Eco-Villages

Global EcoVillage Network

Baltic EcoVillage Network

EcoVillageRoad.eu – an EU-govt-aided initiative

Some manuals written by the Baltic EcoVillagers about their experiences, methods (energy conservation/technology, farming, construction etc.)

About the project

Project “Ecovillages for sustainable rural development”

Idea
Nowadays people start thinking about changing their living habits towards being more socially, economically and ecologically responsible. One of the possible ways to do this is proposed by Ecovillage movement. Ecovillage principles aim to combine social–cultural environment with a low–impact way of living. Choosing to live in the ecovillage is choosing an alternative way to the individualistic, materialistic and consumer-oriented lifestyle.

Aim
Project aims at fostering ecovillages development as more sustainable way of living in rural areas of the Baltic Sea Region

Duration and budget
Project is implemented from 2010 to 2013. It is working under “Baltic Sea Region programme 2007-2013” and has total budget of 1.333.426 EUR, funded by European Union as well as contributed by project partners.

Main outputs
• 3 manuals based on case studies, covering guidelines for:
– Eco-settling practices;
– Environmentally – friendly technologies;
– Community living and social development in ecovillages.
• An ecovillage socio-economic sustainability assessment on-line tool;
• Recommendations for decision makers concerning ecovillages proper development;
• Ecovillage road for the Baltic Sea Region including ecovillages which are ready to introduce tourists into ecovillage life as well as pursue internship programs.

Partnership
5 partners from different Baltic Sea Region countries are implementing the project. Project also has 10 associated partners.

Lead partner
Lithuanian Institute of Agrarian Economics, www.laei.lt

Project partners
MTT Agrifood Research Finland, www.mtt.fi
Latvian State Institute of Agrarian Economics, www.lvaei.lv
The West Pomeranian Business School, www.zpsb.szczecin.pl
Suderbyn cooperative society, www.suderbyn.se

Associated project partners
ZEGG , www.zegg.de
GEN Europe, www.gen-europe.org
GEN Finland, www.rihmasto.fi/skey
Centre for Independent Social Research, www.cisr.u
St.Petersburg Forest Technical Academy, www.ftacademy.ru
Permaculture in Sweden, www.permaculture.se
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, www.slu.se
Ekoboforeningen Njord, www.ekobogotland.se
Ecohome, www.ecohome-ngo.by
Council of the Baltic Sea States, CBSS Baltic 21 Unit, www.cbss.lt

Ash Comments:  I am currently mulling over ideas around the notion of what I am now calling ‘Village Farms.’ There are single-family farms, small scale farms, agribusiness farms. This idea is simple: a working farm or farms around which are developed a residential population, varied in age and livelihood, which both enjoys living in a rural, farm atmosphere and also supports the farm operation by purchasing its produce, helping at harvest times, and some of them have independent secondary production operations (like cheese-making, bakery etc.), whilst many do not do farm-related work at all, rather are doctors, lawyers, consultants, drive to work at nearby town or whatever. There could also be financial anchors such as a retirement home which has both residents on fixed income and also hires staff from the village and elsewhere.

Rather than being organised mainly around a philosophy or political cause (environmentalism, a particular religion etc.) this idea is very simple and secular: it is simply a population clustered around a working farm operation. In this way, it is hoped that more people can make a go of it in rural areas, which is not currently the case due to an almost complete abnegation of rural society by current governments throughout the developed world, who have basically ceded the most important policy decisions (how we live, our economic system etc.) to multinational corporations who in turn have foisted agribusiness on all of us using corporate ‘supermarket’ distribution points (aka ‘Big Box Store model’) which drive out local operations and turn small towns everywhere into dying wastelands which young people can’t wait to leave, meaning there is no generational continuity and therefore really only 3 classes: the chronically poor and usually unemployed; the employed but really just working to afford a basic lifestyle and with no generational continuityin terms of place or family fortune; the rich, many of whom also have no continuity, but some of whom – the super-rich – do. It’s not a very advanced system, unless if you count the raw numbers involved which indeed are greater than at any time in known history.

I am thinking of trying to mount a web-based drive to raise money to make in-depth studies of the bad effects of the Big Box model, but more importantly to analyse various hierarchical/organisational models for such a village, finding success and failure examples in places like the EcoVillage initiative highlighted above. Also maybe raise funds via IndieGogo or other methods to pay for studies from cyber-bases analysis services to project ideal population numbers in various climate zones (how many villagers per X-sized farm), also research the legal and funding issues, and also maybe come up with a plan to start 5 model Village Farms in Cape Breton, which plan including

a) how to fund them

b) how to organise them both in terms of project development and subsequent actual ongoing living management

c) how to actualize them

d) how to maintain ongoing interest and networks so that lessons are learned and more such Village Farms can be facilitated – if they prove worthy – in a wide range of terrain and jurisdictions throughout the world.

Ambitious? Yes, I guess. But really this is a one-step-first approach which mainly involves chewing over this idea and seeing if there is an affordable way to come up with a plan for how to go forward with 1-5 Village Farms on Cape Breton Island. That hardly qualifies as hugely ambitious.

A correlated idea is to launch a global ‘Think Tank for the 99%’, i.e. a cyber-funded Think Tank that tackles issues like this Village Farm example, both in terms of funding but also in terms of participation, in that they vote with their dollars as to what to study next. There could be many other topics (Common Law, organic farming methods in colder climates, various small business model templates to help people with start-ups, a research operation that takes peoples business ideas and spits out a comprehensive business plan for them (often the main stumbling block for startups) along with a funding initiative from within the 99% Think Tank community). Now this is ambitous and probably too hard to put into practice, but with all the automation possible nowadays, who knows. If I have time and ongoing interest, would like to look into this sort of thing further if for no other reason than the market numbers have been falling of late in Sydney (both during but also before the bad weather) and it is getting harder and harder to survive here in this situation with deteriorating economy and declining population. A recent Commission reported that this sort of thing is probably going to happen throughout Nova Scotia (not just the rural areas as has been the case for decades, and with urban Sydney the past 20 years), in which case things are going to get tough. And since the Commission did not look favourably on small business inititiatives (if I understood the 120 page report recommendations correctly), rather big business solutions (chiding us for not being Big Business friendly), and since big business has no real reason for being here really, I am not holding my breath that they will do anything substantive.

