Historic Preservation, Sustainability

http://www.nationaltrust.org/green/ is an important link. Check it out.

Candidates Forum, Oct. 2, Important!

Election Alert for Mayor of Southern Pines
Hear other candidates for Town Council
Get more info on bond referendums


Candidates Forum
Tuesday, Oct. 2, 6:30
Southern Pines Elementary School Auditorium
255 S. May St.

Conservation Insider Bulletin from Dan Besse

Conservation Insider Bulletin

Published weekly for the Conservation Council of North Carolina

Conservation News to Peruse & Use

Editor: Dan Besse, earthvote@ccnccpac.org

September 28, 2007

We consider new developments in environmentally significant local races, and take a look at power plant construction controversies, this week in CIB:

--Campaign Watch: Gantt Supports Transit Tax; More Triangle Endorsements

--Administrative Watch: Duke Hike Aimed at Residential Customers

--Around the States: Power Plant Building Frenzy Drawing Fire

Campaign Watch: Gantt Supports Transit Tax; More Triangle Endorsements

Gantt Supports Transit Tax: With a critical vote on the future of public transit coming up in a little more than a month, a key public figure in Charlotte has weighed in on the debate. Former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt this week announced his support for maintaining the half-cent sales tax to support transit in Mecklenburg County. (Gantt was the first black mayor of North Carolina's largest city, and ran as the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate against Jesse Helms.)

Gantt spoke at a news conference held to announce the formation of the African American Coalition Against Transit Tax Repeal. He is co-chair of the group, along with former Charlotte City Council Member Ron Leeper. The active support of prominent black leaders like Gantt could be crucial to the outcome of the referendum, since an August poll indicated that a majority of black voters were likely to support repeal. Gantt and others at the news conference this week said that they expected that to be reversed by an active educational campaign. Among other factors, they noted that nearly two-thirds of the revenue from the transit tax goes to support the bus system, which is used most heavily by minority residents who don't have easy access to private autos. Black voter dissatisfaction with the transit tax appears to be linked to concerns regarding where the initial light rail lines are being built and planned. (See Charlotte Observer, 9/26/07.) More information on the debate is also available at www.voteagainstrepeal.com.

In a relevant story, the Texas Transportation Institute's 2007 Urban Mobility Report (released last week) found Charlotte to be one of the nation's most traffic-congested medium-sized cities. Commenting on the study's release, the N.C. Public Interest Research Group noted that its findings indicated the need for more public transit (including light rail) in Charlotte. (Charlotte Observer, 9/23/07.)

More Triangle Endorsements: The Independent Weekly this week announced its endorsements for the October 9 municipal election primaries in Raleigh, Cary, and Durham. In both the Raleigh and Cary elections, the Independent's analysis framed the voting as primarily a choice between competing approaches to growth and development issues. In Raleigh, the paper said, the question is largely whether Mayor Charles Meeker will obtain a working majority on the city council for progressive concepts such as strong land-use planning, inclusionary zoning, transit corridors, and pedestrian-friendly development. Key races can be found in the at-large and District A and B primaries.

In Cary, the paper said, the key question was whether voters would reject the current mayor and board's tendency to override the town's own plans in development/zoning cases. Prior to the election of four years ago, Cary had developed a reputation as a strong land-use planning-oriented city. It could regain that reputation.

For details of the paper's analysis, and its corresponding candidate recommendations, go to www.indyweek.com. The paper also endorsed passage of the upcoming Wake County bond referenda, including the proposed $50 million for continuation of the county's open space acquisition program.

Administrative Watch: Duke Hike Aimed at Residential Customers

In its request to the N.C. Utilities Commission for an electric rate hike, Duke Energy has asked for permission to hit residential customers the hardest. Duke says that it wants to boost residential rates by 6.8 percent, and industrial rates by only about 2 percent. Duke Energy Carolinas president Ellen Ruff denied that this rate "rebalancing" was aimed at hurting residential customers in favor of business customers (Raleigh News & Observer, 9/20/07.)

Duke now projects a net income in 2008 of $1.55 billion, up from $1.47 billion estimated for 2007. (Winston-Salem Journal, 9/12/07.)

Around the States: Power Plant Building Frenzy Drawing Fire

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) board of directors voted this week to pursue a license for its first new nuclear power plant in 30 years, at a site in northeastern Alabama. Previously, Dominion Virginia Power had announced plans to build a new coal-fired power plant in southwest Virginia. Both proposals were the subject of public interest group opposition reported this week.

A coalition of environmental groups has filed a challenge to the Dominion plans with the Virginia State Corporation Commission (that state's equivalent of the N.C. Utilities Commission). The coalition criticizes the proposal for its addition to greenhouse gas emissions, as well as its potential to encourage further mountaintop-removal coal mining in the state. (Associated Press, 9/27/07.)

In immediate response to the TVA nuclear decision vote, a representative of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy offered both public-safety and cost concerns. He also criticized the decision as reflecting "amnesia" regarding the utility's history of problems with its nuclear construction program. (Associated Press, 9/28/07.) (TVA experienced serious fire damage to a partially completed plant at Browns Ferry, which prior to the Three Mile Island accident was the most notorious safety incident at a U.S. commercial nuclear plant.)

Clean energy advocates recall the 1970's-80's era of enormously expensive overconstruction by electric utilities, and fear that the industry may be entering into another period of excessive predictions of future electric demand growth.

Hold the Wi-Fi

Germany Warns Citizens to Avoid Using Wi-Fi
Geoffrey Lean, of the Independent UK, reports: "People should avoid using Wi-Fi
wherever possible because of the risks it may pose to health, the German government has said. Its surprise ruling - the most damning made by any government on the fast-growing technology - will shake the industry and British ministers, and vindicates the questions that The Independent on Sunday has been raising over the past four

Aw, Shucks, It's Only the Planet

Bush climate plans spark debate
A US plan for countries to set their own CO2 emission reduction targets is criticised by some diplomats.
Full story:


And?. . . .

US urges climate change consensus
The US secretary of state urges leaders of the world's top polluting nations to agree on tackling climate change.
Full story:


From a blog-reader. Should make you smile!!



Eye-Opening Video


from the Rooster's Wife

George Gershwin, Jane Smiley, and T. S. Eliot share birthdays today. I offer this bit of esoterica to say that music, a good story and a strong dose of poetry are essential to a well balanced life. That’s what was happening on the porch this past Sunday night..

I have been thinking of ways to describe Sally Spring’s voice without satisfactory results. It is rich, deep and enveloping-you have to hear her to understand. And the voice is the vehicle for meaningful poetry. It’s not the same, but is a reasonable substitute to pick up her latest cd, Mockingbird at her website www.sallyspring.com . It might hold you over until you can catch another performance. Sally and husband Ted Lyons live in Winston Salem, so keep your ears peeled for when they are back on stage in the area.

My sole experience with cherry bombs was not as forgiving as that of the boys in Michael’s story. Let’s just say those little trouble makers are waterproof at least for short periods , and can wreak havoc on a toilet if deposited there. The initial result is thrilling. The consequences, not so much. Back to the concert.

Michael Reno Harrell is a story teller of the first order. He was able to bring a moral or draw a conclusion that flowed perfectly into the next song. He heads out west for a series of performances and I can just imagine how perfect a big sky and a campfire would be to hear his tales. Not that the lawn of the Postmaster’s House was a bit shabby. The days are shorter, the nights cooler, so sitting under an almost full moon soaking in a good story is as grand a way to spend a Sunday evening as I know. His new cd , the River, is available through his site, www.michaelrenoharrell.com but don’t limit yourself to one. You’ll love them all.

To repeat myself , the weather is changing. Summer officially ended last week. Summer on the Porch has been a success and I have you to thank. We will be back next summer, kicking off on Mother’s Day, May 11, and running twice a month through September. Work on your recipes as the annual cake baking contest will be in July. We’ll have plenty of fine, fine music for your listening pleasure right here in Aberdeen.

