Wednesday, 31 July 2013

1 Man Produced 6,000 Pounds of Food on 1/10 Acre. Here's How

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“In danger of being free.” That’s how Jules Dervaes sums up his journey from a small backyard garden to a super-productive microfarm. It’s a low input, highly efficient urban homestead right next to the metropolis of Los Angeles.

Jules, his son Justin, and his two daughters Anais and Jordanne live in a 1,500 sq. ft. craftsman bungalow on 1/5 of an acre. Here they have a 1/10 acre garden and grow 350 different vegetables, herbs, fruits, and berries. The sustainable plot is complete with chickens, ducks, rabbits, goats, and honey bees.  For two years in a row they were able to produce 6,000 pounds of food.

Their mission is to live sustainably and simply, and they are doing it. 90% of their vegetarian diet comes from the homestead and 2/3 of their energy comes from solar panels. They make biodiesel fuel with used vegetable oil. Their commitment to reducing consumption extends all the way to a hand-cranked radio. They are highly motivated and have a lot to say about the way things are in the world.

“Government can’t do it and corporations won’t do it,” says Jules in the short film Homegrown Revolution."

With a corporatocracy running the show in Washington and millions of Americans addicted to television and fast food, the Dervaes family provides a model of what can happen if we change our priorities. We don’t have to rely on a centralized industrial system that is poisoning public health and the environment more than ever with pesticide-laden, GMO food. We can get off the couch and start providing for ourselves.

Most of the Dervaes’ food production is for their own consumption, but they do sell excess harvests to local establishments and individuals, and then use that to buy other basics like flour and rice. They are truly one of the most independent family units in the country, with an ever-decreasing environmental impact.
Not only do they provide a model for suburban-style sustainability, but their efforts are beneficial to the community and local schools. The Front Porch Farmstand sells Dervaes’ organic produce to neighbors and restaurant chefs. They offer workshops, film screenings, and exhibits at festivals. They host school field trips at the homestead and offer school visits with their “citified” farm animals.


by Justin Gardener

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Coca-Cola facing huge class action lawsuit over alleged false claims for Vitaminwater

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For years, the Coca-Cola Company has been deceptively marketing its “vitaminwater” beverage brand as a healthy alternative to plain water and sugary soda beverages, making outlandish claims that the drink can help boost immunity and even help people fight eye disease. But now the beverage giant is facing a monstrous class-action lawsuit over this marketing racket, none of which is true about the sugar-laden junk food drink.
The suit, which was originally filed back in 2010 by the nonprofit health advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), alleges that Coca-Cola has been engaged in what can only be described
as blatant labeling fraud. Vitaminwater’s “Power-C” flavor, for instance, claims to deliver “zinc and vitamin C to power your immune system,” while the “XXX” flavor is branded as containing “antioxidant vitamins to help fight free radicals and help support your body.”
Both claims are an immense exaggeration, as these two vitaminwater products are composed primarily of water, sugar, and a handful of synthetic vitamins, which is hardly a recipe for robust immunity. And yet this is the overall image being portrayed by Coca-Cola for its vitaminwater line of beverages, which is really nothing more than glorified soda pop without carbonation.

“The marketing of vitaminwater will go down in history as one of the boldest and brashest attempts ever to affix a healthy halo to what is essentially a junk food, a non-carbonated soda,” says Michael F. Jacobson, Executive Director of CSPI. “Vitaminwater, like Coca-Cola itself, promotes weight gain, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cannot deliver on any of the dishonest claims it has made over the years.”

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Mother Fined $2,500 After Her 3yr Old Pees in Her Own Yard

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A mother has been fined $2,500 (£1,600) after her 3-year-old son peed in the front garden. Ashley Warden in Piedmont, Oklahoma received the fine when her toddler Dillan was caught urinating in the yard by a passing police officer. Dillan was being potty trained at the time and was not near a toilet.