There is a chance they will allow the Ports Sydney PanamaxPlus container initiative to go forward, but with Chinese shipments down steeply this year, it could be one of those things that gets put on hold for 5-10 years – a very short time globally, but a long time for a local region in systemic crisis.

Meanwhile, although I have no doubt that it will never happen, also I have no doubt that if it did many of the world’s problems today would be solved by: simply banning agribusiness operations and making all farms authentically organic. This would bring rural to urban population ratios back into line (with more people living on or near farms than in cities), end chronic unemployment (and bad minimum wage for corporations employment) and generally promote a saner, healthier society and culture, which in turn would naturally revive a people and economy less beholden to corporate banking and other related cartels (energy, medicine, science, education etc.). It could work, although realistically speaking as we all know, it is highly unlikely.

Still, it says something about the current state of our societies in the developed and developing world that a high probability of success initiative seems so hopelessly out of the question. Indian farmers have been fighting back. And winning yield-per-acre prizes across the board using small-scale, non-agribusiness-input methods. Hopefully more people around the world, like the ecovillagers at top of this page, will make further progress.

 

Let us hope and pray they, and we, can do so.

 

 

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Global Risk Assessment of GMO’s – paper

http://www.naturalnews.com/044409_GMOs_global_ecocide_precautionary_principle.html#

The paper: http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/pp2.pdf

Excerpt: “In a new study, which is still in draft form, this professor of risk engineering from New York University uses statistical analysis to make the case that GMOs, by their very nature, will disrupt the ecosystems of this planet in ways that mankind is only just beginning to comprehend. Because they represent a systemic risk rather than a localized one — GM traits are known to spread unconstrained throughout the environment — GMOs will eventually breach the so-called “ecocide barrier,” leading to catastrophic ecosystem failure.

“There are mathematical limitations to predictability in a complex system, ‘in the wild,’ which is why focusing on the difference between local (or isolated) and systemic threats is a central aspect of our warnings,” Taleb is quoted as saying by Fool.com, noting that it’s essentially impossible to contain the inevitable spread of GMO traits far and wide.

“The [precautionary principle] is not there to make life comfortable, rather to avoid a certain class of what is called in probability and insurance ‘ruin’ problems,” write Taleb and his colleagues in their paper. “For nature, the ‘ruin’ is ecocide: an irreversible termination of life at some scale, which could be the planet.”

GMOs are not ‘scientific,’ and nearly every argument used in their defense is flawed

Besides using math and risk-based analysis to show that GMOs simply cannot coexist with nature as is commonly claimed — GMOs will eventually contaminate the natural world around them — Taleb also deconstructs many of the “arguments” used by GMO advocates to defend the commercial use of untested transgenic materials, including the oft-repeated lie that GMOs are no different than natural organisms.

“Genetically Modified Organisms, GMOs fall squarely under [the precautionary principle]… because of their systemic risk on the system,” explains Taleb. “Top-down modifications to the system (through GMOs) are categorically and statistically different from bottom up ones (regular farming, progressive tinkering with crops, etc.).”

“There is no comparison between the tinkering of selective breeding and the top-down engineering of taking a gene from an organism and putting it into another. Saying that such a product is natural misses the statistical process by which things become ‘natural.'”

Taleb also draws attention to the deceitful strategies of biotechnology companies in trying to legitimize the continued use of GMOs through fear. Claiming that famine, starvation and widespread crop failures will occur if we all fail to adopt GMOs is no different than playing Russian roulette in order to get out of poverty, claims Taleb — such an approach is hardly scientific or logically sound, and yet these and other tactics are the basis of the pro-GMO agenda.”

Ash Comment: it continues to amaze me how arrogant all these large businesses are, and also how little they seem to care for the lovely world we all live in. They are what are called ‘asuras’ in the buddhist six realm cosmology, people aspiring to be gods living a life of perfect ease, delight, unbroken happiness, stress free etc. but not being so, hence they are involved in perpetual achievement struggles, either clambering over those below in order to get to the top, or pulling down those they see as higher up, they are continuously and forever paranoid, greedy, selfish and essentially humourless – unless laughing at another’s misfortune or lack of asura skills. So although their goal is peace and stillness, their means to achieving that goal perpetually engenders the opposite – strife and stress.

GMO’s, quite simply, should be banned. Monoculture and agribusiness farming should be banned. As organised societies with governments for which ultimately we are responsible – not matter the system – we should do better at preventing this asura mentalility from dominating our cultures and ruining our beautiful world. They are heartless and do not deserve the degree of influence and control our complacent naivity has been affording them this past century or so.

Will it ever end? I keep hoping that young people all over the world will rise up and overthrow the old order we have given them. Peacefully if possible, of course, but thoroughly and without compromise. Maybe if more of us prayed for that every day, it was magically unfold.

Well, I for one will start praying every day, and maybe soon will offer such a prayer here on the blog….

After GMO: Synthetic Biology – a ‘new industrial revolution’ on the way

http://www.oldthinkernews.com/2014/03/new-form-of-gmo-sneaking-into-food-supply-this-year/

All DNA is made of the same four chemicals in no end of different combinations and series: Synthetic Biology 1Then you make synthetic, Man-Made DNA based on that coded design:

synthetic man-made DNAfrom the article:

“New Form of GMO Sneaking Into Food Supply This Year

Old-Thinker News | March 17, 2014

By Daniel Taylor

Within 50 years we could have more life forms invented in a lab than we have ever identified in nature.” – Fidelity Investments

This year [Evolva] will release a product that has been created by genetically modified yeast that converts sugars to vanillin. It will be the first major synthetic-biology food additive to hit supermarkets.” – Nature.com

A Switzerland based company called Evolva has developed a synthetic vanilla that is set to be released in 2014. The vanilla is created using a process of genetic engineering called synthetic biology.

Synthetic biology, according to a 2005 European Commission paper is “…the engineering of biology… the synthesis of complex, biologically based (or inspired) systems which display functions that do not exist in nature.” Unlike the older science of splicing genes from different species together, synthetic biology is seeking to create whole new organisms that do not exist on earth.