To further repeat myself, the Rooster’s Wife is a non profit association created to bring live music to the community of Aberdeen and surrounding areas. If you are able and willing to help keep the ball rolling, you can send you tax deductible donation by mail, or email , via Paypal to theroosterswife@yahoo.com . It’s as easy as ebay, and you know it fits. You can also contact me about the different levels of support and the premiums they afford you, including discounts on admission and merchandise, free tickets, promotion from the stage and on the web site , and the sincere gratitude of the folks around here who love live music.

I will close with a huge thank you for the generous support of our sponsors f this summer, the Town of Aberdeen, and Aging Outreach Services. The Friends of the Postmaster’s House were brave in allowing an unknown entity to commandeer their house and grounds. By the way , same are available for birthdays, dinners, reunions and meetings. Sandhills Porta-John provides the necessary stations for your convenience. Linda Cummings of Southern Lights helps feed the talent. If you are picking up a theme here, it’s community sustainability. Support local business. They are your neighbors, and employ your neighbors. Remember that your shopping and dining habits have a ripple effect in our towns and dictate the long term health of our communities.

It is a long time until May. I can’t go that long between drinks, or gulps of great live music. The Rooster’s Wife will head back indoors Thanksgiving weekend when Jonathan Byrd www.jonathanbyrd.com returns to Aberdeen for the first of our house concerts. The turkey will be soup by then and you may have had as much football as you can stand. If not, you have a while to figure out how to record with your vcr.

Lest you forget just how much fun you had in Aberdeen, or if you had to miss a Sunday or two, visit these fine folks on line. Independent musicians deserve your attention. Tell them you saw them at the Rooster’s Wife, and buy yourself a cd or three. Easy to wrap, light to mail, music is a great gift. Tickets to a house concert would be a good stocking stuffer….



www.polecatcreek.net You heard their songs right before the were recorded on the new CD !


www.dandtw.com Doug and Telisha opened for Lucinda Williams Sunday !


www.votivemusic.com Candlewyck’s site









Thanks, and we’ll see you soon.

Quick Climate Fix

Lovelock urges ocean climate fix
A quick global warming fix using pipes in the oceans is proposed by
climate thinkers James Lovelock and Chris Rapley.
Full story:

Dollars, Euros

Dollar falls to another euro low
The dollar falls to yet another all-time low against the euro, after further weak US economic data.
Full story:


Legal Appeal to Save Deodora



Call NOW re Lieberman-Kyl Amendment


In case you thought it was just an aberrant moment of lunacy last
week when Lieberman pressed General Petraeus for an attack on Iran,
just before the weekend he introduced an amendment to the defense
bill to authorize exactly that.

No, we are not kidding. He has drafted language that any impartial
observer would interpret as a DECLARATION OF WAR against Iran, and he
is pressing for a vote as fast as possible.

ACTION PAGE: http://www.usalone.com/no_iran_war_declaration.php

Here is the language from the amendment:

(3) that it should be the policy of the United States to combat,
contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing
influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of
Iran, its foreign facilitators such as Lebanese Hezbollah, and its
indigenous Iraqi proxies;

(4) to support the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of
United States national power in Iraq, including diplomatic, economic,
intelligence, and military instruments, in support of the policy
described in paragraph (3) with respect to the Government of the
Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies.

The policy of the U.S should be to "combat" Iran with "all" "military
instruments"?!? You can be absolutely certain that those are the ONLY
words Dick Cheney and George Bush will see or care about.

ACTION PAGE: http://www.usalone.com/no_iran_war_declaration.php

We need every warm body we can muster to call and email their
senators RIGHT NOW, before they pull another fast one and sneak this
one through in the dead of the night. Call them toll free at 800
828-0498, 800 614 2803 or 866 340 9281, and the submit the action
form below to make sure your message gets through.

Just yesterday, Newsweek reported that Cheney had recently made
overtures to Israel to get them to launch an attack against Iran, to
try to provoke an all out conflagration. It seems every day there is
a new story leaked about their aggressive preparations for The
Debacle, Part 2. And just as in the lead up to the Iraq invasion,
they will keep lying, lying and lie some more about their intentions
until they've shot off every cruise missile in the military

We need your voice, and the voices of everyone else you know, and we
them now. We need to absolutely flood the Capitol with phone calls
and email. Please believe your voice counts. Please believe that when
enough of us raise our voices together at one time they do have an

Cheney and his minions are absolutely not going to stop pushing for
an even bigger disaster unless we stop them by speaking out with a
louder voice. So we cannot let up ourselves even for an instant.


We would be remiss not to ask who other than Dennis Kucinich has
shown more courage to speak out against the Iraq disaster before it
even started? If you are asking yourself what you can do to encourage
Dennis to continue to stand strong on the ISSUES, why not make a
contribution, if you are so motivated.


Please take action NOW, so we can win all victories that are supposed
to be ours, and forward this message to everyone else you know.

If you would like to get alerts like these, you can do so at

Man Causing Warming

Man causing climate change - poll
Large majorities of people across the world agree that humans are causing global warming, a BBC poll indicates.
Full story:

As Usual. . .

Finance inquiry for Mexico's Fox
Former Mexican President Vicente Fox faces an inquiry into his finances, after congress approves the probe.
Full story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/-/2/hi/americas/7011678.stm

Pope on Board

Pope to Make Climate Action a Moral Obligation
The Independent UK's James Macintyre says, "The Pope is expected to use his first address to the United Nations to deliver a powerful warning over climate change in a move to adopt protection of the environment as a 'moral' cause for the Catholic Church and its billion-strong following."


Dan's Insider Bulletin (He's Running for Lt. Gov.)

Conservation Insider Bulletin

Published weekly for the Conservation Council of North Carolina

Conservation News to Peruse & Use

Editor: Dan Besse, earthvote@ccnccpac.org

September 21, 2007

At the risk of giving certain developer lobbyists apoplexy, we take a look this week at the upcoming county votes on land transfer tax increases. Plus, there's court news from the Left Coast, this week in CIB:

--Campaign Watch: Counties Will Vote on Transfer Tax

--Judicial Watch: Warming Suit Against Automakers Rejected

Campaign Watch: Counties Will Vote on Transfer Tax

Among the more interesting questions to be determined by this year's balloting is the fate of proposed land transfer tax increases at the local level. Voters in 16 counties will have the chance to turn thumbs up or down on the proposal.

Readers will recall that the General Assembly this year approved the voter-optional land transfer tax hike, after a vigorous and sometimes nasty lobbying campaign failed to stop it. Now, county commissions have the option to turn to this revenue source, but only if their county electorate approves in a referendum.

The 16 counties in which commissioners have asked voters to approve the extra 0.4 percent tax on the value of land sales are Brunswick, Chatham, Davie, Gates, Graham, Harnett, Henderson, Hoke, Johnston, Macon, Moore, Pender, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, and Union. Five of those—Davie, Graham, Harnett, Johnston, and Rutherford—put both the land transfer tax and a quarter-cent sales tax increase before the voters. Voters in those five counties can approve either, neither, or both. However, if they approve both, the county commissioners can only pick one of the two to implement.

Proponents of the land transfer tax increase option argue that it presents an equitable way to assess new development for help in paying the increased local costs it creates in public service expenses (like education). They point to the spiraling costs of building schools and other public infrastructure in areas with high population growth rates.

Opponents reasonably point out that the tax will also be levied on sales of existing structures. However, they also have dubbed it the "home tax" and wail that it will unfairly burden the poor and middle-income. In that regard, they fail to acknowledge that rate increases in the major alternative source of local revenues, the general property tax, hit all homeowners every year and not just when they are buying a house.

Opponents further argue that the tax will choke off growth. For good or ill, however, such a modest rate increase seems unlikely to have a measurable impact on growth rates (nor has it done so in fast-growing counties like Dare, which use the transfer tax now). More likely, it will simply affect realtor/homebuilders' financial return margins—which does at least clearly explain those groups' intense opposition to the idea.

The referenda campaigns in the 16 counties voting on this matter should be interesting to watch. Even more instructive will be the voters' verdicts on November 6. The outcomes may tell us something about public attitudes toward booming development in fast growth areas—and even more about the likely effectiveness of the realtor/homebuilder lobby in upcoming election campaigns.

Judicial Watch: Warming Suit Against Automakers Rejected

Last week, CIB reported that a federal District Court judge in Vermont had upheld state standards on greenhouse gas emissions from autos. Vermont is one of 13 states which have adopted California's new tailpipe emission control standards.

