Another Year Gone By

Flowers on the Inca Trail, Peru, November 2011.
Photo for Recycled Minds by dooglas carl.
by douglas reeser on December 31, 2011
It's hard to believe that another year has passed and we've finally reached the infamous 2012. Here at Recycled Minds, we've typically compiled a year-end post that highlights what we've talked about over the last 12 months. This year, that tradition slipped through the cracks. The end of 2011 finds the two of our editors and primary contributors either out of the country or extremely busy with other commitments (dooglas is busy trying to make sense of his life in Belize, while lana is consumed by a New Years business venture). Still, we wanted to leave our readers and fans with something to chew on here at the end of the year.

With this in mind, we've decided to spread the love to a few of the closest of the many friends of Recycled Minds. These are good friends who have helped and supported us over the years, and to who we hope we have reciprocated in some small way. For us, Recycled Minds is a labor of love. We put long, hard hours into the site in our attempt to provide a space for our friends and colleagues to spread our many messages. These messages seek to inform our readers of injustice in the world while simultaneously providing a space for creativity and ultimately dialogue that could lead to reconciliation and peace among our world's peoples. Big dreams for a small site, but we only hope to contribute to a better and brighter world. And the people who have shared through and with us deserve some further credit. So without further ado (and in no particular order) please check out and show some support for...

Artist and brewer Kevin Margitich. Kevin creates some of the finest contemporary wildlife paintings being produced in the US, while also brewing some the most creative beers you could think of. His art has been shown from coast to coast, but his brews have so far been exclusive to Philadelphia. Thanks Kevin for supporting us over the years and good luck in 2012!

Our good fiends Jonathan and Leigh at the Slingluff Gallery. The gallery shows some amazing artists culled from an international list of up and coming and established artists. They also produce the Pinecone Gentleman, a virtual creation that shares artistically inclined news and information from around the world. Jonathan has contributed some of his photos for our November First Friday Picture Show, while Leigh will share some of hers for an upcoming Picture Show in 2012. Thanks to the two of them for their continued support, and may they know greater success in 2012!

Anthropologist Federico Cintrón-Moscoso. Federico currently teaches students at the University of Puerto Rico while producing the online-site, Cultura de Papel. An aspiring photographer, he shared photos from a summer 2011 trip to Haiti for our September Picture Show. Fede has an insatiable mind, and can relate his experience and knowledge in a clear and understandable way, so be sure to check out his work. We look forward to further contributions, and wish him the greatest success in the coming year!

Food Creator Tender Branson. Tender, who also teaches the youth of south-central Florida, has created the wonderful food-centric site, The site combines his love of food and music and shares recipes, restaurant reviews, music-mixes, musician interviews and more. We have shared many a night with Tender, concert-going, and food-enjoying. He shared some of his food pictures for our October Picture Show, and we always look forward to his delicious vegetarian recipes. May Tender continue to enjoy his love of food and music in 2012!

Music lover, photographer and chemist, Btreotch. Btreotch has loved music for the last 6 months, but has somehow managed to contribute for some years at Coventry Music. For some reason he has joined the land of the Mormons for a post-doc position in Chemistry, but he has maintained a bit of sanity through his production of his photoblog, Bitches in Trees. We hope to one day again experience live music with Btreotch, and know that he will continue to do so in 2012 - enjoy!

And finally, the Occupiers. We have had some wonderful contributions to Recycled Minds in 2011. Some of them have been related to the Occupy Movement, like the great posts by Cyrus Kleege and the food tent manager from Occupy LA. The energy and excitement created by Occupy across the US and world has given us renewed faith that humanity will some day find peace and equilibrium. To the movement we give our ultimate thanks, and may Occupy continue to grow and find success in 2012!

To our readers and friends, happy new year! Stay in touch and keep reading!

Views from the ANThill: Extraction from Immersion

A local bush food, ch'i kaai flower buds, fried and ready to eat in the month
of August, while Tuli looks on hopefully. Photo courtesy of Kristina Baines.
This edition of “Viewss from the ANThill” comes to you from guest contributor, Kristina Baines. 

As I begin the last weeks of my dissertation fieldwork, the preferred topic of conversation during my final encounters is my imminent departure. Thanks to my (extensive) anthropological training, I felt well prepared to enter my study community and immerse myself in a version of the tried and tested ethnographic methodology, however, I never gave much thought to the idea that the time and care spent entering would or should be mirrored in the leaving process. Again, as a practitioner of this traditional methodology, I figured I would always come back. Forever. The members of my study community, however, are eager for more details than “I will always come” and it has become clear that my extraction is requiring as much emotional honesty and practical finesse as my immersion.

While my field experience, immersed in a Mopan Maya subsistence farming community in southern Belize, has certainly borne some hallmarks of the ethnographers of yore, in reality I have spent the better part of this past year about an hour’s drive from a cold soda and an internet connection. Keeping this tangible link to life beyond my firehearth may have served to make departing easier. Instead, my easy access to information, coupled with my passable tortilla making skills, has made me an asset to community members. I have a clear role in the community beyond “anthropological researcher.” I am “helping” as well as “learning.” This reciprocal arrangement works well in this community where traditional Maya practices of work exchange or “helping each other” are the norm and wage labor is much less common. It is this system, and my interest in the connection between these traditional work practices and the wellness of community members, that has strengthened my bonds.

Protest: Keeping up the Spirit of the Season

An old holiday card showing protestors.
Courtesy of BBC News.
by douglas reeser on December 24, 2011
It's that time of year again. Solstice. The New Year. Holidays of the religious persuasion. Around the globe people are gathering with family and friends to celebrate the passing of time. This is a time of reflection and a time of hope. It may be argued that it's the time of year when people are perhaps most in the moment. And these times remain difficult for many, but the spirit of the season seems to alleviate much of the pain.
People are gathering in a different way as well. Protests that have brought together people from all persuasions continue throughout the world, most with the aim of making the world more just. Protest movements perhaps best embody the spirit of this time of year. They represent the struggle from those that have not against the those that have. Power, wealth, health, and well-being are all attainable for those that have. These things do not come quite as easy for those that have not. And the have-nots represent a larger proportion of the planet's population than we have experienced in a long time. Years, decades, centuries.... much time has passed since the wealth of the planet has been concentrated in such a small proportion of the total population. Such times call out for our protest. Such action is keeping within the spirit of the holidays.

Here at Recycled Minds, we offer our support to all of the people in the world who are standing up to power, who are fighting the struggle against injustice. Happy Holidays. Keep up the Struggle!

The US: Land of the Poor and Low Income

The Income Gap is Here - and getting bigger.
by douglas reeser on December 14, 2011
The last few years in the US have certainly been economically tough for many people. Throughout the country, high unemployment rates coupled with the housing crisis exposed how vulnerable many families actually are. This issue was brought to my immediate attention today, when, during my morning perusal through the news, two articles in particular caught my attention.