Evolva’s synthetic vanilla is created by inserting computer coded DNA into yeast. This new method of genetic engineering is called “natural” by Evolva.

Environmental organizations like Friends of the Earth have recognized the potential danger posed by synthetic biology. In its Synthetic Biology Vanillin fact sheet, FoE points out the distinct lack of oversight regarding the health impact of ingesting these engineered ingredients. The organization has launched a campaign called No Synbio Vanilla to tell ice cream makers Haagen Dazs, Dreyers, Baskin Robbins and others not to use synthetic biology vanilla.

Foods that have been genetically modified in the “traditional” method have been linked to sterility in hamsters. The dramatic rise in food allergies has also been speculated to be linked to GMO foods. What health impacts will emerge after eating foods with synthetic DNA that our environment and our bodies have never before encountered?

The Big Picture

Synthetic biology goes well beyond engineering our food. Geneticist Craig Venter is a pioneer in the field of synthetic biology. In 2010 the media hailed his team’s success in creating “the first self-replicating species we’ve had on the planet whose parent is a computer.”

Currently, companies cannot patent naturally occuring DNA. Synthetic biology will allow syn-bio companies a loophole through patent laws. “One could theoretically upload a DNA sequence onto a computer, “print out” an exact copy of that DNA sequence, and patent the synthetic DNA sequence as an invention,” Gene Watch reports.

Google founder Larry Page met with Craig Venter in California at the Edge billionaires meeting in 2010. Also present were representatives from the State department, Bill Gates, Anne Wojcicki, Bill Joy and dozens of other tech company CEO’s and scientists.

The Edge Billionaire meetings have discussed the future of genetic engineering, biocomputation and re-designing humanity in a transhumanist era. Physicist Freeman Dyson described the individuals leading this group as having god-like power to create entirely new species on earth in a “New Age of Wonder”. He describes them as:

“…a new generation of artists, writing genomes as fluently as Blake and Byron wrote verses, might create an abundance of new flowers and fruit and trees and birds to enrich the ecology of our planet.”

In the societal divide that will inevitably ensue over the development of these technologies, Fred Charles Ikle, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy under President Reagan, sees a possibility of “Annihilation from Within.” “The prospect is that in the decades ahead, biotechnology – together with other sciences – may fundamentally change the human species and thus pose an elemental threat to democracy, the world order, and indeed to all civilizations,” writes Ikle.

The technological elite are engaged in a mission to attain full spectrum dominance over life and its complex processes, and in the process re-write the genetic code of the planet.”

From a conference in the video clip:

“We are here to announce the first synthetic cell.”

[Comments:]   If they could first fix the damage done to the soil, plant, insect, fungal and animal species wreaked by modern industry including the overly-simplistic and short-sighted agro-business (aka ‘maximise yield, deplete the nutrients, kill the soil’) model, then maybe they could approach technology like this rather than just ploughing ahead with the next damaging thing just because it is new, it is fancy and it can make a large corporation and their owners (the same cartels which own most of the world’s major businesses and governments) richer.

When is this all going to stop?

When enough of us choose to live differently. Easier said than done, but more of us need to try before it is too late. I hope young people growing up today wake up and have the courage to do something about all this because otherwise the world their children and grandchildren live in will be almost devoid of access to any true nature, and therefore true beauty, true sanity, true simplicity.

Study: Roundup (glyphosate) may cause Gluten Intolerance

http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/gluten-intolerance-from-roundup-herbicide-zw0z1402zkin.aspx

http://www.motherearthnews.com/~/media/Images/MEN/Editorial/Articles/Online%20Articles/2014/02-01/Is%20Roundup%20the%20Cause%20of%20Gluten%20Intolerance/Incidencethousands%20jpg.jpg

Increased use of Monsanto’s glyphosate herbicide (trade name Roundup) could be the cause of the epidemic of  “gluten intolerance”, according to a compelling new peer-reviewed report from two U.S. scientists. Farmers are now using glyphosate not only to control weeds but also to dry down wheat, rice, sugarcane and other crops just before harvest, resulting in higher residues in the foods we eat. The abstract from the paper “Glyphosate, Pathways to Modern Diseases II: Celiac Sprue and Gluten Intolerance” is below.  You can read the full report here and view graphs in the Slideshow connecting increased use of glyphosate with growing rates of celiac incidence, deaths from intestinal infections, acute kidney disease and deaths due to Parkinson’s.

Abstract:
Celiac disease, and more generally, gluten intolerance, is a growing problem worldwide, but especially in North America and Europe, where an estimated 5 percent of the population now suffers from it. Symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, skin rashes, macrocytic anemia and depression. It is a multifactorial disease associated with numerous nutritional deficiencies as well as reproductive issues and increased risk to thyroid disease, kidney failure and cancer. Here, we propose that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide, Roundup, is the most important causal factor of this epidemic. Fish exposed to glyphosate develop digestive problems that are reminiscent of celiac disease. Celiac disease is associated with imbalances of gut bacteria that can be fully explained by the known effects of glyphosate on gut bacteria. Characteristics of celiac disease point to impairment in many cytochrome P450 enzymes, which are involved with detoxifying environmental toxins, activating vitamin D3, catabolizing vitamin A, and maintaining bile acid production and sulfate supplies to the gut. Glyphosate is known to inhibit cytochrome P450 enzymes. Deficiencies in iron, cobalt, molybdenum, copper and other rare metals associated with celiac disease can be attributed to glyphosate’s strong ability to chelate these elements. Deficiencies in tryptophan, tyrosine, methionine, and selenomethionine associated with celiac disease match glyphosate’s known depletion of these amino acids. Celiac disease patients have an increased risk to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which has been implicated in glyphosate exposure. Glyphosate residues in wheat and other crops are likely increasing recently due to the growing practice of crop desiccation just prior to harvest. We argue that the practice of “ripening” sugar cane with glyphosate may explain the recent surge in kidney failure among agricultural workers in Central America. We conclude with a plea to governments to reconsider policies regarding the safety of glyphosate residues in foods. Click here to read the whole article:

http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/~/media/2C6428C5A5254BAFB484C6E43E4ADCF9.ashx

 

Seeds of Revolution

A collection of articles read in the past couple of days, sparked by a kind submission from ‘follower’ Suzanne of the link which has ‘whole wheat doesn’t suck’ in the text (!).

