If John Brown Were Alive, Could He Help in Ferguson?

 This year marks the 155th anniversary of John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. Although he isn’t the most revered figure in American history, he most certainly is honored as a revolutionary and a hero ranging from the likes of Malcolm X to Quentin Tarantino. A contemporary of Brown, famous author, poet, naturalist and abolitionist Henry David Thoreau, wrote an essay called “A Plea for Captain John Brown” and recited it publicly many times before the execution of Brown. He pleaded abolitionist supporters to remember him as a true hero, a martyr, and not as a fool for giving his life for what he believed.

If John Brown, abolitionist, insurrectionist, and self-proclaimed martyr, who called for the immediate end to chattel slavery in the United States were still alive, he most certainly would be of great help in Ferguson, Missouri. His enthusiasm, passion, and belief that no person should be subjugated to slavery or injustice is what people of color in the United States need from the white majority. Although what is happening in Ferguson isn’t slavery, John Brown’s call to action during his lifetime motivated members of the white community in the 1800’s willing to support direct action efforts of achieving equality and justice for the African-American community.

John Brown was born in 1800 in Torrington, Connecticut, where he grew up in a religious household. His father, Owen Brown, was not only an abolitionist by belief, but also an active participant in the Underground Railroad, a network of people, safe houses, and pathways that helped fugitive slaves escape to free states and Canada.  John Brown’s name has been etched into American history for his famous raid on Harper’s Ferry, Virginia (now part of West Virginia). On October 16, 1859, John Brown along with 20 other men attacked an arsenal in Harper’s Ferry, Virginia with the intent of stealing enough weapons in order to start a slave revolt. His plan failed and he was eventually captured by local soldiers and U.S. Marines led by Colonel Robert E. Lee. John Brown was tried, convicted of treason, and executed by hanging on December 2, 1859. His legacy lives on as a polemic character in American history whose martyrdom is honored by some members of the black community and condemned by others who described him as simply a terrorist.

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So where does John Brown fit into contemporary American social issues? One can argue that a person like John Brown hasn’t existed in the white community since his death.

When white Americans says,  “there is a lack of leadership in the black community” they must recognize that there is also a lack of leadership in the white community regarding racial equality and the call to justice for all people living in the United States. John Brown would be a perfect example of a leader for the white community who could command them in their efforts to combat institutionalized racism and injustice.

The shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American, has sparked a new wave of protests condemning not only the use of excessive police force, but also racial profiling, the criminal justice system, and the apparent apathy white Americans have for the plight of minorities in the United States. Michael Brown was shot by Darren Wilson, a white police officer on August 9, 2014. Although there is overwhelming evidence and witness testimonies conveying that Michael Brown had indeed tried to surrender to the police officer with a “hands up” motion, he was shot multiple times by Wilson. At an estimated distance of 35 feet from the police cruiser, and no visible weapon possessed by Brown, witnesses heard Wilson fire approximately 10 shots. Based on the evidence present, one can conclude that officer Darren Wilson did not act in self defense, and that Michael Brown was murdered in cold blood.

Two months after the shooting of Michael Brown, Darren Wilson is still on paid administrative leave and has not yet faced charges or arrest. The state and federal investigations are taking a long time to reach a conclusion. Protesters believe this is deliberate, concluding that the local government is hoping that protests in and around the Ferguson – St. Louis area of Missouri will die down. The fact that charges haven’t been formally brought up against Darren Wilson is just the tip of the iceberg for the African-American community as they can foresee the murder of Michael Brown going unpunished. Below the murky waters of American race relations there is a lot of racist backlash against African-Americans coming from the white community with respect to demonstrations and vociferous opposition to unpunished white-on-black murders.

The fundraising efforts of people who support Darren Wilson was one of the first things outside of the investigation that struck a nerve within the African-American community in Ferguson. There were wristbands that read “I am Darren Wilson” being worn by members of the Ferguson police (as if to say that they also supported extrajudicial killings of suspected criminals). There were online fundraisers that had raised more money, about $400,000 for Darren Wilson and his family than for the family of the Michael Brown.

The amount of money raised for Wilson is nothing compared to the vitriol and racial hatred perpetrated by television news pundits and online social commentators. Young black men, who dress, act, or look a certain way are victims of verbal abuse in the media when they are all referred to as “thugs” “gangsters” and “hoodlums”. There has been an additional racial polarization in the United States regarding white America’s negative perception of young black males, hip-hop culture and whether they are innocent/guilty in the eyes of the law. As if the election of Barack Obama, the first African-American president of the United States, wasn’t enough to cause deep-seated racism to surface, the killings of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and John Crawford, by white men has opened up old wounds in the African-American community, reminding them of lynchings and unpunished murders, which lasted from since the end of the American Civil War up until the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960’s.

The American prison system is disproportionately filled with African-Americans compared to white Americans. It is estimated that “one in three black males will end up in prison”. Similarly, African-Americans, along with other people of color, make up approximately 30% of the U.S. population, but represent 70% of all arrests and 60% of the prison population.

