Monthly Archives: January 2013

This week in food politics, the Soli edition

We’ll start with this image, which I saw on Facebook last week.

I know a lot of us are having issues with being unemployed, underemployed, or just not having enough money to cover all our living expenses. I admit that I wonder sometimes how my paycheck can disappear so quickly. Food is one of the reasons why. Good, nutritious food is a right, not a privilege. But until water and air, which we also need to live, growing food takes people power. It takes knowledgeable farmers with skills and brains to make the food the best it can be. Salatin, in the above picture, is just one farmer taking this approach. Unfortunately he is in quite the minority, when most of the food Americans eat come from industrialized, monoculture farms. Too many of them use toxic chemicals to grow their food, or the food is toxic themselves. Which leads well into my next point…

A viral gene has been found in genetically engineered soy and corn/maize crops. I’ve been anti-GMO since I first learned of their existence around 1996, and one of my goals for the year is to better educate myself about these crops. Whatever your beliefs may be about them, take note of these paragraphs from the end of the article:

It is perhaps the most basic assumption in all of risk assessment that the developer of a new product provides regulators with accurate information about what is being assessed. Perhaps the next most basic assumption is that regulators independently verify this information. We now know, however, that for over twenty years neither of those simple expectations have been met. Major public universities, biotech multinationals, and government regulators everywhere, seemingly did not appreciate the relatively simple possibility that the DNA constructs they were responsible for encoded a viral gene.

Biotechnology, it is often forgotten, is not just a technology. It is an experiment in the proposition that human institutions can perform adequate risk assessments on novel living organisms. Rather than treat that question as primarily a daunting scientific one, we should for now consider that the primary obstacle will be overcoming the much more mundane trap of human complacency and incompetence. We are not there yet, and therefore this incident will serve to reinforce the demands for GMO labeling in places where it is absent.

I’ve said it before, I love food. It’s my passion. And I want to see everyone able to access real, nutritious food and have the best health possible. But more and more of the food in this culture is fake, lacking in nutrients, and making us sick. Our overculture seems to want food which is cheap, fast, and good. The way we’re doing things right now you can have the first two without a problem. The third is when things get dicey and it seems like that is what we’re most willing to sacrifice.

Meal time can be sacred. In Egypt there was a prayer which translates as this: May Netjer (God/the Gods) be satisfied with the repast to the right and to the left. When you live in a culture where food is not automatically abundant on the table at all times of the year, or you had to worry about a poor or failed harvest, you do gain a level of reverence for when you are able to eat.

Incidentally, this applied to all cultures throughout the world before modern times. Yes, it’s amazing we have such abundance and can eat so much out of season. But we don’t respect it as we once did. We don’t have to plan ahead for the fallow seasons and can, ferment, dry, and otherwise preserve the bounty. If something spoils, we can just toss it in the trash and drive down to Stop and Shop for more.

But is this abundance a good thing? We’re throwing away up to half of the food being grown or made. One argument I’ve seen for genetically engineered food is that it will help feed people going hungry. Forgetting the fact that people go hungry for reasons which have nothing to do with availability, the fact that we’re tossing half of what can possibly be eaten doesn’t speak well for bioengineering food to cover this deficit. If we can’t get the food we’re making now to be consumed, how will making more be a help? Won’t it just mean more of this food getting tossed?

I’m not going to try to present solutions here, since such things are beyond me at this point. Instead I take a lesson I learned from Jello Biafra a long time ago, that the first step to finding a solution is pointing out the problem.

Incidentally, some of the food issues I’ve discussed here aren’t just for people whose politics fall on the left. As this article puts it so well, Tea Party Libertarians and small organic farmers make strange politics bedfellows. It’s something to consider, and part of why I still question whether I am a liberal. If I’m not, I don’t mind being a left libertarian.

What do you do to get food to your table? Do you grow it? Buy organic? Or beyond organic? Do you avoid GMOs? Do you have, or wish for a garden?

One last little tidbit for this wanting to garden. The University of Connecticut now has a rain garden app if you are interested in making a garden and taking advantage of rainwater to make your environment a more beautiful place.

Pro-Choice: Small, innocent laws and how they limit our rights

–By Shauna Aura Knight

Though I consider myself an activist, I also am sometimes surprised by the big blinders I have on about some issues. During the election this past year, I was shocked, like a lot of people, by the rape and abortion comments and stances supported by various Republicans. But in general, I thought, well–it’s not like abortion is going to be made illegal as long as Obama’s elected, so everything’s probably ok, right? …Right?

However, in the past months, I’ve learned that it isn’t really that simple, and that any number of tiny little laws, often state laws that seem innocent enough, can actually really impact women’s ability to make a choice.

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Speaking Out is Hard to Do

Perhaps it’s odd that I’m about to make a post on a Pagan blog using some videos about the Catholic church.  Then again, considering my firsts posts here discussed my work as an interfaith activist, perhaps not.

