Saturday, October 31, 2009




One of Ken Robinson's many great lines about how schools are: "Don't share answers with anyone, that's cheating." Outside of schools, that's called collaboration. He notes that kids start school with the vast majority showing signs of incredible creativity but by the end of high school only 10 percent manifest the standard measures of creativity. Why?


How did I ever miss this guy? Thanks to treehugger for putting Robinson back into our view.


The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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Indeed! Politics can get pretty weird everywhere but US does seem to have a field day with self-righteousness. Jon Stewart nails it and ends with barbs of brilliant balance.

What's the answer? Surely the blogosphere will be part of it. Since the BIG STORY was never really the news, maybe we need to start constructing our realities out of lots of little stories. And THAT could be news.

Friday, October 30, 2009


More from above, below and on the streets of São Paulo.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Last month, in preparation for today's day of actions around the globe, school children in Hawaii expressed their feelings in art.

The inspiration for the day of international events came from the global network at They report that "TODAY, 24 October 2009, people in 181 countries came together for the most widespread day of environmental action in the planet's history. At over 5200 events around the world, people gathered to call for strong action and bold leadership on the climate crisis." They've got a great slideshow and lots of ideas for how to keep the movement building at

Andrew Revkin has a running story at the NY Times on today's events and lots of comments at his dotearth blog.

Here are the featured photos at flickr.

The photos are pouring in from around the world. You can keep track of them at the global collection at flickr or at

[update 25 october: Thanks to the links in Revkin's NY Times coverage, I just found the Greenpeace "put your nude body on the line" youtube clip (below) from a few years ago.]


Some random photos I shot last week while traveling to and from my Portuguese class.

On the street. In the Metro. Walking. Watching. Up and down. Through the looking glass. Just a fun meander through some scenes and tones of the city.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


I was just having this conversation with my email friend Phylis when I discovered that Sullivan had re-posted a sensibility from Rev. Tom Honey that I can truly relate to.

"When I stood up to speak to my people about God and the tsunami, I had no answers to offer them. No neat packages of faith with Bible references to prove them. Only doubts and questions and uncertainty. I had some suggestions to make - possible new ways of thinking about God. Ways that might allow us to go on, down a new and uncharted road. But in the end the only thing I could say for sure was I don't know, and that might just be the most profoundly religious statement of all."


NY Times Graphic by Alan Dye

Bono has a good dream.

Via NY Times

Rebranding America

A FEW years ago, I accepted a Golden Globe award by barking out an expletive.

One imagines President Obama did the same when he heard about his Nobel, and not out of excitement.

When Mr. Obama takes the stage at Oslo City Hall this December, he won’t be the first sitting president to receive the peace prize, but he might be the most controversial. There’s a sense in some quarters of these not-so-United States that Norway, Europe and the World haven’t a clue about the real President Obama; instead, they fixate on a fantasy version of the president, a projection of what they hope and wish he is, and what they wish America to be.

Well, I happen to be European, and I can project with the best of them. So here’s why I think the virtual Obama is the real Obama, and why I think the man might deserve the hype. It starts with a quotation from a speech he gave at the United Nations last month:

“We will support the Millennium Development Goals, and approach next year’s summit with a global plan to make them a reality. And we will set our sights on the eradication of extreme poverty in our time.”

They’re not my words, they’re your president’s. If they’re not familiar, it’s because they didn’t make many headlines. But for me, these 36 words are why I believe Mr. Obama could well be a force for peace and prosperity — if the words signal action.

The millennium goals, for those of you who don’t know, are a persistent nag of a noble, global compact. They’re a set of commitments we all made nine years ago whose goal is to halve extreme poverty by 2015. Barack Obama wasn’t there in 2000, but he’s there now. Indeed he’s gone further — all the way, in fact. Halve it, he says, then end it.

Many have spoken about the need for a rebranding of America. Rebrand, restart, reboot. In my view these 36 words, alongside the administration’s approach to fighting nuclear proliferation and climate change, improving relations in the Middle East and, by the way, creating jobs and providing health care at home, are rebranding in action.

These new steps — and those 36 words — remind the world that America is not just a country but an idea, a great idea about opportunity for all and responsibility to your fellow man.

All right ... I don’t speak for the rest of the world. Sometimes I think I do — but as my bandmates will quickly (and loudly) point out, I don’t even speak for one small group of four musicians. But I will venture to say that in the farthest corners of the globe, the president’s words are more than a pop song people want to hear on the radio. They are lifelines.

