30 Aug 2006

Sex, lies, leaders and MI5

'the lesson is, I would argue, to build structures that guard against high star figures dominating and to anticipate lows to follow highs and to expect attempts at destabilisation. I would imagine this happening to the Greens should there be any chance of electoral breakthrough'

PB443 We seek a society in which people are empowered and involved in making the decisions which affect them. We reject the hierarchical structure of leaders and followers, and, instead advocate participatory politics. For this reason the Green Party itself does not have an individual leader."span> - Philosophical Basis of the Green Party of England and Wales

The leadership debate is likely to be in the air at the Green Party Autumn Conference in September. Lots of members are frustrated and feel a leader could give the party a boost; Caroline Lucas MEP (pictured below) cuts an obvious figure. She is good on TV and has an attractive passion. Of course, from the perspective of those suspicious of leadership, she is a good bet - Caroline is a radical with a good record on social justice and anti-capitalism but also cautious and happy to get the opinion of others. She is no control freak, she would make an excellent leader. The concept of a 'leader' is very problematic

However, the real reason for the lack of Green parliamentarians is the absence of Proportional Representation (PR). Leaders generally move parties in a less radical direction and those who seek to lead are often psychologically damaged, using external focus as a salve for innner wounds.

A green society will not be achieve via leadership: people have to be self motivated. Certainly, a green society will require grassroots change.

The Green Movement could also become vulnerable if it is associated with one figure. The Anti-Roads Movement was strong because it was based on mass participation and direct action. When 'Swampy' was elected as 'leader' by the media, this was very double-edged.

Venezuela has been empowered by an effective leader - but unless leadership is taken on by millions of people, social change will be fragile.

One of my co-ecosocialists noted (on the consistently fascinating Green Left e-list) these comments about the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) and its leader Tommy Sheridan:

"... Tommy Sheridan appears to be cold shouldered amongst various allegations, including sexual misdemeanours. Various sources indicate M15 invovlement and attempts to destabilise the party. Whatever the ins and outs, I think the SSP has been a relatively positive development and it is sad to see it go down this road... although the SSP was in part developed as a result of Sheridan's base in the anti-poll tax movement, the lesson is, I would argue, to build structures that guard against high star figures dominating and to anticipate lows to follow highs and to expect attempts at destabilisation. I would imagine this happening to the Greens should there be any chance of electoral breakthrough."

The Scottish Socialist Party .August bulletin notes
By rights, the SSP should now be
preparing to emerge as a major force in
Scottish politics. But instead of looking
forward to spectacular advances in next
year's Holyrood and council elections, the
party is now on the brink of destruction.
crisis in the party
For 20 months the party has not put in writing the situation
regarding Tommy Sheridan’s resignation as
national convener.
Now the court case is over, Alan McCombes, national
policy and press coordinator, has prepared this article
to ensure that party members hear the true situation
from the party.
Along with this members’ bulletin, you will find a copy
of the Executive Committee minutes of 9 November
2004. At the end of this meeting there were 19 people
in attendance who all agreed that Tommy should be
asked to resign. The following members, who were at
the meeting can verify that Tommy admmitted to
attending Cupids Club in Manchester and that he
intended to lie about this: Carolyn Leckie, Jo Harvie,
Felicity Garvie, Colin Fox, Catriona Grant, Rosie Kane,
Keith Baldassara’ Allan Green, Frances Curran, Richie
Venton, Steven Nimmo, Alan McCombes, Barbara
Scott, Allison Kane and Kevin McVey.'

Stroppyblog has an interest take on this and there are lots of articles on the Sheridan debacle here

Whether you are for or against 'leaders', a host of barriers to a green society, including the MI5, hostile media, US pressure and the habits of a far from green society, will make things tough.

Green politics demand deep and critical thought about how we change society so we can sustain our beautiful world. One thing is for certain - there ain't no quick fix.


'As an undergraduate, Usama thought of joining
Pakistan's nuclear programme. However, he is now very glad he didn't!'

I am posting this from LINE and would recommend that muslims and non-muslims support their excellent work to develop both practical green projects and to improve green education.

As you know if you are another-green-world blog regular, I am enthusiastic about the sufi strains of Islam, critical of salifists and islamaphobes....back in 1993 when I published Green History, I include something from Nasr on ecology and Islam.

There is also a Christian Ecology group who do good work. At the Green Party conference back in the 1990s we had a very interesting women Rabbi talking about the environment.

Well there are strong arguments for secularism but the most dangerous religion on the planet and the one which is more kitsch than the cult of Madonna is conventional economics.

Zen is an excellent antidote to economics, hopefully see some of you at the South London dojo 6 Park Street, London Bridge, Mondays from 7PM!

The International Zen Association are having a fundraising drive to build a permanent dojo in the UK, please support them

That's enough of me over to LINE


Below is advanced notice of our Sept LINE meeting. Also, as part of LINE's support of the upcoming national climate change demonstration in central London on Sat Nov 4th (which is synchronised with numerous others throughout the world) we will have publicity flyers available at the LINE meeting for people to take away. See notices 2) to 4) below.

Pls note, this month we'll be on the 2nd floor at the Muslim World League.


The London Islamic Network for the Environment (LINE) invites you to:


Date: Sunday 10th Sept 2006
Time: 2.15 pm to 4.45pm
Venue: 2nd Floor, Muslim World League, 46 Goodge Street, London, W1T 4LU (entrance on the corner of Charlotte Street); Nearest Tube: Goodge Street (Northern Line)

With Guest Speaker:

Dr Usama Hasan (Middlesex University & Al-Tawhid Mosque)

Falaq means to split or cleave asunder, hence the Qur'anic term, "falaq" in the surah of the same name refers to daybreak, the splitting apart of the seed and fruit-stone, etc. Applying the principles of tafsir (Quran-commentary) to current scientific knowledge would suggest that "falaq" covers nuclear fission also. Therefore, Allah as Rabb al-Falaq (Q. 113:1) is the Lord of Fission. Reflecting on the very next ayah (Q. 113:2), we have the insight that nuclear fission can potentially be used for great evil.

Drawing on classical Islamic texts in the light of the contemporary world, this talk will explore two pressing issues of our time: Firstly, the issue of nuclear power in an age of climate change. Whilst Shariah does not prohibit nuclear power in principle, how might it be applied when we consider the potential benefit side by side with the potential for harm, and in the light of alternatives? And secondly, is the issue of nuclear weapons, capable of massive destruction to life and the environment. Can they, for instance, be justified even as a deterrent in order to "keep the peace"? This months talk and forum will discuss the above matters - come along to listen and/or have your say. There will also be an opportunity to find out about environmental activities LINE is involved with.

About the speaker:

Dr. Usama Hasan was trained in Theoretical Physics at Cambridge, and in the traditional Islamic sciences at home in London. He is currently Senior Lecturer in Computing Science at Middlesex University and a voluntary, part-time imam at Tawhid Mosque in East London. As an undergraduate, Usama thought of joining
Pakistan's nuclear programme. However, he is now very glad he didn't!

For more information:
Contact: tazmtaz@hotmail.co.uk;
LINE website: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LINEnotices

2) Campaign against Climate Change
National Day of Climate Action, Saturday September 16th

To raise awareness and build for the National Climate March on November 4th

There will be climate-change focussed events taking place around the country. Check http://www.campaigncc.org/local.shtml to find your local contact to check out what's happening in your area. Or phone us at 020 7833 9311 – or even start something yourself !
Join the race against climate doom. We don’t have much time left to prevent climate catastrophe, we need action now. The world needs a treaty to bring down global emissions yesterday and we can't afford any rogue nation to stand in the way…..put on your racing/jogging gear, join the race and spread the message round the streets of London……
Gather 12.30 pm to take the starting blocks at 1.00pm outside the ExxonMobil London offices, St Katherine's House, on the corner of Kingsway and Aldwych (Holborn and Temple tubes).
Then race (or amble, stroll - whatever pace you feel like) through central London helping us spread the climate message ( or more specifically fliers for November 4th) - as you go….to finish at the US embassy, Grosvenor square for a PARTY
This will be a great opportunity to distribute fliers, and generally start getting the message out, for November 4th – in a fun kind of way……

Web: Campaign against Climate Change www.campaigncc.org

Advance notice! 2 National Climate events on Sat 4th Nov, culminating on Trafalgar Square...

Organised by 'Campaign Against Climate Change'

Date: Sat Nov 4th 2006

Part of a Day of International Climate Protest on the Saturday before International Climate Talks, with demonstrations demanding urgent action on climate all round the world. See www.globalclimatecampaign.org

10am Protest Bike Ride assembles Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Goes via ExxonMobil offices, Australian Embassy & Downing Street to US embassy, Grosvenor Square.

12 noon Climate Rally at the US Embassy, Grosvenor Square (Bond St tube).

Speakers will include George Monbiot, Michael Meacher MP, Caroline Lucas MEP, Norman Baker MP.

