Indigenize!

Rekindle Your Wild Joy and sense of deep Belonging through spiritual ecopsychology and the arts, incl. bioregional awareness, animistic perspectives, strategies for simple living, & low/no-tech DIY fun.

Paris Climate Agreement: We Are Still In June 6, 2017

cleanup on aisle one

I feel proud to be able to tell you that my employer, Naropa University, joins other college and university leaders, mayors, governors, investors and businesses in declaring that regardless of current decisions made by the Republican president, we will continue to support climate action to meet the Paris Agreement.

This action thereby continues alliances with other countries, businesses, and systemic thinkers around the globe. More basically, it is a step that helps ensure that large mammalian life on this planet (such as humans) can continue.

This is the only smart move.

Companies like eBay, Netflix and Microsoft are in. And you can add your company’s name to this pledge as well – link below.

You may be as surprised as I to learn that even ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips, two of the world’s largest oil producers, pledge to abide by the Paris Agreement! They recognize that this change to alternative fuels is inevitable, and that being on board is the best choice for their business’ bottom line. From Bloomberg.com:

“President Donald Trump faces some unlikely opposition to the idea of pulling the U.S. out of the 2015 Paris climate accord: Exxon Mobil Corp. and ConocoPhillips, two of the world’s biggest oil producers. 

Both companies reiterated their support Wednesday for the global agreement to cut greenhouse gas pollution amid reports that Trump planned to ditch a pact he says hurts the U.S. economy. Their argument: The U.S. is better off with a seat at the table so it can influence global efforts to curb emissions that are largely produced by the fossil fuels they profit from.

…ConocoPhillips, the world’s largest independent oil and gas producer, also expressed support for the climate agreement on Wednesday. “It gives the U.S. the ability to participate in future climate discussions to safeguard its economic and environmental best interests,” spokesman Daren Beaudo said in an email.

BP Plc CEO Bob Dudley, another oil executive who supports the accord, said that even if the U.S. quits, the nation should find new policies to support the inevitable transition to a low-carbon economy.”

Every one of you, please stand up and act with us – the majority.

climate change rift w world

Here is the formal statement, with signatories visible below:  We Are Still In  Note that you can add your company’s name to this pledge as well – see link at the end.

Open letter to the international community and parties to the Paris Agreement from U.S. state, local, and business leaders

We, the undersigned mayors, governors, college and university leaders, businesses, and investors are joining forces for the first time to declare that we will continue to support climate action to meet the Paris Agreement.

In December 2015 in Paris, world leaders signed the first global commitment to fight climate change. The landmark agreement succeeded where past attempts failed because it allowed each country to set its own emission reduction targets and adopt its own strategies for reaching them. In addition, nations – inspired by the actions of local and regional governments, along with businesses – came to recognize that fighting climate change brings significant economic and public health benefits.

The Trump administration’s announcement undermines a key pillar in the fight against climate change and damages the world’s ability to avoid the most dangerous and costly effects of climate change. Importantly, it is also out of step with what is happening in the United States.

In the U.S., it is local and state governments, along with businesses, that are primarily responsible for the dramatic decrease in greenhouse gas emissions in recent years. Actions by each group will multiply and accelerate in the years ahead, no matter what policies Washington may adopt.

In the absence of leadership from Washington, states, cities, colleges and universities, businesses and investors, representing a sizeable percentage of the U.S. economy will pursue ambitious climate goals, working together to take forceful action and to ensure that the U.S. remains a global leader in reducing emissions.

It is imperative that the world know that in the U.S., the actors that will provide the leadership necessary to meet our Paris commitment are found in city halls, state capitals, colleges and universities, investors and businesses. Together, we will remain actively engaged with the international community as part of the global effort to hold warming to well below 2℃ and to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy that will benefit our security, prosperity, and health.

Click here to read full press release.

Companies, investors, mayors and governors wishing to add their name to the statement can do so by registering here. Colleges and universities wishing to add their name can do so by registering here.

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trump baby earth

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ON BEHALF OF THE EARTH AND HER CHILDREN OF ALL SPECIES, THANK YOU ALL.

Thank you for being responsible adults who take care of our home, despite the short-term difficulties we face from the current White House now.

