European Cargo Bikes

SUBHEAD: Cargo cyclists are replacing truck drivers on European city streets.

By Kris De Decker on 24 September 2012 for Lo-Tech Magazine  -  

Image above: A cargo bike in Germany. From (Ich ersetze ein Auto). All images from original article.

Those with strong cycling legs have ever more jobs up for grabs in Europe these days. A growing number of businesses are using cargo cycles, a move towards sustainable and free-flowing city traffic that is now strongly backed by public authorities.

Research indicates that at least one quarter of all cargo traffic in European cities could be handled by cycles. And, by using special distribution hubs, larger vehicles and electric assist, this proportion could be even larger.

A cargo cycle is at least as fast as a delivery van in the city - and much cheaper to use, giving a strong economic incentive to make the switch. Cargo cycles also bring important economic advantages to tradesmen, artisans and service providers.

Cargo transport in cities is extremely inefficient. As it currently stands, almost 100 percent of it is done by motorised vehicles, ranging from personal cars to commercial delivery vans and trucks (lorries). However, these heavy vehicles often transport very light goods. The average payload transported in European cities weighs less than 100 kg (220 lbs) and has a volume of less than 1m3 (1).  Of the 1,900 vans and trucks that enter the city of Breda in the Netherlands each day, less than 10 percent of the cargo being delivered requires a van or truck and 40 percent of deliveries involve just one box (2).

This means that a large share of the cargo being moved in and out of cities could be transported by cargo cycles. Fast, two-wheeled cargo cycles have a load capacity of up to 180 kg (396 lbs), while slower vehicles with three or four wheels can easily take 250 kg (550 lbs). Using a tandem configuration and/or an electric power assistance can help raise the load capacity even further, to about half a ton. Cargo volume ranges from at least 0.25 m3 for bicycles to more than 1.5 m3 for larger tricycles and quadricycles.

Freight traffic takes up a large portion of total daytime road transport in cities, often as high as 50 percent in large cities, and up to 90 percent in very large cities such as London and Paris (3). The 'last mile' is currently regarded as one of the most expensive, least efficient and most polluting sections of the entire logistics chain. This is because traffic congestion makes the driving cycle very irregular, leading to a very high fuel consumption and a loss of time.

Cargo cycles are fast, efficient, clean and quiet
The positive ecological and social consequences of substituting cargo cycles for delivery vans are obvious: important fuel savings, less pollution, less noise, more space in a more enjoyable city, less congestion, and less serious accidents.  However, this is not all. There are as many economic benefits as there are ecological and social benefits,though they are not so obvious at first sight.

Cycle logistics europe

To begin with, cargo cycles operating in the city are as fast as, or even faster than, vans and trucks (4). This is because they are less affected by traffic congestion, and because they can often take faster routes where trucks and vans cannot go, such as pedestrian streets, alleys or bicycle paths.  Because cargo cycles are less affected by variable traffic conditions, journey times are more reliable.

Moreover, they are able to enter the city 24 hours a day, while many Europeans cities have set very strict time windows for loading and unloading of trucks and vans. Cargo cycles have generally no difficulty finding a place to load or unload and can often stop right in front of the door or even enter a building.

98 percent cheaper
Secondly, cargo cycles are much cheaper than vans. The purchase price of an average cargo cycle does not exceed 3,000 euro, and the largest three- and four-wheeled cargo cycles with electric assist sell for about 7,000 to 10,000 euro. Buying a van sets you back at least 20,000 euro. However, for either mode of transport this cost is small compared with the running and staff costs. The real advantage of the cargo cycle lies in its low cost of use. A car, van or truck consumes fuel, a cargo cycle does not. Moreover, taxes, insurance, storage and depreciation are all lower for cycles than for vans, which can result in significant cost savings (5). All together, a cargo cycle can be up to 98 percent cheaper per km than the alternatives (4/6).

These savings can be achieved without the loss of jobs. Some people promote the use of cargo cycles by saying that they will bring more jobs. However, this is only half true. If cargo cycles become more successful, other jobs will disappear, notably those of van and truck drivers. Because the cargo cycle is as fast as the delivery van in city traffic, and because it can move as much cargo as the van usually does, substituting cargo cycles for delivery vans will not require additional drivers. (On longer routes outside the city, this would be different). This is actually good news, because it means that labour costs will not rise. Indirectly, however, cargo cycles can indeed create jobs (see further).

Europe promotes cargo cycling
European authorities clearly recognize the economic and ecological potential of cargo cycles. Running from May 2011 until April 2014, the EU-funded project CycleLogistics aims to reduce energy used in urban freight transport by replacing unnecessary motorised vehicles with cargo bikes in European cities. The project aims to expand the niche market position of cargo cycles, so that they will be viewed as a serious alternative for the transport of goods in inner cities. According to research undertaken by the project, cyclists could easily move 25 percent of all cargo in cities (considering loads up to 250 kg) (1/2).

CycleLogistics will communicate the potential of cargo cycles to different target groups such as the transport sector, municipalities, service providers, tradesmen, artisans and individuals. In order to stimulate companies and service providers to integrate the cargo cycle into their activities, the project is distributing 2,000 cargo cycles free of charge to businesses and municipal services. Their use will be documented and analysed, and the findings will be published in a research paper.

Four wheeled cargo cycle dhl

CycleLogistics will motivate municipalities to create a regulatory framework and policies for cargo cycles, and they will be testing and reporting on various cargo bike models, promoting their uptake by consumers, authorities and businesses alike; UK research has found that perception is probably the biggest single factor inhibiting the use of cycle freight (5). The reluctance to use cycle freight is due more to a lack of information on the vehicles and options now available rather than due to entrenched attitudes against using cycle power.

Electric assisted cargo cycles in Germany
The German Federal Ministry for the Environment has set up a similar pilot project, named "Ich ersetze ein Auto" ("I replace a car"), which began in July 2012 and will continue for two years. Contrary to the European-wide project, it will be aimed exclusively at courier services and make use of electric assist cargo cycles. Forty vehicles will be used for two years in nine major German cities. The cargo bikes can transport a load with a weight of 100 kg and a volume of 250 litres (0.25 m3). Because these loads can also be moved by non-assisted cargo cycles, the electric assist is aimed at further increasing delivery speeds and extending the driver's range.

Preliminary research by the German Institute of Transport Research showed that cargo cycles using electrical assist can replace 85 percent of car trips made by courier services in the city. This was demonstrated during an experiment in Berlin using an additional city hub to coordinate distribution of goods (the 'Bentobox'). The German pilot project will result in a research paper detailing the economic potential of cargo cycles, the energy and emissions savings, and the necessary improvements in infrastructure and legislation.

As mentioned earlier, the focus of cargo transport by cycles is on the "first mile" and "last mile". Goods are delivered by vans and trucks to a (central) distribution hub, from where they are taken to their final destination by cargo cycle (or the other way around). An alternative is to use vans (or even boats or cargo trams) as mobile hubs. UK based cargo cycle courier Outspoken Delivery uses folding bikes in combination with trains for speedy intercity deliveries between Cambridge and London.

Cargo cycles as a last mile city transport option match very well with the research into trolleytrucks for goods transport on longer distances. Of course, cargo cycles can also be complemented with fully electric light vehicles in the city, such as the Cargohopper.

Courier services
A logical target group for cargo cycles are courier services. The German and the European projects aim to introduce cargo cycles to both courier companies using motorised vehicles and courier enterprises using normal bicycles. The first group can save costs and will be able to offer a faster service when replacing delivery vans by cargo cycles, while the second group can use cargo cycles to extend their market by transporting heavier and/or bulkier loads.

Outspoken Delivery cargo cycle courier

An additional incentive for traditional courier services is that they will have an easier job finding employees, because the drivers do not require a (special) driving licence. Larger fleet managers already find it hard to recruit drivers. Furthermore, the relatively low price of the cargo cycle allows courier services to build a larger and more diversified fleet of vehicles. In this way, it is always possible to choose the fastest and most compact vehicle.

Cargo cycles are already used by courier services in (for example) Brussels, Londen, New York, Berkeley, Zürich, Basel, Vienna, Graz, Rome, Reggio and San Sebastian. These are often relatively small companies, but sometimes large logistic enterprises use cargo cycles, too. DHL applies cargo cycles in 15 Dutch cities. The largest courier service to date using (electric assist) cargo cycles is the French La Petite Reine, which delivers goods in Bordeaux, Paris, Lyon and Toulouse.

The European project CycleLogistics proposes to develop and implement a next day delivery operation in conjunction with leading national and international delivery companies, in which cargo bikes are used for the final mile delivery. Cooperation with large courier services is important because regular and frequent collections and deliveries are needed to have a sustainable business model. One of the main outputs of these experiments in several cities will be a formalised and transferable business model for running a cycle based courier business which can be adopted by couriers across towns and cities in Europe.

