What's With the Hipster Headdress?

by douglas reeser on 6.30.2010

The summer is festival season in the U.S., and a disturbing trend can be found this year among many of the young hipster festival-goers. We're not sure where the trend started, or why, but it appears to be happening nationwide. We're talking about the hipster headdress outfit. Both men and women (or should it be boys and girls) don these traditional native american feather-adorned headdresses seemingly as a fashion statement. When questioned, a common response is that they are worn out of respect or in solidarity. Some invoke the spiritualism of "We're all one... man". Whatever the reason, many in the Native American community take issue with this co-optation of a sacred vestment, which is why we've decided to bring it up here. When hipsters wear the headdress, it calls to mind the many stereotypical visions of the Native American, and carries a number of assumptions about appropriateness and solidarity. We came across this banner (not sure what to call it really) that we know was created by a Native American, we're just not sure who. While we can't give proper credit, we feel that it puts the issue into perspective for those who may be wondering what we're talking about and why it's even an issue. Take a look:

Farming News

Monsanto continues to generate headlines with their Machiavellian takeover of the food system. Last week, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Monsanto, overturning a previous ruling of a lower court that had banned the corporation's Round-up resistant, genetically modified alfalfa seeds. While Monsanto touts the ruling as a victory for GM freedom, opponents aren't discouraged, pointing out that the ruling doesn't change the USDA's regulation of the crop, which it found illegal in 2007. You can read an article about it here, or the Supreme Court opinion about it here.

Truthout's Micky Z recently interviewed journalist and film director Marie-Monique Robin, who wrote the book and directed the movie, "The World According to Monsanto: Pollution, Corruption and the Control of Our Food Supply" (The New Press). A snippet from the interview:

"MZ: To what would you attribute the fact that the vast majority of us rail mostly at governments, instead of the far more dangerous and powerful multinational corporations?

"MMR: The problem is that the corporations act behind the scene, manipulating information, studies, press and the experts of the regulatory agencies. To speak quite frankly, I had never imagined before that a company could resort to such procedures, to sell its harmful products, in complete impunity, during decades: concealing scientific data, lying, manipulating regulations, corruption, pressuring scientists and journalists, threats. The problem is also that governments do not take any legal action against companies which are repeatedly affecting the environment and the health of consumers. If Monsanto were a private person, it would be convicted as a great criminal, but current law protects the criminal companies, which are never held accountable for the damage they cause."

Robin's next book, Toxic Lies, will expose the connection between pesticides, food additives, plastics, and other chemicals, and cancer and disease. Read the full interview here.

On a similar note, check out the report "Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use: The First Thirteen Years" by Charles Benbrook, Ph.D., Chief Scientist at The Organic Center. One of the report's conclusions is the following:

"The basic finding is that compared to pesticide use in the absence of GE crops, farmers applied 318 million more pounds of pesticides over the last 13 years as a result of planting GE seeds. This difference represents an average increase of about 0.25 pound for each acre planted to a GE trait.

"GE crops are pushing pesticide use upward at a rapidly accelerating pace. In 2008, GE crop acres required over 26% more pounds of pesticides per acre than acres planted to conventional varieties. The report projects that this trend will continue as a result of the rapid spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds."

The full report can be read here.

Finally, another item that caught our attention looks at a North Dakota farm that is trying to meet the environmental challenges of "disappearing fossil fuels, fossil water (the legacy of ice-age melting contained in our great aquifers), declining biodiversity and genetic diversity, and more unstable climates." In the Yes! Magazine article, Frederick Kirshenmenn describes what happened to the family farm when his father switched to synthetic pesticides in the 1940s. Over the course of a few decades, "We rarely saw an earthworm. Organic matter had declined, and the physical character of the soil had deteriorated. Soil granules had broken down, and there was little pore space in the soil. The soils on our farm were absorbing and retaining much less moisture from our limited rainfall. We were more vulnerable to droughts." Kirshenmenn gradually changed course beginning in the 1970s, and now looks toward more progressive methods for the future, including perennial grains, energy exchange, and synergistic production. You can read his interesting article here.

Image: Truthout

Fresh Air Fund

The Fresh Air Fund is a non-profit agency that provides free summer excursions for 10,000 low-income children living in New York City per year. They are still in need of host families for this summer. Click here for more information about becoming a host family. Click here for more information about signing up a child for the program.

Cancun Tourism: Where are the Maya?

From the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism comes this 15min documentary about the Maya experience in the Mexican tourist mecca of the Yucatan. A short blurb about the video from the groups youtube page:
In eleven days and nights of February 2010, the nine members of the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism's documentary filmmaking group reported, investigated, interviewed, filmed and produced this 15:34 documentary about the descendants of the original indigenous peoples of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula where the tourist industry from Cancun to Playa del Carmen now exploits them as workers, residents and in name.

the Grocery Store Wars

A fun video starring all your favorite vegetables in a short parody of Star Wars. GMOs, pesticides and the like star as the Dark Side, while organics from "the Farm" represent the infamous "force" - savior of our planet. I think some of the major issues surrounding our food and food system are just glossed over here, but I believe in fun and laughter as part of the path of resistance. So, enjoy this for a few minutes, and then consider learning more.

Pillaging Pirates or Environmental Activists?

Last month, Pambazuka News published an interesting article by Andrew Mwangura, who runs the Seafarers Assistance Programme, about the Somali pirates who have been making headlines in mainstream media (most notably for the kidnapping of a British couple in October 2009).

