What it means to write: Handwriting in the age of technology

Charged with many crimes -- encouraging theft (music, movies, ideas), giving us impersonal and inadequate replacements (blogs, texting, emailing), facilitating shortcuts both in critical thinking (wikipedia) and in spelling (texting again) -- technology appears to have another imbroglio brewing: causing the death of writing by hand. The issue falls along the same lines as many arguments dealing with advances in technology, namely a nostalgia for and valorization of the old versus the high expectations for and valorization of the new.

Whether handwriting will ever be dropped from curricula in favor of keyboards remains to be seen. What is more interesting (at this point in time) is the argument raised by Anne Trubeck in her article, "Is Handwriting Going the Way of the Dodo Bird?," which takes the stance that yes, handwriting is nearing obsolescence, but that is a good thing.

Laying out a fascinating trajectory of writing-- from the Sumerians, to the Romans, to the Puritans, to the Spencer/Palmer split, to typewriters, and finally to computers, Trubeck asks us to consider the democratizing implications of typing and how screen text can unburden writing from class and gender issues.

From the article:
Handwriting slowly became a form of self-expression when it ceased to be the primary mode of written communication. When a new writing technology develops, we tend to romanticize the older one. The supplanted technology is vaunted as more authentic because it is no longer ubiquitous or official. Thus for monks, print was capricious and script reliable. So too today: Conventional wisdom holds that computers are devoid of emotion and personality, and handwriting is the province of intimacy, originality and authenticity.
Continue reading on Alternet

Damming the Forest: New Dam in Forest Preserve in Southern Belize

One year ago, in December 2008, the Prime Minister of Belize signed an agreement with the US engineering company, Hydro Maya, to begin research into a potential dam project on the border of the Bladen Reserve in the southern-most district in the country. According to a story from Ya'axche Conservation Trust, the company then should have obtained permits to begin the research, but instead, began "researching" the project without the required permits. Hydro Maya's "research" includes building roads into the preserve and clearing numerous large trees and slopes. The Bladen Reserve is a co-managed forest reserve and is "considered to be one of the most biodiversity-rich, and topographically unique areas within the Mesoamerican biodiversity hotspot" (Ya'axche). Further, the river is source of water and food for the nearby community of San Pedro Columbia. From the Ya'axche article:
San Pedro Colombia Village is located about twenty miles from Punta Gorda. It is a village whose residents still practice their traditional way of life, relying heavily on the forest for medicine and the river for water for drinking, washing and bathing. So when they began noticing heavy duty equipment moving into their forests unannounced, it troubled them.
Troubling indeed. In short, the company behind Hydro Maya (Bradley Engineering), obtained permission to obtain research permits, then without obtaining the permits, without consulting or notifying nearby communities who actively use the river and surrounding forest to provide basic needs, and further, without contacting the Ya'axche Conservation Trust, who is the co-manager of the Bladen Reserve, began the dam project (you can view more pictures here).

Ya'axche and community members of San Pedro Columbia have begun meeting in efforts to determine what action to take, and meanwhile, very little national press has covered the situation in Belize, and no international press has reported on the situation.

Read the Ya'axche article (from Channel 5 Belize) here>>>

Read about the Bladen Reserve here>>>

Visit the Ya'axche Conservation Trust here>>>

Show your support for Ya'axche and the Maya people who depend on the forest, the river, and the surrounding environment.

A Tree Falls in a Forest: Ancient Garden Cities in South America

As more Amazonian forests are felled, as more industry moves in, and as more aerial digital images are uploaded, evidence of previously unknown civilizations are being unearthed -- specifically along the border of Brazil and Bolivia. According to a recent article from New Scientist, researchers have discovered another "piece," perhaps, of what they term "garden cities," a network of villages located in north-central Brazil and dating from 1400 AD. The scope of the garden cities would have been the size of New Jersey, populated possibly by more than 50,000 people. That little "hard" evidence exists of them is due to the fact that they built with earth, rather than stone, leading the Amazon to reclaim its land once the society had been decimated by colonizers.

The new discovery further supports the idea that the Amazon basin was heavily populated by "complex" societies before the European invasion, societies that were sedentary and long-lived. The structures that have been uncovered appear dissimilar to the geoglyphs of the Incas and the Nasca lines of Peru.

Of course, as quickly as these discoveries are made, modern-day economic development swiftly takes over:
"'I have no doubt that this is only scratching the surface,' says Alex Chepstow-Lusty of the French Institute for Andean Studies in Lima, Peru. 'The scale of pre-Columbian societies in Amazonia is only slowly coming to light and we are going to be amazed at the numbers of people who lived there, but also in a highly sustainable fashion. Sadly, the economic development and forest clearance that is revealing these pre-Columbian settlement patterns is also the threat to having enough time to properly understand them.'"
Read the article at newscientist.com.
Image: Edison Caetano, newscientist.com

Visualizing Capitalism

We're not sure the source of this - it was passed on by a friend. Still, it is a simple visual of what's really going on to make our capitalist system operate.
By Level:
We Rule You
We Fool You
We Shoot at You
We Eat for You
(and on the bottom) We work for All - We Feed All

Who, What, Where, When and Now: Newspapers and Higher Education

Whether newspapers are on the brink of extinction, or simply evolving, the question of where that leaves the "public" (and whether the complicated separation between that public and the news that reports on and for it still exists), and where that leaves traditional journalism continues to fascinate, trouble, and perplex scholars.

The Chronicle of Higher Education posed the question of how the perceived decline of mass media will affect higher education to those invested in the issues. Some interesting responses and theories emerged.

Harvard's Harry R. Lewis proposed that journalism supports the research of the academy, breaking down often hard-to-understand industry jargon into language easily digested by outsiders. Good and informed journalism must therefore be preserved and fought for.

Columbia's Mark C. Taylor argues a similar point: "Fair, accurate, and responsible in-depth journalism is essential for any democratic society, and never more so than today. ... We also need to develop institutional structures that support dialogue between the academic world and the broader society."

In terms of how such a fracturing of news media affects university students, these scholars also had much to say, arguing for a more inclusive role for technology in the classroom, for upholding the idea of objectivity and journalism's role in recording history, for turning out graduates who can think critically and reflectively.

Garrick Utley of the State University of New York brings up another interesting point, what he terms "the past-tense, present-tense tension":
Journalism is by definition and practice past tense. Stories in print or on television newscasts have been reported, facts checked, scripts and articles written, edited, and vetted, and only then presented to the public; the journalistic version of peer review.