The court news this week is less favorable toward efforts to mitigate global climate change. A federal District Court judge in California has dismissed that state's lawsuit against auto manufacturers for damages related to global warming. First, the court ruled that it could not determine the extent to which automakers were responsible for the effects of global warming in California.

OK, so perhaps that is a tough call. However, we have to part ways with the court's other stated reason for tossing out the suit—that it would undermine the President's position opposing the Kyoto Protocol for controlling greenhouse gas emissions.

So, we ask, how is that the Court's proper concern in evaluating a damages claim? Is it not equivalent to declaring, "Hey, we know you're hurt, but we can't say so because it would make the President look bad?" It's enough to make one suspect that political considerations may have trumped legal ones in the shaping of this judicial opinion.

(Politics in the federal judiciary? We are shocked, shocked, and ask that the Attorney General investigate immediately. Or, perhaps not...)

We also assume that California will appeal. The Golden State and the six major automakers sued (Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, and the U.S. subsidiaries of Honda, Nissan, and Toyota) will then have the chance to repeat their arguments before the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

With those stories, CIB will close for the week—and, in light of the Autumnal Equinox taking place this Sunday, wish all a happy official start to Fall.

Retrofitting the Suburbs


Clowns in the Senate

Published on Saturday, September 22, 2007 by CommonDreams.org
Senate Clown Show by Jeff Cohen

With most Americans wanting troops out of Iraq, Democratic leaders in the Senate failed to get enough Republican votes to overcome GOP filibusters for fairly tepid change-course measures. They could get only six Republican votes even for a Jim Webb proposal simply requiring that U.S. troops spend as much time at home as they spend deployed in Iraq.

But thanks to 22 Democratic clowns joining a Republican circus, the Senate was able to break the partisan impasse by overwhelmingly passing one bold measure: A defense of Gen. David Petraeus against a MoveOn.org newspaper ad. The resolution expressed “full support” for the general and condemned “personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all members of the United States Armed Forces.”

Cable news networks that cheer-led our country into invading Iraq took a break from their latest all-O.J.-all-the-time binge to make an antiwar ad more controversial than the ongoing slaughter of Iraqis and Americans that the invasion predictably unleashed. And 22 Democrats were more desperate to distance themselves from the 3-million-member MoveOn than from less than 50 Republican dead-enders bent on prolonging the killing.

The 22 Democrats can be reached by dialing the Congressional switchboard: 202-224-3121. They are Baucus (MT), Bayh (IN), Cardin (MD), Carper (DE), Casey (PA), Conrad (ND), Dorgan (ND), Feinstein (CA), Johnson (SD), Klobuchar (MN), Kohl (WI), Landrieu (LA), Leahy (VT), Lincoln (AR), McCaskill (MO), Mikulski (MD), Nelson (FL), Nelson (NE), Pryor (AR), Salazar (CO), Tester (MT) and Webb (VA).

MoveOn’s ad in the New York Times - headlined “General Petraeus or General Betray Us?” - questioned whether the extremely political Gen. Petraeus would betray the truth and the facts about Iraq, as he had previously in echoing Team Bush. The ad didn’t question his patriotism.

Yet 22 Democrats (plus, of course, Joe Lieberman) backed the pro-Petraeus resolution after hearing its rightwing sponsor declare that the MoveOn ad had “crossed a historic line of decency.”

Are these 22 Democrats amnesiacs? Have they forgotten the Republican ads calling war-wounded Sen. Max Cleland a liar unwilling to protect us from Osama bin Laden? There was no Senate resolution defending the Vietnam Vet against those ads.

Nor were there Senate resolutions aimed at Disney, Rupert Murdoch, General Electric, Time Warner or Clear Channel for broadcasting the screeds of the O’Reillys, Hannitys, Coulters, Savages and Becks in which Iraq War critics were routinely referred to as treasonous and traitors.

Nor a resolution after Rev. Pat Robertson declared that Democratic criticism of Bush during wartime “amounts to treason.” Or one condemning Bill O’Reilly for declaring that Democratic-backer George Soros “ought to be hanged.” Or one denouncing Glenn Beck for wishing on-air for the violent deaths of war critics, including a member of Congress.

The Petraeus/MoveOn resolution had one main purpose: To get Democratic Senators to run in fear from the party’s antiwar base. President Bush basically admitted as much in rehearsed remarks at Thursday’s news conference: “I was disappointed that not more leaders in the Democratic Party spoke out strongly against that kind of ad. And that leads me to come to this conclusion: that most Democrats are afraid of irritating a left-wing group like MoveOn.org - or more afraid of irritating them than they are of irritating the United States military.”

And 22 Democrats fell for this Karl Rovian political ploy - a resolution that fraudulently purported to condemn “personal attacks” on “all members of the United States armed forces.”

During the run-up to the Iraq invasion, I worked in cable news when these networks relentlessly questioned the integrity and patriotism of former Marine officer and Gulf War veteran Scott Ritter. As the U.N.’s top weapons inspector, Ritter had stood up to Saddam Hussein’s government for years. But when he forcefully questioned the grounds for invading Iraq, corporate media called him an agent of Saddam. . .and worse. No Senate resolution has ever condemned the personal attacks on Ritter.

And unlike Petraeus - who penned a ridiculously over-optimistic Washington Post column (datelined Baghdad) extolling Iraq’s security forces, timed just weeks before the 2004 election - Ritter’s accurate analysis was never tailored to please any White House.

There is a struggle for power going on in our country between forces for peace and international diplomacy and open debate and civil liberties and social justice on the one hand - and the forces of intimidation and militarism and corporatism on the other. The Democratic base is firmly in the first camp. But not all Democratic leaders are.

When the forces of intimidation and their allies in corporate media cook up one of these obviously phony controversies to bully or distract the public - whether targeting a MoveOn ad or a Michael Moore movie or a liberal politician’s minor misstatement - how should we react to Democratic officeholders so quick to aid the other side? Think P.C. - primary challenge.

Jeff Cohen is a media critic, author of “Cable News Confidential” and an advisory board member of Progressive Democrats of America.

Reversal of Fortune


Last Summer Concert Tonight

Sept. 23

The Postmaster’s House

204 E. South Street, Aberdeen, NC

Admission $8., Children under 12 free

Gates open at 5:30 Picnics welcome

Info: (910)944-7502 theroosterswife.org

Rain or shine

Moore Focus Symposium Report


From Justice @ Smithfield

Union Talks With Smithfield Officials

The Justice@Smithfield Campaign in support of the workers at Smithfield Foods' Tar Heel plant has already seen remarkable results. The company's pork products have been pulled from shelves of many supermarkets, presidential candidates have made the workers' plight an issue on the campaign trail, national churches and cities have passed support resolutions, and a major network of faith, civil rights, and labor organizations has been formed to speak out on behalf of justice at Smithfield. Those of you who were able to join us last month at the company's annual shareholders meeting in Williamsburg, Virginia, witnessed the power of this network when it joins with workers from the plant.

The company has taken notice. In the run-up to the shareholders meeting, company and union officials made contact and talks are now underway. While we are still in the early stages of negotiations, we know that we could not have made it this far without your support. The union is calling on the company to remain completely neutral and allow the workers to make their own choice, without any interference, in an independently run, non-NLRB process.

We have entered into these talks in good faith, and will continue to work with Smithfield to reach a fair agreement for the workers, but we also go in with a consciousness of the company's history. In past elections, workers have been threatened, called racial epithets, fired and even assaulted for their support of the union. So while we are hopeful that we can reach an agreement, we are determined that only a clearly defined process that fully protects the workers right to choose a union is acceptable.

Over the next few weeks, we will continue to keep you updated on this process. No matter which direction these negotiations take, your help and support is as crucial now as it has been in the past. We ask you to remain on alert in the event that Smithfield is unwilling to agree to a free and fair process. The campaign will not end until workers in Tar Heel have a union and a union contract. We are proud to stand alongside you in support of Justice at Smithfield, and we look forward to working with you during this new phase of the struggle.