Other companies also discover the advantages of cargo cycles, often for the delivery of their goods to customers' houses. These are often small enterprises such as suppliers of organic food, but also larger companies like retail chain FNAC who delivers products ordered online via cargo cycle in Barcelona and Madrid. IKEA puts (large) cargo cycles at the disposal of their customers in some Dutch and Danish cities.

Tradesmen & service providers
Another target group of the European cargo cycle project are commercial service suppliers, tradesmen and artisans such as window cleaners, electricians, builders, chimney sweeps, locksmiths, painters, repairmen, carpenters, gardeners, plumbers, scrap dealers, professional photographers, musicians, street and market vendors, distributors of magazines, newspapers and advertisements, and so on.

Copenhagen has carpenters and electricians using cargo cycles, and window cleaners using cargo cycles have been spotted in Austria and in England. Home bicycle repair is another example. These services, which have been operating in many large cities for some years now, often use vans. However, a mobile bicycle repair that introduces extra automobile traffic is not very logical, so individuals in Copenhagen, Cologne, Berlin and Brussels have taken the idea one step further by using the technology they promote.

Carpenter riding a cargo cycle in copenhagen

Just as the cargo cycle brings economic advantages to courier services, so it does for tradesmen, artisans and service providers. The vehicle allows them to start a business with a much lower investment, and to operate it at considerably lower costs. No motorised vehicle is required, and even a shop is not a necessity. The cargo cycle can thus indirectly bring more (self-employed) jobs.

Local authorities are another target group for cargo cycles. The vehicles could be used for maintenance of city infrastructure such as parks and roads, for repairs, senior citizens care, garbage collection or transporting official documents. This would lower the costs of municipal services, making it possible to use taxes for other aims (or even lowering them).
Learning from the past

Many proposed applications of the cargo bicycle are everything but new (7). During the first half of the twentieth century, service providers and artisans were among the main users of cargo cycles. Almost every profession made use of cargo cycles which were specially designed to carry the tools of their trade. These were both commercially available models as well as self-adapted vehicles. Cargo cycles also played an important role in the delivery of goods, mostly bread, meat, vegetables, fruit and dairy products. Again, every profession used a cargo cycle that was best suited to perform the specific duty. Cargo cycles were a large improvement over horse, donkey or dog powered carts, which were slower and much more expensive to operate.

Delivery of goods such as bread or meat was often done using a sturdy safety bicycle equipped with cargo platforms, boxes or baskets in different sizes fixed to the frame, mostly in the front. These vehicles, which have a payload of about 75 kg (165 lbs), are known as 'bakery bikes' or 'butcher bikes' and can still be seen on the streets of Danish and Dutch cities. In the late 1920s an extended form of carrier bicycle appeared in Denmark, in which a load-carrying platform was inserted between the rider and the front wheel, which now being entirely separate from the handlebars, was steered by a tie-rod passing under the platform.

Vintage cargo bike

This platform was low down for stability and ease of loading. These bikes, which earned the nick-name 'long-john' and have payloads up to 180 kg, were (and are again) used for speedy deliveries of somewhat heavier and bulkier goods. Three-wheeled cargo bikes, still known as a 'bakfiets' and able to carry even heavier loads at the expense of speed, where most often used by craftsmen providing services in different locations.

Private use of cargo cycles
A final target group of cargo cycles are private individuals. People who regularly ride bikes in cities, often still have a car in case something larger or heavier has to be transported, whether this concerns shopping, moving stuff or leisure activities. The cargo cycle is a much cheaper option which is just as effective. However, individual ownership of cargo cycles is impeded by limited parking space in dense, urban centres. Moreover, for people who can't afford a car, buying a cargo cycle might still be too high an investment.

But all this can be solved. The LastenRad Kollektiv in Vienna, Austria, rents out cargo cycles to individuals who want to transport something big or heavy and prefer not to use a car. People pay a voluntary fee, which is used to maintain the bikes. Velogistics, a project that was inspired by it, tries to do the same at a European scale, by building an online database of people owing a cargo cycle and willing to lend it.

Will cargo cycles work everywhere?
The potential of the cargo cycle remains unclear. Presently, research is very scarce. This is remarkable, since no other technology seems to offer so many benefits for urban freight transportation. Yet, the possibilities of cargo cycles will depend on several factors, which might make them less suited in other places. All cities where cargo cycles have taken off to some degree, are flat. Having to pedal a cargo cycle up a hill will raise delivery times considerably, which means loss of time compared to motorised options. Electric assist can help, but there might be better options for city cargo transport in hilly or mountainous regions, such as gravity-powered cable cars and aerial ropeways.

Secondly, cargo cycles are especially useful in European cities with their large historical centres consisting of narrow, winding streets. In North-American cities the average speed of motor traffic in cities is generally higher because of much wider roads, and the speed advantage of cargo cycles may disappear. Population density also influences the usefulness of cargo cycles, which again plays into the hands of European cities. A third observation is that cities where cargo cycles are again in use already had a relatively strong bicycle culture and a decent cycle infrastructure prior to their arrival. If there is no (safe) space for cargo cycles, they cannot be used.

(1) "CycleLogistics" (2012)
(2) "Bikes instead of lorries" (2012)
(3) "Das Lastenfahrrad als Transportmittel für städtischen Wirtshaftsverkehr" (2012)
(4) "Ich ersetze ein Auto" (2012)
(5) "Cycle freight in London: a scoping study" (2009)
(6) "Gesamtwirtschaftlicher Vergleich von Pkw- und Radverkehr" (2010)
(7) "Short history of cargo cycling", CycleLogistics (2012)


Water Bankruptcy

SUBHEAD: Seven most populous river basins Likely to face significant water scarcity by 2050.

By Staff on 29 September 2012 for Counter Currents - (

Image above: Map of major river basins dependent on the Hindu Kush Himalayan region including the Yellow, Yangtze, Mekong, Irrawaddy, Ganges, and Indus River and provide water to over 1.3 billion people.  From (

[IB Editor's note: The ten most populated river basins in the world include the:
Ganges (528 million people),  Yangtze (407 million poeple), Indus (254 million poeple), Nile (207 million poeple), Yellow (170 million poeple), Huai He (103 million poeple), Niger (100 million poeple), Hai (96 million poeple), Krisna (89 million poeple), Danube (81 million people).]

Water crisis is haunting millions in today's world. Now, there are water-poor, the portion of populace that finds it difficult to get safe water, and water-rich, those who spend a lot of water for car wash and flush down gallons of water at a time.

Seven of the ten most populous river basins, including the Ganges, Yangtze , Niger and Danube are likely to face significant water scarcity by 2050.

Mismanagement is creating water bankruptcy, said experts. “‘Water bankruptcy' a threat in many regions” a news-report by Thin Lei Win from Bangkok on September 25, 2012 in AlertNet said:
Many regions face “water bankruptcy” due to mismanagement of water resources, with implications for food and energy security, experts have warned.
This mismanagement of water and aquatic systems has “led to situations where both social and ecological systems are in jeopardy and have even collapsed,” said the report, Science-Policy Bridges over Troubled Waters  for PDf file ( - a study of almost 200 major international water-related projects over the past 20 years.

Yet “many in the policy- and decision- making realm regard these systems and their resources as limitless and freely available,” said the report, published by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The report was launched on September 24, 2012, the opening day of the GEF International Waters Science Conference in Bangkok .

“The consequences of poor decision-making are dire: we face a ‘water bankruptcy' in many regions of the world with implications for food and energy security, adaptation to climate variability and change, economic growth and human security challenges,” it added.

The report urged investment in science to identify emerging issues and track trends relating to the use of water resources to help reduce the risks.

It also said links between science and policymaking should be strengthened and encouraged scientists to be at the forefront of knowledge dissemination.

“‘Faceless science' does not inspire confidence in the information projects are producing and the advice that stems from them,” the report said.

“Urbanization and economic activity are increasingly putting river basins under intense pressures, which are projected to increase further due to growing water scarcity and diminishing water quality,” said the report.

It said rivers are particularly exposed to human pressures as they are where most of the largest cities and areas with the highest population densities are situated.

Ten river basins, including the Ganges, Yangtze , Niger and Danube , are home to a quarter of the world's population and water scarcity is likely to be significant in seven of these basins by 2050.
“This has serious implications for human development, the economy and basin/downstream ecosystems,” said the report.

The report also said management measures such as flow regulation, damming and water consumption in dry regions change entire river systems.

Humans are also impacting oceans, the report added.

“In some marine areas, dissolved oxygen – a critical ecological indicator for coastal marine ecosystems – has changed drastically over a relatively short time and has become a worldwide crisis,” it said.