The artisan as scientist: baker Jonathan McDowell in the Bread Lab Photos: Tom Philpott

Seed/Grain Research series:

http://m.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2014/02/toms-kitchen-100-whole-wheat-bread-doesnt-suck-and-pretty-easy

Suzanne’s article about a laboratory in Washington State University researching wheat varieties that make good whole grain breads, which modern wheat varieties, mainly bred to make good white flours, do not.

http://magissues.farmprogress.com/WFS/WS09Sep13/wfs006.pdf

Related article in local publication

http://news.wsu.edu/2013/11/12/bread-lab-helps-artisan-bakers-analyze-perfect-recipes/#.UwSO9hCZd8J

Another related article showing how others are interested and involved, including King Arthur Flour’s Hemmelman, without question one of the most influential bakers in America.

General Comments: I find these articles encouraging in that they make me feel less alone. I run a small operation in Sydney, a town with few people interested in such matters and indeed, the majority of ‘health food types’ here are so into gluten-free approach even though, as these articles show, what I do might be regarded as being on the cutting edge of a recent movement in creating healthy, traditional breads using heritage grains which only a small minority of artisan bakeries offer in Europe and North America. Reading these articles gives me encouragement that perhaps such efforts are not in vain, despite the relative lack of response to date.

Personally, and even thougoh I don’t use them because they cost double my current Milanaise Red Fife white, my favorite flours are the Speerville ‘Whole Whites’ made from either Red Fife or Acadia wheats; these retain most of the germ but have sifted out most of the bran. Yet I suspect that different varieties in the experiments mentioned in these articles might well have less brittle bran structures and so might make better whole grain breads, obviating the need for ‘whitening’ them. The past century, we have been favouring very hard grains not only for white flour production, but also to function optimally in steel-rollers which do not – unlike stone mills – favour soft grains. Moreover the recent hybrids have been bred to grow in dead soils augmented by synthetic nitrogen fertilizers (and a few other) chemical inputs developed by the scientist who gave us mustard gas in WWI and Zyklon B in WW II (!), and therefore are not necessarily the best grains to use for organic farmers.

These articles give hope, because I agree with the premise in some of them that it is time for us to use not only heritage varieties versus post-war hybrids, but also develop new varieties bred to flourish in particular regions and in organically cultivated (aka ‘biotically alive’) soils, and bred to make good whole grain versus white, breads. The way in which local artisans, successful chefs and millers and farmers can come together on this – even if only via an occasional conference – is a new wave in wheat growing and bread baking development, and I hope it succeeds. At the very least, it’s a refreshing example of a time-honoured battle-cry:

IIEGITIMI NON CARBORUNDUM !!

(don’t let the bastards get you down!)

I wish more farmers here in Cape Breton could grow such stuff, but because of the dominance of agribusiness these days, not a single farmer on the island even grows conventional bread grains. I wish the regional Agricultural College and the Department of Agriculture were more involved in this sort of thing, but of course they mainly promote an agri-business approach to farming even if they might say, and sincerely believe, they don’t. What choice do they have? Rural communities and small farm holdings are a thing of the past; rural populations are dying out throughout the developed west with literally hundreds of villages in food-friendly France virtually empty (one occupant surrounded by thirty empty houses is quite common). Presumably, we are all supposed to move into the city and work at call centers shuffling data around. Heavy manufacturing and farm work is done by low-wage coolies in China and, no doubt in a few decades, Africa.

Anyway, these articles give me hope that maybe, just maybe, there will be a place for local and regional artisanal approaches to food and culture and more alternatives to Big Box culture in general.

Related Mother Jones articles series:

http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2013/10/radical-chefs-launch-seed-revolution

Oct 4 2013: “I’m fairly confident when I say that last week at the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture—a sprawling farm/restaurant nestled in a rural corner of Westchester County, New York, on land donated by the Rockefeller family—I witnessed the globe’s first-ever meeting between a roster of renowned chefs and a set of utterly obscure, highly accomplished plant breeders, mostly from US land grant universities.”

Top chefs from around the world meet to consider ways to work on developing more diverse, nutritious and flavourful locally grown plant varieties; new wheats developed to make pleasing whole grain loaves play big role in demonstration.

http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/05/organic-vs-conventional-agriculture-nature

May 2 2012: “Like a good buffet, Nature‘s recent meta-analysis comparing the productivity of industrial and organic agriculture offered something for every taste.

For enthusiasts of large-scale, chemical-intensive agriculture, there was this headline finding: Yields on organic farming—the amount of crop produced per acre—are on average 25 percent lower than those of industrial farming.”

The article then goes on to argue that it ain’t that simple – at all….

http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2011/06/vilsack-usda-big-ag

June 15 2011: the distortions and lies Big-Ag tell themselves and moreover try to force onto the rest of the world.

http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2007/07/organic-farming-can-feed-world

July 11 2007. The effectiveness of well-administered organic farming is old news: “Organic farming can yield up to three times as much food as conventional farming on the same amount of land. A new study from the University of Michigan refutes the long-standing assumption that organic farming methods can’t produce enough food to feed the global population. The researchers found that yields in developed countries were almost equal between organic and conventional farms, while food production in developing countries could double or triple by going organic. The study also found that equal or greater yields could be accomplished using existing quantities of organic fertilizers, and without putting more farmland into production. Ivette Perfecto, of U-M’s School of Natural Resources and Environment, said the idea that people would go hungry if farming went organic is ridiculous. “Corporate interest in agriculture and the way agriculture research has been conducted in land grant institutions, with a lot of influence by the chemical companies and pesticide companies as well as fertilizer companies—all have been playing an important role in convincing the public that you need to have these inputs to produce food,” she said. JULIA WHITTY” {That’s the complete article, btw}

I will try to find links to the new RSI (?) methods in Asia which have been winning yield prizes in rice for several years now and are organic and use only self-made fertilizers, i.e. No need for corporation-supplied ‘inputs’ or subsidies or GM tyranny – the farmer can be master of his fate again.

http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2011/08/green-revolution-cullather

Aug 5 2011: “In 1968, India’s farmers cranked out a record-setting wheat crop at a time when many observers feared the nation would plunge into famine. That triumphant harvest represented the culmination of decades of work by a group of foundation-funded US technocrats. Their effort, which became known as the “green revolution,” still casts an imposing shadow more than four decades later.

