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Ecological News

After Elders, Activists Camp 5 Yrs. in Wilderness at Experimental Utah Tar Sands Mine, Company Buckles, Files Bankruptcy

Environews.tv - Wed, 10/18/2017 - 19:47

reddit_url = "http://www.environews.tv/101817-after-elderly-activists-camp-5-yrs-in-wilderness-at-experimental-utah-tar-sands-mine-company-buckles-files-bankruptcy/"; reddit_title = "After Elders, Activists Camp 5 Yrs. in Wilderness at Experimental Utah Tar Sands Mine, Company Buckles, Files Bankruptcy"; reddit_newwindow="1"

(EnviroNews Utah) — Vernal, Utah — The following video report emanates from a demonstration at the PR Springs tar sands test site on the Tavaputs Plateau in late September of 2017. The transcript reads as follows:

Emerson Urry (Narrating): In a remarkable turn of events in late September, grandmas and grandpas in rocking chairs, expecting to be gaffled up by the county sheriff for blockading the entrance to an experimental tar sands mine in northeastern Utah, instead found themselves in celebration, after it was announced the corporation behind the project was placed in receivership just days earlier. Receivership is a Canadian designation similar to a Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United States.

The company, sneakily named US Oil Sands, isn’t from the U.S. at all. It’s actually a Canadian enterprise funded with foreign money, and it was placed in receivership, after squandering another chunk of cash — $2.5 million, taken from its primary shareholder, Luxembourg-based ACMO S.à.r.l., this past June.

The demonstration harbored members from several groups including, Elders Rising, Canyon Country Rising Tide, Utah Tar Sands Resistance and Wasatch Rising Tide. The coalition travelled over three hours from Salt Lake City to protest against the project and was pleased to wind up celebrating freely — instead of sitting in a jail cell.

Local EnviroNews Utah was able to catch up with this dedicated entourage of elders in their hotel rooms the night before they headed up to the mine site – and when asked about their motivations, one theme came up repeatedly.

Ken Kohler: Well, for me, it’s my two grandsons. I have a four-year-old and a two-year-old, and I look at those faces…

Linda Parsons: The system, for our children, for our grandchildren, it’s not going to work. It’s getting worse and worse. And it’s time… we can do it. Just like with climate change and dropping out of the Paris Accord. So what! Let’s do it ourselves.

Urry (Interviewing): What about you Joan [Gregory]. You’ve been at this for quite a few years now. I know you’ve been arrested several times as well. But, what drives you to keep coming out, putting your body on the line, putting your freedom on the line? What keeps bringing you back?

Joan Gregory: The same thing: my kids, my grandkids, their kids; all the children of this world that are suffering right now because of climate change.

Urry: Elise Lazar of Salt Lake City said part of her motivation was to put her life and freedom on the line so younger protestors wouldn’t have to.

Lazar: I’m part of Elders Rising because, I’m so proud that I was raised in the ’60s; so, I have activism in my bloodstream. But I feel badly for the young people, because none of them should be starting their lives, their families, their professional lives, with police records. So, I’m here [with] the rest of Elders Rising, to say: we are going to be on the forefront, and we are going to protect you. We want you to be activists, but if any anybody’s going to get arrested, it’s going to be us.

Urry: When most Americans think about tar sands, they think about this: the massive gooey bitumen strip mining operation in Alberta Canada – a project so large it has turned a swath of pristine nature the size of Florida in the Boreal Forest, into a barren eyesore, with little vegetation or wildlife remaining at all. But little do most people realize that on the Utah-Colorado border there’s around 25 times the amount of tar sands deposits than are present in Canada. And companies have been trying to figure out an economically viable way to get at it for decades.

Urry: Raphael Cordray and Lionel Trepanier are leaders with Utah Tar Sands Resistance – the group that spearheaded the ongoing encampment. The duo was all smiles at the news of US Oil Sands’ receivership announcement, and passed along knowledge to the visiting coalition of elders — information she’s accumulated while living at the site almost around the clock.

Cordray: The BLM, which is the Bureau of Land Management for the federal government, has identified 830,000 acres; it’s in Utah, Wyoming and Colorado, and this is near this area too. This land is [Utah] state land, but the federal government has identified this 830,000 acres that is available right now to lease for strip mining of oil shale and tar sands. So, that’s aside from these state-controlled lands that are available to be leased for oil shale and tar sands development. And it’s strip mining; it’s like mountaintop removal.

So, we see that they are starting… this is one of the first projects that they’re working on, and they’re going forward more on state lands because the standards for the regulation are even lower on our state lands than they are on the federal lands.

Urry: Members of Elders Rising also blasted the politics behind the nearly $90 million road that was paved to accommodate the now-defunct experiment.

Parsons: And that was our initial challenge, was we were going to stop the road. We thought we could really actually stop them from building the road.

Urry: Additionally, the group is concerned that the operation might now be picked up by either ACMO or some other enterprise willing to continue pumping cash into the unfruitful test.

Cordray: Here, why this is such a victory that they haven’t succeeded is because we see other companies are kind of waiting in the wings, watching for somebody to succeed at this, and then more companies would likely start leasing that acreage.

Excerpt 1 From 2013 EnviroNews Utah Documentary on US Oil Sands:

Shad Engkilterra (Narrating): This is the PR Springs tar sands test site of the Canadian company that carries the sneaky name of US Oil Sands.

Urry: EnviroNews Utah was the first news organization to run in-depth video reports on the Utah tar sands experiments – and it’s not only US Oil Sands that’s gone bust – nearly every oil sands test in the area has wound up bankrupt and floating in the wind – leaving ruinous messes in their wake with little in the way of cleanup or reclamation.

EnviroNews Utah also exposed the damage at one of these antiquated abandoned mine sites back in 2013, in a segment that left viewers stunned.

Excerpt 2 From 2013 EnviroNews Utah Documentary on US Oil Sands:

Engkilterra: The PR Springs situation isn’t the first time that companies have tried to strip mine for bitumen in the United States. Behind me is the Leonard Murphy “83” mine, an oil sands project that came online in the early ’80s.

Well, that little strip mining experiment didn’t go so well. The company is long gone and bankrupt, and 30 years later, it has undergone very little in the way of environmental reclamation as black goo continually oozes forth from the abandoned mess, killing chipmunks, mice, birds and more, slowly making its way down the canyon toward precious water supplies that provide for thousands of people in several sizable oilfield communities in the Uintah Basin.

Excerpt 3 From 2013 EnviroNews Utah Documentary on US Oil Sands:

Engkilterra: Here we are at the Leonard Murphy Mine where we were yesterday, and I couldn’t stand this place. There were three, well two dead chipmunks and a dead rat of some sort. You can see they’re clearly gone. There’s the remnants of one over there and here we have this poor little chipmunk dying in the tar sands. Now I am going to see if I can help him out and get him out of there.

Excerpt 4 From 2013 EnviroNews Utah Documentary on US Oil Sands:

Engkilterra: He’s still coated in tar. So I don’t know if that’s helpful; he still has tar all over his mouth and his face and his body, but I mean I just couldn’t leave him in there. I wish I had brought some solvent or something.

Let’s see if we can get that part off, that’s a big rocky part that was attached to his mouth, and it looks like his leg is broken here. So, unfortunately, I think that that’s probably the end.

But this place, I mean, I can’t stay here very long. My eyes are already starting to water. They’re burning. My nose is starting to get stuffy, which happened yesterday; I couldn’t spend more than 15 minutes, and there are some bigger tar pits down in the valley here, and if you watch, this tar flows all the way down through there and gets down into the valley and I am pretty sure it’s making its way down to the Green River.

Urry: Now, US Oil Sands takes its resting place in the graveyard of Utah tar sands debacles, less than a half a mile away from the old Leonard Murphy Mine, still oozing down the draw to this day. The question now: After poking around and strip mining the pristine Utah wilderness, will this now-defunct company carry out any remediation or restoration of the land at all?

Gregory: We are destroying the planet for the future. We’re supposed to be saving and protecting it for our kids, and for all future generations. That’s why we are together as elders for intergenerational justice.

Urry: Reporting for EnviroNews Utah, Emerson Urry.

Other Top EnviroNews Reports on Utah Tar Sands

Families Camp Out in Protest to Save the Tavaputs Plateau from America’s First Approved Commercial Tar Sands Mine

(EnviroNews Utah) – Tar sands, oil sands, asphalt, and bituminous sands. These names all represent the same type of fossil fuel, a fossil fuel so difficult and energy intensive to mine and process that past attempts to harness its dirty energy in the United States have resulted in…

Utah Tar Sands Protestors Burn Money at Red Leaf Resources’ Shareholder Meeting

(EnviroNews Utah) – Salt Lake City, Utah – This was the scene in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah on November 12, 2014 as protestors from the group Utah Tar Sands Resistance (UTSR) assembled in front of the Alta Club building to voice their opposition to the Delaware-based, French-backed…

The Power of Divestment – How This Man Stopped a Tar Sands Strip Mine in Glorious White Rocks Canyon

(EnviroNews Utah) – Roosevelt – di·vest [dih-vest, dahy-] – to deprive or dispossess especially of property, authority, or title This is the story of Lewis Cooper, an ex-Pennzoil Capital Relations Manager who also happens to be one of only five neighbors that live up glorious White Rocks Canyon,…

Children Discover and Play With Toxic Bitumen Tar Sands at America’s First Approved Commercial Oil Sands Mine

(EnviroNews Utah) – On the weekend of June 21, 2013, families gathered together at the PR Springs area to learn about tar sands as part of the educational campout organized by Utah Tar Sands Resistance. Children were able to see what leaking tar looked and smelled like and…

EnviroNews Reporter Tries in Vain to Save Adorable Chipmunk Trapped in Deadly Oozing Tar Sands Bitumen

(EnviroNews Utah) – At an outing on the majestic Tavaputs Plateau in Utah where families with children had congregated in protest of America’s first approved commercial tar sands mine, Shad Engkilterra, reporter for local EnviroNews Utah gave his account of his visit to the old and abandoned Leonard…

Protests Against America’s First Approved Tar Sands Operation Rage in Utah at Chevron Refinery

(EnviroNews Utah) – On March 23rd, protestors of the now approved tar sands project in PR Springs, Utah delivered a row of small coffins to the Chevron Refinery in Salt Lake City, in response to the refineries recent expansion plants that would enable them to accommodate future tar…

25 Sentenced After Protesting America’s First Commercial Tar Sands Strip Mine

(EnviroNews Utah) – Salt Lake City, Utah – 25 activists from the group Utah Tar Sands Resistance (UTSR) were finally sentenced today in a Vernal courtroom in Uintah County, Utah. Most of the individuals sentenced were arrested on July 23, 2014 after chaining themselves to mining equipment inside…

21 Arrested as Police and Protestors Clash at First U.S. Tar Sands Mine

(EnviroNews Utah) – PR Springs, Utah – On Monday, July 23, 2014, a confrontation between police and environmental activists protesting tar sands development at PR Springs in Utah resulted in two people being injured and 21 people arrested. Between 70 and 80 protesters gathered at the sight of…

Known for “Saving White Rocks Canyon” From Tar Sands Mining, Lewis Cooper Gives Encouraging Advice to Tavaputs Oil Sands Activists

(EnviroNews California) – White Rocks, Utah – After a 105 hour work week, and a whirlwind, 5 day, start-to-finish documentary production on America’s first approved commercial tar sands mine in Utah’s pristine Tavaputs Plateau, EnviroNews USA Editor-in-Chief Emerson Urry raced across the massive Uintah Basin oil turf in…

The post After Elders, Activists Camp 5 Yrs. in Wilderness at Experimental Utah Tar Sands Mine, Company Buckles, Files Bankruptcy appeared first on EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists.

Categories: Ecological News

A Blind Walk that turned out to be an eye opening experience

Ground Reality - Sun, 10/15/2017 - 12:27





It wasn't a walk in the blind; it was a walk for the blind. 

Oct 12, the World Sight Day. Walking blindfolded, following a blind person, opened the eyes to the difficult life of the visually impaired. This was stated by a number of people, including students, who participated in the Blind Walk organised by the Chandigarh-based public trust Dialogue Highway, in the Sector-17 Plaza in the heart of the city. 

For the blind persons leading the walk, it was an experience. For those who walked blindfolded behind them, with their hands on the shoulder of the person in front, it was a lifetime experience. For the first time, they were able to feel how tough is the life for the visually impaired. That is exactly what I wanted the people to feel, to realise. Organising the Blind Walk therefore was an effort to reach out to more people. This was in collaboration with the Project Vision in Bangalore, which motivated more than 250 Blind Walks to take place across the country on the same day. 

More than 500 students from different schools, colleges and some from the university participated in the Blind Walk, led by blind students from Chandigarh's Blind School. A large number of citizens, including my father, who is 90, walked blindfolded. The Chief Guest Navjot Singh Sidhu, (a well-known cricketer, celeb, and now a Punjab Cabinet minister) who flagged off the walk, also led the walk blindfolded. A number of celebrities, including the PGI Director Prof Jagat Ram, Justice (retd) S N Agarawal, Punjabi actress Japji Khaira, and singers Pammi 22, Hardeep Gill, Gurkirpal Surapuri, economist R S Ghuman, farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal were on the stage. Before the walk began, I introduced the objectives of organising the Blind Walk urging people to join the effort, and also to pledge their eyes. 






Navjot Sidhu in his own inimitable style regaled the audience and also stated how honoured he felt at being invited to such a pious event. He said that this was an initiative he would never forget. Sensitising the people by making them walk blindfolded was perhaps the best way. The walk, in two rows, led by a blind student walked through the Sector 17 plaza before returning to the same place. A Police pipe band was in attendance. The media did a tremendous job with most TV Channels/media houses covering it live on their Facebook pages. Many journalist walked blindfolded covering the event. The next day, the coverage in the print media too was huge. Thank you everyone who made this Blind Walk an eye-opening activity. I am also delighted to add here that the Roti Bank in New Delhi, a group of very dedicated people towards fighting hunger and inequality, too had organised a Blindfold Walk in the Delhi University campus.



Categories: Ecological News

Stubble burning: Don't penalise farmers. Give them support to take adequate steps.