Today, news is increasingly present tense. Cable news channels have become primarily live talk and live coverage of breaking-news events. There are ever fewer traditional newscasts or edited news reports. Television news is becoming real-time reality television. And Internet news, with ever more (and more narrowly focused) Web sites, blogs, and live streams of events, is also becoming real time, or present tense. Social-network sites are nearly real time and some, such as Twitter, are present tense.

Academic life, like journalism (at its best), is largely built on past tense, through the accumulation of knowledge and the importance of context, not to mention tradition. Academe and journalism share certain traits. Whether they face a similar future remains to be seen.
It almost seems that it is this focus on the past that is keeping newspapers (and academia probably) from evolving in such a way that leaves behind the problems that have plagued them, and from moving forward into a digital age that is inhabited by people no longer passively taking in carefully molded information. That this comes with its own challenges is clear, but it also floods the once deafening silence with new voices.

Read the Chronicle's article here.

A Cornucopia of Consumption on Thanksgiving

Three things for our readers this Thanksgiving Day.

First, it's somehow befitting of Thanksgiving's origins that the cornucopia on many tables of today consists of food that would be virtually unrecognizable 100 years ago, let alone 400. Turkeys nowadays will be over two times bigger (an average of 28 pounds) than their "ancestors" of the 1930s, thanks to genetic modification. And the turkeys of today freeze faster, too, thanks to the airplane de-icer they are sprayed or immersed in. And the turkey's tablemate, the potato, has also been susceptible to industrialization's easier-faster-more fix. Mashed potatoes are easier to prepare, thanks to the potato flake, the making of which involves a lye bath. Read more in Wired Magazine's article "Industrial Thanksgiving."

Second, (and this goes against many unspoken recycled minds guidelines) let's give thanks to the people who showed up for Sarah Palin's book signing, and to New Left Media for filming them, as they brought to light their blind consumption of racist, xenophobic, and anti-intellectual rhetoric:

Lastly, let's not forget Thanksgiving's younger, sister holiday, Black Friday, and its modern-day incarnations: Chicago's McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade, Philadelphia's Ikea Thanksgiving Day Parade, Minneapolis' Target Holidazzle Parade, New York's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade... a veritable cornucopia of consumerism.

Photo: mdpny on flickr

In Honor of the Food (System)

On this day of traditional thanks-giving in the US, we thought a post on food would be fitting - and we'll keep it short. It seems appropriate that on a day when people across the US are eating some of the hundreds of thousands of turkeys slaughtered for this yearly family-centered meal, we should offer this short video that reminds us that all is not well with the food we eat and the system that produces it. Check out this fun video from USC Canada that details many of the issues:

So give thanks for the food you enjoy today, but remember, the urgency of the problems associated with the world food system make it likely that fewer and fewer people will be able to enjoy such meals in the years to come - and most can't even enjoy such meals today!

Fissures in the Globalized World: An Interview with Alain Bertho

by Lana Lynne on 11.22.2009

A recent interview with anthropologist Alain Bertho lays out some key points from his new book, Le tempes des émeutes [The Riots Period], which brings together his ongoing documentation of insurrection, of "popular anger," or riots. Despite the lack of a clear political or social objective, the riotous eruptions around the world seem to Bertho to indicate we have entered an era of mobilization akin to momentous ones of the past. He likens the innumerable riots happening worldwide to "fissures of the globalized world." "Every fissure has its own history," he says, "but it's the whole house that's wobbling."

Here is the excerpt from the interview:

Is the riot a symptom of youth's relationship with politics, the "striking sign of its absence?"
It's primarily a symptom of the contemporary world's relationship to its youth. The failure of the twentieth century's revolutions and the ecological threat have abolished the modern idea of historical progress, whether political or social. Youth is no longer considered the world's future, but as a threat to its present. Vis-à-vis youth, there is no longer any political discourse except for a disciplinary one. Youth reacts in consequence. In the whole world, college and high school student mobilizations, such as festive or sport-related demonstrations, are turning into ever more violent confrontations with the authorities. The same gestures and the same rage are present on every continent.
Although we have seen protests of different calibers in the U.S., I wonder whether the U.S. makes it into Bertho's ethnography on riots. Without sounding too pessimistic, it seems as if people here have too many other outlets for their rage -- outlets which most certainly don't threaten the state.
Read the original interview by Jean-Marie Durand on lesinrocks.com. Read the translated interview (by Leslie Thatcher) on truthout.com. Check out Bertho's website here.
Image: scrapetv.com

Death-Dealing: Giroux's Zombie Politics

by Lana Lynne on 11.19.09

In seeking to understand the contradictory, regressive, oftentimes nonsensical, sometimes outright false, skewed perception of the impact of big corporations and their non-values on people -- both those who are "othered" and those who traditionally are not -- Henry Giroux offers the popularity of zombies as a way to talk about the confounding politics of the U.S.

In his article Zombie Politics and Other Late Modern Monstrosities in the Age of Disposibility, Giroux sees the popular infatuation with zombies as speaking to the "shameless lust" of corporate titans. If these captains of industry are the life-feeding monsters, in his analogy, then the minions seduced by them are vamping up for a senseless, violent, baseless revolution.

In this excerpt, he discusses how the Age of Disposibility molds people into death-obsessed commodities:

Not only do zombies portend a new aesthetic in which hyper-violence is embodied in the form of a carnival of snarling creatures engorging elements of human anatomy, but they also portend the arrival of a revolting politics that has a ravenous appetite for spreading destruction and promoting human suffering and hardship. This is a politics in which cadres of the unthinking and living dead promote civic catastrophes and harbor apocalyptic visions, focusing more on death than life. Death-dealing zombie politicians and their acolytes support modes of corporate and militarized governance through which entire populations now become either redundant, disposable or criminalized. This is especially true for poor minority youth who, as flawed consumers and unwanted workers, are offered the narrow choice of joining the military, going to prison or being exiled into various dead zones in which they become socially embedded and invisible.
While Giroux's argument does well to describe the current state of affairs, it would be interesting to extend his line of reasoning even further (in a direction admittedly off of his topic). But, why have zombies, vampires, and ghosts risen in popularity over the past decade? After all, it is not just zombies who are invading media screens, it is seemingly an all-around fascination with death. Some might argue it is less an obsession with death than it is with our own mortality -- with life -- a permutation of certain religious ideologies emphasizing the afterlife. Whatever the origins, it would be interesting to explore the relationship between the dead/undead of pop culture and political issues as a real connection rather than as an analogy -- as perhaps a recognition of problems, rather than a blind submission.