The Justice@Smithfield Team

Virus Moving North

First UK case of bluetongue virus
The farming industry is dealt a fresh blow as the UK's first case of bluetongue disease is found in a cow in Suffolk.
Full story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/-/2/hi/uk_news/7008788.stm


Just as Al Gore Said

Ice withdrawal 'shatters record'
Arctic sea ice shrank to the smallest area on record this year, researchers in the US confirm.
Full story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/-/2/hi/science/nature/7006640.stm


Thinning the Ozone Thanks to U.S.Inc.

Published on Friday, September 21, 2007 by Inter Press Service
The Chemical That Must Not Be Named
Delegates from 191 nations are on the verge of an agreement under the Montreal Protocol for faster elimination of ozone-depleting chemicals, but the United States insists it must continue to use the banned pesticide methyl bromide.

by Stephen Leahy
MONTREAL - Even as another enormous ozone hole forms over the Antarctic this week, the rest of the world appears to be giving in to U.S. demands despite the fact that the use of methyl bromide in developed countries was supposed to have been completely phased out by Jan. 1, 2005 under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

‘It’s a black mark on this meeting. It is the chemical that must not be named,’ said David Doniger, climate policy director at the Natural Resources Defence Council, a U.S. environmental group.

‘There is a powerful lobby group of strawberry and vegetable growers in Washington,’ Doniger told IPS.

Methyl bromide is a highly toxic fumigant pesticide which is injected into soil to sterilise it before planting crops. It is also used as a post-harvest decontaminant of products and storage areas. Although it is highly effective in eradicating pests such as nematodes, weeds, insects and rodents, it depletes the ozone layer and poses a danger to human health.

While alternatives exist for more than 93 percent of the applications of methyl bromide, some countries such as the U.S., Japan and Israel claimed that because of regulatory restrictions, availability, cost and local conditions, they had little choice but to continue its use as a pest control. And so despite the ban, the Montreal Protocol allows ‘critical use exemptions’ for countries to continue to use banned substances for a short period of time until they can find a substitute.

In 2006, the United States received an exemption to use 8,000 tonnes of methyl bromide, compared to 5,000 tonnes for the rest of the developed world combined.

At the 19th Meeting of the Parties here in Montreal, the committee reporting on methyl bromide use reported ‘excellent progress’ in the continuing phase-out of the chemical and that not many applications for critical use exemptions had been received. The notable exception continues to be the U.S., which has applied for 6,500 tonnes for 2008 and 5,000 tonnes for 2009, even as the rest of the developed world has dropped significantly to just 1,900 and 1,400 tonnes, respectively.

The delegate from Switzerland expressed concern that some countries were asking for large amounts and that 40 percent of the stocks were not being used for critical uses. The United States maintains a large inventory of methyl bromide in excess of 8,000 tonnes, but the U.S. representative said these would be used up by 2009.

Emissions of methyl bromide have an immediate impact on the ozone layer, noted Janos Mate of Greenpeace International.

‘Scientists think it has three to 10 times the impact of other chemicals,’ Mate told IPS.

The ozone layer will be at its ‘most delicate’ over next few decades before it begins to significantly recover. Climate change is slowing this recovery, and the impacts are not fully understood, he said.

The ozone layer is the part of the atmosphere 25 kilometres up that acts as a shield protecting life on Earth from damaging ultraviolet rays, which can cause sunburns, skin cancer and cataracts. The rays can also harm marine life.

In the past two years, ozone holes larger than Europe have opened over the Antarctic and Southern Ocean. The World Metrological Organisation reported this week that the hole is back and bigger than ever. And it could grow larger as spring returns to the southern hemisphere.

Climate change appears to playing a role in the formation of these holes. Paradoxically, as the Earth warms at the surface, in the polar regions the upper atmosphere is getting colder, creating just the right conditions for chemicals like chlorine and bromine to destroy ozone.

Last year, researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder discovered that winds circling high above the far northern hemisphere have a much greater impact on upper stratospheric ozone levels than previously thought. Those winds appear to be increasing with climate change, translating into less ozone in the upper stratosphere.

Meantime, the U.S. growers lobby group is upset that the U.S. delegation isn’t pushing for higher volumes of methyl bromide, claiming that they could get far higher amounts under the Protocol’s rules because economically viable alternatives are not yet available.

‘It’s time to inject some common sense into this process,’ said Charles Hall of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association in a statement.

U.S. growers have never understood that methyl bromide is destroying the ozone layer, said Doniger.

Italy, Greece and Spain have nearly eliminated their use in agriculture, he added.

‘We’re all suffering with a thinner ozone layer just to benefit a few U.S. companies,’ said Mate.

Troops Out March, DC


When the Wells Run Dry



more from BBC

US troops' Iraq leave bid blocked *
A move by Democrats to give US troops in Iraq more home leave is blocked
by Republicans in the Senate.
Full story:

* Scores ill in Peru 'meteor crash' *
Hundreds of people in Peru require treatment after visiting what some
say is a meteorite impact site.
Full story:

* Ex-news anchor sues CBS for $70m *
Former CBS TV news anchor Dan Rather files a $70m lawsuit against his
ex-employers at the US network.
Full story:


Concert, Aberdeen, Sept. 23

The Rooster’s Wife


Summer on the Porch

Michael Reno Harrell

The Sally Spring Trio will open at 6 p.m.

Sept. 23

The Postmaster’s House

204 E. South Street, Aberdeen, NC

Admission $8., Children under 12 free

Gates open at 5:30 Picnics welcome

Info: (910)944-7502 theroosterswife.org

Rain or shine

Schedule for Moore Focus Symposium

Sept. 20, Sandhills Community College, $10 charge, public invited. The working public will likely not be able to attend, so, if you're able to go, please do! Thanks! And let the rest of know what's going on!

8:30-9:00 Roads and Transportation: Andrea Surrat, Moore County Planner

9:20-9:40 Water and Sewer: Dennis Borbst, Moore County Public Works

9:40-10:00 Schools: Dr Susan Purser

10:30-10:50 Rural Issues: Craven Hudson, Extension Director

10:50-11:15 Pine Needles Development/land use: Lane Gardner, Hines & Pine Needles

11:15-11:45 Real Estate Issues: Kay Beran, Prudential Gouger O'Neill Saunders

12:45-1:10 Effect of BRAC: Paul Dordal, BRAC RTF

1:10-1:35 Economic Growth in Moore County: Ray Ogden, Partners in Progress

1:35-2:00 Job Creation and Higher Education: Dr. John Dempsey

2:00-2:15 Closing Observations: Robert Hayter, The Hayter Firm


More from Rooster's Wife

A big force behind this music series is commitment to community. Music brings a community together. It creates a bond between the audience and the performer and between the listeners as well. As that smart old Plato said, “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”

I am in large debt to the local musicians who have shared their talent and enthusiasm to make this series a success. They have played, promoted, provided sound and advised a non-musician on how best to make this happen. This week, the Java Mules kicked off the show with the best in old tyme music. Allen, Amy, Linda, Rich and Stephen, a belated thank you for those great tunes. Love the condenser mics. What a difference they make! How lucky we are to have people in our community whose talent is matched by their generosity.

Now gentle reader, it is your turn. Support local business, music and community. Java Bean Plantation will keep you caffeinated, and up on the local music scene. May Street Market regularly features the Randy Hughes band who also promotes our series. Ronnie Huff plays with Jacked Up Hot Rod; catch that band when you can. The Town of Aberdeen believes music is important to our community. Let them know you agree. And Aging Outreach Services, our newest sponsor, will help the Rooster’s Wife bring more music to the aging community.

So, ‘nuf said. I look forward to seeing all of you and all of your friends at the last installment for summer, September 23rd at the Postmaster’s House, 204 E. South St.

Contra Dance Saturday the 15th


Lesson: 7:30 p.m.
Dance from 8:00 to 11:00

Old West End Gym
137 Old West End School Rd.
Off NC HWY 211
West End, NC

Adult Non-members: $8.00
Student Non-members: $6.00
12 and under: $1.00

The SCDS is a nonprofit educational organization which is dedicated to the preservation, study, teaching, enjoyment and continuing evolution of traditional and historical dance, music and song.