1.00 pm March for Global Climate Justice: From the US embassy, via Berkley Square & Piccadilly Circus to Trafalgar square

1.45 - 2.00pm March joins I-Count Mass Gathering in Trafalgar Square

2.00 - 3.00 pm I-Count Mass Gathering (building up from 1.00pm)

This will be the biggest ever climate demonstration in the UK and part of the biggest ever ‘global’ climate demonstration. Make sure you’re a part of it. Join the swelling tide of people all round the world demanding urgent action on climate. More info as it becomes available : http://www.campaigncc.org

Organised by the 'Stop Climate Chaos' Coalition

Date: Sat 4th Nov, Trafalgar Square

We want you to join us, to come and be counted, at what will be the biggest event of the year to stop climate chaos. What can you expect to find in Trafalgar Square?


This first hour will be all about people coming together; celebrating the arrivals of those who have travelled by low carbon means, and filling the Square, where there'll be street bands and entertainers.

Thousands will be coming from meetings, earlier events and the Campaign Against Climate Change march, to converge on the Square and join the many more from points all across the city and the rest of the UK.


The focus will shift from the street level to the stage where there'll be a mix of speakers, film and performers. This will build up to a dramatic mass moment when we will send out our message loud and clear to the Government to act now to stop climate chaos.

This event is for everyone who’s concerned about climate change - whether you care about how it will affect the environment, global poverty, wildlife or just you and your family. To join the campaign, find out event information and get travel details, visit: www.icount.org.uk


29 Aug 2006

Cooperation for a green world

Hope you have all picked up on Stuart Jeffery's Green Party NHS blog!

Capitalism is unsustainable but replacing it may not be as difficult as I sometimes think. The alternative is wiki economics, an opensource set up based on participation, use without destruction and creativity. Soviet style central planning, I don't think so, the free market..I don't think so either.

In the mean time before we enter wiki world (exciting this isn't it, can you imagine people sitting around at the end of feudalism discussing the new economy that would replace it? No, neither can I but today we can see something new dimly but quickly coming into replace our modern economy)there are some institutions and practices that are in the right direction.

The Co-operative is one, not perfect, their institutionally still part of the Labour Party as far as I can see and not 100% ethical but they were set up in 1844 by the Rochdale pioneers to benefit ordinary working people. At their high they controlled 25% of the retail food market and although now down to 6% provide a stunning alternative to Tescos, Sainsbury, Morrison, etc.

They are big on fair trade, organic, local production. I use Smile their banking arm, perfect service still within capitalist orbit but some unethical investments are cut out. Schnews has though an article on some of their unethical investing.

The news is that today they are bringing back the 'divi', so everytime you shop or use their service you get some cash back...this isn't simply a loyalty card, you have a tiny bit of ownership so this is your share of the profit. Now ofcourse this sounds a bit like a share, but unlike shares ethics and ecology matter as well as the bottom line.

So find our more about their history and if you have a coop store nearby use if or lose it.

is also by the way a mutual, so technically we have two rather non capitalist institutions we can shop with, now of course before everybody writes into to complain neither are utopian anarchist communist bodies and they have to survive in the nasty market place but they provide answer to those who say capitalism is the only game in town.

You can join the coop here

28 Aug 2006

Green the Health Service

Green the Health Service

Economics = absurdity

The absurdity of public-choice theory is captured by Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen in the following little scenario: "Can you direct me to the railway station?" asks the stranger. "Certainly," says the local, pointing in the opposite direction, towards the post office, "and would you post this letter for me on your way?" "Certainly," says the stranger, resolving to open it to see if it contains anything worth stealing. --Linda McQuaig, All You Can Eat

27 Aug 2006



Green politics is the politics of survival, it is repeat a difficult task, it is not a matter of simply replacing 'bad' 'grey' politicians with a new set of 'good' 'green' individuals....green politics is about saying we have a way of life that does not work, we need a new culture based on consuming less, we need new values and we need a new economic system. Getting there will require a lot of thought and self-criticism, you cannot cut the knot of ecological crisis with a paper knife.

Tragic that in Germany the Greens have gone from visionaries to very mild reformists, the same goes for Jonathon Porritt....depressing, depressing, depressing...However Caroline Lucas et al have been great for the GP of England and Wales...schnews is real great as well! Its a weekly online diy green direct action round up.

This is from Schnews, they are the best thing since organic sliced bread, I love them...get a weekly injection of intelligent radical green thought by

The double-whammy of peak oil and climate change have recently become much more mainstream, but the (if you'll pardon the expression) 'roadmap' to a sustainable future is still very sketchy. Of course our governments are still too focussed on unsustainable growth of an oil-based economy to do anything much about either issue. But there's little point in waiting for them to sort it out, when there's so many positive ideas and capacity for real change to be found at the community and grassroots level.

As well as dismantling the political structures which have been built around the free market economy's addiction to oil, if we are to deal with the challenges of the 21st Century without a massive die-off of our species (and every other), individuals and groups need to change en-masse to other ways of generating and using energy. Carbon emissions will have to be reduced by 60-90% to prevent further damage to global weather systems, and even if we did this tomorrow we'd still be heading towards some climate chaos.

The only way out is a combination of massive scaling back of usage, and a sharp turn towards renewables... in other words a drastic change in the way we eat, travel and house ourselves. Our ability to influence geo-politics might be limited but we can make changes right now on a local level.


Although we don't want oil-based market capitalism to simply jump onto the renewables bandwagon and maintain the consumption-led status quo, there are viable zero-emission, renewable power options.

You can cross nuclear off the list straight away (See SchNEWS 522). Apart from the danger of reactors, and waste deadly for thousands of years, estimates of global uranium deposits suggest we'd get less than a decade of power before we started running out - 'peak uranium'!

Solar energy is the most abundant renewable source on earth. A recent report claims that every year, "each square kilometre of desert receives solar energy equivalent to 1.5 million barrels of oil. Multiplying by the area of deserts world-wide, this is nearly a thousand times the entire current energy consumption of the world." * It suggests the use of Concentrated Solar Panels (CSPs), which focus heat on solar arrays using mirrors, driving conventional steam powered generators. This has been used in California since the 1980s and costs half the amount per unit than oil energy. (* For more see www.trec-uk.org.uk)

While all-year sunshine isn't something we're blessed with, the British Isles are estimated to have enough wind power using current turbine technology to meet our power usage three times over. And when it comes to the wave power, it would be economically viable to meet 25% of our current demand.

That our government isn't pursuing these options with any real intent shows how clearly it is in the pocket of the oil companies. As any good anarchist will tell you, power needs to be decentralised down to the grassroots level...


A wide range of actions are needed, both in terms of shutting down the causes of climate change, and building a sustainable future, globally and in your own community. Here is just a few areas to get involved in if you want to do something about it...

* Air Travel is the fastest growing cause of greenhouse emissions - yet Britain has a programme for massive Airport Expansion. For contacts to campaigns across the country fighting individual airport expansion plans see SchNEWS 553-554.

* Avoid flying - calculate the amount of carbon created for each seat on a plane, per mile, at www.climatecare.org/calculators/flights_calc.cfm

* Road Building: In 2005 the UK Govt laid out a programme of road building with over 200 approved schemes. To get involved in local campaigns see www.roadalert.org.uk

* In Glasgow, plans have been approved for the M74 Northern Extension, which would put a 6-lane elevated motorway through the southern suburbs of Glasgow. To join the campaign to stop it going ahead see www.jam74.org

* Protect Forests Worldwide. Over the past 150 years, deforestation has contributed an estimated 30 percent of the build-up of CO2; likewise climate change will have a devastating effect on the remaining forests. For an international roundup see www.ran.org

* Ride a bike, don't drive a car and get involved in campaigning to make cities more bike friendly. Critical Mass events are held all round the world for cyclists to reclaim roads - to see if there's one in your area visit www.urban75.com/Action/critical.html See also Sustrans - a charity which designs and builds routes for cyclists and walkers. www.sustrans.org.uk

* Food Production: Buy local food, go vegan and/or grow your own. Get your own Allotment - for advice see www.allotments-uk.com The transportation of food on a large scale gives rise to 'food miles' and is directly related to oil consumption and climate change. For more see www.sustainweb.org Permaculture is a theory and practice for sustainable, localised food production, as well as having other applications - for more see www.permaculture.org.uk To find out how supermarkets are stitching up the food market see www.tescopoly.org

* Generate Your Own Energy: While the start-up costs can be expensive, it is possible to set up a 12 volt system in your house using batteries charged by wind turbines, photovoltaic panels - or pedal power with a bike generator. Normal domestic appliances can be powered using an inverter. While photovoltaic panels are expensive and resource-intensive to create, it is not too expensive to build your own wind turbine (if you've got the room). For info on building small scale turbines see www.scoraigwind.com To build a Bike Generator see www.stewardwood.org/resources/DIYcyclepower.htm

* For advice on making your home more energy efficient, and grants for those on low income to get better insulation see www.est.org.uk

* For info on Bio-Diesel, and how to use it see www.schnews.org.uk/diyguide/howtomakebiodiesel.htm however while using waste oil for fuel is good, this could lead to large scale intensive fuel crop farming.

* For info about Peak Oil and other large scale energy issues see www.energybulletin.net

* And most of all, bite the bullet(point) and CONSUME LESS!