The first, an AP report on some of the economics of the 2010 census, is headlined "Census: 1 In 2 Americans Are Poor Or Low-Income."
About 97.3 million Americans fall into a low-income category, commonly defined as those earning between 100 and 199 percent of the poverty level, based on a new supplemental measure by the Census Bureau that is designed to provide a fuller picture of poverty. Together with the 49.1 million who fall below the poverty line and are counted as poor, they number 146.4 million, or 48 percent of the U.S. population.
The article credits government "safety nets" such as food stamps and some tax credits for keeping those numbers down. In other words, without the social programs that are in place (and that are continually threatened through federal and state budget cuts), it is likely that more than half of all people in the United States would be "Low-Income" or worse. Suddenly it's looking like the land of promise is no longer. No wonder migration flows from Mexico have slowed considerably

The second article that caught my eye drives home the point that these troubling economic times are not necessarily being felt equally across the population. In this Forbes piece, it is revealed that six members of the Walton family - the family that started WalMart - have more wealth than the bottom 30% of the US population combined. This is evidence that we live in times not much different from the days of serfdom in medieval Europe when the few nobility held the majority of wealth, while the majority worked in subservience. The possibility that one family could have the wealth of 75 million people would be mind boggling if it were not such an open display of greed and inequality. And remember, the income gap continues to widen to levels never before seen in the history of the country. 

Just some food for thought... 

Picture Show: Antarctica by Btreotch

Our December First Friday Picture Show comes to you courtesy of our good friend, Btreotch. A natural products chemist, Btreotch has traveled to the far corners of the world to research the medicinal potential of various sea plants and sea creatures. These photos come from one such journey to the far south of the planet, Antarctica. Btreotch is also a lover of music and art, and he works on a number of creative ventures. Check out some more of his photography and video work at Alan Takes Trips. Find out more about his research at his personal site here>>>

Haiti: a Short Film by Federico Cintrón-Moscoso

You may remember the September 2011 Picture Show here on Recycled Minds - pictures from Haiti by our good friend, anthropologist Federico Cintrón-Moscoso. Since then he has been working on video captured during that same trip to Haiti in July. This beautiful video is the first of two planned in his ethnographic collection. Beginning from the skies above the small island nation, and taking the viewer down to and through the streets, Cintrón-Moscoso aptly captures and expresses the many social and cultural contrasts that characterize daily life in Port-au-Prince.

Cintrón-Moscoso's description of the short series:
Este es el primero de dos filmes etnográficos producidos como resultado de mi viaje a Haití en julio de este año. Este primer film representa una "página" de diario en la corta semana que estuve allá como parte del Comité de Solidaridad con el Pueblo de Haití. Se sitúa en, y entre, las calles de Port-au-Prince y Leogane las cuales siempre están llenas de actividad. La brevedad del montaje es contrarrestada por la riqueza cotidiana de las imágenes y su diálogo constante--muchas veces cargado de contradicciones sociales y culturales.

We would translate, but like to challenge the reader once in a while! Stay tuned here at Recycled Minds for the second video, which is due soon. You can also visit Cintrón-Moscoso's, "Cultura de Papel," to check out more of his work.

Shots in the Field: Finding the Value of Research-related Photos

A rich and diverse Q'eqchi' Maya Homegarden in southern Belize. Photo courtesy of doug reeser.
by douglas reeser on November 21, 2011
Recent social movements around the world have been fueled by the constant flow of images sent from protests, crackdowns, and marches to thousands of interested observers. If you’re part of a social media site, you have probably seen an influx of images of all types in support of (or perhaps denouncing) the Occupy Movement. Whatever your political persuasion, it is clear that the circulation of images remains vital to many aspects of our lives. Images have become so ubiquitous – think advertising - that we have lost track of exactly what their influence on us is.

Voices of Occupy: Radical Networking

By Cyrus Kleege
The third piece in Recycled Minds' Voices of Occupy series is written by Cyrus Kleege, who has been participating in and following the critical narrative of Occupy Wall Street. Kleege is a professional book clerk, amateur writer and activist living in Brooklyn. You can read more of his writings at Occasional Vitriol and Rich Jerk Quote of the Week.

poster by
A massive set of protests has been planned for November 17th in New York City. It remains to be seen whether they will evidence strong, continuing support for the Occupy movement. In recent weeks it seems that those who wish for the failure of the movement have been taking the proverbial gloves off, with more harsh police tactics in evidence as several cities (St. Louis, Burlington, Salt Lake City, Portland and others) have attempted to evict Occupy encampments from public spaces. The intense antagonism toward the movement is the inevitable result of its success in mobilizing massive numbers of people around progressive causes and capturing the media spotlight that was so reluctant to shine on it in the beginning. If the forces of reaction are successful in driving the movement out of the public squares, it will still have done much to energize the left in America and should leave it in a stronger position to win battles on policy and shift the nation's consciousness in a progressive direction.
The reason for this is an aspect of OWS that seems obvious, but hasn't been discussed much in the media. Occupy Wall Street has become (perhaps unintentionally) the best vehicle for what I'd call “radical networking” (you can call it movement-building if you really want to avoid the business school connotations of the former). OWS, with its lack of demands (actually, the important thing is that it has many) and its sharing of decision making between individuals and between multiple nodes of activity brings together causes that might have seemed distinct in the past, and allows them to coalesce into an umbrella movement that's greater than the sum of its parts.
I'll give you an example from my own experience. A few weeks ago, wanting to do more than march in general support of OWS, I joined one of its many autonomous “working groups” who meet outside of Zuccotti Park and attempt to use the same horizontal decision making process that the General Assembly does to come to agreement about issues that fall under the purview of their particular group's focus. I am a union shop steward at my workplace and feel strongly that organized labor is a powerful and positive social force that can be credited with much of the progress that occurred in American social relations in the twentieth century. I hoped that organized labor might be able to bring to bear some of its institutional resources in service of the Occupy cause, and  that Occupy's freshness and energy might play some part in re-vitalizing the state of organized labor. Days before I signed up for the Labor Outreach Committee, my union (The United Auto Workers) officially endorsed Occupy Wall Street. When New York City's Mayor Mike Bloomberg had tried to clear Zuccotti Park on the pretext of a cleaning of the area, members of my union, both rank-and-file and paid officials of the international went to the park in the wee hours of morning to stand down the NYPD. I was exceedingly proud.
The OWS Labor Outreach Committee is dedicated to getting more rank-and-file union workers involved with the Occupy movement and using the momentum of OWS to aid organized labor in its varied battles. Occupy supporters, some union members and some simply sympathetic to the struggles of working class people, have joined picket lines in support of locked-out Teamsters at the Sotheby's auction house and demonstrations for Communications and Electrical workers fighting to get a decent contract out of Verizon. It seemed that my hopes had been realized when a week ago the New York Times ran a story under the headline, “Occupy Movement Inspires Unions to Embrace Bold Tactics.” Labor has been on the retreat for decades. It has lost members to outsourcing as well as to legislative attacks. At the same time it has lost the sympathy of many who would benefit from its power as they accept fear-mongering pro-business propaganda as gospel. (I'll be surprised if I don't get at least one hateful comment after revealing that I am one of those scary 'union thugs') With Occupy Wall Street entering the picture it seems like there is finally a chance that the momentum will be in the other direction.
Because OWS isn't solely focused on one issue it can marshal the energies, talents and enthusiasm of all its supporters in service of all of the more narrow progressive causes that others have fought for for years. Since OWS has focused on issues of economic inequality and class power it has avoided the single-issue tunnel vision that has hamstrung the left for decades. Since the ascendancy of the post-1960's right-wing in America, the left has generally seemed willing to give much ground on the broad issue of economic justice and has instead focused on an array of secondary problems. Without the recognition that all of these problems relate directly to the way in which economic power is distributed in society, the left allowed itself to become balkanized into multiple, often mutually hostile groups dedicated to their own pet issue or brand of identity politics. Occupy Wall Street seems to me to be ushering in a new era of radical networking, welcoming all of those who fight against one or another of the ill-effects of economic injustice, the corporate power that thrives on it and the political corruption bred by it. It facilitates their ability to act in a concert with each other. Each specific cause gives purpose and focus to the movement as a whole, and the movement as a whole lends power to each of its parts. Unions who lend their support will gain allies in their workplace struggles, while they lend support to those opposing Hydraulic Fracturing in the Marcellus Shale, who will fight against unfair foreclosures and the corporate “reform” of the public school system. I think that this is a great thing, and hope that the Occupy Movement can maintain its momentum. If you're near NYC, come out Thursday and be a part of it.

