Recycled Minds Reflections on 2008

In the reflections on recycled minds 2007, we noticed a thread of hope and change that linked our posts together, even when the topics seemed disparate. What we sensed then has perhaps run in its course in 2008. Change became a political ballad and optimism fell by the wayside as food and economic crises converged.

And yet, even still, hope and change permeate the articles and information we have shared this year.

One of the most prevalent topics at recycled minds is indigenous cultures. This issue came to the forefront of popular news, very briefly, when photographs surfaced of a “lost” tribe in the Brazilian Amazon. Yet many more stories made our headlines this year, from indigenous journalism, to the movements in Bolivia, to the Minga Popular in Colombia, and others. We even found a bit on the Zapatistas, a group we've been blogging about for a few years now.

Just as prevalent this year was a focus on food, ranging from the worldwide food crisis to urban gardening, school gardens, and other food production strategies that Michael Pollan has brought to public awareness. Sustainable agriculture in Paraguay countered the unsettling stories about Monsanto, Wal-mart and other corporate giants. And articles delving into the meaning of food reminded us that consumption comes in many forms.

Articles about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the FARC in Colombia, profiting off the poor in Latin America, Hurricane Ike in Cuba appeared as testimonies to the unrest and suffering in the world, even as the 60th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights passed in December. In solidarity with those trying to make a difference out there, our 20 posts in Activism offered a number of unique ideas on ways to counter the many injustices and problems that we mentioned this year. 

More randomly, our friends made the pages of Recycled Minds with videos about a trip to Antarctica, and some music about unicorns. We also noted the passing of the legend who discovered one of the most influential substances in human history. We introduced our Recycled Minds Library on Scribd, which has a number of very popular documents. Finally, our 10,000th visit came in July this year while this post was up, and we've since been visited nearly 4,500 more times.  

This year has seen our popularity grow significantly, and we hope to continue this trend in 2009 with interesting news, ideas, and places from around the web and the world. 

Happy New Year and thanks for reading!

Until next year…

The Last-Minute Bush Maneuvers

Interested in some of the last-minute moves of the outgoing President Bush? He's making more than any other U.S. president in history. Check out this 4-minute video from the American News Project

Record Hunger Rates Predicted for 2009

From the Independent UK, the UN is predicting that over 1 billion people will go hungry around the globe in the coming year. Despite record agricultural harvests, the most people in human history will experience the pangs of hunger, largely for economic reasons. 

Decades of progress in reducing hunger are being abruptly reversed, dealing a devastating blow to a pledge by world leaders eight years ago to cut it in half by 2015.
Rich countries have failed to provide promised money to boost agriculture in the Third World; the financial crisis is starving developing countries of credit and driving their people into greater poverty, and food aid to the starving is expected to begin drying up next month. 

William S. Burroughs- A Junky's Christmas

Our friends over at Coventry posted this the other day, but for those of you who don't read them or otherwise blog surf, we figured we would post it here too. Each segment of this classic story, here read by Burroughs himself, is about 9 minutes, and it is a wonderful Christmas story after all - perfect for the season. Enjoy: 

Re-animating Food & Humanity

In the spirit of the season -- the Winter Solstice -- we thought it would be appropriate to post an article about a common tradition of this time of the year: eating food together.

From Resurgence comes "Food for the Soul" by Thomas Moore. In this article, Moore talks about food's capacity for meaning and fostering community:
Perhaps the greatest challenge in this time of rapid technological advance and the shrinking of the globe is to create a world community. But that important task can’t be done in the abstract. Food can play a role. Food as community, not as a commodity. Whatever power allows lunch to foster friendship, wedding cake a marriage, and bread and wine a religion could make a community of the world’s population. But we need first to restore soul to food.
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Learning from South American Social Movements

The editor of Upside Down World, Benjamin Dangl, recently suggested ways the U.S. could pull through its economic crisis by looking at certain social movements in South America. Comparing the Chicago factory occupation with Argentina worker coops, he pointed out other protests that led to significant change, and from which Americans might take inspiration.
As the economic crisis in the US worsens, and the need to pressure the Obama administration looms, movements in the US could seek such commonality with movements in South America. Of the countless examples of recent social movement victories in South America, here are a few that could suggest potential blueprints for social change in the US.
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"ZAZ" - Zapatista Autonomous Zones

An interesting piece in the IRC Americas website - a just-translated article from 2004 that details some of the experiences of the Zapatista resistance movement in developing their caracoles. The grassroots movement is still operating, although with somewhat less media coverage as of late. This piece, translated for the 15-year anniversary of the movement, details some of the health, educational, economic, and governing projects that had been started at that point, and offers an interesting glimpse of the movement as it unfolds on the ground. Some excerpts from the article

This place, now called "Madre de los caracoles del mar de nuestros sueños" (the literal translation from Spanish is "Mother of the Sea Snails of our Dreams") is famous in the world of resistance because in 1996 one of the founding acts of the anti-globalization struggle took place here—the First Continental Encounter for Humanity and Against Neoliberalism. Most recently, the biggest achievement in health has been the inauguration of an operating room....