“Overall, the huge increase in the stored heat in oceans does not bode well for impacts on climate, ecosystems, sea level and eventually human society,” it added. 


Lessons fron the Dark Season

SUBHEAD: To move forward in a safe, sustainable manner we must all confront the dark, destructive nature that has guided our all-consuming society for so long.

By Billy Templeton on 24 September 2012 for Transition Honesdale - (

Image above: Photo Children of the Corn - "Shot the other night, the light was so strong on the top of the trees it was bizarre." From (

It’s corn maze season and as the days get shorter and the air crisper, many tourists and locals will find themselves wandering lost through the walls of tall stalks until they reach the end of the maze and solve the puzzle. It’s a tradition that has taken hold of our society and become synonymous with autumn.

Mazes and labyrinths are nothing new. Hundreds of years ago it would not have been uncommon to find pilgrims following a maze, deep in prayer or meditation, quickly losing track of the physical world when lost in complex twists and turns of a hedge or wall. Although our modern interpretation of this maze might not have the same spiritual gravitas as the medieval labyrinth, its walls continue to reveal certain truths worth contemplating about our contemporary society.

I have always found myself in awe of nature’s wisdom in autumn. The trees are very much conscious of the coming winter and make preparations to live off of the stored energy as they rest through the winter. This bit of wisdom may have once been considered vital to the survival of all living things, but in the confusion of our all-consuming society, we rarely stop to consider just how significant, dangerous even, winter has been and will be again.

We are lost in a labyrinth of corn, all of us surfing the Internet on our iPhones as we bump into another dead end. All the while the leaves turn brown and the air bitter cold. Life is warm in the winter when we have the luxury of burning fossil fuels, but if there is one thing we can be certain of it is that eventually, energy will cost more than we can afford.

It was also once thought that a labyrinth could trap evil spirits. That a cold wind carried demon spirits from the dark water to the lit shore and that by building a labyrinth we could trap those who meant us harm. This is a comforting thought, a tale to tell children before bed. Of course we know there are no demons in the night, but just in case there is some evil in this world, we will be able to protect ourselves. But will we?

Halloween was once a time when we would lift the veil between this world and the next. We’d honor good souls already passed as we prepared for the long, hard months of winter. Bonfires were lit and masks worn to ward off or confuse the evil spirits that roamed during the hours when the veil between worlds was at its thinnest. These rituals also served as a form of mock reverence and a cathartic gesture towards acknowledging the very real existence of the more destructive forces in nature: giving the Reaper his due, so to speak. Men and women spoke of harvest and storage, respect and honor because they all knew what awaited them in coming months.

Today, our children don plastic masks, run door to door to collect and consume corn sugar in celebration of the holiday. Supervising their children, parents discuss football and fashion, reality TV and gas prices. The approaching winter is rarely considered.

And why should it be considered? Winter, to most, is shopping season. When the refrigerator empties we simply head to Wal-Mart to re-stock; if it’s gets cold, we turn up the heat. We have all been raised with the understanding that every problem has a solution and if times are tough, we work harder and life becomes easier. I would love to be able to continue believing in these mantras. But, as we continue towards tougher times, we’ll begin to realize that we are not dealing with answerable problems so much as we’re looking at unsolvable dilemmas.

Let us re-enter the corn maze, no longer half-blindly looking at our iPhones, mindlessly walking the same paths over and over. The time has come for us to walk the paths and contemplate our own inner demons. Take off our masks that hide our eyes from the reality that we have created and come face to face with who we are as individuals and examine how we spiraled to where we are today.

In order to move forward in a safe, sustainable manner we must all confront the dark, destructive nature that has guided our all-consuming society for so long. Carl Jung often spoke of man’s hidden shadow and its destructive nature when left buried in the subconscious. As each of us represses that which drives us to destroy our environment (consumerism), the more destructive the shadow grows.

So maybe it is time, as the leaves continue to fall, to again walk the paths of the maze, and light the bonfire that will allow us to become conscious of our own inner demons so that our society can once again listen and learn from the changing of the seasons.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: The Pivot Point 9/21/12
Ea O Ka Aina: The Fall Equinox 9/22/09


Mars Water

SUBHEAD: NASA's Curiosity Rover finds evidence of water worn pebbles in ancient stream bed.

By Craig Kanalley on 27 September 2012 for Huffington Post  -

Image above: Small pebbles created by running water during erosion on Mars. From (

The Curiosity Rover has found evidence of an ancient stream that flowed "vigorously" on Mars where the Rover is now exploring, NASA said on Thursday.

NPR reports that this is "definitive proof" that water once existed on Mars.

Stream bed gravels were observed among the rocks on the surface of Mars, according to a statement from NASA.

"From the size of gravels it carried, we can interpret the water was moving about 3 feet per second, with a depth somewhere between ankle and hip deep," said Curiosity science co-investigator William Dietrich of the University of California, Berkeley.

The rock outcrop was named "Hottah" after Hottah Lake in Canada's Northwest Territories, per The Scientific American.

Reacting to the news, American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson wrote in an email to The Huffington Post:
"As a scientist, it's always a good feeling to obtain confirming evidence for something you had strongly suspected was true. Curiosity has just taken us there. But it's an even better feeling to find evidence that conflicts with long-held ideas. Over its usable life, Curiosity will almost surely take us there too." adds that the discovery doesn't just mean there was water on Mars, but that it flowed in "large volumes" at one time.

Click here for photos released by NASA pertaining to this discovery.

We Could Be Heroes

SUBHEAD: A letter to my dismal allies on the importance of the radical right abandoning all interest in truth and fact.

By Rebecca Solnit on 27 September 2012 for Tom Dispatch -  

Image above: Detail of watercolor with anti-imperialist message painted by Chinese Gu Yuan in 1951 for sale for $450,000. From (

Dear Allies,

Forgive me if I briefly take my eyes off the prize to brush away some flies, but the buzzing has gone on for some time. I have a grand goal, and that is to counter the Republican right with its deep desire to annihilate everything I love and to move toward far more radical goals than the Democrats ever truly support. In the course of pursuing that, however, I’ve come up against the habits of my presumed allies again and again.

O rancid sector of the far left, please stop your grousing! Compared to you, Eeyore sounds like a Teletubby. If I gave you a pony, you would not only be furious that not everyone has a pony, but you would pick on the pony for not being radical enough until it wept big, sad, hot pony tears. Because what we’re talking about here is not an analysis, a strategy, or a cosmology, but an attitude, and one that is poisoning us. Not just me, but you, us, and our possibilities.

Leftists Explain Things to Me
The poison often emerges around electoral politics. Look, Obama does bad things and I deplore them, though not with a lot of fuss, since they’re hardly a surprise. He sometimes also does not-bad things, and I sometimes mention them in passing, and mentioning them does not negate the reality of the bad things.

The same has been true of other politicians: the recent governor of my state, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was in some respects quite good on climate change. Yet it was impossible for me to say so to a radical without receiving an earful about all the other ways in which Schwarzenegger was terrible, as if the speaker had a news scoop, as if he or she thought I had been living under a rock, as if the presence of bad things made the existence of good ones irrelevant. As a result, it was impossible to discuss what Schwarzenegger was doing on climate change (and unnecessary for my interlocutors to know about it, no less figure out how to use it).

So here I want to lay out an insanely obvious principle that apparently needs clarification. There are bad things and they are bad. There are good things and they are good, even though the bad things are bad. The mentioning of something good does not require the automatic assertion of a bad thing. The good thing might be an interesting avenue to pursue in itself if you want to get anywhere. In that context, the bad thing has all the safety of a dead end. And yes, much in the realm of electoral politics is hideous, but since it also shapes quite a bit of the world, if you want to be political or even informed you have to pay attention to it and maybe even work with it.

Instead, I constantly encounter a response that presumes the job at hand is to figure out what’s wrong, even when dealing with an actual victory, or a constructive development. Recently, I mentioned that California’s current attorney general, Kamala Harris, is anti-death penalty and also acting in good ways to defend people against foreclosure. A snarky Berkeley professor’s immediate response began, “Excuse me, she's anti-death penalty, but let the record show that her office condoned the illegal purchase of lethal injection drugs.”

Apparently, we are not allowed to celebrate the fact that the attorney general for 12% of all Americans is pretty cool in a few key ways or figure out where that could take us. My respondent was attempting to crush my ebullience and wither the discussion, and what purpose exactly does that serve?

This kind of response often has an air of punishing or condemning those who are less radical, and it is exactly the opposite of movement- or alliance-building. Those who don’t simply exit the premises will be that much more cautious about opening their mouths. Except to bitch, the acceptable currency of the realm.