The Camp For Climate Action

It's happening now at a site in Megawatt Valley, near Leeds, home of the Drax power station, the largest single emitter of carbon dioxide in the UK. This ten day camp goes on until September 4th and features 150 workshops discussing and planning actions around climate change.

See www.climatecamp.org.uk


Crap Request Of The Week

As ever we're broke and need help to meet our monthly bills. Why not help keep SchNEWS free by donating just a small amount to us regularly by standing order? (And one-off donations still gratefully received of course) Massive thanks to all of you who have/do support us - without you we might not still be here... To donate contact the office or visit www.schnews.org.uk/extras/help.htm

26 Aug 2006

Green money?

Credit and banking are a big deal: the way that most aspects of life are turned into financial instruments is of course very, very dangerous. The Yangtse Dolphins are becoming extinct because of your pension! Pensions are based largely on shares and other financial instruments, thus if share values grow, we have cash in old age. This means that environmental and social considerations come second or fourth compared to the growth of financial value. We obviously need an economy that disarms finance and halts financialisation - it's all gambling. You may lose your shirt, gain a suit or kill the planet.

Banking is a big issue. Currency cranks point correctly to the fact that banks create money but simply printing lots of money at the level of the ‘community’ might not act as an alternative, it might fuel inflation because money creation is about confidence.

Green Party policies are aimed at promoting small scale community banks, and building societies, credit unions and mutual non profit providers of cash. Here's an extract from the Manifesto for a Sustainable Society:

Monetary Policy

EC660 In a Green society the informal sector will eventually gain in significance so that formal transactions and money generally will have a lesser role than at present. There is however no reason why a financial system cannot be made to work in the interests of the community. Practical decentralisation of banking and monetary policy will therefore be linked with a programme of political devolution.

EC661 The emphasis in monetary policy will be to control and redirect the creation of money towards socially and environmentally sound areas of the economy, and away from unsustainable and consumption-driven areas.

EC662 The current banking system enables commercial banks and financial institutions to exert an unacceptably large influence on the economy as a whole. These commercial banking institutions work to a purely commercial agenda in which the desirability of making loans is assessed only in terms of its financial viability to the lenders.

EC663 The banking system should be largely brought under democratic control, preferably at a local level. This will allow the process to work in the best interests of the community as a whole, rather than principally in the interests of commercial banks and their shareholders.

EC664 The Bank of England will continue to be the institution for the regulation of the national currency and the setting of base interest rates. However, it will not focus on narrow economic indicators such as the rate of inflation, but instead will take a broader view on the impact of its decisions on the economy as a whole. Final decisions on the setting of base interest rates will be made by a democratically accountable committee made up of representatives selected from the different regions of the country.

EC665 In order to help bring about the democratisation of the banking system, and in pursuit of our policies to support the growth of local economies, a network of local Community Banks will be established. These will be democratically accountable non-profit-making trusts, which will be able to provide low-cost finance both at district and regional levels. Any operating surplus arising from these Community Banks will be reinvested in their local communities. Community Banks will be empowered to create credit in the same way that commercial banks currently do, and will be given favourable conditions for doing so by the central bank. They will also be able to create their own local currencies, to operate alongside the national currency, where this is supported by the local community.

EC666 In order to bring about a more socially equitable society, it is important that poorer citizens have access to affordable credit, which can give them an opportunity to increase their basic living standards. Alongside Community Banks, measures to help facilitate this will include the promotion and support of credit unions and micro-credit schemes in which small groups of people cooperate to provide guaranteed small loans to each other.

I bank with Smile, the internet arm of the Cooperative Bank (part of the socialist cooperative formed by the Rochdale pioneers in the 1830s) but it still operates within the market and while more ethical than the nasty high street banks, still invests in things which are environmentally damaging and socially unjust. The Ecology Building Society and Tridos bank are green banking alternatives.

An Open Source banking alternative is ZOPA, which puts lenders and borrowers together and cuts out the profit bank element.

Zopa is a peer to peer financial institution, a kind of Napster bank, although it does not give out free money. It would be interesting to see whether it grows; I guess it has the potential to be very big. In the US zopa is know as 'Prosper'.

25 Aug 2006

The genetically modified potatoes are invading

Hi folks,

The genetically modified potatoes are invading! So this seems a good time to move from recent health care postings to agriculture. Notice with both, you have technical fixes to social and ecological problems, yes we need to feed people, yes we need medicine but to see agribusiness doing this out of the kindness of agribusinesses heart is like, say thinking that pharmaceutical companies are motivated by curing the sick.

The techno-fixers argue that high pesticide, high fertilizer, high technology can feed the world. The article below argues that organic is better and less oil dependent.

Notice how in the UK climate change and higher oil prices are already pushing up fruit and veg costs!

Here are some Green Party of England and Wales policies

AG208 Genetic engineering will not solve the problems created by industrial agriculture; it can only add to them. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) will give large profits to a few multinational corporations, as opposed to making farming easier or more efficient.

AG209 GM crops can cross-breed with wild varieties and transfer genes to other species, posing a long-term threat to wildlife and biodiversity. Genes for herbicide resistance can be transferred to other plants, creating 'super weeds' and necessitating the use of ever-stronger herbicides. Herbicides used with GM crops have been shown to harm both wildlife and human health. GM crops that are designed to produce bio-pesticide toxins can create insect resistance in the target species, thus creating the need for more chemical and biotechnological pesticides. Such crops may be toxic to the natural predators of the target organisms, to non-target organisms and to beneficial insects. In addition, use of such crops to produce toxins undermines organic agricultural techniques which rely on the use of related but naturally produced toxins.

AG210 The use of GM crops in developing countries has proved disastrous to farming communities. Not only have the crops failed in many cases, but they undermine the diversity of local seed varieties with monoculture GM crops designed to secure profits for multinational biotech companies.

AG211 Despite widespread introduction of GM foods in the US and elsewhere, the potential dangers of GM foods to human health have not been properly investigated and risks remain considerable. Potentially GM crops could cause irreversible damage to the ecology of this planet and damage the health of the people on it. We must therefore apply the precautionary principle.

Published on 31 Jan 2001 by University of California. Archived on 31 Jan 2001.

Can Organic Farming "Feed the World"?
by Christos Vasilikiotis, Ph.D.

Thermodynamics of the Corn-Ethanol Biofuel cycle...

Hubbert's Prescription for Survival, A Steady State Economy...

Designing Energy Descent Pathways: One community's attempt at designing a prosperous way down from the peak....

Solutions - Aug 13...

Bringing the Food Economy Home...

The legacy of Industrial Agriculture

With the world population passing the 6 billion mark last October, the debate over our ability to sustain a fast growing population is heating up. Biotechnology advocates in particular are becoming very vocal in their claim that there is no alternative to using genetically modified crops in agriculture if "we want to feed the world". Actually, that quote might be true. It depends what they mean by "we." It's true if the "we can feed the world" refers to the agribusiness industry, which has brought the world to the brink of food disaster and is looking for a way out. Biotech just may be their desperation move. "We'll starve without biotech," is the title of an opinion piece by Martina McGloughlin, Director of the Biotechnology program at the University of California, Davis. Could be. Modern industrial agricultural — which forms the foundation for biotech — ranks as such a dismal failure that even Monsanto holds them up as the evil alternative.

"The commercial industrial technologies that are used in agriculture today to feed the world... are not inherently sustainable," Monsanto CEO Robert Shapiro told the Greenpeace Business Conference recently. "They have not worked well to promote either self-sufficiency or food security in developing countries." Feeding the world sustainably "is out of the question with current agricultural practice," Shapiro told the Society of Environmental Journalists in 1995. "Loss of topsoil, of salinity of soil as a result of irrigation, and ultimate reliance on petrochemicals ... are, obviously, not renewable. That clearly isn't sustainable."

Shapiro is referring to the 30-year-old "Green Revolution" which has featured an industrial farming system that biotech would build on: the breeding of new crop varieties that could effectively use massive inputs of chemical fertilizers, and the use of toxic pesticides. As Shapiro has hinted, it has led to some severe environmental consequences, including loss of topsoil, decrease in soil fertility, surface and ground water contamination, and loss of genetic diversity.

Do we really need to embark upon another risky technological fix to solve the mistakes of a previous one? Instead, we should be looking for solutions that are based on ecological and biological principles and have significantly fewer environmental costs. There is such an alternative that has been pioneered by organic farmers. In contrast to the industrial/monoculture approach advocated by the biotech industry, organic agriculture is described by the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) as "a holistic production management system which promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity."

Despite the lack of support from government and university extension services in the US, consumer demand for organic products is driving the organic movement ahead at a 20% annual rate of market growth, primarily with the help of an increasing consumer demand for organic products. The amount of certified organic agricultural land increased from 914,800 acres in 1995 to 1.5 million in 1997, a jump of more than 60% in just two years.