In any case, read Giroux's excellent article over at Truthout.

Healing History's Wounds: Health Care and the U.S.'s Indigenous

Health care reform means many things to many different people -- to the indigenous people of the U.S., the issue is perhaps even more weighted. An article recently published on Truthout by Frank Joseph Smecker lays out the ugly truth behind the Native American struggle with federal government health programs.

Native American and Alaskan peoples suffer from some of the worst poverty-, unemployment-, cancer-, diabetes-, obesity-, infant death-, and age-adjusted death-rates in the country. The bankrupt state of their government-funded medical centers have only exacerbated these economic and medical problems.

But looking back on the history of U.S. government involvement in Native American affairs, it comes as no surprise that the article's author reached the conclusion that in any health care reform act that is passed today, Native Americans and Alaskans will surely be left behind. Evidently, with the outbreak of contagious diseases in the 19th century, the federal government began a program aimed to "prevent disease and to speed Native American assimilation into the general population by promoting Native American dependence on Western medicine and by decreasing the influence of traditional Indian healers" (Kuschell-Haworth, qtd. in Smecker). From 1859 until 1976, the program continued under various names and in various governmental departments, eventually ending up as part of the Department of Health and Human Services as the Indian Health Service (IHS). Along the way, in 1948, one of the most appalling attempts at (literal) assimiliation took place: an involuntary sterilization program that affected 40% of Native American women who were childbearing age.

Smecker continues to relate the history of wrongdoing and delinquency on the part of the federal government: the lack of funds, the unrealistic appropriation of services, and the toxic mining and dumping occurring on reservations. A slim ray of hope glistens at the end of his report: two state representatives (from New Jersey and New Mexico) have spoken out about including a provision in health care reform to cover Native Americans. But, as Smecker points out, any truly respectful amendment would also embrace traditional methods of healing.

Read the entire article on Truthout.
Cartoon by Eric J. Garcia from fNewsMagazine.com

Biopiracy in Africa

by douglas reeser on 11.11.09

Biopiracy has been a part of human history for centuries. Columbus is rumored to have brought sugar cane to the Americas on his second voyage. Rubber tree seedlings were smuggled out of Brazil and retooled to maximize yield in Southeast Asia. Great scientists like Charles Darwin and Richard Evans Schultes collected plants throughout South America and brought them home with no concern or consequence. Today, however, we call this biopiracy, and the consequences for taking and using plants from countries are becoming increasingly stiff.

The simplified story is this: Many pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and food companies have made millions on plant species that have been used for generations by indigenous groups. Often times, the "discovery" of such money making plants was made by conducting research with the very indigenous groups who had always been using them. Collections are then brought back to corporate, government, or university labs where active ingredients are isolated, products created, and patent claims made - not only on active chemicals or their combinations, but on the plants themselves. The problem here is at least two-fold. Once a patent is granted, indigenous groups can be cited for violation of said patents if they attempt to sell or share some form of those plants - something they may have been using for generations or longer. Second, as can be imagined, the corporate interests stand to make millions and more on their "new" products, without so much as a thank you for the indigenous communities from where those products originated.

Of course there is an argument to be made for the legitimate claims of unique and novel creations using active compounds of traditionally used species. Many would argue, however, that there should be some revenue sharing in place even in these instances. Of course, the corporate interests didn't stop there - they have consistently attempted to put patents on actual plant species. Michael Gollin shares:

"For example, a 1995 patent, “Use of Turmeric in Wound Healing,” was cancelled in 1998 after an investigation instituted by India’s Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. The new evidence established that use of turmeric to promote wound healing had been known for generations in India."

That's just one ridiculous example of many, and because of examples like this, nations around the globe are increasingly restricting plant collecting within their borders. Gollin details a number of the consequences for biopiracy across the globe, including: loss of profits, blacklisting of researchers, loss of access to materials, and even legal penalties, including jail time and heavy fines. Despite the development of such actions aimed at discouraging the practice, biopiracy is still alive and well.

A new study the South African NGO, the African Centre for Biosafety, just released details of seven major cases of biopiracy that have recently occurred across the continent. An article on the Third World Network summarizes the study and presents some of the key
"The seven new cases of suspected bio-piracy in Africa are based on a preliminary study of patent applications lodged and patents granted in the US, EU and elsewhere. Further investigation is merited by African governments, the report states, to determine conclusively whether bio-piracy has occurred and what action to take.
The seven cases include claims from universities, government departments as well as small and large companies. The claims relate to a wide range of products including for anti-aging (for example, by luxury goods maker Louis Vuitton under its Christian Dior label), skin-care, sexual dysfunction, viruses and vaccines, insect repellents and possible cancer treatments."
In each case detailed by the article, plant species used in traditional medicinal practices throughout Africa."
For instance, one
"case involves a patent application by Dicotyledon AG (Sweden) on extracts from Neobeguea mahafalensis, a tree commonly called "handy" which extracts, it claims, have a "sexual enhancing effect" and can be "used for treatment of sexual dysfunction". The report states that Dicotyledon may want to claim it as its own but it has long been used as an aphrodisiac in traditional Malagasy medicine. There is no indication in Dicotyledon's patent application or on its website that it has any intention of sharing its bounty on equitable terms or otherwise.
However, the application does make the concession that N. mahafalensis is already used as an aphrodisiac in Malagasy traditional medicine and lists at least eleven citations of traditional use for sexual functions in the scientific literature. The report states that Dicotyledon advances its patent novelty argument by insulting the holders of the knowledge of the plant: "Dicotyledon states that Malagasy traditional healers use so many plants for sexual enhancement that not all of them could possibly work." And further claims that Malagasy healers provide inaccurate information to researchers and that they lack scientific rigour in identifying and characterizing plants.
It attacks traditional medicine by asking patent examiners to ignore documented traditional use by stating that "reports on presumed medical effects of plants based on indirect information obtained from local traditional healers and alike is highly unreliable and can't be used in any practical sense for treatment of medical conditions."
This example shows that there is a clear attempt to discredit traditional medicinal practices, while using their remedies to develop products for profit. Despite growing international efforts to curb such practices, the offenses continue, allowing the wealthy to continue the pillaging and profiteering off of the poor, a legacy of capitalism that will go down in the annals of history.