My friend Jaime Cortez, a magnificent person and writer, sent this my way: “At a dinner party recently, I expressed my pleasure that some parts of Obamacare passed, and starting 2014, the picture would be improved. I was regaled with reminders of the horrors of the drone program that Obama supports, and reminded how inadequate Obamacare was. I responded that it is not perfect, but it was an incremental improvement, and I was glad for it. But really, I felt dumb and flat-footed for being grateful.”

The Emperor Is Naked and Uninteresting  
Maybe it’s part of our country’s Puritan heritage, of demonstrating one’s own purity and superiority rather than focusing on fixing problems or being compassionate. Maybe it comes from people who grew up in the mainstream and felt like the kid who pointed out that the emperor had no clothes, that there were naked lies, hypocrisies, and corruptions in the system.

Believe me, a lot of us already know most of the dimples on the imperial derriere by now, and there are other things worth discussing. Often, it’s not the emperor that’s the important news anyway, but the peasants in their revolts and even their triumphs, while this mindset I’m trying to describe remains locked on the emperor, in fury and maybe in self-affirmation.

When you’re a hammer everything looks like a nail, but that’s not a good reason to continue to pound down anything in the vicinity. Consider what needs to be raised up as well.  Consider our powers, our victories, our possibilities; ask yourself just what you’re contributing, what kind of story you’re telling, and what kind you want to be telling.

Sitting around with the first occupiers of Zuccotti Park on the first anniversary of Occupy, I listened to one lovely young man talking about the rage his peers, particularly his gender, often have.  But, he added, fury is not a tactic or a strategy, though it might sometimes provide the necessary energy for getting things done.

There are so many ways to imagine this mindset -- or maybe its many mindsets with many origins -- in which so many are mired. Perhaps one version devolves from academic debate, which at its best is a constructive, collaborative building of an argument through testing and challenge, but at its worst represents the habitual tearing down of everything, and encourages a subculture of sourness that couldn’t be less productive.

Can you imagine how far the Civil Rights Movement would have gotten, had it been run entirely by complainers for whom nothing was ever good enough? To hell with integrating the Montgomery public transit system when the problem was so much larger!

Picture Gandhi’s salt marchers bitching all the way to the sea, or the Zapatistas, if Subcomandante Marcos was merely the master kvetcher of the Lacandon jungle, or an Aung San Suu Kyi who conducted herself like a caustic American pundit. Why did the Egyptian revolutionary who told me about being tortured repeatedly seem so much less bitter than many of those I run into here who have never suffered such harm?

There is idealism somewhere under this pile of bile, the pernicious idealism that wants the world to be perfect and is disgruntled that it isn’t -- and that it never will be. That’s why the perfect is the enemy of the good. Because, really, people, part of how we are going to thrive in this imperfect moment is through élan, esprit de corps, fierce hope, and generous hearts.

We talk about prefigurative politics, the idea that you can embody your goal. This is often discussed as doing your political organizing through direct-democratic means, but not as being heroic in your spirit or generous in your gestures.

Left-Wing Vote Suppression
One manifestation of this indiscriminate biliousness is the statement that gets aired every four years: that in presidential elections we are asked to choose the lesser of two evils. Now, this is not an analysis or an insight; it is a cliché, and a very tired one, and it often comes in the same package as the insistence that there is no difference between the candidates. You can reframe it, however, by saying: we get a choice, and not choosing at all can be tantamount in its consequences to choosing the greater of two evils.

But having marriage rights or discrimination protection or access to health care is not the lesser of two evils. If I vote for a Democrat, I do so in the hopes that fewer people will suffer, not in the belief that that option will eliminate suffering or bring us to anywhere near my goals or represent my values perfectly. Yet people are willing to use this “evils” slogan to wrap up all the infinite complexity of the fate of the Earth and everything living on it and throw it away.

I don’t love electoral politics, particularly the national variety. I generally find such elections depressing and look for real hope to the people-powered movements around the globe and subtler social and imaginative shifts toward more compassion and more creativity. Still, every four years we are asked if we want to have our foot trod upon or sawed off at the ankle without anesthetic. The usual reply on the left is that there’s no difference between the two experiences and they prefer that Che Guevara give them a spa pedicure. Now, the Che pedicure is not actually one of the available options, though surely in heaven we will all have our toenails painted camo green by El Jefe.

Before that transpires, there’s something to be said for actually examining the differences.  In some cases not choosing the trod foot may bring us all closer to that unbearable amputation. Or maybe it’s that the people in question won’t be the ones to suffer, because their finances, health care, educational access, and so forth are not at stake.

An undocumented immigrant writes me, “The Democratic Party is not our friend: it is the only party we can negotiate with.” Or as a Nevada activist friend put it, “Oh my God, go be sanctimonious in California and don't vote or whatever, but those bitching radicals are basically suppressing the vote in states where it matters.”

Presidential electoral politics is as riddled with corporate money and lobbyists as a long-dead dog with maggots, and deeply mired in the manure of the status quo -- and everyone knows it. (So stop those news bulletins, please.) People who told me back in 2000 that there was no difference between Bush and Gore never got back to me afterward.

I didn’t like Gore, the ex-NAFTA-advocate and pro-WTO shill, but I knew that the differences did matter, especially to the most vulnerable among us, whether to people in Africa dying from the early impacts of climate change or to the shift since 2000 that has turned our nation from a place where more than two-thirds of women had abortion rights in their states to one where less than half of them have those rights. Liberals often concentrate on domestic policy, where education, health care, and economic justice matter more and where Democrats are sometimes decent, even lifesaving, while radicals are often obsessed with foreign policy to the exclusion of all else.

I’m with those who are horrified by Obama’s presidential drone wars, his dismal inaction on global climate treaties, and his administration’s soaring numbers of deportations of undocumented immigrants. That some of you find his actions so repugnant you may not vote for him, or that you find the whole electoral political system poisonous, I also understand.

At a demonstration in support of Bradley Manning this month, I was handed a postcard of a dead child with the caption "Tell this child the Democrats are the lesser of two evils." It behooves us not to use the dead for our own devices, but that child did die thanks to an Obama Administration policy.  Others live because of the way that same administration has provided health insurance for millions of poor children or, for example, reinstated environmental regulations that save thousands of lives.

You could argue that to vote for Obama is to vote for the killing of children, or that to vote for him is to vote for the protection for other children or even killing fewer children. Virtually all U.S. presidents have called down death upon their fellow human beings. It is an immoral system.

You don’t have to participate in this system, but you do have to describe it and its complexities and contradictions accurately, and you do have to understand that when you choose not to participate, it better be for reasons more interesting than the cultivation of your own moral superiority, which is so often also the cultivation of recreational bitterness.

Bitterness poisons you and it poisons the people you feed it to, and with it you drive away a lot of people who don’t like poison. You don’t have to punish those who do choose to participate. Actually, you don’t have to punish anyone, period.

We Could Be Heroes
We are facing a radical right that has abandoned all interest in truth and fact. We face not only their specific policies, but a kind of cultural decay that comes from not valuing truth, not trying to understand the complexities and nuances of our situation, and not making empathy a force with which to act. To oppose them requires us to be different from them, and that begins with both empathy and intelligence, which are not as separate as we have often been told.

Being different means celebrating what you have in common with potential allies, not punishing them for often-minor differences. It means developing a more complex understanding of the matters under consideration than the cartoonish black and white that both left and the right tend to fall back on.
Dismissiveness is a way of disengaging from both the facts on the ground and the obligations those facts bring to bear on your life. As Michael Eric Dyson recently put it, “What is not good are ideals and rhetorics that don’t have the possibility of changing the condition that you analyze. Otherwise, you’re engaging in a form of rhetorical narcissism and ideological self-preoccupation that has no consequence on the material conditions of actually existing poor people.”

Nine years ago I began writing about hope, and I eventually began to refer to my project as “snatching the teddy bear of despair from the loving arms of the left.” All that complaining is a form of defeatism, a premature surrender, or an excuse for not really doing much. Despair is also a form of dismissiveness, a way of saying that you already know what will happen and nothing can be done, or that the differences don’t matter, or that nothing but the impossibly perfect is acceptable. If you’re privileged you can then go home and watch bad TV or reinforce your grumpiness with equally grumpy friends.

The desperate are often much more hopeful than that -- the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, that amazingly effective immigrant farmworkers’ rights group, is hopeful because quitting for them would mean surrendering to modern-day slavery, dire poverty, hunger, or death, not cable-TV reruns. They’re hopeful and they’re powerful, and they went up against Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Safeway, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s, and they won.

The great human-rights activist Harvey Milk was hopeful, even though when he was assassinated gays and lesbians had almost no rights (but had just won two major victories in which he played a role). He famously said, “You have to give people hope.”

