The Coming World Soil Shortage

by douglas reeser on 4.28.2010

We have all heard about the probability of running out of oil. And the potential fresh water shortages have been popularized as well. Food shortages have even begun to flash up, but usually because of interrupted crop yields and natural disasters. Well the latest issue to add to the influx is what may be the coming shortage of arable soil. According to an article on Alternet by Larry Gallagher, the world loses over 80 billion tons of soil every year. Other statistics look just as stark. For instance, Gallagher reports: "According to the International Soil Reference and Information Centre (ISRIC), as of 1991, human activity has brought about the degradation of 7.5 million square miles (19.5 million square kilometers) of land, the equivalent of Europe twice over." Our industrial agricultural system, one that is known for depleting soils of its nutrients, has only accelerated this degradation. What shouldn't be surprising is that the extent of soil depletion varies geographically, and is probably worst in Sub-Saharan Africa. A more severe form, desertifaction is taking place there, and Gallagher notes that "desertificationn in Sub-Saharan Africa will drive 60 million people from their homes in the next 20 years."

While the problem appears dire, there are those who are exploring solutions, and Gallagher interviews one of the more successful: John Jeavons. Jeavons is the genius behind biointensive gardening, in which he has developed a method of growing food at high yields in small plots and that results in zero soil loss or degradation. It's a compelling approach, and one that could aid the millions of hungry around the world - and certainly worth checking out their website: Ecology Action.

Gallagher moves on from there with an interesting and entertaining article filled with many useful links. Check out the rest of his story here>>>

Of course we could all try a life of fasting like this holy man in India, who has reportedly consumed no food or water for decades. Read his story at the BBC news here>>>

M.I.A: Born Free

Have you seen the new MIA video for Born Free. An interesting, violent, poignant statement about the military state that we perpetuate around the globe. If not, you have to watch this:

M.I.A, Born Free from ROMAIN-GAVRAS on Vimeo.

Questioning the Tea Partiers

With the new movement of Tea Partiers gaining national attention, and finding more and more space in various media outlets, I have been left wondering what exactly is behind this group of vocal social and political critics. I have heard numerous interviews with Tea Party supporters, and it strikes me that one of two things must be going on (or maybe both): the people of the Tea Party movement are either deliberately using misinformation in an effort to manipulate public response and support for their supposed cause, or these same people are being deliberately manipulated with misinformation to further the popularity and voice of the movement.

I've heard conflicting reports about the demographics of the Tea Party. For instance, I have heard that they are mainly more educated than the average US citizen, and from another source that this is actually not the case. They may be more affluent than average - or not. Perhaps it's the relative newness of the movement that is contributing to this evolving story about them, but either way it is deeply disturbing that an apparently growing number of (mostly) white people have been hoodwinked by an agenda that so blatantly uses misinformation and outright lies. In fact, some have described the Tea Partiers as outright racists - even Bill Maher calls them out on this possibility - check it out:

It will be curious to see how their influence grows or dissipates in the coming years.

Democracy Now from the World People's Summit on Climate Change

Some cool stuff happening in Bolivia right now, where they are hosting the World People's Summit on Climate Change. Thousands of participants came from around the world to voice the concerns of the global south and the less wealthy. Concerns over such major issues as the effects of global capitalism, genetically modified crops, and the environmental policies of the developed nations of the world are just a few of the topics being discussed. Amy Goodman and Democracy Now have been broadcasting live from Bolivia all week, and have had some really interesting interviews and stories. Check out their site for the stories from earlier this week, and here's today's interview with Bolivian President Evo Morales:

Seeking Cures in Antarctica

I have a good friend working on his PhD in Chemistry who is currently in Antarctica doing research that was just covered by the Discovery Channel. He spends much of his time analyzing samples in Palmer Station, one of the few research stations on the frigid continent. He also takes part in collecting dives, where he and his colleagues find and collect rare and unusual specimens from the sea. The lead researcher, Bill Baker, was interviewed for a brief piece on Discovery News that describes some of the work they're doing:
In the tissue of the kelp Gigartina skottsbergii Baker has found chemicals that have broad antiviral properties. Marine plants from the genus Gigartina are already used in natural medicine supplements as a flu fighter. But over-the-counter products haven't undergone rigorous clinical testing.

Baker's tests show that the protein from G. skottsbergii is particularly effective against the H1N1 "swine flu" strain, among others. It doesn't kill the virus directly, but disrupts its ability to infect healthy cells, which could prove immensely valuable as a treatment to prevent people from getting sick in the first place.
While it remains uncommon for the team to find new active compounds, their work has found some promising leads. This is interesting to us here at Recycled Minds for a number of reasons, but foremost is because this type of research is novel, and does not rely on the knowledge of others (especially less-advantaged groups) to succeed. Much natural product and botanical research is conduced in highly diverse regions like tropical forests, which are also home to many of the world's indigenous populations. Indigenous peoples are often utilized in the aid of such research, but rarely see any of the benefits of their knowledge. Research like that being conducted in Antarctica is forging new paths of knowledge seeking, leaving the controversies to others.

Read the entire Discovery News Piece here>>>

Of Bards and Bacteria

We came across this strange little article in Wired Magazine, and thought we would pass it along purely for responses' sake.

If the longevity of the written word has been bothering you lately, follow Canadian poet Christian Bök's lead. Evidently, Bök is determined to encode a "poem" into the DNA of a hardy bacteria that will exist for billions of years. We're no microbiologists, but apparently the way he will do this is by creating a cipher that "links letters of the alphabet with genetic nucleotides (adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine, aka ACGT). Each triplet of nucleotides will correspond to a letter so that, say, ACT represents the letter a, AGT represents the letter b, and so on...After using hand-coded software to determine which ciphers will give him the maximum two-way potential, Bök will finally start composing. He says his poem will probably need to have a 'repetitive, incantatory quality.'"

Hmm... this raises so many questions I don't know where to start...

Image: Nishant Choksi

The Senselessness of War: Caught on Film

Today we share a video clip that was released yesterday (Tuesday 4-5-2010) on "WikiLeaks" that shows the 2007 massacre of 12 Iraqi civilians along with 2 Reuters News employees. The video has received some attention from a number of alternative news sites, but virtually nothing from any of the major news agencies. We feel this is the type of footage that people need to see if we are ever going to be able to move towards being a nation that does not engage in war - especially wars with imperialistic ends.

Amy Goodman played clips today on Democracy Now, and then interviewed Julian Assange, the co-founder of WikiLeaks. After explaining the confusion of the US soldiers who thought the civilians might be armed, Assange explains further why it is vital that footage like this is made public:

"What’s important to remember is that every step that the Apache takes in opening fire is authorized. It does pause before shooting. It explains the situation, sometimes exaggerating a little to its commanders, and gets authorized permission.

These are not bad apples. This is standard practice. You can hear it from the tones of the voices of the pilots that this is in fact another day at the office. These pilots have evidently, and gunners have evidently become so corrupted, morally corrupted, by the war that they are looking for excuses to kill. That is why you hear this segment, “Come on, buddy! Just pick up a weapon.” They just want an excuse to kill."

This and other videos like it make it clear that we as human beings need to rethink why it is that we continue to subject others to senseless and barbaric violence. I, for one, know that this is not the type of world I want to be a part of. If you haven't seen the footage, watch it below - but be warned that it is quite violent.

You can also find a longer complete version at

the WalMart Rap

Oh my... how about a little fun to kick off the month of April?! Came across this over at my friends' blog, and it made me giggle for the full two minutes - enjoy!