Ashley told News 9: "Dillan pulled down his pants to pee outside.[Then] the cop pulled up and asked for my licence, and told me he was going to give me a ticket for public urination."

Dillan's grandmother Jennifer added: "I said, 'Really? He is 3 years old', and he said, 'It doesn't matter, it is public urination'. I said we are on our property and he said it's in public view."

Ashley stated that she would be fighting the fine, as Dillan didn't finish peeing because he was interrupted by the police officer.

Friday, 26 July 2013

More Than Honey (A Bee Movie): The Not So Talked About Factory Farming of Bees

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“If the bee disappears off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left.” Albert Einstein

More Than Honey is a new documentary written and directed by Markus Imhoof. In his new documentary, Imhoof travels the world to take an in-depth look at honeybee colonies in California, Switzerland, China and Australia. Imhoof is more than qualified to make this exposé on the harm being done to bees as he is a second generation bee keeper. This movie sheds light on the  not so talked about aspect of moving bees all over the country to pollinate monoculture crops. After watching this documentary, one can only “bee” left feeling sorry for these poor little buggers as they represent an entire other scale of factory farming that is equally as harmful as the over crowded cattle yards or chicken houses.
Official synopsis from the film’s website: ”
Over the past 15 years, numerous colonies of bees have been decimated throughout the world, but the causes of this disaster remain unknown. Depending on the world region, 50% to 90% of all local bees have disappeared, and this epidemic is still spreading from beehive to beehive – all over the planet. Everywhere, the same scenario is repeated: billions of bees leave their hives, never to return. No bodies are found in the immediate surroundings, and no visible predators can be located.

In the US, the latest estimates suggest that a total of 1.5 million (out of 2.4 million total beehives) have disappeared across 27 states. In Germany, according to the national beekeepers association, one fourth of all colonies have been destroyed, with losses reaching up to 80% on some farms. The same phenomenon has been observed in Switzerland, France, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Austria, Poland and England, where this syndrome has been nicknamed “the Mary Celeste Phenomenon”, after a ship whose crew vanished in 1872.

Scientists have found a name for the phenomenon that matches its scale, “colony collapse disorder,” and they have good reason to be worried: 80% of plant species require bees to be pollinated. Without bees, there is no pollinization, and fruits and vegetables could disappear from the face of the Earth. Apis mellifera (the honey bee), which appeared on Earth 60 million years before man and is as indispensable to the economy as it is to man’s survival.

Should we blame pesticides or even medication used to combat them? Maybe look at parasites such as varroa mites? New viruses? Travelling stress? The multiplication of electromagnetic waves disturbing the magnetite nanoparticles found in the bees’ abdomen? So far, it looks like a combination of all these agents has been responsible for the weakening of the bees’ immune defenses.”

Thursday, 25 July 2013

5 Million Farmers Sue Monsanto for 7.7 Billion

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Launching a lawsuit against the very company that is responsible for a farmer suicide every 30 minutes, 5 million farmers are now suing Monsanto for as much as 6.2 billion euros (around 7.7 billion US dollars). The reason? As with many other cases, such as the ones that led certain farming regions to be known as the ‘suicide belt’, Monsanto has been reportedly taxing the farmers to financial shambles with ridiculous royalty charges. The farmers state that Monsanto has been unfairly gathering exorbitant profits each year on a global scale from “renewal” seed harvests, which are crops planted using seed from the previous year’s harvest.
The practice of using renewal seeds dates back to ancient times, but Monsanto seeks to collect massive royalties and put an end to the practice. Why? Because Monsanto owns the very patent to the genetically modified seed, and is charging the farmers not only for the original crops, but the later harvests as well. Eventually, the royalties compound and many farmers begin to struggle with even keeping their farm afloat. It is for this reason that India slammed Monsanto with groundbreaking ‘biopiracy’ charges in an effort to stop Monsanto from ‘patenting life’.