Visit us at: www.geocities.com/sandhillscontradancers

Race to Extinction

Gorillas head race to extinction
Gorillas, corals and vultures are all closer to extinction, according to the latest bleak analysis of the natural world.
Full story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/-/2/hi/science/nature/6990095.stm


Dollar at Record Low

Dollar at record low against euro
The US dollar falls to a record against the euro as investors bet that interest rates will be cut next week.
Full story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/-/2/hi/business/6990570.stm

From the Rooster's Wife

Hello music lovers,

I have a serious question. I want to know if there is anywhere else in the world that you could have a set that featured Hendrix and bagpipes, besides Aberdeen, that is ?

Gael Warning were out of this world, at least out of our normal galaxy. That was Celtic re-envisioned. Aberdeen’s Scottish heritage is what first made the group interesting for our calendar. Their terrific performance and your response confirmed my suspicions that this is a great place for fantastic music. If you were not able to join us , head to the web site, www.gaelwarning.com to pick up a cd. Bag Full of Blues is an experience you should not miss.

We have one last trick up our sleeve for the last concert. We are bringing Sally Spring, www.sallyspring.com and her trio to the porch. Read though her biography and you will know you have to be in Aberdeen Sept. 23rd to celebrate her craft. Likewise, Michael Reno Harrell is a raconteur of the first order. www.michaelreno.com His songs and stories will delight you. Pack up that picnic basket and come on down.

September 23rd will be the last outdoor concert but the music never stops in Aberdeen. We move inside with the second season of Home Fires Burning, our winter house concert series. or you early birds, Jonathan Byrd will be here the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend to kick off the season. www.jonathanbyrd.com Oh yeah.

One last thing. If you have enjoyed yourself, even a little, spread the word about our music. We need your support to continue. There are opportunities to join as a member, which gives you a discount on admissions, and there are corporate opportunities as well. We extend out heartfelt thanks to our major donors, the Town of Aberdeen, www.townofaberdeen.net, and Aging Outreach Services, www.agingoutreachservices.com. Our website is designed and maintained by Hitchcock Design, www.hitchdesign.com.

We’ll see you soon.

Janet Kenworthy

Michel de Montaigne wrote, "The most certain sign of wisdom is cheerfulness."


Bees Could Disappear

Bernard Vaissière: "Yes, the Bees Could Disappear"
By Jean-Luc Goudet

Friday 07 September 2007

Bee populations are declining all over the world. That fact has been known for a long time and the press has recently latched onto the subject. Bernard Vaissière, an Inra [French National Institute for Agricultural Research] researcher and one of very few French pollination specialists, evaluates this question for Futura-Sciences.
Bernard Vaissière is responsible for research at Inra [French National Institute for Agricultural Research] Avignon, and is the principal for the Laboratory of Entomophile Pollination.

His team's research concerns the interactions between pollen, its vectors (wind or insect) and the pistil, pollinating effectiveness, and the relationships between bees and landscapes and the impact of pollination on agriculture.

Futura-Sciences: What do we really know about the global decline of bee populations?

Bernard Vaissière: We don't know their numbers exactly. The statistics that have circulated in recent press articles are not correct. First of all, you must know that bees are not the only pollinating insects - although they are the main one - and that among bees, there is not only the domesticated bee, as many believe in France.... There are a thousand species of bees in our country and 20,000 in the world! What is certain is that we have clear evidence showing a reduction in populations. In July 2006, an article published in Science showed the decline of wild bee populations (not counting bumblebees) in the United Kingdom and Holland. At the end of 2006, the results of an American study indicated a comparable decline in the United States.

For domesticated bees, we have also observed in the United States a very strong winter mortality, from 30 to 50 percent of colonies at the end of this winter and the 2005-2006 winter, versus five to 10 percent in a normal situation. In France and in Belgium, that winter mortality had reached the same level in recent years; however, according to the CNDA (Centre national du développement apicole [National Center for Beekeeping Development]), mortality was reduced last winter to eight to 10 percent.

FS: Do we know the causes for this apparent return to normal?

Bernard Vaissière: No. Is it a simple respite, due, for example, to a milder winter? The prohibition on Gaucho and Regent [pesticides] is also a possible cause. But we have no proof of that.

FS: An American team has just published an article in Science that points to the responsibility of a virus for the collapse of domestic bee colonies. Do you think that's possible?

Bernard Vaissière: They're talking about the Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus. The Acute Paralysis Virus was already known, also in France, and it is certainly possible that it is the primary agent responsible. But the causes of the mortality for domesticated bees may be multiple, and it is always difficult to sort out potentially multi-factor phenomena. It is also very likely that their food, pesticides, and the Varroa destructor, an acarid parasite, play a big role. That acarid weakens the bees and makes them more sensitive to other factors, as, for example, viral infection.

FS: Are the bees really in danger?

Bernard Vaissière: Yes. I think that today the likelihood of a significant decline in bee populations, even the complete disappearance of certain species, is real. The domesticated bee is sort of a barometer for wild populations, the numbers of which we have not the means of knowing. In France especially, there are very few researchers working on pollinators and insect pollination. In my team, we are three scientists, including two teacher-researchers. We have not hired anyone new for eighteen years! And specialists in pollinating insects are mostly over 60 years old.... On the other hand, we know that bees are fragile and we know why: they feed almost exclusively on the nectar and pollen that plants produce for them. That's the fruit of a long co-evolution with flowering plants. Herbivorous insects that eat leaves, for example, ingest all kinds of poisons such as alkaloids and tannins and protect themselves with the help of detoxification enzymes. Bees are very poorly endowed with such enzymes.

FS: Pollen is not only transported by insects: there's also the wind ...

Bernard Vaissière: We have studied this question. Apart from insects, flowering plants have two other main pollination modes in Europe: passive self-pollination (pollination takes place within the center of the same flower by way of direct contact between the anthers and stigma or by gravity - which is the case of wheat, for example) and wind pollination. But insect (essentially bee) pollination is involved in 80 percent of flowering plant species. As Jean Louveaux, who was the Inra director at Bures-sur-Yvette, used to say, pollinating insects represent a slight biomass, but they are nonetheless very important: they act as catalysts.

FS: Are crops involved?

Bernard Vaissière: According to an international study covering 115 crops and conducted in 200 countries by teams from France, Germany, the United States and Australia, three-quarters of crops are for the most part pollinated by insects. That's the case for most fruit, vegetable, oil-producing and protein-producing crops, as well as for nuts, spices, coffee and cocoa. Only 25 percent of crops don't depend on pollinating insects at all (mainly cereals, such as wheat, corn and rice). Overall, 35 percent of global food production comes from crops that depend on insect pollination.

FS: Is there significant awareness of this phenomenon?

Bernard Vaissière: In 2004, Europe launched the program, Alarm (Assessing large-scale environmental risks for biodiversity with tested methods) which will terminate in 2008. There have already been advances, such as the article on the parallel decline of wild bees and plants pollinated by bees, which appeared in the July 2006 issue of Science. There are also several leads being explored to reverse the trend, such as, for example, fields set aside to flower, on which work is underway to measure their impact on the maintenance of pollinating populations. But some phytosanitary companies have seized on that lead and the statistics published are sometimes iffy.... The impact is probably beneficial only if one carefully chooses the species planted and their flowering schedule and we still lack the perspective to make precise recommendations on the impact and minimum surfaces necessary.

FS: Does the situation seem reversible to you?

Bernard Vaissière: As long as the species have not disappeared, it does ... although the bees' haplodiploid system does not encourage small populations. And there are positive signs, such as the Alarm program. These actions remain modest, but, like pollinating insects, they could act as a catalyst.


Gray Water


Monsanto Out!

Published on Monday, September 10, 2007 by The Providence Journal

Keep Monsanto Out of Our Milk

by Michael Hansen and David Wallinga

The recent announcement by Kroger stores that it will no longer use the genetically engineered growth hormone rbST (also known as rbGH) in its private label milk brand is part of a nationwide trend among dairy processors, retailers and farmers. Starbucks, Tillamook, Safeway and Chipotle Restaurants have already begun to discontinue the hormone and California Dairies Inc., which produces nearly 10 percent of the nation’s milk, announced it went rbST-free Aug. 1.

