“I Can’t Breathe,” Says Africa

Ever since I saw the video of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on the 25th May, killed by a police man who knelt on his neck for NINE MINUTES, while he was calling for his dead mother and for mercy, I have been upset and angry, as have been most people across the world and amongst different races.  I ‘ve been watching the riots in the USA and all over the world and wondering whether this will pass by as just another of these events, or whether change really is on the horizon.

We know this systemic racism started four centuries ago and, through endless and varied legal and political processes, was designed to benefit one section of a society. All other systems are subservient to this system and all other people are subservient to a race, a large number of whom are fighting to keep the privelege they feel is rightfully theirs.

I also see the knee on George Floyd’s neck as also being symbolic of how neoliberalism, and the associated neo colonialism, are putting their knee on the neck of Africa. I hear Africa saying, ‘I can’t breathe.’

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Native Plants Sequester Carbon in the Soil for Longer

Exotic plant species release 150 percent more carbon dioxide from the soil than native New Zealand plants, according to a new study from the Bio-Protection Research Centre published in Science.

The research is the latest development in an extended scientific debate over whether to prioritise planting native or exotic species to increase biodiversity and fight climate change.

While it doesn’t upset the longstanding scientific consensus that faster-growing plants sequester more carbon – and that exotic species planted outside their usual range will grow faster – the study does complicate the picture of the carbon cycle.

Carbon cycling and the soil

So what is the carbon cycle and how does CO2 get into the soil in the first place?

“It’s really important to think of it as a cycle,” the study’s lead author Dr Lauren Waller told Newsroom. Waller is a researcher at Lincoln University and a postdoctoral fellow at the Bio-Protection Research Centre.

While most people understand that plants remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, they don’t always realise what happens next.

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The Path Beyond Extinction and Escape: Return to Earth, Regenerate and Share

Message for World Environment Day, June 5, 2020  

By Dr Vandana Shiva

On May 31, while people were dying during the coronavirus pandemic, while millions had lost their livelihoods and were going hungry during the “lockdown,” while millions were marching in city after city in the USA to protest against police brutality and police violence after the killing of George Floyd by the police in Minneapolis, billionaire Elon Musk launched Space X.

For me this was a brutal display of the hubris, indifference and power of the 1% who have pushed ecosystems, communities, countries and humanity to the brink.

Musk wants to create a “self sustaining” Space X city on Mars over the next century for a privileged faction of humanity. He ignores the fact that there is no Planet B, that the Earth is our only living planet, she is Gaia, she is alive.

Musk talked about being emotional during the launch of Space X. Powerful men have “emotions” for their machines, not for people or other beings. They talk of humans becoming a “space bearing civilization and a multi-planetary species.” They are still in denial that we are all earthlings who share life with other beings on the earth, our common home.

The billionaires who have violated planetary boundaries and contributed to the destruction of the earth and injustice and inequality in society, seem to want to “escape” from their humanity and the threat of extinction they helped create.

As members of the earth community they have the responsibility to care for the earth, not exploit her and when the damage is done, decide to abandon her to colonize other planets.

With the money Musk is pouring into Space X, millions would be fed and engaged creatively in regenerating the Earth, our common home, making it livable for present and future generations, everywhere.

The sixth mass extinction is a manmade phenomenon:  It is driven by the limitless greed of the few.

Take just one example, even when it is painted “green” – the limitless appetite of Musk’s electric car industry for Lithium has led to the expansion of lithium mines in Northern Tibet, Southern America and Chile, and Bolivia. With the demand for electric cars, the demand for lithium is expected to more than double by 2025 with exponential damage to the environment and surrounding communities.

According to Evo Morales, the former President of Bolivia, the coup against him was a lithium coup. The coup came a week after Morales nationalized lithium on November 4, 2019, saying it belongs to the Bolivian people, not to multinationals, and cancelled the December 2018 agreement with Germany’s ACI Systems Alemania (ACISA) following weeks of protests from residents of the Potosí areawhich has 50% to 70% of the world’s lithium reserves in the Salar de Uyuni salt flats. ACISA provides batteries to Tesla owned by Leon Musk and the coup resulted in a massive rise in the company’s stock. [1] [2]

When the rich and powerful destroyed the binding Climate Change treaty in Copenhagen in 2009, Evo Morales addressed the Conference of Parties, reminding everyone that governments were supposed to be negotiating ways to protect Mother Earth, not the rights of polluters.