Reasoning behind increased legislation on biopiracy and some of the legal consequences can be found in an excellent article by Michael Gollin here >>>

Also read this story about an accused Amazonian biopirate sentenced to 14 years in Brazilian prison - from Wired >>>

And if you remain unconvinced of complexity of traditional healing, check out this recent article from MongaBay.com - How Rainforest Shamans Treat Disease >>>

10 Things (+1) to Reduce Incarceration

Always watchful for alternatives to the "out-of-sight, out-of-mind," "eye-for-an-eye" indifference toward the prison system and those trapped in it, I recently came across law professor Paul Butler's list of ten things the everyday person can do to reduce incarceration, published for The Nation. Here is an abbreviated version of his recommendations:
1. When serving jury duty, acquit on principle (jury nullification) when it comes to non-violent drug offenses.
2. Work with a community group that pays at-risk students to graduate. Turns out money talks louder than the toughest sentencing.
3. Speak openly about your own drug use to counter the reefer-madness stereotype.
4. Employ someone who served time. Chances are much greater that they won't return to jail.
5. Vote for politicians who realize that longer, tougher jail sentences do not equate to lower crime rates. Compare the U.S. to Canada, France, and England.
6. Don't be scared. Enact your right to say no to police when they ask to search your vehicle.
7. Urge a stop to professional snitching. More than half of wrongful convictions have been attributed to people paid to testify.
8. Realize that most dealers live at home, and could find a much more lucrative career in a trade.
9. Support "Open Discovery" laws, which allow criminal defendants to "discover" the evidence against them.
10. Learn about the communities most affected by the prison system by listening to political hip-hop.
I would add to this list: Support community garden programs that work with prison inmates. For instance, Grid Magazine recently ran a feature about the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's City Harvest program, which works with the Philadelphia Prison System, food distribution network SHARE, and the Health Promotion Council of Southeastern Pennsylvania. The program offers people convicted of non-violent crimes the opportunity to lparticipate in the city gardens. The food they harvest is then distributed to neighborhoods in the city that often do not have access to fresh fruit and vegetables. The program promotes the idea that through cooperation and responsibility, people will learn invaluable life skills.

Read Paul Butler's article here.
Access Grid Magazine's article here.

Image Credit: PA Horticultural Society's Philadelphia Green

Book Review: The Wayfinders by Wade Davis

by douglas reeser on 11.3.2009

The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World. Wade Davis. Toronto, ON: House of Anansi Press, 2009. 262pp.
In a time when the topic of climate change continues to make headlines while remaining a hotly debated subject (Nguyen 2009), Wade Davis has presented a refreshingly new way for the western world to address the problem – by turning to indigenous cultures that have maintained unique means of interacting with and preserving the environment around them. The Wayfinders is the most recent book from Davis, an anthropologist and ethnobotanist who trained under the famed ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes at Harvard. Davis left the world of academia but continued with his anthropological research, and he has produced a number of best-selling books for a more popular audience. He is currently Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society, where he continues to research, write, photograph, and make films.
In The Wayfinders, Davis uses his highly readable and detailed prose to describe unique examples of indigenous knowledge as it relates to local environments around the world. He begins the book by describing the intensity of language loss around the globe and explains how language loss also threatens indigenous knowledge and cultural diversity. His argument echoes the statement on the subject previously put forth by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (2008:4):
Indigenous languages are treasures of vast traditional knowledge concerning ecological systems and processes and how to protect and use some of the most vulnerable and biologically diverse ecosystems in the world. It is no coincidence that the areas where indigenous peoples live are the areas that contain the greatest biological diversity. In fact, biological, linguistic and cultural diversity are inseparable and mutually reinforcing, so when an indigenous language is lost, so too is the traditional knowledge for how to maintain aspects of the world’s biological diversity. The protection of indigenous languages is therefore not only a cultural and moral imperative, but an important aspect of global efforts to address biodiversity loss, climate change and other environmental challenges.
This statement forms the basis of Davis’ argument, wherein he uses specific ethnographic examples to detail the complexity and depth of indigenous knowledge held by groups from such diverse regions as the rain forests of Malaysia, the mountains of Colombia, the deserts of Africa, and the islands of the South Pacific. For instance, one of his first ethnographic stories details the knowledge of a Hawaiian ‘wayfinder’, a traditional navigator of the Pacific. “The navigator must process an endless flow of data, intuitions, and insights derived from observation and the dynamic rhythms and interactions of wind, waves, clouds, stars, sun, moon, the flight of birds, a bed of kelp, the glow of phosphorescence on a shallow reef” (Davis 2009:60). This information is not recorded by the wayfinder, it is stored and recalled from memory, and is thus passed orally to the novice. The wayfinder is but one example of the complexity that indigenous knowledge can take, built from generations of interaction with particular environments.
With each example of indigenous knowledge that Davis uses, he also shares a brief historical background to underscore the threat to survival that exists for each group and its associated knowledge, yet his argument could be stronger. He often notes the destructive nature of colonization, and he discusses the present day pressures faced by each group. These pressures are often a direct result of capitalist-based globalization that is expanding to the most remote corners of the globe, the very locations of many of Davis’ examples. This is perhaps where The Wayfinders could be strengthened. It is not until chapter 4 – halfway through the book – that Davis explicitly discusses the contradictory nature of the capitalist endeavor with what may be characterized as an indigenous worldview. Still, Davis falls short in what could be an exceptionally strong argument. He uses a discussion of a proposed Canadian mining project on traditionally indigenous-held lands to critique the capitalist worldview as linear and short sighted, and one that destroys for profit as opposed to preserves for future generations (114-119). He finishes this critique: “As long as there is a promise of revenue flows and employment, it merely requires permission to proceed. We take this as a given for it is the foundation of our system, the way commerce extracts value and profit in a resource-driven economy” (2009:119). While this is a fine argument against such capitalist projects, Davis could further strengthen his critique with a more fully Marxist discussion of how such projects might affect the indigenous people involved. Will they be brought into the exploitative system of wage-labor? Will their living conditions and health deteriorate? Will they be forcefully assimilated into the capitalist culture, yet remain a marginalized population therein? Davis critiques these types of capitalist ventures, and explains how they are ultimately harmful to the environment and contradictory to an indigenous worldview, but he falls short in conveying to the reader the all-too-often negative effects that result when a population is forced to transition to the capitalist economy.
Throughout the second half of the book, it is clear that Davis sees the effects of a capitalist society on indigenous groups as consistently negative or harmful, and it could be argued that his is a Marxist point of view. Yet he fails to fully detail the form that these negative effects often take. For instance, in a section discussing the coca plant and traditional Andean groups in Peru, he touches on distinctly Marxist points: “The real issues of land distribution, economic exploitation, and the persistence of debt peonage challenged the foundations of their own class structure, so they [the Peruvian middle and upper classes] settled on coca as the culprit” (2009:125). He fails, however, to discuss these issues in further depth, and instead the text moves on to detail the history of coca use and its nutritional benefits.
He continues this approach for the rest of the book. Later, in chapter 5, Davis critiques capitalist development policy (2009:171):
Ethnocide, the destruction of a people’s way of life, is in many quarters sanctioned and endorsed as appropriate development policy. Modernity provides the rationale for disenfranchisement, with the real goal too often being the extraction of natural resources on an industrial scale from territories occupied for generations by indigenous peoples whose ongoing presence on the land proves to be an inconvenience.
This makes for a compelling argument; however there is little mention of what disenfranchisement means for the people who experience it. Here Davis is taking a distinctly political-economic stance in his analysis (Roseberry 1988); however he only glosses over what this means for the indigenous people themselves, besides a loss of their culture and cultural knowledge. While this is a critical point that Davis is making, it may leave his audience disconnected from the resulting experience of the very people he is discussing, which could be just as crucial a point.
In the end, Davis argues that increasingly intense climate change events are the critical reason why the western world needs to consider indigenous knowledge as an important resource for humanity and for its insights into an alternative approach to living on the planet. Throughout the book, indigenous peoples’ relationship to the environment around them is detailed as drastically different from how most in the west view the environment. Davis shows that a deep understanding of the natural world in its minute details is often crucial to the well being and success of indigenous groups around the world. The Wayfinders is an engrossing read, full of ethnographic experience, and accessible to a wide audience, and it ties two vital issues of the day together. This is perhaps the greatest strength of the book – the under-discussed issues of language, knowledge, and cultural loss is directly implicated in the headline-grabbing issue of climate change. If this book is as widely read as some of his others, Davis may succeed in bringing wide attention to the importance of preserving the alternative systems of being that still exist around the globe.