In dangerous, clangorous times, the idea of America rings like a bell (see King, M. L., Jr., and Dylan, Bob). It hits a high note and sustains it without wearing on your nerves. (If only we all could.) This was the melody line of the Marshall Plan and it’s resonating again. Why? Because the world sees that America might just hold the keys to solving the three greatest threats we face on this planet: extreme poverty, extreme ideology and extreme climate change. The world senses that America, with renewed global support, might be better placed to defeat this axis of extremism with a new model of foreign policy.

It is a strangely unsettling feeling to realize that the largest Navy, the fastest Air Force, the fittest strike force, cannot fully protect us from the ghost that is terrorism .... Asymmetry is the key word from Kabul to Gaza .... Might is not right.

I think back to a phone call I got a couple of years ago from Gen. James Jones. At the time, he was retiring from the top job at NATO; the idea of a President Obama was a wild flight of the imagination.

General Jones was curious about the work many of us were doing in economic development, and how smarter aid — embodied in initiatives like President George W. Bush’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief and the Millennium Challenge Corporation — was beginning to save lives and change the game for many countries. Remember, this was a moment when America couldn’t get its cigarette lighted in polite European nations like Norway; but even then, in the developing world, the United States was still seen as a positive, even transformative, presence.

The general and I also found ourselves talking about what can happen when the three extremes — poverty, ideology and climate — come together. We found ourselves discussing the stretch of land that runs across the continent of Africa, just along the creeping sands of the Sahara — an area that includes Sudan and northern Nigeria. He also agreed that many people didn’t see that the Horn of Africa — the troubled region that encompasses Somalia and Ethiopia — is a classic case of the three extremes becoming an unholy trinity (I’m paraphrasing) and threatening peace and stability around the world.

The military man also offered me an equation. Stability = security + development.

In an asymmetrical war, he said, the emphasis had to be on making American foreign policy conform to that formula.

Enter Barack Obama.

If that last line still seems like a joke to you ... it may not for long.

Mr. Obama has put together a team of people who believe in this equation. That includes the general himself, now at the National Security Council; the vice president, a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; the Republican defense secretary; and a secretary of state, someone with a long record of championing the cause of women and girls living in poverty, who is now determined to revolutionize health and agriculture for the world’s poor. And it looks like the bipartisan coalition in Congress that accomplished so much in global development over the past eight years is still holding amid rancor on pretty much everything else. From a development perspective, you couldn’t dream up a better dream team to pursue peace in this way, to rebrand America.

The president said that he considered the peace prize a call to action. And in the fight against extreme poverty, it’s action, not intentions, that counts. That stirring sentence he uttered last month will ring hollow unless he returns to next year’s United Nations summit meeting with a meaningful, inclusive plan, one that gets results for the billion or more people living on less than $1 a day. Difficult. Very difficult. But doable.

The Nobel Peace Prize is the rest of the world saying, “Don’t blow it.”

But that’s not just directed at Mr. Obama. It’s directed at all of us. What the president promised was a “global plan,” not an American plan. The same is true on all the other issues that the Nobel committee cited, from nuclear disarmament to climate change — none of these things will yield to unilateral approaches. They’ll take international cooperation and American leadership.

The president has set himself, and the rest of us, no small task.

That’s why America shouldn’t turn up its national nose at popularity contests. In the same week that Mr. Obama won the Nobel, the United States was ranked as the most admired country in the world, leapfrogging from seventh to the top of the Nation Brands Index survey — the biggest jump any country has ever made. Like the Nobel, this can be written off as meaningless ... a measure of Mr. Obama’s celebrity (and we know what people think of celebrities).

But an America that’s tired of being the world’s policeman, and is too pinched to be the world’s philanthropist, could still be the world’s partner. And you can’t do that without being, well, loved. Here come the letters to the editor, but let me just say it: Americans are like singers — we just a little bit, kind of like to be loved. The British want to be admired; the Russians, feared; the French, envied. (The Irish, we just want to be listened to.) But the idea of America, from the very start, was supposed to be contagious enough to sweep up and enthrall the world.

And it is. The world wants to believe in America again because the world needs to believe in America again. We need your ideas — your idea — at a time when the rest of the world is running out of them.


(re-posted from May 14, 2009)


Last weekend, at the time of the full moon, the Vesak festivals around the world celebrated the birth, enlightenment and the passing away of Gautama Buddha. I wanted to honor the time with the photo above, which is of a statue of some deity in the Chicago Art Institute seeming (to me at least) to be stepping out of the illusion, and out of the path of endless suffering (maybe even signaling, "no, don't go there").

Saturday, October 17, 2009


A few days ago we posted the call for prayers issued by Jonathan Goldman in support of attorney Roy Haber's mission to Washington DC to discuss the government's intention to continue to appeal against the freedom of the Santo Daime religion in the US.