Constant police surveillance, police brutality, harsher punishments and longer sentences for people of color is akin to modern-day slavery and social injustice. John Brown would condemn the American prison system and fight tooth and nail until all unlawfully imprisoned people of color were released. Missouri is one of the states continuing the tradition of disproportionately sending people of color to prison.

John Brown definitely could be of good help in Ferguson in order to show other white people what true support for justice looks like. After a few weeks of protests and demonstrations in Ferguson, Governor Jay Nixon deployed the Missouri National Guard. Protestors were met with excessive force in the form of tear gas, flash grenades, riot police and soldiers with high-grade military equipment. It basically looked like a war zone in Ferguson during the Governor’s “invasion.”

A parallel can be drawn between how white Americans feel about social injustices, whom they support, and how the media portrays key players during a controversial event. One example comes from the Cliven Bundy standoff. Bundy is a Nevada rancher who has been disputing with the United States Bureau of Land Management over unpaid grazing fees. With the threat of government repossession of Bundy’s cattle, protests ensued and armed militias, mostly right-wing white Americans, came out to support Clive Bundy in an armed standoff against federal agents. Although those who supported Bundy were armed and aggressive, the government agents didn’t fire cans of tear gas, flash grenades, nor did the Governor of Nevada send in the Nevada National Guard. Conservative news media personalities like Sean Hannity were quick to support Bundy and his anti-government crusade, but soon realized how racist Bundy was when he made comments like “are black people better off as slaves?”.

How would John Brown respond to Cliven Bundy’s remarks about black people being “better off as slaves”? He would have killed Clive Bundy and all who attest to racist ideology. John Brown would have joined the protestors in Ferguson, Missouri to support the African-American community against the local police, the state police, the National Guard, and federal agents. He would have mounted his own militia of fellow whites to help protect the African-American community from white aggression.

The importance of having white people fight alongside people of color in Ferguson is tantamount to how the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s was such a success. In the same way, John Brown represented the ideologue of vengeful justice through direct action since before the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln, well known for upholding his abolitionist beliefs and declaring war upon the Confederacy for breaking up the Union, later paid for his beliefs with his life. Later on, during the 1960’s, John F. Kennedy was killed for unknown reasons, but speculation has it that he was killed for trying to end the Vietnam War, and for trying to give civil rights to African-Americans.

Although John Brown’s personality and legacy as a Christian religious fanatic and insurrectionist can be seen as somewhat of an ethical dilemma for pacifists, atheists, and the United States government, it would be interesting to see how much could been achieved as far as civil rights in America if a person like John Brown were around. John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry on October 16, 1859 is said to have been one of the key factors in polarizing the country so much that it started the Civil War, which restored the Union and ended slavery. The positive aspects that came after the most devastating war in United States history is difficult to justify on both sides. In the spirit of the 155th anniversary of John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, there is Ferguson October, which is a call for action and civil disobedience pleading for justice not only for Michael Brown, but all American citizens victimized by the prison-industrial complex. There are some things that aren’t as simple as being labeled as liberal or conservative. Morality, liberty and justice have no political party, and therefore, more people should abandon party affiliation and fight injustices for all people regardless of race, class, or gender.

By: Opton A. Martin

The Positive Correlation between Women in Parliament and Standard of Living in High Income Nations.

¨The religious heterosexual male majority has homogeneously denied women´s inclusion¨

For high income nations there is a correlation between the percentage of women in parliament (congress) and the standard of living in a society. According to the World Bank, a high income nation can be described as a country whose working citizens earn above $12,746 per capita (2013). Countries with high incomes have intricate and diverse economies that allocate taxes in order to provide services for the population that support it. The doctrine of ¨No Taxation Without Representation¨ was part of the English-speaking world´s Enlightenment period, but it still rings true today in that women, who represent 50% or more of the human population, are not properly represented in various governments worldwide.

¨Rich¨ countries are able to provide more social services from taxes than ¨poor¨ countries. High income nations have a focus on the family, health, education, equality, and security; while acts of aggression like war, the death penalty, and lengthy incarceration are not priority. In all these cases, the United States and Japan seems to be the outliers, but in two distinct ways.

Data provided for this opinion and social commentary come from a website that monitors women in government. Because of failure of transparency and disclosure of information, commentaries are made based only on the number of women in the lower house of parliament. For Americans, the graph represents the percentage of women in the House of Representatives, not the Senate.

 

women in parliaments

 

Not included on this graph is the country of Rwanda, whose parliament is composed of 63.8% women. It is currently the only country in the world where women form the majority of the lower or single house. Rwanda, although it had a devastating civil war and genocide in the 1990s is beginning to recuperate and reconcile with those who had committed atrocities. Now it is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.

Andorra, a principality located between Spain and France, has a General Council that is 50% women.  The country has the third highest life expectancy in the world at 82 years. Andorra, like many European nations, enjoy a free healthcare system and free higher education.

