Protesting the Commercialization of Life

From Balem, Brazil, and the Inter Press Service comes news of the efforts taken by indigenous peoples to send a message to the 2009 World Social Forum (WSF), being held in northern Brazil. The Coordinating Committee of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB) joined the Quito-based Coordinating Body of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA) to send their "message from the heart of the Amazon," that "our concern about global warming, whose impact we will be the first to feel, although we, the peoples of the Amazon, have protected and cared for the forests," said Francisco Avelino Batista, an Apurinán Indian from the Brazilian Amazon.

The key location chosen for the WSF, and the various global crises that are occurring, have created "a special moment" for original peoples to take a leading role, according to Roberto Espinoza, an adviser to the Andean Coordination of Indigenous Organizations (CAOI). "A crisis of civilization" is under way, said Espinoza, who described the serious economic, energy and food problems, as well as climate change, as part of the same phenomenon. In this situation, indigenous people should have political participation as of right, not "as folklore or as a merely cultural contribution," Espinoza, one of the coordinators of the indigenous peoples' presence at the WSF, told IPS.The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, approved by the United Nations General Assembly, is of paramount importance here, he said. It should not be seen as a "utopian" document; rather, its provisions should be binding, like those of the International Labor Organization's Convention 169 on indigenous and tribal peoples.
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Image: AP / Spectral Agency, Lou Dematteis

Environmental Knowledge Gaps

University of Michigan's Environmental Science and Policy Department recently posted an article about their assessment of a three-year ecosystem analysis, the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, in which hundreds of scientists worldwide were called on "to develop a view of ecosystems through the lens of services those ecosystems provide to humanity."

Not surprisingly, MSU reported that "the abilities of ecosystems to provide human well-being" are declining "in almost every case."

More interesting is the conclusion drawn from these findings -- the limits of "discipline-bound approaches that don’t fully describe the range of the Earth’s dynamic and complex biophysical and social systems." MSU scientists report the "biggest knowledge gap" is “really thinking seriously about the interaction between humans and ecosystems, back and forth. How are we changing ecosystems and how are ecosystems affecting us?”

Source: MSU via Treehugger

The Story of Peak Oil and Cuba

Like it or not, oil remains an integral part of everyday life around the globe. Beyond fuel for our automobiles, oil drives the production of the consumer culture of capitalism that is spreading around the globe. The theory of peak oil was proposed back in the 1970s, and reasons that because oil is a finite resource, the available stores of that resource will at some point peak, and then begin a decline. The speed of that decline could determine how catastrophic - or not - the stresses associated with less oil will be. 
The island nation of Cuba went through something like a peak oil crisis in the 1990s when their economy collapsed along with the fall of Soviet Communism. The Power of Community is the story of how Cuba managed the crisis and moved forward without any major violence or upheaval. Clocking in at just over 50 minutes, it's a story worth watching and worth talking about. It may even give people some ideas about actions to take in their own community in anticipation of the effects of a diminishing oil supply. 

Visit the website for more information and news about the film, the people who made it, and how to have - or where to see - a screening. 

Or watch it here: 

Edward S. Herman on Latin America

At the end of December, Upside Down World interviewed Wharton School of Business professor emeritus Edward S. Herman about the United States' influence on Latin America in the past and in the currently shifting climate.

The introduction to the interview also talks about the book Herman co-authored with Noam Chomsky in the 1970s, The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism: The Political Economy of Human Rights: Volume I, and Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, which was initially pulled from publication for being unpatriotic.

With a new administration, will the U.S. continue to follow the same foreign policies from 1948, which Herman and Chomsky cited in their book?
"We have about 50 percent of the world’s wealth, but only about 6 percent of its population…In this situation we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships that will permit us to maintain this disparity…To do so we will have to dispense with sentimentality and daydreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives…We should cease to talk about vague and…unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards and democratization.”
Watch the interview:

And read the article at Upside Down World.

Pictures of the Destruction in Gaza

To round out our coverage of the war in Gaza, we would like to share this picture gallery of the destruction that was posted online by the Telegraph (UK). War is a tool of the rich used against the poor. It's long past the time when we as humanity should even consider such grand acts of violence - enacted on each other. If you're not sure about this, please look at this slideshow

If that's not enough, I came across this shocking gallery contrasting pictures from the WWII era with pics from Gaza. This echos some of the views reported on Democracy Now coverage of Jews protesting the war in NYC last week. Craziness indeed.

The U.S. Role in the War in Gaza

We don't often focus on political events outside of the U.S. and Latin America here at Recycled Minds, but the lopsided unethical aggression of Israel into Gaza needs to be kept in the forefront of our minds and questioned. The continued bombing of Gaza - including the destruction of U.N. headquarters, schools, homes and prisons - appears to have no immediate end. If it seems that the U.S. is simply sitting on the sidelines, think again. This article by Robert Bryce from details how involved the U.S. actually is - to the tune of over $1 billion in tax-payer support. From the article: 