Here's Jon's update about what transpired and what needs to be done now:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for the response to our request for prayers. We had people literally all over the world lending heart and prayer to Roy's efforts in Washington. What I want to ask you to do now is to keep it up. We have been promised a clear response to our requests in two weeks. The people who Roy met with were simultaneously listening to what he said and also strongly representing a dug-in, unfair and unnecessary position that we simply cannot agree to. Those folks will report to their higher ups, and there exist a number of possibilities as to how things will proceed from here. The baseline is, we are free and there is no likely outcome, no matter how things proceed, that would find that freedom removed form us. Some possibilities are longer , more complicated, and way more expensive than others. The details are in process, and we quite truly don't know what the government's response will be. Until we do, light sent to the Justice officials, and daily gratitude for the Santo Daime and its path are in order for us all. We remain hopeful and grateful for the gift of brilliant and dedicated representatives of our interest, and committed to fortifying our union to receive the next level of blessing that will come as this process plays out. I'll keep you updated.

In the Light of Freedom

Jonathan Goldman
Santo Daime
Ashland, Oregon


Maldives Government Meets Underwater
Photo - Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Recently, the island nation of Maldives, affirmed its commitment to biochar as an important means of meeting the country's goal to be "Zero Carbon" by 2020. Now they are meeting underwater to highlight the desperate challenge that this climate change frontline state is facing.

via NY Times

Maldives Government Dives for Climate Change

GIRIFUSHI, Maldives (AP) -- Members of the Maldives' Cabinet donned scuba gear and used hand signals Saturday at an underwater meeting staged to highlight the threat of global warming to the lowest-lying nation on earth.

President Mohammed Nasheed and 13 other government officials submerged and took their seats at a table on the sea floor -- 20 feet (6 meters) below the surface of a lagoon off Girifushi, an island usually used for military training.

With a backdrop of coral, the meeting was a bid to draw attention to fears that rising sea levels caused by the melting of polar ice caps could swamp this Indian Ocean archipelago within a century. Its islands average 7 feet (2.1 meters) above sea level.

''What we are trying to make people realize is that the Maldives is a frontline state. This is not merely an issue for the Maldives but for the world,'' Nasheed said.

As bubbles floated up from their face masks, the president, vice president, Cabinet secretary and 11 ministers signed a document calling on all countries to cut their carbon dioxide emissions.

The issue has taken on urgency ahead of a major U.N. climate change conference scheduled for December in Copenhagen. At that meeting countries will negotiate a successor to the Kyoto Protocol with aims to cut the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide that scientists blame for causing global warming by trapping heat in the atmosphere.

Wealthy nations want broad emissions cuts from all countries, while poorer ones say industrialized countries should carry most of the burden.

Dozens of Maldives soldiers guarded the event Saturday, but the only intruders were groupers and other fish.

Nasheed had already announced plans for a fund to buy a new homeland for his people if the 1,192 low-lying coral islands are submerged. He has promised to make the Maldives, with a population of 350,000, the world's first carbon-neutral nation within a decade.

''We have to get the message across by being more imaginative, more creative and so this is what we are doing,'' he said in an interview on a boat en route to the dive site.

Nasheed, who has emerged as a key, and colorful, voice on climate change, is a certified diver, but the others had to take diving lessons in recent weeks.

Three ministers missed the underwater meeting because two were not given medical permission and another was abroad.

Friday, October 16, 2009


[Once again, I find myself in deep agreement with Roger Cohen. As the 21st Century squeezes all of us more and more together, clinging to the formulas of past pains no longer serve us well. The modern challenge is that, as everything becomes global, long standing prejudices and presumptions of specialness and separateness must yield to here-and-now questions of justice and equity, and of living together in peace. ]

via NY Times

An Ordinary Israel

NEW YORK — Is Israel just a nation among nations? On one level, it is indeed an ordinary place. People curse the traffic, follow their stocks, Blackberry, go to the beach and pay their mortgages. Stroll around in the prosperous North Tel Aviv suburbs and you find yourself California dreaming.

On another, it’s not. More than 60 years after the creation of the modern state, Israel has no established borders, no constitution, no peace. Born from exceptional horror, the Holocaust, it has found normality elusive.

The anxiety of the diaspora Jews has ceded not to tranquility but to another anxiety. The escape from walls has birthed new walls. The annihilation psychosis has not disappeared but taken new form.

For all Israel’s successes — it is the most open, creative and dynamic society in the region — this is a gnawing failure. Can anything be done about it?

Perhaps a good place to start that inquiry is by noting that Israel does not see itself as normal. Rather it lives in a perpetual state of exceptionalism.

I understand this: Israel is a small country whose neighbors are enemies or cold bystanders. But I worry when Israel makes a fetish of its exceptional status. It needs to deal with the world as it is, however discomfiting, not the world of yesterday.