Not surprisingly, agribusiness conglomerates and their supporters dismiss organic farming, claiming it produces yields too low to feed a growing world population. Dennis Avery, an economist at the Hudson Institute — funded by Monsanto, Du Pont, Dow, and Novartis among others — had this to say in a recent ABC News' 20/20 broadcast. "If overnight all our food supply were suddenly organic, to feed today's population we'd have plowed down half of the world's land area not under ice to get organic food ... because organic farmers waste so much land. They have to because they lose so much of their crop to weeds and insects." In fact, as a number of studies attest, organic farming methods can produce higher yields than conventional methods. Moreover, a worldwide conversion to organic has the potential to increase food production levels -- not to mention reversing the degradation of agricultural soils and increase soil fertility and health.

Comparisons of organic and conventional chemical farming systems

A survey of recent studies comparing the productivity of organic practices to conventional agriculture provides an excellent example of the wide range of benefits we can expect from a conversion to sustainable agricultural methods. The results clearly show that organic farming accomplishes many of the FAO’s sustainability aims, as well as showing promise in increasing food production ability.

Sustainable Agriculture Farming Systems project (SFAS) at UC, Davis.
An ongoing long-term comparison study, SFAS is an interdisciplinary project that compares conventional farming systems with alternative production systems that promote sustainable agriculture.

The study examines four farming systems that differ in crop rotation design and material input use: a 2-year and a 4-year rotation conventional system, an organic and a low-input system.

Results from the first 8 years of the project show that the organic and low-input systems had yields comparable to the conventional systems in all crops which were tested - tomato, safflower, corn and bean, and in some instances yielding higher than conventional systems (Clark, 1999a). Tomato yields in the organic system were lower in the first three years, but reached the levels of the conventional tomatoes in the subsequent years and had a higher yield during the last year of the experiment (80 t/ha in the organic compared to 68 t/ha in the conventional in 1996). Corn production in the organic system had a higher variability than conventional systems, with lower yields in some years and higher in others.

Both organic and low-input systems resulted in increases in the organic carbon content of the soil and larger pools of stored nutrients, each of which are critical for long-term fertility maintenance (Clark, 1998). The most important limiting factor in the organic system appeared to be nitrogen availability (Clark 1999b). The organic system relied mainly on cover crops and composted poultry manure for fertilization. One possible explanation for a lower availability in the organic system, is that high carbon inputs associated with nitrogen to build soil organic matter, thus reducing nitrogen availability for the organic crops. During the latter 2 years of the experiment, soil organic matter levels appeared to be stabilized resulting in more nitrogen availability. This was in agreement with the higher yields of organic crops that were observed during those last two years. The organic systems were found to be more profitable in both corn and tomato among the 4-year rotations mainly due to the higher price premiums (Clark, 1999b).
Farming Systems Trial at the Rodale Institute — Soybean study.
Initiated in 1981, the Farming Systems Trial compares intensive soybean and maize production under a conventional and two organic management farming systems.

The first organic cropping system simulates a traditional integrated farming system. Leguminous cover crops are fed to cattle and the resulting manure is applied to the fields as the main source of nitrogen. In the second organic system, the leguminous cover crops were incorporated in to the soil as the source for nitrogen before corn or soybean planting.

Corn yields were comparable in all three cropping systems (less than 1% difference) (Drinkwater, 1998). However, a comparison of soil characteristics during a 15-year period found that soil fertility was enhanced in the organic systems, while it decreased considerably in the conventional system. Nitrogen content and organic matter levels in the soil increased markedly in the manure—fertilized organic system and declined in the conventional system. Moreover, the conventional system had the highest environmental impact, where 60% more nitrate was leached into the groundwater over a 5 year period than in the organic systems (Drinkwater, 1998).

Soybean production systems were also highly productive, achieving 40 bushels/acre. In 1999 however, during one of the worst droughts on record, yields of organic soybeans were 30 bushels /acre, compared to only 16 bushels/acre from conventionally- grown soybeans (Rodale Institute, 1999). "Our trials show that improving the quality of the soil through organic practices can mean the difference between a harvest or hardship in times of drought" writes Jeff Moyer, farm manager at The Rodale Institute in Kutztown, Pennsylvania (Rodale Institute, 1999). He continues, "over time, organic practices encourage the soil to hold on to moisture more efficiently than conventionally managed soil." The higher content of organic matter also makes organic soil less compact so that root systems can penetrate more deeply to find moisture. These results highlight the importance of organic farming methods and their potential to avert future crop failures both in the US and in the rest of the world.
Broadbalk experiment at the Rothamsted Experimental Station, UK
One of the longest running agricultural trials on record (more than 150 years) is the Broadbalk experiment at the Rothamsted Experimental Station in the United Kingdom. The trials compare a manure based fertilizer farming system (but not certified organic) to a synthetic chemical fertilizer farming system. Wheat yields are shown to be on average slightly higher in the organically fertilized plots (3.45 tones/hectare) than the plots receiving chemical fertilizers (3.40 tones/hectare). More importantly though, soil fertility, measured as soil organic matter and nitrogen levels, increased by 120% over 150 years in the organic plots, compared with only 20% increase in chemically fertilized plots (Jenkinson, 1994).
Organic grain and soybean production in the Midwestern United States
A comprehensive review of a large number of comparison studies of grain and soybean production conduct by six Midwestern universities since 1978 found that in all of these studies organic production was equivalent to, and in many cases better than, conventional (Welsh, 1999). Organic systems had higher yields than conventional systems which featured continuous crop production (no rotations) and equal or lower yields in conventional systems that included crop rotations. In the drier climates such as the Great Plains, organic systems had higher yields, as they tend to be better during droughts than conventional systems. In one such study in South Dakota for the period 1986-1992, the average yields of soybeans were 29.6 bushels/acre and 28.6 bushels/acre in the organic and conventional systems respectively. In the same study, average spring wheat yields were 41.5 bushels/acre and 39.5 bushels/acre in the organic and conventional systems respectively.

When comparing the profitability of farming systems, the study found that organic cropping systems were always more profitable than the most common conventional cropping systems if the higher premiums that organic crops enjoy were factored in. When the higher premiums were not factored in, the organic systems were still more productive and profitable in three of the six studies. This was attributed to lower production costs and the ability of organic systems to outperform conventional in drier areas, or during drier periods.

The author of the report remarked: "What is most surprising is how well the organic systems performed despite the minimal amount of research that traditional agricultural research institutions have devoted to them." (Welsh, 1999).
Comparison of conventional and organic farms in California.
Lastly, a study which compared ecological characteristics and productivity of 20 commercial farms in the Central Valley of California gives us a better understanding of how a conversion to organic would fare in a commercial farm setting.

The farms compared had a fresh market tomato production. Tomato yields were shown to be quite similar in organic and conventional farms (Drinkwater, 1995). Insect pest damage was also comparable in both cases of organic and conventional farms. However, significant differences were found in soil health indicators such as nitrogen mineralization potential and microbial abundance and diversity which were higher in the organic farms. Nitrogen mineralization potential was three times greater in organic compared to conventional fields. The organic fields also had 28% more organic carbon. The increased soil health in the organic farms resulted in considerably lower disease incidence. Severity of the most prevalent disease in the study, tomato corky root disease, was found to be significantly lower in the organic farms (Drinkwater, 1995).

Can we afford not to go Organic?

From the studies mentioned above and from an increasing body of case studies, it is becoming evident that organic farming does not result in neither catastrophic crop losses due to pests nor in dramatically reduced yields as many critics from agribusiness and in academia would have us believe. A report from UC Davis predicted a 36% reduction in tomato yields in California if conventional insecticides and fungicides were eliminated (Agricultural Issues Center 1988).

On the contrary, organic farming systems have proven that they can prevent crop loss to pests without any synthetic pesticides. They are able to maintain high yields, comparable to conventional agriculture without any of the associated external costs to society. Furthermore, organic and agroecological farming methods continually increase soil fertility and prevent loss of topsoil to erosion, while conventional methods have the opposite effect. In the end, only a conversion to organic farming will allow us to maintain and even increase current crop yields.

The ability of organic agriculture to produce comparable yields is particularly significant, considering that limited research has been conducted in land-grant universities to optimize cultural practices or select for suitable crop genetic traits in organic farming systems. It is becoming imperative that we move away from organic versus conventional systems comparisons, to research into ways ofimproving organic farming methods.

One of the criticisms of organic agriculture has been that there is not enough nitrogen available naturally, therefore only chemical fertilizers can provide adequate supplies to sustain current yields. This is clearly not the case as shown by both the Rothamsted and Rodale experiments, where manure-based systems can provide enough nitrogen not only to sustain high crop yields but also to build up the nitrogen storage in the soil. Animal manure is not in short supply by any means. EPA estimates indicate that US livestock operations generate one billion tons of manure per year; most of this is not utilized in agriculture, instead it leaches nitrogen and phosphorus into our waterways, thus threatening wetlands and river systems and in many cases drinking water supplies. Organic agriculture, and especially small diversified farms, could allow us to once again couple livestock production to crop production, thus cycling this valuable byproduct back into the soil and eliminating costly environmental degradation.