As a countermeasure, he announced he would call a people’s Summit on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth. I was honored to work with the group created by the Government of Bolivia to prepare a Draft Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth.[3]

As Earth Citizens we have a choice – to either follow the market’s laws of greed and unlimited profit or the laws of the Earth.

As we make shifts to a post COVID-19 economy, we need to take into account the full ecological, social, and political costs of what is being offered and what choices we make.

Rendering invisible the real costs to the earth and people is how the mega corporate world accumulates its wealth, polarizing society further, denying millions their fundamental rights, undermining democracy, and increasing their ecological footprintleaving these costs to be born by the earth and vulnerable communities.

As always, colonizers leave the places and spaces they have destroyed and polluted, and find new colonies to occupy and extract from, touting them as the next step of progress, as solutions to the ecological and poverty crises they have contributed to, finding other places and other people to dominate and plunder.

Cecil Rhodes who colonized Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) stated frankly:

“We must find new lands from which we can easily obtain raw materials and at the same time exploit the cheap slave labour that is available from the natives of the colonies. The colonies would also provide a dumping ground for the surplus goods produced in our factories”.[4]

This is still the model of the economy of the 1%. The tools of extraction, and the colonies might change but the patterns of colonization remain unchanged – grab and steal what belongs to others, make it your own property, collect rents from the original owners, transform the displaced  into cheap slave labour to provide cheap raw materials, and turn them into consumers for your industrial products.

For Elon Musk, the colonies are both other planets like Mars and countries rich in lithium. For Bill Gates and Big Tech, the new colonies are our bodies and minds – as spelled out in WIPO’s patent no. WO2020/06060 which the billionaire has just been granted at the peak of the coronavirus and in the midst of lockdown at the end of March.

This Is the next step in the tech giants’ plan for the digitalization of the world where people and their work are being rendered “useless” and are being reduced to “users” of the “machines.”

A digital dictatorship based on the premise that 90% of humanity is disposable has no obligation to social justice and human rights. A digital dictatorship is not a life generating and livelihood supporting economy. It can work through extraction of data from our minds and bodies for a few years as “surveillance capitalism,” but because it does not create the generative conditions that support life in nature’s economy and the sustenance economy of people, because it does not nourish our health, our bodies and minds, or our creativity, our freedom or our earth being – it will destroy the ecological and social base of the economy and our future as a species.

Denial of ecological processes that support the economy, and externalizing social and ecological costs, creates conditions for ecological collapse.

Economy and ecology are both derived from the same word “oikos” our home, both our planetary home as well as the particular places we call home. Yet what is called economy today is destroying our common home.

Aristotle defined “oikonomia” as the “art of living.” He differentiated it from the “art of money making” which he referred to as “chrematistics.”

The game billionaires play is not worthy of being called economy, either as care for the home, or as the art of living. It is extractive, naked money making, at war with life and creativity.

The Digital Giants are misleadingly creating the language of “dematerialization,” as if the digital economy will run on thin air, with no resources, no energy. However, a digital economy is very energy intensive and has a very heavy social and ecological footprint. Digital technologies now emit 4% of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), and its energy consumption is increasing by 9% a year.

Data traffic is responsible for more than half of digital technology’s global impact, with 55% of its annual energy consumption. Every byte transferred or stored requires large scale and energy-greedy terminals and infrastructures (data centers, networks). This traffic is currently increasing by more than 25% a year. How long will it take before the ecological load of the digitalization of every aspect of our life will push the remaining ecosystems to collapse, driving the surviving species to extinction?[5]

All democratic societies and citizens need to assess these costs, and ensure that the “precautionary principle” and “polluters pays principle” are applied to the digital economy. That polluters do not “escape” their ecological and democratic responsibilities, and dictators do not impose their “surveillance capitalism.”

There are options beyond colonization, beyond extinction ,which first pushed other species and other cultures to extinction – and is now threatening the extinction of the entire human species.

Instead of the rich ignoring and fleeing  from the Earth, the path as humanity we should be following is to Return to Earth, in our minds, our hearts, and in our lives – as one Earth Community with a potential to co-create, coproduce, and regenerate and allow the earth to provide for all.

This is the path to reclaiming our creative powers to shape our economies and democracies from the bottom up. This is the practice of Earth Democracy.

We need to shift from Anthropocentrism to the recognition that all humans and all beings are members of one Earth Family. The assumption of superiority of humans over other species, and some humans over others of a different color, gender, or religion is at the root of violence against women, blacks, and indigenous people. It has justified extermination of species and cultures. It is what led to the brutal killing of George Floyd, and many others before him. And this assumption of anthropocentrism is at the root of the extinction crisis.