In terms of the rights since won by gays and lesbians, where we are now would undoubtedly amaze Milk, and we got there step by step, one pragmatic and imperfect victory at a time -- with so many more yet to be won. To be hopeful means to be uncertain about the future, to be tender toward possibilities, to be dedicated to change all the way down to the bottom of your heart.

There are really only two questions for activists: What do you want to achieve?  And who do you want to be?  And those two questions are deeply entwined. Every minute of every hour of every day you are making the world, just as you are making yourself, and you might as well do it with generosity and kindness and style.

That is the small ongoing victory on which great victories can be built, and you do want victories, don’t you? Make sure you’re clear on the answer to that, and think about what they would look like.



• As in 2004 and 2008, Rebecca Solnit and her blue-state henchwomen and men will probably invade northern Nevada on election week to swing with one of the most swinging states in the union. She is, however, much more excited about’s anti-oil-company campaign and the ten thousand faces of Occupy now changing the world. Also, she wrote some books.

'Silent Spring' Turns 50

SUBHEAD: In 1962 Rachel Carson warned of the 'Pesticide Treadmill' powered By Big Ag.

By Lynne Peeples on 27 September 2012 for Huffington Post -

Image above: Detail from portrait of Rachel Carson by Minnette D. Bickel, 1987. From (

Fifty years ago Rachel Carson wrote,
  "Chemical control is self-perpetuating, needing frequent and costly repetition."
"This is not what Rachel Carson would have wanted for her 50th anniversary present." Mardi Mellon, senior scientist with the non-profit Union of Concerned Sciences, referred to the pending rollout of crops engineered to be resistant to "one, two, three, perhaps more herbicides."

The resultant "dousing" of crops with larger quantities of a multiple poisons, Mellon said, is not exactly the future Carson sought with the publication of her landmark book, "Silent Spring," on Sepember 27, 1962.

Thursday's anniversary comes as debate over the healthiness of conventional, genetically-modified foods has arguably reached record decibels -- thanks in part to the publication this month of two controversial studies. One concluded that organics offered no better nutritional value  than conventional foods (IB Editior note: without taking into account the effects of pesticides nor genetic engineering); another suggested that genetically modified corn increased cancer in lab rats.

Lost in this debate, some experts said, is a more fundamental issue facing the food system and public health: a vicious cycle of chemical-dependency that we can't seem to break, even 50 years after Carson warned of the dangers of an arms race against nature we are destined to lose.

The marine biologist may have been among the first scientists to refer to the "pesticide treadmill," as well as to suggest that the chemical industry keeps it running by "pouring money into universities to support research on insecticides."

Many scientists repeat those insights today.

"Herbicide resistance is not new. We've been dealing with it for about 50 years," said Mike Owen, a weed expert at Iowa State University. "But every time we've ended up with resistance in particular weeds, industry would bring forward a new solution -- so it again became a non-problem."

Splitting the Eurozone

SUBHEAD: There's only one way forward for Europe, and this isn't it.

By Raul Ilargi Meijer on 27 September 2012 for Automatic Earth - 

Image above: Detail of map of Europe in the Medieval 13th Century. Click to enlarge. From (

As Groucho once put it: "I've had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn't it."

Vaclav Klaus is perhaps the only man out there I've seen so far who says the right things. Well, other than myself, that is. Chest thumping? I'm just worried, and increasingly so, by the level of complacency I witness every single day in whatever it is I see and read about Europe (I read a lot).

People follow stock markets. In the sense that if the markets are doing fairly well, they think everything else must be doing fairly well too (like their own lives). And that's all they do. But you can't gauge European reality through looking at stock markets. That seems to me to be so obvious, and I've written about it numerous times, that the ongoing head in sand blinders become harder to bear every single day. We're not talking about the number of flatscreen TVs the Greeks and Spanish can buy, we're talking about their bare survival.

That head in sand following of stock exchange digits is not smart, not for anyone. It allows for Ben Bernanke to claim he wants to attack unemployment - something that sounds good, beneficial - (but hardly his mandate to begin with), while all he actually does with QE 1,2,3,4,5, n..., is transfer bank losses to the public account. Ditto for Draghi. Central bankers don't help the nations they purport to represent, they represent the banks in those nations. And since the largest banks are multinationals, the central bankers largely represent international banking interests. Not you or me.

Central banks are the ideal conduit for Grand Theft Auto. And they will remain so for as long as the people in the street can be fooled into thinking that it's their interests that are the focus of the bailouts. More jobs, cheaper mortgage loans, that sort of thing. It doesn’t stop, does it? I see a big coordinated push from builders, unions, banks, developers etc. for the yet to be formed new Dutch government to make it easier for more people to borrow more money, in the face of the 5% drop in sales and 8% drop in prices the country saw in 2011.

And tons of people undoubtedly WANT to borrow more. Because they see no connection with the lower prices. On the contrary, they've been fed the idea that lower prices, like the entire recession, is something temporary, so they even see it as an opportunity. To buy more. To buy larger. 10 years ago Dutch home prices rose 20% per year, for years on end. And they all think that is some sort of new normal. Why the builders and banks think so is obvious. Why the buyers do, not so much. They are simply never told what is real. Not by builders, not by banks, and not by the people they voted into government.

Well, here's your reality, homebuyers in Holland and everywhere else in the western world: you're signing up to be shoved into the lower ranks of a pyramid scheme. You will start losing your jobs, your benefits, your pensions, but your debts will remain as high as they are now. And if you can't pay them off, your debts will grow.

Who should take preference when it comes to government protection and information, banks and industries, or the people? The official line of course is that if and when the government makes sure the banks and large industries do well, the people's interests will trickle down and follow. But we have seen five years, at the very least, of proof that this is bogus. You can pour behemoth amounts of money into your banking system, but if its debts are behemoth squared, nothing will trickle down. Oh wait, that's not true. Something will start trickling down. Debt.

The people who are already knee and neck deep in obligations they will never be able to meet, have new debt laden on their shoulders every single day, and more so with every iteration of QE, and they will never be the wiser for it; the poorer all the more, however.

Along the same lines, the EU is trying frantically to keep itself together, and most of all obviously the eurozone. Why? Because it puts the interests of the banks and industries before those of the people, just like the national governments do. It's even working hard to get more power over more aspects of life in member countries, especially financial aspects. Nothing could be worse for member states. Once you give away the freedom your ancestors fought so hard for, you'll have to fight the same battles all over again to get it back.

Look, in the end it's real simple: the Germans and the Dutch don't really want to buy Greek products, they want the Greeks to buy theirs. But there’s no way, never was, that the Greeks can produce all the extra wealth they would need to buy those products. Selling off the Acropolis for cheap was always in the works. Not because the richer countries are so much smarter than the poorer, but because neither understand basic math. After all, how much olive oil can the average German household consume?

Which leads us to the point that Greece doesn't have now, and never had, any long term reason to be in the eurozone. Nor do Portugal, Spain, Ireland and a bunch of other nations, for that matter. Italy is a different case: it simply screwed up big time. Thanks to the Vatican, the Cosa Nostra and all the links in between.

Let's move on to Vaclav Klaus. Again. And again, let me say he's not my favorite man. Not even my fave Czech. He just happens to have the proper words. Here goes, as per Laura Zelenko for Bloomberg:

The exit of one or more member states from the euro won’t destroy the monetary union or the project of European integration, Czech President Vaclav Klaus said.

And a Greek departure from the currency would be a “victory” for that country, which has been a victim of the monetary system, 

The Czech Republic, which pledged to adopt the euro as part of its agreement to join the European Union in 2004, is under no official deadline to do so and the question of joining the common currency is a “non-issue” in the country [..]

“I don’t think the euro as a currency disappears,” [..] 

“The issue is whether all of the 17 countries and potentially a few others should be or will be in this system or not.”

[..] the euro- zone system is punishing some countries that would be better off pulling out.
“Greece is a victim of the monetary union,” he said. “It would be much better for them not to be in the straightjacket. It would be a victory for them.”

[..] .. he supports European integration while not embracing the shift towards “unification, centralization, harmonization, standardization” of the whole continent, including the single currency.

“We were aware of the fact that joining the euro system was one of the conditions. But we are quite happy with the fact that there was no timing."

“So perhaps in the year 2074 we can join the European Monetary Union as well,” he said. “No one is pushing us.” [..] 

Poland, which three years ago shelved plans to join in 2013, deems the euro “completely unattractive,” Prime Minister Donald Tusk said in July. Hungary won’t adopt the currency before 2018, Premier Viktor Orban said in March. Bulgaria has indefinitely delayed plans to scrap the lev, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov told the Wall Street Journal [..]

“It’s technically possible,” to manage the departure from a common currency, Klaus said. “It’s not true what all the politicians are saying about disastrous consequences. You have to do it in an organized way. You can’t allow an anarchy situation.”