Health is one of the areas where the most progress has been made here in Zapatista territory. This jungle area on the Guatemalan border is not without its problems, both internal and external, but preventive medicine campaigns are multiplying....
There is a new building nearly ready in La Realidad. It is an herbalist lab and center for preserving foods, and it forms part of a health project that is the pride of this zone. The project has meant the empowerment of more than 300 women herbalists, bone healers, and midwives.

The site has another interesting article on the misuse of U.S. taxpayer money that is being sent to Mexico under the rubric of the War on Drugs. 

Also, check out this unique organization: Schools for Chiapas.

Socialism's Comeback

With all the buzz generated by speculation about the Obama administration's left-leaning plans, the idea of U.S.-brand corporate capitalism being supplanted by socialist-like policies is tantalizing. How realistic it is remains to be seen. Neil Clark's article, Socialism's Comeback, talks about socialism's rise in Europe, despite claims to the contrary.

At the beginning of the century, the chances of socialism making a return looked close to zero. Yet now, all around Europe, the red flag is flying again. ...

Make no mistake, socialism - pure, unadulterated socialism, an ideology that was taken for dead by liberal capitalists - is making a strong comeback. Across the continent, there is a definite trend in which long-established parties of the centre left that bought in to globalisation and neoliberalism are seeing their electoral dominance challenged by unequivocally socialist parties which have not.

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Dreaming of Chocolate

Treehugger posted this interesting article about Shaman Chocolates, a shaman-run chocolate company whose entire profits go to the Huichol Indians of the Sierra Madre Mountains.
Secunda [company founder] had a dream, a vision. He dreamed that people were eating chocolate, and it was filling them with love. Secunda then decided that chocolate would be the way to preserve the Huichol culture and aid them economically.

"The Huichol know that gifts of chocolate help people develop and strengthen a mutual love with the earth and with each other," said Secunda.

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A People's Narrative: The Minga Popular

A recent article by Mario A. Murillo on Toward Freedom celebrates the historic rallies of the Minga Popular and their meetings with government officials in Bogota last week.
It's been a busy series of days in Bogotá as the MINGA Popular continues to expand and flourish. From the streets in the center of the city, to the Plaza del Ché at the National University where an international forum was held on Saturday, from the media centers of the indigenous movement to the dozens of meetings taking place around the city where "Mingueros" are discussing the five point agenda with all the sectors that are interested to listen, the enthusiasm and energy of the popular movement can be felt.
Toward the end of the article, Murillo discusses the role of the media and their coverage of the movement, and how the "people's narrative" is being broadcast, despite the obstacles.
The massive presence of independent media at all these events - video cameras documenting the marches and rallies, photographers clicking away at the dramatic militance of the protesters, community radio producers gathering natural sound, speeches, and interviews for their respective outlets - are presenting a comprehensive alternative narrative - the people's narrative - that undoubtedly is having an impact on how the Minga is playing out with public opinion. It has resulted in tremendous solidarity from abroad, and unprecedented collaboration and participation from ordinary people here in Colombia since the Minga began.

Despite the false accusations of the government, despite the racist underpinnings of the media coverage, and the almost deliberate mis-information that has accompanied it, the people have come out in small towns and large cities to welcome the mingueros, and join with them in solidarity.
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Indigenous Media

As globalization continues to grow its tentacles into more and more remote communities, many issues - both good and bad - are given life. One outgrowth of the increase in access to global communication systems, largely through the internet, is the growing number of indigenous people reporting on news and issues that their often remote, or otherwise marginalized communities, are facing. An interesting article from the IPS brings to light some of the hurdles that many indigenous activists, journalists, and public figures face to get their messages to a global audience. From the article

Indigenous journalism would seem to be in a stage similar to what environmentalism experienced a few decades ago: born of necessity and protest, it is caught in a constant state of tension between activism and professionalism.
The problem is that "we are sources and media at the same time," said Silsa Arias, head of communications for the National Indigenous Organisation of Colombia (ONIC), in last week’s discussion in La Paz on how to carry out the work of production, research, writing and editing at a workshop titled "Journalistic Minga: Developing Indigenous Reporting in Latin America".
Arias, a member of the Kankuamo community, is a leader of the indigenous movement in her country. But she also studied journalism, and is responsible for the news reports that appear on the ONIC web site and their on-line radio station Dachibedea (Our Voice).
Her concern was echoed by other participants in the Nov. 25-26 workshop sponsored by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and organised by the Inter Press Service (IPS) global news agency.
Taking part in the workshop were indigenous people from Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Peru and Venezuela who have taken on the task of informing, educating or protesting, through community radio stations, alternative or local media outlets, and social movements.