Another argument that critics are making is that organic food is more expensive, therefore, low-income families and people in the third world would not be able to afford it. While it is true that organic food has a price premium, this price difference is the result of higher demand for organic products, and does not necessarily reflect a higher cost of production. According to the Wallace Institute report mentioned earlier, organic production of grains and soybeans in the mid-west was more profitable than conventional in at least half the cases studied, even without factoring the higher prices that organic soybeans bring in the market (sometimes more than twice as much as conventional soybeans). There are still situations though in which organic systems appear to depend on price premiums to remain profitable, such as the case of high-value tomato crops in California. The higher cost of production that was found in the SFAS project is attributed mainly to the increased labor requirements for weed control in organic systems.

Even these studies overestimate the relative costs of organic production. Federal commodity programs and subsidies are geared towards large-scale chemically intensive agriculture and artificially inflate figures for industrial agriculture. Furthermore, this type of economic comparison ignores external costs that conventional agriculture creates. The World Resources Institute, an environmental policy think tank, reports that when measured with traditional cost analysis methods the average farm shows an $80/acre profit. After accounting for all the external costs of soil loss, water contamination and environmental degradation caused by farming practices however, the average farm shows a $29/acre loss instead!

A number of European nations have started to factor these expenses into their agricultural support programs. In several European countries, such as Denmark and Sweden, farmers get government support during their conversion to organic and continue to receive support for environmental services that they provide to their communities, such as wildlife corridors and the elimination of toxic runoffs which contaminate underground water sources. These programs helped foster an almost 100-fold increase in organically farmed land in Europe, from 29,000 acres in 1986 to 2.4 million acres in 1996. Similar programs in the U.S. could help the conversion of more farms to organic methods. These price supports do not have to be subsidies, rather a compensation to organic farmers for each of the ecological and social services that they provide.

Despite claims from the biotech industry and academic researches, there is no indication that biotechnology will solve the shortcomings of industrial agriculture. Compared to the novel and untested crop systems that biotech corporations are pushing as the only solution to food security problems, organic farming has many advantages. The majority of genetically engineered crops currently in cultivation do not appear to show higher yields. For example, contrary to claims by Monsanto, a recent study by Dr. Charles Bendrook, the former director of the Board on Agriculture at the National Academy of Sciences, indicates that genetically engineered Roundup Ready soybeans do not increase yields (Bendrook, 1999). The report reviewed over 8,200 university trials in 1998 and found that Roundup Ready soybeans yielded 7-10% less than similar natural varieties. In addition, the same study found that farmers used 5-10 times more herbicide (Roundup) on Roundup Ready soybeans than on conventional ones. The only reason farmers seem to prefer Roundup Ready soybeans is because they simplify management of large chemically-intensive farms, by allowing them, for example, to spray larger doses of herbicides from planes on crops, engineered to be resistant to the particular herbicide. Applications of biotechnology continue the legacy of industrial agricultural with monocultures and high energy and chemical inputs.

Our current world food production is more than sufficient to provide an adequate diet to all humans, yet more than 840 million people are suffering from hunger. Hunger is a problem of poverty, distribution, and access to food. The question then, is not "how to feed the world", but rather, how can we develop sustainable farming methods that have the potential to help the world feed and sustain itself. Organic management practices promote soil health, water conservation and can reverse environmental degradation. The emphasis on small-scale family farms has the potential to revitalize rural areas and their economies. Counter to the widely held belief that industrial agriculture is more efficient and productive, small farms produce far more per acre than large farms. Industrial agriculture relies heavily on monocultures, the planting of a single crop throughout the farm, because they simplify management and allow the use of heavy machinery. Larger farms in the third world also tend to grow export luxury crops instead of providing staple foods to their growing population. Small farmers, especially in the Third World have integrated farming systems where they plant a variety of crops maximizing the use of their land.

They are also more likely to have livestock on their farm, which provides a variety of animal products to the local economy and manure for improving soil fertility. In such farms, though the yield per acre of a single crop might be lower than a large farm, total production per acre of all the crops and various animal products is much higher than large conventional farms (Rosset, 1999). Figure 1 shows the relationship between total production per unit area to farm size in 15 countries. In all cases, the smaller farms are much more productive per unit area— 200 to 1000 percent higher — than larger ones (Rosset, 1999).

Even in the United States, the smallest farms, those 27 acres or less, have more than ten times greater dollar output per acre than larger farms (US Agricultural Census, 1992). Conversion to small organic farms therefore, would lead to sizeable increases of food production worldwide. Only organic methods can help small family farms survive, increase farm productivity, repair decades of environmental damage and knit communities into smaller, more sustainable distribution networks — all leading to improved food security around the world.

Agricultural Issues Center, 1988. Agricultural chemicals in California plant production: are there alternatives? University of California, Davis, California, USA.
Bendrook, 1999. Evidence of the Magnitude and Consequences of the Roundup Ready Soybean Yield Drag from University Based Varietal Trials in 1998. Ag Biotech InfoNet Technical Paper: (http://www.biotech-info.net/RR_yield_drag_98.pdf)
Clark S., et al 1999a. Crop-yield and economic comparisons of organic, low-input, and conventional farming systems in California’s Sacramento Valley. American Journal of Alternative Agriculture v. 14 (3) p. 109-121
Clark, M. S. et al 1998 Changes in Soil Chemical Properties Resulting from Organic and Low-Input Farming Practices, Agronomy Journal, v. 90 p. 662-671
Clark, M. S. et al 1999b. Nitrogen, weeds and water as yield-limiting factors in conventional, low-input, and organic tomato systems. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment v. 73 p. 257-270.
Drinkwater, L.E. et al, 1995. Fundamental Differences between Conventional and Organic Tomato Agroecosystems in California. Ecological Applications, v. 5 (4) p. 1098-1112
Drinkwater, L.E. et al, 1998. Legume-based cropping systems have reduced carbon and nitrogen losses, Nature, v. 396, 19.
Jenkinson, D. S. et al, 1994. In Long-term experiments in Agricultural and Ecological Sciences (eds Leigh, R. A & johnston, A. E) p.117-138 (CAB Int. wallingford, U.K. 1994).
Rosset, P. 1999. The Multiple Functions and Benefits of Small Farm Agriculture, Food First
US Agricultural Census, 1992.
Welsh, R. 1999. The Economics of Organic Grain and Soybean Production in the Midwestern United States, Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture (http://www.hawiaa.org/pspr13.htm)
Rodale Institute, 1999. 100-Year Drought Is No Match for Organic Soybeans, (http://www.rodaleinstitute.org/global/arch_home.html)

Original article available here.

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of issues of environmental and humanitarian significance. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

24 Aug 2006

Battle won against NHS privatisation

This is an important battle won, the company involved pays it's CEO disgusting amounts of money,
In 2005, William W. McGuire, M.D., its CEO, earned $124 million. His compensation in the five years 2001-2005 was $341 million. He has been the CEO since 1989, when annual revenues were just over $400 million.


*Pam Smith has today won her appeal to prevent a US healthcare
corporation from running a GP surgery in Derbyshire*. Lord Justices
Keene and May quashed the selection of United Health Europe – the
British arm of America’s biggest healthcare corporation – to run the
practice, and ordered North Eastern Derbyshire primary care trust to
start the tendering process from scratch. They also awarded Pam Smith
100 per cent of the costs.

The decision is a stunning victory for a pensioner who dared to stand up
to the might of the government, the NHS and a multi-national
corporation. It is a blow for the government’s reform programme of
bringing in private companies to run GP services, and may discourage
other private companies from involvement in the scheme.

The case provides a precedent for other communities facing similar
situations. It has established that patients have a legal right to be
involved and consulted on plans for changes. In a number of other cases,
communities have been opposed to the notion of profit-making companies
running their family doctor surgeries.

*Pam Smith said:* “This just shows what people power can do. It was a
real case of David and Goliath. I feel like I’m on a high. I would love
to be a fly on Patricia Hewitt’s wall now – she keeps saying patients
have a choice; well we’ve made our choice. United Health would only have
taken profits. We will keep our NHS public, not private – that’s what
makes Britain unique.”

*Alex Nunns of Keep Our NHS Public said:* “This is a complete and total
victory, and a vindication for Pam and her community, who have
tirelessly fought against their GP surgery being handed over to a giant
American corporation. It is also a model for other communities having
this forced on them in the government’s drive to privatise the NHS.
Thanks to Pam, they now have a clear legal right to be heard.

“People are rightly suspicious of profit-making companies taking over
their family doctor surgeries. They fear that the standard of care will
decline, and that shareholders will be put before patients. If ‘patient
choice’ is to mean anything at all, the NHS must listen to these
concerns, and stop imposing the private sector on unwilling communities.”

*Alex Nunns* 07763 607 528, konp.press@virgin.net

*Pam Smith* 01623 743 460
*Elizabeth Barrett* (Derbyshire GP, Robin Hood KONP) 07779 082 037
*Richard Stein* (Pam Smith’s lawyer) 02076501243

1. North-Eastern Derbyshire Primary Care Trust chose UnitedHealth Europe
as its ‘preferred bidder’ to run the Creswell Primary Care Centre in
December last year. It provoked uproar among the local community –
especially in the village of Langwith, which has a branch of the
Creswell centre – who accused the PCT of privatising their GP service
against their wishes. At a judicial review in June, a judge ruled that
the PCT did have an obligation to consult the community, meaning it had
acted unlawfully. However, he ruled against Pam Smith on the
technicality that she should have taken an “alternative remedy” before
bringing a judicial review. In recognition of that fact that “on the
main issues she was successful,” the judge awarded Smith 75% of the costs.