References Cited
Davis, Wade
2009 The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World. Toronto, ON: House of Anansi Press
Nguyen, Dong-Phuong
2009 Rising seas could be worse than expected, scientific group says during stop in Tampa. St Petersburg Times. October 22. Electronic Document, http://www.tampabay.com/news/environment/water/rising-seas-could-be-worse-than- expected-scientific-group-says-during-stop/1046077. Accessed October 22, 2009.
Roseberry, William
1988 Political Economy. Annual Review of Anthropology 17:161-185.
United Nations Economic and Social Council
2008 Report of the international expert group meeting on indigenous languages. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Seventh Session. New York. 20pp.

Yanomami Fighting Gold Miners

It's all about the gold.
There has been another invasion of Yanomami lands in the Brazilian Amazon, and this one is looking the same as the last. In the 1980s, there was a similar gold-rush to the Yanomami lands, and they took up arms to fight it. That fight was less than successful as upwards of 4000 Yanomami perished due to a combination of the violence and disease from the gold prospectors. Today, the Yanomami are prepared to fight again.

An article in the New Internationalist details this new gold rush through the eyes of a Yanomami shaman who has traveled to Europe in efforts to gain international support. The article claims that about 3000 miners are now working illegally on Yanomami lands, and their work not only threatens the Yanomami, but also the environment. According to the shaman:
‘They come on illegal runways and bring food and material for mining,’ Davi explains. ‘They cut the trees and make holes about three or four metres deep. All the dirt that comes out fills the river, and the mercury they use is dangerous. The fish get ill and die and the animals that drink the water also die. The huge puddles of dirty water they leave behind spread malaria because they attract mosquitoes. We get ill from bathing and drinking. This is why I have come to Europe – I’m going to try talking to politicians to see if they can put pressure on the Brazilian Government to stop this.’
The story doesn't end there however, as the miners are not the only threat to the vitality of the Yanomami and the land on which they live:
"Gold mining is not the only threat faced by this community. Davi tells me that three military barracks have already been built on Yanomami land by order of the Brazilian Government, and that more are planned for the border with Venezuela. The barracks are allegedly to bolster national security, but they are more likely to please the US, which is anxious to support any policy that threatens Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. At best, the Yanomami people will have their way of life disrupted by more illness and intrusion; at worst, they’ll be caught in a crossfire beyond their control."
The story of the Yanomami brings to light the plight faced by indigenous peoples around the globe. When granted land-use rights at all, indigenous peoples have historically been forced to live on parcels of land that have been marginal to the dominant society. Unfortunately, it is on these very lands that new pockets of wealth are being found - gold in the Amazon, oil in Belize, timber in Asia. In the end, indigenous peoples can not seem to find any respite.

And check out this short video about gold mining in the Amazon:

To Bee or Not to Bee: The Buzz on the Pollination Crisis

If you're like us, you have probably listened with trepidation about the collapse of honeybee colonies -- a sad and mysterious tale with real consequences. Without bees, pollination gets out of whack, and so do crops and the rest of the ecosystem. The trajectory of the story is not unlike that of global warming's -- doom and gloom or natural cycle -- especially when you add a recent study published on New Scientist. It turns out that the plight of the honeybee isn't that bad after all.

The researchers in the article took the three main tenets of the "pollination crisis" and debunked their gravity. First, the claim that pollination by bees sustains a large percent of food crops is untrue, they contend. The majority of food crops either depend on animal pollination or pollinate themselves. Second, they point out that the claim that pollinators are experiencing a catastrophic decline is based on extreme regional examples. They say that any decreases have been offset by increases elsewhere. Third, they question the claim that a small number of pollinators would affect agricultural productivity at all, pointing out that crop yields have steadily increased the past few decades.

So, is there a world-wide bee crisis, or not? The authors of the article make mention of how the crisis "is a great story that taps into the anxieties of our age." Is all the hype, then, merely a yarn spun with baseless fears and anxieties? Or, is this a case of global warming v. climate change?