Its technological architect, the Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug, was all but beatified upon his death in 2009. In its obituary, Reason Magazine proclaimed him “the man who saved more human lives than anyone else in history,” while The New York Times wrote that he “did more than anyone else in the 20th century to teach the world to feed itself.”

Meanwhile, the powerhouse funding institution most associated with the Green Revolution, the Rockefeller Foundation, has joined forces with today’s richest funder, the Gates Foundation, to recreate Borlaug’s magic in Africa. Their “Alliance for a Green Revolution for Africa” push got a de facto endorsement from President Obama when he tapped Gates’ chief ag-development man, Rajiv Shah, for a top research job at USDA. Today, Shah serves as director of United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Thus the “green revolution” idea still percolates in high-level development policy circles. But if our top foundations and development policymakers are pushing to recreate the green revolution for an entire continent, than it’s worth figuring out precisely what led up to that famous bumper crop nearly half a century ago—and what it means for the future. In his 2010 book The Hungry World, the University of Indiana historian Nick Cullather does just that.”

Sure enough, the real story is quite different. Again and again in so many fields (journalism, medicine, education, politics, food, you name it) there is a revealing pattern of greed and outright deception. It is time we collectively stop buying and eating the BS they keep shovelling down our throats and psyches.

Sailing & Baking

My current fantasy during the slow months during which I lament lack of customer demand, review the annual disaster sometimes called a ‘financial statement’ or, more optimistically, a ‘budget’, and dream of better days is as follows:

During the warm months when such things are possible, I’ll bake double the usual amount (which is pretty much exactly the maximum capacity of my small commercial brick oven and which I expected to be selling every week a couple of years ago but which has never happened due to lack of demand), sell half (or as much as I can!) at my main Sydney Farmers’ Market, and then on Sunday, after a good long sleep Saturday night, will load up the remaining half (more or less) of the Bake onto my new 45′ flat-bottomed gaff-rigged Sharpie yawl which will be anchored (hopefully!) in Gabarus Bay about 12 km from where I live, and then sail down boat and bread to Louisburg Harbour (about 10 nautical miles away or 1-2 hours as the boat sails wind depending) and then sell my bread there on the public wharf.

Oh what fun that will be! Oh, how romantic! (Though the hard-bitten cynical side of me suspects/expects that nobody will be interested and I’ll be lucky to sell 20 loaves! We’ll see. IF the boat makes it up here this spring from Chesapeake Bay 2000 km away (yes, am looking for experienced, cheerful crew!), I’ll be trying it out. I won’t divulge here how much I paid for her, but put it this way: less than one would usually pay for the dinghy that comes with her, and considerably less than the canvas for the mainsail alone. In short, a real bargain (appropriate for a humble brick oven baker on Cape Breton Island), albeit the catch is: she’s all the way over on the Chesapeake!! Still, one of the virtues of a sailboat is: if you sail her (and not motor her), she costs very little per mile, albeit she does need time for her journeys. But then that’s why I like sailing: it makes you take your time so that you can enjoy simply being somewhere in a natural setting. So a journey of 2000 km would mean 2-3 weeks of taking one’s time to journey simply and responsibly, but also beautifully, day by day on the Ocean. My ancestors sailed over from England to Plymouth, Mass in the 1600’s on the Mayflower. I look forward to sailing back over some of the waters they crossed so long ago.

Meanwhile, my old friend Suzanne from Dharma Days era in my previous life as hard-core Buddhist practitioners aeons ago in the Sexy Seventies (!), sent me this link:

http://bk17bakery.com/blog/2013/11/6/vermont-sail-freight-project

Her intention is to encourage my fantasy. I hope those guys succeed, but at least they are going up and down the Hudson (which ends in a rather large city known as NEW YORK CITY, which has, I believe, a slightly larger population than Sydney, let alone Louisburg, so with any luck they will make a go of it.

First a picture of my boat though, albeit without sails up:

1 from sternActually, if I wanted to (which I don’t) I could build a brick oven into this boat, which is more than big enough at 45′ and 11′ 6′ beam, and sail around baking and selling. But I got this one to have a nice place to sleep in the summers instead of my mosquito-infested woodlot environment. Also, I love sailing. A picture of a similarly rigged yawl:

 

A Tale of Two Breads – first draft of work in progress

This is the latest of a series of 1-2 pagers I am putting together as handouts at the Farmers’ Market booth. Previous offerings including a basic Ingredient list and something about commercial yeast vs. organic yeast have been a tad lackluster. This one shows some promise…

A Tale of Two Breads

 

Bread is a tricky subject these days. On the one hand increasing numbers of people have been experiencing not only celiac but also ‘gluten intolerance’, with books like Wheat Belly and Grain Brain making persuasive cases that anything containing gluten is toxic. On the other hand, you have the seeming circumstantial evidence of people having consumed gluten-containing bread for about 5,000 years as a staple part of the diet. Whole books should be written about this, but here we shall look at two core aspects involving first: the quality and type of grains used for the flour, and second: the way these grains are fermented or otherwise processed, for I believe these two aspects go a long way towards explaining why something which used to be so good (‘real bread’) has become so very, very bad (modern imitation bread). I am not saying this is the whole story necessarily, but both are key characters in our ‘Tale of Two Breads’.