Local Food Fluffery

What is local food? Is a local chicken organic? Does a local chicken eat local
watermelon? OrganicWatermelon? Where does a local chicken come from?
Where does local watermelon come from?
Photo by dooglas carl for Recycled Minds.
by douglas reeser on November 14, 2011
While looking through some news feeds earlier today, an NPR piece on local food caught my eye.  The piece cites a report from the USDA that claims that "marketing of local foods...grossed $4.8 billion in 2008—about four times higher than estimates based solely on direct-to-consumer sales." The extra growth is a result of an increase in sales to restaurants and supermarkets. From the reports, sales of local food is showing promising growth trends, however, questions remain.

The NPR piece includes an interview with a USDA economist who reveals: "Forty percent of all fruit and vegetable producers are now selling locally." And even though her numbers don't explicitly track growth, "that to me suggests some growth." So, numbers showing that fruit and vegetable producers are selling more locally don't exist, but they must be because this USDA economist thinks they are.

NPR then finishes their piece with this:
Although the $5 billion number sounds big, it represents just 2 percent of American agricultural sales. The rest — 98 percent — comes largely from sales of big commodities like soybeans and corn. Even so, the next set of numbers on local food sales from USDA should reveal whether local food is a fad, or a business model that's here to stay.
These numbers don't seem to add up. If 98% of agricultural sales come from commodity products like soybeans and corn, and the remaining 2% represents local sales, there seems to be something missing from this picture. Where do all the agricultural products that are shipped around the country fit into this picture? Think Florida strawberries, Maine cranberries, and the many fruits and vegetables that are available in your supermarket that are not grown locally. 

I decided to take a look at the report that NPR links to in their article. There are certainly more interesting factoids in the summary report, including that "small farms (those with less than $50,000 in gross annual sales) accounted for 81 percent of all farms reporting local food sales in 2008." This makes sense to me, as I can see that in most cases, a farm with low gross annual sales is likely not producing in large quantities. The problem remains, however, with the word "local."

Nowhere in either the NPR piece or the USDA report is the term "local" defined. Yes, small farmers rely heaviest on direct-to-consumer sales through outlets such as farmer's markets. According to the USDA report, "Large farms accounted for 92 percent of the value of local food sales marketed exclusively through intermediated channels." This introduces into the local food framework large farms that are using intermediated channels (distributors) to sell their products. Without a clear definition of "local" (and no regulation on the use of the word), local could mean anything. In a global economy, could the U.S. be seen as local? Is Mexico local to the US? What is local is dependent on the scale at which you look at it. 

And so, I am forced to consider what might be happening here. In the regions reported to be hotspots for local food (the Northeast and West Coast), organic foods have long been popular. To label something organic, the fruits and produce must meet federal regulations in how it is grown. Organic production has likely cut into profits of industrial agriculture, especially in the two aforementioned regions. By promoting "local" foods, which have no regulations, industrial agriculture can re-enter these markets under the guise of being healthy and good for the environment. 

At this point, "local" food has as much meaning as "natural" food. There are no regulations on the terminology, and so we as consumers can not know what is truly meant by the terms. The "local" potatoes at your grocery store may only be local on a global scale, and certainly are not guaranteed to be produced in any kind of sustainable or thoughtful manner. Whatever might be on a case-by-case level, without legal definitions of the term, consumers just don't know where their "local" produce is coming from. Buyer beware.

Pitching Big Food

Photo by Doog
by lana lynne on November 8, 2011
A new report published by the Center for Food Integrity, a consumer research group formed in 2006 by food industry power players (including Monsanto) to study consumer attitudes about the food system, gives interesting insight into the marketing research of Big Agriculture. The "consumer trust survey" used to compile the report asked people a variety of questions that revolved around the U.S.'s responsibility to "feed the world." While it found that support is waning for exporting food to help solve the world hunger problem, which is fascinating in itself, other interesting consumer attitudes came to light as well.

Noting a growing alienation from agriculture, the report states, "consumers aren't sure today's agriculture still qualifies as farming [because of ] generational and geographic distance between farmers and consumers, technological advances in farming, and changes in farm size and structure." If consumers don't see their food coming from farms, in other words, there is an inherent lack of trust, as the center uses as its guiding principle the idea that consumer trust in farmers is based on shared values.

What's also interesting is the priority goals delineated by their survey participants, which is broken down into goals driving consumer food choices, and perception of farmers' priority goals. Here, the farmers' goals are broken down further between commercial and family farms. The perception of the goals of commercial farmers are predictable, with affordable food and farm profitability at the top of the list. People evidently have slightly more trust in the family farmers, as people place affordable and safe food as family farmers' top two priorities. Consumers' own priorities? Also safe and affordable food, but profitable farms comes in last place.

As Tom Laskaway points out in his article on Grist, these consumer attitudes create a headache for Big Agriculture. Up until now, Big Agriculture has sold its practices (including the use of pesticides, GMO seeds, inhumane animal conditions, etc) to the public based on the idea that they are for the good of the world. If the report is true, not everyone is buying this rhetoric.