Each of these companies affirms that the chief impetus for its actions comes from rising consumer demand for hormone-free dairy products. Those consumers cite legitimate health concerns, including increased cancer risks and antibiotic resistance.

Facing dwindling sales of rbGH, Monsanto, its sole manufacturer, is trying to thwart informed consumer choice by pressuring the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to restrict labeling of such products as rbGH-free. Monsanto claims there are no differences in the milk and that consumers are somehow “misled” by these labels.

Of course, consumers know exactly what “rbGH-free” means, just as they recognize the meaning of “No preservatives,” “No artificial colors” and “No artificial flavors.” These labels are important tools consumers use to make educated choices about products they buy, including additional labeling about how animals are treated in meat, egg and dairy production.

Regardless of the claims of Monsanto and its supporters, there are significant differences in rbGH-treated cows and their milk. Treated cows experience higher rates of 16 harmful medical conditions, including pregnancy problems, diarrhea and mastitis, which Monsanto’s own package insert acknowledges. Virtually every animal protection agency in the country, including the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Farming Association, criticizes use of this synthetic hormone.

Elevated mastitis rates lead to increased treatment with antibiotics. Bacteria resistant to these antibiotics may pass into humans through milk, air, water or soil, or through ground meat, increasing antibiotic resistance. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overuse of agricultural antibiotics is a significant contributor to food-borne, antibiotic-resistant infections in humans, a multibillion-dollar problem in the United States

There is also no doubt that rbGH use in cows increases the level in cows’ milk of another growth hormone found in both cows and humans, IGF-1. While a certain level of IGF-1 is needed for normal development and daily functioning, elevated levels are strongly implicated with increased risk of breast, prostate, colon and other cancers. Advocates of rbGH claim that the amount of IGF-1 taken in from dairy products is not hazardous, but numerous scientists believe that even small amounts of additional hormone exposure can be significant. It’s simply common sense to avoid a higher risk of getting cancer when the source of that risk is completely unnecessary.

Government leaders, scientists and farmers alike criticized the FDA’s controversial decision to approve rbGH in 1993. In contrast, most industrialized nations of the world, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and all 25 members of the European Union, have disallowed its use.

The Codex Alimentarius, the United Nations’ main food safety body, twice decided that it could not endorse the safety of rbGH for human health.

Hospitals across the country are also taking action. Health Care Without Harm, an international coalition of over 440 health-care and public health organizations dedicated to improving health and safety in hospitals, formally declared its opposition to rbGH in 2005. Since then, leading hospitals and hospital systems, such as Catholic Healthcare West, the largest Catholic health-care system in the country, have begun purchasing rbGH-free dairy products.

Monsanto’s attempt to pressure the FDA and FTC to restrict rbGH-free labeling is a self-serving attempt to save its falling profits. We need our government to reject this assault on the right of businesses to inform consumers and the right of all citizens to make informed choices about what they eat.

Michael Hansen, Ph.D., is a senior scientist at Consumers Union ( hansmi@consumer.org). David Wallinga, M.D., is food and health director for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and Health Care Without Harm ( dwallinga@iatp.org). This piece originated at MinutemanMedia.org, published in a collaborative agreement with The Providence Journal.


No End in Sight


Virus in Bee Decline

Virus implicated in bee decline
A virus has emerged as the unanticipated suspect in the mysterious decline of North American bees.
Full story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/-/2/hi/science/nature/6978848.stm


Concert, Aberdeen, Sept. 9

The Rooster’s Wife


Summer on the Porch

Gael Warning

Java Mules will open at 6 p.m.

Sept. 9

The Postmaster’s House

204 E. South Street, Aberdeen, NC

Admission $8., Children under 12 free

Gates open at 5:30 Picnics welcome

Info: (910)944-7502 theroosterswife.org

Rain or shine

Ice-Free Arctic

Published on Wednesday, September 5, 2007 by The Guardian/UK
Ice-Free Arctic Could Be Here in 23 Years

by David Adam

The Arctic ice cap has collapsed at an unprecedented rate this summer and levels of sea ice in the region now stand at a record low, scientists said last night. Experts said they were “stunned” by the loss of ice, with an area almost twice as big as Britain disappearing in the last week alone. So much ice has melted this summer that the north-west passage across the top of Canada is fully navigable, and observers say the north-east passage along Russia’s Arctic coast could open later this month. If the increased rate of melting continues, the summertime Arctic could be totally free of ice by 2030.

Mark Serreze, an Arctic specialist at the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre at Colorado University in Denver which released the figures, said: “It’s amazing. It’s simply fallen off a cliff and we’re still losing ice.” The Arctic has now lost about a third of its ice since satellite measurements began 30 years ago, and the rate of loss has accelerated sharply since 2002.

Dr Serreze said: “If you asked me a couple of years ago when the Arctic could lose all of its ice, then I would have said 2100, or 2070 maybe. But now I think that 2030 is a reasonable estimate. It seems that the Arctic is going to be a very different place within our lifetimes, and certainly within our children’s lifetimes.”

The new figures show that sea ice extent is currently down to 4.4m square kilometres (1.7m square miles) and still falling. The previous record low was 5.3m square kilometres in September 2005. From 1979 to 2000 the average sea ice extent was 7.7m square kilometres. The minimum extent of sea ice usually occurs late in September each year, as the freezing Arctic winter begins to bite.

The sea ice usually then begins to freeze again over the winter. But Dr Serreze said that would be difficult this year. “This summer we’ve got all this open water and added heat going into the ocean. That is going to make it much harder for the ice to grow back. What we’ve seen this year sets us up for an even worse year next year.” The winter ice has already failed to make up for increased losses in the summer in each of the last two years.

Changes in wind and ocean circulation patterns can help reduce sea ice extent, but Dr Serreze said the main culprit was man-made global warming. “The rules are starting to change and what’s changing the rules is the input of greenhouse gases. This year puts the exclamation mark on a series of record lows that tell us something is happening.”

The dramatic loss is further bad news for the region’s wildlife which relies on the sea ice, such as polar bears. The animals use its coastal fringes to find food, and as the summer ice retreats to the north, they must swim further to hunt for seals. Some colonies of bears have already showed signs of malnutrition and biologists say there could be a severe drop in their population within a few decades, though they may not go extinct.

Yesterday’s announcement will also increase political interest in the Arctic, with a number of countries currently jostling to exploit the oil and gas reserves believed to lie under the ocean, which could become more accessible as the icy cover retreats. Last month Russia claimed a huge area around the north pole, and Denmark and Canada are preparing similar claims, which rely on showing that a chain of underwater mountains that runs across the region are connected to their respective continental shelves.

No Planet Relief

BBC switches off climate special
The BBC cancels plans for the awareness-raising TV special Planet Relief following internal debates on impartiality.
Full story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/-/2/hi/science/nature/6979596.stm


Volunteers Needed for Sept. 7

Friday, September 7th, 2007

The United Way will assist Communities In Schools (and other United Way Agencies) with projects to celebrate the United Way Day of Caring.

8:30AM Breakfast at the Jefferson Inn

9AM - 1:30PM Teams of volunteers from CIS and the United Way will disperse to the Communities in Schools (CIS) office to help distribute school supplies from the 'Stuff the Bus' event


to Aberdeen Elementary School to help CIS build the FIRSTSCHOOL GARDEN

Then 1:30PM Lunch to celebrate at the Jefferson Inn

Please let me know at which project you plan to volunteer so that we know how
many lunches to have United Way order.

If you plan to work in the garden, please dress in yard work clothes and
bring a pair of garden gloves...we will be constructing the garden beds. We
need lots of volunteers, so please feel free to bring your friends.

Thank you for your support. Andi Korte

Executive Director
Communities In Schools
910-692-9010 office
910-528-2173 cell

Communities In Schools helping kids stay in school, succeed in school and be better prepared for life.

Livestock Breeds Needing Conservation

Livestock breeds face 'meltdown'
The world risks losing many of its rare livestock breeds unless conservation steps are taken now, a study warns.
Full story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/-/2/hi/science/nature/6976322.stm


Worms in Legislature Bldg.