The Holocaust represented a quintessence of evil. But it happened 65 years ago. Its perpetrators are dead or dying. A Holocaust prism may be distorting. History illuminates — and blinds.

These reflections stirred on reviewing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the U.N. last month. The first 30 paragraphs were devoted to an inflammatory conflation of Nazi Germany (the word “Nazi” appears five times), modern Iran, Al Qaeda (a Sunni ideology foreign to Shiite Iran) and global terrorism, with lonely and exceptional Israel standing up against them all.

Here’s Netanyahu’s summary of the struggle of our age: “It pits civilization against barbarism, the 21st century against the 9th century, those who sanctify life against those who glorify death.”

That’s facile, resonant — and unhelpful. Sure, it’s an outlook that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s unacceptable Holocaust denial and threats comfort. (Several Iranian leaders have also spoken of accepting any deal on Israel that the Palestinians agree to.)

There’s another way of looking at the ongoing struggle in the Middle East — less dramatic and more accurate.

That is to see it as a fight for a different balance of power — and possibly greater stability — between a nuclear-armed Israel (an estimated 80 to 200 never-acknowledged weapons), a proud but uneasy Iran and an increasingly sophisticated and aware (if repressed) Arab world.

Some of Israel’s enemies contest its very existence, however powerless they are to end it. But the death-cult terrorists-versus-reasonable-Israelis paradigm falls short. There are various civilizations in the Middle East, whose attitudes toward religion and modernism vary, but who all quest for some accommodation between them.

One casualty of this view, of course, is Israeli exceptionalism. The Jewish state becomes more like any other nation fighting for influence and treasure. I think President Obama, himself talking down American exceptionalism, is trying to nudge Israel toward a more prosaic, realistic self-image.

Hence the U.S. abstention last month at a U.N. nuclear assembly vote calling on all states in the Middle East to “accede to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear weapons” (N.P.T.) and create a nuclear-weapon-free Middle East — an idea Obama administration officials have supported in line with a nuclear disarmament agenda.

A shift is perceptible in the decades-old tacit American endorsement of Israel’s undeclared nuclear arsenal. This is logical. To deal effectively with the nuclear program of Iran, an N.P.T. member, while ignoring the nuclear status of non-N.P.T. Israel is to invite accusations of double standards. President Obama doesn’t like them.

I’d say there’s a tenable case for Israel ending its nuclear exceptionalism, coming clean on its arsenal and joining the N.P.T. as part of any U.S.-endorsed regional security arrangement that stops Iran short of weaponization.

It’s also worth noting the sensible tone of Defense Secretary Robert Gates — in flagrant contrast to Netanyahu. “The only way you end up not having a nuclear capable Iran is for the Iranian government to decide that their security is diminished by having those weapons as opposed to strengthened,” Gates says.

In other words, as I’ve long argued, Iran makes rational decisions. Rather than invoking the Holocaust — a distraction — Israel should view Iran coolly, understand the hesitancy of Tehran’s nuclear brinksmanship, and see how it can gain from U.S.-led diplomacy.

Cut the posturing and deal with reality. This can be painful — as with Justice Richard Goldstone’s recent U.N. report finding that both Israeli forces and Palestinian militants committed possible crimes against humanity during Israel’s military operations in Gaza.

But it’s also instructive. Goldstone is a measured man — I’ve known him a long time. The Israeli response to his findings strikes me as an example of the blinding effect of exceptionalism unbound. Ordinary nations have failings.

The Middle East has changed. So must Israel. “Never again” is a necessary but altogether inadequate way of dealing with the modern world.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Despite expectations that the US Department of Justice might be more enlightened under Obama than it was under Bush, and despite a series of court challenges where the Santo Daime has been found in every instance to be an authentic religion deserving the full rights of religious freedom, and despite countless studies demonstrating the religious and therapeutic properties of the church's sacramental tea, the government continues to view it as a drug and has announced its intention to appeal the court victory that recently set Santo Daime free in Oregon.

The US Santo Daime lawyer Roy Haber will be meeting with officials in the Department of Justice in Washington D.C on Thursday October 15, 2009 to discuss the government's ill-advised intention to appeal the recent judicial ruling that declared Santo Daime as a free and fully legal religion in Oregon.

Jonathan Goldman who leads the Santo Daime church in Ashland, Oregon has sent out an alert saying:

"I am asking all brothers and sisters in the whole world to focus your prayer during the hour of 1 to 2 PM EST on Thursday. ... However you feel to join us - from your church, home, your work, your forest, your mountain top - I am positive that all of our prayers will be woven together by our guides and delivered to that conference room in Washington."

