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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Making Changes - by Scott Pittman

With the spectre of peak oil, global climate change, loss of biodiversity, political tensions surrounding access to natural resources, world-wide epidemics and poverty we as a nation and a species are forced to look at our behavior and how it impacts our world.

Many of the solutions being presented by our political leaders are compounding the problems. The whole rush to the biofuels "solution" proposed by both Al Gore and George H. Bush are good political examples of how to turn a problem into a disaster. The proposed use of our most fertile cropland to provide fuel from the most energy-intensive plants (corn, sorghum, soy, and sugar cane) creates a food deficit, further destroys remnant native ecosystems, while at the same time accelerates the use of fossil fuels to create biofuels. Fertilizer, after all, is a byproduct of gas and oil. Behind these quasi-solutions to peak oil lies the greed for more profits at the expense of the natural world. In virtually every instance the only road to sustainability is the one paved with the bricks of individual life style change. We are past the age of the technological fix and are faced with the need of social fixes.

Most of the changes that we must make are not really that onerous but are simply inconvenient. Taking the time to discover what food is grown locally and purchasing that rather than our current eating habits that represent 1500 miles of transportation per bite; we could be supporting the local farmers in our community by eating close to home and at the same time decrease fuel use and CO2 emissions.

Learning to garden, to grow at least few things to reduce the need to rip out some distant mountain side or a valley for a monoculture of a commercial cropland has some significant beneficial effect, locally and globally. Developing our homes toward energy-efficiency and resource conservation by harvesting rainwater, planting edible plants, and using the sun for space and water heating are simple to accomplish and in the current political climate may provide you with tax benefits. Carpooling, using a bus, switching to a bike all allow us to meet our neighbors, get in shape and reduces not only our financial overhead, but our ecological footprint.
(Photo by Jennifer Esperanza)

The latest technological fix is of course going to be trialed in Africa - if no one noticed the starvation of millions during the "green revolution", perhaps they won't notice the introduction of genetically modified seed (gmo) being promoted by Bill Gates and the Rockefeller Brothers. They have managed to get Kofi Annan to shill for them and Monsanto is footing the bill for Kenyan agricultural extention agents. All of this in the name of saving Africans from starvation. Heard of any of this in anyones presidential platform?

How does one fight such financial behemoths as Bill Gates, Rockefeller Brothers, Monsanto, and Archer Daniels Midland, especially if you are African? This is the slimey underbelly of a capitalist system gone mad and it is totally hidden from view. It makes it very difficult to get too concerned with whether Obama is more elitist than Hillary or McCaine.

Who will save the traditional seeds of Africa, where is Nikolai Vavilov when we need him? How did it happen that African scientists and farmers have no say in their future? The same way it happened that we elected George Bush for two terms. It seems to me that we have perhaps passed many of the dreaded tipping points and it is time to plant a garden (open pollinated seeds of course), and get to know our neighbors. It is after all spring!