Nordic countries like Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and Denmark have a range between 39% – 45% women in their lower houses of parliament. These countries are known for their high standards of living, low crime, human rights, and gender equality. Free education and healthcare are values that have become a thing of culture, not politics.

The Romance-speaking countries like Spain, France, Italy and Portugal vary with respect to women and their representation in government. Spain has the highest number of women in their lower house (Congress of Deputies) at 39.7%; France has the lowest at 26.2%. These countries are still bastions for Catholicism, whose doctrines are opposed to women´s reproductive rights like abortion, birth control instruments like the IUD, and contraception medication, yet politics and religion do not get in the way of women´s health.

All four of these countries also have a higher life expectancy than the United States maybe because their healthcare system is subsidized by the everyone, including the government, much like the Nordic countries, to ensure  that a larger portion of the population have free and easy access to a doctor. There is recognition among political leaders and citizens in these countries that contraception medication is not only for preventing pregnancy, but for preventative health against tumors, to regulate hormones, and some types of cancers. The Spanish government, currently ruled by the conservative People´s Party, decided to restrict women´s access to abortion and birth control. No one is really sure how the law works, or when it goes into effect, but it is understood that state-run hospitals (under social security) no longer provide abortions, it must be provided by a privately-run hospital with private healthcare*.

Anglophone countries like New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom and Canada also have free healthcare and free higher education. They also have higher life expectancies than the United States as well.  Generally, Western Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have higher life expectancies based on their social systems that have more women in government. These high income nations can afford to balance their mixed economies in order to provide for a well-educated public where political debate on whether or not citizens should be offered free health services is a ¨no brainer.¨

¨On a substantive level, studies systematically show that female politicians are more likely to concentrate on issues that matter more to women such as daycare, gender equality, reproductive rights, flex time, elderly care, children’s welfare.1 It seems pretty intuitive that there are some issues that are more important to women and affect them more. It also seems like common sense that women would be more likely to focus on these issues than men.¨ Christine Cheng

Maternity leave, which also includes paternity leave in progressive countries, is another concept foreign to the general American citizen. Although Americans would claim that they live in the richest and best country in the world, it provides about as much subsidized, ¨free¨ healthcare and maternity leave as the Democratic Republic of the Congo – zero.

 

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The United States government does not have provisions for maternity leave. After giving birth, you basically have to get back to work in 3 days or quit your job.

The United States has a lot in common with countries that have poor records in human rights or countries that have very restrictive women´s reproductive rights. At 27.7% and 25.3%, Afghanistan and Iraq both currently have more women in their lower house than the United States. Only 18.2% of the House of Representatives is represented by women in the United States.  Saudi Arabia has 19.9% in their lower house and women aren´t even allowed to drive! Qatar, a major U.S. ally in the Middle East currently has 0.0% women in their government. Apparently, they currently have no restrictions on women running for positions in an Advisory Council. Qatar is technically the richest country in the world per capita, and like Saudi Arabia, is ruled by a family monarchy.

Ireland, although lauded for its high standard of living and general health of the public, has maintained a strict anti-abortion policy. There was a fire storm in Ireland in 2012 when a woman of Indian heritage, who had severe pain and was miscarrying, was repeatedly denied an abortion. She was denied because ¨Ireland is a Catholic country and the fetus still had a heartbeat.¨ She eventually died of sepsis (septicemia). Another case involves a woman in Ireland – apparently suicidal – who was also repeatedly denied an abortion. They ¨legally¨forced her to submit to a C-section at only 25 weeks of pregnancy after her attempts at a hunger strike.

Pro Life Campaign spokeswoman, Dr Ruth Cullen, said the news “underlines the horror and deep-seated flaws of the government’s legislation”.

“To induce a pregnancy at such an early stage inevitably puts the baby at risk of serious harm, such as brain damage, blindness or even death,” she said.

The lower house in Ireland is composed of only  15.7% women. This could be a direct correlation of how women´s health is buried beneath the apparent Catholic theocracy in Ireland.

India, the world´s largest democracy has a huge problem with women´s rights, rape, sexual assault and other indigenous beliefs that force underage women into marriages with significantly older men. In a country with more than 1 billion people, women are only 11% of the lower and upper house of parliament. The lack of representation in India has serious consequences in that male sex offenders are often not punished for violating women.  In the heart of Africa, there is the problem of female genital mutilation, which is performed in countries, where women represent less than 11% of the parliament (Kenya, Nigeria, Cote d´Ivoire, Mali, Sudan, Congo etc). They are forced against their will to submit to a barbaric practice for the benefit of men who want women to remain virgins.