Here is a video from two years ago put out by PBS called "Silence of the Bees." It talks about honeybees as a "keystone species" and the mindset shift needed to reverse their decline.

Freedom can be Free: "The Economics of Indigenous Freedom"

A short article appearing on Guerrilla News Network caught my eye with its title, "The Economics of Indigenous Freedom," and, although it's over a month old, I decided to post it here to open up the conversation to our readers as well.

In the article, author David Sugar lays out the possibility that the indigenous of the U.S. could find "freedom" in open-source technology. He argues many economic endeavors undertaken by American Indians fail to sustain families and communities, while maintaining a cultural bankruptcy as well -- forcing participation in what Sugar terms "a culturally foreign social-economic model." This foreign model encourages competition, coercion, and deception in pursuit of wealth -- concepts that intrinsically clash with American Indian lifeways.

Sugar's kind-of curious, but certainly practical, solution is investing in and developing free software:
As I noted there are basic cultural questioned tied to economics. This was best explained to me once by Russell Means. While at the time we were talking about the social and cultural consequence of western styles education, what he said that most stuck with me was, and to roughly paraphrase his words, “Indians do not compete”. Clearly then, the logical way forward is to look at sustainable models based on voluntary cooperative economics, and there are a number examples found practiced today which do not require high levels of (presumably external) investment to get started and which have already been demonstratively effective. One example of this is found in the economics of free (as in freedom) software.
He goes on to explain how the relationship between the creator of free software and the user is one that fosters cooperation and freedom of use, neither of which contradict "core social and cultural principles."

Whether Sugar's argument is completely fleshed out, I'm not sure. But it's certainly a fresh and interesting approach to thinking about technology and indigenous issues.

You can read the entire article for yourself by clicking here.
Image credit: gnn.tv

The Simpsons and Stephen Hawking Take on the G20

We know the G20 meetings in Pittsburgh have already passed, but we just came across this video now, and we feel that it still holds an important message. Namely, as people who desire change, we must realize that change from the top rarely, if ever, works, and until we change the institutions under which we operate, we are not likely to see an end to the injustices that exist around the globe. In this short video, we see a call for a more grassroots and participatory action to bring about a change that will benefit everyone.

Check it out and tell us what you think!

Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives

Check out this talk by Carolyn Steel, an architect, author and food urbanist, given a few months ago at the TEDGlobal Conference at Oxford. Steel talks about the ideas from her book, Hungry City, which follows food from its origins, to the table, to its not-so-final resting place in the sewer. In the process, she explores how this journey impacts daily life and the environment.

Here is an overview of the last chapter of her book, taken from her website, www.hungrycitybook.co.uk:

Chapter Seven is about the future, and asks how we can use food as a tool for re-thinking cities and the way we live in them. The chapter’s title – sitopia – is a made-up word, from the Greek sitos, meaning food, and topos, place. So it means ‘food-place’, as opposed to utopia (‘good place’, or ‘no place’) a term used since Plato to describe an ideal – and therefore unattainable – community. Utopianism is the nearest thing we have to a cross-disciplinary tradition of thought about the problem of dwelling. The trouble is that it’s not a realistic approach, because it aims at perfection. That’s why I’m proposing sitopia as a practical alternative. The world is already shaped by food, so we may as well start using food to shape the world more positively.

Garden City

If you look back at urban history, you realise that the dilemmas we face today are nothing new. Their scale may be unprecedented, but people have been puzzling over the question of how to build equable, workable, sustainable communities for about as long as cities have existed. I believe food is the key to thinking about these issues – the obvious answer that has been staring at us all along, only it was too big to see.

Food is what connects us all to each other and to the natural world, which makes it an incredibly powerful medium for thinking and acting collaboratively. It encompasses all of life – not just what is necessary, but also what makes live worth living. I can’t think of a more powerful or positive global revolution than one in which we all learned to see the world through food, and I hope that reading Hungry City will help you start doing just that.

And here is a video of her talk from TED:

"The Walls Talk When the Media Lies"

Hondurans critical of the coup regime are taking their censored messages to the streets after several constitutional rights were suspended -- including the right to free thought, the right to free movement, freedom of the press and many more. Writers Kara Newhouse and Laura Taylor have posted pictures of the graffiti that is popping up around Honduras, bold statements that give voice to a silenced dialogue.

As Newhouse and Taylor explain,
"...the literal writing on the walls deny the state of calm that the coup leaders claim exists and expose the state of exception that they impose. These photos capture the ongoing conversations in a shrinking space for expression."

You can read their entire piece on Upside Down World.

Image: Kara Newhouse and Laura Taylor

Maya Day Celebration

Photo credit Destination360 Tikal
We've decided to switch gears here, and offer something a little different to our readers. I (dooglas) have recently taken a position as project manager in the NGO, Remedia, wherein I will be able to work on a whole slew of interesting projects, many of which will be related to content we often blog about here on Recycled Minds. These projects will help the start of a new-ish aspect of completely original content. We will keep bringing you news and connections as we always have, but we'll be adding a post here and there based on our own work, and hope to make this a significant part of what Recycled Minds does. So with that...

Remedia is an organization that has grown out of about 4 years of work in southern Belize by our friend Jillian DeGezelle. An ethnobotanist in training, Jillian has been working with Maya and Garifuna healers exploring traditional medicinal approaches to women's health issues. Over the years, different ideas for projects have come up, so Jillian formed Remedia to try to raise funds for such. Having worked with Jill in the past, and having conducted my MA and MPH thesis work in southern Belize, Remedia seemed like a good fit for me, and there was a spot to step in and help get the organization rolling. We're still in our infancy, but there are a bunch of things already happening.

One such project is a trip to the ruins of Tikal in Guatemala for the annual Maya Day Celebration. Maya Day is a new aspect of a growing pan-Maya movement in which Maya from throughout the region converge at Tikal for a reclaiming of Columbus Day - a signal that over 500 years of oppression and exploitation is coming to an end. A small group of Q'eqchi' Maya healers requested that we (Remedia) accompany them to the celebration, and film the journey. Jillian is currently in Belize, and I will be headed down shortly to join her and the healers for the trip to Tikal. We'll be twittering about the project as often as possible, and will have blog posts and pictures and video on the Remedia site as soon as we can. I will also post occasional updates about the happenings at Remedia here on Recycled Minds. Thanks for your interest!