Ground Reality - Thu, 10/12/2017 - 09:35

Pic: Business Standard 
Not to take any more risk with human health, the Supreme Court has reinstated the ban it imposed on sale of fire crackers in the Delhi-NCR region.  The “direct evidence of deterioration of air quality at alarming levels” that the Supreme Court cited to justify the ban has another player. Paddy stubble burning by farmers during the same period in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and in the outskirts of Delhi, has also been blamed for chocking the Capital.
What forces farmers to burn the paddy stubbles is the short window available between the harvesting of paddy and the sowing of the next wheat crop. In a fortnight or so, farmers have to harvest the crop, market it, and also undertake sowing operations for the next rabi crop. Burning of paddy straw therefore is the easiest way out. Unfortunately, farmer’s compulsion that leaves him little option but to burn the crop residues has not been understood properly. Instead of helping the farmers, the entire effort is to coerce them into submission.
An estimated 20 million tonnes of paddy straw is burnt in Punjab alone. As the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had observed: “70 per cent of the land covered by agricultural activity was put on fire by the farmers of Punjab who burnt farm residue,” further adding that stubble burning shoots up the carbon dioxide levels in the air by 70 per cent. “The concentration of carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide rises by 7 per cent and 2.1 per cent respectively, triggering respiratory and heart problems. Also, it was stated that soil loses a significant amount of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and sulphur, the total loss of nutrients being estimated at 1.5-lakh tonnes per annum.
Farmers are aware of the environmental fall-out. But they need monetary help. Punjab farmers have been demanding Rs 6,000 per acre as a compensation package for the additional costs they have to incur to take measures that prevents burning of crop residues. Instead of providing any financial support, farmers who continue to resort to burning of paddy straw are being penalised, put behind bars, and threatened with withdrawal of farm subsidies. As if this is not enough, a ‘red entry’ against the plot number where stubble burning takes place is now being initiated in the land records.
Farming community is furious. Agitating farmers have now openly flouted the ban imposed by the NGT on burning of paddy straw, and a direct confrontation between the agitating farmers and the government is on an anvil. Already, several farmer unions have given call to defy the ban, and surely the incidences of crop residues being put to fire are also increasing. The confrontation is likely to worsen in the days to come.
Knowing that imposing any coercive measure against the farming community already reeling under severe distress will be politically incorrect, the Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh is seeking an incentive of Rs 2,000-crore from the Centre to ensure that farmers remove paddy straw without burning it. “We have demanded that the Centre should give Rs 100 per quintal, which comes to roughly Rs 2,000-crore.” And he is right. After all, stubble burning is a socio-environment problem, and the society has to share the burden. Why can’t a proportion of the Rs 50,000-crore proposed economic stimulus package be used for address the problem of stubble burning?
It is a question of priorities. Within weeks of the inflation figures showing a rising trend, the government enhanced the dearness allowance (DA) for the central government employees from the existing 4 to 5 per cent. The hike in DA by just 1 per cent creates an annual additional burden of Rs 3,068.26-crore. If only the government had withheld the 1% increase in DA installment and instead diverted the resources to address the severe environmental consequences arising from stubble burning, the entire problem could have been fixed by now.
Two immediate steps the NGT need to ensure: First, ask the government to provide a compensation of at least Rs 200 per quintal to paddy farmers. I am seeking a higher compensation package because the labour costs have already skyrocketed. Also, there is no need to provide any more subsidies for machines like Happy Seeder, Straw Reeper, Chopper, Rotavator etc. Subsidising the machinery only adds to the burden of the farmers. My suggestion is to leave the task to farmers. let them take a call on which specific machinery they need, if at all. Secondly, make it mandatory for the combine harvester machines to incorporate a baler, which harvests and bales in one pass. I have earlier said (Stubble burning: Combine harvesters alone can provide a solution. http://devinder-sharma.blogspot.in/2016/12/stubble-burning-combine-harvesters.html) that if you are thinking this kind of technological solution will require more time for the combine harvesters to make for a technological improvement, let me tell you a leading manufacturer of combine harvesters – Canada’s John Deere has in partnership with the US-based Hillco Technologies – already developed a next generation machine for harvesting corn wherein the corn stems are baled in one simple step. The Hillco Single Pass Round Bale system which allows the combine harvester to harvest and bale in one pass is what is required for paddy harvest and bale. I am sure the combine manufacturers will be able to provide this amendment for the next paddy harvesting season. If only NGT had tried to make it compulsory for the combine harvesters to bring in the new technology, crop burning would have been easily relegated to the past. #
Don't penalise farmers for pollution. Hindustan Times, Oct 11, 2017. http://m.hindustantimes.com/analysis/work-with-farmers-to-end-stubble-burning-and-save-delhi-from-air-pollution-in-winter/story-ypZsrWD6FJ2cI6AV47p6XO_amp.html
  
Categories: Ecological News

Pesticides poisoning -- Its the farm workers who pay with their lives.

Ground Reality - Sun, 10/08/2017 - 12:32

 The next time you see a farm worker spraying the crops, just stop your vehicle and watch. Chances are you will see him without any protective gear/clothing. Pic: Ajithkumar.cc (from the net) 
It was sometimes in the mid-1980s that the Pesticides Association of India took me to a field trip. Taking me around the crop fields, they showed me the protective gear that the pesticides industry was providing to farm workers engaged in pesticides spraying. It was so reassuring to see farm workers spraying the crop dressed up in protective clothing – hand gloves, face mask, a cap and in gumboots.
Nearly 40 years later, I am shocked to read a news report of 50 farm workers succumbing to suspected pesticides poisoning and another 800 admitted to various hospitals in Maharashtra. About 25 have lost their eyesight, and an equal number are on life support system. After activists highlighted the tragedy, the Maharashtra government has belatedly launched an inquiry. It has also announced an ex-gratia grant of Rs 2 lakh to the nearest kin of the deceased.
It is quite obvious that not much has changed in the past 40 years or so. Why blame only Maharashtra, it is the same elsewhere too. Because human lives don’t matter, and especially when it adversely affects the poorest of the poor, often leading to fatalities or permanent disabilities, the society is not even remotely bothered. If only the pesticides industry, state agricultural department officials and the farmers had collectively launched an awareness campaign as well as made it necessary for the workers to wear the protective gear before undertaking pesticides sprays, the Maharashtra tragedy could have been avoided.
The Maharashtra tragedy primarily occurred because the Bt cotton crop had failed to resist the dreaded bollworms pests for a couple of years now as a result of which farmers resorted to sprays of deadly cocktails to curb the insect menace.
Pesticides are poisons. Regardless of what the ‘Lethal Dose 50’ (LD50) level that is printed on the pesticides containers, the fact remains that the chemicals are nothing but a lethal poison. These have to be therefore used with utmost caution. But when was the last time that you watched a pesticides spray being done by farm labourers wearing a face mask? Forget about wearing a mask, I haven’t even seen workers wearing hand gloves during sprays. If you think I am being unfair, just stop your vehicle and watch the next time you see a farm worker spraying in the crop fields along the highways.
It is here that the farmer too is at fault. Since the sprays are invariably done by daily wage workers, very few farmers ensure that the labourers take precaution. They push the labourers to complete the job as quickly as possible, and are least bothered about the safety and health of the workers. The pesticide residues that seep into the body take time to show the harmful impact, and by that time the labourer has finished the job, taken his money and gone. Most of the time, pesticides poisoning is not even considered as a possible cause when these labourers have to be taken to the hospital.In reality, pesticides poisoning is the least reported cause for farm fatalities.
Pesticides sprays must be undertaken during the early hours in the morning or late in the evening. Pesticides rules prescribe this precaution but it is rarely followed. For example, the ideal time for undertaking pesticides sprays is between 6and 8 in the morning or after 6 in the evening, depending upon the season. The reason is simple. First, there is less possibility of strong of winds in the mornings, and also with the rise in temperature, the chemical becomes more toxic. But since the labour is not available in the earthy hours, spraying operations are invariably conducted in the afternoon. A preliminary investigation has shown that farm workers were made to undertake sprays for 8 to 10 hours at a stretch in Maharashtra.  Pesticide sprays have to be done when the wind flowing in the same direction in which the worker is moving. This will ensure that the worker is relatively less exposed to the chemical. Again, I haven’t seen this being followed. Whatever be the wind direction, a farmer is always in a hurry to get the spraying completed. Still worse, I have seen farmers, mostly migrant workers from Nepal and northeast, conducting as many as 15-20 sprays on tomato crop in certain parts of Uttarakhand. When I asked the reason, I was told by the farmers that it was essential because of the market demand. 
Pesticides companies do provide hand gloves in the packs. It should be made mandatory for the companies to provide not only hand gloves but also a cap and protected face mask in every package. Farmers should be directed to purchase gum boots for the labourers, and it should be the responsibility of agricultural officials’ to ensure that every farmer keeps a few pairs of gum boots at his farm. Pesticides companies and agricultural departments should be directed to jointly organise training camps every fortnight on the use and application of harmful pesticides. 
Agricultural universities too have an important role to play. In fact, since the approvals are granted after the universities give the nod; the number of precautionary steps to be taken should also be spelled out in the approval process itself. If the company fails to adhere to the commitments, there should be a provision of withdrawal of marketing rights. Make it mandatory for the companies to ensure that anyone who is using the chemicals knows the precautionary steps to be taken.
At the same time, agricultural scientists must now shift the focus to crops which require less or no application of chemical pesticides. For example, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines, considered to be a Mecca for rice research, has established that “pesticides on rice was a waste of time and effort in Asia“and has gone on to suggest that farmers in the Central Luzon province of the Philippines, in Vietnam, in Bangladesh and in India have shown that a higher productivity can be achieved without using chemical pesticides. But still, I find that close to 45 pesticides are sprayed on the rice crop. Why haven’t the agricultural universities been able to recommend the complete stop on the use of chemical pesticides on rice defies any and every scientific logic? #
Playing with poison. Orissa Post, Oct 7, 2017http://www.orissapost.com/epaper/071017/p8.htm
Categories: Ecological News

Editorial: Hey NRA! The Founding Fathers Had Muskets, Not Machine Guns — Time for a Change

Environews.tv - Mon, 10/02/2017 - 23:18

reddit_url = "http://www.environews.tv/100217-editorial-hey-nra-founding-fathers-muskets-not-machine-guns-time-change/"; reddit_title = "Editorial: Hey NRA! The Founding Fathers Had Muskets, Not Machine Guns — Time for a Change"; reddit_newwindow="1"

(EnviroNews DC News Bureau) — Many of today’s technological marvels could never have been dreamed of by the Founding Fathers when they crafted the Constitution, and later the Second Amendment. iPhones, space shuttles, sky-scraping resort hotels, nuclear bombs and yes, automatic assault weapons that can fire hundreds of rounds per minute — like the ones used in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017, never crossed the minds of the visionary framers of the U.S. Constitution. It was a world of muskets in those days. Even the advent of the first machine gun, credited to inventor Sir Hiram Maxim in 1884, a century after the Second Amendment was ratified, was likely never conceived by the Founding Fathers.

The text of the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights reads:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

It’s interesting that the Founding Fathers said a militia should be “well regulated” in the Second Amendment — at EnviroNews, we’d like to know more about what that actually means. But the primary embedded function of the Second Amendment is to maintain the lawful right to protect oneself against the government itself — a government that could theoretically become corrupt or oppressive to the point of turning its own military on the people. And in the days of the musket, you, and a militia-like group of neighbors and comrades, just might have been able to pull it off. Muskets versus muskets — militia versus military — a good ol’ fashioned fight it would have been.

But in 2017, if you are a person that thinks for a minute, that you could hypothetically protect yourself from a U.S. government, off the tracks and turning its weapons on segments of society, then you are gravely mistaken. No amount of peashooters, or even machine guns in your home, could ever be enough for you to protect yourself against the government. Let’s keep it real. One drone flyover in the middle of the night, satellite-guided by someone remotely from half a world away with a video game controller, and your house and your family, and all its little guns with it, would be wiped off the map before you even knew what hit you.

The government makes it a priority to have guns far more powerful than any good gun-wielding Samaritan can get their hands on. The government has tanks, drones, F-35 jets, rockets, grenades, missiles, sonic torture devices and nuclear weapons and so, so much more. Anyone thinking their gun is going to protect them against the U.S. government is living in la-la land to say the least.

But where does the Second Amendment stop? Where should it stop? Should an everyday citizen be allowed to have tanks, rocket launchers, weaponized drones, and even atomic weapons in their backyard to protect them self against the U.S. government? Is that the world most people want to live in — a world where everyone has weapons of mass destruction on their premises? Or, does there need to be commonsense regulations on these “arms” spoken about in the Second Amendment?

Stop for a moment to remember Obama’s tearful speech to the nation in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre where seven adults and 20 innocent school children were blown away — and how so many thought that would be the moment — that that would be the door-opening incident allowing the country to turn the corner on the issue of gun violence. Sadly no, that’s not how it played out. In a week or two, Sandy Hook had faded entirely from the mainstream media, and legislative moves on commonsense gun control were nowhere to be found. Since Sandy Hook, there have been over 1,500 mass shootings in the land of the free, home of the brave.

How about the on-air shooting of journalist Alison Parker and Adam Ward, when the media lost two of their own on live TV? In the following hours, viewers around the country were moved by Parker’s father’s vehement assertions on national television, that he wouldn’t stop until gun-law reform was signed, sealed and delivered. Where is his voice now? As is always the case in mass shootings, the mainstream media allowed it to fade away and moved on to the next issue — and inevitably, the next mass shooting — like the next episode in a continuously unfolding television series.

So, what constitutes a “mass shooting” anyway? The adopted definition is an event where three or more people are shot or killed by gunfire. Bafflingly, in America this year, the country has endured 273 events that meet that criteria in 275 days. This is a unique American problem. Killing goes on all over the world every day, but only in America are mass shootings so rampant.

As compared to all other developed nations around the world, the United States is suffering under pandemic-like statistics where gun violence is concerned. Vox reports, “Extensive reviews of the research by the Harvard School of Public Health’s Injury Control Research Center suggest the answer [for America’s unbridled gun violence] is pretty simple: The U.S. is an outlier on gun violence because it has way more guns than other developed nations.”

“America has 4.4 percent of the world’s population, but almost half of the civilian-owned guns around the world,” Vox continued in its report. Yes indeed, America just can’t seem to get enough of its firearms, and as a sad result will continue to pay a hefty price.

Gun Violence Graph — The Guardian

Let us be clear: weapons, like the ones used in last night’s horrific mass shooting amidst the glee of a country music concert in Las Vegas, were not invented for target practice, hunting, home defense or sport; they were conceived for one purpose: to kill a lot of human beings in a very short time period on the battlefield of a war. There is simply no reason whatsoever that civilians need access to semi-automatic or automatic assault rifles, because they won’t save you from your own government anyway. Such weapons of war need to be banned from the civilian population — with lofty penalties for anyone found wielding them. Nothing else will reduce the number of these mass killing mechanisms in American society.

While certain large-magazine automatic and semi-automatic assault rifles are banned via the Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) of 1994, owners already harboring these guns were grandfathered in, and so those weapons remain at large. Secondly, multiple legal semi-automatic weapons can be hacked and modified into fully automatic weapons — killing machines that can mow down dozens of people in a large crowd. These weapons should be banned for use or possession by the civilian population.

Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association (NRA) fights tooth and nail at nearly every juncture against any and all sensible gun control measures. The very words “gun control” have become like a sacrilegious insult to a minority sector of the country — a sector that has a very potent lobby in Washington. The NRA’s pull is so powerful that most politicians quake in their boots at the thought of having to stand up to it in any form.

While many NRA supporting, firearm mesmerized, gun-toting individuals hear “gun control” and are themselves ready to take up arms just over the thought of it, innocent upstanding citizens are being mowed down in hoards across this great land. The questions remain: will the Las Vegas massacre be the catalyst that finally starts the gun control debate in Washington? If not, how many more mass shootings will it take before commonsense reform is passed, codified and implemented?

RELATED:

Powerful Anti-Gun-Violence Music Video

The post Editorial: Hey NRA! The Founding Fathers Had Muskets, Not Machine Guns — Time for a Change appeared first on EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists.

Categories: Ecological News

Rs 1,682,579,000,000

Ground Reality - Mon, 10/02/2017 - 10:55

This graph is from Tejinder Narang's tweet. 
The headline in Down to Earth magazine was startling. Just in 2015-16, India imported Rs 1,402,680,000,000 worth of agricultural commodities. This was more than three times the annual budgetary allocation for domestic agriculture.
Well, if you think the increasing reliance on food imports in one year -- 2015-16 -- is merely an aberration, hold your breath. According to commodity traders, the agricultural import bill has jumped six times in past 13 years, from $ 4.7 billion (Rs 307,709,000,000) in 2004 to reach a peak of $ 25.7 billion (Rs 1,682,579,000,000) in 2017. Such massive imports come at a time when India is reeling under a terrible agrarian crisis. Ideally, instead of allowing huge foreign exchange outgo on imports, this staggering amount of money should have gone to Indian farmers.
There is something terribly going wrong. From an exalted position of food self-sufficiency built so assiduously over the years, India is frittering away the gains of Green Revolution so easily and fast turning into a net food importer. It hasn’t drawn any lessons from the way it deliberately destroyed the Yellow Revolution – self-sufficiency in edible oils -- by simply reducing the import duties in a phased manner over the years to almost zero. From a near self-sufficiency in edible oils achieved in 1993-94, when only 3 per cent of imports were required to meet the domestic requirement, India now imports roughly 60 per cent of its needs valued at over Rs 76,000-crores.
And still, policy makers appear more than keen to allow imports at the drop of a hat. Using the argument that imports are necessary to contain rising food prices, policy makers are opening up to cheap and subsidised agricultural imports and that too at zero per cent duty. No wonder, despite a bountiful harvest, the imports continue to pour in. The more the imports, the more severe blow it strikes to the livelihood security of small farmers. With no takers for their produce, small farmers are the first to abandon farming and migrate to the urban centres in search of a menial job. With job creation already at its lowest level, uprooting small farmers to force them into the cities does not make any economic sense.
I have always maintained that importing food is like importing unemployment. The headline in Down to Earth magazine was startling. Just in 2015-16, India imported Rs 1,402,680,000,000 worth of agricultural commodities. This was more than three times the annual budgetary allocation for domestic agriculture. Well, if you think the increasing reliance on food imports in one year -- 2015-16 -- is merely an aberration, hold your breath. According to commodity traders, the agricultural import bill has jumped six times in past 13 years, from $ 4.7 billion in 2004 to reach a peak of $ 25.7 billion in 2017. Such massive imports come at a time when India is reeling under a terrible agrarian crisis. Ideally, instead of allowing huge foreign exchange outgo on imports, this staggering amount of money should have gone to Indian farmers.  There is something terribly going wrong. From an exalted position of food self-sufficiency built so assiduously over the years, India is frittering away the gains of Green Revolution so easily and fast turning into a net food importer. It hasn’t drawn any lessons from the way it deliberately destroyed the Yellow Revolution – self-sufficiency in edible oils -- by simply reducing the import duties in a phased manner over the years to almost zero. From a near self-sufficiency in edible oils achieved in 1993-94, when only 3 per cent of imports were required to meet the domestic requirement, India now imports roughly 60 per cent of its needs valued at over Rs 76,000-crores.  And still, policy makers appear more than keen to allow imports at the drop of a hat. Using the argument that imports are necessary to contain rising food prices, policy makers are opening up to cheap and subsidised agricultural imports and that too at zero per cent duty. No wonder, despite a bountiful harvest, the imports continue to pour in. The more the imports, the more severe blow it strikes to the livelihood security of small farmers. With no takers for their produce, small farmers are the first to abandon farming and migrate to the urban centres in search of a menial job. With job creation already at its lowest level, uprooting small farmers to force them into the cities does not make any economic sense.  I have always maintained that importing food is like importing unemployment. Allowing cheaper imports is the easiest way to force farmers to quit agriculture. But perhaps what is not being perceived is that turning agriculture uneconomical is part of a policy design. Considering that the National Skill Development Council proposes to bring down the percentage of population engaged in farming from the existing 52 per cent to 38 per cent by the year 2022, I will not be surprised if the increasing emphasis on opening up for agricultural imports is deliberate. The former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan had a number of times remarked that the biggest reforms would be when farmers are pushed out of agriculture to move into the cities.  How can a surge in imports be justified at the time of a bumper harvest. With a record 97 million tonnes of wheat production, allowing nearly 8-lakh tonnes of wheat imports at zero duty from Ukraine and Russia makes little economic sense. In addition, nearly 4,000 tonnes of onions have already been imported from Egypt, and as per industry estimates another 6,000 tonnes of onions are expected to touch the shores in a fortnight or so. Only a month ago, farmers were throwing onion on the streets. Meanwhile, the government has allowed import of 3-lakh tonnes of sugar at a reduced duty of 25 per cent to augment supplies at the time of a festive season. Earlier, as per a CRISIL report, India imported 6.6 million tonnes of pulses at zero import duty in 2016-17, and that too at a time of a record bumper harvest. This resulted in a crash in prices forcing farmers to go in for distress sale. At a many a places, farmers were not able to realise more than Rs 3,250 to Rs 4,000 per quintal for Arhar against the procurement price of Rs 5,050 per quintal. In case of moong, the market prices have remained low throughout. Against an MSP of Rs 5,225 per quintal, moongprices have remained below Rs 3,800. Except for Chana (black gram), the profit margin for farmers fell by 30 per cent for all pulses. The disturbing trend in depressed prices still continues. The new arrivals of urad and moong are also not finding buyers, with wholesale prices not picking up beyond the last year’s low levels.   India has already signed an MoU with Mozambique for importing 3.75 lakh tonnes of pulses in the three-year period, 2016 and 2019. It is also negotiating with Brazil, Russia, and South Africa to import pulses and oilseeds. With the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggesting India to increase soybean imports, which have come down significantly after the import duties on edible oils were raised a few months back, it is quite obvious that outsourcing agriculture is becoming a norm rather than an exception. This has dangerous portents for food self-sufficiency as well as for millions of farm livelihoods.
But perhaps what is not being perceived is that turning agriculture uneconomical is part of a policy design. Considering that the National Skill Development Council proposes to bring down the percentage of population engaged in farming from the existing 52 per cent to 38 per cent by the year 2022, I will not be surprised if the increasing emphasis on opening up for agricultural imports is deliberate. The former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan had a number of times remarked that the biggest reforms would be when farmers are pushed out of agriculture to move into the cities.
How can a surge in imports be justified at the time of a bumper harvest. With a record 97 million tonnes of wheat production, allowing nearly 8-lakh tonnes of wheat imports at zero duty from Ukraine and Russia makes little economic sense. In addition, nearly 4,000 tonnes of onions have already been imported from Egypt, and as per industry estimates another 6,000 tonnes of onions are expected to touch the shores in a fortnight or so. Only a month ago, farmers were throwing onion on the streets. Meanwhile, the government has allowed import of 3-lakh tonnes of sugar at a reduced duty of 25 per cent to augment supplies at the time of a festive season.
Earlier, as per a CRISIL report, India imported 6.6 million tonnes of pulses at zero import duty in 2016-17, and that too at a time of a record bumper harvest. This resulted in a crash in prices forcing farmers to go in for distress sale. At a many a places, farmers were not able to realise more than Rs 3,250 to Rs 4,000 per quintal for Arhar against the procurement price of Rs 5,050 per quintal. In case of moong, the market prices have remained low throughout. Against an MSP of Rs 5,225 per quintal, moongprices have remained below Rs 3,800. Except for Chana (black gram), the profit margin for farmers fell by 30 per cent for all pulses. The disturbing trend in depressed prices still continues. The new arrivals of urad and moong are also not finding buyers, with wholesale prices not picking up beyond the last year’s low levels.
India has already signed an MoU with Mozambique for importing 3.75 lakh tonnes of pulses in the three-year period, 2016 and 2019. It is also negotiating with Brazil, Russia, and South Africa to import pulses and oilseeds. With the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggesting India to increase soybean imports, which have come down significantly after the import duties on edible oils were raised a few months back, it is quite obvious that outsourcing agriculture is becoming a norm rather than an exception. This has dangerous portents for food self-sufficiency as well as for millions of farm livelihoods.#
A full-blown agrarian crisis? DNA, Oct 2, 2017. http://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/column-a-full-blown-agrarian-crisis-2549693
Categories: Ecological News

Bhoomi 2017: Listening to the Mountains

Navdanya Diary - Sun, 10/01/2017 - 13:17

New Delhi, 1st October: Navdanya, in collaboration with India International Centre, concluded its annual festival Bhoomi, dedicated this year to Listening to the Mountains – listening to the message of the Rights of Nature flowing from the mountains, listening to the cry of the Mountains bearing the burden of climate change, and listening to the promise of agroecology and organic farming to stop the spread of poisons that spread disease and increase Greenhouse Gases that destabilise the climate. A book on the subject was also released.

Navdanya has been part of the movement for the Rights of Nature and promoting Vasudhaiv Kutumbkam, the Earth Family. At the Bhoomi festival Valerie Cabanes , eminent lawyer from France spoke about the necessity to recognise ecocide – the destruction of the Earth and the environment – as a punishable crime. Citing the Indian court’s judgment to declare Ganga as a living entity with rights, she spoke about how there is a need to implement such steps all over the world. Her book “Rights for Planet Earth: Ending Crimes Against Nature ” was released by Dr Vandana Shiva at the event.

The mountains are considered sacred in almost all cultures of the world and have been an inspiration of wisdom for societies across the world. At Bhoomi 2017, panel discussions, talks ad presentations were held by some of the global pioneers of mountain ecology conservation, activists and mountain farmers. Keys speakers at the event were Chief Minister of Sikkim Pawan Chamling, renowned environmentalist and founder-director of Navdanya Dr Vandana Shiva, Andre Leu, President of the IFOAM, Ulrich Veith, Mayor of Mals, Dr Saamdu Chetri, Director GNH Centre Bhutan, Dr Sonam Dawa, CEC, Ladakh Autonomous Hill Council, etc.

Communities in the Alps which have become pesticides free have joined with Himalayan communities that are chemical free to create a global network of poison free Organic zones.

Navdanya has worked to train farmers in Sikkim. Chief Minister of Sikkim P Chamling, who has declared Sikkim 100% organic state, gave the closing address and was requested to be an Ambassador of an Organic Himalaya and an Organic pesticide free world. Speaking on the occasion chief minister Chamling said, “We the people of mountains have a huge responsibility towards our country, because the Himalayas are the source of the water for billions of people and we have to take precious care of it. We need to listen to the mountains, if want our future generations to live.”

“Today, humanity is facing a great crisis because of a man made disaster, Climate Change. To combat this threat we have to adapt, and amend our ways. Even in our Sikkim climate is changing, longer summers, irregular climate patterns marked by heavy rainfall and landslides. We have to change now, we have to stop interference with nature and remove the poisons from our food and farms. I will play my part in the mission to make Himalayas 100% organic,” he added.

The festival also featured cultural performances which included theatre, songs, films on mountain ecology and organic farming. Ani Choying Drolma, “the Singing Nun” and UN Goodwill Ambassador to Nepal also performed at festival

Dr Vandana Shiva on occasion said, “Today is a historic moment as people from Himalayas to the Alps have joined hands to make a commitment to the Earth by stopping the use of poisons in our farms and not to allow toxic to pollute our rivers and spread cancer in our societies.”

Being the 30th year of the Navdanya movement, a special ceremony to honour the Navdanya family was also organised, which included seed keepers across the country, farmers, women processors, teachers and other individuals who have devoted their lives to make Navdanya evolve froma seed to a tree. 30 members of the Navdanya family were felicitated at the event .

Festivities ended by 8 pm with an organic dinner crafted by the Navdanya chefs. The menu featured nutritious and tasty dishes made from scratch with a mix of rare and common grains, mountain vegetables, herbs and was attended by gourmet food lovers of the city.

Press release by Indra Shekhar Singh

Live updates

#Bhoomi2017 Listening to the Mountains begins with Gandhi 's song Raghupati Raja Ram @drvandanashiva @NavdanyaBija pic.twitter.com/JHxD3TlDyf

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 1, 2017

#Bhoomi2017 lighting of the lamp by CM P Chamling, Mayor Veith @drvandanashiva, celebrating 30 years of @NavdanyaBija #Bijaswaraj pic.twitter.com/ov1w9oN4BX

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 1, 2017

5 men control wealth of the world, this is what GDP model gets you. Poverty, climate chaos & loot is by their design @drvandanashiva pic.twitter.com/mSXmb4n7pE

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 1, 2017

#Bhoomi2017 release of book Bhoomi: Listening to the Mountains by @drvandanashiva Saamdu Chetri & Maya Goburdhun pic.twitter.com/33SGPuRdXC

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 1, 2017

#Bhoomi2017 release of Valerie Cabanes's book Rights of Planet Earth in a special ceremony @drvandanashiva pic.twitter.com/j1yeuBHqAn

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 1, 2017

#Bhoomi2017 Bhutan, we thought we gave fresh water to Bengal, in reality today the villages of Bhutan don't have water #SaamduChettri #GNH pic.twitter.com/SDjk3jEpyR

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 1, 2017

En direct du #bhoomi festival avec @drvandanashiva @FondationRaja @ValerieCabanes @NavdanyaBija #EarthFestival #agroecology #womenrights pic.twitter.com/6DLwpqGlM5

— SOL (@SOL_association) October 1, 2017

#Bhoomi2017 @drvandanashiva honors #GNH director Saamdu Chetri with a #FibresofFreedom shawl, native seeds for his contribution to the Earth pic.twitter.com/YHl2qAUQXd

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 1, 2017

#Bhoomi2017 @NavdanyaBija family member Rukamini, from Uttrakhand takes the pledge to save billions of microorganism on our fields & in us pic.twitter.com/mA1HoWQTgm

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 1, 2017

#Bhoomi2017 'the wisdom of Indian traditions informs us that Indian sages were feminists- Anna pic.twitter.com/jYQPogE7JE

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 1, 2017

#Bhoomi2017 "we are listen to the earth, we hear the Mountains, so that the future generations can have a living world @drvandanashiva pic.twitter.com/HQZryBMxVr

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 1, 2017

#Bhoomi2017 Mayor Ulrich Veith of Mals, Italy speaks about the threat of pesticides & strategies to make areas poison & pesticide free pic.twitter.com/JSW66COMCl

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 1, 2017

Chief Minister of #OrganicSikkim, @pawanchamling5, speaking at #Bhoomi2017 @drvandanashiva @NavdanyaBija https://t.co/UtznGDea4L pic.twitter.com/lRRKmK4vdz

— Seed Freedom (@occupytheseed) October 1, 2017

#Bhoomi2017 @NavdanyaBija family honored by @drvandanashiva for their devotion and service of the Earth pic.twitter.com/CrPQGgjxSi

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 1, 2017

.@NavdanyaBija family with Alps & Himalaya communities joining hands for #PoisonFree Food & Farming https://t.co/vkyaFFIuqM @drvandanashiva pic.twitter.com/dH2uwRoowo

— Seed Freedom (@occupytheseed) October 1, 2017

                          
Categories: Ecological News

How agricultural chemicals are poisoning our world. And all the (false) myths about them

Navdanya Diary - Sun, 10/01/2017 - 12:38

By Ruchi Shroff – LifeGate, 18 September 2017 | Source

A world free from poisonous chemicals is possible. And it’s in our hands. The op-ed by the Director of Navdanya International, the organisation that protects nature, the Earth’s biodiversity and people’s rights to seeds and food.