The main outlier in this correlation between standard of living and women in parliament is Japan, where women represent only 8.1% of their 480 seats of the house. Japan, which has one of the lowest birthrates in the world and second highest life expectancy, is struggling with internal issues that would need to be further studied by sociologist and anthropologists specializing in Japan. Recent sexist comments by Japanese parliament members like ¨ Breed, don´t lead¨  have cause a wave of protests. Low birth rates were attributed to both men and women: women, who under threat of losing their jobs after taking maternity leave, prefer to keep working in order to maintain their careers; and men, who have similar goals, have replaced physical contact with ¨digital contact.¨

In Iran, the Ayatollah called for a ¨population boost¨ effectively banning ¨permanent¨ birth control for men and women in various forms. Doctors can be imprisoned for performing vasectomies, abortions or other operations like installing an IUD. This is an example of a theocratic government controlling reproductive rights for men and women in a country where their lower house in parliament is only 3% women. Controlling the population by prohibiting birth control can be seen as an act of aggression in that more soldiers are wanted for an anticipated war.

The United States still hovers around 20% women in the House of Representatives and 20% in the Senate. In 2016, American citizens might have the opportunity to elect the first female U.S. president. Hillary Clinton is closer than any other women in history due to her popularity among Americans of all walks of life. But electing just the first female president is not enough to close the gender gap in congress. Hopefully in the midterm elections there will be a cultural shift to honor the demands of the nation´s women and promote the diversity that makes the United States unique. LBGT peoples and minorities should also be represented in all facets of life and protected by the law (the religious heterosexual male majority has homogeneously denied their inclusion). Americans have to decide whether civil rights for all people will be distributed by force or by principle. As Abraham Lincoln famously said:

¨A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free.¨

 

By: Opton A. Martin

 

* http://www.para-abortar.es/aborto/ley-actual-del-aborto-2014-enero/

Food, Fresh Water and Electricity Without Fossil Fuels.

“We are only limited by our lack of investment and interest.”

What is needed to feed a population of 100,000 – 250,000 people? How much does it cost to produce electricity, clean water and food? Can this all be done in a sustainable fashion without fossil fuels? 21st Century technology is doubling its efforts to supply a rapidly growing human population.

Current techniques for fresh water extraction and food production has exacerbated aquifers, rivers and lakes to the point of no return. For agricultural purposes, humans are extracting more water from wells and aquifers than is being replenished naturally by the water cycle. The unfortunate consequence of over-exploitation is that humans only start thinking of alternative methods of fresh water, food and energy production when natural sources have been depleted.

In order to understand how technology is helping with sustainability, we must look to places where fresh water is scarce, but the sun and wind are plentiful. Places like Israel, Spain, Libya, Saudi Arabia, California, Australia and China have shortages and droughts of fresh water for human consumption and the agriculture industry.

I will briefly describe some of the costs affiliated with creating a system that is relatively eco-neutral in that less atmospheric contamination is produced and water is conserved and recycled more so than current methods.

The CIA world fact book is a database that includes specific information about each country ranging from natural resources, electricity consumption, military capacity, geography, to imports and exports. It is a reliable source to compare data between countries. It currently states that 75.3% of all electricity in the United States of America is produced by fossil fuels, 9.7% from nuclear, 7.6% from hydroelectric, and only 5.3% from renewable sources. The renewable sources of electricity production include wind power, solar power and geothermic power. It is no secret that Americans consume more energy, more food, more water, and contaminate more than any other people on Earth (though the United Arab Emirates is catching up). It is said that if the whole world lived like Americans, we would need 4 Earths!

“I think we have all come to the realization that America consumes way more of the world’s “stuff” than the people we account for.  Americans make up for roughly 5% of the world’s population, but we consume much more than that.  We use 20% of the world’s energy, eat 15% of the world’s meat and create 40% of the garbage on Earth” – Jason Jeffrey Semon

Not all geographical locations are the same, nor have the availability of natural resources, but countries like Nicaragua, Germany, Spain, Iceland, Denmark and Portugal all produce between 20% – 40% of their electricity using renewable resources. Germany, which receives significantly less sun per year than the USA, produces more solar energy and exports more solar panels to countries weening themselves from fossil fuel-based energy sources.

An ideal and sustainable society is very complicated, but we can ameliorate atmospheric contamination and over-exploitation of fresh water by including new techniques to the energy and agricultural industries. For coastal cities in arid or semi-arid territories, a desalinization plant is a great way to preserve underground aquifers. Over-exploiting wells can cause environmental disasters that include sinkholes and salt water intrusions.

In the southeast part of Spain, in a city called Carboneras, is where the largest desalinization plant in Europe is located. The province of Almería, where Carboneras is located, is one of the driest places in Europe. It is also home to the largest concentration of greenhouses in the world. The province is home to a ¨sea of plastic¨, greenhouses that cover over 80,000 acres of land and exports food to a number of European countries. The province is also home to more than 640,000 people, all of which need electricity, food and fresh water in the desert.

The desalinization plant at Carboneras, Almería cost about 121 million euros to construct ($158,768,335 Sept. 2, 2014). It provides water for 7,000 hectares of greenhouses (17,297 acres) and a maximum of 200,000 residents. The desalination plant uses a lot of energy. The figures range from 1kwh/m3 – 2kwh/m3 (per cubic meter) of water. The electricity for converting brackish water into fresh water is currently generated by a coal-fired plant. The plant converts sea water into fresh water using a reverse osmosis method, which uses a membrane to physically “strain” the salt water. Price estimates vary from 0.50 euros – 1.0 euros per m3 for consumption. Coal and petroleum-fired plants are clear sources of atmospheric contamination, and are subject to fluctuating international price markets of import and export of fossil fuel.