TV Interview with Jonathan Goldman

Jonathan also has a podcast with an in-depth discussion of Santo Daime's legal struggle in the US.

There's an excellent collection of documents here.

US District Judge Owen Panner's full ruling is at GREAT NEWS: Santo Daime is free.)


"BELEZA E SABER: plummária indígena" -- BEAUTY AND KNOWLEDGE: indigenous plumage -- is a wonderful exhibit of Brazilian Indian regalia currently showing in São Paulo. I was really challenged as a photographer because of all of the reflections and lights of the city setting. The result was what Brazilians call a mistura, in this case producing what might be called a Paulista Plumage. I hope you like the result.

Friday, October 09, 2009


That's the way we say "CONGRATULATIONS" in Brazil. The ovations and praises are for Petra Costa and her colleagues who have given us a tender tale of love nurtured and seasoned across more than 60 years by Gabriel and Vera. OLHOS DE RESSACA (Undertow Eyes) has won the "Best Short Film" award in Rio's Film Festival.

Directed by Petra Costa, Ava Rocha Montage, Eryk Rocha Photography, and Edson Secco Audio Design

Vera and Gabriel have been married for sixty years. In "Undertow Eyes" they wander about their own history: the first flirtations, the birth of children, life and aging. In this recollection, archival footage of family mingle with images of the present, weaving an emotional and dreamlike universe that is both delicate and delicious.

20 minutes of viewing left me more than satisfied. It filled my heart with a warm glow. Watch for it as it makes its way to the States and Abroad.

Thursday, October 08, 2009


via WELL

Michael Pollan’s Favorite Food Rules
By Tara Parker-Pope

In March, the best-selling author Michael Pollan asked readers of the Well blog for help. He wanted your food rules — the folklore, wisdom and common sense that guide your family eating habits.

Well readers rose to the challenge, offering more than 2,600 rules (and counting) for healthful eating. Mr. Pollan, who is soon releasing a book on the topic, this week offers a preview in The New York Times Magazine of 20 of his favorite rules.

A reader, Carol Jackson, offered: “You don’t get fat from food you pray over.”

“It’s better to pay the grocer than the doctor,” John Forti wrote.

“No second helpings, no matter how scrumptious,” Karen Harmin suggested.

To hear more from Mr. Pollan and to read all 20 food rules, check out the full story, “Rules to Eat By” and click on the interactive link to see the rules.

For more, check out Michael Pollan's website.


Greenpeace, Mongabay and The Guardian UK are all reporting and offering background stories on the big news that the largest beef producers in Brazil are joining in strategies to slow and eventually halt deforestation in the Amazon.

In the video below, Greenpeace combines with google, to give a tour of this very successful moratorium strategy that started with the big soy producers and is now extending to include the cattle giants.

And here's more from Greenpeace in Brazil:

SAO PAULO, Brazil - October 5 - In a major step forward for climate protection, today four of the biggest players in the global cattle industry -- Marfrig, Bertin, JBS-Friboi and Minerva - joined forces to ban the purchase of cattle from newly deforested areas of the Brazilian Amazon from their supply chains, backing Greenpeace's call for zero deforestation in the rainforest. (1)

The move follows the release of the Greenpeace report ‘Slaughtering the Amazon' in June, which exposed the link between forest destruction and the expansion of cattle ranching in the Amazon. This prompted calls for action from key international companies, including Adidas, Nike and Timberland, which committed to cancel contracts unless their products were guaranteed to be free from Amazon destruction, encouraging today's move.

The announcement was made at a high-level event in Sao Paulo organized by Greenpeace, where each of the companies declared the adoption of environmental and social standards to ensure their products are free from cattle raised in newly deforested areas of the rainforest.

Measures include the monitoring of their supply chains and clear targets for the registration of farms that both directly and indirectly supply cattle as well as measures to end the purchase of cattle from indigenous and protected areas and from farms using slave labor.(2)

"This is an important step in the fight to stop the destruction of one of the world's most critical rainforests and vital to helping tackle climate change," said Paulo Adario, Greenpeace Amazon campaign director.

The Brazilian cattle sector, which occupies 80 percent of all deforested areas of the Amazon, is the country's leading carbon polluter.

The event was attended by Gov. Blairo Maggi of the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, which has the highest rate of deforestation in the Amazon and the largest cattle herd in Brazil. Maggi announced that the state would support efforts to protect the Amazon and would provide high-resolution satellite images for monitoring.

"This announcement shows that the cattle industry and a state government are doing their part. President Lula must now do his homework to improve Brazil's action plan to fight Amazon destruction, ensuring an end to deforestation by 2015, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and averting the impending climate crisis," said Adario.

