ringling was born in Iowa to German immigrants in what felt like an extremely bleak year.

The chaos and devastation from the Civil War that had ended in 1865 were still keenly felt, and the US economy was in the midst of a deep recession

The country was still shaken from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

And the new President, Andrew Johnson, was embroiled in a major political crisis with Congress that would soon lead to his impeachment.

(Johnson was also a noted buffoon, once giving a speech in early 1866 to honor George Washington in which he referred to himself over 200 times and accused Congress of plotting his assassination.)

No doubt those were some of the darkest days in US history. And it would have been hard for Mr. and Mrs. Ringling to imagine a bright future for their children.

But John and four of his brothers went on to build the most successful circus empire in modern history– the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, known as the “Greatest Show on Earth.”

There were countless traveling circuses crisscrossing the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

But what made the Ringling Brothers’ event so spectacular was sheer scale. They didn’t hold anything back– lions, tigers, elephants.

The Ringling brothers were also masters of efficient logistics.

Like Ray Kroc and Henry Ford, the brothers developed an assembly line approach to the construction, deconstruction, and transportation of their event so that they could swiftly move from town to town.

It was a spectacle itself simply to see their train of railway cars packed with exotic animals stretching on for more than a mile.

Their circus was considered the ultimate in entertainment back then, and John Ringling became one of the wealthiest men in America as a result of this success.

It seemed like the empire would last forever.
But it didn’t.

After peaking in the Roaring 20s, the circus took a major hit during the Great Depression that effectively bankrupted John Ringling, the sole surviving brother.

At the time of his death in 1936, in fact, Ringling only had about $5,500 in the bank (that’s after adjusting for inflation to 2017 dollars).

The circus limped along in the Depression and barely made it through World War II.

Towards the end of the War in 1944, right before they thought their luck would turn, the circus had a major accident in Hartford in which the tent caught fire, killing 167 people.

That nearly bankrupted the company a second time, and several executives went to jail for negligence.

In the decades that followed, American consumer tastes changed.

Television, movies, and music were far more interesting than circus performances, and Ringling Brothers went into terminal decline.

Fast forward to the age of Facebook and YouTube, and there simply wasn’t a whole lot left in the circus that was exotic or interesting anymore, not to mention the animal rights issues.

So yesterday, the Greatest Show on Earth held its final performance in Uniondale, New York, after 146-years in the business.

A century ago this would have seemed impossible.

The early 1900s were the absolute peak for Ringling Brothers, and no one imagined a future where consumers weren’t standing in line to buy tickets.

Candidly I find this story to be an interesting metaphor for the United States itself.

Rise from the ashes. Remarkable growth. Peak wealth and power. Bankruptcy. Gross negligence and incompetence. More bankruptcy. Terminal decline.

And just like how people viewed Ringling Brothers 100-years ago, it’s difficult for anyone to imagine a world in which the US isn’t the dominant superpower.

Instead of the Greatest Show on Earth, it’s the Greatest Country on Earth. And most of us have been programmed to believe that this primacy will last forever.

But nothing lasts. History is full of failed dominant superpowers, from the Roman Empire to the Ottoman Empire. Many no longer exist.

Their declines were almost invariably due to excessive spending, unsustainable debt, military overreach, and a society that abandoned the core values which made it wealthy and powerful to begin with.

Every successive superpower always believes that they will never suffer the same fate. And every time they’re wrong.

This time is not different.

Yes, it’s still a wonderful country with plenty of positive things going for it.

But at its core the United States still has $20 trillion in public debt (over 100% of GDP) and an additional $46.7 trillion in net, unfunded future social obligations (like Social Security and Medicare).

Plus, the government spends an appalling amount of money, far more than they collect in tax revenue.
(In 2016 their total net loss exceeded an incredible $1 TRILLION.)

Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers summed it up when he quipped, “How long can the world’s biggest borrower remain the world’s biggest power?”

The answer is– no one knows. Maybe months. Maybe decades.

Either way, this trend is one of the biggest stories of our time. And though few people want to acknowledge it, it’s already happening.

We now regularly witness government shutdowns, debt ceiling crises, and gross government incompetence. But this is just the beginning.

The national debt is growing far faster than the economy as a whole. And, especially if interest rates continue to rise, the trend will accelerate.

It’s simple arithmetic.

So while it seems impossible now, the Greatest Country on Earth will some day have its final show as well. That doesn’t mean the US simply disappears.

But it’s foolish to assume that the insolvency of the world’s largest superpower will forever be consequence-free.

What’s your Plan B?
Do you have a Plan B?

If you live, work, bank, invest, own a business, and hold your assets all in just one country, you are putting all of your eggs in one basket.

You’re making a high-stakes bet that everything is going to be ok in that one country — forever.

All it would take is for the economy to tank, a natural disaster to hit, or the political system to go into turmoil and you could lose everything—your money, your assets, and possibly even your freedom.
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