Wendell Berry on Changing Hearts as a Necessary Pre-Condition to Cultural Change

Yesterday was a tough day, it was black tough. Today it's raining and foggy out over the Malaspina but brighter. Yesterday millions of folks, with DNA almost exactly like mine, descended into materialist insanity. How, i asked myself while out walking with my best friend, can there be any hope?

Today i found some watching a rare television interview with Wendell Berry by Bill Moyers about Berry's 'Hopes for Humanity'. In case you don't know him, Wendell Berry is the author of more than forty books of essays, poetry and novels. He has worked a farm in Henry County, Kentucky since 1965. He is a former professor of English at the University of Kentucky and a past fellow of both the Guggenheim Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. Berry has spent his entire adult life writing about and working as a small organic farmer. After nearly 30 years of hard work on my own small organic farm nobody has earned my respect more than Wendell Berry.

No interviewer throws better batting practice questions than Moyers and he sets up Berry perfectly. Berry's solutions to our many problems are common sense and revolutionary in the same breath, he personifies leadership from the bottom. If land reform is the revolutionary surface issue, then reforming hearts is the necessary pre-condition to it. Wendell Berry speaks to both.


Living Fully and Happily Outside the Capitalist Culture by Ignoring It Everyday

Yuck.. fistfights, gunshots, chaos and insanity...America's [and now Canada's] Pavlovian consumer frenzy is in full swing, fortunately it hasn't swung as far into the backwaters as Blackpoint. Here at the hideout it's just another buy nothing day. The advice to 'Buy nothing, stay home, rake the leaves, read a book' is part of the buy as little as possible everyday lifestyle.

Adbusters is doing their best to counter the Black-Friday meme by re-branding it Apocalypse-Now. My thanks to Adbusters who has led the anti-consumption chorus through the years and their Buy Nothing Day non-logo has led this meme war. Check out their website, it always features great, provocative, essays and stunning pictures that challenge us as westerners to define necessity.

In one essay there today Naomi Klein writes, "There is one dynamic in the model, however, that offered some hope. Werner terms it 'resistance' – movements of “people or groups of people” who “adopt a certain set of dynamics that does not fit within the capitalist culture.”  That's perfect, that it, that's my goal [and that of many other folks], to live fully within a certain set of dynamics that does not fit within the capitalist culture.

Naomi probably read Subcomandante Marcos's new series of essays ‘Them and Us’ out recently too. In them Marcos explains that 'we the people' are surrounded and seriously outgunned, how the combined mass media brainwashing and security state apparatus make the Empire impervious to real democratic change or force. Marcos sees the same flaw in the empirical matrix, that 'resistance' can include a certain set of dynamics that does not fit within the capitalist culture, can include ignoring it, reading a book, raking the leaves. Turn on, tune in, drop out is still good advice all these years later.


From a Global Perspective 'We the People' of North American are Almost All 1%-ers

A long time friend and fellow traveler appears as exasperated as i feel most days in a recent email response to The Mud Report about the over-consumption of our culture in these material times:

"What a wonderful life most in North America live, at the top of the food chain, with an endless bounty of food and "goods" at their fingertips. Why would these people ever want to change their ever so comfortable lives? I look around and see contented souls, unaware or uncaring of the damage they do to the planet. After all, most of the destruction is out of sight, hidden externalities. They are told growth is the key, resource extraction provides jobs and money for their social programs, and there is no end to what we can do with our technologies, including save ourselves with the next big breakthrough. Oh what a wonderful life!"

Our culture has allowed us to divide ourselves from our environment and we re-create this imaginary division moment by moment because 'believing is seeing'. In reality, in my reality whenever achievable, we are all - flora, fauna, microbes, minerals, forces and faeries - in this together.

There have been sustainably organized human societies, sometimes surviving in very harsh environments. the San people - the Bushman and the Australian Aboriginal peoples for instance, but not only hunter gatherer societies,  some mixed and sustainable agrarian based subsistence economies in the Amazon delta, in the Asia Pacific - Papua New Guinea, Borneo, and some Island cultures....A damned few of which still survive in the hidden corners of the planet, mostly though they have been wiped out by our consumer culture's wants and capitalism's technologies to deliver it to them.

There are important lessons to be learned from these cultures, it's important to remember that humans are capable of living relatively happily on very little, and in balance with their environment.