Corporations are putting our lives and our environment at risk through a growing and improper influence over institutions, whose responsibility should be, instead, protecting people and the planet. The visible consequences have made it imperative to expose their devious tactics and their steadfast and corrupt lobbying, recently revealed in the Poison Papers (a compilation of over 20,000 documents obtained from federal agencies and chemical manufacturers about the toxicity of many chemical products, editor’s note). Up until this stark revelation, corporations have almost totally been absent from everyday news. What is increasingly clear to all is the impact of their “busyness” on our lives – an environment that is increasingly polluted and toxic, bad quality and unhealthy food, and an increase in disease, all of which too often aren’t directly linked to these companies and the consequences of their policies in the public debate.

The Poison Cartel

Evidence of the toxic consequences of the policies of these mega corporations, which we call the Poison Cartel, is however growing by the day – small farmers are losing their livelihoods, rural populations are being driven from their land to make way for industrial agriculture, biodiversity is fast disappearing to make way for monocultures, and consumers increasingly have no option other than to buy toxic food grown in increasingly contaminated, chemical infested soils.

Navdanya International‘s latest report, The Toxic Story of RoundUp, unveils this corrosive business and indicates, at the same time, the alternatives to the poison model of agriculture which can’t be considered sustainable or ethical from any point of view.

A poison-free world

Is a poison-free world possible? We believe it is, which is why we must denounce the alarming and dangerous activities of the Poison Cartel. The “Big 6” pesticide and GMO corporations that own the world’s seeds, pesticides and biotechnology industries are now enlarging their empire with mega buyouts. Syngenta is merging with ChemChina (43 billion dollar deal); Dow Chemical, which bought up Union Carbide – responsible for the Bhopal disaster killing over 20,000 people, is merging with Dupont (130 billion dollar deal); while Bayer is now merging with Monsanto (57 billion dollar deal). Should all these mergers be approved by EU and US regulators, just three companies will be left in control of 60 per cent of the world’s seeds and 70 per cent of its chemicals and pesticides.

Over the last decades these companies – which produced lethal poisons during the two world wars – turned to the agricultural market, where they saw enormous potential to keep multiplying their profits. They have enlarged their empires and established monopolies through free trade neoliberal policies and deregulation of commerce, broadening their control over our seeds, food, freedom and democracies. In the name of science these war-based corporations attack independent science and independent scientists to maintain and expand their empires. Corporate propaganda is their so-called science, and the science of biosafety by independent governments and scientists is branded “anti-science”.

Our last studies expose in detail their strategies to generate profits at the expense of the common interest. But what does this actually mean? These corporations liberally spread agrochemical poisons wherever they can, wiping out millions of species, destroying our ecosystems, poisoning the entire web of life. Due to its widespread use, glyphosate is considered the most widely used agricultural chemical in history. Since its introduction, 1.8 million tonnes have been applied to American fields, and 9.4 million tonnes have been applied globally. Some 56 per cent of the total global usage of glyphosate is related to RoundUp Ready (RR) crops, and it has tripled on cotton farms, doubled on soybeans and increased 39 per cent on corn. This is a trend that has to be reversed as we’re also talking about a failed technology. US farmer fields have been witnessing the uncontrolled spread of “superweeds” like amaranth, especially in the south-eastern states, where approximately 92 per cent of RR cotton and soybeans are infested. As a consequence, farmers have started to increase the use of pesticides.

The impact on the environment

We turn now to the propaganda of the Poison Cartel. Is it true these products don’t have any impact on the environment? This has no place in reality. A pilot study on soil contamination by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission and Wageningen University in which soil samples were collected in various parts of Europe have found pesticide traces in over 66 per cent of the samples analysed, while only 34 per cent of the samples were clean. The most commonly recognised substances are glyphosate (46 per cent), DDT (25 per cent) and fungicide products (24 per cent). The study points out that glyphosate and AMPA (Aminomethylphosphonic acid) can concentrate on very small soil particles that are easily eroded and transported by wind and water. This shows that there is actual risk of contamination even at very long distances. A recent US Geological Survey study sampled waterways in 38 states and found glyphosate and AMPA in the majority of rivers, streams, ditches and wastewater treatment plant outfalls tested. Glyphosate was also found in about 70 per cent of rainfall samples.

The myths about pesticides

One of the myths is that “pesticides are rigorously tested”. Besides the fact that only a few hundred of the 80,000 chemicals used in US are tested for safety (USPCP), regulatory agencies only test the active substance of individual pesticides based on the indication provided by the manufacturers, avoiding to investigate either the toxicological risk of the product as a whole (complete with co-adjuvants and co-formulants) or in combination with the overall mix of pesticides available on the market and often simultaneously used in fields and gardens.

The agrochemical industry will respond to the first objection with the assertion that pesticides are instead necessary to feed the world, which is both inaccurate and misleading because theoretically there is enough food to adequately provide for global needs, but those who most need it are prevented from receiving because of inequitable production and distribution systems. While causing 75 per cent of the planetary destruction, it only provides 30 per cent of the food, which is nutritionally empty and loaded with toxics. The toxic products of the Poison Cartel such as RoundUp (glyphosate) and Basta (glufosinate) or GMO seeds have led to the destruction of soils, desertification, extermination of bees, rise in health epidemics such as cancer and birth defects, amongst others.

Facts and figures about pesticides

So now let’s get back to reality as Hans Herren of Biovision Foundation recently suggested: 60 per cent of what you have in your plate needs bees. Animals are also affected and so are humans. As outlined in the latest report by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Hilal Elver, published in 2017, it is estimated that pesticides are responsible for the deaths of 200,000 people each year, of which 99 per cent from countries where environmental, health and work safety rules aren’t very restrictive or are scarcely applied. In a study promoted by the European Union on the impact of organic food and agriculture on human health research was undertaken on the overall impact of pesticides on human health. The report states: “100 pesticides are known to cause adverse neurological effects in adults, and all of these substances must therefore be suspected of being capable of damaging developing brains as well”. In our report we analyse numerous studies and cases, from Argentina to Costa Rica and Sri Lanka (where the government banned glyphosate in 2014).

Solutions are in our hands

What are the possible solutions? These are coming from the bottom rung. All over the world small farmers and gardeners are already implementing biodiverse ecological agriculture, while rejuvenating the soil and saving and breeding their seeds. They are providing healthy and nutritious food to their communities and bringing back food in the hands of farmers and consumers, making big agribusiness irrelevant and useless, along with their poisons and toxic food. In the course of 2016 more than 110 people’s assemblies were self-organised by local communities in 28 countries throughout the world establishing a worldwide network with the aim of creating a healthy future of food and of the planet. The global mobilisation culminated with the people’s assembly and the Monsanto Tribunal continued through 2017. Farming without poisons is in our hands. And as Navdanya’s work over the last three decades has shown we can grow enough nutrition for two times the current population, we can increase farmers’ incomes tenfold by giving up buying toxic chemicals, we can address malnutrition and chronic diseases, and we can create climate resilience.

Also read:

The Toxic Story of Roundup:Freedom from the Poison Cartel through Agroecology                           
Categories: Ecological News

Poor farm workers are victims of a predatory credit policy.

Ground Reality - Sat, 09/30/2017 - 08:44


If the poorest of a poor woman in a village wants to eke out a living on her own and for which she decides to buy a goat, she looks for a small advance. It may cost her a little more than Rs 5,000 to buy a goat, and she is advised to go to a micro-finance institute (MFI). The MFI provides her the credit, at an interest rate of 26 per cent to be paid back at fortnightly intervals. Effectively, this comes to an interest rate exceeding 60 per cent.
Now take a look at this. The Gujarat government gave a loan of Rs 558.58 crore to the Tatas to set up the Nano plant at Sanand, near Ahmedabad. The Gujarat government has acknowledged that the massive loan was given at an interest of 0.1%, to be paid back in 20 years. In other words, this huge loan was virtually an interest free long term loan. In another case, Steel tycoon, Laxmi Narain Mittal, was given Rs 1,200 crore by the Punjab government to invest in the Bathinda refinery in Punjab. He also got the loan at a 0.1% rate of interest, which means the staggering amount was given virtually free.
If the poorest of the poor women in the village was also to be given Rs 5,000 credit at an interest rate of 0.1 per cent, to be paid back in 5 years if not 20 years like Tata’s and Mittals, I bet she would be driving a Nano car at the end of the year.
At a state-level convention organised by the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union held at Bathinda a few weeks back, I was appalled to learn that the ruthless exploitation by the Micro-Finance Institutions is a norm rather than an exception. According to Lachchman Singh, secretary of the Union, there are 23 MFI companies operating in Punjab, and they charge an exorbitantly high interest rate varying between 26 to 60 per cent. As high as 38.8 per cent of the families remain indebted to MFIs, and an equal percentage draws credit from private money-lenders and rich landlords. In other words, along with private moneylenders, the organised MFIs have emerged as the biggest blood suckers.
This is the first time I heard of such a deep penetration by the MFIs in the farming sector in Punjab. While the urban elite normally blame the unorganised private moneylenders to be the villain of the story, we forget that the organised financial institutes are no better. Interestingly, while farmers get a crop loan at an effective rate of 3 per cent (if he pays back on time), I don’t see the logic of not extending the same provision to the farm labourers. After all, a landless labourer is also a farmer and he too deserves the same financial provisions.
Why I call the khet mazdoor as the hidden face? Well, a few months back when the Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh was informing the Punjab Assembly about the steps being taken to waive outstanding farm loans, he was asked what about the khet mazdoor? To this question, he replied: “We don’t have any credible information about the economic conditions of khet mazdoor.”Shocking, isn’t it? That after 70 years of Independence, we still don’t have any idea about the poorest of the poor, under what economic conditions of depravity do they continue to survive.
The Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union took up the challenge. It conducted a detailed survey, and I must acknowledge it is done in a professional manner, in 13 villages spread over six districts of Punjab. The initial findings were formally released at the Bathinda convention. Out of a total of 1,618 khet mazdoor families surveyed, 84 per cent were living in debt, with the average debt at Rs 91,437 per family. Large part of the debt, roughly 25 per cent, was drawn for constructing a house. But don’t be under a flawed assumption. When it says constructing a house, it actually means constructing a room with the basic objective of putting a roof over the head.
Roughly, 35 per cent houses had just one room, with 79 per cent houses having no verandah. And out of the sample houses, 38 per cent had separate bathroom, and another 33 per cent had temporary bathroom. For the remaining, the luxury of bathroom meant a corner of the room being used by womenfolk to take a bath. For 67 per cent of the houses, tap water was the source for water consumption. No house had an RO system for drinking water use.
At least 31 per cent houses had no toilets. While the Government’s emphasis is on building toilets, a startling fact was that 72 per cent houses didn’t have any kitchens. I am not sure whether the priority for a worker’s family would be to first have a kitchen or a toilet, but nevertheless the absence of both shows how deep rooted economic depravity prevails among the khet mazdoor families. Since khet mazdooraccount for 15 lakh families, they form roughly 15 per cent of Punjab’s population. Not a small number to be ignored, or buried under the carpet.
And this brings me back to the illustration I had given at the very beginning. If only these khet mazdoor were given credit at a rate that the industrialists get, I am sure they would have been economically well-off by now. At the same time, I don’t see any economic logic of making available premier land to the Indian School of Business or for the IT companies at Rs 1 per square meter, whereas letting the poorest of the poor pay a market price for the small patches of land they need. If only the khet mazdoor were also to be given small plots, say 25 square metre at Rs 1 per square meter (for setting up a rehri stall), I bet they would do much better than the StartUps who walk away with freebies and tax holidays.

That would be the real Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas. 
खेत मज़दूरों के लिए क्यों नहीं है समान ऋण व्यवस्था ? Gaon Connection, Sept 27, 2017https://www.gaonconnection.com/samvad/article-of-devinder-sharma-why-not-equal-loan-arrangement-for-farm-workers-khet-mazdoor
Privation at High Rate. Orissa Post, Sept 26, 2017.http://www.orissapost.com/epaper/260917/p8.htm
Categories: Ecological News

Dams Place 39 US Reactors in Line of Fire Says Nuclear Expert — Fukushima-Style Scenarios Possible (Pt. 6)

Environews.tv - Wed, 09/27/2017 - 23:31

reddit_url = "http://www.environews.tv/092717-dams-place-39-us-reactors-line-fire-says-nuclear-expert-fukushima-style-scenarios-possible-pt-6/"; reddit_title = "Dams Place 39 US Reactors in Line of Fire Says Nuclear Expert — Fukushima-Style Scenarios Possible (Pt. 6)"; reddit_newwindow="1"

(EnviroNews DC News Bureau)Editor’s Note: The following news piece represents the sixth in a 15-part mini-series titled, Nuclear Power in Our World Today, featuring nuclear authority, engineer and whistleblower Arnie Gundersen. The EnviroNews USA special encompasses a wide span of topics, ranging from Manhattan-era madness to the continuously-unfolding crisis on the ground at Fukushima Daiichi in eastern Japan. The transcript is as follows:

Arnie Gundersen: When Maggie and I were walking one day in February [a month] before the [Fukushima] accident, she said to me, “Where is the next accident going to be?” And I said, “I don’t know where, but I know it’s going to be in a Mark 1 reactor.” And, I’m not alone. It’s not like I was clairvoyant. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission had a report that they published in 1982, and they said there was an 85 percent chance, if there was a meltdown in a Mark 1 reactor, that the containment would explode. The writing was on the wall.