In the wise words of King Solomon, this too shall pass. According to the New York Times, the withdrawal process from the Paris Accord could take four years to complete, by which time the regime will have been changed. So let’s just keep steering our collective boat of systemic wisdom through these jerky rapids until the river flows freely and easily once more.

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The terrific political cartoons in this post are by Dan Wasserman, Monte Wolverton, and Christian Bloom (from Norway).

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student loan saga February 2, 2016

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It’s done.

I just lovingly placed every paper related to my student loans in the recycling bin.  They are paid off.

It only took me 14 years. (:-0)   My hair is white, just like the jokes say, but by George, they are paid off. The balance due, once over $45,000 USD, is now zero. I sit in a bit of stunned silence. I now have no debt whatsoever. I am free.

This is a bit of a surprise, I’ll admit. When I graduated, I joked they could sell my body parts when I die of old age to finally pay off my student loans.

Thinking about how many of you folks are in the same boat, I decided to write this. Perhaps you will benefit from hearing some of the small strategies that helped get me here.

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My Student Loan Strategies

  •  While still in school, spend time and energy seeking out other sources of money too. My loans, while huge to me, were not as enormous as they might have been because I also went for every fellowship, scholarship, and the like that I could.  The best one was the California Graduate Student Fellowship. When I entered grad school, I took the time to fill out the mountainous forms very carefully. It took days to hunt up all the data they wanted. And then I waited. When the envelope came, I was very excited… until I opened it and found I’d been rejected. This was a major blow. I scraped up my last savings and took my first loan, and attended school anyway, scared of the debt I was accruing. That fear did impact my joy in my studies. The next year, I halfheartedly filled out the form again with mostly repeat data and sent it off. To my surprise, this time I got the fellowship. Thousands of dollars, repeated for four years.

  The message here is: stick with it. Apply more than once. Fellowship boards apparently value tenacity. Repeat applications show that we really want what they are offering. In fact, speaking from hindsight, it seems to me that tenacity is one of the major gifts of attaining a higher degree. A Ph.D. in hand proves that its bearer can finish something, even when the process grows teeth-grittingly frustrating and tedious and all you want is to bail; to go to movies and read bad science-fiction novels and have a life again. You stuck with it. Stick with the application for money process, too. It’s worth it.

Different scholarships and fellowships skew for various criteria. Some are place-based (for, say, residents of a particular US state). Some are diversity-based, with desire to support people of certain demographics such as immigrant ethnicities or a populace that they view as under-represented in higher education. The American Assn of University Women (AAUW) likes to support young women going into STEM fields and older women returning to school after a break for child-rearing or other work. One reason I think the Cal Grad people chose me is that I am the first person in my family to go to college. Be sure to apply for the ones whose criteria relate specifically to you: the odds are better, since the pool of applicants will be smaller.

  • Pay the loan principle off as fast as you can.  I  noticed that when I paid what I thought I could afford from my modest wages, the actual amount of the debt never went down. In fact, it was still going up. How maddening!!  I felt like Sisyphus, doomed to eternally labor for the bank’s benefit, never to gain my own freedom. This wouldn’t do.

  My way out was to ALWAYS pay more on the principle than on the interest. It takes a bit of calculation to figure out the number, but it’s worth the effort. Even $10 per month adds up on your side of the ledger, thereby reducing the interest that accrues – in geometric proportion. When I sold my car in order to take a nomadic job where I wouldn’t need it or have a place to store it, the money went directly to the principle on those loans. Do stuff like that.

Incremental additions directly applied to the principle pay off. I never paid huge amounts each month, never more than I could afford, and yet now the loan is GONE!!!

It’s a good idea to consult with a representative of the loan company to determine how much extra principle to pay each month in order to get that amount down, based on your own means and comfort level. This can be complex to figure out on your own, as their calculations of interest vary from day to day.