Before we get back to Klaus, here's a relevant quote from the Guardian:
Spanish citizen movements, like those in Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Italy and France have demanded a debt audit, to see who really owes what to whom. Opposition politician Cayo Lara is asking for any bailout conditions to be debated in parliament, while a group called Judges for Democracy are looking at whether the virtual deconstruction of the social state could be unconstitutional.

Every single EU country should have a debt audit, it's just common sense. None are scheduled to have one, Why do you think that is?

What Vaclav Klaus says, and what I've been saying for a while, is that letting, allowing, Greece and other PIIGS to leave the eurozone is not as big of a negative deal as the politicians and bankers make it out to be. Not from the point of view of those countries.

The reason Merkel and Monti et al. keep on holding on to the Armageddon idea is that Greece, Spain, etc. leaving the EMU, will trigger actions in the financial world. There will be credit events, i.e. credit default swaps will have to be settled. Banks, governments, pension funds will have to write down losses. But those losses have already been incurred, they just haven't been put to paper. Creative accounting goes a long way, but not all the way. Of course, the EU and ECB will have to incur and declare losses on their PIIGS bond holdings too.

The only way forward for the EU and the Eurozone is to let the weaker members leave, and to let them do that with grace, respect and dignity. Anything else is not just doomed to fail, it's doomed to incite violence. Europe has a long history, and it doesn't take much to evoke lots of that, any and all of that. Not something to leave in the hands of Mario Draghi, that's for sure.

Look, I'll say it here and now and you can hold it against me on future developments: The EU must, make that capital MUST, not just allow, but facilitate for its weaker members to leave the eurozone. If it doesn't do that, it calls upon itself the wrath of the gods (Europe has lots of those).

As per Draghi and Merkel and Monti et al., they have no plans for that kind of facilitating. Not because they like the Greeks so much, but because their banks would need to - at least partially - come clean; derivatives, don't you know. And those banks are far worse off and much more broke than anyone has been allowed to know.

Unless a sufficiently large number of us wake up in time, as in right now, people will be shot to death in the streets of Athens and Barcelona just so the banks can continue to hide their losses. Is that the kind of world you want to live in? If not, why are you sitting in that chair?

So yeah, you're right, there's more than one way forward for Europe. Most of them lead to futures ugly enough for all of us to reject right out of the bat. The one that doesn't is the only real way, and it requires for all of us, Europeans, Americans, everyone, to stand up and act. Too bad we're too busy counting our pieces of silver and gold.

Small farms increasing

SUBHEAD: For the first time since the Great Depression the numbers of small farms is increasing in the USA.

By Stuart Staniford on 26 Spetember 2012 for Early Warning -

Image above: Small farm is family owned and not a factory farm (GMO producer). From (

The New York Times has an interesting article on the resurgence in interest in farming amongst the young and college educated.
For decades, the number of farmers has been shrinking as a share of the population, and agriculture has often been seen as a backbreaking profession with little prestige. But the last Agricultural Census in 2007 showed a 4 percent increase in the number of farms, the first increase since 1920, and some college graduates are joining in the return to the land.
Jordan Schmidt, a crew manager here at Hearty Roots, studied environmental science at Wesleyan. Ms. Schmidt, 27, did not have so much as a garden growing up, but in college, she said, she worked at a student-run farm and fell in love with agriculture. So she gave up on research science and moved onto a farm in Pennsylvania after graduating. This is her third season at Hearty Roots.
Hearty Roots, about 100 miles north of New York City, spans 70 acres with a clear view of the Catskill Mountains to the west. At the height of the harvest this year, the farm produced 8,000 pounds of vegetables a week — including peppers, beets and kale — and employed 10 workers. None of them came from farming backgrounds and most had heard about the job through word of mouth.
I wanted to know the backstory to the "4 percent" (incidentally - when did this become good style vs "four percent"?).  Thus I made this graph of the number of farms going back to 1850 (from the US agricultural census).*

Image above: Chart of number of small farms in millions from census bureau since 1850.  . From original article.

I've circled the 4% increase between 2002 and 2007.  Note that the reporter is incorrect that this is the first such increase since 1920: there was a large increase in 1935, presumably due to the effects of people going back to the land in the great depression.  Note also that the 2007 census is just before the great recession and it's possible the 2012 census will show a larger increase given both the recession and, perhaps, an ongoing trend amongst young people of returning to agriculture.

So, we are a long way from Sharon Astyk's Nation of Farmers, but it certainly looks like the giant loss of US farm count in the mid twentieth century has stabilized and perhaps now begun some kind of bounce back**.

* Technical data note: the 2007 census shows counts "adjusted for coverage" from 1997 on, and then unadjusted numbers from 1997 and before (ie they show both for 1997 and the adjustment is about 15% upward).  Plotting both the adjusted and unadjusted numbers resulted in an obvious discontinuity in the graph at 1997.  Therefore I rescaled all data before 1997 by the 1997 correction.  Thus the absolute value of this data should be regarded as somewhat uncertain by something probably less than 15%.  The shape is probably pretty much right though.

** Personal note: my family's house was built as a farmhouse (in a valley in the hills of upstate New York) either in 1850 or 1870 - we were told both and haven't figured it out yet - and ceased to be a working farm in the 1960s (as near as I can tell from examining satellite photos).  So it pretty much exactly spans the US farming boom.

Actions to overtrun PLDC

SUBHEAD: Kauai County Council 7-0 against PLDC. More statewide events upcoming 10/8/12.

By Shannon Rudolph on 26 September 2012 in Island Breath -

Image above: Kauai residents heavily attend PLDC Rules hearing on 8/29/12 and make case to repeal Act 55 that authorized it. Photo by Juan Wilson.

After the Big Island County Council voted on a resolution to repeal Act 55, the Kauai County Council unanimously voted 7-0 on 9/26 for a resolution to have the Hawaii Legsislature overturn the authorization of the Public Land Development Corporation. That's two for two! Now in the works are similar actions on Oahu and Maui.

Act on - October 8th 2-4pm
Show your support at a Repeal the PLDC rally near you, or start your own!

(Note: If you start your own, let me know and I'll help publicize

Please email your STATE elected officials, (+ Maui & Oahu County officials) and let them know you want the PLDC repealed. Also, please write letters to the newspaper editors.)

Upcoming actions are planned.

Demonstrations to Repeal Act 55 autjorizing the PLDC

Monday, October 8, 2012, 2:00-4:00pm

WHERE:All Islands - list of rally points in the description
  • Hawaii Island East - Proposed at DLNR Building for Hilo - TBD upon consensus
  • Hawaii Island West - Proposed: Highway by Mormon Temple
  • Kauai - In the park in front of the County Council Building in Lihue
  • Maui - County Building, 200 S. High St., Wailuku
  • Oahu - Capitol Building, Downtown Honolulu
  • Lanai - To be announced.
  • Molokai - To be announced.
Four weeks before the general election we deserve to know where our candidates stand. We need to know that our representatives will be working to REPEAL ACT 55 when they get into office, and we deserve to know that before we vote.

Community before corporations: REPEAL ACT 55

Mahalo KeAkua a me Na Tupuna

Act 55 established the PLDC or Public Lands Development Corporation. This entity has a 5 member board that seeks to develop (aka sell) the 1.8 million acres of crown lands that are supposed to be be held in trust by the State.

In essence, this is a corporate driven land grab of Hawaii. The Act by-passes ALL COUNTY (aka community) OVERSIGHT.

If you haven't already, join our discussion group at

*Also - Abolish PLDC Hawai'i FB Page

And please sign and share our petition to repeal Act 55 / Abolish PLDC

PLDC News : 

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai Council to vote PLDC 9/22/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Abercrombie Booed 9/20/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Abercrombie on Kauai for PLDC 9/13/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Repeal the PLDC Act 55 8/31/12
Ea O Ka Aina: PLDC Ceded Land Finale 8/29/12 
Ea O Ka Aina: PLDC Rejected by Public 8/22/12 
Ea O Ka Aina: Cold Water in the Face 8/20/12  
Ea O Ka Aina: Public Land Development Corporation 8/18/12 
Ea O Ka Aina: Hawaii Legislative Subterfuge 5/1/12  
Ea O Ka Aina: From the Inside Out 9/23/11  
Ea O Ka Aina: Abercrombie Land Grab 9/13/11  
Ea O Ka Aina: Privitizing Public Land 6/2/11


GMO Transparency

SUBHEAD: Demanding the labeling of GE foods creates needed transparency and frees us from the control of a secretive system

By Tiffany Hervey on 26 September 2012 for Honolulu Weekly -  

Image above: Detail of Occupy Monsanto poster for recent (9/17) demonstration on Maui.  From (

In an election year, citizens’ right to know not only what’s in our food, but whether our candidates took biotech money, is a crucial issue in Hawai‘i, where so many GE crops are grown. 