Emerson Urry: How many of these things are still out there in operation today?

Gundersen: In the U.S. all 23 continue to run.

Josh Cunnings (Narrator): Welcome to the EnviroNews USA news desk. I’m Josh Cunnings. Tonight, we bring you the sixth of 15 short films in our educational series, Nuclear Power in Our World Today, featuring esteemed nuclear expert and whistleblower Arnie Gundersen.

To the people whose homes and lives were taken from them by this almighty tidal wave, it made no difference if the water came from a bursting dam or levee, an overflowing river, or from the sea. It probably just doesn’t make much difference at the point where either your home, or yourself or your children, are floating away to their demise. Likewise, it will make absolutely no difference where the waters come from if, or when, they end up submerging a nuclear power plant again in the future.

The lurking and looming danger of another flood overtaking a nuclear reactor is the topic of conversation in this episode. To delve more deeply into that issue, here’s nuclear expert and former power plant operator Arnie Gundersen – again with EnviroNews USA Editor-in-Chief Emerson Urry. Take a listen.

Urry: And on that topic of the Mark 1, and some of the dangers there, nuclear power is more prevalent on the East Coast in this country than the western side – could we have… what if we had one of these big tsunamis like happened to Indonesia, and it happened on the East Coast? Do we have multiple nuclear power plants in the line of fire of such an event, and what could happen in a situation like that? Is that something that is ever even talked about, or that they plan for, or think about at all?

Gundersen: Well, it doesn’t have to be a tsunami to cause the same kind of accident we had at Fukushima Daiichi. There’s a power plant called the Oconee — and it’s just three of them, and they are downstream from a huge dam — and if the dam fails, you’ve got an inland tsunami. There was a plant out in… the Fort Calhoun plant near Omaha – the pictures from about three years ago show it completely surrounded because the river flooded. There were six upstream dams and if one of them had failed, they all would have cascaded, and we would have had not a nuclear power plant, but a nuclear submarine. So, these problems don’t require a sea-wave to come in and knock them out. There’s 39 plants at risk of upstream dam failures. That’s just one example of [how] the NRC has, not only hidden that report, but when two people on the NRC brought that report out anyway, those two people were investigated by the cops. It doesn’t pay to be honest with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Urry: Have we been pretty lucky so far?

Gundersen: Yes. We’ve been extraordinarily lucky. [The] Union of Concerned Scientists writes a report every year about all the near misses, and they have no trouble filling a couple hundred pages, every year, of near misses.

Cunnings: Well, there you have it. These risks are there and they are all too real. The question is: how many catastrophic nuclear disasters does humanity need to get the point? And how severe do these catastrophes need to be for humans to understand?

It’s important to remember that because Mikhail Gorbachev made the incredibly difficult decision to throw about 600,000 men directly at Chernobyl’s ground zero – and due to the incredibly heroic and deadly work performed by those brave young men and soldiers, only about four percent of what could have been released from Chernobyl, was actually released – and even that wreaked untold devastation.

How many nuclear disasters must the world undergo, and what must the severity be, in order for humanity to change its ways?

Extremely unsafe situations – like reactors downhill from dams, represent only one example of the myriad threats facing nuclear power plants. Nevertheless, old Mark 1s, and many other dangerously located reactors, remain in operation today – despite countless safety concerns.

One thing that’s almost certain is if you play with fire long enough you will get burned. Sadly, humans often suffer a form of collective amnesia regarding the severity of these disasters. Hopefully, over time, and with more good reporting and educational programming, that will change.

Join us tomorrow when we ask the question: what is America’s worst-ever nuclear disaster? Think you already know what it is? The answer to that question may very well surprise you.

From the EnviroNews USA news desk, this is John Cunnings. Thank you for joining us, and good night.

Excerpt from History Channel Video on Idaho’s Teton Dam Failure

Narrator: Another warning sign: high-pressure springs appeared in the earth thousands of feet downstream from the dam. On the dam face itself the wet spots became leaks. On the morning of June 5, 1976, more leaks developed. A government photographer took this series of pictures as the wet spots turned into small holes; then larger holes in the face of the dam. The dam was collapsing before his eyes. Then suddenly, the 500-yard-thick earthen wall collapsed like a sand castle under a wave. Torrent washed away everything in 300 square miles. 80 billion gallons of water totally destroyed two towns and killed 11 people. The failure of the Teton Dam led to a national review of federal rules regarding dam construction and inspection.

WATCH OTHER EPISODES FROM THE ENVIRONEWS SERIES NUCLEAR POWER IN OUR WORLD TODAY

Should GE’s Mark 1 Nuclear Reactor Be Recalled Worldwide Like a Faulty Unsafe Automobile? (Pt. 5)

(EnviroNews DC Bureau) – Editor’s Note: The following news piece represents the fifth in a 15-part mini-series titled, Nuclear Power in Our World Today, featuring nuclear authority, engineer and whistleblower Arnie Gundersen. The EnviroNews USA special encompasses a wide span of topics, ranging from Manhattan-era madness to the…

How DOE Incentivized Executives at Hanford To Sweep a Plutonium Leak Under The Rug (Pt. 4)

(EnviroNews DC News Bureau) – Editor’s Note: The following news piece represents the forth in a 15-part mini-series titled, Nuclear Power in Our World Today, featuring nuclear authority, engineer and whistleblower Arnie Gundersen. The EnviroNews USA special encompasses a wide span of topics, ranging from Manhattan-era madness to…

St. Louis’ West Lake Landfill: A Runaway, Ticking, Nuclear Time Bomb That Has Residents Terrified (Pt. 3)

(EnviroNews DC News Bureau) – Editor’s Note: The following news piece represents the third in a 15-part mini-series titled, Nuclear Power in Our World Today, featuring nuclear authority, engineer and whistleblower Arnie Gundersen. The EnviroNews USA special encompasses a wide span of topics, ranging from Manhattan-era madness to…

Bill Gates’ Plutonium Pipe Dream: Convert Mountains of Depleted Uranium at Paducah to Power Earth for Centuries (Pt. 2)

(EnviroNews DC Bureau) – Editor’s Note: The following news piece represents the second in a 15-part mini-series titled, Nuclear Power in Our World Today, featuring nuclear authority, engineer and whistleblower Arnie Gundersen. The EnviroNews USA special encompasses a wide span of topics, ranging from Manhattan-era madness to the…

The Dirty Deadly Front End of Nuclear Power – 15,000 Abandoned Uranium Mines (Pt. 1)

(EnviroNews DC Bureau) – Editor’s Note: The following news piece represents the first in a 15-part mini-series titled, Nuclear Power in Our World Today, featuring nuclear authority, engineer and whistleblower Arnie Gundersen. The EnviroNews USA special encompasses a wide span of topics, ranging from Manhattan-era madness to the…

The post Dams Place 39 US Reactors in Line of Fire Says Nuclear Expert — Fukushima-Style Scenarios Possible (Pt. 6) appeared first on EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists.

Categories: Ecological News

Why is Indian agriculture in crisis? My talk at the launch of Dr M S Swaminathan's biography.

Ground Reality - Fri, 09/22/2017 - 17:10




On Sept 8, Sept 8, I did the honours of releasing a biography (in Marathi) of the distinguished agricultural scientist and administrator, Dr M S Swaminathan, at an impressive ceremony in Pune. He is also considered as the father of green revolution in India. This biography has been written by writer and journalist Atul Deulgaonkar, based in Latur in Maharashtra and published by Sadhana Publications, Pune. Despite his ill-health (he is on wheelchair) Dr Swaminathan himself was present to receive the first copy. The book release ceremony was held in the S N Joshi auditorium, which was jam packed, with a lot of people sitting on the aisles/on the steps. There were two adjoining small halls with live streaming, and these too were full. Amazing turnout in Pune, which I was told is not known to be so responsive to any intellectual activity about farming and farmers. It was in 1996 that I had requested Dr Swaminathan to release my first book -- GATT and India:The Seeds of Despair -- in New Delhi. Understandably, it was therefore a great privilege for me to be invited this year to release his biography.

After formally releasing the biography, I delivered the main lecture explaining the reasons behind the continuing agrarian crisis. The response was simply stunning with many a people walking up to me saying they had tears in their eyes. Although the book was about Dr Swaminathan, I was instead requested to sign the copies. 






Here is my talk at the launch of Dr M S Swaminathan's biography (in Marathi) at Pune, 
Sept 8, 2017. 
Categories: Ecological News

Farmer is not a burden. It's they who continue to subsidise the nation.

Ground Reality - Tue, 09/19/2017 - 06:44

The image of a farmer in our imagination still remains the same. Because we have designed economic policies that doesn't allow him to grow.  Pic- Down to Earth
Try to imagine the face of a farmer. The picture that comes to your mind will most probably be of a frail figure, in a dirty dhoti-kurta, with a loosely-tied turban on his head and wearing soiled juta. If he comes to your house, you’ll most probably like to meet him outside the gate then to let him in and spoil the expensive carpet in your drawing room.
Not everyone treats a farmer like this, but most people do.
At my evening walk yesterday, I met a retired government official: “Sir, why this media fuss over the loan waiver amounts to farmers being as low as Rs 10 to Rs 300? Shouldn’t that be accepted by farmers with gratitude? After all, they don’t pay any income tax, get huge subsidies and still they want loan waivers? What for? They are lazy and don’t work. If they work hard, they wouldn’t have bad loans in the first place.”
I felt outraged. I was livid with anger. But I somehow controlled my anger and quietly walked away.Reports of waiving outstanding farmers’ loans of 9 paise, 19 paise, 90 paise, Rs 2, Rs 6 and so on, with as many as 4, 814 farmers getting a waiver of less than Rs 100 are splashed all over the media. Reports say as many as 11.93-lakh farmers in Uttar Pradesh have so far received waiver certificates in the first phase for Rs 7,371-crores, at glittering ceremonies being held at the district headquarters. This is part of the total of Rs 36, 359-crores that the UP government had promised to waive-off for small and marginal farmers.
While 4, 814 farmer got a waiver of less than Rs 100, another 6,895 got their outstanding loan between Rs 100 to Rs 500 waived off; 5,583 got waiver certificates for an amount ranging between Rs 500 to Rs 1,000; and as many as 41,690 received waiver certificates for amount as low as Rs 1,000 to Rs 10,000. If I add up the numbers, 57,982 farmers got a loan waiver of less than Rs 10,000. Many will say that this is a princely amount and the farmers should remain perpetually obliged for the state’s largesse, and this fits in very well with the image of a farmer that remains implanted in our imagination. 
This is only the first phase of the much talked about farm loan waiver. We still have more than Rs 29,000-crore to be waived off. Going at this rate, I am sure the number of farmers who will get paltry sums waived-off would add to a few lakh. Call it a joke or at best call it a cruel joke, the fact remains that successive governments as well as a large section of the middle class has always treated farmers as a burden, living on our alms or anything the society can afford to give in charity. Once the pride of the nation, the entire effort now is to offload the burden as quickly as possible.
But is the farmer really a lazy person? Does he not work hard to earn a livelihood?A news report published in Gaon Connection (Sept 12, 2017) provides the answer. Accordingly, as per a calculation of the UP Department of Agriculture, on an average every month a farmer incurs a net loss of Rs 1,307. Against an expenditure of Rs 6,230, the net return a farmer gets is only Rs 4,923. At this rate, the daily income of a farmer comes to a bare Rs 164. In neighbouring Haryana, a study by the Haryana Agricultural University (HAU) had computed the average income from wheat cultivation at Rs 800 per acre.At such a low level of income, I shudder to think how a farming family must be surviving. After all, you can’t even rear a cow in Rs 1,307 per month.
This only endorses what I have been saying for long: “Year after year, farmers have toiled hard to produce a bumper harvest. But little do they realise that when they cultivate a crop, they actually cultivate losses.”My assessment is based on the minimum support prices (MSP) worked out for almost all crops, which are below the cost of production. Even if you were to look at the cost of production of different crops in different states and compare it with the prices the farmers get, the net loss is glaring. As a result, farmers are left with no option but to seek credit, often from multiple sources, including moneylenders. Credit pe credit is what the farmers end up getting sucked into.
In Punjab, the food bowl, some studies have shown that as many as 98 per cent of the rural households are in debt, and in 94 per cent of the cases the average expenditure exceeds the monthly earnings. If this is situation in Punjab, the frontline agricultural state, imagine the dire straits in which farming households live in rest of the country. All this is because successive governments have denied farmers their rightful income. Agriculture has been deliberately kept impoverished to ensure that the food prices remain low for the urban population.
In other words, it is the farmers who have been subsidising the nation all these years. It is high time the middle class is made to understand how they are in a way directly responsible for the terrible agrarian crisis that prevails in the countryside.
Farm loan waiver therefore brings a short-term relief for farmers. But their expectations are belied when the state government throws spanners by ensuring that even that does not reach the beneficiary farmers. In UP, despite the government promising to waive the outstanding loans of small farmers, finally the unpaid loans till March 2016 are being written-off. Finally, the write-off is only for those farmers whose bank accounts are linked to Aadhar. This is grossly unfair.
But when it comes to striking off the corporate toxic loans, the government is more than keen to oblige the industry. As much as Rs 81,683-crore of bad debt for the financial year 2016-17 has been quietly written-off. Did you hear of any defaulting company getting loan waiver of Rs 100 or Rs 10,000 or even Rs 1 lakh? Each company gets several crores written-off and that too without any hassles. That’s how the economic policies are designed. Writing-off of corporate loan is treated as economic growth whereas writing-off of farmers loan is considered as credit indiscipline’ and a drain on the national exchequer.  #   

मध्यम वर्ग के ज्यादातर लोगों ने किसान को हमेशा एक बोझ समझा है. Gaon Connection. Sept 18, 2017.https://www.gaonconnection.com/samvad/debt-waiver-the-farmers-uttar-pradesh-much-of-the-middle-class-has-always-considered-the-farmer-a-burden
Categories: Ecological News

What will happen if 12,500 businessmen were to commit suicide in a year?

Ground Reality - Wed, 09/13/2017 - 09:25
What will happen if 12,500 businessmen were to commit suicide in a year? What will happen if 12,500 lawyers to commit suicide? Or what will happen if 12,500 doctors were to commit suicide?  Just think.   But nothing happens when 12,500 farmers commit suicide. That's the tragedy.  Here I am in conversation with journalist Shoma Choudhury at #TheAlgebra, in Gurgaon. On Aug 28, 2017.



After the conversation, Rohit Kumar, who was present at the event, wrote this article in the Huffington Post. A very moving piece indeed ..