 

GRAINS:

 

  • Modern wheat hybrids have been bred to accommodate post-industrial production methods which began with mechanical harvesters in the mid 1800’s shortly followed by steel-rollers at large, industrial mills, followed by mechanical mixers in ever-larger commercial bakeries which all but eliminated small artisan bakeries and communal village bake-oven traditions. (One of the first commercial applications of Watt’s steam engine was for the Albion Mill in 1786.) Desired qualities in modern hybrids include:
    • Softer husks to facilitate mechanical threshing during mechanical harvestng
    • Harder grains (= more protein = more gluten) for the steel-rolling process
    • more elastic, resilient gluten to facilitate intense mechanical mixing
    • dwarf variety plants to prevent drooping of tall stalks from heavy nitrogen inputs needed to facilitate growth in soils deadened by chemical inputs
    • grains which can tolerate heavy pesticide use needed because sick plants raised on dead soils lack normal immune systems which repel pests.
  • Heritage Grains: Heritage grains come from seed stocks prior to post-industrial hybrids, so they: are not dwarf varieties, do not have unnaturally dense gluten, are grown in microbially vibrant organic soils and thus have healthy immune systems and so do not need chemical fertilizers to survive until harvest time.
  • French Road Bakery uses the following grain from certified organic farmers provided by both Speerville NB and Meunerie Milanaise QC (from whom I get steel-rolled Red Fife white flour).
    • Wheat: mid-1800’s Red Fife or 1930’s Acadian ( Maritime variety)
    • Rye – organic, believed not a modern hybrid since no need, grows everywhere
    • Spelt – ancient variety going back to Egyptian times
    • Barley, Buckwheat, Oats* – used in smaller quantities, not sure about varieties
    • Khorasan, a heritage grain from which comes durum used for pasta

 

PROCESS

 

Recently, cutting edge (albeit far too rare) research in Italy and also from the American Gut Project (both on my blog) is indicating that most gluten and related problems are most likely due to modern agricultural and processing methods which increase profits by lowering costs by saving time, extending shelf life and underpricing locals. Machines save time during tilling, planting, watering and growing, weeding, protecting, harvesting, threshing, washing, drying, grinding, mixing, leavening, baking, packaging and shipping – not to mention questionable chemical and other additives used to prolong flour storage and finished bread ‘products’. All of the above have degraded the nutritive content and digestibility of this time-honoured staple. In the 1800’s the average person in England ate a pound a day of slow-leavened bread, a working man often more like 2.5 pounds, with similar amounts in France, Italy, Germany and Eastern Europe including Russia. And this had been the case for centuries. Indeed, the way in which bread has gone from being a healthy staple to a possible killer is testament to the failure of modern, ‘scientific’ methods as practiced by mainly commerical, profit-driven corporations.

 

Along with fresh-grinding whole grains for the dark flour content (which avoids the vitamin degradation which takes place within a few days of grinding) French Road Bakery only uses fresh starter cultures grown from the grains themselves, not the factory-produced freeze-dried single-strain commercial product used by most commercial, home and even ‘artisan’ bakers today.

 

Traditionally, there are two main types of bread: those using specialised beer yeast remainders from nearby breweries (favoured by the English), and those using ‘sourdough’ leavens which are complex starter cultures grown from the flours in the breads. With either method the dough and/or starter cultures are soaked and/or fermented overnight at room temperature or for several days in cooler cellar temperatures, during which time a multitude of marvellous enzymatic, yeasty and bacterial ‘fermentation’ phases unfold, producing layers of esters, acids, vitamins and proteins, some being released from the previously dormant, chemically bound seeds, others from the microbes themselves, the end result being that when baked – the final transformational process which gelatinizes the starch rendering it soft and digestible – the breads rise and aerate into a well-woven textural and aromatically delightful tartan, with crunchy, rich-tasting, anti-bacterial crusts without, and soft, redolent organoleptically delicious crumb within, creating what we, in typical linguistic shorthand call simply: ‘bread’.

 

 

Back to our Story

 

Well, the thing is: such traditional slow-fermented bread really isn’t the same thing as modern bread, both that which is supplied from high-volume machine-led processes in commercial ‘production facilities’, and also that produced by home bakers using commercial single-strain yeast. The same word ‘bread’ is describing two very different things. Significantly, every single anti-bread book or article I have read thus far fails to make any substantive distinction between what can be called ‘real bread’ and modern ‘imitation bread.’

 

How many times do people walk past my booth refusing a sample, telling me they don’t buy ‘bread’ any more, and how many times do I think to myself ‘good for you, that is a wise choice, but I can’t help but wonder: do you know the difference between traditiona Real Bread like mine, and the modern imitation?’ Of course, most of them are not even aware there is such a difference, especially since you can use the same word, ‘bread’ to describe two very different things. (Same goes for properly processed/fermented, vs. improperly/too rapidly processed ‘gluten’.)

 

In sum: instead of ‘bread’ as most people think and speak of it today, French Road Bakery offers traditional ‘Real Bread’, a bedrock staple of a healthy diet in the West for millenia, versus the modern imitation which has been adulterated by mechanical shortcuts and is proving increasingly unhealthy, along with so many other poorly farmed and processed foods distributed via high volume supermarket systems which have undermined locally grown and prepared fresh foods, and in so doing have fostered no end of auto-immune and other systemic health problems along with almost wiping out vibrant rural and small town community culture by eliminating so many sources of local employment. This is a problem endemic throughout the developed world these days, but maybe in Cape Breton, with our deep roots in local community culture, we can show the rest of the world a way forward. Yes:

 

You CAN fight ‘the system’!

Buy a loaf of ‘Real Bread’!

Buy local produce at your Farmers’ Market!

 

Acadia Wheat

This week I used a new strain of wheat, Acadia wheat, which was developed specifically for the Maritime climate in the 1930’s. I am still trying to learn more about it but initial impressions are that it has a lighter, warmer profile than Red Fife, which is darker and more robust. Also it seems to have a more springy, albeit less chewy, gluten structure which promotes a lighter rise. I was surprised by this combination, namely that not only does the dough feel more springy and resilient, but also softer and lighter. I am hopeful this is going to be a keeper. There are scattered reports on the internet that this is better for those with gluten issues, but of course such things are

a) highly subjective and

b) rarely if ever researched thoroughly over time with large numbers of people and

c) very hard to tell in any case unless you happen to get very strong reactions to other wheats (in which case you probably will never bother to try this one!).

For example in the blog entry linked below, they say: “Acadia has proven to be agreeable with some gluten intolerances, which we all know is a growing concern for many.” (I wish such statements about being ‘proven’ were better verified …)

That said, it’s a bit hard to tell (about the Acadia) since last week I (finally!) put together a proofing chamber which maintains a much higher level of humidity than before which, especially with sourdough, promotes a more vigorous rise.