We need to shift from the assumption that violating planetary boundaries, ecosystem boundaries, species boundaries, and human rights is a measure of progress and superiority – to creating economies based on respecting ecological laws and ecological limits, and respecting the rights of the last person, the last child.

We need to shift from seeing money and technology as masters in a new religion of money making, ”chrematistics,” to recognizing they are mere means that must be governed and regulated democratically for higher ecological and human ends.

We need to shift from extractivism as the basis of the economy to solidarity and giving as the basis of circular, solidarity economies of permanence.

We need to shift from enclosure of the commons by the 1 % to recovery of the commons for the common good and well being of all.

Humanity must opt for staying alive by caring for our common home, the Earth and each other, rejuvenating the Planet, and through it sowing the seeds of our common future.

“Only as one earth community and one humanity, united in our diversities, can we hold ourselves together and step away from the precipice, and escape the destructive, ecocidal, genocidal rule of the 1% and the hallucinations of the mechanical mind. The 1% have brought us to this point, like sheep to slaughter. But we can turn around and walk away, to our freedom. To live free. To think free. To breathe free. To eat free. Seeding the Future is in our minds, our hearts, our hands.”

(Oneness vs 1% – Shattering Illusions, Seeding Freedom, Women Unlimited, New Internationalist, Il pianeta di tutti – Come il capitalismo ha colonizzato la Terra, Fetrinelli, El Planeta es de todos: Unidad contra el 1%, Editorial Popular, 1 % – Reprendre le pouvoir face à la toute-puissance des riches, Rue de l’échiquier)

References:

[1] https://www.trtworld.com/magazine/was-bolivia-s-coup-over-lithium-32033

[2] https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/11/11/bolivian-coup-comes-less-week-after-morales-stopped-multinational-firms-lithium-deal

[3] https://www.navdanya.org/newsite/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=343:universal-declaration-of-the-rights-of-mother-earth&Itemid=214&tmpl=component&print=1

[4] (Pg 116  Terry Gibbs, Why the Dalai Lama is a Socialist)

[5] (Source: https://theshiftproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/2019-02.pdf)

Reposted with permission from Navdanya

A Vision for the Social and Ecological Regeneration of Mexico City’s Xochimilco Wetlands

By Mayra Rubio Lozano

MEXICO CITY – Xochimilco is a city south of Mexico City best known for its canals. The area’s wetlands,  recognized for their important biological and cultural value, are why Xochimilco is named as a World Heritage Site (UNESCO) and Site of Agricultural Importance (FAO). 

Humedalia is a Mexican organization that works for the conservation and restoration of the Mexican wetlands. It is part of the Regeneration International partner network and as such, has applied for the Scientific and Technical committee evaluation program of the 4 per 1000 initiative

Humedalia’s work focuses on the chinampas of Xochimilco. (Chinampas refers to a system of growing crops in floating gardens created in shallow lake beds, using farming techniques developed by the Aztecs).

Agricultural production in chinampas, or islands of arable land, started over 800 years ago.  When the first tribes that settled in the Mexico basin, they were able to produce 4t/ha of crops. These high yields allowed the development of big urban settlements, such as what we have today in Mexico City. These cities generated a big demand for water resources, and ultimately led to the transfer of agriculture to urban soil.

Today, Xochimilco’s wetland and its landscape of chinampas retain only 2 percent of the fresh water that was originally in the basin. This agricultural landscape is highly threatened by processes linked to urbanization and the devaluation of the farmers’ labor. About  80 percent of the chinampas are abandoned, and water pollution has deteriorated the soil’s fertility. The few agricultural producers that remain face steep competition and low profits, because the intensive agricultural model, mostly subsidized, has forced these producers to lower the prices.

Despite the negative impact of urbanization, Xochimilco’s wetlands remain vital for Mexico City. They provide multiple environmental benefits, such as microclimate regulation, water catchment and recharge of the groundwater reserves, oxygen and food production, nutrient recycling and carbon sequestration. In a city where air pollution levels usually exceed healthy standards, carbon sequestration is fundamental for the city’s resilience. Wetlands sequester large amounts of carbon (0.4-32 Mg ha-1 year-1) in their sediments because of their anaerobic conditions, which slow the rate of decay of organic matter, facilitating carbon accumulation. In turn, carbon sequestration can be optimized by using traditional farming techniques (sustainable) in the chinampas in combination with new organic farming techniques, such as the biointensive method. 