  • Keep your honor. I’ve heard some students and grads say that they never intend to pay their student loans off. Bailing on the loan was never an option in my mind. My family is big on honor, and given the vagaries of economic status and other aspects of life, I figure that integrity is all I’ve ultimately got. Really.  I was given the option to accept the loan, which allowed me to gain a wonderful education. Surprisingly, this then led to interesting jobs that I would never have otherwise gotten to do. I owe the money and there was no question that I’d keep paying it back – if only so I could sleep at night. Again, I knew it might take so long that they’d have to take the last bits out of my dead hide, but I was determined to continually do my best to hold to the responsibility I accepted. If you take loans or gifts of any sort, please treat the exchange with honor. 
  • If you have to, take a Forbearance. This allows you time to not pay on that loan for awhile when your financial situation gets rough. In 2009, I not only lost my job, I lost my entire workplace. Three college campuses were brought down in flames by the institution’s disastrous leadership. And that was right when the “Great Recession” hit the USA, so no new jobs were to be had either. It took two years before I found another full-time position that paid enough to not be scrounging for food (see a fun post on that) and running down my savings just to avoid becoming homeless, let alone pay off this loan. The Forbearance allowed me to stay in good graces with the loan company while keeping my money in my pocket. Keeping good status in their eyes is important if you ever want another opportunity to borrow big money, such as buying a home.

 Requesting Forbearance status means you are being brave and upfront about your situation (see “honor” rant above) so the loan company understands what’s going on. It signals to them that you are not just taking advantage of them by casually skipping town; you are a responsible person who still intends to pay eventually, and right now you’re doing the best that you can. While this plan elevates your status in their eyes, this plan is still not ideal, as the interest on your loan continues to accrue. 

  • Work at the same time you’re going to school in order to keep your loan amount down.  It’s good to have some money coming in from other sources.

…But don’t do what I did. At one point, while attending grad school full time, I had six (SIX!!) jobs. They were all part-time, but still. That was too much. My body finally gave out and I got sick. Extremely sick. So sick that I had to drop out of not only school, but work, and life itself for a year and a half. I was literally broken. This is actually why my student loans wound up being so high: because I couldn’t work, I took out even more loans to pay off the high-interest Visa bills I’d run up for my rent, food, and health care costs. Ugh.

Take care of your health and sanity first and foremost. Hold to certain boundaries regarding workload. You’ll need those habits even more if you become a college professor.

  • Some might say that the best strategy is to not take any loans in the first place. If you can pull that off, I agree. It was pounded into my head from a young age to never go into debt: “If you can’t afford it, you don’t need it.” But three big purchases don’t fit within that category, simply due to constraints of time: a house (who has the kind of money to pay full cash upfront?), health concerns (if you wait, there may not be a you left…), and education that you’d like to gain and apply now. These are investments in a stronger, happier future. That said, it’s still good to invest wisely: don’t get in way over your head. Don’t buy a McMansion if you can’t afford the payments and taxes. I took seven years to complete my B.A. degree in order to avoid taking any loans. But I decided it was worth it to take loans on my Ph.D.
  • There are some ways to get forgiveness of part of the loan.  Check out the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program. It’s meant to encourage newly minted college grads to take public service jobs like government or nonprofit work, recognizing that tons of loan debt may turn grads off from taking lesser-paying but otherwise satisfying positions in the service industries.

I applied for the smaller but similar California GradAPLE after completion, a program for new grads willing to serve full-time as a college teacher in certain settings for three consecutive years. Applying involved another terrible series of California state forms, with updates for each year. But once attained, it allowed forgiveness of $2000 of that student loan debt skimmed right off the top. So the hourly wage worked out well.

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student-loan-ancients toast

Larger Societal Concerns

Now, all of this said, I know well that I’m not yet addressing the larger societal concerns that underlie the existence of these large student loans in the first place.

Contrast my experience with that of my then-sweetie when we were in grad school. He is a Swiss national. Once he passed a battery of tests proving his ability and desire, he received education clear through to the Ph.D. that not only was free, but he was paid a living wage to do it. He did not need to take six menial jobs in order to survive while studying. He could focus on his studies and thereby really get good at his field (which was theoretical astrophysics. As you might imagine, extended time to focus just on that was useful.)

The fact that most American scholars have to take out what amounts to a mortgage on our brains in order to gain higher education, particularly at the B.A. level, is appalling. It’s a national race to the bottom. Given the questionable economy and job market, fewer and fewer people are going to be willing to gain a liberal education under those conditions – and with good reason, given the squirrely economy and questionable job market. That trend is a detriment to us all.