In any case, soon I’ll do a comparison bake with fresh-ground Red Fife versus Acadia loaves in otherwise identical conditions.

Meanwhile, this blog entry from a Maritime farmer who, working with Speerville, is growing this fine variety of wheat.

http://barnyardorganics.blogspot.ca/2013/10/inspectors-acadia-babies-oh-my.html

Their blog is delightfully called “For the Love of the Soil”. If gas weren’t so expensive these days, I would love to go down and visit…

Fresh-ground Acadia wheat flour, rising…..

Global Citizens Report against Big Ag, Big Pharma and Governments

Introduction:

http://farmwars.info/?p=12217

(many sites have commented on the report, in pdf format, below, so if you search for the title, you might find many other sites, albeit FarmWars is a leader at covering this sort of issue.)

The Report:

http://farmwars.info/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/A-Global-Citizens-Report-against-Big-Ag-Big-Pharma-and-Governments.pdf

Ok: Dr. Michael Milburn, friend and local acupuncturist, traditional chinese-style herbalist, qi gong teacher and healthy diet teacher, sent me the following report, which is a 30-page pdf containing zillions of links to other related reports, some of which I shall copy and paste below, but all of which you will find yourself if you can read through the entire thing which I recommend. It is much longer and denser than the typical 1-4 page internet or magazine article we are nowadays used to reading, but, given the subject matter, no more than a series of well-written notes highlighting various aspects each of which deserve book-length treatment, albeit all of which are well summarized in the title which is again:

Global Citizens against Big Ag, Big Pharma and Governments.

Actually, there isn’t all that much about Global Citizens doing X or Y simply because most of us are too stunned (and indifferent) to do much. Well, that’s a bit harsh: most of us lack the means to organise into bodies that can do slow, expensive, consistent work in laboratories, Courts and via lobbyists and political parties. Large corporations can sustain multi-year mutl-faceted, multi-million dollar campaigns, whereas most ordinary citizens cannot. It’s as simple as that and indeed one of the main functions of political systems (democracy, royalty, communism etc.) is to deal with the inevitability in human affairs of what can loosely be called ‘harmful centralisation’, in other words when too much organised power is concentrated in the hands of too few. It’s as simple as that.

Most of us have forgotten that the original role of the Monarch was to protect the wellbeing of the general citizenry (aka ‘subjects’) from overly ruthless feudal lords who in most societies had life-and-death power over their inferiors. Only the Monarch had life-and-death power over them. Of course the system didn’t always work as intended – like all systems – but we tend to forget that at root, the purpose of that system was to correct against excess of power by the elites in charge, which in those days were ‘nobles’ or ‘aristocrats’ or ‘feudal lords’. This was also the root concern of so-called ‘republics’ (like the US) or ‘democratic nations’ and so forth, the theory being that if the people elect the leaders every few years, corrupt leadership couldn’t possibly develop.

Today, elite power is concentrated in the hands of agencies which increasingly are divided into increasingly few, and in any case often interwovenly owned, keiretsu, or corporate networks, whose clout allows them, increasingly, to infiltrated and more or less control national government policies, which is why in more mature democracies, like the United States, it is increasingly difficult to perceive – on a policy vs. rhetoric level – the slightest difference between, for example, the previous Bush and subsequent Obama administration. The rhetoric might change, especially during campaign season, but the trajectory of national policy, be it military, social, medical and above all financial, does not. Each successive administration appoints people either from prior administrations and/or from leaders in the same industries (such as Big Ag, Big Pharma, Big Weapons, Big Finance – who are the Biggest of the Big since their few top firms outright own about 30-40% of all the other ones as proven by a well-known Swiss study a few years back). The officials’ job is to ‘oversee’ those same industries in the interests of the people (the role of government after all), but in fact for the benefit of those Corporate ‘Special Interests.’

Well, that’s a mouthful for a tiny, little baker on his tiny little blog. But this is an example of how everything is interconnected. It always has been and always will be and on every level, be it spiritual, psychological, conceptual, physical, chemical, phenomenological, ontological, microscopic, para-galactic etc. aka ‘the holographic universe.’

This is why the so-called ‘organic food movement’ – which doesn’t exist in any monolithic organised fashion of course – is important, because who we are both as individuals and as societies, or ‘communities’ as we like to call them in Cape Breton and Nova Scotia, is defined by what we do, and say, and feel, and think, which of course includes what we eat, including where it comes from, and how it is grown, treated, processed.

The lead point in pages 1-2 of the article linked above goes into how new processing methods which involve intense dessication (drying out) of cereal grains in the field prior to harvest use glyphosates, which enter the food chain and also damage microbial populations in soil. So these glyphosates are found especially in non-organic breads, cereals and of course also beer and whiskies.

This introductory section also goes into how both this sort of thing and introducing GM by companies such as Monsanto and Syngenta are being boosted by political leaders who often come from or are paid by those Corporate Special Interests.

To give you an idea of the style of this report, which alternates summarizing sections with links to further information, here is the Page 3 part concerning mainly Glyphosate alone, which is just one of many such issues broadly covered…. I can’t paste it in because of formatting problems….

Page 3 Fight for Life reportHopefully you can click on that to read, but if not just go to page 3 of the ‘Fight for Life’ report linked at the top. Actually, at top of page 4 they have a link to a YouTube video mentioned in the text about the dangers of GM foods:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_AHLDXF5aw&feature=player_embedded  This video is about how chemicals mess us up, basically, and how chemical toxicity undermines gut microbe integrity which in turn messes up the brain and many other systems, including liver enzyme function and much much more, involving autism, parkinsons, cholesterol cancer, chronic fatigue and so on.

I purchased and read Geoffrey Smith’s Seeds of Destruction a decade or so ago – about the dangers of GM foods – and highly recommend it. Although it’s fair to say that one cannot really determine if eating GM soy is bad for us in small quantities, it is quite clear that there is a pattern of bad science, deception, collusion between governments and Special Interests, and severe diseases in laboratory animals fed GM-based food regularly over time. At the very least there should be a moratorium on the methods and products until far more testing is done. Any fair-minded person reading this book – which is 80% comprised of extracts of a multitude of scientific reports – many of them previously unpublished – conducted by both Industry and govt-sponsored scientists, none of which are editorialized by the author, so you can read these reports and come to your own conclusions, an unusually fair and open way of presenting material. Indeed, I don’t remember ever seeing an argument, even a so-called ‘scientific’ argument, presented in such a thorough, open, objective fashion.

