Monday, October 17, 2011

Quite a Weekend

Hi All,

For most of those paying attention, the weekend of October 15 and 16 was quite the event across the nation. The Occupy Wall Street movement has spread across our country, with mostly a festive flair. If one pays attention to the posts, the food is quite good, and any sort of requests the protestors have is filled pretty quickly by those who can not participate in the occupation with their physical bodies.

But there where other things happening this weekend that did not get the press, but were no less important to our continued struggles as the world's oldest democracy. The dedication of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Monument in the Capitol, the Millions Against Monsanto Right to Know March, which started in New York City and ended in Washington DC, and the Slow Money Alliance national gathering in San Francisco. I see that they are all connected, and of course, I will tell you why.

In the attempt to fully organize Slow Food USA, there were site visits to the regions in 2008. These were delightful gatherings where staff and the then Executive Director of Slow Food USA met with leaders from chapters all over the nation. I had the deep honor of meeting with leaders from Hawaii and Southern California as I was part of Slow Food OC at the time. All the insights and suggestions from other chapters around the country were distilled into some key concepts. The one that mostly stayed with me was that Slow Food USA was deeply committed to changing our US Food Systems.

The Food System that is in want of change encompasses the following things:  basically to relocalize access, growing, processing and distribution of food. What we are doing now is basically insane, it is heavily dependent on petroleum from growing and transportation of foods,  in the hands of too few big agriculture corporations, and is basically loosing (if it has not already lost it) the connection between food, growers, producers and consumers.

The case in point of loosing the connections:  most young American children think food comes out of a box, and are actually quite intrigued when you show them it comes from the land or animals. A friend of mine who is a Geology Professor at a major University here in Southern California recently took a group of grad students to an international conference in Chile. One of his students asked to borrow money for food. When asked why she was spending so much when their research quarters had a kitchen and was located near grocery stores, she replied"I have been to those stores, all they have is ingredients, and only Ice Cream in the frozen food section." So, we can see that there is much to be done, but more than education about where food comes from, the reconnection we need to have with our food is what it actually costs to raise it. And those with the money are determining who has or gets the food.

For generations, our food systems have become "commodities." When something is a commodity, it looses a relationship, because it becomes something one buys and sells. Of the top three grossing commodities on earth, two of them are foods. ( They are Oil, Coffee and Chocolate for those of you who want to seem like you know a lot.) When something only has a bottom line of profit, then anything done to maximize the profit is seen as fair game in the scheme of things. We have treated people, the land and food as commodities for too long. The banking crises is also a crises of agriculture and food, because it affects who can grow, harvest, produce and sell food. The Banks and how they lend money has been a leading cause of the decimation of our farm land and the catastrophe of modern agriculture.

In the last 50 years, America has lost farm land at an alarming rate. Here in the Inland Empire we have witnessed it in a dramatic way. Small farms could not compete with large Agribusiness, and had to sell their land to developers just to pay off loans. It was deemed that housing brought more money and revenue to the area than food. Rich cropland filled with grapes and citrus, wheat and vegetables has been turned into now vacant malls, houses and meat and dairy farms.  MOst farmers have a full time job to support their families so they can farm! It all came back to banking, who could get the loans, who could afford them, and well you know the rest of the story. It is in the realm of the angels the knowledge of exactly who owns the mortgages, and they are actually split up and sold to numerous interests all over the world.

While the brave and boisterous Occupy Wall Street protestors have done a great deed to our national consciousness, lets go a step further.  Genetically Modified Organisms produced by Big Agriculture Multinationals are seeking ways to force their products on the global commodity markets. These products are touted as a way to "feed the world" but are actually designed to produce sterile foods (no seeds so a farmer has to continually buy seeds instead of saving some from each harvest for the nest one) and are also designed to withstand to the same companies pesticides, forcing farmers to buy such pesticides. It is brilliant marketing and product development, but really not great for the environment or the economy. Farmers in India are committing suicide at an alarming rate because they are loosing their land to the banks who lent them money for the GMO seeds and their pesticides. Farmers here are forced into practices they do not want to do (utilizing lots of pesticides hormones and such) because they can not make a profit otherwise, or can not get loans. It costs more to do Organic because there are more jobs involved in the maintenance of the land, jobs cost money, and well, you know where that goes.

In the many, what I think are coherent, demands of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, what stands out is that we the people are tired of being last in any equation. I would add that the land that sustains us should also be part of the discussion. We are searching for new ways to fund our lives. In the beginning, banks were set up to facilitate a community enterprise. Now, they are nameless faceless entities that have more rights and access to our democracy that do our citizens. How this is marxist I do not understand, this is actually pro-life stuff, recognizing the rights of the born over the corporations, sounds pretty religious to me.

The Slow Money Alliance is a movement that was inspired by Slow Food. The same principles apply, to relocalize and humanize the system, but in this instance, it is money and banking. The goal is to get people to invest up to 50% of their investments in life giving enterprises, mainly small local food growers and producers. The key word is a "nurture economy" instead of an economy that enriches the few on the death of the many.  This and many other ideas were the focus of last weekends gathering in San Francisco.

It is truly amazing what is going on in the world today. The people are rising up, non-violently and effectively against the absolute immorality ( and global suicide actually) of a system that creates wealth by sterilizing our food, decimating our land,  destroying and withholding our water and shoving farmers off their land. It is immoral that weapons producers and the merchants of war are "making a killing" off of our young and foreign lands. It is immoral that we have been dug into debt to kill, and have to pay off the debt by withholding education and health care from our citizens. It is immoral that we have paid to absorb all the risks of our banks, and yet they will not invest in "life" with OUR money. Slow Money is educating all of us, and inviting us to invest as if fertility of the land and our farms mattered, invest only within 50 miles of your home.

Our youth are fantastic, the youth of the world are the greatest generation ever. They have the education and the technological skills, along with the moral forces of courage, consensus and community to solve the terrible problems we all face. I think Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream is actually being fulfilled, maybe that is why the dedication was postponed until this past weekend. His vision of linking justice, poverty, war and racism was correct. He said we should be somebody within the beloved community of life. As we witness the festivals inviting people to engage in radical democracy for the good of our community here in America,  as the visionary bankers and investors meet through Slow Money, as citizens demand that their food sources not be owned by corporations who do not pay taxes, and defile our democracy with their lobbyists, shifting our laws to give them unregulated access to our food, lets take a small step in making that a reality, where all actions are done for the benefit of the community. Can't occupy a city, well, you can "un-occupy" the Banks who are investing in the death balance sheet;  start investing in life, start investing in the land. Buy local, go to a farmers market, get to know the people who manage money and your food, pull your money out of death and put it into life. The great thing, it is delicious and fun!

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