Taking control of Hawaii’s food supply is not an issue pitting hippies and liberals against economic progress. Rather, it is about understanding how the agrichemical farm industry seeks to control our food system by keeping us in the dark as to what, exactly, is in our food and being released into our environment.

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs),are produced by genetic engineering (GE), the splicing of genes from one species into those of another. These are not combinations that can happen in nature. If anything, the industry has evolved to permit the use of food as a weapon for ignorance and oppression. The antidote is for our citizenry to understand how the plantation agricultural system is still in place and why, so that we can evolve beyond it.

After the illegal overthrow and military annexation of the Hawaiian Kingdom, the foreign elite that came to power discouraged small farming by sabotaging land reform measures and monopolizing Ag land for mono-crop plantations.

Non-food crops

As sugar and pineapple closed down, agrichemical companies like Monsanto, Syngenta and Pioneer Hi-Bred (owned by DuPont) bought most of the high quality farmland in Kunia and the North Shore because they had the money to outbid independent Hawaii farmers, says Al Santoro, the recently retired owner of Poamoho Organic Produce in Waialua. “Pioneer even bought some Dole land that had a producing mango orchard and cut down the trees to plant [GE] corn seed,” Santoro recalls. “So now they have converted a local food crop to a non-food, export crop.”

While local agriculture’s diverse sectors (organic and conventional food crops, biofuels, nursery, ranching, biotech), all must compete for the same limited resources, biotech has floated to the top. “Our government has not prioritized Ag resources in line with the State’s goals of food sustainability,” Santoro says.

From 1980 to 2008, land in crops on Oahu declined by about 36,900 acres (77 percent) due to the closure of sugarcane and pineapple plantations, according to a 2011 report prepared by Plasch Econ Pacific LLC for Honolulu’s Department of Planning and Permitting. The report, Oahu Agriculture: Situation, Outlook and Issues, highlights that from 1994 to 1999, acreage in vegetables, melons, and fruits other than pineapple actually increased by about 4,600 acres on Oahu. Unfortunately, this gain was then followed by a 1,700-acre decline during the past decade.

This decline parallels GE seed companies’ replacing sugar and pineapple companies as the largest users of farmland on Oahu in the last decade. GE companies like Monsanto are the highest bidders for farmland, according to the report, which goes on to state that, since 1990, seed crops have been Hawaii’s greatest agricultural success, with statewide acreage increasing at an average rate of over 300 acres per year. Oahu, home to some of the highest quality farmland in the state, predominantly produces major export crops of seeds and ornamentals.

In a nutshell: Most of the land that could be used to grow food is used to produce non-edible exports.

Sidestepping the local economy

While the 10 million pounds of GE seed corn grown in Hawaii annually is valued at approximately $250 million a year, that doesn’t mean our local economy profits.

“In the case of the GMO corn seed companies none, zero, not any of that value is spent in the local economy,” Santoro explains. “No excise taxes are collected, nor state income taxes, because the farm product is not sold in Hawaii, but sent back to mainland research facilities.” The principal contribution Monsanto makes to the local economy is the hiring of workers, usually low-paid field hands, while the holders of high paying jobs, like Vice President Fred Perlak, are from the mainland.

“Because these [biotech] companies are treated as ‘farmers’ they get away with so much unregulated,” says GMO labeling activist Walter Ritte, citing the example of Molokai. “Monsanto is the largest employer on our island, largest land user, largest water user. But Monsanto produces nothing we can eat. They control the Chamber of Commerce; give money to our schools and clubs. We have to stop calling them farmers.”

Purchased policy

A majority of current House and Senate legislators received campaign donations directly from the biotech companies operating in Hawaii, as well as from their lobbyists,during the 2010 election cycle. Monsanto directly gave $34,750 directly to state legislators, according to data compiled by [] from the Hawaii Elections Project and the state’s Campaign Spending Commission (CSC). Monsanto lobbyists John H. Radcliffe and George “Red” Morris gave totals of $43,591 and $13,750, respectively, to legislators (see sidebar, right).

Following the money to audit local lawmakers’ loyalties isn’t easy. Dow Chemical is not listed under “Agriculture,” like Monsanto, but hidden instead as “General Business (Chemical & Related Manufacturing)” industry. Loihi Communications, owned by Alicia Maluafiti, a Monsanto lobbyist, is registered with the state as a lobbying company, but cannot be found under “Lawyers & Lobbyists.” Instead, it’s listed in the “Uncoded” section. Maluafiti is also executive director of the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, of which Monsanto Hawaii VP Fred Perlak is president.

According to records filed with the CSC for the 2010 election period, Gov. Neil Abercrombie received $1,000 from Monsanto, $300 from Alicia Mulafiti/Loihi Communications, and $600 from Dow Chemical. Additional records listed on [] show Abercrombie receiving $1,000 from Monsanto Hawaii VP Fred Perlak, and $6,000 each from Monsanto lobbyists George A “Red” Morris and John H. Radcliffe.

Right to know

About 90 percent of all soybeans, corn, canola and sugar beets grown in the U.S. are grown from GE seed, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (DOA). FDA guidelines state that food containing GMOs doesn’t have to be labeled as such and can even be labeled “all natural.”

Common ingredients like corn, vegetable oil, maltodextrin, soy protein, lecithin, monosodium glutamate, cornstarch, yeast extract, sugar and corn syrup are commonly produced from GE crops. It follows that most processed foods–breakfast cereal, granola bars, tortilla chips, salad dressing–contain one or more genetically modified ingredient. In the absence of long-term studies of the human health effects of GMOs in food, many consumers are wary.

But safe or not, people just have a right to know what’s in their food, Ritte says. “Labeling is symbolic of the whole basis of our democratic system,” Ritte says. “We have the right to know and to choose. Our lawmakers say what they stand for,and label themselves with a party. We have to be able to do that with the food we put in our bodies.”

Label debate

All Hawaii counties outside Oahu have voted in favor of GMO labeling bills. Twelve GMO labeling bills were presented at the Hawaii State Legislature in 2012, and none made it to a vote. On May 9, the Honolulu City Council voted in favor of Resolution 12-57, introduced by Tulsi Gabbard, which pushes for state and federal labeling of food containing GMOs.“This resolution is really about freedom and the consumer’s right to make informed choices,” Gabbard stated.

Council Chair Ernie Martin disagrees, saying that labeling would cause an increase in food prices. “A Honolulu City Council resolution urging the Hawaii State Legislature to require a labeling requirement has little chance of producing the desired outcome,” Martin explained in an email.

“Current food processing, transportation and storage do not lend [themselves] to the simple separation of GE and non-GE foods. Labeling would most certainly increase the cost of food to all local consumers,” the councilman wrote, adding that those wanting non-GM food “already have an option in organic [which is required to be GMO-free].” Last election, Martin received $250 from Monsanto, $500 from VP Fred Perlak and a total of $5,000 from lobbyists Maluafiti, Radcliffe and Morris, according to records filed with the CSC.

Fed bedfellows

An FDA commitment to labeling is unlikely, given the agency’s close ties to biotech companies.

“There was a hijacking of the FDA when Monsanto’s former attorney Michael Taylor was in charge,” explains Jeffrey M. Smith, director of the Institute for Responsible Technology and author of Seeds of Deception and Genetic Roulette, which link GMOs to toxins, allergies, infertility, immune dysfunction and more.

A former Monsanto attorney, Taylor filled the newly created post of Deputy Commissioner for Policy at the FDA in 1991, became Administrator of the Food Safety & Inspection Service for the USDA from 1994 to 1996, then returned to Monsanto to become Vice President for Public Policy. In 2009, he returned to the FDA as senior advisor to the FDA Commissioner, and since 2010, as FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods, he has reigned as US food safety czar.

“[Taylor] ignored the repeated warnings of FDA scientists who were concerned about health dangers and demanded long-term studies,” Smith explained in a phone interview. “According to 44,000 secret internal documents from the FDA files made public, the consensus among the scientists was that GMOs were dangerous, but the person in charge of policy was Michael Taylor… His policy ignored the scientists, claimed that there was no difference and that no testing was necessary.”

Farm Bureau bunk

Looking at the sector breakdown of Hawaii’s 2010 election cycle, the top contributors to candidates highlight another giant hurdle in the way of food security: urban sprawl. The biggest campaign funders were the finance, insurance and real estate sector, which gave $2,409,219 to legislators, and the construction industry, which gave $1,685,246.