Well, the rest of the report you can read yourselves. The reason I am posting it is because this is also a first for me in that it links hard-core scientific papers dealing with Big Ag, shows the ties between Big Ag and Big Pharma (i.e. Sygenta) not only promote cancer-causing agents in agriculture, but then also own companies providing therapies (rarely cures) for cancer. A classic racket! It’s like the New Jersey mafia who used to have most of the heavy-duty transportation trucking contracts – which break up the roads – and then also the road-repair contracts, so the worse they made the roads and tore them up with their trucking fleets, the more money they made fixing the roads! And then further the corrupt ties between Big Companies and Government.

Indeed, some of the report even goes into the ‘conspiracy theory’ realm in the sense that corruption is so rampant that systemic collapse is almost inevitable, but not only that, it is even assumed, if not desired, that a certain amount of ‘depopulation’ is being planned for deliberately; how war in Syria was planned for two years before the Arab spring; how vaccines for viruses are largely fraudulent.

I cannot speak to the veracity of such viewpoints, but have always promoted organic and local foods – since the early 1970’s when I dropped out of college to go live on a spiritual commune in Munroe NY – mainly because it seems to me that this is a simple, direct intersection of politics, spirituality, economics, culture and so forth. Put another way: if we all ate organic, our entire culture would shift in so many ways – mainly because of resultant shifts in local community employment patterns, featuring people actually working together to make things together, wherein far more people would be making and doing things for local/regional clientele vs. simply selling stuff made in China or grown in Chile/California – that most of the large Corporate Interests and stupid things they make – including rotten films and television shows and controlled media etc. etc. etc. – would simply go away because people simply wouldn’t be buying into all that rubbish in the first place. On a more simple and immediate level, even though we might not be able to organise ourselves well in comparison with large Special Interests and Governments (which increasingly are the same thing), we can have considerable effect by the choices we make every day. And rather than just sheepishly going along with everything presented in Big Box Stores (whose presence is known to undermine small town / local community economies and yet who continually receive tax breaks to come in and drive away most small local businesses and replace them with minimum wage, low-skill jobs, little better than life prison sentences!), including what is offered in Supermarkets, we can choose to do things differently. As much as possible buy from Farmers’ Markets or local suppliers of any goods and services, including local shoe repair, sawmills, local service providers – construction, road repair, energy and other consultants etc. – and so on.

LINKS

These are the links I opened up – a very small selection – going through the article:

http://www.groundwork.org.za/Press%20Releases/Monsanto%20Publication%20-%20EN%20Final%20Version.pdf

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/pesticide-residue-found-on-nearly-half-of-organic-produce-1.2487712

http://www.criticalcollective.org/wp-content/uploads/GMO-emperor.pdf

http://www.seattleorganicrestaurants.com/vegan-whole-food/political-corruption-Monsanto.php

http://farmwars.info/?p=12140  (about corporate espionage)

http://www.naturalnews.com/041963_vaccines_cancer_viruses_Dr_Maurice_Hilleman.html#

(Merck vaccine developer admits vaccines routinely contain hidden cancer viruses from diseased monkeys, and how they introduced AIDS to the US from such vaccine operations)

http://braindrain.dk/ (chemical brain drain)

http://www.rcog.org.uk/womens-health/clinical-guidance/chemical-exposures-during-pregnancy-scientific-impact-paper-37

http://www.mpwhi.com/fda_says_so_what.htm (depopulation agenda)

http://www.collective-evolution.com/2013/04/24/is-there-a-global-depopulation-agenda-being-played-out/

(Note: I have not studied the depopulation agenda story. I am trying to avoid most of these things because am more interested in what can be done positively rather than dwelling on all the corruption. I am now satisfied that most of the elites and our political systems are dysfunctionally corrupt, even if many of the individuals working therein are sincere. I don’t need to keep reading about it any more and prefer not to, at the same time do not want to deny overmuch either.)

PS  a related article I just read, albeit not about this report:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/pesticide-residue-found-on-nearly-half-of-organic-produce-1.2487712

Short article showing disturbing levels of pesticides in organic produce. Yet another reason to support local farmers by asking for and then buying locally grown organic produce!

The Great Gluten-Free scam

From The Telegraph:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/healthyeating/10430422/The-great-gluten-free-scam.html

The great gluten-free scam

Once, pasta and bread were store cupboard staples. Now, many of us are replacing them with ‘healthier’ gluten-free foods. But are they really better for us?

The Gluten Free Aisle in The Fresh Market Grocery Store in South Carolina, USA

This is the first hard-hitting anti-gluten-free piece I have read, and as someone who sells ‘normal’ breads, I try to keep up with the issue whilst staying out of any arguments. This article does – in my opinion rightly – mention that quite possibly the ‘killer’ in modern bread is not gluten, per se, but overly rapid fermentation techniques derived from the Chorleywood method in the 60’s. I would go further back to emphasis on mainly or exclusively white flour, using flours stored far too long, aka not fresh at all, additives to preserve flour life and baked bread life, single-strain beer yeast fermentation used in fast several-hour vs 18-24 hour methods and so forth.

I suspect there are some excellent gluten-free products for celiacs and those wishing to reduce normal bread consumption but also that it’s the same as with finding and eating good food everywhere these days: if it’s in a package with long shelf life, chances are that

a) it’s not all that good for you anyway, though there are exceptions of course and

b) probably it’s manufactured for profit by food corporation which cuts endless corners so in fact is little better than junk. You can have gluten-free junk food as well as any other type of junk-food.

In any case, right or wrong, I continue to believe that slow-fermentation with organic ingredients is the right way to make ‘real bread’, and that such real bread is not only okay but in fact actually good for us as it was for thousands of years until only very recently when we introduced post-industrial, commercial, large volume ‘manufacturing’ practices (which most home bakers follow without realising using single strain yeast, kneading, fast fermentation, old flours etc. etc. ) and so that is what I shall continue to offer!