Just when you think the reputation of banks couldn’t get any worse, comes word that we’ve seen nothing yet. As many as 20 banking institutions, including Barclays Bank, Deutsche Bank, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, UBS and HSBC, are reportedly under investigation for illegal and unethical practices toward protecting their profits at all costs and letting others pay for their mistakes. In this episode, financial expert Sheila Bair talks with Bill about the lawlessness of our banking system and the prognosis for meaningful reform. Bair was appointed in 2006 by President George W. Bush to chair the FDIC. During the 2008 meltdown, she argued that in some cases banks were NOT too big to fail — that instead of bailouts, they should be sold off to healthier competitors. Now a senior adviser to the Pew Charitable Trusts, Bair has organized a private group of financial experts including former Fed chairman Paul Volcker, former Senators Bill Bradley and Alan Simpson, and John Reed, once the chairman of Citicorp, to explore ways to prevent the banking industry from scuttling reforms created by the Dodd-Frank Act.
Bill talks to scientist and philosopher Vandana Shiva, who’s become a rock star in the global battle over genetically modified seeds. These seeds — considered “intellectual property” by the big companies who own the patents — are globally marketed to monopolize food production and profits. Opponents challenge the safety of genetically modified seeds, claiming they also harm the environment, are more costly, and leave local farmers deep in debt as well as dependent on suppliers. Shiva, who founded a movement in India to promote native seeds, links genetic tinkering to problems in our ecology, economy, and humanity, and sees this as the latest battleground in the war on Planet Earth.
“Environmentalism has failed” is a statement that deserves attention. It comes from famed environmentalist David Suzuki marking 50 years since Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring,helped spark the modern environmental movement.Clouded Earth. (Wikimedia Commons / Stephen Slade Tien)
Suzuki’s recent essay,Environmentalism Has Failed: On Adopting a Biocentric Viewpoint, on the fundamental failure of environmentalism is ominous. The world faces not only environmental calamities such as deforestation, coral reef depletion, and freshwater shortages, it is also mired in economic crises and harsh political realities. Despite the promise of “Arab Springs” and the global Occupy movement, we are increasingly in planetary peril. Throughout his life, David Suzuki has been a leading educator on planetary health; his conclusion about the environmental movement’s failure must be agonizing. Perhaps that’s why his blog offered no new way forward.
The video above features Mark Kastel, the co-director and Senior Farm Policy Analyst at the Cornucopia Institute. The Cornucopia Institute, based in Wisconsin, acts as an organic industry watchdog. In his presentation, Mark raises serious issues currently facing the organic food industry, and how you can help.
Lawfully Tainted Organics—How Did that Happen?
You’ve probably heard the health conscious mantra popularized by Michael Pollan: “If you can’t pronounce it, you shouldn’t be eating it.”
The easiest way to side step synthetic food additives has been to simply eat certified organic foods. But we’ve seen an increasing number of questionable additives being approved for use in organics. There are currently almost 300 non-organic and synthetic compounds approved for use in organic farming or food production. The video shows a long list of such ingredients—all of which are supposed to have been carefully reviewed for safety prior to approval.
But just how rigorous were those reviews, and are these additives really safe and appropriate for use in organics? Mark rightfully points out that fighting for the integrity of the organic label is well-worth it, considering the fact that conventional foods are allowed to use thousands of synthetic processing aids and additives, plus residues from a myriad of agricultural chemicals and genetically engineered ingredients.
Research by the Cornucopia Institute reveals disturbing evidence showing that large corporate interests have infiltrated the process, and that the rules put in place to maintain organic integrity are severely compromised.
“… It seems evident that the people doing the supposedly careful scientific reviews and approving these chemicals have mostly been affiliated with the same corporate agribusinesses and the same food producers that are lobbying for their use,” Mark says.
“We thought organics would be different from the rest of the money-dominated corruption in Washington… But the corporations that have gobbled up most of the pioneering organic businesses are relentless in their short-sighted pursuit of profit.” Read more…
Mario Aguilera / Scripps Institution of Oceanography
SEAPLEX researchers encounter a large ghost net with tangled rope, net, plastic, and various biological organisms during a 2009 expedition in the Pacific gyre. Matt Durham (seen wearing a blue shirt) is pictured with Miriam Goldstein.
By Ian Johnston, msnbc.com
The amount of plastic trash in the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” has increased 100-fold during the past 40 years, causing “profound” changes to the marine environment, according to a new study.
Scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego found that insects called “sea skaters” or “water striders” were using the trash as a place to lay their eggs in greater numbers than before. Read more…
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On March 11, 2008 a new documentary was aired on French television, a documentary that Americans won’t ever see. The gigantic bio-tech corporation Monsanto is threatening to destroy the agricultural biodiversity which has served mankind for thousands of years.
Genetically modified foods (or GM foods) are foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMO). Genetically modified organisms have had specific changes introduced into their DNA by genetic engineering techniques. These techniques are much more precise than mutagenesis (mutation breeding) where an organism is exposed to radiation or chemicals to create a non-specific but stable change. Other techniques by which humans modify food organisms include selective breeding; plant breeding, and animal breeding, and somaclonal variation.
GM foods were first put on the market in the early 1990s. Typically, genetically modified foods are transgenic plant products: soybean, corn, canola, and cotton seed oil. Animal products have also been developed, although as of July 2010 none are currently on the market. In 2006 a pig was controversially engineered to produce omega-3 fatty acids through the expression of a roundworm gene. Researchers have also developed a genetically-modified breed of pigs that are able to absorb plant phosphorus more efficiently, and as a consequence the phosphorus content of their manure is reduced by as much as 60%.
Gradually it’s dawned on me: We humans are creatures of the mind. We perceive the world according to our core, often unacknowledged, assumptions. They determine, literally, what we can see and what we cannot. Nothing so wrong with that, perhaps—except that, in this crucial do-or-die moment, we’re stuck with a mental map that is life-destroying. (Photo: Daniel Valle)
And the premise of this map is lack—not enough of anything, from energy to food to parking spots; not enough goods and not enough goodness. In such a world, we come to believe, it’s compete or die. The popular British writer Philip Pullman says, “we evolved to suit a way of life which is acquisitive, territorial, and combative” and that “we have to overcome millions of years of evolution” to make the changes we need to avoid global catastrophe.
If I believed that, I’d feel utterly hopeless. How can we align with the needs of the natural world if we first have to change basic human nature? Read more…
In Northern Alaska, people don’t need to be convinced about climate change because they see it happening all around them and literally under them — the very ground is changing.
Each year, the sea ice gets thinner and arrives later. The lack of shore ice that used to protect them from storms is leading to some villages being moved inland. Fish species from warmer waters, new birds and new insects, like spruce bark beetles, which kill trees, are appearing.
Houses are built on stilts, to avoid melting the permafrost, a layer of frozen earth that begins about two feet beneath the surface and goes down, in North Alaska, some 2,000 feet. Some of those houses are collapsing. Roads which needed resurfacing once a decade because of melting permafrost are now being resurfaced every year. So-called ‘drunken forests‘ are appearing as trees start to keel over.
The ground is changing, melting and it could be a preview of our worst climate nightmare. Read more…