Hondurans Stripped of Constitutional Rights

From RealNews: Now under martial law, the people of Honduras are experiencing a radical loss of freedoms as the widely condemned interim coup government continues to try to control protests and the flow of information. According to Dr Luther Castillo:
Honduras is under martial law as executive decree PCM-M-016-2009 has suspended numerous constitutional freedoms including: personal freedom, the right to free thought, the right to organize and meet, the right to free movement, freedom of the press, rights to privacy in one's own home, and protection against arbitrary detentions. The coup regime has routinely infringed these rights throughout the past three months, but it used the current decree to mobilize the military to shut down all anti-coup media outlets, thus eliminating any news of the resistance from the media. As filmmaker and resistance member Oscar Estrada writes, "it's like we never existed."
U.S. officials continue to blame President Zelaya and his decision to return to the country last weekend for these new crackdowns, calling Zelaya "irresponsible". This, while the military continues violent crackdowns enforcing curfews. Interestingly, if you watch the video below for the footage of Honduran soldiers marching toward protesters, they look alarmingly like the police lines breaking up protests at the G20 protests in Pittsburgh last week.

Banned Books Week: Vive le Livre!

September 26th to October 3rd marks the 27th annual Banned Books Week, a celebration of sorts for freedom of expression and for all the books that have been harassed and threatened with extinction because of perceived offensiveness and/or danger to society.

The complaints come in many forms, and offer interesting insights into cultural fears and anxieties. Books have been challenged because of inappropriate language, race portrayals, ethnic portrayals; because of political or religious subversion, occult or satanic allusions, or suspect family values; because of drug use, excessive language, violence, or sex.

Often, these charges are coupled with the challenge that a book is "unsuited to age group." It seems what people most often fear is a book's alleged ability to indoctrinate children with some value or belief system that challenges one's own. "Our children are at stake!," the banners cry, never considering the unfortunate effects of such censorship.

In defiance of such short-sighted hucksters, crack open a banned book and indulge in its excessiveness today.

The American Library Association offers many resources for Banned Books Week:
A list of challenged or banned books in 2008-2009
A proclamation for local libraries
A letter you can send to your local newspaper
and more!

Image by florian.b on flickr.com

Too Many Corporations in My Food

That the food supply is contaminated with corporate politics and chemicals, we know. That advertising is often deceitful, especially when it comes to the faddish "natural," we know. Why, then, was it so disappointing to read a recent article from the Chicago Tribune about Big Food quietly and insidiously buying up small organic food companies?

It turns out that the big companies go to great lengths to hide their ownership of their organic brands. The packaging remains the same, the "story" remains poignantly the same (as the article points out, the story behind a farm or family is a carefully crafted marketing pitch), and the buyer is none the wiser. While the corporate invasion has served to boost the organic industry and to make organic foods more affordable, it has also further blurred the definition of organic, making it all a matter of semantics rather than safe ingredients.

Here's a list of some commonly found organic brands, and their big business parents:

Pepsi: Naked juices
Kraft: Back to Nature; Boca Foods
Nestle: Tribe Mediterranean Foods
Dean Foods: White Wave/Silk; Alta Dena; Horizon; Organic Cow of Vermont
General Mills: Muir Glen; Cascadian Farm
Conagra: Lightlife; Alexia Foods
Kellogg: Kashi; Morningstar Farms; Gardenburger; Bear Naked
Coca-Cola: Odwalla juices
M&M/Mars: Seeds of Change
Hershey Foods: Dagoba chocolate

You can read the entire article on the Reading Eagle website.

Against the Grain: The World Seed Conference

Early last week, the 2nd annual World Seed Conference convened in Rome, Italy, with the seemingly innocuous aim of addressing agricultural challenges in the context of increasing populations, climate change, energy consumption, and scarcity of land. The official "declaration" of the conference reads: "Urgent government measures and increased public and private investment in the seed sector are required for the long term if agriculture is to meet the challenge of food security in the context of population growth and climate change."

The actual consequences of these developments to the "seed sector" are nicely laid out by Robin Willoughby of the NGO Share the World's Resources. One of the disturbing issues he explains is the implementation of intellectual property laws to "protect" the rights of agribusinesses:

Under the guise of innovation and progress, breeding companies suggest that seed varieties developed in laboratories in the North and then sold to poorer farmers in the South can raise yields in crops, increase nutritional values, reduce pesticide and fossil fuels use as well as conserve biodiversity. In the words of one participant at the conference, his company utilised ‘the art and science of changing the genetics of plants for the benefit of humankind.'

Advocates from industry argue that to safeguard their investment in these manipulated ‘seed innovations' governments should use a form of legal construction (intellectual property rights) to prevent farmers from re-using and changing seeds that are a ‘product' of agribusiness. Industry lobbyists also suggest that such monopoly rights should extend to developed plants varieties that business cannot easily control by technology - for example due to natural reproduction.
As we have seen in different contexts, the negatives far outweigh the positives of such a situation that does little, in the end, to address the problem it sets out to solve. With agri-giants such as Monsanto, Dupont and Syngenta leading the way, it is just another instance of placing profit over people.

Read the entire article on ZNet.

Chipotle Rewards Tomato Pickers

Back in July we posted about the film Food Inc., wherein we criticized Chipotle for not signing on to an agreement to pay tomato pickers in Florida an additional 1 penny per pound. Companies like Whole Foods and Bon Appetit had signed on to the agreement, and Chipotle's refusal seemed to go against their mantra of bringing more sustainable foods and "food with integrity" to their customers.
Well just a few days ago, MarketWatch reported that Chipotle agreed to its own deals with one of Florida's largest tomato growers, East Coast Farms, and of course, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) was involved. Under the agreement, tomato pickers will receive the additional penny per pound of tomatoes picked, which turns out to be a surprising 64% wage increase. So why is this deal significant, and why did Chipotle broker their own deal? According to the article:
"Similar agreements between other large tomato buyers, like Chipotle, and the CIW have been blocked by a Florida tomato industry cooperative. Under most of those agreements, money earmarked for farm workers is accumulating in escrow accounts rather than reaching the farm workers for whom it is intended. By working directly with East Coast Farms, Chipotle will be able to pass the additional wages directly to the workers."
It looks like this could be a nice victory for CIW and the workers that they represent. Chipotle representatives are certainly talking a good game, and this development certainly supports their 'food with integrity' mission. Said founder Steve Ellis,
"This agreement will make a difference in the lives of workers who pick tomatoes for Chipotle, but our commitment goes well beyond this. We are constantly looking at all of the ingredients we use, and how we can use our purchasing power to improve conditions for farm workers, raise animal welfare standards, and minimize environmental impacts. These choices come at a price, giving Chipotle the highest food costs in the industry. But we continue to think it is the right way to run our business. It's how we are changing the way people think about and eat fast food."