Jane Berwanger, a lawyer for the farmers who went on record regarding the case,
told the Associated Press:

“Monsanto gets paid when it sell the seeds. The law gives producers the right to multiply the seeds they buy and nowhere in the world is there a requirement to pay (again). Producers are in effect paying a private tax on production.”

The findings echo what thousands of farmers have experienced in particularly poor nations, where many of the farmers are unable to stand up to Monsanto. Back in 2008, the Daily Mail covered what is known as the ‘GM Genocide’, which is responsible for taking the lives of over 17,683 Indian farmers in 2009 alone. After finding that their harvests were failing and they started to enter economic turmoil, the farmers began ending their own lives — oftentimes drinking the very same insecticide that Monsanto provided them with.
As the information continues to surface on Monsanto’s crimes, further lawsuits will begin to take effect. After it was ousted in January that Monsanto was running illegal 'slave-like' working rings, more individuals became aware of just how seriously Monsanto seems to disregard their workers — so why would they care for the health of their consumers? In April, another group of farmers sued Monsanto for ‘knowingly poisoning’ workers and causing ‘devastating birth defects’.

Will endless lawsuits from millions of seriously affected individuals be the end of Monsanto?

Do your part to end the madness and join a 
March Against Monsanto near you on 10/12/13

Raw For Beauty

6 Ways To Buy Organic On A Budget

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1. Put your green bargaining cap on and talk with farmers at the markets to negotiate a lower price for your produce. We know they work hard for their money but it can’t hurt to ask. Bartering for fare isn’t as strange as it sounds. Maybe they’ll unload the less popular fruits and vegetables for less too.
2. Everyone’s looking for the perfect specimen. You might want to choose produce that’s been passed over, because of minimal bruising and spotting, and ask for a lower price. Let’s face it, basil is going to wilt anyways once you chop it up or cook it so buying some that’s already on its way isn’t going to affect its flavor. It just means that you’ll want to use it sooner than later — which isn’t a bad thing.
3. More and more of the bigger food warehouse stores (like Sam’s Club, for example) are carrying organic items. If you can buy in bulk (dried beans, rice, canned tomatoes, organic coffee, etc.) this will save you a few dollars too. If you want to buy vegetables in greater quantities because of price, some will freeze nicely if slightly blanched beforehand. Asparagus, green beans, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, turnips and squashes can all be frozen.
4. Before you go to the Farmer’s Market and get pulled into the romance of it all (“I must have those gorgeous garlic scapes – now what do I do with them?”), plan ahead and go with a set list in mind. If an item is too expensive because it’s just come in season, wait a week and the price may go down.
5. The proliferation of websites that sell organic food and related items is ever-growing and with the incentive of free shipping on some sites, this may be a great alternative for you. is even dabbling in selling organic grocery store items, so you’ll have a variety of sources from which to choose.
6. Just as you search for coupons in your local supermarket flyers (or watch them haphazardly fall out of your weekend newspaper), many of the organic brand websites offer a way to print out coupons too. If you don’t have access to a printer, some of the websites will simply send you the coupons if you supply your snail mail address.

What To Do When You Can't Find Organics Or Pesticide-Free Fruits and Vegetables? If you don't have the advantage of buying organic and your local supermarket only carries fruits and vegetables that have been sprayed with pesticides, reduce your risk by finding out which ones are the worst. 
Check:  47 Fruits and Veggies and Their Pesticide Loads

47 Fruits and Veggies and Their Pesticide Loads

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Every year, new research is published showing the toxicity of pesticides to human health and the environment, often at doses previously declared "safe" by the pesticide industry and the government. 

As acknowledged by the U.S. and international government agencies, different pesticides have been linked with a variety of toxic effects, including:
·         Nervous system effects
·         Carcinogenic effects
·         Hormone system effects
·         Skin, eye and lung irritation

Pesticides are unique among the chemicals we release into the environment; they have inherent toxicity because they are designed to kill living organisms, insects, plants, and fungi that are considered "pests." Because they are toxic by design, many pesticides pose health risks to people, risks that have been acknowledged by independent research scientists and physicians across the world.