Increasingly, students are being viewed as consumers rather than scholars or learners. The sort of education that is seen of most value focuses on technique: electrical engineering; MBAs. Don’t get me wrong. Technical training is a great thing. But it should not be the only education we value and seek. And tech edu should also have a component that builds human beings’ capacity for a better life, not just a bigger wallet.

Education should not be solely tied to current potential jobs.  We need a populace who is trained to THINK; to question, to seek meaning, not only to be good cogs in an existing economic structure. A liberal education is worth getting. It makes for a happier, fuller, more examined life. It gives you a fuller perspective on whatever is happening around and within you. And it remains yours forever.

The current constant-growth capitalistic structure will dramatically shift within the next thirty years anyway, because it’s not sustainable. Constant growth is the ideology of the cancer cell, not of a thriving living being or system. If American standards of consumption were to be exported everywhere at the current rate (as is increasingly happening), Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute conservatively estimated that it would take at least 1.5 earths to provide the raw environmental resources alone. So the indefinite continuance of “business as usual” is obviously not going to happen.  This means the available jobs will also change. There’s no guarantee that a job you train for today will even exist in ten years. Many of the top-paying jobs today, such as those in the tech industry, didn’t even exist in imagination thirty years ago. That field was pie-in-the-sky nerdville when I was a teen. So choosing a field of education based solely on current perception of its earning power may not ultimately pan out.

The consequences of making higher ed prohibitively expensive is that fewer and fewer American people are getting the kind of liberal education that helps one to make sense of life and to enjoy living it to the fullest.

It also means that fewer will gain the critical thinking skills that allow us to begin to understand whole systems and how to effect some change within them.

I suppose some politicians like this idea of keeping the majority uneducated in how to really think, because it means the people across the country will be more easily malleable and swayed, making their own personal wealth agendas easier to push forward. When reading the news, it’s always worth asking, who stands to gain from this situation? 

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Concluding Remarks

Anyway. While we have the situation we have, I applaud those of you who decide to educate yourself despite the hardship. Whether you do it via traditional schooling or by investigating on your own, the time and energy is worth it.

Education is one investment that can never be taken from you by others. 

And I hope that the small strategies I offer here for getting out from under student loan debt help you out as they helped me.

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Boycott Black Friday November 27, 2014

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This is a picture I took at an arts and crafts supply store — in September. Halloween decor I could handle when it was still 70 degrees out and school was just getting started, but Xmas stuff too?! “Beware the horror” indeed!

Now it’s Thanksgiving Day as I write this, and the onslaught really begins. Do you feel your body recoiling at the barrage of ads, tinny Rudolph Midnight Clear muzak, the message that you have to now get busy and jolly and go shopping? Yeah, me too. So I have a proposal. Instead of rewarding the Christmas sales juggernaut that now begins before Halloween (argh!), let’s switch it up. Slow down the holidays. Enjoy the one we’re in.

I propose a movement to keep actively ThanksGiving for the last few days of November, enjoying and appreciating what we already have instead of buying.

If taken up en masse, this could be revolutionary. Enjoying and appreciating what we already have instead of buying – if even for a few dedicated days.

Boycott Black Friday.

Here are some memes for inspiration. The last one is my favorite.

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#BoycottBlackFriday

* I found the above memes being passed around the Interwebs. If you made one of them, please let me know so I can give you credit.

 

I Want To Break Up With Winter March 2, 2014

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Dear Winter,

Despite your many fine qualities, I’m sorry but I don’t think we are suitable as a long-term match.

I want to break up and start seeing other seasons, beginning with Spring.  (I’d ideally love to be with Summer, but s/he is currently unavailable.)

Please leave my home as soon as you can, and try to be a bit kinder to us in the meantime.

Thank you.

–Tina

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dear winter snow tent

Unexpected overnight snow in the southern Arizona desert. Several tents were totaled. –Photo by Tina Fields

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Skiing accident á deux

Skiing accident á deux

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March Against Monsanto May 24, 2013

March Against Monsanto everywhere tomorrow – including Boulder, CO at noon with me.

It’s enough already. If Monsanto were a character in a Dr. Who episode or cowboy story, they would have been put away as irredeemable bad guys long ago! Time to make life imitate art.

Want to learn more about why you should care? For a quick overview, check out my earlier blog post about GMOs: Just Say “NO” to Monsanto

For more in-depth understanding, here’s a link to a full-length film which you can see free on YouTube, Seeds of Death.