So what does this mean for the future of big farming marketing? From the sounds of it, a campaign full of down-on-the-farm goodness, tugging at the heartstrings of our nascent anti-big business sentiments.

First Friday Picture Show: The Photos of Jonathan K. Slingluff

This month's Picture Show features the photography of Jonathan K. Slingluff, a gallery owner and artist in Philadelphia, PA. Of his photography, he says, "The act of freezing a moment in time is often overlooked; what I mean by this is that we all shoot images with our phone or some device, with which we stop time for that moment. A photograph captures that moment, a feeling that the photographer tries to express to the viewer. Whether this be a clean black and white image or a photo of the family, it is frozen in time. I look at photography as a tool to express my poetry, and, like the writer/reader relationship of a poem, I may have one feeling for my photograph and the viewer may have a different one. Photography is my tool to show the world how I choose to look at it, through my eyes at that one fleeting moment." For more art created and curated by Jonathan, stop by The Pine Cone Gentleman or The Slingluff Gallery.

Yanomami Poetry

The Forest
photo by dooglas for Recycled Minds
by douglas reeser on November 2, 2011
Survival International, perhaps the leading advocate for indigenous rights worldwide, has a ton of great stuff going on over on their site. From news alerts, project updates, photos, and poetry, there is a wealth of information and resources to peruse. We urge you to check out their site, and offer you a sample of what they are doing. The following is a touching and timely poem by Davi Kopenawa, of Yanomami descent from the Brazilian Amazon.
I am the environment.
I was born in the forest,
and I grew up there. I know it well.
Without land and nature, we can’t live, the world can’t work.
You talk of the planet, yet you don’t
think it has a heart and breathes,
but it does.
You talk politics and study on paper.
But we study in the forest and look
carefully. You don’t know our wisdom.
It’s very different.
We understand that all living things have a noreshi - another living being which is born at the exact same time
as yourself.
Your noreshi may be a bird, or a boar, or a deer, or a fish, or an anteater, a
butterfly or any other kind of living plant or animal.
It rests when you rest, it feeds
when you feed, it sings when you sing.
It dies when you die.    
                                                                                                 - Davi Kopenawa, Yanomami, Brazil

Thanks to Davi and Survival International for sharing these touching words.

Growing Food as a Subversive Act

by douglas reeser on October 30, 2011
Here at Recycled Minds, we love food. We grow it, we share it, we prepare it, we research it and we love to eat it! Above, check out this TedX talk by Roger Doiron, from Kitchen Gardeners International, who frames gardening as a truly subversive act because "It has the potential to radically alter the balance of the entire world." Doiron goes on to explain:
When we encourage people to grow some of their own food, we're ecouraging them to take power into their hands, power over their diet, power over their health, and some power over their pocketbooks. So I think that's quite subversive because we're necessarily talking about taking that power away from someone else - from other actors in society that currently have power over food and health. You can think about who those actors might be.
This is a compelling video that will have you thinking seriously about growing some food. As the Occupy Movement continues to grow and evolve, food will become an increasingly larger part of its considerations. Growing food in your yard or other small spaces is a way to bring change into your life and those of others, and it can be a great way to bring people around you together - to create and embolden your community. Doiron offers a number of interesting frameworks for why this is becoming more and more important.

Enjoy - and go plant some food!

Occupy: It's (Almost) All About the Money

~ Money Talks Poster ~
courtesy of
by douglas reeser on October 28, 2011
It has been a little more than a month since the first cries of the Occupy Movement were heard from New York, and since then occupiers have spread across the US and the world. The persistence and growth of Occupy and the recent (unfortunate) turn toward police crackdowns in a number of cities has firmly planted the movement within the attention of the national media. Through all of these developments, the centrality of the Occupy message has begun to emerge. In short, it's all about the money. It's a message that is spot on. 

Money is a central theme of Occupy. The entire 99% meme is a response to the unprecedented concentration of wealth in the hands of a very small percent of the people. Other points of contention include the call for corporate influence (read money) to be excluded from the political arena, and a critical reworking of the student loan bubble that has resulted in thousands of students overburdened with debt and wages that don't add up. 

Two articles caught my attention this week for the way that they highlight and support these concerns so central to the Occupy Movement. In his article in the Free Press, Joel S. Hirschhorn provides some concrete numbers about the global upperclass that support what Occupiers have been talking about: 
"Globally, millionaires and billionaires now control 38.5 percent of the world’s wealth, according to the latest Global Wealth Report from Credit Suisse. Never have so few owned so much. There are 29.7 million people in the world with household net worth of $1 million or more; they represent less than 1 percent of the world’s population, actually just .4 percent of 7 billion people.

Their wealth share rose from 35.6 percent in 2010, because even during the global economic recession their wealth increased by about $20 trillion. In fact, their wealth grew 29 percent — about twice as fast as the wealth in the world as a whole."
Yes, that's correct, those with the largest share of the wealth continued to make money during the global recession. As many (if not most) people around the world experienced a direct hit to their economic well-being, the rich became richer. While millions in the US were having their homes foreclosed, the rich became richer. The global economic system has been revealed as unjust - a system that steals from the poor to fatten the rich. 

And just who are these global rich? That is the subject of the second article I came across this week by the Globe and Mail that reports on research by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich. The research investigated the corporate links that account for the bulk of global economic activity. The researchers examined 43,060 transnational companies, and found that 147 companies account for 40% of global economic value. Further, financial institutions - the very ones mixed up in the global recession - make up the bulk of these core companies: 
"Among the top 50 corporations, 45 operate within the financial industry. Barclays PLC is the most powerful, according to the ETH study, followed by such well-known names as JPMorgan Chase & Co., UBS AG, and Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc. 
The intense interconnection and concentration of power weakens market competition as players form blocs, according to the study. There’s another drawback to those close links, particularly among the banks: when one runs into problems its woes spread quickly to the others."
After reading these short pieces, it's clear that the 99% rallying cry is on the money. In fact, maybe it should be "We are the 99.9%!" 

We have uploaded the research paper from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich to our Library for further reading. Read The Network of Global Corporate Control here >>>

Voices of Occupy: Morality and Occupy

The second piece in Recycled Minds' Voices of Occupy series is written by Cyrus Kleege, who has been participating in and following the critical narrative of Occupy Wall Street. Kleege's article is a response to George Lakoff's article, "Framing Occupy Wall Street," published last week on Truthout, in which Lakoff argues for a moral framework for the Occupy movement. Kleege is a professional book clerk, amateur writer and activist living in Brooklyn. You can read more of his writings at Occasional Vitriol and Rich Jerk Quote of the Week.

We would love to hear from more occupiers, so if you have your own Occupy experience that you would like to share, send us an email.