A cheaper and cleaner way of generating electricity for a desalination plant would be wind, solar, or even wave power (using ocean waves to do work).  Roscoe Wind Farm in Texas has 634 wind turbines that produce enough energy for 250,000 homes. This wind farm was once the largest in the world and cost about $1 billion to install. It produces about 781.5 MW (megawatts) of electricity.

Andasol Guadix

Above: Andasol solar power plant in Guadix, southern Spain.

A revolutionary solar power station located near Guadix, Spain, called Andasol Solar Power Station is a parabolic trough solar power station. This solar farm uses a parabolic mirror to focus solar energy onto a tube, which in turn, heats water flowing through it. The heat or steam can then be used to power machinery or move a turbine. It also contains a system that is able to generate energy during the night using salt water. Andasol Solar Power Station cost 900 million euros ($1.1 billion) and can produce 165 million kilo-watt hours of electricity each year. To put it in perspective, about 450,000 people currently benefit from the energy produced by this station. It will reduce carbon emissions by 150,000 tonnes per year when compared to coal-fired energy plants. This is a significant victory for clean and renewable energy industries for future endeavors.

In agriculture, intensive greenhouse horticulture is becoming more popular, more sustainable and more profitable than conventional agricultural methods. Popularity comes from the agriculturist’s ability to have more control over aspects of cultivation ranging from wind, humidity, nutrient absorption, water use, temperature and pests. They have been able to reduce or eliminate chemical pesticides for pest control by using simple sticky paper, insects, arachnids and other arthropods that eat fungi or other insects. New substrate and hydroponic systems allow for agriculturists to recycle water and use less fertilizer. In a hydroponic system, the water is continuously recycled in a closed system and the water solution does not seep into the soil. This prevents fertilizers from entering the local water table, which can provoke unwanted environmental reactions like algae blooms. A water recycling system also reduces water use in that it is not “lost” through the soil.

 

Campo de Dalias_1-busco-en-el-poniente-el-ejido-1271116254

Above: Campo de Dalías, El Ejido, Almería, southern Spain. Part of 100,000 hectares (247, 105 acres) of greenhouses overlooking the north Mediterranean coast.

Intensive agriculture projects like those in Campo de Dalías and Campo de Níjar in the southeast corner of Spain is said to also reduce global warming because of its design. The greenhouses are painted white, a technique used in southern Spain, especially with housing, to reflect the solar intensity away from buildings. The glimmer of the greenhouses in the Almería province helps to reduce the overall temperature of the plants it harbors as well as the surrounding territories. Compare the white, energy-reflecting greenhouses to the vast and expansive black-top parking lots in the United States that absorb so much energy. If they would only equip all American parking lots with sun-shade solar panels – not only will it keep your car cool from the hot summer heat, it will produce enough energy for the building you are about to walk into.

As new technologies and cost-effective materials are tested, the increase in food consumption and human population does not necessarily have to degrade our environment. In traditional farming, soil is the primary medium from which crops grow. In monoculture farming, each year more fertilizer must be applied and depending on the water source, salt deposits begin to accumulate, which causes a reduction in crop yield. To avoid the environmental and production risks to crop yield, intensive agriculturalist have turned to substrate materials. Substrate is a growth medium, either organic or synthetic that replaces soil. Hydroponic growth substrate varies from place to place and is still being developed to produce the cheapest, but most effective growth medium. Some greenhouses in Spain and other parts of the world use grow bags, rockwool, perlite, vermiculite,  sand, and coconut fiber. Coconut fiber is great because it is organic and is usually a bi-product, or waste product of the coconut industry. What was once “garbage” is now a viable medium for the agricultural industry.

These techniques must be embraced if we are to ensure our food, water and energy needs in the present and in the future.

“The world is less than 40 years away from a food shortage that will have serious implications for people and governments”

 “For the first time in human history, food production will be limited on a global scale by the availability of land, water and energy,”  Dr. Fred Davies

So in the end, how much money will it cost to produce enough food, electricity, and fresh water for 250,000 people in a semi-sustainable way? I would estimate about $3 billion. At about $1 billion for each industry, $1 billion for solar/wind power, $1 billion for desalinization plants, and $1 billion to produce tens of thousands of acres of greenhouses that can sustain perhaps an even larger population than current methods. Implicating this three-pronged system can do wonders for impoverished areas of the world that struggle to survive from international donors.  It has been studied may times that international aid to places like Africa have actually made things worse.  Places like Algeria, Nigeria, Angola, South Africa, Congo and Ethiopia are well endowed with natural resources like petroleum, natural gas, minerals and metals, but the profits from these industries cannot support their current populations. They must harvest alternative energy in order to change the political, social and economic landscape of the continent. They must, in addition to meeting electricity needs, convert to clean energy for agriculture, so that, the African continent can industrialize, engage in infra-continental agricultural trade, and maintain its status as the least contaminated continent in the world.