Protecting our families' health from chemical exposures can start with minimizing children's exposure to pesticides. It is now well established that pesticides pose a risk to vital organ systems that continue to grow and mature from conception throughout infancy and childhood. Exposure to pesticides and other toxic chemicals during critical periods of development can have lasting adverse effects both in early development and later in life. The metabolism, physiology, and biochemistry of a fetus, infant or child are fundamentally different from those of adults; a young, organism is often less able to metabolize and inactivate toxic chemicals and can be much more vulnerable to the harmful effects of pesticides. The nervous system, brain, reproductive organs and endocrine (hormone) system can be permanently, if subtly, damaged by exposure to toxic substances in-utero or throughout early childhood that, at the same level, cause no measurable harm to adults. The developing brain and endocrine system are very sensitive, and low doses at a susceptible moment of development can cause more of an effect than high doses. It is especially important to reduce pesticide exposures of babies and young children so as to minimize these risks.

What Can I Do to Reduce My Risk?

Addressing the risks of pesticide exposure first and foremost requires information, which is frequently made unavailable to the general public by the government agencies. To counteract this trend for secrecy, EWG believes that:

People have a right to know what's in their food, so they can choose foods with less pesticides.
·    The government can and should take steps to dramatically reduce the number and amount of toxic chemicals, including pesticides, in the food supply.

Each of us can opt for food safety today by choosing to purchase produce low in pesticides and by buying organically-raised fruits and vegetables as frequently as possible. With this first step we can protect our families' health and preserve our own future and the future of the environment from the harmful effects of pesticides.

The following chart ranks the highest (100 score) and lowest (1 score) pesticide loads of popular fruits and veggies. 

1 (worst)
100 (highest pesticide load)
Sweet Bell Pepper
Grapes - Imported
Collard Greens
Green Beans
Summer Squash
Grapes - Domestic
Winter Squash
Honeydew Melon
Sweet Potato
Sweet Peas - Frozen
Sweet Corn - Frozen
47 (best)
1 (lowest pesticide load)

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Connecting With Nature Boosts Creativity and Health

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"I've been arguing for a while that connection to nature should be thought of as a human right," Richard Louv told the crowd assembled in the courtyard of National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Louv was there to inspire the staff about the benefits of spending time outdoors.