I have been increasingly interested and involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement that sprung up in New York about a month ago and in a short time began to spread to the far corners of the United States and the world. I haven't been able to properly “Occupy” Zucotti Park as I work full time, but I have made it to most of the larger actions: the march halfway across the Brooklyn bridge (followed by the paddy wagon ride to One Police Plaza), the huge labor solidarity march the following week and the convergence on Times Square this past weekend. It seems that the usual dismissive criticisms and back-handed compliments from supposed allies have failed to overshadow tangible victories, like the one that occurred last Friday when thousands converged in the dawn hours to prevent the police from emptying the park. With each victory the movement draws more sympathizers into the fold, but simultaneously rankles the very powerful interests and institutions that are threatened by this type of nascent mass-movement.

I'm surprised and heartened by the movement's success. In the end, however, if either tangible reforms or revolutionary change are going to be affected by the Occupy movement it is important that we not only preach to the liberal left/choir, but win enough converts to our general point of view to either pressure the political establishment to enact legislative change, or circumvent the existing structures and organize around some other socioeconomic structure. So far, I fear that what the Occupy movement has achieved is unifying and activating the roughly half of the nation's population that shares a generally progressive view. And this is important in itself. What of the other half? Those who have a profoundly different view of what constitutes “justice” or “fairness.” The ones who shout at us as we march down the streets of Manhattan to “Stop protesting, and get off your asses!”
When I saw a piece by George Lakoff in Truthout this week, billed as his advice to Occupy Wall Street on how to present itself to the world at large, I was interested. I was familiar with his thoughts about how political ideas exist within cognitive frames. He describes how the political worldviews of most individuals are not based on rational inquiry but on an emotional response based on a cognitive framework. The framework is a set of arbitrary moral judgments. Lakoff's work in this field has always seemed generally valid to me. The left sees individuals as irrevocably part of a larger society.  The right sees the individual as autonomous and ultimately responsible for his own actions. The left sees a need for nurturing and collective decision making, while the right looks only for the individual's right to act freely, responsibly and in self-interest.

In identifying these important root differences in point of view I feel that Lakoff has been particularly astute. I've always been frustrated by the fact that no amount of economic statistics on income inequality or social mobility can cut through the typical conservative's ironclad belief that it is the individual's personal responsibility to find work, to the extent that if there were five jobs available to the twenty six million un- and underemployed in America, it would be the individual's responsibility to be one of the five most educated, hard-working and diligent applicants, and if they weren't, there would be no right to complain or petition government to help them in their situation. Lakoff in his short essay proposes to have some insight into how we can circumvent the conservative framework and become a more truly mass-movement. In my opinion though, he seems to ignore the basis of his own ideas when formulating his advice.
Lakoff goes on to claim that what the Occupy movement needs to do in order to win hearts and minds is to cram its own goals and principles into a superficially conservative framework and then expect conservatives to be bamboozled into agreeing. It seems to me that this is doomed to failure and shouldn't be seriously considered by anyone involved. He claims that Occupy Wall street should declare itself a “moral” movement and go on to explain to its detractors that it is society's moral duty to nurture the individual. He himself, however, has already clearly explained why this is next to impossible. A conservative's morality is based on a framework where free-will decisions are either punished with destitution or rewarded with wealth. For the society to “nurture” the individual in hope of insuring her success is doomed to failure and at any rate, rife with moral hazard. I would like to propose a different tack in trying to reach out to those who don't already agree with the general left-leaning point of view of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Simply by coming into existence, Occupy Wall Street has begun to challenge the overall conservative ideological framework, not by attempting to work within it, but by loudly and clearly presenting the opposite framework. It has shown with the thousands who have shown up at Liberty Square and marched and rallied for more specific causes (Labor rights, a legally-enforced living wage, foreclosure relief and affordable housing, environmental concerns about hydro-fracking and the nuclear industry) that the conservative framework's deficiencies left-unchallenged have produced suffering in the 99% that will no longer be met with apathy. It has always seemed to me not that the vast majority of Americans are conservative in their world view, but that those who are are louder, more consistent and supported by most of the powerful institutions of the media. Now, with the Internet technology as a world-straddling megaphone and multiple physical spaces delineated as breeding grounds for activism, consciousness-raising and civil disobedience, our side just might have the power to push back and win a significant number of converts. I fear that following Mr. Lakoff's advice would simply dampen this energy and if anything, reinforce conservative's belief that their framework is so superior to ours that we must adopt it even as we try to fight it.

Cyrus Kleege

Views from the ANThill: Conversations on Fairness and Power

An evening sunset on the author's walk home from the center of
town in Southern Belize.
Photo courtesy of doug reeser.

by douglas reeser on October 28, 2011
During the process of fieldwork, there is always present the innumerable conversations that have little or nothing to do with your actual research focus. Such conversations are an integral part of settling into your research community and building rapport with the people and places in which you are spending your time. During my first few months here in Belize, I have had many such discussions.

For example, one day as I was walking to the center of town for lunch, I took a route that passed by the home and business of a couple with whom I hope to involve in my research. As I passed by, the wife of the couple yelled out a greeting, and waved me over. I had offered to help her with some work on local food recipes a few weeks earlier, and walked over to catch up. Her husband was nearby, working on a large wooden carving with a friend. He too called me over, and after talking with his wife for a few minutes, I joined him as he worked on the details of his carving. He handed me some sand paper to help with his work, and we began to chat about a variety of things ranging from art to politics.

Voices of Occupy: Call to Action from LA

Poster by Eric,
Recycled Minds has reached out to activists taking part in the Occupy movement, and the initial response has been great! In the coming weeks we will be sharing a variety of experiences, perspectives, and ruminations from people who are on the ground at Occupy sites around the country.

Our first Occupied guest blogger is a friend from Occupy LA who has worked diligently over the past few weeks to organize and manage a food tent and otherwise distribute sustenance and support to other occupiers.

We would love to hear from more occupiers, so if you have your own Occupy experience that you would like to share, send us an email.

I don't get riled up easily. However, I'm SO SICK AND TIRED of people being snarky/negative about the Occupy movement! First they say that there is no focus, then no future. Hmm. Well, as you can see from the first call to action in July from Adbuster (link here), the original Occupy demand was

"We demand that Barack Obama ordain a Presidential Commission tasked with
ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington." 

That's a pretty specific focus, folks. Ah, you say, but that's not what people are saying now, a month into the WallSt protests!   As East Stroudsburg, Pa newspaper The Pocono Record noted about a local solidarity march,

 "Occupy movement activists ...have been criticized by some for having so many different gripes. But one of them said:  it's important that protesters have many grievances. If they just focus on one thing, then there is less of a chance that a sea-change will occur in the culture.  'It can't just be about tuition or jobs or the economy or the wars. It's got to be about many things, because right now, many things aren't working,' said Joseph DeBartolo, a political science major at East Stroudsburg University."