International paternalism restricts the local economy from developing in that it gets flooded with international products, which are sold at a cheaper price than local products. $3 billion is a lot to develop wind parks, solar parks, desalinization plants and thousands of acres of greenhouses, but it is far cheaper and more effective than the $50 billion in international assistance the continent receives each year.  The more international aid that goes to the African continent, the more impoverished and more destitute the people become. The wind, sun, and ocean are three resources that are renewable and ecological sources of energy that will eventually triumph over fossil fuels, therefore, it is best to begin now before the wells dry up. We are only limited by our lack of investment and interest.

Only through environmentalism and social ecology can 21st century humans be able to meets our energy and sustenance needs, which in effect, reduce our impact on the climate and environment.

 

By: Opton A. Martin

If I Buy Freedom and It Doesn’t Work, Can I Return it and Get My Money Back?

“We know that freedom isn’t free, but how much does it cost? Is there a discount on freedom? Can I use a freedom coupon? Where is my buy 2 countries, get 1 free card? If I buy freedom, and it doesn’t work, can I return it and get my money back…I have the receipt!”

I as a former resident of Torrington, Connecticut, United States of America, since 2001 would have contributed about $6,812 to the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond. The website nationalpriorities.org has been tracking the U.S. cost of war since 2001 and allows Americans to see how much of their tax dollars, down to local populations, have been contributed to the efforts overseas.  Torrington’s citizens since 2001 have paid out $119,212,900 (15-aug-2014) to a multiple-front war. Since there are about 35,000 residents in Torrington, and about 1/2 are working or paying income taxes, 1/2 of all Torringtonians have contributed over $6,000 to the war on terror. But the real question is are we safer now because of the war on terror? Have we made the world safer? Is the war on terror actually producing more terrorist organizations? How long until it’s finally over?

Since September 11th 2001, there has been a liquidation sale on “freedom” worldwide when then president of the United States, George W. Bush and his administration, soon announced a global war on terror. At first the cross hairs were focused on Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, the Taliban and their sympathizers. Then, Bush decided to put Osama Bin Laden on the back burner and continue what could be seen as a Bush family legacy – Iraq. The American military’s focus switched rapidly to Iraq, where the regime of Saddam Hussein was suspected to have had weapons of mass destruction and links to Al Qaeda.

Before, during, and after the deposition of Saddam Hussein, investigators claimed that Iraq did not possess high caliber (nuclear material) weapons of mass destruction nor had been working with Al Qaeda. In fact,  Al Qaeda and other extremist groups were natural enemies of Saddam’s regime. If Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein had been working together, why would they have kept it secret? Their unity would have been seen as a sign of strength in the region. Luckily, their distinct ideologies did not allow for a military or political union – their conflicting personalities and dislikes were greater than their hatred for the United States.

Under current president Barack Obama, who more or less has been progressive concerning local and social matters within the USA, has not only continued the legacy of Bush-era military campaigns, but has amplified a seek-and-destroy, extrajudicial drone program that could be considered crimes against humanity. Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are what I would like to call “Drone Zones” in that no real formal declaration of war has been made, but are part of a continuous bombing campaign in which civilians are unfortunately part of the casualties.  These bombing campaigns are simply not effective in changing hearts and minds. Whose ideology is going to favor Westerners when their neighbor, perhaps a civilian, had been killed by them?  Spreading democracy doesn’t come from without, but from within.

So what is freedom in 21st century terms? Which country is most free? Is freedom being able to do literally whatever you want? Or is freedom being able to have social and economic mobility in the form of one’s access to a good education, housing, food, medicine, and other facilities or amenities that First World inhabitants encounter with less difficulty.

Spreading freedom and democracy as part of a bombing campaign can be seen as a vice, like any other, freedom is aggression, anger, addiction, greed, censorship, gluttony, hatred, hysteria, lust, perversion, vanity and wrath. Although this may not be our ideal of what freedom is, the countries that suffer from “American Freedom” by way of military operations, heavy policing and lengthy occupations, fear cultural infiltration or annihilation.

Freedom, by way of material objects, is in a sense purely economical, in that freedom is for the rich; oppression is for the poor. If you live in a conflict zone, and you are rich, you might have more freedom to leave, through legal means or not, than a poor person. If you live in a country where women’s access to reproductive services are restricted, as a rich person, you might have the freedom to travel to another country where women’s reproductive laws are different. This is not to say that a poor person cannot escape a conflict zone or access healthcare, but the pyramidal structure of modern and post-industrial human society shows that the upper echelon of society, the wealthy and powerful, are the ones who make and break the laws.  Materialistic freedom in terms of commodities is not universal.

Human beings are political property of the state in which they were born, reside or had resided. A stateless person is one who has no rights, and paradoxically has total freedom, yet no freedom. On the other hand, something like spiritual freedom is closer to universality in that one’s beliefs and thoughts are tangible within one’s mind, where no one else can truly restrict their beliefs, whether they practice them or not.