2. Upon winning the appeal, Pam Smith was awarded 100% of the costs of
both hearings. The judges found that the alternative remedy of the
patients’ forum was not appropriate since is it not in a position to
judge law and has no real power over the PCT. The appeal court judges
also ruled that the original judge, Mr Justice Collins, was wrong to say
that the selection of United Health would have been the same even if the
PCT had consulted.

3. The Court of Appeal has quashed the selection of UnitedHealth Europe
and ordered the tender to be reopened. The PCT is required to involve
and consult the local community on its plans. This has serious
implications for government policy. January’s health white paper set out
plans to open up primary care to the market by encouraging private
companies to run GP surgeries and allowing them control of commissioning
budgets. But in a number of areas the policy has met opposition from

4. The Department of Health viewed the case so seriously it intervened
in the proceedings, arguing against its own rhetoric of patient choice
that there was no need to consult the community.

Alex Nunns
Information Officer
Keep Our NHS Public

23 Aug 2006

Health care without capitalism

Ivan Illich worries about the NHS

There is a very interesting BBC report on Cuban health care workers in Java I am not uncritical of Cuba, how can I say that a country where only one party is allowed is perfect, I suspect as well that there are aspects of the country which are very bureaucratic, however on ecology, poverty, development, education and health Cuba is getting an awful lot right.

Just being prepared as a tiny and relatively poor country to go in with medical aid to Pakistan after the earthquake, Java, to send doctors to the barrios in Latin American countries is impressive. The US cannot even run a free health care system for its own citizens.

Capitalism is not good at delivering health care, the stats show that dollar for dollar it is strikingly inefficient. Pharmaceutical firms have huge monopoly power which pushes up the price of life saving drugs. Doctors in market economies may be tempted to over medicate. The social and environmental causes of ill health are ignored, profit is made by making ill people pay for cures, healthy people are not good for medical capitalism.

This in a nutshell is the critique of the logic of the market, the market serves the market, if something goes wrong and we fix it this makes money, if it does not go wrong in the first place through careful prevention then there is no profit to be made.

Greens, socialists, various religious traditions point to a basic humanism we should do what is good for humanity, which is usually good for what might be controversially termed 'the natural order. The market is generally seen as a mechanism for doing this but it has various very destructive tendencies.

Ivan Illich's classic book Medical Nemesis is a starting point if you want to look at the unintended and destructive aspects of health care, ironically or not when he was dying of cancer he self-medicated and navigated his own path to death. I am less skeptical of doctors than him, however many of his points hold and inform green policies on health care.

Green Party policies can be found here

22 Aug 2006

Seeing Green by Jonathon Porritt

I remember leafletting Kings Cross, which was near my student halls of residence for Jonathon Porrittfor the 1984 European elections, he was the Ecology Party candidate. Some time afterwards he mentioned he was a having a book published, I still think Seeing Green, which was the title, is worth looking at today.

There is a danger of Green Parties loosing their green credentials, I think political education and political debate is now a bit rare. In the 1970s and 1980s everything in the Party, seemed in a positive sense, much more ideological, green politics was seen as new (I think of course it is old but perceptions are another matter) and all sorts of concepts from 'limits to growth', to holism, to the distinction between 'ecology' and just environmentalism were being discussed. A lot of positive bits of 60s counter culture and the New Left were being integrated.

Seeing Green is still a good introduction by a green political activist to green politics 'the politics of ecology' as Porritt termed it. Topics like education, peace, energy and economics are introduced.

Porritt, impressed me, because he worked as comprehensive school head of English and spent all his spare time working hard for the Party, credit to him. Great communicator, inevitably as an articulate Eton boy, son of a lord, a lot of people wanted to create a leadership post and slot him in.

So where do I differ from the Porritt who wrote Seeing Green, well he is always been big on 'the neither left nor right', sceptical of socialism although to be fair, he flags up William Morris and I think he was a member of SERA the socialist environmental resources association when he wrote it. In his book list at the end of Seeing Green he lists Murray Bookchin and .Rudolf Bahro fiery red green radicals.

I think that green politics needs to draw on socialism, although I would agree with him, that most socialists have been very far from being green.

Porritt's distinguishing marks of political ecology are certainly worth of discussion:

Distinguishing features of a 'Green paradigm'
from Porritt, J. Seeing Green Oxford: Blackwell 1984
The politics of industrialism The politics of ecology .
A deterministic view of the future Flexibility and an emphasis on personal autonomy
An ethos of aggressive individualism
A co-operatively based, communitarian society
Materialism, pure and simple A move towards spiritual, non-material values
Divisive, reductionist analysis Holistic synthesis and integration
Anthropocentrism Biocentrism
Rationality and packaged knowledge Intuition and understanding
Outer-directed motivation Inner-directed motivation and personal growth
Patriarchal values Post-patriarchal, feminist values
Institutionalized violence Non-violence

Economic growth and GNP Sustainability and quality of life
Production for exchange and profit Production for use
High income differentials Low income differentials
A 'free-market' economy Local production for local need
Ever-expanding world trade Self-reliance
Demand stimulation Voluntary simplicity
Employment as a means to an end Work as an end in itself
Capital-intensive production Labour-intensive production
Unquestioning acceptance of the Discriminating use and development
technological fix of science and technology

Centralization, economies of scale Decentralization, human scale
Hierarchical structure Non-hierarchical structure
Dependence upon experts Participative involvement
Representative democracy Direct democracy
Emphasis on law and order Libertarianism
Sovereignty of nation state Internationalism and global solidarity

Domination over nature Harmony with nature
Environmentalism Ecology
Environment managed as a resource Resources regarded as strictly finite
Nuclear power Renewable sources of energy
High energy, high consumption Low energy, low consumption

Since 1984 Porritt has moved in a far from visionary direction. I think Porritt has tried to influence events and exploit networks, advising Prince Charles, serving on an advisory board for the New Labour government, working with industry, writing a book on sustainable capitalism, establishing Forum for the Future.

Often you have more influence on the system from the margins, especially if you use direct action, elections or culture. I think Porritt's big failing is inability to look imaginatively at how we get change, the danger is that when you team up with those who the system, they gain in pr terms which makes change less likely.

Forum for the Future has a pretty terrifying list of corporate partners including well known friends of the earth like Vodafone, Sainsbury and Unilever(see partners)

The wikipedia says Forum for the Future is a British sustainable development charity. It was founded in 1996 by Jonathon Porritt, Sara Parkin and Paul Ekins and produces a magazine called Green Futures. Its mission is to take a 'positive, solutions oriented approach' to sustainable development, and as such is a non-campaigning organisation. It works with business, government and the education sector to incororate the principles of sustainable development, and also runs a Masters course: 'Masters in Leadership for Sustainable Development', which has been running since the inception of Forum for the Future 10 years ago.'

I can be glib, work the system you fail, work outside the system or try to and you have no influence. Yet for all its failings Seeing Green advances radical green politics, Forum for the Future by working with the great and the good, does not even seem to advance environmentalism.

Porritt provides a warning for all us middle (or in his case upper) class radicals...however if you want a quick primer on green politics Seeing Green is an excellent starting point.

21 Aug 2006

Mumia celebrates Fidel's birthday

'Death row cop killer praises dictator' some of my readers will say but Mumia speaks political sense with poetic sensibilities...in my opinion...

[Col. Writ. 8/10/06] Copyright 2006 Mumia Abu-Jamal

The recent news of the illness of Cuban President Fidel Castro, has unleashed a ghoulish glee in Miami, and also in the White House. The spectacle of people dancing in the streets of Miami, at news of Fidel's sickness was disgraceful.

Few of us who have grown up under the propaganda that passes for the corporate media have any real idea of either Castro's or Cuba's immense social accomplishments, while under the threat of U.S. invasion and destruction. As a student of history, I'm often amazed at what we don't know about other people, even those as close as Cuba. If Americans truly supported democracy, instead of dictatorships, the name Fidel Castro may never have become known to us. That's because Castro, as a young man, newly graduated from law school, endeavored to run for the Cuban Senate as a 'clean government' candidate. His platform opposed political repression and corruption, and how major Cuban institutions had been bought off by the U.S.-Mafia elites. He spoke out against vende-patrias (sell-outs) among the politicians, and also denounced the press because journalists were being bought with botellas (or bribes). He opposed the corruption of the dictatorship's courts. Guess who the U.S. supported? The U.S. supported the dictator, Fulgencia Batista, a man who was legendary for his brutality and his corruption.