This project seeks to increase carbon sequestration through a water-soil systemic approach. By restoring canals and rehabilitating hectares of idle land, the quality of the water available for watering will improve, and the chinampas’ soil will be regenerated, leading to an increase in the amount of the ecosystem’s carbon sequestration.

The project also will contribute to the local endemic flora and fauna’s habitat protection, such as the axolotl Ambystoma mexicanum, a type of salamander known as the Mexican walking fish. Protecting local flora and fauna will help restore the cultural identity linked to ancestral agriculture that survives in the hands of traditional farmers.

This project for regenerating the chinampas soil (rehabilitation, growing and maintenance) will provide the local community opportunities to increase family income and engage multiple generations, creating a space for the exchange of knowledge and experiences about ancestral farming techniques. Women and children who typically don’t participate directly in food production can become involved in marketing, sales and processing. 

In turn, regenerated chinampas will produce healthier foods. 

As part of the Regeneration International partner network, and applying for the 4 per 1000 initiative, Humedalia project helps improve socio-ecological conditions of Xochimilco’s wetland. Carbon sequestration will have a positive direct impact on the air quality of one of the most polluted cities in the world. But the project will also focus on the social aspect, improving the wellbeing of the community by generating self-employment at the chinampas, and creating the right conditions for social participation through collaborative networks that strengthen the community. 

Mayra Rubio Lozano is director of scientific research and sustainable development for Humedalia A.C. To keep up with Regeneration International news, sign up for our newsletter.

 

Regenerative Agriculture Could Save the Planet. Why Doesn’t Everyone Know About It?

Food giant General Mills recently announced that the company is set to partner with farmers to advance regenerative agriculture practices on one million acres of farmland by 2030. The company committed to the idea after researching information about Will Harris’ cattle ranch in Georgia. His ranch, White Oak Pastures, uses targeted agricultural methods that have turned the land into a carbon sink, absorbing the majority of emissions caused by the beef production.

The Climate Reality Project explains that “regenerative agriculture is a system of farming principles and practices that seeks to rehabilitate and enhance the entire ecosystem of the farm by placing a heavy premium on soil health with attention also paid to water management, fertilizer use, and more. It is a method of farming that improves the resources it uses, rather than destroying or depleting them.”

In North Dakota, rancher and farmer Gabe Brown has helped lead this agricultural movement.

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Sustainable Agroecosystems: Cropping Using Regenerative Agricultural Principles

Over the last century, intensive farming practices have had significant negative consequences for the soil and surrounding ecosystems. By disrupting the natural function of these habitats, the valuable ecosystem services they provide are compromised and are the source of the multitude of environmental issues we face as a society. Natural systems make up a complex web of interconnecting functions, with nothing operating at full health if parts of the system are damaged. Thus, we must consider these systems as a whole, examining not only how each component functions, but how they all fit together and interact in the bigger picture.

Agricultural production practices need to be guided by policies that ensure regenerative cropping and grazing management protocols to ensure long-term sustainability and ecological resilience of agroecosystems. It is not sufficient to aim at sustainability alone as we have substantially degraded our agroecosystems with negative consequences over substantial areas of the world. We need to regenerate the soil and ecosystem function.

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Natural, Biodiverse Forests More Reliable at Fighting Climate Change than Plantations

How reliable are long-lived plantations composed of a few species for carbon capture, when compared with natural tropical forests that comprise many species?

Fighting climate change through reforestation activities, such as large-scale plantations, has gained global traction over recent years. To reduce carbon emissions, international efforts such as the Bonn Challenge and Paris Climate Accord have promoted tapping into the power of trees that suck in and sequester carbon in multiple ways.

Researchers conducted a study in one of India’s biodiversity hotspots, the Western Ghats. They compared carbon storage and rates of carbon capture of mature mono-dominant plantations, with those of neighboring natural forests harbouring a diverse mix of native species.

Although mono-dominant plantations could match natural biodiverse forests in terms of carbon capture and storage potential, the latter were more stable and hence more reliable in their ability to capture carbon over the years, particularly in the face of droughts.

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Will Pandemic Push Humans into a Healthier Relationship with Nature?

ROME, May 21 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Daniel Wanjama had everything ready for this year’s first seed fair in the Kenyan town of Gilgil, an important event where poor farmers exchange seeds of nutritious, hardy local crops they cannot easily buy in shops or markets.

But a week before the fair Wanjama had organised for late March, the government banned gatherings in a bid to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“Farmers who were ready to deliver seeds are stranded with them, and those who were to obtain seeds have not planted (their crops),” he said by email.

“This is a serious situation because not planting means not having food,” added the founder of Seed Savers Network-Kenya, a social enterprise based in Gilgil, about 120 km (75 miles) north of Nairobi.