Please Sign This

[support NC natural milk movement and legislation]


Urban Farming

Farming the Concrete Jungle
By Phoebe Connelly and Chelsea Ross
In These Times

Friday 24 August 2007

In cities across the country urban farmers are growing communities, greening the landscape and revolutionizing food politics.
At 9 a.m. on a cool, bright Saturday in mid-June, Robert Burns and Diana Baldelomar set up a farm stand outside the YMCA in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood. The stand is simple: a tent to keep out the sun, two folding tables set in an L-shape and a handful of zinc washtubs filled with two inches of water. In the tubs stand heads of green and red lettuce, greens, broccoli, and bunches of mint and basil.

When two women approach and ask the price of the greens, Baldelomar tells them that the turnip, mustard and collard greens are a dollar a bunch. "Honey," the woman says, "in this neighborhood, if someone asks you for greens, they are only talking about the collards." Her companion asks, "Did you ship it in from the country?"

"No ma'am. These are from right around the corner, West Cottage and Brook. We went out and harvested them this morning. You should stop by sometime."

Burns and Baldelomar work with the Food Project, a community-based urban agriculture program founded in 1991 to get Boston's youth involved in food production. Their West Cottage plot is one of four farms on vacant lots in the Dorchester neighborhood.

The Food Project is part of a growing urban agriculture movement to improve access to quality food in cities by creating local sources of fresh produce. The movement is showing that sustainable, local food systems are not only a way to ensure food security but also a means of addressing social justice issues.

And the movement is getting stronger. Community urban agriculture programs are gaining support from city governments desperate to increase green space and capitalize on public interest in environmental responsibility. As In These Times went to press, the 2007 farm bill had passed in the House of Representatives with a $30 million appropriation for community food projects.

"The biggest crisis in our food system is the lack of access to good, healthy, fresh food, for people living in cities, particularly in low-income communities," says Anna Lappé, co-founder with her mother Frances Moore Lappé of the Small Planet Institute. "Urban agriculture work is one of the most powerful solutions, because it brings food directly into the communities."

Not Just Another Garden

In her book, City Bountiful: A Century of Community Gardening In America, Laura Lawson charts a movement that stretches back to the 1880s. Lawson, a professor of landscape architecture at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, says that urban gardening programs have had three missions: bringing nature to the city, offering educational opportunities to low-income and immigrant children, and cultivating a self-help ethos in a democratic space. "The garden itself," she writes, "is rarely the end goal but rather facilitates agendas that reach beyond the scope of gardening."
The Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC), a food policy organization with more than 200 member groups, defines urban agriculture as "the growing, processing, and distribution of food and other products through intensive plant cultivation and animal husbandry in and around cities." It divides urban agriculture into commercial farms, community gardens and backyard gardens. But programs like Boston's Food Project have begun to collapse such distinctions. They run commercial farms, but they also invest in their communities and create local supply networks.

According to the 2000 Census, 80 percent of the U.S. population lives in cities or suburbs. Food travels 25 percent farther that it did in 1980, and fruits and vegetables spend up to 14 days in transit. The CFSC notes, "Most fruit and vegetable varieties sold in supermarkets are chosen for their ability to withstand industrial harvesting equipment and extended travel, not for their taste or nutritional quality."
The Food Project began on Ward Cheney's farm in Lincoln, Mass., about 24 miles west of Boston, with the goal of strengthening young people's connection to the land. They started by busing city kids out to the country, but the group now farms five urban plots - a total of 2.5 acres. Each summer the Food Project employs 60 kids to work on both the urban and rural farms. After the summer, the youth can return as interns to learn how to run the project's farmers' markets and commercial kitchen.

In the Midwest, Growing Power runs three farms in Chicago, youth employment and education programs and a world famous vermiculture (worm compost) project.

In Oakland, Calif., People's Grocery operates five urban gardens in the largely black and Latino communities of West and North Oakland, as well as a youth nutrition program staffed by young people.

In Brooklyn, Added Value has turned an old asphalt baseball diamond into a full-functioning farm. And in Philadelphia, Mill Creek Farm is using storm runoff to irrigate its urban farm. Indeed, community agriculture projects are sprouting up in cities across the country - in San Francisco (Alemany Farm), Buffalo (Massachusetts Avenue Project), Birmingham, Ala. (Jones Valley Urban Farm), and Houston (Urban Harvest). According to the USDA, the number of farmers' markets has grown by 50 percent since 1994, and the federal Community Food Projects Competitive Grant Program is funding more than twice as many groups as it did a decade ago. Beyond Organic

The organic food movement is rapidly changing how America eats and grows its food. Between 1997 and 2001, farmers added a million acres of certified organic land, doubling the amount of organic pasture and more than doubling organic cropland. This reflects not just a rise of specialty retailers like Whole Foods. By 2003 organic products could be found in 73 percent of conventional grocery stores according to a USDA study, and last summer, the retail giant Wal-Mart began selling organics. But Erika Allen, development director of Growing Power, says the organic label doesn't tell the whole story. "There are organic farmers on the walls of Whole Foods who have some atrocious labor practices - atrocious. They're just like plantation owners. People don't know that."

Moreover, organic food is still largely inaccessible to low-income communities and communities of color. And the costs associated with being certified organic have led many urban agriculture programs to shy away from being certified. "We are what most folks would consider organic, but we're not certified," the Food Project's Burns says. "That's not as important to us. We're in the community; folks can just come by and see our practices. It's about transparency."

Accessibility is at the heart of what these groups call food security. "It's about everyone having access to culturally appropriate and nutritional food at all times," says Danielle Andrews, who heads up farming for Food Project's Dorchester plots.

"We're using food to make social connections," says Growing Power's Allen. "It's not just about growing food - it's about practices and how people form relationships, get comfortable with each other and learn to communicate through really owning the food system."

Forming such sustainable relationships inherently requires addressing issues of privilege. Growing Power manages a farm on the edge of Cabrini Green, Chicago's most notorious housing project. The site is owned by Fourth Presbyterian Church, the wealthiest congregations in the city. "The work that we're doing is social justice work," says Allen, who is bi-racial. "For white folks to support and ally with people of color and communities that are struggling, they have to understand that it's not just about knowing how to grow lettuce. It's important that people doing these projects are very transparent about why they're there."

Oases in the Food Desert

In West Oakland, home to City Slickers and People's Grocery, liquor stores outnumber grocery stores 40 to one. The most readily available food is fried. On the other side of the country, in Added Value's Brooklyn neighborhood, the last grocery store shut its doors in 2001. Federal studies classify such communities as "food insecure," but they are popularly known as "food deserts." A study in the June 2001 Journal of Nutrition found that women living in "food insecure" areas were more likely to be overweight and thus at risk for obesity-related illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.

To counter the harm caused by food deserts, urban agriculture focuses on high-density food production - optimizing the amount of food grown on the least amount of land. City Slicker grew 6,500 pounds of produce last year on less than one acre of land. "If the average person eats three to four hundred pounds of produce per year, that doesn't feed that many people," says City Slicker's Rosenthal. "But I'm not saying it's insignificant, because those couple dozen people improved their diet."

These projects also help people sustain themselves. Both City Slicker and Food Project run backyard gardening programs that provide lead testing to determine the safety of soil, wooden planters, seeds, seedlings and ongoing assistance for the life of the garden.

"Our backyard garden program fits with the idea that the human resources are here, what's lacking are the materials," says Willow Rosenthal, founder of City Slicker. "There are folks coming to us in their 20s and 40s saying, 'I really want to know how to do this. I remember farming when I was five with my grandmother.'"

Since the program's inception in 2005, City Slicker has helped build 50 backyard gardens and has set a goal of 50 per year in the future. "We're building a whole community of urban gardeners," says Rosenthal.

Two years ago, City Slicker helped Shirley Chunn start a garden. What started as two boxes has now taken over her yard. "It's really nice to just go out and relax in the morning and see all my vegetables," says Chunn. Four of her neighbors now have City Slicker gardens.

According to City Slicker, 40 percent of the 2006 participants were able to grow half or more of their household's produce, 30 percent experienced a positive change in their health, and 50 percent added more fresh vegetables to their diet. City Slicker also buys excess produce from these backyard gardens at a premium organic rate, which it then sells at a lower price at its community farm stand.