Given the legal challenge posed by the young Castro, his election was scuttled by the Batista regime, and Castro learned that there was no 'legal' way to oppose the regime. The U.S. has always preferred its own brutal puppets to democrats, and has done so on every continent in the world. What we also don't hear about, is the actions of the U.S. against Cuba, which can only be called terrorism. Under either "Operation Pluto", "Operation Mongoose", "Operation JM Wave", the U.S. has bombed factories, plotted overthrow, planned and tried to carry out assassinations, worked with organized crime, destroyed crops and other crimes. The famous Church Committee reports unveiled several assassination attempts against Fidel, which were "coordinated with the Mafia dons Meyer Lansky, John Roselli, Sam Giancana, and Santo Trafficante", all of whom owned businesses on the island. Before the Cuban Revolution, the island was called a "Mafia paradise", for the Mafia leaders owned casinos, nightclubs, whorehouses, and also legitimate businesses, like banks, airlines, TV stations, and newspapers. For example, in one 8 month period alone, (in 1961) the CIA committed 5,780 acts of sabotage and terrorism against Cuba, including several attempts to assassinate the Cuban president.

The U.S.-supported repression, brutality and corruption forced Fidel, and millions of other Cubans, to become revolutionaries, instead of democrats. And, once a revolutionary, it forced him to become an internationalist, supporting freedom struggles all around the world.

In late 1975, when armies of the racist regime of South Africa invaded Angola, it was Cuba that sent 18,000 troops to assist the beleaguered African state. By year's end, Cuba's 36,000 soldiers, with their Angolan allies, bested South Africa in the field, forcing them to retreat, for the first time in the history of apartheid. It was, Fidel would later say, an "African Giron", a reference to Cuba's battlefield victory over the U.S. in the Bay of Pigs. (The U.S., of course, supported the South Africans, and several brutal terrorist armies, the FNLA, and UNITA).

While it may be true that Fidel is ailing, it's also true that he, and the Revolution that he helped lead, has been a force for good in the world, on the side of the oppressed, not the oppressors. It has been on the side of freedom, not slavery.

Consider, if you will, how many people, in Vietnam, in Chile, in Argentina, in South Africa, in Iraq, in Palestine, have suffered needlessly, because of the actions, exploitation, support of dictators, secret wars of repression, by US presidents over these last 50 years.

How many assassinations, bombings, stolen elections, proxy wars, etc., etc., have been plotted in the dens of the White House against the peoples of the world?

So we join our Cuban friends in saying: !Viva Fidel! !Viva el Revolucion Cubano! !Venceremos!

[Source: Nieto, Clara. *Masters of War: Latin America and U.S. Aggression* (N.Y.: Seven Stories Press, 2003), pp. 33, 78-9, 217)]

Copyright 2006 Mumia Abu-Jamal

[Mr. Jamal's recent book features a chapter on the
remarkable women who helped build and defend
the Black Panther Party: *WE WANT FREEDOM:
A Life in the Black Panther Party*, from South
End Press (http://www.southendpress.org); Ph.

"When a cause comes along and you know in your bones that it is
just, yet refuse to defend it--at that moment you begin to die.
And I have never seen so many corpses walking around talking about
justice." - Mumia Abu-Jamal


The campaign to kill Mumia is in full swing and we need you to
**please** contact as many publications and information outlets as
you possibly can to run Mumia's commentaries (on-line and
**especially off-line**)!! The only requirements are that you run
them *unedited*, with every word including copyright information
intact, and send a copy of the publication to Mumia and/or ICFFMAJ.

Keep updated by reading ACTION ALERTS!!
at http://www.mumia.org, http://www.onamove.com/ and their links.

To download Mp3's of Mumia's commentaries visit
http://www.prisonradio.org or http://www.fsrn.org

The Power of Truth is Final -- Free Mumia!

International Concerned Family & Friends of MAJ
P.O. Box 19709
Philadelphia, PA 19143
Phone - 215-476-8812/ Fax - 215-476-6180
E-mail - icffmaj@aol.com

Send our brotha some LOVE and LIGHT at:
Mumia Abu-Jamal
AM 8335
175 Progress Drive
Waynesburg, PA 15370


Submitted by: Sis. Marpessa

Subscribe: mumiacolumns-subscribe@topica.com
Read: http://topica.com/lists/mumiacolumns/read
Subscribe ICFFMAJ email updates list by e-mailing

Socialist Worker to split SSP and launch tartan RESPECT?

The Tommy Sheridan affair is splitting the Scottish Socialist Party, which has been the most succesful left party in Britain outside Labour. The SWP are rumoured to be importing RESPECT from south of the border to bring Muslims and socialist together under the leadership of Tommy, perhaps George Galloway (who was a Glasgow MP) and the SWP.

I predict chaos! Search the web, think about it for more than 5 seconds and you will agree. The consensus seems to be that Sheridan has wronged many in his party during the recent high octane court case with the News of the World.

I don't want to be sectarian, I think the SSP has been a good thing and would like to see stronger links with them and the Greens but the Scottish Green Party demands support rather than a tartan RESPECT party.

here is the statement from the SWP

'Socialist Worker Platform statement on Scottish Socialist Party

At a members' meeting held on Sunday in Glasgow, the members of the Socialist Worker Platform of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) unanimously agreed the following motion.

This aggregate of the Socialist Worker Platform recognises with some sadness that the SSP is no longer the broad and open mass party of the left we committed ourselves to building when we joined it some five years ago. While the imperialist war intensifies and spreads into Lebanon, and the level of public anger and opposition grows, the SSP has proved unable to respond to that anger or provide any direction for it.

The potential for building a broad and inclusive organisation of the Scottish left is as great as ever. It is the duty of socialists to respond to and build on that potential. We welcome the initiative of calling an open public meeting of the Scottish left on 3 September in Glasgow and will actively work to build it, in the belief that it could represent the first stage in building new political formation that can answer the needs of the many socialists and activists in Scotland, embracing all strands of the movement including Muslim organisations taking a leading role in the anti-war movement and all those involved in the resistance to G8.

The SW Platform believes that the 'Time to Go' demonstration at the Labour Party conference in Manchester on 23 September can provide a common focus for every section of the movement and a launching point for a new Scottish left that will be open, democratic, internationalist and committed to the building of a new and better world.'

19 Aug 2006

My friend Walt died from climate change


Walt died on august 20th, 2004....I miss him...here is some Walt stuff, a big unedited lovely heap of booklists, obits, memorial statments, he was the brighest star in the ecosocialist sky. And he practiced zen.

Don't let him die in vain, join the Green Party, educate yourself about ecosocialism and work for liberation.

Derek: I am very sad to have to send this. It will appear in the December CNS


In Memorium

Walt Contreras Sheasby

With the passing on August 20, 2004, of Walt Sheasby, Capitalism Nature Socialism lost a stalwart editor and brilliant contributor, I lost a dear and loyal friend, and the world lost a visionary fighter for ecological socialism. There was a bitter irony to Walt’s death, as he succumbed at age 62 to complications of West Nile Virus, one of the rogue pathogens kicked into orbit by the destabilizations of the ecological crisis against which he focussed his formidable talent in the later years of his life. Sheasby had a monk-like dedication to radical inquiry and politics, indeed, he once described himself to me in such terms. Scornful of ordinary success and worldly comfort, he lived for the cause, dividing his efforts between ceaseless activism and organization, on the one hand, and the scholarship he loved above all, on the other. He had an immense library, which included a well-thumbed set of the MEGA, Marx and Engels’ complete works. His work on Marx for this journal was of major importance, beginning with his essay on “The Inverted World,” and continuing through his recent series on Marx and the Victorians, the third installment of which was to have appeared in this issue, with its further revelations on the theme that Marx was much more deeply conversant with biological thought and much more appreciative of nature than had been previously acknowledged.

These and other contributions—and there were more, many more, on numerous aspects of radical politics—are the chief ways the world will know of Walt and miss him. What I will miss in addition, will be the wry humor, the selflessness admixed with unquenchable optimism, a certain Romanticism, and a deep fidelity and integrity that will long survive the occasional differences we experienced. Walt guided me through my own quixotic exploration into Green presidential politics in 2000, and the memory of his companionship will be with me forever.

Look homeward angel now, and melt with ruth.
And, O ye dolphins, waft the hapless youth.
Weep no more, woeful shepherds weep no more,
For Lycidas your sorrow is not dead,
Sunk though he be beneath the watery floor,
So sinks the day-star in the ocean bed, . . .
[John Milton]

Walt Sheasby

Green Party mourns loss of progressive activist and scholar

Los Angeles-The Green Party of Los Angeles County (GPLAC) lost an ardent advocate, organizer and social engineer last Friday. Claremont resident Walter Sheasby, who ran four times for public office and served as editor for "Capitalism Nature Socialism," died of West Nile Virus infection after being hospitalized since August 10.

"There was a bitter irony to Walt's death," wrote colleague Joel Kovel in a memorial statement, "as he succumbed at age 62 to complications of West Nile Virus, one of the rogue pathogens kicked into orbit by the destabilizations of the ecological crisis against which he focused his formidable talent in the later years of his life."

"I remember Walt from the early days," said Green Party of California Secretary of State liaison Jim Stauffer. "We were trying to get it together as an organization, and he was already an accomplished political organizer with many contacts in the progressive community around LA."