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Regenerative Agriculture Can Change the Fashion Industry—And the World. But What Is It?

“The word sustainable is like a dinosaur now,” Aras Baskauskas, the CEO of Los Angeles label Christy Dawn, tells me on a recent call. “What are we trying to sustain—the fires, the tornadoes, the mass extinction? We don’t need to be sustainable, we need to be regenerative.”

That conversation took place in early March, just before the coronavirus outbreak. Now, Baskauskas’s words feel almost prescient. Those natural disasters he mentioned are the result of our climate emergency, but so is the coronavirus; both are symptomatic of our fast-paced lifestyles and one-sided relationship with the planet. “We’ve forgotten that we are nature, and because of that, we’ve extracted from the earth without giving back,” he adds. “We take and don’t return.”

That’s true of many industries, but especially fashion. Even as we shift towards a more sustainable mindset, we can’t really say that anything we’re doing is “giving back” to the earth.

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What Climate Change and the Coronavirus Have in Common

At its best, each day lately is full of some degree of uncertainty. Stay-at-home orders. Lockdowns. Economic plunges. None of this is normal. Yet, it oddly shares commonality with a different kind of drawn-out pandemic—climate change. Hurricanes, wildfires, extreme temperature shifts are not normal either. These events, unlike the current coronavirus peak, are spread out geographically and seasonally, with the most ravaged effects often occurring beyond our sight.

What if we could stop the next pandemic before it starts? What if we could curtail climate change before it sweeps us aside? Incidentally, both crises share a common cause: our food system.

Repair our food system, repair our health

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that three out of four infectious diseases in people come from animals. That’s 75 percent, of which COVID-19 is one. Others, like SARS, Ebola, swine flu, and bird flu, have similar animal origins.

Until recently, virtually no one was searching for the infamous Spanish Flu of 1918, which killed nearly 50 million people—far more than in World War I. Suddenly, 102 years later, mass Googling began. Why? Like the virus we’re experiencing now, the Spanish Flu originated in an animal—the commonly consumed pig. This is not just a problem of earlier, less medically-advanced eras. In 2009, the swine flu returned, taking between 151,000 and 675,000 lives. Similarly, COVID-19 is suspected to have originated in bats, jumping to humans from another mammal.

While COVID-19 may seem like a foreign disease that we have fallen victim to, it’s just one of many viruses that stem from the extreme confinement of animals being raised for food. In the U.S. alone, 9 billion animals are raised each year on factory farms, posing a massive pandemic risk.

Add to that the risk of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, attributed to the overuse of antibiotics to promote the growth of animals raised for food. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 700,000 people die each year from drug-resistant diseases. They have been warning us that zoonotic diseases are transferred from animals to humans through exposure to animals and/or their products. The guidance is clear. We need to end factory farming or be prepared for an unhealthy future of pandemonium.

Repair our food system, repair the planet

Alongside our current crisis looms the seemingly obscure threat of climate change. There have been glimmers of hope that skies and waterways around the world are clearing, as flights and rush hour traffic all but halted. But pausing human activity for a few weeks is not going to stop the tide of climate change.

While curbing global warming requires change on many levels, one most obvious one is that of animal agriculture. It’s estimated that 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions—not including water and soil pollution—are caused by animal agriculture. More than planes, trains, and motor vehicles combined.

The time couldn’t be more opportune for us to reevaluate our relationship with our planet and the billions of factory-farmed animals who inhabit it against the laws of nature. Crammed into tiny cages. Packed into giant sheds. Instantly taken away from their mothers at birth. Treated like pure products being manufactured for profit. Except, like us, they have heartbeats, emotions, and curiosity. Like us, they get sick, that sickness spreads—through our soil, our water, and directly to humans.

Repair our future

At a time when many of us are looking to regain control of our lives, we can start by taking control of our plates, by reducing our consumption of animal products. Because the truth is—virtually all animals raised for food come from unhealthy factory farms.

We’re lucky to live in an era of plant-based burgers that bleed like meat and latte-foaming milk made from liquified oats. Innovations that allow us to experience food like many have grown accustomed to, with less risk and more benefit.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), substituting plant protein in lieu of animal protein is associated with lower mortality. Just the dose of health we could all use right now.

If you want to transform the health of people and our planet in one shot, stand up against factory farming, and fight for a better food system, by taking action with organizations who are doing just that. It’s time to take control of our health and our future. To define the new normal before our quarantines define us.

Posted with permission from Common Dreams