After I march for food security, I’m going up north a bit to call a wedding dance. It’s a deep love of life that leads both. Carry on in joy, everyone.

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Vandana Shiva on Monsanto

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Techno-fast March 22, 2012

No time? If you are feeling the pressure of what feels like increasing amounts of work and less time to do it in, you are not alone. Technology, like the computers we’re both using right now to communicate, has brought many blessings, but a sort of tyranny has come with it. Just keeping up with email can mean countless hours alone, staring at the flickering screen.

How long has it been since you just went outside, lay down in the grass, and watched the clouds?

No, really?

Does that idea feel somehow shocking, distasteful, dangerous, wrong, lazy, subversive; the slippery slope to slackerdom? Do your nerves twitch at the thought of the many things that you should be getting done? How wasteful – doing nothing!

But it’s not nothing; such down-time is how the imagination recharges. And the more creativity and life energy we have, the more brilliantly productive we can be – not to mention more happy.

I’ve finally come to the conclusion that there will always be too much work to get done in the time allotted for it, so constantly rushing to keep up is an exercise in futility;  a stress-inducing mistake. I think of my dad: when he worked, he worked hard. And then – here’s the kicker – he’d stop working. He did not get caught in that trap that many of us do, of sort of working all the time. All of the time. ALL the time. Lemme just take a moment to check my email. Again.

In the interest of sanity, we might ask ourselves, when do I allow myself to simply not participate? To rest, play, connect via real bodies, eat a long meal and talk together, do hands-on projects, or just walk around? And then to re-engage with work in a way that seems inviting since our energy is renewed?

I like to take one day per week to simply not engage electronically; to “just say no” to that particularly addictive mind drug. No internet, no email, no DVDs, no TV, no voicemail. I’m not Orthodox Jewish; I still do things like use my car to get in the groceries. I’ll do house chores, make something, play music, take a little hike, or read a book. It feels so freeing. When is the last time you spent an entire day wallowing in a novel?

There’s a little movement afoot to support this sort of thing, the National Day of Unplugging. I see this as part of a living ecopsychological meme, the return of a regular day of rest. The Sabbath was a very good idea whose time has come again, as our need is great. Such activities (or non-activities!) can contribute a great deal to our collective mental health, soul spaciousness, and subversive delight.  Just say no to constantly being wired.

This year, the Day of Unplugging runs from sundown Friday, March 23 to sundown, Saturday March 24. You might want to join in too.

And now, a fun techno-intervention for every day: the Cell Phone Stack.

If you want to keep your pals to yourself at a meal instead of watching them play with the latest iPhone app or take calls from other people who couldn’t be bothered to haul their actual breathing carcasses down there to join you, the Cell Phone Stack may be of interest. Here’s how Kempt, a men’s style / fashion / grooming site, describes this “solution for peace”:

It works like this: as you arrive, each person places their phone facedown in the center of the table. (If you’re feeling theatrical, you can go for a stack like this one, but it’s not required.) As the meal goes on, you’ll hear various texts and emails arriving… and you’ll do absolutely nothing. You’ll face temptation—maybe even a few involuntary reaches toward the middle of the table—but you’ll be bound by the single, all-important rule of the phone stack.

Whoever picks up their phone is footing the bill.

It’s a brilliant piece of social engineering, masquerading as a bar game. It takes the phone out of the pocket—where you can sneak a glance and hope nobody notices—and places it in the center of attention at all times. Suddenly, picking up your phone is the big deal you always secretly knew it was. And more importantly, it comes with consequences.

After posting this brilliant social intervention, the writer got a bunch of objections, which he answered in a subsequent post. This one’s my favorite:

Texting Is Totally Different from Answering a Phone Call.

This was the most common and most mystifying response. On some level, it’s true—texting is not nearly as rude as talking on the phone—but that doesn’t mean it isn’t rude. Anytime you’re giving a pocket-sized gadget precedence over a human being, something has gone wrong.

I also liked this one:

My Job Requires Me to Be On Call 24 Hours a Day.

No, it doesn’t; you just like to say that.

Ha! Busted.