Spreading democracy and freedom after the Second World War was a bit different than how it is done today. After Mussolini, Hitler, and Hideki Tojo were disposed of, and the war had been won by the Allied Forces. After obliterating the Axis Powers, the Allied Forces wanted to help their former enemies rebuild and prosper – and they did.  Italy, Germany and Japan became stable economic powerhouses in which their citizens currently enjoy high personal income, well developed infrastructure, universal healthcare, stable borders, and relatively few internal conflicts that lead to deaths or executions. The citizens of these counties are generally considered to be free.

The Second World War cost the United States more than 4 trillion dollars (in 2014) according to some estimates. After about a five-year campaign, the U.S. and its soldiers were treated like true liberators, like “winners” of WWII. They are still considered the greatest generation of humans to ever walk the Earth. As we fast forward to 2014, after 10+ years of war in the Middle East, combining the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, all military operations, and  everywhere else terror resides, 4.4 trillion dollars is the current cost of war (total cost of all services related to conflicts), and Americans are not treated as liberators, nor winners, and things are worse now than when we started.

What does the future hold now that Hussein, Bin Laden, Hosni Mubarak, Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi, and other life-term dictators have been disposed of? Will the countries of Libya, Egypt, Afghanistan, and Iraq become economic powerhouses like Germany, Japan, or even South Korea? Not likely. The reason: the war economy. Peace and stability is just as important a factor to the global economy as war and conflict zones.

Now that there are currently more heavy conflict zones since before the U.S. and Allies’ invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, defense contractors are making more profits and bigger sales than ever. For the profit-driven industry of arms dealing, shame from not being able to reduce violence and bring about stability after a military campaign is less important. As long as the guns are firing and the bombs are dropping, there is profit to be made. Therefore, it is conducive to the industry to provoke or procreate areas of conflict. It is even better if they could sell arms to both sides of the conflict through conspiracies and inside deals. If both sides have the same weapons, one will be forced to upgrade.

With respect to dark-horse terrorist organizations with plenty of cash, the rise of ISIS or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is currently driving a wedge in concurrent conflict zones in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. They plan on taking over territories that roughly stretch from Morocco to India, to eliminate all borders between “Islamic” countries – high hopes for a group with few allies and many enemies.

Current conflict zones: Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Nigeria, Mali, Columbia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Turkey, Kurdistan, Pakistan, India, North & South Korea, China, Japan, South Sudan, Mexico, Egypt, Ukraine, Russia, Central African Republic, Libya, and many more, including the United States.

As military hardware reaches a level of surplus, state and local police forces worldwide have been either given or have been purchasing this equipment. In the before mentioned conflict zones, it is not uncommon to see the military acting as a civilian “peace-keeping force” (like what we have seen in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt). Yet in recent years, many countries like Spain, Italy, Malaysia and the United States have riot police or S.W.A.T. (Special Weapons And Tactics) who use military equipment on a regular basis to intimidate and scare local populations from demonstrating, protesting, and having their voices heard. This is an undemocratic way of maintaining social justice and order in that people will get the sensation of an authoritarian police state – people will stay home, be complacent and compliant, and be afraid to speak ill of the government for fear of persecution. This makes the U.S.A no better than the countries it invades to “spread democracy” if it continues to terrorize its citizens.

As the world has recently seen how the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri rang out and connected with other oppressed people as distant as Palestine, it is important for all people to try and invest in other industries, besides the arms trade, that aim to save lives, not take them.

The Cultural Shift Away From Transgenic and Genetically Modified Crops in Europe Could Be Bad Business for Spain.

¨The Practice of Local Organic Triumphs Over Foreign and Transgenic.¨

Transgenic and genetically modified crops can be bad for business in the long run due to a cultural shift and social awareness of the dangers of  ¨American style¨ agronomic business practices in European Union member states.

 The first genetically modified food in the world to be sold in supermarkets was the tomato. In 1994, the FlavrSavr tomato hit the shelves in the United States after previously being approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1992. The tomato has a deactivated gene that allows it to ripen from green to red on the vine, and an added gene that prevents rotting – essentially creating a tomato that is as hard as an apple that lasts a lot longer. Scientists and government agencies in the USA have repeatedly said that transgenic and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in foods are ¨safe for human consumption¨ stating that it is just as safe as conventional (non-transgenic foods). This debate is still being held between scientist on both sides of the aisle presenting evidence for and against its production and consumption, while the environmental impact is stuck in the middle, once again sacrificing the environment for the economy

The reality of transgenic foods like the tomato is that some people, who are old enough to remember, notice that nowadays, tomatoes don´t taste the way they used to, nor have the same amount of nutrients they had say thirty years ago. One example of lost nutrients is how the polysaccharide (sugar) pectin, which is naturally produced and broken down by the tomato for ripening, is reduced in genetically modified versions so that a tougher skin can resist bruising during harvesting. Pectin in humans has been shown to add to our soluble dietary fiber and reduce blood cholesterol levels. In addition, some transgenic crops are grown in sand, which has very little nutrients, henceforth, they need to be added. So what are the real benefits of producing transgenic foods?