A recent broadcast of PBS Hawaii’s “Insights” hosted a discussion between Dr. Kioni Dudley of Save Oahu Farmlands Alliance, Glenn Martinez of the Hawaii Farmers Union, Cameron Nekota of developer DH Horton Schuller, and Dean Okimoto, owner of Nalo Farms and Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation president. The four debated over Hoopili, a housing development that would drop 11,750 houses on top of 1,500 acres of productive farmland.

Farm Bureau president Okimoto spoke in support of rezoning the farmland for development. “We planned this for 30 years and we’re always saying the city should take the time to plan better,” he argued. “This is the first time the city and state has planned and now we’re dissing them.”

Dudley countered that no one was aware in the ‘70s, when the idea for this community began, that the land below the freeway was so valuable to Hawaii’s food supply. “It was all pineapple,” Dudley explained. “We just drew the line because of the freeway. Even in 2009, no one realized…we get 30 percent of our fruits and vegetables [for local consumption] from that land.”

Jeffrey Smith says that, on a visit to Hawaii, he learned that the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (DOA) doesn’t require testing to determine whether food crops have been contaminated by pollen drift from biotech research crops. “The biotech industry claim that their small buffer zones protect against contamination is especially laughable in Hawaii and to Hawaiians. who know that seeds travel far and wide,” Smith relates.

Smith points out that the biotech companies operating in Hawaii do not offer any plan for how to deal with seed and crop movement in case of hurricanes or flooding where GMOs may be carried out of their boundaries; and there’s no insurance policy against resulting damage that could occur to the environment, the economy or health.

“[The HDOA] has none of the tools necessary to protect the land and the people,” Smith says. “So companies like Monsanto completely call the shots and will never be held accountable.”

Food as weapon

Coined during the Vietnam War, in which chemicals such as Monsanto’s Agent Orange (dioxin) herbicide were used, the term “food as weapon” has been adopted by physicist and author Vandana Shiva. According to Shiva, the growth of biotech agribusiness in the U.S. goes hand-in-hand with U.S. foreign policy to deliberately create hunger in order to make the world dependent on our food supplies.

More than 40 countries, including Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand, the European Union, South Korea and Taiwan, already require some form of labeling for GE foods. Several counties in California have banned the planting of GMOs, either through ballot initiative or county ordinance. Colorado’s Boulder County is planning to phase out or strictly limit the planting of GE crops by farmers who lease land on 16,000 acres owned by Boulder County Parks and Open Space. The Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee voted in support of their Food and Agriculture Policy Council’s recommendation to phase out the planting of any further GMO crops like corn or sugar beets, which had been grown on some of the land during the last decade.

Hawaii has a tricky situation, because so much of our land is privatized. Today’s major Ag landowners have ties to the same estates or Big Five companies that owned the pineapple and sugar plantations. Appealing to lawmakers and landowners that are paid well by biotech companies might seem like a losing battle; however, there are still actions an informed citizenry can make in an effort for a healthier, more food self-sufficient Hawaii.

The power is and always lies with the people, who can hold our lawmakers accountable by demanding to know their positions in the upcoming elections, and voting for City Council, mayoral and State Leg. candidates who are pro-labeling and against rezoning Ag lands for development. Hawaii’s agriculture is dominated by exports (about 85 percent of sales in 2008), while most of our food is imported (about 66 percent of the fresh fruits and vegetables consumed in Hawaii).

While an interruption in shipping for whatever reason would obviously be detrimental to Hawaii’s dependency on imported food, the Plasch Econ Pacific report reminds us that it would also make it difficult to export, thereby freeing about 65,000 acres statewide (according to a 2010 estimate) for replanting to supply local markets. The report proffers that if increased food self-sufficiency were to occur, then, instead of sending dollars out of state for imported foods, more money would be spent in Hawaii, thereby increasing jobs and incomes locally.

It’s a two-pronged process: Demanding the labeling of GE foods creates needed transparency and frees us from the control of a secretive system; demanding locally grown food liberates our economy and provides true security.


Morris M. = Monsanto lobbyist George A “Red” Morris;
Radcliffe M. = Monsanto lobbyist John H. Radcliffe
Loihi M. = Monsanto Lobbyist Loihi Communications
Perlak M. = Fred Perlak,VP, Monsanto
Koehler M. = Paul Koehler, Community Affairs Director Monsanto Hawaii
Syngenta Crop Protection

Neil Abercrombie, GOVERNOR
$1,000 (Monsanto)
$6,000 (Morris M.)
$6,000 (Radcliffe)
$1,000 Perlak M.)

Joe Souki, HOUSE (D)
$1,500 (Monsanto)
$1,000 (Morris M.)
$2,000 (Radcliffe M.)

Ken Ito, HOUSE (D)
$1,000 (Monsanto)
$1,000 (Radcliffe M.)
$500 (Morris M.)

Donna Mercado Kim, SENATE (D)
$1,500 (Monsanto)
$1,000 (Morris M.)
$500 (RadcliffeM.)
$500 (Loihis M.)

Joey Manahan, HOUSE (D)
$1,000 (Radcliffe M.)
$750 (Morris M.)
$250  (DuPont)

James Kunane Tokioka, HOUSE (D)
$1,500 (Monsanto)
$1,000 (Radcliffe M.)
$1,000 (Morris M.)
$750 (Syngenta Crop Protection)
$500  (DuPont)

Sharon E. Har, HOUSE (D)
$1,000 (Monsanto)
$850  (DuPont M.)
$1,000 (Morris M.)
$1,000 (Radcliffe M.)
$500 (Syngenta)

Clifton K. Tsuji, HOUSE (D)
$1,000 (Monsanto)
$500 (Syngenta Crop Protection)
$1,000 (Morris M.)
$750 (Radcliffe M.)
$100 (Loihi M.)

Sylvia Luke, HOUSE (D)
$500 (Monsanto)
$500 (Radcliffe M.)
$750 (Morris M.)

Kyle Yamashita, HOUSE (D)
$1,500 (Monsanto)
$1,500 (Morris M.)
$750 (Radcliffe M.)
$150 (DuPont)
Jerry Leslie Chang, HOUSE (D)
$1,000 (Monsanto)
$1,000 (Radcliffe M.)
$1,000 (Morris M.)

Brian T. Taniguchi, SENATE (D)
$500 (Monsanto)
$1,000 (Morris M.)

Robert Herkes, HOUSE (D)
$1,000 (Monsanto)
$2,000 (Morris M.)
$1,500 (Radcliffe M.)

Will Espero, SENATE (D)
$1,000 (Monsanto)
$250 (Radcliffe M.)
$200 (Loihi)

Russell S. Kokubun, SENATE (D)
$1,000 (Monsanto)
$1,000 (Morris M.)
$400 (DuPont)

Calvin K Y Say, HOUSE (D)
$2,000 (Monsanto)
$400  (DuPont)

Roz Baker, SENATE (D)
$1,000 (Monsanto)
$1,000 (Morris M.)
$500 (Radcliffe M.)

Pono Chong, HOUSE (D)
$500 (Monsanto)
$2,000 (Morris M.)
$600 (Radcliffe M.)
$250 (Loihi M.)

Mark M. Nakashima, HOUSE (D)
$500 (Monsanto)
$250 (Morris M.)
$250 (Radcliffe M.)

Angus L K McKelvey, HOUSE (D)
$1,500 (Monsanto)
$1,000 (Morris M.)
$500 (Radcliffe M.)
$350 (Loihi M.)
$250  (DuPont)

Jill N. Tokuda, SENATE (D)
$1,500 (Monsanto)
$1,000 (Morris M.)

Ryan I. Yamane, HOUSE (D)
$500 (Monsanto)
$1,000 (Morris M.)
$1,500 (Radcliffe M.)

Blake K. Oshiro, HOUSE (D)
$500 (Monsanto)
$500 (Radcliffe M.)

Clayton Hee, SENATE (D)
$1,500 (Monsanto)
$1,500 (Radcliffe M.)
$200 (Loihi M.)
$200  (DuPont)

Scott Y. Nishimoto, HOUSE (D)
$250 (Monsanto)
$250 (Loihi M.)

Suzanne N. J. Chun Oakland, SENATE (D)
$1,000 (Monsanto)

Brickwood M. Galuteria, SENATE (D)
$500 (Monsanto)

Ronald Kouchi, SENATE (D)
$1,000 (Monsanto)

Isaac W. Choy, HOUSE (D)
$500 (Monsanto)

Michelle Kidani, SENATE (D)
 $250 (Koehler M.)

Henry J. C. Aquino, HOUSE (D)
$300 (Loihi M.)

Tom Brower, HOUSE (D)
$250 (Loihi M.)

Marcus R. Oshiro, HOUSE (D)
$250 (Loih M.)

Glenn Wakai, SENATE (D)
$450  (DuPont)

Barbara C Marumoto, HOUSE (R)
$250 (DuPont)