Please begin to take some of each day’s 24 hours back for yourself. Do it often, if only for 10 minutes at a time. It’s a start. I hope I’ll get to join you watching pictures form in the clouds. Or hanging out at night and looking at the stars. Or wandering around the neighborhood like in a Ray Bradbury story, petting all of the cats and dogs. Or searching for edible weeds. Or loafing high in some tree’s branches all day, listening to birdsong. I’ll bring my book, and we can talk.

 

Just Say “No” to Monsanto March 1, 2012

Filed under: Cranky Rants — BrujaHa @ 11:05 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

GMO cartoon

It’s dark, it’s cold, and as I’m a classic test case in environmental psychology, I’m grumpy. So here comes another commentary on the news. When it warms up, things will be different around here; I promise. Regardless, this is something we all need to know about.

Today, the Indigenous Environmental Network sent this Ecologist article my way:  How Dow and Monsanto teamed up over ‘Agent Orange’ herbicide, by Richard Schiffman.

Why should we care about the shenanigans of Monsanto and Dow? What’s the problem?

In a nutshell, the problem is that strong chemical herbicides, over time, goad the ‘weeds’ into growing stronger. So then farmers have to keep buying more, and stronger, poisons. These harm the water and every being who drinks of it including migrating birds and wildlife; the bees and other pollinators, the farm workers, likely their own children – and the crop, which you will buy and eat. So farmers have to then buy expensive GMO crop seeds that are strong enough to withstand these toxic herbicides, the sale of both benefiting… guess who?! And by the way, guess who manufactures anti-cancer drugs as well?

For small farmers, it’s an economic disaster. They can no longer use their own native seeds, ones that may have been passed down in their families for generations and are also, of course, free of charge, unlike Monsanto’s patented monstrosities. Farmers in India are going to the poorhouse because of that vicious cycle. Thinking they were buying pest resistance, they didn’t realize they were instead indenturing themselves to an ever-increasing use of pesticides and the purchase of patented seeds.

If GMO crops accidentally contaminate the fields of neighboring farmers through wind, birds, bugs or genetic drift, these farmers then not only have to deal with the health consequences plus business consequences if the farm happens – er, happened – to be organic, but to add insult to injury, they have to pay Monsanto for patent infringement. Check out Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser’s story: it will curl your hair. It seems the joke slogan is, horrifyingly, coming true: No Food Shall Be Grown that Monsanto Don’t Own.

Image Further, think about this: genetic engineering is the largest uncontrolled biological experiment ever perpetrated on this planet. We have no idea what effects genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have, or will have over time, on our own health or the health of the ecosystem. Some scientists now suspect that GMOs may be playing a part in the vast “colony collapse” deaths of America’s honeybees.

This cycle is a race to the bottom for everyone involved, except the chemical companies. According to a report by Jeremy Scahill in The Nation (9/15/2010), Monsanto purchased the largest mercenary army in the world, Blackwater (now called Xe Services). So they’ve got the thug power to back up their coup. They’re now pushing Nepal to grow GMOs, according to Abi, who has started a facebook campaign: https://www.facebook.com/stopmonsantoinnepal

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But we can still say “no.” In 2004, Mendocino county, California officially banned the cultivation, production and distribution of GMO crops, and more places are following. Boulder County, Colorado, where I now live, is in negotiation about it. The entire country of Hungary took that bold stand, and to show they were serious, they destroyed 1000 acres of maize found to have been grown with GMO seeds after they were banned. Many farmers didn’t know these seeds were GMO, and were shocked. Mexico’s heritage corn is in danger of being permanently contaminated by GMO corn, and they have banned most seeds like Hungary did. Reportedly, Japan wants to as well. But the free trade agreements (FTAs) Japan and Mexico have with the USA keep that from legally being possible: they can’t refuse corn seeds destined for our dinner tables. -Yet.

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Let’s start taking care of our own and the planet’s health instead of the chemical company guys’ wallets.

Stand up and display political defiance of Monsanto and genetically modified foods. Demand labeling at least, for now, so we can have the possibility of making an informed choice about whether we wish to eat their products.

And on the everyday front, please buy and grow organic. It is really worth it.

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*** UPDATE 5/24/13:   See my related blog post, March Against Monsanto, which contains a link to a full-length YouTube film describing in much more detail why we should be concerned about GMOs.