If nothing else, if there is a beginning, or even an attempt to separate money from politics, things will be better for everyone.  If taxes are increased upon the wealthy 1%, it will make an improvement for everyone. Yes, EVERYONE.  As former World Bank leader and Nobel prize winner Joseph Steiglitz said in Of the 1%, by the 1%,, for the 1%, "looking out for the other guy isn’t just good for the soul—it’s good for business."   Inarguably, the current financial system is predatory, economic inequality in this country too extreme.  In most first world countries a company CEO makes between 11 and 30 times the salary of an average worker – in this country it's over 450 times that – that is not just, and it’s certainly not “productive.”  That must be changed, and everyone, from the Tea Party through the middle class, agrees the corporate influence over our government must be removed. How? Well, it's the job of legislators to listen to voters and implement changes.  It's high time they do exactly that.

And if those who like to negate rather than act are correct?  If nothing changes in the government? Well, then, STILL SOMETHING GOOD HAS COME OUT OF IT--this dialogue. When the 'negative nancy's' chime in with: It's never going to go anywhere, do anything, be anyone, all I can think is: sheesh! Are you kidding me?! You are TALKING about it!  You are talking about power distribution and food manipulation and taxes. You are talking about big vs small corporations. You are talking about lobbies and voting.   Middle America has huddled down, pretending they're OK for so long that we've not looked around realizing EVERYONE has it hard right now...excepting the very few. 

Previously with a protest of any sort, people would go around with signs, shout, march, feel good and go home.  And yes, small changes tend to happen in small ways with organized protests with a focus. This is more than that--this is a large scale long term protest with many demands, hoping for a LARGE CHANGE to our society, and the way society, the way WE THE 100% deal with distribution of money and politics and (im)balance of power. What's different about this movement is that people are sticking around, speaking with one another, figuring out what we want collectively and how to get it. SOMETHING GOOD HAS ALREADY COME OF IT--you, and others thinking and talking about it.  Yes, laws from NY, to LA, and all across the USA have already changed, been implemented, regarding banks, foreclosures, and local taxation.  Yet, as far as I'm concerned it is not the specific goals that matter.  The seeds of change have been planted.  Look around, and listen too:  the dialogue IS the powerful wonderful good thing that has come out of the Occupy Together movement. 

So I leave you. It's Day 18 from the OccupyLA site at City Hall with NO ARRESTS, a kitchen tent and festival food permit coming in 2 days, and a grass donation to reseed the lawn when we're gone. We've changed a law regarding the way our city deals with bank foreclosures, we're feisty and thirsty (it's been 85-90 degrees), and we're marching, and talking, and voting and creating.  How 'bout you?

PS: if you're interested, i highly recommend these 3 links: This article, written during the "Arab Spring" insurrections by Joseph Stieglitz. It's short, but remarkably farsighted.  This page, putting individual faces/stories to the ambiguous 99% We are the 99% .  And this very simple list of 5 facts: about the wealthiest one% of Americans

The Plentitude Economy: Less Work, More Social Capital

by douglas reeser on October 15, 2011
In these times of social unrest and widespread protest, it feels like the time for real change is upon us. The ways that we have structured our social, political and economic lives are struggling (if not crumbling), but it can seem overwhelming when we attempt to think of a new path forward. The above video from the Center for a New American Dream may help put us on that path. The center aims "to cultivate a new American dream—one that emphasizes community, ecological sustainability, and a celebration of non-material values, while upholding the spirit of the traditional American dream of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Their proposal for a "Plentitude Economy" certainly aligns with these goals.

In short, a Plentitude Economy would seek to reduce the ecological impact of all sectors, including our personal lives, corporate production, and governmental activity. A Plentitude Economy would work to get us off of our dependence on fossil fuels, and look to alternatives for our energy sources. But such an approach also critiques the concept of growth, claiming that continued growth will result in the continued degradation of natural resources. At the same time the new economy will need to create jobs, and get the many of the 14 million people out of work in the U.S. (as of September 2011) back to work.

An increase in the availability of work is integral to the success of any path forward, and the Plentitude Economy argues that if we change how we spend our time - as a society - work will become available, and we may be able to satisfy many of our needs outside of the traditional market. If we reduce the amount of time that we work, say from a five day work week, to a four day week, work will become available for others - more people working fewer hours. And now comes the personal changes, which are already evident in the increasingly popular DIY (Do It Yourself) movement. In the time freed up with the switch to a four day work week, we must focus on engaging with and supporting our local communities. This is a call for us to develop our social capital. Grow food, brew beer, make art, build and create - and then share it with those around you - develop relationships and build a local community and a local economy that can buffer against larger global fluctuations in the market and economy.

This is the Plentitude Economy. It's a simple approach, but one that begins to offer a new vision of a way forward.

This IS Anthropology!

by douglas reeser on October 13, 2011
Anthropology is a commonly misunderstood discipline. For many, it is not all that clear what anthropologists actually do, especially because there are few job positions with the actual title of "Anthropologist." Yet anthropologists work in a variety of roles in a variety of fields. We seek to understand humans and human activity in the present and the past, and more often than not, we are working toward the improvement of the lives of those we work with.

Indigenous Peoples Day

Maya from Guatemala and Belize, along with visitors
from around the world, celebrate Indigenous Peoples
Day in 2009 at the ancient Maya site of Tikal.
Photo for Recycled Minds by doug reeser.
by douglas reeser on October 10, 2011
October 10th is celebrated as a national holiday by many in the U.S., and Columbus Day celebrations in cities like New York, Denver and San Francisco continue to include parades. These events have become increasingly problematic to many people around the world, especially since 1992 (the 500 year anniversary of the "discovery" of the Americas). Indigenous peoples throughout the Americas and elsewhere have begun to speak up and reclaim the day as Indigenous Peoples Day.

As a regular reader of the website, Indigenous People's Issues and Resources, I caught the release of their statement on October 10th explaining why they advocate for Indigenous People's Day:
An estimated 100 million indigenous peoples were eradicated during the process of Europe's colonization of the western hemisphere. Christopher Columbus did not "discover" America, yet the continued recognition of his landing highlights the ongoing struggle of indigenous peoples against this colonial atrocity. Today, please remember to correctly inform people that this is Indigenous Peoples Day - not Columbus Day.
The move to honor indigenous peoples at this time of year has also caught on at some of the Occupy Wall Street protests around the U.S.. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! caught up with indigenous activist, Roberto Múcaro Borrero, at the protests in Liberty Square in New York City. Goodman asked Múcaro, a a representative of the United Confederation of Taino People, why he and other indigenous people were at the protests on Columbus day. He replied:  
Well, for us, it’s actually Indigenous Peoples Day. And for the Taíno people, who were the first indigenous peoples in the Western Hemisphere to be contacted by Columbus, to be impacted by the colonial machine that took—that was set in motion after that initial contact, we’re here to say that Columbus is not a day. We’re here to join with other people’s voices in saying there needs to be an end to the cycle of colonialism and greed. So I’m happy to be here with everybody.
I had the fortunate opportunity to experience an Indigenous Peoples Day celebration with at least a few hundred Maya people from Guatemala and Belize in 2009 (check out my short video of the event here). The celebration started in a small town in Guatemala, where hundreds of people gathered at a rural Maya school to begin preparation ceremonies and rituals. From about 4:00 in the afternoon through about 3:00 in the morning, marimba music echoed through the hall, as people danced, listened to speeches, and took part in healing rituals by traditional Maya healers. 

