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New York Times

Brazil is everywhere…

by tomlucier on June 8, 2008

Okay, to begin, I need to express my lack of expertise. This is key. I know basic information about the world and the environment, etc., but as I am learning, I like to keep my thoughts and opinions here. If you would like to add anything or suggest some places I can learn more about a post I make, please do so.

Moving on, what is the deal with Brazil?!

Every time I find something interesting happening online, in podcasts, or in the paper, I find that it is often in Brazil.

The tribe that has been photographed from a helicopter in the Amazon was in Brazil. This native tribe was spotted in a fly-over, and when the chopper returned to take more photos (and to scare the living shit out of these people who have NEVER BEEN TOUCHED BY CIVILIZATION) they had hurriedly painted their bodies bright orange or entirely black. It looks like the men (with bows and arrows pointed at the growling demon
in the sky) were orange and the women were painted black.

In other recent news, there are big things going on with the Amazon (in Brazil) as a BBC reporter from The World has just returned from a long trip to the fabled area. He was discussing the science being done above the canopy in the Amazon, collecting air samples since 1998, and measuring how rain actually occurs in the rainforest. They found some cool stuff, and they explain it in detail on The World Podcast with Clark Boyd.

Discussion in the podcast includes the air flow around South America, due in part to the Amazon, and how the moisture finds particles in the air to stick to for the return of water through rain. Since there’s not a TON of pollution above the canopy, scientists didn’t know how the water clung onto stuff that didn’t exist. It’s a scienc-y good story. Check it.

Another story about Brazil, this one in the New York Times, shone some light on the possibility of corruption in the Amazon. This is the main reason I was driven to start blogging at 3am after attending a wonderful wedding party for Dan and Jenna by the lake in Kingsville. I am beat, but I was burning about the way we allow pricks with HUGE companies and capitalist ideals get into office!!

To preface, this dude, the Soybean King, is being seen by scientists as the worst clear-cutting and environment-infringing dudes in the country. He governs the most agriculturized province in Brazil (the Amazon). Yes, I said that the governor of this space of Amazon is the man in charge of the land and agriculturization, and VOILA! he owns the most successful, money-grubbing food company in the whole damn country. Am I shocked by this anymore? No. It seems that somehow, in the grand discussion of democracy, we somehow let these slimy pricks into the highest offices imaginable.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the president of Brazil is supposed to be some environmental Batman or something, but really, if he’s allowing the “selective” clear cutting of one of the WORLD’S most important ecosystems by a COLLEAGUE and government-mate, how hero-like is he? He’s worse than Robin. He’s not even as valuable as one of the smoke bombs on Batman’s belt. He’s like, maybe the “Batman’s sock” of the environment. Nothing to write to Sao Paolo about.

Back to the story. Dr. Câmara, who heads the National Institute for Space Research in Brazil has been measuring the amount of forest being cut down…but they are cleverer than the Soybean King, Blairo Maggi, gave them credit for, because it can measure the loss even when they perform selective cutting…not quite clear-cutting. This information exchange was immediately attacked by the Soybean King, putting some environmental groups on their heels. The deforestation had been in decline for two years, but then it spiked.

It’s being cut down for crops and livestock! Hello!? We are still cutting down rain forest to grow food when there are grossly obese fools running around North America and Mexico, and diabetics are erupting like mad in India! We’re growing food to put in our gas tanks! Jesus Christ people! Can we leave the goddamn car at home for once!? Frig! The Amazon is going away so we can grow corn for our car (while millions starve worldwide, never mind that estimates say 35 million Americans don’t know where their next meal is coming from) and to fatten cows so we can eat meat. Yeah, we are pounding these chic slider-burgers like an eight-year-old binges on Oreos and we wonder why the world’s weather is getting screwed up. Some day soon, I’m sure, the corporate-interest-owned media will share the big picture with everyone so they can start consuming less (sarcasm).