In the past, some scientist praised genetically modified organisms in foods claiming that with the capacity  to produce more food, with fewer resources, humanity could solve world hunger and reduce food prices. Economic history shows that there was plenty of food in the world before the advent of  transgenic crops, the problem is that people die from hunger from the climate, spatial and economic reasons (drought, food is far away, or food is too expensive). According to the United Nations Environment Programme, about one-third of all food produced in the world is ¨lost or wasted¨.

¨Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes).¨

One can deduce that producing more food doesn´t necessarily reduce malnutrition or hunger, but the economic implications show that having capital, water and land are most important in combating hunger.

As people in the Western world inform themselves better about the economic and environmental implications of GMO and transgenic crops, they will begin to shun them in favor of non-GMO crops that are not only more nutritious, but practicing ecological agronomics could potentially create more local jobs. Factory farms and transgenic super-plantations require very few people, are far removed from the general population, and require a lot of chemicals and machines. Why is it that the majority of the food people in New York eat come from California? – a distance of about 3,000 miles (4,828,km).

Transgenic food has taken hold of the European Union in a market that culturally has been trying to maintain their alimentary sovereignty free from ¨American style¨ crop production. The member state that produces the most transgenic or GM crops is Spain. Genetically-modified maize (corn) and potatoes are currently the only two GM crops approved in the EU. Soya, tobacco, and even trial versions for GM pest-resistant olive trees are being considered for production in Spain. About 90% of Europe´s transgenic crops – led by U.S. multinational Monsanto´s MON810 corn – is cultivated in Spain. The majority of this corn is used as animal feed for the country´s famous meat markets (hogs, chickens, cow, etc). One problem farmers and consumers face is the lack of transparency and regulation in terms of what the farmers are feeding their animals, and what people are actually eating. It has been reported that farmers feed their animals a mixture of transgenic and conventional corn, which essentially disallows farmers to chose between the two. The lack of transparency also denies its citizens to know exactly where this transgenic crop is being grown. Most Spanish citizens are against transgenic crops and would like for them to be labeled, but the European Union law states that if less than about 1.0% of the ingredients are transgenic, it does not have to be labeled.

As far as the philosophical implications of transgenic foods – namely corn or soya – is not so much as if it is used in society, but how it is used. Subjectively, I oppose the use of transgenic foods for human or animal consumption, but I have no problem if companies use transgenic crops for the production of ethanol, methanol, and other chemical compositions from transgenic crops. In the United States and Brazil, ethanol from corn (US) and sugarcane (Brazil) accounts for a large portion of combustible fuel production, replacing a significant amount of petroleum use, which contaminating slightly less than pure petroleum.

The economic implications transgenic foods might have for Spain and other member states that allow transgenic corn like Portugal, Czech Republic,Poland, and Romania might not come immediately, but permitting cultivation of more crops besides corn and potatoes to be produced might have a backlash effect. Germany is planning on prohibiting all GMO crops within its boarders.

As agro-business farmers in Europe are becoming ¨Americanized¨ in their acceptance of GMO foods, it could produce a schism in the way food is imported and exported in within Europe. Countries that are not part of the European Union, but form part of its economic region like Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, and Serbia have delayed their acceptance of genetically modified organisms. These countries along with Germany, see prohibiting genetically modified and transgenic crops as a scientific, economic and cultural an issue that has many people thinking that it is a bad idea.

Though the evidence is hard to filter and difficult to prove that GMO foods are harmful to human health, one can take a look the North American diet and see how much obesity, heart disease, cancer, and other diseases are attributed to the foods that Americans consume. The United States is the largest producer and consumer of transgenic foods in the world – and to say that transgenic food has nothing to do with the increase in deadly disease in the USA is an understatement.

If Spain continues to increment the amount of  transgenic crops and feed to hogs, chickens and other farm animals, there might be a backlash in member states whose people culturally reject the importation of animals fed with GMO in foods. The idea of local organic triumphs over foreign and transgenic.

As local regions in Europe begin to prohibit the cultivation, sale and distribution of transgenic crops, like The Free State of Bavaria in Germany,  it can be seen as a way to strengthen local business and keep unpopular enterprises like Monsanto out of their food chain.

Spain has the advantage of being the sunniest place in all of Europe, especially in the province of Almería, Spain, which boasts an average of 320 days of sun each year. It has been exploited for decades by local and foreign businesses (including Monsanto) in an area known as ¨The Sea of Plastic¨ (el mar de plástico). This desert area basically feeds europe during the winter as its climate permits crop growth all year round.

If those in the Spanish agricultural business adhere to American models in food production there will be a decrease not only in the quality of food products, but confidence and trust in food products marked ¨Product of Spain¨.  Since it is currently one of the top 10 agricultural exporters in the world there needs to be a cultural and economic shift to protect itself from transgenic foods.

By Opton A. Martin