One historic example of the North American individuals and cultures our ancestors first met as we 'explored' the continent [then murdered and stole everything from] was Sacajawea. Stolen, held captive, sold, eventually reunited the Shoshone Indians. She was an interpreter and guide for Lewis and Clark in 1805-1806 with her husband Toussaint Charbonneau. She navigated carrying her son, Jean Baptiste, on her back. She traveled thousands of miles from the Dakotas the Pacific Ocean . The explorers, said she was cheerful, never complained, and proved to be invaluable. She served as an advisor, caretaker, and is legendary for her perseverance and resourcefulness.

The bells of history were ringing when Sacajawea led Lewis and Clark to the Pacific and the bells of history are ringing again. As Richard Eskow.says, "They can be heard in the stories of the homeless, the innocent ones whose houses have been lost to foreclosure. They can be felt in the trials of the young generation whose hopes for the future are being dimmed by unemployment, in the fears of an older generation who face an uncertain retirement, in the growing numbers of the poor and the dying hopes of the middle class."

We North Americans are the 1% that Occupy castigated from a global perspective. We, most of us anyway, live lives overstuffed in material comfort yet void of the one bit that turns 'them' into 'us'. Sacajawea and her culture had that bit.


Plant a Revolutionary Backyard or Balcony - Start Heritage Seed, Save/Dry/Replant Each Year

Answered another email this morning asking why The Mud Report has slowed down. i assured the writer it wasn't for lack of issues or consternation, that writing anti-Empire rants was starting to feel like piling on, that my time is/was better spent working in my own garden.

This was the second full garden year up here in the hideout in Blackpoint. The area i chose was overrun with blackberries but that corner of the property has the best soil, least rocks, most worms, etc. Fortunately i brought some seed - pole and bush beans, and peas, - with me from our little farm down near Roberts Creek. Some others like potatoes, corn and spaghetti squash i've been lucky enough to find heritage seed for at Mother Nature, a neat garden store in Powell River. They're all through their second year now, a portion of each has been dryed and stored for next year.

As it says on the bottom of every Mud Report: The single greatest service each of us can provide to our planet, our families and ourselves is to grow our own organic food from non-hybrid seeds. To save our own seed in turn, and in so doing be part of the future solution to the present day destruction being sown by GMO's, agri-business and the bio-technology giants.

Fortrunately 2, i live near and know some real neat folks who raise the minisheep who's manure goes through my compost bins and transforms into the worm casings that power my little organic veggie powerhouse and sequester huge amounts of atmospheric carbon. Little it is, less than 20ft x 20ft horizontally, but, in part by trying to of maximize the use of vertical  trellises, it's very productive. The picture above from last summer shows some old 6'5" fart pointing out the 10ft. high peas. Horizontal space is expensive, go vertical.

Hard work isn't a sin, debt is, as Richard Smith says, "Freeing ourselves from the toil of producing unnecessary or harmful commodities would free us to shorten the work day, to enjoy the leisure promised but never delivered by capitalism, to redefine the meaning of the standard of living to connote a way of life that is actually richer, while consuming less, to realize our fullest human potential instead of wasting our lives in mindless drudgery and shopping. This is the emancipatory promise of ecosocialism." What better way to both enjoy the benefits and be part of this revolutionary solution to so many of our woes than to plant a backyard or balcony garden by starting heritage seed, then saving/drying/replanting them each year


Radioactive Pacific Tuna, Fuel Rod Armageddon, Global Contamination and TEPCO's Profits

TEPCO workers began removing the radioactive fuel rods from the roof top of Building 4 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant today. This highly dangerous and technically near impossible operation could release 14,000 times as much radiation as the two atomic bombs combined if it goes wrong, and that's the good news.

The bad news is ALL bluefin tuna caught in California that have been tested are radioactive with the signature isotopes from the Fukushima reactors. Do NOT eat Pacific tuna! Tuna are top predators in the ocean food web. They bio-accumulate the toxins [radioactive or not] that their prey contain, and theirs, and theirs, etc.

And the hits just keep on comin'. The even badder news is that radioactive water, like all water evaporates, and just like all other 'acid rains' it drops on to the ocean's surfaces and farmlands globally. What scientists are measuring now is cow's milk. Why? It's the ultimate in the food chain. The radioactive acid rain falls on the fields (corn, wheat, hay), gets harvested and fed to livestock. Look for this type of bio-accumulation multiplier to start making headlines soon.

None of this is bad news for TEPCO's shareholders and bondholders who continue to enjoy the rewards from the profits [net profit of $6.2 billion for the first half of 2013] as they have for decades.