At the United Nations General Assembly in September, President Lula announced a target of 80 percent reduction in deforestation by 2020 for Brazil.

In just 10 weeks' time, governments around the world will meet in Copenhagen to agree a strong climate deal to avoid catastrophic climate change. Deforestation accounts for around 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than all the world's trains, planes and cars put together. A good climate deal will only be effective if it successfully tackles emissions from both fossil fuels and deforestation. (3)

1. Bertin is the world's largest leather exporter and Brazil's second-largest beef exporter; JBS-Friboi is the world's largest beef producer and global exporter of processed beef; and Marfrig is the world's fourth largest beef trader.

2. See

3. Political negotiations to save the climate will culminate at the UN Copenhagen Climate Summit, where governments must agree to a strong global deal to avert catastrophic climate change, will be held in December. Tropical deforestation accounts for approximately 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than the world's entire transport sector, so any deal must effectively tackle deforestation.

Greenpeace is calling for developed countries to provide US$140 billion a year to tackle the climate crisis. Approximately US$40 billion a year of this should be designated to tropical forested countries so they can ensure the forests are properly protected. The funds would be provided in return for a commitment to stop deforestation by 2015 in the Amazon and by 2020 globally.


(CNN) -- It is midday and Geoff Lawton is hard at work at Zaytuna Farms in New South Wales, Australia. But the real work, he says, is going on inside the center of the compost.

"There's lots of things breeding in there," Lawton says.

Compost may not seem a sexy subject, but within this steaming pile, life is being created.

"There's organisms breathing and dying and reproducing very quickly," he says. "It's all very hot and steamy."

That rich soil lays the groundwork for Lawton's revolutionary method of food production. It's called permaculture.

Permaculture also takes all the things we need -- our housing, energy sources, food and water supplies -- and tailors them to fit into the natural rhythms of the ecosystem. The idea is to work with, not against, nature.

Lawton says that during the first few weeks and months you don't see the real benefits, but after a year to 18 months you really start to see the difference.

"Within two or three years you can see a system that is really something that's got great opportunities and possibilities," he said.

The gardens at Zaytuna Farms bear fruit and vegetables of all that hard work. The real measure though isn't how it works, but where.

Lawton claims this permaculture method can work anywhere in the world, including the desert.

"Almost all the deserts on earth at one point were forested," he said. "They all have different types of oasis systems. What you're doing is picking different points in the desert and turning them into a rich oasis."

On a DVD created by the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia, Lawton shows us what happened when he took this method to places like Morocco and Jordan -- just 80 kilometers from the Dead Sea.

"People were amazed to see an area that was salty, sandy ground, turn into a lush green forest, that had mushrooms growing from the soil," Lawton said.

The ability to "green" the desert is not only having an impact on the communities where these gardens are grown. Interest is also sprouting among young people.

Dozens come to Zaytuna Farms every year to learn about the permaculture method.

"I've only been doing it a year and once you hit upon the principles it's basically observations," said intern Jonathan Chan.

"You have to look at the land and which way the wind is blowing and see where the sun angles are and design around that and it does seem quite simple."

For Chan it's as much about cultivating a new way of life as it is about cultivating the land.

"I think people are getting to the point where they have to make change and permaculture is a good direction to go," he said.

Still, permaculture isn't without its critics. They argue the method is time-consuming in the early stages and that makes the system hard to get off the ground in many places.

It can be made even more difficult if the people living around the site aren't familiar with the process.

But Lawton argues the time and energy expended in a permaculture garden is offset by the quality of the experience, and the richness of the end result.

Lawton's friend and mentor, Bill Mollison, developed the process back in the 1970s. Since then he and Lawton have traveled the globe preaching the value of permaculture and its aim to create harmony between the landscape and the people who live on it.

"A good organic farmer works a thousand hours a year. The industrial mankind works two thousand to three thousand hours a year. What do we have to show for it? Gadgets.

"Nature exists in an incredibly rich form, and enriching form and does so without any energy inputs from mankind," Lawton explains. "Permaculture does the same thing."

"We've taken the systems of soil creation and soil life and we've revved them up. We've speeded up nature itself and we've improved the system."

So what does it take to improve the system?

Lawton says it's about rehabilitating areas that have been damaged by pollution or overuse by recycling nutrients and energy back into the soils.

"We don't have community, we don't have clean water, clean air or sensible housing. As negative as we currently are, we can be equally positive," Lawton said. "It's not just self-reliance or self-sufficiency, it's absolute abundance."

