Global Food Prices Hit New Record High

As riots and rebellions are already rocking northern African nations (and parts of the Arabian peninsula) with the intensity to destabilize and topple governments that have maintained power for decades; the marginalized and disenfranchised people of the world will undoubtedly find increasingly more reasons to organize themselves into enraged mobs. As if decades of political corruption, social injustice, and increasing economic stagnation were not enough, the UN's Food & Agriculture Organization has released their latest figures indicating that the price of staple foodstuffs has risen to an all-time high, surpassing (on average) the last period of crisis (in 2008) that sparked food riots in nations around the world, when the price of corn, soy, and sugar all skyrocketed based partly on speculation of a burgeoning market for biofuels in the world's wealthier 'post-industrial' nations. From Algeria, Fanon's "wretched of the earth" are rising in rage against the new (economic) colonialism. And from other nations, A-to-Z, around the world, we're reminded once again of the great prophet Bob Marley's words of wisdom: "a hungry mob is an angry mob." And with droughts plaguing South America's big commodity-crop exporters. flooding in Australia, and a degree of politico-economic polarization in the United States that is unprecedented in living memory; the global food situation is unlikely to improve any time in the foreseeable future... especially considering that only three countries (the three A's -- America, Australia, and Argentina) supply nearly 80% of the world's cereal exports. (continued...)

How Writing by Hand Makes Kids Smarter

Many early indications were that the increasing prevalence of digital communications -- even those written conversations that take place via mobile devices or instant-messaging services that seem to engender a sort of abbreviated 'txt spk' -- were not apparently having any significant effect on our ability to recall more formal and socially acceptable grammatical styles when the need would arise. In a classroom setting, for instance, or when typing a business letter, it was shown that instant message users could readily 'revert' to the style that was expected of them. However, as digital communications continue to penetrate into our global monoculture, and perhaps ESPECIALLY when encountering other forms of written language that are more ideographic or pictographic than phonetic, we are seeing that these early assumptions could very well be mistaken. The phenomenon of "character amnesia" is becoming much more noticed by the media in Asian nations; where more complicated script leaves children (and tech-savvy adults alike) at a loss when trying to recall the pen-strokes that produce the written forms of language. And so, it's becoming apparent that comparisons of 'instant messaging' with 'email' or even printed documents that are type-written with machine aids is not at all equivalent to comparisons of machine-aided writing versus writing done solely by hand. Reports are now flooding-in, that confirm what should have likely been obvious from the first time humans used a calculator or a spell-checker... digital assistance for actions that were once solely mental & physical actions is leading to atrophy of our innate abilities. Just like most any other part of our body; the less we use our brains, the weaker they become. And so, while exploring this entry on how writing by hand makes kids smarter, perhaps it's worth asking yourself: When is the last time that YOU put a pen to paper? (continued...)

Quotable Sources: John Muir

"Love of pure unblemished Nature seems to overmaster and blur out of sight all other objects and considerations. I know that I could under ordinary circumstances accumulate wealth and obtain a fair position in society, and I am arrived at an age that requires that I should choose some definite course for life. But I am sure that the mind of no truant schoolboy is more free and disengaged from all the grave plans and purposes and pursuits of ordinary orthodox life than mine."

— John Muir

City Bees Are All the Buzz!

I wanted to keep bees on a suburban lot in South Carolina, but it was "illegal" under the regulations of the homeowners' association -- which had all actually been written by the developer and turned over to the 'association' as a de facto constitution. I was already involved in a fight with the same developer about his desire to build two houses on a area of isolated wetlands that were preserved as a 'conservation easement', precisely because of his initial development -- but they had been preserved by the Army Corps of Engineers (ironically) in their (often misguided or malicious) efforts to manage the nation's waterways and this federal power to protect 'isolated wetlands' in such a way had been promptly repealed by the Bush administration... leading to a sort of development boom in the South Carolina Lowcountry, since much of the previously protected wetlands were now governed only by state regulations (and most states had no such regulations since the activity had been in the domain of the Corps of Engineers).

Anyway, it seemed a more important fight; to save that small boggy & impenetrable patch of swamp magnolias, pines, gums, and even invasive species (Bradford Pears, and Tree of Heaven especially, but also lots of lawn grass and garden plants), since neighbors used one corner (which had been "accidentally" razed) as a dumping area for yard waste. And so I saved the little "less than an acre", from the developer who wanted to sell two more homes in a neighborhood where we already lived on lots the size of postage stamps. And also saved it from the crowd in the homeowners association meetings who wanted a "pool and/or clubhouse" on the forested land. I saved it, and so I still heard birds singing, and woodpeckers pecking. And, I had lots of bees, birds, butterflies, lizards, and snakes, and worms, and mice, and moles, etc. (because they still had a bit of the wild from whence to come) and I received plenty of fines and threats for my suburban permaculture experiment (one "neighbor" actually climbed on his roof to see what was in the jungle behind my fence, instead of merely asking and enjoying the tour that I loved to give to anyone who would let me), that was quite a spectacle... but as for the honey, someone else was reaping that reward. And I felt I didn't have the energy for the hives, much less the fight that would ensue once the hives were discovered. The thought of hives gave me hives, heh, pun fun. Yet the idea came to me again, when considering an 'urban ecovillage' in Buenos Aires, and the prospects for hives in urban areas. It seemed to me that the tree-lined streets and gardens full of flowers and citruses would provide a comfortable habitat, and the bees would be as integral and natural addition as they were in my suburban garden. However, when my own (usually entirely supportive) wife looked at me as if concerned for my mental health after I suggested the idea of intentionally bringing entire hives of bees into an urban apartment tower, I knew that it would likely be as difficult of a battle here as anywhere. (Especially considering that she's a "mental health" advocate, who has done a great deal of work to get people OUT of mental institutions.)

Yet, a small collective of underground apiculturists in New York City are teaming up and forming a powerful lobby that has already succeeded in introducing legislation to overturn the city's ban on bee-keeping. They're showing that the idea is not only viable, but that it enriches the local environment (and economy) in more ways than most people seemed to anticipate. It's hardly just for the honey. Click on through to read this very interesting article that has everything from direct action anarchist apiculture to ecopsychology...  (continued...)

Dispelling the Sensuous

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"Science transcends mere politics. As recent history demonstrates, scientists are as willing to work for a Tojo, a Hitler, or a Stalin as for the free nations of the West." - Ed Abbey

Quite a few web sources that I browse had decided to republish the results of a small, but interesting, psychological research project that was conducted recently. The basic premise of the whole project was that accompanying a verbal request with a light touch on the arm will produce a greater number of 'positive' responses to the request than if it were unaccompanied by the tactile element. Their results confirmed the hypothesis when statistically significant margins showed that a light touch on the arm was effective at producing a 'yes' in situations that would most likely have otherwise produced a 'no'. (continued...)

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