The Day I Realised The Plight Of The Farmer Is India’s Biggest Problem

By Rohit Kumar

 ....... To be honest, I had never heard of Devinder Sharma before. I had come to this event to listen to the next speaker, Devdutt Patnaik, author of DevlokMy Gita and The Leadership Sutra. But Mr. Sharma's talk had me sitting on the edge of my chair and leaning forward for the next 45 minutes and I learned some startling, inconvenient, and downright damning truths which sufficiently rearranged the way I see India.For example, I had no idea that a farmer ends his life every 41 minutes in India. Or that 12,602 farmers had ended their lives in 2015. Or that between 1995 and 2015, a period of 21 years, a total of 3,18,528 farmers have committed suicide!Devinder Sharma, a food and trade policy analyst and journalist who holds a master's degree in plant breeding and genetics—and who gets trolled regularly for his views—punctuated statistics with stories of individual farmers. One that I am quite sure neither I nor the rest of the audience will forget anytime soon was about a farmer who jumped into a canal with his ten-year-old son tied to him. Both drowned. In his mind, he wasn't trying to harm his son. In a note that he left behind, he said he was simply trying to save his son from a debt that he would never be able to repay.And here I was thinking the Gurmeet Ram Rahim story was the big story of the year!The average income of a farmer across 17 states continues to be ₹20,000 a year! That breaks down to ₹1666 a month.Agriculture is not a sexy subject. Very few people in our turbo-charged television, print and social media spaces actually want to listen to facts and figures about (furrow brow and then roll eyes) farming! When I was a kid (in the 70s) my father used to religiously watch a Doordarshan programme called Krishi Darshan on our little black and white Televista TV. (No, he wasn't a farmer. He was an educational psychologist.) I remember groaning fairly loudly every time he sat down to watch the programme. I would say exasperatedly, "Who on earth even cares about tomatoes and potatoes and fertilisers?" And my dad would fix me with a long look and say, "The farmers do. And you should too."I didn't get it then. I certainly do now.Read the full article herehttp://www.huffingtonpost.in/rohit-kumar/the-day-i-realised-the-plight-of-the-farmer-is-india-s-biggest-problem_a_23188802/
Categories: Ecological News

National Park Service Plans Large Bison Hunt to Thin Arizona’s Grand Canyon Herd

Environews.tv - Tue, 09/12/2017 - 19:49

reddit_url = "http://www.environews.tv/091217-national-park-service-plans-large-bison-hunt-thin-arizonas-grand-canyon-herd/"; reddit_title = "National Park Service Plans Large Bison Hunt to Thin Arizona’s Grand Canyon Herd"; reddit_newwindow="1"

(EnviroNews Arizona) — North Rim, Arizona — The U.S. National Park Service (NPS) gave its final approval this month for a bison (Bison bison) hunt and relocation program that would drastically thin a 600-animal herd, residing in the park’s North Rim, to less than 200 by next year.

Claiming that the animals are destroying park resources, the NPS is looking to recruit persons handy with a firearm to shoot and kill the iconic creatures. According to Carl Lutch, a wildlife manager for the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD), participants would need to demonstrate they are “capable of hiking eight miles a day, carrying a 60-pound pack and hitting a paper plate 200 yards away five times” to be eligible for the hunt, according to the Associated Press (AP).

Bison that are not shot and killed by volunteer hunters will be trapped and relocated to other places. It is not yet clear how many animals will be killed and how many will be relocated, but Sandy Bahr of the Sierra Club told the AP she’s “hopeful Grand Canyon will focus mostly on nonlethal removal.”

But the Grand Canyon bison herd is already hunted on an annual basis. The AZGFD holds a lottery for hunting tags each year in the Kaibab National Forest, and according to the AP, issued 122 tags to individuals from a group of over 1,500 applicants this season.

“I would go if I had a chance to retain a portion of the meat,” said Travis McClendon, a hunter in Cottonwood, to the AP. “It definitely would be worth going, especially with a group.”

The reduction plan is set to be executed primarily above 8,000 feet between the months of October and May, when the road to the North Rim is snowed in and closed. The meat and hides will be carried out via snowmobile, sled and helicopter.

In recent years, the herd has been moving from national forest land adjoining the Grand Canyon, to locations within the park’s boundaries — places where open hunting is prohibited. According to park officials, the grazers are now trampling native vegetation and ruining water resources in the precious tourist attraction.

Grand Canyon Bison Herd

The notion the herd is damaging the park is an interesting one, especially since an NPS report from earlier this year elucidated that bison were native inhabitants of this area — before settlers hunted them to near extinction that is. The current herd however, is there due to a failed buffalo-cattle crossbreeding venture, attempted by rancher and buffalo skinner Charles Jesse Jones in the early 1900s. After the beefalo flop, the state of Arizona took ownership over the animals and they’ve grazed the countryside around the Grand Canyon ever since.

This chapter in the American bison’s perilous plight is one amongst many, in a story that includes what is surely one of the bloodiest abominations in the history of wildlife massacres. Westward settlers reduced the largest migratory hoofed herd on earth — a herd totaling 50 million — to a paltry 1091 animals over the course of several decades. The reason behind that nineteenth century buffalo bloodbath is even more appalling: oftentimes, the iconic roamers were killed simply to cut off the life’s blood of recalcitrant Native America tribes, who without the bison’s meat and parts, were most definitely doomed.

Mountain of American Bison Skulls

The massive herd functioned for millennia as an integral part of the American ecosystem, and painted the U.S. landscape far and wide. But those 50 million animals have been replaced by some 90 million cattle today, and its those non-native animals that are now everywhere throughout the country — not the bison. For some buffalo advocates, the idea that a still-wild group of these animals could be harming the ecosystem, is beyond absurd. The sentiment from some folks is that perhaps it would be better to remove 400 cows from this area instead, and let this wild and adapted herd stay intact, right where it is.

Mountain of American Bison Skulls

But the attitude of others is that it would be great fun to go on a backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon and kill one of these creatures with a hall pass from the federal government — and that’s exactly what the National Park Service wants. On the bright side, NPS has announced that heads and hides from the hunt will be given to local tribes and that volunteer hunters will be required to use non-lead bullets as to not poison the resident California Condors (Gymnogyps californianus).

OTHER STORIES ABOUT THE GREAT AMERICAN BISON FROM ENVIRONEWS

The Bison Herds of the Magnificent Grand Tetons

(EnviroNews Wyoming) – We’ve taken notice lately that the EnviroNews national newsfeed has been a bit gloomy and has been comprised of mostly gutsy environmental “trench warfare”, and heated protests over nasty industrial source polluters. Take a break from the doom and gloom of the everyday environmental battles…

The post National Park Service Plans Large Bison Hunt to Thin Arizona’s Grand Canyon Herd appeared first on EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists.

Categories: Ecological News

New India will require new economic thinking.

Ground Reality - Tue, 09/12/2017 - 10:18
Will New India see the end of farmer suicides? 
The Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) releases its Global Hunger Index ranking countries in proportion to its population faced with hunger and under nutrition. India ranks 97 among the 118 developing nations, faring worse than all its neighbours except for Pakistan. This report was released almost a year back, in October 2016.
As usual, the report was written about in news paper editorials, and then forgotten. Not many knew that the Global Hunger Index was first prepared in 2006, wherein India ranked 96 among 119 countries. In these 11 years, nothing had changed as far as hunger and malnutrition was concerned. In fact, India’s track record in addressing hunger had only worsened.
But what came as a bigger shock is a report of a survey conducted by the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau. The survey brings out a stark reality that the country doesn’t want to hear. Rural India is eating less than what it used to 40 years ago. According to a report published in the web news portal Scroll – “On average, compared to 1975-’79, a rural Indian now consumes 550 fewer calories and 13 gm protein, 5 mg iron, 250 mg calcium and about 500 mg less vitamin A.
Children below the age of three are consuming, on average, 80 ml of milk per day instead of the 300 ml they require. This data explains, in part, why in the same survey, 35% of rural men and women were found to be undernourished, and 42% of children were underweight.” In fact, the malnutrition levels in South Asia are twice as high as in Sub-Saharan Africa. Considering that rural India comprises 70 per cent of the country’s population, where roughly 85-crore people live, I thought this was an appropriate subject for a mid-night Parliament session. After all, a democracy cannot brush growing hunger and malnutrition under the carpet.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has declared removing hunger and malnutrition among the six goals that he has announced to be achieved in the next five years, by 2022. This is a very heartening development. But let me make it clear, it is not the previous Prime Ministers had remained oblivious to the growing malnutrition monster. In recent years, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had launched Garibi Hatao, Atal Bihar Vajpayee had promised to turn the infamous hunger belt of Kalahandi into a food bowl, Manmohan Singh had gone to the extent of calling malnourishment “a national shame". But hunger and malnutrition has remained robustly sustainable.
I recall an emotional Narendra Modi dedicating his government to the poor when he addressed for the first time the BJP Parliamentary party meeting at the Central Hall. Several of the government’s programmes are aimed at reaching out to the poor, including opening the Jan Dhan bank accounts for 58 per cent of the population, who had remained outside the ambit of the banking system. With programmes like Skill India still to show results, what is worrying is the growing tendency to shift bulk of the rural population to the urban centres. The National Skill Development Policy paper has set a target of reducing the population engaged in agriculture from the existing 52 per cent to 38 per cent in the next five years.
Meanwhile, the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau, which was created in 1972, was disbanded in 2015. Whatever be the reason, the fact remains that how will the country ever know whether the nutritional targets have been achieved unless there is a credible organisation to monitor it. In any case, while the economic growth is measured every six months, nutritional surveys are conducted once in 10 years. Even that is not palatable. It throws a dampener in the story of economic growth. The malnutrition figures, howsoever startling these may be, get camouflaged under the glare and glitter of the economic growth figures.
Removing poverty, hunger and malnutrition is not possible without focusing on agriculture. A recent US study has established that investments in agriculture are five times more effective in removing poverty than investments in building urban infrastructure. In my understanding, this is a very significant finding which cannot be ignored simply because the Indian economists, policy makers and the bureaucracy is ideologically committed to market reforms and thereby is busy systematically reducing the investments in agriculture and in the social sector spending as well.
I have always been of the opinion that that those who are responsible for the crisis cannot be expected to provide solutions. The Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), an umbrella organisation that overlooks 71 agricultural universities and over 200 research institutes/bureaus, is a classic example. Add to it, the economic prescriptions being doled out time to time by the Niti Ayog, and it becomes loud and clear that the thrust is on the same kind of failed policies that brought in the agrarian crisis in the first place.
Even Albert Einstein had once said “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Whether it is the Economic Survey, the Niti Ayog’s Vision and Strategy document for the next three years, or the report of the expert committee on Doubling Farmers Income, the underlying thrust is on the same strategies and approached which actually led to the crisis. The arguments invariably revolve around the same principles -- increasing crop productivity, expanding irrigation, crop insurance and strengthening the electronic national agricultural market platform. 
If this was true, I don’t see any reason why Punjab, the food bowl, has not turned into a suicide hot spot. There is hardly a day when 2 or 3 farmers on an average do not commit suicide. Punjab has 98 per cent area under assured irrigation and has the highest productivity of cereal crops, including wheat, rice and maize, in the world. It also is on the top when it comes to the number of tractors, machines, fertiliser and pesticides use. And yet, farmers are dying. Although Punjab gives a picture of prosperity, some colleges in Punjab have started mid-day meal programmes to address hunger and malnutrition among the youth. Expecting all other states to follow Punjab’s success in agriculture therefore is not the way out.
Agriculture is the first line of defence against poverty, hunger and malnutrition. Ignoring farmer’s welfare and focusing only on crop productivity has been the bane of agriculture. It is high time to learn from the past blunders, and make a fresh approach if the Prime Ministers dream is to be realised. It is certainly possible but not with the same flawed thinking that actually led to the crisis. #
Categories: Ecological News

Should GE’s Mark 1 Nuclear Reactor Be Recalled Worldwide Like a Faulty Unsafe Automobile? (Pt. 5)

Environews.tv - Mon, 09/11/2017 - 20:30

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(EnviroNews DC Bureau)Editor’s Note: The following news piece represents the fifth in a 15-part mini-series titled, Nuclear Power in Our World Today, featuring nuclear authority, engineer and whistleblower Arnie Gundersen. The EnviroNews USA special encompasses a wide span of topics, ranging from Manhattan-era madness to the continuously-unfolding crisis on the ground at Fukushima Daiichi in eastern Japan. The transcript is as follows:

Josh Cunnings (Narrator): Good evening and thanks for joining us at the EnviroNews USA news desk for the fifth segment in our 15-part mini series, Nuclear Power in Our World Today. In our previous episodes, we explored several Manhattan-era messes in the United States, but tonight, we begin by discussing the troublesome situation on the ground at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant on Japan’s eastern coast.

Now, if you trace Japan’s troubles back far enough, then once again, you’re going to find yourself right back here in the good old U S of A – in the state of California – during the 1970s – with General Electric at the helm.

The project that we’re referring to was the development of the Mark 1 boiling water nuclear reactor – the very same model which melted entirely in units 1, 2 and 3 at Fukushima.

Now, when it comes to people who are qualified to talk about the many issues and problems surrounding the Mark 1, few could be more capable than former nuclear reactor operator and engineer Arnie Gundersen. As a matter of fact, the distinguished expert is all too familiar with the ins and outs of the design.

So, without further ado, here’s another excerpt from this simply fantastic interview with Arnie Gundersen by EnviroNews USA Editor-in-Chief Emerson Urry. Take a listen.

Urry: And so speaking about these reactors and the technical components – you were actually involved with the Mark 1. And I remember reading that some of the engineers that worked on that project had resigned way back then in 1972, yet General Electric was still apparently willing to pimp this reactor out essentially, all over the planet. What can you tell us about the Mark 1 reactor, and your understanding of what happened back then with these engineers, and how General Electric has been able to spread this reactor to all corners of the globe, with really no consequence. We saw Greenpeace had started a petition to make General Electric and Hitachi, and maybe a couple others of the service providers, actually pay for the damage there, but has there been any culpability? [Editor’s Note: Urry intended to say “1976” not “1972” in this passage]

Gundersen: Fukushima Daiichi has four units – one, two, three, four — and they’re all Mark 1 designs. In addition, there’s another 35 in the world, including 23 here in America, that are the same design. A group of three engineers quit General Electric in 1976 because they realized the design was not safe. Two of the three are still alive and living here in California, and they are my personal heroes. They understood before any of us did how seriously we really didn’t understand what it was that the engineers were doing.

Excerpt From Greenpeace Video With Dale Bridenbaugh

Bridenbaugh: My boss said to me, that if we have to shut down all of these Mark 1 plants, it will probably mean the end of GE’s nuclear business forever.