“Worldwide agriculture, especially livestock production, accounts for about a fifth of greenhouse gas emissions,” says Thanks Treehugger. For a clue what I mean about meat and climate change linkage, click the previous link.

So, back to the story. “Marina Silva, Brazil’s environmental minister and a respected rain forest defender, resigned this month. While leaving, she spoke of heavy pressures being exerted by industry-minded governors, including Governor Maggi, to reverse the federal crackdown on destruction of the forest,” reported ALEXEI BARRIONUEVO of the New York Times. Greenpeace gave the Soybean King the Golden Chainsaw Award in 2005 for his role as the worst Brazilian “deforester”.

This guy is IN CHARGE! I find that the answer is in the people’s power over the corporate interest’s power. It starts by NOT ELECTING a machete-wielding agri-giant who would down his mother’s legs if he could make money by planting corn under her. In essence, he IS cutting of all of our mother’s legs: Mama Nature that is…

Someone make me feel better about this. Tell me that people with the opportunity to evade electing a bio-terrorist to power in ANY country where they allow voting will do the right thing when they hit the ballot box. Geez! What are we to do about these mistakes? Oops, we elected a nature-hating, enviro-suck-beast (a terrestrial lamprey) and now we see him for what he is, a low-life opportunist, and we want him gone…what can you do?

I have to go to bed and dream about trees.

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Holy garbage Naples!

by tomlucier on May 20, 2008

This is one of those stories that has caught me off guard to the degree that I wonder why newspaper editors even wake up in the morning. This story is so profoundly indicative of what is to come, that I cannot understand the lack of attention being given to it!

Naples. Yes, the one in Italy associated with beauty and culture. Well, they have not had their garbage collected SINCE DECEMBER of 2007!!!!!!

Think right now for a second about how bad your streets/lawn would look if the entire city’s garbage wasn’t picked up for 6 months. Holy Jesus! What kind of strike would lead to this kind of unsolved dispute? There was no strike. The city simply ran out of room in the landfills. There are no legal dumps open at all in all of Naples! They have filled the dumps!

Again, this is one of those issues we sweep under the rug (the topsoil) in our daily lives. We just put these bags of refuse out to the curb and they magically disappear in the morning on “garbage day”. There is really no responsibility for people who abuse the system and refuse to recycle, or who just consume at such an incredible rate, that they leave 10 bags of garbage to be picked up per week. I often see houses on garbage eve, with up to 15 bags of garbage waiting to be heaved into a hole in the earth at the outskirts of town. I almost always end up shaking my head, lost for expression.

You see, I bust my hump to recycle and limit my trash output, and when I see a repeat-offending trash hoarder unloading a lifetime of garbage EVERY WEEK, I get a little miffed.

And I wonder, in Naples, if these people are starting to USE LESS! If you look a the pictures in the stories attached, you can see the plethora of stink left rotting in parking lots, streets, and yards. How has this not sparked HUGE health issues in the area? How has this story been untold to the masses as a warning of what can happen when you haphazardly toss away belongings like nothing matters at the end of this process?

I have always wondered how my neighbours (over the years) cannot realize how profound the imbalance is between the output of trash from themselves and the people living next to them. All I can say, really, is that if I put 6 bags of garbage out every week, and my neighbour put out 4 bags per month, and some weeks putting out nothing at all, I know I would wonder how the hell they do it. Lugging filth the curb is work. It’s almost too much work for our society’s most active, to haul out bags of garbage. But what this kind of trash output tells me is that the lack of awareness of the impact of trash on our city, environment, watershed, etc. makes it insatiable to citizens. There is no end in sight for the long line of garbage when no one is held accountable for the amount they waste.

I heard a conversation at the bar recently, where the discussion weaved into the possibility of paying for trash output. Citizens pay for the amount of bags (over the allotted amount) they require relief of, and if they stay under the limit, they pay nothing extra. Taxes take care of the minimum allotted amount. I love this idea. The only people who don’t like it seem to be those who are unable to put a little thought into the products they buy, maybe reducing output by buying things with less packaging.