Mwangura hits many key issues surrounding the piracy in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, contextualizing the hijackings in the conflict between UN condemnations of the piracy versus the illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and illegal dumping of nuclear waste in these same waters. He also brings up the cycle of perpetuation that comes from the issuing of fake fishing licenses by Somali warlords, who sell the permits at US$30,000 to US$15,000 (good for four months). But with pirates blocking access to the waters, profits from the tuna industry have fallen significantly, affecting the local economy, which, in turn, increases the value of the fines and ransoms collected by the pirates.

The pirates, Mwangura argues, "genuinely believe that they are protecting their fishing grounds (both 200-mile territorial and EEZ waters). They also feel that they are exacting justice and compensation for the marine resources stolen and the destroyed ecosystem by the IUUs. And their thinking is shared and fully supported by the coastal communities, whose protectors and providers they became."

Although different in scope, the foreign exploitation of Somali waters brings to mind the recent BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the validity of environmental activists. In the latter, we have a case of big business run amok, which has resulted in the devastation of millions of people living along the coast. How welcome would pirates be here, trolling the Gulf in efforts to prevent another environmental disaster?

The BP spill, however, pales in comparison to recent oil spills in Nigeria, whose residents have witnessed over one million gallons of oil spill into their waters in the month of May. A Guardian article recently laid out the horrific conditions the oil industry has wrought in the African country, stating that oil spills have contaminated the region for over 50 years, and the government has had little response. Ironically, Shell (just one of the negligent companies) blames 98% of its spills on vandalism by militants, a claim disputed by community members and environmental groups, who instead blame the shoddy oil rig infrastructure.

In all of these situations, we perhaps see a complicated cycle of protective piracy, corporate piracy, and thievery piracy, with no clear solution.

Continue reading about Somali pirates here > www.pambazuka.org
Continue reading about the Nigerian oil spills here > www.guardian.co.uk
Also check out www.counterthespill.com, a website in the process of countering BP's efforts to spin the recent Gulf oil spill

Honey, Who Shrunk the Hives?: Cell Phones and Colony Collapse Disorder

by lana lynne on 6.10.2010

Did you know that some species of honey bees communicate by dancing on top of their combs, aligning the dance in the direction they wish to point their fellow bees? Colony Collapse Disorder makes this unique conversation a little less common.

Beginning in 2006, beekeepers noticed that honey bees were less frequently returning to their hives. A rapid increase in collapsing colonies followed. Honey bees are valued economically as pollinators of commercial crops, with an estimated value of $15-$20 billion a year. According to many reports, their pollination is involved in a third of the U.S. diet.

The reasons behind Colony Collapse Disorder have so far eluded scientists, although they seem to agree that it is the result of a combination of factors, namely pesticides, a parasite, and stress.

A recent study, however, points to another factor: radiation from mobile phones. New research from Punjab University claims that cell phone radiation has been interfering with bees' ability to navigate. The controlled experiments also found that a hive with mobile phone interference produced less honey and nectar, and the queen bee produced less eggs.

Nevertheless, the British Beekeepers Association stated that they have found no link between radiation and the disorder, preferring instead the previous mentioned factors. Hopefully they're right, since beekeepers have begun equipping their hives with GPS systems because of a high rate of thefts.

Read more about the study in The Telegraph.
And click here to read a January 2010 Congressional report about Colony Collapse Disorder.

No Somos Criminales

As part of the different strategies that the striking students at the University of Puerto Rico are using to gain support and counter the negative messages coming from the administration, they started a campaign asking students, parents and alumni to video record a short message basically stating that: (1) the strike is not illegal, (2) "we" are all part of the university community, and (3) we support public education. We share this video from our friend and yours - In solidarity with the student strike at the University of Puerto Rico:

Eva Illouz and Emotional Capital

Jesse Tangen-Mills recently interviewed cultural theorist Eva Illouz for Guernica, delving into Illouz's interesting perspective on emotion and capitalism, how that translates to a lingua franca of therapy, as well as to a hierarchical system of public emotional displays.

Illouz explains the two versions of capitalism she sees operating in modern culture:

The version [of capitalism] I talk about in Consuming the Romantic Utopia was a version in which commodities could help people bond together, through rituals, so people could travel or go to the restaurant, and in this version of capitalism I could not adopt an anti-materialistic point of view. In other words, we have this cliché that commodities and emotions are opposed: emotions are spiritual and inward and commodities are materialistic and outwards. I think one of the conclusions of Consuming is that you really cannot draw this dichotomy and distinction because commodities not only help people express their feelings, they actually create feelings. ... My research on the internet was very different: the rationalization aspect of capitalism. In other words, tendencies which really counteract emotions and emotionality and what I call intuition and passionate thinking. Whereas the book does not preclude the possibility that the consumer market may help you actually live great moments of passion, in the internet research I show that technology undermines what nineteenth century people called passion because of the way technology forces you to manage your relationships in a completely rational way and because of the way in which it creates a blasé attitude and cynical attitude towards the encounter. It’s the choice, the possibility of choice that changes completely the experience of passion because passion was based on scarcity.

Illouz goes on to explain how standardized emotional displays have exclusionary and institutional consequences when someone doesn't act as expected, say, in a courtroom, or in the workplace, or in politics.

Equally interestingly, I think, is Tangen-Mills introduction of Illouz: "
Unlike other theorists, however, her ideas are more than just complex complaining; they are surprising and poignant, perhaps because all of her investigations come from the heart." It was a recent "emotional shift" in the social sciences, as Illouz describes it, that sparked her interest in the emotional aspect of capitalism. But what is it about Tangen-Mills statement that is so jarring? Is it the characterization of other theories as complaints? Or is it the division between thinking "from the heart" and from the mind?

Read the full interview here