The Secret Life of Plants...Via Cell Phone

Simply for the fun of letting your mind wander to all the possible implications, read this recent Discovery News article about text messaging plants. Putting old technology developed by NASA to new uses, scientists have created small microchips that farmers may place on the leaves of plants. When the plants are thirsty, they simply send a text message to their farmer.

Of course, the practical significance of this technology outweighs its sci-fi quality. The chip is merely a sensor that is wired to a power source that transmits signals via cell phone towers. Nevertheless, proponents hope that giving plants the ability to text message will save farmers thousands of dollars a year and increase sustainability.

Read the entire article at Discovery News or Tree Hugger
Image: Discovery News

An Unprecedented Illusion: Fashion and Consumerism

by lana lynne on 5-26-09
"Delusional consumerism" is a good way to describe the fruitless endeavors of the economically privileged to stay fashionable with trends that exist solely from the physically, ecologically, and mentally toxic practices of corporations.

Charty Durrant's Resurgence article, "The Tyranny of Trends," looks at the evolution of fashion through the lens of consumerism -- how the artistry of "adornment and embellishment" has devolved to a system dependent on self-obsession, worker exploitation, and ecological degradation. As people blindly consume the never-ending rotation of trends, the bigger picture becomes subsumed by the chase. Meanwhile, Durrant points out, the desire for distressed denim is leaving Tehuacán, in Mexico, with extraordinary land and water pollution. In a similar vein, China must deal with 80% of their water supply destroyed from feeding westerners' "need" for cheap clothing.

Criticism of consumerism, and fashion in particular, is nothing new. But posting this article after one about the "economics of poverty" beautifully underscores the illusory quality of modern consumerism.

Continue reading Durrant's article >>>

The Economics of Poverty

The Washington Post recently published an excellent article by DeNeen L. Brown explaining the catch-22-like nature of living in poverty. In the U.S., access to resources revolves around economics: those who have money, have access and those who have no money have no choice but to pay for it. The WP article points out how goods and services are often readily accessible to the large middle class of the country, while the poor need to rely on over-priced and under-stocked markets for the necessities of daily life. Take the example of food: 
"You don't have a car to get to a supermarket, much less to Costco or Trader Joe's, where the middle class goes to save money. You don't have three hours to take the bus. So you buy groceries at the corner store, where a gallon of milk costs an extra dollar." 
Brown continues to explain how those living in poverty are stuck in a cycle of low-paying jobs, high-priced goods, restrictive time-consuming realities, and no credit that makes it nearly impossible to break the cycle. 

Read the article here>>> 

Paying the Price: Migrant Workers in Mexico

A must view video from the Fair Food Across Borders Campaign that examines the lives (and abuses) of migrant farm workers in Mexico. From their website
"Paying the Price examines the impoverished lives of migrant workers from the town of Ayotzinapa, Guerrero. We follow them from their community to their lives as migrant workers in a large Sinaloa agribusiness camp, Buen Año, where they pick exotic Chinese vegetables for export to the US and Canada. We see the hardships faced by these workers in their community of origin, largely abandoned by the local and state governments to the inhumane and slave-like working conditions they encounter in Buen Año. Through interviews with members of the community of Ayotzinapa, the owner of Buen Año and others involved in agribusiness in Sinaloa Paying the Price presents the polarized reality of how migrant workers are seen in Mexico: through the eyes of agribusiness these workers are merely an annoying, culturally backward necessity to be dealt with in order to reap their multi-million dollar profits. Members of the community speak about being forced to leave their community because of the lack of work in their region, constant illness and their inability to save enough money to sustain their families." 
Give yourself 35 minutes and get an inside look at the price that other people have to pay for the food in your neighborhood grocery. 

Arise then...women of this day!

So begins Julia Ward Howe's Mother's Day Proclamation, written in 1870 as a rallying cry for peace following the U.S. Civil War and at the start of the Franco-Prussian War. It continues:
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
"We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."
Howe's manifesto is somewhat obscured by the more familiar Mother's Day story: where Anna Jarvis came to regret the commercialized version of her well-meaning campaign to honor mothers with a holiday. Why Howe's feminist, anti-war day became subsumed by Jarvis's more "sentimental" holiday (and I harbor no prejudice toward sentimentality), one can only guess.

Equally intriguing is the Mother's Day Proclamation in context of Howe's other writing, specifically "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," the Civil War hit published in 1862, and "The Hermaphrodite," published post-humously in 2004 and presumably written in 1846-47. When placed beside one another, these three pieces offer a fascinating look at gender politics in 19th century U.S.

Watch Mother's Acting Up's dramatic reading of Howe's Mother's Day Proclamation:

For more information, visit, Code Pink, and Jodie Evans's article, "Do You Know Why Mother's Day Was Started?"

B is for Beer & Y is for Yay!

With a lull in posting tied to the insanely busy schedule of graduate school, we would like to offer a little tidbit that we find exciting. Coming somewhat under the radar, Tom Robbins has just had a new book released titled B is for Beer: A Children's Book for Grown-ups, A Grown-up Book for Children. Appropriately, that's just what it is. At first a tad disappointed that this is not a new full-length offering from Robbins, B is for Beer is still a humorous snippet from the mind of a most entertaining and insightful author. And really, what could be bad about a combination of beer and Tom Robbins? The short story is written as if it was to be read by and is being read by a grandfather, and relates the adventures of a young girl from Seattle (where else?) with a crazy uncle, troubled parents, and a grand sense of adventure, evidenced by her beer guzzling and educational trip with the Beer Fairy. Sound absurd? Robbins encourages you to read on: 
Now, kids, if that grandpa of yours hasn't given up and wandered off to watch a ball game on TV, he may well be skipping over this part of the story, believing that you couldn't possibly relate to all this stuff about the Fifth Element, about the Mystery, about magic, ancient grain spirits, and so forth...
He's wrong, isn't he?
Short, but certainly not disappointing, B is for Beer offers a nice respite from the rigors of daily life at the beginning of a new summer. Crack open a cold one, sit down with your children, and have a read. You'll be wanting more beer and Robbins in no time. 

More Oil in the News

Last year, we talked about Exxon's legal troubles stemming from oil spills and their acceleration of global warming. This year, it looks like another oil giant, Texaco/Chevron, will learn whether it must pay damages for irreparably polluting the Amazonian rain forest. A 1993 lawsuit, filed in 1993 by rain forest residents, alleges 1,401 deaths occurred from Texaco's dangerous operating procedures. Chevron argues that their practices were in line with current ones, even those of the state oil company, Petroecuador.

From the article:

Donald Moncayo, an activist who works with the poor farmers and Indian plaintiffs in the case, takes visitors on what he calls "toxic tours."

After tramping through the jungle, Moncayo reaches a huge pool of oily sludge and sticks a long pole into the muck. He says this is a legacy of Texaco's quarter-century in Ecuador: pollution that affects tens of thousands of people who bathe and drink from rain forest waterways.

A verdict should be coming by the end of the year.

Continue reading the article from NPR >>>
Image: NPR