Jan. 16, 2009 | Israel's current air and ground assault on the Gaza Strip has left about 1,000 Palestinians dead, including 400 women and children. Several thousand people have been wounded and dozens of buildings have been destroyed. An estimated 90,000 Gazans have abandoned their homes. Israel's campaign in Gaza, which began more than two weeks ago, has been denounced by the Red Cross, multiple Arab and European countries, and agencies from the United Nations. Demonstrations in Pakistan and elsewhere have been held to denounce America's support for Israel.
It's well known that the U.S. supplies the Israelis with much of their military hardware. Over the past few decades, the U.S. has provided about $53 billion in military aid to Israel. What's not well known is that since 2004, U.S. taxpayers have paid to supply over 500 million gallons of refined oil products -- worth about $1.1 billion –- to the Israeli military. While a handful of countries get motor fuel from the U.S., they receive only a fraction of the fuel that Israel does -- fuel now being used by Israeli fighter jets, helicopters and tanks to battle Hamas.
According to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, between 2004 and 2007 the U.S. Defense Department gave $818 million worth of fuel to the Israeli military. The total amount was 479 million gallons, the equivalent of about 66 gallons per Israeli citizen. In 2008, an additional $280 million in fuel was given to the Israeli military, again at U.S. taxpayers' expense. The U.S. has even paid the cost of shipping the fuel from U.S. refineries to ports in Israel.
image credit: Mohammed Omer - Rafah Today 2006-09-03

Oh My Gaza!

The shock and horror we feel about what is turning out to be a continual escalation of force in the Gaza strip does not appear to have an end in sight. Because Israel will not let any press in on the ground, it has been difficult to learn what is actually happening there. We came across this video from Channel 4 News (UK) that offers some details that we have not seen in other places. 

Below this, check out the clip from John Stewart denouncing the war, and a site that supports it.

and the Daily Show comment...

Children of the Left, Unite!

From the New York Times comes a review of Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children’s Literature, a discussion of out-of-print children's literature that aimed to inculcate young minds with ideals of progressive social justice.

Some excerpts from the article:
In Yehoshua Kaminski’s tale “A Little Hen Goes to Brownsville” (1937), translated from the Yiddish, a chicken sets out to use her near-superhero-caliber egg-laying skills to help the Brooklyn neighborhood’s babies, which she hears are “small and pale, thin and weak.” So unstoppable is her nutritional charity that she lays an egg in Times Square, gets arrested, pays her fine with another egg, and then pays her bus fare with yet an­other. The moral, Mickenberg and Nel infer, is that “justice is best served by a system that is not defined by the strict and inflexible administration of a legal code.” Also, that children should not go hungry.
[T]he verses of Ned Donn’s 1934 “Pioneer Mother Goose”: “This bloated Pig masters Wall Street, / This little Pig owns your home; / This war-crazed Pig had your brother killed”
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Killer Hamburgers & Theiving Diplomats

A few days ago on Znet, Supriyo Chatterjee posted "From Killer Hamburgers to Theiving Diplomats: A Snapshot of Latin America 2008," a list of under-reported events and news--both positive and negative--in Latin America over the past year. "The hideous internal conflicts in Colombia and Mexico, the emerging social movements in Chile and Peru, accelerated changes in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua, the prospect of a famous Leftist victory in El Salvador in 2009, and a continent that is integrating without Washington's consent," are a few of the issues listed. Continue Reading>>>

Marcos on Mexico and the War on Drugs

The infamous spokesperson of the Zapatista movement, Subcomandante Marcos, criticized the government of Felipe Calderon and the media for their manipulation of drug war related violence during a speech at the Festival of Dignified Rage. Quoted in an article by Kristin Bricker in the Narcosphere, Marcos said

"Mexican President Felipe Calderon and the corporate media "use and abuse the word 'violence'" for their own means.  "They say they condemn violence, but in reality they condemn action."  Marcos accuses Calderon of using the drug war to pacify discontent with his government.  "Mr. Calderon decided that, instead of bread and circuses, he would give the people blood."

Marcos also talked of the potential corruption of the administration currently leading Mexico: 
Marcos also verbalized the common suspicion that Calderon is using the military he's deployed around the country to support his preferred cartel while squashing the competition.  Without mentioning specific cartels (Marcos always kept his drug violence criticism aimed squarely at the government), Marcos said, "Calderon decided, supported by one group of drug traffickers, to wage war on the opposing group of drug traffickers.  Violating the Constitution, he deployed the military to carry out the duties of the police, the district attorney, the judge, the jailer, and executer."
The drug war violence has certainly been well publicized in the the U.S., but it has been left unclear what the true role of the national government of Mexico has been. This article and the comments by Marcos may shed some light on what is actually happening on the ground.

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Click here for another interesting (if not long) piece on the Zapatistas and the Gathering.

Intentional Changes and Daniel Pinchbeck

With our first post of the new year, we thought we might post a piece that offers some hope in these times of economic and agricultural crisis. Daniel Pinchbeck just penned an article for CommonGround in which he calls for a new approach to addressing the many problems facing the world right now. Intentionality is the core of this approach, and one that will require some drastic re-arranging of the thought processes of the powers that be. Still, it begins to talk to the central issue - that a change in approach to government and economics is needed to avoid further meltdown and collapse. From the article: 

Over the last decades, the international financial elite manipulated the markets to create obscene rewards for themselves at the expense of poor and middle class people across the world.Opportunities such as this one don’t come along very often and should be seized once they appear. When the edifice of mainstream society suddenly collapses, as is happening now, it is a fantastic time for artists, visionaries, mad scientists and seers to step forward and present a well-defined alternative.the breakdown of our financial system has not altered the amount of tangible resources available on our planet. Rather than trying to re-jigger an unjust debt-based system that artificially maintains inequity and scarcity, we could make a new start.
While some of his proposal seems a bit naive - that people can simply grow food and make art for instance - bringing this discussion to the table is the most valuable thing about the article. 

and Happy New Year!