Tokyo Electric Power Company's, shareholders and bondholders know that their past ill-gotten gains are protected by limited liability laws and the corporate charter. After putting profits  before the public good for decades TEPCO, who Nancy Snow of the Asia Times calls, "the most hated Godzilla among Japan's infamous nuclear village industries", can continue this Kabuki theater while its owners enjoy the legal protections of carnival capitalism and we experience the effects of the old plumber's rule about shit always flowing downhill.


Capitalism is Killing You But There are Real Solutions to Self-Inflicted Extinction

Today's article by Richard Smith at Adbusters titled 'Sleepwalking to Extinction' examines Capitalism as the prime mover of the destruction of life and earth [and does a great job of it].

Capitalism is killing us, as Smith says, "From climate change to natural resource over consumption to pollution, the engine that has powered three centuries of accelerating economic development, revolutionizing technology, science, culture and human life itself is, today, a roaring out-of-control locomotive mowing down continents of forests, sweeping oceans of life, clawing out mountains of minerals, pumping out lakes of fuels, devouring the planet’s last accessible natural resources to turn them into “product,” while destroying fragile global ecologies built up over eons of time."

Unlike many anti-capitalism rants, Smith goes on to explain: "it’s one thing for James Hansen or Bill McKibben to say we need to “leave the coal in the hole, the oil in the soil, the gas under the grass,” to call for “severe curbs” in GHG emissions — in the abstract. But think about what this means in our capitalist economy. Most of us, even passionate environmental activists, don’t really want to face up to the economic implications of the science we defend." [enter a gorilla stage left].

The fossil fuel industry, like capitalism itself, is driven by demand. Until humans learn to live within their means, learn that hard work isn't a sin - debt is - and get rid of capitalism, capitalist expansionism (endless growth) will continue its headlong gallop toward the cliff. There is no brake pedal on the capitalist train, the only solution it has to every problem is 'MORE'. Of course, very few want to hear this because, given capitalism, it would unavoidably mean mass bankruptcies, global economic collapse, depression and mass unemployment around the world.

It's true, demand driven consumer capitalism is the driver of the "Environmental Pollution" matrix. But it's also true as Albert Einstein said, "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. Those 'unavoidable costs' are the results of the same type of thinking that got us here. One person's mass unemployment is another person's self-employment. Don't let fear of the unknown put parentheses around your ideas.

There are solutions, people have lived and loved by the production the work of their own hands for hundreds of thousands of years. A return to small scale organic farming and ranching alone would change everything environmentally, financially...everything.

As long as the anti-capitalism debate focuses on the corporate suppliers it conveniently avoids the new thinking required to deal with real enemy, the enemy Pogo famously recognized as 'us' - the demanders. Worried about the future? Invest your time and money in your home [insulation or ?], in your kids education, or in your backyard garden. Folks need to stop driving to the mall, stop consuming useless plastic crap, just slow down.


Mandatory GMO Labeling Might Change Everything...But Not Today

Ya sure gotta give the folks at the 'Yes on I-522' campaign thanks for all their hard work and credit for standing up to Goliath. There were two similar referendum battles on Tuesday, the other in Maine. All the coverage focuses on "the power of big money campaigns funded by out-of-state corporate interests once again revealed itself by overwhelming grassroots campaigns trying to champion a local common good." - Jon Queally

The mainstream media is nearly unanimous, in Washington and Maine, a flood of corporate cash swung popular opinion. The 'Yes' side says democracy was trampled, the 'No' side calls it a victory of science over superstition. Unfortunately none of 'em focus on the fact that the voters didn't have to listen to the corporate propaganda being spewed. The 'people coulda just called bullshit, but the majority didn't call bullshit.

Maybe democracy was trampled by the daily fliers in the mail, ads on most local websites, messages in the coupon envelopes you get in the mail, never ending TV, radio and newspaper ads. Maybe the voters feared the consequences the advertisers warned of, maybe they weren't that ideologically committed to begin with, maybe...

Maybe deep down inside the voters knew that the big issue here -the right to know what's in your food - is a linchpin issue and it's adoption would start a snowball of changes throughout first the agricultural and other food industries, then the chemical industry and the fossil fuel industry it's a devil child of, to the banking industry that finances them all, to the 'markets' that bet on their futures, to the types of jobs folks do which determines where/how they live... to everything.

Like an favorite old sweater after it starts unravelling, the interconnectedness of the capitalist matrix is both its strength and its weakness. Mandatory GMO labeling might change nothing, or it might change lottsa stuff. The vested interests pulled the strings, the sweater didn't unravel and the puppets voted, but they coulda cut their strings and run free, maybe someday, someday before extinction, the puppets will run free and the corporate criminals will fall..but not today...