If these kinds of garbage crises are going to “surface” in other cities, you can bet your bottom that people are going to pay.

I just wanted to share this with all of you, and maybe spark the question about how much we throw away. How much waste are you making? Do you rely on the magic of disappearing curb garbage fairies every week a little too much? Could you be easing the strain on your landfill?

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by tomlucier on May 9, 2008

Michael Pollan strikes again.

I just went ga-ga over his article in the green issue of the New York Times Magazine, Why Bother?, and now I get this link from Boing Boing about his new book, In Defense of Food. Maybe I like this guy because he looks like and reminds me of my brothers, Rodd and Todd.

It’s a video almost an hour long of his discoveries about food, ranging from the disturbing reality that there is not enough convincing science (at least not as much as he expected) about food, all the way to comparing nutrients to God (which I loved as an example), as nutrients are invisible and we thus need doctors, journalists, nutritionists to tell us the right amounts we need, which is what holy practitioners do for their flock when trying to respect something as invisible as nutrients.

The idea of how we’ve SLOWLY progressed (but progressed nonetheless) from “chewing songs” urged by Horace Fletcher, who thought you were supposed to chew every bite 100 times, makes me wonder how viable the science we have now really matters.

I mean, I like to believe that scientists stand up for us. They think on our behalf for the greater good. But if anyone knows about food lobbyists, like the Egg Board and Milk Board and Cheese Board (I think those are all viable Boards) they know that they have their own scientists working on their behalf, to ensure steady and increased sales of their product/commodity. So maybe there’s a reason that for as long as I can remember there have been reports on how bad/good/bad/good again coffee, red wine, red meat, a glass of beer is supposed to be for you. His example of butter being touted as evil and margarine being the hero (for a time) until it was realized that the trans fats in margarine were WAY worse than the saturated fats in butter. So who do we trust? I don’t know, but he likes the idea of pushing to recognize cultural impact on food-health. Watching people who stay healthy from other cultures…and take notes. Makes damn good sense to me.

Carrying on, I liked how he pointed out that food is always broken into evil vs. good bits. The evil now is trans fats. The hero now is Omega 3 Fatty Acid. Carbohydrates are moving out (Thanks Atkins), and fibre is heroic now for a while. But I remember when it was protein! It was all about protein! Funny enough, I remember reading a book by John Robbins who said that there was enough protein in a glass of milk to nullify the calcium. Yes. In human chemistry, too much protein (which has been shoved down our throats for as long as I can remember) means that you will pee out your precious calcium. I don’t like it either, but it’s just science.

That said, with people eating tons of meat (adding HEAVILY to the climate change epidemic) and then having any green veggies with calcium in it, they were doing the same thing. I mean, come on people. We drink more milk than anyone else in the world. Why do we have the highest cases of osteoporosis in the world if we’re so full of calcium!? Why don’t Japanese and Chinese citizens deal with this on the level we deal with it? Hmmm. Something to be further looked into I think.

He talked about “orthorexics” which is a term for people who have an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy. Sadly, I know a few of these. Pollan also laughed about the American paradox of food. We want healthy food, and we obsess about getting healthy food, yet we are fatter and less healthy than the French counterparts who eat fatty foods and do all of the things we’re told are negative. Why is this happening? Since nutritionism began in the 70s, the overall health in America (Canada) is worse. Huh!? Yeah, nice paradigm shift Michael, I really needed that to think about.

He blew me away when talking about beta carotene and how it was thought to be the gold medal winner of carotenes (there are many more) when in fact it did nothing to improve health significantly, and in some cases made things worse. Perhaps then, because there is so much more to the carrot than we thought, maybe you HAVE TO EAT THE CARROT to get the longevity associated with it and other vegetables. Maybe there’s some mystical combination of things that happens when you eat the carrot that makes you healthier. As of now, according to Pollan, not one nutritionist knows the answer to this. Not specifically. Any idiot can say that eating vegetables every day is good for you, but someone who tries to say that nutrient X in this and nutrient Y in that is the reason for the longevity, is lying. They don’t know why.

