the irresistible fleet of bicycles


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eat less water; eat dry farmed grain

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(excerpt from Eat Less Water chapter Wheat and Water)

December 31, 2011

I followed the rain clouds along the two-lane road leading to With the Grain farm. On a slope above the wheat fields was a small house, home to John DeRosier, his wife Leaf and teenage son Noah. Near the house stood a barn stripped of paint from decades of sun and rain. It was charming. John’s big dog, his only companion on most days, joined us.

Among the gentle slopes of Paso Robles, John’s farm is an anomaly. Lines of grapevines squeeze his farm from every direction. Neighboring vineyards rely on continuous sips from wells that act like big straws, slurping up water from the aquifer for irrigation. John’s well, dug 300 feet deep, maintains the same level as when it was drilled six decades earlier. Surrounding vineyards are drilling 1,000 feet beneath the surface to find water. Wells are being drilled deeper and deeper, a sign that water is being extracted faster than it is replenished.

The summers reach 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Rain was imminent on the spring day I visited, but this part of the valley receives an average of only six inches of water a year, mostly in the winter months. This is less rainfall than the desert city of Phoenix, Arizona. Rain-fed crops need annual rainfall of ten inches or more; and less, and ordinarily the wheat farmer must irrigate. A common choice is flood irrigation that turns rows of wheat into straight, shallow rivers. It’s the cheapest method of irrigation (as long as the price of water remains low), but it has the highest rate of water loss through runoff and evaporation.

“You don’t irrigate your crops even in the dry months?” I asked John.

read on here…


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we are all flint

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The same forces that have made the Flint disaster possible are the same ones
that are bent on privatizing public water supplies and preventing a just
resolution to the growing world climate disaster.

The following is an excerpt from a Statement from SxSW Experiment about the water crisis in Flint, MI. The experiment is a powerful grassroots coalition of Latino, African American, and low income communities hailing from the American South and Southwest and working to incur racial and socio-economic justice in their regions and across the country. (Sidenote: Their website contains a wealth of amazing resources and information for social justice activism.)

Read the entirety of “We are All Flint” here.

There is another critical question: How do we address the infrastructure
crisis throughout the United States? As in Flint, this issue
disproportionately burdens communities of people of color and of
low-wealth. This is not simply a question of failure of public
investment. It reflects a deep structural problem that threatens to
create future public health disasters.

The deeper message of Flint goes beyond the dangers of human error or
even negligence, and beyond the actions of state governments that would
facilitate the impoverishment of our people. It is about a crisis in the
U.S. that threatens the lives and well-being of a growing majority of
the population.

The neoliberal model of development that underlies the strategic
political policies in Michigan that led to this crisis has as its
cornerstone the privatization of public resources and public services.
This model is supported by both major political parties and bankrolled
by those who have accumulated tremendous wealth at the direct expense of
people of color and of low-wealth.

It is a mode of development that is rooted in the systematic undermining
of the right to democratic participation by limiting the capacity of
local people to impact the formation and implementation of public policy
… whether in Flint, across the US, or in other parts of the world. The
same forces that have made the Flint disaster possible are the same ones
that are bent on privatizing public water supplies and preventing a just
resolution to the growing world climate disaster.

We stand in solidarity with the people of Flint, who are on the
frontlines of the struggle for democracy. We share their struggle for
democracy and for a transition to a just society that more fully values
human life and development.


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find a treasure trove of old maine seed catalogs online

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Mary Pols, Jan. 17, 2016, Portland Press Herald

An amazing cache of old seed catalogs – many of them local, beautifully rendered and full of clues to vintage varieties and growing methods – is now digitized and available to anyone with Internet access. And if it weren’t for a Mainer, the collection might not even exist.

The Internet Archive is a nonprofit digital archive that houses an astonishing collection of material, all downloadable, from Grateful Dead bootlegs to Charlie Chaplin movies to random 20th century software programs. Archive.org is like a flea market in the cloud, without price tags.

Among that ephemera is a treasure trove of more than 18,000 seed and nursery catalogs dating back to the 18th century, all digitized and uploaded by the National Agricultural Library over the last two years. Eventually, the entirety of the Henry G. Gilbert Nursery and Seed Trade Catalog Collection of more than 200,000 catalogs will be available for the public to browse electronically.

These catalogs, many of them beautifully illustrated, are more than just charming – they represent agricultural history. Their pages are littered with lost varieties and clues to how and what we grew in earlier centuries. They’ve always been available to the public, but until being digitized, that meant a trip to the fifth floor of the National Agricultural Library’s building in Beltsville, Maryland, where the originals are stored in an environment carefully controlled to high archival standards.

Now anyone with Internet access can see them. But if it weren’t for a Mainer born in Brunswick in 1878, this collection might not exist at all.

Continue reading HERE.


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pesticides show up in rainwater in four agricultural watersheds

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Image from Wikipedia.

Read this 2008 study on the University of Nebraska’s Digital Commons. The study publishes research supported by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program done in 2003 and 2004, which found statistically significant levels of herbicides and insecticides in rainwater in Maryland, Indiana, Nebraska, and California. We’d like to know how these levels are changing over time as high pesticides continue to be sprayed around the country.


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folk songs about land reform

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‘Three Acres And A Cow’ connects the Norman Conquest and Peasants’ Revolt with current issues of fracking and the housing crisis via the Enclosures, English Civil War, Irish Land League and Industrial Revolution, drawing a compelling narrative through the radical people’s history of Britain in folk song, stories and poems.

Part TED talk, part history lecture, part folk club sing-a-long, part poetry slam, part storytelling session… Come and share in these tales as they have been shared for generations.

To read more, click HERE!


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you can now sue over organic labels in california

If I’m going to spend extra on organic produce and products, they better well be fully organic. We’re talking pesticide-free, earth-friendly, non-synthetic organic here. If I get a product labeled organic that doesn’t meet those standards, I’m going to feel cheated.

And, as of today, I could sue. In an opinion released today, the California Supreme Court ruled that consumers can sue over “misrepresentations in labeling,” when products are misleadingly labeled as organic.

Organic or Just Sort of Organic?

The California Supreme Court’s ruling came after Herby Thyme Farms, one of the largest herb growers in California, was accused of mixing organic and conventionally grown herbs in the same package and selling them under a “fresh organic” label.

A class action against the growers alleged that consumers were lead to believe that the herbs were 100 percent organic when they were not — and they paid a premium for that organic designation. Lead plaintiff Michelle Quesada sued Herb Thyme under California’s unfair competition and false advertising laws.

Continue reading


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tell gov.cuomo to turn on the TAP

From: John Brown Lives!

The research is clear: Education reduces recidivism, improves job prospects for individuals once they leave prison and strengthens communities. Since 1995, though, New York has blocked incarcerated individuals from receiving this aid. Our goal is to restore it.​ You can help – sign this petition today!

Next month, John Brown Lives! will go to Albany with other members of Education from the Inside Out (EIO) to urge Gov. Cuomo to restore Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) aid to jailed students. Show him you want all New Yorkers to have the power to transform their lives through education.

sign the petition today

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