Seed Saving: Janet Maro in Tanzania

© Ebe Daems
Janet Maro. Source: “Tanzanian farmers are facing heavy prison sentences if they continue their traditional seed exchange”

Really interesting interview about agribusiness and equity with Tanzanian food/farming advocate Janet Maro.

It’s on KUT Austin’s excellent The Secret Ingredient Podcast and it hits on a snaggled aspect of agriculture and aid:

What’s the right framework for food and economic development?

What I’ve learned from communities and firsthand experience in East Africa:

  • When small-scale farming is tied to livelihoods and identity, you can’t just force people out of a farming profession and their farmland without their consent.
  • Likewise you can’t scale up farming alongside investment in grassroots-up economic growth if you don’t allow for international businesses.
  • And you do have to “harmonize” with some of the laws and logistics of the world market.

Now, how you get that done where everyone has the right kind of equity?

Blackface For Good: Only With the Right Foundation?

Is there ever a “right way” for someone to make themselves up in Blackface? Nope.


But is there a difference between (a) the inherently exploitative act of Blackfacing and (b) experimenting with cultural and cosmetic aspects of identity in an equitable, inclusive, constructive, and respectful way? I think the answer to that one is “Maybe“, but I’m a European/American White guy. Continue reading “Blackface For Good: Only With the Right Foundation?”

Don’t Let Yellow Fever Make a Comeback in the USA

The U.S. has not experienced an outbreak of yellow fever in more than a century; the 1905 epidemic in New Orleans that killed more than 430 people was the last. Yet the past 20 years have seen the appearance or reappearance of several other mosquito-borne diseases in this country. (Source)

Why are healthcare and education global issues? It’s not just because epidemics are bad and sick people can’t grow the economy – they can’t buy your stuff or create things you want.

Hints: West Nile virus in 1999; dengue fever in 2001; Zika in 20016. Those are global diseases that hit the USA in recent years (never mind the Spanish Flu that killed ~675,000 Americans between 1918 and 1919).

The point is we want more scientists and more medical tools, not less, when the next epidemics come to the USA. And we want scientists and technology available *on site* where the epidemics start, to fight the problems before they can spread to reach us at home.

Des volontaires luttent contre la grippe espagnole

For the USA, this doesn’t mean the government needs to *give away* education and healthcare. It means that Americans have to invest their money and persistence and creativity into education and healthcare solutions the same way they invest them in anything else that is essential to their happiness, health, safety, and comfort.

Conservatives And Lies They Tell Themselves after #Manchester

I don’t know if Ricochet will post my response to the latest “pitchfork waving townsfolk” article about expulsion and “getting our hands dirty” being the best response to the Manchester attack.

U.K. Police On Alert After the Manchester Attack

I just don’t bloody understand how these folks can see facts pointing to a necessary policy of zero Muslim immigration and mass expulsion. Neither the numbers nor history support that claim.

It’s this kind of moral, scientific, and historical illiteracy that I just won’t accept from anyone who wants to stand as a guardian of “Western Civilization”.

My expanded response to the article “Manchester and the Lies We Tell Ourselves About Terrorism” follows. Continue reading “Conservatives And Lies They Tell Themselves after #Manchester”

Captain Pension Planet

A collection of Pension Funds is using their influence to make a large oil company disclose its “climate-related vulnerabilities”.

“You may or may not believe man-made climate change is real or dismiss the science behind it. No matter. Climate change has arrived as an investment issue.”

I like the True Cost logic of this: How useful is your retirement pension if you collect it in a world that’s less secure, with less food, with more violent weather, less breathable air, etc.?

I don’t want to sound too much like…but can the Market (of ideas, $, etc.) actually work in favor of cleaner energy and environmental sustainability? I think Yes when there is more flow of information and more people able to define their stake in the global economy.

Weird. It’s like, if you have more true inclusion in the market and more open communication, then you get better results.

Why the GOP Loves Science

Republicans on the whole don’t seem “anti-science” so much as “anti-democratization of science”. GOP-leaning Industries like finance, agribusinesses, manufacturing and defense are intensely scientific — imagine the math and precise tools needed to engineer genes and molecules. Likewise science-based is the carefully mapped and calculated redistricting known as “gerrymandering”.

In that sense, being “skeptical” of climate change is really just denying legitimacy to any science coming from outside centralized and industrial interests.

What democratization does mean, in science as elsewhere, is creating institutions and practices that fully incorporate principles of accessibility, transparency, and accountability. It means considering the societal outcomes of research at least as attentively as the scientific and technological outputs. It means insisting that in addition to being rigorous, science be popular, relevant, and participatory.

Will this paradigm hold with how the GOP handles the challenge of promoting STEM education and those science-entrepreneurship mashups like MakerSpaces? Partially. Whatever science the GOP considers important for GOP priorities (e.g. industrial applications, defense) can always be subsidized.

I like the article linked above because it is about patterns. The evolution of scientific practice and thought is inherently part of the same Pattern encompassing trade and communication. It’s a pattern of connectivity, of technology, of exchanging ideas+services+products, and of adaptation. It is an independent and uncontrollable progress, even though it parallels certain civilizations more than others.

Those parallels are coincidental: if the people that became “Great Britain” had occupied a land with different resources (e.g. less metal, coal) and a less defensible geography (e.g. not an island), the Industrial Revolution could have happened in a totally different way and in a totally different society. (Read The Years of Rice and Salt for an example”).

The truth is that power-seeking parties can align themselves with this Pattern and sometimes try to control the flow (i.e. who gets what benefits). But ultimately those who try to go against the Pattern are also the ones who lose their leadership position.

So it’s interesting that, according to the Atlantic article, the GOP attempts to take advantage of the global scientific community’s shift towards more openness and accessibility of results, data, etc. That is not an easy tiger to ride. You can’t easily promote openness and transparency while keeping your own secrets. That’s what the internet has been about — once you give people new tools to communicate and investigate and innovate, you’re stuck with the consequences.

So whether you read history through the lens of the Bible or the Lancet, you know what happens to rulers who try to monopolize unfair control over what people can do, say, and think.

A Nation of North Koreas

It must be isolating to be a state- or national-level politician these days. The whole system seems very friendless and lonely. It’s hard enough for me to do “the right thing” with my oh-so-minor professional and personal decisions — even when I have a generous support network of friends, family, and allies. So it hurts to imagine a life where I’m virtually alone and my decisions directly affect millions.

Hence calling this rant “A Nation of North Koreas” — because all these politicians are lonely, isolated, insecure, and could potentially destroy the lives of everyone around them.

It seems strange to say that politicians are “isolated” when the country is so obsessed with smartphones and social media that our Commander in Chief speaks to the nation with the same Twitter platform (and grammar?) as a teenager.

According to the articles: politicians don’t talk to their colleagues across the aisle (, they don’t talk to their families and spouses ( (, they can’t talk to their own party (, and they don’t even talk to their constituents ( (

Sometimes it seems like the only folks politicians can talk to are people who give them money (

That can’t be healthy. But I can’t write that off as an insidious oligarchic takeover of the government or all politicians being corrupt.

What do ya’ll think? Maybe we need households to “adopt a politician”?