A Solution to Climate Change: Organic Agriculture, Perennial Grasses, Land Reform and Hard Work

'Let the Buffalo Roam', and let them eat perennial grasses.

Industrial agriculture spews greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at the rate of 3,700 pounds of CO2 per year per acre Whereas an acre of land, farmed using organic methods that include composting and cover crops, can naturally sequester up to 7,000 pounds of CO2 back into the earth per year, according to research carried out by the Rodale Institute and others. So organic agriculture could re-sequester carbon back into the soil where it belongs.

Vandana Shiva says, "Forty per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions come from the use of fossil fuels and chemical-intensive industrial globalized system of agriculture. Biodiversity and soils rich in organic matter are the best strategy for climate resilience and climate adaptation."

Carbon ranching, or simply grazing animals on perennial grass pastures, also increases the organic content of soil. If the world's 8.3 billion acres of pasture and range lands were transitioned to carbon ranches, they would be able to sequester anywhere from 1,000-7,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per acre per year. In addition, perennials are thrifty. Their long roots hold on to soil, water, and fertilizer, which means less pollution.

A most convenient truth is that there is a real solution to climate change. By abolishing industrial agriculture, including factory farms, and GMOs while making the transition back to carbon ranching and organic farming, we could sequester all of our present greenhouse gas emissions, and slowly re-sequester the crap we already put up there. Organic farms produce more food, more jobs and higher incomes than industrial monocultures.

Getting there is another issue. Any big change creates winners, in this case us, our progeny and countless others, and losers, in this case the vested interests of those currently in control of the land and technology of industrial ag  A real solution would mean revolution. A real solution would mean land reform [probably the biggest imaginable 'sin' in some circles], it'd mean the end of feedlots, pesticides, herbicides [all kindds a cides] it'd mean a return to the land by millions of urbanites to do the 'hard work' [4 letter words] organic farming requires...think about it...abolishing industrial agriculture would change everything. That's why it won't happen from the top down.

One tiny battle may be won tomorrow against those vested agriculturial interests and the 1% who's banks finance the planet's destruction in Washington St. and everywhere. We're crossing our fingers and paws. YES on I-522


Just Say 'Yes' to Washington State's I-522 initiative on Tues. Nov.5th, the Whole World is Watching!

This coming Tuesday, Nov. 5th Washington state citizens will be voting on I-522 - the referendum to force mandatory labeling of genetically modified (GM) crops or products made with genetically modified organisms (GMO), "Initiative 522 has become a national David versus Goliath battle between organic farmers, consumers and food sovereignty activists and the corporate food and biotech giants—such as Monsanto and Syngenta—who fund the opposition." says Lauren McCauley of Common Dreams. And the whole world is watching!

The central issue for most Washingtonians is their right to know what's in their food. The Agribusiness Giants are throwing in big$ in the hopes that the same lies that worked for the 'No' side in California will work again. 3 days out and the Yes side is holding their lead apparently. Win or lose the Yes side is putting on a huge free party [see details here]. Last year the good folks in Washington state used the initiative process to legalize pot, now they're set to give 'ol Big Ag. a black eye and maybe start a domino effect. It might be quite the party, if i lived closer i'd go.

Industrial agriculture, not unlike the Evil Empire generally, is under attack from all sides. Just a few days ago Mexico halted all GMO corn from being planted. Mexico is now the only country in North America to ban the cultivation of a GM crop. Neither the U.S nor Canada has taken any action despite the fact that 64 countries have either banned GMOs or require them to at least be properly labeled. GMOs are designed by their bio-chemists to live through massive doses of pesticides thereby increasing the usage of them on the farm and farmers.

Mexico listened, experts have warned for years about the impact of top soil erosion caused by industrial farming practices, including heavy use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The chemical fertilizers and pesticides commercial farmers rely on to produce high single-crop yields kill many of the essential microorganisms and insects that aerate and build the soil, while heavy farming machinery destroys soil structure through compaction. Chemicals also leach water from the soil, making it salty and acidic and leaving crops vulnerable to drought. Dry and damaged soil erodes much faster than healthy soil.

This vote on Tuesday is a thin edge of the wedge type vote. If farmers were to stop planting GMOs, and make the transition to organic farming, farm and ranch land would become a significant sink or sequestration pool for greenhouse gasses, literally sucking excess greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere and sequestering them safely in the soil, where they belong. As well, biodiverse organic farms produce more food and higher incomes than industrial monocultures. Mitigating climate change, conserving biodiversity and increasing.