I started with GE immediately after I got out of college as a mechanical engineer, and I started out as a field engineer responsible for supervising the construction and startup of power plant equipment across the United States.

In the first ten or fifteen plants that GE sold of the large-scale commercial boiling water reactors, they did so on what’s called a “turnkey” basis. They built the whole thing, get it operating, and then they turn the key over to the utility, and the utility then is theoretically capable of operating it to produce electricity.

Fukushima 1 was basically a turnkey plant provided to TEPCO by GE. In 1975 the problem developed that became known at the Mark 1 plants – the some 24 Mark 1 units in the United States, and also those overseas, including the Fukushima units – had not taken into account all of the pressures and forces that are called hydrodynamic loads that could be experienced by the pressure suppression units as a result of a major accident. We didn’t really know if the containments would be able to contain the event that they were supposedly designed to contain.

Not only were there the containment problems that existed with the Mark 1s, which I was very familiar with, but there were a number of other problems with the GE boiling water reactors and with the nuclear program in general. And I got disillusioned with the speed with which these problems were being addressed, and then in the middle of the night I called my boss at GE and I said, “My recommendation is that we tell the U.S. utilities that GE cannot support the continued operation of these plants.” And my boss said to me, “Well, it can’t be that bad Dale, and keep in mind that if we have to shut down all of these Mark 1 plants it will probably mean the end of GE’s nuclear business forever.” That conversation occurred at about midnight on January 26, and that clinched my decision on resignation on February 2.

The accident that occurred in Fukushima, it’s some two years later now, and we don’t really know the condition of the reactor core; we don’t really know the condition of the containment. The radiation levels are so high inside the containment that it’s very difficult to get in there. It will be years before that plant site is cleaned up.

The damage that has been experienced at Fukushima is so great and so extensive that I don’t think any one utility, certainly TEPCO, has the capability to be able to pay for all of that. So, it becomes a national issue. I think it would be a good idea to not have reliance on nuclear units. They’re very risky enterprises. And I would like to see a world that is provided with electricity by alternative energy supplies.

Gundersen: When Maggie [Gundersen] and I were walking one day in February [a month] before the [Fukushima] accident, she said to me, “Where is the next accident going to be?” And I said, “I don’t know where, but I know it’s going to be in a Mark 1 reactor.” And, I’m not alone. It’s not like I was clairvoyant. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission had a report that they published in 1982, and they said there was an 85 percent chance, if there was a meltdown in a Mark 1 reactor, that the containment would explode. The writing was on the wall.

Urry: How many of these things are still out there in operation today?

Gundersen: In the U.S., all 23 continue to run, and as a matter of fact, the staff of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission recommended some pretty substantial improvements, and the politically appointed commissioners, who have no nuclear background, overrode the staff and said, “no, we’re not going to do those changes.” So, the Commission has been actively involved in thwarting the safety improvements that everybody knows are needed.

Script for General Electric Television Commercial

Voice of Child Narrator: My mom, she makes underwater fans that are powered by the moon. My mom makes airplane engines that can talk. My mom makes hospitals you can hold in your hand. My mom can print amazing things, right from her computer. My mom makes trains that are friends with trees. My mom works at GE.

Cunnings: If GE, a company that successfully weaseled its way out of paying any taxes whatsoever in the U.S. wants to boast night and day on the mainstream media airwaves – the same mainstream media which it once nearly monopolized — that it “brings good things to life” and makes “underwater fans that are powered by the moon” and locomotives that “talk to trees” perhaps the company should also bother to mention its own manufacture and sales of faulty nuclear power reactors that quite frankly, bring good things to an early death.

Oh, and by the way, the company not only builds the reactors that breed uranium into plutonium for bombs, oh no, its role goes much deeper. In fact, GE is in the business of manufacturing the actual bombs too. “We bring good things to life.” Seriously? Let’s get real.

Documentary Film Trailer for Deadly Deception: General Electric, Nuclear Weapons and Our Environment

Narrator: The Hanford Nuclear Reservation, a massive 570-square-mile facility, where General Electric made plutonium for the U.S. military.

Subject #1: I began loosing my hair, which I had long naturally curly hair.

Narrator: [Of] 28 families who lived in a small area near Hanford, 27 of them had suffered severe health problems.

Subject #1: … and the physician said that I had the most severe case of hypothyroidism he’d ever seen in his career…

Narrator: … all of which are associated with exposure to high doses of radiation.

Subject #2: We took twice the amount that the Children of Chernobyl took. There was absolutely no warning. They came and said, “You’re safe.”

Narrator: According to the business press, General Electric is the most powerful company in the United States, and GE is rapidly expanding its control of markets worldwide.

Subject #3: I’d like to wake Jack Welch up in the middle of his atomic power lab; let him explain why their husbands died of cancer related to the asbestos.

Subject #4: I find their ads disgusting. I find that ad disgusting.

Narrator: Four million individuals and 450 organizations in the U.S., Canada and around the world, have decided to join the GE boycott.

Subject #4: Are you asking us to clean up your toxic waste again!?

Subject #5: What GE does is not bring good things to life. They mislead the American public.

Subject #6: General Electric is in this business of building weapons for profit – not for patriotism, not for the country, not for the flag, but for profit.

Ronald Reagan: Until next week then, good night for General Electric.

Excerpt from Fairewinds Associates Video, Featuring Arnie Gundersen on the GE Mark 1 Reactor

Gundersen: This picture of a boiling water reactor containment is taken in the early 70s. It was taken at Browns Ferry [Nuclear Plant], but it’s identical to the Fukushima reactors. Now, let me walk you through that as I talk about it.

There are two pieces to the containment, the top looks like an upside down light bulb, and that’s called a “drywell.” Inside there is where the nuclear reactor is. Down below is this thing that looks like a doughnut, and that’s called the “torus,” and that’s filled almost all the way with water. The theory is that if the reactor breaks, steam will shoot out through the light bulb into the doughnut, creating lots of bubbles, which will reduce the pressure. Well, this thing’s called a “pressure suppression containment.” Now, at the bottom of that picture is the lid for the containment. When it’s fully assembled, that lid sits on top. The containment’s about an inch thick. Inside it is the nuclear reactor that’s about eight inches thick, and we’ll get to that in a minute.

Well, this reactor containment was designed in the early 70s, late 60s, and by 1972 a lot of people had concerns with the containment. So, in the early 70s, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission recognized this containment design was flawed. In the mid-70s, they realized the forces were in the wrong direction; instead of down, they were up, and large straps were put into place.

Well, then in the 80s, there was another problem that developed. After Three Mile Island engineers began to realize that this containment could explode from a hydrogen buildup. That hadn’t been factored into the design in the 70s either. Well, what they came up with for this particular containment was a vent in the side of it.

Now, a vent is designed to let the pressure out, and a containment is designed to keep the pressure in. So, rather than contain this radioactivity, engineers realized that if the containment were to survive an explosion they’d have to open a hole in the side of it called a “containment vent.”

Well, these vents were added in the late 1980s. And they weren’t added because the Nuclear Regulatory Commission demanded it. What the industry did to avoid that was create an initiative and they put them in voluntarily. Now, that sounds really proactive, but in fact, it wasn’t. If the Nuclear Regulatory Commission required it, it would have opened up the license on these plants to citizens and scientists who had concerns. Well, by having the industry voluntarily put these vents in it did two things: One, it did not allow any public participation in the process to see if they were safe. And the second thing is that it didn’t allow the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to look at these vents and say they were safety related. In fact, it sidetracked the process entirely.

Well, these vents were never tested until Fukushima. This containment was never tested until Fukushima. And it failed three times out of three tries. In retrospect, we shouldn’t be surprised.

Looking at the procedures for opening these vents, in the event electricity fails, requires someone fully clad in radiation gear to go down to an enormous valve in the bowels of the plant and turn the crank 200 times to open it. Now, can you imagine, in the middle of a nuclear accident, with steam and explosions and radiation, expecting an employee to go into the plant and turn a valve 200 times to open it?

So, that was the second Band-Aid fix that failed, on a containment that 40 years earlier, was designed too small.

Well, with all this in mind, I think we really need to ask the question: should the Mark 1 containment even be allowed to continue to operate? The NRC’s position is: well, we can make the vents stronger. I don’t think that’s a good idea.

Now, all those issues that I just talked about are related to the Mark 1 containment. The next thing I’d like to talk about is the reactor that sits inside that containment. So, that light bulb and that doughnut are the containment structure; inside that is where the nuclear reactor is.

Now, on a boiling water reactor, the nuclear control rods come in at the bottom; on a pressurized water reactor they come in from the top. All of the reactors at Fukushima, and 35 in the world in this design, have control rods that come in from the bottom. Now, that poses a unique problem and an important difference that the NRC is not looking at right now.

If the core melts in a pressurized water reactor, there’s no holes in the bottom of the nuclear reactor, and it’s a very thick eight to 10-inch piece of metal that the nuclear reactor core would have to melt through. But that didn’t happen at Fukushima.

Fukushima was a boiling water reactor; it’s got holes in the bottom. Now, when the nuclear core lies on the bottom of a boiling water reactor like Fukushima, or the ones in the U.S., or others in Japan, it’s easier for the core to melt through because of those 60 holes in the bottom of the reactor. It doesn’t have to melt through eight inches of steel. It just has to melt through a very thin-walled pipe and scoot out the hole in the bottom of the nuclear reactor. I’m not the only one to recognize that holes at the bottom of a boiling water reactor are a problem.

Last week an email came out that was written by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission right after the Fukushima accident, where they recognize that if there’s a core meltdown, and it’s now lying as a blob on the bottom of the nuclear reactor, these holes in the bottom of the reactor form channels, through which the hot molten fuel can get out a lot easier and a lot quicker than the thick pressurized water reactor design. Now, this is a flaw in any boiling water reactor, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is not recognizing that the likelihood of melting through a boiling water reactor like Fukushima, is a lot more significant than the likelihood of melting through a pressurized water reactor.

The third area is an area we’ve discussed in-depth in a previous video, and that’s that the explosion at Unit 3 was a detonation, not a deflagration. It has to do with the speed of the shockwave. The shockwave at Unit 3 traveled faster than the speed of sound, and that’s an important distinction that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the entire nuclear industry, is not looking at.

A containment can’t withstand a shockwave that travels faster than the speed of sound. Yet, all containments are designed assuming that doesn’t happen. At Fukushima 3 it did happen, and we need to understand how it happened and mitigate against it in the future on all reactors.

Now, I measured that. I scaled the size of the building versus the speed at which the explosion occurred, and I can determine that that shockwave traveled at around 1,000 feet per second. The speed of sound is around 600 feet per second. So, it traveled at supersonic speeds that can cause dramatic damage to a containment. They’re not designed to handle it. Yet, the NRC is not looking at that. [Editor’s Note: Gundersen intended to say “miles per hour,” not “feet per second” in this video.]

So, we’ve got three key areas where the NRC, and the nuclear industry, don’t want people to look, and that’s: 1) should this Mark 1 containment even be allowed to continue to operate?

Cunnings: In America, when a vehicle, or even a part in a vehicle, is deemed unsafe for the population at large, the government forces automakers into costly and multi-billion dollar recalls – and the mainstream media does its part by shaming those culprit companies, relentlessly beating them to a bloody pulp for their negligence and their reckless endangerment of innocent American citizens.

The Mark 1 nuclear reactor is an extremely outdated model with obvious design flaws. Apparently, it has so many problems, that as Mr. Gundersen pointed out, three of the engineers who originally designed it ended up resigning because they knew it wasn’t safe – and that was well before Three Mile Island or Chernobyl ever happened – long before the public had experienced the fright, and health consequences of a full-scale nuclear meltdown.

Surely, after the triple meltdowns at Fukushima, Japan, it appears the Mark 1 is far from safe, yet here in the U.S., the government continues to let operators drive this faulty nuclear vehicle down the road – knowing full well that it could fall apart and crash, harming, or even killing innocent Americans at any time.

Perhaps the government should consider holding nuke-plant manufacturers, like GE, to the same standards it demands from automakers, and punish them with shameful recalls when they market a piece of faulty equipment that poses any danger to the public.

So, just what would a recall of the Mark 1 nuclear reactor look like, and who would issue or enforce it? The Nuclear Regulatory Commission? And how could enough political will ever be mustered for such a massive undertaking? It would surely cost more than any auto recall ever has, but frankly, who should give a damn (except for General Electric’s shareholders of course)? I mean, if it ain’t safe, then it just ain’t safe mate. Besides, after paying zero taxes, GE’s pockets should be plenty deep enough to handle such an event — right? The concept of an all-out recall on the antiquated General Electric Mark 1 reactor is one that we will continue to explore. As a matter of fact, in tomorrow’s show, we’ll discuss the problems with the Mark 1 a little further.

Tune in then for episode six in our series of short films, Nuclear Power in Our World Today, with esteemed expert and whistleblower Arnie Gundersen.

Signing off for now – Josh Cunnings – EnviroNews USA.