I was shocked to hear that the science is just not there. Just. Not. There.

He blew my mind with, “You have as may neurons in your digestive tract that you have in your spinal column.” What? Exactly. Why do I have brain cells in my lower intestine. According to Pollan, no one knows. Yet. But this kind of info is fascinating to me. Not only will I be buying this book eventually, but I will be reading every column he has on the subject of healthy living and healthy planet, as he has proven to me in short bursts of information, that he is not flowing downstream like many of us. He is going against the current to ask important questions. I like that. I wish I could be more like that.

Go watch it. Then you can remember it.

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Knowing and Living: An Inconvenient Truth

by tomlucier on May 6, 2008

Coming from the “more north” of Ontario, visiting my brother and his family, I am feeling mentally recharged. Not in that way you get when you are ultra-relaxed though. I am more or less recharged because I have been reinvigorated in a larger sense.

Yes, my brother gave his slide-show of An Inconvenient Truth. Yes, it was eye-opening, even though I pay attention to every utterance about the environment, and almost primarily because of listening to so many podcasts. Harry Shearer’s Le Show has a copyrighted feature called “News of The Warm” that keeps on top of the most recent info about our crumbling planet. My brother did an incredible job, and commanded a hushed room of 25 people or so.

The presentation was yet another piece to this expanding interest in the vital signs of Earth for me. It was a reminder of the article in the New York Times Magazine, Why Bother? by Michael Pollan, which made a strong impact on me, almost calling me out for having been remiss to ACT. Applying Gandhi’s Ideas to Climate Change by Peter Applebome was another article in the New York times that made grand references to the differences between thinking something and acting on something.

I am in the first category primarily. I know the correct thing to do, but I often don’t go as far as I should. I find myself waffling in the face of adversity when it comes time to choose correctly for the planet, for the dignity of others, for the dignity of myself. These two articles had superb reminders in them, telling me to get my head in the right space. Do it because it is right. Do it because it is virtuous, even when doing things because they are virtuous is dropping out of style. Why bother? For yourself. Doing for yourself, in the greater sense of self, in turn, is actually doing for all, even when on a small scale, such as picking up trash while walking on a nature trail in northern Ontario (thanks Martha). We spend so much of our day, our relationships, our lives, taking, taking, taking…but if we’ve learned anything in science class, things must balance. It’s time to give back.

Jhoan and I at the rapids of the South River

Also, while on the 7-hour-drive home from the weekend trip, I listened to This American Life. The episode had a bit about Schindler’s List. A guy (a friend of the host who is involved in charity and philanthropic work) who watched this film, commented to the host (Ira Glass) that he did all the work he did, as taxing and time-consuming that it was, because he KNEW he was going to be like Schindler in the end of the film. He knew he would be asking why he didn’t sell his car, his watch, to get enough money to save more Jews. This man didn’t want to be thinking he could have done more.

I don’t want to be the regretful man who, lying on his deathbed is thinking, “I could have done more for others.” I want to do what is to be done. The nausea associated with being a failure, failing myself, no one else, is not an acceptable outcome, and I am geared to see that this life is more heavily geared toward giving.

The Zen Archery approach of intention meeting action is a wonderful way to look at the process from A) learning truth to B) living truth. And the funniest thing about these articles I mentioned is that I was gung-ho to introduce them to my brother Todd. I was thinking about it more like a useful tool, maybe a hand-out at future events or talks. But the irony of me giving a man whose entire family knows the truth and lives truth constantly was lost on me until writing this post. Todd and Martha have been beacons to me of how to live a low-impact life physically, and a high-impact life mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Hey brother, if you’re reading this, I get it! I know you know. I know you don’t need the info in those articles, but I thought it might help relay your message to people like me who need a bit of nudging from knowing to living truth.

Todd, Jhoan, and I

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