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


Financial Times interview transcript: Marina Silva

By Jonathan Wheatley in Sao Paulo
Published: October 5 2009

Go to original article

Jonathan Wheatley, the FT’s Brazil correspondent, interviewed Marina Silva in her office in Brazil’s Senate on September 18. Ms Silva, who was elected to the Senate for the first time in 1994, was Brazil’s environment minister between January 2003 and May 2008, when she left in frustration at what she saw as the failure of other ministries to give due concern to environmental issues. She was a founder member in 1980 of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s leftwing Workers’ Party (PT) but left the party in August this year at the height of a corruption scandal involving José Sarney, president of the Senate, after Mr Lula da Silva threw his support behind Mr Sarney, a former political adversary. She has since joined the Green Party and is widely expected to run as its candidate in presidential elections next October.

FT: What do you expect of the Copenhagen meeting? What should Brazil demand of developed nations and what should it hope to achieve?

MS: First, I think we need to have a political posture that is coherent with what we want to demand. This means we should first make the effort internally to ensure that Brazil is committed to targets but that these should be global targets, not just for reducing deforestation but covering all sectors that produce emissions. How this will be done, how we will do the distribution, is something that needs to be worked on internally with transparency, involving the government, society, businesses and academia. I think this is a sine qua non.

Another aspect is that we have to reduce emissions in a way that ensures that temperatures rise by a maximum of two degrees, meaning a maximum of 450 particles per million [the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere regarded as a threshold beyond which global warming becomes irreversible]. This means a big effort by developed countries. And the architecture necessary to make this possible for developed countries should also allow emerging countries to make their contribution, so that we can reach this target at the global level and, by 2020, have a very strong signal that we are going to be able to achieve this by the middle of the century.

There is often a mistaken view put forward in these debates that it is easier to make reductions by reducing deforestation than by other mechanisms. Obviously, reducing deforestation is fundamental, this is not in question. It has to be reduced, yes. But this doesn’t mean it is easy. It is just as difficult [as other means of reducing emissions]. And it presupposes changing the model of development for developing countries. In the same way that it is hard for rich countries to alter their energy systems from fossil fuels to renewable fuels, it is hard for developing countries to change their model of development. This has a cost. People often argue [reducing deforestation] is easier because the cost is less, to achieve reductions, but this is not the way it should be thought about. It’s not that there is a lower cost or that for this reason we should think only about deforestation. We need to think about global emissions in general to achieve global results. That’s why I argue that Brazil has to have a global target and that we should have commitments that achieve this reduction by the middle of the century. Obviously this will be made easier if we have a good architecture in place by 2020 at the latest.

FT: Should Brazil demand that rich countries provide finance to help developing countries reduce emissions?

MS: I think, yes, there should be support from developed countries not only in terms of finance but also to find a mechanism that makes it possible to change the model of development, and also transfer of technology. This is important. It is not only a matter of resources. Now, this shouldn’t be expressed as a pre-condition for doing anything. It should be expressed as a means of doing more than we would do with our own resources alone. But there should be a priority in terms of internal resources that from the outset signals Brazil’s commitment to what it wants to reduce. It should not be a question of getting external funding first in order to be able to start to do anything.

Interview continues at Financial Times

Saturday, October 03, 2009


"On August 19th, 2007, an oil tanker off the coast of Australia split in two, dumping 20,000 tons of crude oil into the sea. Senator Collins, a member of the Australian Parliament, appeared on a TV news program to reassure the Australian public.

"The actual interview is so funny, you'd swear it was a Saturday Night Live skit."

But at sea when the front fell off it wasn't so funny.

[Update: The interview, I'm informed, turned out to be a hoax but surely a must-see.]

Jonah Lehrer has been reporting on how the city hurts your brain as well as sharing recent studies showing that nature not only heals but that it can make us more compassionate.

The city also produces its own very unique art forms that illustrate the pain thesis, mixed in with some distinctly urban visual entertainment. Here's a slideshow of some of São Paulo's famous graffiti and street art. Perhaps there's more than pain going on. Maybe even a bit of urban "nature".

What do you think?


Obama / Browner
AP Photo File

The NY Times reports that President Obama’s top climate and energy official says there is virtually no chance Congress will pass a climate and energy bill before the December Copenhagen climate treaty meetings.

I know, this is getting tedious but we've got to ask, "what was the change that we believed in?"

Is it all Obama's fault? I think not. Some politician famously said, "You've elected me because of my promises. Now, you've got to make me keep them." And that's the job of the WE who we also believed in.

Did we mistakenly believe that good things might happen just because we got rid of some of the bad? It's a common error to think that the positive will flow automatically. It's like thinking that peace can be created by being anti-war or that love can be nurtured by being against hate. It doesn't work. Indeed, the real work of manifesting the vision of change remains.