Grown in Detroit: Urban Farming and School Gardens in the Motor City

Detroit's urban farming initiatives are clearly gaining traction. An award-winning documentary is traveling the festival circuit and will soon be aired on TV: Grown in Detroit, by Dutch filmmakers Mascha and Manfred Poppenk. The film shows how nature has taken over Detroit's abandoned landscape, how farms, bee colonies, and native flowers now nourish a growing revolution. The film focuses on the gardening/farming program at the Catherine Ferguson Academy for Young Women, a school for pregnant and parenting teens. The filmmakers present the case that the students' initial resistance disappears when they reap the rewards of their bounty.

Watch the trailer at www.grownindetroit.tv.

An Unsuccessful Marriage: Monsanto and the Drug War

A little over a month ago, we talked about the recent failure of Monsanto corn to go to seed on South African farms. Another Monsanto crisis is unfolding on another continent, as laid out by Meg White on Buzzflash. This time the trouble is in South America, where Monsanto's chemical herbicide glyphosate (better known as "Round-Up") is being blamed for increased levels of cancer and birth defects, as well as for thoroughly complicating the "war on drugs."

It turns out that the U.S. military sprays glyphosate from airplanes onto coca crops in South America, which has the adverse effect of wiping out food crops as well, unless the seeds are of the Monsanto's specially-genetically modified-Round-Up-Ready variety. The strange and unexpected twist to the situation, however, is that coca plants seemed to have evolved (either on their own or not) -- to be glyphosate resistant.

All around, it seems the plan is backfiring. Read the full article by clicking here. It's a very interesting and well-laid-out analysis of Monsanto's practices and their effect on the "war on drugs."

Also be sure to check out the petition calling for an anti-trust investigation into Monsanto. "Monsanto -- through acquisitions and cut-throat business practices -- has cornered 90% of the soy, 65% of the corn, and 70% of the cotton market, and has a rapidly growing presence in the fruit and vegetable market, all without government anti-trust officials raising an eyebrow." It appears that we have a case of another corporation increasingly out of control.

Giroux: A Culture of Cruelty

If you have wondered why violence is often glorified in media, or what this might have to do with anti-healthcare reform crusaders and hate crimes, read Henry Giroux' excellent article "Living in a Culture of Cruelty." Part of the problem, he argues, is the normalization of violence and cruelty through political policies that are largely based on a market fundamentalism that values wealth over people. His discussion proves to be a helpful way to understand the intersection of everyday life, the political and the production of cultural meaning.

Here is an excerpt that talks about power in a culture of cruelty:
The growing dominance of a right-wing media forged in a pedagogy of hate has become a crucial element providing numerous platforms for a culture of cruelty and is fundamental to how we understand the role of education in a range of sites outside of traditional forms of schooling. This educational apparatus and mode of public pedagogy is central to analyzing not just how power is exercised, rewarded and contested in a growing culture of cruelty, but also how particular identities, desires and needs are mobilized in support of an overt racism, hostility towards immigrants and utter disdain, coupled with the threat of mob violence toward any political figure supportive of the social contract and the welfare state. Citizens are increasingly constructed through a language of contempt for all noncommercial public spheres and a chilling indifference to the plight of others that is increasingly expressed in vicious tirades against big government and health care reform. There is a growing element of scorn on the part of the American public for those human beings caught in the web of misfortune, human suffering, dependency and deprivation.
And another excerpt that brings in popular culture:
Underlying the culture of cruelty that reached its apogee during the Bush administration, was the legalization of state violence, such that human suffering was now sanctioned by the law, which no longer served as a summons to justice. But if a legal culture emerged that made violence and human suffering socially acceptable, popular culture rendered such violence pleasurable by commodifying, aestheticizing and spectacularizing it. Rather than being unspoken and unseen, violence in American life had become both visible in its pervasiveness and normalized as a central feature of dominant and popular culture.
It might be interesting to place Giroux' argument next to Rene Girard's theories of violence (from his book Violence and the Sacred) to give a sort-of historical trajectory of the role of violence in society. Same thing with Foucault's Discipline and Punish. I think all three talk about the spectacle of violence and cruelty and the different ways it is absorbed and assimilated.

Dancing on John Wayne’s Head

A really interesting short documentary (18 minutes) exploring the connections between Africans and New World Native Americans. It includes interviews with a number of interesting people from groups as diverse as the North American Havasupai to "black indian" cocoa farmers in Bolivia. I found it on International Cry, which also included a short commentary on John Wayne himself along with a description of the film and recommendations on similar films and books.

Mushrooms can Save the Planet! Paul Stamets on TED

I've been interested in Paul Stamets since my younger more experimental days. I lived for a time in the country and would often collect wild mushrooms, attempt to identify them, examine their spores and even take an occasional taste. In those days I discovered Stamets, arguably the world expert on fungi. I just found out about this extraordinary talk he gave for TED, and just had to share it. TED has a short description of Stamets:

Entrepreneurial mycologist Paul Stamets seeks to rescue the study of mushrooms from forest gourmets and psychedelic warlords. The focus of Stamets' research is the Northwest's native fungal genome, mycelium, but along the way he has filed 22 patents for mushroom-related technologies, including pesticidal fungi that trick insects into eating them, and mushrooms that can break down the neurotoxins used in nerve gas.

There are cosmic implications as well. Stamets believes we could terraform other worlds in our galaxy by sowing a mix of fungal spores and other seeds to create an ecological footprint on a new planet.

Take a listen and discover what mushrooms can do for the planet besides feed people! Find out why Stamets claims the preservation of old growth forests is a matter of national security. It's a fascinating 17 minute listen that offers a history of fungi as well as a number of key possiblities, including cleaning the soil, treating small pox and the flu, creating natural insecticides, and more...

Also check out Fungi Perfecti, founded by Stamets >>>