The economics - whether through production or backyard programs - are not insignificant. In its primer on urban agriculture the CFSC writes, "Maintaining regional and local farm-to-consumer enterprises helps keep the entire industry accountable for the food system, increasing the likelihood that food is produced and consumed in sustainable ways." The CFSC cites the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association which estimates that if every family in Maine spent $10 a week on local food, $104 million would be kept in the local economy.

Cultivating Leaders

Four years ago, Geralina Fortier, then 17, got involved with People's Grocery to fulfill a high school community service requirement. Today, Fortier coordinates People's youth nutrition programs. "We believe that youth are the best agents for change, especially to one another, so we create workshops and presentations about eating healthy, " says Fortier, as she shovels compost onto a new bed at People's 55th Street garden in West Oakland.

Now a college student majoring in community and health education, Fortier says her work with People's Grocery has changed her life. Asked what she would be doing if she hadn't gotten involved with People's Grocery, she replies, "I'd be fat."

"I'm pretty radical about my diet," says Fortier, "A lot of my friends thought I was crazy and still do." After three years as a strict vegan, she recently switched to a raw food diet because "that's how we should be eating anyway."

At Brooklyn's Added Value, the conversation about nutrition starts in grade school. Almost every child in the local school district has visited the farm at least once through its "Farm to School" program. Added Value also runs a youth program that teaches high school kids food production and sales, media literacy, sustainable business development and community education and organizing.

"We're not growing farmers, we're trying to grow young people who are inspired by the world around them and who care and see themselves as empowered to take action in fixing things," says Caroline Loomis, Added Value's community education coordinator.

Greening the Concrete Jungle

Loomis sees urban agriculture as a way to transform the meaning of urban green space. "Can you imagine what our cities would like if every park had a farm built into it?" she asks.

Three years ago, the Boston Area Health Education Center asked the Food Project to farm raised flowerbeds on the roof of Boston Medical Center's parking garage. The Food Project hauled 50 crates of compost to the roof in shopping carts and started with a crop of tomatoes, summer squash and eggplant. Andrews says that neighborhood people have "come over really excited about this lot. The roof is pretty ugly. Even with the vegetables, it's still pretty ugly. But it's a great improvement from what was here."

Increased green space also has a measurable effect on crime. University of Illinois researchers found that housing projects with trees have a 7 percent lower crime rate than their treeless counterparts. They also found that the greener the environment the lower the level of domestic violence.

The recognition that the urban landscape needs green space has opened doors to city partnerships. The asphalt lot that Added Value farms is owned by New York City, and the Brooklyn Zoo supplies compost. In Chicago, Growing Power has partnered with the Chicago Park District to operate two quarter-acre model urban farms, one next to Michigan Avenue in downtown Grant Park and the other in Jackson Park on the South Side.

But Rosenthal says that expanding these relationships is not enough. "What we really need to do is to start working with the city governments and the county governments and the state, and hopefully with the federal level, to create programs that actually support doing productive urban agriculture on a scale that would be meaningful," she says. "And that really means addressing the farm bill."

A Food, Not Farm Bill

Andy Fisher is one of the founders of the CFSC, which formed in 1994 to lobby for changes in the 1996 bill. For Fisher and others wanting to transform food access and production in the United States, changing what the government funds in the farm bill is crucial. "You've got a structure of commodity programs subsidizing - corn, dairy and meat - to the exclusion of other crops," says Fisher. "Take the food pyramid: The farm bill subsidizes the exact opposite of that: 72 percent of all farm subsidies are going into dairy and meat production and smaller amounts into grains for human consumption. The only fruits or vegetables subsidized are apples. So there is a real impact on people's diets. In a very broad sense the farm bill is a food bill, and should be thought of that way."

In addition to subsidizing Big Ag, the farm bill allocates funds for the food stamp program, which, as the nation's largest nutrition program, has a significant impact on consumption patterns. In 2006, 26.7 million Americans received food stamps.

The version of the farm bill passed in the House this summer has expanded funding to encourage food stamp recipients to shop at farmers' markets: $32 million is allocated to the renamed Farmers' Market Promotion Program; also the bill expands both who is eligible to sell at markets, and the availability of Electronic Benefit Transfer technology to process food stamps as payment. A 2004 UCLA study by researchers at the School of Public Health found that offering those receiving government food assistance (in this case, the Women, Infants and Children program) access to farmers' markets resulted in increased fruit and vegetable consumption that continued beyond the offered incentive.

The House version of the farm bill also allocates $30 million over the next five years to the Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Program, which, since its inception in 1996, has funded 240 programs to help low-income communities meet their nutritional needs. (The Food Project and Growing Power have received three grants each.) Stephanie Larsen, policy organizer with the CFSC cautions however that in the 2007 bill CFP funds were changed from mandatory (that is, guaranteed at that level each year) to discretionary (subject to the annual budget approval). "Due to the nature of the appropriations process, there is always a significant possibility that CFP will get much less than $30 million a year and we would have to fight for it annually against all other programs."

It remains to be seen what will happen in the Senate, but legislators are starting to realize the importance of urban agriculture funding. "I rise today to express my support for the [farm bill] ... but also to express my concern about the lack of funding for community food projects," said Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) on the House floor.

Owning What You Till

The 2007 farm bill may help urban agriculture, but larger questions about sustainability remain. "No one is against gardening," says UIC's Lawson, "but not everyone wants to fund it."

The massive federal subsidies received by Big Ag companies help keep food prices artificially low. That means small-scale, sustainable agriculture must self-subsidize its prices to compete in the marketplace. And as the profile of urban agriculture rises, urban farms are also confronting questions about whether to participate in the high-priced, organic farmers' markets cropping up around the country.

"It's important to us that the food we grow here is available to people in the community," says the Food Project's Andrews. "That means it's not sold at the prices it would be if it was sold downtown." Selling at high-end markets is an issue that the Food Project grapples with because it has the potential to allow the organization to sustain itself. Right now, the group makes around $20,000 off the produce grown on its Dorchester land. If the Food Project sold it at the Copley Square farmers' market, opposite the Neiman Marcus, Andrews estimates they could get twice as much. "I think there is a sense at the organization that it could lend something to the urban agriculture movement if we were economically sustainable."

So far, however, the Food Project is opting out. "Our community is patient with what goes along with urban agriculture. Sometimes our compost smells, or we'll have a little rat infestation," Andrews says. "If we were selling downtown, it could become uncomfortable. I don't think it would make a whole lot of sense."

Because of funding difficulties, over the years many community food projects have died, which hurts those communities that have come to rely on their resources.

"Everyone keeps reinventing this thing over and over again, which tells me it has a really important function, and it should be supported," says Lawson. "But we shouldn't have to keep finding new land and new leaders."

For this reason, Lawson stresses land ownership as one path to sustainability. "The exact audience will change over time - but the hardest thing is transforming that space, that earth," she says. "Once you have that tillable soil, it's there for whatever programs want to come along and claim it. The gardeners need to look at land use and ownership of sites, and work with the city to keep them permanent."

Many hold up Philadelphia as the gold standard of land stewardship. Founded in 1986, the Neighborhood Gardens Association (NGA) is a community land trust that holds land reclaimed by gardeners in order to save it from development when property values rise. (One of the quandaries urban agriculture programs face is that when they transform previous "worthless" land, they simultaneously raise its property value and that of the surrounding area.) The NGA currently holds 24 plots in trust. In Chicago, a similar program called NeighborSpace has been around since 1996. Both programs focus on community gardens, but the overall aim of creating community land is one that resonates with everyone working in urban agriculture. "If you have control over the land and the water, if you can feed yourself, you can really transform society," says Erika Allen. "But these communities don't have any of those things, so how can you have a just society?"

For urban agriculturists it all comes back to empowering and investing in community. "[W]e expect to see more people of all ages and backgrounds first becoming educated food consumers, and then becoming engaged food citizens," concludes the Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Program 10 year progress report. "As healthful food and healthy eating become the norm, we anticipate that more people will look for broader regional and policy-based answers to the problems that continue to beset their communities."

But for Allen and her colleagues, food is not only an end, it's the means. "We're working towards a just world where everyone has full bellies and land and water," she says. "We're using food as a tool to get there. And it's completely doable."

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