Sheasby previously served as a GPLAC council member and most recently as a California state delegate to the national convention in Milwaukee in June.


By John Johnson

I've known Walt, well, since the late Eighties. But we had a common history from the Sixties. Walt was a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement and various anti-war movements since that time.

Walt and I were part of a group in Pasadena known as Socially Responsible Singles. We spent a lot of time together organizing the group's political forums and presentations.

Walt, a long time member of Solidarity, had many articles published in political journals. At one time he would have been considered a neo-Trotskyite.

When I started Change Links, Walt was an early supporter and when we started taking ads, Walt would advertise regularly for his talks and other political gatherings. He had a nice series of talks at the Border Bookstore in Pasadena.

In recent years I only ran into him once in a while but our friendship remained.

Walt was married with a daughter. Separated by the time I knew him, he had a girlfriend for some time and took take of his mother in Sierra Madre, until she died last year.

Mark Andrews tells me he helped Walt move into his Claremont house a month ago and noticed that Walt was not in good health at that time. A month later when his roommate found him and while Walt was hospitalized he was unconscious until he passed away, August 19.

And I will make another plug for progressives do not only look after each other but look after themselves. I'm wearing long sleeves now.

And folks try and treat each other well while you still have the chance and try and make life a bit more enjoyable for others and yourself for the short time we sometimes have. Won't hurt ya.

As with many of us the last I heard from Walt were his articles about the Peace and Freedom Party convention where he tried to nominate Nader for their Presidential ballot position. They choose Leonard Peltier and he lost that battle, boy was he pissed. And a week later he lost his last battle to that proverbial gnat..

Presente! Walt

"In the Spirit of Walt Contreras Sheasby" (a bibliography of recent works by Walt Contreras Sheasby, an outstanding Red/Green activist and theorist, whose life was tragically cut short by the West Nile virus): .

We, the Los Angeles Branch of Solidarity, will be hosting Walt Sheasby's
political memorial.
Here are the details:

In memory
Walt Sheasby

* Ecosocialist
* Green Party activist
* Community college academic
* Recent victim of West Nile virus

A Political Memorial

Sunday, October 10, 2004, 2 p.m. - 4 p.m.
The First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles, Channing Hall, 2936 W. 8th
St., Los Angeles

Sponsored by the Los Angeles Branch of:
Solidarity: for socialists who are activists and activists who are socialists.
For info call Scott at (562) 692-2621

We put a 3 inch by 6 inch advertisement in Los Angeles's monthly
progressive newspaper, Change-Links. It looks pretty good. I'll put
the notice on KPFK's community calendar. Hopefully they will read it
over the air.

In addition, we are pleased that prominent ecosocialists Joel Kovel
and Barbara Laurence will be on hand to make their remarks. Joel
Kovel is a well-known author and Barbara Laurence is the managing
editor of the journal Capitalism, Nature, and Socialism.

We will be holding our regular branch meeting after the memorial at
Rebecca's house. On the agenda is a discussion of ecosocialism with
Joel Kovel.

* From: Louis Proyect
* Date: Fri, 20 Aug 2004 20:59:55 -0400

>We've just learned that Walt Sheasby, a Southern California Green active
>since 1992, has passed away from West Nile disease.

This is very sad news. Walt was a Marxmail subscriber and an important
contributor, if on an infrequent basis. He wrote intelligently about Green
Party politics, JR Tolkien and a range of other questions. He will be
sorely missed.

Go to http://archives.econ.utah.edu/archives/marxism/index.htm and enter
"Sheasby" for a sampling of his substantive contributions to the cause of
In the Spirit of Walt Contreras Sheasby
Walt Contreras Sheasby, an outstanding Red/Green activist and theorist, died. His life was tragically cut short by the West Nile virus, the rise of which has been associated with climate change exacerbated by capitalism.

Here is a bibliography of recent works (both theoretical inquiries and occasional polemics) by Walt. My fellow activists -- read them and learn from him, so we can carry on the unfinished work of bringing about a new world free from brutal exploitation, dehumanizing oppression, and uncontrollable destruction of nature that he left us:

* "Third Parties '96: Birds of a Feather..." (Synthesis/Regeneration 10, Spring 1996)

* "Inverted World: Karl Marx on Estrangement of Nature and Society" (Capitalism Nature Socialism 32.8-4, December 1997)

* "Handy Hints for Building Your Own Ralph Nader Campaign" (Synthesis/Regeneration 11, Fall 1996)

* "Refor'Madness" (Progressive Populist, September 1996)

* "Anti-Prometheus, Post-Marx: The Real and the Myth in Green Theory" (Organization & Environment: International Journal for Ecosocial Research 12.1, March 1999 )

* "Growing the Red/Green Paradigm: Ecological Socialism in Root and Branch" (Synthesis/Regeneration 22, Spring 2000)

* "Ralph Nader and the Legacy of Revolt" (Against the Current 15.4 [88], September/October 2000; 15.5 [89], November/December 2000; 15.6 [90], January/February 2001)

* "Marx at Karlsbad" (Capitalism Nature Socialism 12.3, September 2001, pp. 91-97)

* "The Enemy of Nature and the Nature of the Enemy" (Capitalism Nature Socialism 13.4, December 2002, available at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ecosocialism/message/1253 and http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ecosocialism/message/1254)

* "The Enemy of Nature: The End of Capitalism or the End of the World" (Organization & Environment: International Journal for Ecosocial Research 15.4, December 2002)

* "George Soros and the Rise of the Neo-centrics" (Citizine, December 2003)

* "Fascism and the American Polity" (Dissident Voice, January 13, 2004)

* "J. R. R. Tolkien: Saving the Ecosystems of Middle Earth" (Marxism, March 29, 2004)

* "Tolkien and Radical Ecology in the Sixties" (Marxism, April 21, 2004)

* "Democrats Launch Anti-Nader Campaign" (Citizine, May 28, 2004)

* "Karl Marx and the Victorians' Nature: the Evolution of a Deeper View: Part One: Oceanus" (Capitalism Nature Socialism 15.2, June 2004, pp. 47-64)

* "Objections to Nader" (The UnRepentantNaderVoter, June 22, 2004)

* "The Green Divide: Conflict, and No Consensus" (Greens for Nader, July 4, 2004)

* "How the Greens Chose Kerry over Nader" (The UnRepentantNaderVoter, July 19, 2004)

* "Karl Marx and the Victorians' Nature: the Evolution of a Deeper View: Part Two: the Age of Aquaria" (Capitalism Nature Socialism 15.3, September 2004, pp. 59-78)

Article Published: Friday, August 20, 2004 - 9:36:40 PM PST

Virus claims seventh victim

Activist for Green Party succumbs to West Nile

Staff Writer

A Green Party activist and Claremont resident apparently is the seventh
Californian to die from the mosquito-borne West Nile virus.

Walter Sheasby, 62, died late Thursday at Kaiser Permanente Hospital
in Fontana after being hospitalized for 10 days with symptoms of West
Nile, according to a San Bernardino County Coroner's report Friday. Test
results at the hospital confirmed he had the virus.

State health officials reported 249 confirmed West Nile infections
statewide Friday, up from Tuesday's count of 193. San Bernardino County,
the epicenter of the epidemic, recorded 96 cases, followed by Los
Angeles County with 81 and Riverside County with 51.

Sheasby ran for political office as a Green Party candidate four times
during the 1990s, twice against 28th District GOP Congressman David Dreier.

Sheasby first ran for office in 1992, when the fledgling party first
qualified for the state ballot.

"He had the guts to run in an area that was not the most
Green-friendly in the state," said Santa Monica City Councilman and
Green Party member Michael Feinstein.

Sheasby was a prolific writer, excellent organizer and a driving force
in local party affairs, said longtime political colleague Doug Doepke.

"It's a real loss to all of us in the progressive movement," he said.

Of the 234 confirmed West Nile cases in which people showed symptoms,
97 were listed as West Nile fever and 93 were the more serious
encephalitis or meningitis. Another 44 cases were recorded with unknown

The median age for those diagnosed with West Nile fever is 46. It is
59 for those with neuroinvasive diseases like encephalitis or
meningitis, where the brain or membrane surrounding it becomes inflamed.

About 80 percent of those infected with the virus exhibit no symptoms.
In one out of five cases, infected persons suffer from West Nile fever
with flu-like symptoms including a fever, headache and rash.

The disease will progress to the more serious encephalitis or
meningitis in less than one percent of the cases.

An Upland man who was near death a week ago with both encephalitis and
meningitis has made a dramatic improvement.

Jack Raney, 45, under treatment at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical
Center, was off the respirator, out of intensive care, and mentally
alert Friday.

Raney might be moved to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center over the
weekend to participate in drug trials there, his wife Cheri Raney said.

Imperialism Is the Arsonist: Marxism’s Contribution to Ecological Literatures and Struggles

Derek Wall ’s article entitled  Imperialism Is the Arsonist: Marxism’s Contribution to Ecological Literatures and Struggles , argues that Ma...