Today in representative democracies world-wide the stalemate occurs in the Congresses and Parliaments where the lobbyists have obtained a stranglehold on policy formation. There are broadly two alternative responses to such institutionalized inertia: 1) strengthen executive power with a Dictator of Good Stuff or 2) build WE networks that are capable of taking action without institutional permission.

Obviously, it's really not simply one or the other. Our challenge is about figuring out the mix.
And doing the work.

Friday, October 02, 2009



Today, Montblanc, the luxury Swiss penmaker, issued a £15,500 ($24,673) fountain pen to commemorate the 140th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Ghandi.

Gandhi's birthday marked with opulence by Montblanc

Jo Adetunji,
Friday 2 October 200

Go to original article.

For Mahatma Gandhi, one of history's best known non-violent activists, the pen was indeed mightier than the sword. But a luxury, limited-edition fountain pen created by Montblanc, the luxury Swiss penmaker, to commemorate the 140th anniversary of his birth today, has caused controversy for being at odds with Gandhi's simpler side.

The £15,500 pen features an engraving of Gandhi, a rhodium-plated nib, a saffron-coloured opal and a booklet of quotes from the father of Indian independence, affectionately known in India as "Bapu". The pen, which is aimed at the growing Indian market for luxury goods, also comes with an eight metre golden thread which can be wound around the pen - reminiscent of the spindle Gandhi often used.

Montblanc said only 241 of the fountain pens have been made to commemorate the number of miles Gandhi walked in his famous "salt march" of 1930, in which he led a mass protest against salt taxes levied by the British.

But critics of the pen have denounced the use of the Indian icon as a "brand ambassador." Amit Modi, secretary of the Sabarmati Ashram and opened by 92 years ago, said: "If he had seen this, he would have thrown it away. I cannot imagine why anybody has done this."

But despite the cost - in a country where over 450million people earn less than 80p a day - Montblanc said the pen helped bring Gandhi, who was assassinated on January 30, 1948, back into people's consciousness, and that it was not at odds with his ascetic beliefs.

"Whatever brings Gandhi and his ideas back to mind can only be good," said Oliver Goessler, Montblanc's regional director for India, Africa and the Middle East.

"It's not an opulent pen. It's a writing instrument that's very pure," he said.

Goessler said a £130 to £700 would be given to a charitable foundation for each pen sold. Sales of the pen were "really spectacular", he added.


photo: Andre Penner/Associated Press

This is GREAT even though Chicago, city of my birth and still a favorite of mine, lost out.

Rio Wins Bid for 2016 Olympic Games

COPENHAGEN — The Olympics were awarded to a South American city for the first time when the International Olympic Committee on Friday voted for Rio de Janeiro to be host of the 2016 Games.

Rio de Janeiro was the winner over Madrid in the final round of voting. The committee delivered an unexpectedly early knockout blow to Chicago, which was eliminated in the first round. Tokyo was ousted in the second.

Jacques Rogge, the president of the committee, made the announcement, sending crowds in Rio de Janeiro into celebration.

Tens of thousands of people began partying early in Rio on the Copacabana beach. Musicians played samba music from a main stage flanked by large screens, as people danced, held towering cones of cotton candy and showed off the national colors of Brazil by donning yellow-and-green wigs or yellow-and-green bikinis. A beach ball bounced above the crowd, marked with the words, “It’s Rio’s time.” (con't at NY Times)

Besides live TV coverage from Copenhagen, where the announcement was made, Web sites such as and’s Brazilian portal are providing live blogs, but they’re a bit slow to load, perhaps overwhelmed by Web traffic. will show live video of the reaction from Copacabana.

Thursday, October 01, 2009


photo: reuters

The Atlantic's James Fallows has been watching on TV and says that he "takes back" his assessment that the festivities are dominated by "giant and threatening-seeming military displays".

"...they were intermixed among mass pageantry of every imaginable campy Rose Parade-type variety. For each deployment of tanks, there has been a Farmers' Coop float. For each regiment of goosestepping female soldiers, all exactly the same height and with skirts exactly the same length, there has been a group of Clean Energy workers, accompanying a display of wind turbines and solar panels -- or a group of athletes from the Phys Ed university. Plus some pompom group whose ID on the screen I couldn't understand, and miscellaneous other celebrations. And a float from each province or region, with waving local beauties! This is becoming truer to the randomness of China as I think of it. Happy 60th birthday."

Can you imagine, "Clean Energy workers, accompanying a display of wind turbines and solar panels" in a parade displaying national purpose and power? It gives hope that the 21st Century might be heralding something new.

UPDATE 07 October 2009: Here's a time lapse video of the day's events...

China's 60th Anniversary national day - timelapse and slow motion - 7D and 5DmkII from Dan Chung on Vimeo.