At 3am, the people started loading onto old school buses and began the trek to the ancient Maya site of Tikal. There we were joined by hundreds more from Maya villages throughout Guatemala. There were more speeches, and proclamations, and many denounced colonialism, capitalism, and the continued repression and marginalization of indigenous people. They called on their brothers and sisters to the north to join in the struggle. Finally, the people marched in a procession to the main square at Tikal, where about a dozen traditional healers held ceremony around the ancient fire pit at the center of the square and at the base of the pyramids. With a huge fire raging, healings of many types were offered to Maya and visitors throughout the day. 

As a supporter of indigenous peoples and traditions, I have been advocating for their rights for many years. The experience two years ago at Tikal cemented within me the importance of maintaining and celebrating all that indigenous and traditional cultures have to offer the world. I have friends at this event at Tikal right now, and while not there in person, I am there in spirit, and I offer my support to such a meaningful cause. It is especially gratifying to witness many brothers and sisters in the north joining the struggle against the continued colonialism of our day. Happy Indigenous Peoples Day!

First Friday Picture Show: the Food of Tender Branson

This month's Picture Show comes from Tender Branson, whose website,, is a must-read! Says Tender about his passion for cooking and music:
"When I was a kid I attended my aunt’s wedding. All I noticed was the food and music. Those junior high dances? Food and music. Birthday parties? Food and music. Social gatherings? Food and music. Activisim opportunites? Food and music. So it was only natural that when I felt the need to start a blog I combined the two things that have been constants in my life.
"The original intention of Write.Click.Cook.Listen was for me to create a recipe and attach music to it. Throughout the years it has expanded to include band submitted recipes, artist interviews, songs about food, food themed playlists, food politics and restaurant reviews. No matter which direction the blog goes in, the same two interests remain at the heart of it. Food and music."
Because of the popularity of the Recycled Minds Picture Show, we will be posting new shows every First Friday. Stay tuned for November's, and, in the meantime, enjoy Tender Branson's delicious photos!

Decolonizing Diets: the Traditional Foods Challenge

A Q'eqchi' Maya homegarden in southern Belize with numerous
traditional foods. Photo by doug reeser for Recycled Minds.
by douglas reeser on October 5, 2011
Food is one of my favorite things. Most simply, food keeps us alive, and there is nothing quite like a delicious meal that is prepared with quality ingredients, experience and love. On the flip side, some of the best foods can be eaten fresh-picked and raw. Food is also an integral aspect of culture and ethnicity, and food traditions can be fascinating and delicious. I have done research on food, and I blog about food, and it remains a subject that I love to study, research, and enjoy!

All of this is leading me to an interesting project called the Decolonizing Diet Project, initiated by Professor Martin Reinhardt, Anishinaabe Ojibway and Assistant Professor of Native American Studies at Northern Michigan University. Starting in March of 2012, along with a cohort of students and colleagues, Reinhardt will begin an inspiring food adventure: to eat only pre-contact, indigenous Anishinaabe Ojibway foods for one year. The project has become quite serious, as it has been approved by the Internal Review Board at Northern Michigan University, and will have gone through a full year of planning by the start this spring.

In support of the Decolonizing Diet Project, and in honor of the American Indian Health and Diet Project, there will be a mini-challenge with the same goal - to eat only pre-contact foods - during the first week of November of 2011. Devon Abbott Mihesuah, who is promoting the two projects, explains:
"Traditional" for these projects means pre-contact foods. No beef, mutton, goat, chicken, pork, eggs, milk, butter, cream, wheat flour (no fry bread), rye, barley, okra, black-eyed peas, or any other "Old World" foods that a lot of us have lovingly incorporated into our diets and tribal cultures. No processed foods even if the base is corn or potatoes (that is, fried chips; ones you bake or dry yourself are ok). Drinks consist of water, herb tea and beverages you may know how to make, such as mescal and pulque. Chocolate candy is not on the list unless it is unsweetened or sweetened with honey (of the Melipona bee--honey bees are indigenous to Europe), fruit, stevia, camas oragave. The diet may take a bit of planning!
While the projects are interesting and fun, the importance of such work should not be ignored. As noted above, traditional foods were not processed or sugar and chemical filled. In many native and indigenous communities around the world, traditional diets are being replaced by diets largely created by the move towards corporate globalization. These new diets are low cost (but still must be purchased), can be shipped long distances (and thus reach remote corners of the globe), and are typically highly processed, high in sugars and salts, and generally unhealthy. This change has resulted in a startling increase in the frequency of diet-related disease among indigenous communities. Remembering, promoting, and consuming traditional diets can serve as a means of doing the same to indigenous and traditional practices, while promoting health at the same time.

Learn more about these projects, share the information with others you know, and join other people around the world as the try to eat traditional foods for a week in November, a year starting in the Spring, or anytime you can manage!

Visit the Decolonizing Diet Project (DDP) blog here >>>

Visit the American Indian Health and Diet Project here >>>

Visit the Mini-Diet Challenge: A Week of Eating Indigenous Foods blog here >>>

Prisons and Poverty

by lana lynne on October 2, 2011
Compared to the 1970s, the U.S. today incarcerates six times as many prisoners. This doesn't mean that crime has increased, but rather that punishment has increased --  this statistic measures prisoners for every 10,000 index crimes (crimes nationally defined by the FBI to measure crime rates) committed in 1975 compared to today. We've talked in the past about how people characterize the modern-day prison system to the slave plantations of the antebellum South, given the disproportionate number of incarcerated African-Americans compared to other racial and ethnic groups. On the other hand, here are two pieces that talk about class and the prison system, a topic that seems to generate a lot of criticism ranging from being disconnected to reality to promoting class warfare.