Louv, the author of the bestsellers Last Child in the Woods (2005) and The Nature Principle (2011)-coined the term "nature-deficit disorder" to describe the loss of connection children increasingly feel with the natural world. Nature-deficit disorder is not a clinically recognized condition, he explains, but rather a term to evoke a loss of communion with other living things. Nevertheless, he argues, nature-deficit disorder affects "health, spiritual well-being, and many other areas, including [people's] ability to feel ultimately alive." (See "The Nature-Deficit Disorder and How It Is Impacting Our Natural World.")
The causes of the disorder include loss of open space, increasingly busy schedules, an emphasis on team sports over individualized play and exploration, competition from electronic media, and what Louv and others call a "culture of fear," in which people are afraid to visit natural areas or even go outside due to heavy media coverage of violent events.
To dive deeper into Louv's ideas, National Geographic sat down with him for a few questions.
It has been a few years since you published Last Child in the Woods in 2005. What has changed since then?
Quite a bit. I wrote another book, called The Nature Principle, extending the idea [of nature-deficit disorder] to adults. That's because I kept hearing from adults, who said, "It affects us too." At the time there were a lot of great people doing great work around nature, but in the media that issue was nowhere near the stove, let alone the front burner.
I didn't know it would have the impact it has. I never claim Last Child in the Woods started anything, but it proved to be a very useful tool, and things took off. Today, if you look at [the website of the Children & Nature Network, a group Louv founded], you'll see all kinds of good news from all over the country, and it's increasingly international. Nature preschools are beginning to take off. There are 112 regional, provincial, or state campaigns in the U.S. and Canada that are working on getting kids outdoors, many of which didn't exist before.
It doesn't seem to matter what someone's politics or religion is, they want to tell me about the treehouse they had as a kid, if they are old enough—for the younger people that is less likely to be true. This is the only issue I've seen that brings people together, because nobody wants to be in the last generation where it's considered normal for kids to go outdoors.
This week you spoke at an event with Sally Jewell, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, at the Center for American Progress in Washington, on the importance of getting children and adults outside. How did that go?
Sally Jewell is a former head of REI, and she is one of the people who stepped forward when Last Child came out. She took an REI daypack filled with copies of the book, went to the White House, and handed them out to staff and the president.
She will be the third Secretary of the Interior in a row to be fully committed to this issue. The first was Dirk Kempthorne, a conservative Republican under President [George W.] Bush, who was very committed to this. So was Ken Salazar [under Obama], and now Sally, who probably has the most experience with this issue. [Tuesday's] event illustrates that this issue is growing.
Can you share some specific examples of how a connection to nature improved someone's life?
[National Geographic Emerging Explorer] Juan Martinez is one example. He grew up in South Central Los Angeles, where he was headed for gangs and trouble. A principal told him he'd have to go to detention or join the eco club. He thought the club sounded like a bunch of nerds, but he joined. He resented it at first, but then had an assignment to grow something.
He had seen his mother break up concrete behind their house to grow chilis to eat. So he grew a jalapeno chili plant and took it home to show her that he could nurture life too. That plant, and later an eco club trip to the Grand Tetons, changed his life. He is now an environmentalist and head of the Natural Leaders Network, which is part of the Children &  Nature Network. He is also a National Geographic explorer and has spoken at the White House twice.
So nature can transform your life. He found not only nature, he found people through nature. He reconnected to South Central in a new way. (See video of Juan Martinez.)
How can city dwellers connect with nature?
As of 2008 more people lived in cities than the countryside. That marked a huge moment in human history, and it means one of two things: Either the human connection to nature will continue to fade, or it means the beginning of a new kind of city.
One way is through "biophilic design" [nature-inspired design], which is the incorporation of nature where we live, work, learn, and play, not only as something we drive an hour to visit. Not only parks, but also in the way we design our neighborhoods, our backyards, and our buildings.
I believe cities can become engines of biodiversity. It starts with planting a lot of native plants, which revive the food chain and bring back butterfly and bird migration routes.
The word "sustainability" is problematic, because to most people it means stasis, survival, and energy efficiency. We have to do those things, but that only goes so far in igniting the imagination. Increasingly, I talk about a "nature-rich society," a different way to look at the future that is not just about survival, but about something much better.
How do we get to a greener future?
I visited the Martin Luther King memorial yesterday. King demonstrated and said that any movement will fail if it can't paint a picture of a world people will want to go to. That world has to be more than energy efficient, it must be a better civilization.
I think we're in a cultural depression. The number one young adult literature genre today is something called dystopic fiction, which portrays a post-apocalyptic world in which vampires aren't even having a good time. I have a theory that most Americans carry images of the far future that look a lot likeBlade Runner and Mad Max. If those are the dominating images, and we don't have a balancing set of images of a great future, then we better be careful what we imagine.
You have written about the impacts of "nature time" on problems like anxiety, depression, ADD, and obesity. How important is that?
If you look at a new body of research on depression, ADD, physical health, child obesity, and the epidemic of inactivity, nature is a good antidote to all of that. I didn't coin it, but I like the phrase "sitting is the new smoking," because new evidence shows that sitting long hours every day can have serious health risks similar to those caused by smoking.
Researchers at the University of Illinois are investigating whether time in the woods could be used to supplement treatment of ADD. A study at the University of Kansas found that young people who backpacked for three days showed higher creativity and cognitive abilities. People in hospitals who can see a natural landscape have been shown to get better faster.
As an antidote, we need to figure out ways to increase nature time even as technology increases. It has to be a conscious decision.
Speaking of technology, how much are "screens" like TV, the Internet, video games, and smartphones to blame for keeping kids indoors?
I always resist demonizing technology and video games, specifically, partly because when people write about this issue they go immediately to that. But then they ignore these other things, like "stranger danger" [Louv has argued that sensationalist media has made parents fearful of letting children go outside] and bad urban design, the fact that our education system needs a lot of work, the fact that we are canceling recess and field trips—there are a lot of other reasons out there.
Having said that, there's no doubt that electronics have something to do with this. The Kaiser Foundation found that kids spend 53 hours a week plugged in to some kind of electronic medium, and I imagine that's true of adults too. I have an iPhone and iPad, I spend a lot of time with screens, but I think the more high-tech our lives become, the more nature we need as a balancing agent.
How can parents know if their kids might suffer from nature-deficit disorder? Are there warning signs?
I don't think this is something that can be reduced to individual symptoms in individual children. I've always felt it was a more generalized issue, a disorder of society that has implications for all of us.