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Categories: Ecological News

There is nothing more lucrative a business than Crop Insurance

Ground Reality - Mon, 09/11/2017 - 11:12
Pic: Indian Express
I was never in doubt. The flagship programme launched with much fanfare -- Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna (PMFBY) – has turned out to be at best a profit insurance scheme for the private insurance companies. There is certainly no business as profitable as crop insurance.
In the crop year 2016-17, when the monsoon rains had returned to normal after a back-to-back drought for two consecutive years, a total of Rs 22,437-crore was paid to the insurance companies. Against such a huge premium, the crop loss claims finalized by the insurance companies, including 11 companies in the private sector comes to Rs 8,088-crores. Of which, Rs 7,700-crore has already been paid to farmers. Even after the total claims finalized by these companies, which totals Rs 8,088-crore as mentioned above, is distributed it still leaves the insurance companies with a staggering profit of Rs 14, 349-crores.
Instead of paying Rs 14,349-crore profit to the insurance companies for the crop year 2016-17, I wonder why didn’t the government instead use the entire amount as disaster relief to the farmers. This is primarily because the PMFBY is basically designed to help the private companies. The government either did not visualize that there were serious problems in its implementation the way the scheme was designed or probably had too much of faith on the private insurance companies. The CAG has already pointed to several discrepancies, but let’s also look at some of the structural problems in the very basic design of crop insurance.
The biggest fault of course lies in the way the average loss is worked out. In the past, the average loss computed in a block or taluka was considered while assessing the crop loss suffered by a farmer. In the PMFBY too, a village or a village panchayat has been taken as the unit of insurance. It means that irrespective of what the loss an individual farmer suffers from hailstorm or strong winds etc, the compensation he will get will be based on the average loss in crop production in a village. This is primarily the reason why farmers were never enthused to take up crop insurance.
I have always questioned this faulty methodology. Consider this, if a house in a residential colony catches fire, the owner gets the claim he filed for. Why shouldn’t the same methodology work in the farming sector? After all, 60 per cent of the total insurance is done in 50 risk prone districts across the country. Given that 11 insurance companies are into the business, I see no reason why these companies cannot be directed to assess loss on a per unit farm basis? In these 50 districts to begin with, each company can map each and every farm in five villages each. Why are the insurance companies not being directed to pay the insurance claim based on each farm is baffling indeed.
As if this is not enough, the best way to ensure profits for the companies irrespective of the extent of crop losses is to keep the sum insured at a minimal level. Given that the loss assessment is based on the average loss incurred in a village, if the sum insured is lower than the threshold levels, it is quite obvious that the claimant would get only a fraction of what his loss is. Now, this is a little complex. So let me illustrate how the companies ensure that either they don’t have to pay at all or have to pay a bare minimum for the losses the farmers suffer. 
Take the case of Bundli district in Rajastha. According to a study conducted by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), for soybean crop the farmers were insured to a maximum of Rs 16,539 per hectare against a maximum output value of Rs 50,000. Similarly for paddy, the sum insured was Rs 17,096 against the expected value of his output from a hectare being Rs 65,000. In the Beed district of Maharashtra, against the cost of cultivation worked out at Rs 34,147 per hectare in 2015-16 by the Maharashtra State Agricultural Prices Commission, the sum insured was a maximum of Rs 18,000 per hectare. Which means even if the loss a farmer incurs is more than 50 per cent he will hardly get any compensation.
For the kharif 2016 season, a civil society group -- Abhinav Rajasthan -- in an interesting investigation showed that the maximum claim that was applicable in moong had been worked out to Rs 16,130, which is roughly 40 per cent of the total value of the crop. Accordingly, if we look at the estimates prepared by the State Agriculture Department, seven quintals is the average output of moong per hectare. Going by the Minimum Support Price for moong, the total output in terms of value comes to about Rs 40,000 per hectare.  But what a farmer could insure was not more than for Rs 16,130 per hectare.
Keeping the sum insured deliberately low provide profit security for the insurance companies. As the CSE study shows, at 90 per cent indemnity level for soybean crop, the claim amount would be just 25 per cent of the cost of production. For paddy, it would have been 25 per cent.
Further, I find the crop losses and claims that are being worked out are based on open bidding. The premium limits quoted by the private companies are actually not based on risk-based premiums but simply based on their commercial gains. This shouldn’t have been allowed in the first instance. Nowhere in the world is this permitted. Crop insurance companies cannot get into an open bidding process so as to select areas where they would like to operate. This clearly shows that the government’s intention is to provide an open field to the private sector companies to maximize their profits without any accountability.
Take Rajasthan, for instance. News reports say Rajasthan will have to provide roughly 35 per cent of its agricultural budget to implement PMFBY. This is because the insurance companies are quoting a higher premium and the government has no mechanism to force them to reduce it.
In other words, crop insurance is turning out to be an excellent business proposition for the private companies since they do not have to make any initial additional investment for creating adequate infrastructure, including employing the manpower required into loss assessment and crop cutting experiments. Under the PMFBY, for the mandatory crop cutting experiments to assess crop loss, states have to undertake four samples from each village or village panchayat for major crops, while eight samples are to be taken for other crops. Since 24 crop cutting experiments are mandated for a district, the country will need 40 lakh crop cutting experiments to be conducted. First, why shouldn’t the insurance companies be directed to create adequate employment to do the crop cutting experiments? Secondly, even if the State Governments were to undertake these operations, why shouldn’t this be paid for by the private companies?
The insurance companies do not even have to make any investments in employing people to work as insurance agents. Since the premium is automatically deducted from the bank accounts of loanee farmers, this acts as a bonanza for the companies. Bankers tell me that the insurance companies only come to the bank once to get their share of premium and return the next season. Insurance companies don’t even know what crop the farmer was sowing nor did they ever care. In other words, Insurance companies often don’t even know what crop had been insured.  The prevailing practice of deducting insurance premium directly from the bank accounts of farmers should therefore be immediately stopped. #
To Benefit Farmers and Not Crop Insurers, Crop Insurance Scheme Must be Overhauled CompletelyThe Wire. Aug 31, 2017. https://thewire.in/172303/crop-insurance-pmfby-farmers/
Categories: Ecological News

Aren't we going back to the days of 'ship-to-mouth' existence?

Ground Reality - Sun, 09/10/2017 - 11:12


Believe it or not, India imports apples from 44 countries -- an RTI reply. 
It has been a saga of an unprecedented growth, followed by a terrible agrarian distress. No country in the world probably has ever seen the pendulum of agricultural growth swinging from one extreme to another. In the past 70 years, ever since India achieved Independence in the back-drop of the Bengal Famine, Indian agriculture has not only demonstrated what it takes to attain the pinnacle and subsequently on how easy it is to fritter away the gains.
Emerging from the throes of an impending starvation, when India’s future was written-off by many doomsayers, India’s remarkable turnaround to achieve food self-sufficiency remains the hallmark of any effective and successful development policy. A right mix of policies, technology and above all the backing of a determined political will to achieve food self-sufficiency is now part of history. First with milk, and followed closely with food grains, the actual trigger for the two major revolutions in India’s history was set off within a span of two years: 1965-66.
It is not that the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru didn’t make any efforts. A number of community development programmes were initiated during his tenure.  Speaking from the ramparts of the Red Fort in 1955, he had said: “It is very humiliating for any country to import food. So everything else can wait, but not agriculture.” Eventually, the country’s first Agricultural University at Pantnagar in Uttar Pradesh was inaugurated by him on Nov 17, 1960. Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana came up in 1962. Bhakra dam was dedicated to the nation in 1963. So in more than one way, it was Nehru who laid out the infrastructure for what later was called as Green Revolution.
White Revolution: It was in 1965 that the then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shashtri laid the foundation of milk cooperatives, which enabled farmers to get a higher price for milk and at the same time enabled urban consumers to get the benefit of easy availability of milk at an affordable price. Hailed as one the world’s most successful rural development programme, the dairy cooperatives have turned India into the world’s largest producer of milk, with production crossing 156 million tonnes. Benefitting more than 150 million dairy farmers, a majority of the beneficiaries being women, the enhanced per capita availability of milk has turned out to be one of the strong pillars of attaining nutritional security.
Green Revolution: A year later, in 1966, by allowing the import of the miracle high-yielding dwarf varieties of wheat from Mexico, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ushered in what is popularly termed as Green Revolution. Aided and abetted by appropriate price and public procurement policies, public sector investments and food distribution to deficit regions, India became self-sufficient in food, achieving food security at the national level. Subsequently, India stopped food imports under Pl-480 coming in from North America.
The success achieved in wheat was followed quickly in rice, cotton, sugarcane, vegetables and fruits. Food self-sufficiency became the foundation for national sovereignty, a fact which is often not acknowledged. It was in 1965 that the then US President Lyndon Johnson had got upset over a statement the then Prime Minister made. In an interview to a US newspaper Lal Bahadur Shashtri had termed the American war in Vietnam as “an act of aggression”. But this was unacceptable. How could a hungry nation dare to call the US an aggressor? The US stopped food supplies, sending the Indian government into a tizzy. The then food minister C Subramaniam later told me that there was a time when the country was left with food stocks for only seven days. There was panic all around. Shashtri had urged the nation to fast on Monday, the basic idea being to share the available food with the needy.

From: Tejinder Narang's tweet, Sept 8
Green Revolution certainly ended the era of chronic food deficiencies; enabling India to meet the challenges of hunger and deprivation. Such is the resilience developed over the years that even severe droughts, some in successive years, have not cast a remote shadow of famine. Nor has it forced the country to stand with a begging bowl. The strength of agriculture attained has to be measured at how it coped at times of calamities. For 70 years, the farmers have toiled hard to produce bumper harvests. Year after year, the records have tumbled.
It also turned the country into the world’s second largest producer of fruits and vegetables. But while food production continued to record new heights, estimated to cross 272 million tonnes in 2016-17, the share of agriculture in country’s GDP has been continuously sliding. With food easily available off the shelf, the middle class as well as the policy makers subsequently became complacent. Public investments in agriculture declined over the years. The focus gradually began to shift away from food self-sufficiency.
Agrarian Distress: Since the time the Economic Reforms were initiated in 1991, the institutional shift from planned to market-driven economy has decelerated the rural economy, casting a severe blow to agriculture. With World Bank in 1996 directing India to move 400 million people from the rural to the urban areas in the next 20 years, successive governments began to dismantle the planks of what is popularly called as ‘famine-avoidance’ strategy so assiduously built over the decades.
Consequently, with each passing year, the plight of a farming family has only worsened. Successive governments have deliberately created conditions turning farming non-viable thereby forcing an increasing number of farmers to abandon agriculture and migrate to cities. With farm gate prices remaining subdued if not static, a majority of the 600 million farmers have come under increasing levels of debt. In Punjab alone, 80 per cent of the farm families are living in debt. This is happening at a time when the focus is shifting to encouraging contract farming thereby allowing corporate to engage in agriculture. But will this work? Even while some industry projections see India emerging as an export hub for agriculture, most analysis point to India becoming a major food importer.
While food self-sufficiency is being sacrificed at the altar of international trade, food imports have soared. Already, a number of agreements are being signed to outsource food supplies, including from BRICS countries. According to Down to Earth magazine, food import bill for 2015-16 stood at Rs 1,402,680,000,000, three times more than the annual budget for agriculture. What is not being realised is that importing food is like importing unemployment. At a time when jobless growth is the norm, destroying farm livelihoods does not make any economic sense.
The dominant economic thinking is to open up the markets so as to allow agriculture to be globally competitive. While the World Trade Organisation (WTO) succeeded in pierce opening the developing country markets, it failed to make any drastic cuts in the monumental farm subsidies being provided in the rich industrialised countries. On an average, US provide farm subsidies to the tune of $ 68,910 per farm compared to $ 306 per farmer that India provides. This erodes the very concept of competitiveness.
The WTO was followed by bilateral and regional Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) treaty being currently negotiated between 16 countries, including the 10-member ASEAN block, will strike the final blow if and when it succeeds in making it mandatory to reduce import duties to zero on 92 per cent of the traded commodities/goods. Aren’t we going back to the days of ‘ship-to-mouth’ existence? 
Of the Agrarian Distress, Business World, Sept 2, 2017. http://businessworld.in/article/India-100-Of-The-Agrarian-Distress-/24-08-2017-124621/
Categories: Ecological News

The Toxic Story of RoundUp: Freedom from the Poison Cartel through Agroecology

Navdanya Diary - Sat, 09/09/2017 - 12:31

The report describes the origins and growth of the Poison Cartel and the ways in which these giant agri-business companies (Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, Chem China, Dow, Dupont, Basf) gain and keep control of their empires, among other things, in collusion with governmental agencies, as recently revealed in the Poison Papers and Monsanto Papers, undermining independent science and our democracies. It also describes the history of RoundUp and of RoundUp ready crops, and their impact on the environment and on people’s health, and the damage they are causing to our ecosystem. The report ends with a section on how the only possible response to the ecological and climate crisis, poverty, malnutrition and health emergencies which confront the world today, is through biodiversity-based agroecology, a toxic-free, harmless and vibrant agriculture, free of fossil fuels and poisons, and redirect our economic interests from the present linear, extractive and industrial paradigm to a regenerative ecological and nature-based circular approach.
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Also read: Launch of the Report “The Toxic Story of RoundUp: Freedom from the Poison Cartel through Agroecology”
Poison Cartel Fact Sheet

                          
Categories: Ecological News

Not Even a Fine for Canadian Co. That Spilled Nuclear Sludge Over 600-Mile UT/WY/CO Route (Twice), Feds Say

Environews.tv - Sat, 09/09/2017 - 00:24

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(EnviroNews Wyoming) — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has said no punishment will be levied against Cameco Corporation for spilling radioactive waste along a 600-mile route between eastern Wyoming and Blanding, Utah — not once, but twice.

Cameco was facing a $35,000 fine for the mishaps, but won’t have to pay “in part because the company plans in the future to store the barium sulfate sludge in bags within the trucks,” according to the Associated Press (AP). “However, significant violations in the future could result in a civil penalty,” Scott Morris, NRC Deputy Regional Administrator, wrote the company at the end of June.

Cameco is a Canadian company, and “one of the world’s largest uranium producers providing about 17 percent of the world’s production from mines in Canada, the U.S. and Kazakhstan,” according to the company’s website. Cameco Resources Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of the Canadian parent, performs in-situ (ISR) uranium mining at the Smith Ranch-Highland facility in northeastern Wyoming. The operation is the largest uranium processing facility in the United States, and between 2002 and 2011 yielded 15 million pounds of the radioactive element.

Drill Rigs at Smith Ranch-Highland Uranium Mine — Photo: Alan Rogers, Star-Tribune

The spills occurred in 2015 and 2016 along the 600-mile path to the waste’s ultimate destination: the White Mesa Mill waste disposal facility operated by Energy Fuels Resources Inc. Workers noticed the leaks when the trucks pulled into the site. In once incident, the white sludge sloshed out of the back of the truck when the driver slammed on the brakes near Meeker, Colorado to avoid hitting a deer. In the other spill, material got loose “from a faulty door in the truck container,” according to the AP.

“The NRC determined that Cameco committed nine rule violations. All were on the low end of the agency’s severity scale but five were serious enough to warrant fines,” the AP reported. While Cameco’s promises have been sufficient for the NRC, the company’s assurances are far from good enough for watchdogs and environmentalists.

“I think there’s a concern in southeastern Utah that waste is coming down I-70 and then down Highway 191 to White Mesa,” said Sarah Fields, Program Director of Moab-based Uranium Watch, in an interview with Utah Public Radio (UPR). Fields continued:

And because of a lack of regulatory oversight, waste has not been properly packaged. It has not been properly characterized. I don’t think the Utah Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control has a good handle on the disposal of this particular type of very liquid, radium and barium-laden waste. The NRC has asked for more details, and if they’re still asking questions then I’m sure the state of Utah really needs to ask questions about what is in this material… Cameco, at this one facility, has a long history of incompetence, indifference, a lot of violations, a variety of violations.

Truck Carrying Barium Sulfate Sludge — Photo: Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)

The “paste-like” substance is a typical byproduct of in-situ uranium mining, a process wherein a mixture of oxygen, water and baking soda dissolve uranium out of sandstone deposits, whereafter it is finished into yellowcake or nuclear fuel pellets.

“Cameco is pleased to have resolved the problem to the NRC’s satisfaction,” company spokesman Gord Struthers told the AP.

The post Not Even a Fine for Canadian Co. That Spilled Nuclear Sludge Over 600-Mile UT/WY/CO Route (Twice), Feds Say appeared first on EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists.

Categories: Ecological News
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