A Pennsylvania Prison, 1855
Loic Wacquant's article, "The punitive regulation of poverty in the neoliberal age," published this summer, looks at how and why the prison system has swelled so much in the past 30 years and how we can best understand its consequences. Wacquant makes three compelling points. First, the increase in penalization stems from social insecurity rather than an increase in crime, which strives to keep an insecure and heavily penalized working class. Second, we can't look at penal policy without the context of social policy and the shift from welfare to workfare (which he defines as "forced participation in sub par employment as a condition of support"). And third, this treatment helps reinforce the "reality" rather than the ideology of the neoliberal state, dividing people along class lines and eroding civic trust and democracy.

The other piece comes from Paul Wright, editor of Prison Legal News, who writes in the opening to his essay, "The Crime of Being Poor,"  that in order to understand who goes to prison and why, we must ask what prisons are for. Wright argues that, given the majority of prisoners are below the poverty line, prisons' number one priority is social control of the lower classes who otherwise would challenge the status quo.

The question of whether prisons "work" to discourage crime or keep a safe citizenry seems obsolete. As long as they continue to be profit-driven -- in more ways than just "making money" -- things will only worsen.

Minerals, Oil and the (Still) Open Veins of Latin America

Drawing from the cover of "Open Veins of
Latin America" by Eduardo Galeano.
Image courtesy of
by douglas reeser on September 28, 2011
Written in 1971 (the English version came out in 1973), Eduardo Galeano’s Open Veins of Latin America offered a glaring critique of the relationships between Latin American countries and the world powers of Europe and the United States. It remains a moving account of the historical roots of the relative underdevelopment and poverty that persists throughout the region. While much of the book is thought provoking, I thought I would share a short excerpt that describes oil and mineral extraction. Galeano opens the third chapter with this discussion (and keep in mind that this was written 40 years ago!):
“Petroleum continues to be our world’s chief fuel, and the United States imports one-seventh of the petroleum it consumes. Bullets are needed to kill Vietnamese, and bullets need copper: the United States buys abroad one-fifth of the copper it uses. Shortages of zinc cause increasing anxiety: over half comes from abroad. Planes cannot be built without aluminum, and aluminum cannot be produced without bauxite: the United States has almost no bauxite. Its great steel centers – Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Detroit – do not get enough iron from the Minnesota deposits, which are on the way to exhaustion, and there is no manganese within the United States: one-third of its iron and all of its manganese are imported. Nor has it any nickel or chrome of its own to produce jet engines. Tungsten is needed to make special steels and one-fourth of that is imported.”
“This growing dependence on foreign supplies produces the growing identification of the interests of U.S. capitalists operating in Latin America with U.S. national security. The internal stability of the world’s greatest power is closely linked with its investments south of the Rio Grande. About half of those investments are in the extraction of petroleum and minerals, indispensable for the U.S. economy in peace and war.”
Today, the "great steel centers" are largely inactive, military expenditures will exceed $700 billion in 2011 (according to this Time article) and the reliance on resources from outside of the U.S. is as great as ever. I did a little digging, and found a document from the Mineral Information Institute that cites a 2011 report from the U.S. Geological Survey showing U.S mineral imports in 2010. Imports of most of the minerals mentioned above have gone up since the time of Galeano's writing (by percentage consumed): copper from 20% to 30%; zinc from 50+% to 77%; and 100% of bauxite and manganese. We also know that today the U.S. is going to extreme lengths to secure access to oil outside of its borders. In other words, not much has changed in 40 years, and it may be argued that the issues that Galeano raised in 1971 have continued and even worsened over time.

With the constant barrage of news and information, I think people tend to view many of the problems we face in the world as new and unique to our time in history. In fact, the sheer amount of new information serves to obscure history. Revisiting our history reveals that we have known about and discussed the issues that continue to plague us today. Galeano’s work is an interesting and engaging piece of scholarship that begs for an updated edition. If you are interested in an understanding of Latin American history and international relations, this is a must read. 

The Cost of Cooking -vs- Fast Food

by douglas reeser on September 26, 2011
Comparing Costs of a Meal for Four
Image courtesy of the New York Times
The New York Times printed this interesting graphic comparing the costs of different versions of a meal for four: a fast-food meal from McDonalds, a homemade chicken meal and a homemade rice and beans-based meal. The graphic shows that the non-fast-food options are not only cheaper, but on the healthier end of things.

Not to rain on any parades, but the info-graphic may be a bit misleading, as it leaves out a few integral pieces about the homemade meals. Purchasing the food requires that one has the ability to get to a grocery store; whether via foot, auto, or public transport, such food needs to be accessible. The food pictured assumes that you could purchase the ingredients as is, however can you really buy two slices of bacon, a cup of dried beans, or four slices of bread? Finally, homemade meals take time - time to go to the store, time to cook and time to serve. From store to table, a homemade meal certainly takes a bit more time.

Still, this is a useful graphic to begin to dispel the myth that fast-food is the cheapest way to eat. With some planning ahead, we can eat healthier meals at lower costs. Thanks New York Times!

Vertical Farming and the Future of Food

The "verticrop" - a vertical farm created by Valcent.
photo courtesy of Valcent Products.
by douglas reeser on September 24, 2011

Vertical Farming. The name conjures images of giant walls of vegetables with people swinging in harnesses harvesting the ripened produce. This isn't exactly correct, but it does capture the essence of what vertical farming is all about - growing up. Figuratively and literally, growing up is exactly what we as humans need to be doing. With a projected 80% of the world's population living in urban settings by mid-century, the problem of feeding those urban masses is going to become very real, very quick. Vertical farming may offer a part of the solution.

In practice, vertical farming is not quite as simple as growing food on walls. The concept is wrapped up in architecture and biology. As detailed by microbiologist, ecologist and Professor of Public Health in Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University, Dickson Despommier, vertical farming utilizes urban spaces to create completely integrated agricultural systems into dedicated buildings. Vertical farming is conceptualized as a closed system, from seed to product, and one that reuses and recycles it byproducts. Once in operation, a vertical farm would theoretically need little to no input besides the labor needed to plant, tend, and harvest the products of the farm. This can all be done in a 5-10 story building on a city block.

We've included two short videos below that will give readers a better idea of what vertical farming may look like, the concepts behind it, and how it would work. It doesn't appear that any vertical farms are in operation at this point, but this is an idea worth keeping tabs on. Farming in urban settings would be a great benefit to parts of the world where arable lands are short, such as the Middle East and southwest United States. Additionally, producing food where the people are would dramatically reduce the economic and environmental costs of traditional agriculture.

Finally, here at Recycled Minds, we've written a good deal about Monsanto and the problematic ways in which they go about their business in the world of agriculture. I've realized recently that we often critique what Monsanto and other companies like them do without offering many positive alternatives or options. It strikes me that vertical farms would be an ideal place to produce Monsanto-derived products. A closed system would allow for long term testing of seeds, and once in production, the closed system would prevent GMO seeds from haphazardly crossing into the (more) natural world. Just a thought!

Check out these videos for short introductions and explanations on vertical farming, or visit the Vertical Farm Project here >>>