This interview has been edited and condensed.
Sources: Higher Health

Animal Farm - The truth about GM chicken

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A programme looking at Genetic Modification and Selective breeding. Giving examples on this imaginary farm. Sorry about the quality if it goes slow in places

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

A Dear John Letter To Trader Joe's

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Dear Trader Joe,
When I met you many years ago it was love at first site. I loved your fun attitude and your philosophy. I loved your cozy, small neighborhood market feel.
You became a regularly weekly date and I always looked forward to seeing you. What new foods would I find? What yummy food samples were being served? Would there be a wine tasting or free coffee?
I was so enamored of you I told all my friends how great you were, I even wrote about you on my blog for the whole world to see.
For years you made me feel that I could afford to buy the healthiest food without breaking my budget and for that I will always be grateful.  So this is really hard for me to say, but I'm going to have to break up with you.
I'm really sorry. It's not you, it's me. I've changed. I'm not the same sugar-loving, carbo-consuming, canola-oil guzzling gal I was when we first met.
I was so blinded by your Hawaiian shirts, your super-friendly crew mates, and your whimsical captain's bell that I was too busy having fun when I shopped. But eventually I started to notice things that I didn't like.
I didn't like the way you started sneaking sugar into everything. Maybe it was always there and I just didn’t want to see it. When you're in love you tend to overlook these things. Do you really need to put it in your Chili Pepper Sauce and your Garlic & Butter Mashed Potato mix? But the last straw for me was when I found it in your beef broth! Why, Joe, why, do you need to put sugar in this most savory of items?
I now feel like I can't trust you. I have to read every single label and frankly, this is no way to shop. A good relationship is based on trust, and you have destroyed my faith in you.
But there is even a bigger problem than hidden sugar. It's your love affair with polyunsaturated vegetable oils really takes the cake. This stuff is bad news yet you put it in everything.
I don't understand how you can take such pride in putting out award winning olive oil on one hand yet sell canola oil on the other. It makes you seem like a hypocrite.
I know it's not all your fault. You have to give your customers what they want because without your loyal fans there would be no "Trader" you'd just be "plain old Joe".
Maybe you're worried your customers aren't ready to give up flavor boost from sugar or willing to pay more for food once you transition from using cheap vegetable oils. But Joe, you could pave the way! After all you've made some pretty bold moves like refusing to carry products that contain MSG and everyone has stuck by you! You could do the same here!
Oh, we had some good times, Joe. I'll never forget your pumpkin ice cream, your honey-glazed cranberry pecans, or your Greek apricot-mango yogurt. I'm really going to miss your BBQ Sauce, Teriyaki sauce, and your lime-curry marinade. They made others believe I was a good cook. But the truth is I owe it all to you.
I hope we can always be friends but I just don't want to be exclusive any more. I need to find someone whose philosophy is more akin to mine.
If you decide to mend your ways – get rid of hidden sugar and canola oil – give me a call and maybe we can patch this up.

Until then I'll be seeing you around.

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