Two topics about the Catholic church crossed my radar this week.  The first is from the PBS show Religion & Ethics Newsweekly which had a segment this week discussing the priestly ordination of women.  I haven’t been able to figure out how to embed that video here, but you can watch the nine minute segment from the latter link above; a transcript is also provided.

If you don’t have a moment to watch the whole thing, here’s what I think is the most important excerpt.  Saul Gonzalez is the PBS correspondent performing the interview.  He is speaking with Jane Via, a Catholic woman priest in San Diego, CA:

GONZALEZ: What do you say to those who would say join another community of faith, join another faith, become something else, but don’t stay in the Catholic Church with your views. You would say what?

VIA: For me to just turn my back on this institution and say, “You’re all a bunch of worthless idiots, and I’m not participating anymore. I’m going to do my own thing. I’m going to go be Episcopalian and I can be a priest there” is completely irresponsible. This is my community. If everyone who is progressive-minded, progressive thinking, and willing to stand up to the Vatican leaves the church, the church will never change.

[…]

GONZALEZ: Yet despite the hardening position of the church against their movement and its ordinations, the women Catholic priests say they aren’t retreating. They say they believe that although they might not see it in their own lifetimes, women will one day be allowed to become Roman Catholic priests—and with the support and blessings of the Vatican.

This next thing I can embed.  The New Normal, is a sitcom on NBC.  In it, a gay couple works with a surrogate to give birth to their first child.  In their seventh episode, “The Godparent Trap,” the following scene plays out as Brian, one of the soon-to-be fathers, returns to the church for the first time in many years:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJcBVanx6vo#!

While I understand that, as a sitcom, a priest of the type in the video above may not be easily found, but the sentiment of working from with in a community to change the institutions thereof is powerful regardless of the fictional medium in which it was delivered.  Incidentally, I personally recommend the show; I’m enjoying it not only for its comedy but also for the moments soul-searching that it asks of us as the protagonists confront their world.

In both of these examples, we see people who feel strongly about something–in these specific cases their Catholic identity–but who also seek to change the realities of that identity.  Some institutions might change more easily or less so, but the call to action is the same nevertheless.

Change is hard.  We know this or we wouldn’t resist it so much.  But, change is also necessary and it’ll happen whether we want it to or not.  The best we can hope for, it seems to me, is to direct the change toward that which seems best to us at the time.

When you see the need for change–whether it be in your personal life, your religious identity, your career, or something else–don’t let others dictate your direction.  Your voice, your will, is one of the most powerful tools you have at your disposal.  Use it, don’t retreat in the face of opposition, but stand firm and stand up for what you see as righteous and true.  Easier said than done, sure; but I think it’s easier to do than we sometimes think it will be.

There are numerous problems facing us these days.  Whether it’s climate change, economic concerns, or the more simple day-to-day problems of too little time and too much work, all of us have our struggles and to acquiesce may seem more attractive than another argument.  I’d love to think that we can all stand up for everything that we believe in, but it’s far more likely that these days we have to pick our battles.

When you do so, pick the ones that need to be fought.  Not just the easiest to win, not just the ones in which you have the most or the staunchest allies, but the ones that you find to be the most necessary.

To conclude, I leave you with these words, often quoted, attributed to Margaret Mead:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed [people] can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Are You There Goddess? It’s Me, Michelle

glacier_7 Dear Mother Earth,

A thin layer of snow covers your flesh. Under the snow your skin is hard, frozen. Father Water still runs in your crevices but he is slower now, colder, frozen in places, and hard like you. Grandfather Sun comes up each morning, a little stronger than the day before. He lingers about a minute longer each day but Air will often win out and keep your flesh hard, frozen. Grandmother Moon waxes and wanes, creating the waves and tides, telling women when to ovulate, menstruate, procreate, gestate, labor, and lactate. Yet now you are crone, hard and frozen.

I have made great changes in my life to feel your love again: I’ve sold my car and now walk everywhere to reduce my carbon footprint and to reduce my monthly expenses and to increase my health. I take short showers to reduce my water footprint. I carefully choose what I eat so not to harm you any further with unsustainable farm practices and large carbon footprints of foods brought from other parts of your body. I value you, Mother Earth, above all else. I value how you interact with Water, Air, Sun, and Moon and the magical changes which occur before my very eyes, under my feet, and in my soul.

Are you there Goddess? It’s me, Michelle. I ask for housing and food and clothing, all the things you have provided over the millennia. But now my needs are greater than ever before and I don’t know where else to turn. I need the loving embrace of mother love in this time of financial need. I feel so alone, Mother Earth. I feel so isolated. I feel so unwanted. I feel like a crone in a nursing home: forgotten, forsaken the way I imagine you must feel sometimes. I long for the promise of spring, of new life, a hint to abundance in summer, of the harvest in the autumn. I need a job, Mother Earth. Please.

In reverence,

Michelle

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